Review: Dominic Valvona



Altin Gün ‘Gece’
(Glitterbeat Records) 26th April 2019


Injecting an enthusiastic energy and desire into the music of their forbearers, the Dutch sextet with Turkish roots revitalize the Anatolian songbook once again, on the follow-up LP to last year’s debut.

As the band name eludes, Altin Gün, or “golden days”, celebrate a halcyon age in Turkish music, with the germ being the country’s folk legacy, but emphasis on the developments and reinvention of the 1960s and 1970s.

Pitched somewhere between the cult, often kitsch, nuggets you find in abundance on various collections compiled by the Finders Keepers troupe (Özdemir Erdoğan ‘Karaoğlan Almanya’da’ in particular, and anything from Sevil & Ayla), and the failed Eurovision missives of bubbly zappy disco, this limbering dexterous group take the listener on a sonic flight of fantasy: both romantic and cosmic.

Some of the chosen songs on this album are associated with the late national icon, Neset Ertaś, others less so familiar. Whatever the source the halcyon tingle, shimmer and psychedelic funk licks that pump throughout each one are given a contemporary livener, but undoubtedly sound retro – though there is at least one original composition, the Lalo Schifrin meets Anatolian rap funked-up psych number, ‘Şofor Bey’.

Currently very much in vogue – though the already mentioned Finders Keepers team and many crate diggers were already on this wave decades ago -, both the old and present Turkish music scenes are enjoying their moment of exposure. Glitterbeat Records, the fine provider of this group’s latest album, have already had success with the burgeoning psychedelic-Turkish siren Gaye Su Akyol and released a collection from the legendary Istanbul doyens of acid-saz and dub, Baba Zulu. All of which, alongside Altin Gün can’t help but feed into the prescient politics of Turkey itself – all of which is far too convoluted and numerous to go into detail here, but in short, a country under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, moving away from the more secular foundations of its celebrated moderniser Atatürk towards authoritarianism under a leadership that – after a staged (allegedly) coup – has crushed countless dissenters, critics and oppositional voices. In this heightened tension, artists, both in the country and overseas, remain cautious; the very act of playing certain kinds of music almost rebellious, especially anything with traces or a heritage that can be traced to the Kurds.

 

The group’s second LP, Gece, looks out wider than its own borders however, absorbing an eclectic collage of Egyptian, Moroder like arpeggiator, Bossa, fuzzed-up psych and funk; a sound that often simultaneously evokes Africa, Arabia and the Mediterranean.

Though tracing an ancestry back to Turkey, the sextet only born-and-raised band member from the homeland is Merve Daşdemir, who as one of the lead vocalists lends a lingering dreamy romanticism to the music, shifting between nostalgic B-movie soundtrack swoon and gauzy disco diva. Sharing those duties with her is the oozing, yearning and resigned suffering Erdinç Ecevit.

Rifling through the crates of an Istanbul record mart bazar, Altin Gün revitalizes a golden period in Turkish music; a grand age reconfigured and introduced to a global audience, saved from certain obscurity. Many listeners won’t be concerned with any of that, and will nevertheless enjoy the cosmic-fuzzed internationalism of a troupe on the rise. The Turkish legacy is in good hands.




 

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Reviews: Brian ‘Bordellos’ Shea




Every other week we ask Brian ‘Bordellos’ Shea, of the legendary St. Helens lo fi cult that is The Bordellos, to accelerate through a mixed bag of new releases for the Monolith Cocktail, offering opine, vitriol and words of wisdom. This week he runs through a trio of oddities and madcap releases from the Guerssen hub, has chemical induced fun with a Toxic Chicken, and finds the Gang Of Four’s latest a drag and disappointment.

Susana Estrada ‘Amor y Libertad’
(Espacial Discos) 18th April 2019


This LP was originally released in 1981, and is a fine early 80’s Italo disco/funk album that really couldn’t of come from any other time.

The opening track, setting you in the mind to get down and boogie, is all Chic guitar riffs and ‘Good Time’ bass, the rapping of Susana Estrada recalling a girl who left her heart on the dancefloor of San Francisco, orgasm yelps and the faint popping of cheap champagne corks: a wonderful way to start any album.

The sign of a good disco or dance LP from the late 70’s/early 80s is that it should not just make you smile, but should also have the effect of a tidal wave of memories that wash you away, taking you back to those long summer nights of bad small town discos, you trying not to look too stupid with your slightly out of time drunk dance moves, trying to catch the eye of the pretty girl dressed in white with her not as attractive friend trying her best not to spill her drink whilst tossing her hair and wondering what time the chippy stays open till.

Amor y Libertad is not just a fine disco album but also succeeds in being a fine pop album of melodies abound, which is not always the case with disco LPs from this time – quite often just a couple of singles surrounded by extended dance filler. But this really is a well-written, well-performed, well-played, disco funk pop album; worthy of investigation by anyone with an interest in Italo Disco.






Mcphee ‘ST’
(Sommor) 18th April 2019




Mcphee were a psych rock band from Australia, this album being originally released in 1971 and described as one of the rarest albums from that country, which is maybe why I have never heard of it before – as I do have a love for psych rock.

This is a fine LP of the genre, riff heavy, wailing Hammond organ and Jefferson Airplay like vocals and with all the great Psych rock nonsensical lyrics, “Sunday Shuffle of the freedom kind”, but when have lyrics really ever mattered in Psych rock, they are feel good preaching peace kind of songs.

The group’s limited songwriting ability may explain the inclusion of some covers; the version of Neil Youngs ‘Southern Man’ is indeed a fine version and gives the chance for the guitarist to show off his no doubted ability. There is also a cover of Spooky Tooth and a strange ill advised slowed down almost stoner rock rendition of ‘I Am The Walrus’ which needs to be heard to be believed. And also, they do a more than good version of the Leon Russell/ Carpenters ‘Superstar’; in fact it is rather beautiful, even the sax solo does not destroy the moment.

The real highlight of the album is the 10 minute plus final track, ‘Out To Lunch’, a song that takes you on a trip that starts off all fab lounge music then leads you into the blues and then the Jazz rock of the Mothers of Invention: But I’ve always been a sucker for a heavy wah-wah workout. All in all a very enjoyable album and another great reissue of a lost out there classic.





Thomas Hamilton ‘Pieces For Kohn’
(Mental Experience) 18th April 2019




I find writing about music sometimes as hard as writing about sex. Not that I actually write about Sex; I’m no Jackie Collins, but to try and capture the passion music evokes is sometimes very difficult without sounding clichéd.

Pieces For Kohn is a case in point, an LP that was originally released in 1976 by Thomas Hamilton on his own label Somnath records, based around a series of electronic noises and spaced out beeps. And so, not the sort of music you can sing along to in the bath or something you would play whilst getting ready to hit the town in a wild night out unless you are R2 D2. Not something to turn the lights down and get ready for love, it isn’t exactly Barry White, it is as I said a series of spaced out beeps and electronic noises after all. Saying that, I find these four long instrumental pieces very enjoyable, they have a certain treasure in their strangeness; I could quite happily sit alone to this record and lose myself in my thoughts whilst sipping on a glass of red.

Not an LP to everyone’s taste I’m sure [but what is], but anyone who enjoys the workings and experiments of such doyens as Delia Derbyshire could well find this a rewarding listening experience.





Toxic Chicken ‘Fun’
6th April 2019




There is a genius in this LP that can really only be described by listening to it. Generic indie bands should be injected with this album, it may spark some sense of wild abandon and make them realise that there is more to life than dreaming about playing Glastonbury and getting a badly written review in a clickbait blog by someone who thinks Oasis are the be all and end all of rock n roll.

Fun is a emotional breakdown of a album; there is just so much happiness going on it is like a psychedelic children’s party, there are jelly riffs with fondant icing, a game of musical chairs when all the competitors are on speed, or their fizzy pop shaken to the extent of a eruption of volcanic LSD proportions.

Please do yourself a favour and give this album a listen, even if it’s just the once: you might be only able to listen once as the happiness might rot your brain. I do love eccentrics; there are just not enough of them. Toxic Chicken should be cherished.





Xqui ‘Settlers EP’
(Wormhole)




I am currently a little obsessed with the record label Wormhole, and I make no apologies for it, for they currently release some of the strangest, more out there, music available and it needs some praise and people writing about it or otherwise how are people going to hear about it and want to investigate the total mind expanding hipness. After all if the Monolith Cocktail don’t feature it there are not many other blogs brave enough to.

This latest release is a 5 track, more mini LP than, EP, as it lasts over 25 minutes and it is by Xqui, the Beatles of found and manipulated sounds if you like. He manages to find sounds and expand their strange and wonderfulness to new and strange heights, taking a low drone and turning it into a Bittersweet symphony. On ‘Biff’ he starts off with just a low hum and over the 11 minutes takes you on a slow relaxing trip towards heaven.

‘Suppose’ is a backward walk through snow; an aural delight of ignoring the scream of a MJ wannabe; starting something from a found sound dance of monks, a striptease nun licking the blood off the cross, on, what is, the shortest track on this entire EP. Settlers finishes with ‘Eye’, a Philip Glass like silent explosion of experimental pop. One might hope to hear the title track itself on the radio, if music like this got played on the radio: are you reading Stuart Maconie?! Get it on the Freak Zone.





Gang Of Four ‘Happy Now’
(Townsend Music) 19th April 2019




It must be hard being punk/post punk legends as obviously you have a history to live up to, but Gang of Four make it sound oh so easy with Happy Now. Maybe it’s because Andy Gill the legendary guitarist is the only remaining original member, but there’s a freshness that I wasn’t expecting to be honest.

It sounds like a new modern BBC 6 Music friendly band, making commercial easy on the ear guitar indie rock/pop with an occasional nod to dance. You can hear influences of bands that Gang Of Four themselves influenced: Nine Inch Nails in their poppier moments, Franz Ferdinand, even LCD Soundsystem.

Not everything is perfect; the lyrics are sometimes, shall we say, on the poor side but are covered up well with the ultra smooth production.

Happy Now is a well-produced modern sounding radio friendly album that would make an ideal soundtrack to your drive to work or to drop your kids off to school. There is a place for an album like this; an easy on the ear undemanding steering wheel tapper.





Novel Preview: Ayfer Simms





Contributing regularly to Monolith Cocktail for the last six or more years, cosmopolitan writer Ayfer Simms has posted countless music/film reviews (Ouzo Bazooka, Pale Honey, Gaye Su Akyol, Murder On The Orient Express, The Hateful Eight) and conducted a far amount of interviews (Sea + Air, The Magic Lantern) – she’s even appeared, alongside her daughter, in the video of one of our featured artists (Blue Rose Code).

Taking time away from the blog to pursue dreams of writing a novel, Ayfer has spent the last 18 months busily working away at a story that encompasses not only the personal (including the death of her father) but the wider psychogeography and geopolitics of her native home of Istanbul.

 

Born in the outlier pastoral regions of Paris to Turkish parents, Ayfer spent her formative years in France dreaming about following in the travelling footsteps of her great literature love, Agatha Christie. After studying for a degree in literature (writing music reviews on the side for a number of popular French fanzines), Ayfer moved to Ireland for six years before alighting aboard the famous Trans Siberian railway as she made her way east towards Japan. Initially visiting her sister, Ayfer not only stayed indefinitely but also got married and had a daughter. Deciding to attempt a life in Turkey, where the family is originally from, they moved into Ayfer’s great-grandmother’s house in the Üsküdar district, on the Asian banks of the sprawling Istanbul metropolis.

A Rumor In Üsküdar is in some ways autobiographical, the first chapter, which we previewed back in March, was inspired by the death of Ayfer’s father, a few years back. A familiar setting is given a slightly dystopian mystique and ominous threat by Ayfer who reimagines the Üsküdar neighbourhood of that title being isolated and quarantined by the government, as they test out a piece of (propaganda orchestrated) news on the population.

That’s just the umbrella story though; within that setting we have the main character confronted by the country where she originated from imprisoned but ready to face it all and hoping for a wind of change.

Translated into English from the original French and Turkish language versions, an extract from chapter two, ‘Back For Good’, arrives just as the authoritarian controlled Erdoğan government seeks to overturn or re-run the recent Mayoral elections (which his AKP party lost) in Istanbul. How this will pan out is anyone’s guess, with tensions running high.



Chapter 2- Back For Good

The neighbors, the passers-by, the baker, the hairdresser, the grocer, are puzzled to why I am in Turkey.

Once upon a time, a Turk coined the phrase, “to come back for good” – probably in the 1980s, when the first people started to tiptoe back (a small percentage no doubt).

Did you know that he who returns never leaves? Says a voice to me. That’s because moving between countries is not to be taken lightly for these “migrants”.

Well, I say, to that invisible person, this is why you are curious about me. I move like a feather in the barn. With no intentions or plans.

That question pounds in my head: “did you come back for good?” Why?

In the 1980s the French government offered emigrants the chance to give up all their rights in exchange for a sufficient amount of money to buy an apartment in Turkey (under the conditions of the economy of the time). Most of my friends’ parents have seized the opportunity, the chance for a new start in their home countries. My parents shrugged: why block the future of our children?

Turks of that wave are forever hybrids. Their emerging personality got thrown into another world. None of them accept to reveal their secret. None of them admit why they are here. Money or a fake sense of nationalist flattery. Stuck between monuments, caught like seagulls in the net. (Seagulls are monstrous animals, pierce kitten eyes, and defy crows, cats, and humans).

“I have never lived here”. I simply add. I can’t say anything else in truth.

The idea that the experience of being here or there is immutable seems to me incongruous. I get tangled in my explanations of my deep complex sentiments. I am in moving sand facing people who’ve never left this ground. Do they care? They are not listening.

“Well”, I say, “I’m not a clairvoyant, and I can not now say that I will not leave again. I may, or may not.”

– Do you want to leave?

– I did not say that”.

Confusing explanations.

Their eyes are floating in the air as if I did not speak Turkish.

“If it were me, I would have stayed there,” they say dreamily.

 

The country is bleeding, especially in recent years. The Turk takes to one’s heels, those who can anyway. I can, and I did take to one’s heel for lesser troubles. I’d rather not, leave behind my father’s house.

Others continue to vote for Veysel. Who are they?

We are in a decadent Eldorado.

Those who support Veysel from abroad are too comfortable in Europe. They have no wish to settle back here. We, on the other hand, are raving mad. The Turk drinks tea and surveys the Bosphorus and the seagulls, the currents could take him far.

I envied these people for a long time, the chant of the birds above their heads. I imagined they had a sense of belonging. I did not know then seagulls sounded like a baby’s tormented shrieking cries.

 

“Why undo what your parents did?” Someone once said to me.

“I am after the seagulls”, I said.

It’s better if I don’t answer these remarks because I can flee when I wish; I am a bird with a crooked leg (hard for landing).

 

“Of the two countries, which one is the most beautiful?”

I hasten to praise the merits of Turkey, to please them, and I pierce in the looks a sign of relief while heavy sweat runs down my neck. I look like a cripple. “We may not be able to leave, but at least we have a nice village”, that’s the message.

 

My house is surrounded by five historical mosques, all equipped with loudspeakers, and every morning and noon, afternoon, evening and dawn, it begins to sizzle before the pugnacious verve of a young religious preceptor compresses the air of his lungs as if to tear it better before unleashing his chant. Powerful cries erupt, wild animals land in the middle of a city after a hundred years’ war. He is imposing himself like a farmyard rooster. Some old-people-as well as the most devout-rise up, mumbling prayers on the way to their ablutions. The woman: with a samovar from the East boils the tea in the early morning. The call to prayer follows the movements of the sun, tea, that of the Turkish soul. When calm returns, the far-flung mosques scattered throughout Istanbul complete their tunes in turn and descend on us like a whisper.

Yet this morning the call is late. Instead of falling asleep, I look at the time. I have to take the Marmaray for my Judo class. Yesterday the Great Wealth Party proudly occupied Üsküdar’s Square to make speeches about its glory and shook small flags there. There were women in bright scarves. Under these scarves, something shaping the skulls in a rather wide form, giving them the look of praying mantises and the comparison has nothing to do with the name of the insect. This is it seems the official fashion of the women of the party.

 

When I go down Uncular Street, it’s still dark, but an electric blue rises from the depths of the night. The streets are deserted. Most gray buildings sprawl on twisted sidewalks. I dreaded taking this street dominated by men, when I came on summer vacations growing up. Today it’s different. I am no longer afraid and those who intimidated me at the time are dead. Sadly this is valid for my father.

 

In front of the stone market with the rusty shutters, at the intersection of the street overlooking the Marmaray, a man fails to overthrow me. He rushes towards the wall that surrounds the Mosque, pressing the pace; he hastily wraps a scarf over his head. The fabric floats in his legs and barely hides his belly emerging like an island in the middle of the ocean. He runs up and does not apologize for almost tearing my arm out.

He disappears in the big yard. Several men in a lively discussion jostle me again on the steps that lead to the train. One is short of breath, his cheeks are red and his headdress is in his hand. He follows the others with great difficulty. I hold in my mouth dry comments. Do not be angry in Istanbul because there are so many opportunities.

 

Living space in the public arena is as hard to find as cherries in winter. We push each other to the detriment of others: those before us, old people, pregnant women: no other rules than one self apply.

Sometimes I lose control. I hurry, I breathe, I push with my elbow through an aggressive mass, ready for anything, to get on the train or be in the elevator first, aiming for free places, rushing. A movement then, before sinking in the seat satisfied.

Once I did a crooked-foot. I realized the gravity of my act when I saw my ogre profile in full edge on the train window.

On the platform, a man from the railway company blocks me: the trains are canceled for the day, because of a “generalized breakdown”. The last travelers from the European side come down. Men in robes flock. Something is happening in the city this morning.


Words: Ayfer Simms


Album review: Andrew C. Kidd



Toby Marks & Andrew Heath ‘Motion’

(Disco Gecko) 10th May 2019


The search for the gesamtkunstwerk led to Toby Marks and Andrew Heath embarking on a tour in the four cardinal directions of England and Wales to record more than one hundred hours of audio. The conjoint and condensed output is Motion.

I am first drawn to Marks and Heath’s metric structure. After the introductory and rather magnificent antiphonal chanting on the opening track For Stone (West) Parts 1-3, the reverberated guitar notes surge and swell like rolling waves. Multiple progressive rhythms surface from this repetitive phrase and others that emerge as the album advances. I am equally impressed by their capabilities as sound engineers. The stereo width is as broad as anything I have heard on Loscil’s Submers (Kranky, 2002) and is best illustrated by the breadth of frequencies played on For Stone (West) Parts 1-3: crisp piano notes immediately contrast the low rumble of background synths, the vibrations of which filter into ears nestled in headphones.

An iron horse slowly gathers pace in the second part of For Stone (West) Parts 1-3; the sound is heavy as it weighs against sleepers and tracks. Trains in ambient music always bring me back to Elvis On The Radio, Steel Guitar In My Soul from The KLF’s Chill Out album (Wax Trax!, 1991). Motion’s finale, By Fire (East) Parts 1-4, commences abruptly with the clamorous din of a whistling steam locomotive. The guitar notes that follow are water droplets falling from the boiler of an engine. The meditative modulations of the deep bass mirror the oscillations of a piston firing back and forth inside a cylinder. The screeches of wheels on the curve of a railroad are the drawn-out distortions of amplified strings.

Marks and Heath’s idea of kinesis is not just confined to the automatic. They also turn to the sounds of nature, or rather, natural phenomena. The merging of natural and man-made sounds is done so seamlessly that I am often left wondering as to which is which. Non-mechanical examples include waves lapping against a sandy shoreline on With Iron (South) Parts 1-3 and the familiar sound of buzzing bees in flight on In Air On Water (North) Parts 1-3, the latter contrasting against the hum and rattle of a single-engine aircraft.

This is a very human album. The distorted train announcer and youthful calls on By Fire (East) Parts 1-4 and the muffled laughs heard through the wall of water on For Stone (West) Parts 1-3 invoke many feelings. Small cracks appear in the field recordings which create a sense of vulnerability. The mostly major keys employed by the duo are uplifting and there are moments of blinding brightness; exempli gratia, the synth sequences and guitar tremolos on By Fire (East) Parts 1-4.

Near-perfect equilibrium is achieved on In Air On Water (North) Parts 1-3. Clear bell chimes ring around birdsong. Human voices chatter beneath the warmth of a bright ‘duet’ of piano and guitar as storm clouds gather. The most memorable moment of the album follows: pulses start to race with the deafening roar of a plane and the claps of thunder that crash around the granular and delayed decay of the background synths; the relief of rain after the storm serves as a calming coda.

It was the Greek philosopher Empedocles who first described the four ‘roots’ of earth, water, air and fire alluded to in Marks and Heath’s track titles. He considered each of the four roots to have their own nature and that diversity could be created by combining them. Science has obviously moved forward some two thousand years and rationalists like Lavoisier have helped place Empedocles’s theories in the basket of archaic curiosities. Nevertheless, Empedocles made an early attempt to explain the inner workings of a world that, at times, simply cannot be explained. Marks and Heath have also sought to explore the same inner workings and every time I listen to Motion new emergent properties arise from its natural, mechanistic and human components. In my opinion, that is their biggest triumph.


Andrew C. Kidd

 

 


Album Review: Dominic Valvona




Larry “Ratso” Sloman ‘Stubborn Heart’

(Lucky Number) 5th April 2019


Schmoozing with the very best of them over the decades, both as a receptacle and fountain of inspiration in his own right, author-lyricist Larry “Ratso” Sloman’s knockabout career trajectory has taken as many blows as successes. Lifted straight from Rock’s Back Pages, Sloman, who resembles Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan as rumpled gumshoes with a penchant for filing pathos in the style of gonzo pulp, vividly documented the counter-cultural heroes of the 1960s and 70s for a litany of titles, including, when it mattered, Rolling Stone.

Most notably encapsulating the whirlwind adulation and reverence of Dylan-on-tour, Sloman’s self-explanatory entitled On The Road With Bob Dylan account of the troubadour’s 1975 Rolling Thunder tour remains both a template and benchmark in music writing. In that same sphere of influence, rubbing shoulders with luminaries such as the already mentioned Cohen but also Lou Reed and Joan Baez (who anointed the scruffy-attired writer with that Midnight Cowboy “Ratso” nickname), Sloman collaborated with a number of doyens, writing lyrics for John Cale and Rick Derringer.

A biography specialist-investigator though, he’s also both principally and co-written books on the baby-boomer generation antagonist and revolutionary figure Abbie Hoffman (Steel The Dream), the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ frontman Anthony Kiedis (Scar Tissue), and with magic historian William Kalush, a controversial propound account of the life-and-death of Houdini (The Secret Life Of Houdini). With his star in ascendance this year – that co-authored escapologist investigation is heading to the big screen alongside a Martin Scorsese directed documentary of the fabled Days Of Thunder – Sloman has decided, in his seventies, to finally take the plunge and release his debut long player, Stubborn Heart.

Imbued by those past and present relationships and attachments he sagacious grizzled narrator borrows Dylan and Cohen’s (well at least one of them won’t be using it anymore) signature burr and half-spoken wisdom; using it well to unburden himself; opening up that old, stubborn heart of his to the overriding power of love…or something along those lines. Though the tropes are well worn, Sloman’s patter still rings true, the disheveled bon vivant parading his wisdom in a semi-confessional, semi-elder statesman style of liberation.





Every song on this album has a story, a certain providence, with the first third of this songbook featuring a cast of more contemporary soul mates. The relaxed smoky lounge smooching opener ‘I Want Everything’, which features the ariel alluring ache of the Lebanese polymath and leading progenitor of Middle Eastern electronica (as a founder of the Soapkills duo) Yasmine Hamdan, indolently journeys from youthful “world domination” exuberance and hubris to the self-realization in maturity “that love IS the drug”, and that “sacrifices must be made.” The elegantly romantic, venerable-tinged, “star-crossed” ‘Our Lady Of Light’ features Nick Cave, in The Boatman’s Call era fine fettle, dueting with Sloman on a yearning song of hypnotic worship, chained empirically to the power of their muse, whilst the sun-dappled E Street Band lilted ‘Caribbean Sunset’ features the wafting smoky-jazz blues saxophone of Paul Shapiro and dueted soul of the singer/songwriter and violinist Imani Coppola. Though my copy didn’t credit anyone on the album’s country Stones waning finale to a false deity, ‘Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands’, this Western mythological Gram Parson’s like gospel-country hymn features (more or less) a revolving chorus of guest vocalists.

Talking of myth and its making, the often somber remorseful and venerable ‘Dying On The Vine’ was originally conceived in a hotel room off Sunset Boulevard; the result of trading lines with Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss we’re told. The angelic swoon of Cohen co-writer, producer and back-up singer Sharon Robinson can be heard on this sanctified plaint; that swoon going a long way in creating the right mood of grizzled exoneration at that last chance saloon, Robinson’s support came in exchange for Sloman writing the preface to On Tour With Leonard Cohen.

Night creeper Dr. John like allusions with the “children of the night” recording from a phooey Dracula movies, Muscle Shoals Stones and bowing saxophone elegy follow as Sloman offers a myriad of sage-y metaphors and analogy: Some offer consolation, others, redemption.

Wearing it well, Sloman embodies the sagacious storytelling and voice of his Boomer generation peers with relish. Like a character from his own back pages, the bon vivant of cocktail and yacht lounge blues and candid romantic troubadour rock proves it’s never too late to add another proverbial string to, an already stretched, bow. This Stubborn Heart is one classy affair.





Words: Dominic Valvona


Album Review: Gianluigi Marsibilio 



Ty Segall ‘Deforming Lobes’
(Drag City) 29th March 2019


The gun that killed Van Gogh will be sold in early summer. But if you don’t have the money to hurt yourself, figuratively speaking, listen to Deforming Lobes by Ty Segall; a concentrate of wickedness that will leave you lying in bed and breathless.

The record is taken from a series of live shows, so well built that it looks like a jam session in the studio, its production is incredible and can connect, even through digital support, each listener, to the room in Los Angeles where the concerts were held.

The record is, in the endless production of Segall, already essential because it allows everyone to get a precise idea of who it is, what it does and how it lives.

In a beautiful piece in the New Yorker on David Baker are these words, taken from the poet: “The only conclusion to be drawn is that “there are so many, too // many of us”; and yet “the world keeps making – this makes no sense – / more”, Ty Segall, plays with polysemy, with the sense to give meaning to the impossible.

The noise of the crowd, even if it’s a live show, is eaten by the infernal sound of the instruments that travel on stage and splash on pieces like ‘They Told Me Too’ or ‘Breakfast Eggs’. The record really gives a new meaning to Segall’s complete production and for the first time, after listening to a live record, I didn’t get bored and indolent.

The enigmatic and shining The Groundhogs are a point of reference and then the cover of ‘Cherry Red’ is fundamental, to immerse us, once again, in the record and in the world of Ty.

The record is subaqueous, in the sense that it makes us descend, layer after layer, to an area near the Marianne Falls.

Smoothing and gliding over new ideas for one’s musical future seems to be the intention of this record: A sort of scale to understand where to shift the weight of unpredictability for the near future.

To get the work he’s done with the Freedom Band is essential to the launch of Deforming Lobes, which is already a fundamental step towards understanding the elastic and eclectic madness of Ty Segall.

You want one last reason to launch yourself into this record: it was edited by Steve Albini, who between a poker tournament and the other, gives us these wonders of accuracy.





Reviews Roundup: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea



Wand ‘Laughing Matter’
(Drag City) 19th April 2019


A wave of the Wand and the magic commences. An album of sublime modern life psychedelia, ‘Scarecrow’ kicks it all off with the sound of Radiohead melting in a honey tangle web of sunshine sadness. I cannot believe this band are not fans of the wonder that is Clinic; ‘XoXo’ could easily fit in amongst the Liverpool band’s finest. The repetitive synth and drum beat of that track descends into a mass wave of wonky a plonkyness.

This really is a fun listen, fun but with a dark undertow of sadness – a serial killer with a painted on smile on someone else’s face, or should that be someone else’s farce.

There is a balance to the madness that emits from this Laughing Matter, the more it goes on the more I lose myself in their crazy world of sullen sunshine; it’s a real pick you up in these days of uncertainty and sadness whether it be the Stone Roses meet Jed Clampett like instrumental ‘Hare’ or the fuzz bass monster of a wonder track, which is actually called ‘Wonder’, and is one of the finest pop moments on the whole album: which is actually full of them. ‘Airplane’ for instance is a nine-minute flight of beauty a true marvel of a track, air-pure vocals float over a reflective shadow of instrumental solitude only to explode in a mass of singular eclectic guitar frenzy. Track thirteen, ‘Lucky’s Sight’ is a modern space rock masterpiece; ‘Wonder (II)’ lives up to its name, and the final song, ‘Jennifer’s Gone’, is worthy of the mighty Lou Reed in his early 70s pomp.

Laughing Matter really is a fantastic album, and it reminds us that such makes delightfully heartbreakingly beautiful and adventurous music such as this is still being made and released.






Charly Bliss ‘Young Enough’
10th May 2019




To be honest I nearly dismissed this LP, but I’m glad I didn’t. As I don’t really think I’m the target audience Charly Bliss are going for – I probably have older guitars than this bunch of pesky kids.

I can though imagine my 20-year-old daughter loving this record; it is power pop, punk pop, or is it pop punk? Anyway, whatever it is they do it very well but pop music is pop music whatever your age, whether you are making it or listening to it and if you cannot enjoy well written catchy songs, if you cannot remember what is like to be young and falling in love for the first time or remember the yearning for the girl/guy you will never get or the girl/guy you did get but could not keep, if you cannot remember I recommend you give Young Enough a listen and all those wonderful happy sad memories will come flooding back.

It has the wonderful melancholy magic all great pop is blessed with, and Charly Bliss are blessed with a fine pop singer in Eva Hendricks who writes fine catchy pop punk songs with darker than normal lyrics: “Eyes like a funeral mouth like a bruise” she declares in the beautiful ballad ‘Hurt Me’.

So the next time one of my middle-aged friends says to me “they just do not know how to make music these days” I will think of this album and tell them to FUCK OFF!







Shit Creek ‘Prozac Rainbow’
(Wormhole World) 15th March 2019



I have been told many times that I’m going insane, and if so, this could be the LP to soundtrack my descent into that madness. This is not music as such, well actually it is, it has melodies it has an obscure soul to it that I find quite heartwarming.

It is not something you will hear if you tune into BBC 6 music during the daytime or night time, come to think of it, maybe the Freakzone if you are lucky.

Prozac Rainbow is a magic concoction of found sounds manipulated into a series of experimental sound bites; a wavitude of spellbinding oddities that verge not just on the psychedelic: The ‘Ice Cream Van Glimmering In the Nascent Sun’ track is a modern piece of psychedelic wonder though – Imagine the Clangers winding up a giant clock whilst kicking Roger Waters up the arse. Marvelous stuff indeed.

Once again that marvelous new record label Wormhole has unearthed another experimental gem, still available at the time of writing on very ltd cd. Get in there quick my beauties.







She Keeps Bees ‘Kinship’
(BB* Island) 10th May 2019



I am tense. I am uninspired. I am in need of an escape, something to take my mind off the general shallowness of modern life: mobile smart phones, ipads on buses, people losing themselves in the latest stream of facebook, twitter posts of mediocre mass produced mainstream music cluttering up my once invaluable, once best friend, the radio. I am in need of this LP by She Keeps Bees.

I need this call for the beauty hymn to nature. I need this maybe a modern equivalent to Gene Clark No Other album, all brushed drums haunting organ/keyboards strummed and plucked acoustic guitars that at times remind me of Nirvana’s finest moment [their Unplugged LP].

This LP is indeed a lifesaver; an LP to lose yourself in as the world turns from mad to insane. But there is power, there is magic in this life and that magic is music. And She Keeps Bee’s cast such wonderful spells.

I could give you many reasons why you should buy this LP, but I won’t. I will just say you need this album more than you will ever know.






Outside The Glitch ‘ST’
(Wormhole World) 22nd March 2019




What is the word I’m looking for? Ambiance. That is the word to describe this mini LP/EP; a work that Eno would no doubt put on his slippers to whilst lighting his pipe after a night out with Bryan Ferry, everybody’s favourite lounge lizard.

These five tracks you can imagine turning up in a late night thriller; one can smell the tension in the air; one could throw down ones towel and whisper quietly to your old time neighbour called Cecil and wish him a fond goodnight. Like good old canary sex it is both unexpected and highly unlikely. What on earth am I reading?! That’s probably what you are thinking to yourself as you read this review. Well that is my point, ambient music means different things to different people everybody has a different way of viewing things, one man’s goose is another man’s gander. Music like this sets people’s imagination floating in different directions.

This a fine release with a quintet of very mellow tracks that set one’s imagination into flight. From the sublime to the sublime, Wormhole Records should be congratulated on yet another unusual and different release: You really should check out their catalogue.






Julinko ‘Néktar’
(Toten Schwan/ Stoned To Death Records) 15th April 2019




Looking at the song titles I realised that this wasn’t going to be an album of happy disco stompers, and I was right. The intro, called ‘The Flowing Stream Plunge Me Deep’, is a beautiful short instrumental piece that sets the mood for the whole LP; an LP that has the decadent shimmer of an Autumn day spent with your dead memories, a slowed down purge of emotion of grief for a former lover who is not dead but still alive and living in the same town, the same house, you have to pass every day on the way to work, so you can afford to carry on with your mundane existence.

Néktar brings to the surface the same emotions you feel when listening the magic weaved by the Cocteau Twins. At times it reminds me of listening to PJ Harvey in slow motion; not the LP to play whilst doing the housework unless you live in 16th century castle surrounded by cobwebs with a hunchback dwarf sat on a wooden stool in the corner begging you to put away your broom and to pay him some attention.

This is indeed a dark beauty that is not only to be cherished but also indulged. A fine album indeed.




Album Review: Dominic Valvona



Black Flower ‘Future Flora’
(Sdban Ultra) 12th April 2019


The soundtrack to a cross-pollination of the mystical and cosmological, Black Flower’s darkened flora scent of Afro-Futurist and Ethiopian jazz drifts and wafts across an atmospheric, amorphous landscape. Continuing to dream up eclectic instrumental vistas, from the loose vine-creeping and astral probed excavations of the famous Cambodian Khmer Empire-built ‘Ankor Wat’ temple complex to the trilling saxophone, desert trudge meets cornet Savoy Jazz dancehall fantasy encapsulation of the atavistic Northern Ethiopian city of Aksum, the Belgium quintet map out a musical terrain both tribally funky and expletory.

Hitching a ride on the Chariot of the Gods as they traverse legendary and hidden cities, the pyramids and desert trading posts, they absorb sounds and rhythms from all over the globe; including the bowed and percussive droning blues of the Réunion Island and archipelago derived Maloya – banned for years by the French authorities that ruled this dependency – and various Balkan traditions. And so as the emerging light of a nuzzled suffused saxophone and snake charmer flute accompanied dawn evokes an Egyptian setting at first, on the title-track odyssey, by the end of this trip the quintet have limbered and swanned through Mulatu Astatke dappled organ led Ethio-jazz, Afro-psych and ritualistic funk. The tooting horns and bouncing, spotting ‘Clap Hands’ sways between Lagos and New York, whilst the retro-fitted cosmic ‘Early Days Of Space Travel Part 2’ takes-off on a flight of psychedelic dub fantasy from an imagined West African outpost of NASA.

Though framed as a metaphor for the importance of “feeding and watering powerful and revolutionary ideas and initiatives that can save the world”, Black Flower express themselves with a controlled vigor and magical rhapsody: exotic, experimental but deeply thoughtful.

Future Flora invokes escapism yet chimes with the need to articulate the uncertainties and anguish of our present times by creating a rich tapestry of universal unity; channeling the sounds, heritage and history of cultures seldom celebrated in the West. Magical, mystical, diverse, Black Flower take jazz into some interesting directions; the roots of which, incubated in the Ethiopian hothouse, look set to break through the brutal concrete miasma to blossom in the light.





Album Review: Dominic Valvona



Per W/Pawlowski ‘Outsider/Insider’
(Jezus Factory/Starman Records) 29th March 2019



Thirteen years after their first collaboration together, two stalwarts of the alternative Belgian music scene once more reunite to produce, what they call, their very own unique White Album curiosity. The intergenerational musical partnership of one-time dEUS guitar-slinger for hire Mauro Pawlowski and maverick legend Kloot Per W proves an experimental – if odd – success in mining both artist’s influences and providence; the results of which, transformed into a playful, often knowing and pastiche, misadventure, are performed with conviction. Behind the often-masked mayhem and classic rock poses lurk serious, sometimes cathartic wise observations.

No stranger to regular readers of this blog, the Hitsville Drunk and solo collaborator in a host of projects that include a Zappa bastardized covers album with The Flat Earth Society and a Dutch language folk record under the Maurits Pauwels appellation, Pawlowski last appeared as a member of the Pawlowski, Trouve & Ward triumvirate, who’s soloist shared collection, Volume 2, showcased various expletory suites from each respective artist involved. For his part, Pawlowski contributed a 80s schlock driller-killer, straight-to-video, soundtrack (complete with made-up advert slots); the highlight of which, and a blast of inspiration for this latest album, was the pyrotechnic explosion, fist-bumping, AM radio rock anthem, ‘Starught’.

His compatriot on this ride, Per W, has a form that stretches right back to the late 60s, most notably as the bassist for The Misters and then as a guitarist for The Employees. A solo career in the early 80s saw the idiosyncratic musician knock out a slew of albums, the majority of which were purposely limited to cassette only releases; his first proper vinyl album, Pearls Before Swine, arriving in the later part of that decade. Various stints in the JJ Burnel produced Polyphonic Size and the Sandie Trash, Strictly Rockers, Chop Chicks and De Lama followed. In more recent years he’s recorded an album of Velvet Underground covers (called Inhale Slowly And Feel) and the DRILL collection of abstract music, composed for an art installation based on rebuilding the composer and inventor Raymond Scott’s Manhattan Research Inc. studio. A mixed resume I’m sure you’ll agree; one that fuels a diverse twenty-one track spanning opus of songs, traverses and instrumental vignettes.

With the deep sagacious and world-weary voice of Per W leading, Outsider/Insider merges the mixed fortunes of both artists; whether it’s the jangly Traveling Wilburys like power rock pastiche ‘KPW On 45’ and its commentary on the cultural overbearance of American culture (“American rock star live in my European food!”) or, the iron fire-escape tapping, industrial funk gyrating, seductive if awkward ‘Room!’, Per W adds just enough off-center lyricism and ambivalence to make even the most obvious-sounding straight-A tune take a turn into weirdville.

There are twilight rodeo love swoons, complete with female muse (‘We Won’t Lose Touch’), pendulous Marillion-meets-Dave Arnold-soundtrack like jabbering allusions to Beatles songs (a cover for all I know of ‘Eleanor Rigby’, or just nicking the title), early Soluwax cowbell synth-rock (‘Waitin’ For The Con Man’), and various probes into the cosmos with the arpeggiator stained-glass synth-y new romantics ‘Human Groin’, space-rock doctors waiting room diorama ‘Say What You Do’, and glistened Tangerine Dream, ‘The Dream Pop Spa’. Visages of new wave pop bastions The Cars connect with Gothic vapours; breakouts of dEUS rock wrangle with Outside era Bowie sinister art-school pretensions; and Eagle-Eye Cherry drowns in post-punk malady on an album of both wizened angst and “que sera sera” relief.

At ease in their own skins, these two mischievous bedfellows have a devil-may-care attitude to making music; free of commercial pressures (to a point) Pawlowski and Per W seem to record whatever the fuck they want, yet do it with total conviction and adroit skill.

Off-white to The Beatles stark magnolia gloss, Outsider/Insider is hardly a classic – dysfunctional or otherwise –, but is an amusing, sometimes absurd, and well-crafted alternative art-rock record of some ambition and style.





Review: Andrew C. Kidd



Labelle ‘Orchestre Univers’
(Infiné) 5th April 2019


“Nout Maloya lé mondial” (“Our Maloya is global!”) was what the Réunionese media exclaimed after Maloya – a vocal and percussive music genre forged on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion in the 18th and 19th centuries – was placed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO1. Ten years have passed since that day on Réunion.

Enter Jérémy Labelle. Born in France to a Réunionese father and a French mother, he moved to the island in 2011 to further develop a sound he dubs “Maloya electronics”. He has successfully bridged the Detroit techno, modern classical and Maloya music genres on his two previous albums: Ensemble (Eumolpe Records, 2013), an amalgamation of synthetic and acoustic sounds (check out the aptly named track Rhythm), and the well-received Univers-île (Infiné, 2017), a more focused work that builds upon multiple tempi. His latest album, Orchestre Univers, was performed by the Orchestre Regional of Réunion Island, conducted by Laurent Goossaert. The ten pieces from the album (three previously published and seven original works) were recorded live over four concerts that took place on the island.

The opening piece is a revisited version of Playing at the End of the Universe (it originally featured on his Univers-île album). Admittedly, I do prefer the previously released and somewhat rawer version, particularly the dreamy build-up at the end that bustles with electronically-altered marimbas, glockenspiels and other tunefully percussive instruments à la Four Tet from his album Rounds (Domino, 2003). Take nothing away from the live version though, it is also very good. The dreamy reverberation of émotion du vide follows and is filled with reedy high notes that reach towards the sky. The woodwind trio also lift the stringed staccato and counterpoint percussion on Soul Introspection (Orchestre univers Version). This piece also features a time-signature bending rolling bass line which is characteristic of Labelle’s “Maloya electronics”. Prakash Sontakke slides around guitar notes in impressive fashion. He reappears later in the album playing a step-like lullaby on the final track, La Vie.

Le moment present initially tricks the listener into thinking that it is an outro to the piece that precedes it; the rhythm that builds upon the martelé (hammered) staccato and pizzicato of the strings quickly dispels this. The bassy drums provide depth as we are led into Oublie-voie-espace-dimension and O, the two best pieces on the album. The former opens with a fervent electronic sequence that dances around hard drum beats; the looped organ cycle that features adds an almost ecclesiastical dimension. The drums and percussion eventually reach fever pitch as O drops. O is a full-throttle, tribal house rhythmic adventure. Contrapuntal rhythms and maniacal synth-heavy electronics gradually quicken and push the sound into delirious overdrive. Strings and wind instruments converge at the end offering little in the way of respite.

Mécanique inverse sets out at a similar tempo. Labelle introduces a soundtrack-esque melody, masterfully played by the guitar, string, woodwind and percussion sections of the orchestra. The glassy, razor-like synth and radio-static outro herald an applause from the audience reminding the listener that this is a live album (the production and standard of musicianship are so good that one often cannot tell that these are live performances!). Stase, différence et répétition is a dark ambient piece akin to the likes of Nurse with Wound and Rasplyn. Percussive jangles and portamento strings float in a sea of muffled synths and indistinct field recordings. String harmonics and wood-tapping of the violins open re-créer (Orchestre univers Version). I have previously listened to this track on Labelle’s Post-Maloya EP (Infiné, 2018). A double-kick drum beat pulsates beneath steely and metallic sounding granular synths that change key and crescendo in a manner not too dissimilar to Clark’s Body Riddle (Warp, 2006).

Jérémy Labelle is clearly a very talented musician, composer and producer. He casts his net of influence wide to draw upon many musical styles. His synthesis of modal harmonies and tribal rhythms is very reminiscent of the ‘Fourth World’ created by the venerable Jon Hassell. I have read numerous interviews with Labelle who cites identity and anthropology as themes which have inspired him to write music. Orchestre Univers feels more like a celebration, a coming together of musicians and audiences to rejoice at the unique music that has emerged from the island of Réunion. The electronics and compositional complexities offered by Labelle are merely 21st century adaptations to what is an age-old sound. They should not be dismissed. His concept of “Maloya electronics” is truly global and will ensure that the next generation of Réunionese continue to declare, “Nous Maloya lé mondial!”


1UNESCO. Intangible Heritage Lists: Maloya. Available from: https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/maloya-00249 (cited 29/03/2019)




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