PLAYLIST
Dominic Valvona/Brian Shea/Matt Oliver





The behemoth Quarterly Playlist Revue is now more! With a massive increase in submissions month-on-month, we’ve decided to go monthly in 2020. The February playlist carries on from where the popular quarterly left off; picking out the choice tracks that represent the Monolith Cocktail’s eclectic output. New releases and the best of reissues have been chosen by me, Dominic Valvona, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Matt Oliver.



The full track list is as follows:

A Journey of Giraffes  ‘Into The Open Air’
Graham Costello’s Strata  ‘Cygnus (Edit)’
Calibro 35 ft. MEI  ‘Black Moon’
The Four Owls  ‘Honour Codes’
Juga-Naut  ‘Jackson Pollock’
Chassol  ‘Rollercoaster Pt.2’
Dream Parade  ‘Adderall’
U.S. Girls  ‘4 American Dollars’
Piney Gir  ‘Puppy Love’
November Bees  ‘Pot Called Pan’
Joss Cope  ‘Indefinite Particles’
Slift  ‘Hyperion’
Martin Mansson Sjostrand Trio  ‘Overkilghetsflykten’
Bob Destiny  ‘Wang Dang’
Dueling Experts  ‘Dark Ninjas’
TrueMendous  ‘That Don’t Mean’
Confucuis MC  ‘Look Deeper’
Lewps Hekla  ‘Rose Gold Ruger Pose’
Pulled By Magnets  ‘Gold Regime People Die’
The Dream Syndicate  ‘The Regulator (Single Edit)’
Mai Mai Mai ft. Maria Violenza  ‘Secondo Coro Delle Lavandaie’
Sad Man  ‘Door’
Pongo  ‘Quem Manda No Mic’
Ranil  ‘Cumbia Sin Nombre’
Nordine Staifi  ‘Zine Ezzinet’
Adebukonla Ajao And Her Group  ‘Aboyin Ile’
Mazzi & Tac  ‘Brackets’
Dillion & Batsauce  ‘Self Medicated’
Elaquent & Chester Watson  ‘Airwalk’
A Journey Of Giraffes  ‘Poet’s Muse’
Jimi Tenor  ‘Lassi Laggi’
Seu Jorge & Roge  ‘Sarava’
John Howard  ‘It’s Not All Over Yet’
Birgitta Alida  ‘Closely’
Anytime Cowboy  ‘Story Of Skin Island’
King Krule  ‘Comet Face’
Brian Bordello  ‘Liverpool Hipster Set’
Postcards  ‘Dead End’
Zinn  ‘Diogenes’
Mazeppa  ‘The Way In’
Vivienne Eastwood  ‘Hanging Gardens’
Village Of The Sun, Binker & Moses  ‘Village Of The Sun’
Simon McCorry  ‘The Nothing That Is’

LP REVIEW
Dominic Valvona




U.S. Girls  ‘Heavy Light’
(4AD)  LP/6th March 2020


Marking a decade in a recording career that extends just beyond that, Meg Remy as the ambiguous U.S. Girls has progressed from bedroom diy-style 60s bleeding hearts girl group tape-loops to ever more sophisticated femme fatale politicized boogie, disco and funk. From performing as a, more or less, solitary figure from 2008 until she signed on in 2015 to 4AD, Meg has not only expanded her musical horizons and production techniques but also cast of collaborators: the last two albums for the much-mythologized indie label have included a full-on contorting live band, made up of Meg’s oft musical foil and partner the maverick guitar-slinging Maximilian Turnball (under his nom de plume of Slim Twig) and a host of Toronto talent; many of whom perform together as the multi-limbed collective Cosmic Range.

 

In (re)cycle mode Meg’s latest thematic cerebral pop opus, Heavy Light, is full of reflections and retrospection, not just on duality but hindsight. The seventh LP proper even features a trio of reworked recordings from the back catalogue; songs that chime with and make a connection to those very same themes, as Meg turns away (to a point) from her previous, almost, removed character sketches to gaze inward and take stock: going back even to recollections of childhood experiences. The first of this trio and a recent single ’Overtime’ first appeared on the 2013 Free Advice Column EP. Missing its lo fi Ronettes chimes, replaced with a more up-tempo gyrating workout of withering, cheated heart sassy funk, the refreshed Overtime now features a cameo pined saxophone requiem solo from Bruce Springsteen’s current E Street Band member Jake Clemons: his wane and whining contortions in parallel with the Linda Sharrock like pained wails. An annoyed song of deceit, the title an allusion to a partner drinking away his extra pay in overtime, is pretty much a universal and timeless theme given an uncomfortable twist: the protagonist laying six feet deep in the soil.

The second song to be lifted from its original time, ‘State House (It’s A Man’s World)’, first featured on the 2011 LP U.S. Girls On KRAAK. Given a little pep, crisper production too, the 2020 version keeps the backbeat but adds a choral quality of descending voices – on what sounds like a protest sway rather than march – and one of the album’s most featured backing instruments, the marimba. The lilted undulating sparkle and trickling marimba is interesting, as Meg has decided to record this latest album a little differently to the last; using a live band but with less augmenting beats and synthesized effects, to give it a different feel entirely to In A Poem Unlimited. And so it has a more natural less post-produced sound: “un-automated”, as the PR spill calls it. Though many of the same musicians from that previous LP remain, and Meg has brought in dance producer and remixing luminary Rick Morel (Pet Shop Boys, Cyndi Lauper, Yoko Ono), the instrumentation is more classical, chamber and symphonic – timpani, strings, double bass, balladry melodramatic piano, hand drums and percussion.

Album closer, ‘Red Ford Radio’, is the final track of the three revisions; having first appeared on Meg’s second LP, 2010’s grainy and discordant Go Grey. The lumbered slow-steamed haunting clang of the original remains, if slightly cleaner, and the revolving repetitive vocal loop of “I can’t breathe in this red ford anymore, I’d do anything to get out, get out” is intact, but lifted from the swampy mono gauze so that you can now hear the increasingly panicked mantra and the menacing bounced beats of an oil drum that allude to something far darker.






Heavy Light is as much about the vocals as the instrumentation and production, as Meg works with a host of singers to create a jubilation of gospel, soulful and theatre production chorus voices. Meg’s host of harmonious singers, conducted by the multi-talented Toronto stalwart and motivator Kitty Uranowski, sound like Bowie’s Philly-inspired plastic soul troupe on the weaponised Plastic Ono Band go disco swirled boogie, with Anita Baker in tow, ‘4 American Dollars’, and impassionedly sorrowful on the Mick Ronson tickles the ivories stage-y ballad to the complex notions of consent, ‘IOU’. This chorus not only sings with aria like ascendance but also lends it to the sound-art like collages that break-up the album’s collection of songs. Overlapping individual voices recollect their own unique anecdotes in a number of thematic vignettes, the question being posed through the track titles (‘Advice To Teenage Self’, ‘The Most Hurtful Thing’, ‘The Color Of Your Childhood Room’), with answers both cathartic and bland.

Taking its title cue from the Franz Kafka aphorism “A faith like an axe. As heavy as light”, this album takes both a wry and revisionist look at the past. The contrast of experiences themed ‘Woodstock ‘99’ – itself, a perhaps ill-advised festival cashing in on it’s own mythologized past; generation X attempting in some way to own a piece of the boomers history – even lifts lines from Jimmy Webbs classical pop breakup song, ‘MacArthur Park’: “Someone left the cake out in the rain, I don’t think that I can take it, ‘Cause it took so long to bake it. And I’ll never have that recipe again.” Written – I’m assured – about Webb’s breakup with Susan Ronstadt, turned down initially by The Association, it was Richard Harris who first made it a hit, but its Donna Summers version which seems to have inspired this vague transmogrification – that and a piece of Springsteen, The Boomtown Rats and Bowie’s piano moments on Hunky Dory. Almost with one eye winking, Meg’s impassioned sadness denotes a slight melodramatic indulgence on a song that has some really good lines about revising expectations and relationships with divided loyalties. ‘The Quiver To The Bomb’ goes much further back: four billion years in fact, to the dawn of womankind on a withering repetitive LCD Soundsystem piano drama.

Talking of borrowing, the brushed jazzy stagey, timpani rolled ‘Born To Lose’ has echoes of the sort of glass-y marimba and vibraphone chimes you’d hear on a Modern Jazz Quartet record. Those effective vibes, given a Latin makeover, can be heard again on the tropical, even Tango-esque, sauntering South American Spanish pop song ‘And Yet it Moves/Y Se Mueve’.






Personally though, it’s the beautifully conveyed and dreamy lulled ‘Denise, Don’t Wait’ and the already mentioned liquid funk soulful ‘4 American Dollars’ that I’m most endeared to. The former has that hanging on the end of a call that never comes, the expectant longing of a 60s girl-group heart breaker feel, skewered and reset in the now as a minor symphonic ballad. The latter shows off those over layered harmonies on a resigned polemic rile against the money men and the systematic failure of neoliberalism’s skewered capitalism- though I’d argue that a new elite of tech evangelists is a major driver of the inequality gap; those tech giants so-called altruistic virtues don’t wash as they hold onto ever greater reservoirs of capital and cash, usually offshore, instead of investing and spending in the economy at large: the drip down effect always an unsafe claim of multiple governments, even less effective when the rich don’t offer up even the most measly of crumbs.

 

Meg Remy remains one of the most consistent, (re)inventive and important pop artists and voices of the last decade. This, now, trio of 4AD records marks an unbroken run of assured quality; her finest work so far. No one quite politicizes disco, boogie and pop like it. No one sounds quite like her at the moment: not even close. There’s a lot of pain, a lot of hurt, and a lot of revising on Heavy Light as Meg holds up a mirror to both our conscious and unconscious biases, willing to root about in the grey areas and contradictions. Yet there is a sign of hope, a celebration of diversity –not in the achingly virtuous sense –, through the inclusion of eclectic voices and collaborators. U.S. Girls is not an expanded solo project but a hub, an all-welcoming activist umbrella that happens to produce some of the grooviest and most brilliant pop. I really do hope that I’m going to be marking Meg’s next decade in 2030!




Related posts from the Archives:

Half Free LP Review

In A Poem Unlimited Review

U.S. Girls Live Report



The Monolith Cocktail Is Now On Ko-Fi

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.


Ranil y su Conjunto Tropical -monolith cocktail


A quick shifty, glance, a perusal of the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload our inboxes this month by me, Dominic Valvona.

This week’s roll call of honours includes A Journey Of Giraffes, Northwest, Ranil and Violet Nox.


Ranil y su Conjunto Tropical ‘Cumbia Sin Nombre’
(Analog Africa)   Teaser from the upcoming LP ‘Iquitos – Amazonía – Perú’, released 20th March 2020



Drifting back towards the Amazon, Analog Africa – via their congruous Limited Dance Editions imprint – once more float upstream towards the outposts of the South American continent to discover the sauntering sumptuous delights of ‘cumbia’ music. Venturing past the city of Manaus and past the Brazilian/Peruvian border, to the city of Iquitos. It might be fatalistic or encouraging depending on your feelings about the film, but the remote Iquitos, completely cut off from the Peruvian coast, accessible only by air and water, and surrounded by impenetrable forests, was where Werner Herzog filmed the maddening visionary Fitzcarraldo: the epic story of one man’s struggle to bring opera to the Amazon; the travails of which entailed dragging a great big paddle ship over a mountain. Cut off then from the outside world, this lush if hardy place to eke out a living, incubated a novel version of the famous, polygenesis folkloric music.

Though everyone on the continent has had a go at adopting and tinkering with the original form, the melodious Cumbia hails from Colombia. Informed by a trio of cultural influences it can be broken down as thus: the rhythmic foundations derive from Africa, the indigenous offer up the flute-y sound, and the Europeans the costume and choreography. In recent times it has been electrified, adopted by untold contemporary bands.

Iquitos’ favourite son of cumbia Raúl Llerena Vásquez – known to the world as Ranil – was a Peruvian singer, bandleader, record-label entrepreneur and larger-than-life personality who moved to the heady lights of the capital, Lima where he swirled the teeming buzz of the Amazonian jungle, the unstoppable rhythms of Colombian and Brazilian dance music, and the psychedelic electricity of guitar-driven rock-and-roll into a knock-out, party-starting concoction.

When Ranil returned to Iquitos after several years teaching in small towns, he assembled a group of musicians and prepared to take the city’s nightlife by storm. His unique blend of galloping rhythms and trebly, reverberant guitar was so successful that he was soon able to take his new band to Lima to record their first record at MAG studios, where many of Peru’s most successful psych, rock and salsa bands began their recording careers.

Yet Ranil had no intention of entering into the indentured servitude that comes with signing one’s life away to a record company. Instead he established Produccions Llerena – possibly the first record label founded in the Peruvian Amazon – which allowed him to maintain complete control over the release and distribution of his music. His fearsome negotiation skills and his insistence on organising his own tours turned him into one of the central figures of the Amazonian music scene.

Although his records were popular throughout the region, Ranil never sought his fortune in the capital, preferring to remain in his hometown of Iquitos where, in recent decades, he has concentrated his considerable energies on his radio and television stations, and become involved with local civic politics. Yet his legacy has continued to grow among those fortunate enough to track down copies of his legendary – and legendarily difficult to find – LPs.

Ranil’s extraordinary output has remained one of the best-kept secrets among collectors of the genre and psychedelic Latin sounds.

Ahead of the Ranil y su Conjunto Tropical album we’re sharing just one of the three teaser tracks currently doing the rounds; the sauntering lilted and scrappy ‘Cumbia Sin Nombre’. This will go some way to keeping you warm during these miserable rain-lashed and freezing winter months.

Of interest from the Archives:

Analog Africa Tenth Anniversary Special

Mestre Cupijó e Seu Ritmo ‘Siriá’ Compilation Review

Bitori ‘Legend of Funaná ‘The Forbidden Music Of The Cape Verde Islands’ LP Review

Dur-Dur Band ‘Dur Dur Of Somalia: Volume 1, Volume 2 And Previously Unreleased Tracks’ Review


Northwest ‘All Of A Sudden’
(Temple Arts) Video





On occasion, due to time constraints and the sheer volume of requests/submissions thrust upon the Monolith Cocktail each day (let alone week or month) the odd sublime band slips through our hands. The adroit cerebral and artfully beautiful Northwest duo is one such example of this: though we managed to at least feature the slow-released beatific ‘The Day’ lull in our last ever Quarterly Revue Playlist, at the end of 2019. Taken from the duos most recent (and second) album of subtle yearning pop and neo-classical lent mini-opuses II, the achingly ethereal voiced and purposeful heart-breaking ‘All Of A Sudden’ has been furnished with a new video. A favourite not only of ours but the duo themselves, who consider it one of the best songs they’ve ever written (they might just be right on that), Northwest’s heavenly voiced Mariuca García-Lomas explains that the message behind this tender feely classically brushed and gauze-y trembled strings evocation has been difficult to express before in words. Hopefully these metaphorically blinded and bandaged visuals – recorded on an emotionally charged cold morning in an English garden – will enlighten us further.

Taking the plunge a few years back, quitting their jobs in the bargain and relocating to the UK, Mariuca and her foil Ignacio Simón have released two albums so far under the Northwest moniker, though they also appear under various other guises – this particular incarnation of the duo expands to accommodate a small chamber orchestra. They’ve also recently launched their own label hub, Temple Arts, for all theses projects; a one-stop platform you could say. Not confined to just breathtaking music, they’ve also released a series of little films and performances, two manifestos, organized an arts festival in a church in London and collaborated with a wealth of other artists, such as dancers and costume designers.

Romantically plaintive with a political dimension, their last video-track ‘Pyramid’ (taken from the first LP) was directed by the artist Álvaro Gómez-Pidal on 16mm film and used a drawn-on-film animation technique. This latest visual accompaniment is no less sublime.

Of interest from the Archives

Quarterly Revue Playlist Part 4



Violet Nox  ‘Future Fast’
(Sleep FUSE)  EP/Out Now





A slightly disorientating and ominous vision of futurism waits on the new unearthly cybernetic EP from the Boston, Massachusetts synth-heavy troupe Violet Nox. Gazing into the mainframe this quartet of light-bending minimal techno and ambient explorers fashion a strange cosmology from their tech setup. The subtly engineered wispy and whispery vapour trail opening ‘Cosmic Bits’ features an ever-intense soundscape of lightbeams, downplayed acid burbles, resonating satellite signals and air-y sine waves. It also reminded me a bit of the organic subterranean trance of the Future Sound of London and various records put out by the R&S and Hart House labels in the early to mid 90s. The moist atmospheric ‘Moonshine’ merges post-punk with bity techno, with its use of what sounds like flange-y guitar – though this could be the sound of a guest ‘ukulele’ – reverberations, bendy effects and cybernetic voices on an increasingly mind-altering journey. More metallic robotic like voices can be found on the fizzle lashed echo-y ‘Superfan’ – a track that just keeps getting weirder and nosier as it progresses – whilst ‘Bell Song’ sends those broadcasts and masked annunciations into a vacuum of trance-y tubular ambience and vague percussive industrial washes.

More intriguing and mysterious than dystopian augur, Violet Nox’s warped explorations prove intriguing and adroit in navigating brave new (alien) worlds.



A Journey Of Giraffes  ‘Armenia’
LP/Out Now





Seeming to get better with every release, the unassuming maverick ambient and soundscape explorer behind this most picturesque of animalistic monikers, John Lane, has in recent years been prolific in churning out the most subtle but deeply effective under-the-radar soundtracks. The safari has moved, in more recent years, away from Lane’s Beach Boys imbued driftwood suites to more ambient and traversing experimental influences. Previous excursions from the Baltimore composer include an aimless supernatural field-recorded walk through the forest, – a mixture of Arthur Russell meets Panda Bear and Alejandro Jodorowsky in John’s Maryland backyard -, and the love letter to the late Japanese electronic composer Susumu Yokota, Kona – a ceremonial, Zen like soundtrack that evokes the Fourth World Possible Musics of Jon Hassell, Popol Vuh and the higher plain communal glistened zither transcendence of Laraaji.

The latest album looks to the edges of Eastern Europe, where the Caucasus meets the Middle East, and the mysterious of Armenia. A land much disputed, fought over and most tragically, its population during WWI herded from their lands towards one of the 20th century’s most heinous genocides (still contested by the perpetrates to this day). Atavistic psychogeography, myths, ancient readings and poetry form the inspiration on this generous 44-track album of differing stirring soundscapes, traverses, contemplations and ruminations. From the air-y and sublime to the more ominous, primal and fraught, minimal evocations sit alongside more churned oblique scrapped moody horrors. Voices from the old religions swirl and echo amongst the hewn stone monuments to Armenia’s ghosts on an outstanding mesmerizing soundtrack. I’m not sure how many more great records John has to make before he gets the recognition he deserves, but it better be soon.

Of interest from the Archives

A Journey Of Giraffes ‘Kona’

A Journey Of Giraffes ‘F²’

Expo ‘She Sells Seashells’


The Monolith Cocktail is now on Ko-fi

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

VIDEO PREMIERE
Dominic Valvona
Photo: Rachael Tabet



Postcards   ‘Dead End’
(t3 Records)


Emerging from the tumult of the geopolitical flashpoint of Beirut, the shoegaze/drone rock trio Postcards channels an enraged melancholy through the most somnolent of vaporous cinematic styled music. Following in the wake of two dreamy and gauzy albums, the haunted Lebanese lineup of Julia Sabra, Marwan Tohme and Pascal Semerdjian asked fellow compatriot and filmmaker Tariq Keblaoui to shoot a vivid nocturnal video for the intimate but dramatic slow-motion plaint ‘Dead End’.

The band’s bassist/vocalist Sabra describes the visual themes behind the video for Dead End as, ‘a surreal depiction of a nightly walk, inspired by our lives in Beirut, where the normal often turns into the absurd, both emotionally and socio-politically.’

Taken from Postcards second, most recent, album Good Soldier (released back in January of this year) Dead End is a sleepwalking, translucent soundtrack awakening that reimagines Julee Cruise fronting the slow-core Low. Suffused with a brooding ether of untethered lulled vocals, strained waning guitar and wispy cymbal burnishes, the Slowdive and Floydian atmospherics subtly swell to punctuated intense crescendos that allude to something dangerous and tragic.

Reflecting the tumultuous setting of the band’s home city – forever a strategic important city in a country that has seen inter-fractional fighting between all sides in the politics of the Middle East, in more recent years the country has been caught up in the recent Syrian civil war, taking in a million refugees escaping the bloodshed from Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s apocalyptic state – Postcards have chosen a spellbinding video for a spellbinding track that merges shoegaze with the intimacy of chamber rock to reflect the anguish and anger.



ALBUM REVIEW
Dominic Valvona




Various   ‘INTENTA: Experimental & Electronic Music From Switzerland 1981 – 1993’   (Les Disques Bongo Joe/Décalé Records)   LP/28th February 2020


Overshadowed by its neighbours, the landlocked trans-alpine polyglot nation of Switzerland has a mixed history, both politically and culturally. The neutralized haven for at least the last century, the 26 canton state has proved a fertile climate for the arts especially; a key incubator for the birth of Dadaism and in turn, from its ashes, Surrealism (dreamed up in part by the Zurich Cabaret Voltaire of such luminaries Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara, Richard Huelsenbeck and Hans Arp, to name just a few), to the role of modern conceptual stars such as Urs Fischer, Thomas Hirschhorn and Sylvie Fleury.

Musically though, I draw a bit of a blank.

Bongo Joe along with their partners on this electrified Swiss odyssey, Décalé Records, are here to help, filling in those blanks with at least one important transitional period in the country’s music history; a twelve-year window in which the synthesized ‘hedonism’ of club and burgeoning Techno scenes emerged from a more politicized radical youth-led movement.

From 1981 onwards the great and good and more obscure mavericks of Switzerland embraced the technology and production; experimenting to varying degrees of success, from louche Euro-pop to the avant-garde; Kosmische style peregrinations to lo fi futurism. Plucked from the crates by Matthias Orsett and Maxi Fischer, a mixed bag of the ‘under-appreciated’, ‘sought-after’ and plain odd are brought together under the INTENTA title.

An intergenerational compilation, old hands like the multi-tasker artist/actor/poet/ski instructor and Jacques Brel adapt Jean-Pierre Huser feature alongside a rabble of Swiss post-punk-turn-synth-pioneers such as the ex-Grauzone saxophonist Claudine Chirac. The former, Huser, high on the Gauloises nicotine of Gainsbourg wraps a seedy Yello-esque gauze-y electro production around the 1984 down and out cocaine languor in ‘Chinatown’; the latter, sees Chirac reimagine what it might sound like if Wendy Carlos had been signed to the early Mute label, composing a Baroque-futurist elegy on the 1982 ‘Etudes’ exercise: part neoclassical, part videogame.





Quality and access, from the privately pressed to bigger full-on slick productions, this collection – which is neither linear nor thematic – dots Eurovision starlets amongst the most rudimentary of early synth tinkerings. At the more polished end, Swiss pop-chanteuse Carol Rich makes the cut with the vaporous hushed air-y ‘Computered Love’; the congruous flip side to Rich’s 1984 Eurovision entry ‘Tokyo Boy’. At the more lofi level, Dressed Up Animals 1983 serialism and ritualistic sound experiment ‘Mondtanz’, morphs Faust and Cabaret Voltaire.

The influences are just as wide-ranging; smoky, sexy Grace Jones vibes and Trevor Horn on Peter Philippe Weiss’ soulfully sultry underground transport diorama ‘Subway’ – a private pressing with high production values, remastered especially for this compilation – and D-Sire’s French-esque bluesy drumpad splash crescendo ‘Wintertime’.





Other notable attractions on this selection include the opening ‘Untitled’ Krautrock traverse, attributed to the 19th century Swiss folk hero Andreas Hofer – the Tyrolean innkeeper/drover turn rebel leader in the fight against Bonaparte; captured and later executed -; the Ryuichi Sakamoto with touches of the Yellow Magic Orchestra, dance across the Alpine glacial, ‘Swiss Air’, by Bells Of Kyoto; and mechanical water-treading ‘Django’, labeled as the Unknownmix.

As varied as Juan Atkins is to the 39 Clocks or Niles Rodger’s 80s Bowie production is to The Normal, the differences in synthesizer production and style is numerous. You can hear more or less every development in electronic music, from soundscaping to city lights NYC electro funk on this eager compilation that traces a less cherished passage in the evolution of European electronica. A collection of artists that absorbed but lent a certain Swiss bent to the genre. INTENTA is well worth seeking out, if not only to own some very rare and expensive sounds.





The Monolith Cocktail is now on Ko-Fi

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

ALBUM REVIEWS
Dominic Valvona





I certainly never planned it that way (honest) but artists from the experimental electronica and ambient music fields dominate this month’s roundup. To start off there’s the all-spanning retrospective collection of the eclectic Finnish electronic one-man cult Jimi Tenor to salivate over; the double album compilation NY, Hel, Barca collects together many of his most seminal tracks from across his first six solo LPs (many of which have been deleted). Finally, after at least four years in the making, Welsh vaporous and diaphanous chanteuse Ani Glass releases her debut album, the cerebral electro pop Mirores. And Rainbow Island produces a colourful fuck-up of cosmic spasmodic bandy effects and break beats on their new LP, Illmatrix.

From the more ambient and understated end of electronic music, there’s the Dan Burwood and James Wilson collaboration for the Tokyo-based obscure label, Kirigirsu Recordings, Singapore Police Background, and musician/composer/sound artist Tony James Morton, inspired by the early developments in Hip-Hop, uses real-time sampled vinyl to create minimalist soundscapes on his new mini-CD release Fragments.

A few exceptions though, including the latest grandiose space opus from the Toulouse trio, Slift, the most recent dreamy shoegaze EP from the Brooklyn trio Vivienne Eastwood and a Turkish-Scandinavian progressive jazz fusion obscurity, Matao with Atilla Engin’s Turkish Delight.


Jimi Tenor   ‘NY, Hel, Barca’
(Bureau B)   LP/6th March 2020


Birthed from a combination of the signature instrument that permeates his omnivorous mixed bag of prolific music and the 70s teen idol, Finnish cult multi instrumentalist and composer Jimi Tenor is unarguably due this double-album overhaul. The later-ego of one Lassi O.T. Lehto, the eclectic ennui-shifting moniker has both absorbed and created a host of fusions over a thirty-plus period – and still continues to do so -, first as the leader of Jimi Tenor And His Shamans and then as both a solo artist and collaborator on a wealth of projects with such luminaries as Tony Allen, Abdissa Assefai, Nicole Willis and The Soul Investigators. From bootyliscious disco funk to Afrojazz and cult soundtracks, Tenor has covered it all. This retrospective spread concentrates on the first six solo albums (of a so far eleven album solo run); covering tracks from the inaugural 1994 Sähkömies album for the Finnish label Sähko, right through to the new millennium and the 2001 album Utopian Dream.

Recorded, hence the first location city of this collection’s title, in a New York apartment on rudimentary equipment, Sähkömies spawned Tenor’s first major club hit, the silly but infectious electro-house bouncing ‘Take Me Baby’. A game-changer, this DAF meets Depeche Mode on the dancefloor earworm took off after Tenor performed it at the Berlin Love Parade. It made the charts in the process and led to a three-album deal for Tenor with the iconic Warp label in the second half of the 1990s. That popular dance anthem is unsurprisingly included here alongside the more erratic burbling Bruno Spoerii-rubs-against-early-hip-hop kooky ‘Teräsmies’ and electronic chemistry set space quirk ‘Voimamies’. The follow-up album for the same label – released a year later – Europa, is represented by the Afro-Techno and minimalist Basic Channel apparition ‘Fantom’, the gyrating sexed-up Yello-House ‘A Daughter Of The Snow’, and lush flute-y Library Music with hints of a Japanese Style Council ‘Unmentionables’.

Moving on to Warp in ’97, the first of a trio of albums for the edgy-electronic label, Intervision, lends four tracks of differing creative influences to this compilation. There’s a transmogrified Lalo Schifrin meets Theremin aria quivered homage to ‘Tesla’, the Glam-skulking Alan Vega seedy ‘Sugardaddy’, Shintaro Sakamoto Kosmische ‘Shore Hotel’ and bubbly, filtered Acid-Jazz spruced ‘Outta Space’. Next up in that run, Orgamism is no less escapist and polygenesis. An Afro-futurist safari of clockwork birds-of-paradise, psychedelic folk flute and square-wave buzzes are conduced on the first track of that cusp-of-a-new-millennia album, ‘Xinotape Heat’, which also kicks off this whole collection. Playing up that millennial doomsday, ‘Year Of The Apocalypse’ is a David Axlerod Biblical somehow waylaid to the Paradise Garage – the rapture played out to a Chicago House piano gospel funk. From the same album the compiler’s of this retrospective have also chosen the jazzy lounge Zombies brooding ‘My Mind’; a semi-romantic curiosity that features Tenor on wafting serenaded saxophone duties.





Into the noughties, the final Warp album, Out Of Nowhere, finds Tenor on a funk odyssey vibe, taking Curtis Mayfield on another of those Acid-Jazz and sitar psychedelic trips with the high value production and commercial ‘Spell’. On the same record, Tenor pairs up with the Riga Symphony Orchestra to spin Easy Listening into a Rotary Connection meets Johnny Richards’ thriller of drama and suspense on ‘Backbone Of Night’. By this point we’re long used to the exotic menagerie of styles and crossovers, and by the time we reach the final solo album, 2001’s Utopian Dream, nothing is a surprise to the ears: The tile track, with its cyber elephant nozzle vacuuming, silly robotic voices and flighty saxophone transduces Marshall Jefferson, whilst on ‘Natural Cosmic Relief’ Tenor puts a pseudo Ian Curtis vocal over a kooky Japanese psychedelic backing.

 

As likely to hear Orlando Julius and Don Cherry as the Pet Shop Boys, International Pony or Ennio Morricone on acid, Jimi Tenor can mix the commercial dancefloor hit with the most cult and fused of sounds too. On this mixed bag, which is neither linear or thematic in it’s choosing and alignment, Garage follows Jazz follows Library Music oddities follows Funk follows Psychedelic Soul. A great place to start for those new to the influential composer, NY, Hel, Barca is a great retrospective but also an opportunity to own a load of tracks from a deleted back catalogue. Hopefully this compilation will also rightly cement a fairly underground maverick’s place in the development and story of electronic music fusion. There’s something, nearly, for everyone on this twenty-track purview.





Ani Glass   ‘Mirores’
(Recordiau Neb)   LP/6th March 2020





It has taken a good few years to materialize but finally the gauze-y vaporous debut album from the Welsh synth-pop siren Ani Glass has dreamily emerged. Since being enticed back to the Welsh hinterlands after leaving the frothy pop belles The Pipettes, the Cardiff native has been busy both with post-graduate studies in Urban And Regional Development (graduating in 2018) and involvement in promoting, through her solo musical projects, the Welsh and overlapping Cornish languages – all the way back in 2013, Ani joined the Cornish Corsedh, a group that awards those who’ve contributed to the Celtic spirit and bardship of that atavistic culture. The play on words title from this inaugural LP is itself taken, in part, from that West Coast vernacular: ‘miras’ being the Cornish word for “to look”, the Miró bit a nod to Ani’s favourite artist, the Spanish abstract doyen Joan Miró. Mirores we’re told,’essentially translates as ‘Observer’ thus presenting the album as Ani’s observation of the city in which she was born and now lives.’

Arriving four years after her initial solo EP debut Ffrwydrad Tawel the follow-up arrives in the wake of so much turmoil political and geographical turmoil. Now would seem as good a time as any to push a disappearing vernacular and heritage as Brexit emboldens Welsh nationalism. All this obviously feeds into the gossamer woven translucent ethereal pop of Mirores; an album that is based on a wealth of concepts. One of which is of course preservation, but another, the idea of movement and progress both societally speaking, but also in the sense of a journey; the contours of a picturesque Welsh landscape set against the more churning busy urban soundscape – a counterbalance that you’ll hear for yourselves, suffused throughout the atmospheric undulations of nature and sampled speeches, broadcasts.





After studying it so intensely, it will come as no surprise that another underpinning thread of this album, ‘A reaction to the values of capitalism’s priorities over the valued needs of society’s most unfortunate’, is the American-Canadian author activist Jane Jacobs most infamous polemic blast at the “urban renewal” zealots, The Death And Life Of Great American Cities.

In the interregnum between releases Ani learnt a good deal about production. And on Mirores she’s borrowed from some of the best purveyors of synthesized music: Vengalis, Moroder, Jean-Michel Jarre and Arthur Russell. The results of which send Ani through the looking glass of air-y untethered dreaminess. The arty wispy ‘Peiriawaith Perffaith’ (Perfect Machinery) has a touch of Kylie, even a Welsh Carol Rich, about it; the slightly more fearful and less lyrical ‘Cathedral In The Desert’ bears shades of both Soft Cell and early OMD. Taking a vignette style break from the veiled Celtic Avalon synth-pop, Ani merges South African Township gospel with choral Welsh colliery protest yearn on ‘I.B.T.’.

From the glassy transparent to more hazed-dream weaving, from homages to minimalist abstract painter Agnes Martin to lulled activism, Ani Glass’ patience has paid off with a disarmingly sophisticated pop album of subtleties that gradually seep into the unconsciousness.



Slift   ‘Ummon’
(Stolen Body Records)  28th February 2020





The Titan themed Ummon is a supersonic Hawkwind, with Steve Vai in tow as a band member, catching a lift on the Silver Surfers’ board, on an adventure into deep space. I could leave it at just that, but I feel duty bound to expand. So here we go. In search of one of the original heaven and earth usurpers, the Titan seer’s Hyperion (god of heavenly light, father to sun, moon and dawn deities Helios, Selene and Eos), the Toulouse trio of Slift go full on space rock opera with an interstellar epic of doom metal and heavy psychedelic prog.

Trudging with ominous intentions as it is grandiose and squalling in a vortex of bombast, this lengthy conceptual opus swirls around a milky way inhabited by our makers: A universe that, as it happens, rocks to a sonic soundtrack of the Cosmic Dead, Ipsissimus, Sabbath, the Black Angels, Dead Meadows, Pink Floyd, the already Hawkwind, and at its most star-gazing, Spiritualized. Though that’s only half the story. It’s a bastardization of Viking pagan-metal and psych on the fantastical salute to the gods, ‘Thousand Helmets Of Gold’; ‘Width Of A Circle’ era Ronson battles a subdued motorik Can and baggy Stone Roses on the three-parter, ‘Citadel On A Satellite’; and a Teutonic bashing version of The Skids and Saints on the cosmic-punk curtain closer ‘Lions, Tigers And Bears’.

Galactus sized riffs and crescendos are numerous as the stars in the Mother Sky on this Moorcockian misadventure. Ummon is a solid heavy trip with plenty of space dust and ethereal dreamy escapism to break-up the onslaught. Slift go big and bold as the entice Hyperion back from exile to clear up the mess and spread some light on a space-rock epic that is anything but pompous. Slift, we salute you in your endeavor. Keep up the good work.




Singapore Police Background   ‘Antiworlds’
(Kirigirisu Recordings)   Out Now





Quiet of late even for a label that operates under the radar in relative obscurity, Neil Debnam’s (of cult favourites Flying Kites and, post-accident, Broken Shoulder fame) Tokyo-based label makes a welcome return in 2020 with another understated ambient exploration of soporific entrancing unease. The brilliantly named Singapore Police Background is a collaboration between Dan Burwood of Calm! and James Wilson of Opt Out; two artists that have previously both released ambient peregrinations on the Moonside Tapes facilitators.

Methodology wise the pair recorded together but polished off their evanescent ‘hypnagogic’ (the state immediately before falling asleep) experiments separately. This process results in an indolent suite of purred and murmuring ambient drone ‘Fragments’ and sedative induced reverberating lingers. Antiworlds is in most cases disarming and drifting; the barest traces of piano and guitar hidden beneath hazy square waves transmitted from the ether. Haunted, often creeping, elements of uncertainty can be found on the wearily entitled ‘See The Conkering Heroine Comes/Watching Newsnight Taking Valium’ couplet of malaise. This is continued on the equally entrancing ebb and flow sonic diptych ‘Iridescent Bodies/Under The Awning’. Standing out some what from the Boards Of Canada, sound In Silence and Eno-esque dreamy traverses, the beautifully contemplative ‘Outside The Blossoming Trees Wept Like Waiting Room Laughter’ is a conjuncture of a musical haiku, a scene from post WWII art house Japanese cinema and something lamentably and resigned, dreamt up by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. There are actually some real nice understated melodic evocations to be found on this languid affair: the opening fragmentary drone being a prime example.

Intermittent signs of the elements and humanity often surface among the oscillations and dissipated swathes on an album by a collaborative partnership that shows potential and promise. Hopefully we’ll hear more from this effective duo in the future.



Tony James Morton  ‘Fragments’
(Focused Silence)   Mini-CD/17th February 2020





It might not sound apparent but the cylindrical generated ambience, opaque minimalist stirrings and waves of the musician/composer/sound artist Tony James Morton’s latest ‘fragmentary’ experiments are, process wise, inspired by techniques used in the early development of Hip-Hop; namely, creating new improvised sonic traverses in real time from samples taken directly from vinyl.

‘A fragmented interpretation’ as the PR spill describes it; Morton passes his sources through a custom-built sampler using a specially created visual programme language for music, the Max/MSP. That technique and method is interesting enough, pitching, as it does, Morton as a kind of conceptual DJ. But the most important thing is: how’s it sound.

Well, the sound is quite subtle with soundscapes materializing slowly, building towards fizzled peaks before dissipating gradually. ‘Fragment #1’ of this gently spinning moiety features enervated cause drones and crystallizations that eventually go on to form a heavenly momentum of cosmic rays. The second Fragment has a rotor like motion that turns out a vaporous melody. A distant muffled thunder acts as a deep bass whilst the dreamy and mysterious are evoked from Morton’s sustained pulses and buzzes.

The Fragments material is a stimulating, stirring couplet of improvisations; an evanescent passing of sound that has its moments.


Matao with Atilla Engin   ‘Turkish Delight’
(Arsivplak/Guerssen)   LP/19th February 2020





It won’t surprise you to learn that this latest obscure quirk from the Guerssen hub (this time via the Arsivplak label) is yet another example of a record that didn’t quite make the grade; a strange brew from the edges of jazz-fusion, close but not close enough technically, artistically or inventive wise to break through a crowded market.

A Turkish Delight from the Danish recorded union of the Matao trio and Atilla Engin, this rare (intentionally I’m sure) convergence of Turkish traditional music and progressive jazz, bordering at times on cult library music and at others on Krautrock (Agitation Free, Xhol Caravan) was only ever released in Denmark, but never, surprisingly, released in its spiritual home of Turkey. An exotic shimmy of belly-dancer sequins and trinkets, noodling and whirling between souk rock and sublime porte kitsch, Engin’s rootsy Turkish galloping and rattling percussion goes up against the 5/8 signature wah-wah, fuzzed and choppy electric guitar and clavinet-like electric piano on a series of instrumental jams that ape Santana, Pink Floyd, Passport, Elias Rahbani and Mustafa Ozkent.

Taking another punt a year on, the label is now releasing this exotic curio on limited vinyl, and again via the usual digital channels. Whether you need this Turkish flavoured fusion in your life or not remains debatable. However, that’s not to say there isn’t some interesting highlights or fine playing as the mixed Scandi-Turk quartet certainly stoke up a far zappy progressive noise and dynamic enough rhythm.

Anyone recently introduced to such modern Turkish psychedelic movers like Altin Gun will love it.




Vivienne Eastwood  ‘Home Movies’
EP/2nd January 2020





Appropriating the grand disheveled dame of punk couture, but with a slight change in compass point direction, the gauze-y American dream-wave and shoegaze band Vivienne Eastwood have drifted into my inbox of submissions this month with a melodious, submerged in a dreamy liquid EP of sepia Home Movies. With scant information it seems the trio have been knocking around the lush flange-reverb coated scene of hazy guitar pop for eight years.

Progressively more dreamy in a wash of phaser drifting echo, previous releases have been more cause, fuzzy and distorted compared to this six-track of lo fi diaphanous malingering. Less Ariel Pink or No Age and more Lowtide and Slowdive, Home Movies’ sound spirals in a mirror-y fashion between the veiled layering pop of Sam Flex meets Lush opener ‘Hanging Gardens’, and the John Hughes soundtracked by Holy Wave ‘Afterall’. Nearer the backend of the EP, ‘No Toes’ seems to slide towards acoustic grunge.

It’s a lovely dream-pop, with certain post-punk edge, kind of EP, rich with wafting recollections and yearnings.





Rainbow Island  ‘Illmatrix’
(Artetetra)  LP/2nd February 2020





For a label synonymous for the chthonian and dangerous, the latest spams of omnivorous derangement from the sugarcoated named Italian quartet Rainbow Island at least finds some cosmic levity amongst the despair of the age. Though the recondite facilitator label responsible for this, as usual, limited release – the Italian experimental underground specialists Artetera – says it features darker, heavier sonorities than usual, Illmatrix rebounds across a frazzled bubble bath of bandy and bendy effects and off-kilter drum breaks. Certainly under a multitude of stresses and contorted manipulations, the fucked-up matrix has its moments of tangible rhythm and even melody to lock onto.

From a polygenesis source, with all four members spread throughout the UK, Thailand and their native Italy, the Rome conceived Islanders have pulled and stretched in all directions. Somehow it all comes together though, in an admittedly weird fashion. The opening candy kook ‘Jesterbus Ride’ is simultaneously lax, primal, Kosmische and psychedelic; a spherical chemistry of ever-shifting ideas that sounds like a Trip-Hop meets Library Music remix-in-motion by Andrew Weatherall. Elsewhere you hear what sounds like someone repeatedly hitting plastic tubes with a paddle reverberating beats, obscured masked voices and conversations, the clashing of blunt swords and menacing vacuum reversals.

It’s an odd sonic world indeed; a cosmology that harries the more mysterious sedation of Cluster with a 2-Step Dub beat (‘Simmia’), evokes the spasm-industrial sound of Populäre Mechanik (‘Cacao Hip Mini’) and plays Ping-Pong with Autechre and Unlimited outtakes Can (‘Dropzone’). It’s dance music on the verge of a nervous breakdown in one instance, utterly fucked-up the next, a deranged colorful information overload transduced into a concentrated energy of warped brilliance.

If you find Rainbow Island somehow cute, then you can always try the more sobering augurs of apocalyptic doom from label mate and fellow compatriot Giancarlo Brambillia. Released at the same time as the Illmatrix LP – a double bill if you like – the Milan-based maverick pitches the end of the “human epoch” on his limited cassette tape discourse Bee Extinction. Under the Kuthi Jin moniker, the drone-monger gives a less than optimistic outcome to our chances of survival.

Both albums from Artetetra inhabit a similar anxiety yet couldn’t sound more different. Go seek out, and whilst you’re at it take a perusal of the label’s entire back catalogue. You won’t be disappointed.








The Monolith Cocktail is now on Ko-Fi

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

PREVIEW/REVIEW
Dominic Valvona





A quick shifty, glance, a perusal of the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload our inboxes this month by me, Dominic Valvona.

For your consideration this week, tracks, even a film trailer, from The Band, Chassol, Nordine Staifi, Graham Costello’s Strata and, Van Pool.


Graham Costello’s Strata  ‘Cygnus’
(Gearbox Records)  Single/14th February 2020




From out the burgeoning Glasgow jazz scene rises Graham Costello’s Strata; an impressive sextet that edges towards post-rock and minimalism but was founded on a synthesis of flowing progressive and fusion jazz. Embodied in their latest untethered mini-opus, a free-flowing ascendance to the northern constellation of ‘Cygnus’, drummer Graham and his Strata troupe dynamically turn in an amorphous performance. Both moody and mysterious, with a certain gravitas, they build subtly from horizon emergent lingering caressed saxophone and ebbing gentle piano to a crescendo of rapid percussive barreling rolls, punchier horns, slam the lid down on the keys avant-garde piano and Afro-jazz undulations on a suffused journey towards the stars.

A freestanding single, ‘Cygnus’ was recorded, as it happens, at Bryan Ferry’s Studio One in West London, and engineered by Hugh Padgham. Alongside Graham on this night flight peregrination were Harry Weir on tenor saxophone, Liam Shortall on trombone, Fergus McCreadie on piano, Mark Hendry on guitar and Joe Williamson on electric bass.

Of interest from the Archives:

Also on Gearbox Records: Abdullah Ibrahim ‘The Balance’ (review)



Nordine Staifi  ‘Zine Ezzinet’
(Sofa Records/Bongo Joe)  Teaser track from the MAGHREB K7 CLUB: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi 1985​-​1997 compilation/27th March 2020




The Maghreb as you’ve probably never heard it before: All whistles, Casio presets and boogie disco on the cusp of alt-pop, like a North African Postcard Records. Sofa Records in conjunction with Les Disques Bongo Joe present Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staiif 1985-1997, a compilation of tracks recorded and produced between those years in Lyon, France by musicians from North Africa’s Maghreb region; created in the hothouse environment of the city’s café culture by artist mostly from Algeria. This compilation brings together eight tracks that were then released on audio cassettes only, offering them for the first time ever on vinyl. Now there’s an offer you should find hard to refuse.

As the PR spill explains: ‘Most of Lyon’s musical scene is composed of men originating from eastern Algeria, but since the 1950s, the Croix-Rousse and Guillotière cafés have counted musicians from all over Maghreb. These cafés were social hubs, where these individuals met up weekly; playing together and sharing their everyday life experience — but they also had a major role in the development of popular music of French-based North Africans. In Lyon, Le But Café in the 3rd arrondissement or the bars on Sébastien Gryphe Street in the 7th arrondissement were among these: one could conduct business there, getting booked for a wedding, a baptism, a gala, or a studio session… all took place there.

Playing together in Lyon. The practice of music was cross-regional with different North African influences, but also with local traditions. These versatile musicians also absorbed new local influences: music within the context of immigration was a perfect school for musical cosmopolitanism. Chachacha or tango versions of some Cheikh El Hasnaoui tracks come to mind, or Mohamed Mazouni’s jerks and twists. Like their predecessors, the musicians in this compilation brilliantly integrate raï or staïfi tunes with disco aesthetics or funk guitar riffs as Nordine Staifi did. You could also think of Salah El Annabi who used the Oxygene theme (1976) by Jean-Michel Jarre, the Lyon-based composer and electronic music pioneer. “As we say around here, mixed weddings make good-looking lads!” said Abbès Hamou, a musician from Place du Pont. Following on from their musical traditions and unrestrained inventiveness, the musicians’ repertoire naturally assimilated their era’s aesthetics and technologies.’

From that compilation here’s Nordine Staifi’s ‘Zine Ezzinet’. Expect a full review report next month.


Robbie Robertson And The Band documentary   ‘Once Were Brothers’
Film/Select cinemas from 21st February 2020




As the earnest progenitors of a peregrination soundtrack, later to be expanded into a whole genre in its own right, under the audacious ‘Americana’ moniker, The Band defined a bygone pioneering spirit at a time when the American youth (especially) were pushing for both social and political change. Their songs spoke and sympathized with a certain inherent truth and hardiness from an age of steam, aligned with the country’s most destructive historical chapter, the civil war; out-of-step yet somehow wholly relevant in the face of civil rights and the Vietnam war. In a manner they would also be chief instigators of the whole ‘revival’ scene that saw The Beatles and bands like The Kinks return to more pastoral roots.

It didn’t matter, and is a totally fatuous bum-steer that four fifths of that quintet were born and raised over the boarder in Canada; an historical America will forever be immortalized by such summary tales of the old west as ‘The Weight’, ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and ‘Across The Great Divide’ regardless of the authors nationality. Tales, which were so vivid as to be cinematic in their storytelling and nature; encompassing both tragedy and perseverance through the eyes of richly textured characters: the sort of individuals that could have easily stepped out of the novels of Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemmingway and the photo-plated almanac chronicles of the 19th century.

It wasn’t just the landscape and their own interpretations they owned so convincingly, they could also be relied upon to adopt the mantle of the artists they covered too, from Chuck Berry to Sam Cooke. As a backing band themselves for such luminaries as Ronnie Hawkins, through to Bob Dylan (electrifying the troubadour laureate’s sound), that spiritually revered line-up of Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel lived up to their presumptuous ‘THE BAND’ moniker; incorporating the sweet gospel soul of the deep south with country, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley and bluegrass at the drop of an old proverbial hat; they were ethereal and superior in musicianship, way beyond most of their contemporaries reach.

Rightly receiving another moment in the spotlight, a new documentary film, focused towards the group’s only surviving member, Once Were Brothers is inspired by Robertson’s 2016 bestselling memoir testimony of the same name. Presumptuous (that word again) to now single out his name (Robbie Robertson and the Band), even if he saw himself as unelected leader, this latest overview is billed as a confessional, cautionary, and sometimes humorous tale of Robertson’s young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music. The film, directed and put together by the trio of old hand Martin Scorsese (who of course memorably captured The Band’s The Last Waltz curtain call for posterity), Brian Grazer and Ron Howard blends rare archival footage and interviews with many of Robertson’s friends and collaborators, including Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Scorsese, Taj Mahal, Peter Gabriel, David Geffen and Ronnie Hawkins, among others.

Hopefully it will prove a worthy chapter in the story of one of the greatest Bands to have ever stalked the Earth.



Chassol  ‘Rollercoaster (pt.2)’
(Tricatel)  Single/Out Now




On the big dipper of life, the surreal mindscape of the very much in-vogue idiosyncratic French producer Chassol is as cerebral as it is fun.

Firstly though, for those who’d like a bit of background, Paris-Martiniquais Chassol (real name Christophe Chassol) has been finessing his own experimental ‘ultrascore’ approach to composition, in which – inspired by Steve Reich and Hermeto Pascoal – vocal and ambient sounds from video footage are harmonised in perfect sync to create a living, breathing soundtrack. His experiments caught the ear of Diplo, who in turn put Frank Ocean onto Chassol’s 2013 album, Indiamore. Ocean – at the time working on Blonde – then tapped Chassol to join him at Abbey Road, to develop speech harmonisation on the album (following a period of Chassol ignoring his calls, having no idea who Ocean was). Shortly afterwards Solange – having Shazam-ed his music at a performance installation – sought out Chassol to produce several tracks on 2019’s When I Get Home.

His latest album, the upcoming Ludi (released on 6th March) is inspired by Hermann Hesse’s first long-form novel The Glass Bead Game, or as it is sometimes published the Magister Ludi (hence the LP title), and the themes of play, both in relation to that novel’s central board game theory and to an inspired reification of four sociology-based elements of ‘play’, as envisaged by sociologist Roger Caillois: chance, masks, competition (as depicted in the previous single, ‘Savana, Céline, Aya’) and on this latest single, ‘Rollercoaster (Pt.2)’, vertigo.

A bizarre ride that transduces and harmonises the sounds and sights Chassol captured on a ride at the Tokyo Dome theme park (captured GoPro gonzo style and without permission in the accompanying video), ‘Rollercoaster (pt.2)’ is a kooky adrenaline rush that features the guest vocal “ohms” of Alice Lewis, Thomas de Pourquery and Alice Orpheus.

There are certainly some heavy depths to both this single and the forthcoming multi-disciplinary double-album, yet a sense of wonderment, exploration and excitement too.


Van Pool  ‘Bathing In The Open’
LP/26th January 2020




If you’re familiar with the expletory saxophone playing and electronic manipulations of the prolific Andy Haas – from his burgeoning days as a Muffin in Martha’s new wave outfit in the late 70s to his work with Meg Remy’s ever expanding U.S. Girls troupe, to his myriad of solo and collaborative projects, then you’ll be thrilled to hear he’s just formed a new group, the Van Pool. Different in mood to the amorphous unsettling augers and outright nightmares that permeated the evocations of his collaboration with Dan Fiorino on the American Nocturne visions, this latest improvised experiment of smoldering, squawking and yearning saxophone contortions and attuned blowing is a traverse of contemporary jazz.

Joining Andy on the quartet’s second album, Bathing In The Open, are the guiartist/bassists Omer Leibovitz and Kirk Schoenherr and drummer Layton Weedeman. From tranquil undergrowth wanderings, permeated by wafted guitar twangs and lingering saxophone to the more bent out of shape, more piercing and intense, this fantastical, transportive suite of ‘ideas’ is for fans of the Cosmic Range, Donny McCaslin, the Ross McHenry Trio, but also just fans of free-form, unburdened performance in general.

Of interest from the Archives:

Don Fiorino and Andy Haas ‘American Nocturne’ Review

U.S. Girls ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ Review


The Monolith Cocktail is now on Ko-fi

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

PHOTOS/GIG
Giorgio Lamonica




Continuing in 2020 with our collaboration with the leading Italian music publication Kalporz, the Monolith Cocktail will be cosying up and sharing reviews, interviews and other bits from our respective sites each month. Keep an eye out for future ‘synergy’ between our two great houses as we exchange posts.

This month we feature Giorgio Lamonica‘s recent photos of the virtuoso jazz drummer Yussef Dayes at the Locomotiv in Bologna.

Yussef Dayes Live At Locomotiv, Bologna, Italy


For the only Italian date for the British drummer (accompanied on bass by Rocco Palladino, the son of the much better known maestro Pino) the Locomotiv was completely full. The surprising thing was the very young average age of the audience, a sign that the idea of jazz being mainly the object of passion for those beyond a certain age is perhaps an outdated concept given the evolution that the genre is having; increasingly contaminated, as it is, by other sounds and other cultures.

Yussef Dayes is very good. He seems to have a brain for every limb and can create a deep empathy with the audience. Fantastic a long moment of improvisation during which a dialogue was established between the drummer and the audience: Yussef proposed a rhythm and the audience responded with vocals. This went on until the quatrains proposed by the drummer became so complex to sing that the whole Locomotiv broke out in a thunderous laugh. A very pleasant evening, we can only thank the venue once again for the always interesting choices in their programming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWS
Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea





Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea joined the Monolith Cocktail team in January 2019. The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His newest release, a beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, is out today via Metal Postcard Records (here).

Each week we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick to see what sticks. In his own idiosyncratic style and turn-of-phrase, pontificating aloud and reviewing with scrutiny an eclectic deluge of releases, here Brian’s latest batch of recommendations.


Martin Månsson Sjöstrand Trio  ‘Universum Faller’
LP/ 15th January 2020




Martin Månsson Sjöstrand was the leader of the excellent Dog Paper Submarine who’s final LP I think is due for release on Small Bear Records in the coming years. This album by his new trio takes over from where the Dog Paper Submarine left off but this time concentrating on the joys of instrumental music. Space rock wrestles with surf rock in this fine melee of fretboard wizardry.

If Joe Meek had survived to see the 70s and prog rock this could be the kind of music he would be releasing; a succulent blend of ear enlightening Frisbee throwing joy: all out frugging joy.

Of interest from the Archives:

Martin Mânsson Sjöstrand  ‘Wonderland Wins’


Bruce Hendrickson And The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies  ‘New Jerusalem’
Album/24th January 2020




A few weeks ago those with memories not riddled with middleageness might remember that I reviewed the fine debut single from Bruce Hendrickson And The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies (how I wish they had a shorter name), calling it ‘quite magical’. Well here is their EP/mini album and again I will describe it as magical.

Kicking off with ‘After The Apocalypse’, a stunning space aged Bowie like Scary Monsters era rocker, all whirring synths and screaming guitars, a track that sets one thinking that maybe the apocalypse won’t be so bad after all. That is followed by the album version of their debut single. And without going over already covered ground, is quite beautiful and my fave track of the year so far: quite stunning in fact. Track three ‘Pale Horse’ once again has the dark but beautiful vibe that the wonderful and much missed Sparklehorse used to emit quite naturally. The final track is the title song ‘New Jerusalem’, which has one’s mind scurrying to the rare occasion when Mark E smith would leave his heart open for all to see, when he would bare his soul and give us a ballad ala ‘Bill Is Dead’. ‘New Jerusalem’ is a fine way to finish a fine album.




Of interest from the Archives:

Bruce Hendrickson and The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies  ‘Any Sunny Day’


The Saxophones  ‘Eternity Bay’
(Full Time Hobby) LP/6th March 2020




This is the sound of a romantic early evening stroll across a beach with the love of your life; a soft shuffle across a dance floor with one of those late 50s jazz tinged ballads soundtracking the innuendo dance of life. For this LP supplies a beautiful escape to the everyday hustle. At times reminding me of Lambchop at their seductive best, the subtle strum or pluck of jazz guitar and the soft soul ecstasy of the horns backing the tuneful crooning of Alexi Erenkov.

An ideal and relaxing way to soundtrack a evening-in, Eternity Bay is a fine and crafted album with beautifully written and performed songs whose subtle elegance washes over you.





C.S.E Art Project  ‘The Truths On The Telly’
(Metal Postcard Records)  Single/19th January 2020



Out of the ashes of the New Art School, a band that released a number of storm driven post punk singles last year, arises C.S.E. Art Project, a band that continues where New Art School left off with another three-minute blast of art beat poetry. An aural equivalent of reading an old copy of the Sniffing Glue fanzine C.S.E Art Project could well of stepped out the pages from that legendary old rag: Guitars that should make today’s youth throw away their smart phones and do something more revolutionary instead, like listen to this fine single and be inspired.




Of interest from the Archives:

The New Art School ‘Mod Kid’ Single Review


November Bees ‘Claw an’ Feather’
LP/17th January 2020




I will be honest, I wasn’t expecting to like this LP as they describe themselves as psychedelic and most bands nowadays think psychedelic is have-many-foot- peddles-will-travel (to as far as the closest psychfest normally). You know, those fests where bands have to check in their inner melodies at the door.

But I’m pleased to report that the November Bees are indeed a true psychedelic experience were song craft is crafted with humor, heart and invention, and melodies are things to be cherished not scoffed at. At times this fine album brings to mind the wonderful Edwyn Collins at his sardonic best whilst sharing the same drugs as The Coral and the Super Furries. This is the kind of album the wonderful Stolen Body Records release. In fact, Stolen Body Records why on earth have you not released this? Are you slipping? A fine album indeed.





Picniclunch ‘Yor Boy’
LP/Out Now




I like Picniclunch. I like The Fall. I like the way they both go around their post punk riffery. This is the kind of album John Peel would have adored and played constantly and the kind of album BBC 6 music ignores because of the strangeness and out of world joy that mid 80s post punk influence emits. It just is not bland and generic enough for them.

I am so glad and happy that bands like Picniclunch exist and still feel the need to share their outsider discordant take on their musical art and at times this album reminds me of the another American musical maverick, the fine Occult Character. Not in sound but in feel and ideals. I’d also recommend this album to anyone who loves the sound of early Pavement and the aforementioned Fall. Well worth investigating.





Anytime Cowboy ‘S/T’
(Third Coming Records) LP/28th February 2020




Anybody out there who knows me and my band of underground cults The Bordellos, will know of my love for the great Syd Barrett who’s music I adore. And so I’m ever so pleased to report that this, the Anytime Cowboy debut album, is filled with the joy and spirit of that great man. The Television Personalities may have known where Syd Barrett lives but Anytime Cowboy doesn’t just know the address but the colour of his walls and his inside leg measurement as well.

The songs do not just shilly but shally in equal measure. Wonderful discordant jangle guitars drip from the speakers with the all-consuming glory of the early Pastels. Underground guitar lines collide with the melodious offbeat beauty of a man in the know that pop music is the greatest and most moving of art forms. This debut LP is well worthy of any music lovers attention and I shall be investigating further the releases from Third Coming Records, the home of this excellent release.






Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

ROUNDUP
Dominic Valvona





A quick shifty, glance, a perusal of the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload our inboxes this month by me, Dominic Valvona.

Featured artists include Bob Destiny, Elefant, John Howard, MAI MAI MAI, Mazeppa and Remington Super 60.


Bob Destiny  ‘Wang Dang/Mahna (Troubles)’
(Pharaway Sounds/Guerssen)  Double A-Side Single/19th February 2020



‘Wang Dang thank you ma’am!’ Another scintillating raucous obscurity from the Spanish Guerssen umbrella of reissue label specialists, the Puerto Rico born, Harlem furnace baptized Bob Destiny’s double A-sider is a blistering souk soul missive from the North African r’n’b back pages. Originally dug up by the Habibi Funk crew a few years back and featured on one of their compilations, ‘Wang Dang’ is a scuzz-y howled hustler that was laid down in Algeria, of all places. Bob headed out there at the tail end of the 60s to teach music at the Algerian National Theater. He continued a singing career whilst living there, and in 1970 released both the ‘Wang Dang’ and more localized percussive and sauntering ‘Mahna (Troubles)’ 45s.

Pharaway Sounds have chosen to select tracks from both singles to make up this blazing reissue 45.

The backstory is as interesting as the fusion of funk. Bob started playing piano as a child (self-taught) and tap danced with the Five Chocolate Drops when he was just six years old. He’d go on to meet and play with Billie Holliday, appear in a film with Shirley Temple, hot-foot it in musicals on Broadway, dance at Mankiewicz’s movie Cleopatra, and sing at the San Remo Festival. All this before he made it across the Atlantic, where he also played in Morocco with Hahmed Maraki and formed bands like The Fingers. A well-travelled man, Bob moved to Spain the 80s where he created a jazz school in Zaragoza and was involved with the famous Jazz en la Margen festival. In the 90s, Bob hopped over the border to France, focusing on composition, gospel, musicals and soundtracks. Sadly, he passed away on March 31, 2016. This then serves as a befitting tribute.



Remington Super 60  ‘New EP’
(Café Superstar Recordings)  EP/29th January 2020





How beautifully melodious is this?! Like a hazy 60s Californian dappled light shining on a velvet morning, the nostalgic lulling Norwegian band of Remington Super 60 have caressingly released a brand New EP. On the circuit for twenty odd years these dreamy drifters of soft lush psychedelia, folk and peaceable troubadour wholesomeness have released several albums, EPs and appeared on numerous compilation albums since their inception in 1998. Set-up by producer and songwriter Christoffer Schou the band has featured a changing lineup that includes Magnus Abelsen, Benedicte Sveinsson and Elisabeth Thorsen, among others.

Released through their own label imprint Cafe Superstar Recordings, and also as a cassette version through the small Slovakian indie label Z-Tapes, this disarming six-song collection evokes dreamy recollections of Fleetwood Mac, Bacharach, Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra, Stereolab, the Velvet Underground, Susan Christie, Chuck and Mary Perrin and the Beach Boys. In other words, a nice gentle wash of softly lulled gossamer pop and undulating synthesized liquid lushness. The most attractive thing about this EP though is that it sounds and feels like an endless dreamy summer; the kind we’re all in desperate need of.


John Howard  ‘It’s Not All Over Yet’
Single/7th February 2020





In a second nee third, even fourth, wind of creativity the enigmatic pianist troubadour John Howard has enjoyed a considerable renaissance in the last decade. Choosing his projects wisely and wholly on artistic and desirable (enjoyable too) merit, Howard has recorded a well-received collaboration with Andy Lewis, Ian Button and Robert Rotifer, under The Night Mail moniker, the cerebral open-ended experimental Across The Door Sill opus, and delivered the first volume in a vivid and travail rich autobiography (part two to follow anytime soon) that not only deals with Howard’s haphazard rise and misfortunes in the music industry but chronicles the misadventures of a gay artist in a far from understanding world. Though he gave up the recording and performing for a good couple of decades to focus on A&R, Howard hasn’t wasted any time in returning to the fold; more prolific than ever. Howard’s last album, and 16th, was released just last year on the You Are The Cosmos label; the beautifully rich romantic balladry and stage show-like Cut The Wire.

Since then there has been the odd congruous set of recordings, including the piano suite Four Piano Pieces. And now, a tender rendition of Daniel McGeever’s fatherly tearjerker It’s Not All Over Yet; a label mate of Howard’s on the You Are The Cosmos label.

Attracted to this steadily building wash of recollection – which when Howard gets going, and on the highest vocal notes, sounds very Friends era Beach Boys – Howard says: ‘I first heard the song on Daniel’s album Cross The Water…I instantly fell in love with the album, especially It’s Not All Over Yet, which resonated with me very much. Daniel wrote it for his father Andrew McGeever, who died just a few days before Daniel recorded it. My own father was poorly then too; he died in the summer of 2018.

The lyrics tell of how Daniel’s dad inspired him and how his influence will remain forever. I grew up listening to my dad playing the piano, as a toddler I’d hear him practicing for his gigs with his jazz band, something he continued to enjoy into his eighties.

It was because of hearing my dad play in our front room in Lancashire in the 1950s that my ambition to become a pianist myself grew. I started taking piano lessons aged seven with a determination to be as good as my dad. I don’t think I ever achieved that – Dad was an amazing jazz pianist admired by his musician friends and anyone who watched him play at the various clubs he performed in from the age of fourteen.

When you listen to the song, you’ll understand how it blew me away the first time I heard it and why it touched me so deeply.’

Today, we’re sharing the video version of this faithful but inimitable cover.

Howard explains the imagery used on it: ‘The video features photos of my dad through the years, including a couple which Neil took during our last visit to Dad in his nursing home near Rochdale. He had advanced Alzheimer’s by then but he absolutely loved seeing pics of his old mates from his jazz band days, telling us the name of each musician and what they were like as people. His fondness for them and those times were still tangible, even in dad’s frail state of health by then. He was 93 when he passed away.’



Mazeppa  ‘The Way In’
Single/29th January 2020





Coming on like a Kabbalah Patti Smith wafting and lingering around an intoxicating incense of Middle Eastern and Byzantium psychedlica, the second single from the Haifa, Israel based Mazeppa is an entrancing hallucination of esoteric spiritualism.

Formed in 2017 for the purpose of putting a psychedelic score to the poetry of the Bohemia-Austrian lyrical poet Rainer Maria Rilke, the quartet of Michal Perez Noy (vocals and guitar), Juicyjew Koren (guitar), Elad Bardes (bass) and Amir Nomiros Noy (drums) have started to incorporate Michal’s own lyrics into the heady astral mix.

‘The Way In’ will be followed in the summer by the group’s debut LP.


Elefant  ‘Ultra Plus Ultra’
Video/Latest track taken from the Bejahung LP





Sludge metal and gallows Krautrock merchants of the Belgium underground Elefant are back. With a contortion of phaser drudge fuzz and industrial post-punk elasticated distress, Wolf Vanwymeersch’s led collective of agitated miscreants once more wrestle with NIN, Swans and the Killing Joke on the group’s latest video track ‘Ultra Plus Ultra’.

Following on from 2018’s dystopian deranging Konark Und Bonark (which made our albums of the year feature), the boiler-suited misfits (think forensic team meet Time Bandits villains) have just released, rather sneakily, their second LP Bejahung; of which this is the second single to emerge. For the most part a continuation of that same disillusionment and basement dwelling creepiness, the latest offering seems to be more roomy, spacious and varied this time around. In short: an alarming twisted work of art-rock and menace.


MAI MAI MAI (Feat. Vocalist Maria Violenza)  ‘’Il Secondo Coro delle Lavandaie’
(La Tempesta)  Single/21st February 2020





Continuing to transmogrify, in part, the ethnographic recordings made by Alan Lomax and Diego Carpitella in the 60s and 70s of Italian southern music, native noise tormentor Mai Mai Mai follows up on the previous dark arts caustic Nel Sud LP with another disturbing vision of a folk obscurity.

Translated as the ‘Second chorus Of The Washerwomen’, the lamentable beauty of Roberto De Simon’s (with the Compagnia di Nuovo Canto Popolare) original is lent a discordant, hypnotizing and gradually more sinister fizzle of ritualistic and primal voodoo pulsations. The real Southern Gothic, ‘Il Secondo Coro delle Lavandaie’ features the voice of Maria Violenza, who can be heard in choral mantra amongst the intoxicating scuzz, whistling and dreamy industrial churns.

The spill from the PR sums it up perfectly: A dark journey into the past of the Italian south, a ‘Mediterranean Hauntology’, this ominous extended single encompasses an ethnic and folkloric tradition in a more contemporary way, conjuring a work in which art, music & theatre intersect.

Ahead of its official release in two weeks time, we’re sharing the video, which I warn you is a menacing cartoonish horror show: The protagonist limbering up with the worst ever Kung-Fu workout before increasingly deranged, stalking and volatile commits bloody murder.