Playlist/Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea





By now we’ll probably all aware and getting jaded by the constant newsroll of Covid-19 horror stories, and the ominous stench of pandemic armageddon. To return to some sort of normality, the Monolith Cocktail promises to keep finding all the best new music for you to enjoy, dance to, contemplate and mull over. No cheap epidemic cash-ins and no tenuous links to self-promotional lockdowns here. Just great music, which we hope you will all keep supporting during these anxious uncertain times. And remember, if you do find anything on this playlist that you’d love to purchase, please root the artist, band out on Bandcamp tomorrow (Friday 1st May 2020), as the platform is once more waiving their cut of the fees.

For those of you that have only just joined us as new followers and readers, our former behemoth Quarterly Playlist Revue is now no more! With a massive increase in submissions month-on-month, we’ve decided to go monthly instead, in 2020. The April playlist carries on from where the popular quarterly left off; picking out the choice tracks that represent the Monolith Cocktail’s eclectic output – from all the most essential new Hip-Hop cuts to the most dynamic music from across the globe. New releases and the best of reissues have been chosen by me, Dominic Valvona, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Matt Oliver.



Tracks in full are:

Hanni El Khatib  ‘ALIVE’
Mashmellow  ‘Share It’
3 South & Banana  ‘Rush Hour’
Supergombo  ‘Alien Felines From Beyond The Galaxy’
iyatraQuartet  ‘Chandra’
Santrofi  ‘Africa’
Damily  ‘Zaho Va’
Holy Hive  ‘Didn’t You Say’
Euan Hartley And Friends  ’30/1′
Twisted Ankle  ‘Landlord Laughs’
Lucidvox  ‘Knife’
Pabst  ‘Skyline’
Senji Niban  ‘Where The Birds Fly Now?’
Higamos Hogamos/Spacerocks  ‘Crome Yellow’
Raw Poetic & Damu the Fudgemunk  ‘Head On’
Tanya Morgan  ‘Resurrection’
Evidence  ‘Unlearning’
The Doppelgangaz  ‘Cloak Makes The Man’
Antti Lotjonen  ‘Pocket Yoga’
R.A. The Rugged Man ft. Chuck D  ‘Malice Of Mammon’
Dope Knife  ‘Face Fuck’
Cambetta & Apollo Brown  ‘Nightmare’
Makoto Kino  ‘West Madoka’
Bodyvox  ‘Yeah Yeah (D Ramirez Vocal Radio Edit)’
RJD2 ft. Homeboy Sandman  ‘One Of A Kind’
Sparks  ‘One For The Ages’
Mick Harvey  ‘The Journey: Part 1: Conflict’
Alex Stolze ft. Ben Osborn & Anne Muller  ‘Babylon’
Chicago Underground Quartet  ‘Orgasm’
Aksak Maboul  ‘Silent Silhouettes’
Halftribe  ‘Subliminal’
Clovvder  ‘My Mother Was The Moon’
Nick Cave  ‘Cosmic Dancer’
Die Wilde Jagd  ‘Himmelfahrten’
David Ahlen  ‘If I Have You’
Big Thief  ‘Love In Mine’
Yakima  ‘It Helped’
Murmur Tooth  ‘A Fault In This Machine’
Farezi & Sinan Oktem  ‘Dionysian’
So Beast  ‘Multiplayer’
Simon McCorry  ‘Pieces Of Mind’
Kahil El’Zabar & David Murray  ‘In My House’
Roedelius  ‘Geruhsam’



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.

New Music/Dominic Valvona





The Perusal is a great chance to catch up, taking a quick shifty at the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload the Monolith Cocktail’s inboxes each month. Chosen by Dominic Valvona, this week’s roundup includes choice picks from Mexico City, Moscow, Lyon, and the UK from Shaw & Grossfeldt, Lucidvox, Makoto Kino, Quimper and Supergombo.

Lucidvox   ‘Knife (Нож)’
(Glitterbeat Records)   Single/28th April 2020 & Video/29th April 2020





Hell hath no fury like a squalling sonic quartet of post-punk and psychedelic razor slashing Muscovites banshees intent on a musical knife fight. Better known as the firebrands Lucidvox, Alina (vocals/flute), Nadezhda (drums), Galla (guitar) and Anna (bass) have returned from a two-year hiatus to once more kick up a caustic anarchic storm of emotional guttural truth with a new album, appropriately entitled, Knife (Нож). In a baptism of fire, the modestly acclaimed diy band will release this LP on the ever worldly Glitterbeat Records label: another coup and string to the bow of an ever expanding eclectic and welcoming hub for interesting new sounds.

Shared with our readers today, way ahead of the album’s release on the 9th October 2020, is the lead introductory single ‘We Are (мы Есть)’; a swirling post-punk meets prog and math rock union of stumbling and lugging drums, scuzzy resonance and tangled riffing guitars that regales a harshly worded witch-burning metaphorical story of guilt, affection, and acceptance:

I stuck a knife in your back

Trampled your dreams

Burn me like I’m a witch

Don’t look in my eyes, but burn

I’m lying, protecting myself

Burn me like I’m a witch

Burn me to the bottom, to the bottom

I don’t ask for trust

 

I’m not close, I don’t wait and don’t believe

I laugh and spit in your face

Crucify me and feed me to the beast

I don’t repent, I don’t care

I don’t cry asking for forgiveness

Do not believe my sweet lies anymore

Burn me like I’m a witch

Do not seek my salvation, but burn.

 

The fuse has definitely been lit for the third phase of the Lucidvox movement. You have been warned.


Shaw & Grossfeldt   ‘Klavier p’
Single/Available To Stream Now



Simian Mobile Disco’s Jas Shaw and “new talent” Bas Grossfeldt have teamed up to deliver a cerebral and sophisticated propulsive album of both Basic Channel imbued Techno and Hauschka purposeful piano minimalism built around the high-tech reproducing Yamaha Disklavier keyboard. It’s an apparatus style concept that produces the most poised and deep of albums without losing the throbbing and dub-y rhythms of dance music; a centrifugal unveiling of deft piano and kinetics in motion.

The background story and inspiration for this album, Klavier, came about by chance; whilst Jas was in Cologne for a gig with Bas, the latter booked studio time in the local art school he was working and studying at. On arriving, they noticed a Disklavier in the live room – a real piano fitted with electronic sensors and triggers.

Ditching their original plan to set up and use synths, this union decided instead to use the Disklavier and its attributes to produce something different. Instead of sequencing the synths, they ended up with an unusual and unplanned system where a Max MSP software patch controlled the piano and, while one guided the patch, the other controlled the piano by dampening strings to create interesting sounds.

Klavier is comprised partly of sections from the session where their system came together nicely – simply documented and with minimal postproduction. Other tracks are the result of treating the piano recordings as one might treat a synth – chopping and processing them through gear. The entire LP is defined by that lucky day though, when a spontaneous change of plan bore strange new fruit.

As one half of Simian Mobile Disco, Jas Shaw has been a key fixture in electronic music for over a decade. With SMD on temporary hiatus, in 2018 he released a collaborative album called On Reflection with Gold Panda under the name Selling, followed by his solo project Exquisite Cops last year. He continues to receive treatment for AL amyloidosis – a rare disorder of bone marrow cells.

Coming from a fine arts background working in installation, choreography and performance art under real name Søren Siebel, Shaw’s partner on this sonic voyage has adopted the alias Bas Grossfeldt to focus on music. His talent for recording has quickly been recognised, both with this album and also a forthcoming solo EP on Detroit legend Juan Atkins’ feted label Metroplex. Back in the wider arts world, he is working on “a constellation of seven contemporary dancers, a spatial intervention and a live-sound performance” called ‘The Architecture Of The Unconscious’.

Shaw & Grossfeldt are already working on more new material, a live show and a club tour – which will showcase their intense back-to-back DJ sets. Ahead of that new album, released on June 5th, here’s the single ‘Klavier p’.



Supergombo   ‘Alien Felines From Across The Galaxy’
(Z Production)  Video/Available Now





With paper-cut diorama visuals of half-human animals battling it out in a titanic struggle, the newest fused jamboree video from the seven-piece troupe Supergombo is a surreal anthropomorphic collage every bit as fun as the band’s eclectic sound. Underlined with an obvious cosmological message of interconnectivity amongst the debris of all-out worldwide war, the Supergombo raise their sun-bleached Afrobeat horns, strum their space funk licks and chops, and aim their guided Afrodisco lasers at the dancefloor on the B-movie entitled ‘Alien Felines From Across The Galaxy’.

There’s a lot to take in with this French group’s international offshoot-of-offshoot hybrid of rhythms and sounds; mixing as they do those sci-fi honk and squawks and infectious Kuti with the ‘a shock’, ‘jolt’ ‘jerk’ of the Congolese Soukous – a dance with seeds in the local rumba phenomenon -, and the sacred ceremonial Sabar drumming of Senegalese Mbalax. It all combines to produce a most pleasing funk.

A heralded fanfare and tantalizing taster, ‘Alien Felines From Across The Galaxy’ is being released ahead of the troupe’s extravaganza album showcase SigiTolo, released in October.


Makoto Kino  ‘Glitter Rose Garden’
Mini LP/available Now





The alter ego of the Mexico City based musician Francisco Cabrera Celio, Makoto Kino is a both dreamy and Gothic kaleidoscopic platform for the artist’s sonic rituals and multi-layering entranced mantras.

Composed and produced between 2015 and 2020, in-between other projects by the musician, Glitter Rose Garden showcases Francisco’s various electronic music influences; from the electronic stuttering cut-up abrasions and Grimes like dreamy high-pitched trip-hop pop of the opening ‘West Madoka’ to the cavernous bity club glitch spooky reverberations of ‘Scorpio Waters’ and the building trance-y traverse of the whispery chiming ‘Hànzì Semiotics’. However, the final twelve-minute opus ‘Angel’s Garden’ veers away from the electronica towards a strange dreamy fusion of bluesy Prince guitar licks and soulful gossamer vocals that eventually drifts towards a spiraling escalation of reverberated texturing.

Using the metaphor of a garden that needs due care and attention if it’s to avoid decay, Francisco explores the central themes of the consequences and emotional burdens of putting oneself as priority. This comes across as often searching, and even hallucinatory, on a soundscape and melodious mini-album of reflective quixotic electronica.

Francisco is influenced by artists like Rites Wild, Holly Herndon, Laurel Halo, Tentenko, Aqours, the Japanese idol scene, contemporary Asian music, the international club scene, astrology and mysticism, so expect some interesting if subtle multi-layering of ideas.



Quimper   ‘Boroq-Thaddoi’
EP/Available Now





Conjured up from the disturbed, if often quaint, imaginations of John Vertigen, who is on occasions joined in his visions by the ghostly visitation whispers of foil Jodie Lowther (Jodie also provides the neo-surrealist De Chirico meets Ensor praying to the Wicker Man artwork), Quimper gently and mysterious drift towards the most serenely disturbing of ruins.

Once more summoning up vague vapours of Eastern European art house magical-realism, 1970s library music and the sort of British horror soundtracks favoured by the Belbury Poly, The Advisory Circle and Berberian Sound Studios period Broadcast, Vertigen’s latest invocation of escapism, Boroq-Thaddoi, evokes The Cleaners From Venus in a haunted house of ambient paranormal activity.

The songs on this particular EP – though you’d be pushed to ever work it out for yourselves – are about ‘waiting, cleaning up, cheerful annihilation and monochrome computer games about ants’. In short, a strange plane of the supernatural and retro-futurism.



The Monolith Cocktail is now on Ko-Fi, the micro-donation and support platform.

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.

Exchange Article/Gianluigi Marsibilio





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, Gianluigi Marsibilio looks into the phenomenon of “Spotification” as he explores the evolution of music’s fruition through streaming with Prof. Rasmus Fleischer.

 

Spotify is a giant metaphor for the entire cultural sector. From music to podcasts, which have changed the way of radio and storytelling, Swedish society since 2008 has fostered a new way of interacting with users and people, and with the whole cultural production, not just music.

“Spotifisation” then is a fundamental theme and we talked about it with the theme expert Rasmus Fleischer, who wrote an interesting publication on the theme of cultural “universal spotification” (“Universal Spotification? The shifting meanings of “Spotify” as a model for the media industries”). Fleischer is a researcher in economic history at the University of Stockholm: his academic work has mainly focused on media history and political economy, with a particular focus on music. He was also co-author of the book Spotify Teardown (MIT Press, 2019).

The Spotify model, although not unique, hides many criteria that have been taken up by various startups to promote a similar model, applying it to news, books, magazines and every aspect of the cultural sector.

At the heart of this business model is certainly the concept of hype, i.e. the establishment of a flow of news, rumors and anticipations that shift attention and expectation to a particular element. An interesting definition comes directly from Professor Fleischer’s paper, in which this process is identified as a mechanism for “shaping the future from the present”.

However, in order to understand this circularity Spotify has shaped one has to remember how it all came about: “At least in Sweden, the process has been closely linked to social and political conflicts over file sharing and copyright enforcement, including the legal case against The Pirate Bay (a popular file sharing site in Sweden and active in 2003). The music industry,” Fleischer explained, “would probably not have agreed to license the tracks if it hadn’t been so desperate.

With the passing of the years and the development of the model everything has become much more complex, until what we can define in 2010 as “Spotify’s curatorial turning point”, in fact Fleischer insists on this point: “Before then, Spotify was basically conceived as a big archive”.





The breakthrough that came in the early 2010’s was important and defined streaming as we use it and know it today: “Starting in 2013, the service has been rethought in order to give more importance to the recommendations. This no longer assumes that the listener knows what to look for, in fact an endless stream of music is presented”.

A change, a revolution of this kind, offers important insights and perhaps brings back to the question that Kalporz’s very own Paolo Bardelli asked himself in the site’s My2Cents column: “Isn’t it time for Spotify, Deezer and the other platforms to become record labels? The change of direction has in fact given another kind of influence to Spotify on the way people listen to music and it would be interesting to see how this kind of reasoning has led to the development and growth of some genres over others. Fleischer pointed out for example that: “Music described as “chill” is particularly well suited to the new paradigm”.

There is no single model to describe and encompass the infinite facets of the cultural and music industry: “At first it was thought that the “Spotify model” was linked to free access, leaving everything to be financed only by advertising”. Over the years, however, everything has been designed and structured in the form of monthly subscriptions and today, thanks to the care and management of Big Data, we are able to have reliable predictions about the music industry. The change of strategy has also been reported in an article published in Wired that indicates how: “Consumers have become more and more accustomed to the idea of paying for access to digital media that they once received for free” and in fact, data from 2018 shows how now only 10% of Spotify’s revenue comes from advertising.

To get into a purely musical discourse, you can see that Spotify and co. have contributed to “destroy the album, now count the singles made to enter the playlist”. Over the years, however, “it’s also conceivable that Spotify will try to integrate the playlists by directly releasing music. In any case – recalled Fleischer – we must not forget that there are important movements developing outside Spotify and even in opposition to it. An example could be the rise of the so-called Soundcloud Rap”.

The phenomenon of Spotify and streaming platforms in music can then be linked to the deeper analysis of a media landscape moving towards an algorithmic culture. From this point of view among the various services, Fleischer explained: “Netflix dealt with algorithmic recommendations long before Spotify”. The music streaming service, on the other hand, has started to take care of this, particularly expected by its “curatorial” turning point. This phenomenon of playlist care, through algorithms, comes out of a whole series of choices made by services such as Songza, which used music experts to target listeners already in the early 2000s, or Pandora, which first introduced a system of keywords to categorize music.

The theme of a culture of the algorithm then surely will be a fundamental step to be taken, maybe in one of the next “investigations”, to understand how music is changing, because it is out of the question that the way to enjoy music changes and directly influences its sound and cultural connotation.

In this moment of lockdown culture, in particular music and cinema, have migrated to digital platforms and at the time it seemed right to reflect on “Spotification” and offer a cue for future insights into the process of digitization and its mechanisms in the music industry.




Related posts from the Archives:

[Scoutcloud]: Brianstory

Photo Roll: Gig: Yussef Dayes

Listen To The Enemy: The Sound Of Covid-19

 

Album Review/Matt Oliver




The Four Owls   ‘Nocturnal Instinct’
(High Focus)   LP/17th April 2020


Even in today’s ease of hip-hop connectivity, a crew from little old England who can call on guests of the calibre of DJ Premier, Masta Killa, Kool G Rap, Roc Marciano and RA the Rugged Man, must be pointing their mic the right way. The Four Owls have taken their time to become arguably the premier UK crew of the utmost reliability; on their current share of the spoils, its testament to their own grind that on fourth album Nocturnal Instinct, you’re here for them and not the draw of their impressive imports.

That said, those that know will probably find that intro a cliché. They’ll further wince at those assuming that these are fourteen gobby posse cuts as well: this is shift work involving hard labour 16s and 32s, up to the mic with a hobnailed step, then retreating with the smoothness and intuition of a relay team where routine, practice hours and making every syllable count are absolute. This is not particularly a discourse in show and prove either – though you’re brave/idiotic should you step to them; it’s a masterclass of self expression – wellbeing, learning from personal pasts, to trust/tame your impulses (and yes, owl-like wisdom) – through four contrasting conduits whose familiarity through a mountain of past solo material and the group’s previous albums (Natural Order and Nature’s Greatest Mystery now stretching the saga nearly a decade) means the Owls ever faltering in full flight is unimaginable.

The dynamic vies for your affection like box fresh collectables, yet where you have to the whole collection rather than one lone shelf dweller. Leaf Dog, slightly highly strung and seemingly always on the brink of talking his way into/out of trouble, actually holds a steady head keeping wits about him. Verb T, his telling, elder statesman cadence always one step in advance, has seen it all before and is currently winning at wearing the T-shirt, remaining utterly withering on ‘Dark Days’. Fliptrix, the hydro-powered livewire, excels in street spirituality – case in point, ‘Be Free’, where he shows vulnerability dressed as a normal 9-to-5er. And BVA is just pure no nonsense, acting as the crew’s geezer-ish, collar up, first line of watertight defence. Grab the mic, respect it, rock it, done.

Made for sweaty, beer from a bucket boltholes not knowing the existence of social distancing, Leaf Dog’s beats rock, jump on shoulders, shove their way to the front row and harness one communal head nod as MPC pads bear heavy fingerprints and undercuts of bass test the law of 90s Queensbridge. Then subtly pulling back into reflective, soul-lined ruminations to chew on, full of weathered pianos and reticent woodwinds, strings and rhythms, Nocturnal Instinct is always of a stocky constant. As unofficial Fifth Owl, DJ Premier’s solitary ‘100%’ is by the book Gang Starr-ism – certainly not hired as a showstopper, and whose introducing of the group akin to a big top/prize fight ringmaster will probably be more revered than the actual beat he lays down. In any case, Leaf Dog’s ‘All My Life part 2’ sounds more Premo than Premo himself.

As for the other much-vaunted guests (shout also to Smellington Piff for dovetailing nicely on the opening biff ‘Sound the Alarm’), Masta Killa is pretty much overshadowed on ‘Deadly Movements’. Kool G Rap remains a scoop, and is someone through passing rhyme references on ‘Pioneer’ who has the Owls utmost respect. Roc Marciano is ideally cast as the safe breaker on ‘Dark Days’, ushering in the Owls as unlikely thieves in the night (a tribute to Leaf Dog switching it up on the boards); and RA the Rugged Man shows the sort of elastic circus of rhymes that dominated his own recent All My Heroes Are Dead LP on the uptempo free-for-all ‘Air Strike’. Nonetheless, none of the trump cards bring the house down in a way that shoves the Owls to the side; no being owned on your own shit going on here. It’s not showboating, but there’s a degree of the foursome showing off by telling their guests to wait their turn and play the game their way without feeling they have to go pound for pound with them: there’s the crew’s respect for you.

By rule of thumb, The Four Owls should be back by about 2025, venerable UK hall of famers and distinguished models of quality control and trusting their instincts, day and night.





Premiere/Dominic Valvona




Simon McCorry  ‘Pieces Of Mind’
(Close Recordings)  Single/24th April


We’ve been spoiled of late with a flurry of Simon McCorry releases, this being the second ‘premiere’ of his work to be hosted by the Monolith Cocktail in recent months. The Minimalist Acid Techno imbibed ‘Pieces Of Mind’ single however is an entirely different composition to the previous standalone ambient peregrination single ‘The Nothing That Is’; that was a stirring suite of atonal art borne out of the acclaimed composer and cellist original score for Javaad Alipoor’s play Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran – which premiered at Traverse as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019.

Subtle, incipient with Techno undulations, metallic springs and nodes working away below the chiming polygons and skirting zinc, ‘Pieces Of Mind’ channels a myriad of influences from the 90s acid/warehouse scene; artists such as Plastikman, Autechre, System 7 and The Orb, the latter for whom he has recently opened for. Personally, this was in my humble opinion the golden age of the burgeoning electronic music scene. It’s where I first cut my own teeth as an aspiring DJ – I’ll save that story for another day if you don’t mind.

As Simon explains, “composed entirely with the analogue mono synth the Dreadbox Erebus, ‘Pieces of Mind’ is an invocation of nostalgic memories of pre-dawn wanderings around London after warehouse parties, taking in the freshness and calm of the morning before the madness of the city came roaring into life”.

Not so much a change in direction, as an excursion, we should be used to McCorry’s constantly expanding explorations; this is an artist after all that has performed in arenas as diverse as the concert hall, the church and the gallery space. An artist who’s just as comfortable composing and manipulating frayed and bowed cello articulations and field recordings as he is constructing a synthesized memory of the 90s rave phenomenon.

Airing a day head of its official release via McCorry’s own Close Recordings imprint, ‘Piece Of Mind’ is officially released on Friday the 24th April 2020.




Background

Originally born in London to mixed Indian/British heritage, McCorry trained in cello at The Centre for Young Musicians & Morley College then studied philosophy at Durham University. He is now based in Stroud, Gloucestershire. As a performer McCorry is well travelled, he has performed at many prestigious events and institutions including in Orlando Warrior with Julia Cheng at the South Bank as part of China Changing Festival 2017. In 2019 live highlights also included appearances at Stroud Jazz Festival and Camp Elsewhere in Wales alongside Alabaster dePlume and Snapped Ankles.


Related posts from the Archives:

The Nothing That Is Premiere

Border Land LP 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.

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 most releases include The Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, and, under the guises of the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

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.

With all live gigs and events more or less quashed for the foreseeable future, buying music (whether it’s physical or through digital platforms such as Bandcamp) has never been more important for the survival of the bands/artists/collectives that create it. We urge you all to keeping supporting; to keep listening.


Murmur Tooth   ‘A Fault In The Machine’
(Self-Release)   LP/ Available Now


Murmur Tooth is Leah Hinton, a young lady from New Zealand who is now based in Berlin, and is the vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer writer of this very fine album. Hinton is also blessed with a lilting almost folky voice filled with the kind of emotion you really do not associate with doom laden synth pop.

A Fault In This Machine is a dark sedate sultry affair; a dive into the night time of someone else’s life a life, where you spend the day hoping for that certain person to appear who lifts the boredom of a life that is not exactly happening.

There is a realness and dreaminess to these lyrics that draw you into Murmur Tooth’s existence. It really is a beautiful sounding and beautifully written album, one of the highlights being the lovely ‘Rain Rain’, a stunning piano ballad that for some reason has my mind wandering back to my teenage years of the 80’s when dark synth based pop ruled the roost: a song I would recommend to any other old timers like myself who can recall the majestic Wonderful Life album by Black.

Leah is a real talent, one that should be embraced and celebrated for A Fault In The Machine is a warm, soulful, dark and real sounding synth album wrapped in a blanket of subtlety, and that is something one does not hear everyday.






Vukovar   ‘Exhumation: The First Death Of Vukovar (2014 – 2019)’
LP/Available Now




Vukovar have decided to release a ltd best of cassette; a band that could and should have been a lot bigger and better known than they currently are, but they do have the habit of shooting themselves in the foot, so much so I doubt any of the band have any toes left. And here is another prime example; instead of releasing on one of the many labels they have released their seven plus albums on they have self released it instead – an action akin to The Beatles releasing Sgt. Pepper as a boiled egg or Shakin’ Stevens appearing on Top Of The Pops and not thrusting his hips in a cartoonish sexual manner. But lack of business sous aside the tracks on this collection are essentially a best of, so are the most commercial and ear friendly to the general public and would make a fine introduction if not released in such a ltd hipster fashion.

The songs are all of the highest quality and show their many influences, from their debut single Wedding Present Monster era like ‘Nero’s Felines’ through to the should have been all over the radio ‘New World Order’. There early to mid 80s post punk synth sound is truly a wonderful thing, as demonstrated on ‘This Moment Severed’ and ‘Clockwork Dance’. The album is jammed full of greatness and it’s a bit of tragedy that not more people will get to hear it. Maybe they will release the next as a ltd edition self hum.






Randolph’s Leap   ‘Petrichor’
Single/Available Now




Has Power Pop I wonder replaced Irn-Bru as the drink of choice in the band land of Scotland? For what we have here is another Scottish band showing their love for Teenage Fanclub/Big Star, with this lovely nifty little piece of perfect McCartney-ish like strum along pop. This really is a lovely thing: The sun is in the sky there is nothing to do nowhere to go but you can lose yourself in this little subtle gem.






The Legless Crabs   ‘Irregular On The Cellular’
Single/Available Now




Have you ever wondered what Legless Crabs sound like? Well I will tell you: they sound like the true spirit of rock n roll; they are the aural equivalent of the apple of your eye slowly self peeling the beauty of The Shaggs covering Jesus And Mary Chain. It is a thing of great wonder and maybe my new favourite band. You heard it here first; the Legless crabs are the future of rock ‘n’ roll.






Crumpsall Riddle  ‘Looking After The Duck’
(Wormhole World)  Album/Available Now




It’s a strange old time so the ideal opportunity to lose yourself in the strange world of Crumpsall Riddle: Old synths, old keyboards, the occasional guitar and jazz bass and flat caps and folk music and ranting and singing sweetly acapella style – I could be making up the flat caps bit, but who knows. These are songs improvised over three sessions, so have a lovely made up at the moment feel, which I enjoy as it is like having a permanent record of madness, the unveiling of inspiration hitting and the fading as quickly as it arrived and then moving onto something else like speed reading somebody else’s book collection whilst listening to the Bagpuss soundtrack as whistling Jack Smith rifles through your girlfriend’s knickers drawer just out of view. Anything could happen or be happening in the strange world of Crumpsall Riddle.






Harry Cloud   ‘The Pig And The Machine’
(Whiteworm Records)  LP/Available Now




What we have here is a blaze of magic mushroom stoner bubblegum stoner psychedelia, a lo-fi inventive curse of tomorrow and yesterday when morrow meets tomorrow in a slaphappy kind of way. Imagine if your radio was wired to play the soundtrack to your most out there sordid wish, this could well be playing as it jumps from the semi classical to the music that the not quite best looking member of a 70’s edition of Top Of The Pops audience would wiggle her arse to: not sexy but getting away with it.

This album is inventive, dirty, funny, dark and moving in so many ways. Like all great rock n roll should be it is a album that at times sounds like it is arguing with itself; sometimes being far too clever for its own good, but you love it all the same. How could you not when there is song as beautiful as ‘Haunted Hayride’, or, as weirdly rocking as ‘Browser’ – the sound of the Mothers Of Invention covering The Pixies. An album that could easily get on your tits, or, an LP you could love and fall in love with – and I have not quite made up my mind yet -, and for that he gets a big thumbs up from me.






Euan Hartley And Friends   ‘Ten Years At The Bottom’
LP/Available Now




Euan Hartley is singer with the band the Pit Ponies, and this is a LP four years in the making in which he worked with various musician friends. And what I like about the album is that it seems to mean a lot to him, which trust me, is not always the way. It has a lot of heart and a lot of pain seeping through the songs. Euan has quite an impressive voice like he has been gargling from the same glass as the godlike Robert Wyatt, and the music is pure [in the best way]; DIY indie style, not the generic, ‘I have a beard and Fender Jag way and am looking forward to playing the local music festival’ kind. The songs are way to quirky and heartfelt for that especially the Casio embraced beauty ‘Beatrice’ and the wonderfully weird chopped up Flaming Lips like ‘Selfies’.

Ten Years At The Bottom is a album filled with songs of purity soul and heartache and despite being made over a long period of time with various friends and his peers the album sounds like a album and not just a collection of songs lumped together: and what a fine collection of songs it is. Also, it is available as a pay what you want to download from bandcamp, so I honestly don’t know what your waiting for, get downloading.






Meat Whiplash   ‘Don’t Slip Up’
(Optic Nerve)   Single/15th May 2020




I normally do not bother reviewing old music as I don’t write for Mojo, and there are so many new records and songs released daily that deserve attention that sadly do not get the attention they deserve, and its so easy for a label to reissue some old song than putting the time in finding and promoting a new and up and coming band; for nostalgia is all well and good but in thirty years what will there be to be nostalgic about if the new is not embraced and loved? So I will say that this is a reissue of the one and only Meat Whiplash single released on Creation Records many years ago, and very good it is too; all Mary Chain fuzz guitars and early Psychedelic Furs vocals. They of course morphed into Motorcycle Boy who I saw live a few times back in the day -see I am getting nostalgic now. Why damn you Optic Nerve records and your excellent Optic Sevens reissue series…you cunts.


Sunbourne Rd  ‘Teenage Lyrics’
LP/Available Now




Yes it’s that time again, when I start to review catchy guitar pop. Dare I call it power pop without being arrested by the power pop police for wrongly diagnosing the LP?! No I’ll risk it: it’s power pop. It has power and is pop, and for once although obviously influenced by Paul McCartney, it is more Wings Paul than Beatle Paul: which I like as such subtleties make a difference.

What we have here is a compilation of eight singles released between 2014 and 2017 by Sunbourne Rd who hail from Northern Italy. And they obviously release fine catchy guitar pop with nods to all the usual power pop icons like McCartney, Rockpile, Mott The Hoople and their ilk. Nothing truly original or different just eight finally written songs bathed in melody – which is what we want in our power pop. And just how many times have I used the words power pop in this review? Recommended for all those who like their pop with power.




Chinofeldy   ‘Stay Home’
Single/Available Now




Another band from Scotland and another catchy 60s influenced pop song: it really shows just how wonderful the Beatles were, that 50 years since they split up they are still a huge influence on bands today. I suppose you may as well learn and borrow from the best. What we have here is a benefit song for the NHS; a worthy cause we all, I am sure, agree on. So you may as well download this lovingly produced slice of 60s influenced pop and do yourself and the much-underfunded NHS a favour. You know it makes sense.





NEW MUSIC ROUNDUP/Dominic Valvona





The Perusal is a great chance to catch up, taking a quick shifty at the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload the Monolith Cocktail’s inboxes each month. Chosen by Dominic Valvona, this week’s roundup includes Clovvder, Escupemetralla, John Johanna, Twisted Ankle and Vukovar.

John Johanna   ‘The Eastern Harmony and Gospel Demonstrator: Outtakes and Demos 2015​-​17’
EP/Available Now





No stranger to this blog over the last couple of years, having made our albums of the year features for two years in a row, first with 2018’s afflatus gospel rock mini-album I’ll Be Ready When The Great Day Comes, and then in 2019 with the Book Of Enoch imbued gospel-raga-blues and Radio Clash cosmology Seven Metal Mountains LP, the Norfolk anointed artist John Johanna has made a name for himself crafting a brand of infectious musical gospels and hymns, sourced from a myriad of Biblical and worldly religious tracts: The good book according to Johanna you could say.

During the interim of a new album, and just when we could do with some spiritual levity, Johanna has just put out a collection of ‘outtakes’ and ‘demos’ made during the years prior to the already mentioned debut I’ll Be Ready When The Great Day Comes. Though straying from the North American and African American liturgy on his two more recent albums, these earlier trails and tribulations often sound like meditations on Southern American gospel and soul. For example, the rustic lo fi backbeat echo take of the Jordon vision, ‘Deep River’, has traces of the Deep South’s own reverent bluesmen but also an air of The Everly Brothers. You’d be hard pressed without prior knowledge to pick out the covers from originals, but Johanna produces hymnal takes on Thomas A. Dorsey‘s pre-war standard ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ – lending the stalwart standard a touch of Canned Heat at their most holy – and E. M. Bartlett‘s 1921 ‘Just a Little While’ – giving it a kind of early spiritual rock ’n’ roll feel.

An apostle at the crossroads, much of the material on this compilation woos, shakes, stamps to a country-blues-psychedelic accompaniment, led by a cosmic cowboy.

It’s quite refreshing in these cynical and hysterical times to champion a man of Eastern Orthodox Christian faith – the ‘God’ word and Christianity in general has become an anathema in polite society; looked on with suspicion or extreme prejudice in these apparent libertarian and virtuous times. Wishing to commune and share his beliefs on record, Johanna navigates both the happy-clappy conversion and pulpit to record atavistic sentiments and longing in a modern fusion of hypnotic sounds. The Eastern Harmony and Gospel Demonstrator : Outtakes and Demos 2015​-​17 is a great collection of a burgeoning artist on a pilgrimage of communion.


Related posts from the Archives:

I’ll Be Ready When The Great Day Comes LP Albums Of 2018

Seven Metal Mountains LP Review



Vukovar  ‘Cement & Cerement’
Video/Track/Available Now





Today’s airing is taken from the recently, without fanfare, dropped EXHUMATION: THE FIRST DEATH OF VUKOVAR (2014 – 2019); the first of three self-congratulatory ‘best ofs’ and collections of newish musics from one of the most criminally ignored British bands of recent years, Vukovar. If you’ve been a keen follower of the Monolith Cocktail and kept abreast of the many trials and tribulations of the Chthonian apostles of industrial, Gothic and post-punk, then you will know that this ever-evolving trio (at least in foundation) have imploded and broken up on countless times during their brief existence – though that is up for debate, as in theory the Vukovar are not dead and buried yet; continuing to exist as they do in one incarnation or another. During that short span of five years they’ve released seven totem albums of quality hardcore divine comedy and paradise lost, and plenty of despondent augurs. Sitting on enough material to fill another trio of albums, they’ve hit a snag of late, splitting up but also losing one of their chief inspirations and creative foils, the late tragic Ceramic Hobs instigator Simon Morris. Morris, one of many collaborators of the ‘underground’ and mischievous scenes to work with the band, joined them on their swansong LP Cremator – a curtain call at least for the original lineup. Vukovar’s seventh album proper and so far last just happened to also be one of the bands best and most accomplished efforts to date.

And so whilst awaiting that future vision of the band and stream of future albums the group now takes stock – the first time that they have in that five-year period -, releasing a triumvirate of highlights, and lowlights over the next month or so.

From that first compilation in the triptych series (as they call it), and framed as the first broadcast of what would have been the unholy Simon Morris communion extolled NeuPopAct, the last song the fated genius recorded with members of Vukovar, the Alan Vega/Charlie Megira in Brutalism romance ‘Cement & Cerement’, seems both a tribute and sad resigned glimpse at what could have been if he hadn’t committed suicide late last year. Watch this space, as they say, for more on those albums over the coming weeks.


Related posts from the Archives:

Vukovar ‘Cremator’ Review

Vukovar ‘Puritan’ Review

Vukovar ‘Infinitum’ Premiere

Vukovar/Michael Cashmore ‘Monument’ Review

Dan Shea on Simon Morris A Tribute



Clovvder   ‘My Mother Was The Moon’
Available Now





Emerging once more from the ether, the Gothic duo from the Uruguayan port of Montevideo has chosen to return with a cover of the morose King Dude ‘My Mother Was The Moon’ hymn. Equal in atmospheric veiled vaporous invocations, Clovvder’s siren wafts gossamer style, weaving a new black magik interpretation of the original’s fateful lyrics. Magic realism poetry and despondent esoteric romanticism combine to evoke a most haunting requiem, from a duo that seems to create veiled invocations in the gap between never worlds. Truly atmospheric and mysterious.


Related posts from the Archives:

Clovvder ‘Traits’ Review



Twisted Ankle  ‘Landlord Laughs’
(Breakfast Records)  Single/17th April 2020





A macabre contortion of sinewy no wave and crushing post punk the leading polemic single from the future self-titled Twisted Ankle debut LP is a tumult of unkempt rage threatening to boil over. A broadside at those sneering all the way to the bank with the profits of their rentals, ‘Landlord Laughs’ twists the ongoing housing crisis into a sort of neo-feudalist nursery-rhyme: a kind of updated Ring a Ring o’ Roses if you like, which the band, only half-mockingly, envisage ‘little primary children will skip around the merry tree chanting ‘where did you put it?’ and asking ‘Mummy, what’s a house?’ in future days. Though written before the current lockdown, this reference to the children’s sing-along playground game is prescient; inspired, though many have argued its not, by the great plague, it resonates with the end times epidemic currently throttling the life out of society.

In effect, the Bristol experimentalists ‘mirror the decaying social order of quarantine Britain’. The increasingly tormented track uses samples of the noises Boris Johnson makes in between words, set to a brash and burnished

Known for their bizarre theatrical live shows, Twisted Ankle has emerged over the last few years as one of the most unique acts in the South-West. A strange mix of post-punk, dissonant jazz and macabre humour, they’ve long been a prominent fixture on the live circuit, supporting Mclusky, JOHN and Fraud’s across the last year. Yet their recorded output has been unusually slim: until now. If The Fall in an unholy union with James Chance, The Lounge Lizards and Half Japanese grabs you, than fill your boots.



Escupemetralla  ‘Remotitud (2020)’
Video/Track/Available Now





Sharing their dark visions and nightmares during lockdown the mysterious Escupemetralla (which were informed means “spitsshrapnel” in Spanish) has been dropping the most haunting, unsettling tracks alongside blog postings and related video art every week. An organism, an organization, a fiendish underground hub of the disturbing avant-garde and experimental the anonymous makers of these soundbites and broadcasts from the damned have offered up this esoterically atmospheric ‘remoteness’ score.

Still in the dark, Escupemetralla offer up this transmission statement: ‘the result of a series of retro-transmissions to be carried out in the mid-twenty first century at the “Thorne’s Cone Light Reversion Laboratory for Children”, Los Alamos, Texas (Federal States of Mexico and Puerto Rico). In a certain way, Escupemetralla are just virtual entities that will actually exist in several years’ time.’

Whatever is happening, it proves a frightening vision that chimes with the ongoing crisis of Covid-19 lockdown. Prepare to be spooked.


Related posts from the Archives:

Escupemetralla ‘Fe, Esperanza Y Caridad’ Review



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.

Single Premiere/Dominic Valvona
Press photo/Ola Elmquist




David Åhlén   ‘If I Have You’
(Jivvär)   Single/17th April 2020


A beatific longing of hymnal beauty, the brand new whispery veiled single from the hushed falsetto Swede David Åhlén is a most reverent ethereal plaint from the spiritual soul. Released ahead of the upcoming If I Have You EP on the 17th May, the title track angelically ushers in the Island of Gotland based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s communicative passion for the Christian liturgy.

Retreating to that island community of Gotland and with the space and skies of island existence Åhlén took time to start studying mystical Christian texts, and to take on board the space and peace of the work of musical mystics such as the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. He was particularly moved by the Biblical Psalms, lyrics such as “deep calls to deep in the roar of your waters” are directly inspired by Psalm 42, as David explains “many of the lyrics for the EP are about the mystery of our soul speaking to God and the longing that follows”. Musically steeped in this traditional influence and spiritual yearning, ‘If I Have You’ is elevated further towards the heavenly by the inclusion of the diaphanous holy tones of The Boy’s Choir Of Gotland and a sympathetic chamber ensemble.





Åhlén’s previous releases have found international acclaim, with glowing reviews and radio play all over the world – especially for his similarly holy inspired 2016 LP, Hidden Light. Previous to that his 1921 duo toured extensively, supporting such luminaries as Peter Broderick, SOHN and Loney Dear.

The If I Have You EP is production collaboration between Åhlén and Swedish producer Manne von Ahn Öberg, who is known for his work with artists such as Stina Nordenstam and Nicolai Dunger, and features a host of congruous musicians and voices. The Monolith Cocktail is delighted to be able to premiere, in the UK, the showcase title-track ahead of its official release on Friday 17th April.




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.

REVIEWS/Brian ‘Shea’ Bordello





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 most releases include The Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, and, under the guises of the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

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.

With all live gigs and events more or less quashed for the foreseeable future, buying music (whether it’s physical or through digital platforms such as Bandcamp) has never been more important for the survival of the bands/artists/collectives that create it. We urge you all to keeping supporting; to keep listening.

Chris Church  ‘Backwards Compatible’
Album/Now


Power pop is an art form that not many critics takes seriously; quite often frowned upon and belittled. Why is it such a bad thing for songs to have catchy melodies and harmonies and a feel good factor. Is it wrong to be influenced by McCartney led Beatles and Big Star; to love the crunchy guitars of Cheap Trick; to have melodies so sharp that they could shave off your eyebrows if you got too close. Of course not all critics are arseholes who eat what they are fed, who will accept anything as long as it’s wrapped in the latest hip design [me using the phrase hip design proves I’m no critic and certainly not a fashion led one]. I’m a music lover. I love pop music. I love harmonies. I love songs with a feel good factor, and yes McCartney is my favourite Beatle.

If you are like myself a pop music lover this LP is certainly for you as it has all the above mentioned and more. If you love Matthew Sweet and Brendan Benson, or even quite like them, you really need to hear this LP. If you’ve never heard of either I would advise you do, but first give this fine album a blast. I’m pretty sure it will not get the attention or the radio play it deserves and that is a bit of a sin as this album was born to be played on the radio.



Yakima  ‘Go Virtually’
EP/20th March 2020




Scottish bands like Big Star and Bad Finger it seems. That’s what we have here: another band soaking up the melodies of the past and releasing them forth to hopefully inspire more bands to like Big Star, which in itself is a worthy cause, because you cannot really have too many bands releasing warm catchy pop music, and this EP’s six tracks of warm catchy guitar pop is just that. It’s like the aural equivalent of your cat nesting in your favorite old jumper, in a cardboard box; no matter how many times you see it, it still makes you smile and warm inside.



So Beast  ‘Super Black’
EP/27th April 2020




If I remember correctly (Editor: yes you did) I reviewed an EP (Fit Unformal) by So Beast last year and was very impressed. Well nothing has changed, as this is equally as impressive.

Once again bringing a dark sultry post punk sound that reminds me of a semi electro Bow Wow Wow; chanted, whispered talked vocals backed by backward drum machines, the bleeps and chimes of the electronic kind twanging guitars and a warm dark hush of their art causing expectant ripples in the part of your mind where you fold away stars and memories of unkempt kisses and elicit sexual acts you performed, or, wished you had. An EP of sultry dark wonders.




Geese   ‘Bottle’
Single/Available Now




Geese are a band or a group [as I’m old fashioned] or, a flock even, from New York and this is their second single to date [I think it is anyway; I could be wrong, and not for the first time]. And what we have here is a fine slice of indie rock; chiming, almost a prog like guitar matched with dark melodic harmonies that bathe in the nostalgia that has me spinning back to the days when people with guitars mattered. Well worth lending your ears to.



Tangled Headphones  ‘Death By Misadventure’
Single/1st April 2020




I really love this. Tangled Headphones describe themselves as anti pop, which I have to disagree with, as this is a fine pop single. It’s certainly lo-fi, which you should know by now is something I adore. It also has a great psych eastern feeling to it – again something I love. Imagine if you will, a Psych Beat Happening; maybe one of my personal favorite tracks of the year so far. Great stuff indeed.




Aimée Steven ‘Hell Is A Teenage Girl’
(Jacaranda Records)  Single/6th March 2020




I think I may just stop reading press releases because on the whole they make me not want to actually listen to the song, as it nearly did with this delight of a pop single by Aimée Steven. And I’m glad I overlooked the bad hype “ripping up rule books ” and such nonsense, because what we have here is a fine PJ Harvey like song injected with the pop fun of The Monkees: guitars that jangle and fizz and a melody that would easily pass the old grey whistle test. One to watch yet again.




Pabst   ‘Skyline’
(Ketchup Tracks / The Orchard)   Single/Now




I was, once again, not expecting to like this as I always look on the bright side, as you know. But I actually did! I like the post grunge with a touch of old fashioned Glam rock feel to it: imagine Suede with beards and holes in their jeans. It’s once again a well written song with decent lyrics a fine melody and with a head-banging inducing chorus, which those with youth on their side I would advise, as it is good exercise [I am led to believe].



ALBUM REVIEWS/Dominic Valvona


 

Easing the boredom of coronavirus lockdown, join me from the safety of your own home once more on a global journey of discovery. Let me do all the footwork for you, as I recommend a batch of interesting and essential new releases from a myriad of genres. All of which I hope you will support in these anxious and trying times. With all live gigs and events more or less quashed for the foreseeable future, buying music (whether it’s physical or through digital platforms) has never been more important for the survival of the bands/artists/collectives that create it.

This month’s spread of featured bands and artists dreams of more exotic and mysterious places, but hail from Europe. From Germany with the new impressive filmic chthonian Techno suite there’s Die Wilde Jagd, from Sweden the collective noise welders, Orchestra Of Constant Distress, and from Finland the debut LP from renowned jazz bassist and now bandleader, Antti Lötjönen.

Back in the UK there’s a new ambitious classical experimental suite from iyatra Quartet and ambient and electronic music releases from Ryan Bissett’s – under the Halftribe title –and ennui composer Sad Man.

I do however leave the borders of Europe with a short stopover in Ghana, with Santrofi’s debut revamped Highlife special, and Madagascar, with a compilation of early cuts from Damily.


Santrofi   ‘Alewa’
(Outhere Records)   24th April 2020


 

A love letter to Ghana’s golden age status as an incubator for some of the Africa’s greatest performers and bands in the 1960s and 70s; home of the, arguably, most influential music style to emerge from the continent in the 20th century, Highlife; Accra-based fusion Santrofi enthusiastically bridge past glories with a contemporary generation who’ve all but forgotten their roots. A reintroduction to Ghana at a time when its reputation as a hothouse for talent was at its nadir – when luminaries like Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela and Orlando Julius came looking for a new sound, eager to sup liberally from the explosive scene – the band’s debut album Alewa champions the sunny-disposition Highlife style whilst adding some modern licks and on-trend dances – the Nigerian hip-hop dance Shaku Shaku and South African street dance Gwara Gwara, created by DJ Bonge – to the mix.

A result of a merger of show and marching bands, dancehall jazz and homegrown influences Highlife evolved to absorb all manner of styles and instruments over time, including soul and funk, but maintained it’s sunshine bleached heralded horns, thinly spindled polyrhythm guitars and lilted but infectious grooves. Kuti would merge it most famously with the blazing R&B, soul and funk sound from across the Atlantic to invent Afrobeat, others would ‘up’ the jazz elements or inject it with some psychedelic rock.

Santrofi bandleader and bassist Emmanuel Ofori knows more than most how important this legacy is having rose up the ranks performing with legends like Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas and the Kwashibu Area Band. Yet his eight-piece collective – who’ve toured with Gyedu Blay Ambolley, the mighty Osibisa, and George Darko – have a reputation for backing the pop sensation Sarkodie and the Nigerian “superstar” 2Face Idibia in recent years. Now though they return to the roots, channeling the heritage not just musically but the etymology and myth. The band name Santrofi itself derives from the mythology of the Akan – a meta-ethnicity of people living in the southern parts of Ghana, but also found in the Ivory Coast -, and refers to the rare, precious bird that brings bad luck to those that hunt or entrap it: a caged bird style analogy. The debut album title refers to the popular black and white striped sweet; used in this case as a symbolic metaphor for racial unity and cohesion.

Ebo Taylor and his peers can be heard throughout this swimmingly soulful and gorgeous sounding showcase. It’s unmistakable when listening to the sweetened swinging lullaby-like title-track, and golden, softly blown horn blasting funky ‘Kwaa Kwaa’. The opening ‘Kokroko’ however kicks off the album with an earthy tribal rhythm and live party feel that includes whistles and call-and-response. It also features fellow Ghanaian, the poet/author/MC Fapempong setting the mood; holding court on a groove that’s part gabbled dance, partly hymn. The re-tuned radio “United States Of Africa” speech – first propounded by Marcus Garvey in his 1924 poem – ‘Africa’ has a more bluesy rock feel, whilst its an imaginary Stax revue backed by Al Green that’s evoked on the organ humming sultry R&B ‘Mobo’.

A refreshing homage to the Highlife phenomenon (unfairly overshadowed by its Afrobeat scion), Alewa may channel past triumphs, yet this isn’t just a straight-up tribute act, but a modern fusion that proves its relevance and enduring soul-power. Let the sunshine in: Highlife is here to stay.




Die Wilde Jagd   ‘Haut’
(Bureau B)   17th April 2020

Birthed into another chthonian landscape of incipient stirrings, Sebastian Lee Philipp’s third such ambitious experimental suite continues where the previous eerie 2018 LP, Uhrwald Orange, left off: Lurking, stalking and disappearing into a recondite mystery of esoteric electronica and Techno. Earthy then, with evocations of a wild, veiled terrain populated by the whispering bewitched, strange rituals and metaphysical forces, Haut is a brilliantly realized slow-burning expansive supernatural soundtrack imbued with elements of Krautrock, Kosmische, the psychedelic, avant-garde, industrial and atavistic.

Once more joined by co-producer foil Ralf Beck – absent on Phillipp’s more or less solo outing, Uhrwald Orange – and live performance drummer Ran Levari, Die Wilde Jagd’s instigator songwriter/producer channels notions of memory, premonition and birth into a filmic quartet of drawn-out chapters. The opening minor-opus ‘Empfang’, which translates as “reception”, takes its time to emerge from the undergrowth; four minutes of ambient throbs, finger cymbal chimes and daemonic slithers before the first signs of Levari’s drum kit kicks in and takes off like a communion of Daniel Lanois and the Chemical Brothers. All the while sounds from the wilderness – like a crow’s croak and a regular occurring cold wind – encroach on the live instrumentation and sonic bed of synthesized pulses and motions. By the end of this thirteen-minute offering the magical Germanic-folk song of special guest vocalist Nina Siegler pricks the ominous chills to bleed over into the album’s, and project’s, only duet, ‘Himmelfahrten’.

Not so much a change in scenery as a mantra Whicker Man maypole entanglement between the Maid of Orleans and Philipp, the ‘ascent’ – as it translates into English – is part ritual, part ceremonial procession. Owl totems hoot on a hypnotic sweet chorus conjunction that invokes the Velvet Underground, GOAT, Acid Mothers Temple and Perpetuum Mobile period Einsturzende Neubauten.

‘Gondel’ – which doesn’t the lexicon to work out means “gondola” -, with its toiled, less rhythmic drumming reminded me of Jean-Hervé Perron and Zappi Diermaier’s more modern Faust partnership. A percussive rich mystery, echoes of operatic voices linger in what sounds like a very windy passage way.

There’s a pendulous motion to the album’s abstracted finale, ‘Sankt Damin’ – which I think is St. Damian, one half of the canonized Arab twin physicians who plied their trade for free on the Syrian coastline; two of the earliest Christian martyrs. Somewhere between courtly Medieval and the more ancient, there’s a whiff of the Dead Skeletons and the Velvets Byzantium vapours on this wispy blown stark wandering.

It’s certainly an imaginative world that awaits the listener on the Die Wilde Jagd’s third grandiose experiment. One that takes a breather, holding back on the beats and kicks for a more expansive and creeping sound production; those anticipated reveals kept on a tight rein. A sign of real quality and patience, Haut marks both a continuation but slight change in the dynamics as Philipp and Beck further erode and stretch the perimeters of Techno and electronic music.




Orchestra Of Constant Distress   ‘Live At Roadburn 2019’
(Riot Season Records)   10th April 2020


 

An unholy alliance of Scandinavian extreme dissonance, the caustic noisy Orchestra of Constant Distress unleashes another solid wall of sonic experimentalism on an already anxious public in lockdown. Well not entirely on solid lump, because despite the squalling feedback, heavy, heavy sustain, grinding wanes and monolithic density the collective sound is not always so daemonic and unwieldy that snatches of rhythm and even splinters of lightness can’t be found in the seething menace.

Pulling together fuzz freaks and industrial welders from miscreant scenesters The Skull Defekts and Brain Bombs, the Orchestra’s latest live release – taken from a performance at the Roadburn Festival in Holland, in 2019 – is a near tumult of black magik, space rock, propulsive post-punk, chthonian drones and heavy metal. Sawing through pylons, squealing towards the primal, the repetitive distress of this mortuary malady reimagines a heftier, drum snapping Sunn O))), or, Boris with a rhythm, or, a Mogadon induced Death From Above. At times, despite the discordant violence, they sound positively psychedelic.

A pulsating, ghoulish and stirring noise, the Orchestra bends the squall and noise to their will on a warped oscillation generator of uncomfortable energy.





Halftribe  ‘Archipelago’
(Sound In Silence)   16th March 2020


 

Another understated ambient suite from the purveyors of unobtrusive experimental soundscapes, Sound In Silence, the latest deep cut on the label’s roster is a lightly touched pulsation of geographical and mysterious soundtracks by the Manchester-based producer/DJ Ryan Bissett.

Under the Halftribe title, Bissett’s fifth long-player Archipelago subtly layers resonated hums, drones, throbs, glimmers and metallic tubular sounds with refracted suggestions of light and various imagined atmospheres. Though most of the titles allude to descriptive actions and contemplative thoughts of the enormity of it all, there’s always a sense of movement and environment to be found. The opening long fade ‘Exposed’, with its gleams and submerged washes, evokes a tropical location, and the angelic and monastery-like ghostly choral drifting title-track goes beyond the earthly towards the celestial.

Whilst transportive, what sounds like swells of new age gamelan can be heard on both the veiled wafting ‘Fader’ and lost transmission from the tropics ‘Drops’. Avant-classical elements, such as a low bowed cello sound and floated piano, quiver and plonk amongst Kosmische entrancing improvised instruments and pond-like ripples and hollowed-out bass-y wooden reverb on an ambiguous album of the haunting and serene; the masked and spacious.

Bissett reminds us that we’re all ‘Just Dust’. Which may be, yet what a contemplative musical conjuring we humans can produce in light of that lamentable certainty. This Archipelago is a small testament to that.






Sad Man  ‘Indigenous Mix 3’
1st April 2020


 

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Coventry’s avant-garde garden shed boffin Andrew Spackman has produced his best electronic music indulgences under the resigned Sad Man moniker. His most prolific incarnation, the former Duchamp favoured Nimzo Indian defense chess move sonic explorer has balanced an ennui for chaos with a passion for Techno rhythms and beats: even if all semblances of anything musically consistent are bombarded with constantly warped manipulations and curveballs.

Following in the wake of this year’s fully realized The King Of Beasts album is the third in the Sad Man series of radical reworks, Indigenous Mix 3. Essentially a transmogrified remix of that same LP; the original Beast tracks shimmer, burble, twist, shift and flex to a new ever-changing treatment.

Often these new mixes prove more flowing, even grooving: some could even be described as spasmodic dance music. ‘Teleprompter’ gets the party off to a twisted start; Tibetan reverberations meet woody mechanics, acid licks, Aphex girders of polygon light and dreamy iterations. The following tetchy beat generator ‘Trespass’ has some nice touches, and even reminded me of Wagon Christ at his most fucked-up. As the title suggests, and keeping at least a lingering trace of that city’s exotic atmosphere, ‘Marrakesh’ channels Orbital and LFO into a industrial spindled mooning otherworldly enigma. It’s the late and much-missed Andrew Weatherall that pops up on the mirror-y dub, Mogadon time-lapse ‘Carbonated’.

Elsewhere Chicago House rubs up against air-y wonked weirdness on ‘Kalafornia’, and A Guy Called Gerald goes into meltdown on the broken-up ‘The Physician’.

An unconscious stream of ideas and tinkering’s; remodeling hints of Warp, Ninja Tunes, Leaf, acid and breakbeat, Spackman let’s loose once more with another cracking volume of mixes. This series is proving to be amongst some of his best work yet.





iyatraQuartet   ‘Break The Dawn’
24th April 2020


 

A veritable escapist odyssey that connects past with the contemporary, the latest timeless concerto from the multifaceted instrumental UK quartet transports the listener to both poetically stirring histories and landscapes.

Imbibed by individually strong and impressive classical CVs and a shared experience of study at the Royal Academy Of Music, the iyatraQuartet merge a penchant for India and Arabia with closer-to-home influences. The latest album’s opening bowed, sustained tremulous theater sea-shanty, ‘Black Sea’, for example is inspired by the former poet laureate (1930-1967) John Masefield’s tumultuous Sea Fever poem. Encouraging many classical homages before them, iyatraQuartet’s take on this classic travels on the mud banks of a hardy landscape with an attentive score of earthy sawing violin and cello, and skimmed and pattered frame drum; yet as with many of the tracks on this LP, they somehow manage to also evoke Eastern European folk music too. ‘Dompe’ goes much further back historically, to the Tudor epoch of Henry VIII, taking one of the earliest surviving “renaissance” keyboard manuscripts – the author composer of which remains unknown – ‘My Lady Carey’s Dompe’ as a foundation, they at first spindly and daintily walk through a dewy pastoral tapestry of float-y clarinet, glistened cobwebbed percussion and quill-etched mournful violin before evoking a hint of the Balkans. This is also the first suite to include a leitmotif of mantra like chants; a unison of choral voices emerging from the veils. ‘Alpine Flowers’ meanwhile, takes its inspiration from memorial plaques displayed at Oxford’s Somerville College Chapel, commemorating ‘significant’ women from the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. Almost jazzy and smoky in feel, there’s a hint of a mysterious geography that errs towards the Native Indian.

Gravitating towards India, both musically and religiously, the rebirth celebratory rejoice themed title-track weaves countless personal connections into a number of tunes. The group’s name, pronounced “ey-at-ra”, is even taken from the Hindu expression for travel, “yatra”. Mostly obvious the morning Raga transformation ‘Bhairav’, refers to the many contrasting aspects of Bhairava (a manifestation of Shiva), who created and then dissolved the three stages of life. That trio of universality is mirrored by a quiet incipient moody bowed, droning and strummed section, followed by quivered wails, clarinet honks and scrapes and busy tablas. It helps that the quartet’s co-founder and violinist maestro (to name just one instrument among her repertoire) Alice Barron studied South Indian violin techniques with the country’s star turn duo, the Mysore Brothers.

Continuing that thread, the joyful classical meets Swami ‘Chandra’ was originally written for the Indian sire of the title, Chandra Chakraborty, in 2017. The swayed, swan-like melody is based on, of all things, a medieval plainchant, woven into a Raga Yaman. It’s a dusky beauty of a fusion, with ascendant violin and airy clarinet: gracious in fact.

Sweeping across musical panoramas, the quartet reach out towards the Middle East with the sand dune contoured ‘Lama Bada’. Born out of a fruitful meeting with Basel and Mohammed ‘Taim’ Saleh of the Orchestra Of Syrian Musicians that turned into the 2018 touring The Songs Of Syria project, this atmospheric romantic piece utilizes Arabian love stories for a reverent camel ride.

Impressive in scope with instruments from folksy Ireland, rootsy Africa, mystical Tibet and of course pan-Europe, Break The Dawn is an ambitious reading of experimental classical music that doesn’t easily take to defining. Reminding me of the escapist Balkan trio Širom, but with chamber strings, the iyatraQuartet conjure up an imaginative time-spanning sound; performed with assured skill and an open mind.




Antti Lötjönen  ‘Quintet East’
(We Jazz)  17th April 2020


 

Highly active as a bassist on the flourishing Finnish jazz scene with such notable groups as The Five Corners Quintet, 3TM and the Aki Rissanen Trio, Antti Lötjönen now steps out as bandleader on his debut longplayer, Quintet East. Bringing with him a whole host of “hard hitters” Antti leads 3TM band mate and saxophonist Jussi Kannaste, trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, drummer Joonas Rippa and Koma Saxo supergroup saxophonist Mikko Innanen on a free-jazz, hard bop and serenaded jazz exploration.

Released just a day before his 40th birthday milestone, this debut offering is a culmination of all that experience and learning. And so you’re just as likely to hear echoes of Sonny Clark and Wayne Shorter as you are the Arild Andersen Quartet and the avant-garde.

The bassist’s signature instrument however, though always present, is never overbearing, and seldom brought to the front. Whilst highly articulate, sometimes physical, the double bass in this instance offers a constant bowed rhythm and sense of depth. Occasional elasticated noodling and skips are always great to hear when the rhythm picks up, but soloist style showcases are kept to a couple of ‘Monograph’ series vignettes: The introductory ‘Monograph I’ features a quietly plucked and flexing bass, spring and meandering; ‘Monograph II’, a sort of tuning exercise in which the bass takes on the characteristics of a cello.

There’s plenty of nicely untethered, if never too loose, performances from Antti’s ensemble. ‘Erzeben Strasse’ has a European title but finds the quintet traversing Bernstein, Be Bop and Lalo Schifrin on a journey that sets out with a breezy rhythm, swaddling sax, spiraling Miles Davis style trumpet and a laid back bounce but ends on a much busier dampened drumming off-kilter skip. Alluding to the mid to late 70s satirical soap opera of the same name, ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ is another evolving instrumental piece; starting out with snuggled romantic sax, fluting trumpet and a flitting meander, the track then gets going with some big band theme tune vigor. ‘Pocket Yoga’ (is that a euphuism?) has some nice runs and nozzled horns and drums that just keep on moving, and the spiritual jazz leaning, increasingly erratic honked ‘Oblique’ evokes Electric Byrd. ‘La Petit Lactaire’, as the title may suggest, is a wholly Euro-jazz serenade; the mood set to a snuggly scene on the Left Bank.

Swaddled between the experimental and familiar warmth of American jazz in the late 50s and 60s, Antti has bridged the decades to produce a musical showcase as meandrous as it is intense and busy; as traditional as it is modern. A great start as a bandleader, but Quintet East also extolls the talents of an extraordinary proficient and prolific Finnish jazz scene.





Damily   ‘Early Years: Madagascar Cassette Archives’
(Bongo Joe)   24th April 2020


 

As worldly as I am, I have to level with you. Until this attest discovery from the crate-digging folks at Bongo Joe arrived, the frenzied, ceremonial and ritual rooted sound of Madagascan ‘Tsapiky’ had completely passed me by. This handy little collection however proves an inviting introduction to not only this unusual busy music but also one of its most celebrated proponents, Damily.

Hailing from the southwestern region of the Island, where tsapiky is prevalent, Damily has molded the foundations laid down in the 1970s to create a idiosyncratic fusion of blistering bluesy rock guitar, innocent sounding high-pitched vocals, lo fi tech and galloping, on the move, percussive rhythms. This compilation hones in on the early years, picking through the tape archives to highlight Damily’s burgeoning beginnings: This is the Madagascar star unfiltered if you like.

Originally, as so many of his peers and forbearers did, learning to play as a poor kid on the most rudimentary of knocked-together, nylon-stringed guitars, and despite lacking the length in his small fingers to reach the low strings, Damily flourished. Giving the music a unique characteristic initially, he developed a technique of releasing the two bass strings as his other fingers were hitting the higher strings – other guitarist with similar disadvantages, or because they just preferred it, just moved the lowest string completely. The results gave a more aggressive attacking sound that was soon adopted by a host of artists; so many in fact that it has become a signature of this electrified genre ever since.

Sung in the Island’s Malagasy dialect, the racing fusion of lilted sweetened gospel soul, spindly and flicked electric guitar, jostling and skiffle like percussion has echoes of South Africa township polyrhythm rock and Afropop. Almost childlike vocals joyfully skit across patted, skipping padded drums – the sticks made from the pelts of the humped Zebu cattle – and what sounds like a pan-pipped melody on the opener ‘Zaho Va’; and you can hear, what sounds like, Casio presets and splashes of cymbal on the delightfully scrappy ‘Mangebakbake’.

Threatening to collapse or trip over itself throughout, the diy produced trotting rhythms somehow keep going. And Damily’s reedy guitar runs, phrases and trills nearly overload the system at one point, staying just the right side of discord, and staying just about in tune.

Back to the foundations, with a smattering of tracks from ’95 to 2020, the Early Years is a refreshing collection of an artist in development: finding his style. You don’t need all the baggage or investigation to appreciate it, better still enjoy the distinctive sound. Just open your ears, sit back and be taken to new thrilling musical escapes: Yeah, that’s the sound of a recommendation.






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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.

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