PREMIERE/Dominic Valvona




Alex Stolze ft. Ben Osborn and Anne Müller   ‘Babylon’
(Nonostar)   Single/10th April 2020


A Nonostar imprint communion, chamber-electronic star Alex Stolze once again teams up with his label’s roster of congruous artists to poetically lament about an ever-fracturing Europe on the new biblical augur entitled single ‘Babylon’. Receiving its UK premiere on the Monolith Cocktail ahead of its official release on the 10th April, this sparse, stark but gorgeously arranged neoclassical elegy brings together the talents of violinist, composer, label boss Stolze, lyricist, pianist, award-winning sound designer and deft soundtrack composer of acclaimed “libretti” Ben Osborn, and renowned experimental-cellist and solo artist Anne Müller.

Repeated foils, both Osborn and Müller have collaborated with the Berlin-based Stolze on number of occasions in the last few years: Müller joining Stolze and the UK polymath Sebastian Reynolds on two volumes of the Anglo-German Solo Collective project, and Osborn, finding common ground through his shared Jewish ancestry with the former Bodi Bill, Unmap, and the experimental avant-garde Dictaphone star, releasing his debut LP Letters From The Border on Stolze’s burgeoning label in 2019.

Channeling that Jewish musical heritage once more on this fragile suite, Osborn’s perceptive and haunting Tarot liturgy-rich lyrics, sung by Stolze, echo over a classical bowed Eastern European toiled arrangement of despair and protest at the state of a continent on its downers. A plaintive chamber-pop requiem simultaneously timeless and chiming with the political lurch towards populism, nationalism and a rejection of neo-liberalism and institutions in general, ‘Babylon’ is a foreboding travail through an imagined vivid European wasteland.

As Alex explains: “Babylon is a tribute to community and the dreadful consequences that can occur when societies lose a sense of communal cooperation, with this in mind it made sense to develop Babylon in this highly collaborative way”.

Alex adds: ‘“Ben’s lyrics talk about what’s happening in Europe at the moment, and all over the world. My favourite phrase is ‘I was walking home through the streets unknown when a fist struck out of the silence, and a voice called ‘yours is to walk alone’. It’s an image our time, when nationalist and far right fear coincide with stock market crashes and it feels like we’ve gone back to 1929.”

But then came Coronavirus, and now all hell has been unleashed at a time of great fragility, not only Europe, but around the entire world. It remains to be seen how we all pull together, especially when the message is one of self-isolation and distancing.

 

You may very well detect it, but among the lofty inspirations for ‘Babylon’ are the later protest themed works of Leonard Cohen – specifically the albums You Want it Darker, The Future and I’m Your Man – and the legendary 1736 arrangement of the liturgical song ‘Stabat Mater’, by Italian composer Pergolesi. You can add just a hint of Anthony And The Johnsons too to that rich cerebral mix.

Stolze’s latest beatific if pining single follows on from a brilliant electronic chamber pop EP, Mankind Animal, and the 2018 fully realized album suite Outermost Edge. Highly political, yet preferring to romantically allude to the instability and rise of authoritarianism and the ongoing migrant crisis with both poetic sonnets and metaphors, Stolze provides neo-classical pop maladies and aching heart music that comments without division and rage. That last LP weaved sophisticated undulations of effects and synthesized waves with amped-up trip-hop like live drums brilliantly. ‘Babylon’ however returns to a more stripped, less synthesized augmented production. A song of unity in turbulent times, at a moment in history where minds have never been more concentrated, let’s hope the message of this song leaves an indelible impression, and sets in motion a change.


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UK PREMIERE/Dominic Valvona




3 South & Banana  ‘S/T’
(Some Other Planet)  10th April 2020


Bouncing and lolloping onto the psychedelic pop and indie scene like a Francophone Shintaro Sakamoto, Aurélien Bernard follows up a lightly-touched but infectious kaleidoscope jangle of singles with his self-titled debut album, which the Monolith Cocktail is thrilled to be premiering in the UK today.

Swapping the drum stool and tenure with the sunny-disposition Vadoinmessico – leaving as the band transitioned into Cairobi – for a polymath solo career, the French born, Berlin-based, Bernard has an idiosyncratic musical style; weaving a cantaloupe gait and a lyrical mix of French and English vocals together in a colourful, often fun, way. The odd moniker, 3 South & Banana, is itself the result of a comedic misunderstanding: a mistranslation if you will. Though Bernard has a most excellent annunciation, if accented.

Lilted but wasting no time, the new album opens with a kind of show time introduction to the Frenchman’s world of breezy backbeat new wave, and a sound that can only be described as psychedelic grunge pop. In a similar vein, there’s the jangly, quick tightened drum rolls surfy-wavy Clor-esque ‘BlaBlaBla’; a former single that carries a Theremin aria leitmotif that can be found suffused throughout the entire album, and the bubbly, crosstown interchange merger of The Rapture and 80s Jonathan Richman ‘Rush Hour’.

But there’s also a lot of even gentler dreamy tunes to enjoy; like the Les Baxter thumbs a lift aboard The Beach Boys inflatable lilo as it drifts towards Polynesian waters ‘Bâtons Mêlés’, and the yacht rock with shades of Air vaporous kissing game ‘KittyKat Happy BadSad’.

Radiant, oceanic, translucent and even cosmic with a Gallic shrug of wistful fatalism, the 3 South & Banana cosmos of rooftop fauna wonderment is a swell place to be in these dark, uncertain times. And so behold this psychedelic pop light.

I absolutely love this album, and so should you.





The Monolith Cocktail can be supported via the micro-donation site, 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.

PLAYLIST/Dominic Valvona





Cool shit that the Monolith Cocktail founder and instigator Dominic Valvona has pulled together, the Social playlist is a themeless selection of eclectic tracks from across the globe and ages. Representing not only his tastes but the blogs, these regular playlists can be viewed as an imaginary radio show, a taste of Dominic’s DJ sets over 25 plus years. Placed in a way as to ape a listening journey, though feel free to listen to it as you wish, each playlist bridges a myriad of musical treasures to enjoy and also explore – and of course, to dance away the hours to.

For those of you without access to Spotify, we’ve chosen a random smattering of tracks from Youtube.



Tracks 

The Lovin’ Spoonful  ‘Revelation: Revolution ’69’
Dyke & The Blazers  ‘Swamp Walk’
Keef Hartley Band  ‘You Can Choose’
Steamhammer  ‘Supposed To Be’
Klaus Doldinger’s Passport  ‘Schirokko’
Som Tres  ‘Eu Já Tenho Você’
Freda Payne  ‘Let It Be Me’
Emitt Rhodes  ‘Let’s All Sing’
Keyboard  ‘I Wish You know’
Clothilde  ‘Saperlipopette’
N’Goma Jazz  ‘Kupassiala Kuawaba’
Tabou Combo  ‘Haiti’
Dick Khoza  ‘Zumbwe (Baby Tiger)’
Def Jef  ‘Get Up 4 The Get Down’
Souls Of Mischief  ‘A Name I Call Myself’
Honey Cone  ‘Deaf, Blind, Paralysed’
The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble  ‘One For The monica Lingas Band’
Sum Pear  ‘Bring Me Home America’
J Scienide & Kev Brown  ‘100 Grand’
Paper Garden  ‘Lady’s Man’
Brian Eno & John Cale  ‘Lay My Love’
Mick Ronson  ‘Growing Up And i’m Fine’
David Johansen  ‘Here Comes The Night’
Ben Von Wildenhaus  ‘The Limping Axeman’
Marconi Notaro  ‘Ah Vida Avida’
Alessandro Alessandroni  ‘Babylon City’
Between  ‘Scatter’
Finis Africae  ‘Zoo Zulu’
Gescom  ‘C2’
Luke Vibert  ‘Funky Acid Stuff’
Cos  ‘Video Boma’
Haruomi Hosono  ‘Sports Men’
Blurt  ‘Let Them Be (Live)’
Essential Logic  ‘The Order Form’
Parasites Of The Western World  ‘Mo’
Rob Jo star Band  ‘Stone Away’
Semi-Colon  ‘Ebenebe’
Sam Rivers  ‘Crux’
N’Ghare Hi Power Band  ‘Campus Rock’
Dr. Alimantado  ‘NO Gwaan SOH’


VIDEOS
























ALBUM REVIEW
Words: Dominic Valvona




Roedelius   ‘Selbstporträt Wahre Liebe’
(Bureau B)   LP/10th April 2020


Losing none of that zest for creating and wonderment, the eight-five year old progenitor of ambient, new age and neo-classical music Hans-Joachim Roedelius is still exploring and still producing experimental compositions at a prolific rate. There is, four decades on from his richest period of self-discovery and defining the perimeters of what electronic music could be, no let up in the Roedelius schedule. As famous for his collaborative partnership with the late Dieter Moebius in the Kluster/Cluster/Qluster arc, the Berlin born masseur and physiotherapist turned self-taught composer, has also laid down a breadcrumb trail of impressive and highly influential solo releases, numbering somewhere in the 100s.

Just one part of that extensive catalogue of solo work, the introspective Selbstporträt series is being revisited by the aging doyen for the Bureau B label. Originally made during various sessions for Cluster, between 1973 to 1979, these intimate contemplative and ruminating self-portraits were released in the late 70s and early 80s – later volumes appear sporadically in the 90s and 2000s too. Though always going forward, Roedelius has been nudged into a challenge as Bureau B founder Gunther Buskies proposes the octogenarian return to the processes and methodology of that period to create another ‘Selbstporträt’. Cheekily as the PR spill has it, seeing if he, ‘was capable of “beaming back” to his youthful years, reaching into the sonic past of the Self-Portrait series to deliver similarly persuasive results.’ The short answer to that is: Yes. But before we divine the results of Selbstporträt Wahre Liebe, a little background colour first.





A founding pillar of the Kosmische sound in the late 1960s and early 70s, originally taking shape from experimental performances at the legendary Berlin club they helped found, the Zodiak Free Arts Lab, the first incarnation of this amorphous partnership that made Roedelius’ name, Cluster, featured Joseph Beuys disciple and electronic music progenitor Conrad Schnitzler; the music, almost dark, Lutheran and hymn like, an early modulation of piano, organ and guitar, fed through an array of homemade effects, that made its debut on a label sonorous for its stoic church organ music. This was the first incarnation, Kluster.

Many ‘head music’ fans will be enamored or at least familiar with the second phase, as Kluster interchanged its capital letter to a ‘C’ and Schnitzler left (for the first time). Releasing some of the most sublime peregrinations and odd candy coated pop electronica under the Cluster banner, their most formative period during the early to mid 70s remains their most famous and influential. This brought plenty of admirers and fellow sonic travelers to the Forst located woodland glade studio retreat. Most famously Brian Eno and Michael Rothar of Neu! Both of whom would join Roedelius and Moebius to form the (a)side project supergroup Harmonia.

Apart from a dormant period during the 80s, as Roedelius and Moebius pursued both solo and collaborative careers (many of which would overlap), Cluster survived well into the next century. Finally calling it a day in 2010: For this version of the partnership anyway. Dropping the C for a ‘Q’ this time around, Roedelius found a new collaborative partner in the sound installation artist and like-minded sonic explorer keyboardist Onnen Bock. After a number of albums together the duo expanded to a trio when bass player virtuoso and (another) keyboardist Armin Metz joined the ranks. In the last few years the Qluster trio have been drawn to Roedelius’ neo-classical piano compositional improvisations and sketches; the previous suite Tasten was built around a trio of them, and the more electronic offering Echtzeit, though far less so, also seemed informed by it.

In many ways following on from the last album together, making a return to the warmth and traversing heavenly space sounds we have come to associate with all things Kosmische, the golden epoch of that genre filled our ears once more on Qluster’s seventh (and so far last) album, Elemente; a feat that is repeated on this solo portrait.

 

Leaving Qluster aside for the moment, Onnen Bock, together with Wolf Bock, shadows Roedelius on this vintage warm-up. Intimately (re)acquainted with himself, the fascinations and interests that originally sparked the previous series of visceral sketches may have changed but the soundboard tools remain the same, with Roedelius once more making use of the Farfisa organ, Fender Rhodes, drum machine and tape-delay to fashion a new empirical suite of Kosmische neo-classical moods and dreamgazing.

Though it’s been over four decades since those iconic peaceable recordings, the old apparatus from that period is just as warm and receptive to the ambient progenitor’s touch and imagination. If you’re familiar with those composition then you’ll bound to recognize the recurring Baroque fairground piped merry-go-rounds and serene glide motifs that appear on this wonderful erudite album. Especially the playful but calmed trans-alpine gliding ‘Geruhsam’, which – in my imagination anyway – conjured up an image of either a bossa signature steamboat sailing across a Swiss lake, or, a enervated chuffing steam engine travelling across a tranquil mindscape.

Elsewhere the bright diaphanous notes of the Rhodes lightly hang in the air as they did before; lingering with an echo of glassy Kosmische reverent soul on compositions such as the romantic resonate ‘Wahre Liebe’ – that’s ‘true love’ – and dreamily fanned on the comforting cloud breathing ‘Nahwärme’ – which translates as, depending on your fancy, either ‘local heating’ or ‘convenient heat’; an aloof soundtrack for a German boiler installation company perhaps? Sometimes that organ glistens and at other times almost drifts into the ecclesiastical. The complimentary Farfisa is equally as gorgeous; deftly played and perfectly attuned. A real warmth is created (there’s that word again), but also an overlapping cascade of bulb-like notation and subtle refractions of light play.

 

Reverent, beautiful, encapsulating, with even a touch of giddy uncertainty – I’m referring to the ‘roundabout’ motion of ‘Im Kreisel’ – Roedelius has lost none of his sparkle, or for that matter his romanticism and hope. A fine balance between past triumphs and the new, Selbstporträt Wahre Liebe is unhurried and playfully understated; a timeless album simultaneously made with a sagacious touch and young curiosity. At the stately age of 85, Roedelius proves to still be on form as he looks back once more before easing forward.






Related posts from the Archives:

Hans-Joachim Roedelius Interview

Qluster ‘Elemente’ Review

Hans-Joachim Roedelius ‘Kollektion 2: Roedelius – Electronic Music Compiled By Lloyd Cole’ &   ‘Tape Archive 1973-1978’ Review

Cluster ‘1971 – 1981’ Boxset Review


And Now, A Word From Our Founder

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.