Halloween Playlist Special

October 28, 2020

Playlist
Dominic Valvona/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Though 2020 has been the “annus horribilis” of annus horribilis years, we can at least come together to burn effigies, light the red candles, draw the pentagram, commune with the spirits (much more of those this year) and, well, strong arm the poor citizens of the world into giving out candy. Fear not (or do) we at the Monolith Cocktail haven’t just compiled one, but two ghoulish playlists this year for your celebrations at the weekend: Dominic Valvona’s devilish mix and Brain ‘Bordello’ Shea’s rock ‘n’ roll, garage raves from the graves selection.

TRACK LIST.:.ONE:.

The Flatlinerz ‘Channel 66’
Mr. Hyde ‘Truth Of The Beast’
The Spaceshits ‘Piss On Your Grave’
Iron Claw ‘Skullcrusher’
Rick Van der Linden ‘Witches’ Dance’
The Sorcerers ‘The Horror’
Tucker Zimmerman ‘Talking To The Demon’
Orphan Egg ‘We Have Already Died’
Tonbruket ‘Tarantella’
Bulbous Creation ‘Satan’
Peter Thomas Sound Orchester ‘Der Hexer’
Eddy Detroit ‘Evil Dark Face’
Johann Johannsson ‘Forging The Beast’
Dead Moon ‘Graveyard’
Syd Dale ‘Black Shape’
Snowy Red ‘The Right To Die’
Bat For Lashes ‘Vampires’
Alessandro Alessandroni ‘Dance Of Death’
David Liebe Hart ‘Haunted By Frankenstein’
Les Maledictus Sound ‘Monster Cocktail’
Alex Chilton, Ben Vaughn & Alan Vega ‘The Werewolf’
Night Beats ‘Dial 666’
Sunburned Hand Of The Man ‘Ritual Hex Tape’
Wall Of Voodoo ‘Dark As The Dungeon’
Sandro Brugnolini ‘Villa Polanski’
Foetus ‘Lilith’
Writing On The Wall ‘Lucifer Corpus’
Raw Material ‘Race With The Devil’
Gurumaniax ‘Ghosts Of Odin’
Dennis Farnon ‘Dark Glass (A)’
Byard Lancaster ‘Satan’

By Dominic Valvona

TRACK LIST.:.TWO.:.

Dave Edmunds ‘The Creature From The Black Lagoon’
Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps ‘Cat Man’
Larry & The Blue Notes ‘Night Of The Sadist’
Daniel Johnston ‘Devil Town’
Teenage Fanclub ‘Vampire’s Claw’
Andrew Gold ‘Spooky, Scary Skeletons’
The Fuzztones ‘Ghost Clinic’
Eddie Noack ‘Psycho’
The Cramps ‘The Creature From The Black Lagoon’
The Shangri-Las ‘Monster Mash’
Magnet ‘Masks/Hobby Horse’
Vincent Price ‘House On Haunted Hill (I)’
The Bordellos ‘Whistling Through The Corpses’
Occult Character ‘Forty Million Skeletons (Can’t Be Wrong)’
Salem Trials ‘Ugly Puppets’
Julian Cope ‘Reynard The Fox’
Elvis Costello & The Attractions ‘The Invisible Man’
Billy Fury ‘Don’t Jump’
Eartha Kitt ‘I Want To Be Evil’

By Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

ALBUM REVIEW
Dominic Valvona

Liraz ‘Zan’
(Glitterbeat Records) 13th November 2020

It’s hardly surprising that with all the ongoing tensions between the nefarious Iranian regime and its neighbours, and with the continued oppression of its own population that attempting to show the Middle Eastern titan in a good light is frustratingly difficult (an understatement in itself).  Especially when you’re Jewish, and part of that atavistic empire’s age-old Jewish community that stretches right back to Persia’s Biblical entry in the Old Testament: A community originally bound in chains, the spoils of conquest marched into slavery in 727BC, but eventually granted citizenship and even given the right of return to build a new temple in Jerusalem by the more enlightened Cyrus in the 6th century BC. Or that one of your most recent roles on screen is in a clandestine Mossad agent mission to infiltrate the Iranian air defences so that Israel can disable a nuclear reactor drama (the Apple+ series Tehran). But the actress, dancer and electronic pop siren Liraz Charhi is willing to give it a good go, covertly recording her second cinematic lensed Middle Eastern fantasy with a myriad of Iranian musicians under the radar of the ayatollah hardliners, over the internet.  

In a climate in which tolerance is scarce and with most creative forms and freedoms of expression attracting, at the very least, suspicion, and at the worse, imprisonment, even death, trying to make a record with a strong feminine message seems an almost impossible, dangerous task: Liraz’s collaborators will probably have to remain anonymous indefinitely for their own safety. 

The Iranian state’s secret police would have a field day with this project; mainly in its citizens daring to work with a émigré living in the Israel. For Liraz’s family were forced to escape during the tumultuous upheavals of Iran’s revolution in the 70s; setting up home in Israel’s capital, Tel Aviv, a safe haven for those escaping an ever-authoritarian Islamic regime. That city has grown to become an artistic community of foreigners, living cheek-in-jowl with both an older Israeli population and diaspora of Jews from around the globe. Liraz however, still feels bound to that Iranian heritage. And it seems when listening to her evocative soothed and lush bright vocals, she is the latest in a long line of strong outspoken women from that community. A baton has been handed down you could say.

Feeling adrift, Liraz upped sticks to become an actress in L.A. Little did she know that the city would open her eyes to another concentration of Iranian émigrés, including many from the Iranian-Jewish community. Whilst starring in major productions such as Fair Game and A Late Quartet, Liraz would find comfort and a sense of belonging in that diaspora. She’d learn much absorbing both the ancient musical traditions and the pop and disco that filled the clubs in a pre-revolutionary, pro-miniskirt Tehran, including such famed Iranian acts as Googoosh and Mahasty – both of which you can hear premating this both sorrowful and vibrant new album Zan

It was much in part down to the courage of the women in this astoundingly large community (so large that L.A. is nicknamed “Tehrangeles”) that emboldened Liraz to take up singing. She would record her debut Persian imbued album Naz in 2018, inspired by those whose only outlet and determination of self-identity and freedom was through music. Two years later and once more ingrained in that atavistic land’s richly woven musical history, she enacts a clandestine connectivity between cultures on the “second chapter”.

In a similar cinematic imagining of a twanged and vibrato Persian Western, the Zan panorama is full of atmospheric sweeps, sand dune contouring, swirling dervish and Sufi enchantments alongside bouncing electronic-toms, zaps and melodious pop anthems. Synthesized effects converge and melt with a rich tableau of Persian instrumentation; from the “daf” frame drum and “tonbak” hand drum to the spindled lute played “oud”. Fanned, spindly sounds of that region and Liraz’s diaphanous wooed, swooned and deeply felt voice add an extra spell to the electro and disco pop elements. This can sound as varying as an Arabian version of Air, on the aching ballad ‘Sheb Gerye’, or like M.I.A. on the fizzled tapping stripped dance track ‘Nafas’.

Sung beautifully and passionately in the Farsi dialect of that heritage, titles and poetry take on deeper meanings when translated. “Zan” means “women, sing”, and points to a celebration of the female spirit in such trying times, and under such oppression. From the cross-generational lullaby ‘LaLai’, sung by each matriarch in Liraz’s family to their daughters, to the courtly pop of ‘Zan Bezan’, an evocation of that strength and sense of the stoic Iranian heroine is made clear.

Electronic music with a message, an interesting backstory and methodology, but more than this Zan is a brilliant dreamy Persian disco and billowing pop album that continues a tradition of strong female voices in the face of extreme intolerance. Those nameless Iranian collaborators should be both happy and proud with the results, which do indeed shed a positive light on the country’s rich musical tapestry.

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.

Brain ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Reviews Jamboree

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea 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 recent releases include The Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, the diatribe ‘Boris Johnson Massacre’ and just in the last couple of months, both The King Of No-Fi album, and a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart. He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic album 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.

Singles.

The Loved Drones ‘Conspiracy Dance’
(Freaksville Records)

Let’s be honest, this is ace. How can it not be; any track that has you swinging from the imaginary chandelier of your mind and juggling rolled up socks in a devil care way, and trust me this song is liable to evoke both actions voluntary or not. Yes this is a fine single one that brings the heyday of post punk back to your listening device; a song that brings both the combined magic of the Jilted John album and the lyrical dexterity of John Cooper Clark but with a swinging sixties beat. I can only stand back and applaud.

See also…

The Loved Drones ‘Good Luck Universe!’ (here)

Pixies ‘Hear Me Out/Mambo Sun’
16th October 2020

The new pixies single is good. I like it, and to be quite honest that statement surprises me, as I’ve not been a huge fan since their reformation a few years ago. But this has the older elements I loved, but slightly watered down. Saying that, if I heard this on the radio I wouldn’t have guessed it was the Pixies, just another good alt rock American band influenced by the Pixies.

I like the female lead vocals and the twangy guitar. So if I were on jukebox jury I would vote it a hit: but not a patch on their first three albums.

October Surprise ‘Paris 1919/(I Just Can’t See) The Attraction’
(Big Stir Records) 16th October 2020

What we have here is number 100 in the Big Stir Records digital singles releases: And what a gem it is, the A side being a beautiful folk like sway through John Cale’s ‘Paris 1919’, which has me reaching for my hanky and smudging away the happy tears as memories of my preteen days stuck to the transistor radio being swept away by Renaissance and their Northern Lights come flooding back. This cover of 1919 has the same glow of nostalgic rebirth and hope. The B-side, ‘The Attraction’ is equally as special a lovely male/female duet of love gone wrong; strings softly strummed guitars stroked drums and lost seduction.

Johanna Burnheart  ‘Silence Is Golden’
(Ropeadope Records)

Is experimental Jazz-folk a thing? If not this could well be the first example; a beautiful song that starts all shattered cold sheet frustrations and soundscape Nyman style and shifts into a psych-folk chant of crashing drums, and slowly erupts into a jazz frenzy of Samba vocals and percussion. A song of strange emotion and beauty, part lounge-core jazz part Whicker Man folk: a lovely and bewitching track.

Albums..

Netta Goldhirsch ‘Love Doesn’t Exist’
(Wormhole World) 23rd October 2020

If soulful Avant-Garde vocal meanderings with the solitude sparse jazz/dance trip hop be bop, cut up into pieces and folded into star shaped moments of post epileptic solitude is your thing than this album could well be for you. Netta Goldhirsch is indeed a fine singer with a very unusual timbre to her voice and the songs, all short, are like sketches of songs; songs that really do not need to be developed any more as if they where they could well lose what is so magical about them and magical they are.

Fans of late period Scott Walker and Yoko in her more tuneful moments and fans of Julie London and especially fans of Ute Lemper’s Punishing Kiss album will all find something to enjoy on this extremely enjoyable unusual album. Aural art at its best. Another winner from Wormhole World records.

Mylittlebrother  ‘Howl’
(Big Stir Records) 30th October 2020

Mylittlebrother are a band from Cumbria, who for some reason really appeal to me, as their album doesn’t sound like I was expecting. For some reason I was expecting phony American accents and shiny guitars and power pop sensibilities, but instead we are greeted with a very British quirky sounding country tinged album of very subtle well written songs of everyday life more lyrically Jarvis Cocker/Paul Heaton than Don Henly, and musically, 80’s indie guitar pop with some tracks having a country tinge (does anyone remember The Raw Herbs?), and not American sounding at all. So, Howl is an album of very well written mostly guitar-based songs with some lovely melodies especially the lovely ballad ‘The Start’, which you can imagine playing over some rom-com final scene as some badly dressed geek of a man gets the woman in the rain against all odds. An album that could appeal to a large cross section of the public as there really is nothing not to like about it: unless you do not like well written songs of melody and grace.

The Dupont Circles ‘In Search of the Family Gredunza’
(Beautiful Music Records) 30th September 2020

The combination of the majestic jangle of c86 and Beatle boots is and can be a thing of great beauty, especially when it is performed with the vigour and enthusiasm that the near legendary in some circles cult band The Dupont Circles give it. A debut album that has taken 30 years to arrive and now brought to us by the beautiful in name and beautiful in nature and music Beautiful Music records.

The Dupont Circles love a good melody and a witty lyric and a 60s garage rock guitar riff: the track ‘Tick Tock’ wouldn’t sound out of a place on a Rubbles comp; a rather marvellous adventure of a track as would the psych tinged Joe Meek like following instrumental ‘Sputnik’. My Personal favourite track on this album though is the wonderful Television Personalities like ‘53 Bicycles’ – there is also a cover of the TP’S ‘How I Learned To Love The Bomb’. This album is a joyful romp through the magical world of The Dupont Circles; a world where the guitar and Farisa organ is king and the national anthem alternates between “My Generation” and “I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives”. A rather marvellous land I want to move to immediately.

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 Column
Dominic Valvona

Regular followers may have picked up that my Tickling Our Fancy roundup is mostly an albums heavy affair, and that I’ve tried to post (quite sporadically) a separate singles, EPs, videos and one-offs style column (the Perusal) in the past. Due to the demand and fact that I’m just knackered keeping up, I’m going to try out a new format of sorts, to include everything in one place. With that in mind, there’s new singles from HighSchool, Sebastian Reynolds, and Escupemetralla. And both a performance excerpt and EP from the Jerusalem sludge rock outfit Andarta.

Albums wise we have the long-player debut from agit-soul-punk ensemble Iklan, epic45 ruminate with a wash of rural House indie and nostalgic gauzy tones on their new album Cropping The Aftermath; a most experimental overlap of Afro-Caribbean and Panamanian jazz from the dynamic Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes union (a side excursion to their part in the Irreversible Entanglements quintet); and John Lane, as the menagerie A Journey Of Giraffes, soundtracks a mindful escape on his latest suite for Somewherecold Records, Sunshine Pilgrim Map. Also, we have Spacelab on a mission to delve through alien soundscapes and mischievous foolery on their new oeuvre Kaleidomission, and Blang Records celebrate fifteen years in the business with another label compilation of maverick antifolk, punk, indie and underpass soul.

Singles.

Escupemetralla ‘I Always Reivindico El Nail Art’
3rd October 2020

You can try to describe and explain the crazy that is the organism, organization, the fiendish underground hub of the disturbing avant-garde and experimental, the makers of sound bites and broadcasts, the damned hub that is Escupemetralla (Spanish we’re assured for “spits shrapnel”) but no one can quite put it like those anonymous miscreants themselves. Just take a gander at this following description for the nail painting muse single ‘I Always Reivindico El Nail Art’.

“Our new track benefits from the wonderful collaboration of the sublime, immeasurable and chiripitifláutica plutonic artist known as Rosalía, muse of surrealism since Salvador Dalí walked her half dressed in Granollers (province of Barcelona) on the back of a giant plastic camel in one of his well-known happenings of the ‘60s. After her glittering appearances in corpore glutinoso at the Latin-Chichimeca Kilogrammy Awards and her yelling participation in some plumbeous works by illustrious rappers, trappers, folk singers and flamenco artists of every moral and amoral nature, our singer blesses us with her archangelic presence in this melodic song by Escupemetralla, with whom she has signed an exclusive contract for the next four or five years.

Ever since Dalí roared that famous mantra, “Booterrflaí, booterrflaí” [that is, “Butterfly, butterfly” as pronounced by a Spaniard not trying to sound British] live on TV, only Rosalía managed to condense so much chestnut-flavored Spanglish into a single sentence: “I always reivindico el nail art” [that is, “I always vindicate nail art”]. With this phrase she revealed to us once and for all the sources from which she draws the inspiration with which she commits her outrages: Fu Manchu, Freddy Kruger and Edward Scissorhands.”

I don’t believe a word of it. But who cares when such disturbing Fangoria nightmarish hallucinatory surrealisms sound this great. A perfect fantasy in time for Halloween.

Sebastian Reynolds ‘Diving Board’
(Faith & Industry) 9th October 2020

In the run-up to next year’s Nihilism is Pointless EP (released 29th January 2021), the highly prolific Oxford-based polymath keyboard player, pianist, producer and label owner Sebastian Reynolds is releasing a number of singles from this evocatively sweeping and sophisticated multi-layering suite during 2020. The first of which is the semi-classical quivery swelled spatial drama with moments of grinded and sparked dissonance ‘Diving Board’.

Following on from his recent The Universe Remembers EP – a philosophical, religious and metaphysical cosmological junction of dystopian literature and Buddhist Eschatology – and the incredibly personal stand-alone single ‘Heartbeat/My Mother Was The Wind’, Reynolds once more sends out the mind-expanding frequencies, channeling, as he puts it, “…the altered states of consciousness experienced through meditation, cold water exposure and prayer, it represents the deep breath before taking the plunge.”

Nihilism is Pointless and the new single are being released via producer Capitol K’s Faith & Industry label, the release platform for Capitol K’s output as well as John Johanna, Blue House, Thomas Nation (all three of which have featured on the MC and made our “choice” albums of the year) and Champagne Dub.

Expect a full review in due course next year.

See also…

Sebastian Reynolds ‘The Universe Remembers’  (here..)

HighSchool ‘New York, Paris And London’
(Dalliance Recordings) 16th October 2020

After making a splash with their debut broody bounced and hazed Joy Division meets The Cure debut single ‘Frosting’, the effortlessly cool Melbourne duo have signed to the UK label Dalliance Recordings for the aloof triple-cities of culture entitled follow-up, New York, Paris And London. Exuberating a kind of bonus-of-youth with states of indolent dependency, the post-punk naval gazers explore the “pendulum that swings between social anxiety and elation” on this languorous new single that bares hints of The Smiths, Strokes and, again, The Cure.

The single was recorded by noted engineer Naomune Anzai (Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Cash Savage and the Last Drinks, The Teskey Brothers) and mastered by Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Total Control) – the Total Control reference there making perfect sense when you listen back to New York, Paris And London. Anyway I think they’re bloody great; and I’m quite excited about what they’ll release next.

See also…

HighSchool ‘Frosting’  (here…)

Andarta ‘Live at Studio Straus (an excerpt)’
‘ST’ EP

More miscellaneous then single/album whatever, I just had to share this incredible dark, grinding, thrashing lumbering concentration of dragging doom from the holy center of the impending Biblical Armageddon, Jerusalem. Andarta, which sort of means memorial statue in Hebrew, is a causal union of friends corralled by local label honcho and drummer Itai Anker. Here I’ve included them in live mode and the link to their most recent EP. The spoils of one of their most recent ritual interactions are expressed as a weaponized vision of morbidly curious early Bad Seeds, Swans and dark metal sludge. 

ALBUMS..

Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes ‘Heritage Of The Invisible II’
(International Anthem) October 23rd 2020

Channeling a combination of Panamanian and Afro-Caribbean heritages, the trumpet and percussionist duo of Aquiles Navarro and Tcheser Holmes come on like an abstract Latin version of the Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell union with their experimental jazz partnership. A side excursion, exploration from the duo’s membership of the burgeoning freewheeling avant-garde quintet Irreversible Entanglements, the Navarro-Holmes combo brings a partnership that began and took root when the two were studying at the New England Conservatory back together for an untethered gyration, contortion of “existential joy”. For this is a sort of escapism from the Irreversible mood of political angst and dissonant freefalling for something approaching improvised “jubilance”. 

Navarro and Holmes feed off their polygenesis upbringings and travails with a sound imbued by the luminaries of the Panama jazz and Latin scenes, the experimental doyens of America’s Mid-West and East Coast, and the Caribbean; all of which sprung or progressed from Africa. Navarro, who’s principle instrument is the trumpet but also proves a deft touch on the upright piano (like a saloon style Oscar Peterson), Moog and Juno synths, was born in Toronto; his family uprooted from their Panama home during the murky Manuel Noriega chapter, the fall out of which saw America invade the Central American canal corridor in the late 80s. He proved a real talent, studying with compatriot trumpeter and Fania All Stars luminary Victor “Vitan” Paz and composer, saxophonist Carlos Garnett. Holmes meanwhile was born into the Pan-African community of Brooklyn; revolving around the spiritual Ausar Auset Society and his family’s Bennu Auser Dance Company. The blossoming energetic drummer, percussionist was encouraged to study by his cultural arts programmer mum and classically trained pianist uncle (and this is where the two crossover) from Panama.  Both future explorers of contemporary jazz would meet in Boston whilst studying, forming a congruous union that holds together an amorphous dynamism of the strung-out and incipient.

Sparring at different intensities, speeds and signatures the duo keep various off-the-grid tangents, visions, together; combining acoustic improvisation with overdubs of synth, vocals, additional instrumentation and recurring snatches of musing conversations. Some of this comes from a guest list that includes the Spanish poet Marcos de la Fuente, pianist Nick Sanders (who plays a Thelonious style jazzy blues mosey on the album’s honky-tonk and Savoy label roll back ‘M.O.N.K (Most Only Never Know)’), Panamanian “mejuranero” (a folkloric five-string chordophone carved from a single block of wood) player Ricardo de León, and the soulful tripping vocalist Brigitte Zozula. A further guest spot arrives in the form of an Autechre-crosses-streams-with-DJ Shadow acid gauzy Techno transformation from the Philly-based composer and electronic artist Madam Data.  A barest semblance of the duo can be heard in a repeating loop to infinity that echoes throughout a wobbly warping dance mix of pulsing futurism.

The rest of this album features profound poetics reverberating in a play-off between Holmes thrashing rolling tight breaks, cymbal splashes, rattles and twills and Navarro’s blurts, spirals, airy ascendancy and short, repeated bursts. The opening meditational reading pitches Gurumanix and Kosmische undertows of slithery acid-synth against “unstructured” Cecil Taylor. And on the “celebration of life” framed optimistic augur of hope and unity, ‘Pueblo’, a lilted Latin Herb Albert teams up with Don Cherry. It’s a constant shifting balance of falling and less chaotic, more rhythmic sparring.

Empirical memories and reverberations of recognizable voice, instrumentation in the most abstracted passages merge with tightened pliable performances. Technically brilliant; pushing at the perimeters without losing the listener, the duo have an exceptional feel and relationship, guiding as they do, each other towards such recondite extremes of experimentation and articulation.

Lending the language of the avant-garde jazz of their heritage, the “invisible” people whose contributions to the form and beyond go largely unnoticed, emerge to inspire this impressive album; a sort of Clouddead of jazz every bit as progressive and interesting as their contributions to the Irreversible project. Whilst that unit’s live tour has been put on hold, a pandemic-imposed reality has concentrated the minds of the duo and given them space to experiment and follow a different path: A really clever one at that.

epic45 ‘Cropping The Aftermath’
(Wayside & Woodland Recordings) 23rd October 2020

From those stuck-in-the-sticks bedroom music dreamers epic45, another expansive gauzy soundtrack of translucent gazing and pastoral electronica dance music with whiffs of nostalgia and ruminations on the, all too quick, passing of time. Yes, Ben Holton, Rob Glover and long-term collaborator James Yates articulate an abstract longing for less dreadful times with a wash of diaphanous atmospherics, radiant House music sparkles, Bloc Party indie breakbeats and trance.

Framed, at least in the promotional email, as a kind of trip back down memory lane, the roots, blossoming of epic45’s inception – a creative escapism from the boredom of life in the middle-of-nowhere – in the 90s starts the ball rolling with reminiscing tones. Musically the lads evoke a redolent soundboard of 808 State, Bowie’s more downbeat moments on Earthling, the softened lingering’s of the Durutti Column guitar, shoegazing and the Aphex Twin. That’s some spread, and one that’s wrapped up in a lush dreamy drift of both the audibly and more hushed whispered, reverberated meanderings and heartened sensibilities of the vocalized sentiments. 

The second project from epic45 in 2020, Cropping The Aftermath continues with the sonic scenic illusions of their We Were Never Here photo book; snapshots and longer gazes from the past, entwined with moods transduced into shimmery mirages and rainstorms. Feeling at times like another summer of love, there’s a real sense of that late 80s club and indie sound so beloved of Madchester: radient-House you could call it. ‘Garage Days’ actually sounds like the band remixing themselves on an acid-soaked glide of oceanic techno, ghostly vocal traces and electronic bobbing toms. Those Bloc Party-esque indie breakbeat drums busily work away (sometimes venturing into d’n’b and even jazz) throughout the album as the washes and gossamer synthesized orbiting shimmers and sweeps waft around in the foreground. There’s a moment when it even all evokes a kind of Ibiza indie mirage; the sort Tim Burgess has been found to swim around in.

In between we have those lingered pastoral sets. As the name obviously suggests, ‘Waking Up In A Field’ is full of chirping morning bird choruses and the dewy sounds of, well, a field, but interspersed with fleeting reversal effects and a synthesized come-down.

The passing of time and the profound acknowledgement of reaching middle age with all its realizations is a right inevitable bastard to wrestle with. But few manage to fit it in such a picturesque soundtrack of gauzy, hazy yearnings. As that old adage goes: don’t grow up, it’s a con (or words to that affect). epic45 have come a long way since those bedroom music making days, yet that early wonder, hunger and camaraderie in hasn’t diminished one bit; the lads pushing the envelope as ever with a flair for producing minor rural electronic yearnings of profound veiled beauty.   

Iklan ‘Album Number 1’
(Soulpunk) 19th October 2020

Despite the attitude and volatility, this assembled cast of pissed-off musical malcontents sounds surprisingly controlled and soulful when chucking a proverbial Molotov into the current incendiary mix of division and pandemic.

Under the collective platform of Iklan, Mercury Prize winning producer and four-decade-plus stalwart of the underground music scene Timothy London, singer-nurse Law Holt and, on backing vocals, 90s one-hit wonders Jacqui and Pauline Cuff (aka the Leith Congregational Choir and before that “Hippychick” hitsters Soho) come together to fire off sonic and verbal broadsides at the current shower. For his part, London brings a sophisticated edgy production of tetchy, piston tapping Trip-Hop, House and both synth-pop and synth-sinister to the mix, whilst Holt brings fire and soul in equal measures; switching from meandrous spiky R&B to rap. Accentuating or punctuating those vocals, the Cuffs offer a suffused chorus that sometimes borders on dark cyber-gospel.

The name of the label for this venture coins the group’s sound well: “soulpunk”. It certainly has the spirit of punk (and post-punk for that matter), and is extremely, despite the rhetoric ad flippant birdfinger “fuck u”, delivered with a soulful wandering pitch.  Despondent as much as incandescent with rage, Iklan come across as a kind of subtle TV On The Radio. Better still, Young Fathers – which isn’t surprising as Law has appeared with the Edinburgh group on a number of occasions and is part of that capital’s much-talked about scene. You could also throw in FKA Twigs, Tamar Kaman (of the Van Allen Belt), Tricky and even a wallowing, more foreboding version of tune-yards to that list. Though the Iklan sound is a mostly ominous one, full of futuristic dystopian warpings and woozy despondency; wrapped up in a subtle deep groove and staggered sound bed of meticulously techy beats, buzzes, sirens and metallic percussion: A record that looms large in the stairwell of a broken estate, yet shakes, dances and thumps with a f-bomb littered fury that proves far more articulate and rhythmic than you’d expect.

Law struts as much as riles in encapsulating her daily life experiences as a young black woman and nurse in the increasingly hostile environment of a pandemic gripped city – there’s even lyrical references to a shooting. It’s antipop in a way; the message delivered in a velvet gauntlet of R&B infused rioting. An album fit for the times we’re living through.

Also see..

Iklan ‘Suffer 2’ Single (here…)

A Journey Of Giraffes ‘Sunshine Pilgrim Map’
(Somewherecold Records) 23rd October 2020

From the very beginning of the Monolith Cocktail a decade ago, the career of the sonic explorer John Lane seems to have tied in with our own development: from the very first Beach Boys lo fi seashell bedroom symphonies of John’s first submission to the blog under the Expo moniker, through to his ever more experimental peregrinations under the menagerie A Journey Of Giraffes, and his most recent blossoming releasing music with the Somewherecold label.

His homage love Haiku to Susumu Yokota Kona album and ambitious atavistic Caucasus purview Armenia probably two of his best ambient oeuvres both arrived with little fanfare in the last year. His fourth, and diaphanous, album for that label is no less impressive: an “archipelago of the mind” evoking sunshine pilgrimage, soundtracked by the tropics and fantastical.  

Drifting across a translucent ocean to a virtual oasis, John lures the listener away from the pandemic suffocation of reality. As castaways in our own thoughts, pilgrims to, perhaps, an as yet unspoiled island, we’re submerged in a gently unfurled soundscape of mystery; an ambient wash of mirror-y love letters to Bamboo music and Sokamoto, metallic industrial scored dramas and weather reports. It’s a microcosm of Japanese referenced sparks of inspiration, profound philosophical island paradise references and contemplation; a world in which idiosyncratic oriental art forms (“Kintsugi”, the art of replacing broken pottery of all things) and fortune cookies crumble into a Bermudan dreamy islet, probed by a Kosmische accompanied submersible dive into the depths of the cerebral.

Pitched between the golden radiance of Laraaji and the more mysterious ghostly soundtracks of Brian Reitzell, there’s also a nod to John’s Brian Wilson influence, with a transformed vision of Pet Sounds acid-tropical tremolo, vibrato and shaking percussion signature on the album’s finale, ‘Asana The Giant’.

Tunneled drones, submerged obscured marine life, oriental chimes, crystallizations, rain patters on metal surfaces, moist droplets, cyclonic vapours, rolling storm clouds, glassy scribbles, insect chatter all converge to form a most subtly mindful safe zone: a hideaway from the real world. How John can continue to be overlooked in the world of ambient and experimental music is beyond me. He seriously deserves recognition, support and above all else, credit. I can only help continuing to spread the word. Get on the Sunshine Pilgrim tour and discover for yourselves.

See also…

Expo ‘She Sells Seashells’ (here…)

A Journey Of Giraffes ‘Sandy Point’ (here…

‘Kona’  (here…

Spacelab ‘Kaleidomission’
(Wormhole Records/HREA-M Recordings) 16th October 2020

A sort of Faust Tapes of out-of-context dialogue samples, fucked-with drum breaks and Kosmische otherworldliness, the new experimental album from Spacelab runs through a thirty-nine spanning track list of fleeting incipient ideas and the strange. Some of which last less time than it takes to pronounce the title. There’s even tracks that seem to exist purely for their visual mirrored effect on Soundcloud: The piques of the reversed then switched back around ‘Goodbye’ creating a nice symmetrical image. 

“The soundtrack to an extra-terrestrial journey from a time unknown”, Kaleidomission runs and also peruses a both thoughtful and more oft-hand exploration of minimalism, ambient and cosmic dreamy space music. Early traces of Popol Vuh (before the heavens parted era), Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Mythos and, well, a Kosmische(olgy) of inter-dimensional travellers can be heard permeating this galaxy quest.  There’s even a title nod to those miscreants of Krautrock and beyond, Faust (‘We Love Faust’) that kind of orbits their sphere of magic box sonic experimentation: Spacelab’s homage features a repeating timeless acoustic guitar motif that echoes against a rising and falling away ambient field of melodious illusions. 

Those titles more or less sum up the intention behind each of these acid tripping film dialogue snatches, majestic floats through the heavens, crystal mirages and more cartoon scores. Some act as a breather, whilst other leaps out of a mystique void. There are also spells of a supernatural kind (an obvious one, ‘Trick The Devil’) to be found in the album’s darker recesses.  

From lunar caves to magic woods, astral gateways and the fatuous, Spacelab prove sonically creative and mischievous in producing a cosmology of investigation worthy of attention. It’s Kosmische music but not quite as we know it.  

Various ‘Scratchcard’
(Blang Records) 16th October 2020

An anti-establishment of malcontents and those without a musical home, the Blang label, as purveyors of the “antifolk” scene, has offered sanctuary and comradeship for cross-generational bands and artists like the psych rock ’n’ roll maverick Tav Falco and cult London troupe David Cronenberg’s Wife.

Fifteen years on from their inaugural heralding release, the 2005 compilation Fruit Machine, Blang celebrate with an anniversary year that includes a takeover of Soho Radio, an “outsider music” documentary bio and compilations.  One of those compilations, Scratchcard, marks the label’s most recent five-year plan, from 2016 to a laborious pandemic 2020.

Not quite the punt ad promise of riches that go with that scratchcard title, this fifteen-track collection offers an amble through the modern austerity shitshow equivalent of a dole queue 80s British underground music scene: a bit of sneering; some snot rock; doses of despondent naval-gazing indie; post-punk dislocation; rebel country attitude; and kitchen sink estate dramas. The sort you’ll find on David Cronenberg’s Wife’s introductory opener ‘Suli’s House’: a wrangling Link Wray guitar led ditty that disarms with its country sway and twang a sorrowful step-by-step guide to shooting up heroin.

Originally an extension of Blang’s infamous monthly nights at the now defunct London Westend spot, The 12 Bar Club, and inspired by the NYC East Village antifolk scene of Moldy Peaches and Jeffrey Lewis (a scene that sprung from the also now defunct Sidewalk Café), the label has become a much cherished and liked platform. That antifolk raison d’etre has since expanded to include anything the Yorkshire hub sees fit to give an airing; anything that is which falls beneath the DIY ascetic, or rather as they call it (in broad Yorkshire accents) “DIT”: “Do it thissen”.

I’ve personally featured quite a few of their roster; though only a handful considering the size of the catalogue (a 100 plus release so far). Many of which feature on this compilation, including the already mentioned DCW with their despondent and sardonic witty rich The Octoberman Sequence in 2018. But there’s also the agit-rabble of Sergeant Buzfuz, whose horrible histories Pope bashing Go To The Devil And Shake Yourself opus made my choice albums of 2012. Here they offer a Parisian staged modern tale of deceit and resignation with the XTC meets Richard Hell in Montparnasse ‘Fill In The Blanks’.

Popping up back in February of this year on the blog, Extradition Order delivered a musical vision of the Oppenheimer story with their American Prometheus album (a definite pick for this year’s choice features). From that impressive mini-opus, the Warrington group is represented by the Tamela Motown channeled Style Council and B52s swooning lament, ‘Baby, What Have You Done For Me Lately?

The Awkward Silences in a different guise appeared on the blog back in 2016 with the brilliant white-funk no wave Outsider Pop album. Here they are closing the collection with a transmogrified Talking Heads (if played by The Futureheads or Bloc Party) blast of narrated self-realization and a poignant tale of death, mourning.

Joining that lot are the Joan Jett attitude stomping and rattling, former Fall members outfit Brix & The Extricated (‘Something To Lose’); an idiosyncratic Casio chiming, pulsing Yoni Wolf like Seth Faergolzia (‘Wait For The Beep’); the do “fuck all” all day bandy Deptford post-punk meeting of a roguish Blockheads, geezer Renegade Soundwave and Dandy Warhols Jack Medley’s Secure Men (‘Taking Care Of Business’); and the Graham Greene reimagined as an end of a seaside holiday midlife crisis, played out by a noir Squeeze and Turtles, Trailer Crash (‘Brighton Rock’).

Other worthy mentions include the all-round cult talent and already mentioned in my opening paragraph, Tav Falco, who gets his drugstore cowboy Sir Douglas Quintet version of the Stax soul-snap ‘Tramp’ (retitled as ‘Tram?’) on the comp: A grizzled, cool fuck you of unrepentant redneck swagger. If the promise of miscreant, social political upstarts making fucked-up country, folk, indie and punk (and even badly-lit underpass soul; courtesy of Milk Kan’s ‘My Baby’s Gone Viral On The Brain’) grabs you, then get a load of this concentration of disgruntled reprobates. Raise a toast, better still buy the bloody CD or download it you tight ungrateful urchins. Here’s to another fifteen years of true musical independence!

See also…

David Cronenberg’s Wife ‘The Octoberman Sequence’ (here…)

Sergeant Buzfuz ‘Go To The Devil And Shake Yourself’ (here…)

Extradition Order ‘American Prometheus’ (here…)

Paul Hawkins And The Awkward Silences ‘Outsider Pop’  (here…)

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

We’ve reached a milestone: the 50th edition of our imaginary cross-genre and cross-generational spanning radio show, the Monolith Cocktail Social.

That’s more than 3000 tracks of brilliance, the weird, the obscure and the cool shit; a series that started way back in 2013 as a way of creating the most eclectic of soundtracks. So as “inside” becomes the new “outside” in these pandemic times, relax and indulge in over three hours of everything you can suffix with the “Afro” tag, post-punk, desert blues, psychedelic, folk, soul, troubadours a plenty, Krautrock, dance, avant-garde and more. Even boomer doyen Joni Mitchell drops in with something new! What’s not to like.

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

Album Review/Dominic Valvona
Band Image/Anastasia Lebedeva

Lucidvox ‘We Are’
(Glitterbeat Records) 23rd October 2020

Hard as (nine inch) nails, Lucidvox’s stoic choral enwrapped vocalist Alina stands at the epicentre of a barraging storm of Amon Düül II mystical Gothics, Archers Of Loaf elliptical hardcore, Siouxsie Sioux and her Banshees fanned guitar squalled post-punk, and the growled bass reverberations of Death From Above 1979 on the Muscovite quartet’s first album for the global fecund celebrating label, Glitterbeat Records. Hell hath no fury like a scorned experimental rock band intent on a sonic knife fight. Slash and burn indeed, powered-up and unapologetic, Lucidvox mix it up with Krautrock, math rock, prog and punk yet vocally exude a counterbalance of Russian occultist pining and melodious traditional mystic folk choral cooing and spiralling siren horror.

Formed in 2013, as a “bit of a joke”, the quartet cut their teeth on Sonic Youth, Pixies, White Stripes and Warpaint covers; the latter of which proving to be the band’s most important influence. Though it must be added that none of these past entanglements are a current influence on their work.

Apart from their purring industrial strength bass-player Anna, none of the band had any prior experience; learning to play their respective instruments purely to form Lucidvox. They’ve since developed into a force-of-nature, both intense and lush, savage yet articulate, empowered but certainly vulnerable. And their latest statement of intent is a show of that empowerment: the title a shorthand for “this is who we are”.

Trying more than ever get close to their live sound and energy, Lucidvox whip up an impressive bombast of both ritualistic and staggered stuttering monolithic thrashed drumming, the holy ghosts of Russian Orthodoxy and full-on velocity Brainticket space rock. At this point I must say the quartet’s drummer, Nadezhda, deserves singling out for powering this volatile critical mass: those drums are pure monstrous.

They open this account with the pulsing specter and wail of the Caucasus cosmic-punk ‘My Little Star’, a flashpoint of Yeti era ADII The Raincoats and BaBa ZuLa. They follow that up with the elliptical Motorhead aggressive ‘Knife’.  But further on we get a roughed-up version of The Bangles, on the wrong side of the Moscow tracks, with the scuzz-grunge-rocking ‘Body’

For the first time the musical palette is expanded to include a lamenting and raspy Mexican evoking trumpet (think Miles Davis sketches of New Mexico rather than Spain) on the King Crimson hallucinatory tumult ‘Runaway’ – a song about Anna’s “troubled brother” who ended up in prison. 

For a band trying to mark out an individual female-empowered identity in a country gripped by an authoritarian carmarilla, the lyrics and themes are personal; with songs about private tragedies (see ‘Runaway’) and experiences sung, always, in the mother tongue. In a climate in which bands such as the more confrontationally political Pussy Riot have been slung in jail, poisoned (allegedly!) and intimidated, Lucidvox’s very existence can be viewed as a rebellious gesture of individualism and freedom from the less than sympathetic regime.

Rebellious dangerous but somehow dreamy and entrancing, Lucidvox prove a spellbinding brutalism of a rock band. A great energy from start to finish, We Are is definitely a highlight of 2020 for me.

See also…

Lucidvox ‘Knife’ (here…)

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.

Premiere/Dominic Valvona
Photograph credit to Natasha Alipour-Faridani

Cephas Teom ‘Feet Of Clay’
(METR Music) 16th October 2020

Overpowered by the wild elements of his Dartmoor studio retreat, the debut release from Nightjar Pete Thomas took on an entirely transformed electronic and programmed form; the consequences of an unwelcoming imposition by nature forcing the Bristol musician to change his acoustic methodology.

Known previously for his part in the folksy ensemble The Nightjar, Thomas moved to an isolated spot on the moors and a self-built studio in a former mining crater, to pursue new sonic horizons. Under the atavistic holy land alternative version of his own name (“Cephas” is the Aramaic name for “Peter”, “Teom” the Hebrew for “Thomas”) alter ego, this first Cephas Teom release is also a showcase of intention for his burgeoning co-led label METR Music: His partner in this venture being fellow producer-artist James Cameron, who trades under KAMS amongst many other names.

The opening account is all about the synthesis: a synthesis of the algorithmic compositional programs Supercollider and Tidal Cycles, and, as Thomas puts it, a “natural synthesis of the mystical jazz esotericism of Sun Ra married with the dense technical schematics of pioneers of generative process, Visible Cloaks and Mark Fell.” And yet, it does to a degree pull this conjuncture, counterbalance off; though less esoteric and more just a tad mysterious and starry.

Firstly the most ominous, disturbed part of this EP is the star-gate ascendance to dreamt-up superior overlords from another space, ‘The Kingdom Of Heaven’. Ping-Pong algorithms, kinetic nodes, videogame operatics and hits of Richard James at his sweets and most entrancing (yes it does happen) cloak a more sinister and profound theme of cultist indoctrination, seduction in an epoch in which institutions and reliable sources, guardians are collapsing. A transmogrified sample of one such fatalistic cult recruitment video cuts through the echo-y spells: that is the death cult Heavens Gate, who’s members committed a shared suicide pact in 1997, in what they thought would be a lift aboard a comet-trail hidden UFO to utopia.

The rest of this EP masks, veils, any other kind of dangerous disturbances; setting off a minimalistic Techno and Tibetan percussive ringing peregrination on the soulful and quivered bobbing notes meander ‘In Whom Can We Trust’, and gentle evoking, gilded intersection of the Bureau B label, House Of Tapes, Kota Motemura and Sakamoto on the Japanese imbued ‘Zen Brouchure’. Enervated industrial components, rattles of steel mesh, jug poured liquid atmospherics, pondered electric piano, metallic percussion connect on a most subtle and sophisticated record. A synthesized soundboard certainly, but one that has soul and atmosphere: Imagine a jazzier Autuchere and more twinkled yuk..

A great start then to an emerging transformation, and one we are lucky enough to share with our followers before the official release on Friday the 16th October. You can hear the full five-track EP below for a limited time.

Album Review/Dominic Valvona

Kahil El’Zabar ‘America The Beautiful’
(Spiritmuse) 23rd October 2020

Continuing a creative partnership with the Spiritmuse label, Chicago jazz luminary Kahil El’Zabar releases his third African rhythmic imbued spiritual album in two years; working yet again with an ever changing lineup of fellow visionaries and rising virtuosos from his home city and beyond. Following last year’s Be Known Ancient/Future/Music (which made our albums of the year) and this year’s Spirit Groove album collaboration with David Murray, the jazz incubator School of The Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians alumni and five decade jazz veteran pieces together a suitable afflatus cry from the despair of modern America on his latest sweeping grand gesture, America The Beautiful.

Though obviously, as you will hear for yourselves, chiming with the current divisive turmoil that has erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s “unconstitutional murder, and the Covid-19 pandemic, the catalyst was Kahil’s score for Darryl Robert’s award winning documentary film of the same title: a 2007 film about “self-image” in the USA. That title music, two versions of which bookend this ancient with a modern pulse oeuvre, is itself both an ironic and sneering riff on the original patriotic anthem that was written by Katherine Lee Bater, with music by church organist Samuel A. Ward, over a century ago. Bates the scholar, collage professor and highly prolific writer first wrote the proud-swelling lyrics as a poem (Rikes Peak) after being inspired by the great American outdoors and the country’s own version of the seven wonders. Countless versions have been performed, recorded since, including the maverick jazz artist Gary McFarland who devoted a conceptual eclectic musical suite to its rousing evocations; in the process jazzing and funking up the old bird. This take however finds little to rouse patriotism, sharing more in common with Ornette Coleman’s grandiose symphonic dissonance Skies Of America; that suite a contortion of Coleman’s naturalistic Native American rituals inspired master plan.

Kahil includes both a lilted and horn blown Bernstein-via-a-century’s-worth-of-Chicago jazz instrumental take, and a 80s pepped dance groove vocal version: The latter features the bandleader straining, pulling, mooning and crooning the original lyrics of ‘America The Beautiful’ to a dance limbering Chicago House like beat.

Building a fully realized album around that anthem, Kahil went back to record an array of new material and riffs on standards: his choices proving more spiritual, healing than angry and enraged. For this is a jazz artist preaching connectivity during a momentous epoch. A time, he hopes, that despite the tumultuous unrest and anxieties can offer us time to pause, reflect and reassess. In the spirit of one of Kahil’s idols, Coltrane, his inspiration is that grand doyen of jazz’s message of a “love supreme”, and also the African adventures of Byrd and Gillespie via Sun Ra’s cosmology of Afro-futurism. And so musically, despite the swells and layering of discordant instrumentation wailing, and crying out, this is a mostly divine experience; sweetened by the inclusion of a romanticized, serenaded beautiful version of the Bee Gees (via Al Green’s more soulfully hushed vision) ‘How Can You Mend A Broken Heart’. Only Kahil switches the “you” to “we”, and in doing so forces the emphasis on all of us to mend the rift. Musically it’s a swoon; a walk through a sweet Central Park backdrop. It has an air of both pained heartbreak yet also hope, and is the album’s most tender performance.

Swinging to a ‘Orleans gait, Kahil’s big band version of Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band’s famous strut ‘Express Yourself’ is reimagined as a semi-classical jazz funk of King Curtis and Albert Ayler. Classically trained jazz cellist and Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble student, Tomeka Reid offers part of that semi-classical feel with a deep, arching quivery cello accompaniment.

Closing a quartet of congruous cover transformations, Kahil ad his troupe expand on the Afro-jazz percussive-heavy ‘Afro-Blue’ odyssey; the first jazz standard in the States built on a typical African 3:2 cross rhythm. Made famous by Mongo Santamaria with the Cal Tjader Sextet in ’59, and transformed by Coltrane who took it in a waltz-y swinging direction, this Chicago hothouse of talent goes earthy and deep, atavistic and dramatic. Samuel Williams plays a harassed, pointed elbow thrashing violin against the clay percussion and Masekela trumpet on a message from the motherland. 

With all the original connotations bought into a modern epoch of discord, these standards now echo a longing and pain for change.

The rest of the album channels the inimitable groove that runs through Chicago jazz, soul, R&B, blues and dance music. ‘Jump And Shout (For Those Now Gone)’ is a poignant example of this history; evoking the city’s spiritual and avant-garde masters – The Art Ensemble Of Chicago being one. It’s a kind of sentiment, a yearning for justice, but with a bounce and venerated enlightenment. ‘Freedom March’ couldn’t be more relevant; the long march to equality accompanied by apparitional wails, shackles shaking percussion and anguished rasps of sax. It also sadly marks one of the late baritone saxophonist greats, Hamiet Bluiett’s last performances. Not only a phenomenal sax presence, but also a renowned clarinetist and composer, the co-founder of the late 60s Louisiana Black Artists Group and former member of the Charlie Mingus Quintet and the Sam Rivers large ensemble, blows a moving honked and aria-like squealing raspy baritone through this counterbalance of Mardi Gras swing and the disconsolate.

Kahil, literally, preys for guidance on both the electric piano dabbing, lamenting swell ‘That We Ask Of Our Creator, and the sweeping fluty beat-stretched ‘Prayer For The Unwarranted Sufferings’.  Both draw from the pool of despair, yet find just as much hope to offer some glimmer of overcoming the impasse.

An extraordinary portrait of the current mood, Kahil’s conscious divine spiritual jazz opus channels the contorted soul of Chicago’s rich musical heritage; spanning eras as old as atavistic Africa, the be-bop, swing eras, leaping through the avant-garde and 80s dance music culture to create a soulful and always grooving purview of the American social-political divide in 2020: Election year.

An incredible jazz score no less from one of the most active and transformative artists in the field, a true acolyte of the scene’s most celebrated, progressive greats, Kahil carries the torch for a more healing engagement with the causes, activism he holds dear. There’s no mistaking where he’s coming from, with an album that has never been more vital and enriching to a culture and creative form under pressure and fire to react to the changes taking place.

See also…

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble ‘Be Known Ancient/Future/Music’  (here…)

Kahil El’ Zabar’s ‘Spirit Groove Ft. David Murray’ (here…)

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 Galore/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea 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 recent releases include The Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, the diatribe ‘Boris Johnson Massacre’ and just in the last month, The King Of No-Fi album. He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic album 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.

Marshall Holland ‘Paper Airplane’
Album, 21st September 2020

Oh, fuck me let’s get it over with and call it power pop shall we. Yes why the hell not. It has all the right boxes ticked: fine melodies, 60’s, early to late 70’s, early 80’s pop guitar music influences. I have been inundated with requests over the last few days with bands pushing their latest waxings in the power pop variety some of it good some of it not so good and some of it bloody exceptional. I’m pleased to say that this falls into the exceptional category. I’m doing it a slight disservice, tagging this album in any genre, for this has much more to offer. Marshall himself has such a wonderful pop voice and is also a fine songwriter and a very good lyricist. He has a wonderful quirky way with words and imagery: one you do not really get to come across very often. He even has guitar solo’s that does not have me shouting get the fuck on with it which is very rare thing, which no doubt pleases my wife no end as I suppose it can be a bit off-putting having some aging old chap clad in pajamas and head phones shouting get the fuck on with it while you are trying to watch TV. But you do not want to hear about my quirks, this album is very fine indeed with not a bad track just joyous pop performed with energy originality soul and style: the key word being soul.

Another beauty for 2020.

Rob Clarke And The Wooltones ‘Putting The L In Wooltones’
Album

Nostalgia on the whole is something I avoid normally musically. I don’t mind listening to things influenced by the past but rammed on pastiche is something I normally find irritating to the extreme but as they say there is always an exception to the rule and this Rob Clark and the Wooltones album is one of those exceptions, as let’s be honest, Rob has set his cap on the power and joyous beat of the sixties, taking in Beat groups, psychedelia and pop. And he manages to capture the joy and fun in full Technicolor Glory with tongue in cheek humour and love, from what I think is a kazoo, on the ode to Liverpool beat poet ‘Adrian Henry’ – who was also was a subject of a song by the wonderful Liverpool songwriter Jimmy Campbell, which also featured a kazoo -, to the Shakin’ All Over guitar riff on ‘Statue at The Pier Head’. So, Rob certainly knows his rock n roll cult history. He also knows his way around a melody and is a fine guitarist. This album also has a warmth to the production that is very appealing and without looking at the credits is no doubt down to the production skills of Fran Ashcroft, if it is not I apologize to whoever it is but they have done a fine job on what is a very enjoyable album.

Lisa Mychols & Super 8 ‘ST’
Album

If you start off your album with Beatles like harmonies and ‘Come And Get It’ piano you are always going to get my attention. It is the holding my attention that is the difficult part, but this album does indeed do more than hold my attention. In fact it has me smiling and nodding my head, which in itself is a worrying state of affairs and something I’m not prone to normally do: my wife thought I must be having a stroke and I had to throw myself across the room to stop her dialing 999. For this is indeed a pure album of pop splendour from the Beatles through to the gorgeously gorgeous Carpenters like ‘You & Me Me & You’, which is one of the finest slices of pure pop I have heard in many a year. The very silly but clever ‘Monkee Song’ follows; again a lesson in how pop music can and should be both engrossing and throwaway at the same time. This a beautiful album that has one thinking of the Sunshine pop of the late 60’s early 70’s with the odd sprinkling of bubble-gum pop and West Coast mellow rock; the Partridge Family meet Carol King ‘Peaceful’ being one of the many highlights. And this beautiful album has quickly become one of my albums of the year; an album of lovingly written and performed pure pop magic, and one I cannot recommend enough.

Goodparley ‘Delay Cycle: Becoming’
(Recordiau Prin) Album/18th September 2020

There is no place like drone, especially guitar drone. For when it’s done well it’s the aural equivalent of swimming with dolphins or losing yourself in the blissful awash of yesterday’s memories, or taking a long bus ride to a place you have never been before, an expectant pause of the tulip symphony.

That is what we have here five longish tracks to lose yourself and let the sound wash over you, close your eyes and let your mind run and roam free. For that is the beauty of guitar dronery, it gives you the chance to relax and exercise your mind. Some mate call’s it “soundscapes”, I call it “soundescapes”. With most people not being able to take a holiday this year why not give yourself a Winter break without leaving your home; just place this fine album on your listening device close your eyes and let the music take you to places you have never been before.

Prize Pig ‘Out In The Street’
Single, 7th October 2020

Prize Pig is back with his second helping of home-produced bedroom diy pop and indeed it is another gem, one that has one’s mind racing to the halcyon days of when XTC ruled the roost in the intelligently produced pop stakes but with this I sense a touch of Devo like wizardry slipping in with this slice of perfect pop Fuzz guitars, catchy keyboards and for god’s sake even the drum machine is catchy. I await the album with baited breath.

Masayuki Sasano  ‘Fighter Plane Moon Jelly’
(Dry Flowers Records) Single

There is a certain beautiful eloquent grace about this track you normally do not hear too much in the Alternative Rock of today. Normally it is the same old same old, but this has a musicality about it that is certainly refreshing; so many different melodies at one time colliding and causing an explosion of pure joy: one that wants you to investigate the music of Masayuki Sasano further. A quite beautiful alternative guitar pop song.

Goat Girl  ‘Sad Cowboy’
(Rough Trade Records) Single

What I really like, not the track but near the beginning of the video, is that one of the blokes who is dressed like a animal is whittling a piece of wood and it really looks like he is having a wank. Yes, call me childish. Call me immature. Maybe it’s myself growing up with a diet of Carry On films…but “oooooooomatron” he really is scuttling his wicket. Well worth watching it for that piece of immature fun alone. The track itself is pleasant enough; all the guitars and keyboards are in the right places. A decent piece of modern indie rock/pop, one that will garner plenty of airplay from the BBCs sinking flagship 6music…but just watch the vid.

Salem Trials ‘The Lockdown Trilogy: Waiting To Surface /Stay At Home/Light IT Up’
(Metal Postcard Records) Album/6th October 2020

The best guitar band of 2020 no doubt is the Salem Trials, so what we have here is what they are calling the lockdown trilogy: the three albums they recorded on lockdown and have decided to release on the same day through Metal Postcard Records. And what a mighty trio of albums: Waiting To Surface, Stay At Home and Light It Up.

All three are filled with rock n roll splendor, as is the other three albums they have already released this year, which are all worth checking out. What I adore about this band is their obvious love of music and knowledge of the rock n roll past; the way they combine the best of the post punk north (The Fall, Magazine, Joy Division). You can hear all their influences in there but you can also hear how they have a love of sixties psych and 70’s prog and glam and punk and how they feed those influences into the music and come up with their own unique sound. I love how the vocals float just underneath the music and not above it; how both members of the band sometimes sound like they are having completely different breakdowns but in the same room. There is a quite staggering beautiful underlay of darkness and humour in their music.

It is difficult to pick a favourite album out of the three but if forced at gun point I would venture that Light It Up is probably my fave as it is the most melodious and wrapped in such wonderful Velvet like riffs, especially on the opening number ‘4 Views’, and the post punk guitar delight that is ‘Ice Cream Soda’, which sounds like the myth of Postcard Records being eaten whole by Don Van Vilet. But all three albums have tracks that are currently head and shoulders above the current crop of guitar pretenders: take for instance the wayward guitar sleaze of ‘Conversation No 2’ from Stay At Home, or the cracked guitar turmoil of ‘Ugly Puppets’ from Waiting To Surface, or the following track of lyrical mastery that is ‘Suit Of Shadows’, maybe my favourite track from the three albums – but that is like choosing a favourite Beatle. Like I’ve said so many times before The Salem Trials are a rare and beautiful thing; a treasure that has been buried for too long and needs discovering and admired and enjoyed by one and all, not just us lucky few.

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

Album Review/Nicola Guerra

Continuing with our collaboration with the leading Italian music publication Kalporz a short summer break, 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 Nicola Guerra goes deep in analysing trip-hop luminary Tricky’s Fall To Pieces album.

TRICKY ‘Fall to Pieces’
(False Idols, 2020)

I spent the whole summer thinking about Tricky. Not specifically about him and not even about the huge tragedy that afflicted the former couple Adrian Thaws (aka Tricky) and Martina Topley Bird (the suicide of their daughter Mazy Mina on 29 May). No, I thought about how crucial to Tricky’s career was a gloomy record like Pre-Millenium Tension. An album that was sacked after the great success of Maxinquaye, a milestone in trip-hop, and which, incredibly, he pulled out of it in an oblique and really personal way. So, I thought, from the pedestal of the world to the suburb of the soul the step was short. But how can you face the opposite? How do you react when the darkness is greater than you can imagine? Look for the light or sink without going back up?

Fall to Pieces does not give answers. The fourteenth (!) work of the Bristol artist is deliberately unfinished, almost as if to re-emphasize the inability to concentrate on details but leave the instinct to communicate something free. But what? What do you try to say when the world collapses under your feet? What do you say when really “Hell is round the corner”? The song that most explains this non-form of self-analysis is ‘Running Off’, a metropolitan tarantella that contrasts the melody of slow and powerful basses that could sink to infinity. Instead, one minute forty-four and you change register. Why not go deeper? Because it hurts too much to investigate. It hurts too much to try to understand.

It is better to hover in search of beauty. In search of Pop, as good Tricky says (“Fall Please”, splendid piece that hides love). Then comes, in the middle, “Hate This Pain”. “What a fucking game What a fucking game I hate this fucking pain I hate this fucking pain Was crying, endless coast Baby girl, she knew me most I hate this fucking pain I hate this fucking pain At ten, I’ll take a flight Try to be there, I guess I might I miss my baby while I fly In my head, I want to die…” I want to die, the former Tricky Kid whispers angrily (one of the few songs sung by him, the rest is entrusted to the female voices of Oh Land and Marta Ziakowska).

Instead, music wins. Once again.

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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