Words: Dominic Valvona

Ancient Plastix  ‘Late Summer Low’
Taken from the self-titled new album released via Maple Death Records on December 11th 2020

From the forthcoming self-titled debut album by the Liverpool producer and composer of labyrinth puzzled ambient soundscapes, Ancient Plastix, the scene-setting ‘Late Summer Low’.  We’re proud to be premiering this crispy static and fizzing fissures simulation suite of contemplated cosmic neoclassical note droplets and shooting star communications ahead of the album’s official release on the 11th December.

Under the Ancient Plastix alter ego, Paul Rafferty has set out to capture the feelings of discovery and adventure he first had as a teenager experimenting with a rudimental Tascam 414 four-track in the 90s. Using that bit of recording kit once again, Rafferty recorded his album of graceful imagined spaces and emotional pulls using a cheap Yamaha synth and small collection of guitar pedals; leaving in all the atmospheric grainy hiss and fuzz of a lo fi process. And so more analog than digital, without the interference and the “burden of screen squashed waveforms” these spontaneous and linear constructed tracks evoke the early synth work of Sky Records, Tangerine Dream and on the thoughtful but also playful, starry bass bending meander ‘The Yellowed Grass’, a hint of Roedelius.

Yet the delicate majestic and sophisticated work of more contemporary figures such as Marc Barreca, Yasuaki Shimizu and Hiroshi Yoshimura can also be heard permeating the descriptively entitled compositions, which glide and refract between space and inner cerebral explorations. There’s quite a variation too, with the heart beat pulsing synthesized bass drum Kosmische ‘Dead Body Drawing’ unfurling a helicopter rotor chopping vision of a supernatural Vietnam War soundtrack produced by John Carpenter, and the proto-Kraftwerk race and train track chuffing, bottle tapping and woody percussive ‘Endurance Dream’ imagining a peculiar upbeat dream state workout.

The Monolith Cocktail invites our followers to now experience the stirring, opening suite from Rafferty’s upcoming debut album for Maple Death Records, ‘Late Summer Low’, below.

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 Jamboree
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 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. And just this week, Metal Postcard Records have put out a collection live Bordellos material on Bandcamp.

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.


Volcano Victims ‘Canicular Years’

I like this for a number of reasons, the first being they are called the Volcano Victims, what a great name for a band, the second thing I like is that it is a lovely jangly affair full of melody and spring freshness: the kind of song I may hum to myself if the occasion merits it. And also, it has a guitar solo; one that I don’t just ignore and push to the back of my mind [I on the whole hate guitar solos], but one I actively enjoyed and brought a smile to my face. So well done Volcano Victims.

Tori Amos ‘Better Angels’
(Decca Records) Taken from the 4th December released Christmastide EP

Sometimes you need a bit of over the top melodrama from Tori Amos, so why not a bit of over the top Christmas melodrama from Tori Amos. Crashing piano, Brian May like guitar flourishes and Tori emoting about what a bad year 2020 has been, but at least we have made through to Christmas: well some of us have. But this is a lovely dramatic swoosh of a velvet stage curtain of a song; one to drink port while looking out onto the cold dark but still beautiful world in which we live haunted by the memories of the year past.

Jumbo ‘Fluorescence/Mouse’
27th November 2020

This is a fine two track DIY pop single from Jumbo. It reminds me of both the Flaming Lips and Polyphonic Spree in the way their music at times has a cracked wonder and life affirming joy that delights, thrills and wants one to get a gang of friends around and sit in a field playing guitars and drinking bottles of milk stout or other beverages of your choice, and being young and carefree. Once again pop pickers another example of the magic of music.

Mandrake Handshake ‘Gonkulator’
(Nice Swan Records) 20th November 2020

I really love this track, more Jefferson Airplane than The Brian Jones Town Massacre (which is quite unusual these days), this track being more old school psych than the have a guitar peddle will press it and be buggered with the writing a melody malarkey bunch. For this does not just have a melody but a wonderful flute floating throughout the lovely song.

Gillian Stone ‘Bridges’
20th November 2020

‘Bridges’ is a dark and beautiful song; a song of many textures all of them warm in a very cold and brittle kind of way; a song that deals with life memories and all of their unbecoming and becoming raptures, it is the kind of song that one should only share with their closest and to be trusted friend. But that is the beauty of music as all listeners are the artist’s friends and this song deserves many friends as it is a lovely fragile tattered love letter to hope and remembrance of the dark and light in one’s life past and present.

‘Covid Christmas Nightmare’
(Metal Postcard Records)

A dark spooky Christmas lullaby from a unknown unnamed act [even though I think I know who the culprit is], a tinkling keyboard and lyrics concerning facemasks and Covid related issues, poor Santa is hold up at home with Covid-19, but not to worry he has posted the presents to the children’s parents: Let’s hope he has used royal mail and not Hermes. A nice and bewitching track, one to download and add to your Christmas playlist.


Sunstack Jones  ‘Golden Repair’
(Mai 68 Records)

Sunstack Jones might well be a band from Liverpool but they’re a band steeped in the sun and melody of the West Coast of California circa 1968-1973. Gentle guitar jangle and fuzz merge with the harmonies of Crosby Stills and Nash, and at times bring to mind The Charlatans/Primal Scream/Stone Roses/The Verve in their more laid-back moments. This is maybe not the most original of albums but not all albums have to be original to be enjoyed, and any fans of the bands just mentioned will no doubt find Golden Repair an enjoyable listening experience.

The Salem Trials ‘Meet The Memory Police’

Oh my lord here we go again. Yes, it is time to review yet another album by the finest guitar band of 2020: The Salem Trials. Meet The Memory Police is the trials 6th album of the year and once again is as excellent and entertaining as their previous five; this one having a strange Rolling Stones vibe about some of the tracks but still retains the strange Salem Trials sound/feel that is totally unique to them.

They have a strange twisted aura of summers gone by, the sound of reliving the glory of last night’s party with cold pizza and leftover wine and awaking in the arms of the girl that used to be. There is a melancholy joy that runs throughout their music and indeed runs throughout this fine album. The Salem Trials are like a magical musical sponge soaking up many influences from the last 50 years of rock ‘n’ roll and when you give it a squeeze music with sleaze, dirt, danger and a dark madness drip ever so slowly, leaving a puddle on the floor for the wayward likeminded souls to splash and strip and writhe and shout and scream. If rock ‘n’ roll is dead this is the soundtrack to the wake: the sound of faded glamour and sordid memories. Once again the work of a truly special band.

See also…

Salem Trials ‘Fear For Whatever Comes Next’  (Here)

Salem Trials ‘Do Something Dangerous’  (Here)

Salem Trials ‘Pictures Of Skin’  (Here)

Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Collection

Everything’s in a right old mess despite the news of a magic vaccine. We can only hope that things can return to some sort of normality next year; though this would be the chance to rethink a lot of things, including the work/life balance, the state of the national health service etc. During this whole time, and despite the horrendous effects of coronavirus and the lockdowns on the creative sector and arts, great music continues to be made. Next month’s choice albums articles will testify to that. Yes, in many ways a lot of the music we are hearing now in 2020 was made last year, or at the start of this one, but many have tried to record and produce fine work in the most constricted circumstances during this whole rotten period.

Before we hurtle into those end of year pieces, I’m going to furnish you all with another selection of new releases.

Launching an all-female led new label venture, Dream Society Records, the regular Monolith Cocktail featured dream weaver Bloom de Wilde selects a compilation of musical mavericks and outsiders making curious and beautiful music for a new compilation; Neil Debnam’s Japanese-based label Kirigirisu Recordings moves into the tape business with two very different releases, Geeker-Natsumi electro pop kooky Heloctoro and the avant-garde Lorenzo Gomez Oviedo Bardo Todol’s Tu Cara Estrada Por El Extasis; The Psychotic Monks provide an ambitious frisson of space rock, doom, garage and punk on their epic second album ‘Private Meaning First’; Chamber pop and electronica star Alex Stolze returns with another classically bent album of bowed plaintive strings and sophisticated synthesized beats, Kinship Stories. Also, Italian producer Furtherset finds spatial cosmic emotional pulls and cerebral swells from the most caustic of dissonance and loops on his new album To Live Tenderly Anew, and the pairing of Iranian contemporary artists Hooshayer Khayam and Bamdad Afshar give us their take on the atavistic Gwati healing music of Southern Iran, with the inaugural release for the new Iranian music label 30M Records.

Hooshayer Khayam/Bamdad Afshar ‘RAAZ’
(30M Records) 20th November 2020

With the US election results certainly likely, despite the pending court cases and odd uncounted ballot box, to see Biden take the helm in 2021 there could be, yet, another change in policy towards Iran in the pipeline. It will of course remain to be seen if the Democrat administration will lift the current crippling sanctions, or if the nuclear deal that Trump withdrew in 2018 will once more be renegotiated (maybe even reversed), but at present Iran is suffering the double whammy of pariah state boycott and the devastating effects of Coronavirus.

Pity the poor musician in all this turmoil, especially when they’re cut off from international audiences, unable to travel and spread the goodwill. Pre-lockdown, and pre-Trump’s momentous decision to reverse that controversial nuclear deal, Iranian cultural and historical enthusiast and old German music industry hand Matthias Koch was organizing various international performances in the country for artists as diverse as the German composer Martin Kohlstedt and the Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Olafur Arnolds. That all came to a swift end in the summer of 2018, as trade barriers were erected and flight bans were brought in. The results of which made it near impossible for Iranian artists to gig abroad or release music; the costs alone skyrocketed. Koch however has decided to set up the beneficial 30M record label: a platform that will not only release Iranian music but provide networks and help with negotiating more favorable contracts for its artists. Based in Hamburg, the 30M label is imbued by that very Iranian culture, its title a shorthand form of the Persian “Simorgh”, the “si” of which is “30” in Farsi, the “morgh” part a famous mythical bird. The roster itself, a rich upcoming selection of provincial Persian music and modern treatments, promises a window in on the few remaining artists and keepers of the form. The first release of which is from the transformative pairing of pianist/composer Hooshyar Khayam and electronic composer Bamdad Afshar, who work their magic on the atavistic healing music known as “Gwati”, from the southern Baluchistan region of Iran.  

A region, culture shaped by the various crosswinds that blow, almost unceasingly, across its landscape, the Baluchistan traditions have been hewn from an arid desert and mountainous cartography. It’s the central part to be exact of this the second largest province in all of Iran that informs Afshar and Khayam’s experiment of infused Persian folk and spiritual music. In the Baluchi language Gwati translates as “wind”, and is used to temper the harsh prevailing breezes. So important are these winds there’s a whole lexicon of descriptive words for them. One such wind is for obvious reasons the 120-day wind cycle that lasts from May until September. Mystics and purveyors of the musical form believe these winds are responsible for all manner of torments and mental ills, and so to placate these effects, to drive them away, they perform an ecstatic ceremony of music and dance. This is the music that now informs the basis, foundations of this first release on the 30M Records label.

With a background in augmenting and in experimenting with the neoclassical genre, both Afsher and Khayam take the source material on a near avant-garde exploration of the esoteric and mysterious. Their new collaboration RAAZ, which means “secret” in Farsi, is just that, a secretive sonic world of obscured Baluchi tones and modal structures, edged into a contemporary magical mirage. A both synthesized and classical set-up of piano and strings merge with a translucent trio of Gwati voices and instruments.

Spindled, fanned and brassy resonating timbres chime and evoke a very old, spiritual legacy that spans the Baluchi people’s homeland and greater diaspora. And so at times you could be whisked away to a horn-blowing wail of ancient trumpeted Afghanistan mysticism or, the courtly and banqueting dances of India; two geographical evocations from the opening Babylonian ‘Yə’ k’. Enchantments follow on a soundtrack panorama that subtly affects a yearning array of soulfully earthy vocals with wobbled glitches and resonance, and adds warped, fizzing, propulsive electronic beats to bobbing tablas and bird-like quivering, waning and rubbed instrumentation. 

At times the production really pushes into the strung-out and experimental, especially on tracks such as the padded fretboard patting and plucking supernatural ‘Dow’. But coming full circle, ending with some of that infamous wind, the finale ‘Noh’ uses a cut-up ringtone, staccato rhythms and the enticing song of a female siren to create a most dreamy aura.  

Healing infected souls in its original form, this contemporary elevation of that tradition is certainly providing a refreshing musical dialogue. This inaugural release fulfills the criteria in introducing a contemporary audience to an obscured and lost Iranian heritage, whilst creating a classy new and immersive fusion. Despite the political turmoil it seems this blossoming label venture is at least brightening sonic horizons.

See also…

Mehdi Rostami & Adib Rostami  ‘Melodic Circles: Urban Classical Music From Iran’  (Here…)

Liraz ‘Zan’  (Here…)

The Psychotic Monks ‘Private Meaning First’
(Fat Cat Records) 27th November 2020

A palpable tumult of tension threatens to explode and speed into hyperspace on the second grand opus from France’s The Psychotic Monks. Crammed, we’re told, into claustrophobic isolation, cut off in the French countryside from outside influences, the plaintive and seething band’s concentration has been focused on delivering a most ambitious, progressive, noisy, tormented and caustic friction that’s both dramatic and distressing.

Inner thoughts and romanticisms are propelled into an often-cosmic velocity driven void of fuzzed and frazzled stoner rock, industrial grinding metalwork, Faust and Birth Control style Krautrock, post-punk and sludgy dreading doom.

Surely inspired by those legendary infamous doyens of everything from spasmodic garage to psychedelia, The Monks, these Psychotic apostles seem just as radical in crossing musical streams; from the haunted slumbered, almost grunge-y opener ‘Pale Dream’ to the scuzzed Lydon fronting Sonic Youth accelerated thrashing and vocally increasingly syllable strung-out ‘A Coherent Appearance’. A gristly avalanche of overwhelmed emotion, ‘Isolation’ bruises through Sabbath, Black Angels, Slift, Spacehawks, Swans and NIN.

Yet despite the galvanized tolls, heavy dissonance and menacing augurs, the Private Meaning First is an expansive album of shade and light: for every doom-ringing crescendo and thump from the bowls of the void there’s a moment of downcast but controlled melody and pining. Something that approaches an ethereal like chorus quality on the Moonshake-esque and hallucinogenic loosened ‘Emotional Disease’. Which means you’re just as likely to hear a trudge across brooding, funneled ominous wastelands as you are to be catapulted into a chasm of wrenching, tormented longing. 

Tracks build up a momentum that really soars and burns on the album’s fifteen-minute closer, ‘Every Sight’. In old money what used to be nearly the entire side of a vinyl LP, this colossal of a aching Gothic passion begins with incipient stirrings and a gasp at direction, before a battered guitar and choral shadow takes over. It ends on a crashing noisy finale of caustic discordant smash-ups and ferocity.  

A dense anguish of strife and squalling suffocation, The Psychotic Monks’ second album is an epic collision of punk, doom and space rock that (by design or luck) seems perfect for the annus horribilis that is 2020. It is an album of anger, anxiety and mental distress amplified to shake the foundations.

Alex Stolze ‘Kinship Stories’
(Nonostar Records) 4th December 2020

In what seems (to a point) like a return to the finely balanced neoclassical and chamber electronica of 2016’s Mankind Animal, violinist maestro, composer, artist, producer, label boss and creative community steward Alex Stolze once more blends a swell and bowed plaint of strings with sophisticated synthesized beats and ripples of effects on his latest album suite, Kinship Stoires.

Still an open borders and open minded kind of a guy, Stolze both weeps for and sensitively evangelizes a more tolerant acceptance of migrants coming to European shores. The former German star of the highly popular Bodi Bill group is all too personally aware of the sinister creeping poison and hate that continues to besiege his own Jewish heritage: both on the far right and far left. Despite everything history has taught us, and the atavistic persecution of that faith and the nation state of Israel, intolerances and violence towards Jews remains a constant presence in Europe. Comparisons are made between the volatile uncertainties of our own contemporary age and the political aftershocks of the 1929 crash on this new album’s striking elegiac augur ‘Babylon’, which features Stolze’s foil Ben Osborn on ‘liberato’ hymnal lamenting duties. The poet, sound designer and artist Osborn shares a similar Eastern-European Jewish background with Stolze: the roots both musically and tragically driving this Weimer collapsing, Tarot card imaginary wasteland-without-a-vision and foreboding Cohen requiem. A pivotal year, just like 2020, the year of the great stock market crash helped fuel resentment and anger, leading to the aggrandizement of fascism as huge swathes of the population in Germany rejected the institutions. So many parallels can be drawn from not only ‘Babylon’, but also much of the album, which consists of both songs and shorter instrumental passages, mini soundtracks.

Leading from the front, Stolze equates that catastrophic prejudice with the ongoing crisis of both refuges and economic migrants piling into Europe. Leaving Berlin a decade ago for the relatively isolated abandoned wilds and forgotten borderlands of what was East Germany, Stolze, his family and friends have built a new creative hub from scratch. A welcoming homestead that houses a studio, art spaces and workshops it is open to all; playing host to an international set of collaborators and unsurprisingly working to affect a change in attitudes. In between stirring evocated classical pieces on Berlin landmarks and Biblical desert lands, there is a collaboration with the West African vocalists Marlaye and King Ali on the modern R&B pop and toasting migrants burden, ‘Rucksack’. The travails of those unfortunate souls is palpable; especially on the bobbing motioned, pining Depeche Mode-esque ‘Orphan’ and the electronic pop undulated, soulfully mourning ocean baptism ‘The Way We Care’.  

Sad yet beautifully communal and full of subtle pop melodies, the pizzicato and bowing exquisite violins, resonating, bass-y piano notes work well with the purposeful synth twitches, tweaks, tight delay settings and ghostly shimmers; producing an album with feet both in the past and present sonically. The introductory opener, ‘German Desert’ (the third such reference to those arid landscapes, both geographically and metaphorically) for instance combines Bach reminisces with ripples and a suffusion of arpeggiator electronics and atmospheres: A meeting between Rick Van der Linden and Wendy Carlos.

Yet amongst the fragility, disunity and plaintive charges Stolze has much room for declarations of love; pleading his case for a love that’s never ending on the rim stick drummed, golden-rayed paean ‘Manic Magician’.   Once more composing contemporary sonnets to a mix of Eastern-European classical music, buoyant modern pop R&B and electronic pop, Stolze caresses the prevailing dark tides of dissonance to offer sympathy and a caring open hand of friendship. Kinship Stories is a safe musical harbour in the political storm. A complicated picture, we can probably all agree that voices like Stolze’s are most welcome in finding common ground with a remedy to solving the pains and intolerances of an ever-divisive society.     

Furtherset ‘To Live Tenderly Anew’
(-Ous) 11th December 2020

Managing to draw an emotional pull and sense of awe from a dense mass of transformed rasping, caustic pulsations and fizzles Italian producer Furtherset finds a rhythm and synergy from his electronic apparatus on the romanticized imbued suite, To Live Tenderly Anew.

Taking its title from the tragic experimental Italian poet Amelia Rosseli’s 1956 poem ‘Diairo in tre Lingue’, this concluding chapter to a sonic triptych of releases for the –Ous label is an expansive evocative work of six movements; each one driven by the producer’s prize of finding, exploring the “hidden connections beyond harmonies and rhythm”.  This is achieved in some ways by pushing repetitive incipient sonics until they reveal a melody of a sort and something almost cosmic sounding. Poetically inspired by the words of the trilingual Rosseli (daughter of the assassinated liberal socialist activist Carlo Rosseli) Furtherset’s static fuzzes and centrifugal rotating soundbed of tensions, thrusts and noise expand into the heavenly and beyond. In even the most discordant and cause of harsh, razor churns the journey can’t help but find either a sense of questioning enormity, beauty and even optimism.

Transmogrified rave-y techno elements are cast towards the majesty of a space cathedral, whilst metallic tubular chops are worked into space walking hymns.

It almost even sounds classical in places, and like a combination of Tomat and Nonpareil in others. You can read various augurs, quandaries and emotion states in these building, thrashing, spilling noise symphonies that manage to turn the limits of dissonant electronica into something dreamily cerebral and expansive.

Various ‘Paragon’
(Dream Society Records) 20th November 2020

Providing a home for an eclectic array of daydreamers, malcontents and adventurers alike, the blissful artist/producer Bloom de Wilde and Damiët Philippona have set up a new label venture, the Dream Society Records. They’ve even roped in the Monolith Cocktail’s very own no fi cult miserablist Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, who furnishes the enterprise’s inaugural compilation sampler with his vague notional homage to the founder, ‘Bloom of de Wilde’. Riffing on a pun (which our Brain has a knack for) he immortalizes the Dutch artist in his sincere, bedraggled, beaten romantic courtship – imagine if the TV Personalities’ Dan Treacy or Daniel Johnston had been brought up on 70s Top of the Pops, Bagpuss and Gene Vincent in England’s Northeast. It seems a befitting place for the St. Helens troubadour, who shares billing with Bloom herself and a handpicked selection of curious finds.

Launching one of the very few female orchestrated and led record labels, with a soft remit to share undiscovered gems that make the world a more beautiful and harmonious place, Paragon is both a kind of sampler preview of future releases and a statement of intent.

No stranger to the MC, the prolific Bloom has featured many times with her spellbinding, idiosyncratic experimental pop songs. Like a lulled Sugarcubes mixed with a twist of trip-hop, Mother Nature’s daughter features twice on this compilation; bookending the collection with the twinkled and blessed, almost jazzy voiced, flowered ‘Flying Carpenters’, and in a double-Dutch duet with the odd folksy troubadour Timo de la Mar on the dreamy, earnest ‘Sparkle’.  Bloom’s vocals blend a sort of childlike curiosity with a deeper organically untethered richness that aches and also soars.

Sticking to relatively guitar-based music with a little touch of synthesizer, Absolute State furnish the collection with a neu-pop soul longing of Black, David Slyvian and Mark Hollis on the plaint string swelled ‘Fool’, whilst Constance offer a courtship dance of doo wop pop on ‘You Can’t Handle This’

In the, almost total, fields of electronic experimentation there’s oddities from the Homosampaliens & Toxic Chicken pairing in the shape of the Southeast Asian vaporous space music glitched ‘Milk’ – a strange hallucination of virtual Tokyo billboards, gamelan and The Orb -; a 8-bit crush Aphex Twin vision of Street Fighter by The Snoppjes called ‘Polipo’; and a bubbling brook of shredded reversals and Techno by 4Fists entitled ‘Sweat & Bray’. An imaginative curiosity, unburdened by theme, location and genre, this showcase debut from the label is as ridiculous as it is sublime. It bodes well for the future, pointing the way to a beautiful relationship between a largely unconnected network of musical mavericks and outsiders.

Geeker-Natsumi ‘Heloctoro’
Lorenzo Gomez Oviedo Bardo Todol ‘Tu Cara Estrada Por El Extasis’
(Kirigirisu Recordings)

Entering the cassette business for the first time, Neil Debnam’s (of Flying Kites and Broken Shoulder post-rock and beyond fame) Tokyo-based label releases a couplet of strikingly different albums from artists working at polar opposites. Previously providers of obscure music limited to very small runs on CDR, Debnam extends the Kirigirisu’s label’s range of formats for two extraordinary experiences from Japan and Argentina.

The first of these is a dizzy electro-pop vision of kooky video game sonics and candy stick bamboo music – imagine Shintaro Sakamoto meets Grimes – from the lo fi tech Geeker-Natsumi (pronounced we are assured as “Gay-Car-Na-Too-Me”).  Celebrating quitting her previous job (whatever that was) a few years back with the debut leap, Relative To Refire, Geeker’s second collection of odd pop and bitcrush electronica shunts together “Hero” and “Electro” to create a hyperbolic album title. Using a mix of Casiotone portable keyboard, looped drums, Garageband and the in-built mic on a Macbook she centers a musical avant-garde bubble of R&B for Mario Cart, spirited platform leaping Rainbow Islands electro, static shooting futurism and pop princess siren wooing. It’s actually quite something; a kind of knowing cuteness of out-there J-Pop reshaped by a merger of Cuushe and Bix Medard; with themes as ridiculous and convoluted as ‘Mexico Salamanders’, a weird rattily techy crème-puff looping electro track about the Meican neotonic walking fish that reaches adulthood without undergoing metamorphous (thanks Wiki), Make what you will of that.

To be honest it defies even my skills as a critic in explaining its charms (of which there are many), or, what you can expect from the brilliantly kooky songbook of electronic-pop exploration. But it has really grown on me, and deserves attention for some of its infectious weirdness and fun – the walking salamander (a live favourite we’re assured) being a particular good ’un.

In another part of the world, the avant-garde pairing of Cordoba artists Pablo Pico and Lorenzo Gomez Oviedo compliment each other’s mysterious evocations (and invocations) on the highly explorative Tu Cara Estrada Por El Extasis quartet of peregrinations and soundtrack imaginations. Both born (almost) in the same place, and following similar musical pathways, the two Argentine composers/artists had never met or crossed paths before the fated December of 2017. Finding, as it seems, common ground they went into a sort of “recording camp” the following February; creating the foundations of this shared mystical work. Said to “evoke” expressive passages of Friedrich Hölderlin, the famous German poet-philosopher responsible for much of that Germanic romanticized idealism, the serial sounds, stirrings and heightened bowing weeps of violin describe a more supernatural, otherworldly immersion of séances; the reverberations of children-at-play; and traces of conversations and sonic illusions.  

Oviedo on his part exudes forbade and mystery with his particular passages of transformed gamelan, neo-classical spine tingling, stabbed piano and Morse code strained cries. The title track itself, attributed to Oviedo, messes with tape recorded poetics and longing airy strings to produce a haunting recital.

His partner on this strange concentration of the cerebral and daunting is just as mysterious: if not more mystical sounding. Synthesized throbs and vibrating bass permeate the constant twinkling cascaded trinket percussive fantasy of Popol Vuh and early Amon Düül II eastern occultism found on ‘Susurran También Las Corrientas’. And Pablo looks Inside The Dream Factory as he invokes a mourning tone of magik on the ringing, churning ‘Voluntarj Amente Venicido Ante Las Estrelles’.

A remarkable transference, with each artist dedicating their surreal passages to the other, it seems for the most part an expression of freely flowing descriptive sonic surrealism; a reification of memories, thoughts and inspirations directed towards an evocative immersive mirage.

It would be difficult to find two such different diverse experiments released on the same day by one label, but that’s Debnam’s imprint for you. Well worth the punt if you’re looking to expand horizons, or just enjoy some challenging music, whether it be Japanese electro pop or magically haunting avant-garde music from Argentina. Be quick though as there’s only a very small run of tapes for both.

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

Regular readers and followers will know we celebrated the 50th edition of our imaginary cross-genre and cross-generational spanning radio show, the Monolith Cocktail Social, last month. Carrying on the good work for another fifty (though the last half century did take us 6 years), here’s the latest edition of oddities, smashing hits, novelties, the sublime and more.

We cater to everyone’s tastes, with Taiwanese disco (Juan-Juan Zou), French Ye-Ye (Jacqueline Taieb), petulant snot Krautrock covers (Disco Zombie), the glorious Benin groovers (Orchestre Super Borgou de Parakou), golden age Hip-Hop (Terminator X, Channel Live), Krautrock rock (Krokodil) and a multitude of genres, eras. There’s even a tribute of a sorts to the recently departed inimitable Scotsman Sean Connery.


Juan-Juan Zou ‘Pond Side’
Bango ‘Mongoose Mix’
Jo Bisso ‘Love Beat’
Zafer Dilek ‘Kol Bastu’
Meitei ‘Oiran I’
Jacqueline Taieb ‘Bravo’
Velvet Crush ‘One Thing Two Believe’
Ninni Forever Band ‘Liekeissa’
Baron Zen ‘Fuckin’ Bored’
Kleenex ‘Hitch-Hike’
Disco Zombies ‘Sad Skinhead’
Prince Douglas ‘Hard Times Dub’
Phantom Band ‘Brain Police’
Meatraffle ‘Oh Corona’
THE NAMES ‘Discovery’
Keep Shelly In Athens ‘I See In Your Mind’
Gary McFarland & Peter Smith ‘Salvation Army Rags’
Man ‘A Night In Dad’s Bag’
Don Nix ‘Olena’
Chicago Underground Duo ‘Moon Debris’
Orchestra Super Borgou de Parkou ‘Abakpe’
Abu Obaida Hassan ‘Nas Fi Nas’
Mike James Kirkland ‘I Need Your Love’
Binary Star ‘Solar Powered’
Channel Live ‘Station Identification’
Da Youngsta’s ‘Rated P.G.’
Terminator X ‘Buck Whylin”
Funkdoobiest ‘Bow Wow Wow’
Biting Tongues ‘Bos Toyota Trouble’
Erlon Chaves ‘Me And My Baby Brother/Day By Day’
Jack van Poll ‘Objizdka’
Lunar Drunes ‘Moon Bathing’
Joe Meek & The Blue Men ‘Valley Of The Saroos’
Sergei Prokofiev ft. Sean Connery ‘Peter And The Wolf Op. 67: “This Is The Story Of Peter And The Wolf”‘
Roberto Musci, Giovanni Venosta & Massimo Mariani ‘Blue’
Krokodil ‘You’re Still A Part Of Me’
Euclid ‘Gimmie Some Lovin”
Mamman Sani ‘Gosi’
JuJu ‘Black Experience’
Lionlimb ‘Temporary’
Tear Gas ‘Lost Awakening’
The Plastic Cloud ‘Face Behind The Sun’
Key & Cleary ‘The Secret’
Furry Lewis ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’
Sandy Harless ‘I Knew Her Well’
Alex Konadu ‘Obi Abawuo’

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 Jamboree
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 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.


Sturle Dagsland ‘Kusansgi’

A track that is as mad as bats is something that should always be celebrated, so here I am celebrating this mad as bats track that is a lovely strange experimental cut up joy of alternative pop; not a song that many people will choose for their first dance as a married couple, but wouldn’t it be great if it was. A song that would bring tears to the eyes of many Aunt Agnese’s, and not one’s of joy. There is always room for the strange in this wonderful world of pop.

Baits ‘What’s On Your Mind’
(Numavi Records) 13th November 2020

This is a gem of an alternative guitar track, one that fizzes with some aplomb, screeching purring like a alley cat with carnal thoughts occupying its waking hours. This song sounds like a pure release of pent up energy and aggression, and a band that can capture that magic is one to watch. A rock ‘n’ roll treat.


Toxic Chicken ‘Uniquely Dancing Into Babylon’
4th November 2020

There is something truly marvelous about the music of Toxic Chicken, it is a wonderful intoxicating blend of found sound, electronica and dance, mixed with a element of the true spirit of psychedelia; it is not just music to lose yourself in but also music to find yourself in and then lose yourself all over again in. There is something just so uniquely special about Toxic Chicken’s music ‘Contracts Are An Illusion’ could well be the music pocket calculators dance to a night out boogieing with their retro digital watch friends: all flared trousers and LED lights. There is a track called ‘Signing Tonnes Of System-Orientated Papers Without Reading Them’, and guess what the track lives up to if not even surpasses expectations. With an inventive foray into the mind of a cartoon Yellow Submarine Beatle the whole album is one of true adventure.

See also…

Toxic Chicken ‘Uncomfortable Music’  (Here…)

Toxic Chicken ‘Fun’  (Here…)

Toxic Chicken ‘Wormhole’  (Here…)

Helen McCookerybook and Rotifer ‘Equal Parts’
(Gare du Nord) 4th December 2020

This six track EP is a beautiful stroll down the paths of gentle guitar strum bliss; songs filled with sixties sunshine and pop filled love and romance; a wholesome semi jangle of heartfelt innocent seduction. Yes the kind of record to listen to when you need to escape the mundanities of everyday life with songs exploring the inner turmoil of everyday life with humour, love, and even whistling on ‘Sorry’. Helen McCookerybook‘s and Rotifer‘s vocals blend together beautifully on these six tracks of slightly quirky indie pop and makes one long for a full album, But leaving one wanting more is surely always a good thing and this EP is a very good thing indeed.

Allyson Seconds  ‘Bag Of Kittens’
(Big Stir Records) 14th November 2020

What we have here music lovers is a reissue of Allyson Seconds debut album, originally released in 2009, all the songs being written and produced by the extremely talented underground cult artist Anton Barbeau. And what a fine album it is as well; songs of melody and sunshine pop psychness that explode in a mirage of delight and wonder: West Coast pop at its finest.

It has all one wants from a sunshine filled pop album. It has “ba ba ba” backing vocals, twanging guitars, melodies dealt from the heart and perfect pop vocals from Allyson: part seduction part sass, part not quite little girl lost, but little girl finding herself and liking what she is finding. This is a true treat for all who have a liking for 60s/70s influenced West Coast pop perfection; a ray of sunshine for the cold winter months ahead.

The Legless Crabs  ‘No Way No Wave’
(Metal Postcard Records) 3rd November 2020

The greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in America at the moment is no doubt the Legless Crabs. You can argue with me if you want, but you would be wrong because they are, and this is their 2nd album of the year or their 3rd if you include the album of EPs and singles. And it is exactly what you would expect from the Crabs: turmoil humour, disgust spat out in a mish mash of distortion, clattering drums, half spoken vocals like Lou Reed with an abscess poking the inhabitants of The USA with a big stick telling them on the whole how stupid they are and to prove the point how stupid they are. Why are the Legless Crabs not on the cover of the Rolling Stone; why are they not blasting out of every radio in America.

The Legless Crabs are America’s best kept musical secret; they are the closet thing they have to the Velvet Underground at the moment: alternative music that is both alternative and music that’s not just some cut and paste facsimile. There might be just a little too much intellect and adventure on show to appeal to the masses, but the underground should take them with open arms and hug the crap out of them. Pure rock ‘n’ roll genius.

See also…

The Legless Crabs ‘Be A Sadist’  (Here…)

The Legless Crabs ‘One People One Mind One Death’  (Here…)

Trouble Tracer  ‘AutoFahrt’
(Crow Versus Crow) 13th November 2020

The garbled outpourings from a drunken Bagpuss maybe or even a blindfolded tour of all the hot spots in a bin man’s lorry, or whatever else you can imagine being off kilter but strangely enjoyable that is what we have here, It’s the kind of release I’m surprised is not on Wormhole World records; the kind of release I would have loved to play to drive my Bruce Springsteen loving brother out of our shared bedroom, whilst growing up. Yes, this is not to everyone’s taste I am sure; strange noises and strange noises made with one’s mouth with the occasional rattle and bang of some kind of pan or saucer, so not music as such, just audible art. And I find it very relaxing and amusing. 21 short tracks of audible insanity cannot be a bad thing. An ideal Christmas gift for the uncle you do not know what to buy for.

Dominic Valvona
Photo Credit: Helen Messenger

Tiger Mendoza ‘Words (Featuring Kate Herridge)’
Taken from TMSK8: The Mixtape
6th November 2020 via bandcamp
20th November 2020 via all digital service platforms

Previously limited exclusively to Bandcamp, Oxford-based guitarist, producer and remixer Tiger Mendoza (the moniker of one Ian De Quadros) is sharing the slinking and sulking Trip-Hop ‘Words’ track from his new project, TMSK8: The Mixtape, with the Monolith Cocktail ahead of a general digital release on the 20th November 2020 (with a physical release in the pipeline). This no wave funk sass of soulful but haunting moody attitude features the vaporous sultry voice of Ocean RuinsKate Herridge sophisticatedly evoking a hint of SAULT and ESG, whilst Ian’s UNKLE and DJ Shadow influences provide the breaks. 

When asked about the roots of Tiger Mendoza, Ian says “having initially been more focused on song-writing on guitar from the age of 16, I fell in love with acts such as UNKLE and DJ Shadow and composers such as Clint Mansell and Vangelis, these artists lead me to start experimenting with making electronic music”. All of which you can expect to hear on the mixtape, alongside a haul of contemporary Hip-Hop, glitch electronica, Chemical Brothers style refashions and guest spot collaborations.

As well as keeping busy working on his own tracks, Ian has produced remixes for luminaries such as Public Enemy and DJ Shadow, and has supported AKDK and Sink Ya Teeth.

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

The Awkward Silences ‘ST’
(Blang Records) 27th November 2020

Making a bolshie return with the first album in five years, the annoyed and disgruntled antifolk trailblazers hit their no-wave, post-punk and shambled pop stride with a seriously great record of both offence-taken and offence-given candid rhetoric. Boasting of their rebellious dysfunctional status on the previous Outsider Pop album (which made our choice albums articles that year) of sardonic, peeved white-funk and Daniel Johnston styled resignation, The Awkward Silences make good on a (mostly forced) hiatus to deliver both songs of malcontent and vulnerability – said to be their most personal work yet.

Led once more by de facto helmsman Paul Hawkins – who corrals a band put back by mental health issues, bereavement and other such life complications – the Awkwards rattle the bar with a powered-up seething display of barely-controlled anger. As I said just now, this is a deeply personal affair. Hawkins apart from singing and writing songs and books is a disability campaigner with the Attitude Is Everything charity and newer Beyond The Music initiative (aimed at improving employment opportunities for disabled people in the music industry), and so many of the most poignant broadsides on this album are fueled by those experiences. For example, the Leonard Cohen tangos with the Bad Seeds ‘The Medical Medal’ in some ways reels at the dehumanized way science, especially gene, treat those with “defects” in their DNA code. Here Hawkins rallies against the creeping uncertainties and eugenics of curing and eradicating disabilities: the very disability that shaped and made Hawkins what and who he is: “Scientists fixed my genes for being born this way.”  

There’s a lot of inner turmoil on display; a lot of “feeling fine” but in reality struggling to cope with the overbearing miasma of mental illness and the dark thoughts, overthinking that invades a great many people in these uncertain, pandemic times.  You can hear that on both the disarmingly ironic malaise of both ‘Everything Will Probably Be Fine’ and the following, cracked actor, ‘Pretending To Be Fine’. The first of which features Mary Boe in a sort of daydream mode, channeling Kirsty McCall as she convinces herself that life isn’t a pile of crushed potentials and worn down mundanity – looking for the little wins, such as supermarket bargains. The second of those far-from-fine couplets pushes together PiL and Altered Images for more mental fatigues.

Elsewhere Hawkins finds social interaction etiquette as complicated as ‘Quantum Physics’; fires a clever sneering broadside at that obnoxious and plainly untruthful adage of the “self-made man”, and the misconceptions of what really makes someone working class in the first place, as definitions shift, to a mix of Attila The Stockbroker and Art Brut; and harasses the office dictate of “organized fun” to a backing track of The Auteurs and gospel organ.

The most unusual track however on this entire album is the band’s curtain call, ‘The New World’, which recently also took the finale spot on Blang Records recent anniversary compilation Scratchcard – reviewed last month on the blog. Theme wise taking its cue from The Village People’s ‘Go West’, the Awkwards go for willful optimism in bleak times, taking that old adage that “our best days haven’t happened yet” as they narrate a John Mouse meets The Rakes style bruiser travail about the American settlers. Like a needled David Byrne marauding over a soundtrack of Boots For Dancing, Delta 5, Moonshake, even a lo fi Cars (on the Stiff Records, if it did disco, disgruntled ‘Getting Ready Fro My Life To Begin’), Hawkins and his troupe make a damn fine record; an indictment on the state of dysfunctional Britain. It’s good to have them back and on form; just as unique and rebellious as ever. 

See also:

Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences ‘Outsider Pop’  (Here…)

Blang Records ‘Scratchcard’  (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.

Live Performance Photogallery
Giorgio Lamonica

For the past couple of years the Monolith Cocktail has collaborated with the leading Italian music publication Kalporz, 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 Giorigia Lamonica finds just the right words to capture the, well-intentioned, restrictions experience of a live concert in pandemic riven Italy, with composer, artist and multi-instrumentalist Andrea Laszlo De Simone’s performance at the Teatro Manzoni, in Bologna, on Saturday 24th October: part of the Express Festival, an event organized by DNA and the Locomotiv Club.

Andrea Laszlo De Simone‘s live performances are always remarkable thanks to a meticulous care of the arrangements and a rich group of well-prepared musicians. What remained most impressive about this concert, however, was not so much the performance of the singer-songwriter or the musicians, which was very good, but the solemn and melancholic atmosphere born from the awareness that everyone (artists, audience, staff) already knew that we were attending the last concert before the closing of the theatres. The last law about a new lockdown had been pronounced a few hours before. I remember well how the people in the audience were sad, weird and pissed off, as well as happy to enjoy the last concert before a long painful stop. I remember the faces of the musicians, concentrated and attentive, but a little off inside. I remember Elisa’s eyes at the box office very well.

Also on this occasion, as I assume in all the previous ones, the whole staff meticulously followed the rules, the number of seats occupied guaranteed a widely reassured distancing, the audience behaved impeccably. But evidently this is not enough; evidently the occasions of “non-essential” contact should be avoided, as if the essentiality of events of that kind is an objective concept.

Premiere Single
Words: Dominic Valvona
Photo Credit: Miles Hart

Sebastian Reynolds ‘HAL’s Lament’
(Faith & Industry) 13th November 2020

The highly prolific polymath (composer, producer, keyboardist and pianist par excellence, remixer and record label boss) and encouraging meditative Oxford-based artist Sebastian Reynolds is back once more on the Monolith Cocktail with another mind-expanding cerebral trip, ‘HAL’s Lament’. The second single, to be released this Friday, in the run up to next year’s Nihilism is Pointless EP (released in January 2021), is a plaintive augur of a homage to one of Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stanley Kubrick’s most memorable characters, the increasingly scheming A.I. companion HAL from a 2001AD: A Space Odyssey. As I say an augur, Seb’s mysterious cries and cybernetic wallows from a mysterious cosmic depth issue a warning of the dangers of utopian idealization; HAL is the ultimate example of higher intelligence – cunningly, almost, out-humaning the humans on board a spaceship bound to a evolutionary star gate – evolving into a dystopian nightmare. In this case, taking on logical decisions of self-preservation that ultimately leads to the calculated murders of the spaceship’s crew.

Following on from last month’s quivery swelled spatial drama with moments of grinded and sparked dissonance, ‘Diving Board’, Seb composes a suffused mirage of foggy voices and an ominous alarm of slow synthesized metrics that channel his teenage love for sci-fi trip hop acts such as UNKLE, as well as the deep grooves and dense atmospheres of Massive Attack and Burial. I’d add a hint of the Future Sound Of London to that bold list of inspired techno, electronica and breaks’ stars. 

The EP and singles are being released via producer Capitol K’s burgeoning Faith & Industry label, the release platform for Capitol K’s output as well as luminaries such as John Johanna, Champagne Dub, Blue House and Thomas Nation. Nihilism is Pointless follows on from the previous The Universe Remembers EP (also released via Faith & Industry) and the single ‘Heartbeat/My Mother Was The Wind’ (released through Seb’s own label PinDrop). The Monolith Cocktail is happy to premiere.

See also:

Sebastian Reynolds ‘‘Maṇīmekhalā’ (Here…)

‘The Universe Remembers’  (Here…)

‘Diving Board’  (Here)

Sorry to ask again, but you can now help the Monolith Cocktail through the micro-payment support platform 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.

Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Jamboree

Despite the game-changer omnipresence of the pandemic, and the ever-convoluted confusing nightmare of governments failing to keep a lid on this unpredictable virus, the all too predictable countdown to Christmas klaxon has been sounded, and the yearly “best ofs” selection prompting is in full swing. I haven’t actually worked out what the Monolith Cocktail will do this year for our own more eclectic “choice albums” articles. Somehow it seems so redundant in such miserable times when so many have been pushed into unemployment, and with the combined forces of a global virus and the ever-creeping progress of technology (streaming especially) that creatives are finding it impossible to keep doing what they love or survive under the stresses. Then again it is a chance to celebrate for us all the great music that continues to be made, even in this crisis. And there has been so much of it: the good stuff I mean.  

With that in mind, let me continue with the usual (unusual) haul of new releases; starting with the life-affirming all-girl troupe from Benin, the Star Feminine Band, and their debut album of joyously delivered serious issues of female empowerment and emancipation in Africa.

Stella Sommer follows up a stunning Lutheran romantic solo debut with a second album of unrushed, beautiful maladies and wanton yearns, Northern Dancer. Imbued by the times and a penchant for the dank miserablist steel synth cities of England, Augenwasser releases his new synth-soul album Sleepdancer for Bongo Joe. The Parisian synth-pop duo Tender Tones manage to turn in a brilliant sophisticated pop EP after the setback of a burglary and the loss of their recordings. Lucia Cadotsch is back with her Speak Low Trio for another meandrous, amorphous voiced jazzy volume of German stage songs, ballads and jazz wonders. And lastly, Krakow’s Corticem look to the stars and beyond on their epic industrial, Krautrock, and spasmodic Planetarium escape.  

In the singles section we have Teppo Mäkynen moonlighting under his soul food alias The Stance Brothers, with a beat-y soul snap jazz new 7” for We Jazz (the second release from the Helsinki label to make the cut this week); Verse Bang touches down in L.A. with his candid pandemic trap video ‘Open Space’; Julia Meijer finds inspiration under the waves on the latest single to drop from next year’s The Place Where You Are EP; and we have a snippet preview from the upcoming Night Dreamer label’s next direct-to-disc session; a fuzzed and scuzzed fusion from the pioneers of Anadolu Psych, Moğollar.


Moğollar ‘Anatolian Sun – An Introduction Preview’
(Night Dreamer)

Following the recently released Hayvan Gibi live BaBa ZuLa album session for the “direct-to-disc” project label Night Dreamer, comes a similar session from one of the original Anatolian pioneers, Moğollar. Inspiring the Istanbul souk rock and psychedelic BaBa – the group’s founding member Osman Murat Ertel actually produced this session – psych originators Moğollar have been lured into the studio to cut their first new material in over a decade for the seventh installment of this brilliant expletory and dynamic series.

Anatolian Sun Part 1 & Part 2 is framed as a career overview; a sagacious vision of weathered bowed, aching, longing Turkish atavistic landscapes and progressive, fuzzed and scuzzed psychedelic rocking.

A little detail and context to get you in the mood:

‘Formed in 1967 with keyboardist Murat Ses at the helm, Moğollar were the original Anadolu psych originators. [Among their achievements] They were the first Turkish pop band who tried to blend the microtonal folklore and traditional instruments of rural Anatolia with Western pop and rock; they were the first Turkish psychedelic band to achieve overseas recognition, winning the prestigious French Grand Prix Du Disque in 1971 after a period in Paris; and they coined the very phrase ‘Anadolu Pop’ with their first album release. They were radical, innovative, and hugely popular, and when the great artists of the Turkish rock revolution appeared on the scene, Moğollar were already there – stars including Barış Manço, Selda, Cem Karaca and Ersen all recorded with them or briefly joined the line-up. Moğollar were and are the undisputed pioneers of the style.

Moğollar first emerged out of the pop group Silüetler (‘The Silhouettes’), with whom the young Istanbul-raised keyboardist Murat Ses had been playing. Silüetler had enjoyed some success in the mid-1960s, but the mercurial Ses wanted to push his music into new realms. Recruiting Silüetler’s vocalist Aziz Ahmet, they formed Moğollar in late 1967, and were joined shortly after by visionary bassist Taner Öngür and electric guitarist and saz player Cahit Berkay, both of who [still] feature in the group to this day. Ses and his band mates had long been fascinated by the traditional microtonal folklore and rural instruments of Turkey’s Anatolian hinterland, and were determined to bring them into Western pop and rock to create a radically new kind of Turkish popular music. By the end of the 1960s Moğollar had found underground stardom across Turkey, playing a truly original mixture of Anatolian folklore, Western pop and wailing late 1960s psychedelia. We have a preview video to share with you right now, ahead of the album’s release on the 11th December 2020.

See also:

BaBa ZuLa ‘Hayvan Gibi’  (Here…)

The Stance Brothers ‘On Top’
(We Jazz Records) 6th November 2020

Hark at the cool, bar room hang out vibes of this one! Another We Jazz 7” of effortless in-crowd jazz that reimagines The Sorcerers teaming up with The Afro Soul-Tet, Rufus Harley and Mel Brown, but remixed by Madlib: Yep that’s great praise indeed from me.

Under the soul food imbued The Stance Brothers alias, producer/drummer Teppo Mäkynen works the “guitar & flute (played in this instance by Timo Lassy under the cover of his Diamond T cover)”, “organ & vibes” and “beat” into three different versions of a reimagined Stax-Hip-Hop-Jazz sizzler. Nothing else needs to be said: A solid soul-snap of jazz.  

Fans of the Helsinki hub We Jazz can find a second release this month in the albums section below, with Lucia Cadotsch’s trip-y, freeform album of reinterpretations Speak Low II.

See also…

OK:KO/Alder Ego/Timo Lassy & Teppo Mäkynen ‘Ateneum 2019 (We Jazz Live Plates VOL. 2)’  (Here…)

Stanley J. Zappa ‘Muster Point’  (Here…)

JAF Trio ‘S/T’ – Otis Sandsjö ‘Y-OTIS 2’  (Here…)

Verses Bang ‘Open Space (Oozhe Remix)’

Verses “the eagle” Bang has flown the UK coop for pastures new, relocating recently to the allure of L.A. And who could blame him as the dank drizzle of early evenings draw in on a miserable winter lockdown. The idiosyncratic and pop culture sartorial dressed burgeoning artist isn’t about to let the coronavirus dampen this new life, as he touches down in his new city with a candid offering of trap.

On the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard, Bangs reiterates his ongoing recovery from addictions (Codeine and weed) and struggles with mental health to a backdrop of artifice; all shot on that Pandora’s box of artificial validation, the iPhone. The pandemic bubble of L.A. looks appealing in aquamarine tinted filter, but there’s a battle going on here below the surface; a confession and search for identity in a an age of high anxiety and rage.

Following on from the deconstruction of an addicted personality, Cardigans & Calories, and a clutch of video singles and tracks, Bangs conveys the isolation we all feel at the moment, trapped in the middle of a worldwide virus. Getting in the right headspace, Bangs uses his platform wisely to rap candidly about his travails and the woes, worries he and many of us are feeling right now.   

I wish him all the luck in the world with his move Stateside. And look forward to hearing his new material.

See also…

Verses Bang ‘The Eagle Has Landed’  (Here…)

Julia Meijer ft. Fyfe Dangerfield ‘Under Water’
(Pindrop) 6th November 2020

Far exceeding the Scandi-pop or indie tag that seems to haunt and follow around any artists or band from that part of the world, the much more tactile and expansive singer-songwriter Julia Meijer seems to channel new, wider influences on each release she puts out on the burgeoning Pindrop label.  Based actually in Oxford, the Swedish-born artist has been experimenting with a sound that encompasses folk, indie, pop, new wave and subtle electronica. I pretty much rated her 2019 debut album Always Awake, which I said at the time fluctuated brilliantly between the hymnal, the synth-glistened and rocking: a mix of Lykke Li, Kate Nash and New Young Pony Club.

Ahead of next year’s The Place Where You Are EP, and following on from recent singles ‘Skydda Dig’ and ‘The Place Where You Are, the third single from that songbook ‘Under Water’ drops today. Once more featuring the lush harmonious woes of former Guillemots front man Fyfe Dangerfield, who is part of Julia’s backing band, this latest alluring – but also prowling almost – single has an air of Fleetwood Mac about it. Nicely tampered with subtle washes and a stepped-up rhythmic drive, Julia searches for new perspectives under the echoed waves.

Julia has this to say about the single’s inspiration and theme:

“The inspiration for ‘Under Water’ came to me when I was snorkeling once. It felt like I was in space, things moved very slowly. I wanted to capture that sense of peace and slow pace in the music, but also a creeping sense of panic and stress. The lyrics are about the thoughts that came up in my head as I was swimming and got to see things from a new perspective, like looking up towards the sky from under the water”.

A swimmingly well-crafted song that bodes well for next year’s EP.

See also…

Julia Meijer ‘Always Awake’  (Here…)


Star Feminine Band ‘S/T’
(Born Bad Records) 13th November 2020

Disarming a serious message of female liberation and opportunity with the most joyous, passionate and brightly fluttering of song, the Star Feminine Band sound like (Le) Musical Youth meets Wells Fargo and the Dur Dur Band on their debut album for the Paris label Born Bad. With a remarkable backstory, coming together in the most unusual of circumstances and uniquely pushing the rights of sisterhood in their Benin homeland, this cast of young kids and teenagers (though those ages hide the fact they’ve had to grow up fast in a society that undervalues female empowerment and freedom) send out the positive vibes through an embrace of Ghanaian Highlife, Congolese Rumba, Soweto lilting choral soul, Nigerian Afrobeat, the local Vodun and even Calypso. 

It’s no surprise that Benin has such a glorious mix of styles within and bleeding over its border, caged-in as it is by Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger. It is a shinning intersection of African music and a progenitor of styles itself, home to such legends as Gnonnas Pedro and Antione Dougbe. Those male titans can now make room for this sisterhood of infectious, candid girls from the remote Northern town of Natitingou.

At this point we need a little background for context. Answering the call of this project’s instigator Andrè Balagueman through a local radio station for girls interested in taking part in a series of free music training sessions, five of the eventual lineup arrived from that remote Northern Benin village in response. They were joined by two of Balagueman’s own daughters to make this a seven-piece. With no previous musical experiences other than natural talent, they were all taught the drums, guitar, bass and keyboards. Sessions were intense, fitted in-between the priority of school. No one though could quite predict how this project would keep building momentum. But then not everyone has the driver that propels this group. Music for them is nothing short of emancipation, the opportunity to break away from a male-dominated culture.

Prospects are slim for women in many of these outposts, where forced marriages and teen pregnancies are common. Employment means selling bar peanut, bananas and the local “millet drink”. Thankfully the noise that started to grow around this breakout band garnered much attention nationally. The mayor of Natitingou even designated them a practice space.

Furthering an obvious appeal and rich polyrhythmic energy, French engineer Jérémie Verdier carried news of this unique Benin wonder to Europe: stumbling upon the band whilst volunteering in the country a couple of years ago. On his return home he enthused about them to the Spanish engineers and videographers Juan Toran and Juan Serra, who were fascinated enough to seek out and record them: both musically and for a short documentary.   

What they captured is a sweetened, spritely youthful energy; a burgeoning, blooming even, upbeat Afro-pop, soul, funk and choral record of girl-power. Far from some kind of manufactured band, or gimmick, the Star Feminine Band really do have something to shout about; whether that’s a demand for equality on tracks such as the swaddled Township ‘Femme Africaine’, or in encouraging women to succeed, as they do on the shared vocal stubbed drums loose ‘Rew Be Me’.  That second track is sung in the “Peul” ethnic group dialect (one of the largest nomadic groups in the Sahel and West African regions), and is just one of various languages and tribal heritages that you’ll hear on a championed shared experience of ethnic diversity. The Highlife trilled, drum splashed dance ‘Iseo’ is a call to arms in that respect, exhorting a need for the many strands of Benin culture to unite for the common good.

But amongst the lilting and tighter invigorating performances this is about providing a real space for women to break with convention, and to wrestle free of constrictive traditions. As its instigator Balagueman puts it: “I simply wanted to show the importance of women in the societies of North Benin by forming a female orchestra.” With ages as young as ten, and the oldest only seventeen, there’s a long bright future ahead for this group, who create nothing short of infectious sunshine joy.

Tender Tones ‘Youth Retirement Club’
(Somewherecold Records) 14th November 2020

Constantly increasing their roster and tastes, North American hub Somewherecold Records’ latest signing is the Paris-based Tender Tones synth-pop pairing of Manon Deruytere and Maxine Parguad. An electro gliding fantasy of sophisticated French pop, shoegaze and Chromatics like vaporous exuded diaphanous lure, the duo provides the most crystalline and clean synthesized soundtracks to an occasion of woe and setbacks. For this is version two of what should have been the debut EP, a reconstruction from memory after the original recordings were stolen along with the Tenders gear in a burglary at their Parisian apartment.    

A recreation then, Youth Retirement Club is a record haunted by that miscreant crime, something that can’t help but seem even more personal than the theft of obvious valuables. And so a certain menace and sense of loss permeates the often driven sparkling pulse of this nu-wave glinting synth-noir extended EP.

With duets (sort of) throughout, combining a shadowed deeper male voice with a breathless, more sighed and cooed female vocal, the duo sing and skulk over a balance of the heavenly (‘In Dreamed Lives’) and a blazing alarm of broody darker forbade (‘Red Lovers’). All the while lyrics speak of resigned romanticisms, nostalgia and broken dreams. That nostalgia seeps into the very fabric of this dreamscape, resulting in echoes of the 70s and 80s. But it’s a manufactured past; an alternative soundtrack to Stranger Things, with moments of a more disarming Depeche Mode and Vangelis.

A superb breathe of fresh air in this genre, with customary French élan, the Youth Retirement Club is for lovers of Jennifer Touch and Emika, and just anyone after a classy evocative outpour of synth-pop sophistication. They’ve not only turned a bad situation and loss into a win, but also managed to produce a great EP.  

Augenwasser ‘Sleepdancer’
(Bongo Joe) 13th November 2020

Augenwasser @ Champagne Festival – Stadion Gurzelen29.08.2020 Patrick Principe

It hasn’t surprised me to find the latest release from Elias Rascle’s electronic alter-ego Augenwasser is in partnership with Bongo Joe, as there are certain post-punk and C86 synth imbued tracks on the new album that wouldn’t sound out of place on that label’s recent survey of 80s obscured Swiss experimental electronica, INTENTA. A real Swiss affair (the label, the artist and at least some of the sonics it is inspired by all emanating from that alpine retreat), the multi-instrumentalist artist Elias also seems attracted to the damp eerie-synth of a Northern English city: somewhere like late 70s Sheffield or Manchester. That means echoes of Cabaret Voltaire, early Human League and such amongst hints of DAF, Kas Product and even Suicide. But far from a rainy dank steel city sound, this album is actually quite soulful in its romantic gestures and forlorn.

Fatigued by a daily grind, he dreamily and hypnotically drifts through a somnolent suffusion of Casio pre-set rhythms, snozzled and floaty saxophone, trance-y guitar, Geiger counter tight and padded electronic drums and synthesized organ; all the time referencing a search for the “light”.

Often resigned sounding, our synth-troubadour comes on like a post-punk Jim Morrison; especially on the album’s Velvet Underground-esque lead single and opener ‘Paid The Rent/Going Out’. But the next languid reverberation from the ether, the ‘Work Wait Work’ cycle sounds like Teardrop Explodes era Julian Cope hovering over a Harmonia track. ‘Back To Daylight’ reimagines a vampiric Nilsson if he’d signed to Mute Records on a kind of synth-noir, slurred night owl downer that could easily be a damnation of a depleting nightshift job. 

Elias could be actually sleepwalking, hugging Kippenberger’s contorted bent street lamps, on a sort of sloshed traipse through art-school Casio Bossa with ‘Born On A Saturday’. But by the end of the Sleepdancer album he strikes up Roedelius’s piano, for the melodious float-y curtain call ‘Dead Of Night Running Away’.

It’s an album of insular blues, lost causes and despondent soul, finely crafted to ooze a sophisticated aura of melodic lo fi electronic pop that feels just right in these present pandemic days. This isn’t to say Sleepdancer is a dark or miserable experience. Elias continues to experiment freely with his songwriting on this dream state of a chiming, untethered record. 

Lucia Cadotsch ‘Speak Low II’
(We Jazz) 27th November 202

This edition of my fancies is turning into a We Jazz label love-in, with this being the second release from the Helsinki hub to make the cut this month. Tripping a light fantastic across a curious and congruous selection of covers and standards, two of We Jazz’s (sort of) house band members, Otis Sandsjo (of Y-OTIS reconstructive hip-hop jazz fame) and Peter Eldh (of the masterful Koma Saxo), once more join forces with the amorphous voiced Lucia Cadotsch to re-shape the unfamiliar familiar under the umbrella of the Berlin-based Swiss singer’s Speak Low Trio.

Arriving five years after the debut album, but a well-oiled machine thanks to plenty of live performances, the trio expand the ranks to accommodate the prestigious ECM label solo pianist Kit Downes and cellist Lucy Railton. Equally as untethered, on a serial pathway of musical freedom, this broadened set-up meanders, drifts, floats and hovers over a flowing oeuvre of German stage numbers, ancient folk laments, avant-garde troubadour maladies and jazz balladry on the second volume of such interpretations – that first volume featuring the trio’s favourite songs of the previous decade.

Reminding me in part of Max Andrzejewski’s Hutte And Guests Play The Music Of Robert Wyatt album, the Speak Low trio go down a both psychedelic dreamy and free-flowing route as they capture something of the essence, mood of the originals. And so Duke Ellington’s 1937 bi and polytonality ballad wonder ‘Azure’ maintains much of its mystery and exoticism, but now takes on a more otherworldly spellbound loose quality with Kit’s mirror-y organ shimmers and Otis’ snuffled stubbed tenor saxophone. Luica’s voice is pretty magical too; a jazzy range of wooing, coos and freely tripping allurement.

Randy Newman’s most covered song ‘I Think It’s Going To Rain Today’ is given a suffused lightened warm touch of snuggled sax and spidery double-bass, whilst Eno’s piano downer (but touching) ‘By This River’ has a more romantic, even ethereal touch. The Ahmed Jamel Trio’s 50s augur ‘What’s New’ and Tony WilliamsThere Comes A Time’ are both effortlessly combined for an experiment of be-bop, trip-hop and melodious longing. And that crooners and majesties favourite yearning ballad, ‘Wild Is The Wind’, is let loose, pulled away from the moody dragging version made famous by Bowie to a unique space of weather stirring aped sax (which sounds at times like some pained creature), pondering double-bass and a beautifully moving vocal. A second Bowie connection, Brecht’s infamous and recycled macabre Baal production song ‘Ballad Of A Drowned Girl’ was performed and recorded by the cracked actor of course. This sorry episode sees the seduced victim of that play’s protagonist kill herself by drowning – inspired in fact by both the murder of famous Marxist revolutionary martyr Rosa Luxemburg in 1919, and Ophelia. In this vision, the trio tip-toe around in a watery graveyard of flitting, trickling, dancing river life; the mood and drama enervated by a most meandrous vocal. Mirage-y, bowed, haunted and rasping with spasms of rhythms and spiraling, this second volume of jazzy transformations is a master class in unburdened reinterpretations; the group neither tied to or beholden to the source material they’re riffing and freely playing around with. That’s not to say they haven’t given these songs the respect they’re due, but that they offer only an amorphous thread, a layline in which to focus on and then stretch, push beyond. More than that, it’s a great, most beautiful jazz album; the star turn of which is Lucia’s stunning if effortlessly sounding gossamer vocals.  

Corticem ‘Planetarium’
(Submarine Broadcasting) 21st October 2020

Less Holst The Planets magnum opus, more lo fi Krautrock purview of a sinister, mysterious cosmology, beamed from a subterranean bunker in Krakow, Corticem’s Plantetarium dials into the present pandemic dystopia whilst casting a soundtrack of awe at those heavenly bodies. I say from Krakow, and a bunker, but the trio have lost their previous studio/rehearsal space; the loss of which acting as an unfortunate stimulus for the mix of industrial, entrancing, cosmic and experimental exploration on this minor-opus of concentrated malcontent, despondency and rage. In the rush they quickly took action to record sessions to tape using whatever they could hastily pack up. This set up works out as “Theremin-like feedback loop from a cigarette pack-sized amp held up to the guitar pickup; multi-tracked bowed cymbals; a single mic on a drum kit running through a broken amp; reversed drums; and the walls”. A description that pretty much does my job for me, as that is exactly how it sounds.

Formed by members of the “songs strange and not so-strange” Sawak in the Polish city of Krakow, Corticem finds the trio of orbital sonic cosmonauts Bogdan Markiewicz, Antonello Perfetto and Greg Nieuwsma looking to escape towards the stars but anchored to the malaise and mounting horrors of terra firma: A world gripped in Covid distress. Not unsurprisingly tracks such as the interplanetary raga doom rocking ‘Planet Coronavirus; The Dying Quasar’ have an atmosphere of prevailing dread; a merging of scientific speak samples, suffused fuzz, guitar friction and drum beats, all lost in a smog.  ‘Planet Bye & Good Riddance’ warps a newsreader’s update on coronavirus cases in the trio’s Poland-based home to a soundtrack of mosey galactic cowboy music. The final nail on that coffin of discontent and derision at what our world has become, ‘Planet JuJu: The Nasty Earth’ resonates with very bad JuJu, as a vocal becomes more and more deranged and tortured. Sonically speaking, hi-frequency whines like a quivering viola or violin from Outside The Dream Syndicate pierces Klaus Dinger’s drums and a cacophony of Cage.

There’s alien abduction to the synth menace of Bernard Szajner’s Dune missives, Air Liquide, Jóhann Jóhannsson darker stirrings and Future Sound Of London on the foreboding rotor beamed dark material ‘I Went To Mars And All I Got Was Abducted’. And a rewire, part augur of future resource calamity and part pun riff on the moon landings, with the opening reversal whipped and sucking ‘7001: Houston, We Have A Drinking Problem’. Actually, it’s quite a nice contemplative track that reminded me of both Daniel Lanois and Craig Ward.

Greek myths abound on the ecclesiastical ARP like mystery of ‘Mercury: Between Gods And Mortals’ – imagine Tangerine Dream’s cathedral organ synth -, and ‘Jupiter Is A Warped Tape’ imagines a slurred HAL and slow beat to avant-garde jazz spasms of drums version of a union between Jello Biafra and The Heroes Of Hiphoprisy. Throw in liberal contortions of Swans, the faUSt pairing of Jean-Hervé Peron and Zappi Diermeir, Mythos, the satellite refraction broadcasts of Gunther Wusthoff, The Cosmic Range, Itchy-O and Ash Ra Tempel and you get the picture.

The Submarine Broadcasting platform is on a roll of late; Planetarium being among the best, most interesting and thoughtful albums they’ve ever released. A commanding oeuvre as dystopian and alarming as it is alien, otherworldly. Definitely making my end of year articles.

Stella Sommer ‘Northern Dancer’
(Northern Dancer Records/The Orchard) 30th October 2020

A thawing of the Lutheran North European romantic malady that permeated Stella Sommer’s beautifully yearning debut album, the German songstress seems to almost float across the paused and gorgeous follow-up, Northern Dancer.

Still evoking the deeply voiced presence of Nico and a smoky, aged Marianne Faithful, Stella’s gauzy Teutonic venerable vocals also open up peaceably, dreamily and delicately on what is another songbook of longing and isolation. For this is a much softer effort than 2018’s 13 Kinds Of Happiness, which offered the odd barreling bounding gallop of early 80s Bowie and Kate Bush.

The instrumentation this time around is a controlled enervated vapour of colliery brass and gentle orchestration swells: A sort of pastoral woodland of pizzicato strings, timpani, flute, tuba and shimmery splashed cymbal crescendos. There’s also a sparse but lovely use of rolling and plonked piano, some light guitar and a withheld suffusion of ambient atmospherics. All of which is perfectly pleasing and melodious but above all stirring; resembling, as the main theme seems to be, a riverside or ocean and pier scene of wanton love and heartache. You could say it captures a lapping tide, or the waves, as a sagacious Stella sends out flowery metaphors to an absent lover, listener, confidante.

Yet, there are touches too of Scott Walker’s morose, and even some supernatural Nick Cave (through the filter of Lee Hazelwood) to be found on songs such as ‘Young Ghost, Old Century’.    

Overall a work of pulchritude vulnerability and hushed intoned romantic yearns, Stella Sommer’ second beatific album offers an even subtler songbook of both existential and visceral tender malady: Not so much a progression, improvement on that stunning debut, more a lighter, mature gossamer extension of it, every bit as breathtaking and unrushed.    

See also:

Stella Sommer ’13 Kinds Of Happiness’  (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.

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