PLAYLIST SPECIAL: Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

The Monolith Cocktail bow out of the annus horribilis year of the great Covid-19 plague with a seven hour behemoth of a playlist: the ultimate summary, revue of the year in sonic awakenings, wonders, magic and the challenging. Tracks have been picked from our recent ‘choice albums features of 2020’ (Part One: A-E, Part Two: F-N and Part Three: O-Z), plus a smattering of music from those albums we just didn’t have room for but loved: Leron Thomas, Netta Goldhirsch, Les Freres Smith, Sad Man, Ancient Plastix, Your Old Droog, Dream Parade, Deutsche Ashram, the Chicago Underground Quartet and more. Expect to hear everything and anything.

Thanks for all your support during the last taxing year. We’ll see you all in the New Year with a packed schedule of new music – the early indications are it is going to be another great, bustling year of releases. If you do feel like helping us out, keeping is afloat, or just as a thank you, here’s our begging bowl message: Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

Reviews: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

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 in the last week released an album of Bordello live material.

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/Videos/Tracks.

Storm the Palace ‘Dream House’

The new single from Storm the Palace is a beautiful thing, a six-minute song of hope redemption, steeped in a beautiful pathos and wonder, angelically sang as always and although not a Christmas song as such certainly sounds like one with mentions of Christmas trees and snow and a little boy chatting about his dreams running throughout a song to cherish. Indeed, psych folk at its most beautiful and bewitching best.

See also…

Storm The Palace ‘Clive’ Premiere  (HERE)

Storm The Palace ‘Delicious Monster’  (HERE)

Up Against Down  ‘People That Come And Go’

This is the first single from the debut album by Up Against Down, and pretty good it is as well: nice melody, a lovely early 80s post punk feel, the kind of track that may have been released by one of the major labels back in the day trying to attract the hipper underground audience, all polished sheen and alternative pop finish. The album could well be worth a listen.

Lisa Mychols & Super 8 ‘Red Bird’

Because I am on the whole a grumpy old twat people assume I hate Christmas, but in fact I love it, and so was overjoyed to be sent a lovely little Christmas ditty filled with melody charm and Christmas jingle jangle. This is a lovely piece of charming pop fluff that will melt the coldest of “oh humbug hearts”. Yes, Lisa Mychols & Super 8 once again supply the goods with an ode to the jolliest time of the year. And anyone stuck for an idea for a present for their difficult to buy for friend, relative, could do worse than buying their excellent Lisa Mychols & Super 8 album: The perfect Christmas gift.

See also…

Lisa Mychols & Super 8 ‘ST’  (HERE)

bigflower ‘OK’

bigflower along with The Salem Trials are probably the two bands I have featured most this year in my writings, and for a very good reason. For both have consistently released music with soul and invention, and once again bigflower serve up another single of sublime beauty; a guitar drenched work of loneliness and despair. All the tracks released this year by bigflower should be gathered up by some foresighted label and released as one beautiful album. And what a beautiful album that would be. One of the bands of 2020 with bells on.

See also…

bigflower ‘The Other Place’  (HERE)

bigflower   ‘Sound Of Silence’  (HERE)

Albums..

Rita Braga  ‘Time Warp Blues’

Rita Braga is a Portuguese experimental songwriter and this is her 3rd album, and those with a memory of such things may remember I reviewed her ‘Tremble Like A ghost’ single last year, which is also included on this album. It was a song that sounded like Betty Boop being possessed by the spirit of Betty Boo, or visa versa even. Anyway, it was a fine pop single which had a original wit and joy which I enjoyed greatly and I’m pleased to report the joy and wit continues throughout this fine pop album.

Strange songs that take in influences from the 1920s sometimes played on the uke but with tick tock drum machine and sometimes Silver Apples like synth backing, the songs are beautifully written and performed with Rita’s unique style and panache taking in many varied musical influences and moulding them into her own beautiful eccentric shapes. 

See also…

Rita Braga ‘Tremble Like A Ghost’  (HERE)

Zen Baseball Bat ‘Rations’
(Stahl 42)

This is an album of sublime discourse songs that move and shake with an avalanche of influences, from The Talking Heads like opener ‘Whipping The Lash’ through to the Ska like underbelly of ‘Masochistic Motown’ – the sound of The Beat covering The Sleaford Mods with jelly baby delight. Rations is the sound of a northern band sticking two fingers up at the England of today with the attitude of a cartoon Clash; a band not scared to infuse the melodies of their youth into the feelings of today hiding the darkness under a weighty blanket of humour, dance and good time bonhomie. Northern soul, folk and punk spirits all unite and ignite to form an album of pure undiluted delight.  Rations is due for release on the 1st of January 2021 and is a fine way to start the new year, off with a smile on your face and adding a shimmy to your hips. If pre-ordered you can get the CD in a rather fetching tin which will ship out on the 12th of December, so will get to you in plenty of time to get your Aunt Agnes up and skanking at your Christmas party or any or every party after that.

I Do Karate You Do Karate ‘One Last Job In Mexico’
(Half A Cow Records)

Always pleased to hear new music from Australian guitar bands – although these are not actually from Australia, but the label is Australian so close enough – as guitar music from those parts never seems to let me down, and this album is no different. Melody charm and jangle are the order of the day; at times reminding me both of the Frank and Walters and Fountains of Wayne, which I admit is strange as they sound nothing like each other. Maybe it is because I Do You Do Karate have the same qualities of knowing their way around writing cracking guitar pop songs and sound like they are having the time of their life, which is a quality that cannot be manufactured in the studio as you really cannot fake enthusiasm and get away with it without sounding trite. And this album is anything but trite. It is a joyous exploration in the fun one can have listening to guitars, melody, and a band having the time of their life.

Simon Waldram ‘Into The Blue’
12th December 2020

Simon Waldram is a fine songwriter and one who really deserves to be better known, and this EP is a three-track beauty of a release. The lead off track ‘Into the Blue’ is a slightly jazzy dive into psychedelic waters. Swimming side by side with the Monkees ‘Porpoise Song’ it has the same otherworldly warmth and magical wonder; a song to wrap your thoughts in a blanket of undiagnosed splendour. The second track ‘Aoligahara’ is taken from last year’s excellent Into The Blue album, and is a rather lovely psych-tinged folk song worthy of inclusion on any of the three Nick Drake LPs [yes Simon really is that good]. The third song is a reprise of the first but in instrumental form, but with added sublime atmospherics. A fine EP from an artist worth discovering if you have not already done so.

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/Matt Oliver/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Welcome to the concluding part of the Monolith Cocktail’s choice favourite albums of 2020 in three-parts.

Because we’ve never seen the point in arguing the toss over numerical orders, or even compiling a list of the best of albums of the year, the Monolith Cocktail’s lighter, less competitive and hierarchical ‘choice albums’ features have always listed all entrants in alphabetical order. We also hate separating genres and so everybody in these features, regardless of genre, location, shares the same space.

Void of points systems and voting, the Monolith Cocktail team selection is pretty transparent: just favourites and albums we all feel you, our audience, should check out. Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver and Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea have made the selections this year.

O.

Occult Character ‘Steve Albini’s Kundalini’
(Metal Postcard Records)

A great LP from the wonderful Occult Character, and as ever, dark funny lyrical portraits of life in the USA today is the order of the day, but this time taking on a more musically commercial slant. Synth led beats smoother production, and if not for the many curse words you could imagine this gracing daytime radio. This could almost be a pop album: it certainly deserves to reach a larger audience. Who else but Occult Character would write a song about a homophobic microwave and other such oddities? It is indeed a crazy world and maybe this is the album to soundtrack it.  (Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea) Read In Full

P..

Paper Birch ‘MORNINGHAIRWATER’
(TAKUROKU)

Mooning and pining through a caustic wall of fuzz, feedback and waning the cross-city, cross-border collaboration of Dee Sada and Fergus Lawrie articulate desire and heartbreak in a pandemic. Recorded during the lockdown, between the months of May and June, former primal yelping An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump D-bird and current member of NEUMES Sada and her Glasgow pen pal foil Lawrie, of cult Urusei Yatsura fame, meet up in the internet ether to construct both a chthonian and dreamy long-distance musical Psycho Candy romance. Sada’s signature softly cooed atmospheric translucent vocals prove a congruous fit with Lawrie’s deeper, more grunge-y despondency; sounding at times like Mazzy Star, the Pop Group and MBV.

Despite a cursed language of disenchantment, and even the metaphorical pained heartbreak of poisoned relationships, plus a tumult of stressed white noise and distorted guitar contouring the duo swoon in beautifully fragile harmony throughout this experimental album. London and Glasgow sensibilities and beautiful morose come together to add something different to the vaporous influences that have inspired it. A barbed romance and set of mentally fatigued musings set in anxious times, MORNINGHAIRWATER marks a divine conjuncture between its creators; a baptism not only for Paper Birch but Café OTO’s newly formed label platform TAKUROKU. I said back in August that this was fast becoming one of my favourite albums of 2020, and five months later it’s still in my head and making the end of year features.  (Dominic Valvona) Read In Full

Phoenix Da Icefire ‘Panacea’ (New Dawn)/‘Cinematic’ (Revorg)

Doing double time, the Triple Darkness affiliate Phoenix has remained in full flight since catching Rapture & Verse’s ears with 2008’s ‘Baptism Under Fire’. Panacea, produced by Husky Brown and settling into a groove between bruised and burnished soul occasionally forced to the end of its tether, is taken on with PDI never needing to clear his throat nor waste a syllable. Where fantasy and reality clash and collude, and prophet and street correspondent roles present themselves, Da Icefire, as on ‘Seasons of You’, wants the bread and butter of contentment (quite literally, on the interesting digression ‘Veganite’). With Strange Neighbour on the dials and Phoenix doing all his own stunts by launching into more of the same, Cinematic undertakes something of a Bond homage, with the locales set on a course between glamorous (the title track arriving by Miami hovercraft) and perilous, and Phoenix, rooting out wrongs without the costume, dividing his time between business and pleasure, the film theme framed by flicks between ‘Spaghetti Western’, ‘Blue Movie’, ‘Psychological Thriller’ and ‘Kung Fu Salute’. All held together by the hefty posse cut ‘Expendables’, it’s box office hip-hop that with Panacea, will keep you more than busy.  (Matt Oliver)

Pintandwefall  ‘Your Stories Baby’
(Soliti Music)

Ah rock ‘n’ roll I gave you the best years of my wife. The not so subtle sounds of garage punk and well written pop, of which I have grown very fond of in my 53 years on this planet. This is a little gem of an album; nothing outstandingly different to many other indie garage punk pop albums, but this has enough quirkiness, and more importantly, it has a soul and an immaturity that many other bands can only wish for. A band that has been touched by the hand of pop suss; a band that sounds like it has been force fed 60s girl group records followed by post punk hits for afters: Twangy guitars, one fingered keyboard riffs, “na na na” choruses and synths that whiiirrl! Perfect imperfect pop: and what is more perfect than that.  (BBS) Read In Full

Pons ‘Intellect’
(Stick ’n’ Move Records)

 

A volatile chaos that is remarkably tactile in places, the blossoming erratic American trio of Pons threw everything into their debut album Intellect. The culmination of various mischievous bombardments and jerked dances on a slew of EPs and singles, from a band that first formulated their blueprint in North Carolina in 2018 before relocating a year later to Virginia, this paranoid hectic and ridiculous fully realised long-player whips up a torrid of unhinged energy.

Intellect is full of ideas in what, by now, is a worn cross-section of post-punk and garage related genres. From the off you know this is going to be something else; a diy friction of scuzzed garage/skate/doom punk that creeps as much towards the Gothic as it does towards indie-dance. An ennui of rhythms, time changes and moods flip constantly between intense mania and more limbering no-wave downtown NYC Keith Herring doodled electro-funk. ‘Primal Urge’ is just that: a primal doom quickened, kettle rolling grunt of 80s Californian punk. ‘Jimmy Two-Dimes’ fucks up brilliantly The Strokes, and even, smashes up the NY Dolls and Suicide. But if we’re talking of real concentrated madness, ‘Dick Dastardly’ runs that cartoon scoundrel through a gruff free fall of James Chance, Ornate Coleman (yeah imagine that!) and space rock. Nothing short of a brilliant noise, energy directed for the benefit of all, a glorious skewered and deranged indie-dance album of punk snot petulance and fun.  (DV) Read In Full

Tony Price ‘Interview/Discount’
(Telephone Explosion)

First of all, got to thank and send love out to my postcard penpal Andy Haas (self-publicity really, as he does play on this record) for turning me onto this discovery from the multitasking Toronto visionary Tony Price. The New York based producer, musician, and songwriter makes his debut on the Telephone Explosion hub with a couplet of traversed vaporous jazzy meditations that seem to have been recorded from behind a cozy if mysterious fog. Maybe not a veiled fog, but as the first track from this side-long duo of tracks style album, ‘Interview’, is described in the accompanying blurb as “a meditative exploration of the tile-tunneled labyrinths of NYC’s subway system at night.” You could say a field recording of the most amorphous group of subway jazz buskers emanating thoughts and musings into the nocturnal ether.

The imbued fleeted spark of modal jazz, electro-funk and narcotic non-linearity of 1970s minimalism style LP is framed as “an electrifying collision of fractured jazz- concréte and combustible downtown funk that crushes the entire continuum between minimalism and maximalism into a hypnotic wreck of metropolitan sound matter.” In practice, to these ears, it sounds like a communion of the Cosmic Range and Zacht Automaat. A total winner in my book.  (DV)

Q…

Qred ‘Postcards From The Edge’
(Boom Bap Professionals)

Many more albums considered for this list were perhaps just shy of an X-factor or a little something special having made absolutely sure their beats and rhymes quota reached purist-pleasing levels. Postcards from the Edge has just such an extra gear, a showcase for producer Qred to tease sleek/showtime soul (talking itself away from the verge) and dominate with savage netherworlds (blindfolded frog marches to the brink) anchored by rhymers going hard in the paint, selected for their track-enhancing value rather than their slot-filling availability as per similar producer-lead projects. The clincher is a pretty stupendous mid-album fulcrum involving Dirt Platoon (‘Lashout’, aka the soundtrack to an extreme boot camp) and Tesla’s Ghost (‘Last Omen’, aka lights out to an extreme boot camp) mapping out a double kick of mental disintegration and metaphysical philosophy. Add in Cappo, in imperious form on album closer ‘End of the Line’ as the orchestra plays on from light years away, and Micall Parknsun, Ray Vendetta (‘Chalked Formulas’ and its creeping feel for the supernatural) and Junior Disprol all doing what they do best, and Postcards… demands delivery to those that like their hip-hop gnarled in the highest definition possible.  (MO)

Quakers ‘Quakers II: The Next Wave’
(Stones Throw)

Despite the shrinking economy seeing The Next Wave downsizing from the first instalment’s 41 tracks to a miserly 33, the Quakers project, still inexplicably part of the portfolio belonging to Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, returns with another treasure trove of cut-n-shunt hip-hop, punishing the pause button and laced with a fuse length of two minutes or less. Back with a few more conspicuous names amongst plentiful underground linguists – Sampa the Great, Nolan the Ninja, Jeru the Damaja, Jeremiah Jae – as well as second comings from Guilty Simpson, whose dour delivery is a glove-like fit, and Jonwayne (“don’t be sad, you ‘bout to hear some more bars soon” validating the network of cameos), the project remains a feat of concentrated, against-the-clock beatmaking from Barrow and cohorts Supa K and 7STU7. In the midst of upcycled soundtracks, high noon shootouts, grainy crate finds, boom-bap blitzkriegs and oddities distancing themselves from mere scraps, offcuts and loops, the chosen emcees are well aware of the make-or-break stakes they’re entering (especially when The Black Opera exercise their political right on ‘Gun Control’). Less magical mystery tour, more quantum leap, the Quakers’ cult status is comprehensively upheld.  (MO)

S…..

Ustad Saami ‘Pakistan Is For The Peaceful’
(Glitterbeat Records)

The only living master of an ancient Sufi devotional form in transcendence, the seventy-six year old Ustad Saami lives in hope that his transportive blessed “Surti” music may yet bring peace to a most turbulent and dangerous Pakistan. In a region in which fundamentalism holds a powerful grip of fear on the population, most forms of music that don’t conform to a strict Islamic code are banned or at the very least pressured to go underground. The danger is all too real and prevalent, and in venturing to Pakistan a few years ago to record the great adorations of Saami, the in-situ American producer Ian Brennan (no stranger to this blog) was taking a huge risk in recording this custodian’s venerated music for the Glitterbeat Records label.

Following on from the well-received 2019 album God Is Not A Terrorist this second brassy resonating, concertinaed and bellowed magisterial rich suite of incredibly hypnotic lengthy performances is even better. Joined by his four sons (Rauf, Urooj, Ahmed and Azeem), who both vocally respond to Saami’s paeans and provide an assortment of dipped, purposeful and reverberating harmonium, tambura and tabla, the master conjures up a holy out-of-body experience. Performing from Saami’s rooftop home in Karachi, this ensemble entrance and send the listener off into the inspired heavens.  (DV) Read In Full

Salem Trials ‘Do Something Dangerous’
(Metal Postcard Records)

This is the Metal Postcards label debut album from one of the bands of 2020 – a fact I’ve previously mentioned in reviewing their first two singles, both of which are featured on this wonderful album; the Captain Beefheart meets the Buzzcocks ‘Head On Rong’ and whip frenzy Wire like pop gem ‘Pictures Of Skin’. The rest of the tracks are no slouches either. Mining their influences from late 70s early 80s post-punk but without just being a post-punk photo fit band, the influences are there but they add their own unique twist, adding a beautiful wash of pop melody and some simply stunning guitar playing – especially on the beautifully dark but life enhancing ‘No Light Escapes’.

Andy Goz is one of the most inspiring guitarists I’ve heard in a very long time and is obviously not just an extremely talented musician but must also have a great knowledge and understanding of what makes great rock ‘n’ roll as the pre punk spirit of the Stooges, MC5 and The Pink Fairies are not just captured but hoisted on flag stands and waived as a taunting warning to all the other many less inspired guitar bands that there are new kids on the block, and this simply fine album is the benchmark that they probably have not a hope in hell of reaching. A simply stunning debut.  (BBS) Read In Full

Santa Sprees ‘Sum Total Of Insolent Blank’

This is a marathon of lo-fi joyful listening, an album of total inspiration. The Santa Sprees are a band after my own heart. Short songs filled with originality melody and humour, at times reminding me of Jonathan Richmond recording an LP for Motown with only a cheap Casio and an egg box in a padded box. This is the closest thing that has come close to an album catching the muse and madness of Brian Wilson circa Smile or even the Masterpiece that is the Beach Boys Love You. I love this album so much.  (BBS)

Sa-Roc ‘The Sharecropper’s Daughter’
(Rhymesayers)

Best believe DC’s “Roc is cooking something lovely in the cauldron”, and also know that she’s “openly emotional, cos closed mouths don’t ever get fed”. Pounding the road to enlightenment and getting up close without her gaze ever deviating, The Sharecropper’s Daughter always has an air of the pissed off, but with the verve to do something about it rather than stewing on it, Sa-Roc reasoning it’s better to join the cause rather than have believers fawning over her energy. Long-time go-to producer Sol Messiah makes himself heard with elements well placed between background and forefront, though unmistakable traces of Alicia Keys’ ‘You Don’t Know My Name’ are given short shrift on ‘Something Real’ as Roc gets fully into her stride before deciding on a surprisingly bubblegum chorus – not an isolated instance of smooth hooks and squeaky vocal pitches becalming tightly coiled rhymes. You can imagine Messiah cops a fair amount of unintentional, in-the-zone stinkeye when Roc gets on it, though her outlook is one that knows the true meaning of pressure – albums are easy, growing up as life unfolds (‘Forever’) with turbulence always within earshot is difficult, with Black Thought an ideal link to ‘The Black Renaissance’. “If you tryna knock me down, your demolition’s failed”- an enriching listen.   (MO)

Schizo Fun Addict  ‘The Last Wave’
(Flicknife Records) 

Schizo Fun Addict a band that should be cherished and held close to one’s heart. They are one of the many bands that deserve to be better known and raved about, so with this the new album I’m going to do just that and rave about the beauty and joy one can have by losing themselves in Schizo’s own and original sounding laid back beauty. Sixties psych merges with smooth American FM late night 70’s sounds and British 80’s pop, one of the only bands of today I can hear the influence of Prefab Sprout creep through as well as their obvious love of the Stone Roses and My Bloody Valentine.

The Schizos have so much going for them. Not just fine original musicians and great songwriters but they have one of the most beautiful female voices in modern pop with the candy covered angel whisper of Jayne Gabriel: a voice I could listen to all day and completely lose myself in.

So for anyone out there who hasn’t heard of the Schizo Fun Addict go and do yourselves a favour start with this album and then work your way back through the treasure of a back catalogue. And a treasure it surely is: a band to be treasured in fact.  (BBS) Read In Full

Shadow Show ‘Silhouettes’
(Stolen Body Records)

Any LP that kicks off with a wonderful blast of The Beatles’ ‘Taxman’ riffery (‘Charades’) is fine with me. Sparkling sixties jangle-tangle with melodies not heard since the last band decided that The Beatles are not such a bad thing, and if you are going to be influenced by anyone why not the greatest band ever.

Silhouettes as I have already mentioned in a few reviews of other new releases already this year, isn’t the most original of albums but it is a damn fine listen, filled as it is with great catchy guitar pop tunes. And Shadow Show is better than most at plundering the wonderful musical sounds the decade of the 60s produced.   (BBS) Read In Full

 

Slift  ‘Ummon’
(Stolen Body Records)

The Titan themed Ummon is a supersonic Hawkwind, with Steve Vai in tow as a band member, catching a lift on the Silver Surfers’ board, on an adventure into deep space. In search of one of the original heaven and earth usurpers, the Titan seer’s Hyperion (god of heavenly light, father to sun, moon and dawn deities Helios, Selene and Eos), the Toulouse trio of Slift go full on space rock opera with an interstellar epic of doom metal and heavy psychedelic prog. Trudging with ominous intentions as it is grandiose and squalling in a vortex of bombast, this lengthy conceptual opus swirls around a milky way inhabited by our makers: A universe that, as it happens, rocks to a sonic soundtrack of the Cosmic Dead, Ipsissimus, Sabbath, the Black Angels, Dead Meadows, Pink Floyd, the already mentioned Hawkwind, and at its most star-gazing, Spiritualized. Galactus sized riffs and crescendos are numerous as the stars in the Mother Sky on this Moorcockian misadventure.  (DV) Read In Full

Soft Plastics ‘5 Dreams’
(Paper Bag Records)

 

From the embers of Frog Eyes rises Carey Mercer’s vivid dreamology, the Soft Plastics; an extraordinary-voiced inhabited vision, playful, untethered yet also intense. With partner and creative foil Mel Campbell at his side and an intimate circle of musicians – many of which are from the ranks of fellow Canadian scenesters Destroyer – Mercer’s abstract dreams are channeled into a magical, if often sad, songbook of lyrical symbolism, metaphor and passages of trauma.

Everyone is probably aware of the idiosyncratic songwriter’s travails, coming out the other side of throat cancer years ago; the very best outcome an affect on his music career and obviously his already unique bellowed, sibilant, fluctuating, weaving vocals. Though free from a cohesive theme as such, amongst the recurring lyrics of “swirling”, allusions to a green miasma, “wyld thyngs” and an actor’s diorama there’s the constant presence of “angels”: guardians perhaps. But it’s the album’s references (again, perhaps) to Mercer’s most dramatic episode on ‘The Party’s Still On’ that evocatively alludes to that diagnosis: “Knocked on the roof of my mouth, and said “shelter me in warmth”.

Almost theatrical, the musical stage is expansive and deep, a counterbalance between the darkness and light. Sins, the omnipresence of a nuclear threat (of the winter, and family stasis kind), the pains of loss, and the biblical feature heavily on a soundtrack that omnivorously feeds on elements of lilted mariachi horns, industrial post-punk, ragged soul, new wave, shoegaze, pop, indie-dance, funk and Mercer’s back catalogue (Frog Eyes, Swan Lake). This means wandering hints of Blixa Bargeld, Talk Talk, Alex Harvey, Wolf Parade, The Mekons, New Pornographers and The Rapture.

Mercer’s dream weaving evocations are, as I’ve already said, extraordinary on this ambitious, mesmeric album suite. Cryptic and charged, wondrous and yet dark, the Soft Plastics go further and deeper into the psyche to fathom the unfathomable.  (DV) Read in Full

Stella Sommer ‘Northern Dancer’
(Northern Dancer Records/The Orchard)

A thawing of the Lutheran North European romantic malady that permeated Stella Sommer’s beautifully yearning 13 Kinds Of Happiness debut album (which also made our choice albums features), 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. 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.

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.  (DV) Read In Full

Staraya Derevnya ‘Inwards Opened The Floor’ (Raash Records)

A culmination of Café OTO Project Space recorded performances from 2017 and additional material from that same year to 2019, the latest avant-garde inter-dimensional experiment from the Russian-Israeli straddling Staraya Derevnya is part of treble release schedule. But I’ve chosen the hallucinatory doors-of-perception Inwards Opened The Floor, an expansive set of traverses, deconstructive marches and post-punk harangues built around lyrics inspired by the poems of Arthur Molev to put in this year’s choice albums of 2020 features.

Expanding to accommodate up to twelve musicians, and an assemblage of musique concrete apparatus, radio waves, voices and more conventional instruments the Staraya inhabit a shrouded soundscape of kosmische, post-punk and what can only be described as a kind of krautrock folk – think a meeting of The Faust Tapes and Can’s Unlimited scrapes and incipient windows in on cut short experiments but extended and more rhythmic. The poetry is as whispery and haunting as it is erratic and harassed on these most probing clattery, screamed, rasped but equally fantastical tracks. I’m hooked. This is an astonishing set of cross-city amorphous urges, lingers and deconstructions like no other; an avant-garde wandering into the tapestry of Russian folklore and magic dream realism.  (DV) ReadIn Full

Star Feminine Band ‘S/T’
(Born Bad Records)

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. With ages as young as ten, and the oldest only seventeen, there’s a long bright future ahead for this group, who create music that is nothing short of infectious sunshine joy.  (DV) Read In Full

T……

Tamikrest ‘Tamotaït’
(Glitterbeat Records)

Supposedly back with the most powerful statement since the group’s 2013 Chatma album, the message of Tamikrest’s fifth studio album is once again one of hope and reflection: a message that is literally reflected in the translation of the album’s Tamotaït title. Not that you’d know it from the poetically earthy longing vocals, but songs like the opening mirage-y gritty blues boogie ‘Awnafin’ are powered by a message of ‘defiance’, whilst the group’s percussionist and singer Aghaly Ag Mohamedine declares a message of a “revolution in the (Kel) Tamasheq culture”, when discussing the sirocco Future Days (at its most heavenly and liquid) buoyed narrated ‘As Sastnan Hidjan’. For something so revolutionary in rhetoric, and born out of such a tragic upheaval, the latest album is mostly an articulately electrified soulful affair that lingers and resonates between the sand dunes and the cosmic. Despite some rough and fuzzed guitar and a rocking beat, Tamikrest articulate a sighed, almost hushed form of gospel blues; especially spiritually diaphanous and enriched when a chorus of sweeter male and female vocalists weigh in, as they do on the down-and-sandy slide guitar and drum tabbing yearning ‘Amidinin Tad Adouniya’, and with the gossamer Balearics camel-motion ‘Amzagh’ – which sways close to the backing music of the band’s label mate, the Saharan siren Aziza Brahim.

Arguably always open to embracing sounds and music from outside Mali, Tamikrest find an affinity with the perfumed alluring coos and gauzy longing of the Moroccan singer/actress Hindi Zahra. So congruous and at ease with the setup, apparently she recorded her vocals without any rehearsal, on the first take. Her turn on this atonal dream sends the band on a wind across the Sahara towards Persia. Tamikrest also find kinship with the traditional music of Japan. Whilst on tour in the Far East, Ag Mohamedine was drawn to the spindly threaded and quivered sounds of the three-stringed, plectrum strummed ‘shamisen’ and five-string ‘tonkori’. Guesting on the album’s closer, ‘Tabsit’, Atsushi Sakta and Oki Kano lend an Oriental resonance to the group’s desert shimmered guitar tones in a union between two very different worlds. It’s another congruous fit, one that transcends both.

Roots music taken on a voyage of discovery to a myriad of compass points, Tamotaït once more transforms the lingered traces of desert blues and rock’ n ’roll to produce a richly woven tapestry of fired-up protestation and hope. (DV) Read In Full

Lou Terry ‘If I’m Me Who Are The Other One’ (Metal Postcard Records)

A shallow bathe in the lost beauty of misery and of love lost and found, the power of gentle melodies and the light touch of the lyrical twist really cannot be underestimated, and the master of all those things is Lou Terry whose If I’m Me Who Are The Other One albumis brimming with songs full of those qualities.

Recorded over the lockdown, like so much of the new music I’m listening to, it is graced – well with the grace and understanding and sublime loss that normally can be found in the outpourings of 80s Go Betweens and the obscure 70s home recordings of John Lennon. When Lou Terry’s voice cracks it is thing of true beauty as it does on ‘Sickly Peach’. You wonder how on earth he is not better-known; it has the same effect as spying a long-lost lover across the street and her shyly smiling the smile that breaks the passing of the years and in an instant you are eighteen and beholden, you are completely lost and once again under the power of her magical spell. And the beauty of this album achieves all this. It almost wants you to feel broken and betrayed lost and bewildered. If I’m Me Who Are The Other Three is the album to soundtrack the oncoming melancholy of Autumn nights: a thing of great beauty.  (BBS) Read In Full

Tiña  ‘Positive Mental Health Music’
(Speedy Wunderground)

As anybody who reads the reviews I’ve written for the Monolith Cocktail, or even heard my records knows, I am a sucker for slightly Syd Barrett/Television Personalities influenced psych. And so of course I’m going to enjoy this album. It has all the qualities one wants from their pop music; beguiling melodies, keyboards that swoon, and curtsy guitars that go from jangle to jangle: ‘Rooster’ even has a ‘Be My Baby’ drumbeat. It has all the boxes ticked; the lyrics of a quirky netherworld poetic, and the vocalist has a pleasing voice that has the right amount of cracking and whine in its timbre, the kind of voice one believes has had its heart broken at least twice in its life but has the good sense and fine enough black humour to get over it.

On the whole this is a mighty fine pop album and is really nicely produced. In fact, the kind of production that could tempt me from my bedroom and my beloved old tape four-track, and everyone knows that is indeed high praise.  (BBS) Read In Full

Toxic Chicken  ‘Live at Scaledown’

There is something quite stunningly beautiful in this 15-minute live performance from the Toxic Chicken, recorded at Scaledown – described as London’s finest hidden event. This is the sound of the experimental underground at its best; electronica psychedelia and subtle humor merge into a bewitching hypnotic instrumental mantra one can lose and then re-find oneself in. Part 1967 era Beatles, part Syd’s Floyd and part Aphex Twin this is really gripping stuff. A joy to behold.  (BBS) Read in Full

V……..

Various ‘La Locura de Machuca: 1975 – 1980’
(Analog Africa)

Quite possibly the kookiest oddity so far in the Analog Africa catalogue, this distant outlandish relative to the label’s Diablos Del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Pot 1960 – 1985 compilation from 2012, is the sort of “B-movie” discovery you’d expect Finders Keepers to release. From the same international Colombian gateway of Barranquilla as that collection’s purview, La Locura de Machuca: 1975 – 1980 features a similar spread of Afro-Colombian saunters, scuttles and scratchy percussive funk as that record, yet finds a twist: a kink. For all the familiar traces of that folkloric electrified Cumbia, the Caribbean-African-Colombian hybrid Champeta Criolle, and the Congolese rumba (to name just a few styles), the music that flourished from the Colombian underground is…well, different. Much of this is down to the genius and bizarre mind of the former tax-lawyer turn record company executive Rafael Machuca, who wowed and seduced by the Barranquilla music scene jacked in the day job to set-up and sit behind the control desk as the producer of his own label enterprise, Disco Machuca. This compilation is the story of that maverick’s misadventures in sounds, a collection of rare carnival lolloping space age garage, Afro-funk, disco and psychedelic releases from the label’s roster of Columbian stars and the bands that were created in the studio for one-off productions. Odd, but absolutely essential album for those looking for some South American exotica.  (DV)  Read In Full

Various ‘Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi 1985-1997’
(Sofa Records & Bongo Joe)

Music from the North African geography of the Maghreb as you’ve probably never heard it; shimmying with Arabian trinkets, rapid tabbing hand drums and exotic sand dune fantasy certainly, yet made otherworldly cosmic and electro-fied for the burgeoning democratized age of affordable low end tech: welcome to the Arabian expat scene in 80s and 90s Lyon. From the assured collators Bongo Joe and, on this compilation, their partners Sofa Records, a eight-song collection of Casio-preset and synthesized transformed musical poetry and lovelorn heartache from a myriad of Algerian artist’s that congregated around the French city’s North Eastern African café and bar hub. For the first time ever, the Maghreb K7 Club LP makes available a smattering of tracks on vinyl; tunes like the Arabian milky way swish ‘Maliky a Malik’ by Zaidi El Batni and the bandy, slinky liquid pop mirage with soothing female sighs ‘Goultili Bye Bye’ by funk-disco maestro Nordine Staïfi. Nordine gets two bites of the dancefloor glazed cherry on this album; his second feature, the infectious whistle-and-clap summer hit ‘Zine Ezzinet’ is a standout highlight – imagine an Arabian Nile Rodgers mixing down an Orange Juice funk. Worth a punt just to own that ‘Zine Ezzinet’ track, this compilation from Bongo Joe and friends is a wonderful platform to discover another bit of ear-opening musical history. (DV) Read In Full

Vukovar ‘The Colossalist’
(Other Voices Records)

Death’s morbid shadow looms large over the spoilt Gothic and postindustrial romanticisms of Vukovar. Once more indebted to the influence of the late underground malcontent cult figure, and much-troubled, Simon Morris (of Ceramic Hobbs infamy and more), who’s tragic omnipresence can be heard (literally) ringing out in a vaporous elegiac homage on the final curtain call of the band’s eighth and newest grand opus, The Colossalist, Vukovar reels in mourning after his suicide late last year – the album was released to coincide with the anniversary of his death. Spirits then, loom large from the ether across this latest installment in the band’s history; a constant spooky, eerie gloom that prevails against the bruised and mentally fatigued New Romantic wide-eyed-boy soul led plaintive heartache of the vocals and narration. It is a marked death in the sense of the former incarnation of Vukovar disbanding. And so with the deathly spine-tingles of inevitability also comes a “rebirth”, as the next chapter of this Northwest of England troupe announce a second, third, fourth (I’ve lost count) coming, framed as the “NeuPopAct”. A devilish work; a full-on enigmatic experience of Gothic soul and pop, Vukovar’s latest overhaul, refresh, still maintains a connection with past triumphs, yet seems even more heavenly, strung out in the void of wide-eyed despair. Honed to a point and as curious as ever in skulking the inferno and dank specter of preening cloaked magik, this album offers a therapeutic release for its creators (and perhaps us); for it is a murky but resigned romantic escape that by timely accident marks the stresses, uncertainty of the pandemic. The statuesque Greek mythological vague connection entitled eighth album in the Vukovar cycle is another imaginative totem from a band with little sign of flagging; the ideas just keep flowing down the cerebral canal that resembles the River Styx.  (DV)  Read In Full

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/Matt Oliver/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Welcome to part two of the Monolith Cocktail’s choice favourite albums of 2020 three-parter.

Because we’ve never seen the point in arguing the toss over numerical orders, or even compiling a list of the best of albums of the year, the Monolith Cocktail’s lighter, less competitive and hierarchical ‘choice albums’ features have always listed all entrants in alphabetical order. We also hate separating genres and so everybody in these features, regardless of genre, location, shares the same space.

Void of points systems and voting, the Monolith Cocktail team selection is pretty transparent: just favourites and albums we all feel you, our audience, should check out. Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver and Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea have made the selections this year.

F.

Forest Robots ‘After Geography’
(Wormhole World)

With a deep connective respect to the landscapes this intrepid mountaineer and sonic explorer has scaled and traversed, Fran Dominguez as Forest Robots provided a subtly evocative safe space in the most tumultuous of times this year.

When all the elements of a virus epidemic and the ongoing tensions of Black Lives Matter mix with the divisive rage of social media and fake news, the only tool we have left to navigate the storm of constant faux-outrage is “intuition”. Put both together, as the California-based trekker Dominguez has done, and you get a most beautifully subversive ambient soundtrack; a tenderly produced sonic psychogeography of both the synthesized and naturalistic, a million miles away from the hubbub and stress of the online world. A sort of self-help guide for contemplation and rest you could say, the softened bobbing and trickled piano notes and gently blowing winds washing over the listener with just enough depth and interest to transport them to the awe-inspiring landmarks of nature.

An escapist sonic cartography that breaths in the influences of Roedelius, Boards Of Canada, Erik Satie, Harold Budd, Nils Frahm and Small Craft On A Milk Sea era Eno, this album covers the terrain in a gauze of delicate resonance, notation and obscured woody movements. It’s nothing less than a most wonderful, immersive and subtle transformative escape, and one of the year’s best ambient albums. (Dominic Valvona) Read In Full.

G..

Mike Gale
‘The Star Spread Indefinite’

The former Co-Pilgrim and Black Nelson instigator Mike Gale may have retired from performing live some time ago now, but he’s still been highly prolific in recording (even through lockdown). Using his trusty 32-track TASCAM cassette recorder, in just the last 18 months Gale has released the Pacific Ocean lulled sorrowed album, Summer Deluxe, a recent compilation of (far from) unfinished works and B-side paeans and breezes entitled B, C, D Side Volume 1, and a lockdown mini-album, Sunshine For The Mountain God. And with his most recent acoustic-led songbook, Gale furnishes us with the astral dreamy entitled, The Star Spread Indefinite.

With soothing élan and shimmery dreaminess, Gale aches and wistfully fights through the disappointment, knock backs and anxiety to lift himself above it all with the repeated mantras of “I’ll get my wish”, or, “This year I’m going to make it.”

Gale evokes a harmonious gauzy soundtrack wash of The Beach Boys; the Laurel Canyon dappled loveliness of Marc Eric; a beachside relocated epic45; and a meeting between Roger Bunn and Sparklehorse on what is a very personal, reflective songbook. (DV) Read In Full

Maalam Mahmoud Gania ‘Aicha’
(Hive Mind Records)

After various cultural excursions in South America, Arabia and West Java, Hive Mind Records went full circle to the “Gnawa” music that launched them, with a striking reissue package of the beatific Aicha album by the form’s late great doyen Maalam Mahmoud Gania. It was of course Gania’s final studio album Colours Of The Night that first kicked off the label a few years ago. Now, picking up on that saintly venerating Moroccan music again, and in collaboration with Gania’s family, the label chose a moment of great turmoil (you could say it was a calm, healing balm just when we needed it most) to release a previously shrouded 90s cassette tape of entrancing communion and invocations from an artist rightly celebrated for pushing the Islamic spiritual devotional poetry, dance and musical form of Gnawa beyond his hometown of Essaouira to an international audience.

Aicha, itself a reference to “she of many monikers”, a powerful female entity with untold mythical origins, is rich with the anticipated quivery strums and throbbing tensions of Gania’s “gumbari” – a camel-skin covered three-string lute. Bowed, stringy and incessant, but gentler and deeper than his playing on Colours Of The Night, Gania’s signature instrument weaves a nice bluesy accompaniment to his soulful exaltations. As always Gania’s gumbari lead is joined by the scuttled, scratchy tin paddled percussive rhythm of the iron castanets, the “krakebs”. It all makes for a lively but soothing liturgy of entrancing adulation and praise: a safe spiritual space away from the hubbub and divisive mud slinging.  (DV) Read In Full

Gunn-Truscinski Duo ‘Soundkeeper’
(Three Lobed Recordings)

Swirling around in a vaporous pool – quite literally, with two of the recordings improvised at the Union Pool in Brooklyn – the untethered drum and guitar duo of John Truscinski and foil Steve Gunn drift, linger and leave ripples of shimmering jazz, cosmic country, prog and Kosmische style immersions on their fourth album together. They sail across a burnished topographic ocean as they evoke hints of Yonatan Gat, Ash Ra Temple, Rhyton, Raül Refree, Dirt Music, and a Peter Green led vision of Pink Floyd on the UFO oscillated, wafted dreamy ‘Distance’. Continuous waves, stirrings and often beautifully created circular loops birth a mesmerizing soundtrack of mystery, space age moseying, howled desert blues vistas and caustic crescendos. An interlocking but also freely explorative combo, Gunn’s ever-evolving, moving and ramped up guitar fills the space as Truscinski’s cymbal shimmers and splashes, paddling toms and rolls weave in and out of consciousness and the atmospheric shroud. An incredible set of peregrinations and articulations. (DV)

H…

Hallelujah!  ‘Wanna Dance’
(Maple Death Records)

From the caustic, abrasive noise raises a limbering fucked-up no wave punk contortion you can dance to: Within reason and with the use of heavy opioids and imagination. Having discarded the lead guitar for that most rudimentary but beloved of early synths, the Korg MS20, Verona’s disruptive Hallelujah! put a real (di)stress on their main motivator; cranking up and pulling the dials until the lift off and scream into a vortex.

Pared down to a trio, after one of the troupe quit, this industrial unit collide with early Mute Records, DAF, Peter Kernel and The Pop Group on an heavy strength album of seedy scuzz and Italo-grime-y disdain. Sung, hysterically and with disruptive sneering petulance, in English you can’t mistake the reactionary spite and goofed erraticism of letting off steam. And if you do, a track title such as ‘Burka For Everyone’ will soon set you straight. Anyway, it forces its way into and occupies the brain, before leaving its scorched marks with a quick spasm of disruptive jerk-off punked and retro-synth dance chaos.

Rome might well be burning, but Verona’s disgruntled angst noiseniks just fucking “wanna dance”. (DV) Read In Full

 

Jon Hassell ‘Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two)’

Progenitor of the borderless and amorphous evocatively traced, hazy dream experiments, Jon Hassell’s transmogrified nuzzling trumpet and sonic soundscape textures have inspired a generation of artists over the last forty odd years. The composer and trumpet player’s pathway, from adroit pupil of Stockhausen to seminal work on Terry Riley’s harangued piano guided In C, encompassed an polygenesis of influences: a lineage that draws inspiration from avant-garde progenitors like La Monte Young, and travels far and wide, absorbing sounds from Java to Burundi. Hassell attempted a reification of what he would term the “fourth world”; a style that reimagined an amorphous hybrid of cultures; a merger between the traditions and spiritualism of the third world (conceived during the “cold war” to denote any country that fell outside the industrious wealthier West, and not under the control of the Soviet Empire) and the technology of the first.

Though he has continued to produce futuristic amorphous peregrinations, his back catalogue has in more recent years been rediscovered through various reissues. As a companion piece to the first in the Pentimento series of albums, 2018’s Listening To Pictures suite, a second volume, Seeing Through Sound, was released this year. Pentimento is defined as the “reappearance in a painting of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over”; a process, a layering of coats that is reflected musically on this ghostly visage of an experimental vision.

Touching on all the various Hassell signatures there’s the foggy-headed mysterious lurking, fanning rayed, early Can metronomic ‘Fearless’ (one of my favourite tracks of 2020); the shroud of mysterious voices and reverberating avant-garde stretched, ripples in the fabric blues of ‘Unknown Wish’; and suffused trumpet blown, tingled creeps across a fretboard shivering deep space probe ‘Lunar’ to all comprehend and be unfathomed. A startling piece of work from beginning to end, with Hassell sounding just as relevant and cosmically amorphous as he has always done. (DV)

Holy Hive ‘Float Back To You’
(Big Crown Records)

The year’s most laid back and sweetest album of soulful folk, the debut songbook from the drumming session veteran Homer Steinweiss and his foil, troubadour-guitarist-with-the-most-exquisite-falsetto, Paul Spring is utterly beguiling and gorgeous. Roping in the carefully placed and lightly resonating deep bass playing caresses of Joe Harrison to makeup the Holy Hive project, the trio take their session and live absorptions of such new-soul acolytes as Lee Childs and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings to the Laurel Canyon and dappled light pastures of England’s 60s beat music stages.

Covering the romantic plaintive delicate brilliance of the all-too-forgotten Honeybus, whilst reimaging Marvin Gaye fronting The Byrds, the Hive float dreamily to a Motown Fleet Foxes, out-on-the-range Bacharach, suffused and serenaded sun-bleached horns, and an air of late Beatles. Steinweiss’s backbeat often evokes the El Michaels Affair or Mark Ronson’s R&B soul productions, whilst Spring’s guitar eases into a wistful lilt, and his vocals, well they evoke everything from Smokey Robinson to the Zombies and Californian doo wop. A magical album for fans of the soul-indie set such as Brain Story and Karate Boogaloo, but much, much better.  (DV)

Homeboy Sandman ‘Don’t Feed The Monster’
(Mello Music Group)

The affable New Yorker Homeboy Sandman seems to have trained his rhymes to fit beats even more perfectly – topical, personal, never dumbed down, never over-scientific, always well read, within well spaced bars you feel you can rap along to. However, that he starts with the revealing review of the human condition on ‘Trauma’ shows that it’s not all plain sailing, verifying the album’s educational aspect for both listeners and himself as the ‘Monster’ in the room becomes a symbol for self-assessment. By no means a bad look right now, investigations continue, detailing how to handle yourself on ‘Stress’ and ‘Don’t Look Down’, and bubbling up into ‘Biters’, lashing out at all thieves and opportunists. His always entertaining domestic travails continue, keeping his head above water on the sweetly awkward ‘Alone Again’, while the biggest compliment you can pay ‘Waiting On My Girl’ is that the good natured clockwatching and eye-rolling is ripe for an answer record. Quelle Chris on production is both kindred spirit and wayward foil with an ear for ramshackle tangents and the off-road, but is always in sync for what is arguably Sandman’s best album to date.  (Matt Oliver)

I….

The Icebergs ‘Add Vice’
(Imaginator Records)

Beautifully strange is the only way to describe this marvelous album of pure poetic bliss. What grabs me from the off are the wonderful lyrics (an art form much ignored in the music biz today). Lyrical streams of them flowing weaving beautiful, frightening heart-breaking images throughout, bringing the early works of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey in a mellow mood to mind and musically reminding me of Nick Cave’s band of merry men, the Bad Seeds, rockabilly folk, the Velvet’s guitar pop and the sounds of late Seventies no-wave, all merging to form a canvas for the poet Jane LeCroy to paint beautifully vivid pictures with her wonderful prose and wonderful voice. (Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea) Read In Full

Idiot Blur Fanboy ‘Oasis Are The Enemy’
(Wormhole World) 

Nepotism time again, with the second Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea entry in this year’s features (see part one), this time under the needling Brit-pop alter ego of Idiot Blur Fanboy. Brian’s latest dysfunctional and despondent Tascam rubber-band four-track triumph Oasis Are The Enemy pours a bucket of cold sick over not only the sorry excuse for a Ruttles tribute band but their mockney middleclass rivals Blur. But this isn’t just an obsessive ranting diatribe – even if the George Formby meets Mark E Smith twat-gait breezy ‘Liam Gallagher’ ditty is an excuse to take a pop: “Walks like he shat himself, sings like a spud” -; more a title and lyric that encapsulates the sorry state of the music industry and pockets of fandom still living in a recent past.

The rest of Brian’s ruminations and idiosyncratic observed, musical inspirations littered diy poetry concerns love-lost resignation, electric-soup connoisseurs of lethal strong lager, wistful remorse, regret and even a tinge of that nostalgia. ‘Cabbage Patch Doll Kiss’ is in the melancholic romantic vogue; a cantering malady with some of the album’s best lines (and there are many): “My hat was a garden, now it’s a rubbish tip. You were the captain of my favourite bath ship.” –Syd Barret eat your heart out. The wisdom of a St. Helens Daniel Johnston or Dan Treacy on the dole, the stripped down Idiot Blur Fanboy album is a triumph of lo fi integrity in an age in which all the counterculture and underground ‘mutherfuckers’ have disappeared into mediocrity or under the fleeting caviler relationship of streaming. Someone cares though, and for that they deserve your support and pocket money. Let’s see what we can do to keep such genuine mavericks afloat. (DV) Read In Full

Irreversible Entanglements ‘Who Sent You?’
(International Anthem)

A conscious freeform entanglement of barely contained anger, stresses and contortions from an ensemble formed off the back of a Musicians Against Police Brutality gig five years, the second longplayer from the Brooklyn ensemble of the hour is just as confusing and lamentable as the times they are trying to reflect: So that’s a success then.

Like a strangulated blues whelp and tumult of avant-garde jazz and Sarah Webster Fabio style narrated poetic protestations, Who Sent You? Comes on like a seething Coltrane jamming with Sam Rivers, Bobby Jackson, Miles Davis Septet era and Binker And Moses. It’s an ambitious opus that rises from a rolling ancestral travail in the Deep South to galloping ritualistic polemics on the Pope. Untethered, tracks like ‘No Más’ offer a sublime rolling gauzy horns waft of what sounds like a beatified tapestry of actions and contemplations.

Join Camae Ayewa (aka Moor Mother), saxophonist Keir Neuringer, trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, bassist Luke Stewart, and drummer Tcheser Holmes now on this political fierce and wailed, strained, springy and suffused horns remonstration. As it happens both Holmes and Navarro appear in this list a bit further down with their disentanglement from the ensemble partnership project. (DV)

J…..

Juga-Naut ‘Bem’
(Juga-Naut)

“If you burn this album to CD-R and play it in a red Subaru estate, you will evolve” – business as usual then from Nottingham’s jewel in the crown Juga-Naut, definitely not guilty of putting all his Faberge eggs in one basket with this, his fourth album in three years and also preceding 2020’s dogged Twelve Bricks LP, built in partnership with Micall Parknsun. Still dealing in high rolling that you won’t/can’t begrudge, Bem keeps up with bounce of the boy-done-good (“I’m avant-garde, with a touch of the backyard”), especially when Jugz ups the dry ice and lets his hair down on the Chromeo-cut crystals of ‘Woodgrain’ and ‘Satin Sculptures’, the album’s prevalent zing peaking without parody. His own version of Drake’s ‘Started from the Bottom’ on ‘Jackson Pollock’ then maximises the lord of the manor cockiness that has rarely been as appealing and instructional (and ready to step on suckers). Appearances from Liam Bailey, Children of ZeusTyler Daley and Stu Bangas on the boards for ‘Worthy’ and ‘One Tonne’, add gloss to 35 minutes of professional prosperity.  (MO)

K……

Bastien Keb ‘The Killing Of Eugene Peeps’
(Gearbox Records)

Channeling Tom Waits via The Wu-Tang Clan, Yoni Wolf and Bukowski, multi-instrumentalist, producer and artist Sebastian Jones, under his Bastien Keb alter ego, produced a sprawling understated epic of a soundtrack narrative this year. The soundtrack to an American-noir-meets-Jackie Brown-meets-cross-continental-cult-60s movie that’s playing out in his head, this ambitious suite of partly lulled and narrated cinematics, instrumentals and set pieces is as diaphanous as it is mournful.

A work in three parts (the film score, soundtrack and incidental music), the dead-body-in-the-room Peeps diorama is not so much told as a murder mystery but dissected in the form of soliloquys and resigned derisions on how this sad tragic event unfolded. Permeating echoes of dub, vibes, Ethno-jazz, Bernard Estardy, Miklos Roza, James Reese And The Progressions, Curtis Mayfield and hip-hop, can be found throughout. And with plenty of title riffing on crime flick inspirations, Jones uses leitmotif nods to cult composers such as Lalo Schifrin, Issac Hayes, Alessandro Alessandroni and Krzysztof.

This is a most beautiful, ambitious if often traumatic inquiry of a fully released drama, a filmic album of great depth and scope that has Jones use his personal struggles to a cinematic soundtrack of poignant drama and grief. (DV) Read In Full

The Koreatown Oddity ‘Little Dominique’s Nosebleed’
(Stones Throw)

So titled because of one of two childhood car accidents that the Cali emcee details, both divulged with only a slight shrug regarding the gravity of the situation, The Koreatown Oddity never has to hold the mic too tight or step in too deep, but packs a delivery making for an engaging warts-and-all chronicle of his sunny Los Angeles upbringing and surroundings (“it’s funny how a place I was raised is my nickname”). A funk and soul stew, switched up and down like a sudden grab for the FM dial and the difference between a Sunday drive and joyride, cooks to the tune of TKO’s easygoing, stoner charm/natural dope (his list of demands on the track ‘Koreatown Oddity’ show he’s not gone big-time just yet) who’s also a bit of wildcard in sorting his grown man business from his big kid persuasions/character building, and with his ear closer to the ground than first impressions suggest. ‘A Bitch Once Told Me’ and the pass-the-mic ‘Attention Challenge’ are crude but crafty call-and-response winners, and though it’s unclear whether he’d revel in or dismiss the cult status this album proffers, Nique’s Nosebleed is a total knockout.  (MO)

Kutiman ‘Wachaga’
(Siyal Music)

Ornate Coleman, Andrew Weatherall, Orlando Julius and Le Mystere Jazz de Tomboctou meet at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro on the multi-instrumentalist and producer extraordinaire Ophir Kutiel’s magical, tribal resonance merger of local sounds from East Africa and electronica jazz. Under the Kutiman signature, Kutiel transforms source recordings from a drumming school in the Tanzanian city of Arusha, bell-wearing dancers and a chorus of female singers, and recordings of his jazzy troupe back in the studio (a trio of players that features a trombonist, saxophonist and trumpeter) into a fourth world conception of amorphous rituals, ceremonial dances and peregrinations. These elements all combine to produce a liquid motion dreamy and translucent suffused soundtrack that wafts between ‘Raunchy’ Mardi Gras, Ethno-Jazz, dub, oceanic submergence, and Jon Hassell. Wachaga takes electronic music, jazz and ethnography into a sophisticated, dreamy and re-imagined sonic mirage of exploration and immersion.  (DV)

L…….

The Legless Crabs  ‘No Way No Wave’
(Metal Postcard Records)

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.  (BBS) Read In Full

Lina_Raül Refree ‘S/T’
(Glitterbeat Records)

Stripped bare and rebuilt from the foundations up, the congruous and accentuate sonic and voice union of the Clube de Fado striking siren Lina and experimental guitarist, producer Raül Refree subtly revived the often sullen and forlorn Portuguese tradition of ‘fado’ earlier this year. Working together for the first time, this collaborative partnership transformed a classic songbook of material made famous by the queen of fado, Amália Rodrigues, whilst keeping an essence of that folkloric style’s veneration and plaintive pull.

The dynamics of these two artists works in part because of Refree’s lack of investment or adherence to fado’s signatures and history. Relatively unburdened by its weighty worthiness, though no less respectful, these classical lamentable yearns and ballads open out into magical realism, the dreamy and the esoteric. On the echoed ‘Sta Luzia’ Lina sounds like a Portuguese transmogrification of Marianne Faithfull singing the ‘Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’, and on the rising torrid haunted sea omen ‘Gaivota’ you can hear touches of Diamanda Galas.

Bellowed, ghostly, sensual, soothed and melodic: this album is all of these. Yet it is also sparse and stripped, almost to just the faintest of renderings with Refree’s presence at times almost recorded from beyond the ether. Fado’s legacy is in good hands as it lingers on into a new decade with a contemporary purpose.  (DV) Read In Full

The Lounge Bar Orchestra ‘Pilot Episode’

What we have here ladies and gentlemen is the coolest hip swing finger popping LP of the year; music that takes you from the dire depressing early months of 2020 to a time when the sun always shone; when there were only three TV channels and half the time they were showing a test card with some little girl [who actually looked a lot like my wife] playing noughts and crosses with some strange cuddly toy. And this LP could in fact be the music playing that you listened to as you lost yourself in that test card, staring waiting to see if the girl would blink passing the time as you waited for Bagpuss to start.

This ladies and gentlemen is the sound of a variety shows of the late sixties early seventies when you had to name that tune and that tune could well be something off this mighty fine album. This could be the music as Anthe twirled and Bruce felt something move in the trouser department. The music I would imagine Parker played as he drove Lady Penelope around the countryside in the pink six wheeled Fab 1. For god’s sake this LP is cool enough to be the soundtrack for “The Man In The Suitcase” and let’s be honest it does not get any cooler than that.  (BBS) Read In Full

The Loved Drones  ‘Conspiracy Dance’
(Freaksville)

The album starts with ‘Lights’, a storm of backwards guitars lash into a space rock John Fox hybrid of originality and a forerunner and tempter of what is to come, and what is to come is a musical journey through the sometimes dark sometimes magical but always entertaining world of the Loved Drones.

But as we know all the best bands have the slightly away with the fairy’s quality, always one step away from the mad house, and the Loved Ones have that quality in spades alongside their other important qualities like song writing talent – both lyrically and musically – and as previously mentioned, a love of rock n roll history. So you get a wonderful mishmash of influences from the psychedelic through synth pop and prog to pure pop magic and post-punk glory.

This is an album that would make the world a better place by every household owning a copy: an album that emits love, humour and joy, and one that should be played in schools to describe the phrase “the magic of music”.  (BBS) Read In Full

Lucidvox ‘We Are’
(Glitterbeat Records)

Hard as (nine inch) nails, Lucidvox’s stoic choral enwrapped vocalist Alina stands at the epicenter 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 spiraling siren horror.

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. Rebellious dangerous but somehow dreamy and entrancing, Lucidvox prove a spellbinding brutalism of a rock band. (DV) Read In Full

M……..

Valentina Magaletti & Marlene Ribeiro ‘Due Matte’
(Commando Vanessa)

A communion of sonic forebode and untethered visions of the universal, the collaborative Due Matte performance ascension brings together Valentina Magaletti (of Vanishing Twins fame) and her foil Marlene Ribeiro (of both Gnod and Negra Brancia) to forge an uninterrupted exploration of what the artistic partnership has coined “tropical concrete”. A counterbalance of the improvised and form, the natural and augmented, synthesized effects and the acoustic, this tropical concrete soundscape weaves recognizable instrumentation with (as the ‘concrete’ of that term would suggest) a masked assemblage of found objects and utensils. And so, an ever-present tolled, processional frame drum patters out a repetitive beat as the trinkets of tapped bottles, scrapped tin and other metallic objects trickle or scratch across a mysterious alchemy of Latin esotericism and an ever-shifting echoed soundbed of filters.

This, the third release on the burgeoning Italian ‘boutique label’ Commando Vanessa, was originally performed as part of Francisca Marques’ curated project Hysteria; a result of the collaborators artistic residency at Sonoscopia in Porto, a project conceived to ‘offer a look at female production and creation in today’s musical universe, creating new bridges between creators and audiences.’ The fruits of this strange, mostly uncalculated vision of artistic freedom traverse a mirror-y, occasionally primal, world of abstracted death knolls and rituals, under a killing moon. Let’s hope there’s more to come from this congruous union in the future.  (DV) Read In Full

Nduduzo Makhathini ‘Modes Of Communication: Letters From The Underworlds’
(Blue Note Records) 

Adroit, spiritual award-winning South African pianist and composer Nduduzo Makhathini’s traverses his South African roots on the debut album for the prestigious Blue Note label. Nduduzo grew up in the lush and rugged hillscapes of umGungundlovu in South Africa, a peri-urban landscape in which music and ritual practices were symbiotically linked. The area is significant historically as the site of the Zulu king Dingane’s kingdom between 1828 and 1840. It’s important to note that the Zulu is deeply reliant on music for motivation and healing. This embedded symbiosis is key to understanding Makhathini’s vision on the grandiose, classy Modes of Communication: Letters From The Underworlds.

Imbued by church music and the sounds of Bheki Mseleku, Moses Molelekwa, Abdullah Ibrahim, McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane, and what sounds like Nate Morgan, the pianist maestro and his guests wonderfully swing through a lavish suite of spiritual and hymnal compositions and quicksteps. A choral suffusion of ethereal-swooning and goddess voices permeate an album that both references Blue Note’s burgeoning catalogue of the 1950s and 60s, and splashes in the healing waters of Afro-jazz: Big band meets Sun-Ra; pastoral African song mergers with the Savoy label.

The roll call of guests on this album features the American alto saxophonist Logan Richardson along with a South African band that includes Linda Sikhakhane on tenor saxophone, Ndabo Zulu on trumpet, Zwelakhe-Duma Bell Le Pere on bass, Ayanda Sikade on drums, and Makhathini’s wife Omagugu and daughter Nailah on backing vocals. All come together in a beatific and yearning performance on one of 2020’s most accomplished understated jazz epics.  (DV)

Luke Mawdsley ‘Vulgar Displays Of Affection’
(Maple Death Records)

For those of you with a morose curiosity you’ll find that Luke Mawdsley’s metaphorical river of consciousness runs deep with it. The former Mugstar guitarist circumnavigates the dark waters of trauma and anxiety on his second solo outing, Vulgar Displays Of Affection. Billed as a “cathartic meticulous journey brimmed with emotion and failure”, Mawdsley’s masked warped and slurring daemonic spoken-word mise en scène dictation goes up against the caustic, throbbing void of Coil like synthesized minimalist industrial electronica on one of the year’s most challenging but essential immersions.

The lyrics themselves either slither through the mulch of a mashed-up brain or almost predatory turn subjects into the lurid and dangerous. There are various play-on-words type track titles, from ‘Vauxhall (Cavalier) & I’ – a space-echoed car boot lubricated with a threatening musk – to ‘A Grudge Supreme’, and a chilling Ry Cooder blues fantasy built around the fictional parody of the Dr. Steve Brule hosted public access psycho-analysis spoof, Check It Out! Sometimes despite the pain, distress and that creepiness, Mawdsley can offer a twisted sort of humour with the surreal images he conjures up. And the music does offer some lovely melodious waves, and even the glimmer of something less claustrophobic.

A deeply revealing experience of the lurid, coarse, disturbing and vivid, Mawdsley’s immure vulgar displays rest wearily upon the shoulders. In this cursed time of uncertainty and vehement argument, the pained artist struggles through the miasma of indignity to create a drip-feed of chthonian distress.  (DV) Read In Full

Lisa Mychols & Super 8 ‘ST’

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.  (BBS) Read In Full

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Harold Nono  ‘We’re Almost Home’
(Bearsuit Records)

What we have here the rattle-tattle of experimental pop music, the sound of one’s mind losing itself in the magical world of sci-fi movies and 60s spy movie soundtracks: An LP to be played whilst reading Beat poetry. This could have been playing in the car when Dylan uttered the immortal line “give the anarchist a cigarette!” in “Don’t look Back”. It is a collision of Neu, John Barry, John Coltrane and My Bloody Valentine, which Joe Meek has collected up and put into one great melting pot. It’s genre non specific as all great experimental pop music should be and this album is great, it captures the many moods of life from the hip swinging happy to the crestfallen beauty of the sad.Bearsuit Records have once again released an album of true original beauty and if there is any justice in the world should be finding themselves in the best LPs of the year lists (like this one). A true gem.  (BBS) Read In Full

Thiago Nassif  ‘Mente’
(Gearbox Records)
 

Feted no less by “no wave” off-kilter maverick and former Lounge Lizard Arto Lindsay, the Brazilian multi-instrumentalist and producer Thiago Nassif has made a name for himself over the last decade for producing the most idiosyncratic tropical-flavoured pop music. Drawn to Nassif’s transformed visions of bossa nova and samba, Lindsay, who has a reputation for refreshing those genres and working with many of the forms star turns, has co-produced a number of albums for the Rio-based artist; including this latest neon afterglow, Mente.

Channeling some of the American all-rounder’s past productions, most notably his work with the legend Caetano Veloso and more contemporary Tom Zé, Nassif balances those balmy softened open-toed sandal sauntering rhythms with harder edged experimental no wave and synthesized tubular metallics. It’s a juxtaposition of atmospherics, of light and shade, of the organic and plastic, and even languages: Portuguese and English. In practice this sounds pretty brilliant; a liquid (a blancmange even) of often slinking, bubbling, uptown/downtown Beck, Eno & Cale, Prince, Ariel Pink and St. Vincent, picked up and flown to a retro-futuristic Brazilian beachfront nightclub.

Very imaginative and experimental, Nassif pushes South American music into exciting directions with an album that oozes a coolness of liquid tropical no and new wave. Mente surfs a delicious ebb and flowing tide of quirky “plastique” pop: A leopard skin upholstered, neon lit sumptuous groove of the fuzzy, fizzling and sauntering.  (DV) Read In Full

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

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 (who also feature in our albums of 2020), 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”.

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.  (DV) Read in Full

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/Matt Oliver/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Dominic Valvona Forward:

Christ what a depressing annus horribilis 2020 was. Putting aside the pandemic, this was another divisive turd of a year, with hyperbolic indignities and the childish naïve persecution of nearly everything and everyone outside the virtue-card carrying trends of “black square” signaling. Whilst many of my peers were casting the aspirations, collecting bracken for the ritual burnings of the faithless, and delivering the most hypercritical of grandstanding statements on diversity, we were continuing as ever as the outsiders to carry on with a normal service of sharing the most eclectic music from artists across the globe. So many of the most voluminous in this regard are the most guilty of not adhering to their own pontifications: I won’t list them here, but they know who they are; the sort of blog/site that hasn’t even featured a black artist, or not many, let alone bother to look outside their myopic viewfinder to Africa, Southeast Asia and beyond. 

We also lost many comrades and sisters this year, including the king of rock ‘n’ roll Little Richard, the late great Afrobeat rhythm provider Tony Allen, Bill Withers, Vera Lynn, Betty Wright, Phil May, Emit Rhodes, Andy Gill, Peter Green, Eddie Van Halen, Spencer Davis, Kenny Rogers, Florian Schneider, Genesis P-Orridge Manu Dibango, Andrew Weatherall, Ennio Morricone and even the poor old derided Des O’Conner. A right bastard of a year I think we can all agree on.

A challenging year, the effects of which will be felt for a long time to come, 2020 has nevertheless been a great year for new music (thank god).    

Because we’ve never seen the point in arguing the toss over numerical orders, or even compiling a list of the best of albums of the year, the Monolith Cocktail’s lighter, less competitive and hierarchical ‘choice albums’ features have always listed all entrants in alphabetical order. We also hate separating genres and so everybody in these features, regardless of genre, location, shares the same space.

Void of points systems and voting, the Monolith Cocktail team selection is pretty transparent: just favourites and albums we all feel you, our audience, should check out. Alongside my good self, Matt Oliver and Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea have made the selections this year.

Spread over three parts, the inaugural selection runs from 3 South And Banana to Extradition Order.

Numbers.

3 South And Banana ‘S/T’
(Some Other Planet)

Bouncing and lolloping onto the psychedelic pop and indie scene like a Francophone Shintaro Sakamoto, Aurélien Bernard brought us a most lightly touched but infectious kaleidoscope jangle of a self-titled debut album this year.

Swapping the drum stool and tenure with the sunny-disposition Vadoinmessico – leaving as the band transitioned into Cairobi – for a polymath solo career, the French born, Berlin-based, Bernard has an idiosyncratic musical style; weaving a cantaloupe gait and a lyrical mix of French and English vocals together in a colourful, often fun, way. Radiant, oceanic, translucent and even cosmic with a Gallic shrug of wistful fatalism, the 3 South & Banana cosmos of rooftop fauna wonderment is a swell place to be in these dark, uncertain times. (Dominic Valvona)

Review In Full

A..

A Journey Of Giraffes  ‘Armenia’
(Somewherecold Records)

Seeming to get better with every release, the unassuming maverick ambient and soundscape explorer behind this most picturesque of animalistic monikers, John Lane, has in recent years been highly prolific in churning out the most subtle but deeply effective under-the-radar soundtracks. To be fair it was a toss-up between this, the atavistic Caucasus transverse Armenia, and his “archipelago of the mind” Sunshine Pilgrim Map peregrination: both great albums of ambient and experimental discovery.

Though he couldn’t have foreseen how prescient this part of the world would become in 2020, with an ongoing uneasy truce between modern Armenia and their Azerbaijan neighbours after a recent fight of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, Lane has managed to catch this mysterious land with a 44-track oeuvre of psychogeography, myths, ancient readings and poetry forms. From the air-y and sublime to the more ominous, primal and fraught, minimal evocations sit alongside more churned oblique scrapped moody horrors. Voices from the old religions swirl and echo amongst the hewn stone monuments to Armenia’s ghosts on an outstanding mesmerizing soundtrack of differing stirring soundscapes, traverses, contemplations and ruminations. (DV)

Review In Full

Idris Ackamoor And The Pyramids ‘Shaman!’
(Strut Records)

Serving a worthy musical apprenticeship from and imbued by the masters Coltrane, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Cecil Taylor, the polymath musician, activist, director of The Pyramids ensemble and torchbearer of spiritual and Afrofuturist jazz, Idris Ackamoor once more makes holy communion with the cradle of civilization on the Egyptology cosmology of conscious political statements, Shaman! Imploring a unified message, a connectivity, a reminder that we can all trace our ancestry back to the same place, Ackamoor follows up on We All Be Africans and the epic sweeping album of Afro-jazz 2-Step “Warrior Dances” and plaintive primal jazz catharsis An Angel Fell, with another masterpiece of the form.

From the burnished Sunbear developing bloodied opus of the Pharaoh Sanders, Brother Ah, Jazz Epistles and Sarah Webster Fabio merging breakout title track to the Afrobeat gospel bolero of ‘Eternity’, an enlightening magical travail of the state of the union is sumptuously paired with the wisdom of the ancients. Narrated and sung howls of anguish are soundtracked and serenaded by a jazz-led voyage of gospel, soul, funk and magic. What an album: an odyssey through the divisive debris of modern America.  (DV)

Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela ‘Rejoice’
(World Circuit Records)

Becoming a final bow in the end for both participates in this perfect synergy of Afrojazz, the now late Afrobeat doyen, drummer extraordinaire Tony Allen and his foil trumpet virtuoso, bandleader, activist and South African national treasure, the even later Hugh Masekela, finally got an airing of their 2010 recordings together this year.

With renewed resolution, Allen and producer Nick Gold, with the blessing and participation of Hugh’s estate, unearthed the original tapes and finished recording the album last year at the same London studio where the original sessions had taken place. Allen and Masekela are accompanied on the record by a new generation of well-respected jazz musicians who help lay down a loose Francophone swinging jazz backing to savior: every bit as effortlessly cool, bouncing and smoky as you’d expect. There’s even a nod to Allen’s old bandleader and Afrobeat progenitor Fela Kuti on this smooth bustling, Blue Note in Africa, laidback work of genius.

This album is the sound of two artists in their element, a performance never to be repeated, and sadly one of the final recordings of Allen now. But as the title says: Rejoice!  (DV)

Read In Full

Axel Holy ‘WonderWorld’
(Split Prophets)

Given the way Axel Holy’s mind works you just know WonderWorld is gonna turn the distorted, freaky reflections found in the hall of mirrors into reality. This ain’t no Scooby Doo haunted theme park caper: the otherwise Baileys Brown slaloms through the queues of demonic smiles for every ride that’s a trap house of horrors. Knowing he can’t leave anything to chance as to what’s real and what’s a genetically modified mirage, yet well aware that fakes and foes never go into hiding, Holy cocks back and breaks the illusion with all of his sawn-off might, possibly under the influence to heighten the experience. ‘Statement’ induces screams as it goes faster, ‘Let It Go’ does a classic switcheroo of upping the anxiety by withdrawing just a touch, and ‘On The Gram’ craftily dispels social media culture, complete with a chorus simply made for a lip synced reel, though like Brown’s ‘Still Fresh’ from last year, there’s definite loosening up towards the album’s end. Grimy, geared to leave your ears ringing and with fellow misfits Jack Danz and Datkid involved, WonderWorld, as a wise scribe once said, will leave you “Delirious like Eddie Murphy”.  (Matt Oliver)

B…

BaBa ZuLa ‘Hayvan Gibi’
(Night Dreamers)

Capturing one of the best performances from the rebellious stalwarts of Anatolian cosmic dub and psych, BaBa ZuLa, the Night Dreamers label’s “direct-to-disc” series proved a congruous creative hothouse for the Istanbul legends.

Fusing the folkloric with solar flares of Krautrock, souk reggae, 60s and 70s Turkish psych and cosmic-blues the rambunctious group come on like a Sublime Porte vision of Can’s Ege Bamyasi and Soundtracks albums, only replacing much of the Teutonic legends setup with more traditional instruments like the “oud” and “saz”: albeit electrified and fuzzed up to the gills.

Recorded before lockdown in the pre-pandemic nightmare, Hayvan Gibi (which means ‘to act with the natural grace of an animal’) includes six almost untethered, unleashed vivid performances from the mavericks. It’s an album that seeks to fulfil the “live” feel and energy that some fans have commented has been lacking on previous studio albums.

A let loose BaBa ZuLa is a most incredible experience; a scuzzed, scuffed, trinket shimmery, rippling and blazing rhythmic energy and dynamism both intense and yet also a mirage of reggae and dub imbued Anatolia mountain gazing. It’s also a reminder of what we’ve been missing in these dragging pandemic restrictive times. (DV)

Read In Full

Bab L’ Bluz ‘Nayda!’
(Real World Records)

The changing (and welcoming it is too) face of Moroccan music, Bab L’ Bluz offers a voice to those previously left marginalized and left out with an electrified and rebellious vision of the country’s Islamic Gnawa dance, music and poetry exaltations; the ululation trills and storytelling of the Mauritania “Griot” tradition; and the popular folk music of Chabbi.

Led by the “guembri” player and leading siren, Yousra Mansou, who has caused quite a reaction for taking up an instrument traditionally the preserve of men in Morocco, they blend Arabian-Africa with a contemporary view of political upheaval and drama in a post Arab-Spring landscape. Reclaiming the heritage but looking forward, the group injects the godly music and romance of Arabian-Africa with a new energy and dynamism. A 21st century blues excursion of dreamy and political vigor.  (DV)

Read In Full

Batsauce ‘Helter Skelter’
(Full Plate)

Inevitably beatmakers got busy when it came to making a song and dance out of the pandemic, with Batsauce, the Berlin-based producer and underground stalwart with the all-too-perfect moniker, delivering boom bap bad news from his ‘quarantine beat suite’, Helter Skelter a notable entry in creating a 2020-style instrumental biopic out of a mass of disaster movie samples. From the get-go the assembled cast are under no illusions that a worldwide disease is real and happening – no such silver screen/real world naivety here – starting off slow and tentatively before the fever begins to take hold. Mixing up pensive jazz, soul and psych with drums scooped from the doldrums, twitchy, string-lead horror themes worthy of the album’s title compete with bold flourishes that switch between signifying cometh the hour, cometh the man, and said leading role going in head first without the guarantee of making it back. Crucially the dialogue is strategically placed, never overloaded, so as to let the music really run the narrative of what becomes a titanic struggle, and where tellingly the conclusion throws up some worst case scenarios without completely delivering the Hollywood happy-ever-after. Here’s hoping that Batsauce doesn’t have to have a sequel up his sleeve.  (Matt Oliver)

Big Toast & 184 ‘Who Shit In The Sandpit?’
(Revorg)

Not that he needed the trivial matter of 2020 being a complete debacle to fuel his next fed up invective, but Big Toast’s patience reaches dangerously thin levels on this charming titled, eye/nose-gougingly sleeved ode to the money men, privileged elite, ignorant, in-the-flesh stereotypes, Gazza and general ringmasters to the UK circus. Splattered with damning evidence that’s as clear as day but still needs repeating, some might say it’s easy to home on in the obvious targets responsible for the myriad fiascos in these uncertain times. But Toast, eyes rolling to the heavens until his sockets start to fracture, and whose unhurried words mimicking the puppet mastery of those at the lectern, linger like…well, a bad smell, is not the sort of protestor satisfied with just chucking eggs and milkshakes at those who won’t be told. The title track’s lighters-up, all-in-together chorus confirms his man of the people status, and closing track ‘Us/Them’ is a high quality fade to grey conclusion. All to the tune of 184’s claustrophobic, nostalgia-erasing boom bap, equidistant to the edge of doom and foggily attempting a scramble to safety. The fact you can’t help but laugh at such a desperate state of play is an oh-so-British reaction as well.  (MO)

Black Josh ‘Mannyfornia’
(Blah)

Bumping beats whiplashed through the windscreen and straight to the point rhymes that are one false look from Falling Down, Black Josh as Manchester’s mayor of Mannyfornia – the “Sweg Lord – you don’t want him living next door” – creates civilisation that avoids the big city of dreams prefix and instantly nails the ain’t-always-what-it-seems kicker instead. Lockdown restrictions get laughed out of town as well, with Metrodome on the electoral boards deconstructing and hotwiring speakers. The likes of ‘Demon’ sees sinkholes open up and swallow all before it, treated by Josh as minor inconvenience – “I’m only living cos I have to” – and the title track is an aggravated state of emergency to endear your neighbours to, like Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Old Skool’ gone rogue “on a highway to Hell, but I’m undertaking”. Wired on substance intake and the need to hit as many killshots as possible, only half-quelled on ‘Smoke’ and ‘Endz’ as the album’s back end begins to conserve energy, Mannyfornia is restless, anti-social and doesn’t play fair, but Josh is not one to change his game just cos circumstances are different.  (MO)

Black Taffy  ‘Opal Wand’
(Leaving Records)

When filing under hip-hop Opal Wand is the cheat code of this list, particularly when the scope of what is ostensibly an instrumental trap album immediately appears limited. Fear not though – in the hands of Black Taffy aka Dallas alchemist Donovan Jones, Opal Wand perfects the classic axis of massive (and massively rigid) bottom ends, and riffs atop darting like fireflies, unfolding the arms of the screwfaces and feeding them optimism sourced from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Subtle vinyl crackle scoring similar Disney-style sources, and sorrowful Eastern Bloc ballets tiptoeing across dark but exotic landscapes, help bring about another educated one-two – that of the album being based on a booming system when the cascades of strings command you to light incense and candles. Jones continues to shift the pre-conceived by blinding you with the fantastical until disquiet begins to percolate in the distance from ‘A Foxes Wedding’. Synth-shone secrets and doubts begin to reveal themselves on the spirit-raising ‘Palms Up’, and when fear of the unknown takes hold, then the basses, still giving nothing away other than fluttering their eyelashes at low-riders, come into their own. With plenty to interpret, let its curiosity consume you on a cold winter’s eve.  (MO)

Bloom De Wilde ‘The Heart Shall Be Rewarded By The Universe’
(Self-Release)

If only life could be as wonderfully magical as this album. Bloom De Wilde has an aura about her that emits a certain belief in the beauty of life, with her songs of nature and love she gives one hope in these times of backbiting misery and disease that music and love can be the answer.

Maybe we all need to return to the spiritual freedom of 1967 and not be wrapped up in the junk and social media that clouds up our minds and hearts, for this album casts a mighty spell that is bewitchingly hypnotic, that slowly seeps through the layers of self doubt mistrust and ego and has you smiling again, has you laughing, has you counting your blessings and looking forward to living your life and making the most of it as you only have one life so why not make the most of it. The Heart Shall Be Rewarded By The Universe is one of those rare albums that is made with pure love and should be treated with pure love: a shimmering delight.  (Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea)

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Brian Bordello ‘The King Of No-Fi’
(Metal Postcard Records)

Oh the irony as Brian Bordello himself picked this one for his choice selection of albums from the year: got to hand it to him, the front of the bloke! But then why not, as it seems nearly all blogs and such are now nothing more than promotional platforms for the advancement of their own writers and clique fan club. For those who aren’t aware, Brian has been contributing to the MC for the last couple of years, so this does seem strange: pop will eat itself and all that. Here though is why you should buy it:

The self-anointed king of no-fi returns with another songbook of quasi-demoed wistful despondency and self-deprecation; a stripped-back one-track display of rough charms that cuts to the heart of the cult St. Helens malcontent’s sardonic, but also extremely vulnerable, annoyances about modern life.

Channeling various maverick troubadours, post-punk poets (Dan Treacy springs to mind) and a Brylcreem of rock ’n’ roll idols (ironically enough the release of this album intentionally fell on the anniversary of the true king, Elvis’ death), Brian postulates on a lack of energy and rage in music, the death of the mutherfucker personalities, a bevy of “scarlet” women and lost innocence. Brian can be a romantic sod at times, even sentimental; writing some real tender poetic lines amongst the scorn and despair, with even a hint of Bacharach on ‘Banana Splits’ (yeah, imagine that!). Various stolen kisses, evocations of less complicated, less divisive magical times permeate the album despite the constant references to the death of this and that and the lamentable resignations and threats to give it all up. Sometimes Brian just tersely pays homage to his icons, such as Lou Reed and Billy Fury.  (BBS/DV)

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Apollo Brown & Che’ Noir  ‘As God Intended’
(Mello Music Group)

The embodiment of up-from-the-bootstraps verve and an advocate of what doesn’t kill making you stronger, Buffalo’s Che’ Noir won’t let anyone or anything get in her way right from the very first bar. Despite the dual billing on As God Intended, this is very much her headline act: Apollo Brown retreats into the role of unspoken mentor, nodding his approval from afar without needing too much to prompt sometimes cold-blooded, always measured actions, just rolling out his usual metronome of warm but wary, street-raised, Detroit soul bumps that have seen it all and done it all before. ‘12 Hours’ is an absolute classic storyteller (no spoilers here), and from finding true financial value (‘Money Orientated’, offset by the pull of ‘Worth Gold’) to how to stand up (‘The Apple’, ‘Freedom’ and its theorem of “what’s worse than being physically dead is mentally dying”) and respecting the architects (‘94’), the ice queen bravado is open to just a hint of vulnerability, so that Noir teeters (‘Daddy’s Girl’ and ‘Winter’ contrast relationship obstacles) but never loses her balance. True grit from a fighter expressing her worth as “just a chick from the ‘hood doing Adele numbers”.  (MO)

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Lucia Cadotsch ‘Speak Low II’
(We Jazz)

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. Equally as untethered on a serialism pathway of musical freedom, this broadened set-up that includes both the prestigious ECM label solo pianist Kit Downes and cellist Lucy Railton, meanders, drifts, floats and hovers over a flowing oeuvre of German stage numbers, ancient folk laments, avant-garde troubadour maladies and jazz balladry across a second volume of such loose interpretations.

Songs from artists as diverse as Eno, Duke Ellington, Brecht and Randy Newman are pulled into this beautifully adventurous cosmos. A mirage of bowed, haunted and rasping rhythms and spiraling tonal work Speak Low II is an unburdened songbook of amorphous jazzy reinterpretations that dares to play with the original source material, whilst showcasing the effortlessly gossamer and stretching lush range of Lucia’s magical voice.  (DV)

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Cambatta ‘LSD: Lunar Solar Duality’
(Mello Music Group)

A dose of ‘LSD’ is perhaps a slight departure for Mello Music Group, who once again have had a calendar year the envy of the hip-hop underground. While Cambatta’s label debut unlocks the power of hallucinogens, the super scientific raised from the sewer breaks down the DNA of life, the universe and everything (the maths behind ‘Nxggxrla Txsla’ and ‘Grand Number TheoRam’ will blow your headphones). His persona is a complex, carnivorously blunt mix of Nostradamus, Mr MFN eXquire and prime era Canibus, street apothecary, religious myth buster and otherworldly being, etched with a grim determination to convince everyone of his gospels, particularly as his backdrop is several hell-like leagues beneath the surface at odds with the radiant sleeve (“only in the midst of chaos am I comfortable”). Entertaining in their encyclopaedic intensity, ‘Fall of Feinix’ is a slow-burning cauldron of drug rage (“my spirit animal is a cold turkey”), and ‘33’ is an exceptional, messianic (and very simply formatted) autobiography, but two ear-openers on an album realigning the sun, moon and stars in a bid you flip your belief system.  (MO)

Chouk Bwa & The Ångströmers ‘Vodou Alé’
(Bongo Joe Records)

Like so many others before them, allured to the voodoo hypnotism of the shared Hispaniola Island of Haiti, Belgian production duo The Ångströmers spent a residency immersing and absorbing the local fusion of ‘mizik rasin’, and working with the Gonaïves-borne collective of Chouk Bwa. The results of which prove congruous and electrifying; a synthesis of Soukri voodoo polyrhythms and bassier dub electronica that proves so attuned to both sensibilities and in-sync as to be difficult to separate the natural ritual from the augmented and synthesized.

A primal ceremony of tumbled, fluttered cylindrical rhythms sucked into a vortex of warped dub and ringing oscillations, this union proves just how intoxicating and electrifying the voodoo spell can be. Given a sympathetic undercurrent and resonance of atmospheric electronica, the ritual sound and outpour of Haiti is reframed, guided into the 21st century. Not so much a novel direction as a subtle electronic music boost to tradition.  (DV)

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COOPS ‘Crimes Against Creation’
(High Focus)

High Focus were found doing High Focus things throughout 2020, making it a tight call on whether to include Light Work by the Duracell-powered creativity of Fliptrix, Onoe Caponoe’s breakneck night terror Invisible War, or The Four Owls’ victorious Nocturnal Instinct (full length review here). Edging past the post is the concise Coops at a skinny eight tracks and twenty five minutes long, that slightly jaded twang between Wretch 32 and Ocean Wisdom both nonchalant and spiteful at once, making him engagingly hard to read between peacekeeping and reacting – at his most relaxed you can still tell that Coops is itching to right wrongs. Holding the streets down under a nice and jazzy shade is producer Talos, who in parallel can turn up the pressure with no discernible tell, hitting the Queensbridge block as Coops knuckles up on the seething ‘Piss Poor’, with a chorus that outdoes any get rich quick-schemers. Picking off opponents with scything simplicity – when annoyed by everyone, Coops calls out all and sundry as per ‘Factory Reared’ passing through a farm for would-be emcees – Crimes is a classy album that won’t wilt in the heat of the moment.  (MO)

Julian Cope ‘Self Civil War’
(Head Heritage)

Julian Cope is one of the last living motherfuckers in rock ‘n’ roll. He is the spirit personified. He has the adventure talent and intelligence to realise that music is not just something to hum along to on the radio whilst doing the dishes. He knows that being in a band is not a past time but a crusade; it is a life affirming art force that fires the mind, belly’s and loins of old and young alike, and Self Civil War is his latest quest, his latest crusade.

A man now in his sixties would be expected maybe to put his feet up and look back on the past outpourings of a fine, much underrated back catalogue. But no, Julian goes and makes his best album since Jehovah Kill.

Self Civil War is an album that combines all his musical loves beautifully: Krautrock, Psych, Prog, folk and of course pure undiluted pop. This is an album of pure invention, inspiration and adventure. This is the sound of a whirling dervish sticking his fingers up at the industry, a man who does not have to think outside the box, as he has no box, and hopefully never will have. He is a true one-off and this album is the sound of a true one-off on top of his game.  (BBS)

Corticem ‘Planetarium’
(Submarine Broadcasting Company)

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. Formed by members of the “songs strange and not so-strange” Sawak in the Polish city, 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. A liberal dark material contortion 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, this caustic and often impending oeuvre offers as dystopian and alarming, alien and otherworldly soundtrack to the end times. What’s not to like. (DV)

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Cousin Silas And The Glove Of Bones ‘Kafou In Avalonia’
(Submarine Broadcasting Company)

Reimaging a time when Earth’s landmasses were being reshaped, the atavistic geological inspired futurist dub unit pose a cultural “what if?” with their fourth “set”, Kafou In Avalonia. Wishful dreaming Cousin Silas And The Glove Of Bones picture an alternative reality; one in which Avalonia still existed as a gateway between all Earth’s cultures and peoples. It acts as the crossroads that might have set out an entirely different course for civilization; a more integrated, less fractious one perhaps. In this setting Haitian, Brazilian, Angolan and Nigerian deities, spirits and rituals converge with an experimental soundtrack of post-punk dub, Kosmische and electronica. Invoking a lost world, a quasi-Atlantis, they merge voodoo ceremony and tribal incantation with sonorous throbbing basslines, barracking drums, heavy reverb and craning Manuel Gottsching like guitar. Ancestral ghosts meet synthesized futurism on this mystical transformed aural geography, as recordings of various rituals swirl in and around a cosmic soup. A supernatural and celestial, seeping and vaporous vortex of polygenesis sources are gathered together to create an imaginative cosmology hybrid. If The Future Sound Of London and Ash Ra Tempel recorded an album at Lee Scratch Perry’s black ark studio it might very well have sounded something like this. (DV

Crack Cloud ‘Pain Olympics’
(Meat Machines)

A rambunctious expanded collective of filmmakers, artists, designers, and of course musicians, drawn together through drug addiction, the Vancouver-based Crack Cloud channel recovery through much healthier pursuits; raiding the post-punk and no wave wardrobes to form an ever ambitious agit-art-group of malcontents. Rinsing out both the Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene along the way, the seven-strong main cohort of this group effort work-in the Gang Of Four, Talking Heads, The Shivers, Officer!, Lydia Lunch, Andy Haas, Pixies and Devo to produce a surprisingly less hostile verdict on the state of the union in 2020.

Pain Olympics is an epic eclectic of torment, frustration and also soaring ethereal voiced scales. The opening diorama ‘Post Truth’ is like a fucked-up, squalid underpass musical on a MGM movie set that moves from a drizzle of industrial Fat White Family post-punk to twinkled These New Puritans dreamy dramatic choral sirens and a performance of electronic Stomp. But changing the makeup, as they do continuously on this album, they go for a creeping merger of La Haine Hip-Hop and Eno on ‘Favour Your Fortune’.  All the while the tensions and tawny angulations of PiL, Wire and Crispy Ambulance wane and conspire in the background. Crack Cloud have managed to convey the unease whilst dreaming big on an album I can’t recommend enough.  (DV)

The Cult Of Free Love ‘Visions’
(Northern Star Records)

What we have here is the first release from the born again influential underground label Northern Star; a label that released the four CD Psychedelica series of compilations that caught the mood and excitement of the bourgeoning new psychedelic scene of the time. This series of releases influenced many a new band and caught some now very well known and established bands early in their careers. So to kick off the rebirth of the mighty fine label we have the second album from The Cult Of Free Love, and to be honest if this album had been released on the Fruits Der Mer label it would have already sold out and been acclaimed as a modern psychedelic masterpiece. Yes, this album is that good.

Orb like trance and late 80’s acid house mingle with the lost summer of love of ‘67 to weave a spell of blissed out magic. There is no one highlight on Visions as the whole album is one long stream of melody and blissed out splendor. This album I cannot recommend enough to anyone with a love of modern psychedelia or somebody wanting to know what it was like to visit the legendary Hacienda in its pomp: An album to turn this winter of discontent into the third summer of love.  (BBS)

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The Dandy’s Boutique ‘Delightful Weirdo’
(Self Release)

I know nothing of The Dandy’s Boutique, an artist I came across being played on the excellent Graham Duff radio show on Totally Radio; the track being the rather wonderful ‘Stay Away’, which has a bass riff and a half part “Girls and Boys”, part grab your handbag put it in the middle of the dancefloor and boogie: Is there anything quite as life affirming as a DIY disco ditty?!

Anyway, ‘Stay Away’ happens to kick off this rather lovely album; an album that combines synth-pop, dance and indie-pop to great effect, and is indeed greatly affecting, especially on the synth ballad ‘Don’t Let Go’. And goes on exploring the virtues of having humour, originality and talent; ‘Pitter Patter’ being a fine instrumental, reminding me what the Great Joe Meek may have done if left alone with a synth for an hour or so. What I like most about this album is the overwhelming atmosphere of melancholy even on the upbeat dance tracks like ‘Passing The Time’. There is a certain feel that I find quite refreshing. I think Dandy’s Boutique might not quite realize how good they actually are, as this is a fine album indeed and people should give it a listen. (BBS)

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Miles Davis ‘The Lost Septet’
(Sleepy Night Records)

Those lucky bastards, and I mean the Viennese crowd lucky enough to have experienced this whomping, sleazed, dark and beastly jazz-rock maelstrom from the late great Miles Davis and his Septet troupe, on the night of the 5th November 1971. Of course they didn’t bloody appreciate it, still hung up on old tooting-in-blue Davis, when the maestro had moved on into the well of mental destruction, hauling his crew across Europe in that pivotal year of bad juju. 

Capturing the grandee of eclectic jazz futurism and an ark of godly status albums (In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Live Evil and Jack Johnson), The Lost Septet (so-called because this magic collection of cats never recorded together in the studio, and so this exists as one of the only testaments to this grouping actually ever happening) simpers, thralls, gushes and boogies in that trumpet genius’s famous “rock phase”. The enviable lineup of Keith Jarrett, Gary Bartz, Michael Henderson, Ndugu Leon Chancler, Charles Don Alias and James Mtume Foreman prowl, skulk, whelp and burble through the riffed-on material, pushing jazz into hard psychedelic heavy rock. Davis’s pal-up with Hendrix was proving a serious influence, and you can hear that throughout this deeply challenging live opus.

From cathouse salacious slinking ‘Honky Tonk’ to a Shamanistic sledge ride through the Ghetto styling of ‘What I Say’, and the sumptuous laidback funk sucker ‘It’s About That Time’, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone sounding this fucking great and dangerously brooding in 2020. Hence why despite being fifty years old, it is still one of the best things you can hope to hear this whole year. Thank Christ it has been saved from bootleg rarity to a proper release in the year of pandemic.  (DV)

Dean & Britta ‘Quarantine Tapes’
(Double Feature Records)

Thank god for the diaphanous, hushed pairing of Luna band mates Britta Philips and Dean Wareham (also formerly of Galaxie 500 fame) to lift spirits and offer a hymnal communal in times of anxious uncertainty. The aptly named Quarantine Tapes is made up of cover versions recorded during the first wave of lockdown, some in the home studio, others taken direct from livestream performances.

It helps that the material is so damn good in the first place, yet the duo’s languid and hauntingly beautiful Lee Hazelwood trademark sound gives a certain translucent and touching quality to songs from acts as diverse as Kraftwerk, The Clash and the late (sadly passing away only this year in March) no wave disco icon Christine. Maybe as a gesture to another unfortunate loss this year (Florian Schneider) they perform a magical, advent version of the candescent Kraftwerk hymn ‘Neonlicht’ (or ‘Neon Lights’) that is just lovely. Elsewhere they give The Bee Gees plaintive ‘Massachusettes’ a touch of Laurel Canyon, and perform a languorous cover of Bardo Pond’s ethereal elegy opus ‘Ride Into The Sun’.

Capturing the current mood music well, the lockdown duo offers a most disarming and quite affair of the heart in mentally fatiguing and depressing times. (DV)  

Die Wilde Jagd ‘Haut’
(Bureau B)

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

Once more joined by co-producer foil Ralf Beck and live performance drummer Ran Levari, Die Wilde Jagd’s instigator songwriter/producer channels notions of memory, premonition and birth into a filmic quartet of drawn-out chapters.

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

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

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 gives 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 label.

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 is 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.  (BBS)

Bob Dylan ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’
(Columbia)

Greyhound bus philosopher, medicine show huckster and Boomer Bible troubadour wanderer, Dylan performs another one of his grand illusions in encompassing a whole generational epoch on his latest songbook. Perhaps among his best work in decades, the “Rough And Rowdy” sagacious chapter in a nigh sixty-year career manages to be both elegiac and playful in equal measures; cramming in every kind of reference point, from historical characters to pop culture and the travails of the Kennedys and their aspirations on the epic eulogy finale ‘Murder Most Foul’: A death knell bookend to the previous fifty years of a dominant America that marks perhaps the failures of a whole generation.

He’s Anne Frank, Indiana Jones and then some (names in lyrics that should elicit groans but somehow don’t sound glib and ridiculous) on an album that’s impact can be measured in swigs from a bottle of fine red wine. A humbled legend accompanied by the subtlest, thinnest of brushed drum shuffles, Hawaiian bowed and bluesy guitar, this is a relaxed Dylan, custodian of the faith, raunchy and statesman like yet juggling resignation with serenaded romance, reverence and death. ‘My Own Version Of You’ runs through a lyrical rasp of persecution, slavery and ideals turned murderous (From Troy to The Crusades to Marx), whilst the hymnal lulled and cooed soothing gospel ‘I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You’ sounds like a genuine token of faith and spiritual willingness. Dylan is almost handing down the baton to the sisterhood on the beautiful saving grace attempt at a spiritual anthem on ‘Mother Of Muses’. Yet Dylan strikes up some of that down ’n’ dirty earthy electrified blues, on the homage to the power of the tragic turned-on blues progenitor Jimmy Reed and his influence.

From Elm Street to the Aquarian Age, and across the Rubicon, Dylan seems as weary as he is unapologetic and nostalgic; dragging that (nearly) 80 year old timbre and soul through the mire to once more offer a grizzled but not yet finished Boomer commentary on our sorry arses. This is the record we deserved and needed, as Dylan proves to be a godsend. Yes it’s nostalgic, and there isn’t any pinning of virtues to any particular political angst, but Dylan isn’t going to make it easy for you. A great work of art that just keeps giving. (DV)

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Kahil El’Zabar ‘Spirit Groove Ft. David Murray’ & ‘America The Beautiful’
(Spiritmuse)

Continuing a creative partnership with the Spiritmuse label, Chicago jazz luminary Kahil El’Zabar has released two essential ambitious sweeping titles in 2020; working yet again with an ever changing lineup of fellow visionaries and rising virtuosos from his home city and beyond.  The first of which is the Spirit Groove album collaboration with David Murray, the second, America The Beautiful, sees the School of The Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians alumni and five decade jazz veteran piece together a suitable afflatus cry from the despair of modern America.

Spirit Groove, sees a reconnection, a spiritual bound between the Chicago jazz drumming and percussionist doyen El’ Zabar and his tenor sax and bass clarinet maestro foil Murray. Quenching the soul with that “spiritual groove”, they’ve laid down a both swinging and mesmeric alternative jazz service of mediation but also, and above all, they push for a positive change in the most inflamed and dangerous of times. El’ Zabar’s atavistic with a modern pulse soul and jazz experiments are coupled with Murray’s untethered long and short breath saxophone contortions on an album of new, specially written material and expansions of compositions from the back catalogue.

The second title sees him build a fully realized album around the aggrandized anthem, America The Beautiful. An extraordinary portrait of the current mood, El’ Zabar’s conscious divine spiritual jazz opus channels the contorted soul of Chicago’s rich musical heritage; spanning eras as old as ancient 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. From Coltrane to Bernstein, primitive Chicago House to Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, this is an expansive dig into the soul, heart and health of a nation in divisive turmoil: A healing process in fact. 

Both albums offer a congruous communion of transformative, essential jazz, just when we needed it.  (DV)

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Extradition Order ‘American Prometheus’
(Blang/Gare du Nord/HLP19/I Blame/Jezus Factory)

Willed on by a whole quintet of labels, the first album in a good few years from the excitable and soulful no wave Warrington troupe Extradition Order is a poignant return to the American history books. Dedicated in part to founding member Nick Boardman who passed away in 2018 (his legacy permeates this album, whether as a guiding influence or through his bass hooks and singing), the Order’s vessel this time around is “the destroyer of worlds”, polyglot genius behind the fateful A-bomb Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Taking the album’s title from the Oppenheimer biography of the same name, American Prometheus is a guide to a visceral concept of the lamentable, profane and hysterical. Just as the band did with their both pining and erratic opus to the Kennedy dynasty (on the 2015 Kennedy LP), the extended cast of unfortunate and listless wives, lovers, set adrift family members, rivals and enablers are given a voice in the linear story of this incredible scientist; one who, as it turns out, had quite the checkered and controversial life story. With colliery soul requiems, prowling hints of Blurt, cheerleader Grease rah-rah and bursts of My Life Story, The Pop Group, Style Council and The Mekons, Extradition Order find parallels in 2020 by blowing open the myths and dramas behind the conflicted Oppenheimer: warts and all. American Prometheus is another mini triumph from a band that manages to bridge the fury and wrath of punk with the contorting squawks and funk of no wave and the brassy heralded romantic yearns of northern soul: good going guys. (DV)

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

New Music
Words: Dominic Valvona

Not so much a moping up mission, but clearing the backlog of new music we’re sent each day that threatens to engulf us, here’s a quick roundup of December releases before the blog winds down for Christmas. We’ve another Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea roundup coming, but after that it’s the Monolith Cocktail’s ‘choice favourite’ albums of the year features (in three parts).

Azmari ‘Fat Ari’
De Beren Gieren ‘A Funny Discovery’
(Sdban Ultra) 26th November 2020

Showcasing a couple of great vibrant groups on the polygenesis eclectic Ghent based label Sdban Ultra, ahead of their respective 2021 albums, here’s a double-helping of ethio-cosmics and jazzy fluidity from the Brussels sextet Azmari and Dutch/Belgium electronic piano trio De Beren Gieren.

Offering a progressive flute-y blowing desert mirage that traverses Ethiopia, Arabia and the Orient on the dusky musical wilderness of Fat Ari’, Azmari continue to weave a rich odyssey of ethiogrooves, dub, and psychedelic funk. The sextet of Arthur Ancion (on drums), Basile Bourtembourg (keys, saaz and percussion), Jojo Demeijer (percussion), Niels D’haegeleer (bass), Mattéo Badet (saxophone and Kaval) and Ambroose de Schepper (saxophone and flute) take their inspiration from artists such as Okay Temiz, Mulatu Astatke, Cymande, Fela Kuti and The Heliocentrics. The band name, an “Azmari”, literally “one who praises” in Amharic, is an Ethiopian singer-musician, comparable to the European bard or the West African griot often accompanied with a masenqo – one-stringed fiddle or krar – lyre, two traditional Ethiopian instruments.

Having released their debut EP Ekera last year, a series of shows across Europe saw the Azmari sound develop and ten days performing in Istanbul opened the band’s ears to the Turkish sounds and rhythms from the 1960s. Keen to get back in the studio to start work on their debut album, studiously studying Turkish and Ethiopian scales, along with learning new instruments along the way including the berimbau, the ney and bağlama, the Azmari sound transformed into a rebellious, unrelenting trip.

The resulting nine tracks that make up their debut album Samā’ī, are a deeply hypnotic experience of ‘mesmerising rhythms and winding improvisations’ that (hopes to) send the listener in to a higher state of consciousness! That cosmological desert pilgrimage is due out on the 22nd January 2021.

Next up is the inaugural single from the Benelux troupe De Beren Gieren’s upcoming Less Is Endless album, ‘A Funny Discovery’. Which has been furnished with a new video, directed by Belgian graphic artist and video maker ysbear (Felix Ysenbaert). Who has this to say about it: “I decided to take the song title ‘A Funny Discovery’ quite literally. For this clip, I immediately started to draw and animate with an open vision. Consequently, the artistic direction was shaped in a very organic way. When creating the animations, I simply let myself be carried along, through the vibe of the song. It appeared to be a research for myself as well: I tried to play again. And what is more fun than playing? My intention is mainly that the viewer/listener is sucked out of reality for a moment, and is dropped into this new one: floating on a cloud for 6 minutes 47 seconds where the imagination is stimulated by spontaneous associations.”

Formed in 2009, the trio of Fulco Ottervanger (on piano, fx, synths), Lieven Van Pée (double bass, electric bass) and Simon Segers (drums, fx) quickly built a reputation across the Benelux region with their ‘must-see’ live shows. They’ve since taken their transcendental live energy across Europe, Morocco and Japan, and have performed at North Sea Jazz, Jazz Middelheim, Trondheim Jazzfestival, Ljubljana Jazz Festival, Moers Festival, Gent Jazz, Kanazawa Jazz Street and Eurosonic. They’ve also during that tenure collaborated with a number of renowned jazz artists, including Louis Sclavis, Ernst Reijseger, Joachim Badenhorst, Marc Ribot, Jan Klare and Jean-Yves Evrard.

The new album, produced by Dijf Sanders and Frederik Segers, and is an ode to a universe teeming with life. Seen as an extension to the critically acclaimed 2017 album Dug Out Skyscrapers, it searches for vents through which life can emerge and evolve. The secret of communicating creativity can be found in the cultivation of the unfinished; the missing piece of the puzzle tickles the imagination more than the perfect end result.

The album’s nicely multi-textured Euro-Jazz grooves and deep jazz bouncing celebratory precursor single/video is described as thus by the group: “This song has the feeling of a new insight. From a haze of information, you’re suddenly captivated by a fresh awareness. It’s not clear how to put it in words yet, but it’s new and feels like a positive revelation. This song was vertically written: we had 2 melody lines, a right hand piano idea and a vamp somewhere. After making a lot of structures with these elements, we decided to mostly play everything at the same time. For us, there is a French feeling to it.”

Less Is Endless is due out on the 19th February 2021.

Jeremy Bastard ft. Elektra Monet  ‘Shadowboxing’
(Somewherecold Records) 2nd December 2020

Sounding like a 90s Techno thug in chains and leathers, DJ, Shoegaze guitarist, remixer, and with his upcoming debut album for Somewherecold Records, a producer, Jeremy Bastard actually concocts sophisticated Gothic dream pop synth music, fit for the dance floors. Waiting out the pandemic in Florida, away from his Big Apple base of nightclubs and such, Jeremy is said to have “got creative” with his laptop and invested in new music software. With a DX7 synth, some vintage drum machine samples and a suite of Arturia virtual instruments, he set to work without any of his usual band mates or tools. Finding inspiration in his limitations, he was soon composing guitar figures on synths, using a cue from his early heroes, The Sisters of Mercy. In a nutshell: Guitar music with no guitars. In practice, and on this the first single from that new album, ‘Shadowboxing’, it sounds a bit like a smoldering connection between Popol Vuh, Moroder, Gina X Performance, Jennifer Touch, Kas Product at a neon bedecked German club circa 1984.

As this is not a strictly solo outing, the first of many collaborators from his years of development in music makes an appearance: the breathless posing ethereal Dallas electro siren with a great moniker, Elektra Monet, and on live guitar duties, band mate Tristan.

This first single also includes a couple of remixes, one from Eric Shans and one from The Corrupting Sea, plus an original track not on the forthcoming album called ‘Glasscutter’ that features meviu§ and sounds like a icy cool no wave meets NIN in clubland. The singles out now, and the album, Everyone is History, There is No Memory will be released on January 22, 2021 both on Vinyl and Digital.

Lunar Bird ‘Emerald And Blue’
4th December 2020

Blooming into existence, a diaphanous as ever single from the Italo-Welsh troupe Lunar Bird, who cast a most flowery spell on the poetic ‘Emerald And Blue’. Disarmingly floating in an orchestrated musical of dream pop, there lies a gossamer shrouded tale of fatalistic symbolized infatuation. Yes, despite the crystal spokes reverb, swimmingly vibes and cooed backing voices, there are profound contrasts on the more uncontrollable, melancholic limits of dreams. It sounds like a kind of theatrical meets trip-hop meets cosmic doo-wop vision of Patti Page: quite heavenly.

See also…

Lunar Bird  ‘A Walk’  (HERE)

SAD MAN and Francis Lowe ‘Stories From An Island’
(Cue Dot Records)

The latest, and third, installment from the newly established conceptual electronica venture Cue Dot Records pitches the unique techno and experimental visions of the Sad Man against the visceral Irish burr storytelling of the writer Francis Lowe. Cue Dot’s remit is to provide a platform for its guests to explore an ever-evolving narrative; none more so than this match-up of often supernatural, magical, violent and surreal sound-tracked narrations.

Stories From An Island sees the harebrained garden shed avant-garde (and often bonkers; going as far as to build his own apparatus to mangle and contort sounds from) composer Andrew Spackman subdue some of his more ennui-fractious and pulling-in-all-directions signature ravings for an industrial-pastoral soundtrack that emphasis, blends, remixes and sometimes warps Lowe’s Wicker Man Island narrated travails. Sometimes this errs towards the disturbing, with Lowe’s voice emerging from the daemonic on the creeping ‘Diary’ horror. God knows what kind of place this is that Lowe has chanced upon, wondered into, but it’s a realm filed with strange and weirdly described characters: imagine Paula Rego, Samuel Becket and Nick Cave on the The Third Day series island.

Lowe explains in greater detail the spark of inspiration and process behind this project:

‘In late Autumn 2019 I was driving home along a deserted stretch of road. The horizon was obscured by mist and suddenly this familiar stretch of road became distinctly unfamiliar. A story started to form inside my head; a story set on an Island, a place where the inhabitants have very particular gifts, secrets, and histories. I rang Andy (SAD MAN). I told him that I was going home to write a story and asked him if I recorded it, would he be interested in putting music to it. He immediately said yes. This was a Friday and the following Monday the first story, ‘The Ferry’, was completed. A year on and here we are, finishing the final story in the series, ‘Witness’, and releasing them into the world.’

A bespoke vision that sees both collaborators pushing themselves – especially Andrew who proves himself an impressively burgeoning soundtrack composer with filmic ambitions – the third chapter in the Cue Dot series is a truly escapist and immersive experience of well-crafted, descriptive sonics and winding, brilliant literature.

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 REVUE/Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brain ‘Bordello’ Shea

Join us for the most eclectic of musical journeys as the Monolith Cocktail compiles another monthly playlist of new releases and recent reissues we’ve featured on the site, and tracks we’ve not had time to write about but have been on our radar.

You can expect to hear everything and anything; from the best new Hip-Hop cuts (Swamp Thing, Atmosphere, Oliver Sudden), vintage Zimbabwean shoe shuffling (Hallelujah Chicken Run Band) and Anatolian psych (Moĝollar), needled post-punk lament (The Awkward Silences, Vukovar), synthesized peregrinations (Ancient Plastix) and more dystopian experiments in electronica (Seb Reynolds). Plus new tracks from Peter Cat, The legless Crabs, Tiger Mendoza, Martin L Gore, Kutiman, Geeker-Natsumi, Electric Jalaba and more…

Tracks:

Swamp Thing/Ollie Teeba ‘JumpThe Goblin (Ft. More Or Les/DJiRATE)’
The Du-Rites ‘Can’t Buy Groove’
Hallelujah Chicken Run Band ‘Kare Nanhasi’
Mogollar ‘Iklig D2D session’
Tiger Mendoza ‘KPS (Ft. Half Decent)’
Kutiman ‘Maasai In Dub’
Electric Jalaba ‘Cubaili Ba’
Martin Gore ‘Mandrill’
Geeker-Natsumi ‘Shinigami’s Watchin’ Me’
Tender Tones ‘In Dreamed Lives’
Atmosphere ‘She Loves My Not’
Ya Minko ‘Chambres Vides’
Open Mike Eagle ‘The Black Mirror Episode’
Aesop Rock ‘Marble Cake’
The Stance Brothers ‘On Top (Organ & Vibes)’
Oliver Sudden ‘My Old Wax (Ft. Jazz T)’
Dillion/Day Tripper/Yamin Semali ‘Long Division’
Mr. Lif/Stu Banges ‘Wave The Flag (Ft. Eternia/Insight)’
November Bees ‘All Is Well’
Novelistme ‘In A Dream’
The Awkward Silences ‘Other People Die’
The Left Outsides ‘The Wind No Longer Stirs The Trees’
Sinead O Brien ‘Most Modern Painting’
Le Volume Courbe ‘Fourteen Years’
Julia Meijer ‘Under Water (Ft. Fyfe Dangerfield)’
Luica Cadotsch ‘Azure’
Bloom De Wilde ‘Flying Carpenters’
Hooshyar Khayam/Bamdad Afshar Yə’ k’
Augenwasser ‘Work Wait Work’
Sebastian Reynolds ‘HAL’s Lament’
Ancient Plastix ‘The Dream Within The Dream Within’
Bunny & The Invalid Singers ‘The Certainty Kids’
Corticem ‘Planet Coronavirus: Dying Quasar’
Benedikt/Tuvaband ‘My Killer’
Liz Davinci/Underhatchet ‘While They Prey’
Gillian Stone ‘Bridges’
Vukovar ‘Silent Envoy’
The Legless Crabs ‘Redneck Scott Mccloud’
The Psychotic Monks ‘Confusion’
Peter Cat ‘Love Lurks’
Volcano Victims ‘Canicular Years’
Tina ‘Golden Rope’
Satin Glow ‘Crumbsnatchers’

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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