Our Daily Bread 414: Lunar Bird, Jeremy Bastard, SAD MAN and Francis Lowe, De Beren Gieren, Azmari

December 4, 2020

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.

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