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

The Monthly Playlist Revue is partly our imaginary radio show, partly a chance to catch up and showcase the last month’s worth of features, recommendations and reviews on the Monolith Cocktail. An eclectic spread, journey as ever March’s edition includes an emphatic cosmological birthed release from Andrew Hung; a mugging off flow over the theme music of 80s favourite Minder by a rum lot of UK hip-hop talent (Satrumentalz/Big Toast/The Stranger Neighbour/Gee Bag/OliverSudden/Downstroke); a suite from the unheralded surprise diaphanous flotation opus from the congruous and glorious partnership of Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders; another dream partnership, Olivier Rocabois & John Howard; and the unusual usual mix of post-punk, ambient, industrial, avant-garde, pop, hip-hop and whatever genre you can think off.

Osayomore Joseph & The Creative Seven  ‘Africa Is My Root’
Sakili  ‘La Ri Latine’
Electric Jalaba  ‘Briando’ 
Blak-Ram  ‘Trauma Waters’
BROCKHAMPTON (Ft. Danny Brown) ‘BUZZCUT’
Xiu Xiu & Liars  ‘Rumpus Room’
Andrew Hung  ‘Space’
U.S. Girls  ‘junkyard’
Chinese American Bear  ‘Dumpling’
Camino Al Desvan  ‘La Contorsion De Pollo’
Alewya & Moses Boyd  ‘The Code’
Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders  ‘Movement 5’
Masayoshi Fujita  ‘Thunder’
Mecanica Clasica  ‘Ak Deniz’
Mosquitoes  ‘Strobeluck’
A Certain Ratio  ‘Wonderland’
Timo Lassy & Teppo Makynen  ‘Calling James (Live)’
U68  ‘Uncommon Nasa’
L’Orange & Namir Blade  ‘Corner Store Scandel’
M-Dot/DZ The Unknown/Mayhem Of EMS  ‘Schizoid’
Satrumentalz/Big Toast/The stranger Neighbour/Gee Bag/Oliver Sudden/Downstroke  ‘Fuck Off London’
Tom Caruna (Ft. Scorzayzee, Jabbathakut)  ‘You Look Nice’
Gloria  ‘Global Warning’
Jane Inc.  ‘Dirt And The Earth’
A Minor Place  ‘When Silvia Leaves’
Opus Kink  ‘Wild Bill’
Chris Church  ‘Praise’
Ex Norwegian & Rhys Marsh  ‘Half Baked’
Shaun McLachlan  ‘When We Dance’
Olivier Rocabois & John Howard  ‘Tonight I Need’
The Bordellos  ‘Shattered Pop Kiss’
Witch Camp (Ghana)  ‘When I Was Ill, You Didn’t Come Visit’
Fernando Anuang’a & Maasai Vocals  ‘Enkisesei’
Rafiki Jazz  ‘Omkoth Ma’ai’
Daughters Of The Desert  ‘Whispering Dunes’
Vukovar  ‘When Rome Falls (7” Brutalist Edit)’
Provincials  ‘Terms & Conditions’
Petrolio  ‘Y Nadie Queria Saber’
Abacaxi ‘Catfish’ Cementation Anxiety  ‘The Locks Are Not Enough’
Alder Ego  ‘I Saw It In A Dream’    

ALBUM REVIEW/Nicola Guerra

The Monolith Cocktail has been exchanging posts with our pen pal partners at the leading Italian music publication Kalporz for the last two years or more now; an exchange that continues unabated in 2021. This month Nicola Guerra introduces us to the under-the-radar song writing of Tim Cohen.

Tim Cohen ‘You Are Still Here’
(Bobo Integral Records)

It must be frustrating to prove to the world that you’re a thoroughbred songwriter when for years you’ve been told you have the skills but haven’t yet (fully) proved it. You carry around the judgment that someone has made regardless, without evaluating your artistic journey move by move. So, for many, Fresh & Only are one of the many bands that populate the Bay Area of San Francisco, intent on resurrecting that much-idealized Summer of Love, while the Magik Trick Band is just an impromptu project of Tim Cohen, voice and guitar of the aforementioned Fresh & Only, who takes a break from the garage-pop hangover to seek refuge in the tranquility of folk.

I’ve never agreed with any of this; on the contrary, I’ve always felt that the good Cohen’s musical creatures contained something pure, beautiful and true. I have always thought that improvement is possible, but is it feasible to think of improving spontaneity? Isn’t spontaneity itself a unique and indissoluble point of arrival, especially in music? What I have always dreamed and hypothesized is that Cohen would have written his masterpiece sooner or later, perhaps far from the pressure of those who tell you that there is someone out there better than you. Nothing could be truer, probably, but nothing could be more useless, when a musician shows himself to the world in a transparent way, with his weaknesses but above all with his strengths.

So, after much wandering between solo projects, stubbornness not to conform (Long Slow Dance in 2012 mixed garage and 80s pop in a delicious way), the ability to write memorable garage-pop songs (‘Shattered Moon’ and ‘I’m Gonna be your Elevator’ from Fresh & Onlys’ first records), fascinating fuzz-pop hybrids (‘Animal of Love’) and even poignant and dreamy folk ballads (‘Torture’ from Magik Trick’s Ruler of the Night), finally comes the certificate that certifies the greatness of this musician.

It’s no coincidence that You Are Still Here is released by a small and independent label in Madrid, Bobo Integral Record. Which will surely have made him feel at ease. And he reciprocates with this little masterpiece. Apparently relaxed, full of airy and sunny POP melodies ‘Give Me Yours’ and ‘Somebody Bout’ but also of more psych folk-tinged pieces ‘Dadaist Friend’ and ‘Homless’, the bearded Tim’s sixth work is not the goal of a lifetime achieved but an important milestone that attests to the undoubted quality of his writing and artistic vision.

You can always do better, sure. But better than being yourself is practically impossible.

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona
Band Photo Credit: Karim Diarra

Samba Touré ‘Binga’
(Glitterbeat Records) 9th April 2021

Learning his craft as a member of the late and iconic Ali Farka Touré band, the Malian guitar star and artist Samba Touré soon found his own voice and signature style when he began a career as bandleader in the 90s. Samba’s wonderings and spirit of curiosity has seen him weave his Songhoy heritage with rock ‘n’ roll, r ‘n’ b and the blues to much acclaim; both nationally and internationally.

Yet for most of that time, especially within the last decade, this musical legacy has been created during the turbulence of war, drought, insurgencies and coups. Most of which Samba has addressed on his last three albums for the highly prolific global showcase label Glitterbeat Records. Two of those albums, Albala and Gandadiko, were both produced during the (still ongoing) Islamist terror group insurgency that more or less hijacked Mali’s Tuareg militants fight for an autonomous state within the Saharan bordering regions of the country. Spared at least some of the worst violence and atrocities having left his village home in the rural Malian region of Binga as a young man to find work in the capital of Bamako, Samba managed to record some most entrancing, captivating work; most of which called for unity and especially – a subject it seems very dear to his heart – issued calls to open the schools in Mali hit by security problems, strikes, but also in the last year, the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. On Samba’s fourth release for the label, and a nod to his homely roots, Binga, he channels a wizened, grizzled Muddy Waters on the stately blues and stoic but incandescent with angry cries ‘Atahas’; a song, more like a protest, against the sorry state of education in the country.

As if the tumult couldn’t be even more, well…tumultuous; after halting the Islamist militants with the help of former colonialists France, the Malian army is currently in the frontline with units from Chad, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, alongside the UN, in multiple operations to stave off Isis affiliated groups on the Mali borders and in its neighbor’s backyards. Attacks on government targets, soldiers and civilians continue unabated however: even as recent as January 2021.

With all these pressures, Mali’s own government continues to lurch from one crisis to the next; an uneasy interim style leadership, peppered by young officers from the Army who staged a coup back in the summer of last year (the exact same time this album was recorded), currently holds power. That coup’s leader, Colonel Assimi Goita, holds the title of Vice President, though this is only until elections are held later in the year.

Reminiscing of better times, or at least a ‘golden epoch’ in the greater region’s history, Samba’s new album features an opening and bookended tribute to songs from the Songhoy era; an empire that once stretched across most of the Western Sahel, the largest such kingdom in Africa during the 15th and 16th centuries. That empire’s crowning glory, Timbuktu, lies just 100 Km from Samba’s birthplace: It’s reverence, almost destroyed in the recent fighting, still inspires. Covering a couplet of traditional Songhoy fair, Samba and his intimate band join a great legacy of compatriots who’s also covered, interrupted atavistic songs from that period. Recounting the exploits of that tradition’s ‘great figures’, Samba’s version of the ‘Tamala’ standard is helped along on its way by his relaxed signature weaves of trickled and nimbly spun notes, played over a sinking but rooted bluesy rhythm. With a courtly evocation, and the harmonized vocal accompaniment of guest Djeneba Diakité, Samba softly flows with a little buoyancy across a Sahel vision. ‘Terey Kongo’ meanwhile is almost elliptical in its rhythm; almost sensual to a point; a nice wash in fact for a tale about admiring looks at the Malian women on the riverbank, observed on a trip down the Niger river towards Timbuktu.

Drawing back a little from the fuller sound of his previous album Wande – Samba’s bass player having now moved to the States – Samba mainstays Djimé Sissoko (on the ngoni) and Souleymane Kane (on calabash) move in close and intimately on what’s billed as the Malian virtuoso’s ‘most personal album yet’. This trio is augmented in parts with the most subtle of brooding low synthesized atmospherics, some country waned harmonica and additional shaken and tub patting percussion. Nothing ever quite breaks out, yet the sound is full, deep and resonating all the same; and above all, just as hypnotic: like a dipped motion camel ride across the desert plains. It’s a beautiful undulated journey that features jammed horizon mirages (the matter of fact entitled ‘Instrumental’) and elegiac reverent tributes (‘Kola Cissé).  

Once more Samba Touré embodies the music of the Songhoy on an album of mixed blessings: the bittersweet in counterpoint with sagacious optimism. Returning to the source, geographically and creatively, the Binga albums is as soulful as it is bluesy; as courtly as it is traversing; and a really satisfying immersive experience all round from one of Mali’s greatest exports.

See also…

Samba Touré ‘Gandadiko’   

Samba Touré ‘Wande’

Glitterbeat Records 5th Anniversary Special

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

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

viA fAntAsticA ‘2 Any 1’
29th March 2021

Infrequently appearing on the Monolith Cocktail radar over the years, the Welsh ‘pop concrete’ maverick Justin Toland has thus far shared with us a sixteen-minute wistful, magical suite in aid of promoting the Agent Of Change law that ensues live music venues have protection in the event of noise complaints; furnished us with a disconsolate score for the mystical bard Arthur Machen’s fabled ghost story legend metaphor on the horrors of WWI; and appeared as part of a whole disarray of Welsh compatriot avant-garde electronic explorers on the Gwenno Saunders curated CAM 1 compilation: Toland’s contribution to this magnificent showcase, a Throbbing Gristle burble called ‘Caution’.

All three were filed under Toland’s Location Baked alias, but on the latest, quite generous, project it’s now the uppercase ‘A’ stuck viA fAntAsticA. The fantastical Toland is joined, some of the way, by an imaginary foil, the druid vocalist Gaia de Voxx, whose voice is like the bastardized offspring of Add N To X’s android friend and the now redundant alter ego vocoder affected robotics of Daft Punk.

Framed as some kind of ‘imaginary soundtrack to a 21st century kitchen-sink drama set in the faded seaside resort of Porthcawl’, the 2 Any 1 album does seem to have, well…an almost faded nostalgic sound: part retro-futurism, part lo fi psychedelic, and another part, a fond if removed, nod to the rave era. In fact, and to be honest, Toland more or less touches upon most synthesized and electronic music movements of the last forty plus years; going as far back as the forgotten Library cult mavericks so beloved by the KPM label, and the Kosmische developments of Germany’s Sky Records set in the 70s, especially Asmus Tretchens, who rubs up against a popcorn-popping Space and The Normal on the early synth bobbing opener ‘Bamboo’.  By the following track, ‘Serikultur 80’, he’s already shifted the sound to Casio preset percussive saunters and bleaker Sheffield electronica Ballard: think early Mute Records and a more morbidly obsessive Human League. Not that this is one of those self-serving, knowing kinds of records, the influences are all there but woven into a coherent odyssey that is used to soundtrack a lifetime of experience, strung-out on a Welsh coastline.

In all that magical electronica and memory the 2 Any 1 album contains a diorama of characters and concerns (both political and societal). The sounds, even field recordings (one such recording is from a Save Guilford Crescent demo) of activism, preservation and community can be heard permeating throughout. It’s not pushed, nor is this an obvious soundtrack of protestation, plaintive agonizing or scorn, but it is there.

To borrow in some degree that moniker, this twenty-one track album is indeed a ‘fantastical’ woozy and halcyon album that dreamily draws in a memory pool of soulful Chicago House, Trip-Hop, Italo House, Trance, d’n’b, electro, pop and most surprising, a sound that Toland’s PR spill calls Puerto-Rican electronic-indie – which I think I can actually hear. And so you may at any one time hear illusions to Yazoo, Plug, Aphex Twin, Bruno Spoeri, Luke Vibret, and on the swimmingly acid-wash travelogue ‘Swim-Up Bar Blues’, an Ibiza gatecrashing 808 State.

Toland’s mind is let loose and the results are actually quite fluid, with some really lovely touches, melodies and kept-in-check breaks on what is an ambitious undertaking. You could even say that this album was in some ways a culmination of his life’s work: a showcase that takes in more or less every strand, influence and inspiration. It’s most importantly a great hallucinogenic and rich electronic mystery tour dance album of possibilities, dreams, intoxications and reflections.

See also…

Location Baked   ‘Agents Of Change’

Location Baked  ‘The Bowman’

Various  ‘CAM 1’

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.

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Reviews Column

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 diatribe ‘Boris Johnson Massacre’ and just in the last couple of months the King Of No-Fi album, a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart, and in just the last 24 hours a double-A side single, ‘Shattered Pop Kiss/Sky Writing’. He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

Each week we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick to see what sticks. In his own idiosyncratic style and turn-of-phrase, pontificating aloud and reviewing with scrutiny an eclectic deluge of releases, here Brian’s latest batch of recommendations.

Chinese American Bear  ‘Dumpling’
Out Now

We all need a little bit of light quirky indie pop in our lives believe me. It gives one a feel-good sugar rush of pure pop freedom, an aural ray of sunshine that can light up the drabness of everyday life. And that sparkle of pop freedom in this round up is supplied by husband-and-wife duo Chinese American Bear, a duo that wraps the quirky melody around the listeners’ hearts until it pops with smiles and flowers and quaint kitschy hugs, burrowing down to visit the place where ‘There Goes Concorde Again’ by the Native Hipsters used to reside: a place that lies deep inside all of us.

Opus Kink  ‘Wild Bill’
(Nice Swan Records)  19th March 2021

This is a bit of a rum do; a song that is a little shimmy of just being a shammy of Joe Strummer in the post Clash nonchalance that was The Mescaleros. Yes we have the sound of brass and chanting ‘all-in-it-together’ backing vocals that marimba like an overheated Italian Western survivor that Nick Cave would no doubt cover in admiring glances whilst filing somebody else’s nails with a file made from the discarded bone of a reflected vision of a Tom Waits memory. All in all we have a fine musical Odyssey of drunken obsession. A little belter as they say up north. 

ALBUMS/EPS..

Abacaxi ‘Mainstream Desire’
(Carton Records) 19th March 2021

How does Add N To X do Prince sound to you? If you think yes that is right up my aforementioned, then this two-track album is for you. Discordant keyboard funk guitar collides in a scream of space invader fury all amusement hall feedback and globetrotter chic, blank TV mantras and the forbidden corpse of an ex-girlfriend’s tongue: oh yes! And that is only the first track. And when it finally deems to end, it does so to the sound of Sun Ra having jollies with a miscreant.

The second and final track takes off where the first one finished; feedback squalling rock n roll guitars, the sound of a steam train doubting itself whilst picking up pace going in a downward direction that will only stop when reaching destination hell. This is indeed a fascinating listen and one only a psychopath could hum along to.

‘SKY CHILDREN: THE BEST OF KALEIDOSCOPE / FAIRFIELD PARLOUR’
19th March 2021

Normally I’d avoid reviewing old music as this is called the Monolith Cocktail not Mojochronic Codpiece, but I like to occasionally look back; especially as I have more than a fondness for 60s psych, and this, would you believe, is the first time a collection of Kaleidoscope has been released on CD, so is well worth giving up a bit of my time to write about the wondrous release.

Yes, this is a fine collection but Kaleidoscope were a fine band so what would you expect. One minute, they are mid 60s Who like with the catchy poptastic ‘In My Box’ and the next, stretching the minds of incredulity with elastic like relapses of thrown together wonders with the likes of ‘A Dream of Julie’: a song that is both like the Hollies being entertained and bewitched by a pill popping Syd Barrett, and Syd Barrett enjoying confusing the poor Mancs into believing they could be the greatest band ever to set foot on the rotating stage of melodeon delight.

How I love the thrill and splendour of the 60s. No wonder there are still so many bands still trying to capture the magic that was in the air, trying to breath in the complexity of acid induced togetherness, but you have to feel a little sorry for them when fine CDs like this are released to remind us that they are nothing but poor imitations of this. And yes, Kaleidoscope where there first with all those other lucky post second world war baby boomers to weave their magic. And 50 years later this still sounds like magic. This collection like the band themselves are ones to clutch to your hearts and cherish for this music never grows old and will forever influence the young upstarts and remind those of us that are old enough what it was like to be young. A staggeringly magic comp of musical magic. 

Ex Norwegian and Friends ‘Sing Jimmy Campbell’
(Think Likes A Key Music)

This album pleases me; it makes me happy. Why I hear you ask, well because it means the late great Jimmy Campbell is finally getting some attention: attention he well deserves.

For anyone who has not heard of Jimmy Campbell before, he was a fine and underrated songwriter from Liverpool who released a series of wonderful singles in the 60s with his band The Kirkbys and the 23rd Turnoff, and then he released three stunning solo albums of quirky psych folk British beat albums and a cult classic of an album called Yes It Is with his band Rocking Horse – a band made up of ex Merseybeat’s and The Escorts. But none received the acclaim and success they deserved.

As you can tell I am a bit of a fan. I even played a tribute night to the great man many years ago in Liverpool, in front of many of his family and friends with my band The Bordellos. Also playing that night where members of The La’s and Shack and The Christians, which just goes to show what high standing the Liverpool music community hold him in, and what a great influence he has had. So myself a huge fan of the man and his original recordings, and giving this album a rave review, which I’m about to do, should in fact just show how good this album is, as covering brilliant songs and doing them well is not such an easy thing to achieve, but somehow Ex Norwegian and his myriad of friends actually pull it off. Each have done rather great covers and showered them in the magic and love they deserve. From the piano strolling sweet rendition of ‘Baby Walk Out with Your Darling Man’ by another great undervalued British songwriter John Howard, through to Ex Norwegians Beatle like White Album take on the dark brooding ‘Half Baked’, or Joe Kanes beautifully rocking take on ‘Yes, it Is’, this album does not put a foot wrong: in fact it skips along beautifully, track to track taking in psych, pop, folk and even venturing into the extremes of Power Pop and late night FM radio territory. This really is a splendid collection and a fine tribute to the great man. On a strictly personal level the only downside to me is that I’m not on the album: I would have loved to have included a beautifully lo-fi version of his ode to heartbreak and loneliness ‘In My Room’, but this album is a complete success and is recommended not just to fans of Jimmy Campbell but also would be a great introduction to the man’s genius song writing.

The Dials ‘And Another Thing…b-sides and asides’
(Kool Kat Music) 19th March 2021

If this album was released in 1966 it might have been seen as hip and happening, the album sleeve might have been carried under the arm of some groovy hip cat like a badge of honour. But it is not 1966, it is 2021, and all is not well in the world. People are dying with the new plague; people are losing their jobs and their minds; the music industry is in dire straits needing a kick up the arse from some new musical savior. Sadly, The Dials are not that musical savior; they are a band with both feet stuck in the 60s alongside their head and hearts and guitars, and to be honest who can blame them. For what The Dials do, they do very well. They have melodies that The Monkees or a Monkees cover band would adore; they have guitars that chime and ring; harmonicas that could have been blown from the lips of Dylan; organs that have leapt straight from the scratchy vinyl copy of ‘Incense and Peppermints’.

I don’t actually think The Dials have an original bone in their paisley wrapped bodies, an original idea in their John Lennon capped heads, but that is not saying they are doing anything wrong. What they are doing is making catchy enjoyable musical homages to your record collection, or even your Dad’s record collection, or to our younger readers, your granddad’s record collection. Yes, this is not new it is not original it is not trying to be different but it is enjoyable. And I am sure people who buy the albums released on Kool Kat Records and likeminded record labels will love it. If Your fave bands are The Beatles and The Byrds or any 60s band whose name begins with B, you will love it.

Olivier Rocabois  ‘Goes Too Far’
2nd April 2021

There is something quite timeless about this album it could have been recorded anytime from the late 60s to the present day. Described in the press release as Baroque pop – and I will certainly go with that to some extent – it is an album of pleasing pop songs pre–Ziggy Bowie with overtures of the Beach Boys wrapped in their Pet Sounds bubble of warmth and also reminding me of the English treasure that is John Howard, who makes a guest appearance on the beautiful Baroque ballad ‘Tonight I Need’. But this album is filled with pleasing slightly quirky songs of love dripping in sublime chamber pop coverings that fans of the Divine Comedy [the band not the book] would stand and applaud. This is an album to invite into your musical life as a permanent houseguest.

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

Album Review/Dominic Valvona

Rafiki Jazz ‘NDUGGU’
(Konimusic) 26th March 2021

With possibly one of the most diverse lineups going, the polygenesis Rafiki Jazz ensemble can boast of eight different languages and between them play at least thirty different instruments, and that’s without counting their guest contributors.

The foundation core of eight band members represents near enough every corner of the globe; from the Middle East to Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, India and Africa. It’s a cross-pollination of cultures that musically weaves together each member’s heritage seamlessly. And so you’re just as likely to hear the West African spindly harp-like kora alongside a tapping, bobbing set of tablas, or a vague air of Moorish Spain, South America and romantic Urdu vocals all sharing space in the same song. 

Following on from 2019’s entrancing and captivating ‘mystic utopia’ translated Saraba Sufiyana album, and with funding from the Arts Council in England, Rafiki Jazz now reveal their fifth omnivorous geographical songbook, recorded remotely in lockdown, NDUGGU. Pronounced “dug-goo” that title means “dust”; a theme that is mentioned throughout the album but one that is in particular a reference to the increasing desertification of the Sahel region in Northern Africa, where climate change is having an erosive and unstable effect.

Dust, as the PR spill reminds us, is also our ‘ultimate destiny’. The lingering dust of previous generations imbues this eight track album of serious but diaphanous, harmoniously articulated dreams and filmic quality traverses. Though deeply affecting, these borderless mergers somehow wash over the listener with a certain translucence and lightness of touch; like a silken veil over the romantic floated Turkish language ‘Gesi Baglari’ (an ode to the band’s manager), and sadder, clandestine Tango across the Arabian Seas to Pakistan ‘Tum Na Aaye’.

Elsewhere there’s a lyrical, sweet synchronicity of Tamil, India and West Africa on the opening enchanted, almost-duet(ed) fluty ‘Naalaikku Nalla Naal’, and a languid Ghanaian Highlife hop between the Hispaniola, South Seas and Afro-Caribbean that settles down into a snuggled sunny groove, ‘Ngozi Ucheoma’.

Intoxicated opium scented Arabia to the Upper Nile via a magical Kashmir lullaby, scenes, and concerns are set to heartfelt yearning vocals and gently stirred rhythms. Rafiki Jazz’s main strength then, is in transferring listeners to these exotic musical environments – many of which are suffering from the harshest consequences of climate change, and in many cases too, violent conflict.

Created in the shadow of Covid with all the restrictions it brings, and because of that recorded remotely, NDUGGU is still every bit as beautifully conceived, harmonious, and of course as embracing of diversity, as previous international affairs from the band.  With a focus on drawing attention to communities on the frontline of global change and extreme upheaval, Rafiki Jazz keep a number of forgotten people, their compatriots in many cases, in the spotlight. They do this with a most stunning, panoramic and worldly rich and lyrical songbook: a celebration in a sense against the forces that have tried to disconnect, disunite these international voices and musicians.   

See also…

Rafiki Jazz  ‘Saraba Sufiyana’

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

PLAYLIST/DOMINIC VALVONA

For those of you unfamiliar with the long-running Monolith Cocktail Social Playlist, this is Dominic Valvona’s eclectic and cross-generational imaginary and dream version of the blog’s radio show. It’s also a chance to show off his record collection, and the sort of music he’d play when DJing over the past thirty years. Expect the unexpected, as the oddities and the sublime rub up against each other on a curated playlist with no limits, no borders, and no one to please other than ourselves: we just hope you enjoy and share some of our tastes, or get switched and turned on to what we rave about.

Volume #53 includes the mad, bad and dangerous to know alongside turns from the post-pink, pub rock, jazz, Krautrock, psychedlic, garage, transient, soundtrack genres. Dominic also raises a glass to both the 50th anniversary of Amon Duul II’s Dance Of The Lemmings and the 30th anniversary of R.E.M.’s Out Of Time albums.

The Full Track List Is As Follows:

The Count Bishops ‘Down In The Bottom’
Viv And The Sect. ‘Blues Days’
Poison Girls ‘Underbitch’
Oblivians ‘Motorcycle Leather Boy’
Bailey’s Nervous Kats ‘Surf Express’
Avavikko ‘Alas Volgaa’
Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski ‘Sweet Beat’
Ihre Kinder ‘Wrote’
Message ‘THOUGHTS’
Afous ‘Malha’
Ernie Hawks ‘Cold Turkey Time’
Phill Most Chill ‘This Is What It Is’
Lejuan Love ‘My Hardcore Rhymes’
Marley Marl & Craig G ‘Droppin’ Science’
Falle Nioke ‘Barke’
Exuma ‘Empty Barrels’
The Cutlass Dance Band ‘Odofo Na Aden’
Comadre Florzinha ‘Arauna’
Maria Monti ‘Il Pavone’
Freur ‘Matters Of The Heart’
The Sixth Great Lake ‘Ballad Of A Sometimes Traveller’
The Field Mice ‘End Of An Affair’
R.E.M. ‘Country Feedback (Live)’
Supreme Dicks. ‘In A Sweet Song’
Elysian Spring ‘2 & 2’
Dennis Farnon ‘The Trackers’
Compton & Batteau ‘Honeysuckle’
Bill Jerpe ‘Mrs. Frost’
Michael Bundt ‘Midnight Orange Juice’
Alphataurus ‘Croma’
Ruth Copeland ‘Your Love Been So Good To Me’
Peace and Love ‘Until’
Remigio Ducros ‘Fabbrica Vuota’
Amon Duul II ‘Chamsin: Toxicological Whispering’
Eroc ‘Abendmeer’


Album Review/Dominic Valvona

Forest Robots ‘Amongst A Landscape Of Spiritual Reckoning’
(Wormhole Records) 2nd April 2021

Approaching the most restless of times with the most intuitive and peaceable of contoured ambient imbued and mapped albums, the composer and cross-country explorer Fran Dominguez – under his chosen Forest Robots alias – is gaining much attention and acclaim for his empirical sonic suites.

Making our very own choice albums of the year features in 2020 with the settled mood music of After Geography, Dominguez invited us all to join him on a timeless like reflective and meditative trek across an awe-inspiring landscape; a mindful excursion of mountains and natural phenomenon that sought to offer a safe space away from all the tumult.

His latest ambient and neo-classical tinged opus is full of similar deep connective sanctuaries for the mind. Amongst A Landscape Of Spiritual Reckoning, we’re told, explores the themes of spirituality, existentialism and ethics and ‘how each relates to [the] experiences of parenthood’: A sort of Zen and the art of parenting meditation if you will. There’s much more of course to digest, and outlined in the PR spill, but that’s the basic gist. Dominguez articulates these concerns in a Taoist like sagacious state, with an album of gently unfurled and revealed emotional washes: some of which literally do wash over you.

Dominguez is inspired musically by Jon Hassell (a given I’d say), Gigi Masin (most certainly), and Weather Report (not so obvious), but mood wise specifically by such Jazz maestros as Coltrane and his Love Supreme game-changer, and Pharoah Sanders’ exploration towards shorter peregrinations, the iconic Thembi album. The sensibility of those jazz traverses may linger, maybe traced in the efflux of this record; there’s certainly a suffused if fleeted drift of light saxophone to be heard downplayed in the fizzy vapours and swirled square waves of ‘All Great Things Must Grow Through Dirt First’.

However, for the most part the oft melodious philosophically proposed quandaries flow between the ambient, neo-classical and afflatus. Beatific stained glass piped organ evokes those spiritual considerations on the marimba twinkled ‘A Church Is Religion, A Tree Is Spirituality’ for example, whilst the Bamboo music, mallet chiming ‘Sustenance Comes From The Roots, Not The Height’ has its own rays of veneration to share. Some suites truly do ascend towards the heavenly, like the accentuated flange-fanned guitar and serialism piano elegant ‘We Only Die Once, But Can Be Grateful Every New Day’. But the guiding light is a beautiful if sad, yearned and cerebral one.

Twinkled baubles, quivered elbowed and frayed strings, plucked mibra tangs, and what sounds like a rustic oboe are just some of the instruments and sounds used to evoke, stir up the emotions. They also (to these ears anyway) evoke certain geographical suggestions: from the Orient to Appalachians. Amongst A Landscape Of Spiritual Reckoning is something to both contemplate and wind down with, an articulation of both old tropes and the contemporary, handled with the most sublime of organic touches. Its every bit as rewarding and moving as After Geography, and will no doubt cement Dominguez’s reputation as one of the most creative and interesting ambient music visionaries of the past few years. Take some time out to immerse yourself in his brand of panoramic escapism.

See also…

Forest Robots ‘After Geography’

Choice Albums of 2020: Part Two

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

DOMINIC VALVONA’S REVIEWS COLUMN

Jane Inc. ‘Number One’
(Telephone Explosion)  19th March 2021

Despite the inner turmoil, anxieties and mental fatigue of keeping herself together in such worrying uncertain times, Toronto scene instigator Carlyn Bezic’s latest alias is disarmingly shimmery, radiant and sparkly.

As Jane Inc. Carlyn pieces together a dreamy, often languorous and woozy, collage of sophisticated space-age disco, indie and 80s pop music; below the often vaporous and translucent, seductive surface of which lies a questioning and frustrated plaint of vulnerability.

Something different, escapist even from Carlyn’s musical partnership with Amanda Crist in the synth pop duo Ice Cream, and her roles as a foil to Meg Remy in U.S. Girls and Darlene Shrugg, the Jane persona pouts as much as agonizes under a glitter ball, the rays of light that sparkle from its mirror reflective spins turning into needle sharp cuts at topics that include the harmful effects of social media, our sense of self worth, and the soul-sucking results of gentrification. 

Growing originally from a “one woman” show to expand into a group effort, Carlyn has brought in recording engineer Steve Chahley (Badge Èpoque Ensemble, Kathryn Williams), Tasseomancy and U.S. Girls drummer Evan J. Cartwright, saxophonist Nick Dourando of BUDi Band and Fiver, and Scott Harwood to play the Wurlitzer to play on the album. This ensemble bring a warmth and nice live feel to what is essentially a knowing synthesized pop album; one that often evokes the disco and electronic production and atmospherics of Moroder.

Imaging Prince was usurped by Wendy & Lisa, filtered through St. Vincent, Number One’s most striking, stunning (and easily one of the best pop records of 2021 thus far) 80s pop nugget is the power-dressed kiss-off to the eternal work/life balance conundrum, ‘Steel’. Almost as good as that decadence in free fall is the slinking, slowly unfolding and starry ‘Gem’, which comes on like a mix of the Midnight Juggernauts and Grace Jones’ Compass Point Allstars. The rest of the album is both a diaphanous mix of glassy synth-pop and cosmic retro-futurism; made all the dreamier by the revolving Wurlitzer swirls, ARP synth like rays and reverberated vocal effects.

Though the artwork reflects a fragmentation, a layering of how others see the artist, the music is a together, cool, aloof production of polished new wave pop: a thinking person’s pop at that. Going for the sparkle, glittering, but the hazy too, Jane Inc. proves yet another successful, scintillating and animated project for the Toronto artist.

Various ‘Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1’
(Analog Africa)  26th March 2021

Many just know it as ‘modern Highlife’, others as a whole different brew entirely called ‘Edo Funk’: a more stripped and raw sheen-less and less slick version of the productions emanating from the nightclubs of 80s Nigeria. That scintillating signature Highlife groove and use of blazing but softened heralding brass remains, but this Edo Funk sound is in no rush, hurry to get anywhere soon; preferring instead to incorporate a quasi-reggae gait, rudimental 80s effects racks, William Onyeabor like synths and programmed percussive pre-sets and drums to create a light disco funk.

Born in the much fought-over Edo State capital of Benin City in the cosmopolitan region of Southern Nigeria, the Edo Funk phenomenon was a reductive alternative to the polished productions that dominated the scene, and one that delivered, in many cases, the same spirited protestations that Fela Kuti wrapped around Afrobeat.

Three of the genre’s greatest exponents and progenitors share the billing on this latest compilation from the house of Analog Africa. Each artist is represented by a quartet of tunes, all of which were hunted down and chosen by the duo of groove archeologists Samy Ben Redjeb (AA’s label boss) and Bela Patrutzi (of Tropical Timewarp). Setting out in 2018 to discover the ‘remaining traces’ of that transformed funk, they managed to produce a lively, if often sweetened, light collection of rare records from the trailblazers Sir Victor Uwaifo, Akaba Man and Osayomore Joseph. Each has a unique backstory, and something different to bring to the style, with the lordly Sir Victor favouring the synth, the lauded ‘philosopher king’ and ambassador of funky Highlife, Akaba, immersing himself in hypnotic trance rhythms, and the modernizer Osayomore bringing the flighty, gentle flute to a form synonymous for its horn sections.

Famed guitarist in his own right, Sir Victor (crowned the ‘king’ of Edo Funk no less) was already a star in his native Nigeria before building the now legendary Joromi Studios in his hometown of Benin City in 1978. Now broadening his horizons and production facilities, his new records on the cusp of a new decade would heavily feature pure synth sounds. With his tittering named Titibitis band, tunes like the playful ‘Tranm Tran’ took on a sort of synthesized spacy aquatic squelch, as flange-effect choppy and scratched guitars and organ dalliances sweetly wade through water.  Those keyboards, whether real or not, can be heard at piercing levels on the more tropical, sauntering and swaying ‘Aibalegbe’, and they almost squeal with distortion on the busier, disco production ‘Obviemama’.    

Joseph, appearing with either The Creative Seven, or The Uele Power Sound, and also in a solo capacity, was a ‘Lagos fixture’ we’re told, before settling back in Benin City in the mid 70s; just years after the Nigerian Civil War, when the Biafra fractions for a short few years occupied the city. On this compilation his fluted signature floats over the cradled traditional horn support and vibrant but lilted infectious sunny funk on the minor anthem ‘Africa Is My Root’; a disarming Kuti style swipe at westernized Africans, with what sounds at one point like some very dubious lyrics. Anyway, it’s got my vote, and has been on the Monolith Cocktail HQ playlist for weeks and weeks. He’s the “minister of peace”, and more sinister “follower of the devil” on the eased, slinking and disapproving ‘My Name Is Money’, and evokes Orlando Juluis on the jazzy and softly funky strut ‘Ororo No De Fade’.

Said to have been less overtly political, Akaba Man (here with the African Pride and The Nigie Rokets in tow) sure knew a thing or two about a sweet soulful groove. Again using a relaxed swing of Highlife horns (cornet trumpet by the sounds of it), he stumbled and elastically limbered along to a mix of reggae and lilted Soweto funk, whilst adding a concertinaed effect of Cabo Verde space echo synth rays on tunes like ‘Popular Side’. Some of his other contributions sound like the scintillated disco relatives of Nigeria’s The Money Man and Super 5 International in comparison.

There are some great discoveries to be found on this compilation for sure. The emphasis being on groove, feel and even happiness: no matter what the theme. The Edo Explosion arrives just at the right time, as spring emerges from an awful Covid long winter. Dance on into the season’s forgiving radiant blossoms with this rare funk special: go on, you all deserve it.

Cory Hanson ‘Pale Horse Rider’
(Drag City) 12th March 2021

Once more casting adrift off but remaining musically connected to Wand, Cory Hanson finds room to breath and some kind of solace from the current charged atmosphere of his divisive America homeland, retreating to a Joshua Tree like soul-replenishing desert with his band of campfire musicians.

The move to a earnest lifestyle and staple cowboy diet of ‘coffee and chili’, seems to have had the desired effect with Cory and ensemble exuding some deep affecting moods and pining reflection from the most relaxed recording performances: most of which proved the best versions on the very first take.

On the yearning pathway of cosmic cowboy country and Americana indie, Cory’s second solo songbook draws on the ‘Rio Grande’ rebel country dreaminess of his principle band Wand, yet goes further towards troubadour melodies and timeless songwriting. Always remaining gentle and brushed, except for certain tense swells and slowly grinded out electric guitar strains, each song has a certain hint of crafted familiarity; from Neil Young to Travis; Wilco to Big Thief.

Steel peddle wanes, Southern American strings and the desert mirage panorama scene-setting of Western soundtracks are all present and correct, as Cory scans the landscape of sighed revelations and daydreaming romantic plaint.  It’s “revelations” indeed that permeate the album’s titular coddled voiced deliverance: Cory in a quasi-balladry Nick Cave mode evoking the revengeful stranger-comes-to-cleanup-and-purify-the-sinners archetype, as performed on screen so well by the pale rider Clint Eastwood.

The pale horse of that album title and song is itself a reference to the biblical fourth and final horseman (“death”), galloping over the apocalyptic horizon. It’s also the title of a book by the journalist Mark Jacobson, who uses the subject of the miscreant former navel intelligence worker Miles William Cooper and his infamous Behold A Pale Horse manifesto – a terrible blueprint that wove together every lunatic paranoid delusion and conspiracy theory going – to expose and look at the toxicity of fake news and America’s paranoia. This feeds into Cory’s own thematic reflections about the state of the nation. For this pale rider stalks not only the deserts but also wanders the concrete sidewalks of the artist’s more urban L.A. home: it’s as if the old West seamlessly blends in with the California metropolis. As I’ve already said, this deeply affecting songbook sees a relaxed Cory don the garb of American and country music effortlessly; adding a lilt of modernity to some timeless, brushed and hushed wrangling melodies.

Ensemble De Cadavres Exquis ‘The Warlock Tapes’
(Submarine Broadcasting Company)  3rd March 2021

Spanning the visual and sonic, the veiled Glove Of Bones’ latest project is a riff on the Surrealist “Exquiste Corpse” parlor game; a subversive collaborative drawing exercise in which each participant added whatever subconscious extension they could dream up to a chain of hidden images; the results of which when revealed could result in the most weird of oddities. With the likes of grand doyen of the form, and way beyond, Max Ernst taking part alongside Dali and Miró you might have big bird’s plumage next to the shapely naked crossed legs of a muse and tennis racket feet.

GOB’s version is, despite a whole host of participants all adding their own unique musical thumb prints, actually quite dreamily coherent: flowing even. With a renegade circle of Bandcamp mavericks, which includes Mark Fox, Jamie Munāriz, Rutger Van Driel, Volkar Bauland, Gordon Way and many others, GOB manages to steer his own “Cadavres Exquis” experiment towards a challenging but extemporized sonic journey that has a grasp of intrigue, interest and sensibility.

If regular readers can recall, we last featured GOB with his regular foil Cousin Silas in our choice album misadventures of 2020; the duo’s alternative ethnographic reality Kafou Avalonia reimagined an atavistic shift of tectonic plates: a sort of musical equivalence of Ernst’s own amorphous, sometimes by chance, post WWI alien landscapes and plaster-cast-on-board landmasses without borders configurations. The Surrealist raison d’etre of subversion (sometimes in poor taste, and at other times truly revolutionary) seems as inspiration on that brilliant album and this one. Cousin Silas, I might add, pops up on the woozy, fugal horn suffused, cryptic Einstürzende Neubaten transmogrifying ‘Revolution No.9’ numerical reading, ‘Bone Yard 391 Plus 119’.

Throwing his dice into the ring, the omnipresence of the late cult author George Cockcroft (passing away last November) is another inspiration for this project-in-lockdown. Under the pen name of Luke Rhinehart he infamously wrote the game-of-chance novel The Dice Man in 1971; a story in which the central protagonist – arguably a version of the author himself – based all life decisions on the throw of those said dice, to ever worrying, even criminal and heinous results. An enterprise of chance then, and yet seldom does The Warlock Tapes sound like a random voyage into dissonance and craziness.

Not quite “Dada Dada”, nor cosmic doolally neither, but an avant-garde matrimony of recollections, amorphous ethnic sounds, obscured prose and transformed post-punk dub. ‘March Of The Jackonapes’ has one layer of vortex blown cello sweeping across a ship’s bow, another layer of downtown NYC Arthur Russell electro-beats, a layer of Fluxus, and then one layer of dub-tronica: imagine The Orb, African Head Charge and Amorphous Androgynous. ‘Antofasto Vorahnung’ sounds like La Monte Young tuning up, and ‘Bliss And Willful Ignorance’ inter-layers hints of E.F.S. series Can with a vague Finis Africae in a primal soup wallow. Elements of neo-classical Eastern European sorrow blend with mysterious enchantments; Ash Ra Tempel and Dance Of The Lemmings era Amon Düül II with Jah Wobble aimless ghostly dub basslines; and ARP synthesized visions with John Carpenter and Tubular Bells exorcism.

Strange sonic matches indeed, yet the folded sound envelope between each imaginative rendering is blurred, softened so that at times this sounds more like a linear traverse then a unstable, jarring collision of incongruous mismatched ideas. Less a serial experiment, and more an experience in taking the listener on a surreal travelogue into the minds of its makers, which turns out to be a most inviting magical space to visit.

Mosquitoes ‘S/T’
(World Of Echo)  5th March 2021

The tight-lipped London-based Mosquitoes’ misadventures in subterranean dub and post-punk electronica, industrial music remain shrined in mystique. The lion’s share of their seven-year back catalogue has disappeared from sight: usually as fast as those records have materialized.

Resurfacing as a welcome 10” dub-plate style reissue (though limited to a vinyl run of 300 copies) is the trio’s eponymous 12” from 2016; originally released under the MOS-002 appellation, and arguably the “first iteration” of that said troupe of Dominic Goodman, Clive Philips and Peter Blundell.

Dub is the focus of this five track EP, albeit a very transformed and removed vision of it. Under cryptic shunted-together couplet titles the blood-sucking irritant moniker trio skulk around in a reverberated lumber of On-U-Sound meets Basic Channel; sometimes more like Populäre Mechanik on Shooters Hill.

Basement settings in a haunted house, where the pulse of an almost so low as to be near inaudible bass rumbles, await the listener. Apparition’s breath and huff, steely drums rattle and ricochet, whilst cut-up voices either drift or jump out of the echoed shadows. A friction scuzz of industrial gristly guitar wanes and a tattooist’s needle scratches away. Verging on a flock of bats escaping the dungeon and a paranormal experience, the spooked strung-out dub invocations on this EP are murky and unsettling, and extremely deep. Minimal yet striking, full of depth and effortlessly flowing between minor sonic suggestions, the Mosquitoes have brought dub together with the industrial, low level Techno and the alien on a record that sounds as thoroughly fresh now as the day it was conceived: incredibly on trend you could say, the dub sound system culture taken on a dark and mysterious alternative pathway.

Petrolio ‘Club Atletico’
(Depths Records) 5th March 2021

A sonic soundtrack reification of the fear, tortuous agonies and grim realities of Argentina’s near decade Dirty War in the mid 70s and early 80s doesn’t sound the most appealing of recommendations I grant you. Yet the Italian artist Enrico Cerrato has produced an immure experience of human suffering and trepidation akin to the late Scott Walker’s collaboration with Sunn O))).

With an impressive CV of solo industrial and noise recordings under the Petrolio alias, and a number of collaborations with artists such as Joachen Arbeit of Einstürzende Neubaten infamy, Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo and MaiMaiMai, Cerrato is ideally positioned to churn up a miasma of toxic history into a both mysterious and traumatic sound immersion.

Inspired by the movies of the Italian-Chilean director Marco Bechis, who helped draw an audience of witnesses to the horrific Argentinian military and USA sponsored war on socialist sympathizers (a net that took in those willfully backing South and Central American Communist guerilla groups to those who were just members of trade unions, students and those of the most tenuous of connections), Club Atletico is a dramatic at times concentrated force of uncertainty and horror: the uncertainty of when one’s torturers are about to appear; the uncertainty of place, time and disappearance in the often rudimental detention systems of the Fascistic ruling regime.

Often picked up, kidnapped, off the street and “disappeared”, as portrayed in Bechis’ Garage Olimpo film, these poor unfortunates ended up in the most grim meat factories of human suffering. A legacy that finally ended with the fallout of the Falklands War (ironically mounted by the increasingly shaky positioned government as a way to gain popularity and keep power), the Dirty War’s toll of victims could be as high as 30,000 or more. In the aftermath, many of those in charge have faced trial, been imprisoned, and Argentina has to some degree come to terms with its darkest hours.

Still, outside of Latin America this sordid destructive epoch is largely unknown. And so, using the infamous name of one such detention centre of torture (renamed ironically and cruelly with the name of famous football clubs), Cerrato sets out on an industrial chthonian vision: the chilling ambient and fatalistic shadow of waiting for interrogation and death.

Cerrato has researched his subject deeply, reflecting the ominous specter with caustic electronica shifts, reverberated death knell drum hits and cylindrical forces. There are chimes of Arp like synth-mirrored rays and even some melody to be heard, with the dark arts pronounced ‘El Silencio’ becoming quite spacey and trippy.

Club Atletico has a real soundtrack quality about it: perhaps an alternative score to the films of the director who has, in part, inspired such sonic forebode and trauma. It’s certainly an immersive experience with purpose, history and a deeply affecting message: a dark address of heinous political genocide. 

Cementation Anxiety ‘In Continual’
(Somewherecold Records)  26th March 2021

Managing to escape a heavy density of neuroticism through the barely fleeting prisms of dreamy light that penetrate this caustic mass, Kyle Nelson in his Cementation Anxiety guise dares to take a glimpse at sanctuary.

Pretty much, whether intentional or not, reflecting recent times of uncertainty and mental fatigue, the former New Jersey hardcore punkster goes on a ‘futile’ search for solace. He may just have found it in the faded embers of this album’s curtain call, ‘He Forgets Not His Own’; hanging on in there through a counterbalance of both scuzz-y galvanized rippling discourse, distant thundered drums and fear, to reach a more ambient settled release.

Taking a very different path to his days in Bodiless, Kyle slowly unleashes a cathexsis of stiffening drones and course fuzz over six movements of varying invocation: from spiriting vague hints of the monastic, paranormal to the subterranean. Yet despite the creeping omnipresence of dark emotional forces, Kyle floats in flange-fanned processed guitar parts that evoke 80s post-punk and shoegaze influences. These dawdle, lightly dropped guitar notes and melodies both hang over and waft across the gravitas of mysterious ambient moody waves and pulsations to offer something almost translucent.

At his most pained and scary, he throws in a jilting driller-killer power tool scream out of nowhere, or dials into the Poltergeist TV set. That horror drill shock comes after a slowly creeping long passage of reverberations, and rhythmic knocks and thuds on a door that we can only hope offers salvation rather than opens Hell’s gateway. But then at its most relieved and escapist there are moments of less intensity, and an air-y, even Kosmische like, sense of the cosmic to be found. Nevertheless, it’s a thickening less desired sense of anxiety that hangs over proceedings for the majority of the time, on an album suite looking for a break in the relentless cycle of morass and despair.

Mecánica Clásica ‘Mar Interior’
(Abstrakce Records)  15th March 2021

Contouring an atavistic historiography and mythological Mediterranean with the most amorphous of tonal and Kosmische soundtracks, the Valencia outfit of Mecánica Clásica enact a sonic efflux that vaguely suggests the resonating presence of old civilizations on their new exploration, Mars Interior: a title that roughly translates into ‘inland sea’.   

A visceral suite that’s imbued by the likes of Harmonia, Ariel Kalma and the ‘possible musics’ traverses of Jon Hassell and the Hellenistic Xaos, this topographic sea voyage blends hints of the Greek with the Anatolian and the Middle East coastlines of the Med. It’s a cosmic, often trippy affair that conjures up an acid wash of Minion, Phoenician and Arabian seafarers crossing a 70s electronica horizon of bobbing and radiating algorithm and arpeggiator synths, drifting flange and phaser effect guitar brushes and rattles, and translucent gauzy atmospherics. This all sounds like an entrancing conjuncture of Cluster, Mythos and the Cosmic Couriers on the opening ‘Litoral De Roca’, and like a subtle inter-layered lunar bed of the Tangerine Dream and a jamming Can on the more rhythmic ‘Hemeroskopeion’. The ethnic trance skylab beauty ‘Desade Mañana’ imagines Thomas Dinger in communion with Finis Africae. These flotsams and invocations conjure up a both veiled, magical past and otherworldly, alien terrain that seldom takes root; a wispy haze and ghostly trace of what used to be, and what is, never tangible nor concrete enough to hang on to.  Soul-quenched columns of water ascend towards space, and gods can be found amongst the sand dunes on a most starry, divine and shimmered album of imaginative, transient tonality.

Timo Lassy & Teppo Mäkynen ‘Live Recordings 2019-2020’
(We Jazz) 26th March 2021

From the off, this is one phenomenal ‘out there’ jazz album. It has everything you want and can get out of just two principle instruments in the avant-garde field of jazz: the tenor saxophone and drums. It may take some time to reach the more dizzying, quickened, unbridled explosions of dynamic breaks and Sam Rivers style ‘let it go’ jamming, but it does get there: from a synthesis of incipient stirrings and shimmers.

In what looks to be the Helsinki hub’s penchant for recent live recordings, and following in the wake of last year’s Ateneum live album, We Jazz put out one of their finest releases yet; a suite of live performances that capture the celebrated and critically acclaimed masterful jazz contortions and rhythmically jumping vibrancy of Finland’s greatest jazz export Timo Lassy and fellow compatriot, the producer and drummer extraordinaire Teppo Mäkynen. In fact, the duo featured alongside both Alder Ego and OK:OK on that live showcase from the museum; performing a version of the snozzled, raspy and twinkled ‘Fallow’: another version of which also appears on this latest album. In perfect but limbering and exploratory synchronicity the pair let out a languid release of power over the course of ten varied performances: varied in mood, timing and energy across a number of festival appearances. 

Timo and foil Teppo have built up an unspoken connectivity over the years that speaks volumes on this album of untethered staccato bleating, spiraling and bouncing spontaneous encouragement, and more shadowy, mysterious mood-setting trips down the spiritual jazz Nile; both forms of which are woven into avant-garde peregrinations. The ‘biggest jazz star’ to emerge from Finland has worked with Teppo when they were both members of The Five Corner Quintet troupe, and then later as the tenor saxophonist went out alone and assembled his own band. Here they manage to keep a signature sound together, even though these performances have been collated from a trio of different events, resulting in a journey that seems to somehow flow in its own idiosyncratic fashion.

Binker & Moses meets Gary Bartz, Marius Neset and Morten Lund on a set of atmospheric live recordings that splash around in the murky lagoons, race along like a harassed New Orleans brass band, swing like Cab Calloway in free fall, and rumbles, knocks and blurts in concentrated trade offs between the springy but torque drums and swallowed tenor articulations and shapes. Left to probe at and circumnavigate the original source material, the duo goes further and deeper. Too tight and just obviously brilliant to sound entirely extemporized this album is nonetheless both meditative and lively; showcasing the fall gamut of the partnership’s many collaborative projects and strands – and there are many of those. It’s an album that makes you really pine for the intimacy and excitement of live music: the anticipation too. Timo and Teppo cement their reputations with an impressive synergy of adroit experimentation: the complete ticket and one of the best jazz records you’ll hear all year.

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

ALBUM REVIEW/DOMINIC VALVONA

Witch Camp (Ghana): ‘I’ve Forgotten Now Who I Used To Be’
(Six Degrees Records)  12th March 2021

The explosion in all things witchy amongst those desperate to find alternative ways of expression, lifestyle and also an alternative to scientific reasoning in the West has been fueled by a “so-called” hunger for female empowerment. Replacing last season’s trend for “green” living, with “green witch” profiles on tik tok that attract billions of views, and covens of middle-class converts hexing Trump (all done with a social media campaign logo of course), witching is big business – you can walk into most High Street book stores and buy books on spells and such. 

In the divisive arena of revisionism, leftist puritanical evangelism, witches are celebrated, held up as paragons of virtue in the war against the patriarch. It’s true, men in power, to even just the neighbours next door, throughout history in the Americas and Europe have demonized, leapt on those poor unfortunates they’ve accused of witchcraft: whether it’s in spite, envy, because they were different, unmarried, even disabled or maybe had mental illness. Zealot trials continued, like a stain on our ancestor’s character, even throughout the entire “enlightenment”; and even in recent times the stigma still exists in some countries.

Arguably this hunger for witches is convoluted, muddled up with an array of issues: from the political to those pushing alternative medicines and opting to drop-out of the Capitalist society – to go off grid as it were. Despite the history, it’s very unlikely that you are going to be arrested, ducked in the millpond or ostracized for embracing it in the West in the twenty first century.

Compare this trend against the persecuted, living in fear women (and some men too) folk of northern Ghana’s guarded witch camps; the subjects of the Monolith Cocktail’s most prolific featured international producer Ian Brennan, and his partner in these recordings, the Italian-Rwandan filmmaker, photographer, author and activist Marilena Umuhoza Delli’s latest free-of-artifice, deeply connecting project, I’ve Forgotten Now Who I Used To Be.

Once more recording, capturing in-situ performances in as raw a set-up as possible, Ian and Marilena help to address, or at least draw attention to the oppressed and demonized women accused of witchcraft in Ghana. Forced to abandon their homes under threat of physical harm, even death, hundreds have found a less than safe environment in clandestine village like camps: eking out a living either selling firewood, working the fields and worse still, prostitution. Stigmatized as witches for little more than mental illness, blindness and physical disabilities, and as victims of certain conniving ruses in which land is stolen when their husbands die, these communities remain in a protective limbo – the Ghanaian government threatening to close such camps down.  

Following on from similar ‘uncloying’ recordings in a post-genocide Rwanda (Hidden Musics 4: Abatwa) and Tasmania (drawing attention to the guarded albinism communities on the White African Power album), Ian and Marilena respectively assembled a hundred plus cast of women from across three camps for a earthy, soulful album of matter-of-fact entitled plights and plaints.

There’s a real connection between the two parties that comes across in these largely untouched performances, some of which capture the most truly raw of voices and expressed tragedies. Some of this is in some part a result of Marilena’s own tumultuous background, with her mother a widower from Rwanda, forced to seek a new life in one of Italy’s most conservative of regions. As an immigrant Marilena knows firsthand what prejudice feels and looks like, having also written two books on racism in her adoptive European home.

Recorded we’re told in just over six hours, with many of the participants in their seventies (an indictment on the treatment and casting out of the elderly), the twenty-tracks on this album vary in woes and joy (yes, joy). The heartbreaking titles (‘Hatred Drove Me From My Home’, ‘Everywhere I Turn, There Is Pain’) promise lament, yet mostly sound almost otherworldly: somewhere between the atavistic and unfamiliar. Down to its very roots and fibre, gospel, the blues and even folk music take on their original forms. Songs such as the pure-spirited vocal and percussive ‘I Must Build A New Home’ sound like a gamelan troupe came into town. It helps that these songs, and drumming circles are as far removed from a recording studio as you can possibly get.

Sagacious vocals, some in harmony with a group chorus, are accompanied by stringy, plucked rusty nylon-strung sounding guitar, clattery, stomp bounding hand drums and makeshift rhythmic objects on an album of intimate atmospheres. Away from suffrage there’s a lot of that joy I mentioned earlier to be found; an unbridled unshackled joy at that, with plenty of excitable handclapping, hollering and high yelps spontaneity. The environment and bleeding over of movement has a strange effect, resonance – a signature of all Ian’s recordings it must be said.

But this ain’t no witches coven dance around the cauldron, nor celebration of “alternative” cultural practices, or even an ethnographic study but the chance to hear outcast voices, living and breathing a desperate life, yet finding some release in pouring out song. The language, words and dialect might be phonetically alien, yet the sentiment, distress and plaint are universally understood.

Ian and Marilena once again dare to shed light on forgotten stories and trauma in many of the most dangerous settings, with music as enriching, new and different as it is healing. Thank god someone is.

You may also find the following posts of interest:

The Ian Brennan Interview

Ustad Saami ‘Pakistan Is For The Peaceful’

Tanzania Albinism Collective  ‘White African Power’

Sheltered Workshop Singers ‘Who You Calling Slow?’


Various  Artists  ‘Hidden Music Volume 4:  Abatwa (The Pygmy): Why Did We Stop Growing Tall?’

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.

%d bloggers like this: