Tickling Our Fancy 099: Jane Inc., Cory Hanson, Mosquitoes, Edo Funk Explosion…

March 11, 2021

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.

One Response to “Tickling Our Fancy 099: Jane Inc., Cory Hanson, Mosquitoes, Edo Funk Explosion…”

  1. […] an infectious atmosphere that makes you ache (same thing I said about another We Jazz live wonder, Timo Lassy and Teppo Mäkynen’s communion game-changer back in March) for the intimacy and the now(ness) of a live performance. […]

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