Perusal #13: Lunar Bird, Khasi-Cymru Collective, Rachel Langlais, Andrés Vargas Pinedo, Versylen, Wladyslaw Trejo

May 20, 2021

A Short Roundup Of Recommended Releases On The Peripheral/Dominic Valvona

Andrés Vargas Pinedo ‘The Fabulous Sound Of Andrés Vargas Pinedo: A Collection Of Amazonian Popular Music (1966-1974)’
(Buh Records) Digital April/Vinyl 25th May 2021

Whistling, tooting under a living Amazonian canopy and across the heights of the Andean mountain range, celebrated Peruvian street musician Andrés Vargas Pinedo brings a smile to the face and lifts the mood on a cheery, merry and rain forest carnival bustling showcase of his sauntered music. Collated together from recordings authored directly by the blind composer, violinist and quena (the traditional flute of the Andes) virtuoso, this compilation finds the bird-whistling piper leading both the Conjunto Típico Corazón de la Selva and Los Pihuichios de la Selva bands down a fife–beating, hand-clapping and joyful Amazon pathway.

Originally hailing from the vibrant interchange Amazon port city of Yurimaguas, Andrés later moved to Lima, joining various popular groups and movements in the process. From an eight-year period in a long career the Buh label has chosen the meandering star’s infectious mix of local and further afield musical rhythms from between the years 1966 to 1974. Aping the wildlife, enacting a fever of calls, howls, trills and energetic encouragement, Andrés music weaves and shakes as it embraces tropical festival and processional music, seafaring jigs, canters, Mexican westerns and the Celtic on a most joyous sweet dance.

Lunar Bird ‘S/T’
(Self-release – supported by Help Musicians ‘Do It Differently Fund 2020’)
Out Now Digitally/CD Version 2nd July 2021

A pure blossoming of enchantment and dreams, the beguiling Cardiff troupe has just unfurled the most diaphanous lucid radiant album this month. On a granderscale and canvas, theytransform certain vulnerabilities and yearns into something positively and celebratory spellbinding and golden; meandering, tinkling and floating across a fairytale that evokes hints of Beach House and Diva Dompe wafting in lush and vaporous landscapes.

Valuing instead of diminishing fragility and all it entails, the Italian formed, but in recent years Wales-based, Lunar Bird (a reference to Joan Miró’s famous abstract bronze sculpture of the same name) enrapture themselves in a cosmic, romantic fantasy. The focus in this beautifully realised mirage remains the translucent siren tones of the group’s vocalist Roberta Musillami; a sort of drifting apparition and lushly voiced songstress, inhabiting a dreamscape of languid and more heart aching uncertainty. A bewitching album at times, the band occasionally slips into esoteric realms, yet remain constantly beautified and untethered. Hopefully this will finally put the dreamers on the map.     

Khasi-Cymru Collective ‘Sai-thaiñ ki Sur’
(Naxos World/ARC) 28th May 2021

An interwoven musical connection between two very different communities, the Welsh music prize winner Gareth Bonello, in collaboration with a myriad of musicians, poets and enablers, has bonded the folklore, poetry and reverent, spiritual music of both Wales and the North East Indian region of the Khasi Hills together in a mutual union of universal suffrage. Finding an affinity with the Assam and Bangladesh bordering region, which became the very first location for the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists inaugural overseas mission in the 1840s, Bonello (who often appears under The Gentle Good alias) explores his native land’s religious-ideological led history with the Khasi people.

Though reverent colonialists to an extent, superseding the indigenous cultures traditions for their own, the Welsh were a little more sympathetic to the Khasi identity – perhaps in part because they too had fallen prey to British Empire hegemony, and lost much of their own unique traditions. Some good did come out of the mission (education, healthcare), but this extensive album project that grew out of academic study is all about finding a certain commonality in saving each other’s roots, whilst seamlessly flitting between languages and indigenous musicianship to condemn, pay attention to contemporary issues, from the environment to women’s rights. The first of those can be heard in resigned malady on the folky poetic ‘Soso & Waldo’, the second, on the proposed bill amendment to strip Khasi women of their status should they marry outside of their own community powerfully spoken-worded ‘To The Men With Hate Speech On Their Lips’. Just one of the brilliant artists to appear on this album, Lapdiang Syiem delivers that strong retort to a John Cale, bordering on Reich, stark soundtrack.

Earthy yet transient, the (translated roughly into English) “weaving of voices” album features open-air performances in thunder cloud downpours, and to the sound of rhythmic crickets and cuckoos, and reinvented, repurposed hymns, poems and wistful beautiful yearns. Amongst the echoes of lovely Welsh valley harmonies and folk the Khasi bird-like flighty bamboo flute (the “besli”) and rustic banjo expressive guitar-like “duitara” add an almost oriental, atavistic feel that pushes this album into a beautiful hinterland.

The concerns, history are deeply serious but delivered so magically and in such a compelling way as to transport the listener to a peaceable, earnest but lush landscape of shared dreams, dignity and conservation. A successful exchange in other words.

Rachel Langlais ‘Dothe’
(unjenesaisquoi) 28th May 2021

The inaugural album of experimental piano suites from Rachel Langlais is filled with adroit compositions that convey so much, even with such a minimal and sparse use of the instrument. Imbued by John Cage’s famous use of prepared pianos, Langlais places a myriad of tactile and more abrasive materials (paper, metal objects, pieces of wood, adhesive tape, plastic etc.) directly onto the strings to create a sound both interwoven with spindly harp like cascading flows, starker jarred singular notes and neo-classical touches of melodious evocation. Further to the application of materials, the piano tuner graduate also uses a number of recording and digital processing techniques (from cutting to slowing it down) to manipulate something familiar into, well, something less so.

No matter how minimal those notes are they all seem to resonate melody or the semblance of a tune, a movement; from trickled arpeggiator, to deeper more sonorous bass notes; metallic springy thumps to more playful tiptoes across the keyboard.  

The title is borrowed from Ursula K. Le Guin’s science-fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), in which “dothe” is a nervous hysterical strength that can be controlled and that is practiced by some inhabitants of a planet called Gethen. After using dothe, the body must take a rest called “thangen.” And that is more or less exactly what you get on this contextual articulation of explorative energy.

Wladyslaw Trejo ‘Nuestra Voz’
(Leipzig Inn Records) 12th May 2021

An ultra rare release physically (being confined to thirteen copies ‘carved in real time on lathe’) Wladyslaw Trejo’s latest yelp of pyschogeography pain, despair and angst is dedicated to Warsaw – a city that has seen and suffered greatly from of all too real effects of totalitarianism; caught between both Fascist Germany and Soviet Russia in the last century. Part one of this shared single, ‘Nuestra Voz’, is a forewarning poem about the creeping, silent threat of such dictatorial regimes, put to the soundtrack of post-punk tight delay snare snaps, synthesizer moody suspense and looping windy ill tides; an uneasy early electro seedy Eastern European meets Italian occult preened mix of Bernard Szajner, Kraftwerk, Kas Product, The Normal, and early Human League.

Part Two, ‘Tranzyt W’, meanwhile is a no less moody instrumental float of lo fi Depeche Mode meets DAF synthesized beats and sizzled drum machine and bounced nodes that soundtracks ‘the walk of an inveterate observer’ (that’s Wladyslaw himself), ‘through the streets of modern Warsaw’. Like a despondent electronic peruse, it bends and bubbles and warps as finally meets the void.

Released by the micro-label Leipzig Inn Records (an imprint that only publishes special and limited editions of underground and exploratory electronics), you’d better be quick to snap up the physical copies. If you miss out, you can always thankfully purchase the digital, now on Bandcamp.

Versylen ‘Radiance’
(See Blue Audio) 14th May 2021

Continuing to assail an ocean of the most sophisticated, subtly cinematic and developing ambient and electronica music, the Barcelona-based See Blue Audio label is on an impressive run of under-the-radar classics – just catch my review of last month’s adroit, ascending and lofted materialisations by the Cretan traveller Bagaski for proof. Undulating some most gorgeous ambient geographical peregrinations, washes, expansions and radiant skyscapes with kinetic Techno, Hip-Hop and ‘post-dubstep’ rotating, wavering beats, the young producer Versylen (aka Elliot Ferguson) brings yet another fresh and expanded vision to the imprint. The perfectionist we’re told has spent a lot of time getting this five-track suite right, so take just as much time out to enjoy and reflect on these meticulous yet airy moodscapes.

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

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