Perusal #18: Giacomelli, Paxton Spangler Septet, Pons, Ester Poly…

August 12, 2021

A Look At What’s Out There In The World Of Music And Sonics/Dominic Valvona

Singles/Tracks/EPs:

Pons  ‘The Pons Estate EP’
13th August 2021

A rambunctious gatecrash trample across aristocratic lawns, the ever-disjointed, disturbed and thrashing Pons trio gallop back onto the scene with this new EP. A somehow melodic and exciting shambles – a right tear up -, this high class troupe have expanded upon last year’s volatile, chaos in motion, stonker Intellect (which made this blog’s choice albums of 2020 features); reaching out to embrace a bastardised version of techno and nu rave. Tracks like the drum machine bobbing, electronic scattered ‘Johnny Persuasion’ knocks the shit out of the Klaxons and Late Of The Pier, whilst the erratic Lynchian inspired ‘Leland’ is a real sleazy, creeping mind-bender of The Liars, LCD Soundsystem and Swans hovering up killer lines on the set of Twin Peaks: an imaginary dungeon discotheque to be exact. 

If you’ve picked up our Pons recommendations then you’ll know that the band’s signature is to make constant gear changes in their songs; from the strung-out to the dashing; noisy to surprisingly tactile; the discordant lo fi to indie-pop. This holds up well on The Pons Estate; the caustic opener, ‘Imbound!’, sprinting between wild horseplay, hints of White Denim and The Strokes (having a stroke) and the in the red looning Black Lips, yet able to throw in a more melodious no wave style saxophone or two. ‘Bardo’ by comparison, is a much more sulking languid affair of lo fi grandeur that reverberates with quivered viola (a new instrument in the Pons repertoire).

Other than that we’re looking at a brilliant manic power-up of The Parquet Floors, Tokyo Police Squad, Glamor For Better and an air, I dare say, of petulant Smiths. It’s another unruly blast of young energy and moodiness that pisses over the stately gardens of the mundane, and captures the discord of our times with rowdy flair.

Sebastian Reynolds  ‘Crows EP’
(Faith & Industry)  6th August 2021

The crows are circling, which can only usually mean one thing. Yet, instead of harbingers of doom, augurs for the fall of civilizations, this carrion is reflected both with lofting clarinet majesty and an acidy techno pulse.

No stranger to cerebral contemplations, posed quandaries and spiritual philosophy, polymath composer/artist Sebastian Reynolds follow’s up The Universe Remembers and, the more recent, Nihilism Is Pointless EPs with a split release of original scores plus two treated remixes.

Featured umpteen times over the years for a multitude of collaborations and projects (from the Solo Collective triumvirate to the Maṇīmekhalā dance drama), Reynolds has only, relatively, recently taken to releasing music under his own name. The collaborations continue however, with both the adroit clarinet player Rachel Coombes (who also added evocative swanning feel to Reynolds’s The Universe Remembers) and former drummer and founding member of the Oxford band The Guillemots, Grieg Stewart appearing on the EP’s titular suite.

Coombes adds a low tone register of long wafted clarinet to the skying opener, whilst Stewart joins in slowly with a short shot of kick drum and snare as Reynolds conjures up suitably atmospheric synth throbs and ambient strokes. The mood and urgency change completely on the avian title-track; Reynolds twists the dials towards the acid techno of Mike Dred; turning up the synthesized pulsations, fizzles and mechanics on a EDM vision of the Utah Saints rewiring Amorphous Androgynus and the Public Service Broadcasting: Stewart’s drums get more of a work out that’s for sure.

Remix wise, Thai producer Pradit Saengkrai filters the original ‘Crows’ through a frazzled static rasp force field; a generated spell where the drums are rebounded and warped, and the synths made to sound more alien. L’ Étranger (the Camus inspired French house music alias incarnation of the UK’s beat maker Ben Thomas) for his treatment gives that same track an electro Basic Chanel production of 808 preset toms, drum machine tight-delay percussion and handclaps and whipped fizzes. A repeated tubular bell tolls at the end.

Reynolds vision is ambiguous on this occasion, musically and sonically experimenting with the neo-classical, electro and ambient genres yet expanding the horizons to filter techno and a sort of indie-rave Klaxons. Intentions wise, those naturally dark cloaked birds remain pretty aloof.

Albums::

Paxton Spangler Septet  ‘Anthem For The New Nation’
(Eastlawn Records)  4th July 2021

Treading the fertile pathway of South African jazz, imbued by that region’s pioneers and greats for over three decades, the co-led Paxton Spangler Septet once more hone in on the magic of the pianist/composer Abdullah Ibrahim.

Paying a special homage to the fecund of talent and signature sweltered toil, spiritual and activist driven vibes that has poured out of the much troubled South Africa, trombonist Tbone Paxton and his percussionist foil RJ Spangler have collect various awards for various album projects; from recordings with the Sun Sounds Orchestra to their work with the PD9 Township Jazz troupe. Musicians from the latter of those make an appearance as part of the Septet on this latest Ibrahim dedication; the heralded Anthem For The New Nation, a title with so many connotations, released as it was on America’s Independence Day, yet from the perspective of the icon they are covering, an anthem prayer for the birth of a new, anti-apartheid South Africa.

This faithful to the course rainbow nation imbued group is ‘built’ (we’re told) around the splashed and rolling drums of Sean Perlmutter, noodling flexed bass of Damon Warmack and spirited Ibrahim recondite piano of Phil Hale. That set ups extended by Dan Bennett on tenor sax, the flute player and alto saxophonist Rafael Leafar, and second alto saxophonist Kasan Belgrave, with special guest spot on flugelhorn (of all things) from James O’Donnell. Together they make a great job of breathing life into Ibrahim’s 70s and 80s dawning back catalogue; a relaxed at times, warmly enthused saunter and pride of Safari animals like run through some of the legend’s most important, emotive pieces.

Once anointed by Nelson Mandela as ‘South Africa’s Mozart’, the rightfully lauded jazz star added a certain languid homeland groove and the classical to the jazz he’d absorbed playing in the States with such luminaries as Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Max Roach and Ornette Coleman. Signing as Dollar Bill for a while, until converting to Islam in the late 60s, Ibrahim went from the intimacy of a duo to a twelve-piece band, composing both lush hymns to his country and unofficial national anthems for the anti-apartheid movement. Anthems like ‘Manneberg’, originally released in 1974. Here the septet place it together with the title-track from the ’77 LP, Cape Town Fringe; alternating between a blend of slow bass note piano, drifting horns and a familiar township groove, and a sudden waters-breaking cascade of combined instrument duets and come alive saxophones. ‘Soweto’, the title-track from the titular ’78 LP, is another township anthem handled by the group. More celebratory, with a great Afro-jazz verging on mardi gras side ordering of funk, that 70s joyful freedom dance proves a perfect choice for this Detroit troupe, who roll the original into a new century.

This homage-performed album is dotted with Ibrahim favourites; from the lovely peaceable bustle of the balmy Highlife meets early 60s classic jazz imbued ‘African Marketplace’ (another titular composition, from the ’79 LP on Elektra) to the classical mode, trinket shaking ‘Moniebah’ (taken from the ’73 LP Good News From Africa). Optimistic undulated paeans to not only South Africa but the African continent as a whole are given a faithful soundtrack of elephant trunk trumpeted and spiralled horns, flighty flute, soulful dotted and dappled organ and shuffled drums by the ensemble in a show of respect, but also to share a love and passion for the music of an often in-turmoil land. Fans of Ibrahim won’t be disappointed, put it that way.

Giacomelli  ‘Interplanetary Thoughts’
(Somewherecold Records)  30th July 2021

Machine sculptured but inspired by both Earthly nature and the cosmos, Steve Giacomelli peruses sonic ‘interplanetary thoughts’ on his fifth album for the constantly illuminating Somewherecold label.  

Regular readers may have seen my premiere last September of the Silicon Valley composer’s The Best Of Both Worlds, Part II’; taken from the epic sprawled Cosmic Order album of ARP synthesised lunar kosmische riches. Using that same iconic 70s apparatus for this new celestial and sun bathed, if often dramatically mysterious, set of suites the composer invokes shades of Froese, Schulze, Cluster, a bit of Eno and some Olympiad Vangelis on a glorious fanned spread of ambient waves, oscillations and equinox majestic worship.

From an enviable commanding studio lab view, perched above the Santa Cruz Mountains, light beams and life-giving forces are made concrete; captured in serene and arcing magic. Broad awakenings and phased ripples meet more Tangerine Dream imbued three-parter scaled hovers in the starry expanses of space. For this is a filmic like soundtrack that has visions of a light-playing mirage shimmered terra firma, and the fluted, whistled, solar wind blowing realms of a mystical galaxy: one that’s constantly expanding, throbbing in concentric rhythms. Both of these phenomenons take centre stage; unfurling an organic beauty and weight of awe-inspiring gravitas.

It seems odd to speak of the composition’s organic, almost naturalistic qualities, considering everything you hear is engineered electronically. Yet that’s how it feels and sounds: natural light transduced through an analogue filter.

Interplanetary Thoughts is another unheralded album of ambient brilliance from the West Coast electronic composer.

Sølyst  ‘Spring’
(Bureau B)  13th August 2021

Springing, fizzing, sizzling and bouncing along to a moody and kinetic beat, Kriedler drummer (a mark of true quality if any was needed) Thomas Klein arrives with his fourth Sølyst alter-ego album.

Slotting, genealogy wise, with the Dusseldorf composer’s previous trio of albums (2011’s Sølyst, 2013’s Lead and 2016’s The Steam Age), the Spring movement of metallic and tubular percussion and beats proves a congruous fit.

Made up of material explorations from the last three years, with some elements either discarded or reworked, this latest succinct series of entitled tracks seem to be named after each composition’s rhythm and evocation. So ‘Flex’, for example, does just that; flexing between a processed drum kit of kling klang nu-wave sparks, chipping away metal blocks, and a vague flavor of lilting jug poured Africa sounds. The following track, ‘Thief’, lurks in the industrial shadows, creeping about as softened reverberated distant drums bang away – evoking a steel mesh echoed conjuncture of Die Wilde Jagd and solo Moebius.

Elsewhere it’s a case of a modern autobahning Kraftwerk motoring down neon highways; buzzing quarks and a removed affected version of cosmic steel drums; a taste of Cosey Fanni Tutti; and paddled hallowed tube beats on a highly sophisticated album of rhythmic manipulation and overlapping networks. 

Xqui X SEODAH  ‘Sufficiently Disconcerting’
(Wormhole World)  6th August 2021

The full name of at least one of the sonic partners in this unsettling affair should tell you all you need to know about this both Latin liturgy and supernatural inspired collaboration: Sound Effects Of Death And Horror describes this unholy union well; a six track pairing of sonic antagonist Xqui and the abbreviated, morbidly curious SEODAH.

This is the inaugural team-up; a balance of the disturbing and monastic; between unease and cathedral like choral gravitas. Half the material is a synthesized transmogrification of established Latin choral music; originally meant for solo soprano or baritones and choruses; for chamber or string quartets. ‘Timete’, ‘Exultate’ and ‘Oculi Mei’ are the suites cast in that mould; the first a merger of Tangerine Dream and Jerry Goldsmith’s Omen score, the second, a calmer glassy bauble floated and ether probing version of Popol Vuh, and the third, a kosmische traverse of metal tapped rhythms.

In between those transformations, apparitions are the panic attack deranged symphony mirage of Library Music and sampled Yank veiled, ‘An American Man Stole My Balloons’; the phasered circular drone with serial piano notes airy phantasm, ‘Probosis (Wins By A Nose)’; and the, full length horror soundtrack in its own right, Giallo scene-munching and drudge metal marching three-act ‘Hallucigenetic’.

Faith will be tested on an unnerving, ‘sufficiently disconcerting’ disturbance in sonic dread and mystery.

Viktor Timofeev  ‘Palace Of Peace & Reconciliation’
(Lo Bit Landscapes)  13th August 2021

Five years on from the unexpected shutdown of label facilitators Lo Bit Landscapes’ Brooklyn home, Viktor Timofeev’s much-delayed caustic sprawl, Palace Of Peace & Reconciliation, finally emerges from all the misery and setbacks.

Originally set to follow in the wake of the noted visual artist and composer’s debut album GIVE_HEALTH999, this voyage into both the disturbing and code calculating depths of an ever alienating digital world fits in congruously with the current climate of stressed unease, uncertainty and fear.

Timofeev’s epic soundtrack like album draws you into a speed-shifted, reversed and reverberated spool-squealing, shuddering matrix. Its divided along the lines of more coarse sci-fi abstract immersions and gabbled-like sped-up manic chakras and obscured churned lo fi garage. The second half is in fact like a weird Faust like transmogrification of vague Indian music, ceremony and echoed ramblings beyond the calico wall. The first half by comparison sounds like Bernard Szajner reversing church bells as a busy signaling of date hovers overhead, on the opening unsettled nine-minute ‘Tevek Fritoiov’ suite. The atmosphere then changes on the following loop pedal guitar, pattered beat ‘Memoriatrium’: think Land Observation meets Federico Balducci.

The mysterious Alienboy featured ‘Pyramid Of Accord’ cast His Name Is Alive out into a metallic rainstorm in space. I’m not sure if it’s the so-called guest or not, but gaseous, burbled exhales and monastic moans permeate wave after wave of static frying noise and mooning.

Distortions in the fabric, unholy organ kosmische and more serene inner space meditations wait on an epic lengthened album of dissonance and warped strains; peregrinations and digital explorations. Put it this way, it’s well with the long wait.  

D:Rom/Shreddies  ‘Sucker’
(New Haven Tapes)  11th August 2021

What a time to be an electronic artist or DJ, yet despite the slow slog towards reopening the clubs and live venues (to a point; COVID passport of a kind holders only) one Welsh sonic dance music maverick has decided to take the plunge and set up a new label venture. Although originally envisioned solely as a vehicle for the founder, Shreddies, music, the New Haven Tapes imprint has expanded to include other like-minded noise-makers from the region’s underground scene; such as the fellow techno and footwork artist D:Rom.

The inaugural longplayer is a congruous split release, with three tracks from each artist. D:Rom kicks things off on sucker with a trio of fuzzy-squalling, warped and pumped lo fi acid from another age. Run through a reverberated, bit-crush filter ‘I Kuw Gna Paly Me’ gallops to a space invaders 8-bit and ping-pong bounce of oomphing tropical disco NRG house and Djax-Up-Beat techno, whilst ‘Bleachful’ mellows the pace a touch, as the synthesized 303 or 808 hi-hats press away to shades of slag Boom Van Loon’s ‘Poppy Seed’ and softened recollections of early Jeff Mills.

Up next, Cardiff’s won Shreddies races through resonating hi-hats and a Basic Channel like techno dance beat on the airy, melodic sinewave ‘Fuego’; mutates a fusion of trance-y 808 State and R&S Records on the housing ‘Texacco’; and goes for something altogether more shimmered and mirror-y on ‘(no body)’: imagine Laraaji refitted for a Chicago house dancefloor.

Sucker marks a positive start for this underground platform; it’s dance music, but not as you know it.

Ester Poly  ‘Wet’
(Hummus Records)  20th August 2021

Four years on from their blazing feminist, contorting debut Pique Dame, and the Swiss canton post-punk rocking Ester Poly duo are back. In all that time there’s been a whole opprobrium of protestation material and issues to cause the already riled piqued dames to leap into action.

Still with the commodification and unsolicited, unwanted interest of sexual desire on their minds, the cross generational, cross cities duo of Martina Berthes and Béatrice Graf titillate with suggestive visuals and lyrics on the innuendo entitled Wet.

With that signature mix of strong female led influences (from The Slits to Delta 5 and Girls At Our Best) and a slice of humour, the busy partnership of electric bass and drums (shared vocal duties) both smashes and offers more erotic whispered sloganism on the topics of diversity and racism: A call in a manner for self-love and acceptance that implores us all to stop following “the mainstream”. (I’d add Twitter, FB et al to that list of vile, fame hungry platforms).

Despite the limitations of their instruments, Ester Poly use both abrasive and more space-y effects to widen the scope and influence of sounds. They also sing, shout, pant and breathlessly communicate tin English, German and French to varying degrees of excitement and salacious protest. It’s a sort of mantric chant however that’s used on the album’s opener and recent single, ‘Reject My Speck’: a rattled sticks on drum rims recall of The Stray Cats meets The Raincoats stumbling and scowling down a dark alley; the repeated refrain of “respect/accept” rings throughout. 

They prowl and creep into the Dead Kennedys territory on the Teutonic ‘Braun’, and offer an avant-garde panting vision of Royal Blood on the French language ‘Presses’. Elsewhere they offer up tangles of post-rock, math rock, and on the album’s last couplet of remixes, an indie dance and a retreated version of Italo house meets French electro (on the Berthes and Franca Locher remix of the titular tune from the riotous grrrls debut album).

Sexual slang by-words and scented metaphors are floated or thrown around in a vortex of strong-willed feminine wiles and irony throughout this fruity exchange. It seems there’s still enough “pique” to go round, as the Swiss duo demands ownership and respect in a fit of post-punk and beyond energy.

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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