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

The monthly recap and chance to catch up with all the most eclectic music that the Monolith Cocktail team has been listening to over the last four weeks (with a few additional tracks we missed back in August). Chosen by me (Dominic Valvona), Matt ‘Rap Controller’ Oliver and Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, the September 2021 edition features a truly global lineup of the best and most interesting Hip-Hop, Electronica, Jazz, Nu-Soul, Krautrock, Post-Punk, Experimental, Pop and beyond, with musical waves from Africa, the Med, Americas, Europe, Far East and of course the UK.  

TRACK LIST:::

The August List  ‘Seams’
Monsieur Doumani  ‘Astrahan’
Ex Norwegian  ‘Thot Patrol’
The Speed Of Sound  ‘The Day The Earth Caught Fire’
Motorists  ‘Go Back’
The Crystal Casino Band  ‘Waste My Time’
The Felice Brothers  ‘Jazz On The Autobahn’
Timo Lassy  ‘Orlo’
Blu  ‘Everyday Blu(e)s’
DJ JS-1  ‘Spaghetti Park’
Lukah  ‘THE WAY TO DAMASCUS’
Jazzmeia Horn And Her Noble Force  ‘Where Is Freedom?’
Kondi Band  ‘Everything That Sierra Leone Has’
Los Camaroes  ‘Esele Mulema Moam’
Mopes  ‘Facts Machine’
Solem Brigham  ‘Couple Towns’
Gift Of Gab Ft. Vursatyl, Lateef The Truthspeaker  ‘You Gon’ Make It In The End’
Gotts Street Park  ‘Diego’
Hiero  ‘Soil’
Showtime Ramon Ft. Illecism  ‘Julius Erving’
Viktor Timofeev  ‘Portal Of Zin II’
Variet  ‘The Ancient Of Seconds’
Faust  ‘Vorsatz’
Vilmmer  ‘Fensteraus’
Late  ‘Verbal Introduction’
King Kashmere & Alecs DeLarge  ‘Soul Caliber’ Robert & SonnyJim Ft. Rag’n’Bone Man  ‘Porridge’
Niklas Wandt  ‘Lo Spettro’
Badge Epoch  ‘Galactic Whip’
Dr. Joy  ‘No Deal’
Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters  ‘Speak In Capitals’
Psycho & Plastic  ‘Wunsch, Indianer Zu Werden’
Sone Institute  ‘Forget Everything’
Steve Hadfield  ‘Ascension’
Headboggle  ‘Skip Pop’
Forest Robots  ‘Every Particle Of Water Understands Change Is Essential’
Wish Master & Illinformed Ft. Datkid and Gaza Glock  ‘Chefs Recipe’
Dceased, Telly McLean and Unlike People  ‘Rainey Day Relapse’
Nukuluk  ‘Ooh Ah’
Boohoo  ‘Forever’
The Legless Crabs  ‘A Saucer Is Born’
Bordello & Clark  ‘Dreams Of Rock And Roll Stars’ Santa Sprees  ‘Save Yourself’
Birthday Cake!  ‘Retrospect’
Salem Trials  ‘No York’
Helm  ‘Repellent’
Will Feral  ‘The Minx’
Sun Atoms  ‘The Cat’s Eye’
Simon McCorry  ‘Flow 04’
Group Listening  ‘Sunset Village’
John Howard  ‘Dreamland’
Andrew Heath  ‘The Healing Pt. 1’
Tara Clerkin Trio  ‘Night Steps’
Color Dolor  ‘Underwater’
Gina Birch  ‘Feminist Song’
Esbe  ‘Amazing Grace’

WORDS: Dominic Valvona/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Self-promotional time now as the Monolith Cocktail celebrates the release of our very own Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s long awaited album partnership with 20th Century Tokyo Princess’s guitarist/singer Ted Clark: conveniently entitled Bordello & Clark.

Joining the blog a few years back with his own reviews column the erstwhile malcontent Brian Shea is the defacto leader of the lo fi, still believing in the power of rock ‘n’ roll, family band, The Bordellos, but also releases various humdrum aphorism’s under his own name. After various travails and hold-ups, the Think Like A Key label has somehow ended up releasing the much-delayed communion between the two nostalgically melancholy artists. I say nostalgic, but not in the watery-eyed sense of missed opportunity, rather disgruntled at how the 21st century has sucked out all the joy, muthafuckerness and humour of rock ‘n’ roll; leaving nothing but a pale imitation or join the dots karaoke pastiches. For this is a wistful contrary delivered songbook of obscured romanticisms, lost love, and the idiosyncratic measuring of time passing by; whether that’s through the lens of Brian’s overgrown garden of metaphors or the bygone kettle whistled tours of rock’s back pages and famous sites (‘Memories Of Denmark Street’) and the straggles of becoming a famous rock star.

Making Sparklehorse sound like a flash git, accompanied by ELO, the lo fi in this partnership’s observational love letters is about as sparse and minimal as it can get. Except that is for the Mekons spaghetti western like homage to The Wedding Present’s stalwart David Gedge, which seems a big score in comparison: a wistful one at that.

The ‘Mersey Beat’ sound is wallowed in the waters of Joe Meek’s cellar for the jingle-jangle sound of a past age; a mindset that rambles through the broken promises of memorabilia, the 2i’s café’s jukebox and a pile of C86 era tapes. This is a conjuncture in which you hear how the J&MC may have sounded with Spaceman 3 era Jason Pierce fronting it, where Del Shannon met Greg Boring decided to hang out together. This is a reimagined TOTP’s slot that drove The Bordellos and 20th Century Pop Princess to the topper most top of the pop charts. An album of such brilliant lyrical sadness and irony that yearns for the mythology of rock ‘n’ roll and glory of what could have been if the likes of Spotify and their ilk hadn’t been invented, and music really meant something: nothing less than a complete absorption.

Borrowing some familiar riffs from the 60s garage, post-punk, ramshackle outsider music, Atlantic Crossing brings two distinct yet wholly congruous lo fi seers together on a mostly magic album of loss and longing that channels the spirit of a bygone age.

We asked Brian to guide us track-by-track through the new album, which was released on the 24th September 2021.

Jingle Jangle is a song of remembering your childhood and all the innocence that goes with it, mixed with memories of old friends and lovers that you no longer see, and an ideal way to kick off an album with songs filled with regrets, hopes, and love lost and found.

Memories of Denmark St is what it says on the tin. A song about memories of holidaying in London with an old girlfriend, looking at the guitars you want but cannot afford, dreaming, thinking it is only a matter of time that some record company will snap you and make you a star. “I wanted a Gretsch, I wanted a vox, I wanted to be on Top Of The Pops” could well be the most heartbreakingly honest line I’ve ever written. This album is full of heartbreak and lost love and unfulfilled dreams and probably the album with most self-biographic songs I have released.

The Girl with Cadbury Purple Hair. I saw a girl when I was sat on the bus out of the window and she looked like she owned the world; she looked like the most self-confident person I have ever seen. She was in her late teens, had charity store clothes and had Cadbury Purple Hair, and radiated sunshine from her being. I only saw her for about thirty seconds and not seen her since. Maybe she was just a brief daydream and I imagined her? So I wrote a song of sex, lust, hope, and the magic of being young based around the sighting of this super being. Ted (Clark) did a fucking amazing job on this song making it sound like Marc Bolan preening himself in the mirror 

Sunshine Rain Girl. A song about being in love with someone with problems and those problems bringing bigger problems, but in between the problems are moments of pure magic and underneath the darkness lies the hottest and brightest of suns. This was recorded as a ballad but Ted sped it up and gave it a strange George Formby like vibe. A strange pop track and if ever recorded as a ballad could be a big hit.

Handsome Jaques. Ah…memories of sexual shenanigans from ones past mixed with fuzzy framed nostalgia and advice to the youngsters out there. A song I originally wrote for Cilla Black to sing: and it would have been a right rum do if she had.

Dreams Of Rock N Roll Stars. I feel this is the finest song I have written, the centrepiece for the whole album, a song of looking back at the things you never achieved but recorded in such a magical way by Ted that it makes like regret has never tasted so good. Like Joe Meek doing a soundtrack of a Walt Disney film starring Woody Allen and Tony Hancock, and the perfect pop song. I always imagine the video to this being set in a beatnik bar with a party happening or a happening party, with cartoon French men shaking maracas.  

Holy Love. Quite simply a short love song to an old dear friend who I have not seen in many years hoping that he has found the love and companionship he so craved and deserved.

Sixteen. A song celebrating first love and memories of it: all love, romance and soft tinted lust and regret. A chocolate box of a song.

Gedge. Entitled after the singer of The Wedding Present, this is a song filled with both lust self-hate and a yearning to reach the stalking like levels of writing that David Gedge has mastered. This is by far the most lo-fi recording on a very lo-fi album. The vocals I sent to Ted were distorted to hell and I am amazed he was able to salvage it and make it into probably the most difficult song to listen to on the album. But actually one of my favourites on it. 

Lonely Henry. One of the catchiest and lively songs on the album inspired by a lonely old man who used to wander around my hometown of St Helens, who did used to carry a baby doll in his bag for company. The rhythm guitar on this track is quite spectacular, which I do not remember it being this good when I sent it to Ted, so I have the feeling Ted redid it. 

Wrong Country Song. Quite simply, a simple pop song in an indie American pop sort of way. I could imagine the Mouldy Peaches or some other American indie pop act doing it. The sort of song that could have been on the Juno soundtrack. Very simple then, it’s made by Ted’s rather beautiful xylophone solo.

Watching The Garden Grow is maybe the darkest song on the album; a song about being saved unknowingly by your wife and children, dragging you back from the abyss of depression. A sad yet hopeful song.

You can find and purchase the album here

ALBUM REVIEWS ROUNDUP/Dominic Valvona

Dr. Joy  ‘Dr. Joy’
(Idée Fixe) 17th September 2021

As with most polygenesis imbued projects attributed to the highly prolific Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn you’re in for an amorphous, unburdened trip of the cosmic and often exotic. Appearing under numerous guises, in various forms, Dunn has instigated the Cosmic Range Canadian super group and collaborated with everyone on that country’s ultra hip underground scene (from Slim Twig and Meg Remy to Andy Haas and Carl Didur). He’s become a catalyst for so much of the great music making its way out of Toronto in the last decade. For this communal smorgasbord of musical ideas he’s joined up with that city’s psychedelic troupe Dr. Joy.

Bonding over a shared love of art, philosophy, film and, of course, music, the mutually agreeable partners have produced an assemblage of tripping psych, prog, krautrock and cult soundtracks for their debut collaborative album. Though the emphasis, as indeed the attribution of the album, leans towards the Joy part of that partnership.

Just like the artwork, a collage of acid smiley badge headed comic book action heroes, an exploding planet, galactic skull and the grill of some olds mobile, the sounds are just as much a luminous scrapbook of congruous influences. The album opens with the prog-rock (with shades of Ariel Kalma and Mythos) melodica wafting prism of pastel colours, ‘Weeping Façade’, and is immediately followed by the languorous sung, dreamy song merger of The Bees, Mercury Rev and a psychedelic Pretty Things ‘No Deal’

Vague echoes of global tuning, scales and ceremony can be heard throughout: spindled and tine thumbed touches of West Africa and the Orient.

Despite its trippy gauze and often-spiritual astral plane illusions, the partnership is often on the move musically. ‘Pale Satin’ for instance features a wept mirage of cosmic cowboy country, cult library music and Santana’s electric guitar – which sometimes sounds like a rearing horse! You could be in obscure psychedelic South America, or on a hallucinogenic Tex-Mex border. ‘Signed, The Body Electric’ rattles and shakes with mushroom ritual grooves that don’t sound a million miles away from The Stone Roses (via Can), and the mellotron-like trip ‘Midtown’ brought to mind Sakamoto & Robin Scott’s The Arrangement: if not a far more strung-out version. Curtain call, ‘River Story’, could be a magical union of Alice Coltrane, Laraaji and The Holydrug Couple.

Once more Dunn gets to let the sonic mind wander as Dr. Joy weave a rich tapestry of the spiritual and far out. It feels like an untethered pilgrimage in kool-aid drunken psychedelia; well produced assemblage of ideas and the imagination. And above all, seldom dull.

 

You may also like this:

The Cosmic Range  ‘New Latitudes’ (2016)

The Mining Co. ‘Phenomenology’
(PinDrop Records) 1st October 2021

Floating his usual brand of country-laced cathartic heartache towards deep space, storyteller, singer-songwriter Michael Gallagher goes in search of a new musical direction on his new songbook, Phenomenology. That country ached burr persists but the Americana is now of an entirely different stripe: more cosmic cowboy then prairie troubadour abroad in County Donegal.

Sprinkling space dust over the pains and sufferings of the human condition, Gallagher leaves terra firma for a tender, drifting cinematic drama in the universal: What better way to escape the pandemic and ills of a hostile world then to leave it behind for the unknown in space. Well, to a point anyway. A loosely based concept album, Phenomenology is in part a lyrical narration, but also the alternative soundtrack to John Carpenter’s 1974 cult sci-fi movie Dark Star.  That iconic film tells the story of a beleaguered crew looking to escape the tedium of their mission destroying unstable planets that could threaten the future colonisation of other stable, life-bringing ones. Now in its twentieth year, with weary crew of misfortunates, the mission is becoming increasing dangerous as the spaceship around them rapidly malfunctions.

During a period of such message-driven eco and philosophical quandary (see Douglas Trumbull’s 1972 debut, Silent Running), Dark Star featured a sort of return-to-the-stars-merged plot in which two of the characters, the Californian surfer buddy Doolittle and accidently jettisoned Talby, find their inevitable final resting places amongst the starry fabric when one of the planet-exploding detonators they use blows up the ship: Doolittle in silver surfer mode clings to a surfboard shaped piece of debris as he falls fatefully towards his maker, whilst Talby floats off towards the Phoenix Asteroids that he’s grown fond of from afar. That affinity and poetic death proves rich with metaphors; and so you have ‘Talby Drift’ (drifting proves to be just one of the leitmotifs on this album) and Talby at one with the cosmos, on both ‘Beatify’ and the ‘Universal Son’

Yet amongst all the infinite space, Gallagher looks back occasionally at Earth’s lamentable cast of heartbroken and struggling characters. I believe there’s a second loose story that runs in tandem on songs like the opening car-crash meeting ‘Unexpected’.

To soundtrack this cosmic and earthly plaint, Gallagher experiments with a transfer to the electronic. Beautifully, occasionally ominous, the usual American is edged towards chillwave, new wave and yacht rock. Now usually played in a minimal and highly atmospheric manner, with accentuate and vaporous synths and only a little acoustic and electric guitar, this new direction proves very fruitful. Chromatics, Moroder, Marvel83 and The Cars converge with the Eels, Mike Gale, early to mid 70s Beach Boys (honestly, listen carefully), the Magnetic Fields and Lukas Creswell-Rost.

There’s drama, a certain languid inevitability of fate, chimed and twinkled rays and the odd bit of distortion (the album’s most heavy dark arts scowled ‘IWBHM’; the theme of which is about a child who dreams of being a heavy metal star that worships the ‘devil’) on a mostly free-floating songbook of brilliantly crafted songwriting. Gallagher, at least detached a little, remote a touch behind the Mining Co. guise, surprises with the electronic move; creating a whole new strata to showcase his craft. Phenomenology could yet be the storyteller’s best, most creative move and album yet.           

Further Reading:

PREM: The Mining Co. ‘Long Way To Christmas’ (2019)

The Mining Co. ‘Frontier’ (2019)

Catherine Graindorge ‘Eldorado’
(tak:til/Glitterbeat Records) 1st October 2021

Photo Credit: Elie Rabinovitch

Travelling across both the harrowing and more aching ebb and flows of a European landscape in crisis, the violinist, violist and composer Catherine Graindorge measures the emotional tides of the pandemic epoch with depth and sophisticated articulation.

Creatively delayed by the death of her father in 2015, but also by numerous scores for films and theatre, collaborations with Nick Cave and Mark Lanegan, and various albums with her trio, and one with Hugo Race, the adroit Belgian artist is only just now, almost a decade later, releasing a follow up to the solo debut album The Secret Of Us All. A lot has happened in that time of emotional anxiety and stress. Channeling that well swell of emotions, touching upon her own experiences in regard to welcoming and helping to re-home those escaping both poverty and genocide, Graindorge’s effective new soundtrack features an exceptional atmospheric, sonorous, disturbing and plaintive cooed tribute to the survivors of the Rwanda genocide; ached expressive longings for “Eldorado”; and sorrowful haunted memories.

‘Rosalie’, the first of those evocative pulls, opens the new album of brooding chamber music and experimental suites with diaphanous apparition like voices and breathing, rippled buzzing harmonium and pained yearning. The title’s subject escaped the horror of Rwanda’s darkest hour with her husband in the mid 90s to find refuge in northern Europe. A connection was made however when she came into contact with Graindorge’s late lawyer father. The remains of her family killed in the raging bloodbath were lost until 2019, when Rosalie returned to her homeland to bury them. Three days after returning to her new home Rosalie’s “heart stopped”. This then is both a saddened form of remembrance, a process of marking that existence and trauma, but also meant as a celebration of a life: now immortalized in music. It’s a deeply moving testament to grief.

The album’s title conjures up all sorts of historical, fabled images of lost cities of gold; metaphorical, allegorical utopias and dreams, but also the foibles of chasing something that doesn’t exist. Drawn further and further on a fool’s errand into the South American interior, the magical, paved with riches city had eluded the Conquistadors, and continues to elude everyone since. Graindorge alludes to a more personal vision, which could be read as a far simpler analogy for escapism and a safe refuge in tumultuous times. Most ambitiously, this search is nothing less than the quest for a better world. 

Graindorge and her producer John Parish, who also offers up a mix of stressed, wrangled and contoured guitar, scores a distraught wailed vision of that mythical goal, which at times – especially with the off-kilter ad hoc, feeling about jazzy and avant-garde drum kit of splashes, serial hits – reminded me of Tony Conrad & Faust’s Outside The Dream Factory union.

The only obvious reference, title-wise, to these unprecedented times and its effects is made on the harmonium droned and deep, bass-y foreboding ‘Lockdown’. Graindorge stuck in Belgium as the first lockdown took hold was unable to make it to Parish’s studio in London for the mixes. To “relieve confinement” Graindorge and her daughter would visit and play (social distancing and adhering to the rules of course) to an audience in various nursing homes. On this reification of that altruistic time there’s hints of Jed Kurzel, Anne Müller and John Cale to mull over.

Each instrumental (apart from ghostly woos and a French narration) will evoke personal imagery and scenes; the resonated traces of what was; and the reverberations of past dramas. Graindorge used slides from 1959 that she’d collected form her grandmother after she died as visual prompts for the album, so its no wonder. This is all achieved with much élan and with the desire to express the travails and darkness as well as the light through transportive moods and ghostly visitations.

As a nod to one influence in particular, the album closes with a dreamy Another Green World like tribute to Brian Eno. On a sea of ambient and ether drifts this curtain call is the album’s most serene piece of solace, contemplation on a work of harrowing and mysterious (bordering on the esoteric) stirrings.

Eldorado reimagines the scope, perimeters of the viola and violin on a troubled but also personal slow release of richly brooding and heart yearned memories. It’s nothing less than a completely immersive, intense soundtrack, and for that matter one of the year’s highlights: A real work of quality that leaves a lasting emotional effect.

Andrew Heath  ‘New Eden’
(Disco Gecko)  17th September 2021

Across a venerable landscape of light emitting environments, the ambient and contemporary classical composer Andrew Heath reacts to unprecedented times with the most languid of soundtracks. Indeed, wherever light falls, whether that’s upon the pews in an empty church or in the derelict ruins of some glade, Heath captures it on his latest collection of suites for the Disco Gecko label.

Very much the experienced artist in the ambient arena, collaborating no less with Roedelius, the adroit composer takes his time in revealing peaceful states of mind on a journey of escapism. The destination is ‘eden’: or as near as sonically possible. Getting very close to that entitled destination, the opening suite grows in volume across ten-minutes of heavenly-spindled chimes and diaphanous warm fronts. Stained-glass light softly and slowly touches upon every part of a low humming church organ on ‘Faith’ – which we now need in droves if we’re ever to survive this current nightmare.

Though I may have made it sound as if these places are all devoid of company, ambiguous touches of laughter, movement and preparation together with nature’s chorus are absorbed into the subtle fabric of Heath’s incipient compositions.

Heath’s signature singular and serial style of light, minimalistic playing is all present and correct, but there’s some nicely alongside abstract guitar gestures, rings and drifts too. Just throwing it out there, but the guitar on ‘You’ reminds me a little of Myles Cochran.

Sometimes you get a vague sonic narrative, with tracks obscuring interactions and scenes. It sometimes sounds like Heath is playing the piano in the shower, or thumbing through yellowed parchments. There’s also a lot of walking about, mostly in tight leather stretched, creaking shoes, and across gauzy-laced fields. And so it does feel like a sort of gentle trek/journey away from the grey and towards a soft light. Once again the master of “small-case minimalism” quietly conjures up escapism and mystery, signposting the way to a “new Eden” of a sort.

Further Reading:

Andrew Heath ‘The Alchemist’s Muse’ (2020)

Toby Marks & Andrew Heath ‘Motion’ (2019)

Andrew Heath ‘Evenfall’ (2018)

Andrew Heath  ‘Soundings’ (2017)

Roedelius, Chaplin & Heath  ‘Triptych In Blue’ (2017)

Headboggle  ‘Digital Digital Analog’
(Ratskin Records)  24th September 2021

Quite happy it seems transmitting the optimistic explorations of a retro-futuristic synthesized world into a contemporary age, Derek Gedalecia (the maverick human behind the Headboggle moniker) has immense fun exploring the possibilities of the iconic Prophet polyphonic synthesizer. Channeling two decades worth of mischief and invention, Gedalecia releases a most ambitious sprawling album of quirky and cosmic cathedral library music, kosmische and transmogrified electronic soundtracks for the Oakland based Ratskin Records imprint.

Making good and expanding upon the one-minute suites and vignettes of the previous Polyphonic Demo set, the Digital Digital Analog album (a reversed play on the conventional ‘shorthand’ method of originally producing and recording music for the CD format) stretches the perimeters further.

Whilst previously favouring a improvised method or arrangement, the outer limit oddities on this 24 track album are more refined. In practice that means being transported to a plastic popping acid squelched symphonic dream world in which Raymond Scott joined The Yellow Magic Orchestra; Bruno Spoerii was reborn as the Aphex Twin; and a GX1 era Rick Van Der Linden played classical piano for the Galactic Supermarket. This is a both mysterious and cheeky album of synthesised heavenly music, strange burbled soups, Atari ST and Amiga computer game music, preset libraries, Vangelis fanfares, reimagined Kraftwerkian melodies and weird warped stirrings of Sky Records peregrinations.

Cleaner lines and crystal, almost pure, sound waves sparkle amongst fuzzier, fizzled effects and sharper, sometimes piercing, angular rays. Sci-fi phantasm sits alongside visions of Fluxus avant-garde pianist’s programming a robot, off-world thrillers and psychedelic synth pinball machine music on an idiosyncratic collage of filed influences: Believe it or not the album was, in part, inspired by Gedalecia’s studies of ragtime and, the more believable, classical.

The Prophet synth has its work cut out as it’s sent into outer space, to more foreboding realms, and to trippy planes of kooky chimed warbled magic.  A masterful sophisticated setting loose of expectations, Gedalecia’s screened Headboggle project playfully expands horizons and goes for broke in the synthesizer maverick stakes.

Niklas Wandt  ‘Solar Müsil’
(Bureau B)  17th September 2021

Like most of us either forced or choosing to use the lockdowns as an opportunity to rediscover our immediate environments, to take a pause and appreciate the simpler joys in a restricted climate, drummer-percussionist, producer, radio journo and DJ Niklas Wandt suddenly found his hectic live schedule cut suddenly short.

With no choice but to take this break away from his preferred method of live improvisation, the musical polymath hankered down to accept this as a period of contemplation. However, though the idea of fixing any specific performance, series of compositions on a recording didn’t feel right at first. Despite this Wandt found a semi-improvised method, and way of working, for this new solo (though various friends on the scene help out) album. It feels anyway like a musical journey that could go anywhere: even travelling in directions that prove surprising for its creator.

Schooled in jazz, psychedelia and, later on, electronica, the host of the WDR3 Jazz & World music programme Wandt’s tastes could be considered eclectic. His CV includes live performances with Oracles and Stabil Elite, collaborations with Wolf Müller, and the Neuzeitliche Bodenbeläge duo with Joshua Gottmanns. With that all in mind you can expect the musical range to be wide.

A display of untethered, incipient and rhythmic breakouts on various drum and percussive apparatus travels through leftfield electronica pop, jazz-fusion, prog and the kooky; all through a sort of kosmische/krautrock lens on an album that seems to be constantly on the move. Even with a free-roaming mind and myriad of influences, this half-narrated journey is an enigma, a puzzle that takes on so many surprising turns. It’s a conceptual futuristic jazz album on one hand, Neue Deutsche Welle on the other. This is a world of the organic and synthesized; machine and dreamy cosmic traverses; starry visions and tubular moonbeams; percussive experiments and chamber string augmentation. The languages used change from German to English to Spanish and back again: the only voice I could understand was the sleepless wistful female English poetry on the hallucinogenic Cosmic Range funking-jazz turn mirror pop ‘Durch den Spalt’ (“through the gap”). 

Satellites and refractive rays bounce around in a Faust and Gurumaniax cosmology on the album’s solar-flared ‘Der Gläaerne Tag’ (“the glass day”), whilst Wandt magic’s up a weird exotic quirk of the YMO and mid 80s Sakamoto on the progressive-lilt apparition ‘Lo Spettro’ (“the ghost”). In between both worlds and the sense, Wandt ‘drums up’ a most unexpected journey that defies categorisation on his Solar Müsil album; a sonic nomad just travelling where the spark of creativity, mood and improvisational ingenuity happens to take him.

Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters ‘Destiny Waiving’
(Bureau B)  24th September 2021

Completing an expletory trilogy that began a decade ago, the congruous sonic musical project that first brought the renowned electronic artist Ulrich Schnauss and the Engineers guitarist Mark Peters together on the Underrated Silence album in 2011, continues with a third installment: Destiny Waiving. Although it must be pointed out that the majority of the material, in part made up by improvisational sets played across London, Dublin and Birmingham (at the city’s St. James’ Church as part of the Seventh Wave electronica festival), was pretty much laid down and formalized back in 2017: the same year Peter’s debut acclaimed solo album, Innerland, was released. The final mixes weren’t however picked up and finished until last year, and though there’s nothing to suggest it the restrictions of the pandemic couldn’t have helped to get this album out into the world at large.

Those familiar with both musicians will know that their pathways have crisscrossed on various occasions, with Schnauss, a solo artist of great repute and a member of a rejuvenated Tangerine Dream since 2014, even going as far as to join Peter’s shoegaze indie band the Engineers. A voiceless, wordless extension in some ways of that band’s slow burning brilliance (I bloody love the group’s 2005 single ‘Forgiveness’), but totally unburdened by it, the music is expansive, dreamy and often beautifully starry. 

Said to be the partnerships most focused and concise album yet, concentrated on some suites by the societal commentary referenced titles, Destiny Waiving still feels very much free to roam tonal and uncoupled evocative possibilities. Almost weightless in fact, despite some deeper guitar iterations and repeated synthesised waves.

Hints of Schnauss’ iconic German comrades in kosmische and soundtrack innovation, hints of Tangerine Dream can be heard in the cosmic sentiments of his melodic and arpeggiator palette alongside touches of Vangelis enormity, various polygons and quirks, and occasional kinetic beats. Peters on his part offers a subtle but effective array of trundled and spun electric guitar lines, and concentric resonated vibrations. I’m not sure what’s going on with the cosmological ‘Speak In Capitals’, but Peters seems to have borrowed some Talk Talk guitar melody: and why not?! They both create a rich mood board together that gently builds towards post-rock, neo-classical and dreamy kosmische type dramas and bliss. Searching for answers, expressing disillusion, this partnership escape by contouring open panoramas and the enormity of it all. It’s a real special album that captures both artist’s craft and sagacious low-burning deliverance.  

Psycho & Plastic ‘Soundtrack 2: Pappel’
(GiveUsYourGOLD) Out Now

A welcome coalesce of past techno pop and kosmische investigations and grooves – from the International Pony dances with Der Plan aboard a space station Kosmopop album to the ambience of Placid House –, the second purpose-made soundtrack from the Berlin duo is their most remarkable progression and transition yet.

Commissioned by the award-winning author Dalibos Marković to create an original soundtrack for his debut novel Pappel, the electronic partnership and label co-founders Alexandre Decoupigny and Thomas Tichai rose to the challenge with a sophisticated, evocative and lower-case cinematic beauty.

Nothing less than a 150-year spanning journey’s worth of German history and a Kafka-esque tree-turn-human protagonist to use as inspiration, the possibilities could have been endless. Amon Düül II of course tried it, making a Krautrock opera out of a similar epoch – from the eventual founding of a united empire dominated by a victorious Prussia after the success of their war with France in the 1870s, to the hundred year long exodus of the German speaking population to the Americas, looking for a new Eden or escaping religious persecution, and the harrowing specter of the two World Wars. Soundtrack 2 couldn’t be more different. I’ve not had the chance to read the source literature, but its central character’s birth, life experiences seem to act as some sort of metaphor for that cannon of history.

‘Die Bäume’ (or “The Tree”) is the opener, the birth if you will of the story. Accented and attuned with a suite of field recordings and a progressive-kosmische score, we’re taken from under the forest canopy in which Pappel is born to realization. The very fibers and growth of the woodland is accompanied with an immersion of nature’s soundtrack and crisp fizzled cells; superseded later on by an almost supernatural vision of Sven Vath and Klaus Schulze – there’s even an elegant, nice dapple of Roedelius style serial piano at the end.

This moves into a half jazzy version of Nils Frahm joining forces with Manuel Göttsching on the dreamy ‘Wunsch Indianer zu Werder’ (“Desire to become a Indian”): a really lovely mysterious soundtrack into the heart of darkness. Passenger liner bound for ‘Amerika’ traverses an out-of-time plaintive and foreboding sea, whilst the pace, sound steps up into a semi-modern German version of Kavinsky’s Drive score and Moroder on the Euro-neon pulsed ‘Auf der Galeris’ (“On the gallery”).

Each track equating directly to a chapter in the book, sonically and musically tells a story, matching the scenes and atmospheres. A both intimate and outwardly searching soundtrack of intelligently placed techno, Cluster style ambience and beautifully descriptive melodies, this is, as I’ve already said, the duo’s most progressive if not best work yet. They build upon past excursions, experiments with a richer than ever palette, and prove that the soundtrack genre is very much where they should be.

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Roundup

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The BordellosBrian ‘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 King Of No-Fi album, a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart, and a series of double-A side singles (released so far, ‘Shattered Pop Kiss/Sky Writing’, ‘Daisy Master Race/Cultural Euthanasia’‘Be My Maybe/David Bowie’ and All Psychiatrists Are Bastards / Will I Ever Be A Man). He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped-down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

Each month we supply him with a mixed bag of new and upcoming releases to see what sticks.

The Single.

Dead Rituals & Francis Moon  ‘Tangled Up’
10th September 2021

This is actually quite a beautifully written pop song, and actually overcomes the awful bland production a lot of these indie pop songs have nowadays, the kind of production you hear on a song being played on an episode of Catfish when the person being catfished discovers that the hunk they thought they were talking to is in fact their best friends 80-year uncle who had a penchant for dressing like Touché Turtle and thrusting his pork sword at any passing stranger. This is a lovely well-written ditty and one if it came on the radio I would not turn off.

The Albums..

Hits ‘Cielo Nublado’
(Paisley Shirt Records)  17th September 2021

Why am I listening to so much indie pop this week?! Not that I’m complaining when it’s made with so much charm, melody and melancholia as this album by Hits; an album that brings back the golden days of K Records and the charm and beauty of a Sarah Records release back into my life, but with an added spice of sex and darkness which I am very taken with, especially on the slightly discordant ‘Flat Horizon’, which I have been listening to on a loop for far too long now for one’s own good and mental sanity.

But this is an album I think could well soundtrack the soon to be with us autumn evenings and bus rides to and from work. It has a certain feel like an old friend you have not seen in a long time giving you a hug and in that instant all those memories of what you shared between yourselves come flooding back, which you momentarily bathe and lose yourself in. Guitar jangle has not sounded so Revolutionary in such a long time, and not moved me so much in such a long time. Just guitar, bass and drums: Buddy Holly did not die in vain. This is an album to buy and cherish. And C+, it has a musical tribute to Alan Vega, which is short charming and catchy: as all indie pop should be.

ONETWOTHREE ‘ST’
(Kill Rock Stars)  15th October 2021

ONETWOTHREE are a three-piece post punk trio made up of three lady bassists from Switzerland, and the album is indeed a groovy post-punk delight. Obviously bass heavy with dashes of synth, guitar and a freshness that is welcome in this day of thawed out pre-frozen indie nonentities.

Instead of heart stopping originality and pop sass we are having music forced on us by those incapacitated with a grapefruit ear, but I’m happy to report that ONETWOTHREE have both a subtle originality and sprightly pop sass that has one sassing everywhere with indie pant shenanigans. They have tunes, melodies and a vocal charm that asks one the question, ‘why are we not hearing this on the radio more often?’ We need music with subtlety, charm and simple naive sexiness to soundtrack our daily life; the sort that ONETWOTHREE offer us.

Equinox x Xqui ‘External Combustion Tension’
5th November 2021

Music is an art form and this album by Equinox and Xqui is a work of art. It’s an album that takes poetry, spoken word and atmospherics into an almost sci-fi territory. Ambiance abounds, if ambiance can do such a frivolity. Imagine John Cooper Clark gusting gushing and guesting on an album by a stoned tired Add N To X.

This is an album to wipe away your afternoon contemplating life and losing yourself in the beauty and intelligence and humour, sadness and anger. This well written and produced original album offers you all this. It offers you so much, and it’s quite refreshing to listen to something not influenced by Chuck Berry and his duck walk, and something that is not scared to stick out its well stroked chin and make an album that screams out: “art is nothing not be afraid of”. And to adventure your way into a new listening experience is indeed not a bad thing, like growing as a human being is not a bad thing: one can never learn too much.

This album could be an antidote to the mediocre music that lacks originality soul and art that so spoils our radio. Oasis fans should be locked in a room and force fed this record through large speakers and then see if they have grown as human beings or at least learned to walk like one.

Hanrath & Way  ‘Prismatic Illusions’
(Submarine Broadcasting Co.) 23rd August 2021

Another album of experimental atmospheric tomfoolery from the dyed in genius label that is Submarine Recordings; an album that is soaked in humour sex and repeated listening. Each listen is repaid with another view of life seen through an unwashed wine glass; experimental jazz-tinged vignettes of cinematic explosion rubbing shoulders with long journeys through the artic coldness of synth led melodrama: an album of illicit kisses of soiled and melted hearts drawn in the snow.

Junk culture and blindfolded Art viewing where the sunken ships are just the follies of the mediocre, this is an album of reawakening’s and unmissed opportunity, an album I recommend whole heartedly.

Sun Atoms  ‘Let There Be Light’
1st October 2021

Once again I mention Wonky Alice in a review as this is what this album reminds me of, which let me tell you is a compliment as Wonky Alice were one of the finest psych influenced bands doing the rounds in the late 80s early 90s, and this album screams of late 80s early 90s guitar-based psych. And as an early twenty something I would have loved this album. Even as a 54-year-old I’m still enjoying this album for all the same reasons I expect, but I suppose with the added attraction of nostalgia attached. Not that this is an album of nostalgia, but an album of well performed songs that hover around the Psych genre, but with a touch of Leonard Cohen drama and dry humour strangely emerging, popping its head above the pulpit waving a floppy hat casting peace signs to the embers of a dying sun. Yes, this is indeed an enjoyable well produced well thought out pop listening experience with dashes, dare I say, of its own togetherness and originality.

Will Feral ‘Hellweb’
(Metal Postcard Records) 4th September 2021

Hellweb is a rather marvellous instrumental album, one that would make one hell of a horror film soundtrack. Will Feral could be the natural successor to John Carpenter, and one could imagine this easily being the music to the next Halloween movie, but one stuck sometime in the future in a nightclub maybe.

It is also an album that draws on past horror classics like The Sphinx, reminding me in parts of The Omen soundtrack, and at times the music from the already mentioned Halloween movies. John Carpenter is defiantly an influence. But also so is Moroder as there are definite electro dance vibes going on in some of the tracks without ever venturing into rave territory.

Hellweb is an album I would recommend to film score aficionados even if it is not a movie soundtrack. All this fine album is missing is a movie to soundtrack itself. And if this album was released on vinyl would sell like hotcakes.

ALBUM REVIEW/ DOMINIC VALVONA

Esbe ‘Under Cover’
(New Cat)  17th September 2021

When not in a captivating mood as a Daughter of the Desert, and channeling a former life as an Egyptian deity, it seems that the gifted, hypnotically voiced siren Esbe desires to reinterpret the standards.

After a fare old work rate of five original albums in just under four years, Esbe is ready to leave her own indelible trace on a songbook of classics: a timeline that runs from the 1960s to the age of Gershwin and even further back. Almost as a rites of passage for artists, sharing the songs that have in kind inspired them, Esbe now does likewise on her new album Under Cover.

But what can anyone possibly bring to such old worn songs as ‘Yesterday’, ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘The Sound Of Silence’? The last of those, and the second Paul Simon song from his partnership with Art Garfunkel, does have a particular affinity. Not only is Simon held aloft as the singer’s most respected songwriter but the lyrics of this malady chime with her own Jewish heritage. Esbe transforms it into something approaching the mystical. Accompanied by a synthesis of sampled strings (made by Spitfire Audio and recorded at Sir George Martin’s famous Air Studios in London no less), Vangelis sci-fi vapours and tablas, she wraps the original words around an ambiguous cosmological. Esbe’s rendition of another Simon song, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, which in many artist’s hands turns to insufferable mush and a cloying dirge, sounds more like a tirp-hop vision of Lisa Gerrard in comparison.

Tapping into that traditional training and reimagining songs she would have undoubtedly learnt whilst studying, from the great American songbook Esbe takes on Gershwin and DuBuse Hayward’s languid ‘Summertime’, and the hymnal late 18th century Christian beauty, with words by the English Anglican clergyman-poet John Newton, ‘Amazing Grace’. One becomes a spiritual anthem, taken on by the African-American community, whilst the other, was influenced in turn by that same communities own musical journey and travails. Here, with Esbe’s methodology of approaching each song (pretending she’s never heard the music, only the lyrics), these well known standards float off into a plaintive trembled voiced ether of both swelled and fraught strings and bit-crushed echo, with only the most tenuous of the originals recognized melodies and feel.

Elsewhere Lennon & McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’ is rendered mysterious and wistfully wispy – like the Chromatics on the Twin Peaks set -, whilst ‘Eleanor Rigby’ sounds like its sung by the protagonist’s diaphanous heart yearned ghost. ‘A Taste Of Honey’ travels back in time to sound like a celeste plaintive weep from the 1700s as reimagined by Pentangle.

There are similar envisioned versions of the iconic lipstick-on-the-collar Billie Holiday weepy ‘Don’t Explain’ (handed a misty veil accompaniment of scale-y shaken percussion and dreamy vapours), and a synthesised vision of the old choral ‘Silent Night’ too on this explorative covers songbook. Under Cover succeeds in connecting us to the artist and to what makes them tick; what moves them, what inspires them. Coming at old standards from another angle, more or less discarding the original compositions, timings and rhythms, cadence, Esbe wraps and weaves her often cooed, apparition like hypnotising voice around songs that need reenergising; so common they’ve blended into the background. Esbe’s evocative process of spellbinding reinterpretations prompts the listener to take another look at, and to perhaps find something novel or new, in old recordings. The familiar suddenly becomes worth investigating all over again.

Further Reading:

Esbe ‘Saqqara’

Daughters Of The Desert  ‘Sorrow Soothe’

ALBUM REVIEW/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Santa Sprees ‘Fanfare For Tonsils’

There have been some pretty stunning albums released this year and Fanfare For Tonsils is one of them; an album that is both experimental and great pop music, and as I think I mentioned when reviewing last year’s excellent Sum Total Of Insolent Blank, they are the closest thing we have to the weird 60s Beach Boys:  they have the same magic, the same on the edge of madness and sublimeness that few have the genius to pull off naturally.

Anthony Dolphin is quite simply one of the finest songwriters making music today. A man who wraps beautiful melodies to some simply stunning lyrics, writing about such strange characters and subjects and engulfing them in pure experimental musical wonderfulness that hints at their influences. Tom Waits, The Fall, Half Japanese, folk, soul, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll are all captured in their truly original sound. For the band take their influences and bend them into something refreshing and beautiful until it sounds like no one else but the Santa Sprees. Fanfare For Tonsils is simply unique in this day and age as it is the sound of a band not giving a damn. A band that knows what they are doing is truly magnificent: heartbreakingly magnificent. And there are few who can match their brilliance. This is the true sound of the underground. The soul and heart of the underground. This is the sound of the Santa Sprees.

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Monsieur Doumani ‘Pissoúrin’
(Glitterbeat Records)  10th September 2021

On a night flight to dimensions new, the celebrated Cyprus based trio of Monsieur Doumani plug in and amp up their signature Mediterranean sound on the nocturnal diorama Pissoúrin.

Regular readers of the blog may recall my review feature back in May on Antonis Antoniou’s solo album of rustic lyrically-themed kismet, Kkismettin. A founding member of the Doumani, Antoniou expressed the barrel-barrier dividing realties of his island home; split between Turkey and Greece. Favouring a more peaceable but exciting melting pot of both cultures, Antoniou musically and amorphously combined the two sides on that album, as he does now with this trio, now on to their fourth album. 

In an attempt to push the sound and themselves, they’ve approached this nocturnal themed album differently. The music is now electrified, augmented and played around with through various pedal effects and looping technology. In all, it promises to be a very different sounding record.

As I’ve mentioned, the concept – made obvious if you translate the title from its original Cypriot into English – scans the “total darkness” to build a cosmology of nighttime dwelling characters and atmospheres. Against an often mysteriously stirred backdrop of the moon, stars, planets and rivers, the allurement of both freedom and escapism lurks. This is a flux state “between sleep and dreams” that acts as a sanctuary for the non-conformists, the rebels, but also just anyone who wishes to break away from the normality’s of a depressing reality. Some of this was at least fueled by late night drinking and unburdened ideas discussed with the poet Marios Epaminondas, who wrote the words to the lunar, UFO hovered Baba Zula-like scuzzed ‘Kalikándjari’ song.    

Actually, Baba Zula crop up a lot as a reference point on this album. Their signature fuzzed and electric fez take on Anatolian psych and folklore can be heard permeating the Doumani’s switched-on sound; yet with the wah-wah like buzz and looping flange of the traditional Greek six or eight-stringed teardrop shaped ‘tzouras’ replacing the Baba’s signature saz. Also, they’ve managed to incorporate the trombone into this sound; played by the trio’s Demetris Yiasemides, who also joins in with the tongue-rolled harmonies and vocals. It works quite well as it turns out; with both shorter punctuated breaths and longer deep funnel suffusions that act as a sort of bass sound.

Making up that trio is the relative newcomer, Andys Skordis, who plays looping fuzzed and scuzzed-up guitar, percussion, and as with all his comrades, joins in on vocals, which fluctuate between folk traditions and what sounds like some stoic Russian or Slavic chorus on the electrically scratched and echoed ‘Poúlía’.

Finding connections with cultures, ideas outside their Cyprus home, in this nighttime realm the trio seem to follow sonic and rhythmic trails all the way to Arabia and North Africa. There’s even a strange hint of some desert-country twang on the bendy, rocking ‘Alavrostishitiótis’. Under a certain longing veil, a siren lends something ancient and particularly Greek to the dramatic, panted ‘Thámata’. In all the results are a psychedelic-Med whirlwind of nightly trips and peregrinations, and a opening up of the trio’s sound; a leap into the unknown that’s proved fruitfully electrifying and entertaining.  

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 REVIEWS SPECIAL/Dominic Valvona

Motorists  ‘Surrounded’
(We Are Time/Bobo Integral/Debt Offensive)  3rd September 2021

Ah, for the mythology of rock music’s open road, highway 66 kicks and Kerouac misadventures. It seemed the easiest of escapes to new horizons; to hit the road U.S.A style and take in all the pit stop catalysts of rock ‘n’ roll lore. Not so easy to disappear now of course, the use of sat navs more or less keeping to a regimented map, with little in the way, or room, to shoot off on detours, and to come across surprises. Also, we’re all tracked, moving dots on a data system unable to truly run free.

Fueling this jangly Canadian trio’s automobile, those same tropes come up head-on with the actual realities of driving in the 21st century: gridlocks, congestion and nothing but bad juju on the radio. Motorists however do head down that fabled motorway as best they can; making for the open road with a carload of friends, the dial tuned into a new wave and power pop soundtrack of the Athens, Georgia sound, The Church, Teenage Fanclub and the Paisley Underground scene.  

However, they don’t so much cruise as motorik down a road less well travelled, as the Toronto group navigate the pandemic and the resulting anxieties of isolation, distress and mental fatigue that’s cursed most of us in a new pandemic reality. The album’s precursor lead track (recently featured on the blog) ‘Through To You’ was about a yearning to connect once more: what better way then a road trip. But isolation means different things to different people. The group’s guitarist and Alex Chilten-shares-the-mouthwash-with-Tom Verlaine styled vocalist Craig Fahner is concerned with the kind of “isolation” you find in “a technologically saturated society, laden with romanticism around radical togetherness.”

The trio’s debut album is a spaghetti junction of suffocation and melodious despondency that opens with the titular album song, ‘Surrounded’, a lovely jangle backbeat of Green On Red and R.E.M.ish influences that features a downbeat dissatisfaction with everywhere they lay their hat: the city, “too many creeps, too many bars”; suburbs, “too many houses, and noisy neighbours and perfect yards”; and the commune, “too much love, and power trips”.   

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t in anyway a downbeat songbook; the music’s just far too…well, jangly and driven for that. No flashiness, overindulgences, every song’s a tight winner, whether that’s the edgy power pop 80s throwback ‘Hidden Hands’ or the Soft Boys, if they’d been signed to Stiff Records, new wave crossover ‘Turn It Around’.

This whole album has a real nice feel, with pull-ins at Weezer, Television and grunge music’s lay-bys. Nothing new, just great indie, new wave (a little sneer of punk) music at its best, Surrounded has really grown on me. A great cathartic soundtrack to adventures on the freeway.

Timo Lassy  ‘Trio’
(We Jazz Records)  27th August 2021

A new combo and a new sound, the celebrated Finnish tenor saxophonist and bandleader Timo Lassy’s latest album of We Jazz crossovers is perhaps the Helsinki label’s most surprising release yet.

Cinematic, luxurious, Timo’s new “trio” are augmented, made more sweeping and grand, by the introduction of both synthesized effects and lush filmic strings – performed by the Budapest Art Orchestra and arranged by fellow Finn, Marzi Nyman. It’s almost as if David Arnold thumbed through the Savoy Jazz label’s back catalogue and various Italian and French movie soundtracks from the 60s and 70s: some exotica too! For the sound is both familiar, and as I already said, cinematic, yet somehow transformed enough to throw up the odd surprise and reverberation of the avant-garde and artsy jazz performativity.

Flanked either side by We Jazz and Finnish scene stalwarts, Ville Herrala on double-bass and Jaska Lukkarinen on drums, the expanded trio both playfully and more longingly move through the scenes of an imaginative romance it seems. Straight away they evoke that Savoy swing and a bit of sophisticated European vogue celluloid as they symphonically, in a rhapsody of swooning serenade, transport us to Monte Carlo (perhaps even Rio) on the sweeping ‘Foreign Routes’. Timo follows the tender contours and toots away on the equally romantic, tiptoed beauty ‘Better Together’.

Hearts skip and are harassed on the more jumping and dashing couplet of ‘Pumping C’ and ‘Orlo’. Timo goes through the register with dub-like effected echoes on his dabbing and busy saxophone riffs as Lukkarinen provides rattles of cymbal and little drilled snare rolls on the first of these two ‘groovers’.  The latter goes for a trip-hop like feel of shuffled breaks, funky and soulful tenor squeals.

Rain-on-the-windowpane moments of solemn gazing occur on the moody double-bass quivering, snuggled forlorn sax reflection ‘Sonitu’, and on the swirled wind blowing through the spiritual jazz cannon’s chimed and trinket percussion, elegant serenade ‘Sunday 20’.

For excursions further afield, the trio take us on an exotic journey to more fiery climes on the gong struck announced ‘Subtropical’ – imagine Jef Gilson and Les Baxter sound-tracking some mating ritual in the sort of hip but down-at-heel tropical nightspot, draped with fishing nets; where the clientele are of course wearing the Breton stripes, dancing away to Candido’s banging away on the congas.

A surprising route to take, Timo and his compatriots’ return to the classics on an album of both accentuated and dynamic jazz swing; boosted by the most beautiful of strings accompaniments. 

Various  ‘Cameroon Garage Funk’
(Analog Africa)  3rd September 2021

Blistering hot, howled ravers from an undiscovered treasure trove of 60s and 70s Cameroon Afro-garage, Afro-funk and Afro-psych records, Analog Africa have dug deep once more to bring us yet another essential compilation of lost or forgotten nuggets.

This bustling tropical survey tells the story of the country’s capital nightspots and the groups that frequented them, on what sounds like an unbelievably impressive live scene. But away from the sweltering heat of those busy dance floors, Cameroon lacked most of the facilities needed to record and promote it. Instead, it was left to covertly recording under the radar of an Adventist church, on the down low in between services and the ire of the priests. For a price, bands could use the church’s rudimental but sound recording equipment and incognito engineer, Monsieur Awono. Whoever had the readies could also then buy the master reel. But then what?  

Without a proper distribution network and few label opportunities, groups had to rely on the French label Sonafric. As it happened this imprint was very forgiving, open to anything it seems, and in a rare example of altruism releasing records on merit alone. The results of this generous spirit can be heard on, what is, a quite eclectic spread of genres and themes: ‘garage funk’ being a good springboard for a selection that reaches beyond its title grabber.

Low tech in many ways, yet the music on offer, leaps out of the speakers: the louder the better. For example, Jean-Pierre Djeukam’s squealing organ introduction opener, ‘Africa Iyo’, is a twitching Africa Screams like stonker that fully encompasses the “garage funk” tag.  But whilst this is a James Brown in league with The Gators style stormer, the next track, ‘Sie Tcheu’, takes some imbued guidance from Curtis Mayfield. Joseph Kamga, guitar virtuoso of the L’Orchestre Super Rock’ a Fiesta pedigree, lets loose on that 1974 “jerk tune”; sung, it should be noted, in the country’s largest ethnic language of Bamiléké.

It should also be noted at this point that Cameroon was under both French and British rule until 1961. They gained independence firstly from the French, in one half of the country, the year before, and then from Britain the following year. This brought in a renewed thrust and vigor for Cameroon traditions and its pre-colonial history, which filtered through to the music. Groups like the impressive Los Camaroes (the house band at the edgy Mango bar) incorporated a local version of the Rhumba, Méringue (the style that would blaze through the Latin world but stared in Africa), and the local Bikutsi style (the literal translation of which is “beat the earth”). They appear twice on the compilation, but it’s their tropical hammock swayed ‘Ma Wde Wa’ that favours this sauntered, often local, array of rhythms best. In comparison ‘Esele Malema Moam’ moves to an elliptical rhythm, more in keeping with New Orleans funk.

Transported across the Atlantic, seasoned and well-travelled talent Charles Lembe evokes Afro-Cuban gaucho vibes on ‘Qwero Wapatcha’. An interesting fella, moving at the age of sixteen to Europe, Lembe signed his first record deal with Vogue records in 1959, going on to write French film scores, open the rather poorly chosen named La Plantation club in Paris, and release his own The Voice Of Africa LP – Myriam Makebla and Henry Belafonte no less, asked permission to reinterpret his ‘Mota Benoma’ tune too.

The rest of the compilation seems to owe, at least some, debt to Fela Kuti. The architect of Afrobeat can certainly be felt on Tsanga Dieudonne’s ‘Les Souffrances’; written incidentally by Johnny Black, who’s owb Ewondo dialect advisory themed, Otis grabs James Brown styled, groover ‘Mayi Bo Ya?’ is a highlight. Willie Songue and his ‘Les Showmen’ sound like they may have even influenced late 70s Can with the whacker wah-wah flange peddled, live sounding, relaxed funk track ‘Moni Ngan’.

Cameroon garage funk is a riot; an encapsulation of a musically rich eco-system that managed to break on through despite all the setbacks and the lack of facilities. This compilation is the story of a conjuncture of Western and Cameroon styles; with the emphasis on corrupting those cross-Atlantic radio influences into something distinctly African. It’s another great introduction.

Various  ‘The Land Of Echo: Experimentations And Visions Of The Ancestral In Peru (1975-1989)’  (Buh Records)  27th August 2021

Photo Credit: Tony D’Urso

The second compilation this month to receive my seal of approval, Buh Records points me in the direction of the experimental fusions of mid 70s and 80s Peru. Surveying a conjuncture of brave new sounds and the country’s traditions, this pretty self-explanatory entitled compilation unveils both unreleased and released obscure explorations from a clutch of mavericks and forgotten pioneers who pushed the South American sonic envelope.

Mainly due to the political turbulence and a lack of studios, distribution and the like, most of the artists on this collection either self released recordings from their rudimental home studio set-ups, or, found opportunity to test the perimeters in the very few official facilities that existed: with labels such as Corva, and in studios such as Alliance Fançaise. 

Due to the ruling regime of this period’s emphasis on promoting Peru’s culture and traditions, and because of intense economic migration to the cities (in particular the capital, Lima), there was a greater exposure to the sounds of the country’s mountains and rainforest topography; many of which ended up being transformed by the lineup on this inaugural compilation.

Artists, composers working in the fields of rock, jazz, the contemporary classical and avant-garde began to merge and manipulate those localised customs and sounds into a new South American hybrid. The results of which can be heard on Omar Aramayo’s wind pipe Andean mountain peregrination ‘Nocturno 1’. From the lofty heights of a mountain’s crust, Omar it seems tracks the airy flight of an eagle, whilst evoking an atmospheric mirage of a train’s reverberated chuffed steam and the dreamy contouring of its magical journey. In contrast to that ambient minor symphony, Corina Barta swoons, exults, sings strange arias over both messenger and detuned drums on the mesmerising new age ‘Jungle’.

In the mid 70s Ave Acústica produced the sort of tape manipulations you might hear both Can and Faust playing around with it. A previously unreleased sound collage, produced on magnetic tape, announces each hissy segment of inner piano workings, radio dial fuckery and atmospheric downpours with a repeated Peruvian guitar motif on the avant-garde suite ‘Liegue a Lima al Atardecar’. Another unreleased track, ‘Indio de la Ciudad’ by Miguel Flores, leans towards Cage with an almost avant-garde experiment of classical heralded layered trumpets. 

The most obvious sounds of the futurism however, can be heard on Luis David Aguilar’s mid 80s Casio CZ10000 synthesizer heavy ‘La Tarkeada’. Touches of Sakamoto and Eno permeate this space-y bubbled wah-wah rayed and arpeggiator dotted neo-classical transformation of an Andean ancestral melody.

Echoes of Tangerine Dream, Oscar Peterson, Anthony Braxton, Cluster and the Fluxus arm of music can be heard in tandem with Peru’s most synonymous panpipes sound, but also disturbances of the local bird life (lots of flight and wing flapping going on) and spiritual inspired ritual. What all these experimental composers capture is an essence of a revitalised Peruvian culture, whilst dreaming about a more inclusive future.

Variát  ‘I Can See Everything From Here’
(Prostir)  10th September 2021

Ukrainian multimedia artist and co-label launcher Dmyto Fedorenko makes an abrasive, thickset and caustic noisy statement of mystery and forebode on his latest dissonant album.

Under the Variát alias the static, fizzled and pulverized pulsating sonic sculptor uses a busted and transmogrified apparatus of blown amps, hammer thumped toms, cymbals that have been drilled to make unpredictable resonating distortions, and countless found objects to conjure up the most heavy and deep of savage and alien discomfort.

One artist’s reaction to the times we now live in, launched from Fedorenko’s own Prostir imprint that he set-up with fellow electronic music experimentalist Kateryna Zavoloka, the album’s eight fizzing contortions burble, squeal, scream and drone lethargically with unknown ritualistic invocation.

The accompanying PR notes tell me that this project (in part) was conceived last year as a ‘provocative outlet’ for transgression, reinvention and liberation. This all becomes a bestial, doomed industrial freedom when channeled through a fried crunched distortion. Unknown propelled craft hover as the stark brushes and scrapes of an electric guitar are magnified to sound like an unholy alliance of Sunn O))) and The Telescopes. Reversed sharpened blades, searing drones, metal machine music concrete, vaporised static, the sound of a robbed manic knocking on the gates of Hades and various bone and gristle menace converge as leviathans, secret ceremony and regurgitations emerge from the discordant mass.

Itchy-O, Faust and Emptyset bring in augurs and break the limits in a suffused display of heavy metal primitivism, as Variát craves out meaning, description and evocations from a corrosive block of fucked-up serpent like dark materials. It’s probably, exactly, the right sound we need at the moment. 

Andrew Wasylyk  ‘Balgay Hill: Morning In Magnolia’
(Clay Pipe Music)  20th August 2021

Seeking a sanctuary away from the collective anxieties and uncertainties of the Covid-19 age, the Dundee composer Andrew Wasylyk found that it’s a beautiful world once you disconnect from the hyperbole and relentless crisis negativity fed to us minute-by-minute through the gogglebox and Goggle hub.

His safe haven, the city’s Victorian period Balgay Park, proved both a solace and sonic inspiration for this latest album of evocative captured-in-the-moment peregrinations and hymns to natures eternal optimistic dawn rise.

A sort of ambient waft along the park trail, with fragrant and almost cosmic reflective stops at the astronomical observatory (the first and only public built one in the UK) sitting beside the flowery and fauna at the adjourning cemetery and from atop of the panoramic view that reaches out across the Firth of Tay’s inner estuary.

Eased in with both the glazed light of a Dundee Spring and the suffused swaddled and warm dreamy trumpet and flugelhorn of fellow Taysider Rachael Simpson, Wasylyk once more pays an ambient – with hazy pastoral touches of the psychedelic and even esoteric – homage to his home city’s psychogeography. For there is a marking, musically, of not just the passing of time but an acknowledgment also to those who’ve lived and followed a similar lifetime in the one-time jute manufacturing capital. There’s even a track title, ‘Smiling School For Calvinists’, that references Bill Duncan’s short stories collection of imagined and all too real characters eking out a living or existence in a slightly surreal vision of Dundee – alternating between the insular fishing community of Broughty Ferry and the imposing tower blocks of the nearby city.

The soundtrack to this world layers dappled gauzes of the Boards Of Canada and epic45 with the ambience of Eno and Forest Robots; the accentuated and caressed bendy guitar playing of Junkboy and Federico Balducci with just a hint of 70s children’s TV ghost stories.

The abstract essence of a place and mood are made no less concrete or real by this lovely, often mirage-like soundtrack. Sounds, instrumentation plays like the light source material that inspired it, whether it’s the undulating synthesized bobbled notes or the winding, meandering melodies of piano. Grayscale-like fades come alive with the occasional breakout of padded and pattered drums and, on the sweet colliery trumpeted and gilded piano rich, already mentioned, book title, a pre-set bossa groove.

Casting a timeless spell, worries seem to evaporate as Wasylyk gently immerses the listener into another world: the bustle, movement of a city is still there, but a most scenic film of escape keeps it all at bay behind cushioning fauna. Balgay Hill is another wonderful, peaceable yet evocative album from the Dundee maestro.

Steve Hadfield  ‘See The World Anew Vol.1’
(See Blue Audio)  27th August 2021

It’s been a miserable, anxious and unsecure eighteen months for all of us; the political and generational divisions, already torrid enough before the advent of Covid-19, now like chasms. Yet for many it’s also been a time of catharsis, an opportunity to concentrate on what matters the most. Leeds electronic music artist Steve Hadfield is one such soul, sharing the collective experiences of lockdown, but also impacted by a number of personal life changes unrelated to the miasma of the pandemic. Inspired by his young daughter to look at the world, universe with fresh wide-eyed wonder and new perspective, Hadfield is spurred on to create a new series of ambient suites dedicated to stargazing and atmospheric discovery.

Following a prolific release schedule in 2021, Hadfield’s ‘most ambient’ statement has been saved for the blossoming ambient and beyond label See Blue Audio. And so volume one of this universal wonderment feels like the multiple stages of an ascendance into space; there’s even a mirage melting, serene spherical gliding suite named ‘Ascension’ for heaven’s sake!

Reacquainting with the night sky Hadfield offers up moonbeam corridors of light, reversed cosmic white noise, detuned Tibetan like ceremonial percussion, and a veiled untethered waltz in the great expanse. The composer takes off aboard some sort of propelled craft through an arching buzzed ‘Mesosphere’ towards an orbital avant-garde.

Volume One is a sensitive, often mysterious, but always interestingly serene start to a period of renewed reflection and discovery.

Simon McCorry  ‘Flow’
(See Blue Audio)  10th September 2021

The highly prolific “cellist sound-sculptor of ambiguous environments” and composer Simon McCorry has appeared numerous times this year on the blog. Just last month I featured his Critical; Mass collaboration with the Washington D.C. duo of Requiem (of which a second volume is set to be released next month), and before that, his Nature In Nature EP for the burgeoning ambient and beyond label See Blue Audio. For that very same label (and the second See Blue release to be featured in this month’s roundup) imprint McCorry plucks inspiration from out of the air and the psychogeography of the Lake District, the Outer Hebrides’ Isle Of Harris, and the Orkney Islands on the almost uninterrupted Flow suites showcase. 

Treading in ancient times, the unknown mysticisms and mysterious essences we’ve attached to our atavistic ancestors in those locations is picked up by McCorry’s sonic antenna and channeled into five flowing sequences of ambient and kosmische style immersions. The source of which stems from one long improvisation; created using Eurorack modules passed through to cassette tape and further processed to acquire a degraded feel, like something that’s been left lain dormant and undiscovered under the dirt: a kind of mood board time capsule if you will.

Imbued by those surroundings, and the various stone circles that stand in some of them, McCorry ushers in the autumnal light and low sun rises as seasonal rituals indicate the last moments of the summer.  Horizon gazing sun worship, supernatural elements, vibrating force fields, slowly bowed ascending and descending tubular elevations, and searing drones seem the order of the day as the adroit composer manages to produce a natural, organic vision of synthesized machine made mood music. The roots of which start in the landscape and travel up towards the sci-fi.

Deep yet translucent, McCorry’s stream of conscious ambience has both weight and a mirage-like quality. Its yet another angle, a side to his craft; a most appealing, entranced and mystical work of airy suspense and investigation. 

Sone Institute  ‘After The Glitter Before The Decay’
(Mystery Bridge Records)  6th September 2021

Not quite left behind, nor entirely bound to the next stage of decay, Roman Bezdyk emerges from the ruins of one glittery age to contour, reverberate and evoke both mysterious and ominous atmospheres on his new Sone Institute album.

Crouched in post-industrial wastelands, gazing at the stars, the UK-based electronic musician, guitarist and producer conveys both dreams and nightmarish environments of unknown specters, shapes and broadcasts on what amounts to a kosmische, ambient and experimental guitar styled soundtrack to a resigned future shock.

You could say it follows on from Bezdyk’s previous New Vermin Replace Old EP from April. There’s even a second ‘Studded By Stars’ chapter; although it’s a more industrial, post-rock like journey into the alien as opposed to the first version’s stratospheric ambient glide.

Against obstructed and ghostly transmissions, cosmic sonic hymnal synthesized voices, beams of light, digital code calculations and veiled gray environments Bezdyk adds serial and resonated guitar gestures, brushes. With much delay, sometimes flange, and always plenty of lunar echo, his guitar wrangling, air hanging notes and gentle sweeps recall elements of Günter Schickert, Manuel Göttsching and an even more strung out version of Ry Coder. On the apparitional entitled ‘Insect House’ that same guitar sound apes the craning and scuttled movements of those said creepy-crawlies, whilst also evoking a sweltered heat and a strange bowing rustic saw. 

Whilst new Rome crumbles and burns, Bezdyk imagines broody spy thrillers piano music played by Cage (‘Echo Zulu India’) and Bernard Szajner like envisioned sci-fi. Wherever he’s taking us it sounds as alien as it does foreboding; a crumbling visage of the world headed for the shitter. 

Blue Mysteries  ‘Dislocated’
(Hive Mind Records)  10th September 2021

I can sympathize greatly with Marc Teare, the humanoid behind the Dislocated Blue Mysteries alias and head honcho at the global sounds (and beyond) label Hive Mind. Suffering greatly from bastard cluster headaches myself in the past, I know exactly what he’s going through. As a distraction from this heavy leaden fog and intense painful experience, Teare assimilates with a number of A.I. sonic software applications on his new project.

Not so much removing himself from the process, as that title may suggest, but more in keeping with how the curse of those headaches can not only course chronic pain but ‘dislocate’ a person from everything around them. Teare actually ties and propounds this same damaging feeling in with the dislocation so many of us have felt during the COVID pandemic.

Intuitive as he might be, he’s left much of the work to the transmogrified re-programming of Khyam Allami & Counterpoint’s Apotome and, the electronic artist, Holly Herndon’s ‘digital twin’ Holly+. The first is a free browser-based generative music system that enables users to explore transcultural tunings, the second, a custom vocal and instrumental interface in which users can upload polyphonic audio to a website and receive it back, sung in Herndon’s voice. Of course it all depends on whatever source material you feed it as to how effective the results.  In this case, Teare has initiated very odd, hallucinogenic and acid lunar dream of library music sci-fi and inner mind-bending. 

Like a transformed twist of Asmus Tietchens, Stereolab and Klaus Weiss, dislocated from their own times, this chiming, twinkled and chemistry set bubbled and burbling soundtrack floats freely inside a psychedelic lava lamp. Droplets, sometimes arpeggiator flows of bobbing chimes make vague connections to the Far East, Thailand, even Polynesia. On the gulp filtered slow beat primordial soup ‘Humming, Pre-Dawn’ there’s a touch of electronic bamboo music; removed to sound like detuned chopsticks. Something approaching aria-like voices (of a sort) appear like whelping alien creatures and higher squawking space mice on ‘Shadows’. In a manner Blue Mysteries floats around a strange retro-library futurism of droning crafts, crystallised notes (some of which pierce, others, linger with sonorous effects), blades of bass-y synth and liquid movements. Concentrating the mind like nothing else can, Teare escapes the numbing pain to an imaginary sonic flotsam; handing over at least some of his escape route to A.I., and so in the process creating something lucidly weird and mirage-like. These cluster headaches fortunately pass, returning either sporadically or years later. Though this is an interesting sonic album, let’s hope for Teare’s sake those headaches never return. 

PLAYLIST/Dominic Valvona

For those newcomers to the site, the Monolith Cocktail Social Playlist is the blog’s sort of imaginary radio show (ideally with no breaks, no inane chit-chat); a cross generational eclectic experience curated by this blog’s founder, Dominic Valvona. Newish tracks sit alongside album anniversaries and tributes to those musical souls we’ve lost. In the album anniversaries this month we have cosmic wistful love from T. Rex (Electric Warrior celebrates its fiftieth this month) and, before their ‘Hip Hop Hooray’ fame, Naughty by Nature (their eponymous debut is unbelievably thirty years old this month).


We raise a glass to Don Everly, Lee Scratch Perry and Charlie Watts too, whilst adding a cocktail of no wave, post-punk, jazz, sauntering African vibes, electronica and hip-hop. And so Writhing Squares sit alongside L’ Rain; Elichi Ohtaki shares space Gyedu-Blay Ambolly; and Darrow Fletcher breaks bread with Divide And Dissolve.

Those Tracks Are:…

Wall Of Voodoo  ‘Do It Again’
Writhing Squares  ‘NFU’
Wu-Lu & Lex Amor  ‘South’
Bang  ‘Mother’
Maximum Joy  ‘Temple Bomb Twist’
Suburban Studs  ‘Suburban Studs’
Eddy Current Suppression Ring  ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’
ShitKid  ‘runt på stranden’
L’ Rain  ‘Two Face’
The Spongetones  ‘Got Nothing Left To Hide’
Don Everly  ‘Jack Daniels – Old No. 7’
Gyedu-Blay Ambolly  ‘Brokos’
Bohemian Vendetta  ‘I Wanna Touch Your Heart’
Curt Boettcher  ‘It’s A Sad World’
Geoff Westen  ‘I Know What Your Love Can Do’
T. Rex  ‘Cosmic Dancer’
La Femme  ‘Tu t’en Lasses’
Ernest Ranglin  ‘In The Rain’
Lee Scratch Perry & The Upsetters  ‘Return Of The Super Ape’
Cosmic Jokers  ‘Downtown’
Anchorsong  ‘New World’
Paul Leary  ‘What Are You Gonna Do’
Lorraine James ft. Eden Samara  ‘Running Like That’
Silver Bullet  ‘Raw Deal’
Naughty By Nature  ‘Pin The Tail On The Donkey’
Young Black Teenagers  ‘First Stage Of A Rampage Called The Rap Rage’
Preston Love  ‘Chili Mac’
Darrow Fletcher  ‘My Judgment Day’
The Danish Radio Big Band with Charlie Watts  ‘Elvin Suite – Pt. 2/Live At Danish Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen/2010’
Sweet Talks  ‘Ehurisi’
Natural Food  ‘Siren Song’
Menahan Street Band  ‘Midnight Morning’
Deliluh  ‘Amulet B’
Divide And Dissolve  ‘Prove It’
Steve Wynn  ‘The Air That I Breathe’

REVIEWS ROUNDUP/Brian Bordello

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The BordellosBrian ‘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 King Of No-Fi album, a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart, and a series of double-A side singles (released so far, ‘Shattered Pop Kiss/Sky Writing’, ‘Daisy Master Race/Cultural Euthanasia’, ‘Be My Maybe/David Bowie’ and All Psychiatrists Are Bastards / Will I Ever Be A Man). He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped-down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

Each month we supply him with a mixed bag of new and upcoming releases to see what sticks.

Singles/EPs.

Iron Maiden  ‘Stratego’

There is something quite comforting in that Iron Maiden are still releasing music, and that there is still a market for old fashioned Metal as you very rarely see metal fans wandering around the towns in their leather jackets and ripped denim with the name of their favourite band lovingly scrawled somewhere on the jacket, or the latest single by Wasp or Twisted Sister hogging the video jukebox in your local boozer. Yes, this single brings those days of myself and my indie loving friends cursing that The Smiths did not make videos, so would sit pint of cider in hand, our teenage years being soundtracked by ‘Bring Your daughter To The Slaughter’. This single brings all those wonderful days spinning back, so I would class this song a huge success; a song that will appeal to the old and maybe young metalheads out there.

Santa Sprees  ‘Run Wild When I’m Gone’

I love the Santa Sprees. I think they are one of the handful of bands I consider to be equal to my own band The Bordellos (as being one of the best bands currently making music today). A little like how Brian Wilson was influenced by the music of the Beatles pushing him on to greater heights, I feel the same way about the music of the Santa Sprees and the genius songwriter that is Anthony Dolphin. This, the opening single from the forthcoming new album, is a track of pure beauty and is quite simply one of the finest tracks I have heard this year. There is a lump in the throat tear in the eye sadness about ‘Run Wild When I’m Gone’ that is really quite bewitching. It is a rare thing, a song that carries a somber grace that both Nick Cave and Tom Waits would sell their soul to have written.

Ex Norwegian  ‘Thot Patrol’
13th August 2021

I love this single. The new release by the wonderful Ex Norwegian has an unusual air of darkness and fine elegance and eloquence and cleverness that most bands can only dream about. It has a quality that gets under your skin after a few listens and makes it its home; a song for the late summer months and one that promises great things for the album.

Birthday Cake ‘Methods Of Madness’
6th August 2021

On the whole I’m getting a little bored with straight ahead guitar music. It might be my age, in my mid 50s, and heard it all before, but I like this. It has melody and fine lyrics and is well written, and there is nothing not to like, with echoes of The Smiths and even Orange Juice, and the second track has a wonderful woozy feel to it, which is nice. In fact the whole EP has a lovely warm comfort to it which one can wrap around themselves and soak in the pure indie guitar magic Birthday Cake perform so well.

Albums…

Flowertown  ‘Time Trials’
(Paisley Shirt Records)  20th August 2021

If I’m not mistaken I’ve reviewed Flowertown before, saying how much I enjoyed the lo-finess and the boy/girl vocal interaction. And once again, I will repeat, I enjoy Flowertown’s lo-finess and the male/female vocal interaction. I also mentioned that Flowertown are almost bloody perfect and this album is not going to change my opinion as Flowertown have this softly strummed Velvets/JAMC/Mazzy Star lark down to a fine tee, and Time Trials is a fine album filled with songs that lovers of the three aforementioned bands will indeed cherish and hold close to their beautiful lo-fi filled hearts.

The Legless Crabs  ‘Reno’
(Metal Postcard Records)  23rd August 2021

The slabbed-out farce of human existence is hauled over the coals of a tortured soul. Indie guitar mutterings caught on the hop by the sound of a band with vision and cunning, vile style and cut out feedback drones, haunts the summer breeze that flows through the empty unblocked narrow escape of an ex-lover’s phony, pleased to make your acquaintance, smile. The Legless Crabs are back with their own brand of guitar menace. Reno is an album of sublime alternative guitar originality: the Mary Chain and Sonic Youth dipped in the Shaggs vagina juice. This album dips and swerves with sex, humour, and originality. Reno is an album of lo-fi like musical love; it is an album that pinpoints genius. It’s a sleeveless shirt in a shop full of winter coats. It is the coolest thing. It has the most Fall like instrumental ever recorded not by the Fall, and that is called ‘Trinidad weed Boom’, and the track is even better than the title. So how cool is that.

This is an album hipsters wished existed and now does. So if there is any justice in the world Reno will be toping the indie world top ten. This album is worth listening to whilst looking lovingly at your Beach Boys box set or wanking over the thought of the forthcoming Let It Be 5 disc set, for Reno is far more important, as it is new music and contains all the rock ‘n’ roll spirit of Adventure that both aforementioned bands had in spades.

Speed Of Sound  ‘Museum Of Tomorrow’
(Big Stir Records)  17th September 2021

A new album released by Big Stir Records is always a welcome thing, as this always guarantee melodies fine guitars riffs and well-written songs. And this album from Manchester’s The Speed Of Sound is no different; apart from the usual power pop goodness has been replaced by a more chaotic post punk psych-tinged folk cauldron calamity of la la choruses and pure pop. Pure pop that has been bottled shaken and opened with great gusto at an all-night party covering the party poppers in a thick sweetly tasting potion of seduction, melancholy and want. Museum Of Tomorrow to my mind alongside the excellent Armoires album is my favourite release on Big Stir Records, and saying every month I am praising a release or two from Big Stir records shows how enjoyable this album is. Lovers of Kirsty MacColl and John Peel favourites Melys, and the touched by the hand of genius, The World Of Twist, will adore this album as much as I do. Is this I wonder the sound of Big Stir moving to the next level? An excellent release; an excellent album.

Salem Trials  ‘Something Beginning With’
(Metal Postcard Records)  30th August 2021

The twisted sound of the Salem Trials has never quite sounded so twisted and beautiful, and bloody sexy and life affirming. If there is any justice in the world this will be the one to break the Salem Trials, the one to move them to the radio playlists of BBC 6 Music. ‘U’ is a radio hit if I ever heard one, the sound of a young scantily clad Poison Ivy twisting at an all-night bar.

This is the sound of a fine band at the top of their game; an album full of strangely commercial and commercially strange songs that bring the golden days of alternative music to the present day. The Salem Trials once again mining their vast array of musical influences but sounding like no one but the Salem Trials.

There is a wonderful New York No Wave feel to a number of the tracks; the outstanding ‘1979 Part 2’ and ‘Climb A Tree’ benefiting from a stray discordant sax: the sound John Coltrane having belligerent sweet nothings hissed into his ear by the one-off vocal styling’s of vocalist Russ.

Something Beginning With is an album that once again proves that the Salem Trials are indeed the finest guitar band currently operating in the UK (as I have said many times). And I apologise to any members of other alternative guitar bands in the UK, but I’m afraid you are just going to have to up your game to reach these heights.

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