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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