The Kalporz Album Awards 2021

December 17, 2021

Monolith Cocktail X Kalporz/Words: Editorial Team

The last piece of synergy between the Monolith Cocktail and our partners at Kalporz in 2021 relays the Italian site’s recent top twenty placed albums of the year feature. Look out for future collaborations in 2022.

We can discuss the musical quality of a year, but there is little to say about the quantity of 2021: all the artists who had perhaps hesitated to release their works in 2020, due to clashes with the novelty of the pandemic that made it evident that it would not have been possible to go on tour, they published what they had to, understanding that – unfortunately – the ‘newnormal’ was not only the motto of the Primavera Sound a few years ago but also the slogan of a new normal made up of fragmented, contingent, postponed live dates , made for the broken cap while escaping the next looming wave. So we found ourselves faced with a gargantuan production, which, is the law of large numbers, for some albums has also materialised into truly beautiful works.

As always since the streaming era has existed there cannot be a single star, but this time there was an award-winning album: the artist who made almost everyone agree was Little Simz , first for Popmatters , Albumism , BBC Radio 6 Music , NBHAP , Exclaim! , Dutch OOR , The Skinny and second for NME . And if according to “social sensations” Black Country should have depopulated , New Road , in reality only first for Loud And Quiet even if present in more than one list in places of honour, a disc not as simple as that of Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra instead “won” for Mojo , Paste Magazine , TIME and The Vinyl Factory , while less generalised choices were those of Pitchfork ( Jazmine Sullivan , shared by Entertainment Weekly and NPR Music ), of Consequence of Sound ( Tyler, the Creator ) and Crack Magazine ( John Glacier ).

All these discs, however (ALERT SPOILER), are also contained in our list, while choices that you will not find here on Kalporz are those of The Quietus The Bug (to which we have dedicated the cover of September), of Uncut with The Weather Station , Far Out Magazine with Dry Cleaning and NME which instead awarded Sam Fender .

And for us at Kalporz? We let you “shake” below, telling you that for the second time in our more than twenty years of life a band wins after having already won the Kalporz Awards in the past: it had already happened for Radiohead, reached this year by a special band.
But we have already talked too much: off to the ranking
s.

20. DAMON ALBARN, “The Nearer The Mountain, More Pure The Stream Flows”

Maybe we should all do like Albarn, especially in these times: go to Iceland and look at the snow and volcanoes from a window in our house. But we are here, and at least we can listen to this second solo album of his that got inspired in that intimate way with nature.

19. FLOATING POINTS, PHAROAH SANDERS & THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, “Promises”

The electronic jazz path of Floating Points has been going on for years now, managing to churn out interesting results such as the excellent debut Aelenia in 2015. On this release he manages to collaborate with a music giant like Pharoah Sanders, and without distorting himself they give an LP which will probably continue to play in our systems for some time yet.

18. TIRZAH, “Colourgrade”

Since her debut, this English author has been one of the Kalporz editorial team’s favourite voices. If Devotion had already raised various eyebrows for the maturity and the goodness of the compositions present, then with Colourgrade the artist has surpassed themselves. Applause for Tirzah’s class.

17. SNAIL MAIL, “Valentine”

With Valentine, the sophomore album by Snail Mail, Lindsey Jordan‘s maturation is total: her talent as a composer is evident everywhere, from the lacerating electric shocks of the song that gives the title to the album to the stealthy ‘Ben Franklin’, From the poetic romanticism of ‘Light Blue’ and ‘Mia’ to the liberating rock of ‘Madonna’ and ‘Automate‘. It is a record that talks about broken hearts and does it with determination and anger.

16. GENESIS OWUSU, “Smiling with No Teeth”

The debut album, among the funniest LPs of the year, for the twenty-three-year-old Ghanaian based in Canberra bewildered Kofi Owusu-Ansah (aka Genesis Owusu), Smiling With No Teeth entered without awe into the immortal funk / R & B trend that it took far too long to have a name of his own even in the ineffable Australia of the new century.

15. SUFJAN STEVENS & ANGELO DE AUGUSTINE, “A Beginner’s Mind”

Sufjan‘s delicacy is able to recreate itself in all its crystalline beauty with this Angelo De Augustine collaboration; becoming even lighter : not difficult personal themes but the musical representation of filmic snapshots. A conscious escape.

14. FOR THOSE I LOVE, “For Those I Love”

For Those I Love is the project of the Dubliner David Balfe, who on the debut of the same name deals with themes of love and loss (that of Paul Curran of Burnt Out, his best friend and poet like him, already honoured by Murder Capital) on an electronic and hip-hop basis, with samples of Smokey Robinson, Barbara Mason and Sampha. Deep like Automatic For The People, danceable like Original Pirate Material by The Streets.

13. ALTIN ​​GÜN, “Yol”

At the time of the first album (On from 2018) the formula still had some very slight forcing. Moreover, already with the second album, the surprise effect – although not exhausted – was certainly reduced. But the new album travels surprisingly well. It pushes even further down the road of the Turkish wedding between a gleaming disco lady and a rather rough folkish gentleman. Yol is made up of coherence, emotional tension and the enhancement of a priceless heritage – the Turkish and Mediterranean one – which never seems to end.

12. JAZMINE SULLIVAN, “Heaux Tales”

In a genre like R&B it seems really impossible to come up with something new. But when there is the voice, texts that do not leave indifference and a quality of compositions then it can still be amazing. The Heaux Tales marks the great and surprising return of Jazmine Sullivan. Hit after hit and that’ not hyperbole.

11. JOHN GLACIER, “Shiloh. Lost for Words”

The twenty-six year old London rapper of Jamaican origins but raised in one of the “places to be” of artists and creatives – Hackney – on Shiloh. Lost For Words manages to condense the best sounds of the English underground into foggy tracks: between grime and R&B.

10. TURNSTILE, “GLOW ON”

It almost seems to be back to the crossover epic of the late 80s / early 90s, if it weren’t for the fact that GLOW ON has a contemporary language, the son of a melodic hardcore but which is highlighted in a lightning-fast pop, at the same time devastating and aesthetically flawless.

9. SEGA BODEGA, “Romeo”

With his work for Shygirl, the house producer NUXXE has defined one of the most powerful sounds heard in recent years, while his solo project presented a hybrid of songwriting, constantly evolving and convincing. Romeo, for this very reason, is a decisive step in the career of one of the most talented musicians of these times.

8. TYLER, THE CREATOR, “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST”

Tyler offers a compendium of sounds and suggestions that differ more than ever, from gangsta-rap to trap, from contemporary R&B to nu-jazz in a sequence of at least ten potential singles that make CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST a mature work cohesive in its innumerable sound angles. Ideas, flows, compositions at the service of an innate talent that never ceases to amaze ten years on.

7. HELADO NEGRO, “Far In”

It was not easy to follow up on the excellent This Is How You Smile, released in 2019, but Far In is a victory. Roberto Carlos Lange packs a record that, taking up the themes and sounds of his predecessor, makes his own creative experience like a collective ritual. Through warm, familiar sounds and prominent collaborations, Lange invites us to look within ourselves to try to understand more of the world around us.

6. THE NOTWIST, “Vertigo Days”

As evidence of its intrinsic strength, Vertigo Days compiles a set of songs that follow one another as a single entity, and the lyrics, like poems on the problems of the world, our daily struggles and the cancellation of distance. Seven years of waiting have not been in vain.

5. L’RAIN, “Fatigue”

There was a time when all the most original and hard to label releases were Made in Brooklyn. We didn’t realize it, but a decade has already passed and thanks to artists like Taja Cheek that golden age seems to us a less remote past: psychedelic pop, soul, jazzy incursions and a very contemporary taste.

4. SHAME, “Drunk Tank Pink”

The second work of the London quintet, produced by James Ford (Arctic Monkeys), photographs youth alienation and depression at the time of the pandemic with greater ardor and angularity than on “Songs Of Praise”: highlights ‘Born In Luton’, punk-funk at the service nightmare, and ‘Snow Day’ with a vocal interpretation of Charlie Steen amidst jarring guitars to take your breath away.

3. BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROAD, “For The First Time”

Before the album they won the title of “best band in the world” with little more than one song according to the English web-magazine The Quietus. With For The First Time Black Country, New Road prove to be a band that still has a lot to play, but which, for the first time, is capable of giving life to a new sound worthy of its influences. 2021 belongs to them.

2. LITTLE SIMZ, “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert”

It is a variegated and engaging disc, whose long duration allows, to those who do not yet know Little Simz, to fathom with a careful eye the art of the young rapper in almost every aspect: from the sources of inspiration to the virtuosity of the lyrics, from his magnetic voice to engaging and hypnotic rhythms.

1. LOW, “HEY WHAT”

An ambitious and sparkling work: with barely hinted guitar whispers, sudden roars, uncertain rhythms and lunar landscapes Low have always tried to give a shape to the void. An album aware of the fact that what is created can only be fragile, fragmented and limping.

KALPORZ AWARDS HISTORY (ex Musikàl Awards) :
Kalporz Awards 2020 (Yves Tumor)
Kalporz Awards 2019 (Tyler, The Creator)
Kalporz Awards 2018 (Idles)
Kalporz Awards 2017 (Kendrick Lamar)
Kalporz Awards 2016 (David Bowie)
Kalporz Awards 2015 (Sufjan Stevens)
Kalporz Awards 2014 (The War On Drugs)
Kalporz Awards 2013 (Kurt Vile)
Kalporz Awards 2012 (Tame Impala)
Kalporz Awards 2011  (Fleet Foxes)
Kalporz Awards 2010  (Arcade Fire)
Kalporz Awards 2009  (The Flaming Lips)
Kalporz Awards 2008  (Portishead)
Kalporz Awards 2007  (Radiohead)
Kalporz Awards 2006  (The Lemonheads)
Kalporz Awards 2005  (Low)
Kalporz Awards 2004  (Blonde Redhead, Divine Comedy, Franz Ferdinand, Wilco)
Kalporz Awards 2003  (Radiohead)
Kalporz Awards 2002  (Oneida)
Kalporz Awards 2001  ( Ed Harcourt)

You can catch the Monolith Cocktail’s choice albums of 2021 lists here:

Part One (A-K)

Part Two (L-Y)

The Monolith Cocktail Team’s Favourite Albums (and some EPs) Of 2021/Dominic Valvona, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea/Matt Oliver

So we’ve delivered a behemoth of a list so far in part one, now comes the concluding second instalment of choice albums from 2021. A quick reminder for those new to the site and our yearly albums roundups, because we’ve never seen the point in arguing the toss over numerical orders the Monolith Cocktail’s lighter, less competitive and hierarchical ‘choice albums’ features have always listed all entrants in alphabetical order. We also hate separating genres and so everybody in these features, regardless of genre, location, age shares the same space.

Void of points systems and voting, the Monolith Cocktail team selection is pretty transparent: just favourites and albums we all feel you, our audience, should check out. Alongside my good self, Matt Oliver and Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea have made the selections this year. We’ve also compiled a two part playlist, with tracks from (where possible) every album (and the occasional EP).

Part Two covers L to Y (no Zs this around).

L.

L’Orange ‘The World Is Still Chaos But I Feel Better’  (Mello Music Group) 
(MO)

Byard Lancaster ‘My Pure Joy’  (Black Fire)
(DV) 

Timo Lassy ‘Trio’  (We Jazz)
(DV)  Review

Timo Lassy & Teppo Mäkynen ‘Live Recordings 2019-2020’  (We Jazz)
(DV)  Review

The Legless Crabs ‘The Sweet Sweet Dreams Of Reno Bliss’
(BBS)  Review

Legless Trials ‘What We Did During The Fall’  (Metal Postcard Records)
(BBS)  Review

Meggie Lennon ‘Sounds From Your Lips’  (Mothland)
(DV) 

Lexagon ‘Feminine Care’  (Ratskin Records)
(DV)  Review

Lion’s Drum ‘Kagabas’  (Lion’s Drum)
(DV)  Review

Lunar Bird ‘S/T’  (Self-Release)
(DV)  Review

M..

Mazeppa ‘S/T’  (Self-Release)
(DV)  Review

Simon McCorry ‘Flow’  (See Blue Audio)
(DV)  Review

Simon McCorry ‘The Illusions Of Beginnings and Endings’ 
(White Label Records)

(DV)  Review

Mecánica Clásica ‘Mars Interior’  (Abstrakce Records)
(DV)  Review

Meskerem Mees ‘Julius’  (MayWay Records)
(DV)  Review

The Mining Co. ‘Phenomenolgy’  (PinDrop Records)
(DV)  Review

Mdou Moctar ‘Afrique Victime’  (Matador Records)
(DV) 

Monocled Man ‘Ex Voto’  (Whirlwind Recordings)
(DV) 

Mustard Tiger ‘Botchulism’  (Broke Records) 
(MO) 

N…

Namgar ‘Nayan Navaa’  (ARC Music)
(DV)  Review

Jason Nazary ‘Spring Collection’  (We Jazz)
(DV)  Review

David Newlyn ‘Tapes And Ghosts’  (Somewherecold)
(DV)  Review

O….

Occult Character ‘The Song Remains The Stain’  (Metal Postcard Records)
(BBS)  Reviews

P…..

P5S ‘Unconscious Collective’  (Hyperjazz)
(DV) 

Antonello Perfetto & Gary Nieuwsma ‘Aquarium’
(Submarine Broadcasting Co.)
(DV)  Review

James PM Phillips ‘Bones’  (Link2Wales)
(BBS)  Review

Pons ‘The Pons Estate’  (Self-Release)
(DV)  Review

The Poppermost ‘Hits To Spare’  (Think Like A Key)
(BBS)  Review

Psycho & Plastic ‘Soundtrack 2: Poppel’  (GiveUsYourGOLD)
(DV)  Review

PTČ ‘Neki Tko Vsak Dan’  (Self-Release)
(DV) 

R……

Rezo ‘Travalog’  (Self-Release)
(DV)  Review

Aesop Rock & Blockhead ‘Garbology’  (Rhymesayers) 
(MO) 

Roughneck Jihad ‘The Little Assassination Handbook’  (Boot Records)
(MO) 

Xenia Rubinos ‘Una Rosa’  (ANTI-)
(DV)  Review

S…….

Sad Man ‘Music Of Dreams And Panic’  (Wormhole World)
(DV)  Review

Salem Trials ‘Something Beginning With’  (Metal Postcard Records)
(BBS)  Review

Santa Sprees ‘Fanfare For Tonsils’
(BBS)  Review

Ed Scissor & Lamplighter ‘Joysville’  (High Focus)
(DV)  Review

Skyzoo ‘All the Brilliant Things’  (Mello Music Group) 
(MO) 

SLONK ‘Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?  (Breakfast Records)
(DV) 

Snowcrushed ‘A Frightened Man’  (Self-Release)
(BBS)  Review

Sone Institute ‘After The Glitter Before The Decay’  (Mystery Bridge)
(DV)  Review

Spacelab ‘Dead Dimension’  (Hream Recordings)
(DV)  Review

Spindle Ensemble ‘Inkling’  (Hidden Notes Records)
(DV)  Review

Spring ’68 ‘Sightseeing Through Music’  (Gare du Nord)
(BBS)  Review

Squid ‘Bright Green Field’  (Warp)
(DV) 

Stalley & Apollo Brown ‘Blacklight’  (Mello Music Group) 
(MO) 

Stimulator Jones ‘Low Budget Environments Striving for Perfection’
(Stones Throw) 
(MO) 

Sun Atoms ‘Let There Be Light’  (Little Cloud/The Acid Test)
(DV)  Review

Astrid Swan ‘D/Other’  (Soliti)
(DV) 

Matthew Sweet ‘Catspaw’  (Omnivore Recordings)
(DV) 

T……..

Taraka ‘Welcome To Paradise Lost’  (Rage Peace)
(DV) 

Rosie Tee ‘Earth, Embrace Me In’  (Self-Release)
(DV)

The Telescopes ‘Songs Of Love And Revolution’  (Tapete)
(DV)  Review

Theoreme ‘Les Artisans’  (Maple Death Records)
(DV)  Review

Th1rt3en ‘A Magnificent Day for an Exorcism’  (Fat Beats) 
(MO) 

Toumastine ‘Assouf’  (Self-Release)
(DV)  Review

Samba Touré ‘Binga’  (Glitterbeat)
(DV)  Review

TrueMendous ‘The Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson’  (High Focus) 
(MO) 

U………

Uncommon Nasa ‘Only Child’  (Uncommon Records)
(MO)  Review

University Challenged ‘Oh Temple’  (Hive Mind Records)
(DV)  Review

V……….

Vapour Trails ‘Underneath Tomorrow’  (Futureman Records)
(BBS)  Review

Variát ‘I Can See Everything From Here’  (Prostir)
(DV)  Review

Various ‘Artetetra Label: Exotica Ésotérique Vol.3’  (Artetetra)
(DV) 

Various ‘Edo Funk Explosion Vol.1’  (Analog Africa)
(DV)  Review

Various ‘Essiebons Special 1973-1984/Ghana Music Power House’ 
(Analog Africa)

(DV)  Review

Various ‘La Ola Interior: Spanish Ambient & Acid Exoticism 1983-1990’
(Bongo Joe)

(DV)  Review

Various ‘Nahma: A Gulf Polyphony’  (FLEE)
(DV)  Review

Vilmmer ‘Nebenkörper’  (Blackjack Illuminist Records)
(DV) 

Violet Nox ‘Whispering Galaxy EP’  (Infinity Vine)
(DV)  Review

Vukovar ‘The Great Immurement’  (Other Voices Records)
(BBS/DV)  Review

W……….

Simon Waldram ‘So It Goes’  (Self-Release)
(BBS)  Review

Dean Wareham ‘I Have Nothing To Say To The Mayor Of L.A.’
(DV) 

White Ring ‘Show Me Heaven’  (Rocket Girl)
(DV)  Review

Amanda Whiting ‘After Dark’  (Jazzman Records)
(DV)  Review

Leslie Winer ‘When I Hit You – You’ll Feel It (Anthology)’ 
(Light In The Attic)

(DV) 

Witch Camp (Ghana) ‘I’ve Forgotten Now Who I Used To Be’  (Six Degrees)
(DV)  Review

Y…………

Yol ‘Viral Dogs and Cats’  (Crow Versus Crow)
(BBS)  Review

Your Old Droog ‘TIME’  (Nature Sounds) 
(MO) 

CLASS OF 2021 PLAYLIST PART TWO:

How You Can Help Us Continue In 2022:

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.

The Monolith Cocktail Team’s Favourite Albums (and some EPs) Of 2021/Dominic Valvona, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea/Matt Oliver

Despite the nerve of the powers that be, the plague, climate change, the emergence once more of the death cult phenomenon, the full-out from the Brexit vote, inflation and the brave new worlds dystopia of a Meta universe to look forward to, there’s always been the music to fall back on. And during 2021 nothing could stop our beloved artists and bands from producing and releasing it: The only relief in yet another depressing annus horribilis.

It must be repeated, as it holds true this year as it did last, that this was yet another divisive turd of a year with hyperbolic indignities and the childish naïve persecution of nearly everything and everyone outside the virtue-card carrying trends of “black square” signalling. Whilst many of my peers were casting the aspirations, collecting bracken for the ritual burnings of the faithless, and delivering the most hypercritical of grandstanding statements on diversity, we were continuing as ever as the outsiders to carry on with a normal service of sharing the most eclectic music from artists across the globe: just getting on with the task of sharing great borderless music.

The obligatory end of year lists is now upon us. And so it is time to deliver the first part of our own ‘choice albums of the year’ list. Because we’ve never seen the point in arguing the toss over numerical orders the Monolith Cocktail’s lighter, less competitive and hierarchical ‘choice albums’ features have always listed all entrants in alphabetical order. We also hate separating genres and so everybody in these features, regardless of genre, location, age shares the same space.

Void of points systems and voting, the Monolith Cocktail team selection is pretty transparent: just favourites and albums we all feel you, our audience, should check out. Alongside my good self, Matt Oliver and Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea have made the selections this year. We’ve also compiled a two part playlist, with tracks from (where possible) every album (and the occasional EP).

Before I go, the Monolith Cocktail is always open to new collaborators – just email me at monolithcocktail@gmail.com

And so without further ado, we bring you part one (From A to K):

A

A Journey Of Giraffes ‘Spool’  (Somewherecold Records)
(Chosen by Dominic Valvona)  Review

Adult Books ‘Grecian Urn’  (Self-Release)
(DV)

Saba Alizadeh ‘I May Never See You Again’  (30M Records)
(DV) 

Obay Alsharani ‘Sandbox’  (Hive Mind Records)
(DV)  Review

Anaximander Fragment ‘Wagon Drawn Horse’  (Shimmy Disc)
(DV)  Review

Antonis Antoniou ‘Kkismettin’  (Ajabu! Records)
(DV)  Review

Tamar Aphek ‘All Bets Are Off’  (Self-Release)
(DV) 

The Armories ‘Incognito’  (Big Stir Records)
(Chosen By Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea)  Review

The August List ‘Wax Cat’  (All Will Be Well Records)
(DV)  Review

B..

Bagaski ‘Final’  (See Blue Audio)
(DV)  Review

Beach Boys ‘Feel Flows Box Set’  (Capitol/UME)
(DV) 

Belcirque ‘La Grand Fête’  (ARC Music)
(DV) 

Big Lukah ‘Why Look Up, God’s In The Mirror’  (FXCK RXP) 
(Matt Oliver) 

Black Temple Pyrämid ‘The Hierophant’  (Submarine Broadcasting Co.)
(DV)  Review

BLK/JKS ‘Abantu/Before Humans’  (Glitterbeat Records)
(DV)  Review

Boom.Diwan Ft. Nduduzo Makhathini ‘Minarets EP’ 
(DV)  Review

Bordello and Clark ‘Atlantic Crossing’  (Think Like A Key)
(BBS/DV)  Review

Luke Brennan ‘The Rush To The Sky’  (Submarine Broadcasting Co.)
(DV)  Review

C…

Cadence Weapon ‘Parallel World’  (eOne Music)
(MO) 

Camera ‘Prosthuman’  (Bureau B)
(DV)  Review

Can ‘Live In Brighton’  (Spoon/Mute)
(DV)  Review

Tom Caruana & Dr Syntax ‘Crumbs’  (Tea Sea Records) 
(MO) 

Liliane Chlela ‘Safala’  (Amygdala Records)
(DV) 

David Ornette Cherry’s Organic Nation Listening Club ‘The Continual’
(Spirtmuse Records)

(DV)  Review

Anansy Cissé ‘Anoura’  (Riverboat Records)
(DV)  Review

Alice Coltrane ‘Kirtan: Turiya Sings’  (Impulse!)
(DV) 

Liz Cooper ‘Hot Sass’  (Sleepyhead Records)
(DV) 

Corduroy Institute ‘Eight/Chance/Meetings’  (Self-Release)
(BBS)  Review

Graham Costello’s Strata ‘Second Lives’  (Gearbox)
(DV) 

D….

Datkid & Illinformed ‘WAKMO’  (High Focus) 
(MO) 

Jamael Dean ‘Primordial Soup’  (Stones Throw)
(DV)  Review

Dear Liaka ‘Pluperfect Mind’  (Memorials Of Distinction)
(DV)  Review

Graham Domain ‘Without The Darkness The Stars Could Not Shine’
(Metal Postcard Records)

(BBS)  Review

Matthew Donovan ‘Underwater Swimming’  (Self-Release)
(DV)  Review

Dwi ‘Mild Fantasy Violence’  (Light Organ Records)
(DV) 

E…..

Eboni Band ‘S/T’  (We Are Busy Bodies)
(DV) 

Electric Jalaba ‘El Hal/The Feeling’  (Strut)
(DV) 

Kahil El’Zabar ‘A Time For Healing’  (Spiritmuse)
(DV) 

Ensemble De Cadavres Exquis ‘The Warlock Tapes’  (SBC)
(DV)  Review

Evidence ‘Unlearning’  (Rhymesayers) 
(MO) 

Ex Norwegian and Friends ‘Sing Jimmy Campbell’
(Think Like A Key Records)

(BBS)  Review

F……

Marianne Faithful w/Warren Ellis ‘She Walks in Beauty’
(Panta Rei/BMG) 

Fat Francis ‘Breakfasts For Losers’  (Self-Release)
(BBS)  Review

Floating Points And Pharaoh Sanders ‘Promises’  (Luka Bop)
(DV) 

Flowertown ‘Flowertown’  (Paisley Shirt Records)
(BBS)  Review

Forest Robots ‘Amongst A landscape Of Spiritual Reckoning’
(Wormhole World)

(DV)  Review

DJ Format ‘The Devil’s Workshop’  (Project Blue Book) 
(MO) 

Nick Frater ‘Earworms’  (Big Stir Records)
(BBS)  Review

Fresh Daily ‘The Quiet Life 2’  (High Water Music) 
(MO) 

Conny Frischauf ‘Die Drift’  (Bureau B)
(DV)  Review

G…….

Giacomeli ‘Interplanetary Thoughts’  (Somewherecold Records)
(DV)  Review

Gift of Gab ‘Finding Inspiration Somehow’  (Nature Sounds) 
(MO) 

Catherine Graindorge ‘Eldorado’  (Glitterbeat Records)
(DV)  Review

Charlotte Greve w/Wood River & Cantus Domus ‘Sediments We Move’
(New Amsterdam)

(DV)  Review

H……..

Hackedepicciotto ‘The Silver Threshold’  (Mute)
(DV)  Review

The Hawks ‘Obviously Five Believers’  (Seventeen Records)
(BBS)  Review

Andrew Heath ‘New Eden’  (Disco Gecko)
(DV)  Review

Hellenica ‘Blood Meridian: An Imagined Soundtrack’  (Somewherecold)
(DV)  Review

Heyme ‘Moving On’  (Jezus Factory)
(DV)  Review

Hiatus Kaiyote ‘Mood Valiant’  (Brainfeeder)
(DV) 

Hits ‘Cielo Nublado’  (Paisley Shirt Records)
(BBS)  Review

Holiday Ghosts ‘North Street Air’  (FatCat Records)
(BBS)  Review

Andrew Hung ‘Devastations’  (LEX Records)
(DV)  Review

J……….

Brian Jackson ‘JID008’  (Jazz Is Dead)
(DV) 

Jane Inc. ‘Number One’  (Telephone Explosion)
(DV)  Review

Jazzmeia Horn And Her Noble Force ‘Dear Love’  (Empress Legacy)
(DV) 

Racquel Jones ‘IgnoRANT’  (Magnetic Moon Records)
(DV) 

Juga-Naut & Giallo Point ‘Smoke Filled Room’  (Tuff Kong) 
(MO) 

K………..

Kaukolampi ‘We Jazz Reworks Vol.1’  (We Jazz)
(DV)  Review

Khalab & M’ Berra Ensemble ‘M’ Berra’  (Real World Records)
(DV)  Review

King Champion Sounds ‘Between Two Worlds’  (Hive Mind Records)
(DV)  Review

Koma Saxo ‘Live’  (We Jazz)
(DV)  Review

Kuunatic ‘Gate Of Klüna’  (Glitterbeat)
(DV)  Review

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.

COMPILATION REVIEW

Various ‘Essiebons Special 1973-1984//Ghana Music Power House’ (Analog Africa)  3rd December 2021

“Highlife”, a name that stuck, was first used to reference the class divide of colonial Ghana. For many of the bands synonymous with this loose tag originally began playing to Europe’s upper echelons and civil servants, diplomatic classes at the stiffened ballrooms and tea dances. Many would also start out plying their trade as members of the various police and army marching bands. As trends, new musical styles emerged – from jazz to swing and eventually rock – these same groups began to shake off the prissy foxtrots for something altogether sunnier and dynamic.

Once Ghana (the first Sub-Saharan country to do so) gained independence in 1957 from Britain, the doors were truly flung open. This meant not only embracing the contemporary but the past too, as traditional beats, sounds and rhythms were merged with the new sounds hitting the airwaves from outside Africa. Highlife grabbed it all and much more. But if you really need a snappier summary of the phenomenon, it’s a merger of indigenous African sounds played with Western instruments. But then that leaves out the horns: a vital part of the overall sound originally brought in to replace the violin and strings. In that mostly lilted mix you’ll hear everything from calypso to Stax; funk to garage fuzz howlers. Of course cats like Fela Kuti, over on Nigeria, would turn-up it up, inject more political clout, rock and jazz to create Highlife’s offspring for a new age, Afrobeat – I’m well aware there will be arguments over that glib summary.

One of Highlife’s great impresarios is celebrated on this final Analog Africa compilation of 2021; a project prompted by the postponed (due to Covid) 90th birthday of the collection’s subject Dick Essilfire-Bondzie, who sadly passed away in August last year.

Though Ghana has found the spotlight before, with for example the brilliant Ghana Special box set from Soundway, no one’s put the emphasis on one of its chief instigators, movers and shakers, and the iconic label they set up: Essiebons. In a relatively thriving music scene, yet to be picked up by more than a couple of Western labels, in the 1960s Essilfire-Bondzie negotiated a deal with Philips which would change the scene forever with an enviable roster of acts and artists. Ghana could already boast of The Sweet Talks, Vis a Vis, The Cutlass Dance Band, T.O. Jazz and Hedzollah Soundz, but through the studio doors of Essiebons and its small offshoot Dix came the likes of legends like Rob, C.K. Mann, Gyedu Blay Ambolley and Ebo Taylor: many of which now appear in some form on this sixteen-track survey.

It was probably harder for Anlog’s label chief honcho and crate-digger Samy Ben Redjeb to decide what to leave out; although he’s actually unearthed six previously unreleased tracks from the archives alongside those that were released and made a splash. It’s not clear why this sextet was left in the vaults; it’s certainly not an issue of quality. Left dormant, funky little shufflers, saunters and gospel slumbers from Ernest Honny and Joe Meah get to excite the audience they never had.

It soon becomes apparent exactly what instrument the session player and band leader Honny excelled at, the organ being the focal point of all four of his turns screams, darts, stabs and flourishes. Honny had already put out the popular ‘Psychedelic Woman’ single with his Bees and appeared on various key and cult albums before going out alone on this quartet of performances. ‘Kofi Psych (Interlude I)’ the first of these is an organ showpiece that peppers, slams and dots notes and scales across an almost gospel-soul, bordering on the Bayou, backing. Herbie Hancock’s “wiggles” and squeeze box emitted buzzer meet on the sermon-like ‘Say The Truth’.

For his part, the relatively unknown Meah lays down an infectious Kuti-like funk groove on the smooth horn blasted and tooted ‘Dee Mmaa Pee’, and adopts synthesized effects on the relaxed tribal beat ‘Ahwene Pa Nkasa’.

Other fruits from the Essiebons tree include Santrofi-Ansa’s mid-tempo horn rasping and Curtis Mayfield crosses paths with The Meters and Issac Hayes crosstown jive talk ‘Shakabula’, and Seaboy’s familiar shuffled and lilted anthem prayer ‘Africa’. The alias of one Joseph Nwjozah Ebroni, who started out as a vocalist in the Bekyere Guitar Band (whose Across The Sea album classic featured Honny on organ duties), Seaboy also gets to side up once more with Nyame Bekyere for the soul-funk, telephone dial tone fluttered organ spot ‘Tinitini’.

It’s all good mind, with various adoptions of the Highlife gene, and some examples of technological advances as the label went into the late 70s and early 80s. And to think, if the late Essilfire-Bondzie had decided to stick with a career in business or the civil service (the whole background is laid out in the ever-brilliant, informative scene-setting liner notes), then Highlife would be without one of its greatest promoters and platforms. The label though was a great success; even venturing into film in the 70s with Roots To Fruits, a documentary exploring and featuring the titans of Ghanaian Highlife.

A golden period in the development of a sound that kept changing, adopting contemporary styles as it went on with a boom in recent years of modern Highlife, this compilation pays homage to one of its greatest champions. Analog Africa once more serves up a hot platter as the nights draw in closer and cold starts to bite. They finish the year on a high. 

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. His latest album Atlantic Crossing, a long overdue released collaboration with 20th Century Tokyo Princess’s Ted Clark, was released last month.

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

Singles:

Placebo ‘Surrounded By Spies’

I have never been much of a Placebo fan to be honest with you, but I actually like this track as it reminds me a touch of the Pet Shop Boys, and also because it really is a little bit silly. The lyrics are quite laughably bad, which is always entertaining, and it takes itself so seriously: It is after all Placebo, so that can be expected. But apart from that it really is a jolly jape of a pop song so well worth getting a flag out for and donning a multicoloured frizzy wig and doing a fish dance to.

Magon  ‘Egyption Music’
(Groover Obsessions)

This Single is quite a nice jangly little thing. It reminds me of The Floaters Float On, it has that same lazy laid-back vibe. It’s one to listen to whilst softly floating on the river in a rowing boat or on a cloud of half-forgotten memories and dreams: a lovely little thing.

bigflower ‘Supersad’
(Self-Release)  19th November 2021

Another month, another dose of sonic six string wizardry from bigflower, and another reason to not quite give up on the power and pull of rock ‘n’ roll. Beatles like drums and psychedelic meanderings explode into a belter of a modern daydream of a track; a train journey to a much better place. All of his songs released this year should be gathered up by some label and released as an album, for it would be a gem of a release and certainly one of the albums of the year.

Pulco ‘Stirred Beyond Surrender’
(Self-Release) Taken From An As Yet Untitled Album In 2022

The sound of experimental pop is a wonderful thing especially when it is performed with such tuneful vigour, and this track is 2 minutes 16 seconds of pure pop magic. It has that air of tossed away brilliance that can only be performed when the artist is brilliant and they know it. ‘Stirred Beyond Surrender’ is indeed a joy. It’s lovely to have Pulco back.

Modesty Blaise ‘I’ll Be Home For Xmas’
(From Lo-Fi To Disco)

Ah the perfect time for a Christmas ditty. Yes it’s Christmas, so once again we are bombarded with aural tinsel, and with myself being a huge fan of both Christmas and Christmas ditties, I’m pleased to announce this is filled with all the things one would want from a Christmas song: jolly bells, sickly sweet sentiments and three minutes when one can escape real life and imagine we do really live in a winter wonderland. Modesty Blaise ‘I’ll Be Home For Xmas’ is a song to play whist ignoring the smells emerging from your aunt Nora after indulging in too many sprouts and one too many glasses of sherry; this is a song that gathers the memories to the golden days of Morecambe and Wise Christmas night specials and over winding your Evil Knievel bike sending it hurtling into your unsuspecting little sister’s leg…a fine single. 

Craig Fortnam ‘Lunar One – November 21’
19th November 2021

Craig Fortnam continues his Lunar Release single schedule with this fine double-sided slice of psych folk bliss. I could easily imagine ‘Hidden Away From The Heat’ being plucked from a comp of unheralded obscure 70s folk gems, the kind of thing Cherry Red records like to release, and the other side, the lovely ‘Her Room’, being the thing of great beauty that Badly Drawn Boy would sell his mother’s soul to have written.

Albums/EPs

The Hawks ‘Obviously 5 Believers’
(Seventeen Records)

I love Stephen Duffy, always have done. I love his songwriting. I adore his voice. And over the years he has made some of my favourite albums: in fact he is one of the only five people I would like to work musically with. So there is no way I am not going to love this album of songs he recorded with the Hawks, the band he fronted in the late 70s early 80s.
 
Recorded on four-track and eight-track recorders they capture the magic and the muse of those times of post-punk Britain in all its glory. These songs, that carry hopes/dreams of an escape from the Thatcher led years of days on the dole and of no hope, have been released for the very first time. You can actually feel the excitement and flush of realising that these songs are brilliant and is only a matter of time before they are launched into the realms of superstardom that the Hawks deserved, but sadly that did not happen. But what did happen was these wonderfully written and recorded songs, and that it’s happening over 40 years later and is one of my favourite albums of 2021… just how magic is music!

Goodparley X Ioan Morris ‘Surroundings’
(Subexotic Records)  26th November 2021

An album of aural sublimity the sound of The Four Seasons (not the Frankie Valli variety) erupting in your head, taking you on journeys to the centre of your mind; taking you back to the nature of one’s soul where dreams and hope ignite thoughts of the great battles that lay await in the journeys of your life travelling back through the memories that haunt and taunt, that uplift and deflate, the special and the ordinary moments you have experienced or have yet to experience. That is what is so great about the power of these five electronic Tone Poems: they can soundtrack the ever-changing thought that runs through your mind. One day they may help you express the grief and anger you are feeling, the next, a distraction to changing the cat litter tray. Music like this is bloody marvellous, as Tony Hancock would have said.

McCookerybook & Rotifer ‘Equal Parts 2’
22nd November 2021

There is something quite beautiful about this album, but then I am a complete sucker for male/female duets, for when it is done well there is nothing quite as musically romantic or sexual and this album with its six tracks of melodious folk tinged pop is a lovely treat; six songs filled with melancholy and love; six songs that pull on the heartstrings and leaves one with a look of love struck awe and slips in an occasional “ba ba ba” intro just to remind you just how magical life can be when listening to music. But all is not love and roses with the song ‘Step Into England’, for they aim a good kick up the bum of England and the laughing stock it has become since Brexit and Boris Johnson becoming prime minister. Equal Parts 2 is another splendid release following the equally excellent Equal Parts the first album if I am not mistaken I reviewed last year. I look forward to Equal parts three next year.

Legless Trials ‘Hotwire An Ambulance’
(Metal Postcard)  28th November 2021

So only a few weeks after the release of their excellent debut LP the Legless Trials are back with a four track EP that once again lays waste to guitar pretenders with four tracks of attitude dirt and danger. Kicking off with a one-minute blast of Cramps like frenzy ‘Hotwire Ambulance’ is followed by the dark and sexy sleaze of ‘Stalker Club Tub’. Yes this EP once again shows the Legless Trials will be a band to keep an eye out next year and that 2022 could be the year of the Trials. And if such a thing happens, it can only be good for the future of rock ‘n’ roll.
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