The Perusal #25: Ilmiliekki Quartet, Al Doum And The Faryds, Daisy Glaze, Wovenhand…

February 7, 2022

A LOOK AT WHAT’S OUT THERE
Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Roundup

Photo Credit: Daisy Glaze/Vincent Perini

Wovenhand ‘Silver Sash’
(Glitterhouse Records) 4th February 2022

An esoteric landscape of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, Blood Meridian and the Egyptian Book Of The Dead awaits on the first album in nearly six years from the mystic David Eugene Edwards Westerns scripture imbued Wovenhand vehicle.

The former 16 Horsepower front man collaborates with Chuck French of the American hardcore band Planes Mistaken For Stars on a wildly driven, occasionally pummeling Biblical and occult raid on Western and Native American symbolism and allegory. Apache, Comanche and ‘Sicangu’ (one of the album’s track title) war dance jangling, rattled and marching percussion gear up against gnarling, doom-laden textures of heavy rock, the industrial, dark wave and the Gothic both on and off the reservation.

Edwards and his foil channel a troubling, even traumatic dark vision of a bloody West; a geography full of metaphysical holy mountains, sacred sites and timbered temples. Silver Sash squalls and creeps between NIN’s collaborations with Bowie and the Swans and Crime And The City Solution and The Mission as rattlesnakes hiss, eagles soar and the distant tribal drums beat out danger. All the while Edwards part quasi-prophet, part descriptive author style lyrics emphasis the supernatural, the holy and some romantic displays of anguish.

An atmospheric grind and hauntingly fierce album that burns scorch marks across an already scarred land, Silver Sash carries weight and mystique on nine songs of esoteric Western hammered invocations. 

Ilmiliekki Quartet ‘S-T’
(We Jazz) 11th February 2022

Anything but a lifeless frozen tundra when it comes to contemporary jazz, Finland’s We Jazz (clue is in the name) label platform has been prolific and instrumental in promoting a rich abundance of the Scandinavian region’s talent – three titles no less making our recent ‘choice albums of 2021’ lists.

One such Helsinki stalwart, honing their impressive skills for two decades, is the assured Ilmiliekki Quartet. Their new self-titled album is an understated, lightly touched suffusion of jazz-blues and soul with a whiff of the Savoy and 60s period Blue Note labels output. Although saying that the action can rise to a tumultuous crescendo, a climatic splash of the waters. But for the most part the intensity is simmered in a sizzle of cymbal and snare resonance, quietly stretched, elegant double bass bobs, gentle spotted piano and nuzzled drifting trumpet.

Each member of this special quartet gets to flex their compositional skills, with trumpeter Verneri Pohjola orchestrating the veiled, ghostly-touched ‘Follow The Damn Bread Crumbs’; pianist Tuomo Prättälä dreaming up the early Miles bluesy reflective ‘Sgr A*’ and huffed trumpeted ‘Kaleidoscopesque’; the bassist Antti Lötjönen conjures up the cushioning bounced and dusted rebirth of cool NYC boardwalk evoked ‘Three Queens’; and drummer Olavi Louhivuori serves up the nocturnal serenaded, factory streamed and wind rustled ‘Night Song’. The album’s only cover, ‘Aila’ by the Finnish pop group Karina, keeps within the considered perimeters, stirring between a haze and controlled climatic maelstrom.   

The quartet’s overall sound is one of elegance and purposeful development, experiment; a rich channeling of sophisticated jazz from both sides of the pond.

Ziad Rahbani ‘Houdou Nisbi’
(Wewantsounds) 25th February 2022

As the agit-pop artwork cover that has been faithfully reproduced from this cult Middle Eastern treasure’s original cassette/CD release in 1991 shows, the almost surreal climate that existed in Beirut and the South Lebanon at the time it was recorded in the mid-80s, is in constraints with the lighter escapist fantastical fusions of the country’s iconic polymath Ziad Rahbani. Against a backdrop of hard-fought civil war, Ziad was leading everyone into the discothèque and their bedrooms.

A high-heeled local dressed to the nines steps out of a casually placed machine gun diorama; just another statement on the day-to-day horrors that threatened the entire region towards all-out war. The iconic Arabian crate-digger’s favourite, Houdou Nisbi, which is finally being released on vinyl by the Wewantsounds reissue specialists, translates as “relatively calm”: the oft-used TV anchor’s ironic expression in the face of a tumultuous raging conflict. Two thirds of the way into a two-decade spanning civil war, far too complex to detail here, the Lebanon was at the epicentre of war between opposing religious militant groups; sucking in Israel, Syria and a myriad of client states as peacekeepers. During one of the worst atrocities of that war – the infamous Sabra and Shatila massacres – the Lebanese star went to work in his By-Pass studio to make an album of smooth, MOR romantic balladry, funk, soul, jazz and, what sounds like, both Nino Ferrer and Gainsbourg Franco-Arabian troubadour like pop. Both softened and sexy, there’s even, at a stretch I’d admit, a touch of Leonard Cohen 80s slow dances and Odyssey-style disco.

A towering cultural figure in the Middle East at large, as a musician, composer, producer, playwright and activist, Ziad’s fate was mapped out from birth. His feted musician father Assi Rahbani was part of the famous Rahbani Brothers, whilst his mother, Fairuz, was a legendary singer – a number of her most prized albums were actually produced by Ziad in the 80s. With those genes it’s almost a given that he would go on to accomplish so much.

Heavily influenced, as you will hear, by Western music and with a first-rate band of performers (Tewfic Farroukh on sax, Paul Dawani on guitar and Emile Boustani on percussion) on side, Ziad created a sentimental as much as a salacious mood of lilted swoons, maladies and sleep sophisticated groovy dancefloor moves. It all starts with the smooched and tingled piano, floated flute and whistled heart-to-heart ‘Bala Wala Chi’, and moves onto the more mysterious, brassy resonating Arabian title-track. Another piano dalliance – of which Ziad was a maestro – beckons on the dreamy funk-jazz fantasy ‘Nafs Al Sheghlat’, followed by one of those sexier deeply-voiced with bending, melting coquettish female accompaniments, and with a early 80s Sakamoto like production-job, ‘Yalla Kichou Barra’.  

A female presence of both lofted, airy allurement and exotic oozing can be heard throughout, alongside the main man, who hinges between almost baritone and more yearning croons: even the whispering.

There’s one cover picked out in the notes, a louche French-esque version of smooth-operators, The Crusaders’ (one name that I would have thought had very negative connotations in the Lebanon) modern soul classic ‘Soul Shadow’. Under the Arabesque ‘Routh Khabbir’ translation Ziad keeps relatively close to the original.

Touches of 70s NYC Broadway, Michael Legrand showtime, Brazilian Tropicana, club lounge Arabia and 80s sentimental Japanese balladry seem to subtly flow on a heart-string tucked fusion that seems to transcend the chaos and death all around. A calmer soundtrack to all the violence and confusion of that moment, Houdou Nisbi would have you thinking everything was hunky dory; as a “relatively clam” escape it works a treat.

Daisy Glaze ‘S-T’
(The Sound Of Sinners) 25th February 2022

What do you get when the one-time drone spaceman Sonic Boom sets out the production controls for a panoramic envisioned Western soundtrack? Well, you get a cinematic free ride across a well-travelled vibrato and tremolo twanged resonating landscape of Tex-Mex border dotted chapels, rebellious skulking outlaw county hideouts and lamentable lover’s rendezvous.

Yes, Boom facilitates the dreamy and sulking Western fantasies of the musical partnership that is Daisy Glaze (named I take it, after the Big Star song); a boy/girl union between Louis Epstein and Alix Brown, a duo that extends to a five-piece outside the studio. 

Arriving from congruous but slightly different musical byroads, the duo meet at the same knowing dangerous lovelorn junction that Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra etched their entwined names; a match that the duo describes as more “blues than pink”, on a soundtrack in which the established echoes of Jack Nitzsche’s strings and Morricone’s spaghetti Western scores cross with The Mekons Sacri Cuori, Ritz Ortolani and noughties Domino Records. Within that indie-country and often supernatural spooked Western scope the duo corrals a wide panning shot of influences to produce a songbook based on the “sinister side of prismatic love”.

From the bell tolls of a shotgun wedding to melted desert mirage apparitions, the Daisy Glaze imprint mixes up decades (traversing the 50s, 60s, 80s, 90s and present) whilst moving from swells of indie to reverent electric organ suffused country-gospel. Although the big sound of ‘Statues Of Villains’ did remind me of both Stereo Total, the Dark Horses and Arabian sand dunes. Almost Gothic in parts, like the Bad Seeds or Crime And The City Solution at a séance during the Day of the Dead, there’s wobbled vibrations of Elvis Presly’s ghost and the dearly departed ready to shake a boney skeleton hip and leg.

Sonic Boom’s touch gives the whole thing an echoed and reverberating spell, and helps to send this ‘psych-outlaw’ partnership in an indie-rock direction. Daisy Glaze pick up all the right vibes and run with them, moseying and cooing sweet everything’s on a recognisable but bleak modern set. 

Al Doum and The Faryds ‘Freaky People’
(Black Sweat Records) 18th February 2022

More acid-washed Harmonious Bosch than Hieronymus, the spiritual unifying force that is the ever-changing Al Doum and The Faryds collective turn the garden of earthly delights into a celebration of Mother Nature’s freaks.

At this particular time and space the rambunctious Milan group are a ten-piece ensemble, once more pushing their recent Freaky People free-for-all. A self-confessed paradox of the raucous and seriously considered, the “chaotic and respectful”, “calm and furious”, they’ve managed to invoke both Egypt 80 and Albert Ayler; The Flaming Lips and Vis A Vis; and an astral travelling Lonnie Liston Smith and Les Freres Smith on a bustling Kuti protestation come gospel paean party.

In practice this means spiritual jazz like choruses of soulful wellness mixed with bust downtown Lagos shuffles, suffused horns, fluty flights, celestial chimes, Afro-rock and hints of a psychedelic India. An organised simmered outpouring of energy in honour of Earth’s green goddess, Freaky People’s rainbow alliance sucks in a hand-clapping Janelle Monáe, the afflatus African homages of Idris Ackamoor and Philip Cohran with the modernising improve eclectic peregrinations of The Cosmic Range and soul revue backbeat of Kasalèfkut Hulu to drum up a dancing and tumbled healing balm of optimism.

Orange Crate Art ‘Contemporary Guitar Music’
The Quietist ‘Hidden’
(Both on Somewherecold Records) 18th February 2022

Transducing, transfusing the electric guitar so that this fuzzed-up and flange effected instrument nearly loses itself in the varied states that the Orange Crate Art’s driver Tobias Bernsand sends it, the Contemporary Guitar Music title doesn’t come close to describing the seven musical journeys found within.

Billed as a collection of spontaneous in the moment songs, this latest album from the Malmo explorer traverses a cosmic myriad of trip-hop, post-rock, kosmische, krautrock, psychedelia, dream-pop, indie and baggy dance music; created I’d imagine in some kind of drug-induced haze, with the signature apparatus mind-bended, wailed, contoured and vibrated into a dream factory of the hypnotic, dubby and melting.

Chronicling Bernsand’s creative head space (though this one-man studio enterprise extends to a four-piece when appearing live) in the summer of 2021, there’s a lovely ether oscillating opener entitled ‘Stud Phases’ that reminded me of a dream-wave Land Observations or Broken Shoulder soaked caught in a sort of quasi-electronic dance music cycle. The next track, ‘Wendy Underway’, moves the action towards a trance drifted communion of soft tickling jazz, George Harrison’s Moog mood music, the Van Allen Belt and The Soupdragons: a psychedelic mushroom of translucent cloud gazing if ever I heard one.

A Lydon free PiL has space dust sprinkled on Jah Wobble’s dub bass pulsations on the magical ‘Self-Similarity Fractals’, whilst it could be Weatherall turning on the effects on the velocity building ‘Energetic Superbubble Of Synthetic Telepathy’. Things only get better from here on in, with the epic krautrock peregrination and cosmic courier special ‘Young Spine’, which in equal measures evokes a quasi Klaus Dinger drum beat (not the motorik, but the other kind he specialised in) and echoes of The Untied Knot, Embryo and Higamos Hagamos on its stellar journey – perhaps’ the album’s highlight for me. Just as epic, if probing towards the subterranean is the camel caravan motioned psych bad turn ‘Two Ponies Make No Pint’. A Massive Attack ‘Protection’ style broody bassline is absorbed into a dark patchwork of the HiFi Klub, Andy Haas, Seefeel, Olivia Tremor Control and speaker bouncing arppegiator circling rotations. If you’re aware of the background, the mythology, then you will know that most of the OCA’s material has never been released – that last track being a case in point, a radical ‘remix’ of an unreleased song from four years ago. After a couple of previous attempts and false starts, Bernsand has finally assembled a collection for the highly prolific experimental label Somewherecold (releasing at least four albums a month on average). And it’s an astral belter, a cosmic dream and post-rocking beauty worthy of our attention. 

In short, another worthy release on the North American label of note this month is the collated epic ambient album from The Quietist – curiously both albums share mushroom themed cover art. A congruous expanded collection of slow-burning peregrinations from across Phillip Ward’s catalogue, plus three new tracks especially written for this album, Hidden charts the developments of this composer, from his initial apprenticeship writing music in the late 90s on a Playstation 1 (of all things) to a Cubase SE upgrade.

There’s some really incredible moving ambient, low electronic dramas and soundtracks amongst these almost pure suites. Touches of Eno, Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream, Jean Michal Jarre can be detected in both the long form beautified sweeps and blooms and more mysterious mood boards. A great way to lose oneself for an hour or two.

Seigo Aoyama ‘Prelude For The Spring’
(Audiobulb Records) 2nd February 2022

Evoking the tail end of Autumn as nature comes alive in the “prelude” to Spring, the Tokyo-based musician/composer/sound designer Seigo Aoyama magic’s up a minor ambient and neo-classical triumph on his new album of seasonal suites.

The dewy-grass and misty veils of a still dampened landscape are still present as wispy vapours, but the blossom buds are now starting to sprout on a sophisticated soundtrack of ambient like haikus.

To set the mood Aoyama includes a richly lyrical, poetic descriptive introduction of gentle Eastern breezes, a climbing luminous silver moon and various other evocative scenes. But the prelude begins with the resonated thrum of an orchestra tunning up and goes on to feature fourth world echoes of Jon Hassell’s nuzzled trumpet before settling into a Zen garden retreat of delicate wind chimes, softly rung bells and serene contemplative synthesized sine-waves.

The piano, albeit subtle with every note and short run deeply and methodically thought out, has a starring role on this cloud-gazing dreamy nature trail.: Touches of Kabuki theatre, delicate Sakamoto, the classical, Eno and Tim Story come to mind when the ivory and its inner workings are poured and elsewhere singularly struck. 

The odd light piece of choral-like voices, the odd line of dialogue and field-recorded tramples through both nature and a Tokyo environment can be heard as life is breathed into this Spring passage of rites and communion. Aoyama proves a capable, adroit, patient composer on what is a moving, calm and deeply felt descriptive soundtrack. One of the best ambient releases I’ve heard this year without a doubt.

T.E. Yates ‘Strange Weather EP’

As recent packages delivered to the Monolith Cocktail HQ go, the eye-catching bundle of music and artwork sent by the Bristol-based creative polymath T.E. Yates is hard to beat. An almost complete physical biography/discography of the artist’s various projects, some of which are award-winning, Yates sent me a number of his Poe-esque and surreal pencil-graphite and charcoal hybrid prints (A Bat And A Raven and Bedlam Six Microphone Faces); some postcard-sized artwork promotions of his short Evil Cat animation, shown at the Edgar Allan Poe film festival; and of course, his pastoral art nouveau illustrated debut album (on vinyl) Silver Coins And White Feathers, and most recent EP, Strange Weather.

And so, just for revision sake that’s the illustrator, animator, artist, singer-songwriter and musician strings to an impressive bow logged. All of which could be directly because of or despite a myriad of neurodivergent issues; outlined to a touch of Americana David Byrne, Warren Zevon and Roy Orbison on the warmly radiating electric-piano shuffled EP opener of dappled-lit plaint ‘Condition’. Laid out in an almost relieved candid fashion, Yates turns the sadness of alienated school days into a gauzy triumph of realisation; coming to terms with what he sees as “both a blessing and a curse”. The very fiber of Yates work and personality, this “condition” (“not a sickness”) leitmotif extends to a ‘creative partnership’ with fellow neurodivergents in a specially made video for the track (through Biggerhouse Films). 

It also may account for the EP’s eclectic tastes, which wonder, meander through light jazz, echoes of mariachi or Tex-Mex border Americana, ragtime, radiohall, folk, 70s and 80s MOR pop, whimsical 60s and of course country.  Aided on all these dalliances by a very reputable ensemble that includes a chorus of voices and harmonies, and a wide-range of just as eclectic instruments – from Yates’ musical saw to Mikey Kenny’s elbowed fiddle work hoedowns and the presence of C.J. Hillman’s steel pedal guitar wanes -, Yates tells it like it is; both demystifying, and yet I think aching for understanding, the fairytale completeness of romance to the accompaniment of a country fiddled barn dance.

Overlooked, ignored in company on the soft galloping folksy ‘Fierce Horses’; despondent with a dreamy sadness about the greed and avarice in the ‘Palace Of Your Master’; and quaintly rolling along on the unrequited Nick Lowe with tinges of mid 70s Kinks ‘Mystery Window’, Yates unburdens the weight on his shoulders and shows a full gamut of emotions on a most peaceable, disarming EP. There’s nothing strange about this weather, just first-rate songwriting and musicianship from an artist who might just have a unique take on the climate and world around him.     

In these troubled times, with so much stacked against independent, unsponsored voices, you can help us to continue probing and delivering great new music:

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.

One Response to “The Perusal #25: Ilmiliekki Quartet, Al Doum And The Faryds, Daisy Glaze, Wovenhand…”

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