PLAYLIST SPECIAL

The sounds that have piqued the team’s interest, filled their hearts, fucked with their heads, or just sent sauntering towards escapism, the Monthly playlist gathers together all the music we’ve featured over the last month. We’ve also picked some of those tracks that managed to evade us and some we just didn’t get the time or room to exalt.

Our eclectic as usual mix starts in Tel Aviv with the Şatellites and moves across continents to take in Rwanda’s The Good Ones, Sao Tomé and Principe’s vintage África Negra, the Georgian choir Iberi, and one of Scandinavia’s principle jazz ensembles, OK:KO.

There’s plenty of more, with a freshly produced diaphanous, slow knocking beat gauzy treatment of the burgeoning pop enchantress and dystopian muse Circe’s ‘Mess With Your Head’ – now transformed into ‘It’s All Over’ under the Secret World Orchestra guise -, and a rafter of choice hip-hop cuts from Billy Woods, Dabbla, Lyrics Born and Lunar C with Jehst. Pop, jazz, electronic, dreamwave, psychedelic and post-punk are all represented. And there’s even a track from our very own Brian Shea and his cult dysfunctional family band The Bordellos.

The Monolith Cocktail team, corralled into action by me, Dominic Valvona, currently includes Matt Oliver, Brain ‘Bordello’ Shea, Graham Domain and Mikey MacDonald.  

Those Tracks In Full Are:{

Şatellites  ‘Zuhtu (Live)’
Melody’s Echo Chamber  ‘Personal Message’
IKE (Ft. Sera Kalo)  ‘What Then’
Dana Gavanski  ‘Indigo Highway’ Crystal Eyes  ‘Wishes’
Pete Rock  ‘Brother On The Run’
Steve Monite  ‘Only You’
África Negra  ‘Vence Vitoria’
Samora Pinderhughes  ‘Holding Cell’
Izzi Sleep & Rat Motel  ‘Good Going Down’
Mercvrial  ‘Look Inside’
The Bordellos  ‘I Hate Pink Floyd Without Syd Barrett’
Peace De Résistance  ‘Boston Dynamics’
The Legless Crabs  ‘Boo Hoo Hoo’
Otoboke Beaver  ‘YAKITORI’
Papercuts  ‘Palm Sunday’
Kloot Per W  ‘Le Pays’
Nicole Faux Naiv  ‘Moon Really’
Liz Davinci  ‘Daisy’
Julia Holter, Harper Simon & Meditations On Crime  ‘Heloise’
Amine Mesnaoui & Labelle  ‘Bleu Noir’ Billy Woods  ‘Wharves’
Professor Elemental  ‘Inn At The End Of Time (Remix)’
Dabbla  ‘Alec Baldwin’
Nelson Dialect & Mr. Slipz  ‘Association’
SAULT  ‘June 55’
Nduduzo Makhathini  ‘Amathongo’
Rob Cave & Small Professor  ‘Respect Wildlife’
Lyrics Born (Ft. Rakaa Iriscience, Shing02, Bohan Phoenix, Cutso)  ‘Anti (Remix)’
Kino & Sadistik  ‘The Earth Was Empty’
Aethiopes (Ft. El-P, Breeze Brewin)  ‘Heavy Winter’
Laddio Bolocko  ‘Nurser’
Novelistme  ‘Never’
Astrel K  ‘Maybe It All Comes At Once’
David J  ‘(I Don’t Want To Destroy) Our Beautiful Thing’
Jörg Thomasius  ‘Okoschadel’
Ed Scissor  ‘Dad’
Violet Nox  ‘Eris’
Moscoman  ‘Dalmar Is Back And It’s Final’
Grandamme, Claudia Kane & Bastien Keb  ‘Nirvana’
FloFilz (Ft. Dal)  ‘Levada’
Chairman Maf  ‘Gammon Island’
Moon Mullins  ‘Welcome To Tilden’
IBERI  ‘Arkhalalo’
Papé Nziengui  ‘Gho Boka Nzambé’
The Good Ones  ‘Happiness Is When We Are Together’
OK:KO  ‘Vanhatie’
Ubunye  ‘Our Time’
Shrimpnose & BLOOD $MOKE BODY  ‘Beyond The Villian’
Justo The MC & Remulak  ‘Knockturnal’
Lunar C (Ft. Jehst)  ‘Any Given Wednesday’
Qrauer  ‘The Mess’ Circe/Secret World Orchestra  ‘It’s All Over’
Brianwaltzera  ‘tracing Rays [reality glo]’
Kota Motomura (Ft. Akichi)  ‘Flower’



REVIEWS ROUNDUP: Graham Domain

PHOTO CREDIT: CECILY ENO

Roger Eno ‘The Turning Year’
(Deustsche Grammophon) 22nd April 2022

Walking down rain sodden streets, the lights from car headlights and shop windows reflected in the wet pavements and puddle-strewn roads. Shops closing early, café’s empty and being cleaned. A sepia world of sadness over-shot with colour, hope, a need, a craving for love and an end to this all-pervading sense of loneliness.

The Turning Year inhabits this world of rain, loneliness, hope, longing, forever searching. Always the sense of arriving too late, shops closing, opportunities missed, soaked to the skin but still looking to the stars – forever chasing the elusive shadow that is love. Glimpsed for a fleeting heartbeat. A dream, of hope. To love is to live. Love is the beginning, the awakening. Happiness and heartache, sadness and ecstasy, purpose and despair, confusion and belief, danger and grace.

The Turning Year is music of beauty, simplicity, sadness with underlying hope. At its best it is melodic or mysterious piano underscored by beautiful string orchestration. It engages the mind, the body, the emotions. It is music to treasure.

Highlights: ‘The Turning Year’, ‘A Place We Once Walked’, ‘On the Horizon’, ‘Low Cloud Dark Skies’.

Dana Gavanski ‘When It Comes’
(Flemish Eye/North America, Full Time Hobby/UK) 29th April 2022

Photo Credit: Clementine Schneidermann

When it Comes is the wonderful second album by Canadian/Serbian singer songwriter Dana Gavanski. It is an album of strange melodic songs that don’t quite make sense in a literal way but imprint themselves on the mind of the listener, stirring emotions, attaching themselves to the psyche and staying there like half-remembered memories of past lives.

The songs exist in dream dimensions where images are thrown up in random succession, touching emotions at an elemental level, like ancestral knowledge or the wonders of the natural world – the untamed ocean, stunning mountain sunsets, summer meadow’s humming with bees and wild flying insects.

The album begins with ‘I Kiss The Night’ a strange intriguing song that engenders feelings of isolation, loneliness: abandonment even. The protagonist just about holding things together, dissecting and controlling her emotions – “I built a fortress in my mind– take apart the thoughts – leave the furthest far behind.” But is her dream lover all in her mind as she imagines “milk white words of love falling on (her) sleepy head” and pictures “the faces that were never there” leading to the sad refrain of “I needed you to help me – but every night… it’s just the moon that I see”.

In ‘Bend Away And Fall’ the singer focuses in on her feelings as they change “bend away and fall” and considers that the love she is now experiencing is “slower, scented, experience altering!” The words are impressionistic, non-specific and primordial, painting emotive colour over metal black memory.

Dana Gavanski possesses a voice that is light, tender but somehow emotionally detached with a tone and phrasing similar to Cate Le Bon. But, while Cate Le Bon writes intelligent absurdist lyrics that cut to the chase, Dana Gavanski’s lyrics are more abstract and non-linear, reflecting feelings that cannot easily be expressed in words.

Perhaps the most commercial song is ‘Letting Go’ a simple song about reaching a point where a person is able to let go of emotions from past relationships and move on: “I thought I saw my solitude end it’s hour of grieving.” The singer unconsciously seeking love again, “it happens every time I find a hole, just to fill it.” She is finally ready emotionally to re-take the plunge, her confidence re-charged she is feeling good once more: ‘The Sun’s so hot, I heat up again”

‘The Day Unfolds‘… begins with a crawling crab of a rhythm walking sideways and sounding not unlike Wire circa Chairs Missing. Again, the words are abstract and open to interpretation with “snow falling bright, shapes in plight”, but may be about losing your own sense of self in a bad relationship…”Control, a bending knife you will shine… I’m losing my way, down the avenue… I found my soul undone… I know fallen one your time will come.”

Meantime, the song ‘Lisa’ reminds me of Weyes Blood but plays like a Scott Walker suburban drama of loneliness, longing, desperation, and unrequited love. The protagonist pleading “Please Sir have you noticed me… I watch you roam the streets a frown sketched on your face, chasing after days that melt behind… crowds form early on, dogs and families and city siren songs, I wait until they’re gone to show my face… Something like this I have never felt… a belly full of tremors… and what I can offer you?”

The album ends with the hymnal ‘Knowing to Trust’, which comes across like Beach House covering Mazzy Star. Again the abstract lyrics breath life and strangeness into the song… “Face on, am I howling too loud, does my worry crowd your view?”

Although I have tried to interpret some of the songs on the album, it is often not the words she sings but the feelings the songs stir. The songs and the album are the musical equivalent of Penda’s Fen, you can’t elicit why it’s great but it leaves an emotive lasting impression.

Dana Gavanski has created a wonderful album, mysterious, beguiling, intriguing, full of wonders to be uncovered with each listen. The music that underpins the songs is sparse, minimal but warm, played on strummed guitar, piano, electric keyboards, synth, organ and drum-machine. Vocally Dana Gavanski falls somewhere in-between Cate Le Bon and Weyes Blood. Creatively, she perhaps falls closer to Nico or Aldous Harding with her oblique, abstract words conjuring up scenarios of emotion by the juxtaposition of images and lyrical ambience.

Key Tracks: ‘I Kiss The Night’, ‘Letting Go’, ‘The Day Unfolds’, ‘Knowing to Trust’.

Ignacio Simon ‘Old Friends’

Old Friends is the beautiful new album by Ignacio Simon (a composer, musician and artist, Spanish but based in England). Seven years in the making, it is the attention to detail and beautiful understatement, that makes this such a compelling listen. The space as important as the notes played.

The album begins with the whispered sigh of a song that is ‘Don’t be Long’. As the song progresses, minimal guitar gives way to silence, cello and a choir of mermaids singing on a distant shore. Sounding like it was arranged by Scott Walker circa Tilt, it is a thing of beauty, hope mixed with sadness.

The following mood piece ‘Victor’ begins with dissonance and single piano chords with ten seconds of silence, repeated, before cello, double bass and more dissonance make their own small marks on the canvas. Just when you think it has ended, mumbles of words come in creating an ambience of regret and longing from a jumble of memory and half remembered dream. More an expression of feeling than a song, the words are oblique and the message non-linear, understood more on a primordial, emotional, unconscious level.

‘Being Here’ follows like a disturbing nightmare with its discordant clangs, ghostly murmurs and sighs, suggesting suspense, dread, a stalking evil, dark rooms of terror, confinement and lunacy!

By way of contrast ‘Old Friends’ sighs in with soft brushed drums, double bass, understated guitar and ripples of orchestra, sounding majestic, like David Sylvian at his most heart breaking. The vocals, like “gentle drones inside our heads”, have echoes of Mark Hollis, Bill Callahan and Rufus Wainwright. This is perhaps the standout track on the album with its minimal soft jazz beauty and uplifting sadness.

The night terror interlude of ‘Being There’ begins with a crescendo stab of orchestral menace and a choir of distant full moon madness – like howling lost souls heard from far, far, away. Soon gone, it is replaced by the serene magic of…

‘The Magician’, a mystic hymn to nature and the continual cycle of life – birth, death, decline and renewal. Minor key piano chords underpin feelings of detachment and isolation as the words seep out … “We won’t touch, we won’t exchange a word…” Echoes of the Pop Group’s ‘The Savage Sea’ can be heard in the abstraction and widescreen sonic wastelands as he sings, “When will the sun come up?” The song fading into raptures of delirium, drowning in a sea of sirens… lost beneath the waves, but overtaken by calm… soon to be “long, long, gone.”

You won’t find a more beautiful record this year, full of uplifting sadness and hope. It is already my album of the year 2022! You can download it or buy the CD version on Bandcamp. Have a listen to this great record, particularly if you like Mark Hollis, Talk Talk, David Sylvian, Scott Walker, and Graham Domain. This wonderful record is deserving of a much wider audience.

Bambara  ‘Love On My Mind’

Bambara hail from Athens, Georgia, but have all the street punk attitude of the dark side of New York, where they now reside. Like one of the street gangs from the film The Warriors they possess a cool menace and visceral charm.

Musically they are a strange mixture of The Birthday Party, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Lou Reed, New Model Army, Swans, The Telescopes and The Modern Lovers. Big guitars, driving bass, machine-like drumming give them an 80’s Goth vibe but with a low-life reality and fighting spirit.

Reid Bateh sounds like a young Nick Cave, full of energy and bite but with a drawling vocal more akin to Lou Reed on speed, cranked really high!

The new six song EP has energy in abundance, great literate songs full of imagery and fire, the shadow of death close by. A band set to burn bright live fast and die in a blaze of glory! See them on tour this spring before they’re gone!

ALBUM REVIEW/Matt Oliver

Lyrics Born ‘Mobile Homies Season 1’

(Mobile Home Recordings)

Despite the title sounding something like a caravanning show found on Channel 5, Mobile Homies from Bay Area veteran Lyrics Born makes the most of lockdown restrictions as a collaborative collection fleshing out LB’s purpose-made podcast of the same name. Much more than just a make-do stopgap, it salutes the long established Lyrics Born mantra of performance being all about entertainment and extravaganza. No variant will hold him back, manoeuvring the live show experience as a soul/R&B spectacular where you can imagine a stage filled with backing singers and musicians, spotlights and catwalks, and the promise of good, clean fun or your money back; all the while looking more and more the sharp suited fly guy to rank him alongside the likes of Bruno Mars, Andre3000 and Anderson .Paak.  

Born has long held one of the most serious flows in the game, cultivating singsong flamboyance (“my shows are like a party for a bachelorette”) as a people’s champ with unquestionable underground-educated skills and a voice once sold as “like sandpaper dipped in maple syrup”. Here, his lowness (for want of a better description) into the mic is less a Chali 2na-style baritone (the stiffer delivery on ‘Misfits’ aside), but a rat-a-tat amplified whisper, an almost monotone, always chill, malleable flow from the deepest vocal chord that allows him to be cyborg-like, possessed by playing games with syllables. Contrarily, it also enables the persona of a dead-eyed charmer sans ego or sleaze, his silver-tongued devilry akin to the Fonz clicking his fingers. 

Amongst the lovey-dovey expressions where heartthrob-served butter wouldn’t melt – back and forthing with himself on the Netflix & Chill-ready ‘Everyday Love’ with Prince Paul providing perky foreplay on production; cutting in on the super polished, Con Brio-lead performances of ‘Sundown’ and ‘Mistakes’ causing ‘Hey Ya’! levels of hysteria, possibly involving underwear removal – is the seething racism exposé of ‘Anti’. A tensely humid, low rider ball of high pressure agitation, brought to the fore from behind the pandemic smokescreen and pierced by Cutso’s wheezing siren infuriating like a fly out of swatting reach, it packs a chorus that intelligently dares you to holler back from the front row. Crucially in the face of such provocation, LB’s flow, taking his cue from Dr Dre’s ‘The Watcher’, is masterful in never losing its cool, its points further rammed home by Shing02, Bohan Phoenix and Dilated PeoplesRakaa on the remix. 

In terms of routine it’s almost like LB asking for the house lights to be turned on and the band to hold fire, with the final track remix providing the encore so you definitely won’t forget the message; the savagery of this uncensored PSA under a blood red spotlight a showstopper without stopping the show dead. While not quite a case of the show must go on, ‘This Song’s Delicious’ with Sitcom Dad and Dan the Automator arrives from the Paul Barman school of jaunty verbosity doing chucklesome show-n-prove, developed from Netflix band Hello Peril from the film Always Be My Maybe. ‘Desperada’ takes the feeling of sand between your toes into the club, and ‘My City’, displaying wistful hometown pride with enough matriarchal room for interpretation, poignantly features his late Soulsides comrade and Blackalicious lifer Gift of Gab.

Enter another pertinent state-of-the-world address, this one packed with Instagram filters fiending for those thumbs ups. Over a nifty first generation grime production that Ghetts, Kano or Taz would have rinsed, ‘Enough About Me’ gets trending to the tune of crowds showing pixellated appreciation while literally keeping the action at arm’s length. Guests The Grouch and Eligh attempt to differentiate between projected and actual reality; LB does the opposite, going into overdrive like a big bucks hype machine (“I don’t want privacy, I want all y’all to see/selfie-selfie-selfie, I’m my own paparazzi”)and knowing the only way to avoid fading into obscurity is to dive in twice as hard.

While the zoom call intermissions with his collaborators quickly become skippable, the sound is so rich and accomplished (as standard), with impressive divergence, that even if the album wasn’t completely conceived over Microsoft Teams, it’s a great demonstration of how Lyrics Born can play second fiddle before stealing the show, and solidifying his claim as a great entertainer still remaining underrated.

 

Track Premiere/Album Preview: Dominic Valvona

PHOTO CREDIT: REBECCA HAWLEY

Luke Mawdsley ‘Higher Plains Suffering’

Taken from the upcoming album Luke Two, released on the 29th April by Spine Records

Emerging from a turbulent period of cathartic anxiety, reflection, the Merseyside artist Luke Mawdsley sets his voice free from the “verbasier” programmed-like demons-in-the-head vocal effects of his previous solo album, Vulgar Displays Of Affection, to wander an esoteric and seedy, bloody lyrical vision of the high plains.

Whilst Luke mark one was a masked, warped version; a seething, predatory slurring spoken word mise en scene caught in a miasma of pain, Luke Two lifts the veil a little on a most lurid, sleazy and tortured form of abyss circling sonnets.

It’s a strange, idiosyncratic counterbalance of alien Morricone vibrato and ethereal cooed Western scores and heart of darkness, post-punk guitar wielding and supernatural palpitations that envelops, sustains, Luke’s ‘carnal journeys and poetic excesses’.

Edging into ‘Rosa Mundi’ John Balance and Rosa McDowell territory, Luke’s both shadowed and encircled by the apparition and siren lulls, harmonies of the diaphanous Rachel Nicholas and Gabriella Rose King. Rachel makes an appearance on today’s premiere, Higher Plains Suffering; a surprisingly melodious transmogrification of Alan Vega, Charlie Megira, and Crime And The City Solution (both the Berlin skulk and Western reinvention periods), and the lurid dark comedic descriptive wonderings of Alan Moore, Pompey Jonathan Meades and Scott Walker: “You could do worse then to wear my brains home, in your bonnet”.  

In an alternate dimension, Blood Meridian meets the spacey-reverb indulgences of, as the label Spine Records press notes put it, ‘a shattered libidinal economy’. Rachel’s vapoured tones against Luke’s on this drifter’s meander across mirage terrain sound almost Cohen-like.

Taken from an incredibly lucid, often far more melodic and beautiful then you’d assume, album of incipient stirrings, one person’s purgatory is another’s unconstrained creative paradise. Hallucinatory echoes of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s dream-realism symbolic El Topo share room with otherworldly portals and the all-too real depressive, bleak traps of a run-down, unloved English seaside town. Projecting across a both plaintive and eerie Western panorama, the signature twang and expansive evocations of Morricone, as channeled by the Bad Seeds, Simon Bonney and Hellenica, seem to offer some tenderness to the butcher’s bone and gristle, the blood-in-piss confessionals; the menace and heavier toll of Brian Reitzell and Jóhann Jóhannson’s scores.

The “house of aggressive tailors” scene set ‘Pomegranate Seeds In A Matchbox’ has the cylindrical, grinding machine presence of Liars, or better still, Aaron Hemphill’s Nonpareil, yet also a hint of David Slyvain. Despite what may have come to pass, the search for identity in a hostile, divisive climate, where everyone lives life through the prism of a screen, Luke surpasses the brilliance, morbid curiosity of Vulgar Displays Of Affection with something that approaches a true self: well, at the very least with one layer of morose and demon effects removed.

There’s, as I’ve already mentioned, an esoteric atmosphere. But not in the sense of the gothic, nor true horror: even if the album includes quite suggestive titles, ‘A Butchers Tide’ and ‘Trauma Control’. Because ringing out like a cry, or astral plain observational deck expression from Manuel Göttsching’s guitar are scenic levitations and pleasant twists. The instrumental ‘Citrus Mirror’ brings a sort of levity, a beauty like the desert rose. Shovels dragged across concrete, crushed confidence and useless augurs may say otherwise I know, but there’s something deeply dreamy about this whole album.

Seething tensions and dissonance are pulled into entirely unique realms of realisation, pathos and deranged sexual provocations. Luke Two could just be Mawdsley’s best statement, piece of work yet.  

ALBUM REVIEW/Mikey McDonald

Joining the auspicious Monolith Cocktail pool of contributors this month, Glasgow local Mikey McDonald makes his debut as a music-writer, with a review of the recent Brainwaltzera album, ITSAME.

Mikey’s CV is very unique, eclectic. A resident of Glasgow, Mikey can normally be spotted running the streets of the city as long distance running enthusiast. A former full time poker player, Mikey is searching for new career opportunities, including sports rehabilitation. He’s previously been posting chat, games outcomes, strategy on the poker related rantings of a 6max SNG blog, and his musical tastes, recommendations can be found on Last FM.

Brainwaltzera ‘ITSAME’

Brainwaltzera (one can simply translate to ‘braindance era’) makes a return with his sophomore album titled ITSAME. The album comprises 17 tracks and marks the first full length from this anonymous producer in almost half a decade.

On the opener/self-titled track the man himself samples his own kids saying “ITSAME” and from the get-go it’s obvious this is going to be a very personal affair. ‘morning narcomnastics’ (gymnastics + narcotics?) is a nostalgic trip and a real triumph. This track exhibits scissor snips and bleeps that come in and out of the mix, which could quite easily have been sampled from a household appliance. These sounds in isolation may not be pleasant to listen to but fuse them together and you have a rather delicious sounding melody.

‘Reptikon 7’ hits hard and would fucking slap in a 90s underground rave. On this track the artist plays an e-cigarette as a bass – talk about next level ingenuity. The track breaks down around the midsection and really allows the static of that e-cig to flourish. Ask yourself how many musicians out there are playing an e-cigarette as a bass. I thought so… The latter half presents muffled vocal cries à la Future Sound Of London, and drive the track forward to an exquisite finish.

Meanwhile, ‘a star is bored’ could have been called ‘a star is born’ and is laced with unintelligible yet breathtaking samples and lush synths. Placing this track straight after the bold and menacing ‘Reptikon 7’ feels intentional and creates contrast in a big way.

Moments of respite are offered in the form of acoustic driven ‘PROVE UR NOT A ROBOT [SKIP]’ and ‘PROVE UR NOT A ROWBOAT [SKIPPER]’ and unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn’t skip either of these tracks failing to prove I’m neither a robot nor a rowboat. No regrets. ‘evening narcomnastics’ lives up to the expectations set by its sister track and features stunning electric guitars that are akin to whale calls.

Elsewhere, ‘F1 Halo’ is a moment the Sandison brothers would be proud of and offers some time to reflect before the album comes through with a big finish. ‘consent’ rather unsurprisingly contains samples of a male & female agreeing with each other and is another delight which provides plenty of warmth and feel-good before things turn frantic.

The foreboding ‘ad interim’ kicks off sounding like the end of the world and is peppered with video game like sound effects before we’re hit by a swarm of bugs in what sounds like a full scale attack, dare I even say alien invasion. Only the brave soldier on. Ominous atmospheres continue on the equally formidable ‘medal headz [G.B.D.F]’ which is likely a reference to the drum and bass music label ‘Metalheadz’ established in the mid 1990s, and this track also includes the ‘ITSAME’ samples from the opener but here they’re more distorted, more haunting.

Penultimate track ‘brothers [drop mic]’ is a playful number and could be a nod to Scottish legends and pioneers Boards of Canada. In this track the sampling and manipulation of children’s voices evokes feelings of nostalgia and takes the listener on a trip down memory lane. At this point of the album you could be forgiven for standing up and applauding but we’re not done yet. Closer ‘No fair’ confronts loss and delivers a gut-wrenching bassline and eerie samples of a French woman speaking. It fucks me up every time I hear it yet still I go back for more. In summary, the album is packed with nuances and little intricacies – so much so your ears are likely to detect something new with each listen as cliché as that may be to say. There’s so much detail you can practically hear the artist think through each track as the album unfolds. Now, one thing up for debate is the various ways in which to pronounce this ambiguous album title – ‘EATS-AH-MEH’, ‘IT SAME’ or ‘ITS-A-ME’ like ‘ITS-A-ME, MARIO!’ – perhaps down to the listener’s own interpretation. One thing not up for debate…ITSAMASTERPIECE

Review written by Mikey McDonald

ALBUM REVIEW/Graham Domain

Anton Barbeau ‘Power Pop’
(Big Stir Records)

The new album by, Sacramento native, Anton Barbeau is called Power Pop. The irony is that it is not power pop! It is however Pop! More accurately, it is Pop with the sound of the early 1980’s, when bands like Vince Clarkes’ Depeche Mode and Howard Jones troubled the charts!

The new single ‘Rain, Rain’ is a case in point and comes across like the Eurythmics with male vocals! Complete with thunderstorm sound effects, the lyrics are standard Pop fare “rain on me, wash away my tears, set me free!”

Similarly, ‘The Never Crying Wolf Boy’ sounds like a cross between Yazoo and the Human League with its pulsing bass synth and daft lyrics… “The sound of silver tambourines spells out my name at Halloween.”

The short instrumental pieces between songs, such as ‘Slash Zed Zip’ and ‘Pompadour Toupee’ sound like off cuttings from The Art of Noise but don’t really add anything to the album!

The song ‘Power Pop’ meanwhile, begins like an alternative dance record before morphing into acoustic rock dourness, but still manages to have throwaway pop lyrics like “if this is war I’ve had enough, my mouth is full of power pop!” Sometimes, the songs stray into pure pastiche of the comedic type (like Neil Innes or The Rutles), for example, ‘The Drugs’. Elsewhere, the guitar pop of ‘Julian Cope’ reveals some terrible rhymes such as “Julian Cope, how do you cope?” and “I saw you Vibing, we beamed up Croyden Style-y, next thing it’s Bracknell and we’re backstage getting smiley!”

Overall it’s a fine pop album even if it’s a bit Retro in its sound and vision.

VIDEO PREMIERE/Dominic Valvona

Mike Gale ‘I’m Really Gone’
Taken from the upcoming Mañana Man album, released 20th May 2022

Although he’s adopting the procrastination title of “Mañana Man”, the former Black Nielson and Co-Pilgrim instigator turn soloist Mike Gale isn’t putting off his talent for capturing the mood with a beautifully, often woozy and wavy disarming musical palette. Releasing a laidback songbook (sometimes two) every year since the early noughties, his latest, and 18th, album sees a slight change in methodology; expanding upon the use of samples from last year’s brilliant Twin Spirit album, Gale returns to more traditional song structures and feel. 

“Twin Spirit was the first album I’d used samples almost exclusively, from the writing process to arrangement of the songs. I really enjoyed this way of working and wanted to carry it on with Mañana Man. Twin Spirit was rather haphazard and more like a collage of sounds in places, so with Mañana Man I was trying to make an album of more traditional sounding pop songs while still utilising samples as the primary method of creating. I still played guitars and Bass etc. on almost half of the songs as well and I think this mix of samples and instruments is where I’m most comfortable.”

Channeling the Wilson Brothers as always like a lo fi Beach Boys serenade of one, Gale’s mañana mood permeates a gentle but deeply felt songbook of wistful dreamy, balmy longing and beachcomber ruminations.

The languorous comforted feels swim in the waters of late 70s Californian troubadours, soft rock, and dream and surf pop. Swaddled ‘Pumpkin Feet’ leave traces in the sand to the sound of The Flaming Lips, Lionlimb, Panda Bear, Ned Doheny, Gene Clark, Harry Nilsson and The Cry. That title-track is a lovely tropical, semi-Cuban instrumental with a surprising nod to Henri-Pierre Noel’s piano led Hispaniola dances, whilst ‘How Long’ seems to evoke the washed-out vibes of epic45.

Gale however reaches for both the stars (on the Spector Christmas album-style lilted ‘A Place Of Going To The Stars’) and heavens (on the harp-laced, mirrored and sweetened ethereal ‘You’re My Hand Glide’) from that beachfront escape.

Taken from that driftwood lullaby and flange-wash retune of a beautiful album, the Monolith Cocktail is premiering the video for the cosy ‘I’m Really Gone’. Perhaps casting veils of nostalgic locations and surrealism over a trippy ripple of lucid, hazed sadness, Gale dons a poodle mask whilst floating, bending to a psychedelic dream: imagine a kaftan wearing Carl Wilson fronting Morgan Delt or the Animal Collective. A waltzing couple, images of the Trevi Fountain and a park underpass form a background for the band – all Mike Gale I assume -, as the music melts; soaking up all the grief and malady.

Mañana Man is due out on the 20th May. You can pre-order it now via Gale’s Bandcamp page. Expect to see it included in our end-of-year recommendations, but sooner than that, a summer essential. 

ALBUMS AND EXTENDED RELEASE REVIEWS/PLUS A SPECIAL LITTLE SOMETHING/Dominic Valvona

PHOTO CREDIT: Joona Möttö

SPECIAL LITTLE SOMETHING

IFRIQIYYA ELECTRIQUE ‘Nafta Naghara’
From the 25th March 2022

From our friends IFRIQIYYA ELECTRIQUE, a mesmerizing, loud and incredible dynamic fusion of unworldly chthonian elements, Sufi trance, spirit possession performance and post-punk electronics; recorded live in the last month at La Casa Musicale in Perpignan, France.

Originally formed in the Djerid Desert, a coloration between field-recordist and veteran guitarist of the politically-charged Mediterranean punk and “avant-rock” scenes, François Cambuzat, and bassist Gianna Greco – both of which occasionally join forces with that livewire icon of the N.Y. underground, Lydia Lunch, to form the Putan Club – and Banga musician Ali Chouchen – joined in the live theatre by an expanded cast of fellow voices, krabebs and Tunisian tabla players from the community, which has featured Tarek Sultan, Yahia Chouchen and Youssef Ghazala – the lineup has fluctuated over two stunning albums and live dates.

Performing a track from their second album Laylet El Booree (released back in 2019) ‘Nafta Naghara’ sees both Syna Awel and Dyaa Zniber (on both voice duties and percussion) change the dynamic once more as they join Greco (voice & bass) and Cambuzat (on guitar, choir & computer) for breathtaking communal.

ALBUMS

Jane Inc. ‘Faster Than I Can Take’
(Telephone Explosion Records) 22nd April 2022

Although the musical DNA was there from the start, through her dance pop duo Ice Cream with Amanda Crist and contributions to Darlene Shrugg and Meg Remy’s ever growing U.S. Girls ensemble, Carlyn Bezic effortlessly shimmied towards the disco, dream-pop dancefloor with last year’s Number One album debut as Jane Inc. – one of my choice albums of 2021.

Bearing all the strains, vulnerabilities but shorn of pity, Carlyn makes good on that previous congruous change with a both disarming fantasy and more heartbreaking plaintive songbook, fit for the age of high anxiety, self-doubt and connection through the computer, smart phone lens.

Life just never feels right, and time…well, time seems to have sped up, hijacked by those seeking to consume all our precise use of it, concentrated down the portal of a constantly changing feed of attention grabbing, virtue competiveness and narcissistic obsessions. Without the space to breathe, process, to take it all in, we’ve been mostly reduced to vacuous, fleeting well-wishers; meaningful, deep connections just for a few, because whose got the time to offer anything lasting. Ok, I’ve gone slightly off the rail, but our epoch, lurches from, but then forgetting, one crisis to the next: though in recent months that carousal has swung from the climate emergency to Covid to the cost-of-living and Ukraine. Who wouldn’t be anxious, drained mentally under such an onslaught?

On the album’s opener, and first single, ‘Contortionists’ Carlyn sings about the effects of time anxiety, of being both trapped simultaneously in the past, present and future, all in the same moment. Transfiguring a 80s musical palette, this crystalized arpeggiator emotional pull dances through softened shades of n-r-g, robotic soul pop, fitness video music and disco: with a certain echo of Chaka Khan thrown in. Fellow Toronto collaborator Dorothea Pass adds a touch of ethereal cooing to a vulnerable but danceable highlight.

Although a mostly synthesized, electro affair, Carlyn finds the human soul, a connectedness throughout. No more so then on tracks like ‘Human Being’ (for obvious reasons), which explores isolation, the requirements of instagram, and that always living your ‘best life’ crap, in an online world to the dualist Giallo glitterball pop, and suggestions of the Juan MacLean and St. Vincent (via Wendy & Lisa). Dreamy realism meets with a haunted reflection, with another signature mirror turn. In a similar lamentable disconnect, the four-to-the-floor, Vogue era Madonna ‘Dancing With You’ projects a romantic embraced dance at the Paradise Garage, but is really a dance for one in front of the computer screen in a bedroom.

Amongst the glitterball emitting lasers Carlyn expands the musical scope, sauntering down to Rio like a 70s Joni Mitchell sharing a fantasy with Seu Jorge on ‘Picture The Future’ – which actually, despite its accompaniment of soft-paddled samba moves, describes a calendar rota of metaphorical growth. ‘An Ordinary Thing’ takes an acoustic direction towards the troubadour sorrow of Evie Sands or Catherine Howe on a cathartic, candid Baroque turn of resignation. The close, ‘Pummeled Into Sand’, features strains of both reversed phaser and Brian May guitar licks, hints of Aldous Harding and Eleanor Friedberger on the Mexican border.

I’m drawn however to the gorgeous if heartbreaking ‘Every Rip’. A Diplo remixed Vangelis patterned lush ache of vulnerability, this dream-wave pop lament will bring a tear to the eye.

The absence of the physical (love, friendship) echoed through the full spectrum of emotions couldn’t sound more effortless. Even if the artist feels fragile, this second album under the Jane Inc. flag couldn’t be more assured in pop brilliance. Taking the familiar tones of disco, pop, new wave, fitness video n-r-g, Carlyn takes a more carefree, danceable approach to deeper feelings in an era of rapid change and disorientation. You won’t hear much better.

Birds In The Brickwork ‘Recovery’
(Wayside And Woodland)

The first in a promised series of multimedia releases from Benjamin Holton’s latest inspired alias, Birds In The Brickwork, the Recovery album contours a both faded and quintessentially damp English landscape; as seen through Holt’s photographic lens.

A concomitant partner to the gauzy, washed guitar and synth music of epic45, his longstanding duo with foil Rob Glover, Holton once more plugs into a familiar, if far more dreamy and beautifully languid, mode.

Before we dive in though, a little background to this newly adopted moniker is needed. Sympathising greatly myself with this, Holton was forced to give up work due to a ‘massive flare-up’ with his back. During a time of recovery (hence that title) the Staffordshire native attempted to document the period with the tools-at-hand. This included that already mentioned guitar (both acoustic and electric by the sounds of it), a camera and computer.

Finding all life’s answers, pathos and bathos in the natural typography and its artificial markers, structures, the focus of this project is on the landscape; something that could be seen as a reoccurring feature, theme in much of his work, especially the pylon straddled haze and nostalgic glaze of My Autumn Empire

Capturing the ephemeral through various instrumental traverses, Holton sculpts magical, mysterious radiating versant slopes, hills and the ghostly pastoral visage of a village hall, as he wells up a mood board of the wondrous, universal and cerebral. Evoking a languorous Land Observations without his bass notes, the descriptive and higher-purposed guitar playing of Craig Ward, Spiritualized Jason Pierce and Myles Cochran, Holton evokes the halcyon, conversational, the empirical.

Through lingered, floated, finely attuned guitar work, synthesized washes and waves, pitch-shifts and attentive drums he gently encompasses the fields of post-rock, the psychedelic, shoegaze, acid-country and kosmische; whether that’s unveiling the enormity of the great expanse or in solitude, waiting to get back out into the world of small wonders: ‘small glimmers’, the ‘old blossom’ and the reconnected resonance of ‘people talking’. All things missed and now documented with a lightness of touches.

The inaugural visions of a geography taken for granted, barely noticed, comes to life in the first Birds In The Brickwork audio setting. With art prints, DVDs and postcards still to come Recovery puts down the marker for a fruitful new musical horizon: even if it was borne out of pain.

Kota Motomura ‘Pay It Forward’
(Hobbes Music) 22nd April 2022

Although it’s been a few years, the experimental Tokyo artist Kota Motomura makes good on his previous free-floating, swimmingly jacked-up House and Balearic flowed EP for the Hobbes Music imprint with a just as tropical, eclectic album.

Pay It Forward once more sees Kota reunited with his foil Mutsumi Takeuchi on reeds. Later on, with this album’s paradise plaint closer, ‘Flowers’, a second guest, Akichi, joins the twosome, adding a wistful but dreamy Balearic acoustic guitar accompaniment, sat under a canopy of heavenly bird song and humid tropical heat. That curtain call is the most placid, scenic track on the whole album, with the rest destined for the club environment: albeit set in the rainforests or in some futuristic vision of 80s Tokyo.

The actual entitled ‘Paradise’ features Mutsumi’s snozzled jazz-house toots, spirals and drifted hazy rasps and Kota’s detuned, almost distorted, piano stabs over a sort of Japanese 80s new wave pop production with shooting lasers: imagine a bit of Haruomi Hosono shaking it down with Yasuaki Shimizu.

A change in style, ‘Tropical’ sounds more like an ethnographic sampled lost treasure from Byrne and Eno or, the sort of no wave experiment Basquiat would have been throwing down in ’82. Native voices, pneumatic drilled samples, shuttled sticks and hand drums evoke the veldt, the Maasai, as remixed by Coldcut and the 900ft Jesus.

‘To Be Free’ is an upbeat number of Farley Jackmaster Funk’s Chicago grooves, handclap beats, arpeggiator patterns and funk, whilst ‘Emotion’ sees Mutsumi on flute, blowing merry suffused charms over a pumped N-R-G meets New Orleans Mardi Gras House music groove.

The highlight for me though is the constantly changing, evolving percussive and drumming relay, ‘Rhythm’. It could be a Brazilian Samba band, the African diaspora or even a Cuban rhythm section on a coked-up Miami night, but the beats just keep rolling and rattling, even galloping.

Pay It Forward is essentially a well-crafted, fun experiment in dance music genre hopping. It’s House and Techno music with a spirit of adventure that’s never idol and always up for taking the audience across a movable dance floor.

OK:KO ‘Liesu’
(We Jazz) 15th April 2022

Named after its drummer-composer/bandleader Okko Saastamoinen, the Finnish OK:KO quartet have been accumulating fans and acclaim alike over the last five years. Now onto their third album with the leading Euro jazz label and festival hub (and now quarterly magazine) We Jazz, they once more show-off a signature sound that’s imbued by the roots of hard-bop, free jazz and the more explorative, envelope pushing of a small tight combo. The notes sum up that style perfectly as, ‘adventurous but accessible’. 

In practice that means Coltrane and Harden on the Savoy label, Charlie Parker, the Bill Evans Trio, Nate Morgan and Sonny Stitt taken on a scenic, poetic ride across the Finnish pastoral. Mikael Saastamoinen’s double-bass on the most naturalistic composition, ‘Kirkkis’, even manages to emote an oaken tree spreading its branching: The bass actually begins to sound like a cello against a wooded stretch of rim rattles and brushes. Later on, with that same composition, the quartet moves towards both the blues and luxuriant swing; beamed and trained on 60s NYC.

Bandleader Okko’s drums follow a constant leitmotif of splashed cymbals and rolling maelstroms that never quite penetrate the sea wall defenses, as Jarno Tikka goes high with flighty spirals and lower register rasps and descriptive lulls, and Toomas Keski-Säntti plays piano with a sense of both freedom and emergent-gestured melodies.   

Tunes vary between expressive dances and erudite scene-setting emotions. The opener, ‘Anima’, goes for a visceral encapsulation of that title’s Latin origins – the breath, soul, spirit of vital forces -, whilst ‘Arvo’ pushes into more serious, noirish directions: like a bluesy but mysterious sassy accompanied skulk in a 1950s stripe joint.   Throughout this album were constantly drawn back to the sea; both a very real Baltic one but also a metaphorical one of choppy emotions and swelled intensities. There’s drama yet nothing that ever proves too frantic, fierce, as this quartet keep it all in check, constantly flowing no matter how high those waves get. I love it, and still think Finland is producing some of the best contemporary jazz in not only Europe but beyond that. OK:KO’s reputation is save and broadening on the strength of this third album of the lively and emotive. 

Kloot Per W ‘Arbre A Filles’
(Jezus Factory) 22nd April 2022

Despite doing it all so well, the maverick Kloot Per W, as a Belgian from the other side of the multi-linguistic quandary that is Belgium, apparently should be frowned upon, snubbed for singing in the French vernacular. In a culture, historical battle I’m unwilling to get drawn into, there’s a whole legacy of political backlashes against those with the Flemish mother tongue singing or speaking in the much-guarded French language: Jacques Brel aside. Actually that’s a terrible example, as Brel’s Flemish family actually dropped it to adopt the French language.

Anyway, the seven-decade spanning journeyman Kloot has decided to give it another bash, following the success of his inaugural Francophone EP, Nuits Blanches, from last year. Like the already mentioned Brel, and because of a history of reinvention, sagacious wit and self-depreciation, the Flemish cult artist dons a gauloise smoking jacket with élan and a certain fuck you attitude on his new songbook, Arbre A Filles (or the odd phrased “girl tree”).

A sort of intergenerational project, again, Kloot calls upon the production, collaborative help of Pascal Deweze: a full twenty-years Kloot’s junior we’re informed. And swinging by the studio, repeat offender foil, guitar-slinger for hire and ex dEUS band member Mauro Pawlowski and his collaborative partner Randy Trouvé add a bit of (middle-age) youthfulness; a taste of contemporary alt-rock to the songs. Keen Monolith Cocktail followers will of course remember (hopefully) that Marco and Kloot brought out their very own dysfunctional, knockabout White Album, called Outsider/Insider, a while back (making our choice picks at the time).

A road well-travailed, Kloot’s numerous musical changes – stretching back to the late 60s and early 70s as a bassist for The Misters and as a guitarist for The Employees, to a solo spell and the JJ Brunel produced Polyphonic Size – have lent the music a wise ring of authenticity; a life well-lived and experienced. And on this new songbook themes range from such timeless concerns as facing one’s mortality and more contemporary fare like Internet conspiracy theorists, cultural divisions. This is a grown-ups album then: despite the reference to Kloot’s worries on his cock size, though thankfully not a French speaker, I have no idea where this obsession springs-up on the album, as it’s only pointed out in the accompanying notes.

It all begins with the opening fuck you attitude of the French new wave, via Lou Reed, Mick Harvey and Anton Barbeau, styled ‘Tu Me Troubles’ (“you disturb me”), which has both bristle and sophistication, coquettish doo wop female backing singers and a touch of Britpop melody. ‘Le Pays’ (“the country”) moves the action towards a smoky blend of the Jazz Butcher and the Bad Seeds, as satellites’ twinkled communications blink over a psychedelic starry, starry night café scene. A spooked Morricone creeps around on the vibrato, cooing female-voiced backed ‘Girl On The Phone’, but it’s Blixa Bargeld fronting the Os Mutantes in a haunted jazz lounge on the title-track.

Raspy, grizzled and also mooning when not crooning, Kloot’s lyricism is fitted with a movable backing of both salon and Muscle Shores piano, strokes of beat music, glam, rock ‘n’ roll, radio city music hall, a touch of Cohen, and on the “lalala” flittered ‘Super Likeus’ a hint of both rebel country and the paisley underground. Yet everything is still contained in the French vogue, if from a unique perspective.

There’s a lot to like about this album, and it goes someway to Andrew Bennett (Jezus Factory’s one-man cottage industry founder) aggrandisement that Kloot is “Belgium’s best kept secret”. If there was any justice in the world (you’re kidding, right?!) this album would reach a wide audience and shine a light on, certainly, one of Belgium’s great talents. It’s also a killer French language songbook that proves the Flemish can indeed sing the Frenchman blues.

Jörg Thomasius ‘Acht Gesänge der Schwarzen Hunde (Experimenteller Elektronik-Underground DDR 1989)’ (Bureau B) 15th April 2022

From the steel curtained side of the Berlin Wall, a second GDR dedicated showcase of electronica from the noted Jörg Thomasius. At various times an artist in his own right (under the Tomato moniker), but also a member of the Das Freie Orchester, a radio show presenter, author, boiler man and exhibition technician, the East German maverick knocked-about with the likes of Andreas Grosser, Lars Stroschen and Conrad Schnitzler – working with the last two to set up the Tonart label. 

It was the former, the renowned technician Grosser who opened up a whole world of electronic exploration, and instigated a train of events that led to Jörg meeting Terry Riley: freely handing out LSD at the time. Whilst under the authoritarian grip, Jörg still managed to connect with the burgeoning scene in West Berlin. And his experiments, collected together here from three different sources, easily fall into the greater Kosmische and new wave brackets.

Acht Gesänge der Schwarzen Hunde brings together diy explorations, peregrinations, sketches from his 80-85 documented Schwarze Hände (“black hands”) cassette, his own Kröten Kassetten label’s Gesänge der Komparsen (“songs of the extras”) 89 release, and the 90s After Eight – released again on another of his own label hubs, just after he left Das Freie Orchester.

Across the majority of this collection each modulated, oscillated, effected idea weighs in under the three-minute mark; glimpsing at, vanishing clips of what could be more expanded, drawn-out scores. The opener, ‘Besen Im kopf’ (“broom in the head”), seems to feature a strung-out, deconstructed orchestra of the avant-garde, classical and even Fluxus kind: Low ship horns sound, the inner workings of a piano resonate with a brassy metallic spindly sound. ‘Okoschadel’ (“eco skull”) and ‘Erste Himmelsmelodie’ (“first heavenly melody”) have more than a hint of early computer tech sampling; the kind Sakamoto was experimenting with in the early 80s. A mix if synthesized cut-ups, tubular bell percussion and staccato fashioned splurges.

‘Küss Mich Mien Liebchen’ (“kiss my love”) features (I take it) Jörg’s vocal ravings over a squiggled loon of underground tape culture, post-punk, Faust and Populäre Mechanik weirdness.

Ghosts in the machine, aerial whirled chattering space birds, slapped beats, timpani and lo fi computerized effects permeate the first nine oddities on this compilation. The tenth and final track however is an expansive twenty-minute plus sun rays ‘Meditation’. In that languid, relaxed time frame, Jörg astral-planes hints of Popol Vuh, Frosse, Ocean Of Tenderness Ash Ra on a new age equinox of spiritual alignment.

The Hamburg label Bureau B continues as custodians of Germany’s past and present electronic, experimental, Kosmische and new wave genres with another intriguing showcase come reminder of East Germany’s part in the underground music scene that defined a generation. Fans of those musical fields will find this an interesting addition to that story.

Qrauer ‘Heeded’
(Nonostar Records) 22nd April 2022

The most electronic signing yet to Alex Stolze’s burgeoning Nonostar imprint, the congruous fit of Christian Grochau and Ludwig Bauer coalesce their respective disciplines once more as the Qrauer duo.

With Christian’s percussionist, production and remix and Ludwig’s pianist, multi-instrumentalist and composing skills, Qrauer’s latest EP is a sophisticated shift of layered electronic body movement techno and reverberated spells both on and inside a neoclassical attuned piano. In the former camp, the EP’s first trio of tracks includes the subtle air-pinched filtered, cybernetic convergence of Four Tet, Carl Graig and trance style techno ‘The Mess’; the tinkling, translucent bulb mirrored short ‘Stardoll’; and the more clean-cut beats meets mysterious and gauzy wooed ‘No Sh.Left’, which features the wafted, ghostly and vaporous vocals of the German singer Sea Of Love.

Taking a slightly different path, the title-track is a sort of experiment in scoring a mini electroacoustic soundtrack. ‘Heeded’ is highly atmospheric, with the echoed resonance of a piano’s guts being touched by various textured materials, and a moving melody of both singular and a more uninterrupted flow of notes played from the keyboard itself. Almost a seamless follow-on, ‘Lustend’ features staccato cut-up samples of a voice and piano, but soon, in a relaxed fashion, bobs along to jug-poured and steel drum reverberated techno effects – like a calypso Phylyps on Basic Channel.

Sounding in many ways like a remix of chamber piano work, with all the original elements washed-out, the Heeded EP is a cerebral version of techno, trance and electronic dance music for people who hanker after more than just a four-to-the-floor beat and repetition. 

Astrel K ‘Flickering I’
(Duophonic Super 45s Mail Order) 29th April 2022

Like one long mirage, a psychedelic tinged wavy trip inside the preoccupations of Rhys Edwards, the newly imagined Astrel K set-up sees the one-time Ulrika Spacek member swim in solo Scandinavian waters.

Although a solo platform, a moniker under which to pursue his songwriting, Astrel K does in fact include an array of local musicians from Rhys new(ish) home of Stockholm. We should of course name them at least: Lili Holényi, Milton Öhrström, Niklas Mellberg and Thomas Hellberg; all of whom make it possible for this hallucinogenic musical world to float.

Leaving behind the now defunct Spacek music factory, KEN, in (one of my old stomping grounds) Homerton, Rhys finds inspiration in the Swedish capital. Via the mail order label, Duophonic Super 45s, his debut Astrel long-player (the first single, the wobbled, languid and quivered Beatles and Velvets jangle, ‘You Could If You Can’ sold out rapidly on vinyl) swimmingly and with a gauzy lushness balances hazy winding L.A. scenery detective and romantic movie scores and tinkled ray-shining Library music with somnolent Floyd, Edward Penfold and Flaming Lips psychedelic pop, dreamwave and distant lingered, suffused trails of saxophone. All elements that come together across golden slumber cooed songs and shorter Stereolab and KPM like instrumental interludes.

Actually, one of the album’s best tracks is the expanded burnished and sax-swaddled ambient score ‘Forwardmomentum’ – reminding me of the Canadian school of such astral peregrinations, Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn’s work.

Whimsy, wistfulness and druggy stupors hide pressing matters in the real world: the anxieties of the environment and online worlds especially. Certain paradoxes and idiosyncratic observations, plaints are dreamily wooed to a most fluid and softened backing of light and shade. Occasionally there’s a touch of fuzz, a little electric grind, but it’s mostly a lunar and tropical affair of psychedelic pop, enervated soundtrack strings, quirky changes, knowing easy-listening and beautifully conveyed, soulful songwriting.

No matter what the themes are, Flickering i is a languorous, swell and trippy bubble of a place to sit and reflect.     

Sinnen ‘Hawk Moth Man’
(Hreám Recordings) 11th April 2022

I’m going to be honest with you all. I’m going in blind with this slow-release of pent-up energy; woes and guitar pedal effects sustain contouring.

Released on the always intriguing, and reliable, Hreám Recordings, Sinnen’s latest drudge and cymbal-splashed resonated traverse has an esoteric menace running throughout its gnawing and yearned core. A psychogeography of darwave, grunge, slowcore, the industrial, doom and the dreamy, the sword and sorcery title referencing Hawk Moth Man reimagines Mike Cooper fronting Sunn O))). Well, at least some of the time.

Shafts of soulful despondency, a release of abstract imagings languidly emerges from a slow-motion dissipation of shimmy and halftime beaten drums and amplified hums, drones. After one of those amplifier-contoured lead-ins, the first expanded track proper, ‘Painting Daisy’, grinds through a sludge of Codine, Fritch and Dinosaur Jnr.; a haze of the occult and that already mentioned grunge sound.

As the title would suggest, the next slow driven gruel, ‘Bury Your Regrets In Frozen Ground’, drags the listener across a harrowed soundscape. By contrast, a brief pause, an interlude of a sorts, ‘Shifter’ is an ambient (almost) vignette of holy orders as preached by Popol Vuh and Vukovar.

Personally I’m hearing shades of Outside Bowie on the very strange and curious ‘Hill’: a creeping sense of menace, trauma that seems to reach back into civil war period England. But it’s the semi-epic slowcore and flange wave, force field vibrating ‘Se Boda’, which sounds like Michael Stipe singing with The Telescopes, in some alternate universe, that I especially love.

There’s much to untangle, demystify from the heavy atmosphere of suspended pain, discord: one being, why the reference to the swordsman character from the 80s cartoon adventure, The Black Cauldron, ‘Taran’? What’s that all about then?

In all that slow dissonance there’s still some light, and so it never feels too dark, too much to bear. Having never crossed paths with the band/artist before, this could be their stock-in-trade signature: or not of course. Anyway, it gets a recommendation from me.

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.

BRIAN BORDELLO SHEA’S REVIEWS JAMBOREE

Unless otherwise stated, all release can be purchased now.

Papercuts ‘Palm Sunday’
(Labelman)

This is a rather fine jangly pop song well written with a melancholy air that should be bottled and released into atmosphere to seep into the summers day and soak and enrich the lives of we the general public; a song that captures a snapshot, a brief still of a beautiful girl, a beautiful boy, a moment in time that will forever be etched onto our hearts.

Crystal Eyes ‘Like A Movie’
(Bobo Integral Records) 22nd April 2022

There are some fine radio friendly guitar pop singles being released at the moment, and here we have another one. It reminds me of Catatonia with rather fetching breathy vocals and chiming grungy guitars and a semi ‘Be My Baby’ drum beat: a lovely ballad. So what on earth is there not to like…I will tell you… there is nothing not to like. So yes, as Simple Simon would say, “I like it”.

Otoboke Beaver ‘Pardon’
(Damnably)

If sparkling punk pop is your thing then I would advise you to check out this short blast of pure fun from the all girl Japanese band Otoboke Beaver. It rams you in the gullet with its nonsensical charms dipping your brain into an infectious mix of madness and melody goofiness, its like losing yourself in a chocolate inspired dream after overdosing on milkshake spiked with happy thoughts.

YOVA ‘Make It Better’
(Quartertone)

I like this single it has a subtle political(ness) about it and a great nagging violin sounding [I do not know if it is a violin, but it sounds like one] riff picking away, clawing out your eyes and picking worms from your unsettled mind like a big black angry crow shouting fuck you in between pecks. Yes, I’m a bit of a fan of this single and through further investigation I’m becoming a bit of a fan of Yova: who it seems has just released her debut LP, Nine Lives.

East Portal ‘Untitled #3’
(AKP Recordings)

This sounds like something from a beatnik black and white horror film from the 60s; a road movie featuring scary gipsy children who like to devour their victims’ souls with egg spoons whilst offering their spittle to the charred remains of their god; a Mister Punch doll worked by top hatted old raggedy gentleman who has no teeth but a lot of self-belief in the power of coffee houses and backward performed poetry. You are not going to hear this track on Radio One. And it is all the better for that.

Evan Kertman ‘Rancho Shalom’
(Perpetual Doom) 29th April 2022

Rancho Shalom is a rather fetching album of baroque alt country; an album stuffed full with beautiful well-written songs. Songs with melodies that pull and twist your emotions and lyrics that both make you want to smile and cry. Evan Kertman is a man blessed with a honey rich voice that oozes class and emotion with a heart in the same place as Kurt Wagner, and Evan’s music affects you in the same way that the mighty Lambchop does.

There is just something so beautifully laid back about this album, an album to laze about in the sun to as you drink yourself into a silent oblivion with only birds and memories for company, and this album is such great company. ‘No Good Reason’ is a rather stunning song of break up and heartache with one of my favourite lines from the album, “I left you first, but you left me better”. A quite stunningly beautifully written song amongst an album of stunningly beautifully written songs.

The Legless Crabs ‘Always Your Boy’
(Metal Postcard Records)

The legless Crabs are back with another blast of sonic rock ‘n’ roll; once again proving why they are the band to be kicking the decaying corpse of culture not just in the USA but life in general everywhere. Who couldn’t agree with the sentiment of “Fuck Your Boss” from ‘Time Theft’, and anyone who couldn’t have any love for the myth of rock ‘n’ roll, does not do cartwheels, when hearing the quite wonderful JAMC like ‘Fake Weed Emergency’ hasn’t an ounce of joy left in their once thriving rock ‘n’ roll soul.

The Legless Crabs as I have mentioned so many times are the true sound of adventure and seedy darkness in the underground, and are probably ignored by many other blogs for that reason, as attitude and a devil care telling of the truth does not settle well with the meme inspired Instagram friendly culture that is currently rotting and killing our beloved mainstream alternative scene.

The Legless Crabs are not power pop; they do not cover their music in a coating of authentic rose petals from the 60s; do not make auto tuned radio friendly pop, but listen to ‘Give It A Wiggle’ and not think it’s perfect pop, as it is short catchy and pretty perfect. And Always Your Boy is an album filled with sonic adventure, be it short blasts of pretty perfect alternative punk rock or longer tracks of scuzzed up bass experimental splendor; an album that needs to be in the record collection of anyone who remembers the true magic of Rock N Roll the emphasis being on the N Roll!

Mercvrial ‘Brief Algorithms’
(Crafting Room Recordings) 29th April 2022

This is a very enjoyable album of 80s sounding indie guitar music, the kind House of Love used to tempt and seduce us with all those years ago. That can be explained by the fact that Mercvrial features the talents of one Terry Bickers on lead guitar, and the songs are awash with Terry Bickers’ guitar genius.

The songs chime with magic and melody, dipping in and out, taking me back to the days when the Sunday pub was followed by Snub TV. Ah, yes, those where indeed the days, but this is not an album of nostalgia it is an album of finely crafted and performed guitar songs and will appeal to anyone who loves well-crafted guitar indie/alternative music from any decade.

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