The Perusal #33: Spirit Of France, Healing Forces Project, Nwando Ebizie…

July 7, 2022

Dominic Valvona’s ALBUM Reviews Roundup

Various ‘Pierre Barouh And The Saravah Sound: Jazz, Samba And Other Hallucinatory Grooves’
(WEWANTSOUNDS) 22nd July 2022

The story of Saravah Records in sixteen showcase tracks, this latest well-planned compilation from the vinyl specialists WEWANTSOUNDS (more or less a regular in this column over the past few years), in conjunction with the label’s guardian/historian Benjamin Barouh, builds a tale of cinematic, progressive, jazz accompanied escapism and exploration.

A haven for the founder Pierre Barouh’s love of Latin American and African grooves, the Parisian imprint, which triggered of a fecund of inspired, imbued or tempted jazz-rich artists, enjoyed a ten-year period in the sun; releasing records from a myriad of cult genuine one-offs, never to be repeated team-ups and journeymen and women between the mid 60s and 70s.

A fair share of that roster arrived from the stage and screen. Pierre, via his more musical talents, not only contributed lyrics and singing to Francis Lai’s score but also starred in Claude Lelouch’s feted A Man And A Woman. From this connection he was able to rub shoulders with a host of hot French new talent, including the legendary Brigitte Fontaine, Jacques Higelin and Béatrice Arnac. Fontaine, who’s been performing and making radical music for near on eighty years, has pretty much, occupied every square inch of the avant-garde. A novelist, poet, musician and of course actress polymath, she infamously performed and recorded with her equally renowned partner, the Berber-descended singer, multi-instrumentalist, comedian and composer Areski Belkacem.

Fontaine appears twice on this vinyl compilation, whilst Areski just the once. Of her two cuts there’s the inclusion of ‘Comme À La Radio’, taken from the eponymously entitled ’69 LP she recorded for Saravah. It features, unbelievably, the freeform jazz envelope-pushers The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, who appear to have hung around long enough to become an unofficial house-band, providing a barely contained avant-garde explosion to at least three of the artists on this collection. They traverse an organic Don Cherry mood; a simmered woodwind and soothed Afrocentric be-bop meander to Fontaine’s arty chanson cooed and spoken word vocals.

Completely in a different vogue, Fontaine’s ‘Cet Enfant Que Je Távais’ duet with the French pop-actor star turn radical activist Jacques Higelin, is a romantically serenaded affair-of-the-heart. Quite dreamy, without a care in the world, almost sympathetic, it does however show signs of ore existential aloofness. Higelin precedes this inclusion with the more jazzy, eastern psych limbering ‘Je Jovais Le Piano’. Hawk and untethered sax meets a semblance of the exotic and a R&B like flavour of guitar on this both sung and expressively descriptive cut from his hippie days. (Nothing to do with the album or choice of his tracks, but as a trivial bonus it was Higelin’s French-Vietnamese girlfriend, Kuelan Nguyen, who was chatted up by Iggy Pop – she brushed him off of course. This in turn inspired David Bowie’s own, if geographically wrong-footed, ‘China Girl’.) A big star with a legacy to prove it, Higelin’s music for Saravah proved experimental and beautifully executed.

Back to those other Art Ensemble-backed inclusions I mentioned a paragraph or two back. The compilation opener ‘Mystifying Mama’ finds the exploratory jazz doyens polishing off Muscle Shoals R&B with some Chicago soul-jazz. The ‘mysterious’ Marva Broome fronts this clavichord rich blast of horn-heralded funk. Later on they back the French-African actor Alfred Panou (notably in Jean-Luc Goddard’s ensemble) on his jungle-beat polemic freestyle rumble ‘Je Suis Un Sauvage’. Literally rolling in from the pub on a promise, with the Chicago troupe already set-up from a previous recording, Panou struts and trills his grievances to an elephant bellow of brass and swaying West African grooves. Fellow African traveller, the Gabonese artist Pierre Akendenge, released two albums for the label in the 70s. Arriving at the end of Saravah’s tenure, a cut from his ’76 LP Africa Obota appears now on this four-sided vinyl revue. ‘Orema Ka Ka Ka’ is an Afro-Cuban, with a South African and Congo lilt, fusion of spiritual warm 70s soul; a delightful, almost swaddled oasis of relaxed roots that represents another side to the Saravah Records story.

Back in the jazz mode there’s a number of tracks from the Paris label’s Piano Puzzle series of collaborations. Those with impressive, lengthy CVs need only apply, for this series featured such players as the keyboardist maestro Maurice Vander, who worked with such luminaries as Django Reinhardt and Chet Baker, and appeared in many sessions for the Fontana label. Here we’re treated to his folksy reminisce ‘Siciliene’, a subtle yearn for a picturesque if travailed slice of Southern Italy. We also have, from that same series, the French be-bop pianist – impressively playing with Miles Davis and Lester YoungRené Urtregar and his real cool Stax-like rolling ‘Tchac Poum Poum’, plus the pianist/organist and sideman to such notables as Dexter Gordon, Yusef Lateef and Manu Dibango, Georges Arvanitas, whose Coltrane-inspired, Savoy Jazz licked ‘Tane’s Call’ gets picked up for the compilation.

Aside from the jazz, briefly mentioned in the opening paragraph, another main driver of Pierre’s label was Latin America: especially Brazil. So taken with that exotic beauty, visiting in the late 50s, Pierre would return to Paris with his foil in such enterprises Baden Powell and record a version of the ‘Samba de Bêncão’ standard, renaming it ‘Samba Saravah’. He’d later make a special Rio music documentary with Powell, Maria Bethania, Paulinho da Viola and Pixinguinha. Although it doesn’t appear on this compilation, from that same Samba session in the mid 60s, this collection’s farewell ends on the rather less exotic and Latin storyteller romantic yearn ‘Saudade (Un Manque Habité)’. Still, more in the groove as it were, there is the inclusion of Michel Roques’ active samba swanning and tropicalia “soufflé” ‘Monsieur Chimpanzé’, which positively sails into the Rio harbor, blown by the increasingly hot-aired excitements of the vocalist and rattled percussion. Roques’ CV, in case you were wondering, includes a saxophone-fronted trio, a period on Fontana and one LP, Saravah Chorus, for (as the title would obviously indicate) Pierre’s label.

The reminder of this spread falls with the already mentioned fields of influence, genres; although the French actress, singer and composer Béatrice Arnac, with the jazzy cocktail come dramatically staged if lucid ‘Le Bruit Et Le Bruit’ slips into French Ye-Ye and new wave French cinema.

I’m pleased to be introduced to the likes of the relatively obscure Baroque Jazz Trio, E.D.F. and Cohelmee Ensemble; all three of which I will be trying to uncover and find out more about. But as an encapsulation of a period in independent French label history, this entire compilation is an illuminating, often dynamic, and always curious hotbed of actors, mavericks and jazz aficionados coming together to create an astonishing musical catalogue.

Various ‘Spirit of France’
(Spiritmuse Records) 8th July 2022

Another wisely considered release from the Spiritmuse jazz label, Spirit of France announces a new anthology style series of previously obscure ethnographical jazz peregrinations from a period of world music and new age exploration in the 70s and 80s.

Deliberating deeply on their catalogue the label in recent years has acted as a kind of promoter/custodian of the incredible healing prowess of Chicago jazz legend Kahil El’ Zabar (in his many set-ups) and also released spiritual imbued albums from David Ornate Cherry, Abdullah Sami and Mark de Clive Lowe and The Cosmic Vibrations. It’s at this point that I must declare I provided the liner notes to Kahil and his Quartet’s most recent album, A Time For Healing; going from fan to paid-up commission. But I’m donning my non-partisan critic’s hat for this latest compilation of rare experiments from the fringes of jazz, folk and psych.

Chosen by the label’s own Mark Gallagher and Theo Ioannou with the help of French crate-digger Tom Val, the inaugural collection’s standout inclusion is that of late genius Jef Gilson. Still, even after producing a litany of French greats and arguably the country’s leading explorative jazz guide, very much under-valued, Gilson somehow remains a cult figure. The Jazzman label went to great lengths to remedy that, with umpteen reissues, collections of his work. From furors into Malagasy culture to the concrete and freeform, Gilson’s legacy is both extraordinary and varied. Appearing on one such anthology showcase from years back, the changing compressed sulk and exotic swinging ‘Love Always’ now graces this compilation. Notable for featuring, amongst others, Byard ‘Dogtown’ Lancaster this concentrated lengthy flex moodily plows through Latin-American Bernstein, African facemask cubism and drunken motioned rolls.

A strong theme, suffusion of India and its neighbours’ runs throughout a number of other selected tracks; most obviously on the rather rare Adjenas Sidhar Khan’s album finale, ‘Mahabaratha Kali’ (taken from his Musique D’Adjenas LP that just scrapes into the 70s), but also with music by hurdy-gurdy man Rémy Couvez, the versatile Sylvain Kassap and short-lived Pân-Râ. The first of that quartet of artists casts a mini-meditative opus of brassy sitar, buoyant tablas and mantric “ahhhs”, but increasingly turns towards both hypnotising ritual and the psychedelic. “Vielle” maestro Couvez opens this collection with a ‘travel dream’ fluted aria churned transcendental traverse, in the fashion of Ariel Karma’s ‘Almora Sunrise’. From the more prolific Kassap and his 1983 LP Musiques Pour La Tortue Magique, with both the noted Jean-Michel Ponty and Pablo Cueco, there’s the Finis Africae, Jon Hassell and Eno-esque spiritual Southeast Asian jazz yin epic ‘Le Dessous Des Barges’ (“below the banks”).And, lastly, the Pân-Râ duo of Hungarian musician “Chobo” Casba Koncz and guitarist Michel Poiteau furnish the anthology with the acid-psych Eastern stirred and diaphanous apparitional voiced fantasy ‘Lorely’ – taken from the 1978 LP Music From Atlantis

To Arabia, the Middle East, the Aegean where sun worshipping and vernal equinox performances see the most obscure Dynamo evoke Agitation Free and a more congruous Soft Machine on a progressive jazz fusion in Arabia’s honour, and the guitarist/keyboardist André Fertier (under his Clivage group title) softly patters the spindly gilded strings and dulcimer-esque hammers on the krautrock-prog-jazz ‘Moving Waves’ – a touch of Lloyd Clifton Miller, Amon Düüi II and Embryo. 

Outside the areas of the mentioned geographical musicology, L’ Empire des Sons chosen track could be classed in the “primitive” mode; the octet’s ‘Quand Nos Pères Étaient Des Poissons’ a sort of jug poured Don Cherry-esque stripped and dusted reedy blown and bowed African invocation. The sibling and married conjunction of Parisian “musical revolutionaries”, as Finders Keepers called them (that crate-diggers label issuing a collection of their avant-garde futurism back in 2018), Structures Sonores Lasry-Baschot conjure up ambiguous Min Bul-like elasticated music that has a vague semblance of Japan (the country not the brooding synth doyens). 

Something very different indeed, cult favourite, the French-speaking Swiss singer-songwriter Catherine Derain talks, taunts, goads and wraps the listener around her finger on the dizzy avant-garde chanson and pop aloof ‘Les Crocodiles’. Of course certain arty cliques have already been evangelizing such outsider artists for a while, but I can’t say I’ve ever come across Derain in all my years of eclectic digging. So thank you for the Spiritmuse and Mr. Val.

You’d expect this to be a far more challenging, out-there compilation considering the inclusion of outsider artists, mavericks, yet the Spirit Of France is actually quite a transcendental, worldly collection of musical journeys, rituals and performances that take in jazz, pysch, prog and ethno-folk. You can hear just some of the seeds that were sown for future fusions, seamless border crossings. But rather than a note from history, an education this new anthology is filled with some cracking great music, very much alive. I look forward to hearing more of this series.

Nwando Ebizie ‘The Swan’
(Accidental Records) 22nd July 2022

After a number of feted singles from the Afro-futurist polymath Nwando Ebizie in 2021 a much-anticipated debut album extension of the British-Nigerian artist’s rich, lucid and multi-disciplinary cosmology is about to drop. The Swan arrives just in time for her invited curated The Black Fabulous weekender at the Southbank Centre this summer; part of a larger multi-event celebration of black arts and popular culture under The Black Fantastic season banner.

Scaled-up with room to fully develop a part dreamy, part yelped trauma of life experiences, the heavily-loaded Swan entitled journey seems to merge and weave Hellenic/Western deities with those of Africa and the Hispaniola. From out of the mouths of the black diaspora, largely uprooted and forced to comply with the rules of their colonial masters, Ebizie reclaims a fertile heritage to create an alternative pathway, life force and platform to unravel suppression and stigma.

Just one of the many rhythmic threads that runs throughout this highly percussive album, the latest single to be taken from The Swan, the Greek mythological woe that is ‘Myrrha’, features the Haitian Vodou Yanvalouu dance beat. Originally from the rich musical melting pot of Benin, this rhythmic supplication was performed as a welcoming ritual for the ancestors, with dancers working themselves into a trance. Any mention of Vodou and we’re into the dark arts stereotypes, but this atavistic rites, belief system grew into a resistance movement against slavery. Only in more recent times, even post-colonial, has this system and musical form escaped the chains of censorship, degradation and ignorance, with various artists drawn to its appeal, and various revitalisations. In this form, on this plaintive song of sufferance and metamorphosis (the fated poor Myrrha, mother of Adonis, turned into a tree for her incestuous relationship with her own father I believe), Ebizie channels it alongside contemporary soulful and even no wave sounds, dynamics.

Pumped, hollered when needs be, the album is a mostly fluid parade of Mardi Gras, modern Afro-beats, Afro-jazz (touch of Manu Dibango and some spiritual gazing from synth, saxophonist and co-producer Hugh Jones), post-punk and the bombarded beat production and excitement of M.I.A. and Santigold. Lamentable but diaphanous pains and yearns build up to shorter bursts of syllable whooping and near hyperventilating displays of expressive empowerment across a highly percussive balance of African elementals, spirits and the march of contemporary sonic forces. And that means an amorphous blurring of sources, as Lagos mixes it up with New Orleans, a black diaspora London with Port-Au-Prince.

Dreamy, hallucinogenic and magical yet feverish with protestation, Ebizie conjures up an equally bombastic and longing, quitter cosmology of her own making. Those waiting with bated breath for such a rich, stimulating tapestry won’t be disappointed. The Swan is a most deeply felt and multifaceted debut.          

Healing Force Project ‘Drifted Entities (Vol. 1)’
(Beat Machine Records)

Sent out reverberating into an infinite expanse, the spiritual contorted raps and strains of Albert Ayler’s Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe source material, the echoed dub washes of the On-U-Sound label and elements of Basic Channel, Luke Vibert, The Mosquitoes, Plug and Gescom drift towards the cosmos.

A continuously resonating ‘spiritual music mission’ the ghostly freefalling influences of jazz, dub, trip-hop, jungle, breakbeat and the strung-out move in layered circles that build-up an echo chamber of the otherworldly, space and at times the supernatural.

A decade in with the Healing Force Project moniker, Italian musician/producer Antonio Marini creates a universal soundtrack of ‘drifted entities’ that evoke transformed, stripped and lingered traces of both circular-breathing reeds, rim-shot and ricocheting drums, amorphous Eastern oboes and rumbling bass lines.

The vague sound of 80s soundtrack Miles Davis, Irreversible Entanglements and Black Dog circulate with short stubs and stunts of gospel style organ (threatening to open up the valves but falling short), wanes and a Lynchian atmosphere of the hallowed and esoteric gumshoe noir on the opening ‘Tiny Germs’ universal microcosm. Pulled By Magnets, Massive Attack and removed Jon Hassell prowl and linger on ‘Upbeat Damage’, whilst ‘Everything Is Frequency’ tunnels towards a hallucinogenic and skittle-skidded state.

There’s a jungle, or drum and bass beat on the shattering kosmische splash ‘Double Orbit’ and hinge-like trumpet gasped jazzy ‘Diorama Obscura’. When it comes it adds a new intensity and drive to the dissipation of resonated drifts – think Wagon Christ, or even Squarepusher meeting Binker And Moses in space. The ashes of a sonic harvest are scattered on the solar winds, those drifting entities set to resonate in a spooked and venerable cosmos well after the needle is lifted from the record, or curser comes down on a digital stop icon.       

Toni Tubna w/ the Stockholm Tuba Sect  ‘When The Magic Went Wrong’
(Gare du Nord) 29th July 2022

Another pseudonym for the Kentish and London estuary maverick Ian Button – he of the Gare du Nord label, session musician, producer and bandleader of Papernut Cambridge –, the fantasied anagram Toni Tubna guise is just the latest vehicle for his quintessentially English storytelling style of nostalgia.

Going the whole hog, Button has put together a multimedia package of songs, illustrations and, most importantly – the catalyst for this whole wheeze –, a book of short anecdotes from the life of a hapless, but spawny at times, cabaret magician on the English seaside circuit.

As with so many of his musical furors, the scent of nostalgia is heavy but fragrant. I don’t think it would be a criticism to suggest the puns, gags and wordplay resonates with those of a certain age – that includes me by the way. And so from the music hall to soft 70s rock, and from boarding house skits to saucy picture postcard humour the life of the likable, if always by the seat-of-his-pants, Toni Tubna regales his misadventures across ten mini-chapters.

What started as a correspondence between his band mates from another project entirely (The Catenary Wires) developed, riffing originally on a long-running joke/myth that some when in the fogs of time Button had worked as a magician.         

Now not only drawing in a myriad of brass and string players under the factitious Stockholm Tuba Sect moniker, but also the talents of Fay Hallem (contributing illustrations) and art historian, writing, lyricist collaborator Scott Thomas Buckle, the whole throwback ballooned into a sort of knockabout autobiography of a life un-lived, but conjured up as mere amusement.  

In a nutshell, each story, episode on the road to rack-and-ruin, with short bursts of the big time just out of his grasp, corresponds to one of the album’s songs. But in the true spirit of such concepted works we have a bookended intro and sort of curtain call finale reprise revue.

Our bearings, musical journey is mapped out on the opening ‘When The Magic Went Wrong’, a sort of continuation of Button’s 70s imbued Papernut house band with shades of a oompah brass band accompanied Mott The Hopple and David Essex. It also includes the first reveal of a lamented and repeated magical “disappearing” metaphor. The first actual gag, set-up is with ‘The Mayor Of Bridlington, whichintroduces us to a character straight out of a Carry On film, to the woozy dreamy longing tones of a enervated Beach Boys, Bad Finger and Bread – the long and short of it is a convoluted trapdoor joke that backfires on a jealous husband.

A “new assistant” serves as a sort of tug-of-love tale of woe, set to the strains of a faux-Tango and softened, concertinaed mirage of the Parisian Left Bank – the aromatic signatures of the amorous Dolores Mondo. A, rightly so, creepy vessel, ‘The Dummy’ tells the tale of Tubna’s fall from grace, suspended by the Magic Circle and forced to take a punt at ventriloquism: of which he’s utterly useless. A chance meeting with Barry – sound engineer to the Shaman (just credible and devoid of status as ring with the truth) and Howard Jones – and we’re suddenly thrust into the world of mediums before a major falling out that brings the house down. The music is part Alex Harvey, part The Kinks.

In a change from the Button-led songs of the first half of this album, the cursed ‘Talismano’ figurines story features a poetic, supernatural and creepy narration from Angela Loughran; unaccompanied except for an esoteric wind and dramatic touch of organ.

It’s artistic allusions that inspire both the Jeff Lynn, if he was into Britpop, ‘The Triennial’ and more wistful ‘The Painting’. The latter provides the cover illustration diorama of a lifted curse and the overall mists of time atmosphere for this book of British humoured yesteryear fun and mystery.

In what could be an episode straight out of Matt Berry’s Toast Of London there’s a shrinking “clash of minds” dual of egos with Tubna’s smug arch-nemesis Barrington Small that proves to be one of the album’s most mesmerist draws.

The Idle Race and Bonzos share the stage with Squeeze and Cockney Rebel on these magical shaggy dog tales made for a generation or two brought up on the idiosyncratic humour of an underwhelming cabaret act, episodes of Paul Daniel’s Magic Show and TV shows in the 80s (Bergerac for one). Fondly remembered, nostalgic pleasures prove fertile ground for vaguely reminiscent tunes and conceptual work of fun.

Anelli Beauchamp Cauduro  ‘Sometimes Someone Watches’
(CÆR)

Conjuring up all manner of occult and otherworldly mystery, the collaborative trio of Michele Anelli, Paul Beauchamp and Andrea Cauduro drag open the doors and portals to disturbing sonic voyeuristic realms.

Their latest series of improvised esoteric-laced, alien, often chthonian soundtracks for the Turin-based label of such curiosities, CÆR (a ‘dark psych branch’ of the underground zine collective Chierichetti Æditore) uses atonal guitar sculpting, field recordings, various textures and a surprisingly melodic sensibility that rises out of the motor and propeller generated industrial and cavernous atmospherics: those touches of the melodic not so much a reprieve from the unhurried hum and crackled drones as brief touch of humanity.

‘The last time the door was open’, as the first track is entitled, the mood was ominous and the soundtrack a mix of Jóhann Jóhannsson horror, kosmische music for the damned, distant bit-crushed quells and haunted cowboy tremolo; all of it channeled through the Fortean Times paranormal radio set. A bended spooked transmogrification of a lunar Western, dissonant swells emerge alongside echoes of Popol Vuh’s seagull-like twangs.

‘One Dwells There Within Who Talks To The Morning Mists’ sounds like a sagacious line from some mystic but once again lurks in the occult. Early Popol Vuh (them again), Kluster, Lucrecia Dalt and the avant-garde can be detected on this cosmic hell of slow-burning centrifugal magnetic forces, deep bassy drones, early analogue and dark material manifestations.   

‘A Sort Of Foreknowledge Of The Coming Series Of Events’ unfolds unrushed across a shadowy expanse in which planetary leviathans loom large. Like something from the 1970s crackling, brewing and rippling to early hints of Cluster (both albums I and II) and the Tangerine Dream, there’s a certain awe, a sense of those both unearthly and supernatural bodies in movement.

If you are already well versed with such occult experiments, maybe a Crow Versus Crow label regular, then both this label and trio collaboration are worth the immersive dread and time to devour.

The Dark Jazz Project ‘ST’
(Irregular Frequencies) 15th July 2022

A new regeneration is on the cards as the art-house electronic music maverick Andrew Spackman hangs up his longest running alias, the SAD MAN, and dons the ominous mantle of The Dark Jazz Project.

From the Duchampian-favoured Nimzo-Indian chess move moniker of a decade ago, and through various other guises including his own name, Andrew has been on a fidgety, restless progressive momentum; eking out a idiosyncratic pathway in the electronic music spectrum in the process. Pretty much obscure to the point that only the Monolith Cocktail would dare shout about this one-off talent, he’s come along way, and gained encouraging reviews and praise from an ever-larger cable of clique-y named publications and blogs: although only our opinion counts!

The SAD MAN has proven to be Andrew’s most prolific guise yet, with countless spasmodic, bewildering and madly engineered outpourings of techno and all its sub genre releases; culminating in that appellations most ambitious swan song, the Sad Stories multimedia collaboration with a number of music critics and fellow artists – though kindly asked to take part last year, time, personal crisis got in the way and I’m now pretty disappointed with myself for not contributing.

At the same time Andrew’s branched out both musically and art wise with moves into soundtracks and performances (see for example his score for Menilmontant).

A very busy man, but not too busy to once more reinvent himself with another project, in another form, along comes a taster of what’s to come. The inaugural preview release-style showcase of The Dark Jazz Project is a three-track affair of moody jarred spikes and alien landscapes. Like a moon-guided abstract fear; a ghostly voyage aboard a Kubrickian, Lovecraftian and Tarkovskyian space freighter this new vision scopes lunar caverns and the deep cosmos.

Plaintive and evocative strings stir up semi-classical filmic scores before galvanized ripples, shredded metallic components, gargled, burbled bestial signs of the Other emerge to conjure up all manner of galactic mystery, the paranormal and flippery. Detuned stars bend as bass-y dark matter merges with a Mogadon Jeff Mills and Phylps; a miserable Tangerine Dream out on the precipice. And that all happens within the perimeters of the first suite ‘The Forest’.

The second cosmic friction, ‘Eyes In The Trees’ features vague traces of hardcore and drum & bass; leaping into spasmodic action before summing up a sort of foreboding 2001: A Space Odyssey style symphony.

The “jazz” part of the name – albeit a transmogrified “jazzcore” and very removed version of John Zorn and his ilk – doesn’t really kick in until the final third section of ‘Fire Dance’: the EP’s finale as it were. A staccato breakbeat drum drills and twitches; rolls and bombards like a Wagon Christ (almighty) turn inside an epileptic triggering video arcade machine from the early 80s. It gets there however after first navigating passages of Warp Records’ Artificial Intelligence series, Autechre and Shepard Stevenson (yeah, there’s an obscure one for you).

More dark arts sci-fi cinema with bursts of generated techno and breaks than avant-garde noise jazz, Andrew’s latest incarnation is a welcome development. Wiser and without any limitations he’s, dare I say, taken his feet off the hadron collider accelerator for explorations with more depth and gravity.

A full album has been promised for later this year. Expect to see a review in a future revue.    

Delmore FX ‘Scompaio’
(Das Andere Selbst, Communion, Artetetra) 7th July 2022

Across three labels of various experimental peculiarities no less, the founder of one of those imprints (the limited tape numbered Das Andere Selbst) Elia Buletti unveils a unique, lopsided treatment of electroacoustic ethno-music. Under the Delmore FX alias the poet/artist creates a whole new avant-garde vision of West African music: at times almost in the realms of musique concète.

The jug-poured and twanged tines sounds of the kalimba and mbira, and bobbled woody bounce of the gourd-resonated balafon xylophone are transformed into a serial mirages, bended and beaded percussive suites. Carrying an essence of those original forms and evoking the West African scenery, the Scompaio album (a title that translates into the very existential “I disappear”) gives a tangible, thick and heavy metallic texture and more concertinaed lunar effect to the source instrumental patterns and rhythms. At times this amounts to (dripping) tap dances in the sink to the twitters and data roving calculus of a computer language.

Percussive bubbled bulbs, wind chimes stirrings, twinkles, tinkles and chinks both flow and get caught in gamelan-like garbles as trippy effects distort parped and skewered rhythms; that is until ‘Sailor’s Delight’ arrives with a beat that gets going in an elliptical fashion – like a ritual, seasick Aphex Twin and Prefuse 73.

Almost cartoonish in places with wild and more fun runs and dribbles, below the surface there’s a highly sophisticated skill in these layered, re-contextualized pieces that reconfigure, play with ethno musical sources. In the process a whole strange new sonic world of avant-garde experimentation, primitivism electronica and library music is opened up.

Runningonair ‘B.A.U.’
8th July 2022

With a semi-nostalgic arc of synthesized evocations, the four-decade spanning electronic composer Joe Evans traverses and electro glides through an array of tutorial sessions turn grand explorations, and perimeter-set exercises in minimal apparatus use.

By day, stuck in the monotony of an IT call centre, by night, both navel and stargazing; daring to dream of quantum leaps and the faraway prospects of travelling to the stars, Evans lets his imagination project across nine varied suites of mood music.

Under the Runningonair umbrella – a moniker that includes a label and Youtube channel of technical music lessons, music videos and Vlogs – a choice line-up of sound modules, software and synths is used to score and explore such themes as futurology, climate change and the human condition. B.A.U., which I take it is the acronym for “business as usual”, begins with one such crisis. ‘If Not Now’, with shades of Orbital, Vangelis and Jarre, moves from new age trance to melodious techno; ending up above the clouds with climbing harmonic notes that avoid, we’re told in the accompanying notes, the standard chords. With a heavy use of the ‘Air hybrid 3 synth’ this verbalized protestation has the climate emergency in its sights. An artificial female voice posits the rhetorical line on that one, but also appears later on the dreamy piano tinkled, airy and spacey swooned ‘As Far As You Can’. This is actually built-on a remix Evans made of a track by the artist Suborno; a transformation of that original project cast into an entirely different direction.

Out into the cosmos, the celestial-toned, aerial bending trance and techno ‘Lunar Lander’ features both adult and child-like promises of intergalactic progress. Mind you, after reading Michio Kaku’s wondrous The Future Of Humanity it looks like our poor enfeebled current forms won’t make the interstellar travel that’s needed, nor stand up to the conditions on those future planets we colonize – In all likelihood our consciousness will have to be uploaded to some distant avatar, purposely built on those distant stars by robots.

Elsewhere Evans is inspired by the classic synthwave catalyst score for the cult Hotline Miami computer game; tuning into the original game’s Russian mafia antagonists whilst alluding to some environmental disaster with an almost clandestine piece of broody EDM and dreamwave.

Whilst ‘showcasing’ the CZ1 synth, Evans musters up a quirks and quarks lunar spell of Vangelis (again) space hymn, X-Files paranormal activity and the original Air on the coded password-like ‘CeZ1um’. But the multiuse QY10 sound module and Alesis Microverb exercise of ‘Q4’ moves in a more cinematic mode of retro-futurism. In fact this whole album sent me back to a late 80s and early 90s period of electronic experiment – in a good way I might add. I found myself easing back, drifting but immersed on wave after wave of melodious, vapoured and synthesised EDM, techno, trance and electronic-classicism. Beyond just application, Evans transports us with his digital and analogue skills to new worlds.

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.

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