PLAYLIST
TEAM EFFORT/CURATED BY DOMINIC VALVONA

After avoiding Covid for nearly two and a half years (with periods of shielding) I’ve finally succumbed to the dreaded virus this week. And it’s hit me hard. But because I’m such a martyr to the cause of music sharing I’ve managed to compile this eclectic bonanza of choice music from the last month.

The Monolith Cocktail Monthly features tracks from the team’s reviews and mentions, but also includes those tunes we’ve just not had the room to feature. That team includes me (Dominic Valvona), Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Andrew C. Kidd and Graham Domain.

We’ve supplemented the original audio playlist with a video version on our Youtube channel. This will feature a slightly different lineup (the electronic music collective Violet Nox’s ‘Senzor’ primer for one).

 The full track list is as follows:

Dead Horses ‘Macabro’
Grave Goods ‘Source’
No Age ‘Compact Flashes’
Etceteral ‘Rome Burns’
Al-Qasar Ft. Jello Biafra ‘Ya Malak’
Clear Path Ensemble ‘Plazma Plaza’
Antonis Antoniou ‘Syntagi’
Ocelot ‘Vanha Hollywood’
The Beach Boys ‘You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone – Live At Carnegie Hall’
Rezo ‘Soemtimes’
Blue Violet ‘Favorite Jeans’
Teo Russo ‘Novembre’
Keiron Phelan & The Peace Signs ‘Guessing Game’
Micah P. Hinson ‘Ignore The Days’
Sonnyjim/The Purist Ft. MF DOOM & Jay Electronica ‘Barz Simpson’
Salem Trials ‘Just Give Up’
The Bordellos ‘Nurse The Screens!’
Legless Trials ‘Ray’s Kid Brother Is The Bomb’
S. Kalibre ‘Hip Hop World’
King Kashmere/Leatherette ‘G-Cell’
Depf/Linefizzy ‘Rain’
Isomonstrosity/645AR/John Lenox Ft. Danny Brown ‘Careful What You Wish For’
Tess Tyler ‘Try Harder’
Qrauer Ft. Anne Muller ‘Rund’
Sampa The Great Ft. W.I.T.C.H. ‘Can I Live?’
Rob Cave/Small Professor ‘Eastern Migration’
Salem Trials ‘Jc Cells’
Wish Master/Axel Holy Ft. Wundrop ‘FLIGHT MODE’
Alexander Stordiau ‘Nothing’s Ever Acquired’
Simon McCorry/Andrew Heath ‘Mist’
Andrei Rikichi ‘At Home I Hammer Ceramic Golfing Dogs’
OdNu ‘My Own Island’
Floorbrothers ‘In Touch’
Conformist X H O R S E S ‘Heddiw’
Slim Wrist ‘Milk Teeth’
Forest Robots ‘Everything Changes Color With The Rainfall’
Noah ‘Odette’
Yara Asmar ‘there is a science to days like these (but I am a slow learner)’
Tess Tyler/Spindle Ensemble ‘Origami Dogs (Graphic Score Interpretation)’
Christina Vantzou/Michael Harrsion/John Also Bennett ‘Piano On Tape’
Yemrot ‘Big Tree’







Album Review
by Graham Domain

The Bordellos ‘Ronco Revival Sound’  
(Metal Postcard Records)

This Gem of an album begins with the Slade-Glam-Stomp of ‘Ronco Revival Sound’ – a return to the innocent days of youth, the days of paper pounds, when we listened to radio 1 for the Charts and a smiling Gary G topped the charts with songs asking you to touch him and his silver platform boots! This song sticks in your head like a harpoon! After 3 plays I was singing along with all the words and imitating the fly-like synth noise! It is catchy, probably the most commercial song I’ve heard from the Bordellos’ and would make a great single!

Next, we have ‘Another Song Named Deborah’, a psychedelic masterpiece of Camberwick Green proportions – like Sid Barrett or Mark E Smith backed by the Byrds after imbibing several jelly tots! If Pulp had covered this song circa 1994 it would have been a huge hit! An uncredited Roger Whittaker, or a milkman, guests on whistling!

‘Fruitcakes and Furry Collars’ is a psychedelic bad trip – all discord and chocolate cake – the Velvets tripping over Pavement with Scott Walker dream-like lyrics – Fabulous!

‘Kinky Dee’ blasts out of the speakers like early Beck backed by the New York Dolls or the Telescopes mixed with Pavement, the MC5 and Suicide! Massive guitar chords chop through a song about love for Garage Rock, giving way to a discordant yet strangely tuneful chorus! At 1.45 min it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome! A song that gets more powerful with each play!

‘Who’s to Blame’ is an acoustic guitar ballad, like Daniel Johnston fronting New Model Army. It namechecks the Fall and reminisces about the days of the summer Manchester acid craze!

‘Sun Storm’ is a beautiful psychedelic love song underpinned by a stoned drum machine tripping on electrical power surges! My favourite song on the album, it reminds me of Beautify Junkyards, Julian Cope with hints of Traffic, the Moody Blues and Ash Ra Temple! Wonderful!

‘Weird K’ is another fabulous song, like Bob Dylan jamming with the Cure in an early morning comedown – tripped out Bliss!

The thing about the Bordellos is that, musically, they go wherever the mood takes them. ‘Nurse, the Screens!’ sounds like a song that Radiohead might do to wild applause! While ‘A Man You’ve Never Seen’ is a dark acoustic ballad that seems to be about depression with the protagonist intimating ‘This could be the darkest place I’ve ever been…’ and asking the question of his love ‘could you sleep

with a man you’ve never seen’, a man whose internal demons have surfaced once again, changing him, through no fault of anyone! It is a simple yet affecting song!

The album ends with a synth pop song not unlike New Order. ‘Temperature Drop’ hints at ‘Atmosphere’ and ‘Your Silent Face’, but is still a good song in its own right, with a great vocal.

On this album the Bordellos revel in the magic of music. If LA Woman brings to mind the West Coast of America, Ronco Revival Sound brings to mind the carefree hot summers of the North West of England, when climate change was just an imagined story plot in science fiction! Enjoy this album and be happy, be carefree, be alive!

ALBUM REVIEW
Andrew C. Kidd

Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison and John Also Bennett ‘Self-Tilted’
(Séance Centre)

The Séance Centre is one of those labels that rove. They are a little bit like Phaethon with headphones except that they are in control of the chariot. From the map-making Schleswig​-Holstein Aufnahmen (Phil Struck) to the modular musings of Kobzir (Oren Cantrell) and dubby zings of Le Sommeil Vertical (Shelter) they command a central place in the cobbled and too-often potholed ambient avenue of today. Bandcamp Daily even featured them in one of their revues last year. Before Dominic Valvona (Editor of The Monolith Cocktail) contacted me about this self-titled release, I had listened to Fly Me to the Moon (Joseph Shabason/ Vibrant Matter) during a Bandcamp lottery play day earlier this year.

So enter Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison and John Also Bennett with a very different sound. Their principal instrument is the piano, played by Harrison. There is clever use of droning synthetics by Bennett. Under Vantzou’s direction (or “observation”, as alluded to in the pre-release information provided by the label), their tri-synergy is powerful. It is a difficult sound to describe. I have tried a few different approaches to summarising what has been offered here. The creator of the faded geometric artwork that accompanies the album (Parul Gupta) is quoted as saying that “the songs feel like an extension of silence”. I think this is an accurate description.

The listener is immediately met by ‘Open Delay’, which wave-forms and disfigures to scale its octaves. Notes are held before being gently released. The left hand keys are altered and rustle quietly in the background. ‘Tilang (33SC)’ opens up to showcase more technical pianistic nous. A tilang is a classical Indian raga, or form of melodic improvisation. Both the ascent up (arohana) and descent down the scale (avarohana) are played here. The piano on this album is the string of a sitar, and the synth is the plucking of a tanpura.

There are beautifully expressive moments on the album, such as those played on ‘Bageshri’ and ‘Joanna’. More on ‘Bageshri‘ later. The piano notes of Joanna play atop a droning and subtly changing synth backdrop. The piano notes have an indefinable depth of feeling. I cannot tell if loss or joy was felt when the composer penciled this. I suppose it does not matter as each emotion inevitably self-circles to meet the other in the ceaseless sphere of life. This contrasts heavily with the discord of ‘Piano on Tape’. The left hand of the piano climbs a seemingly unattainable summit. It is masterfully contained.

Electronics feature heavily in tracks such as ‘Sirens’ and ‘Open Delay’. The former opens with a Vangelis-esque whorl of modular synths, as if wind is coursing through its coiled and interconnecting wires. There are analogue ‘Subotnicktronics’ that dial in later. The elongated acoustics melt in like long notes played on a future accordion where the ivories have been replaced by emotionally receptive faders. The album at times feels like a giant echo chamber.

‘Open Delay 2’ shares reverberances with its predecessor. It is more fragmented though, as if some of the wavelengths have been swallowed in the endless ether of space. The same can be said of the heptatonic ‘Harp of Yaman (33SC)’. When viewed on my music player, its amplitudes display as a sawtooth-like waveforms. The tone is not sharp but muted. Its denouement is an album highlight where deep bass notes gradually climb to grace note at the scale’s peak.

As previously alluded to, ‘Bageshri’ is beautiful. A bageshri is a raga that portrays the emotions of a lover’s reunion. In this piece we have the soft interplay of finely balanced notes that are sustained by clever foot peddling. An introspective motif appears around its halfway mark and expands to hit piercingly high top notes that tie. The frequencies do not exceed pianissimo or mezzo piano. A feeling of anticipation is invoked here. The entire piece also sits within a major key, which is joyous. It gently filters away in quasi niente. What a peaceful way to conclude this most delicate and modest of albums.

Following in the wake of his debut novel THE GREAT IMMUREMENT, which we serialised during the summer of 2020, Vukovar helmsman Rick ACV now follows up with the surreal, esoteric and challenging Astral Deaths & Astral Lights. Playing with format, language, font, with half-thoughts of waking hours and occult merge with dream-realism and a languid sense of discomfort: a sorry state of existence. William Blake and Austin Osman Spare meet Kōbō Abe in the hotel lobby portal of the never-world: personal and universal. Parts One & Two were debuted during August, followed up by Part Three. We continue with the next chapters, EVERYONE IS ENDED and IV below:

EVERYONE IS ENDED

“Now I live in a ghost world, enclosed in my dreams and imaginings.”

Images flash by.

A hidden backstory to be deciphered, hands reaching out to grasp at them and to them and put them all-together. 

There are 3 things, 3 beings and they attempt a film … but there must be death, Real-Death. Even though the world that has created these people… the person or people in that world… there has been Real-Death there.

And so in this imaginary world with these 3 imaginary filmmakers, their imaginary friend, as a result, is now a Dead-Friend and their only purpose in life cannot be completed.

They exist in a limbo far crueller than their eternal recurrence. 

Images become clearer. 

They were written into a script, that’s their existence. When the film opens, theirs and every other character’s in that script’s life begins. The film finishes, the credits roll; Everyone Is Ended.

And it begins again. But this now can’t happen.

IMAGES COME YET CLEARER.

They stop flashing and moving.

.

……..

..

…………………………………

.

I am frozen by a cerement of despair; the morosity and monstrosity is shared by all three of us, but not Charon, who awaits us further on. His flashing eyes gleam through the mid-winter, mid-morning, mid-mourning fog, directing us towards him. 

We know this scene, Grey, Nancy and I, but it feels as though Something Has Changed. Our collective De Ja Vu is not as nauseating, our futile existence not as repetitive. 

We walk silently side by side, exchanging solemn but reassuring looks now and again in place of the usual vindictive and often tedious words that blight our many conversations, funny as they may be to those who Witness Us. 

It feels as though we have wrestled back control from our Creators, from our destiny, from our all encompassing Purpose.

In reality, we have simply been forgotten about and left forever to wander and wonder.

The fog moves quickly and we can barely make out the lake, the perimeter of which our path naturally follows, and, so too we are blinded to the woodland that surround and are usually so beautiful and full of life. This is a cold, dark day.

Limnal hymns haunt our every movement and direction. 

The hard, coarse stones underfoot that form the ever-widening beach – itself an estuary to a barren Stone-Sea, which is our destination – occasionally pierce our feet; the pain is a mild self-flagellation to punctuate our silent affirmations that this is the Truest Of Choices.

We move towards Charon and Place To Rest.

Place To Rest for our Dead-Friend whom Nancy carries in an old, battered tin. She has to be strong as the ashes have been fighting to emerge for an eternity now.

Place To Rest for all of us.

As we come ever closer to Charon, we take formation; Nancy a couple of paces ahead with myself and Grey flanking. Nancy holds the tin with outstretched arms to warn Charon that this time…

…this time it is different.

I recall from the usual world, and then imbibe all of us in this one, of a passage:

‘Noone will suffer. I’ll save them all.’

Creators now become Cremators.

The daylight as strong as the potent meph these grievers snort whilst the salvaged and salvated body drifts through the air into the Chapel Of Ash.

There are many people but people-as-props for this – our – final attestment to thy testament.

Surrounded by voices. Surrounded by seers. Surrounded by voices.

The smoke into the atmosphere as the only real thing. Even though we must craft in clay, we first dream in smoke. The smoke envelops this whole Immortal Hour, this whole celebration, this whole play; A play that the cremated’s smoke itself has written and is now directing. 

The smoke is the metaphysical embodiment, entombing us, immuring us within The Great Immurement, to be held within until the crafting begins and the clay can take its place. The ashes are a physical monument, but nothing more. 

Besides, there are no differences between ashes.”

Our version and vision of Charon is a crazed old man, deranged and unhinged, seething with malevolent playfulness. But not today.

Today, he still rows his little wooden boat, gnarled with eternal age, but immune to external damage, and it is upon the wide expanse of stone and pebble on the water’s edge that he rows.

We climb aboard, our Dead-Friend and ourselves and we sit, together.

All is quiet; the liminal hymns are at one with the atmosphere.

We huddle.

The sun sets.

Soon we will all die and this time, never live again. 

Everything fades.

Everyone Is Ended.

IV

There is often fear of ‘The Bed’. The fear is growing of ‘The Bed’.

I’m not there. I can’t go there. Is the partner on it? Trying to coax me to ‘The Bed’, as though it’s some normal thing, some normal place to go to at the end of the day?

There is no security, not even a false sense. ‘The Bed’ should be avoided at all costs. There is no rest there. 

How can it be sleep and rest when all I do is see through other waking eyes, in other waking worlds?

Another note from Another Place:

“As we get older and more time has passed, we become attached to the ideals of people rather than the people themselves, as we understand that they cannot fulfil what we require of them, and learn how to find fulfilment, instead, within ourselves. Then we become more detached to those things that mean nothing, turning instead to nothingness, the things and places that lie beyond the Veil.

These things and places are not wondrous. It is a crushing vastness that is impossible to navigate but exciting to explore, and, in return, to be explored by.

When the crushing vastness decides we can neither offer nor fake any more of ourselves, our life is taken from us and given to something new.

This is not our decision.”

One more here in fact… this by another’s hand… all battered and bruised… blood drips…

“I am scared to death

Scared to death of death;

to unexist after all i’ve lived learned loved … the thought of this

is a source of great depression

of cut hands

of night falls fast

PLEASE GOD

XXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX     MY GREATEST WISH IS TO 

NOW LIVE EVERYONE IN EVERYTIME EVERYWHEN AND EVERYWHERE 

until unexistence is escaped and I may always 

be.

Just to be, forever, is all I want.

STEPS HAVE ALREADY BEEN MADE.”

Did I write this?

Please, God.

ALBUM REVIEW
DOMINIC VALVONA

No Age ‘People Helping People’
(Drag City) 16th September 2022

Fucked-over like the rest of us during the Covid pandemic, the drum and guitar pushing No Age partnership of Randy and Dean lost their original studio space of the last decade. Forced to take up space in Randy’s garage instead, the duo set out on another sonic adventure of both languid and more weighted slacker angst, pain and dismissal.

Six albums into a feted career that began sixteen years ago, No Age have lasted the course and maintained their thirst for experiment; taking that drum, guitar and vocal combo further than most. And for the first time ever the new optimistically, daresay hopeful, entitled People Helping People album is entirely recorded by the duo themselves.

They bookend it with two of the most dreamy resonating instrumental pieces: the first, ‘You’re Cooked’ envelopes and traverses cylindrical vaporous loops, reversed sucked-in guitar sonics and sparse drum pad hits, the second, ‘Andy Helping Andy’ is even more psychedelically sleepy and ghostly; a wistfully aching and hazy vision that could have easily soundtracked the recent Netflix documentary, The Andy Warhol Diaries. The former reminded me of the Liars Aaron Hemphill and his solo Nonpareil project, the latter, like a languorous, quite sad waft of remembrance. The Warhol track is actually among my favourites. Over time it gets better and better, more evocative on every play.

So, No Age continue to change the mood, waiting until well into the album’s second track, ‘Compact Flashes’, to open up the vocal valves, chase wild horses and skid, clash and clatter with sporadic free fall jazz spills, new wave sensibilities and a loosened concept of timing. It is however a continuous balance of those stirring instrumental fogs, wisps and a rolling, fanned and disjointed unique vision of scuzz, garage, punk, grunge, shoegaze and music that no ones quite been able to name convincingly yet.

If you could even call them reference points, there’s a taste of the already mentioned Liars, a guzzle fuzz of Lou Reed (‘Violence’), Iggy period Stooges and Dylan if he’d be born as a generation Xer snot rocker (‘Flutter freer’), Crispy Ambulance (in many places) and Rudolf Sosna’s scratchy guitar work on the Faust albums (‘Plastic (You Want It)’).

At times on a lo fi vibe and at other times pushing at the halcyon, No Age keep moving, keep navel gazing and keep on surprising.  Just when you get a sense of direction they change tact, plant a new seed. On waves, in bombardments and fizzled petulance the duo redefine their sound and push the envelope a little further forward down the road. 

DOMINIC VALVONA’S ECLETIC REVUE

Al-Qasar ‘Who Are We?’
(Glitterbeat Records) 16th September 2022

Bubbling up from the Barbès Algerian enclave of Paris (the 18th Arrondissment boulevard that’s home to the yet to be gentrified and tourist-friendly passed Little Algeria community) and crisscrossing continents, the Al-Qasar group fuzz-up and electrify the sound of Arabia and its diaspora.

Helmed by instigator-in-chief Thomas Attar Bellier that neighborhood bustle is elevated and blasted back out into the world at large, absorbing and picking up sonic waves, spikes from Northeast Africa to a hardcore California and a rich tasting Sublime Porte.

It all helps of course that Attar Bellier is a global nomad, having lived in New York, Lisbon and Paris, but also having worked in the recording studios of L.A. during that circumnavigation of multicultural living he produced enough tracks of his own, releasing the well-received Miraj EP.

I get the impression that this is a fluid project, but at the time of this, the debut longplayer, Attar Bellier has opened up the ranks to include Jaouad El Garouge on vocals and a number of instruments synonymous with Moroccan Gnwa and North African traditions, Guillaume Théoden on bass and sub-bass duties, Nicolas Derolin on a myriad of percussive and hand drum instruments and Paul Void on drums. That seems the core anyway, but in this electric saz tangling and psychedelic post-punk rich sound there’s a cast of guest pioneering musicians to add yet another layer, another sonic perspective.

From the start there’s Sonic Youth’s guitar-sculptor Lee Ranaldo providing multi-layers of sustain, whines and abrasions to both the opening Swans meet Faust squall turn spindled and more familiar Middle Eastern electric fez intro ‘Awtar Al Sharq’, and the second, dervish-spun spirited and phlegm-voiced tour of Anatolia, The Balkans and Arabia, ‘Awal’.

That legend of the California punk scene, miscreant Dead Kennedys founder Jello Biafra goes free-radical on the staccato jangling ‘Ya Malak’. In a kind of John Sinclair mode, he reads out a poignant translation of a poem by the famous Egyptian revolutionary poet Ahmed Fouad Negam, updated for the cataclysmic state of the world in 2022, and the crumbled, violently oppressed post Arab Spring. This is where, despite the Cairo-futurism, the rattled and slapped hand drum energy, that the political motivations, the despair and anger comes to the fore; all that history, the post-colonial tumult and also fall-out from an Arabian-wide protest movement seeking modernization, the right to earn and end to greed. Read through a tiny transistor style radio Biafra’s agitator spirit turns this into a sort of Arabian Fugazi.

Moving on, but just as political, the New York-based Sudanese vocal doyen Alsarah (of Alsarah & The Nubatones renown) brings her impressive expressive outpourings and trill to the rattlesnake desert song ‘Hobek Thawrat’. In that soulful, rising loved-yearned voice there’s a protest against the coup on her homeland, the chorus itself repeating a slogan from the recent demonstrations. A sound of the Sahel, the women folk of Tinariwen and a little Bab L’Bluz Gnawa hover over this beautifully delivered protestation.

It runs throughout, this sound’s birthplace, but Al-Qasar pay a special homage on the (so good they name it twice) ‘Barbès Barbès’, which also features the electric oud pioneer Mehdi Haddab (of Speed Caravan note). Metal work drums, a nice rolling groove and souk candour prove a friendly hustled soundtrack for a meander in the heavily African outpost. Haddab gets a solo of a kind, providing a romanticized, poetic and folksy oud, with bursts of blurred quickened neat fretwork that borders on Baba ZuLu style psychedelic rock.

The finale, ‘Mal Wa Jamal’, features the longing ached vocals of the Egyptian singer Hend Elrawy soaring over an inspirial organ and almost post-punk push. Elraway’s beautiful wails prove disarming as the song’s lyrics concern a female-centric outlook on prostitution and its consequences. There’s attitude certainly, but it’s all wrapped up in a fizzled, fuzzy and mystical film of Arabian dance and fantasy. No surprise that they’ve been added to the Glitterbeat Records label roster, an imprint for just this sort of fusion; one in which you’ll hear an Arabic Muscle Shoals merging with Anatolian psych, a touch of Electric Jalaba and Şatellites if remixed by Khalab. A brilliant package of transformed traditions wrapped up in electrifying futurism; the sounds of Arabia, North Africa and beyond are thrust into a dynamic, unifying and eclectic direction. 

Clear Path Ensemble ‘Solar Eclipse’
(Soundway Records)  9th September 2022

Out of the Wellington jamming session hothouse incubator and blossoming jazz scene in New Zealand Cory Champion rides the sun-birched rays and waves to cook-up a congruous album of many flavours. From a knowing position the jazz percussionist flows freely between a 70s ECM back catalogue of inspirations and the funk, fusion, spiritual and more freeform genres of his chosen art form.

Under the Clear Path Ensemble alias – his second such alias, also going under the Borrowed CS title when making leftfield deep house and techno cuts – Champion channels both Latin and Uniting Of Opposites style brassy Indian reverberations on the golden ‘Kihi’; offers up an acid jazz turn retro zippy-zappy late 70s disco funk fusion on ‘Drumatix’; and magic’s up a post-Bitches Brew Mile Davis band mystery of African-flavoured marimba and jug-poured, lava-lamp liquid cosmic spiritualism on ‘Revolutions’. But the mood, musicality changes again when we reach the jazzy-suspense score ‘Absolvo’: an early 70s cool cult vision of a Lalo Schifrin thriller.  

The finale, ‘Tennis Ball’, could be said to have taken Liquid Liquid’s percussion, beats and a bit of the Style Council’s laidback washy soul-funk. And the dreamy seasonal solstice ‘Sunrise Motif’ finds a blend of the Modern Jazz Quartet, the willowy fluted bucolic and Nate Morgan. All the while translucent bulb-like notes flow or float from the vibraphone as other light-footed percussive vibrations dance and softly quicken the pace.    

A harp run here and muffled, mizzle sax or trumpet there; a touch of electric piano and pining strings on anther track; all elements that come together across a changing groove.

Clive Zanda meets a less busy Michael Urbaniek on a minor jazz odyssey of nostalgic but very much alive and contemporary fusions, Champion’s second album in this role is a sophisticated, smooth but also freeform set of moods, visions and counterflows. It proves a perfect fit for the eclectic and much-praised Soundway label.

Forest Robots ‘Supermoon Moonlight Part Two’
(Subexotic)

After an initial redolent arpeggiator wave of Roedelius, a rainbow of trance, vapoured breathed coos and transience follows, marking what will be an entirely different kind of record for the Californian electronic artist and topographical trekker Fran Domingeuz.

Under the Forest Robots alias/umbrella, Fran has produced numerous adroit, studied and evocative ambient and neoclassical soundtracks to the myriad of landscapes and forest trials he’s traversed over the years. As the world dramatically succumbed to a global pandemic, and the chance to escape to the wilds became scarce, the signature form stayed but now the music was suddenly a therapy and a vehicle for channeling the anxiety, stresses of such uncertain times.

Now (thankfully) with the worse behind us, Fran emerges with the ‘long gestating’ follow-up to Part One of his Supermoon Moonlight suites from 2018. Although recording sessions for Part Two started back in 2019 it has taken a while to finally process the last couple of years and to finish and release this beautifully conceived album of suffused and uplifting hope.

The geography and National Geographic almanac proverb-like and Zen titles remain (‘All The Rivers Born In The Mountains’, ‘Wind Always Runs Wilder Along The River’s Current’) but the underlying theme has Fran exploring the complexities of parenthood and the ‘kind of spiritual and emotional legacy a father would wish to leave for his kids.’ A warming sentiment and inspired prompt makes for a very different kind of album though. From the same gifted mind and ear yet swimming in the sine waves of trance, synth-pop, 90s techno and dance music this is relatively a new but welcoming direction, expansion on his signature sound.

Upbeat as much as reflective, the feel is often dreamy; the gravity and awe of nature gently present; cut-out mountainsides, flowing connective rivers and a canopy of redwoods, the stage is set as stars shoot across the night skies and moonbeams illuminate.

In the slipstream and bubbled undulations The Beloved shares space with The Orb, Stereolab, 808 State, Sakamoto, Vince Clarke, Boards Of Canada, I.A.O., the Aphex Twin and Ulrich Schnauss. This is a beautiful combination that filters the aftermath of the rave culture, the burgeoning British minimal techno scene of the early 90s Warp label, 80s synth-pop and electronic body music. Yet there’s room for a certain crystallised chilled sparkle of the Chromatics and the Drive time moody, ruminated dry-ice scores of Cliff Martinez within that beat-driven glow. And the elements of charcoal fires crisply burning and flickering, and the poured waters have a certain Luc Ferrari influence – albeit far less avant-garde.

Playful and sophisticated with a surprising dance-y pulse and radiant outlook, Part Two should act as a testimony to an inspired and inspiring composer. I think his kids will be rightly proud of their dad and his musical legacy: electronic music with a soul and purpose.      

Machine ‘S-T’
(WEWANTSOUNDS)

Back again in The Perusal (becoming a 2022 regular) those vinyl specialists at WEWANTSOUNDS have remastered and pressed that rarest-of-rare conscious-soul-funk LPs, the obscure assembled Machine’s self-titled debut (and only) album from 1972.

The rumour-mill is strong on this one; the cause of its £500 plus price tag on Discogs believed to be a result of either a very limited release or no release at all – shelved as it were. It could be down to the sheer quality of the competition, arriving as it did in the wake of similar social-political soul as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly (but also his albums previous to that). Both prove a massive influence on this smooth and funky eight-track showcase.  

What we do know however is that the make up of this group included a trio of well-rehearsed session players from the All Platinum Studios stable in New Jersey. That included main man Michael Watson on vocals and guitar, bass-player Curtis McTeer (also playing with labelmates The Rimshots) and drummer Donald McCoy, who were then fattened out with the organist/pianist Ray Jones, another bassist, Frank Prescod, and both Dee and Cordy Pridges on horns. On the same label and one of the most established, successful acts The Whatnauts lent both their backing vocalists and, rather oddly, their manager (credited on percussion) Bunch Herndon to this widening lineup. And on top of all that, the notable Sammy Lowe (arranging for such distinguished company as Nina Simone, Sam Cooke and James Brown) offers a subtle suite of strings to the mix, taking it down the Rotary Connection route.

The Whatnauts prove a pretty integral ingredient to the Machine track list, lending both the ‘Only People Can Save The World’ and ‘Why Can’t People (Be Color Too?)’ songs to the album. Machine keep the sentiment of both, but add both an almost bucolic and pastoral gospel-rayed yearn to the first, and up the Gator funk and Stevie Wonder boogie on the Sly Stone on-message second.

They open on the relaxed but simmered Southern-funk-hits-the-streets-of-NYC style ‘Time Is Running Out’. Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s buzzy licks meet Maxayn attitude sass, sweet sax and touch of ‘Brotherman’ The Final Solution on a conscious-political workout – the repeated vocal refrain apparently ad-libbed.

Very much of its time and again on-message, ‘World’ tunes into the Vietnam War and its impact on and confliction with the African-American community. The actual groove is quite percussive with a touch of The Temptations Psychedelic Shack, Mayfield and The Meters.

There’s a seagull hovering harbor scene, not a million miles away from Otis’ wistful gaze, on the gear-changing ‘Trails’. It starts with that atmospheric rumination, a hint of the Latin and some romantic allusions before quickening into a banjo-rhythmic strumming West coast jive. It then goes on to wail and cry with a sequel of electric guitar. ‘Lock Your Door’ however could be a lost Northern Soul dancer, and the balladry pined ‘Boots In The Snow’ is another of those Marvin Gaye try-outs, with a touch of 70s Motown.

An enervated Nat Turner, Undisputed Truth, Mary Jane Hooper, Johnny Pate with those Mayfield and Gaye inspirations, Machine stepped-out to lead their own socially conscious project. But whilst the elements are all present, the sound isn’t quite unique enough, overshadowed as they were by a multitude of bands/artists working in the same groove and message. Still, at least you can now own a real rarity without forgoing this month’s rent, gas or mortgage payment. And it’s well worth a spin at that.

Noah ‘Noire’
(Flau Records) 26th August 2022

Ever the diaphanous siren of soothed vaporous experiments and song, the Hokkaido-born artist Noah once more drifts and floats across a sophisticated combination of futuristic etudes and distilled electronica. Following on from the beautiful balletic-inspiredÉtoile (given a glowing review by my good self), this latest emanation of whispered and cooed translucence is just as lovely and swathed in dreamy effects.

A collection of tracks from between a pre-Covid era of 2015-2020, the Noire album is awash with studied yet effortless sounding sonic theme variations; a nine-track congruous suite that riffs on Noah’s signature of ghostly plinky-plonked semi-classical piano (occasionally an electronic one by the sounds of it) and minimal 808-style synthesized waves, percussion and bobbled beats.

Noah’s breathless vocals and atmospherics seem to be reaching us from the ether: often just the reverberations of some distant hazy whisper. The opening transparent slow spiral ‘Twirl’ could be a distant relation to Julee Cruise; an enchanted but haunted echo from a palatial ballroom, yet still highly intimate. ‘Odette’ oozes languorous modern soul and R&B, like Solange drifting over the Boards of Canada.

Undulated by softened kinetic ratchets, screws and turns there’s a coming together of purposeful techno and more rhythmic retro house beats, enervated as to never overpower the general woozy and beautifully longing mood. 

Shorter reflections, pieces are balanced by extended tracks and the heavenly, bobbing and echoed looped single ‘Gemini – Mysterious Lot’; the sound relaxing as it moves from transformed Sakamoto to cool dreamy pop.

Remaining something of an enigma Noah appears and then floats away, leaving a lingering presence with music created in a dream. Noire is another great, captivating showcase for that talent.

Lampen ‘S-T’
(We Jazz) 9th September 2022

A re-release of a kind, in case you both missed it the first time around or because of its limited run on CD, the free and post-jazz Finnish duo Lampen are now offering their 2020 self-titled album on vinyl for the first time – a very nice package it is too.

I would be one of those people that did miss it the first time around, and so I now find myself discovering its highly experimental, explorative qualities, imbued as they are by the Japanese art of “kintsugi” (or “golden joinery”), the repairing art of mending areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver and platinum. As much a philosophy as a method of repair, the breaks and cracks are treated and documented rather than disguised or thrown away.

The binding metal dust is like a woven vein and testament to that object’s knocks and history. With all its obvious metaphors the Lampen lads are less than careful, seeming to deconstruct and rebuild simultaneously in an act of free-spirited concentration: if that makes sense. For they break and stretch the performances yet, because their craft is obviously brilliant, they seem to always be in unison, synchronicity throughout.

Across five crawling and more crescendo splashed tracks, guitarist Kelle Kalima and percussionist/sampler Tatu Rönkkö rattle and wane; bend and set in motion a tumult of krautrock, progressive, industrial, post-punk, psychedelic and avant-garde workouts and soundtracks. In abandoned rusted turbine dominated factories, mysterious chambers but also hovering over lunar terrains Lampen evoke hints of Rhyton, Peter Giger, Krononaut, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Orchestra, King Crimson, Faust and The Mosquitoes. All good and appealing to those like me longing to hear jazz pushed into such directions.

Rather surprisingly, amongst the sustained drones, harmonic pings and sculpting Kalima’s guitar bursts into acid-country indie-rock territory – think, of all people, John Squire on the Stone Roses second album. There’s even spots of no wave and dub to be found emerging from various tangents and untethered directions.

Impressive throughout, whether that’s in slow motion or more maelstrom driven bursts, Lampen’s debut album is a barely contained, unnerving in places, cranium-fuck of excellent moody jazz and industrial resonating experiment. Second time around then, the duo offer us another chance to indulge in their brand of unbridled post-jazz. I think you should take them up on the offer.

Qrauer ‘Odd Fazes’
(Nonostar) 22nd September

Following on from their debut Heeded showcase for Alex Stolze’s burgeoning Nonostar label back in April, arrives an extended debut album from the German electronic duo Qrauer, who transduce chamber music, the semi-classical and percussive into a sophisticated transformation of minimalist-techno and intelligent EDM suites.

The combined, refined but ever open skills of percussionist, producer and remixer Christian Grochau and his foil the pianist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Ludwig Bauer come together to fluidly remodel their chosen instruments into a both mindful and danceable work of electroacoustic moods and soundscape sonic worlds.

Instead of a pulled-together album of 12”’s and mixes and the like, Odd Fazes feels like a complete journey from beginning to end, with shorter more ambient gazing vignettes alongside longer more evolving pieces. And so you have the trance-y, droned and transformed glitch-y orchestral spell of the incipient stirring ‘Reg. Capture’ followed immediately by the polyrhythmic, clean percussive and galvanized EDM noirish ‘Drumthrives’. Or the Drukqs era Aphex Twin piano – played on a distant echo-y stage – beautifully, but slightly off-kilter, resonating ‘Fuq’ following on from the Artificial Intelligence series trance and suspense soundtrack ‘Cool Edit’. This offers a variation and nice set of breaks between the more techno pumped movers and sonic imaginations.

Later on, Nonostar labelmate Anne Müller adds her swoonstress cello to a couplet of evocative tracks. The first of which, ‘Rund’, has an air of the Aphex Twin (again) about it. Circling bowl rings, kinetic twists and percussive itches are woven into a mild tempo EDM pulse as Müller’s trembled and attentive cello saws and plucks are turned into repeating, recontextualized beats or motifs. On ‘Oval’ the adroit, experimental cellist seems to revive some of her stirring, pining gravitas from the Solo Collective project she shares with both Nonostar founder Stolze and, another labelmate, Sebastian Reynolds. There’s also a hint, I think, of fellow cellist and experimental artist Simon McCorry too on this deeply felt mournful piece.  

Multi-textured with a constant movement and undulated beat that builds and builds yet never settles for the predictable euphoric, anthem moment, there’s a lot of clever, purposeful work at play. I haven’t even mentioned the layers of satellite and moon-bending refractions, nor the cosmic flares, the droplets of notes, cooed waveforms, fizzes and experimental recondite sound sources that have been meticulously thought-out. Again, just like the Heeded EP, the debut album is another cerebral rework of electronic body music, techno, EDM and the classical; a complete dancefloor-ready and mindful journey. 

Simon McCorry ‘Scenes From The Sixth Floor’
(Shimmery Moods)

Turning the worries and mental strains of ill health into something creatively rewarding, the highly prolific cellist sound sculptor and composer Simon McCorry is thankfully back on the experimental electronic scene after a stay in hospital last Christmas. After a period of healing, recuperation, McCorry assembles a sort of soundtrack to that worrying, anxious period.

Following a loose ‘mental thread’ (as he puts it) Scenes From The Sixth Floor is an evocative and ruminating work of both studied ambient peregrinations and post-club techno comedowns; beginning with the cult kosmische drop through Tarkovsky’s glass portal, ‘Falling Through The Mirror Backwards’. Part illusion, part Moebius scores Hitchcock’s Spellbound, it’s the sound of our composer freefalling through a gauzy blanket, unable to latch onto the sides or gain traction as he spirals in sedated state to earth. Yet this there’s also no panic, rather a hallucinatory feel.

The next track, ‘Fragmentation’, is the first of two pieces developed from previous commissions/projects. Originally, albeit loosely, based on a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party dance piece, the landscape on this piece is less Lewis Carroll surrealism and more an evolving soundtrack that absorbs Bleiche Brunnen period Asmus Tietchens, Bernard Szajner sci-fi, Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter and Sven Vath.  From the primal liquid blobs to the supernatural and futuristic, McCorry creates a whole atmospheric world before building steadily towards a patter beat of early 90s set techno (R&S/Harthouse).

Another developed idea, ‘The Sea Of Stories’ takes its cue from Philip Ridley’s feted Moon Fleece book – an intense and thrilling exploration of memory and identity. One of the only tracks with which you can hear a mostly untreated, transformed as it is, cello, McCorry’s instrument of virtuoso choice aches and arches movingly whilst a constant arpeggiator waterfall cascades onto shimmered, light catching waves. Be careful, if you close your eyes you could just find yourself carried away on the tide.

Up above now to the skies and the stirring and soaring ‘The Secret Life Of Clouds’. A beautiful if almost little mysterious, unsure passage, I picked up Schulze, Frosse and even a touch of Air Liquide on this natural phenomenon. But it’s Roedelius’ fairground piped style of playfulness and new classical analogue electronica that’s felt on the arpeggiator-bounced ‘Surfacing’; although this mood changes with another of those post-club undulations, pitter-pattering way at the end.    

Tubular marimba and small thrusts of Kriedler and Pyrolator make up the mid-temp techno styled ‘Earth Best’, and the angrier entitled ‘Day Of Wrath’ has a certain European yearn and another echo of Roedelius’ whistled Bavarian fairground vibes. The cello, which remains pretty much hidden throughout the album, now starts to materialize, producing a weepy bowed melody and sense of purpose.  Constantly enriching the ambient genre and beyond McCorry has bounced back with a reflective and developed soundtrack of perfectly crafted and moving compositions, some of which contain a certain mystery, dreamy-realism that remains to be deciphered. Proving the cello still has some way to go as an imaginative and explorative tool, the gifted player finds new tones, textures and spells of magic to further that instrument’s sound, use and reach. It’s good to have him back is all I can say. And this album further cements an already impressive reputation as a true innovator and master of the form.  

REZO ‘Sew Change’
30th September 2022

Shy of just eighteen months the Irish duo of REZO follow up last year’s debut album Travalog with another relaxed, gentle-of-touch songbook, Sew Change. The seeds of this particular brand of disarming but deeply moving craft were sown from a distance, with both partners in this project recording their parts in separate locations on that debut. Nothing quite concentrates the mind as an epidemic and its confinement, and so the introspection flowed on that record, which despite the distance geld perfectly: in keeping with both musician’s Ireland and Med environments, the music effortlessly blended a touch of the Balearics with more soft-peddled Americana and singer-songwriter material.

As a sort of bridge back to Travalog, the spoken-word return down memory lane family themed ‘You Are What You Wear’ repurposes the sleepy, laidback rolled and Damon Alban-esque with a lick of Baxter Dury ‘Life During Lockdown’ backing. Only this time there’s an additional soulful female cooed chorus and the subject is Colm O’Connell’s family-run knitwear factory in the city centre of Dublin. Within that idyllic-natured return to a more carefree childhood, the whole gamut of life, death and remembrance is narrated both fondly and poignantly.

Concentrating on what’s most important, attempting to right some wrongs and holding one’s hands up to past mistakes, Colm and his foil Rory McDaid ease through some highly sensitive subjects to a musical accompaniment of Americana (once more), synthesized shading and gentle spacey takeoff sparkles, enervated bobbing dance music, piano-led balladry and wistful acoustics. However, within that scope they evoke a Muscle Shoals spiritual Rolling Stones, and a little Billy Preston, on the gospel organ sustained (with a cheeky hint of ‘Let It Be’ I might add) ‘I’m Not Enough’.      

Talking of the sensitive, and careful not to cancel themselves in the process, the duo filter their concerns on the increasingly problematic and volatile theme of cancel culture on the Med-twanged, gauzy ‘Erays’. Like passing through gargled spacy waters and a dry-ice machine they make sure to carefully word their take; misspelling “Erase” as a nod to rays of sunshine and hope in this struggle over censorship. They also seem to tackle teenage suicide and mental health issues on the iconic Dublin Nine Arches set drama ‘Boy On A Bridge’, and explore the grief of dementia by marrying solo McCartney to the Eels on the synth undulating ‘Sometimes’.

Already included on July’s monthly playlist, ‘Your Truth’ still stands out as one of the album’s best offerings. On a song about the cost of “freeing your mind”, or the indulgences of going too far, that Americana feel is taken in a novel direction with softly padded congas, a smooth bass and veil of psychedelic-indie ala later MGMT – I’m also positive I can also hear a touch of TV On The Radio.

In its entirety Sew Change is a completely realised album of reminisces, reflections and softly hushed reconciliations, set to a gentle wash of the spiritual, Irish snug and saloon bar piano, a lilted Dylan-esque lyrical cadence (see the nativity-evoked ‘Hiding In Plain View’) and hazy suffusion of synth. The duo expand the palette without upsetting the formula to produce a complimentary follow-up every bit as slowly captivating.  

John Howard ‘From The Far Side Of A Far Miss’
(Kool Kat)  9th September 2022

Following in the slipstream of his third and final volume of memoirs (In The Eyeline Of Furtherance) the singer-songwriter John Howard, with the wind in his sails, is back with yet another album. But instead of the usual songbook formula this is a continuous one-track work of disarming, gentle brilliance that runs to over thirty-five minutes.

You could say it was a return to Howard’s long form songwriting experiments of 2016 and the Across The Door Sill album, or perhaps even a reaction to (one of his heroes of the form) Bob Dylan and his Boomer odyssey ‘Across The Rubicon’, which more or less charts an entire epoch. Howard is a bit younger than Dylan of course, but both artists seem to be making some of their best work at this stage in their lives: uncompromising and unburdened by expectation or the need to suck up to fashions, labels, even the public they share an envious position. That Dylan mini-opus only lasted a mere seven-minutes in comparison, whilst Howard’s grand effort runs and runs, covering as it does a lifetime as a proxy soundtrack to his series of autobiographies.

Far more melodious than his hero’s reflections, this scrapbook photo album reminisce features Howard’s signature balladry-troubadour and stage musical verve of poetically candid prose, sung both wistfully and with a certain yearn.

Love is all though as Howard sets scene after scene, analogy after analogy; reconciling his past to a watery-mirrored piano-led score that’s constantly moving, picking up suffused strings, Dylan’s harmonica, a bucolic burnished harpsichord, a planetarium mood piece starry synth and light dabbing’s of congas and shaker. In what could be a reference to his own semi-cover version album Cut The Wire, there’s a hint of the Incredible String Band and also Roy Harper about this extended performance; especially Howard’s version of the former’s ‘In The Morning’. Later on it’s a lilt of The Beach Boys, bobbing on the “ripples of forever” line. Yet it’s unmistakably a John Howard sound, a lovingly executed piece of songwriting that more than holds its own across thirty-five minutes plus of ebbing drama.

But this is also a two-way conversation with Howard playing both sides of a long affair; the part of old lovers and new, friends, acquaintances and family, their words echoing now in the mists of the time that’s left. Dylan, that recurring idol, acts as a silent partner in one such discourse, as Howard sings about artistic integrity and his inspirations, a pantheon of uncompromising doyens. And in that same particular passage we also have Monroe and the Fab Four popping up; a Hard Days Night Beatles name-checked in what is both a celebrated yet fraught with delusion and remembrance chapter on this long winding road.

I particularly enjoyed the more salt-of-the-earth café scene diorama; Howard in voyeuristic mode describing a very unlikely cast, using both a kid who’s reading a Russian literary titan and a priest faraway in reflective thought (perhaps regret) as conduits for naming even more idols and favourites: “The kid who’s reading Tolstoy, listening to The Rolling Stones; I can hear old Jagger’s laughter floating from his phone.” Great lines by the way. The priest is “remembering Bowie’s Low”, which could of course be a reference to the same priest featured in the lyrics to ‘Five Years’ now contemplating a life that’s perhaps not all it seems.

Addressing, redressing whilst swanning through fantasies of a swish Ritz, 5th Avenue and Caesars Palace, imaging an alternative stratospheric career trajectory, headlining the Albert Hall, Howard takes us on a rolling, fluctuating journey through of his thoughts, dreams (realized and abandoned), regrets and hurt. By the end of this epic piece the final phrase, sung in a lasting glow, says it all: “It simply is what it always was”. Dylan couldn’t have put it much better.

An ambitious undertaking, From The Far Side Of A Far Miss is the work of an artist still willing to take chances and explore. Whilst his peers rely on the back catalogue, or drum out the same music they made over fifty plus years ago, Howard seems entirely comfortable in his own skin as a wiser yet still spritely young-at-heart artist composing music on his own terms. Fresh new introspections, concepts abound as he shows there’s still so much more to share and create.

Yara Asmar ‘Home Recordings 2018-2021’
(Hive Mind Records) 16th September 2022

The latest discovery on the Hive Mind radar emanates from Beirut, with the serialism and tonal atmospheres, ambient and minimal semi-classical melodies of Yara Asmar.

In a tumultuous climate, referenced in a sampled conversation piece on ‘Is An Okay Number’ and in the unsaid but moody reflections and vaporous drifts that push out into the unknown and untethered, the twenty-five year old multi-instrumentalist, video artist and puppeteer manages to often leave the earthly mess of a region in crisis and float out above the city.

From an airy viewing platform we can identify swirls, waves, gauzy veils and echoes of the concertinaed (courtesy of Asmar’s grandparents’ accordion), tubular metallic rings and tingles (that will be the metallophone), a serious but graceful piano, a music box, hinges and searing gleams and a beatified magical spell of Christian church liturgy. The latter source was recorded by Asmar from church hymnal services around the Lebanon; transduced into the hallowed yet otherworldly and mysterious, given a gentle waltz-like ghostly quality and only sense of a presence. A reference to country’s much troubled religious turmoil? The art of remembrance? Spiritualism? Or the familiar sounds of an upbringing? Whatever the reason it sounds both equally as ethereal, as it does supernatural: passages into other realms.

Tracks like ‘We Put Her In A Box And Never Spoke Of It Again’ are almost lunar in comparison to those hymns; lending a moon arc of Theremin-like UFO oscillations and cult library cosmic scores to this set of peregrinations and field-recordings. Yet for the most part this is a truly dreamy, translucent and amorphous album of delicate classicism, explorative percussion and ambient; an ebb and flow of reverberations and traces of moods, thoughts that literally floats above the clouds and out beyond the Lebanese borders. These home recordings recorded onto cassettes and a mobile phone capture something quite unique, in what are the most unique of times.   

Valentina Magaletti & Yves Chaudouët ‘Batterire Fragile’
(Un-Je-Ne-Sais-Quoi) 23rd September 2022

Is it performance art or just performance? Probably both as the lauded drummer extraordinaire Valentina Magaletti once more sits behind the artist Yves Chaudouët’s conceptualized porcelain drum kit.

If you follow either of these artists then you’ll know that this is the second installment of recordings to be taken from the original project back in 2017. Conceived by the painter turn multimedia artist Chaudouët as an exploration in texture and friction, wood, metal and rubber were all added to the porcelain kit; the effects of which, in the hands of such an accomplished musician traverse the concrete, avant-garde, art rock, breakbeat, the classical and freeform and dark jazz.

It’s been a couple of years since I last featured the highly prolific composer/producer and percussionist Magaletti, featuring her ‘tropical concrete’ communal with Marlene Riberio, Due Matte. In this space Magaletti continuously rattles, rolls, skids, skiffles, dusts and lays spidery tactile rhythms and strokes down as mooning, wailed and frayed bowed primal supernatural atmospherics stir.

We could be in Southeast Asia, Tibet or West Africa, even the Caribbean with passages that sound like steel drums bouncing away. We could also be in a subterranean chamber as resonating echoes of this tinny, metallic and deadened kit ricochet of the walls. Reductionist theatre, ceramic jazz, a paranormal drumming séance, the mood isn’t always easy to gauge. But as experimental as it is Magaletti is constantly rhythmic throughout; switching yet always hitting a beat, and even in some parts something that resembles a groove. An exercise on concept but also percussive, drumming performance, this collaboration straddles both the art and musical camps to bring us something quite different yet always engaging, interesting and virtuoso.  

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 ROUNDUP

SINGLES/TRACKS

Alexander Stordiau ‘Nothings Ever Required’
(Timeless Music Records)

‘Nothings Ever Required’ is a gem of a aural discovery; a moody piece of John Carpenter-esque solitude over five minutes of pure instrumental poetry. The kind of mood piece to soundtrack the passing daylight by watching passing strangers walk past the old coffee house window trying to read the faces, read their thoughts, lost in your memories, and hopes slowly making the coffee last, cusping it in your warms to keep in the warmth, with Alexander Stordiau gently caressing the shifting time of loneliness.

It’s Karma It’s Cool ‘A Gentle Reminder’

‘Gentle Reminder’ is a in fact a gentle reminder that pop music is a wonderful thing, as this tuneful little ditty shows three and a half minuets of perfectly formed guitar pop rock, with a Peter Holsapple guesting on keyboards – that is in fact one of the highlights of the track  – giving this perfectly formed pop rock of a song a slight new wave sense of danger.

Anxiolytics ‘S​{​R​}​[​C​]​O​[​{​T​}​[​R​]​CHED EARTH’

Anxiolytics are an experimental synth duo from North Wales and have an evil but lovingly portrayed glint in their eye I bet, this single being a strange and haunting affair that takes me back to the post punk early 80s of the Passage and Soft Cell and offers something both original and different; a song that has a cold warmness that will smother and intoxicate you with a germ ridden freshness that has not been inhaled since the passing of the great David R Edwards and the wonder that was Datblygu. Once again I am left awaiting the debut album.

Floorbrothers ‘Drive’
(Ikarus Records)

Ahh Mr Floorbrothers,Fade Into You’ by Mazzy Star is one of my favourite tracks as well. So slowing it down and making it into a drug induced waltz, adding new lyrics and making it sound like Mott The Hoople needing a good night’s sleep is a pretty nifty idea and one I stand and applaud. A good single then.

Bigflower ‘Tried To Care’

The first new track from the mighty bigflower in a few months I think, and yes, they have once again supplied a dark piece of dense guitar magic; a track to help soundtrack these dark, dark frightening days and months that lie ahead in the UK; the kind of track we need to be blasted from car radios as we head to work knowing after a week of hard slog we will still not be able to afford to pay our bills and put food on the table. Although this is not an out and out political lambasting of our uncaring and failing government it is a song to capture the intensity and hopelessness of these worrying times.

EP

Rob Clarke And The Woolltones ‘Rubber Chicken B-Sides’
(Aldora Britain Records)

This is an enjoyable little forage into the dim and distant past. Four songs that take the hip swinging beatitude of the sixties, all beat chords and “What’d I Say” riffage songs your nan would have curled her hair to in her youth before going down the ballroom to watch the local beat band. Four songs that are all enjoyable and warm sounding and with the final track, ‘Love And Haught’, being especially splendid, a track worthy of the final days of the wonderful Escorts: close your eyes and you are back in 1966 heaven. A beautiful release and only 50p to download: that is 12 and a half pence a track. Yes this EP does take you back when half a pence was such a thing.

ALBUMS

The Pixies ‘Doggeral’
(BMG) 30th September 2022

I used to love The Pixies back in the day when they first appeared, and to be honest I’ve not really listened to them much since they got back together. I’ve not really listened to them since Indie Cindy, and I think I might have been missing out if this album is anything to go by; although they are obviously missing the divine Kim Deal. But that is all they seem to be missing. They still have quite a loud thing going on (‘Haunted House’), are still masters of distorted surf guitar (‘Vault Of Heaven’), and have not lost their knack for a catchy strange pop tune, (‘Get Stimulated’). The lovely charmingly charming pop beauty that is ‘The Lord Has Come Back Today’ might just be my favourite track on this rather fine enjoyable album. They even have a whistling solo on ‘Pagan Man’, which there is certainly not enough of in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. So, the eighth Pixies album is in fact quite a musical treat.

Keiron Phelan & The Peace Signs ‘Bubblegum Boogie’
(Gare Du Nord) 23rd September 2022

What we have here my lukewarm fluffy bunny fetishists is an album of sophisticated polite pop – and we all need a little sophistication and politeness in our lives. Remember children always say please and thank you afterwards [ooeer missus]. And this album of melody rich pop could be your injection of sophistication for the day.

‘Trojan Pony’ kicks off the album with a fine Harry Nilsson like pop ditty that would not sound out of place on any of his early 70s pop masterpieces. Kieran Phelan is obviously a fan of the seventies laid-back pop as we find a tribute to the lovely gentleman and cult favourite John Howard with ‘Song For John Howard’, a lovely short piano ballad that not just recalls the music of the great man but also Brian Wilson as well, which indeed cannot be a bad thing.

The whole album is awash with gentle laid-back slightly quirky songs that have a layer of sadness and memories, and sometimes, sad memories are the most beautiful. And Bubblegum Boogie is indeed a beautiful little sophisticated bubble gum pop album.

Grave Goods ‘Tursday. Nothing Exists’
(Tulle)  9th September 2022

“Step softly into the new world of the underground” is the opening line from the opening track ‘Come’ from this rather fine post-punk album of clattering guitars and such malarkey. And it’s an invitation I would readily advise all fans of clattering guitars and such malarky to well accept. For they will be treated to seven tracks of aggressive alternative rock post-punk that takes some rather fine lyrics [which I am very taken with] and guitar riffs that put Grave Goods a step up from the usual gallop of the many many other post-punk bands. An album well worth investigation dear readers.

The Legless Crabs ‘And If You Change Your Mind About Rock ‘n’ Roll’
(Metal Postcard Records)

Thank the fuck for the Legless Crabs. After spending over an hour going through my emails to see what delights I could pontificate about and tell you lovely readers all about, I was left bereft. I had listened to loads of power pop with shite lyrics; shoegaze which in itself stands alone as why I have not reviewed it: anything that describes itself as shoegaze is enough to put me off, we all know what shoegaze is, music that reaches for the stars but very rarely manages not to leave the ground. So thank fuck for the rock ‘n’ roll un pc digs at modern life the Legless Crabs on a regular basis release. And If You Change Your Mind About Rock ‘n’ Roll’ is up to their normal high standard.

Guitars that fuzz and buzz and on this occasion form layers of pure confusion that take you back to the golden age of watching loud guitar bands in dingy clubs. ‘Piss Lake’, ‘Anti -Christian Scientists’ and every other track on this album are filled with an anger and disgust at the way modern life is shaping up.

This album is a much more serious and mature sounding album of rock ‘n’ roll. They no longer sound like the slap dash young noise merchants that overdosed on JAMC and the Cramps and Pussy Galore and now sound like they have had to grow up and get jobs. And that has just made them even angrier.

This is an album of darkness like their others, but the others came with a cheeky wink this with just a terrifying blank stare.

Salem Trials  ‘Postcards From The Other Side Of The Sun’
(Metal Postcard Records)

A triple album by the Salem Trials: well it would be a triple LP if it were released on vinyl. There are 29 tracks and each and everyone is filled with the whip snap guitar madness that the Salem Trials deal in.

Songs that echo the world we live in full of dark humour, nostalgia, darkness and T Rex riffs. ‘Black Flash’, which imagine instead of David Bowie guesting on the Marc Bolan Show you had Mark E Smith, and instead of it being in a TV studio it was on a small boat that was slowly sinking below the waves, slowly lapping around Marc and Mark E’s knees; a song of pure and beautiful magic and maybe my fave ever Salem Trials song. Pure brilliance. But there are so many. Andy and Russ are quite incapable of not doing anything that is not at least very good; they have their own sound; they have their own feel; they have their own magic.

The Salem Trials are one offs. They take their influences of post-punk, psych, seventies glam, no wave, indie pop and merge into what can only be described as a unique and rewarding listening experience.

Andrei Rikichi ‘Caged Birds Think Flying Is A Sickness’
(Bearsuit Records)

Apart from Caged Birds Think Flying Is A Sickness being a great album title it is also a fine album; an album that takes electronica, dance and cinematic sculptures to a new and experimental place, a place where white noise and James Bond soundtracks collide to great and unusual effect. ‘What Happened To Whitey Wallace’ sounds like monks playing on a old ZX 90 computer game and ‘Bag, Lyrics, New Prescription’ could be on a soundtrack to an Alfred Hitchcock movie set in a colourful but black and white jazz world.

Yes, indeed once again Bearsuit Records have released an album crammed with original thought-provoking music that is both experimental but also very listenable; an album to soundtrack the spin of a roulette wheel and the shadow-stained wet pavement of a neon signed littered night time street.

ALBUM REVIEW
GRAHAM DOMAIN

Tess Tyler ‘Fractals Vols. 1 & 2’
9th September 2022

Fractals is the wonderful debut album by Bristol based composer Tess Tyler. It works well, both as an artistic statement and also as a shop window for what the composer can do. Having composed already for film and video game soundtracks, the album includes dark sci-fi experimental electronic soundscapes such as ‘Overture’ and ‘Interlude 1’ and also neoclassical pieces that have an expansive cinematic quality used to conjure up a whole range of emotion. Undoubtedly many of the pieces will be used in films, documentaries and adverts and cause the viewer to wonder who has created this incredible music and hence track down the album.

Individually, there are some incredibly exciting tracks, such as ‘Sell the Sky’, which has all the energy and thrill of a Bond film action sequence but with its own individual sound and quirkiness! Most notably, the incredibly propulsive, expressive, explosive drumming that stop, starts and erupts into euphoria! It is so joyful, that it almost has its own transcendent trans-dimensional reality! Existing, as it does, outside of time and space and, only in the moment!

Beginning with processed electronic orchestral strings, ‘Origami Dogs’ is another propulsive, forward- moving, tribal, dark exciting cinematic piece that builds via sequencers and minimalist piano before rhythmically abstract drums and power chord guitars drive it to its climax.

Black disturbed noise begins ‘Not Mine’ before a minimalist piano motif and sequencers combine with sad brass and off-kilter drums to produce a sublime jazz in-flecked late night moonlit masterpiece!

Dark electronic noise gives way to minimalist piano, synth, white noise and backward drums in ‘7ero’ to produce a melodically sad refrain and Japan-like melody.

‘Instinct’ begins with drones of guitar, synth arpeggios and computer babble before a minimalist, expressive piano motif takes over, augmented by plucked strings creating an air of anticipation. The track builds with driving drums and guitar propelling the song to its conclusion.

One of the best tracks on the album is ‘The Nothing Cycle’ which begins with a cyclical, minimal Steve Reich piano and electronically manipulated orchestral noise before evolving into a Mike Oldfield type moody piano refrain with heavy guitar chords. A mad drum and pummelling bass soon kick in and build to a crescendo of noise that suddenly stops to leave just a bass and drum pulse and piano chords before a sequencer adds to the sense of drama and anticipation and rapidly builds momentum to a mad rock drum and tense guitar finale!

The studio album is augmented by a second album of one-off live re-imaginings of five of the pieces by The Spindle Ensemble with their interpretations of Tyler’s graphic score. (A graphic score being a way to represent the music outside of traditional notation, using visual symbols. Each instrument being assigned a different symbol). Thus, we get radically different versions of ‘Sell the Sky’, ‘Origami Dogs’, ‘7ero’, ‘Instinct’ and ‘The Nothing Cycle’. It is an interesting concept and one that reveals a different side to each composition. ‘Sell the Sky’ appears here as decidedly more downbeat, almost gloomy compared to the original studio version. Cello and violin are employed to bring out the melancholy in the music, which is augmented by disturbed orchestral dissonance with piano strings being hit and plucked to maximum effect! Similarly, ‘Origami Dogs’ employs violin, slow strings and piano to convey feelings of sadness, anxiety and loneliness.

‘7ero’ meanwhile, employs a descending marimba motif while a disturbed violin plays a lonely refrain, conveying feelings of intrigue and unease. When the piano comes in the music portrays feelings of alienation and mental imbalance before the marimba and bass play a single note to fade.

Violin overshot with minimal marimba provides the setting and a sense of space on ‘The Nothing Cycle’. The music resonates with a sadness almost verging on despair. The marimba conveys anxiety and resignation with its minimal note runs while a depressed violin conjures up the ghosts of regret.

In its reworked format, ‘Instinct’ is transformed into a beautiful melancholic piece with violin and one note marimba giving way to ascending piano arpeggios and two note double bass creating tension and suspense. Plucked guitar strings and ruminating marimba improvisations combine with violin to create feelings of sadness and regret – a lament for something lost, a missed chance. Beauty in sadness.

A debut album of beauty, versatility, energy and vision. Outstanding!

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