REVIEWS ROUNDUP FROM GRAHAM DOMAIN
A run-through of recent and new releases.

SINGLES/EPs

ENTER LAUGHING  ‘Met Me When I Landed’
(Permanent Creeps Records) 

A frantic slice of noise-funk psychedelia! A fade-in synth gives way to a funky bass and military drums before the frantic vocals come in with a mad noodling organ! “Just say when it’s over” shouts the singer, his paranoia bordering on hysteria, as the corpse of a relationship drags itself around town! The chorus breaks like sunlight through cloud with cryptic psychedelic lyrics “I’m witnessing the birth of the sun” reminiscent of a stoned Julian Cope! A great debut single from this North London Indie band – one to watch!

KROOKED TONGUE  ‘Lupines’
(Spotify, Apple Music)

Sailing in on a wave of feedback and underlying menace with thunderous bass notes and heavy chords of distortion before erupting into a chorus of chiming metal guitar and bluesy vocal melody – cue the stage diving! It could be about some nice flowering plants, a song that Alan Titchmarsh could rock out to – or it could be about wolves howling at the moon! Hopefully the former! Catchy – like covid in a cough filled club!

UNWAVERING  ‘Ley lines in the Forth’ (four track EP)
(Bandcamp)

  1. ‘Last Known Sighting’

Birdsong. The sea heard in a shell. Effect laden chiming guitar rings out – disturbed notes of discord building to a heartbeat of confusion and remorse! It could be the soundtrack to some Art House short-film! Picture the wind blowing washing on a line, someone slowly waking in unfamiliar surroundings… the jigsaw pieces of a drugged mind no longer fitting into place…

  • Dreamswell’

A figure emerges from a water-filled pothole, into a cold underground cavern. A strange, ancient folk song echoes in the darkness… a voice in the ether… “I slept through someone else’s apocalypse”… as a droning bat scream reverberates from a deep chamber below…

  • ‘A Clearing 1983’

A revolving tape-loop of bird cries and wind turbulence! The stone-tape of a terrible event recorded and played back in a triggered time-loop. Soon a strange discordant folk song emerges built in reverberating shadows of the soul. The cries of the lost heard at the cliff top edge of a rain-soaked nightmare!

  • ‘Lighthouse Portal’

The wind and the sea. A time delayed gong rings out its ominously call. Just as you think it’s stopped… holding your breath… the noise… the fear… continues to rise… death stands in the shadows, dark emotionless eyes, watching… as terror twists the insides into a silent scream!

YOUNG RITUAL  ‘Ages’
(Soundcloud)

Indie US alt-rock from Young Ritual a singer based in Nashville who sounds not unlike Greg Alexander! Big shiny guitars and effect laden chiming chords underpinned by a solid floor-tom rolling rhythm. ‘Ages’ is a song that sticks in your head with its melodic expressive vocals sitting somewhere between New Radicals and Cherry Ghost!

ALBUMS

OTHER LANDS  ‘Archipelagos’
(Athens of the North Records)

This is a pleasant Ambient / Easy Listening instrumental album. ‘So Long So Far’ sounds like Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins), while ‘Ambergris’ reminds me of the keyboard sounds Japan conjured on ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’. ‘Cave Code’ meanwhile pits reverbed acoustic guitar against keyboard brass and piano making for a nice ‘Test Card’ piece of Music. ‘Selkie Road’ uses Roxy Music drum machine, funky bass and keyboards to create a nice tune, which would definitely annoy anyone holding on a phone. ‘Landmasses’ is much better with its soft bass drone and clunky guitar chords over a nice samba drum machine and 1970’s string machine. ‘Braidbit’ is perhaps the most chilled track coming over as laid-back Mediterranean jazz pop that could easily soundtrack a holiday programme.

If this album had been released in 1971 and stocked by Woolworths it would now be considered a lost classic! So, why not buy it now while you can, and own a ‘future’ classic – set to increase in rarity and value!

LET SPIN  ‘Thick As Thieves’
(Efpi Records)

Formed a decade ago, Let Spin release their fourth album this month, Thick As Thieves. The four-piece experimental jazz group comprises of Chris Williams sax, Moss Freed guitar, Ruth Goller bass and Finley Panter drums.

Across the 10 tracks we get an album of great energy, imagination, free expression, the musical interplay creating an electrifying synergy – the music both exuberant and melancholic, combining elements of free jazz, post-rock, experimental, punk, orchestral and ambient!

The standout tracks include the melancholy ambience of ‘Ether’, the expressive ‘Mixed Messages’, the propulsive prog of ‘Waveform Guru’ and the strange ‘Theremin Gong Bath’. The album ending with the spiritual cosmic echoes of ‘Liminality’.

A tsunami of an album, great crashing (sound) waves re-shaping the (musical) landscape.

SLIM WRIST  ‘Closer For Comforting’
(Bandcamp, Soundcloud)

Slim Wrist are Brian Pokura and Fern Morris from Edinburgh – a duo who write calming electronic pop using an old drum machine and programmed synths. The resulting songs are interesting in their simplicity and naïve charm. Fern reminds me of early Tracey Thorn in her phrasing rather than vocal tone. Vocally she sounds close to Julia Holter. While there is nothing groundbreaking here, the album stands up to repeat listening and has shades of early Human League in songs like ‘Milk Teeth’ and ‘Threads’. Closing song ‘Half Light’ is perhaps the best on the album with its warm sounds and engaging vocal. A good debut – one to watch!

OCELOT  ‘Auringon Puutarha’
(Soliti)

The debut album from Finnish experimental Pop outfit Ocelot is a thing of summery beauty! Songs such as ‘Fire Season’ sound like a band that could have come out of Liverpool in 1979 – think Pink Military Stand Alone crossed with early Teardrop Explodes organ driven pop! However, what makes Ocelot sound original is the unique strange voice of singer Emilia Pennanen! She sings some songs in English and some in Finnish but the language barrier doesn’t matter when the melodies are as catchy as this! ‘Ikkunat Auki’ sounds like a slowed down Specials tune, while ‘Sydanystava’ has a 1970’s pop vibe that reminds me of the sort of songs Drugdealer did when I saw them live with Weyes Blood singing! ‘Daisy’ meanwhile sounds like a West Coast Hot Chocolate fronted by Lena Lovich! Altogether an enjoyable album. If they sang more of their songs in English they could be Big!

VENN  ‘Identity Crisis’
(Bandcamp – CD and Download)

Named after the Venn Diagram, Venn are a band who hail from Thailand and produce a sound they loosely label experimental folk! The album begins with the excellent ‘Idonno’ an exciting Arcade Fire type acoustic-electric anthemic indie song. While this is easily the best song on the album, they do show their fine musicianship throughout, on songs such as the laid-back laurel canyon folk of ‘Howling’ – part CSN with nods to Fleet Foxes and Midlake! However, the band fail to establish a firm sound of their own by diversifying too much, to produce – string quartet instrumental music (Flughaffen), oriental disco-folk sang by a robot (Steam Engine), Bon-Iver-style-folk (Infinite Fields) and Thai-language-xylophone-folk (track 8). While the album may not be cohesive, the band does show promise and if they worked on solving their ‘Identity Crisis’ by deciding which direction to take, deciding what works best for them, then they may have a chance of reaching ears outside Thailand!

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ALBUM REVIEW
Dominic Valvona

Mauricio Takara and Carla Boregas  ‘Grande Massa D’Agua’
(Hive Mind)   

Nestled somewhere between the Brazilin oceanic coastline and the rainforest waterfalls’ of the interior, the impressive duo of Mauricio Takara and Carla Boregas embrace the replenishing vibes of water on their new album for the Hive Mind set.

Both foils in this electroacoustic avant-garde enterprise bring much to the water table, with Takara playing in the (highly recommended) São Paulo Underground, Hurtmold and MNTH set-ups but also involved in an array of sit-ins with such icons as the late Pharoah Sanders, the one-time mushroom mantra haiku Can front man Damo Suziki, and Acid Mothers Temple guardian Makoto Kawabata, and Boregas instigating the Rakto and Fronte Violeta projects, a soloist and founder of the experimental Brazilian venue AUTA and the Dama Da Noite label.

From the fringes of jazz, primitivism and electronica they pour that experience into the immersive, often mysterious, and otherworldly Grande Massa D’Agua set of peregrinations and ushering-ins of the elements.

Tightening, ratcheting, tinkled percussive tools that evoke the work of Walter Smetak sit with both singular bounced and more skittish drum rolls and tumbles across ceremonial, ritualistic, atavistic yet also futuristic invocations. São Paulo and its surrounding nature might be the catalyst but whole different auras and planes are summoned; some of which fall upon the realms of the kosmische and even Faust.

Amongst the rustles of grass, the circled ring of ceremonial bowls and drips of water hints of Aquiles Navarro and Jon Hassell-like trumpet linger on the veiled, textured air, all the while as the drums leap into action, rebounding off the rims and splashes of cymbal.

This is Art Ensemble Of Chicago via the Portico Quartet style jazz meets the percussive, rhythmic experiments and intuition of Valentina Magaletti and Ibn Battuta period Embryo. And yet as the sun rises on the horizon of this exotic landscape, we’re beamed almost into a lunar bending cosmos. Although the refracted, reversed and entrancing ‘Areia Preta’ feels like you’re at the centre of a hallucinatory dream. 

Melodic parts emerge out of the avant-garde free-play throughout this both suffused and zigzag rhythmic skate, rattled, poured and chimed water world. The idea of kinetic type energy in the movement (at one point taking on the illusion of a steam chuffed train ride down loose tracks) and sense of progression offer a semblance of musicality and melody even in the middle of the most singular serialism-edging and abstract performances.

Deeply felt and convincing, Grande Massa D’Agua is both an intriguing and true measure of the duo’s quality, pushing at the elementals without losing the listener or thread. They delve with adroit skill and a curiosity for sounding the abstract, and succeed in creating a mysterious and evocative soundtrack.

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.

ALBUM REVIEW
DOMINIC VALVONA

Gillian Stone ‘Spirit Photographs’

Dressed like a spiritualist flapper of the 1920s on the cover of her new EP, the Toronto siren and artist Gillian Stone summons various manifestations in the pursuit of processing both grief and the debilitating effects of mental health.

Made apparent by the title, the 19th century and early 20th century phenomena of “spirit photography” lends a somewhat esoteric, supernatural and mysterious angle to what is in fact the more academic psychiatric method of dealing with, and in time, coming to terms with loss. For each song on this deeply felt, atmospheric release represents one of the five stages of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ pioneering model: that’s Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally, Acceptance. The Swiss-American doyen of psychiatry, heralded in Time magazine as one of the 20th century’s “100 Most Important Thinkers’, wrote one of the leading works (On Death And Dying) on accepting the inevitable in the late 1960s, after personally witnessing such traumas and dealing with childhood illness herself – an epiphany was struck after facing the aftermath of the Second World War’s concentration camps.

More or less the standard in counseling and navigating death, Kübler-Ross’ process is merged with unscientific empirical desperation and the often charlatan practice of Spiritualism. As a practice that grew out of the infancy of photography itself, and in part from the collective grief of the American Civil War, certain practitioners using various techniques added dead family members, loved ones in apparitional form to sitting portraits – usually lurking behind the very much alive subject, or manifesting from their supposed psyche. What may have been a comfort to some – proof of life-after-death and messages from beyond the ether – was essentially a trick. However, Stone draws that which cannot be quantified, explained together with the scientific mind in an act of describing her own anxieties, pains, but eventual release from the spectre of depression. And although this is a sometimes haunting, uneasy EP, Stone’s beautifully accented prose and emotions are delivered with a lighter, diaphanous touch that exudes as much promise as sorrow. Even when covering the heavy melancholy of Black Sabbath’s morbidly curious ‘Solitude’ Stone turns a self-pitied gloom of a tune into a Pentangle (the quintessential English acid-psych-folk ensemble not the Satanic symbol) like, medieval reaching and more sweetened proposition.        

Stone obviously turns the original’s pained, male-prospective on its head: with everything that entails. Mind, it’s still a trudge through the miserable, and it’s also used to represent ‘stage four” on the scale: depression. Talking though of addressing gender imbalances, Stone enters, at times, the heavily over-subscribed post-rock arena on many of the EP’s tracks. It’s a genre I’m not too impressed with personally, and find quite boring and mundane – sacrilege I know, but God I hate Mogwai and their self-indulgent turgid malaise. Stone however, brings an endearing, inviting almost, quality to that genre; especially on the gently sweeping, almost sleepwalking dreamt spell ‘June’, which opens the EP. Representing the first stage, denial, this slow drummed bohemian and quivery-droned chill is one of Stone’s most sublime turns; a kind of haunted communion of Dana Gavinski, Michael Peter Olsen, the Heartless Bastards and Aldous Harding – two of which appear on Stone’s specially created playlist of EP influences.

Working with co-producer Michael Peter Olsen (Zoom, The Hidden Cameras) and drummer Spencer Cole (Weaver, Weather Staion) Stone’s singular talents are amplified by the accentuated, careful and purposeful contributions of her foils. Especially on the two tracks already mentioned, but also on the folksy and gothic travelled tumultuous ‘Amends’ (Provincials and These Trials break bread with All About Eve as a snuggled suffused saxophone-like drone weeps), and David Sylvain mood piece ‘Raven’s Song’. The latter I’m sure has some American Gothic, Poe-like inspiration about it; after all, it is supernatural in sound with touches of creeping hymnal atmospherics and even the ominous clopping of hooves.

That’s both “anger” and “bargaining” dealt with on this journey. The final stage, turning point you could say, is of course “acceptance”, and this is reflected on the siren song ‘The Throne’. Full of “drowning” metaphors it might be, but the waters of despair also cleanse and wash away the helpless state of a mental stumbling block in the process. Hints of 70s folk-rock and country can be, intentional or not, detected on what is another beautifully conveyed plaint. I must emphasis however that Stone’s timbre, cadence and tone is far from mournful, or even helpless. Instead the abstract of dealing with such problems, illness and grief is articulated with a certain beauty (that word yet again) and spirit of perseverance and understanding. In an age, as Stone quotes, of “collective trauma” it can feel so comforting to know that others get your pain, or, in this case can transform it into something so constructive and creatively therapeutic: no matter how bleak. But unlike the parlour tricks, charade of spirit photography, Stone casts her ghostly visitations aside, finding a release and source of light in the darkness of both inner and outer torment.

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 Monthly Reviews Column

Singles

Cormac O Caoimh ‘Didn’t We’

How on earth could I not write about this song, for it is a song about one of my favourite songs, the Jimmy Webb song ‘Didn’t We’. My favourite version is not actually mentioned, which is by the very rarely mentioned easy listening singer from the 60s/70s Sheila Southern, her version being on the sings Jimmy Webb album released on the budget label Marble Arch records in 1970 – well worth keeping an eye out for in your local charity shop. This song is a cracking little unusual pop song. I do love pop songs about pop songs, and this is a finely written one by Cormac O Caoimh and Lindy Morrison. Yes I to was wondering whether it was the same Lindy Morrison from the wonderful Go Betweens. If so, then she is used to being on finely crafted, well written pop songs, which this indeed is.

Schizo Fun Addict ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’

Schizo Fun Addict have just released a teaser video for their new album that will be coming to us in early 2023, and once again, with this a cover of the Led Zepplin classic ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’, have completely reinvigorated and made it sound like one of their own, which I think is the idea of a cover, otherwise I think doing a cover is a pointless exercise and you may as well listen to the original.

But no such worries in that department from Schizo who have taken one of my favourite Zeps tracks and if anything improved it or made it so different it is like two completely different songs. Instead of the Zep theatrics we have a woozy stoned psych trip of shoegaze folk splendor, like the ghost of Sandy Denny haunting the serenity of early Mercury Rev. At this point all betting is off as what will be my favourite album of next year, as Schizo Fun Addict already have that in the bag.

Salem Trials ‘Zipporah’
(Metal Postcard Records)

Yes, another single from the wonderful Salem Trials. ‘Zipporah’ is a fuzzy pop delight with a guitar riff that reminds one of the 80s guitar favourites The Primitives; a riff that could have walked, or in the case slinked and strutted, of their debut LP Lovely. But instead of the twee vocalising of indie 80s sex goddess Tracy Tracy we have the mad wonderful unique vocalising of Russ ranting, snarling, gurgling not so sweet nothings to anyone within earshot: the nutter on the bus singing along to his favourite hits from yesteryear. Russ and Andy should have a statue erected in their honour for their attempt to keep modern indie guitar music interesting and vital, which the Salem Trials undoubtedly are.

bigflower ‘Magic Beans’

bigflower are back with another installment of guitar surge, and indeed how the guitar surges on this beauty of a track; another dense shadow of regret and sadness and inner turmoil. There is nobody sounding like bigflower today but not everybody has bigflower’s talent and pedigree.

Mark Hegan ‘Rearrange Me’

This is a pleasant well-produced radio friendly pop rock ballad. You know, the Snow Patrol, Keane type of track. And I’ll admit something, it’s the kind of thing I normally do not listen to out of choice, but I thought I would give this a mention as Mark Hegan does it better than most of the stuff I’m sent. And anyone with a penchant for radio friendly pop rock songs should give it a listen as I think they might well enjoy it.

Albums/EPs

Thank You Lord For Satan
(Buh Records)

Thank You Lord For Satan are a fine band and this, their debut, album is indeed a fine listen. An album that takes on board psychedelia with a mixture of synth pop and indeed straight ahead pop.  The sultry sexy and dark opener ‘A million Songs Ago’ sets the tone with intertwining Velvet like guitars and soft sensual vocals, and at times vocal wise reminds me of a cross between The All Saints and Leonard Cohen: a strange but beautiful combination.

This debut is indeed like fresh of breath air blowing through the corridors of the halls of psych rock. Showing that with a bit of intelligence and originality and song writing talent greatness can still be achieved in the ever-growing paint by numbers genre that psych rock has become.

THE Zew ‘IFI1IFO’
(Numavi Records)

1FI1FO is a beautiful lo-fi album of near experimental folk songs, with vocals and guitar going through occasional effects to a quite beautiful degree, slightly distorting and giving the album a lovely warm and woozy effect.

The songs and vocals are rather moving, reminding one of camping in the woods with your memories for company. A quite a simple and nostalgic affair, the whole albums flows together and moves with a subtle lo-fi grace that one does not come across often enough, and come the end of the year this could well be one of my favorites. Very special indeedy.

Neon Kittens ‘S-T’
(Metal Postcard)

Experimental no wave pop is not noise pollution, in fact it is darn sexy. Darn sexy is a much underused word in reviewing circles as it sounds like something a passed his prime urban cowboy may say to his best drinking buddy in a down-at-heel bar, and this 4-track slice of experimental epery (yes a made up word). Yes I am flying by the seat of my pants a bit like this quite wonderful EP is. At last, the sound of music not stuck inside the rules; not being made to tick the right boxes; not being made like it was recorded by a middle-class twat wanting to be featured on a episode of Catfish to be played whist some wistful teenager stares at their phone in hope that Nigel really does look like the picture sent and not Nigel Farage. This is the real sound of the musical underground the sound of people making music they want to make, music they like, not making music they think other people may like. This is the sound of real life.

Russ Spence ‘Attempted Soundscapes EP’
(Metal Postcard Records)

This is the debut EP by Russ Spence the vocalist from The Salem Trials, whom I seem to write about on a monthly basis due to their prolific output. Attempted Soundscapes is an EP of experimental tracks that have more in common with Throbbing Gristle and the later works by Scott Walker, so not an EP you will be hearing on BBC 6Music anytime soon; although I could imagine the Freakzone having some fun with it.

The opening track ‘Take The Long Way Home’ is an atmospheric little beauty all spooky Halloween synths, muffled Prodigy drumbeats and the vocalizing of a ghostly Mark E Smith whispering sweet nothings to an empty pint glass. The second track, ‘Simple Sins’, features fellow Salem Trials member Andy on guitar, and supplies the sonic cathedral of feedback that runs throughout this moody atmospheric piece. It’s probably my fave of the four tracks on this excellent debut.

Cream Gorilla ‘S-T’
(NoMen)

Cream Gorilla were an experimental art-noise band from Tokyo who were together from 1997 to 2002 and got back together in 2022 for one final recording. Their complete output is now available on this CD, 35 tracks in all. As you would expect from an experimental art-noise band the tracks are indeed experimental and indeed very noisy but also mostly short: 35 tracks in 40 minutes. So gives you no chance to grow tired or bored of their strange chaotic noise outpourings. Well-done NoMen Records for gathering this delight of indeed artistic noise terror.

Bigfatbig ‘Rockin’ And Rollin’ and Whatnot’

The joyful sound of indie guitar pop; the well played, well written sound of two young ladies writing about the problems and real-life experiences young ladies have to deal with in this day and age, which I being a man in his mid 50s only get second hand from my daughter and my old Shangri-La’s albums. But I really enjoyed these four tracks. It is indeed a joyful romp that had me thinking back to the early days of Kenicke. I think Bigfatbig will do very well, and I wish them luck on their journey through the glittery cesspit that is the music industry.

Dot Dash  ‘Madman In The Rain’

The new Dot Dash album is upon us. Another half an hour or so of pure catchy pop with guitars that jangle and chime and strummed vigorously keyboards that alternate between sounding like they have just been holidaying from the Seeds debut album or from a hit from the Motors. Pure pop for not just now people but even for now and then people.

A Champagne filled picnic of sunny delight of an album is what this is.  I hear so many albums trying to achieve what this achieves, which is a well-written album of well-written pop songs. It even has good lyrics and hummable melodies, which is indeed a rarity believe me. C86, power pop and 60s garage pop combined beautifully to make an album of perfect pop.

Vlimmer ‘Menschenleere’
(Blackjack Illuminist Records)

I will be honest; I very rarely listen to goth music anymore. Back in my youth in the 80s I did enjoy the Sisters Of Mercy, Rose Of Avalanche, the Skeletal Family and such, like even having some of their albums. So I do not claim to be an expert on the genre, but I must admit to enjoying this album; an album of darkness with a slight pop edge at times reminding me of the Sisters Of Mercy being covered by Aha – can you imagine how much better the Sisters Of Mercy would have been with Morten Hacket singing lead.

This album will be up so many old goths streets they will be breaking out their velvet trousers and hairspray in a second of hearing the first doom laden chord. If it is possible to have an enjoyable romp through darkwave or whatever the pesky kids are calling it this week, then Vlimmer isindeed your man.

Dominic Valvona’s Albums Revue For November
Unless stated otherwise all releases are now available to buy

Edrix Puzzle ‘Coming Of The Moon Dogs’
(On The Corner Records)

Looping string theory jazz particles to a rocket ship bound for a deep space cosmology of titan referenced stellar sets, the Nathan “Tugg” Curan led Edrix Puzzle ensemble find a musical freedom amongst the stars of an alien concept world on their newest trip, the Coming Of The Moon Dogs.

Reimaging Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi transferred to the made-up body-locking Afro and futurist jazz planet of Battagon, Curan and his astro crew of Martin Slattery (on bass guitar, clarinet and saxophone duties), Tom Mason (double-bass), Oli Savill (percussion) and Darren Berry (violin) zip and zap across a lunar environment overseen by a galactic vision of mythology’s Gia and Uranus and some of their kin: Rhea, Dione, Hyperion and Phobe.

Amongst the analog calculus, signals and bleeps an equally elastic and moon-bound tripping transformation of the Art Ensemble of Chicago vibe takes shape on an imaginative off world. It’s a world in which Afrikan Sciences break bread with King Crimson; where Soweto Kinch reassembles the late Pharaoh’s astral projections. Within that science fiction the troupe balance totally untethered chaos with breakbeats and a certain swing.

David Ornate Cherry’s organic water bowl percussion joins a celestial voodoo march on the old country resonated Art Ensemble fiddled ‘Deep In Dione’, whilst Matthew “Doc” Dunn and Andy Haas slink and waft the vapoured murk of the living, breathing ‘V11’ coded suite.

Tracks like the time changing spin around the Van Allen Belt ‘Unhuman Hyperion’ verge on hip-hop. But it’s the imbued spirit of Herb, his peers and acolytes in the space, progressive jazz field that permeate this alchemist exploration of far out atmospheres. In a constant motion throughout with the energy released in all directions, and on all planes, Coming Of The moon Dogs is an incredible survey of quickened and more floated, waning galactic jazz evocations. A solid piece of art, lit by a remote chemistry and performed with assured but always probing musicianship. Rather an escape to the planet of the breaks than an escape from it, sci-fi jazz meets the experimental, spiritual and progressive in a visceral explosion of ideas, vibes and grooves.        

Surya Botofasina ‘Everyone’s Children’
(Spiritmuse Records)

An acolyte of Alice Coltrane’s devotional embrace of Eastern spiritualism, imbued by that sagacious innovating jazz seer’s afflatus music and teachings, the keyboardist, composer and actor of some repute (from parts in Vinyl and Broadwalk Empire) Surya Botofasina bathes in his mentor’s light on this debut opus.

With the meditative, motored ascending arcs of Om Rama and such threaded throughout, Botofasina and friends set out on an astral and naturally felt work of spiritual jazz, trance, new age and ambient transcendence.

Our guide on this album of worship, remembrance and healing grew up at the Sai Anantam Ashram in the Southern Californian hills, where Coltrane led the daily bhajans, the traditional Hindu songs of praise and paean. His mother, Radha, was a disciple before him of this idyllic retreat’s guardian, a notable harpist but also pianist and vocalist herself and a one-time member of the American string band, The Spirits Of Rhythm. With such an enviable musical lineage and influence it’s no wonder that Botofasina would go on to become the Ashram’s music director and to internationally spread the word of this particular devotional form.

Encompassing all that reverence on his first fully realized album, Botofasina, aided by a cross-generational cast of guests, seeks to calmly honour but also demonstrate that faith. As a album to these enraged, divisive times, Everyone’s Children – with everything that album title’s metaphors, allusions, analogy entail – perseveres in the face of turbulence; softening and weakening the choppy waters in a blessed light of disarming but deeply felt warm suffused elevation.

With a both sentimental and yearning new age language of utterances from the Los Angles jazz singer stalwart Dwight Trible and fellow Californian indie folk vocalist Mia Doi Todd welling up and adding a certain wailed gravity, these divine acts of veneration ascend at a peaceable pace. The opening beachside temple suite running to over twenty-seven minutes as it shimmers and glistens with dappled electric piano, a serene air of the holy and washes of ambient synth.

Although often soothing with lightened touches of astral plane jazz and soul music, Botofasina’s piano occasionally stirs up outpourings of louder and harder pressed expressive emotions and serenades – as on the semi-classical and 60s jazz riptide evoked ‘I Love Dew, Sophie’

Accentuating these spells of keyboard cascades, lit-up bulb like notes and rays the Canadian jazz drummer Efa Etoroma Jnr. adds splashes and tumbles, and the New York saxophonist Pablo Calogero wafts in with a suitable longing embrace. And overseeing it all is the Californian polymath (from noted producer to radio host, poet, percussionist and performer) Carlos Niño, who resembles a counter-culture 70s Carl Wilson chic. Together on this swami dedicated odyssey they border the heavenly as successful inheritors of Alice Coltrane’s devotional magic. As a debut album it’s a grand statement of spiritualism, nature and peacefully ascendant jazz; an escape from the material world.

Etceteral ‘Rhizome’
(tak:til/Glitterbeat Records) 11th November 2022

In what is a different, unique fashion, the Slovenian trio’s musical pairing of Boštjan Simon and Marek Fakuč (in part) react to their bandmate Lina Rica’s visual stimulus to create a cosmic electronic-jazz album of interlaced networks, connectivity and environmental crisis alarm. 

Joining their fellow Slovenian compatriots, the dream-realism Širom, at Glitterbeat’s explorative, fourth world imbued instrumental sister imprint tak:til, the kosmische and organically freeform Etceteral base their new, mostly improvised album on the concept of its title, Rhizome: A continually growing horizontal underground stem, which puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals; a non-linear network that connects any point to any other point.  

With that theme, process in mind the trio reflect back a constant motion of soundscaping, rhythm and probing; balancing, at times, contemporary jazz with computer calculus, data, signals and metallic polygon shaped electronica. Yet, whilst Simon’s saxophone often drifts off into space, and his electronic effects, undulations more than hint at gravity-free zones in the cosmos, tracks such as the rolling, bounced and techno purred ‘Rome Burns’ allude to climate change and the extreme wildfires that engulfed much of Europe this year. It’s a great piece of flexible jazz that fuses Donny McCaslin and Go Go Penguin with Basic Channel to reflect an environmental angst of doom – fiddling with your suv sat nav whilst Rome burns to a cinder.

The rest of this interconnected, visual reactive album of performances and electronic augmented pulses and fusions goes through varying degrees of warping and reverberating transference. A jazz foundation is guided through a mirrored and computerised apparatus, which evokes shades of Squarepusher, Anteloper, Alfa Mist, Pyrolator and (rather handle as they share this column this month) Edrix Puzzle. Familiar echoes of rasped, cyclonic and honked sax, drum breaks and splashes receive an outer space production. Fakuč’s drums actually go into slow motion on the chrome soundscape ‘Dunno’. Etceteral turn it on and out on their improvised odyssey and contortion of activism.  And yet the rhythms often driven, progressive and on occasion buoyant or bobbing, make this a most unique sort of an electronic dance album, despite its avant-garde, free and cosmic jazz foundations. 

Karu ‘An Imaginary Journey’
(Beat Machine Music) 18th November 2022

Lost in the Karu alias of mystical, atavistic mining and reimagined absorptions and traverses, the Italian double-bassist and producer Alberto Brutti’s collaborative project transforms, transmogrifies a fertile polygenesis palette of rituals and dances and ethnography to produce a contemporary affected album of Afro-Futurism, jazz and primitivism.

Wrapped up into a musical journey across both familiar and more ambiguous, vague cultural landscapes, Brutti creates suggestive atmospheres and ceremonies; many of which are conjured from title references to old worlds, religious and mythological etymology. In that wide field of influences, inspirations there’s the Abrabic “kalam”, which can roughly be used to mean “speech”, “word” or “utterances” pertaining to the Islamic faith, but was also the catchall term to define that religion’s tenants of faith in the face of the philosophical doubters; the antiquity Hattian empire festival “purulli”, held at the Bronze Age settlement of Nerik, dedicated to the earth goddess Hannahanna (which may well be the source of the Biblical “hosanna”); the West Slavic (otherwise known as Lechites) tribal name for the chthonian god “Nyia”; and the ancient Greek word for “breath”, or in the religious context, “spirit” or “soul”, “pneuma”. 

The first of that quartet lends itself to the album’s opening peregrination of African drums, Blacks’ Myth and cut-up Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell jazz renderings, reversals, abrasive industrial resonated sounds, Širom type otherworldly primitivism and stick choppy rhythms. Following in its wake there’s signs of Andy Haas, the esoteric, elephant trunk raising horns and the no wave sound of Mars and Milk TV. The latter title of that same quartet of wordy mentions signals a move further East, with again, vague notions of the Indian, Baul but also a soundtrack of downtempo breaks (ala Alfa Mist and J Dilla) and the hallucinogenic trance of Fursaxa (if remixed by Clap! Clap!).

‘Spear Of Leaves’ however, rearranges the bedeviled Faustus pact blues and dialogue of Robert Johnson on a palanquin caravan lumber across vapours of snorkeled saxophone.  The final dream sequence on this imaginary travelogue drifts into a hollowed-out cane spun and fluted rainforest wash; ending on a more laidback piece of South American flavoured geography and waning jazz.

Between the haunted illusionary and mysterious, a removed time-travelling worldly plane emerges. Herbs, Roberto Musci, Amorphous Androgynous and Drexciya converge somewhere in the middle of the underworld and elevated.   

The Dark Jazz Project ‘S-T’
(Irregular Frequencies) 14th November 2022

Making good on this summer’s three-track introductory EP, Andrew Spackman now unleashes a whole album of his latest regeneration creation, The Dark Jazz Project, on an unsuspecting audience.

The singular maverick electronic and art-house boffin recently hung-up his SAD MAN alias (after a splurge of numerous releases over the last five years) to crunch the codes of jazzcore.

‘100% political, 100% jazz, 100% dark’ we’re told, this latest platform for Andrew’s often sporadic leaps in electronic music and crushing techno filament cut-ups is about as removed from that jazz tag as you can get. The fact he’s also borrowed Sun Ra’s ‘Space Is The Place’ mantra too only feeds into the confusion. Any semblance to jazz is lost under a heavy tubular and granular transmogrification of the ominous, mysterious and, well, dark.

For this is the alien, sci-fi broken and fed through the Aphex Twin, Basic Channel, Radium, Rob Hood, Jeff Mills and Niereich & Shadym machine. Although the album’s opening hardline, dialed-in and pummeled beat gabbling Sun Ra lend sounds like Holly Herndon being thrown into the Hadron Collider, and Madlib seems to get trampled over, detuned and dissimulated on the bladed, driven and compressed frequency lunar ‘No Input’.

Andrews full gamut of skills, sonic palette comes to bear, as touches of primal, and even paradise moulding scores are set against more dissonant and chrome coated beats. Pins rain down on pulsating graphite spiky landscapes and imaginative darkly lit techno blocks of scrunched giant, weighted noise. A mirage or a topographic ocean; Olympus Mons or scorched earth, it all sounds a million miles away from even the most edgy and freeform ideals of jazz: not a saxophone in sight.

The Dark Jazz Project is yet another challenging move from one of the UK’s most inventive, inspired and, crucially, interesting leftfield electronic and techno composers of the last decade.    

Yemrot ‘The Sunken Garden’
(PRAH Recordings)

Who wouldn’t when faced with the despair of the modern world and in processing the deep loss of a parent want to take a giant leap into escapism and the fantastical? Looking into one such yearning chasm the Margate-based musician Jimi Tormey, acting under the alias of both Yemrot and the character Dill Dandin, finds solace in a neverworld of the dreamy and plaintive: a creeping sadness to be exact.

Unfortunately, in part, triggered by the death of his father (the gorgeous, welling-up and heavenly ached ‘Big Tree’ being the most obvious eulogy to that passing) The Sunken Garden is a both heartfelt and also psychedelic process of grief and some drama.

That process is, at times, a family affair with his mother Lisa providing the majority of emotive violin/viola, and his brother Eric offering harmonies alongside their sister Tuli, but also mixing and mastering the whole mini album. The results are achingly beautiful, yet there’s a constant deep feeling and vapour of unease, despondency and shadowy despair that swells up or looms over the magical illusions.

Canterbury scene troubadours and Syd Barrett influences wind and delicately emerge from the heavier atmospheres of Alex Harvey, Daevid Allen, Soundgarden and Radiohead. The album’s centerpiece, ‘The Ballad Of Dill Dandin’, is an eleven-minute stretching instrumental of changing, moving parts and passages. From the Floydian to chimes of Mark Hollis an almost theatrical drama and shimmer of something magical and creates a starry aura. Dill floats and tumbles across a trio of “Learning To” affixed songs that balance the soft with the harsh, the cosmic with the mournful.  

Classical forms, the psychedelic, progressive and alternative all merge to form an interesting twisting journey of loss and acceptance; a working through of beautifully heart wrenching and articulated poetic expression. In the end I don’t think that sinkhole world is an escape route, but just a more imaginative coping strategy at dealing and conveying such miserable times. The masterful, gentle ‘Big Tree’ alone will move even the most numbed to tears, and deserves a place in any list of the best songs in 2022.

The Magic City Trio ‘Amerikana Arkana’
(Kailva) Late November 2022

Finally out the other side of the pandemic The Magic City Trio emerges with the second half of their originally conceived double album package of Americana, Country and Western scored songs from 2018. If part one was consumed with death, bad luck and mental health, part two is concentrated on the themes of serenaded, romantic affairs, with disarming little tales, alms, hymns and barn dances dedicated to both unrequited and strained relationships and knockabout love.

As with the previous album, a familiar soundtrack and language, lyricism is used to convey the contemporary: something of the moment. The bell tolls and tremolo rattle snake sets of Ennio Morricone and untold Western themes rub up against Nashville, the Carter Family, Lee Hazelwood, Mariachi brass, Willie Nelson and the psalms songs of America’s Methodist Church, yet this is an unmistakably modern record. Timeless feelings, subjects nonetheless, but with a slight updated twist. 

An extended guest list joins the band’s principles, the June BridesFrank Sweeney and Annie And The AeroplanesAnnie Holder. Most notably the Nashville virtuoso John Heinrich, who lends that irresistible steel pedal quiver and upward bend to the Sweetheart Of The Rodeo if covered by Teenage Fanclub, with Orbison and The Carters in tow, ‘Our Life In Chains’, and the Red Rhodes-esque accompanied Gram and Bonnie Raitt in heartache duet ‘She Left Without A Warning’. “Record breaking” (for what I’m not sure) banjo player Johnny Button meanwhile adds his Appalachian hoedown spring to ‘The Final Day On Earth’ tale of woe and alarm. Also on that same lamentable group effort, Primal Scream’s Andrew Innes offers up bird sounds, flutes and mellotron. He’s back, playing both electric and acoustic guitars, on the Muscle Shoals Stones like, touching ‘You’re My Best Friend’ – which actually could be a Primal Scream attempt to once more ape the Stones’ spiritual washed-up tides.

Frank, when not carrying a tone and timbre that evokes both Richard Hawley and Mick Harvey, and Annie, vocally a mix of Kirsty MacColl and a rustic Marianne Faithfull, share an array of twanged, bowed and stirring and washboard scratched instruments with Jeff Mead, Matt Lloyd, Larry Saltzman, Dave Howell and others: a full panoply of the country sound.

Amongst the self-penned declarations, hungdog lovelorn regrets and outlaws-on-the-run sense of rebellious romance, the band cover the theme from the archetypal thrown-together-in-desperate-circumstances Western ‘3:10 To Yuma’ (great movie, both the original and remake) and the Wesleyan Methodist church hymn, ‘And Am I Born To Die’. The first of which, originally penned by Frankie Laine, keeps a sense of the matinee drama and atmosphere but now sounds a bit like later Crime And The City Solution bounded together with Scott Walker (At The Movies) on a heavenly aria touched dusty trail. The latter, is every bit as reverent and elegiac, conjuring up the “trembling spirit” and quivering to the sounds of timpani and the bells of judgment. It did remind me however of Rick Danko; more lovely than stoic serious damnation.

Amerikana Arkina once more sets the mood, a complimentary partner to their more moody, plaintive 2018 songbook. Souls are bared; heartache delivered with a cinematic panache, and the Americana cannon once more successfully invoked. 

Leverton Fox ‘In The Flicker’
(Not Applicable)

The gentle breeze rustling through the leaves and the sound of bracken and broken sticks underfoot in a less circumspect Sussex woodland has seldom sounded more alien, inter-dimensional and mysterious. Yet the Leverton Fox trio of Alex Bonney, Tim Giles and Isambard Khroustaliov has transmogrified the environment/atmosphere of their site-specific improvisation to beam out towards altogether more imaginative realms.

Intensified, if that’s the word, the trio of noted musicians/composers/artists in their own right attempt to sonically sculpt a 3D world with the added use of Dolby Atmos, a ‘surround’ format. Immersive being the key word, they draw the listener into lost worlds, primal soups and a more eerie lunar looming, time-travelling spheres.

Širom set-up in the undergrowth with Miles Davis at his most transient and wafting, Autechre, Tangerine Dream and Jon Hassell as ghostly traces of hidden sources merge with various aerial squiggles, zip-lines, machine purrs, occult sounds beamed from the Fortean Times transmitter, whipped up winds, clapped beats, crackles, raps, propeller and exotic sounding wildlife. A fully improvised soundscape that crosses mystical terra firma and unearthly corridors, In The Flicker takes in the most far-out, minimalist touches of jazz, electronica, dub, the dark arts, industrial, kosmische and Foley to create a certain mystique. The Leverton Fox(es) skilfully, intuitively explore and push a concept, conjuring up portals to more abstract planes; the familiar woodland site a mere jumping point for misty and bubbling invocations of an entirely different nature. 

Dead Horses ‘Sunny Days’
(Maple Death Records) 14th November 2022

Jangling to a soft-stomping flange-induced country, rock ‘n’ roll bluesy acid dirge the Dead Horses esoteric sense of despair rings loud with slackened melodrama and scuzzy, dirty wiles. Whether it’s uprooting Spaghetti Western sets or up amongst the Andean condor nests looking down on the Nazca Lines, or, wading through swamps and thumbing a bum ride to a less idealized Laurel Canyon, the shared male/female vocal Italian group add a chthonian mystique and a touch of the Gothic to their brand of wrangled malcontent and doomed romantic aloofness. 

A fair share of the new album, Sunny Days (released on the always intriguing and quality-delivered Maple Death Records label), rattles, spooks and melodically inhabits a reverberated atmosphere of Appalachian mountain songs and both languid and more heightened hysterics. A rewired Grace Slick, early Bad Seeds, Gun Club, Wall Of Voodoo and ‘Up The Hill Backwards’ Bowie flail about The Blood Meridian on the album’s opening song, ‘Can’t Talk, Can’t Sleep’, and Bosco DelRey mixes it up with the Velvets, Rey Crayola on ‘Hobo Talks’. The more mournful ‘The Cross’ has both an hallucinatory and The Kills vibe about it.

One of the standout songs however, takes a different direction. ‘Macabro’ still has that acid-folk country kick but also summons up a Latin drama, with a stirring vocal performance and Italo-Iberian stamp of bolero. Apparently this is the band’s first ever song in their native Italian tongue, and it’s all the better for it: more mysterious and hot-bloodily intense. No wonder it has become a sort of live anthem for the band.

It’s a long stretch from the Po Valley of antiquity to the Death Valley of inspired, mirage shimmered Western blues, but the Dead Horses as our guides navigate it with a flourish and macabre curiosity. If Crime And The City Solution buddying up with Aguaturbia and The Vaselines sounds like a desirable description then the rather ironically entitled Sunny Days stunt ‘n’ stomper is for you.

Biensüre ‘S-T’
(WEWANTSOUNDS)

Bringing together a mixed Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diaspora of musicians with a collective sense of belonging and yearn for their homelands, Biensüre transduces various cultural threads into a sophisticated and cool production of electro-pop, disco and sorrow.

Crossing paths in the cosmopolitan port city of Marseille, a refuge for centuries of émigrés and exiles, the group’s ranks include Kurdish, Turkish, Italian and Armenian lineages: The latter as a consequence of the early 20th century genocide. Within that gathering of cultural affiliations, and using the repurposed French expression for “of course”, Biensüre rally around the experiences of their poetically and longing yearned vocalist and saz player Haken Toprak. By the sounds of it that includes not just pining aches for his Kurdish-Turkish roots but declarations of unattainable love and serenaded exotic fantasies.

Already well into a contemporary revival of Anatolian and Middle Eastern synthesized pop, electro and disco (see groups such as Altin Gün and the Şatellites) Biensüre evoke such original trailblazers and icons as Erin Koray, Baris Manco, Moğollar and Kamuran Akkur. They augment those influences with subtle hints of Moroder, Vangelis, a throb of EDM and an unlikely bit of Nu Shooz on the drum-pad sizzled new waver Çawa’.  

Electrified misty veils hug the dancefloor, seductive movers are made, and swooned wanton vocals ache for what’s been lost on a unhurried smooth production that is simultaneously Turkish, Kurdish, Greek and Arabian in nature.  

As funky as it is clean and lush, the Biensüre LP soaks up the great Marseille exile community and comes up with the goods. Breathlessly groovy yet casting back to the language (‘Zivistan’ the Northern-Kurdish word for “winter”) and memories of their ancestral homes, a nice balance is struck emotionally and musically between the modern and tradition. In all, a great pop record of Med flavours, with a soul and purpose.

Trans Zimmer & The DJs ‘S-T’
(Artetetra)

Launched into the most bonkers MIDI sound collage of platform hopping video game music, Esperanto era Sakamoto experimentation, slacker American dialogue, kooky fantasy and cartoon classical movements, the collective Trans Zimmer & The DJs (surely a play on the notable German film composer Hans) reimagine a Ritalin-starved Wendy Carlos running amok on Candy Crush.

Within the walls of a Taito/Capcom 80s arcade a loony tunes of polyphonic pre-set symphonies and chaotic snatches of gameplay chat trample over the course of a most silly bubblegum opera. It’s Baroque on speed; the Flaming Lips colouring in classical music scores; a grand misadventure of super hyped-up fanfares and cute vocoder J-Pop, hip-hop, electronica and lemon meringue pie snacks. Even aboard the S.S. Romulus the waters are choppy, tossing us around in a strange voyage of cult library music and late 90s American psych. I haven’t a clue what’s going on: not that it matters. The whole manic, yet always melodious and fun, experience seemingly a run through of the kitsch, crazy, miss-matched playful minds of those who created it. Skidding and scrabbling on a quest inside a 32-bit fantasy, Zimmer and friends level up across a most confusing, colourful whistle and skipped aural sinfonietta.   

FOR THE FUNS

Casta ‘The Temple Of Doom’
(Bandcamp)

I suppose it was inevitable that at some point someone from the extensive late metal face villain and underground hip-hop genius MF Doom fandom would play on the Indiana Jones franchise – Indy literally escaping death in an airplane crush only to fall into the clutches of the Thuggee cult. I even named my playlist homage to the former Kausing Much Damage founder and prolific name riffing soloist, collaborator after the second Jones cinematic adventure myself. And I’m not alone on that score.

Released a year to the day of Daniel Dumile nee DOOM, Viktor Vaughn, Zev Love X’s death, the enterprising Portland producer Casta has merged the score from the Temple Of Doom with both samples and interview snippets from the MF Doom cannon: though it could have done with more Short Round quips in the mix.

In the spirit of such hip-hop mashups, with even Doom himself not adverse to sampling some cult, obscure and leftfield scores, Casta has some fun in paying tribute to a much-missed artist. From the Monsta Island Czars all-stars team-up to his work with a new breed of rap stars, such as Bishop Nehru, he leaves behind one of the greatest legacies in Hip-Hop: though his influence, creativeness, wordplay, pop culture, visuals and artwork reaches far beyond rap music, as this project proves.

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.

GRAHAM DOMAIN’S REVIEWS SPECIAL

ALBUMS

Old Fire ‘Voids’
(Western Vinyl Records) 4th November 2022

Voids is the second album by Old Fire, AKA composer and producer John Mark Lapham (formerly of The Earlies). Whilst the first album received comparisons to This Mortal Coil, the new one comes across like the soundtrack to a bleak art film, particularly the instrumental tracks. Which isn’t to say it’s not great! Indeed, the music is often uplifting in its sadness and beauty.

Over the five years in which it was recorded, the Pandemic happened, Lapham lost both parents and split from his long-term partner. Feelings of loss, isolation and desolation form the themes of the album and are ever present in the music and songs throughout. Partly a collaborative affair there are fantastic performances from Bill Callahan, Julia Holter, Loma’s Emily Cross and Adam Torres!

The album begins with the instrumental ‘All Gone’, which fades in on mournful brass and echoing piano with squiggles of babbling synth noise, space FX and virtual ghost choir! Soon giving way to ‘Blue Star’ a dream-pop/country/jazz song that part recalls Marissa Nadler circa ‘Drone-flower’. This gem of a song features the wonderful Emily Cross of Lomawith a voice as devastating as Lana Del Rey!

‘When I was in My Prime’ features the magnificent Bill Callahan (Smog) intoning a tale of summer love, loss, sadness and longing. Beginning with a droning orchestra it soon conjures a picture of flying insects feeding on wild flowers, the anticipation and the thrill of love, the freeing of the soul. A double bass and brushed drums add to the air of ease. But all too soon, as birds swoop down, still feeding at the death, a lonely guitar sings of the emptiness left behind as love leaves and a relationship ends!

‘Corpus’ follows – wind noise and droning keyboards mix with sad brass, tremolo guitar, brushed drums and discordant noise while Mr Smog intones a mantra that rests somewhere in-between Nick Cave and Ian McCulloch but, ultimately, could only be Bill Callahan. ‘Love is Only Dreaming’ is next, an instrumental that is more about atmosphere than melody sounding not unlike the throb of an alien space craft in a 1950’s Sci-fi B-Movie!

Adam Torres sings the fantastic ‘Dreamless’ sounding somewhere in-between Billy Mackenzie and Russell Mael with his soaring falsetto. The song and electronic music give the feel of floating in space – drifting endlessly in the black void – dreamless!

An outstanding piano version of John Martyn’s ‘Don’t You Go’ sung by Bill Callahan is a definite highlight! The sad themes of loss and mourning fitting in perfectly with the rest of the album.

The strange sci-fi world of ‘Window’ features Julia Holter singing through a voice processor or vocoder making her sound cold and alien, machine like almost! This contrasts with the warm music of woodwind, harp, brass, brushed drums and tremolo guitar. The overall feel is like something from the Cocteau Twins circa ‘Echoes in a Shallow Bay’– Wonderful!

The album ends with four superb instrumental pieces. In ‘Uninvited’, swashes of guitar fade in as the cold dawn peers through the curtains. The sound of early morning comedown, half dream, half surreal train ride down the rabbit hole of perception! ‘Memory’ creates feelings of unease, of distorted reality, a mushroom trip too far, a silent scream! Beauty born of sorrow and realisation. Like taking ownership for the weight of the world! This sense of sorrow overwhelms, bursting its banks in ‘Father as a Child’. While ‘Circles’ finds calm reflection after the storm, the floodwaters finally beginning to subside as the Sun breaks through the clouds and birds return to the skies!

FaltyDL ‘A Nurse to my Patience’
(Blueberry Records)  11th November 2022

The new album by FaltyDL (Electronic Musician and New York based Producer Drew Lustman) is a departure from his more dance-orientated records. The album draws on the sounds more often associated with less commercial independent or experimental artists. There are still tracks that can be danced to, but perhaps not in the usual dance clubs. ‘Zoo Jarre’ is reminiscent of New Order while ‘God Light’ filters in The Cure. ‘Come See Us’ features Interpol’s Paul Banks on vocals over a pounding drum machine and synth driven electronic alternative 80s style song! Much better are ‘Four Horses’ and ‘A Brother Bears the Silence’ – two acoustic psychedelic songs featuring the incredible Julianna Barwick on background vocals (check out her own incredible Healing is a Miracle album). ‘Doves Fears’ ends the album on an instrumental high note of anthemic surf guitar and pop synth summer melody.

A O Gerber ‘Meet Me at the Gloaming’
(Hand in Hive / Father Daughter Records)

The second album by LA resident A O Gerber explores childhood trauma, her fraught upbringing in a religious community, childhood fear of the unknown. However, the introspective songs are filled with melody and sound almost pop-country in their stripped back guitar, vocals, bass, drums format. Vocally she reminds me of Susanna Hoffs from the Bangles. However, the songs exist in the unreality of twilight, the gloaming, where dreams meet material existence, a reality half hidden by the falling shadows of night.

Modern Stars ‘Space Trips for the Masses’
(Little Cloud Records)  11th November 2022

The third album by psychedelic riders of the storm, Modern Stars, falls somewhere between The Mission and The Fields of the Nephilim. New single ‘Monkey Blues’ also has hints of the Doors and may have been an underground hit had it come out in 1987! That’s not necessarily a criticism as the 3-piece band hail from Italy and perhaps, are not too familiar with 1980’s UK Goth! ‘Mmmm’ is a Goth anthem if ever there was one, complete with flanged metallic drums. While, ‘My Messiah’ musically sounds like a discarded Joy Division jam from 1978 but in a good way! ‘Drowning’ adds tabla hand drums and sitar to the mix. The album ends with ‘Ninna Nanna’ a song that sounds a bit different with female vocals. Unfortunately, the vocal melody sounds like ‘Come by yar my lord’, perhaps making it the first Goth-spel song? Overall, a fine, if not totally original, album.

Ben Pagano ‘Exploring Dreams’
(Bandcamp)

This is the third release from New York singer songwriter and keyboard maestro Ben Pagano. The album is a collection of seven songs that sit vocally somewhere between Supertramp and Randy Newman! My favourite song is ‘Everybody’s Ghost’. The arrangements are pleasant with piano, synths, guitar, bass and drums and the overall sound has a 1970’s soft rock or AOR feel that will find favour with many. If he can stamp more of his own personality and quirkiness on the songs, he may get the success he seeks. One to watch!

I Work in Communications ‘Kiss My Emoji Ring’
(Tier)

‘The taste of Square Sausage versus the taste of sausages of other shape’ has perhaps never been considered for a ‘Panorama’ Special Investigation! However, under the watchful eye of Dr Arthur Mind MBS there has now been an investigative study to show that the shape of food can and does have a positive effect on its taste!

Consider the Triangle, for example, and its effect on the cheesiness of food! Former Cosmonaut Alexi Kraft discovered the wonders of this shape when he invented Kraft Cheese Slices in order to supply the first man in space Yuri Gagarin with a calcium filled snack that would strengthen his bones whilst orbiting the Earth in Vostok 1 on April 12 1961. After several attempts to sustain enough calcium for the space flight using oblong shaped cheese, the triangle was discovered by accident to be the perfect shape for maximum cheesiness, when one of the oblong shaped cheeses broke diagonally in half while Yuri was riding his bicycle down a hill in preparation for the G Force of the rocket launch!

Of course, in modern times it is quite apparent that a Babybel round cheese is nowhere near as tasty as a Kraft Cheese Triangle! However, the shape of food was soon to play a devastating part in Gagarin’s life. Tragedy struck Gagarin when in 1966 he inadvertently ate a Quality Street green triangle whilst filming an advert for Kraft! His ‘hero status’ in tatters, Gagarin was forced to flee to the West. He never recovered from his fall from grace, ending his days hidden in a bear costume-playing Bungle on Rainbow.

Like the dream reality of Yuri Gagarin, Kiss My Emoji Ring is heroic, strange, troubled, shaped with taste like a square sausage, weird! Doomed to global obscurity but reaching for the stars!

AND A COUPLE OF SINGLES

Tigercub ‘The Perfume of Decay’
(Loosegroove Records)

Gillian Stone ‘Ravens Song’
(Bandcamp)

Taken from the forthcoming EP Spirit Photographs, the new single from this Toronto-based experimental singer and musician is a sparse yet cinematic soundscape-folk song. It reminds of Nick Cave or P J Harvey in its moonlit darkness – can’t wait for the EP!

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