The inaugural Monthly Revue playlist of 2023; a choice selection of tracks from the last month on the blog. Curated by Dominic Valvona with Matt Oliver on the Rap Control once more, and music from reviews by our latest recruit Gillian Stone plus Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Graham Domain. Expect to hear the unexpected.


Mentrix ‘Be Mahsa Be Nika’
Meadow Argus ‘No Company’
Anton Barbeau. ‘Dollis Hill Butchers’
Guided By Voices ‘Wild Kingdom’
The Wot Nots ‘Oi!’
Wings Of Desire ‘Runnin”
The Gangsta Rabbi ‘Ana’mika (138the Entr’acte)’
Neon Kittens ‘Chalk’
Smuts ‘Kalashnikova’
Dyr Faser ‘Life Form’
Earth ‘Rocker’
Xqui Ft. Bettina Schroeder ‘I Have A Knife’
Flexagon ‘Fort Saumarez: MP2’
George Winstone & Ben Monder ‘Part I’
Liela Moss ‘Empathy Files’
The Good Samaritans ‘Onughara’
Phil Ranelin & Wendell Harrison. ‘Genesis’
Fliptrix/Onoe Caponoe/Ramson Badbonez ‘SM58’
Masai Bey/BMS ‘I.a.a’
Micall Parknsun/Jazz T ‘Still…’
Dexter Dine ‘Sunshine In A Can’
Elise Preys/Marc-Antoine Perrio ‘Petites Heures’
Bjorn Magnusson ‘Everybody’s Got Something’
Designers ‘Moulindjek’
dal:um ‘Dot’
Clamb ‘Glittering Watermelon Oracle – Live’
Justo The MC/Axian ‘Autopilot’
Skyzoo/The Other Guys ‘Bodies!’
Carlos Nino & Friends ‘Drum Solo +, “Sounds Like Memory…”‘
Ghostwoods ‘Terminus’
Kety Fusco ‘2072’
Raul Refree ‘La Plage’
Esbe ‘Coventry Carol’
Sara Noelle. ‘Blooming Yucca’
Kahil El’Zabar And The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble ‘Harvest Time’
Beats & Pieces Big Band ‘Op’
Galactapus ‘Radio Kolossos’
Oddisee ‘Many Hats’
Upfront MC/Badhabitz ‘Stay Afloat’
Your Old Droog ‘Here’s Johnny’
Onoe Caponoe ‘Pet Cemetry’


Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Reviews Column


Exclusive Video:-

Schizo Fun Addict  ‘Forever Before’
(Fruits Der Mer Records)

Well how apt a few days after David Crosby the king of Laurel Canyon died we are sent the latest video by Schizo Fun Addict [an exclusive in fact]. Yes my dear readers you are the first people to cast your eyes and ears over this beautiful Laurel Cannyon Autumnal breeze-like guitar song, a song that is possessed by the magic of 1967 Byrds with the slight tinkerings of space rock synth.

Forever Before” is a song one can imagine gracing and being a highlight from the debut album by the mythical band or should that be group the Kelly Affair from the movie Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. A song dipped in the serendipity of pure magic.

“Forever Before” is a teaser from their forthcoming album released in March on Fruits Der Mer Records, and I for one cannot wait.

Benedict Benjamin ‘Furlough Blues’
February 3rd 202

If post-punk folk with a hint of psychedelicised Byrds is your thing then this rather excellent single needs to be gracing your listening device. The first track taken from a forthcoming album Tunnel, which if ‘Furlough Blues’ is anything to go by, is going to be a bit of a stunner.

Maple Mars ‘Anchors Aweigh’
(Big Stir Records)

It is nice to see and hear in fact that there are still songs like this being made and released. ‘Anchors Away’ is a well written and performed guitar pop/rock song, a track with no edginess no quirkiness just a straight-ahead song with melodies and guitar solo; the kind of song one might nod their head to and tap their foot whilst considering another pint or, if it’s time to venture out into the cold night and risk a dodgy take out from the Flaming Duck. The kind of song one would imagine being played in a bar in America in the mid 80s on some TV show, when the lead character was some handsome private detective who always had the women throwing themselves at him: although he was far too old for them. Yes indeed a leather jacker [new and polished] and a seductive moustache, which he never seemed to get beer froth on. A handsome devil indeed, and this would be the music of his choice, well played guitar bar roomish type of rock…he might occasionally drive a motorbike.

Bigflower ‘Hope There’s Someone’

The Mighty bigflower kicks off the New Year where they left of the last with a song of atmospheric beauty. ‘Hope There’s Someone’ is of course a cover of the Anthony And The Johnsons gem, but the gem is polished and covered in layers of Ivor Perry’s magical guitar to produce a track of soul and heartache. One day a label is going to gather these monthly slices of guitar perfection and release an album of artistic triumph.

The Wot Nots ‘Oi’
(Metal Postcard Records)

Old style punk-rock or punk-rock old style, I will let you decide, but either way we have a catchy short blast of rock ‘n’ roll, part early Fall part Alternative TV.  The aural equivalent of stumbling over some Sniffin Glue fanzines and getting teary nostalgic for the days when you used to nick coal from the back of the coal lorry or graffiti ‘never mind the bollocks here are the Sex Pistols’ on your neighbor’s shed. The Wot Nots ARE PUNKTASTIC.


Guided By Voices ‘La La Land’
(GBV Inc)

Another album from GBV (Guided By Voices). Yes everybody’s favourite lo-fi guitar wheeling merchants; a band that is often mentioned in the same sentence when reviewing my band The Bordellos, although we sound nothing like them: lazy journalism at its finest. But what we do have in common is we both write tuneful quite often short songs of perfection, and this album La La Land is indeed full of them.

What I love best about GBV (Great British Virgins) is their shorter songs. My least favourite are their longer songs: ‘Slowly On The Wheel’ is a bit dull to be honest at six minutes long. But their tunefulness and fine lyricism, heartfelt and snide-y at the same time words filled with a vim and vigour, should be injected into everybody’s record collection. See GBV (George Benson Versus – versus who I do not know; maybe Gene Vincent and the guns of Sunset arrival) are on the whole a fine band but you really don’t need me to tell you that and this on the whole this is a fine album: but you really do not need me to tell you that.

Panthervision ‘Now In 3-D’
(Kool Kat)  3rd February 2023

If one misses and longs for the days when The Primitives and The Darling Buds and such punk indie pop guitar led female vocal fronted bands ruled the airwaves, you could well enjoy Now In 3-D. For the little blighter is jam packed with melody led guitar frenzy, with just the right amount of cheeky sass.

Panthervision have the fine art of guitar pop perfected, or should that be purrfected. They know what they are good at so they never stray from their lane, sticking fine and true on the road of straight ahead guitar pop.

Neon Kittens ‘Van Goghs’s Ear EP’
(Metal Postcard Records)

The soundtrack to Lydia having her Lunch, a seductive strut through the streets of a post-punk apocalypse, a place where hi-brow sleeziness and dancing like Thurma and Travolta is compulsory, the sound of Neon Kittens is one of sex seduction and the flashing neon light offering sex to the music of your choice an elicit affair with the cool kids record collection. It is a place where the Velvet Underground and the Flying Lizards meet up for black coffee and talk art. The Neon Kittens are cool motherfuckers.

The Conspiracy ‘New Years Day EP’
(Metal Postcard Records)

The New Years Day EP is a fine way musically to start off 2023. Although listening to The Conspiracy you could be starting off 1990, as this is an EP that takes one back to the late 80s early 90s, for there are songs on here that weave the same magic as the much underrated Wonky Alice, a fine band that never got the success they deserved, a band that I hear has recently reformed, but enough about the fine Wonky Alice and more about the Conspiracy. As I said, they weave a guitar based magic with a hint of art –pop; a band that sounds very British, like the way the Kinks or the Smiths or the great Billy Childish sounds British: an arrogance of melodious melancholy that tips a hat to politics, sexual or otherwise.

New Years Day is indeed a fine way musically to start this New Year.

Tim Cross and TV Smith ‘Words And Music’

This album is a collection of unreleased tracks by Tim Cross and TV Smith, two former members of the legendary punk band The Adverts who of course where much more than your everyday punk band as they took punk into an almost spikey bubble-gum prog direction with their classic second album Casts Of Thousands.

The late Tim Cross also worked with the likes of Mike Oldfield, Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates and many others as well as playing on many excellent albums by the punk troubadour TV Smith. This album has a wonderful lo-fi quality about it as the songs are mostly demos and the odd live recording, and contains some quite wonderful early 80s sounding synth pop – ‘Lucky Us’ being a complete poptastic gem and a track one can imagine gracing the charts of the day. And ‘The Lion And The Lamb’ being a typically beautifully written piece of folk punk, whilst ‘Driver Or Passenger’ coming across like Dire Straits being fronted or indeed affronted by a snarking Luke Haines.

All in all Words And Music is a gem of an album and one again that shows TV Smith and indeed Tim Cross really have never got the acclaim and success they truly deserve.

Meadow Argus ‘Dancing Through a Slow Apocalypse’

This seven-track EP or mini album is rather fantastic. Seven tracks that explore the strange world of folk psychedelia and Krautrock, at times reminding me both of the Beta Band and Broadcast but with a poppier more commercial pop edge. ‘House Husband’ even has a twangy Fender guitar sound Buddy Holly would have been more than pleased with.

Dancing Through a Slow Apocalypse is an album of pure musical adventure genre hopping with a fluid style and ease that cannot be anything else but admired.

New Contributor Alert: Gillian Stone’s inaugural reviews roundup for the Monolith Cocktail

Joining the team in 2023, Gillian Stone is a multi-instrumentalist and interdisciplinary artist originally from the Pacific Northwest and based in Toronto, Canada. Through her eponymous vocally-driven post-rock/drone folk solo project, she has released two singles, “Bridges” and Shelf, and her debut EP, Spirit Photographs. Stone holds a BFA in Jazz Studies from Vancouver Island University and an MA in Ethnomusicology from the University of Toronto. Drawing from her eclectic taste, she has worked with Michael Peter Olsen (Zoon, The Hidden Cameras), Timothy Condon and Brad Davis (Fresh Snow, Picastro), The Fern Tips (Beams) Völur (Blood Ceremony), NEXUS (Steve Reich), and visual artist Althea Thauberger.

Sara Noelle ‘Do I Have To Feel Everything’
27th January 2023

Do I Have to Feel Everything, Sara Noelle‘s third album, oozes vulnerability and expresses feelings both directly and allegorically through naturalistic themes. Ever present are the Los Angeles-based artist’s soothing, velveteen vocals which deliver melodies that often sweep into unexpected places. Produced by Dan Duszynski (Loma), the album pays homage to its influences while also managing to hold its own. The opening track, “Blooming Yucca”, begins with a bassline that is distantly PJ Harvey-esque, like something from To Bring You My Love, while “Slip Away” gives a gentle nod to Harvey’s White Chalk. The title track, “Do I Have to Feel Everything”, transitions into an 80’s synth vibe. This aesthetic evolves further in “Sun Fades the Pain”, which evokes a sonic landscape of The War on Drugs being interpreted through the lens The High Priestess archetype. Perhaps the most stunning moment on the album is “Dust Clouds” moving into “Hum”; the former being an interlude built with creepy, beautiful, natural
ambient soundscapes, and the latter being a journey of unexpected chord progressions. Do I Have to Feel Everything is a gorgeous and gentle journey that ebbs and flows like water on a calm day.

Dexter Dine ‘Flood’
31st January 2023

Dexter Dine’s Flood is best listened to with headphones. The self-defined Brooklyn, NY-based “apartment rocker” conjures a diverse and expansive sound that is a “mixture of melodic samples, multi-part drum grooves, and off-kilter saxophone solos”. From the Animal Collective vibes of “Flooded Meadows”, “Splatter In Two”, and “Lockeeper”, to the Juana Molina-esque
“Peanutbutter”, to the Bossa Nova feel of “Valley Of Air”, the beats he creates are the driving force behind this electroacoustic pursuit. There is even a touch of Burial in Dine’s sound, which spatially meanders around the physical sonic space – again, excellent for headphone listening. Interspersed throughout Flood are sometimes trilling, sometime harmonized reverby alto sax
parts that congeal the album’s sound into something that stands on its own. In addition to Flood being Dine’s eighth record since mid-2016, and he also does sound design for gallery- based dance performances. Dine is a prolific artist, and his work is ethereal, striking, and drenched in both sunshine and melancholy.

La Tène ‘Ecorcha/Taillée’ 
(Bongo Joe Records) 3rd February 2023

La Tène’s Ecorcha/Taillée is a meditative, minimalist folk masterpiece. It’s two pieces, “L’Ecorcha” and “La Taillée”, travel and swirl in stunning glacial motion. Released by Genevan label Bongo Joe Records, the three core members of the French/Swiss ensemble create a droning, modern artifact by use of harmonium, hurdy-gurdy, and percussion. For Ecorcha/Taillée, the group expanded into a seven-piece, with guest artists contributing guitar, bass, headband, and bagpipes. The album, which was recorded live in a single take, was produced in a cultural centre and ballroom converted from a barn. In line La Tène’s singular folk aesthetic, the main functionality of this space is to build interest in folk music from Auvergne, a region in central France.

The starting minutes of “L’Ecorcha”, which runs at 18:26, establish a repeating, ascending melody that solders the foundation of the album’s trance-like odyssey. Almost unchanging until six minutes in, the piece then slowly swells into a spiraling, understated density. “La Taillée” (14:34, a short piece by the band’s standards) maintains a pulsating minor 2nd chord progression and clave rhythm from start to finish. The piece has distinct parts, starting almost-dance like, breaking into a minimal groove, then descending into a gentle dissonance before softly exploding. Both “L’Ecorcha” and “La Taillée” are utterly captivating and are imbued with experimental triumph. The members of La Tène are avant-garde historians, and the result of their work is a timeless sonic world that is hauntingly beautiful.

Gillian Stone

Album Reviews by Graham Domain

Liela Moss ‘Internal Working Model’
(Bella Union)

This is the third solo album from the Duke Spirit vocalist and an excellent album it is! Whilst the first album My Name is Safe in Your Mouth was a diverse haunting set of wyrd folk songs, her latest album is a progression to electronic music – an album where the singer touches on facets of the dystopian present and near future! The atomisation of society – individuals becoming isolated, alone, helpless to assert themselves against the uncaring, all-powerful state above them – watching, controlling, neutering! The rich and powerful blatantly adopting their own ‘fuck-you’ autonomy while the pliant masses are moulded to comply! Protest steadily becoming outlawed! The NHS openly run into the ground so that it seems like a mercy when the jackal-like Health Insurance Companies take over, profiting from the misery! No one mentions back-handers or conflicts of interest while wealthy MP’s line their own pockets and laugh in the face of common decency, spitting on the downtrodden and shitting all over humanity! Welcome to the dystopian present and near future! The Earth burns and the Four Horsemen get out the barbie – grinning insanely like Rishi Sunak!

Of course, Liela Moss only touches on such concerns, her pop sensibilities still intact, she airs her fears in commercial song settings. The lyrics often abstract, more suggestive than linear, more about feelings and emotions, a cry in the darkness! The music reflects the unease in songs like ‘Empathy Files’ where ominous synthesisers and electronics texture a claustrophobic angst-ridden realisation that the State has ‘…got data for miles on You.’ But there is also inherent hope in the songs, a desire for change and a belief that human goodness will eventually overcome the bad things happening in the world. In ‘Come and Find Me’ she champions the need for people to reconnect with each other, empathise, form groups or networks of support as she sings, ‘Come and find me, I’m empathy…and I’m not on your phone!’

There are some great melodies and expressive vocal performances on the album. At times, she reminds me of Sarah Blasko at her most colourful and daring! ‘The Wall from the Floor’ sounds like a James Bond theme with its ethereal vocals and ‘Bad World’ refrain! ‘Ache in the Middle’ meanwhile has a melody that falls somewhere in-between Tears for Fears Mad World and Kate Bush the Sensual World! ‘New Day’ feels like a hymn to World Leaders for a better tomorrow – a call to feel empathy for others, concern and love for each other! If the overall feel of the electronic music is one of dystopia, alienation and oppression, the intent, the motivation is human – love and kindness as the antidote to isolation and inertia, feelings of helplessness transformed into positivity and action!

(4000 Records)

This is the debut album from Brisbane Dark Jazz Collective Ghostwoods. Made up of six instrumental pieces it moves between oblique minimalism and experimental low-key film soundtrack. Cinematic in intent, but wonkily off-centre in execution, it nevertheless retains the interest of the listener with its elements of melody, intrigue and mystery!

First track ‘Dreamless’ is perhaps the weakest link. Minimal piano is latterly underpinned by deep synths and droning keyboard chords.

‘Terminal Bliss’ follows – distorted guitar giving way to deep bass and hypnotic drums with a reverb snare and a snake-like saxophone weaving between the beat – sounding not unlike Joy Division’s the Eternal crossed with Courtney Pine circa Journey to the Urge Within! Mesmeric!

One of the best tracks is ‘Saturnine’ which begins in a thunderstorm. Harpsichord, piano and arpeggio guitar soon breaking into a spooked Spy Theme (as played by Roedelius) before ending with the cold sound of rain!

In ‘Limina’ eerie voice-like synth waves flow across the music giving way to slow piano chords and droplets of synth, giving the piece a sad melancholic air! Beautiful in its bleakness!

Slow jazz brushed drums begin ‘Brighter Now.’ An air of mystery and tension hangs in the air as dramatic piano chords crash and a lonely clarinet plays as swathes of restrained guitar feedback fade in, bringing forth feelings of danger and foreboding. Music that perhaps could easily soundtrack the opening sequence of a ‘Harry Palmer’ cold-war spy film!

In ‘Terminus’ arpeggiated guitar chords sit atop low dissonance and clashing distortion before morphing into a kind of Ennio Morricone sci-fi spaghetti western theme with a slow tambourine pulse.

My Neon is a downbeat melancholic ‘imaginary’ soundtrack of sad beauty and simmering strangeness that stands its ground.

Key tracks: Brighter Now, Saturnine, Terminal Bliss.

New Music on our radar, news and archive spots
Dominic Valvona

A new thread, feed for 2023, the Digest pulls together tracks, videos and snippets of new music plus significant archival material and anniversary celebrating albums or artists. In the inaugural edition we draw your attention to exploratory harp virtuoso Kety Fusco, Iranian backbeat techno from Mentrix, a relatively short mash of post-punk-metal-lo fo from the cult Gangsta Rabbi, a slice of Edo Funk from The Good Samaritans and news that De La Soul finally make it to streaming platforms. The Beach Boys Holland LP reaches 50, and a nod to the passing of Japanese icon and Yellow Magic Orchestra member Yukihiro Takahashi.


Ket Fusco ‘2072’ – Single, taken from the upcoming The Harp, Chapter I album, released 3rd March 2023

Not quite as far into the future as Zagar & Evans, the Italian virtuoso harpist Kety Fusco transforms her instrument into a premonition eulogy of her own death in that titled year of 2072. So sure of this far-off inevitable, Kety has even whittled it down to an exact date: “On 13 January 2072 I will die”. With a certain mysterious if plaintive quality, a translucent picked reverberation of notes that convey memories and tubular peaks of diaphanous grief, the live processed and spell-casted melody of this music will accompany Kety to her tomb.

The composition of this track, we are told, is based on a live granulation of Kety’s electric harp, combined with drone sounds created with a pulsating massager on the soundbox of the 47-string classical harp, and vocal reminiscences emitted by Kety with scratchy screams inside the harp soundboard, which decorate this post- classical sound. The gifted exploratory artist is renowned for pushing the envelope and the very definition of what a harp sounds like with experimental generated augmentation, effects and various manipulations. To see it live, on video, is extraordinary and performative, with a method that is usually improvised and felt rather than studied.

2072 is part of a much longer suite taken from the upcoming album The Harp, Chapter 1 – itself part of trilogy I believe of such works, released over the next few years. You will be able to read my review of it in time for its inaugural full performance on the 3rd of March at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Mentrix ‘Be Masha Be Nika’ – Taken from the upcoming Arpanik labels’ Woman, Life, Freedom compilation, released 20th January 2023

As the West’s attention is quite rightly invested in the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine, it’s fallen on artists, musicians to draw that intense scrutiny on the Iranian regime and its heinous treatment of women. Prompted by the death of Mahsa Jina Amini in the custody of the authorities last year, an ensuing battle of ideals and freedoms has ensued that threatens to topple the tyranny. However, the regime has pushed back harder and with an almost unprecedented violence started executing (mainly men so far) supporters and activists on trumped up, tortured confessional charges of treason. But even in the face of this bloody repression history is on the side of Iran’s younger more liberal generations.

As artists, the Iranian’s AIDA and Nesa Azadikhah have announced a not-for-profit compilation Woman, Life, Freedom in support:

‘Throughout Iranian history, women have been at the forefront of music and performing arts. However for the past 44 years under the Islamic regime, women in Iran have been banned from singing, dancing, and performance. Facing threats to the safety of themselves and their families, to their career and reputation, female artists are forced to quit, leave Iran, or to go underground facing grave risks. Despite this, Iranian women have remained active and at the forefront of their art, pushing boundaries from Iran and different corners of the world.

Woman, Life Freedom is a collection of original music from Iranian women artists, dedicated to the recent uprising of people, especially the women in Iran who have endured silencing, censorship, and forced control over the past four decades.

The compilation consists of 12 new tracks across electro, breaks, techno, ambient and experimental from Iranian artists including SarrSew, MENTRIX, Sharona Lico and AIDA and Nesa Azadikhah themselves, with many of the tracks either directly addressing or inspired by the current revolution.

The goal of this project is to raise awareness of the international music community about the bravery, talent, and difficulty of female musicians to work under the Islamic Republic’s Regime, as well as the brutal killings of people who have been speaking up since the start of the revolution in September 2022.

AIDA can be found at the intersection of two contrasting worlds: rich Iranian roots and a serene west-coast Canadian upbringing. This dichotomy is infused in everything she crafts, combining elements of world-inspired music with electronic, she gives colorful twists to masterful blends of groovy house, techno, and breaks geared for the dancefloor.

Nesa Azadikhah is a Tehran-based DJ, music producer, composer, sound artist, and musician. From playing Tonbak and Daf at the age of six to DJing at the age of sixteen in the underground dance scene, she has established herself as one of Tehran’s most in-demand electronic music and sound artists and composers. Nesa is also the founder and managing director of Deep House Tehran, which focuses on showcasing Iranian electronic musicians.

Proceeds from this release will be donated to charities that help struggling women in Iran. The first selected charity is Saraye Mehr, an organisation that helps women and children recovering from domestic violence, addiction, homelessness, and societal distress in Iran.’

Today, we are happy to share Mentrix‘s ‘Be Masha Be Nika‘, a backbeat reverberating Matmos-esque slice of Iranian techno. You can purchase the compilation, and we encourage you to do that, from bandcamp.

The Gangsta Rabbi ‘Ana’mika (138th Entr’acte)’

In comparison to his usual hour plus long ‘militia punk’ performances, this newest concentrated dirge and explosive force of post-punk antagonism and mayhem from Steve Lieberman, aka the Gangsta Rabbi, is a mere vignette-sized grenade toss of fleeting lo fi paranoia and radio unfriendly twaddled madness.

The new single ‘Ana’mika (138th Entr’acte)’ is taken from the upcoming 4th King of Jewish Punk Calling Out From Radio Bad’lania (#41/79) album. It will be his 79th album in his catalog, which includes the Guinness World Record holder for Longest Officially Released Song, ‘The Noise Militia (#38/76)’ running close to 36 hours long. Unbelievably it has already racked up over 400,000 plays on Spotify alone! After thirty years at this shit, we can perhaps say the cult polymath (from magician to punk-metal singer, arranger and songwriter) name is out of the bag.

The Good Samaritans ‘Onughara’ – Taken from the upcoming No Food Without Taste If By Hunger album, released on 3rd March 2023 by Analog Africa

From the rarified vaults of Nigeria’s Benin City , a shuffling lively funky slice of Highlife action. Many just know it as ‘modern Highlife’, others as a whole different brew entirely called ‘Edo Funk’: a more stripped and raw sheen-less and less slick version of the productions emanating from the nightclubs of 80s Nigeria. Born in the much fought-over Edo State capital of Benin City in the cosmopolitan region of Southern Nigeria, the Edo Funk phenomenon was a reductive alternative to the polished productions that dominated the scene, and one that delivered, in many cases, the same spirited protestations that Fela Kuti wrapped around Afrobeat.

Analog Africa released a first volume of such hits a couple of years back. Now, they’ve unearthed No Food Without Taste If By Hunger by The Good Samaritans, one of the most obscure Nigerian albums ever recorded. Originally released in 1982, The Good Samaritans is Philosopher Okundaye‘s Edo Funk project. He produced four albums under this name (No Food Without Taste If By Hunger is the first of these), all recorded with a 24 track at Phonodisk Studio in Ijebu Igbo in Ogun State, east of Lagos. Okundaye who played many instruments, engaged the right musicians for each project and mixed the whole thing himself, is known as the composer of a large part of Benin City’s celebrated hits in the 80s. His name keeps popping up but somehow his role in the scene remains a bit hazy, giving the character an image of something like the gray eminence of Edo Funk.

Here’s the first cut to drop in the run-up to that treasure’s release in March.


The Daisy Age’s chief protagonists will finally make it to streaming platforms – for better or worse. With a deal cut at last, samples cleared, copyrights navigated, De La Soul can now officially be shared on such behemoths as Spotify. It was the trio themselves that felt left out of the picture; the glaring missing link from the story of Hip-Hop. They announced this deal by dropping ‘The Magic Number’ single and 3 Feet High And Rising album track. The full debut will be released in due course along with the group’s first quartet of albums.

The dawning of a ‘daisy age’, a psychedelic trigger to expand rap music’s horizons, the debut album from the New York trio dared to dream bigger and better. The Haight Asbury to the street level epistles and rage of such luminaries as KRS-One and his Boogie Down Bronx collective or Public Enemy, and far less dogmatically pro-Nation of Islam as X Clan and the Brand Nubians, De La Soul wove an almost electric kool aid tapestry of skittish humour and enlightened social commentary: closer in spirit to Prince than their fellow Hip Hop brethren.

A change had to come, and 3 Feet High And Rising was a zeitgeist: nothing before or after was quite the same creatively. Of course, they weren’t the first to sample outside the usual soul, funk and R&B influences; both Run DMC and The Beastie Boys had beaten them to AM rock and heavy metal. They weren’t the first either to take up the Afrocentric cause, their fellow Native Tongues partners, The Jungle Brothers (bookending 1989 with their own accomplished and, arguably, one of the genres best albums, Done By The Forces Of Nature) already delivering that with their, soul-zap, jazz, hip house debut, Straight Out Of The Jungle, the previous year. Yet they managed with the help of original Stetsasonic honcho and Hip Hop’s leading experimental light, Prince Paul, to create the Sgt.Pepper of rap; a counterbalance to the tough and egotistic mantra gesticulating stereotype hoods that had dominated the scene for the past decade, turning the party jam and electro golden dawn into a bloody rivalry of dangerous put downs and postcode spates.

In keeping with the burgeoning of the intelligent hoodlum, De La Soul used their halcyon flower sprouting noodles to turn on society’s ills. Not only, ingenuously, making Hall & Oates hip for a brief moment, ‘Say No Go’ and the beat poetic nursery rhyme resigned ‘Ghetto Thang’ both deliberated on the cruel and seamier side of the shaded sidewalk without swearing or boasting.

For sure it would be a milestone, but it would also be a millstone around the trio’s neck. The accolades and acclaim that followed would never match the debut’s impact, though not for want of trying. Even as far back as their sophomore release they pessimistically – though with an ironic knowing – announced their own demise with the equally sophisticated but much serene De La Soul Is Dead. Decades later they’re still making records, and once, as a bestowed gift to the world, gave all their music away free for a 24-hour period. The legacy that followed cannot be overstated, sparking a leftfield revolution that helped spawn and motivate A Tribe Called QuestLeaders Of The New SchoolQueen LatifahThe Black SheepKMDDivine StylerDigable Planets and Main Source to name just a few, though we could also arguably blame them for PM Dawn too!


The Beach Boys Holland LP makes fifty this month. Recently part of the double album appraisal box set Sail On Sailor 1972, this pilgrims trail, for many of us, marks a return to form after the previous passable Carl And The Passions – So Tough R&B and soft-rock revue. With former Flames Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Faatar on board again, but a lacklustre, meditating Brian Wilson yet to break out of his malaise, the songwriting was even more varied but good. They lost Bruce ‘Disney Girls’ Johnston from the lineup, and handed control over to Carl Wilson and manager, producer (and general instigator, mentor) Jack Rieley – the man mostly responsible for shaking the group out of their stupor, and encouraging the Surf’s Up cult favourite.

Relocating out of some misplaced belief that in a different location miles from home, it would either shake or force Brian to take up the mantle, the group instead found themselves writing a lovesick postcard to their Californian home. Rather than break out of repeating patterns, Brian felt ill at ease in new surroundings – no sandbox beneath his feet. He did write the nursery rhyme, radio hall ‘Mount Vernon And Fairway’ transistor bedtime story – for better or worse. Step forward Carl, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Dennis Wilson and the South African duo of Chaplin and Faatar to compose an American almanac.

I’d always thought that the reason for crossing the Atlantic to Holland was some kind of homage to the founding fathers; being the port of call after leaving England, for the pilgrim fathers and mothers. And so why not a songbook dedicated to this history. One that seems to follow the Western trials, the steamboat river journeys all the way to California; not flinching from Steinbeck’s visions of the great depression in the dust bowl states, the Trail of Tears and Borrow My Heart sentiments of crimes against the Native Indian populations. ‘The Trader’ an encapsulation of the latter, paints a sort of Americana picture – I’m reminded of The Band’s ‘Arcadian Driftwood‘. The poetry, imbued words of Robinson Jeffers and Robert Frost ring clear as the old West meets the new age vibrations of Country Joe And The Fish at Big Sur. And yet there’s room for the incredible heart-aching ‘Leaving This Town‘, from the Chaplin/Faatar pact, opening favourite nautical themed ‘Sail On Sailor’ and Dennis/Love penned heart-crushing piano ballad ‘Only With You’ (sang by Carl) – the former reflecting a mature love despondent yearn of soft balladry from the group.

And so couple of my personal favourites from that album:

From the Beach Boys vaults on the Monolith Cocktail:

Surf’s Up: An Evaluation

Made In California

The SMiLE Sessions

Brian Wilson And Friends Live In Glasgow

Love And Mercy Film

Also…added to at regular intervals, my defining playlist:


Musically (sartorial too for that matter) one of the great pantheon influences of modernist Japanese music, part of the holy Yellow Magic Orchestra trinity of Haruomi Hosono and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yukihiro Takahasi helped birth the Tokyo, or City, glow pop explosion of the 80s in his homeland. Which thanks to labels such as WEWANTSOUNDS have been in an ascendence of late – that label also re-releasing his debut, more European cool and suave album Saravah too – a kind of Japanese Brian Ferry!

Japan before there was a Japan (the David Slyvian kind), Takahasi first took up with his YMO foils, playing drums in the country’s premier and most innovative electro-pop group, before swanning off and trying to out-Bowie 80s Bowie. Crafting some irresistible, charismatic neo-romantic hits, the star released an abundance of sentimental but always cooly-lit neon heartaches and pensive croons, even a cover version or two. Here’s just a few of them:

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog 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 to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

A look at both the new live album and video from the Boston trio Clamb
Words by Dominic Valvona

Clamb ‘Glittering Watermelon Oracle (Live At The Midway Café, July 19th 2021)’
“Eggs’ video created by Peter Danilchuk and Collaborators Digital

All hail the grapefruit, the egg and… well, the watermelon deities as our Boston pyramid schematic of jazz-funk-prog-krautrock-fusion release a live album of their pumped works. Once more into the magik temple with a sound that can only be described as warped mix of Mahavishu Orchestra, the Zapp band and Qüassi, Clamb both reinterpret tracks from their debut album Earth Mother Grapefruit and improvise new peregrinations – the title-track for one.

From the Midway Café stage (Jamaica Plain, Boston to be exact) on one excitable night after coming out from lockdown, the three-piece (though it looks like they extend to a quartet live) whoop and howl, simmer and stutter to polymetric drums (courtesy of Joshua Merhas), synthesized zips and zaps (Peter Danilchuk) and jazzy, funk-fried noodling fretless basslines (Jameson Stewart). Egged-on by an enthusiastic, let loose from pandemic morose, audience at all times, they transform the debut album tracks ‘Oyster Sunday’, ‘Land Breath’, ‘Triangular Fÿord’ and ‘Fields Cornelius’. The first two being twinned as it were, connected in one almost continuous performance that’s one-third Parliament, one-third Yes, and another third Can. The Floydian “Fÿord” (encouraged with a “we can do this one!”) is retuned to the gothic flange of The Banshees and various krautrock evocations of the vapourous and evaporating. The latter, and album finale, combines the Jah (Wobble) with the Jarre (Jean-Michael) on a radiating progressive voyager trip.

In-between those Earth Mother Grapefruit inclusions there’s the stuttered and scuttled, cymbal dancing, ray emitted astro-funk title-track (imagine Tortoise sharing room on an 80s sci-fi soundtrack with Holy Fuck and the Van Allen Belt); the Numan/Vangelis modulating, oscillating sine wave plant life panorama ‘Emerge! O Citroid’; and Tangerine Dream(ed) space dusted orbital re-entry ‘Plutonian Auspex’. And through it all there’s a sense that Clamb is having fun with these outlandish prog-jazz fusions: those heads being raised up shaking with enjoyment rather than downcast towards the navel and erstwhile. This same attitude bleeds into the band’s new hand-made animated video for ‘Eggs’ – taken from their already mentioned debut album. Danilchuk’s volcanic erupted covered Hellenic columns and ruins strewn landscape and phoenix rising from Easter eggs cut-ups are handed over to Digital Awareness (responsible for projecting the visuals at the group’s live shows), who dress it up further with various psychedelic acid-rain, buzzing and lava spewing effects. It’s a collaboration that perfectly captures Clamb’s cyber-generating mix of the surreal, charming, goofy and magical. All hail the fruits of a funked nature.

Ahead of the Italian quartet’s new album Moonlit Panacea, the Monolith Cocktail premieres Dottor Pira’s video for the second single Mithra Night Soup.

Rainbow Island ‘Mithra Night Soup’
Single taken from the Moonlight Panacea album, released on the 18th January 2023 by Riforma

In theosophical vision-scope the scattered but originally Rome based quartet of Rainbow Island conjure up another interdimensional world of mystifying crystal-lined chasms and frozen or blancmange-like landscapes pulled from fantasy playing cards, myth and the occult. Their newest album, arriving a few years after the omnivorous and warped derangement of the frazzled bubble bath Illmatrix, finds the group communing under the banner of the ‘fantastic’, ‘unfolding a snug and meditative ritual’ under a Moonlit Panacea of healing vibes.

As therapeutic as it is esoteric and strange, the album’s atmospheres, evaporations and musical mirages have been completed both online and at home by the repeating lineup of PikkioMania (analog synths and lem baby operator), Simne Donadni (pure data percussion and karplus-strong arpeggios), Lou Pappagallo (processed Vocals and endless flow) and DJ Kimchi (op1 virtuoso and semi-modular engineer). Together in this a curious world that references magical games, the mystical and paranormal concept of Tulpa manifestations and sugarcoated kingdoms, the quartet create alternate realms and play with a real sense of freedom: the destinations, goals undecided, the listener allowed to just be guided wherever the flow and direction of travel takes them. In practice this translates into the wobbled, gravity-defying strange soft lollop and spells of the almost dub-y ‘Karplusan Forest’, the obscured and foggy atavistic ethnographic sourced, bird twittering, turn piercingly fluted ‘Hidden Birubu’ and the beautifully esoteric match of Cosey Fanni Tutti, Clovvder and Dance Of The Lemmings Amon Düül II imbued ‘Marzipan Castle’. All the while Pappagallo’s Cabaret Voltaire and Xqui-like muffled, processed vocals gabble, speak in futuristic tongues and cry throughout. 

Alluding to gods in both the album title and the single video premier the Monolith Cocktail is pleased to share with you today, the Greek Panacea’s remedy for all the difficulties and ills of the world sits on the same plane as the Persian adopted Zoroastrian deity Mithra in a soundscape of primitivism, European underground tape cassette culture, the psychedelic, experimental modulations, Krautrock, futuristic folk and what’s been labeled in recent years as ‘new weird Italia’. And so for the unveiling of ‘Mithra Night Soup’, a tune, an experience of vague nuzzled sax-like floating, ringing droplets, hovering, paddled plastic tubular bass, campfire trance and rumblings and vibrations from the bowels of the Earth, presented in cartoonish comic book form with the past crumbling edifices of old civilizations and the purple cold mountain, moonlit backdrop video designed and animated by Dotter Pira. For the ones who don’t know the character, Dr. Pira is the creator of Fumetti della Gleba (the longest running Italian webcomic since the 90s, only worst quality for your eyes). He’s published several books with the major Italian editors (Feltrinelli, Rizzoli, Coconino…), different series for magazines (L’Internazionale, XL di Repubblica, Vice Magazine, Smemoranda…) and several self-published editions. His works have been exhibited at some of the most important gastronomic festivals too.

The quartet describe’s that collaboration thus: “Pira set up ‘Mithra Night Soup’ in a digital medieval land, where the gang of four characters stand around the campfire. The track is a banging dreamrecall where squared and saturated synths triggers this weirdomagique ritual. So-called “vanga dub” broken riddim and clody ambient solos beat time and draw a nocturnal scenario: Mithra Night Soup is the turning point in Moonlit Panacea’s adventures.”

Going further, they describe that peregrination with this illuminating – of further masking obfuscation – description:

“Drinking the soup by the moonlight, they did good with gentle detailing, such as capping the highlights with bold bubbles. When the warp rounded, Leela paused in revising her timeline: “I will forgive you. But I’m afraid we could lose the warp. As is our duty. If all goes according to plan, I will hold it open. Please supply me the task recommended by you. We’ll finish off the Hydra and Megotons in Graith Warp. Fence the pond so they don’t overlap and try to cross.” Leela grabbed one of the tallest rocks in the world, confidently plucking it from his power’s spectrum and scraping it onto his open revolving brightly lit plate. She sacrificed regret to maintain connection to her ears”

Moonlit Panacea is due out on the 18th January via the Rome/Turin “screw-wave” label Riforma, so not long to wait. Until then, here is the premiered video:

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog 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 to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

Dominic Valvona’s Monthly Eclectic Tastes
Album Reviews

Phil Ranelin And Wendell Harrison  ‘JID016’
(Jazz Is Dead)  27th January 2023

Old partners brought back together under the Jazz Is Dead banner, trombonist Phil Ranelin and clarinet/tenor saxophonist Wendell Harrison revive the tribe vibe of their iconic partnership from the 70s. Albeit through a modern lens, revitalized with the production and addition of the label’s instigators Adrian Younge and Ali Shaeed Muhammad.

First conceived back in Detroit after crossing paths earlier in New York, Ranelin and Harrison set up the dedicated Black consciousness imbued Tribe hub (a label, recording ensemble, community project and magazine) in the early 70s. Much of that fertile ground is trodden once more across a recording of live sounding roots music, spirituality, creation story stirrings, Afro-jazz and starry cosmology. Legacies are bound musically and business wise: that Tribe ideal and action plan outright revolutionary for the times as an example of independently owned community enterprise and spirit. And an impressive, enviable CV is channeled: Ranelin a session player on various Motown recordings, side man for Freddie Hubbard in the late 70s and early 80s, going on to record with the hard-bop pianist Freddie Redd in the 90s – not forgetting that surprising appearance on the Red Hot Chilli Peppers self-titled album in the mid 80s – but also as an artist in his own right, and Harrison, with his part in backing Marvin Gaye in the 60s as a member of Charles Campbell’s band, stints in New York with such acolytes as Grant Green, Big Maybelle and Sun Ra, a tour with Hank Crawford and also for his own solo work – most notably the iconic An Evening With The Devil LP.

Less of a weight, both participants on this new batch of recordings (laid down at Linear Lab Studios in Highland Park) freely call upon that heritage yet sound very much in the moment; bursting into life yet also reflective as they open up the valves and blow such sagacious breaths. With Younge and Muhammad playing a number of instruments (from a B3 organ to electric bass) and Greg Paul on drums the long and short woodwind and brass is filled out to the tune of funk, inner city blues, tribal percussion, contemporary breaks and some Latin-American flavours.

It begins, well…. in the very beginning with ‘Genesis’. A fecund of stirrings, growth as Eden begets the Fertile Crescent. The ancestry is all there on display; the mood an enlightened but fiery one riled by electric bass scrunches and tenor squawks. Shaken serpent percussion rattles in the Biblical waters of a more tuneful 80s Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Marcus Belgrave vibe.

Funk in the presence of esoteric learning, ‘Open Eye’ has a quickened pace. Harrison and Ranelin squeeze the air and perform downward spirals across an African shimmer. To the temple next on ‘Running With The Tribe’ before hotfooting across the grasslands to the soulful, El Michels Affair tinged and dreamy ‘Fire In Detroit’ and the stargazing ‘Ursa Major’: the bulb like reverberating organ notes of which reminding me of sci-fi aura Greg Foat.

This free-spirited partnership proves energised throughout; riffing off the heritage but also in congruous union with their younger foils. Jazz is dead yet reborn with the sound of Black consciousness. Both pioneers of their trades deliver another rich lesson in articulating independence and free thought, whilst evoking the Tribe back catalogue; a look back but in the process of moving ever forward. Class all the way!      

Refree  ‘El Espacio Entre’
(tak:til/Glitterbeat Records)  20th January 2023

Coming on like an Iberian vision of the Neel Murgai Ensemble and Hackedepicciotto trapped with Nacho Mendez (I’m thinking of the Ángeles y Querubines album) in an undefined, veiled timeline and atmosphere, the follow up sketchbook album of Raul Refree’s imagination is yet again a unique, “seamless”, amalgamation of reflective enquiry, soundtracks, semi-classical etudes and the visceral.

Four years after the noted producer and foil’s first album for Glitterbeat’s instrumental-led imprint tak:til, La Otra Mited, and his successful collaboration with the incredibly-voiced Fado interpreter Lina, El Espacio Entre is both of those musical worlds combined, yet also something different.

In calling it a sketchbook I may have rendered this album a disservice. All fourteen tracks, no matter how short, in vignette forms at times like momentary breaths of emotion or parts of a bigger story, couldn’t be more finished or improved upon. Once more playing with and entwining a Spanish heritage that stretches back to the age of courtly sonnets, medieval period church services and the traditions of pastoral Spain during the time of Goya, through to Franco, Refree creates a very moving portrait of lamentable and dramatic mood pieces. Some of which are so gently played as to be almost ghostly, a reverberation of something more concrete lost through the process of time and history.

Consumed almost by the vapours, it begins with the sorrowful aria-like voiced and darkened atmospheres of the opening lowly-bowed ‘Lamentos De Un Rescate’. There’s a beauty in pain it seems, as Refree sensually balances an ethereal gauze with a growing unease and familiar echoes of the classical with more mysterious electronic, synthesised elements: a vocoder-like wobble on that female vocal line almost gives it a strange modern R&B feel for the shortest of moments.

Refree weaves the concertinaed, bellowed and spindled into a stirring score. The avant-garde runs with lovely mirages of melody, some both carefully and freer guitar parts, the resonance of hidden metal and tin tools, deeper thumps and stamps of bass and brief choral male voices – which could be from anywhere on mainland Europe. A piano’s inner workings can be used like a spidery creep down the side of a frame drum; an innocuous radio in the kitchen can be retuned to pick up a Mediterranean mandolin-like and vibraphone buzzed broadcast into Bowie and Eno’s studio; and a psych-folk fairytale can be created from harmonic-pinged acoustics, cautionary echoes and the mystical. The grand finale, ‘Una Nueva Religión’, seems to layer the reverent with a near-distorted blast of No Age drums and a toy-bellowed breathy piped organ.

Heightened emotional swirls and plaint exist alongside quieter pitched sensibilities and the gossamer. Esoteric Meta goes hand-in-hand with tradition and the classical.

Not so much an album of performances as a quality production of fleeting descriptions, of moments captured in poignant scenery, Refree’s second such album of scores and sound pieces is an incredible, immersive mood board of magical and often plaintive thoughts, feelings, processes and films yet to be made. I’ve been sitting on this album for months and it never loses its initial pull, gut feeling, and yet I can also hear new things on every listen. Raul Refree is a great talent indeed. And this is already high on my list of choice albums form the year.   

Hög Sjö  ‘S-T’
(Smuggler Music)  27th January 2023

Away from the hit-making machine of popular music as a producer/musician/songwriter with such notable stars as Robyn, Charli XCX, Taylor Swift, Dian Ross and Santigold, Patrick Berger can be found nurturing a magical realm of instrumental reminisces, landscapes and imaginary soundtracks under the Hög Sjö title. 

The Swedish dreamer, accompanied by a Scandinavian-sounding sextet of musicians, scores a kind of Peter Doig seeped cloth-canvas tapestry of cultish European composers, library music, the bucolic and perfumed garden psych-folk on a generous self-titled album of fourteen tracks.

Sophisticated with a mostly languid, hazy and gentle nature, touches of soft Polish jazz scores can be detected sharing room with Hampshire & Foat, The Soundcarriers, Mellow Candle, The Apples In Stereo, Bruno Nicolai and Paolo Ferrara. And yet there’s a relaxed air of the El Michels Affair and Broadcast on the swimmingly soulful, fuzztone ‘Overswum’, and both Omer Khorshid and Baba Zula on the souk-rock tremolo desert thrill, ‘Raki’.

Meanwhile, the opener, released in the run-up to the album a few months back, ‘Gnosienne no. 6’, is actually a dreamy magical Air-like vision of Erik Satie’s inventive and self-coined dance-like compositional melodies of the same name – a novel title probably derived from “gnosis” and the gnostic sects the iconic composer was ingratiated with at the time, or, adopted from Greek myth. A nod to the classical, its been given a little more oomph, crowned in modernity and floated into a softly quilted musical world.

Offering little in the way of true originality, with the sound of very familiar melodies and influences, Berger has absorbed a great record collection and through the dewy haze, the sun-dappled rays and lunar bends, cast a mysterious and often reflective mirage of traverses, wanderings, scenes and settings. Some of which is quite beautiful and enchanting.

Seljuk Rustum  ‘Cardboard Castles’
(Hive Mind Records)  3rd February 2023

Imbued by a rich history of place and time, and the trading winds that brought so many atavistic and less ancient civilizations to its natural harbor hub, Seljuk Rustum’s Kochi-base of creative activity is a city steeped in polygenesis sounds and ideas.

The major hive of commerce in the coastal southwestern Indian region of Kerala, crowned the “Queen of the Arabian Sea”, Kochi played host to the Greeks, Romans, Jews, pro-Islamic and post Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch and British. And was once allied to the Ming Dynasty during one such golden apex of renown and power. This ebbing and flowing tide of different cultures is, to a degree, channeled on the polymath artist’s first album for the most brilliant and eclectic UK label Hive Mind (a regular feature on the blog since the imprint’s original conception six years ago).

Building up a congruous musical picture of quality worldly classicism, ambient and trance electronics and the exotically dreamy, the all-round creative Rustum (from painting to recording engineer; musician of repute to director of the Forplay Society space) has woven together ten separately improvised peregrinations and performances, made during a five-year period from 2016 to 2021. And for the most part these tracks are collaborative, created with a myriad of local-ish and international travellers, stepping over the threshold of Rustum’s studio.

Although certainly Indian in reference and sound, with brassy resonance, subtle oboe and horns produced mizzle drones and a pattering of rapid and buoyant tablas, the musical mood palette spreads much further afield: to the Mongolian Steppes, the mysticism of the Orient and even out onto cosmic, astral planes.

But it’s the local Cochin String Orchestra that helps with opening this album of movements; furnishing the poetically painted ‘Body Of A Dolphin, Breasts Of A Cloud’ (a strange hybrid) enchantment of the classical, folksy and reversed – it actually reminded me of this month’s bedfellow, see above, Refree in part. Later on there are references to what’s become a rather lazy, sometimes derogatory shorthand term for the Indian (but also Asian-wide) diaspora or immigration abroad, “desi”, and a sample borrowed from the Alan Lomax ethnographic archives of indigenous Malayam speakers on the Daniel Lanois and Emtidi Indian-kosmische stirred ‘Desi Bunny’. For anyone curious, Malayam is a branch of the Dravidan family of languages found across wide swathes of southern India, northeastern Sri Lanka and southwestern Pakistan, and is related to Tamil. It’s also been designated a “classical language of India” no less.

Elsewhere on this suffusion of mirage and hallucinatory perceptions, arppegiator bulbs of light delicately bobble as staccato melodica and sympathetic and wept violin (both played by the multitasking and recurring foil Sekhar Sudhir) evoke the exotic and scenic, the spiritual and mysterious. The mystical valley awakened ‘Fallen Sky’ sounds, in part, like Popol Vuh or Syrinx, whilst the “100 years ago…” sampled wondrous time capsule title-track reminded me of Hive Mind labelmates University Challenged putting out cosmic-trance feelers to Amorphous Androgynous.

Exquisitely layered and softened for the most part, enervating any ideas of unease, there are nonetheless certain veiled passages of uncertainty, even something troubling. The album’s oddest leftfield play, ‘The Happiest Country Has No History’, which features Akshay Ashokan on electric guitar and Sudhir on acoustic, features a voiced delivery of accumulated lyrics and lines. An undercurrent of something disturbing is apparent when the “sweet sixteen”, “so pristine” lines are followed up by some inappropriate touching by “uncle”. To be honest I’m not sure what’s going on with this track, except it does have a disturbing dimension to it. But for the most part the musical mind of Seljuk Rustum and his partners on this magical, entrancing and dreamy journey, reveals a great sonic knowledge, both a part of, yet also in some ways, escaping history. A great start to the year for the Hive Mind, and welcoming addition to their roster; an album I can see making this year’s choice lists.       

Galactapus  ‘The Rainbow Of Wrong’
13th January 2023

In what could be the year’s boldest bonkers move, and the most playful, Galactapus’ second album is pure mayhem and creeping wildness.

Totally shrouded in mystery, this “faceless” rambunctious five-piece hailing from Minneapolis feast on, and orgasm, to an omnivorous hallucinating rainbow of the occult, psych, prog, Westerns (think more Jodorowsky and Cormac McCarthy than Ford), post-punk, krautrock, kosmische, doom and, well…. a whole lot more of the unexpected.

This eclectic long list of musical points can all happen in the same track too. Take the epic ‘Radio Kolossos’, which retunes the Fortean Times transistor to bursts of toybox Zappa, the chaotic amp whistles and blow-outs and wire-y guitar mania of the Red Crayola, the dramatic prog rock indie swells of Crack Cloud and Babylon Zoo, and a surprising dose of the B-52s. But then, nearly out of nowhere, the action dials up Can’s Monster Movie. It’s a constantly evolving, often rotating, trip in which the course of direction remains anyone’s guess.    

They plunge the listener into the esoteric one minute with cult-like GOAT and Itchy-O vibes, incantations and ritualistic invocations of 70s horror soundtracks (‘Your Face Is inside Out And Your Wig Is On Fire’), and into a mushroom induced commune rave-up of Syd Barrett, Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Hillage and the Olivia Tremor Control the next (‘Giftworn’). Later on this both silly and bestial gaggle trample over Joe Meek (as transmogrified by Matmos and Charlie Megira), The Residents, The Electric Eels, Sun City Girls, Cramps, Acid Mothers Temple, The Strokes and Ariel Pink. Strangely, the final ritual, ‘It’s Over When We Say It’s Over’, has room for a brief respite of cosmic transcendence in the style of Ariel Kalma and other such kosmische divine stylers.   

There’s so much to unpick, decipher and entangle from this madcap laughs bizarre chemistry. A demonic Sabbath turns into a peyote Spaghetti Western on an album that exists in its very own cosmology and manic obscurity. Untethered magik, over-sexed hormones and fun reign supreme on a fantastic psychedelic work of art. 

George Winstone w/ Ben Monder  ‘Odysseus’
20th January 2022

Perhaps too close to the tragic cliché of the struggling jazz musician, George Winstone’s personal life has been riven with strife. Despite the notable rep as a rising star, a role as a leading light in the in-crowd London scene, and an enviable CV, Winstone has had to bounce back from rotten odds to break through as a jazz acolyte.

Dropping out if school, homeless for a time, the saxophonist bandleader was forced to sleep on buses and at Heathrow Airport. A necessity no doubt, the real low point must have been when he had to sell his prized saxophones. But after becoming a father, the stakes were upped and mind concentrated. And it seems the creative spirit lit. A move to the jazz mecca of New York and a nation steeped in jazz lore marked a new chapter.

Now fully integrated into that thriving community, Winstone, bolstered by the encouragement of such luminaries as Chuck Correa and Jacob Collier, has found room to grow. And despite a, if you believe the hyped-up press, burgeoning British jazz scene, it was the allurement of America with all its history and legacy, the freedom, that won out. I imagine it also poses more of a challenge, more competition too. But to make it there is to truly make it.

Rubbing shoulders with an explorative group of players, Winstone found a place amongst such notable company as Aaron Burnett and Jon Elbaz, and later on, with his willing foil on this recording, the guitarist Ben Monder. They actually crossed paths at one of Monder’s gigs in the West Village; Winstone impressed enough to ask for guitar lessons from his future collaborative partner.

Pretty much hitting it off from the outset, the pair accelerated their creative bond with an improvised, unprepared performance at the popular Ornithology spot in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It must have been some show, as the audience encouraged them to make a recording together. And so was “born”, in part, the Odysseus entitled peregrination; a reference to shared travails no doubt, an odyssey in which Winstone’s own search for home mirrors that of the Greek mythical hero immortalized by Homer.

Although there’s no actual reference to that decade-long adventure, that struggle to make it home to Penelope after finally defeating the Trojans by guile, I can’t help but imagine some Hellenic voyage of tumults, setbacks and beauty across the Aegean Sea. You can’t help but pick up on the atmosphere of what is essentially another unprepared adventure, Winstone and Monder responding and sculpting tones, melodies and displays of evocation off of each other’s explorative craft and sense of navigational draw.

Meaning to avoid any demarcation of style, any labels, this performance, split into nine parts, assails jazz, classicism, fusion and even droning doom. Because whilst Winstone’s drifting, wafting fluted and spiraled saxophone melodies and freeform lines channel Coltrane, Coleman and Anthony Braxton (at their most tussled and wildest), Monder’s buzzed and fuzzed electric guitar vapours and bedding drones are more in the mode of Sunn O))) and Boris: even Scott Walker when he picked up a guitar for the Tilt album. It adds a touch of darkness, gristle and a bit of mysterious industrial dissonance to these sonic manifestations, but never quite lurches over into the truly harrowing.

At other times the drama dissipates to reveal the light, as Monder’s playing evokes the dreamy, the rhythmic (when also simultaneously thumbing those bass-y sounding notes) and untethered.

Moments of heavy Meta(l) on an ancient seas turns into fog-lifted spells of avian flight, as both musicians drift towards stirring places, sail through storms and River Styx like mirages.

Winstone and Monder combine forces for a successful soundtrack exploration that both transcends jazz and surprises with unexpected sonic distortions into darker, mysterious climes. A road less travelled you could say.

Beats & Pieces Big Band  ‘Good Days’
(Efpi Records) 27th January 2022

A big band jazz swell and swing fused with Radiohead’s progressive cannon of intelligent brooding and mathematics, the Beats & Pieces ensemble bounce, chime and lift horns to a score of untold influences and inspirations. In fact, this latest considered, yet also dramatic album (the troupe’s third studio album proper) reminded me in parts of the highly acclaimed NDR Big Band’s concert with Wayne Shorter, but also Woody Herman, Bill Evans and a rewired Mouse Bonato Sextet.

It goes without saying that you could also add Mingus, Tippett and Coltrane to that mix, and also a whole slew of 90s and noughties sounds too, including the introduction of a laidback Latin-jazz club beat and subtle dance music bass on the smoky, changing vibrato and crooned saxophone featured ‘Cminriff’.   

With fourteen musicians in the lineup, all vying for attention and space in this big band sound reimagined, the Good Days (ahead rather than behind us we hope) entitled album begins on a more idyllic note. ‘Wait’ gently conjures up a bird tweeting countryside ambience of filed (literally) recordings and reflective bulb-twinkled notes. This is followed by a proper workout, a lying of the land, mood piece called ‘Op’. Progressive elements merge with the trippy, with clarinet and horns, the classical and subtle electronic undulations. Later on the Radiohead-esque piano cuts through with run after run and spells of loose freeform jazz.

As the title suggests, ‘Elegy’ marks a plaintive change of mood, and feels like some contemplative 60s jazz classic with its cupped trumpet nuzzles, resonating and swanning saxophone, romanticized swirls and emotional pull. But, especially at the start, it evoked in me suggestions of a Floydian haze; sending Coltrane lament out onto very different waters indeed. By contrast, the shorter ‘Db’ seems to echo from a NYC subway platform; suddenly bursting into a heavy tumult of accelerated entangled horns.

‘(blues for) Linu’ is both an illusionary and hallucinogenic off-kilter score of L.A. shoegum, swing and Lalo Schifrin, whilst ‘Woody’ progresses from disjointed big band and jive to Brian Wilson’s ‘Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow’ from the SMiLE album, to a final reverberating sign-off of The Beatles final ‘A Day In The Life’ piano chord. The final track, a reprise of the opening bucolic meditation, finishes things of with serenaded horns and the feel of an old movie score.

It all feels like a complete work, an encapsulation of the moments it was recorded in, the moods and places it is meant to arouse and evoke. With no jostling for room, despite the numbers of those taking part, every instrument is heard, every performance an intrinsic part of the whole. Visceral, intense and yet also calculated, skilfully played, it takes some beating to package such a big sound so it can at one moment burst forth in a rush, and in another, sound somehow intimate and personal. “Good Days” indeed for this big band.

Esbe  ‘Blow The Wind Southerly’
(New Cat Music)  27th January 2022

Stripped almost entirely of everything but the siren’s voice, Esbe’s latest songbook fills the space with just the use of effected vocals and a number of scene-setting sounds mostly recorded from nature.

The sometime Daughter Of The Desert and Egyptology imbued artist once more takes a well-worn historical cannon of standards, following up on last year’s Under Cover album. Whilst that collection featured a swelled, but also articulate, accompaniment of strings and synthesized augmentation, Blow The Wind Southerly builds an atmospheric world out of Esbe’s range of vocal utterances, tones and harmonies; layered or looped at times to evoke instruments or a rhythm.

This showcase in vocal manipulation can’t however take away the beauty of Esbe’s voice, which invokes a timeless quality throughout a selection of nursery rhymes, rounds, traditional ballads and folk songs. Reinterpreting works with a providence that remains often lost in the mists of time, there’s a passage linked back all the way to the Medieval epoch on the opening idyllic farmyard chorused cuckoo song, ‘Summer Is Icumen In’. Off to a diaphanous start, Esbe interprets an incipit text from England’s 13th century summer cannon. Esbe being Esbe though manages to also, rather congruously, waft in lyrics from Gershwin’s famous ‘Summertime’ spiritual jazz standard; this sends the English pastoral off into a languid deep southern American direction.

Leaping forward a century or two, from the time of the Tudor court and Henry VIII, the City of London church bells nursery rhyme ‘Oranges And Lemons’ finds the original pulled deftly into the contemporary, merging the sacrosanct with an air of the arty and also uneasy. It’s a strange feeling, with all the original elements, the London sites (modified or interchangeable depending on which version, and for what audience) suddenly more dreamy and alluding lyrically to something slightly ominous: mysterious is a better word perhaps.

It’s been said, by me especially, that Esbe brings a sense of otherworldliness to her music. This is none more so then with her increasingly disturbing take on ‘Three Blind Mice’. A song, admittedly, full of charming animal cruelty, this age-old familiar takes another ‘round’ into the supernatural, or at least alien.

Biblically harrowing, an interpretation of the 18th century English ‘Coventry Carol’ – so called because this is where it was traditionally performed – is rightfully mournful, yet also has a cryptic Gothic-like quality too. Part of The Pageant Of The Shearman And Tailors mystery play, this Nativity set performance takes its cue from Herod’s Massacre Of The Innocents, as laid out in chapter two of Matthew’s Gospels. The part of a mother soothing her soon-to-be murdered child with a final lullaby is lamented in an intimate requiem of Middle Eastern grief, as distant muffled bells signal the impending doom.

Plaints from Northumbria and folksy spells from Scotland share space with the Lomax almanac on an incredibly voiced songbook. The first of those and the album’s title-track sounds like the Cocteau Twins in a venerable state of longing, on a nautical yearn for a returning lover. The latter, ‘Go Tell Aunt Nancy’, has rarely been recorded, but it’s known by many generations as a sort of folksy comforter despite the dead goose in the room theme: “who died in the mill pond from standing on her head”. A lulling “la la” and airy appearance can’t help but turn into an avian eulogy.

Artfully composed with a balance of the esoteric, the traditional and the experimental, Esbe’s latest collection of conceptual reinterpretations showcases an impressive talent. Above all, Esbe breathes new life, a new experience into the familiar without losing each song’s charm, impact or grace.; the atmosphere remaining as timeless as ever.

Flexagon  ‘The Towers I: Inaccessible’
(Disco Gecko)  3rd February 2023

Through a near domination of the high seas, a skill in winning wars, a Norman lineage and generally to annoy the French, the Channel Islands have been a British dependency for centuries. During that time a whole lot of history has passed under the bridge; the last 200 years of which are channeled by the Guernsey native, artist and environmental, site-specific composer Flexagon.

The second largest of those islands, Guernsey lies off the Normandy coast. A vital strategic – in defensive and military terms – outlier that’s been fortified numerous times during various crisis of invasion. Guernsey’s landscape is dotted with both leftover relics and modified remnants from the Napoleonic, Second World War and Cold War eras. Many of which now form the backdrop for the first in a proposed trilogy of such works from Flexagon, who blends field recordings, spoken word, touches of the neoclassical and trance with a three of four decade span of analogue and digital electronica, downtempo ambient music, soundtracks and controlled techno.

In practice this translates into the vaporous stirrings of Vangelis and Jarre on the album’s opening dissipating misty and mysterious dreamy ‘Gazing At The Tower’; the early trance-y techno of Autechre and Seefeel with shades of Banco De Gaia on ‘Le Mont Saint Windmill’; and both the kinetic lattice of 80s Sakamoto, futurism and Cliff Martinez with the more natural trudge across grassy fields ‘Fort Saumarez: MP2’. The last of those being a defensive fort built in 1804, and named after Sir James Saumarez, then commanding the British Royal Navy in the area, was much later commandeered by the occupying German forces during WWII (the only part of the British Isles to be occupied). Two war periods cross over into this piece of psychogeography, the ghosts of the past traced through sonic atmospherics that dwell and yet move on. Of course it may project a whole different feel and environment to someone unfamiliar with the Guernsey landscape of towers, follies and more practical useful infrastructure: such as that already mentioned windmill and a water tower.

Thanks to the Island’s National Trust page I was able to explore and get a sense of these structures. As it happens, the head of that organization on Guernsey’s family is represented on the ‘Ozanne Tower: The Folly’. Built by one of Island’s oldest families (dating back to the reign of Edward III), the Ozanne coat-of-arms is still visible above the doorway of that stout two-floor turreted castle-like jolly. In conveying this piece of history, Flexagon (who tramples across the grass to reach it) introduces us to the dreamy “cor anglais” – a sort of double-reed woodwind instrument, a member of the oboe family – playing of Nerine Ozanne, and a gentle but deeply felt bow of emotion from the cellist John Surcombe. A haze can be felt around this mystical bucolic scene; the sort of thing artists like From Mouse and Alexander Wasylyk do so very well.

Fortifications, called Loophole Towers, built during a year of hostilities with a post revolutionary France in the late 1700s, are given an ominous and haunting soundtrack and a crackly whispered narration – from a script written by Shaun Shackleton. This adds to a sense of past trauma and forbade, especially with a curse from the narrator James Le Page, “dragged” off by the “bloody militia”. I would suggest all is not well with this restless spirit.

More obvious soundtracks of course encapsulate such structures as a communications tower with a constantly moving retuning background fizzle and buzz of various transmissions. A slow introduction of early Warp and Massive Attack electronica keeps this radio display company. And as you might expect, ‘Water Tower’ is, well…. wet. But in a surprising way that uses the interior – or so it sounds – like a slow moistened but warm rhythmic effect.

A work of site-specific atmospheric stirrings and timelessness, The Towers I: Inaccessible album translates the off-limits sites of Guernsey into a multi-layered sonic map for inquiring minds. An Island life, history and shared trauma is transduced across a mix of styles and delivery methods as both repurposed and more derelict out of bounds architecture is allowed to breath and to tell stories of the history that’s passed through its doors. Even with the all too awful reminders of Guernsey’s occupation (finally liberated in the May of 1945 after nearly five years of German authoritarian rule; at least a thousand of its people deported to camps in Southern Germany) these towers transmit plenty of arresting Meta and fertile research, which Flexagon and his foils have turned into a lush, dreamy and mysterious veiled journey.  

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog 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 to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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