A January Digest: Kety Fusco, Mentrix, Gangsta Rabbi, Edo Funk, De La Soul, Beach Boys & Yukihiro Takahashi

January 17, 2023

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.

TRACKS

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.

ARCHIVE

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:

Obituary

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 monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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