The 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, Graham Domain and a returning Andrew C. Kidd. Expect to hear the unexpected as we leave you with this 45 track selection before we go off on a May sabbatical (well half of May, be back around the 15th with a packed schedule of choice music).


Altın Gün ‘Ç​ı​t Ç​ı​t Çedene’
Ammar 808 Ft. Belhassen Mihoub ‘Yarima’
Les Abranis ‘Achethkhi’
Orti, Mayorga y Chiriboga ‘Mu​ñ​equita Blanca’
Tuzeint ‘Mujer Divina’
United Grind Ft. Gamechangers ‘Doin This All Night’
King Kashmere & Alecs DeLarge ‘Most Blunted’
Neon Kittens ‘Loving Your Neighbour’s Wife’
Opus Kink ‘1:18’
Gabrielle Ornate ‘Delirium’
H. Hawkline ‘Plastic Man’
Land Of OOO ‘Matthew’
African Head Charge ‘A Bad Attitude’
Swans ‘Paradise Is Mine’
The Oldest Voice In The World ‘Talysh Mountain Border’
La Faute ‘The Crown’
fhae ‘Love You’
Alice ‘Triste et tout seul’
foil ‘Don’t Look’
Ali Murray ‘Spirit Of Unknowing’
Khotin ‘Lovely’
MultiTraction Orchestra ‘Reactor One’
Tobias Meinhart ‘Luna Park’
Deca & Ol’ Burger Beats ‘Blight’
Prastense & Shortrock Ft. Uncommon Nasa ‘A Broken Letter’
Micall Parknsun ‘Back’
Your Old Droog ‘Pronouns’
Illinformed Ft. Eric The Red ‘Doctor’
Silver Moth ‘Sedna’
Escupemetralla ‘Several specimens of ruminant animals with large udders chewing grass in a Cambridge meadow’
Sweeney ‘High School Damage’
Ale Hop & Laura Robles ‘Son de los diablos’
Cornelius Corvidae ‘Silver Flower’
James Howard ‘The Reckoning’
Draag ‘Mitsuwa’
Mike Cale ‘Slow Club’
Suki Sou ‘Petrichor’
Issei Herr ‘Aria’
Carla Boregas ‘A Cidade doe Outros’
Simon McCorry ‘Halcyon Fire’
CIEL ‘Somebody’
Tomato Flower ‘Destroyer’
Cindy ‘Earthly Belonging’
Circe ‘Riot Of Sunlight’
Chloe Gallardo ‘Bloodline’


The Inimitable Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Perusal Of New Releases


Fruit Bats ‘We Used To Live Here’

‘We Used To Live Here’ is a bittersweet lament full of sadness and hope. A nostalgic waltz through the past, a memory, a snapshot set to a country/folk beat; a stroll of beauty we all take in our lives. A lovely song, which I am very much taken with.

The Conspiracy ‘Venus’
(Metal Postcard Records)

Chunky Kinks-like guitar riffs sends one off to the adrift of nostalgic England; a place where chunky Kinks guitar riffs go when all hope of rock ‘n’ roll future dies. That is what I love about The Conspiracy: they are so bloody British. They take the past and wrap it in a warm post-punk pop guitar feel; a place where strangers meet and discuss the early albums by Cleaners From Venus and how XTC demos are always better than the finished article. Yes indeed, I love The Conspiracy one of the many great current British bands not clogging up the airwaves.

Opus Kink ‘1 : 18’
(Nice Swan Records)

I do like Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. So I see no reason not to like this, as they take all the early Bad Seeds charm – if charm is the word – and cover it with some youthful enthusiasm. Nothing I haven’t heard before, but Opus Kink does it pretty well. Plus for some reason I approve of a record label called Nice Swan Records. And there really is not much more to add.

CIEL ‘Somebody’

The sound of perfect guitar pop that is what the Ciel single is. Less than two minutes of jangly guitar, power pop hooks and pop punk attitude. A song so sweet it will rot your teeth, and because it is so short something we need not worry about. A lovely little gem of jangly power punk pop delight.

Tomato Flower ‘Destroyer’

Another short single. This must be the new thing, releasing singles less than two minutes in length. A thing that I hope to see more of, especially as this wonderful piece of pop buffoonery, a unhinged little gem of disposing the milk bottle in the grey area of wagstaffs once flowing blond locks, is a triumph. It has an uneasy easy feeling about it; the kind of song people who enjoy their nightmares the next morning might hum to themselves while looking through the situations vacant column knowing they do not want to work for any company willing to employ them. Tomato Flower are a band to watch out for, in a good way.

Cindy ‘Earthly Belonging’

The sound of a Summer jangle delight, at just under one and half minutes long it doesn’t give you time think about anything really. Just gives you time to wonder whether the album will be filled with such pop joy. And of course pop joy at any length is always welcome, and I look forward to the album (Why Not Now?).

Chloe Gallardo ‘Bloodline’
(Taxi Gauche)

Awwwww this is really beautiful. A really lovely sad song full of self doubt and regret. And when the young lady sings “I’m fucked up” it makes me want to give  her a hug. Any song that succeeds in bringing out my natural fatherly instinct should only be applauded, for it proves Chloe Gallardo has the gift of writing from the heart and has plenty of empathy and soul. She also wraps it in a melody so beautiful it is like a discarded bubblegum wrapper blowing in a strong.


Lemon Twigs ‘Everything Harmony’
(Captured Tracks) 5th May 2023

The Lemon Twigs are masters of taking influences from the masters of pop and rock and weaving blankets of musical warmth and reflection from them; whether it be the Beach Boys on ‘Corner Of My Eye’, The Carpenters on ‘Any Time Of The Day’, Simon And Garfunkel on ‘When Winter Comes Around’, Big Star on ‘What You Where Doing’…the list goes on as the album goes on. And plays and unwinds, each track casting shadows of former rock ‘n’ roll greats, and each track reminding you how special and magical classic pop music can be.

Everything Harmony is like listening to an amazing oldies radio show but never having heard any of the songs before. So take a trip in this musical time machine to go back and discover some quite wonderful new songs.

Unlettered ‘New Egypt’

I am indeed Slanted And Enchanted by this lovey 5 track EP of late 80s early 90s  sounding alt rock; an invitation to revisit my youth and long for the days of John Peel and pubs shutting at 11pm, and myself being still young enough to care about these happenings. For New Egypt by Unlettered is a time box of sonic explosions a musical box of unease and bewildered fuzz bass whimsy; a 5 track wonder that takes the influences of JAMC and early Pavement and covers the tracks in a slightly tainted fairy dust of its own. And two of the tracks are available on a very ltd 7 inch single, which I am sure by the time you read this will be snapped up.

A word about the Author of these reviews::

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea joined the Monolith Cocktail team in January 2019. The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. Far too many projects, asides and oddities to mention, but his latest album is Songs For Cilla Black (released on Think Like A Key Music) threatened to trouble some online alternative chart for a week on Amazon – so things must be looking up.

Each week we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick to see what sticks. In his own idiosyncratic style and turn-of-phrase, pontificating aloud and reviewing with scrutiny an eclectic deluge of releases.

ALBUM PURVIEW by Andrew C. Kidd

Greg Nieuwsma and Antonello Perfetto ‘Earth’
(Submarine Broadcasting Co.)

Although Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s Earth aligned with many of the Soviet ideologies of its day, the film stands irresolute in this regard. This is perhaps because it is viewed through the retrospectoscopic lens of the present-day. Even so, its poetic symbols must have seemed somewhat removed from the usual plainsong of socialist realism of its day. I detect agitation. Take the crushed chaff of the wheat that billows into the air, referencing the yellow-blue bicolour of the Ukrainian flag that was banned at the time. In the same breath, Earth promotes atheism and contains split-screen shots of humans and plant life (depicting the ‘community of life’), which are more in keeping with the Soviet aesthetic. These opposing philosophies are not co- equal; rather, Earth is predominantly realist, somewhat beset by moments of idealism. In newspeak: idrealism.

The silent film inspired Greg Nieuwsma and Antonello Perfetto to compose a novel score, which has been released on the Submarine Broadcasting Company label. Before the tribulation of synchronising the original cinematic footage on YouTube with this new score (which, coincidentally, was one of the joys of reviewing this piece), I decided to explore some of the antecedent outputs by the duo. Asylum, released by Hreám Recordings in May 2021, is absurdist, disentangling reality through its revision of everyday objects. Then there is the obfuscous Aquarium LP, another Submarine Broadcasting Company release in June 2021. The track ‘Momento’ on the Hiyachuchi LP (Submarine Broadcasting Company, April 2022) had all the xylophonic-analogue-drone futurism of a Jon Hassell release. The musique concrete of El-Dabh echoes distantly on ‘dsinθ=mλ’ on the LP Interference Patterns (released on Strategic Tape Reserve in November 2021).

I return to Earth. The Carpenter-esque ‘Opening Credits’ rattle and jangle into Chapter 1. We are standing in an open field of grass and grain and sunflowers and apples. Songbirds natter in the background. A lightly tapped acoustic drum beats down rhythmically like the hot sun. Altered strings and distorted guitars cut into the tiers of droning synths that sway like wheat crops in the wind. The strings are like that of a bandura, the lute-zither of Ukraine. It is an Eden-like opening – a Tolstoyan utopia. It is equally unnerving and fugitive. An old peasant, the grandfather of Vasyl who we will meet shortly, dies quietly in an orchard. An arabesque melody is played out on woodwind. I imagine this as a sopilka flute. It is limber, and light. This Byzantine influence features throughout the score. It is synonymous with the music of the Russian orthodoxy (I suspect antonymic on the most part here).

We inevitably meet the cold hand of conflict in Chapter 2. This is Soviet cinema after all. On screen, fists clench. Vasyl and his father argue. Their argument concerns dekulakisation, the targeting of wealthier landowners (kulak in Russian, or kurkul in Ukrainian) under Stalin’s First Five-Year Plan. The son takes a pro-stance on the assimilation of individuals’ farms into landholdings owned by the state. The father is doubting. The hammer action of piano keys pulse scornfully and guitar chords stab into an ascending scale. We meet Vasyl again in Chapter 3. He smiles youthfully. His father is ashen. A plodding off-key melody kicks in as the plot quickens. In Chapter 4 we are outside again. This time, clouds gather and wheatgrass jolts. The music is sustained. The piano from Chapter 2 is reprised – this time it plays freeform. Children observe an old man sitting reflectively by a grave. He places his ear to the ground. The children laugh and are scorned. The rhythm is kick-drum-heavy. A glockenspiel plays melodiously. The cowbells match the cows in the field. Farmers and tractors are in motion. The score quickens and loops round like the brief shot of a windmill. The tractor makes its arrival to a full audience. It overheats. Peasants piss onto the radiator tank. After it cools down, it flies. “We’ll prosper with tractors!”. The music is privately triumphant: stock brass and horns play gleefully, perhaps ironically. They dance a desultory dance. This chapter concludes with a ritardando and staccatos to a halt. Nieuwsma and Perfetto have been clever here, matching the antagonistic approach taken by Dovzhenko. Did he know that the celebrations would be short-lived? In the two years that followed the premiere of Earth, a famine caused by collectivisation would kill millions.

Earth was filmed in Poltava Oblast in Ukraine on the left bank of the Dnieper. I can visualize Tara Shevchenko’s poem Testament: “in steppeland without bound / whence one may see wide-skirted wheatland”.  An arpeggiated synthesiser melody ascends and descends and churns into itself like the harvester threshing the land on Chapter 5. The modular sequence twists into complex patterns like the hands of the on-screen women who thatch-weave. Vasyl is taking a merry ride in his tractor. His father hacks at the land with his scythe. The score pulses and thrums and clangs and echoes. A baying horse welcomes a counter melody. It is here that the famous sequence starts to play out: the grain of wheat jostles and shakes fervently in its wooden containers and carriages. A psychedelic mélange of guitar notes tremolo as the wet dough peels off the churning blades – and just like that, bread is made. It conveyor-belts away on the soft bow of a stringed solo.

Chapter 6 opens circumspectly. The strings are tentative, the visuals blurry. It is dawn. A light choral section is advective: it rolls off like water vapour on a cold river. The morning mist manoeuvres in diagonal ascent: step-like, and slow. The effect here is to disarm the listener. The same effect is created on-screen as crepuscular rays rip through the sky. The piano opens up here despite this. The guitar and drum sections are undeniably krautrock as Vasyl dances a traditional dance called a hopak. The altering time signature of the score keeps apace with his heels that kick white dust of the track into the air. It is incorporeal. Again, we have poetic symbols: Vasyl’s hopak mirrors the earlier mechanisms of the modern bread-making process; the dust dug up from the land serves to foretell his murder.

Chapter 7A is mesmeric. “Vasyl is dead!”. Horror is scored into his fiancé’s face. The guitar and drums rattle into an accusatory double-snare-hit rock rhythm. “Khoma, was it you?”. A cymbal crashes. The melody flat-lines out into a whorled mass of contemplation. An off-beat rhythm drives the scene forward. It was Khoma. He will eventually go insane. The synth sparkles as the guitar picks away unconsciously. The piano keys half-glissando as the score disintegrates, almost completely, until it finds salvation in a glockenspiel. This is apparition-like as it appears and reappears. The burial will be an irreligious affair. Denuntiatio dei. Vasyl’s father opts for a new way. The score masterfully conveys this. Simple synth-fare plays a melodic canto; wordlessly, it sings peacefully – funereal even. Chapter 7B is a powerful sequence. The aforementioned music of the Byzantium Empire reappears here as women make crosses with their hands. The composers start to revisit all their previous motifs and compositional elements. I close my eyes for a moment. I imagine the reverse-tape looping as the farmers on-screen playing the otherworldly tsymbaly (a Ukrainian hammer dulcimer). I imagine the swathes of synths as long notes of a trembita (wooden horn) and gusli (a Ukrainian relative of the zither). G-modal tuning is being plucked on a kobza (lute). The dead Vasyl files past the bowing sunflowers in a cart- coffin. The scene is both warm and distant. The priest scorns the impious. Words of resistance flash on the screen: “It’s my Earth, I won’t give it up!”. Rather poignantly, the chorus line is not sung in anger. A mournful string section plays as the synths are laid bare like Vasyl’s naked fiancé. A symbolic downpour ensues to cleanse the world. It is the lifeblood of the fields and the orchards. The bright key change in the score reflects this. In its denouement, there is false peace.

I have listened to previous scores to Dovzhenko’s Earth, including Ovchinnikov’s famous 1971 version and the poly-symphonia of the live bijū recording on Komuna Warszawa. The score offered by Nieuwsma and Perfetto is as complex and intricate as the source material. Their waveforms and filters arpeggiate poetically to illuminate its idealism. They bring me closer to the chimaera of collectivisation that Dovzhenko was perhaps intending to showcase.


Various ‘Ecuatoriana – El Universo Paralelo De Polibio Mayorga 1969-1981’
(Analog Africa) 7th April 2023

Andean Cumbia lifted off into the cosmos, the latest South America trip from Analog Africa finds the label in “space race” era Ecuador.

Although the equatorial country hasn’t always had the best of relationships with space and sci-fi; a curiosity and fever for all things lunar and technological led to a 60s and 70s boom in modernizing the old traditional music genres and dances, albeit on rudimental analogue equipment and the Moog synthesizer, which produced a kitschy sound and effect closer to Joe Meek than Kraftwerk.

In a land of multiple mystical mythologies and incredible awe-inspiring geography, various Chariot of the Gods and aliens theories were rife; this Inca outpost a hotspot of UFOlogists and the like. However, the accompanying compilation booklet’s author regales one less encouraging chapter from Ecuador’s history. Back in 1949, after a radio broadcast of H.G. Wells famous martian invasion story War Of The Worlds, the Ecuadorians in a blind panic went on a stampede of the capitol. Tragically, during this riotous reaction, the Radio Quito HQ was destroyed in an ensuing fire, leading to the deaths of a number of poor musicians who were recording in the building at the time.

Thankfully, as the Cold War set in motion that infamous space race, the wonders of space travel, the moon landing and the possibilities of technology inspired such iconic Ecuadorian figures as Polibio Mayorga, who rejuvenated a myriad of musical styles like the popular Andean rural and city fusion of Huayno (the rhythm of which is a stressed first beat followed by two shorter ones), the local “couple dance” of Sanjuanito, and the Albazu.

There’s more to it than that of course, as you’ll hear for yourselves, should you decide to purchase this sixteen-track compilation. Because the story that unfolds is one of pushing the boundaries of acceptance; of fusing a multitude of dances that have changed, embraced the cultural signatures of all the geographical borders its crossed. A case in point being the “Bomba”, a rhythm brought to Ecuador via the African slaves wrenched from their lands by the Spanish to toil in Puerto Rico. One such champion, and “master” of this drum and dancer syncopation, the “quiet and introverted”, very serious, Alcibiadar Cilio, is featured twice; firstly with the slow echo-y, keyboard dotted, Mexican sounding ‘Hacienda Bomba’, and secondly, with the Latin-lilted, zippy lo fi cosmic effected ‘Bomba De Pobres’.

But dominating (it is his name in lights on the title) this affair is the already mentioned maestro Polibio Mayorga; a stalwart of the capital’s music business since uprooting from his hometown of Chisalato, 160km’s from Quito. After a four year stint transforming the fortunes of the beloved Santa Clara neighbourhood band Los Locos Del Ritmo – given a new life after a lull in popularity during the late 60s and represented on this collection by the concertinaed, horn serenaded courting song ‘Llorona’ -, Polibio started a near one-man operation on the Fadisa label platform as a solo musician, songwriter and later on, musical director. So popular was Polibio’s injection of modernization and use of the Moog that he pretty much dominated the market; leading to calls from many for more diversity, more acts unrelated to the icon. This would lead to a number of Polibio pseudonyms, including the featured Junior Y Su Equipa, who kick off this compilation with the popular cheery piped, Cumbia lilted ‘America Índia’ – indigenous Tropicana meets the most low cost of Casio effects. But under his own signature, there’s the featured high-pitched, almost cartoonish and childlike, chimmy and whoop of ‘Pañuelo De Seda’, and whirly, giddy and dotty ‘Ferrocarril’.

Appearing in various other guises and in union with other Ecuadorian talents, there’s Polibio teaming up with his tenure compositional co-writing foil at the label, the saxophonist Olmedo Torres, for the tropical Latino flavoured, phaser-effected ‘Unita Maa’, and the dub-tinged, constantly shuffling, piano reverberating slow dance ‘Mi Paisa’. Torres gets to fly without Polibio on the Los Gatos vocal trilling, excitable Andes meets coastal surf music ‘Don Alfoncito’. Another foil, Eduardo Morales, fronts the senorita condoling, almost Mexican-sounding, quivery ‘Muevase Vecina’. Morales was known for recording Sanjuanito songs, the lyrics of which featured the theme of being uprooted. It was mainly the soul music of those forced to migrate from rural poverty to seek work in the cities. You can hear some that earnest toil, a slight sense of travail on the prime example of the form, although with that kitsch lo fi synth production its inevitably more surf-twanged Pacific facing oddity than moody lament, played on the “small” (“requinto”), more high-pitched versions of the clarinet.

From wavy synthesised Cumbia to Andean festivities and accordion-accompanied library music, Ecuadorian traditions are augmented and sent out on a Telstar satellite above the equator on what is perhaps analog Africa’s most fun and curious compilation yet. This is the story of a musical space race unfolding across a collection of carousing, sauntering, zappy lo fi and Moog produced tracks; another chapter in the obscure, near untold, history of South America.


Khotin ‘Release Spirit’
(Khotin Industries)

I have been following the story of Dylan Khotin-Foote and his musical adventures for nigh on a decade. He released Hello World under his Khotin alias in 2014. New Tab followed. It was a wonderful collection of digital grooves and soundscapes that moved mellifluously through transformational field recordings and unabashed Russiky-Angliysky conservations. Beautiful You was meltingly tender and chock-full of quasi-melodies. It was also somewhat non-conformist and rhythmically periodic – tracks diverged and converged to and from the downtempo (Planet B), vaporwave (Alla’s Scans) and beatless trance musical sub-genres (Vacation). Finds You Well was low-fidelity, tape hissing gold.

It is March 2023. A month has passed since Release Spirit was released on Ghostly International. The harmonic distortion and analogue warmth of HV Road once again immerse me in a vessel of unknowable proportions. A phantasmagoria of tonal and atonal synths playfully hopscotch around on Lovely and My Same Size: synthetic bowed strings vibrato and legato on the former; the semi-automated synths twinkle in the half-light of the latter as its hook climbs up and down a laddering scale akin to the hyper-ambience of his Area 3 alias. The semitonal key drop on the crystalline keys on Unlimited underpins his predilection for modulation. Home World 303 is unmistakably litmus-red; the bass synthesiser melody ascends up a broad staircase of sound. Khotin progresses his signature melodia, plashing (not saturating) his 4-4 beat with stock cymbal crashes and hi-hat taps.

3 pz delivers the moment of tragicommedia that has become so idiosyncratic with his work. The lithe water-plopping synths and whirling synths gently cycle around the darkly comic Anglo-Russian vocal sampling. They are dichotomous like a Pinter play. Incongruity persists on the dreamworld of Computer Break (Late Mix). High-pitched synths lasso themselves around the rhythm section. It is the closest Khotin-Foote gets to the temple of house music that he once resided. This celebration of its 4-4 and hook-heavy totem is particularly evident on and the eponymous and Flight Theme tracks of Hello World and the fantastically named Data Orb / Nessie’s Revenge under his Waterpark nom de plume.

And then there is Fountain, Growth. Piano keys push through waves of bright and reverberating synths. The breathy vocals of Tess Roby billow beautifully. She sings the chorus line “let go all you know / let go” with lyrical litheness. The piano is reprised on Life Mask. Birdsong and the ambience of a cityscape echo quietly in the background. A tin can- like sound disappears chaotically into the distance. The esoteric Techno Creep emerges. Its Subotnick-esque noises and shaman-like rhythm section which make the dream scenario more complex. It is as if the conscious self (guitar tremolo, zither-like cascades) and the subconscious self (modular synth improvisation) exist contemporaneously, and openly.

Release Spirit is at times unsubstantial, chimeric – oneiric even. It is no less illusory or meltingly melodic than its precursors. Arguably the strongest piece is its finale: Sound Gathering Trip. Indistinct sounds tremble in the opening seconds. Piano notes play measuredly. It is without percussion – this is not needed as no formal time signature has been applied. Khotin builds the piece but never progresses it beyond where it has to be. It remains ambivalent throughout. Low-fidelity moments like this defined his earliest works (listen to For Trial Listening, particularly tracks #08 and #15, which he recorded under the alias Happy Trendy). Refinement in sound has meant that such instances in his work are fleeting, yet Khotin-Foote’s musical narrative started in this imperfect space of thudding keyboards, rough-cut crackles and degraded audio signal. These chapters are the ones that leave the most indelible of impressions.

Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Column

MultiTraction Orchestra (Ft. Arve Henriksen) ‘Reactor One’
(Superpang) Available Now

A multiverse of musicians from troupes and bands that congruously intersect, the MultiTraction Orchestra draws in members from GoGo Penguin, Supersilent, Melt Yourself Down, Crash Ensemble, Sly & The Family Drone, Hen Ogledd and beyond. A stellar lineup you could rightfully claim, such talents as the multi-awarding winning saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and Alexander Technique teacher James Alsopp; the “Reductionist School” freeform harpist Rhodri Davis; gifted cellist Kate Ellis; bassist, vocalist, composer, environmentalist and Acoustic Ladyland instigator Ruth Galler; jazz drummer, Son Of Kemet, Jon Scott; and Krakow via London and Detroit composer, guitarist, producer and interdisciplinary collaborator Alex Roth are joined by the Norwegian trumpet star Arve Henrikson on this new project of remote syncopation.   

The orchestra’s members, brought together by Roth, made this, their debut expanded work, across various distances; collaborating apart from each other from different locations: A fact that in no way impedes on the quality and harmony of direction; even in the most histrionic parts. 

Reactor One may suggest some nuclear fusion, but this feels and sounds almost like an orchestrated gathering “reacting’ to and playing together in one space at one time. Across a set of six performances that ensemble stir the senses and picture a myriad of imaginative, mysterious environments and landscapes. Such eclectic communions unsurprisingly draw a mix of genres, from jazz to the classical, post-rock and soundtracks.

The opening soft and grainy rasped, snozzled saxophone gauzy ‘Reactor I’ has an air of John Cale and Simon McCorry adrift in a mizmar of India or Arabia: and yet, it also sounds rather esoteric and otherworldly. Suite ‘II’ has a sustained post-rock bed of scuzz guitar harmonics, drama and bluesy-droned horns, whilst ‘III’ features delicate rippling harped aria-like pitches and raspy, almost rusted, sax.

IV’ is a crepuscular piece of concentrated brow cello and wisped stirrings that build, eventually, into a cacophony of drum breaks and smashed rolls and cosmic articulations. The harps are back on suite ‘V’, but sound almost like the African kora. They’re joined by an elephant trumpeted sax, what sounds like Jed Kurzel’s intense carved-up bowed strings dramatics, and a synthesized sense of unease. The final piece in this moving, evocative odyssey sounds like Popol Vuh caught in metallic, whining hinge bracketed and bass-y resonance.

A serialism of intuitive tonal movements, the sense of an ambiguous geography, mood and time, the combined efforts of so many threads sounds anything but disjointed or disconnected. Instead, the MultiTraction Orchestra deliver a coherent, balanced drama of gravitas and mood music.

Suki Sou ‘Notes On Listening’
(Curious Music) Available Now

Gentle impressions in the modulated waves, ripples and drones, Suki Sou’s sophisticated analogue electronic pieces require a certain commitment.

Inviting a deeper listening experience, the intuitive self-taught composer and sound designer elicits subtle moods and evocations from a home studio apparatus of Moog, Arps and Buchla synths and MIDI controllers on the debut album, Notes On Listening.

Pitched somewhere between the nostalgic and electronic pioneered sounds of such luminaries as Suzanne Ciani, Sarah Davachi, Roedelius and Klaus Schulze and Library music, yet looking with opportunity towards the future, recollections of childhood out in the Far East are transported and fed into a symmetry of machine produced music and environmental, tactile humanism. There’s a soul within that multilayered network that works arppegiator, waveforms, algorithms and burbled and bobbed synthesized notes into genteel moving translations of abstract projections, feelings, places, even observed weather patterns.

Somewhere in the stratospheric ambient weightlessness of the ‘Kelvin-Helmholtz Clouds’ – the rare billowing wave pattern cloud phenomenon named after the professors of that title – and the moistened kosmische artificial splashes of ‘Velocity Of Water’, the distinctive memories of Sou’s journey from Macau to Berkshire, London and later, the Lake District, are transduced into ambient currents, melodies, languorous drifted spells, liquid flows and airy glides. It could be, as laid out in the notes, the reflections of listening to the Taiwanese pop star Teresa Tang in the rain at grandmother’s that is audible on ‘Petricher’. The outdoors is sealed off with the shut of a door or window in the studio on that one.

If JakoJako or the Warm Colours made an album with Metamono on Sky Records in the 1970s this could well be the result. Too minimal to be lush, yet beautifully, knowingly composed with room for serendipity, Notes On Listening brings warmth, and on the finale ‘Light Intervals’, a sort of pastoralist spiritualism to synthesised analogue electronica. Sou’s sources, influences make for an accomplished debut of subtly and purposeful ambience.

Lunar Bird ‘The Birthday Party’
(Supported by Help Musicians Do It Differently Fund 2022) 28th April 2023

Disarming malady and alienation with such vaporous gauzy diaphanous veils of dream wave, Lunar Bird with a myriad of fellow Italian artists and musicians weave vulnerability and fragility into the most purified of intoxicating pop songs.

Although making the move from their native home to take up residence in Cardiff a number of years back, founding members Roberta Musillami and Eliseo Di Malto evoke a Mediterranean and Adriatic light-giving feel of consumed holiday romance and of longing disconnection: the distance between lovers drawn apart.

Lingering in a lush synthesized haze, Lunar Bird (named after Joan Miró’s signature abstract bronze sculpture) once more ooze a subtle, sophisticated mirage of alternative European pop from the 80s with Beach House, Diva Dompe and Julia Holter. Although, rather surprisingly, the saddened, synth and piano-chimed, near psychedelic ‘Firestorm’ sounds like a collaboration between Kate Bush and The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper era), and the Giorgio Tuma and Riccardo Raho penned coastal Iberian, almost Latin-American percussive, twanged and fluted (courtesy of another guest, Marco Tuma) ‘Dreaming’ reminded me of the late Mandy; a touch too of a Hellenic Lee Hazelwood if you please.

From paradise to metaphorical plunges into the gauzy waters of the deep end, the group’s second album is one long extended languorous dream. The title-track opener both musically and lyrically glows. A slow release of Italo-electronica and strobe-lit soft aches, a near creeping buzz and hint of Numan-sampled Sugarbabes sits comfortably with breathless Beach House vibes.

Recent single-video ‘Creatures’ is a gilded, glistened and softly rippled enchantment, a call-to-arms of a kind for “misfits”, shone down on with certain radiance. The already mentioned Giorgio Tuma joins electro-siren Roberta in a translucent, almost hushed duet on the new wave ‘A Crow’. Another guest of many, Adriano Modica joins Roberta on the Abba-esque Eurovision grand opening ‘Driven By The Light’; Modica “learning to fly” over a blissful, heaven sent production.

Featured on the Monolith Cocktail a while back, another of the already released single-videos, ‘Venilia’ references the Roman deity of the winds and sea to an almost cinematic allurement that conceals a spell of restlessness in paradise.

The album’s bookended by another of those slowly released anthems, ‘Astronaut’. This time celestial fanned rays light up the ephemeral on a golden shimmer of 90s dream pop, as the intangible, the fleeting space dust and romantic allusions are captured and bottled for posterity.

Not so much dipping as submerged fully in that drowsy intoxicating dream vision, Lunar Bird entwine emotional pulls, anxieties with the most delicious, sumptuous of Southern European ethereal pop. The Birthday Party is a spellbinding songbook that subtly pushes the Italo-Welsh group into swimmingly new waters without losing the signature diaphanous bohemian sound we all love them for. There’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be much bigger, well known and successful with potential hits like this.    

Tobias Meinhart And Berlin People ‘Dark Horse (Live At The A-Trane, Berlin)
(Sunnyside Records) 28th April

With an ever-widening international flavor, the Bavaria-born, but Brooklyn-based, saxophonist, composer and bandleader Tobias Meinhart picks up and infuses his sound with echoes of the NYC skyline, Latin America and Europe on his new album with the Berlin People ensemble.

Inspired by the dynamics of that set-up’s world tour – out on the road after storming onto the scene with the eponymous acclaimed debut –, Meinhart’s second album showcases a concept-bound live sound with performances from a two week spot at Berlin’s leading jazz club the A-Trane during 2021 and 2022.

Playing every night over the course of that period, encouraged by a respectful but appreciative clapping audience, Meinhart and his accompanying quartet of guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, pianist Ludwig Hornung, bassist Tom Berkmann and drummer Mathias Ruppnig shine both together and in the solo spotlight. And as that “dark horse” title suggests, each composition either finishes in a surprising way to where it started out or alludes to some hidden meaning. This might mean virtuoso skills in tandem with a mood, a groove and expressive breakout of dynamism.

With an air of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Dexter Gordon, Mark Tornes, Albert Ayler and more contemporary touches of European jazz throughout, there’s still room for the Afro-Brazilian style of BRBQ and Spanish flair of Chick Corea on the smooth Latin styled turn scenic dalliance and bustled park activity exchange, ‘Luna Park’, and the guitar work of Zappa and Nir Felder on the subtle Lalo Schifrin accented and tumultuous title-track. That same track has (like the later ‘Sonic River’) its very own introduction part; an almost clarinet-like solo saxophone lead-in of subtle rasped resonance and fluted flight.

Pining serenades softly build into flexed and bounced expressions of free jazz as drummed breakbeats suddenly evoke a splash of Buddy Rich when moving through a set of reflections, mirages and busier performances. Each instrument guided by as much deft skill as spontaneity, but with Meinhart switching between tenor and soprano fusing lighter spiraled climbs with shorter, more pecked or peppered toots.

You can hear that a real fluidity exists between each member of this troupe, as no matter the mood, the surprise, these live actions prove wholeheartedly rhythmic, melodic and above all top quality. Meinhart, as do his bandmates, reinforces an already glowing reputation as a leading light on the contemporary jazz scene with this essential album. This record captures them live on stage turning out both an explorative and classy kind of jazz dynamism; showcasing thought and action in perfect synchronicity. 

Ale Hop & Laura Robles ‘Aqua Dulce’
(Buh Records) Available Now

Although both artist-researchers in this debut union grew up on the Peruvian coastline and popular beach area of Aqua Dulce near Lima, it wasn’t until years later and thousands of miles away in Berlin that they crossed paths and decided to work together. With a shared geography and musical interests Alejandro Cárdenas, under the guise of Ale Hop, and her foil Laura Robles liberate and transform the Afro-Peruvian heritage of their homeland from its colonial history: namely the Spanish Imperial Viceroyalty of Peru.

With a legacy of greedy conquest and genocide that wiped out the indigenous Incas, and the heinous uprooting of the people of Western and Central Africa, transported to the Americas including Peru, the local cultures and traditions managed to survive through subversion. One of the most important focal instruments (played here by Robles), the wooden cart-like cajón, was one such traditional percussive form with ties to Africa that was banned by the Spanish. The origins remain blurred but its thought to have originated in the ports of South America as a means to keep that drumming heritage, connection to home alive. Using the wooden packing cases that innocuously carried fruit and other goods, in a rudimental fashion, these boxes were adapted to be played whilst sitting on between the knees with hands, sticks, brushes or mallets. The basic shape remains, but is now no longer banished of course. Instead, it’s a mainstay of such Afro-Peruvian and Colonial-indigenous fusions as the two-bar figure Landó, the Zamacueca, the festive energetic improvised dance of Festejo, the Sande Las Diablos and the Alcatraz. The last of those being an erotic dance in which the man follows behind his tissue-decorated “posterior” female partner with a lit candle!

On this album the cajón’s quickening, stumbling or slowly lumbered rhythms go up against a radical reshaping of the coastal Peruvian environment, with natural evocations synthesized and made alien, otherworldly and futuristic. Improvisations later edited and with additional electronics and more obscured electric guitar, the African-Spanish-Amerindian dance of ‘Son De Las Diablos’ (which according to the late Peruvian “reciter and ethnomusicologist” Nicomedes Santa Cruz, may have no links at all with African rituals) is thrust into a sound world of non-musical wooden mechanized objects, synth purrs, poured primitivism and the atavistic.

A natural canopy of parrots, insect buzzing chatter; the creaks of and expansions of woodland and vines; and humidity are all turned into sci-fi with various effects, lunar bends and metallic fizzes/splashes/tears/ripples. One such scene, ‘El Fenómeno De La Niña’ sounds like Richard H. Kirk mooning in the exotic undergrowth.

Radio tunings and high-pitched whines and frequencies permeate a variation of rhythmic peregrinations and avant-garde sound experiments that build bridges with Peru’s incredible breathtaking landscapes and its ancient forms. Yet, can also evoke such alien and cosmic ideas too. In fact, Aqua Dulce doesn’t really sound much like anything else, except for the hints of Jon Hassell’s fourth world traverses on the brushed cajón, liquid poured title-track. And so both experienced artists/composers create a new dialogue; a sonic soundscape language as they reimagine a Peru unburdened and lifted from its colonial past.   

Issei Herr ‘Distant Intervals’
(NNA Tapes)

Liminal in more ways than one, the Brooklyn cellist-composer Issei Herr’s debut album is both imbued and led by a number of transformations. From a change in musical direction to gender transition, a new life is articulated with an incredibly studied, moving work of suites, forms and memories that exist almost simultaneously in the past, present and future.

Classical groundings and that forms language (the “Aria”, “Elegy”, “Toccata” etc.) act as a base from which to explore various states of emotions, but also imagined possibilities. Reminding me in parts of fellow cellist and experimental artist Simon McCorry, Herr’s instrument of choice is similarly processed, overdubbed and improvised with – recorded, we’re told, in a bedroom closet of all places.

Distant Intervals begins with the recent couplet single of ‘Prelude (An Eternity Of Light)’ and ‘Aubade (The Farewell Is A Beginning)’. The former brings forth that yearned light to a stirring classical air, textured drones and a blown, dusted resonance of sophisticated sighs; the latter, a dawn serenade Aubade – a love song to the early morning made famous by John Donne no less – sounds almost like an English pastoralist yearn of majesty, sympathy and love. There’s a certain bass note on that same piece that seems to mark time itself. Both are class acts on an extended captivating album of deeply moving, inquisitive emotional pulls.

The ‘Aria’ on this album is quite different from the operatic allusions that this word would normally conjure; Herr both gracefully playing triplets of bowed notes and churning a kid of dance to the washed-out memories of a busy swimming pool scene. The eve-song ‘Serenata’ – in parenthesis, “To A Hidden Moon” – features a plucked, spring cello, saddening arcs, a certain feeling that borders on a cry, and what sounds like gentle mallets hitting the strings. ‘Fugato (Night’s Transfiguration)’ has a touch of Johann Johannsson and a choral-like quality of both awe and serenity in equal measure. Vocalist Maria BC offers a subtle Dead Can Dance ethereal swooned gravity to the album’s finale, ‘Aveu (The Beginning In A Farewell)’. More or less translating as “confession”, the Aveu here is used as a soothing vehicle for heartache and vulnerability, yet also gives off a real mystery too. 

A parting from one stage to the next, Herr’s debut conveys, serenades and also offers more forlorn eulogies to past lives, woes as the pathway illuminates to a better future. This is a confident and quite accomplished work from the burgeoning composer and cellist that will stand the test of time.

James Howard ‘Peek-A-Boo’
(Faith & Industry) 14th April 2023

To a languid soundtrack of bendy, dreamy blue Hawaii (relocated to Margate), and Tales Of The Unexpected and Third Man waltzes performed in a spoiled ballroom that Strictly Come Dancing couldn’t even revive, James Howard once again wanders wistfully across a worn, battered, disconsolate post-Brexit landscape.

Appearing from out of the guises of both the Norfolk recorded, bleached onto parchment septic Isle folk of Thomas Nation (Battle Of The Grumbles), and the Blue House collaboration (Gobstopper), Howard’s newest songbook pulls from both, as a felt, if forlorn, picture of modern lawless Britain unfolds over a eleven-song cycle of idiosyncratic craft: Who else can evoke Roddy Frame, 70s Scott Walker, The Bluebells, Pink Floyd and Hansa studio saxophones all on the same album?

In the middle of an undeclared English Civil War of ideologies, divisions have never seemed so deep: beyond reconciliation. The puritanical demagogues on both sides seem to have drawn on that tumultuous period of our history. The bloodshed of that era left indelible scars on the country’s psyche; putting paid to revolution as a consequence. The film director Ben Wheatly tried, rather surreally, to encapsulate that same age in his 2013 film A Field In England. With all the events – including the roles of the hermetic, of science, religion and kingship versus a limited democracy – all unfolding in a field microcosm, England’s trauma bleed out into a both hallucinogenic and ominous nonsense of dream-realism. In one scene, the old lullaby of ‘Baloo, My Boy’ is sung across the desolation. A version of this ballad and Civil War curio is beautifully delivered by Howard as a wounded closer on Peek-A-Boo. Allegedly composed by the Bishop of Orkney’s daughter, Lady Anne Bothwell, after being “jilted” by the Earl of Mar’s son, Alexander Erskine (though to be fair he did have an excuse, having been killed on the field of battle), this is the lament of an abandoned mother and child. Repurposed rather nicely, this same song becomes a disarming, weepy swansong that makes perfect sense in the context of the album’s themes and mood.

Because somehow, Howard straddles multiple timelines with beautifully evoked ghosts of the Civil War and the Georgian with life in a contemporary setting. Nothing does this better than ‘County Lines’; matching the cross-border drug dealing crisis of the Home Counties and small towns with a languorous alt-pastoral and Scott Walker-esque country (I’m sure that’s a touch of steep pedal guitar) wane musical accompaniment that seems quite timeless. Again, there’s a melodious, lovely disarming quality that hides the pain, tragedy and sheer arrogant selfishness of those involved in the drug’s trade.

I’m not entirely sure what Howard is saying on the Pulp-ish ‘Family Values’ about the “nuclear family” set-up, and the paranoia of Cold War mutual assured nuclear destruction. As a Generation X(er) (just!), growing up in the 80s, it must have seemed a pretty daunting prospect, going toe-to-toe with the “Russkies”. Whilst When The Wind Blows and public information films on hiding under the stairs or an upturned table seemed terrifying, they also seems bonkers in hindsight. I’m not sure; in fact I lie, as I do know, not many of my peers seemed traumatized by it, or have lingering anxiety from that time. And as it turned out, so many of those aggrandized boastful military displays across Red Square included missiles made out of wood; the Soviet powers couldn’t even afford the fuel to power most of their arsenal. I’m wondering if Howard is trying to draw parallels with the present battle lines between much of the West (though allies are everywhere around the world) and Russia over their heinous invasion of Ukraine; that and a side line of disgust at the once accepted nuclear family unit set-up.

Augurs of a reckoning; the sullied state of a septic Isle; an English seaside Ennio Morricone; just some of the feels and atmospheres all listlessly and longingly channeled into a well-crafted songbook (complete with leveling-up asides/intervals). Howard shields the hurt to an extent with his soft stinging observations, aphorisms and melodramas on yet another fantastic album; one of my favourites of 2023 already.

Brìghde Chaimbeul ‘Carry Them With Us’
(tak:til/Glitterbeat) 14th April 2023

Squeezing new life into the obscure double-note droning Scottish small bagpipes, the Isle of Skye artist Brìghde Chaimbeul explores fertile new atmospheres on her second album, Carry Them With Us. Although borne out of long-held traditions, a bird themed mythology and Western Isles folklore, the piped and circular avian-like suffusions transform old arrangements and tales into something altogether different.

A familiar Celtic air is improvised with, transcribed to sound like a bedfellow of India, the Appalachians and the dream-realism folk of Chaimbeul’s tak:til label mates Širom. Already an award-winner (BBC Young Folk and Horizon prizes), the native Gaelic speaker expands horizons further on this newest work of mysticism and stirring scenic evocations by collaborating with the visionary saxophonist/artist/composer Colin Stetson.

Initially exchanging tweets, with an invitation from Stetson for Chaimbeul to record something for a documentary he was involved with, in kind the explorative American came over for a visit in the summer of last year. Writing and recording with his Scottish host, this sonic partnership ended up producing the “organic” foundations of this nine-track fusion of folk, the neoclassical, new age and fourth world-like peregrinations. Stetson appears on six of those tracks; although its difficult to know where one individual instrument, contribution ends and the other one starts, as both the small pipes and saxophone pretty much meld together in a mizzle or sustained bed of droned impressions. Saying that, ‘Uguviu (II)’ with its almost fiddled dance reminded me in part of Don Cherry, and has more obvious stirrings of new age jazz. It also reminded me a lot of Ariel Kalma. Together on the traditional sourced ‘Órgn An Eich Uisge: Song Of The Waterhorse’ they take what sounds like a Jacobean Highland battle drum arrangement towards the minimalistic borders of Cage and Riley, and the more spiraling vortex cosmos of Frédéric D. Oberland.

This inspired musical partnership proves highly successful envisioning an almost hermetic synthesis of influences and geography; the opening ‘Pilliú: The Call Of The Redshank’ and ‘Tha Fonn Gun Bhi Trom: I Am Disposed Of Mirth’ proving extraordinary, evocative riffs on bird-flight and the ancient lore of the land.

Uncoupled from Stetson, Chaimbeul channels both the Celtic and a whiff of India mountains on the fluty, turn near polka dance, ‘Banish The Giant Of Doubt & Despair’ – a tragic old tale of a drowned, once marauding, giant succumbing to his fate through the alluring siren song of the King’s daughter. We actually get to hear Chaimbeul’s effective apparitional-like voice, singing in the mother tongue on the beautiful misty vaporous finale, ‘Bonn Beinn Eadarra: The Haunting’. Another string to the proverbial bow you could say.    

An evolution and a response to the traditions of the Western Isles, Chaimbeul’s drones, bellows and piped vapours conjure up a whole new folkloric magic that sonically reaches beyond Scotland’s borders. This is an album that connects different worlds and centuries on an impressive textural, tonal soundtrack of the recognisable and more abstract forms of Gaelic, minimalism and the new age.      

Tuzeint ‘Raixes’
(Extra Soul Perception/Worldwide Records) 21st April 2023

Returning to his roots, Tuzeint opens up his heart on his Latin-soul flavoured debut.

Marking not only the first expansion by the community-collaborative Extra Soul Perception platform into the Spanish language, but this soloist release also finds, for the very first time, Tuzeint singing in his native Mexican-Spanish tongue too; aided by an ensemble of musicians playing a number of localized Central and South American instruments with links back to Iberia.

Channeling a CV that includes stints as the motivational force behind Mexico’s 90s hip-hop legends Control Machete, as a producer, and a remixer for M.I.A., Run The Jewels and Vampire Weekend, the thirty year old Monterrey-based artist weaves together a lilting, sauntering merger of Veracruz region stringed guitar work serenades, Afro-Brazilian percussion, r’n’b and sophisticated breakbeat soul.

Unmistakably Latin but with some subtle, interesting twists and whiffs of 80s new wave, some hip-hop production and a touch of the dreamy, near psychedelic, Raixes is like a tropical bleached romance between Earth period Vangelis, D’Angelo, Manduka, the Buena Vista Social Club, El Michal’s Affair and Les Sins. Accompanied by the plucked, flanged, delicately woven Baroque and folk of Xinto’s nylon-stringed, narrow-bodied Jorana Jarocha (almost a guitar but much smaller), Vico Diaz’s lower-pitched, almost double-bass-like, four-stringed Leona, Lucio de los Santos’ bird-y flute, Alan Fajardo’s shortened tooting and more suffused trumpet and a combined percussive and drummed effort from Jorge Jimenez, Andres Jamie, Orestes Gomez and multi-instrumentalist Enrique Toussaint, Tuzeint sings with a soul-love yearn and lulling relaxed flair.

To echoes of light jazz, tropical mirages, Gulfstream beachside troubadour reminisces and sumptuous soothed croons, burdens and desires are shared equally with romantic, languorous élan. As relaxed and inviting as this music is, the emotional draws are deep and affecting. But its nothing less than a delightful, soul bearing and enjoyable album; a neo-soul delight.

Les Abranis ‘Amazigh Freedom Rock 1973-1983’
(Bongo Joe Records) 28th April 2023

Making good on Bongo Joe’s 2018 45s series showcase of Les Abranis tracks, this expanded compilation follows the eclectic Algerian group’s adoption of garage, psych, disco, acid rock and synth-pop during a decade period of their existence.

Proudly marrying an atavistic Kabyle heritage to Western sounds, Les Abranis were born out of a diaspora and mass migration to France: Paris especially. The Berber Kabyle from Algeria’s Northern region and Atlas Mountains moved in great numbers to escape cultural persecution, civil war and economic strife. This ethnic group’s reach is far, with iconic stars of the screen, music and arts, politics and sports all fully embedded in popular French culture (Zinedine Zidane being one such superstar with those Kabyle roots).

However, politically, as Les Abranis promoted, this million-plus community seek autonomy, self-determination in Algeria: the name of which is used in the “freedom” barricade breaching title, the “Amazigh”. That freedom, found in Paris of the tumultuous counterculture late 60s, was not just political but musically important. It gave a greater scope to the band’s sound, as they opened up the traditional signature rhythms of home with a fusion of genres; sometimes to the consternation of their fellow Algerians, as one highlighted anecdote regales. Performing both this compilation’s opening high-pitched Doors and 60s garage beat grooving ‘Athedjaladde’ (which actually, as it progresses, also pulls in a guitar pedal wah of Isaac Hayes and touch of 60s Zappa) and the Habibi Funk like, suffused Doors (again) organ and handclapped spin ‘Ayetheri A L’ Afjare’ on national Algerian TV in 1973, as part of the more traditional Festival of Modern Algerian Song, they cause a certain furor and were near booted off stage: their hippie, loose liberal interpretation deemed too radical it seems.

Originally crossing paths in one-such Maghreb rich hip Paris neighbourhood in 1967, Shamy El Baz and Karim Abdenour conceived the idea of merging the Western styles they both loved with home. Bassist Madi Mehdi and drummer Samir Chabane would fill out that first proper lineup, playing a form of garage, psych and North African acid-rock. By the time they reached the 80s they’d not only changed personal – recruiting the Corsican jazz drummer and rhythm provider for fellow Kabyle superstar Idir, André “Dédé” Ceccarelli – but their style too; fully immersing themselves in synth pop. A chunk of the choice tracks on this collection actually come from the band’s 1983 album N1; the sound of which is slicker, smoother and enveloped in the decade’s vapoured production of disco, new wave, pop and soft rock. Songs like the female swooned and male vocal caroused ‘Therrza Rathwenza’, and the synthesized wind swept, Sly & Robbie era Grace jones slinked reggae groove ‘Avehri’ are two such examples of this shift. ‘El Guoum Agui’ sounds a bit 80s Paisley Prince, albeit with that exotic Algerian production. The cool Persian discotheque number ‘Akoudar’ is almost Chic-esque. But from a previous chapter in the band’s development, the organ-poked ‘Chenar la Blues’ sounds simultaneously like early Can, Canned Heat, the Stones and the Easybeats shimmying in a Berber dance.

There are some quite incredible progressive fusions and more than enough Parisian-Algerian nuggets to make this a vital addition to the collection. Kabyle culture rocks out in the Western arena.  

Kiji Suedo ‘Hosek (EP)’
(Hobbes Music) Available Now

Following up on a well received album in December (Riot) for the Edinburgh electronic label Hobbes Music, Osaka artist Kiji Suedo heads lightly towards the dancefloor with an EP of “working it” House and Techno numeral-loaded tracks.

Jacked-up and softly pumped with various shimmered and melodious wave forms, acid-washes, knocked beats and hushed languid soulful vocal prompts/actions, Suedo offers up a deeper dance music listening experience.

It’s an early House meets Electronic Body Movement and sparse Harthouse/R&S Techno kind of vibe, with additional spells of untethered bulb-like jazzy organ notes, scrapping kinetic marbles and a near constant motion of rotating, sliding, switching and turning synthesized mechanisms.

Good calls have already been made: Moodyman and Herbert on the press sheet, and someone else gave a shout for Theo Parish. I would add to that equation some Basic Channel, Dave Clarke, Mike Dred and a hell of a lot of late 80s/early 90s sounds too. But in short, and without sounding to gauche, this is dance music for the mind, body and soul from an artist on the rise.

Puce Moment ‘Epic Ellipses’
(Sub Rosa) Available Now

From out of Nicolas Devos and Pénélope Michel’s Puce Moment sound research lab (a French located incubator, inspired, well so it sounds on occasion, by the famous Kosmische Zodiak Club frequented by Moebius, Roedelius and Schnitzler) emerges another self-styled “climatic-noise” soundtrack of slow building drama and gravitas.

Existing somewhere between the forms of peregrination and studious composition, the duo finds conclusions, just the right end points through intuition and experience. Working together now for 15 years, across the arenas of fiction, documentary and virtual reality, both foils on this sonic explorative journey can be said to have found that perfect syncopation.

Their fourth album together, Epic Ellipses evokes both the alien (the sci-fi meaning of the word) and the ambiguous. Over four long organic and synthesized atonal but yet melodious and motored tracks, off-world data, the sounds of strange oscillating and looming craft merge with vague percussive rhythms that could have been sourced from the South Seas, South America or Africa. Not so much ethnography as the balanced but untethered construction of new worlds, ritual is transduced into near-cinematic suspense, thriller and the mysterious.

“Allotropia” sets out from an echoed chasm of sine waves and static-rips in the fabric, before a siren’s ethereal voice materializes from industrial ominous atmospherics and internal, heartbeat rhythms. ‘Skyli’ has robotic-like calculus, fed digital data, cosmic undulations and a distant singular knocking beat. Gradually those knocks turn into a slow beat, as strange noises and the corridor to some distant constellation opens up and guides us onto some new plane. ‘Motor’ reminds me of Hamburg label Bureau B’s output – that tie to kosmische and German minimalist electronica perhaps. Although the lulled voice and vague elements of faraway lands eventually end up sounding quite dramatic: lost in the ether. An air of very early Cluster and Popol Vuh’s Affenstunde debut can be detected alongside Cosey Fanni Tutti under the quietened surface veils of the womb-like ‘Taifuu’. From vaporous mists, waves and ambience a filmic, immersive soundtrack builds; one that entices and organically forms visitations, memories, feelings of time and place: destination. Epic Ellipses is a quartet of moods, emotional draws that ends up inventing environments and score to mysterious surface and horizons.

Carla Boregas ‘Pena Ao Mar’
(iDEAL Recordings) Available Now

Featured last year on the Monolith Cocktail, congruously in electroacoustic jazz-primitivism union with fellow Brazilian explorative sound artist Maurício Takara on the Grande Massa D’Auga peregrination, Carla Boregas now drifts out an ambient, both non-musical and more melodic-hinted sonorous waves with her debut solo offering.    

Although already making a name for herself, both in native Brazil and in Europe (currently based in Berlin) with the Rakto trio (with Paula Rebellato and again, Maurício Takara) and Fronte Violeta duo (with Anelena Toku), and as the founder of the experimental AUTA venue and Dama Da Noite label, Boregas now expands on a subtle minimalistic palette of tape play, sonic assemblage manipulations, field recordings and hidden instrument sources.

Conduced to roaming and following the played and synthesized air and wind flows, as we reflect on the tenuous, fragile and complex nature of existence, Pena Ao Mar (or “pity the sea”) envelopes the listener within an ambiguous veil of sci-fi, mysticism and wooded menagerie, and drones that evoke the hermetic and a distant vision of India. 

The opening ‘Acôes em Paralelo’ (“actions in parallel”) manipulates, plays with what sounds like a reel-to-reel machine; a reversed, crackled and hum drone mix of the avant-garde tape culture of underground Spain and Italy, with touches of kosmiche. Those early resonations of German cosmic music (from Kluster to Tangerine Dream and Gunther Wüsthoff) and “sisters with transistors” luminaries such as Suzanne Ciani can be heard permeating the title-track’s fanning geometric rays and refractions; the otherworldly harmonium church music gauzy ‘Grafia do Invisível’ (“invisible spelling”); and the robotic calculating, alien bird tweeting and box-of-tricks vibrating ‘A Cidade dos Outros’ (“the city of others”). ‘Current 2 Ventos’ (“wind and currents”) seems to gravitate more towards tubular-like blown droned instrumentation (a kind of transmogrified version of a serialism styled wind quartet, and a Jodorowsky feel, whilst ‘Sopro’ (“breath”), with its night creatures forest atmospherics, spoken word experiments and spooked piano, errs towards hints of Lucrecia Dalt and Xqui.   

Along varied vapours, currents, waves and wisps of air, Boregas transports the listener to both evaporated and more tangible (but only just) environments and moods; realms of reflection and mysterious spaces that attempt to capture the abstract feelings of being alive in a most vulnerable state.  

A Begging Bowl Request From Your Host:

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.

New Music on our radar, archive spots and now home to the Monolith Cocktail “cross-generational/cross-genre” Social Playlist
Words/Put Together By 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 -sometimes the odd obituary to those we lost on the way. From now on in the Digest will also be home to the regular Social Playlist (this month reaching its 75th edition); this is our imaginary radioshow, an eclectic playlist of anniversary celebrating albums, a smattering of recent(ish) tunes and the music I’ve loved or owned from across the decades.

April’s edition also features new music from the VOODOO DRUMMER, Peggy Seeger, Marta Salogni & Tom Relleen, Gabrielle Ornate, African Headcharge and Vukovar. And in the Archives there’s a trio of Bowie album celebrations; the 50th anniversary of Aladdin Sane, 40th of Let’s Dance and 30th of Black Tie White Noise (all released in the April of their respective years).


VOODOO DRUMMER ft. Blaine L. Reininger & Martyn Jacques ‘Aristophanes’ FROGS’

Inspired by he Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes’ comedic play of the same title, Antiquity beckons on a new triumvirate set of movements from the Greek artist VOODOO DRUMMER and his contributing foils. On this Athenian mythological imbued single of neoclassical, the atavistic, avant-garde, theatrical and yet hopping playfulness, the drumming alter ego is joined by Stavros Parginos on cello, Blaine L. Reininger (of Tuxedomoon note) on violin and Martyn Jacques (Tiger Lillies) echoing the famous line from the play.

The microcosm style odyssey follows the liberating God Dionysus who, despairing of the state of Athens’ tragedies, travels to the underworld of Hades to bring the playwright Euripides back from the dead. And so we begin this adventure to the sounds of rattlesnake percussion, Hellenic pitter-patters, rolling drum rhythms and the plucks of 5th century BC Athens, before rowing across a splish-splashing pizzicato and majestically bowed lake (complete with a croaking frogs chorus), and a sort of Faust meets strangely quaint experimental late 60s vocal. The final movement strikes up a controlled tumult of screaming and harassed viola and “Afro-Dionysus” drums as Hades opens up and swallows whole. An inspired musical, sound experiment performance.

Peggy Seegar ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’

Of course they’ve all tried, some convincingly, others less so, but the rightly venerated doyen Peggy Seegar is the muse behind this iconic love yearn. And at the age of 87, with all the travails of age and loss, but wisdom and reflection it brings, Peggy reclaims this masterpiece for a new era. ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ was originally written for Seeger by her then-estranged lover Ewan MacColl in early 1957. He sang it down a crackling transatlantic phone line to Peggy who had returned to the USA, unwilling to continue an affair with a married man.  That was the only time he ever sang the song, but it went on to be covered by most of the greats, and become one of the great standards.

Simplistically stripped to just a piano accompaniment, Peggy’s gracefully works the magic.

Peggy says; Ive had two life partners, one male and one female, and I have three children and 9 grandchildren.  Ive come to realise that the lyrics can be interpreted in so many ways.  Ewan wrote the tune to mimic the heartbeat of someone wildly in love and I used to feel like a soaring bird when I sang this song. Now Im grounded within it and that makes me happy.

The 2023 recording – released for the 67th anniversary of verse 2 (The first time ever I kissed your mouth…..) – arrives alongside the first segment of a new documentary about Peggy, Scenes From A Lifewhich details the history of the song.

Marta Salogni and Tom Relleen Internal Logic II

A mirage; a twinkle of refractions and calling undulations; the alchemist’s stone drawing light through a filtered bendy lens. Yes, the surroundings found on the new sonic peregrination by Marta Salogni and Tom Relleen invite evocative visions, and convey ambiguous, mysterious settings, landscapes. ‘Internal Logic II’ is just one of a myriad of such electronic cartography inspired traverses from the duo’s upcoming album Music For Open Spaces (released 11th May 2023). If you don’t know the story, Relleen died from cancer just after recording this album, and so this is a posthumous tribute to the late experimental seeker, as a dreamy, deep listen showcase for his foil Salongi.

Conceived between the triangle of the reverent Joshua Tree shrine and desert, the Cornish coastline and London, award winning artist, producer and engineer Marta Salogni (Björk, Holly Herndon, Lucrecia Dalt) and the much missed musician and artist Tom Relleen (Tomaga, Oscillation) conjure alternative road trips, destinations and geography. The first track to be aired, ‘Internal Logic II’ ushers in a promising expanded work.

Gabrielle Ornate ‘Delirium’

Turning on the rawkish rock mode of St. Vincent, but in a 90s invoked musical setting of bohemia, the free-spirited Ornate is back with another full-on maximalist confident pop explosion of “delirious” empowerment. Delirium is just another strong dream spell statement from the versatile artist, who’s currently drawing attention through her Instagram account, the good old word-of-mouth and blogs like mine (although Ornate has also recently featured on the BBC Introducing platform). After a run of equally bestridden pop-rock gems, with hints of Prince and Christina Aguilera, Ornate must be contemplating that first album. I for one will be looking forward to that.

African Head Charge ‘Microdosing’
(On-U Sound)

Taking me back to the toking days of idle youth, splayed out around the Phibb’s house listening to the wafting smoking waves of reggae and dub emanating from Eric’s sound system, one of the most popular choice soundtracks to wile away those 90s hazed evenings was African Head Charge. Of course so very much more, and though generally in a languid intoxication from drugs or booze that iconic project had a lot going on, multilayered in the mix than we first appreciated: Proving highly influential in fact; that sound resonating with subsequent generations, regenerating my decade of the 90s.

After a twelve year layoff, the titans of that UK scene, On-U Sound, have announced the news of a new album entitled A Trip To Bolgatanga. That cult label’s instigator Adrian Sherwood once more joins AHC founding member Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah on another evolving, developing dubby-laden, amorphous Afro trip. Extending that partnership multi-instrumentalist Skip McDonald and fellow Tackhead co-conspirator Doug Wimbish. Drummer Perry Melius, whose involvement in the project dates back to the early 90s, adds a righteous rhythmic heft to a trio of tunes. In addition there are a number of notable fresh recruits. The horns and reeds of Paul BoothRichard Roswell, and David FullwoodRas Manlenzi and Samuel Bergliter on keys; Vince Black on guitar. There’s additional percussion from Shadu Rock AduMensa AkaAkanuoe Angela, and Emmanuel Okine, strings from Ivan “Celloman” Hussey, plus the voice of the mighty Ghetto Priest. Very special guest, and one of Ghana’s foremost kologo players, King Ayisoba also provides vocals, and demonstrates his dexterity on the traditional two-stringed lute. 

From that upcoming album (released July 7th) a taster of the album’s Ghanian roots odyssey, with ‘Microdosing’.

Vukovar ‘An Invisible Prison II/Eternally Yours’

And so the final death knell has been announced for Vukovar. After eight years – despite numerous wrangles and bust-ups, episodes of self-flagellation/self-destruction – the hermetic romantics of cold wave and all its musical bedfellows have signed their fate. The perron foundations are still strong however, with news of a new birth and direction (of a kind). This is a digest of course, so far too much water has flowed down the River Styx to cover in this brief feature, but I feel like a champion for this underground phenomenon – the Monolith has even played host to band members Rick and Dan and their various posts, serialisations over the last few years. And have pretty much covered near enough every release – which in that short period covers at least ten full albums, live ones too, singles and various other releases. And so I will leave you with links to the numerous reviews I’ve penned below.

Vukovar leave one last memento however: the final single, leaving present ‘An Invisible Prison II’ and a B-side of a sort, ‘Eternally Yours’. Treasure them both, as the funeral pyre burns, the alchemists of esoteric new wave are no more.

Vukovar ‘Emperor’

Vukovar ‘The Blood Garden’

Vukovar ‘Fornication’

Vukovar ‘The Clockwork Dance’

Vukovar ‘Puritan’

Vukovar ‘Infinitum’

Vukovar/Michael Cash ‘Monument’

Vukovar ‘Cremator’

Vukovar ‘The Colossalist’

Vukovar ‘Cement & Crement’

Vukovar ‘The Great Immurement’

Vukovar ‘The Body Abdicator’

Rick Clarke’s The Great Immurement

Rick Clarke ‘Astral Deaths & Astral Lights’

Dan Shea ‘Jukebox Lockdowns/Tribute to Simon Morris’


A trio of Bowie album anniversaries of one kind or another this April. The oldest of which, Aladdin Sane is unbelievably 50! Whilst Lets Dance is 40, and Black Tie White Noise is 30 this month.

Killing off Ziggy Stardust to assume the lightning anointed role of Aladdin Sane, Bowie’s split personality only partially moved on from its precursor. If Hunky Dory pretty much alluded to the USA from a distance, then Sane is living it.

From the scuzzed rock’n’roll chugging riffs to the Latin-Cuban styled piano flourishes and ‘give my regards to Broadway’, Bernstein/Brecht passing fancies (thank you Mike Garson on phenomenal pianist chops and theatrical duties), Bowie is cast adrift, absorbed in the aroma of the Americas as an unbalanced gender bending dame, trying to make sense of it all.

Fantastical, yet nostalgic in equal measure, the backlot of 50s drive-ins, Che Guevara styled revolution on the streets of Detroit and heart-crushing laments, effortlessly turn from tears to swaggered rock, with ‘Time’ hanging over proceedings as a monolithic reminder of death: the stereotype rock star death in particular, in the case of the New York DollsBilly Murcia, as immortalised in the song’s lyrics. That’s all without even mentioning the aching, plaintive malady of ‘Lady Grinning Soul‘; perhaps one of the best things Bowie had ever written to that point.

An ott full-on glamified version of the Stones‘ ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ signals Bowie’s intent, a precursor to his love letter to the British ‘beat group’ (1964-67) era, and the covers album Pin Ups – released later in the same year, as the final-finale death knell of Stardust and his alter egos. Glorious, one of Bowie’s greatest fantasies and never out if my top five, if occasionally making the number one spot.

Protesting his innocence, rather too strongly, the $17.5 million dollar-richer Bowie inadvertently struck commercial gold with his 15th studio album Lets Dance. The formative RCA years were replaced with an uneasy transition to EMI, whose pricey acquisition would at least boost the label’s coffers during the mid to late 80s.

Undervalued and inappropriately shafted, Bowie’s long-time collaborator Tony Visconti was dropped at the eleventh hour in favour of Chic’s Nile Rodgers.

What Rodgers brought to the table was a vibrant, polished, more swaggering sound. MTV friendly and able to rouse the masses to their feet – just listen to the infectious gilding that turned a simple backbeat and Kenny Logan-esque guitar lick into something way beyond pop on ‘Modern Love’.

Apart from a few well-meaning but dawdling numbers, this album was really a collection of potential, and in the case of ‘Cat People’, previously successful singles. A jumbled coherence of themes permeate however, as a faux-colonial, abroad in WWII backlit Singapore or Macao, mixed with sharp lemon meringue zoot suit, Bowie launched into a diatribe on domestic abuse, racism and oppression. Taking a special interest in the aborigines cause, he dedicated the eponymous title track to their struggle.

For every guarded metaphorical attack, there was a counterbalanced slide onto the dance floor – ‘Shake It’ one of the thin white duke’s less challenging but contagious soulful paeans to courtship. Presented as a ‘singers’ album, Bowie concentrated on honing his electric-blues vocal delivery, relinquishing the usual playing duties.

Despite selling six million copies and attracting a newfound audience, he resented the attention and increased pressure, especially as Let’s Dance was at odds with his original intentions. He’d blame Rodgers’ varnished production – though this never stopped them from working together again years later on Black Tie White Noise – for sending him in a commercial, but aridly dry artistic direction. However, it’s an impressive work of spritely charming and neon-glowing pop. Just the opening global hot-steeping trilogy of ‘Modern Love’, ‘China Girl’ and ‘Let’s Dance’ would be enough to justify Bowie’s tumultuous decade alone.

Bowie the glowing groom was above the trivial of platitude wedding vowels and practicing special moves for the couple’s signature last dance. For his marriage to Iman Abdulmajid, he composed a typically nuanced musical suite in lovesick tribute.

Part of this ceremonial accompaniment (the opening moiety of ‘The Wedding’ and bookended ‘The Wedding Song’) was integrated, in to what would be, his heralded solo comeback LP, Black Tie White Noise.

Meant as a representation of two entwined cultures, the vaguely eastern romantic saxophone and western backbeat were used as a leitmotif: seeping into a fair share of the album’s twelve tracks. Tied-in with a return to a city that had dominated his songbook with themes of isolation and drug addiction (from Young Americans to Lodger), L.A, would settle for Bowie’s take on the race issues of the day. Jetting in as the whole Rodney King episode sparked off an apocalyptic raging inferno, Bowie both scared and exhilarated, breathed in the toxic air for inspiration.

Eager to refrain from sounding too glib, he wrote the album’s title track as a counterbalance to the grinning, smug optimism found on the “United Colours of Benetton” billboards. Angling his wit at the ethnocentric MOR, Bowie himself liberally drops in slogans and motifs from Marvin Gaye, faux-reggae and New Jack Swing, as he duets with one of the scenes passing stars, Al B Sure!

Mixing it up in the ‘ghetto’, Bowie once again ropes in Niles Rodgers to add some funky gristle and sheen to the jazzy, soulful template. He also took notes from Miles Davis’s late 80s/early 90s adoption of street sounds and be bop; bringing in the revered former Art Ensemble of Chicago’s trumpet player, Lester Bowie, to blow the sort of signature-plaintive squeals and trapped bumble bee solos commonly found in Davis’s repertoire.

The influence works both ways of course, but the omnipresent Scott Walker has always forced Bowie to…well, improve himself. Not so much a competition – Bowie would never quite reach the stripped avant-garde morose of his American rival – the two artists nevertheless spur each other on. Paying back a favour, Bowie covers Walker’s 1978, traversing grown-up, ‘Nite Flights’ (attributed to The Walker Brothers, their last album together as a reformed trio), aping but doing it justice. Whether intentionally imbued by the Walker spirit, the original intended Tin Machine song, ‘You’ve Been Around’ (written with Reeves Gabrels) sounds even more like one of his than Nite Flights.

Former glorious foil, Mick Ronson is heard on the placid, smooth, cover of Cream’s ‘I Feel Free’ (instigated as a result of Ronson’s work on Morrissey’s Your Aresnal) and illusionary rich, autobiographical ‘Jump They Say’: the first time Bowie addresses his half-brother Terry’s suicide in the 80s, by equating his own metaphorical artistic leap.

The odd ‘pop-lite’ tune, Caribbean warbling karaoke ditty (‘Don’t Let Me Down & Down’) and garish, over-egged, rendition of Morrissey’s ‘I Know It’s Going To Happen Someday’ threw spanners into the works, yet Black Tie White Noise pointed towards a wider Bowie renaissance, as it triggered an impending tenure of solid, experimental releases.

Tracks and a few cover version surprises await on the Social Playlist below:

The Social Playlist #75

Anniversary Albums And Deaths Marked Alongside An Eclectic Mix Of Cross-Generational Music, Newish Tunes And A Few Surprises. 

Just give me two hours of your precious time to expose you to some of the most magical, incredible, eclectic, and freakish music that’s somehow been missed, or not even picked up on the radar. For the Social is my uninterrupted radio show flow of carefully curated music; marking anniversary albums and, sadly, deaths, but also sharing my own favourite discoveries over the decades and a number of new(ish) tracks missed or left out of the blog’s Monthly playlists.

Volume 75 of this long-running playlist series pays a humble, but sizeable, elegy to the recently departed Japanese genius Sakamoto. Whether it was building a unifying electronic music post-war future with the Yellow Magic Orchestra, building Bamboo houses of colour with David Slyvain, scoring the harrowing tragedy of war with Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, or winning gold at the Oscars/Grammys for his innovative soundtrack work, the iconic composer reworked neoclassical and electronica into a most influential new language – not totally at odds with its past, yet constantly evolving and probing at the edges of the undiscovered. With over 50 albums, probably a lot more to pick from, I’ve purely chosen personal favourites from a mere smattering of his cannon.

As I mentioned in my Bowie archive spot, and part of this month’s anniversary celebrating albums selections, there’s a healthy dose of original versions and covers from Aladdin Sane, Let’s Dance and Black Tie White Noise. Joining the thinned white duke in the anniversaries are R.E.M. (Murmer is 40 this month), the Freestyle Fellowship (Intercity Griot‘s 30th) and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Fever To Tell‘s 20th).

Recent editions to Spotify include Don Cherry and foil Jean Schwarz paying homage to the deity Ornette Coleman on the ’77 Live special Roundtrip, ‘Cat Nip‘ from Levoit‘s Sharav album, and butt end of 2022 tracks from Raw Poetics and Elizabeth M. Drummond. Plus a real catch of choice music from across the ages and genres by New Young Pony Club, Sunny & The Sunliners, Oswald D’Andrea, Fred Pallem, Sweet Tee, Shira Small and others.


Octopus ‘Panic In Detroit’
David Bowie ‘Shake It’
New Young Pony Club ‘Hiding On The Staircase’
Ryuichi Sakamoto ‘Just About Enough’
Pralo Ormi e la sua Orchestra ‘Black Pipe’
Ryuichi Sakamoto ‘The Garden Of Poppies’
Leslie Winer ‘John Says’
HEC ‘The Prettiest Star’
R.E.M. ‘West Of The Fields’
Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘Black Tongue’
Alejandro Bravo ‘Naranjita’
Lulu ‘Watch That Man’
Sunny & The Sunliners ‘I Can Remember’
Oswald D’Andrea ‘Bambou Jump’
Harold McKinney ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’
Freestyle Fellowship ‘Heavyweights’
Ryuichi Sakamoto ‘ADELIC PENGUINS’
Elizabeth M. Drummond ‘Congratulations’
Metro ‘Criminal World’
Terry Riley & John Cale ‘Church Of Anthrax’
Leviot ‘Catnip’
Don Cherry & Jean Schwarz ‘Tribute To Ornette (Live)’
Fred Pellam & Le Sacre du Tympan ‘Stratageme 34’
Ryuichi Sakamoto ‘ISLAND OF WOODS’
David Bowie ‘Miracle Goodbye’
Sweet Tee ‘On The Smooth Tip’
Raw Poetic & Damu The Fudgemunk ‘A Mile In My Head’
Joe Mensah ‘Happy Beat’
Shira Small ‘Lights Gleam Lowly’
David Bowie ‘Nite Flights’
Ryuichi Sakamoto & David Slyvian ‘Heartbeat’
Cheval Sombre ‘Time Waits For No One’
Ryuichi Sakamoto ‘Before The War’
Shukar Collective ‘Calling Tagomago’
Ryuichi Sakamoto ‘riot in Lagos’



Ali Murray and Cornelius Corvidae ‘Split EP’
(Dead Forest Records)

As the name suggests this is an EP split between two artists playing two songs each.

Ali Murray hails from the beautiful windswept Isle of Lewis and vocally sounds like a cross between Elliott Smith and Andy Shauf. On some of his other releases he harnesses a shoegaze-like sonic template. Here he adopts a stripped-back sound of acoustic and electric guitar and organ. Standout track is the beautiful ‘Wish the Bones Away’ with its poetic lyrics and melancholic gothic strangeness. ‘Spirit of Unknowing’ meanwhile, uses acoustic guitar to great effect on an atmospheric ballad that combines the phrasing of John Grant with the sadness of Elliot Smith. Two songs of beauty and wonder!

Cornelius Corvidae hails from Minnesota, USA and inhabits two songs of cosmic Americana. ‘Silver Flower (Kali’s Invitation)’ employs acoustic picked guitar on a bleak ballad, all dark imagery and campfire ghost-story shadow. ‘Shiva in the Blood Orchard’ meanwhile, uses picked acoustic guitar set against Tudor-like keyboard melodies (reminiscent of the Moody Blues) on a dark folk ballad. Two artists, four great songs!

Foil ‘Portal’
(Jolt Music

Foil (AKA singer and producer Helly Manson) releases her new single this month. Taken from the upcoming album On the Wing, the song begins like Steeleye Span with multi tracked folkish female vocals before a synth plays the same pattern over and over again accompanied by a cowbell rhythm! It lasts just 1 minute and 33 seconds and sounds like a demo for a song not finished and barely started! Still, there’s nothing else quite like it!

Juppe ‘Fade’

Juppe hails from Helsinki in Finland (the happiest country in the world)! Of the singles theme he says ‘it’s very hard to get a place to rent here in Helsinki if you don’t have good credit! It’s very easy to fade away.’ With two fingers up to the Man – Juppe looks like Bob Mortimer and harnesses the sound of the Devils music Jamiroquai!

Bitter Defeat ‘Terrific Effort EP’

This is the second EP from the New Zealand indie rock band following last years Minor Victory EP. Comprising 4 songs of guitar pop-rock that sit somewhere between the Lemon Heads and late-period Buzzcocks! Lead song ‘Sugar Blind’ is a catchy guitar driven pop song complete with Cure-like background vocal refrain! ‘Falling Down’, meanwhile has shades of the Charlatans with its driving organ sound! One to watch!

Nivis ‘Into the Void’ EP
(6415 Records)

The EP features 4 songs of pop-rock from the German indie-pop band. Lead track ‘Rain on a Funeral March’ is a catchy pop song that resonates more with each play. All four songs are well-produced, commercial pop-rock that remind me of people like Cyndi Lauper or Nena (of 99 Red Balloons fame). It’s the sort of music that was popular in the mid 1980’s! Shiny but not new!

Neon Kittens ‘Loving Your Neighbours Wife’ b/w ‘Marilyn Mansion (Where Horror Lives)
(Metal Postcard Records)

The new single from Neon Kittens, combines the white funk bass-lines of A Certain Ratio with Eno / Byrnes My Life in the Bush of Ghosts to produce K-Funk – the crunchy funk sound of biscuits out of their packet! With these hot cheesy bread rhythms, even Lego figures with botox can learn to smile again! Set to produce a water slide of elastic-legged banana dancing up and down the country!

B-side ‘Marilyn Mansion’ employs the sound of Early Gang of Four with the attack of Wire and a deadpan female Einar (Sugarcubes) on a twisted tale of non murder locations and funking in cars!

Draag ‘Mitsuwa’

A wonderful summery single from the LA Electro-Shoegaze band, taken from their forthcoming album Dark Fire Heresy. Acoustic guitars and subtle synths give way to chiming guitars and organ with multi-tracked harmonic female vocals! It reminds me very much of Lush in their prime! One to watch!


Conrad Schnitzler & Ken Montgomery ‘CAS-CON 11 Konzert in der Erloserkirche, Ost-Berlin, 3.9.1986’
(Bureau B) 12th May 2023

This is a live concert recorded in East Germany on 3.9.1986 where the music of German electronic experimental musician Conrad Schnitzler was mixed live by American collaborator Ken Montgomery. This was at a time when the Berlin Wall still stood and the GDR required the issuing of a special state permit for a live concert. This concert was promoted locally by word of mouth and went ahead illegally (without permit), where it was recorded and issued by an East German underground label on cassette.

Now fully restored, the concert has been issued for the first time on CD, Vinyl and as a Digital Download! Consisting of 6 tracks of austere serious yet playful experimental electronic music, it leaves little impression on first listen. With repeat plays however, the charms of the music reveal themselves, not so much in melody but in atmosphere and approach. It encapsulates the icy chill and drama of Delia Derbyshire, Bowie, Eno, Tomita, Cluster and early Popol Vuh! An interesting suite of music – one that becomes an essential listen the more you hear it!

FFO: Delia Derbyshire, Cluster, Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream, Bowie, Tomita.

Volatile Youth ‘Post Falls, Idaho’
(Rummage Sale Records – Bandcamp)

The album begins with the song ‘California’ sounding like a strung-out Lou Reed if produced by Jesus and Mary Chain! ‘Love Like A Thousand Guns’ is superb low-fi Psychedelia with the backward vocal effect, once favoured by Siouxsie, that you don’t hear anymore since the onset of Digital! ‘She’s Starting to See the Flame’ is a country-tinged song sounding like Nick Drake if he had fronted the Byrds after they turned country-rock!

Overall, this is a fine album that is perhaps a touch too low-fi for its lofty ambitions! The songs are commercial and remind me of various bands and artists – among them Lou Reed, the Only Ones, the Byrds in their Gram Parsons era, Dennis Wilson and the gothic feel of Mazzy Star.

If it had been made by someone with a higher profile, say Bright Eyes, and recorded on decent sound equipment, it would undoubtedly have gained a wide audience. Hopefully it will be heard by many and receive the recognition it deserves.

Fhae ‘Sombre Thorax’
(4000 Records)

This is a wonderful album of ethereal, ambient, dream-folk-pop that ebbs and flows like the tides and inhabits its own world of subtle beauty. Sometimes, mists of the sea seem to creep into the music and the edges of reality become blurred, the music shape shifting into another dimension!

Fhae (20 year old Australian Ellena Ramsay) produces music in the vein of Julianna Barwick or Grouper – some of it lovely with multi tracked harmonies (like Barwick) and some of it (such as ‘Drain’ and ‘Man’) obscure in its strangeness (like Grouper)! There are some really beautiful and compelling tracks on the album, such as ‘Earth’, ‘Emergency’, ‘Love You’, ‘Comb’ and ‘Stuck’. A fantastic debut album, I can’t wait to hear more!

Stanley J. Zappa & Simo Laihonen with Suvadeep Das ‘Dance of the Moving Goal Posts’
(Ramble Records)

US saxophonist Stanley J Zappa (nephew of Frank Zappa) and Finnish drummer and percussionist Simo Laihonen recorded this album of 7 pieces of free improvised jazz live in Helsinki in 2018. The final track features Suvadeep Das on darbuka adding an extra percussive element!

It’s a lively set with the Sax sparring with the percussion throughout. If you enjoy free improv jazz, you may well enjoy this lively concert – give it a listen!

Nico Paulo ‘Nico Paulo’
(Forward Music Group)

This is a wonderful summery album of Bacharach-like melodies by the Portuguese-Canadian singer. A truly remarkable debut of ten self-composed wonderful songs that sound like standards.

Her voice is a bewitching combination of Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell and Natalie Mering (Weyes Blood). Musically it covers a wide spectrum of Tropicalia, Folk, Americana, Jazz and Pop. Her voice conveys real emotion and depth that is bounced off the beautiful melodies and lyrics.

There are so many fantastic songs on here that it’s hard to single out the standout tracks, but they include ‘Time’, ‘Lock Me Inside’, ‘The Master’, ‘Learning My Ways’, ‘Now or Never’.

A future classic that will undoubtedly have a far-reaching influence on stars not yet born! Is it too early to award it – Debut Album of the Year?

FFO: Weyes Blood, Aldous Harding, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Beach House, Rumer.

Silver Moth ‘Black Bay’
(Bella Union) 21st April 2023

Silver Moth are a one-off ‘band-experiment’ made up of 7 members from various bands drawn together post-lockdown by a strong desire to make music again and see what happens! The band include Mogwai guitarist Stuart Braithwaite, Elisabeth Elektra, Evi Vine and Ben Roberts.

The first track ‘Henry’ is 7 minutes of atmospheric shoegaze guitar music with a girl singer whose cracked voice here sounds like Beth Gibbons at her emotional best!

‘The Eternal’ follows, not the Joy Division song, but a bleak winter hymnal resonating like sacred music for the End of Times!

‘Mother Tongue’ follows suite with its cinematic drama and pagan prayer-like plea for reconciliation and survival.

Final track ‘Sedna’ has the same sacred vibe – like Dead Can Dance played by Fields of The Nephilim.

Cinematic tracks full of atmosphere and grandeur! 45 minutes of Bliss! It may become the holy grail of lost albums in future years – if it slips under the radar!

FFO: Slowdive, Pale Saints, Howling Bells, Daughter, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Fields of the Nephilim.

A Little About The Writer:

Manchester-based musician and artist Graham Domain joined the team in 2022. The offspring of Scott Walker and David Slyvian, Graham has charmed us with his plaintive adroit music for years; releasing music for the iconic cult multinational platform Metal Postcard Records.

Gillian Stone’s Monthly Reviews

Alice ‘L’Oiseau Magnifique’
(Bongo Joe Records) Available Now

At 23 songs ranging from 0:26 to 3:59, Genevan intergenerational micro-choir Alice’s L’ Oiseau Magnifique (“The magnificent bird”), released via Bongo Joe Records, is like one continuous, minimal folk symphony with 23 short movements.

Mother and daughter Yvonne Harder and Lisa Harder, along with Sarah André, juxtapose crisp, resonant harmonies with accompaniment on a thrifted synth, creating a sound that could be equated to a more lo-fi, European Mountain Man. The album is like sonically experiencing a family living room concert, with half-finished knitting out on the table and the smell of chicken stock simmering in a musty, 200-year-old home.

Despite its minimalism, there are moments L’ Oiseau Magnifique that take the listener by surprise: the jangly percussion, synthetic bird sounds, and unorthodox hand-to-mouth vocals on “Nous marchons”, the Gregorian chant atmosphere on “Deux mille trains”, and the field recordings of car sounds on “La santé”. The album starts and ends with the inclusion of mistakes, with the false starts and happy laughter on the second track, “Triste et tout seul”, and the last track “Rires”. Instead of taking one out of the moment, these instead are filled with personality, warmth, and a sense of inclusion in Alice’s process. Their moments of imprecision throughout are profoundly charming and imbued with a fearless humanness that makes L’ Oiseau Magnifique utterly unique.

Altın Gün ‘Aşk’

Conceptually multifarious, Altın Gün’s Aşk (Glitterbeat Records) is a manifold of ancient, vintage, and current. With their “Anatolian folk-rock sound”, the Amsterdam-based sextet interprets traditional Turkish folk song through the lens of psychedelic 70’s acid disco folk. Yet despite this sonic and conceptual complexity along with profoundly adept musicianship, the ethos of the 10-song album can be boiled down to something very simple: fun.

Beginning with the formidable energy of “Badi Sabah Olmadan”, the urge to dance is established right off the top. This continues with “Su Sızıyor” with its “The Guns of Brixton” bassline held down by Jasper Verhulst, and the jangly “Leylim Ley”. “Dere Geliyor” features wicked percussion by Chris Bruining, warbly guitar by Thijs Elzinga, and Merve Daşdemir’s smooth vocals. “Çıt Çıt Çedene” is classically groovy, while “Rakıya Su Katamam” is a brief foray into headbanger territory. The intro and breakdown of “Canım Oy” could be something off Santana’s Abraxas, while Daniel Smienk’s drums on “Kalk Gidelim” are both wild and sexy. Erdinç Ecevit’s beautiful microtonal vocals then soar over the Wish You Were Here feel of “Güzelliğin On Para Etmez”. The album ends strong with the disco feel of “Doktor Civanım”, reminiscent of Blondie in their prime. Throughout the record, Ecevit incorporates the saz, or bağlama, a lute used in Turkish folk music, staying true to Altın Gün’s influential roots.

In a rare feat, every song on Aşk is fantastic, equating to a conceptually profound, joyfully executed, “all killer no filler” vibe.

H. Hawkline ‘Milk For Flowers’ 

Starting out a certain way, where you think you know what you’re getting into, then taking you by surprise, is the thematic journey of H. Hawkline’s Milk For Flowers (Heavenly). So is lyrical vulnerability.

The first two songs on the Cate Le Bon-produced record, “Milk for Flowers” and “Plastic Man”, begin with a deep nod to Carole King, Paul McCartney and the Brill Building. “Suppression Street” is where the lyrics begin to encase the listener into a heartfelt sense of melancholy tenderness: “Grief is an encounter and I speak it/It carries like a shadow on the carpet”. It then transitions into the Neil Young vibe of “Suppression Street”, with none other than the great John Parish on bongos. The album then slams into the indefinable, stunning “Denver”, and suddenly Milk For Flowers takes flight, as if everything was leading up to this moment.

It continues to soar through “Athens At Night” with its dance-y palate of 80s sequenced synths and electric keyboards, George Harrison guitar riffs, and “Blue Monday” drum fills. The album lands back into being piano driven for “Like I Do”, and stays there for the remainder of the album. And it is here where the lyrics begin to shine again; on “It’s A Living” (“Old women/Young children/Can teach you everything you need to know about living”) and “Mostly” (“I wanna die/I wanna die/I wanna die happy”). True ballad “Empty Room”, with its form made up of two distinct sections, then takes out the album.

Milk For Flowers begins steeped in traditional songwriting, takes you on a breathless journey, then brings you back into a place of safety, where feelings can be acknowledged and processed.

La Faute ‘Water Colours’

Watercolours, the second single from Toronto, Canada-based La Faute’s forthcoming debut album Blue Girl Nice Day, is like the sonic representation of a slightly wilted bouquet of pastel-hued flowers.

Whispered, velveteen vocals softly weave into an atmospheric palette of dark, atmospheric folk that explores the liminal space between beauty and discomfort.

Thematically traversing the “feeling of infatuation bordering on obsession”, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist Peggy Messing speaks to the unpredictable and undivinable nature of watercolour paints as an allegory for “that desperate, slightly sickening feeling that love or obsession can bring”.

There is something sinister simmering under the surface of the track – a gentle violence that slowly rears its head from beneath wisps of gorgeous minimal lushness. Messing’s hushed vocals are a step away from cracking, like the quiet control of Watercolours could break at any moment. But it doesn’t, and the tension is stunning.

Joining the team earlier this year, 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.

Dominic Valvona

CREDIT: Marilena Umuhoza Delli

The Oldest Voice In The World (Azerbaijan) ‘Thank You For Bringing Me Back To The Sky’ 
(Six Degrees Records) 6th April 2023

There can be few remote corners of this well-traversed globe left unrecorded, yet the celebrated polymath and renowned in-situ recordist Ian Brennan and his wife, but most importantly partner on these sonic expeditions, the filmmaker and photographer Marilena Umuhoza Delli, have found one such spot on the Azerbaijan border with Iran. So remote in fact, almost untouched by modernity and technology, that the language spoken in this mountainous village is almost unintelligible to even those living in the valley below.

Settled by the atavistic Talysh people of this region, this outlier of naturalistic and hardened living is an ancient place with challenging origins shrouded in thousands of years of obscurity. Perhaps ancestors of the old Iranian tribe the Cadusii, this unique ethnic community, clinging and camped out on the southern mountains of Azerbaijan, is famous for its longevity; said to be the home of the oldest ever recorded human, at (an allegedly) 168 years old! But despite that remoteness, the ever encroaching dreaded Covid-19 pandemic found its way there, and by the time Brennan and Delli travelled to this outcrop, the number of centenarians had diminished greatly. As if the pandemic wasn’t tragic enough, our sonic explorers found that the living conditions for these elders were extremely harsh: no indoors plumbing, forced to sleep on floorboard mattresses. And so this project, just the latest in at least fifty recordings by Brennan, became an antidote of a kind to anti-ageism.

As dangerous places, states in flux and aftermaths of genocide go, compared to many of Brennan’s tour-of-duties (Rwanda, Vietnam, Cambodia, Pakistan etc.) Azerbaijan, on the surface, seems a far less hostile safer bet. However, that Southern Caucus region’s decades old fight with its western neighbor Armenia over the complicated and disputed landlocked Nagorno-Karabakh region (the Armenian’s refer to it instead as the Artsakh) reared its ugly head again in 2020; only brought to a conclusion (of a sort) by a trilateral agreement overseen by Russia in November of that year. In a window of opportunity Brennan and Delli made the trek in late 2021. Just months later, Russia would of course invade Ukraine.

CREDIT: Marilena Umuhoza Delli

What they both discovered and recorded for posterity is a most incredible document of elderly sagacious voices very much alive, yet all to aware of their own mortality. Surviving COVID but left to mourn those that didn’t, this should be a lamentable, saddening proposition. Far from prying in on a collective trauma, with a number of the performers obviously distraught and in a state of anguish at times, Brennan’s hand was indeed kissed by a long-since retired shepherd, who repeated his gratitude (giving the album its title in the process): “Thank you for bringing me back to the sky”.

This album could, like so many previous recordings in this vain, be said to act as a sort of therapy; a release. It certainly isn’t in the spirit of Lomax, saving old voices before they disappear; an ethnomusicologist exercise in Western preservation. As a subtle augmentation of elements are added, with some vocal performances, aches and talks further transported by a number of past Brennan collaborators (Kronos Quartet, Tinariwen, The Good Ones and Yoka Honda) on the bonus tracks.  

For those new to Brennan’s hands-off approach, the set-up is as un-intrusive and natural as possible. The surrounding environment isn’t just welcome to bleed into each recording but invited. This translates into the creaking of a door; the crackled flames of a furnace; and in the case of the afflatus-touched ‘Lullaby’, what sounds like a rhythmic trudge through water.

Whilst most expressions, deliveries of earthy travail and more heavenly thanksgiving are pretty stripped back, soft but effective uses of mirrored and echoed reversals are used on the warped piano yearned ‘My Mother Lived To Be 110’, and the more avant-garde piano and spoken ‘The Young Men Are Sent To Die In Rich Man’s War’. This turns some recordings into portals to other worlds, others, like something from Zardoz, or even psychedelic and otherworldly.

Voices are effected on the reverberated, forewarned ‘Son, Don’t Go There, The Road Is Dangerous’, turning a couple of different vocals into something both giddy and esoteric. I haven’t asked or searched it out so do forgive my ignorance, but the poetic ‘You Are A Flower Yet To Grow’ sounds like it has some kind of accompanying bassoon blowing away on it; and ‘Pepe, Pepe (Donkey Song)’ features what I can only describe as a sort of primitivism jazz horn. There’s hand drums being respectively rattled and hit on the longer, lyrically melodious dance, ‘Bulbul (Nightingale)’ and the more Persian sounding ‘Screaming From The Mountain Top For My Son’.

CREDIT: Marilena Umuhoza Delli

Amongst the often more distressed offerings and terms of abandonment, wise advice to longevity comes in the form of the trolley-full-rattled-crockery (or so it sounds) accompanied heartfelt ‘The Secret To Life: I Was Loved’, and the acoustic guitar wobbled and bandy-stringed, talked ‘The Secret To life: I Worked Hard And Ate Butter’ – dairy lovers like me take comfort; although my work rate of honest craft and toil will have to be increased considerably if that’s the case to long life.

A quartet, as I mentioned earlier, of collaborative transformations have been added as “bonus” material. All those involved have at some point crossed congruous and valuable paths with Brennan in the field or studio, the first being the Kronos Quartet who lift a sorrowful Talysh mountain border voice with a treatment of neoclassical held and bowed strings and gravitas. Yuka Honda, meanwhile, evokes Die Wilde Jagd and The Pyrolator on the sophisticated electronic and minimalist Techno affected ‘Prayer Overheard’.

One of Mali’s Tuareg luminaries of desert rock and blues, the much lauded Tinariwen, cast a near Medieval and Oriental dream spell on ‘Ghosts’, and the Rwandan farming bluesman, The Good Ones, provide an elasticated, stringy and stripped backing for the female-voiced ‘A Lifetime Still’ – complete with a light chorus of birds.

Loss, bereavement, the wise observations of those uncomplicated voices, this latest recording from Brennan and Dilli (who records each project through her lens) encourages a dialogue and offers a unique angle on ageing, or rather, the abandonment and prejudice of growing old. In a time in which we’ve grown to distrust, cast off and denigrate old age in the pursuit of eternal youth (cosmetically and through the filters of Instagram), the old are looked on with embarrassment and as a burden; their deaths on mass, as they were shunted out of hospitals into care homes to spread COVID, until recently, seen as just a unfortunate result of the pandemic. We’ve come to see ageing as a reminder of our own unwanted mortality. As I’ve said, those voices come alive in the presence of Brennan, cutting through the pretence and bullshit with the most emotionally profound wisdom and anguish of the times. With such a skilled touch, Brennan loses none of the atavistic traditions yet transforms his hosts’ song into the “now” with a near-psychedelic, otherworldly and spiritual production of folk and the avant-garde. This is quite unlike anything else you’ve heard.    

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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