The April Digest 2023: Voodoo Drummer, African Head Charge, Marta Salogni and Tom Relleen, Social Playlist #75, Bowie, Sakamoto…

April 11, 2023

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’


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