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 is our imaginary radio show; 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.

May’s edition features new music from Andrew Hung, Laraaji & Kramer, Chocolate Hills, August Cooke and Läuten der Seele. And in the Archives there’s the 50th anniversary of Amon Düül II‘s Vive La Trance and 10th anniversary of Julian Cope’s Revolutionary Suicide to celebrate and look back on.


Andrew Hung ‘Ocean Mouth’
(Taken from the upcoming Deliverance album, released the 11th August on Lex Records)

Still envisioning hope in the expanses of what is a purer future constellation, former Fuck Button foil turn soundtrack composer and trick noisemaker producer (a pretty deft portrait painter too as it happens: see the Frank Auerbach-like artwork that accompany his solo releases) Andrew Hung is back with another candid, if universally reaching, album of diy methodology big sounds. Yes big, as in anthemic, with tracks that build towards cathartic outpourings. None more so than the first track to be aired from the upcoming Deliverance album (released by Lex again, later on in August) ‘Ocean Mouth’. A rave-y Bloc Party and White Lies in a hopeful union with a Robert Smith fronted Freur, Hung is both humbled and in heartfelt consolatory spirit as he progresses from fear to love whilst facing a litany of truths, anxieties and realisations: A therapy session of the highest musical quality. As with all Hung’s material, it only gets better and better, and this album looks set to be every bit as connective and reaching as 2021’s Devastations (a Monolith Cocktail choice album of that year no less).

Laraaji & Kramer ‘Submersion’
(Taken from the BAPTISMAL – Ambient Symphony #1album, released 2nd June by Shimmy Disc)

Divine styler of radiant ambiance zither spiritualism Laraaji can be found in communion with no less a pioneer than Shimmy Disc founder and downtown no wave doyen Mark Kramer, on this latest release from the New York label. Two pioneers of their form together over four movements of immersive, deeply affected mood music, draw on their extensive knowledge and intuition to create suites rich in the mysterious, the afflatus and more supernatural. Cycle One in this collaboration is a Baptismal symphony, the first part of which, ‘Submersion’, I’m sharing with you all today.

See also my review of Laraaji’s iconic ‘Ambient 3: Day Of Radiance’

Chocolate Hills ‘Mermaids’
(Taken from the Yarns from the Chocolate Triangle album, released by Orbscure on the 16th June)

Floating a fantastic voyage into the Bermuda Triangle, the long-running collaborative duo of Paul Conboy (Bomb The Bass, Metamono) and The Orb‘s Alex Paterson conjure up signature lost sounds and immersive languid soundscape on their new album together, Yarns from the Chocolate Triangle. Under the lunar and ether inhaled Chocolate Hills alias, the foils mine their vast experience and CVs of electronic, ambient, analogue cult sounds, library music, kosmische and new age to navigate that forbidden zone phenomenon of lost ships, aeroplanes and people. It makes for an interesting cartography, as this short teaser, ‘Mermaids‘, shows. Expect to hear more at a future date: maybe even a review.

See also my piece on Metamono’s Creative Listening

(Single release via Poets Studio)

As debut’s go, this beautifully subtle chamber-pop draw from the London-based cellist, singer and composer George Cooke is a stunner. A tastefully orchestrated evocation of such luminaries as He Poos Clouds, Arthur Russell and Surfjan Stevens, Cooke (going under the August Cooke alias) slowly builds up an emotive momentum of understated lush hymnal magnificence. He’s aided by the full choir chorus and harmony of pupils from the West London Free School and the accentuated clarinet and saxophones of the Mumbai-based multi-instrumentalist Shirish Malhotra (Zakir Hussain, Symphony Orchestra of India). Theme wise, Cooke directly challenges the listener: if our planet was radically different, would our principles remain? A promising start indeed.

Läuten der Seele ‘Schlupfzeit’
(Taken from the Ertrunken Im Seichtesten Gewässer album, released 7th July on World of Echo)

A magical. mysteriously unveiled, often in childlike awe, world emerges on the latest recording from Christian Schoppik (aka Läuten der Seele); a fantastical peregrination of environmental changes on a particular spot.

“Somewhere in the Lower-Franconian vineyards lies a hidden and mostly unknown canyon, a place that often returns to the thoughts and dreams of Läuten der Seele’s Christian Schoppik. Though a much rarer occurrence now as a consequence of environmental change, chance encounters upon the area in the past would sometimes reveal small ponds amongst the reeds, teeming with life and populated by colonies of newts and the now endangered yellow bellied toad. The transience of the water and the wildlife it hosts, dependent on season or climate, lends the area an almost fantastical, dream-like quality. Was it ever even there at all? A secret place that may or may not be present holds vast appeal to some enquiring minds… Ertrunken Im Seichtesten Gewässer, the third Läuten der Seele album in two years, is inspired directly by these experiences. Translating as ‘drowned in the shallowest stretch of water’, a title as pregnant with dread as it is wonder, the themes present speak both to personal memories and a wider understanding of place and time, and how we might interpret our own position within an ever-changing, sometimes disappearing world. 

The record is presented as two long-form pieces divided into four separate movements, each titled so as to reflect this natural environment and its intersection with imagination, relying on processes of collage that draw from myriad indeterminable samples, field recordings and various recorded instruments. Those familiar with Schoppik’s work, both as Läuten der Seele and with Brannten Schnüre, will find present many of his signature tropes – the way deeply layered collages render abstracted visions of the past alive in the present – though what is always significant about his approach is not so much aesthetic as the wider concepts it attempts to express and emote. Indeed, emotional response is key to the Läuten der Seele sound, how overlapping notions of nostalgia, memory and identity calibrate experience and understanding of who we are and the world around us, whether it’s a world that’s gone or another imagined into being. If you observe the artwork closely enough, you may find a clue as to the canyon’s location, though such specifics are beside the point. The music itself infers a wider sense of the impermanence that characterises hidden worlds, wherever they might be or whoever they might belong to.”


Amon Düül II’s Vive La Trance Reaches Its 50th Anniversary

Admittedly not one of Amon Düül II’s best, Vive La Trance embraced a weird concoction of Roxy/Bowie glam and earnest sincerity bordering on the whimsy at times. And yet, it had its moments too as my original essay on this much discounted album in the Bavarian band’s cannon will testify: especially almost debauched Weimar Republic punk hysterical ‘Ladies Mimikry’ and Renate Krötenschwanz-Knaup prophetic Kate Bush performance on ‘Jalousie’


1972 to 1973 proved bumper years for the Duul, with five albums in total being released across that timespan.

Vive La Trance was the last album of what might be argued their most productive period: though it came with some derision. To be truthful, in part, this record is the sound of a band worn-out and fatigued, with its wide genre-spanning catalogue of songs and its rather awkward Euro rock clichés. The band now more than ever flittering with commercialism.

Recorded in the spring of ’73 Vive La Trance contains many highlights despite its more structured songwriting approach. Saying that though, they did manage to maintain an ear for the esoteric, and also still conveyed their political leanings.

Songs such as ‘Mozambique’ acted as a rallying testament to the man and his raping of both a nation and a continent in the name of colonisation. Furthermore it carries a dedication to Monika Ertl, who was killed by Bolivian security forces in Hamburg that same year – Ertl was a member of the Marxist revolutionary group alleged to have taken part in the assassination of the general responsible for capturing and killing Che Guevara. At the time she was bringing a former Nazi war criminal to justice and was leapt on by South American agents whilst back in her homeland.

This move away from their more pagan and Gothic sounding heyday didn’t lead them away from the harsh realities of the upheavals in society – oh no! Whilst in the UK we were dressing up in glitter and having a jolly good time with glam rock, Germany was still gripped with the Baader Meinhof fall-out and the political right still crushing those who didn’t toe the line. Amon Duul II remained resolute in their ideals.

This album has some more touching and less establishment baiting moments on it with songs like ‘Jalousie’, a Kate Bush sounding lament built on a wordplay of surveillance – using the double meaning translation of the title it describes a touching but fateful meeting of minds in a fleeting moment, an affair of sorts watched on by a third party.

The tune ‘Manana’ has another warm and glowing feeling to it as a mariachi backed band ambles its way pleasantly enough through a quick three minute little ditty.

Also featured on here is what can only be described as proto punk with the track ‘Ladies Mimikry’: an attempt at both Bowie and Roxy Music, which ends up sounding like none of them. Instead they create an entirely new genre.

The players on this album are made up of the usual hardcore that played on Wolf City and the UK tour; though they lost Danny Fichelscher on permanent loan to Popol Vuh.

Lothar Meid hung on in the background, though he now joined the lesser-known side act Achtzehn Karat Gold from whom Keith Forsey also joined.

New member Robby Heibl made a huge contribution to the new line up, playing seven different instruments throughout the record.

Falk U Rogner upped his contribution as now most of the band received writing credits and swapped around instruments. The vocals were shared mostly between Chris Karrer and Renate; backing came from a number of affiliates.

The albums artwork was provided by both Falk and Jurgen Rogner this time round with what looks like a drying out photo hung up by a clothes peg surrounded by a strange electrical storm background. Amon Duul II’s moniker is made up of machine looking letters, which are made to appear as if they are in motion, the albums title sits between the two undisturbed and rather plain.

Turning over to the back cover and you are met with a number of photos depicting the band in various states of dressing up. Their costumes look Elizabethan except for one member who’s dressed up in a lion’s costume. Renate gets away with being dressed in a floppy hat though one guy looks like the guitarist from Slade has dressed him.

They are all photographed in the middle of a road, no it’s not an analogy to the music found within.


A Morning Excuse’ opens the album with a bird-call effect delivered from Falk’s VCS3, as a repetitive guitar riff slowly jars away in the background. Chris Karrer sings in a semi mock disdain at first before dropping to an emotional lament in the chorus; his attempts at holding on to some lost love are conveyed in this warming little pop song. This tune slightly boxes in any attempts for the free flowing musicianship of Amon Duul II to really let go, the plodding rhythm treads water until we hear the quirky twist half way through which emphasis that there is still ingenuity at work.

‘Fly United’ falls back on the previous folk echoes of Carnival In Babylon as Weinzierl plays some prime cuts of bass and adds some great lead guitar work. Renate and new boy Robby take on the vocals with a forlorn poetic series of spiritual slogans lifted from the headier days of the commune. The middle section breaks out in a nod to Wolf City before drawing to its conclusion: clocking in at a healthy three minutes.

Renate is given centre stage to perform a proto Kate Bush style vocal on ‘Jalousie’. This track is a slice of the fantastical, delivered as a soft focus ballad – it’s among the most endearing Duul tracks of all time. The title translates as both French for jealousy and is a type of Venetian blind window. This is a play on words then, which conjures up some romantic meeting of minds behind closed doors, whilst secrets are brought to the boil in a fleeting moment of connection: break out the fucking Mills & Boon.

A song of two parts, the middle section builds to a rolling rally cry with some subtle but moving melodies that cleverly encapsulates the affair as its being unveiled.

The long German titled ‘Im Krater Bluhn Wieder Die Baume’ roughly translates as “in the grater again Bluhn Baume”: nope still none the wiser!

A pastoral old folk like medieval canter that does its best to sound interesting but merely acts as an instrumental segue way. Falk’s organ is surrounded by light drum breaks and rock guitar licks as it merrily dawdles along on its short journey. It makes way for the classic three-part side one climax ‘Mozambique (Dedicated To Monika Ertl)’; a return to the past glories of Yeti.

The intro starts off with a pleasant enough African humming choir accompanied by a chorus of hand drums before being cut off and making way for some power folk. Renate on lead vocals sings quite literally of the white man’s rape of the continent; Mozambique has a history of civil war and rebellion, dealt a particularly harsh horrid blow from their old colonial masters. The chopping off of hands and other such ghoulish details follow as freedom is advocated through the good fight against the Westerners’ tyranny. The pace is picked up as it really starts motoring along and turns into some kind of space rock jam; the vocals become more harassed as Renate with shocking disdain makes us all feel bad. An eerie whispered message of “good night and fight” emerges from the fade out at the end of the epic seven-minute opus.

The Monika Ertl dedication in the title was for the daughter of Hans Ertl, a well-known German cameraman who was involved in the early Nazi Propaganda films before immigrating to Bolivia. There was a program of emigration to South America during the thirties, call it a colonisation of sorts, as thousands of Nazi sympathisers bought land and set up farms there. Monika turned against her father’s ideology to embrace Marxism, joining the Bolivian underground movement before being involved in the murder of the man thought responsible for the death of Che Guevara. In the same year that Amon Duul II recorded this album Monika was ambushed by Bolivian security force agents in Hamburg, at the time she was bringing a former wanted Nazi to trail. I think the band gave her a good send off. A fascinating women who if you ever get a chance you should look up.

Flipping over to side 2, the dry witted entitled ‘Apocalyptic Bore’ seeps through the speakers with its swirling UFO effects emulating from Falk’s faithful VCS3 and Harmonium. A voice over from Saturn via Sun Ra announces some cosmic slop before a sweet melodic acoustic 12- string perks up with a laid-back groove.

The story unfolds as higher beings decide to visit and make all our dreams come true, a paradise is created where anyone can do anything. This is backed up with at times a cringe worthy Euro rock shtick lead guitar solo. Of course time traveling becomes the norm as a time continuum is invented or something. People can live at any period in history at the same moment; let’s leave the crazy type Hawkings calculations aside.

No love, no war, no angst what a tiresome place.

Well what do you know! The kids hate it and get rather bored so the aliens decide to bugger off (“leaving for the great bear”): there’s gratitude for you!

‘DR’ is a tale of pills and bellyaches as prescription drugs are handed out willy nilly for all our ills. The music is awkward Bowie, and features some violin stabs to break up the track, though it eventually runs out of steam.

‘Trap’ lets Reante sing a tale of a credit card paying lover who obviously misread the signals somewhere down the line. Again a heavier structured track that almost has the first signs of the pub rock movement that was later to turn into punk emerging. The ending starts to get interesting but finishes in a predictable cut short manner.

‘Pig Man’ starts with a quasi-Lynyrd Skynyrd sounding intro before it breaks out into a lively little ditty. The jauntiness evokes some kind of unusual influences and doesn’t fit into any conventions I can think of. The lyrics stick it to those who left their conscience back in 69.

‘Manana’ means tomorrow, or it could be a reference to the Peruvian town. That aside it’s a slightly odd sounding song, which has a mariachi style band turns up to throw its lot in. Karrer does a good job on the vocals as some exotic type percussion accompanies him. It does grow on you over time.

The finale is the spiky titled ‘Ladies Mimikry’, a brooding bass line and melody sound, like the band is hauling themselves up a steep slope. Karrer’s vocals are at their most startled as he slowly loses his mind over the course of the track. A grinding punk like strutting backing sounds like a Gang Of Four in limbo. John Weinzierl on bass gets more and more angry as Karrer reaches the refrain of ladies mimicry; a loony inspired spitting delivery that sounds like he’s having electric shock therapy. A saxophone left over from Roxy Music’s debut album provokes a reaction akin to The Mothers Of Invention. Some serious hardcore theatrics at play; I can fully understand where punk came to take a breather before rearing its ugly head again in 1977.

Called the glam album by both fans and critics alike, it doesn’t really fall into any specific category and sounds distinctly German throughout.

Bowie and Roxy Music can be heard in here but not in the often derided way, I mean I’m sure Amon Duul II didn’t really want to sound like early art school glam rock.

Structured little tracks of the three minute length make this 11 track LP almost a commercial concern, the number of songs on display amount to more then the number found on the first two albums put together. This LP actually combines some very strange influences and falls into the Euro rock movement rather too well at times.

There are plenty of great moments on this album and it is still one of the best to come out of the period, unfortunately the next record Hijack even went further to confuse us all and upset many fans.

Further Reading

Julian Cope’s Revolutionary Suicide Is Ten This Month

Despite its promise of caustic spit and harmonious melodic nature, Julian Cope‘s ‘call-to-arms’ doesn’t hold back on the condemnation. As the title of both the leading track and album alludes, Cope’s revolutionary pride leaves the listener in no doubt. Not so much hectoring, or even bombastic, the arch druid of modern counter culture picks apart his prey with élan; attacking both failed revolutions from the here and now; lambasting the church; and bravely taking issue with the perceived – though the evidence does suggest that there is indeed a silent conspiracy – erasing from the history books, media and political stage of the horrific Armenian genocide of 1915, by the than Ottoman government: an episode, it must be said, that is hotly contested and hushed up to this day; the organised extermination of the country’s christian minorities – which also included numbers of Assyrians and Greeks too.

A middle age crisis told from Cope’s kitchen sink, or from his loft, Cope’s message may be confrontational and often blunt, yet its delivered via the influence of rebellious Detroit rock, quasi-Love and even the Sunset Strip – circa 1967. But also there’s more than enough of that 80s sound that Cope helped invent in the first place too. Actually, this is a really great little record. Almost idiosyncratic with an Englishness of a certain kind, and deprecation: despite the talk of storming the barricades, Cope is limping to man them and writing music with a real melodious and softened quality.

The Social Playlist #76

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 76 of this long-running playlist series pays tribute to those dear souls we’ve lost in the last month, including Ahmed Jamel, Andy Rourke and this month’s cover star Mark Stewart of the irrepressible Pop Group. There’s also a myriad of anniversary marked albums to make you feel very old; Deerhunter’s Monomania celebrates its tenth with the already mentioned Revolutionary Suicide album by Julian Cope, whilst Funkdoobiest‘s debut, Which Doobie U B?, the Guru‘s Jazzmatazz Volume 1 hip-hop-jazz imbued game changer and Blur‘s (perhaps one of the best named albums of all time) Modern Life Is Rubbish are all 30 years old this month. New Order‘s Power, Corruption And Lies is 40, and George Harrison‘s Living In The Material World, Paul Simon‘s There Goes RhyminSimon and the already referenced (see above) Amon Düül II album Vive La Trance have all reached the half century milestone.

Added to that list is music, recent and old from Barel Coppet, Tresa Leigh, Pavlov’s Dog, Bonnie Dobson, The Reds and more…(FULL TRACK LIST BELOW)


The Smiths ‘What Difference Does It Make? (John Peel Session 18/05/83)’
George Brigman And Split ‘Part Time Lover’
New Order ‘Ultraviolence’
The Pop Group ‘Thief Of Fire (Live At The Electric Ballroom 1979)’
Julian Cope ‘Paradise Mislaid’
Deerhunter ‘Dream Captain’
Barel Coppet ‘Missie L’abbe’
Ahmed Jamel ‘Speak Low’
Guru & N’Dea Davenport ‘Trust Me’
Thandii ‘Give Me A Smile’
Tresa Leigh ‘I Remember’
George Harrison ‘Try Some Buy Some’
Amon Duul II ‘Jalouise’
Julian Cope ‘Hymn To The Odin’
Bill Hardman & the Jackie McLean Quintet ‘Sweet Doll’
Ahmed Jamal ‘Footprints’
Funkdoobiest ‘Un C’mon Yeah!’
Ahmed Jamal ‘Feast’
Armando Trovajoli ‘Le notti dei Teddy Boys’
Pavlov’s Dog ‘Valkerie’
Bonnie Dobson ‘I Got Stung’
Ella Washington ‘Sweeter And Sweeter’
Paul Simon ‘One Man’s Ceiling Is another Man’s Floor’
The Smiths ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’
Blur ‘Chemical World’
Sunless ’97 ‘Illuminations’
Bomis Prendin ‘French Passport’
The Pop Group ‘The Boys From Brazil’
Andy Rourke ‘The Loan’
The Reds ‘Beat Away’
The Pop Group ‘St. Outrageous’
Des Airs ‘Ling’
Amon Duul II ‘Ladies Mimikry’
Sirokko Zenekar ‘Tukorember’
The Jimmy Castor Bunch ‘Psyche’
Sam Rivers ‘Hope’

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.



The four-bar amen drum break has defined jungle and drum n’ bass music for the past three decades. In this essay, we seek to showcase the present-day preservationists, revisionists and revivalists who serve to uphold the eclectic standards of these energetic and soulful sub-genres. Through their innovation, jungle and drum n’ bass remains as heterogeneous as it did when it was first introduced.

“You can compile your own orchestra out of one module”, LTJ Bukem

The focus of the fantastically produced BBC documentary Modern TimesLTJ Bukem was Daniel Williamson, better known by his alias LTJ Bukem, and his trip to Japan with his enigmatic manager Tony Fordham in 1997. It offered some wonderful insights into drum n’ bass production. Sounds were spliced through vinyl manipulation, breaks were chopped, and rhythms were crafted. This is the beauty of do-it-yourself production: it encourages innovation. And innovation there was aplenty in the mid-to-late 1990s. Take the tribalism and 45-rpm-isms of Witchman and early Photek (himself a Good Looking Records label mate of Williamson – he was known as Aquarius then). There was the scale-climbing and shuffling two-step of Terraforming by 4Hero (on the Parallel Universe LP on Reinforced in 1994) – perhaps the first example of the footwork musical sub-genre? Moments of comedy were delivered by Plug in Drum’n’Bass For Papa, released on Blue Angel in 1996, which has been proffered in small measures in recent times by Coco Bryce whose work features heavily on the Breda-based label Myor. His sound is an eclectic and innovative one: listen to the handcrafted approach of A Cherry Riddim (released on 3rd May 2022) and the variety performance of Grand Larceny (Bootlegs 2012 – 2022, released 15th November 2022).

“We are I.E / let me hear you scream”, Lennie De-Ice

A detailed purview of the evolution of jungle and drum n’ bass is beyond the scope of this essay. For a comprehensive commentary, read Martin James’ insightful book State of Bass: Jungle – The Story So Far [1]. Strictly speaking, drum n’ bass has evolved from jungle. Drum n’ bass has less amen loops and ragga influences but more synths and organic beats. Drum n’ bass is two-step-heavy whereas jungle cycled around chopped breakbeats at a higher beats per minute. Some argue that drum n’ bass was refinement in the jungle sound. The liquid drum n’ bass scene provides some weight to that argument. Others cite political differences with drum n’ bass moving away from the protestations and political origins of jungle and its precursor, (proto)jungle and its fusion of breakbeat, rap and soul. Lennie De-Ice’s We Are I.E has been credited as the seminal work in jungle (released by Reel 2 Reel Productions in 1991). Like all formulae of new musical sub-genres, its heterogeneous elements coalesce into a homogenized constant. Jungle, the compound of breakbeat hardcore, reggae, dub, dancehall and hip-hop, had one constant: the amen break. This simple drum loop was taken from a Winstons’ single B- side titled Amen, Brother (Color Him Father, released on Metromedia in 1969). Jungle’s origins can be traced back to the social construct of late 1980s Blighty. Sound systems, which had emanated from 1950’s Kingston, were found across cityscapes. Legendary clubs such as Roast and Telepathy showcased the sounds of DJ Ron, DJ Hype and Kenny Ken. Raves became commonplace. Pirate radio was a highly influential communicator of the sound. Raids on underground raves and the digitalisation of music contributed. Some argue that when General Levy brought the sound into the charts with his single Incredible (M-Beat song) on the label Renk in 1994 – jungle’s appearance under the spotlight of the mainstream stage proved too bright and too far removed from the warehouses and underground spaces of this anarchistic sub-culture.

The metallurgist’s metallurgist Clifford Joseph Price, better known as Goldie, released Timeless on the Metalheadz label in 1995. It is a masterpiece in sound. Its eponymous opener is contrapuntal: a canonical layering of vocals and synths. State of Mind is caprice-like. Sea of Tears is a bittersweet fantasia. Adrift is soulful. You & Me is a melodious ballad. Its beautiful piano prelude is joyous. Timeless was the conception of Price, however Rob Playford (of the trailblazing label Moving Shadow) and Dego and Marc Mac (fellow junglists in 4hero) were heavily involved in its production and engineering. It was perhaps overlooked for the Mercury Music Prize shortlist that year, albeit this was deservedly won by Portishead with trip-hop legend Tricky and electronic stalwarts Leftfield making the shortlist. Testament to the musicality of the drum n’ bass genre, New Forms by Roni Size & Reprazent did eventually win the coveted prize in 1997. Recently the Metalheadz label has embraced a behemoth: a 25 Years of Metalheadz project. Part 1 opened with John B and a remastering of his Up All Night in January 2021 (the original was released in 2001). Part 9 dropped on 17th March 2023. As alluded to, Timeless and orchestral composition have similitude. The Heritage Orchestra version of Sea of Tears is telling in this regard. Goldie has experimented with classical elements to great effect (watch Classic Goldie, a two-part BBC documentary in 2009 where Price composes a piece of classical music which is played by the BBC Concert Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir). The string sections on his albums are reminiscent of the ambience of Edward Elgar, especially the soft chords of the larghetto from his second symphony, and the drama of Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from the opera Peter Grimes.

Logical Progression, a compilation album released by the venerable and aforementioned LTJ Bukem in 1996, was a further landmark in the genre. Its fusion of ragga and dancehall elements from the earliest days of jungle and the progression of the amen break into mathematical convolutions remains lauded to this day; for example, Cassini’s Dream by Theory, released as recently as 7th October 2022 on the RuptureLDN label, is referential. However, the sound that had come to define the drum n’ bass of the mid-1990s fizzled out in the early 2000s like the corked champagne proffered by the ‘theme park’ UK garage scene (2-step garage is not included this reference), and eventually completely following the denouement of speed garage and its frustrating one-dimensionality (Groove Armada did give it a popular send-off with Superstylin’ on Pepper/Jive Electro in the early noughties). Although it vacated the mainstream arena, jungle and drum n’ bass did not disappear. Artists like Andy F continued to evolve the sound (listen to Colours on F-Jams in 1997). High Society by High Contrast, released by Hospital Record in 2004, was probably the last hurrah of the mid-1990s aesthetic. Artists such as Luke Vibert, particularly his mid-noughties throwback-jungle work under the alias Amen Andrews, and the liquid drum n’ bass purist Calibre continued to make forays out in the open, reminding the general populace that the sound was alive somewhere. Calibre’s Second Sun LP, released on Signature Recordings in 2005 with Diane Charlemagne (who sung on Timeless) featuring on the track Bullets is one of the finest amalgams of soul and drum n’ bass. Artists like Pendulum and Chase & Status and the drum n’ bass super group Bad Company (members: dBridge, Fresh and Vegas) were releasing albums in the mid-noughties, marking the end of the second heyday of drum n’ bass (in the mainstream electronic sense). The sound had been commercialised again: it was liquid-sound predominant – music for the masses. However, unlike its 1994 metamorphosis, the shelf-life of drum n’ bass was more pronounced: dubstep had completely supplanted it.

Preservation, noun, prezəˈveɪʃn: keeping something in its original state [2]

Jungle and drum n’ bass long plays, extended plays, split sides, compilations and singles are as abundant in 2023 as they ever have been. Take the Future Retro London label and their roster, which boasts the likes of Phineus II and Ricky Force alongside drum n’ bass ‘lifers’ Kloke and Tim Reaper. Their ragga sample-heavy outputs would not sound out of place if one had stumbled into Helter Skelter or Voodoo Magic in the early 1990s (the sci-fi explorative Nebula’s The Future, released on 7th April 2023, is an avant-garde exception in some respect). So where does Future Retro’s output sit? Testimonial? – no; revivalist? – probably not; yet, they reference and reclaim the iconic elements of jungle. Are they preservationists? – yes. A sonic time capsule self-propagating within itself. Sub Code Records also carefully serve to preserve the genre with ragga samples spliced around space age synth effects. Take the pentatonic sub-bass lines on Cream by Freegroove (released on 6th April 2020) and Badboy Bloodclaat by Lavery (7th September 2020) and the rapid breaks on Run It… Cos Dis Is How We Roll by Krave (15th November 2018) and Juice-E’s Golly Gosh (31st July 2019). Janaway’s Sensi Lover (17th March 2023), Bow Street Runner’s The Fear (31st January 2023) and Millie’s Back 2 Life / So High (30th January 2019) slam the gear stick into reverse with a high-octanereturn to the breakbeat hardcore of yore. Hands across chests, each track kneels to In Effect byDJ Red Alert and Mike Slammer (released on Slammin’ Vinyl in 1993). Returning to jungle, the ironically-named South Korean Jungle Fatigue Records also seeks to preserve the amen break (listen to their two recently release mixtapes Jungle Fatigue Volumes 1and 2; Volume 2 dropped as recently as 4th April 2023). Heavier drum-work is offered by fellow preservationists Kid Drama and DJ Trace and their collaborative project Nine Windows: their cosmic, LTJ- inspired (and befittingly titled) track Looking Back on the Rules of Thirds LP dropped on 15th March 2023.

Revision, noun, rɪˈvɪʒn: a change or set of changes to something [3]

Those producing jungle and drum n’ bass music have always cut down their listeners with swash-buckling snares and the bombast of bassy sub-rhythms, yet this aural onslaught has always been offset somewhat by its soft-gloved atmospheric edge. The sustained pads and symphonic influences of these sub-genres are synonymous with LTJ Bukem. He alluded to this when discussing his own approach to track composition in a XLR8R interview, considering tracks to have multiple sections with amen-less intros and breakdowns [4]. He also highlighted the importance of narrative in composition. The finest example of narrative in drum n’ bass is Goldie’s sixty-minute matriarchal masterpiece and opener to Saturnz Return, released by Metalheadz in 1998. Mother offered otherworldly glimpses into what was possible when an ambient approach was taken. The ambient opening four-minutes of the seminal Self Evident Truth of an Intuitive Mind by T.Power (released on SOUR in 1995) was pioneering. T.Power is worthy of his own article – the reviewers’ lens would be focused firmly on the synthetic string sections of Trapezium that appear and re-appear like sunlight that bathe the listener in warmth. There was the slightly lower-rpm of Black Street Technology by A Guy Called Gerald (released on Juicebox in 1995) and the lof-fi synth-wash and distorted guitars of Semtex by Third Eye Foundation (Linda’s Strange Vacation, 1995). The latter builds into the same intensity as a spaceship cockpit that tears through the mesosphere. In more times, on his Pool LP released on Ilian Tape on 7th May 2021, the trailblazing multi-disciplinarian Skee Mask infused ambience into his jungle track Testo BC Mashup. Its snare-heavy amen cuts splinteroff from dark atmospherics; this junglist tour de force continues into the lustrous Dolan Tours:the foot pedal kicks away in hypnotic cyclism – 170+rpm snares pop and pull the listener around a gentle synth melody.

Ludvig Cimbrelius, better known under his alias Illuvia, inhabits these sand-land fringes, producing an entirely ambient drum n’ bass album. Iridescence of Clouds was released on A Strangely Isolated Place on 25th January 2021. It is truly symphonic. From the opening allegro of Iridescence to the andante of the sub-bass meditations of Veil of Mist, and the syncopated and choppy scherzo of Wanderer to the concluding sonata of Sky Beyond Sky. It is as if Illuvia listened to Goldie’s Sea of Tears and decided to make a full-length album homage. A broad theme of water percolates this release. From the swathes of synths and droplets of quietly playing piano notes on Iridescence to the tear-dropping emotions of Veil of Mist and its piano flurries that cut through the sub-bass and pads to glint like sun glitter. Nirmala II is the most rhythmically complex of the movements, flitting between low-frequency breaks and higher frequency snare-driven cuts. Illuvia maintains a steady hand on the faders and holds a balanced attack ratio. The vocal samples filter through at different intervals: high-sub-bass calls personify this. It is an uplifting listen, for example, the major key melody that plays throughout Sky Beyond Sky. The rhythm has evaporated by this point. Those mid-range, personified bong- boings make a further and final appearance.

Truly innovative works such as Iridescence of Clouds are golden apples grown from the revisionist tree rather than the revivalist’s soil. Pizza Hotline dropped similar fruit in their Level Select release on Cityman Productions on 1st January 2022. This had liquid influences (EMOTION ENGINE), sustained string sections akin to 808 State (DREAMSHELL) and amen-heavy breaks (SHADOW MOSES). The latter track also features the fusion of see-sawing synths which were very typical of breakbeat of the earliest jungle. One of the album highlights is LOW POLY ROMANCE with its melodic gaming bleeps and strobing synths. The remix that accompanies the release (JAPAN NOVELTY‘S CHEAP LUXURY MIX) is very listenable. Demonic off-key synth splinter as if Noise Factory had been sedated (listen to their track My Mind released on 3rd Party in 1992); synths shimmer rather than strobe; the darkcore of sawing black keys offset a soulful influence (think Right Before by 1st Project released on Fokus UK in 1992). On revisiting ‘97 Energy by DJ Javascript, which was released on 20th February 2022, it has an incredibly erratic flow: every odd track is revivalist drum n’ bass, and the even tracks are a grab-bag of lo-fi house, techno and dubstep. He is undeniably talented and quite adept at weaving the synths, samples and breaks together to build some satisfying soundscapes. Highlights are Drifting Away and Forward Motion, both capturing Good Looking-era drum n’ bass well.

There are others who lionise the high-rpm amen in the temple of jungle yet build annexes. Perhaps this was inevitable. After the first waves of drum n’ bass came dubstep in the early-to- mid noughties. Works from Horsepower Productions, Benga and Skream were early incarnations of dubstep, likewise the sounds showcased by igneous rock-hewing labels such as Big Apple, Tempa, Amunition and Skull Disco (the latter introduced us to Shackleton and Appleblim). The Hyperdub label brought us Burial and his landmark release Untrue in 2007. Burial has since dug deeper and resides somewhere in the ambient and inky black badger-set of the ambient sub-genre (listen to the gossamer Streetlands released on the label on 21st October 2022). Djrum infuses drum n’ bass with turntablism and UK bass in releases such as Seven Lies (released on 2nd Drop Records in 2013) and Portrait With Firewood (released on the mighty R&S Records in 2018). Over the last two-years Lan Party dropped the What U Want EP, somewhat reviving an even more niche UK jungle music sub-genre: breaks. Further recent examples of this ‘in-betweenism’ are Imy From The Fruit Farm on Artificial Red’s Mystics, released on 19th November 2021 (its rhythm and bass are undoubtably jungle, yet the undeniable haze of vaporwave fumigates) and Andrea’s Due in Color, released on Ilian Tape on 23rd March 2023, which carefully crafts drum backroom rhythms that boom throughout (the granular live instrumentation is reminiscent of Spring Heel Jack’s masterful jazz-suffused Disappeared which dropped on Thirsty Ear in 2000). Nia Archives is another revisionist. Her debut LP, titled Forbidden Feelingz, released on 9th March 2022, is a totem to the soulfulness of the amen break. Ode 2 Maya Angelou is a juxtaposition of bass-heavy sub-melodies and psychedelic synths. There is Roni Size & Reprazent circa New Forms within this. She samples Angelou’s poem Still I Rise: “Up from a past rooted in pain, I rise / I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide / Welding and swelling, I bear in the tide”. The infective breakbeat rhythm and unmistakable reggae bass on 18 & Over are fused with heavily-sampled gaming effects, effortlessly, and to wonderful effect – jungle revisionism at its finest.

Revival, noun, rɪˈvaɪvl: something becoming or being made popular again [5]

Revivalism can take many forms; ultimately, it should inspire, and renew. Astrophonica, the London-based “cosmic electronic music label” spearheaded by Fracture and Neptune circa 2009, have offered two of the most exciting revivalist releases over the last few months: 0860 by Fracture on 18th November 2022 and After Life on 24th March 2023. Both are thumping shoves; but firstly, a note on Astrophonica who are unarguably at the forefront of the genre. Their lauded 2011 release Retrospect – A Decade Of Fracture & Neptune, particularly the track Colemanism, showcased the duo’s adroitness and aphorism for jungle music. They clearly have an ear for those who serve to preserve and advance the genre. They had the prolific Sully on their roster in 2015 whose track Flock was also included in APHA20 on 20th January 2020, a release, which celebrated the label’s first 20 EPs. Sully went on to self-release 5ives / Sliding on 3rd December 2021. This was a skirmish between plucked string-acoustics and heavily percussive breaks: a sword fight of the ages. Back to Fracture and 0860. It was inspired by pirate radio and is available as both a LP and mixtape. The focus here will be on the mixtape for two reasons: firstly, the interludes on the mixtape immerse the listener in the world of 1990s jungle in Greater London; secondly, the mixtape track sequence provides superior context and meaning over the LP. 0860 offers simplicity in sound. Many modern jungle-inspired releases windmill around into an electro-melee of uninspired noise (the authors reserve judgement on the false tunnels that the ‘autonomic’ and ‘microfunk’ drum n’ bass dalliances will take you down). An example of how less-is-more is preferred is the track Telepathy on the Side B of the 0860 mixtape. Deep vocal cuts (“telepathyyyyyyyyyyyyy”, drones the frequency-altered voice) work around the boings and tone-shifting bass that anchors the track. The percussive section shuffles liberally around the reverberated guitar cuts and simple two-key synth melody. The high-pitched synth cuts through the piece like white light streaking across a sunset. Having made the journey from dancehalls out west to rave venues across the UK and eventually into the bedrooms of those tuned in to pirate radio, jungle is strongest when it communicates with the listener. This human connection is felt on 0860. Random samples of various media – television, radio, news clips –are scattered throughout The Raid. I can also hear the worn cassette tape of Champion Jungle Sound (Kemet Crew, 1995). The UB40 sample was spotted on All The Massive as was the strange radio presenter’s report of what someone saw outside their front door. “Yeah ‘ello! ELLLO?????” is spoken on the Charlton Crew interlude. The yawning, crowing of cockerelsand banality of modern-day radio is sampled on the second half of mixtape (particularly First Aid Kit) imbuing the slow pace and eventual focus of a Sunday morning. The robotic chatter at the end of the track has resulted in split opinions of the authors, particularly what time-period is being referenced. Has this sound occurred when a voice message is sent to someone in the car but the internet connection fails? Mobile phones had not pervaded everyday communications back in the early-1990s – has this ruined the ‘90s immersion? Or is this a creative composite of the early-1990s source material and twenty-twenties recording? The authors of this essay remain conflicted. There are also fleeting pop-dancehall and reggaeton tracks that float by in the radio static at the end of Buzzing Crew and Booyaka Style. Another time paradox perhaps?

Fracture’s musicianship is evident throughout. Everything is considered. The growling bassline and initial slow beat of Sounds of the Rush rapidly picks up pace and barks orders to kick up your chair. The intentional drop in intensity brings the first half to a close. A similarly deliberate bridge is Alongside, which is used to transition between its preceding track (First Aid Kit) and subsequent track (Bad Traffic), slowly resetting the mood from lush to neutral. Fracture also makes references to the different sub-genres that jungle incorporates. Take the mesmeric First Aid Kit, which is an ode to the finest deep jungle impressed into wax. It could really stand alongside something put out by DJ Trace or anyone on the Good Looking roster. The first half of Kinda Late for a Sunday Night is reminiscent of Miles High by DJ Trace on the Dee Jay Recordings label. Technician on the Case has (proto)jungle and late-rave inspired hooks and cuts (Prodigy or Chrome and Time put out similar sounds in 1992/93). The more menacing side to jungle is evident on All The Massive and Booyaka Style with its sinister breakdown and build-up halfway through. One criticism of the mixtape is that selection of Blaze as its concluding track is somewhat anti-climactic. The LP version gets the sequencing right, concluding with Blaze before From the Very Top and Kinda Late for a Sunday Night. Despite this minor criticism, Fracture pulls off a masterfully crafted ode to the world of 1990s jungle, and even with the sequencing at the end being a little iffy, the authors conclude that the mixtape version offers a better listen than the LP.

After Life by Damian’s Ghost is the truer of the two releases in the junglist sense. Voices opens; it is an immerse listen. Its staggering synths beckons the listener forward. Its vocals are from recent times. Look At The Lights is more technically adept. The lithe synths build and change key. The American-accented vocal cuts harp back to the earliest origins. The beats are punchy (the cut vocals that appear in its later stages are FSOL-inspired). High Places is ambient. Its chiptune melody welcomes its first drop and harks back to Plaid’s chipper and syncopated progression of the earliest hardcore (probably 30-rpm lower) on Anything (Mbuki Mvuki BDP, 1991). 8-bit appears frequently on the Astrophonica label: listen to the futurism of Orbit on Off World Tales by sci-fi spoonerism Philip D. Kick (released on 24th February 2023). Similarly, chiptune is central to DJ Sofa’s Dilemma released on the FFF label on 31st March 2023. The drum cuts and chops come at you quickly; defenceless, the listener can do nothing other than accept the rhythmic onslaught. Perhaps inspired by the snare work of Omni Trio on The Deepest Cut (Candidate Records, 1993), the leading rhythmicity of High Places is placed firmly on the snare. Simplicity once again reigns supreme on Into the Night. The 8-bit resurfaces. Its vocals are less distinct. The synths wash over the listener just like they did on his 26th November 2021 release All I Remember / On The Mist.

0860 and After Life are glass bridges that take us back to the very earliest hallmarks of jungle. They are simple, transparent and composite. They both serve to revive. In the album credits of After Life, Fracture states that Damien’s Ghost is “Vangelis meets Jungle”. This describes his synchronicity. Both Fracture and Damien’s Ghost are champions of jungle of old. They also offer insights into drum n’ bass of the future. Revivalists – yes; but better still: these forward- looking archivists are dynamic. It is this dynamism that will keep jungle and drum n’ bass playing into future times. Amen to that.


1. James M. State of Bass: Jungle – The Story So Far. Boxtree: Macmillan; 1997

2. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. Preservation. 2023

3. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. Revision. 2023


5. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. Revival. 2023

Thanks again to the authors Andrew C. Kidd and Ross Perry.

Dominic Valvona’s Eclectic Reviews Column
(Unless stated otherwise, all releases are available to buy now)

Samuele Strufaldi ‘Davorio’
(Múscia Mascondo)

Not many projects of this kind can claim to leave behind something so lasting, practical too, as a community space and library. For the Italian producer, musician Samuele Strufaldi’s collaboration with the good folk of the Ivory Coast village Gohouo-Zagna is a beneficial project that sees the all the proceeds going towards building integral communal connections.

One of a thousand or more “communes” before a decentralized shake-up by the government in 2012 (abolished on the grounds that these areas weren’t “economically governmental units”), Gohouo-Zagna is located within the Western Guemon region of the Ivory Coast; its population part of the Guére culture and greater Kru language group.

The spontaneity of this village’s musical and vocally expressive circle, together with “snapshots” of village life, the scorching heat of an insect chattering environment, the clearing of plates even, is electrified, augmented and effected by Strufaldi to create an otherworldly fusion that amorphously bleeds into both sonic realms.

With a generous offering of tracks and running time, expanded pieces of constant change sit amongst shorter windows in the fabric of a rural existence; the tactile soul of African instrumentation, singers and the rope-tuned goblet shaped Djembe hand drum (some bigger drums too as you can see in the artwork) in surround sound with the hand-slapped rhythmic games and joyful voices of the locals’ children. When amplified, filtered, put through various processes and with the addition of the synthesized, various beats and breaks, flourishes and more dramatic plink-plonk jazzy and classical piano these field recorded performances become untethered: They could end up anywhere musically, culturally. Take the opening ‘Cammino, Senza Sapere Dove’ (“I walk without knowing where”), it begins with atmospheric voices, synth purrs and ripples and late Bowie-esque piano, before passing through soul, jazz and R&B like a J. Dilla production.

The album title itself, just three tracks in, is like a tribal communion of the Young Fathers and BLK JKS, but also features weepy strings, touches of Afrobeat and a free-jazz wild breakout of Peter King saxophone, all before being sucked through a mirror. Those jazz elements permeate the entire album; from hinge-like whines and more Don Cherry spiritual displays on ‘Uccelli/Roberto Baggio’, to echoes of Sonny and Linda Shorrock and the Pharaoh on the township meets Orleans and splish-splash classical ‘Uomini Del Mare’, and touches of Donny McCaslin on the tines resonating, soulful and nimbly-picked guitar 2-Step ‘Obaló’.  

Tracks like ‘Non Tradirti’ (“don’t give yourself away”) move from the innocuous sounds of a sweeping brush and the reverberations of children to the techno of Basic Channel and more veiled electronic washes of Boards Of Canada. The finale (if that’s the right word) ‘Dohuo’ sounds like either a talk or lecture, maybe community meeting, being soundtracked by a malady of wind instruments, crackles and touching strings.

Every expression has meaning, a story, which is then transformed by Strufaldi’s production into something almost dream like and cosmic yet still connected to the villagers’ roots. A transistor radio collage here, some Songhoy Blues on a bustling street with a small amp there; a display of rattled and scrapping percussion and hymnal stirrings merge with zaps, warbles and various embellishments. This cultural exchange with the Ivory Coast blurs the lines between worlds; an act of preservation, but much more, as the foundations of this culture prove intoxicating, dynamic and mesmerising.  

Various ‘Middle Eastern Grooves’
(Batov Records) 19th May 2023

A sampler showcase, only with a couple of previously unreleased nuggets, the Batov label celebrates its (almost) tenure existence promoting Middle Eastern Grooves overseas with a “handpicked” selection of cuts from their influential 7” singles series.

Originally set-up in London by DJ Kobayashi and Bob Martyn as a home for the former’s multifaceted fusion ensemble, Gypsy Hill, the label soon nurtured a burgeoning revival of Middle Eastern influenced bands and artists from the richly diverse Israeli scene.

A conjuncture itself of untold musical pathways, with artists and musicians congregating in such exciting, lively cities as Tel Aviv from all across the region and much further afield. A hotbed of sounds has been sent out to the world.

With shows on Soho Radio and Worldwide FM, and a rep for selecting a polygenesis array of global sounds, DJ Kobayashi picks out a generous eighteen track compilation of music indebted to the pioneers and luminaries of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Where to begin with this whirlwind fecund of fusions? Well perhaps with one of the most well-known inclusions on this collection, the constantly evolving Tel Aviv musician, composer, producer and multimedia artist Ophis Kutiel, aka Kutiman. Opening with the Aegean cosmic vibe ‘Badawee’, the Kutiman lays down an eased-in flange-effected wave of fluted hazed sunlight, vapours and lush laidback drums. Following that, and no strangers to the Monolith Cocktail (even making our choice albums of 2022 list), the Yemeni roots, but Israel-based, rambunctious El Khat are kept in check by the Tel Aviv cratediggers Radio Trip, who smooth out the disjointed exciting signature with a clean breaks edit treatment that evokes a horn-swung Arabia and the more soulful jazz-soul breaks of the El Michaels Affair.

Another name that leaps out for me, and a previous Monthly Playlist pick, the Şatellites marry ethereal gauzy Hebrew disco with Liquid Liquid, Altin Gün and real cool Anatolian rock vibes on ‘Deli Deli’. That eclectic-lit funky group’s leader, Itamar Kluger, also appears with his new psychedelic project, Eje Eje. One of the “unreleased” propositions, ‘Saved From Jazz’ is a percussive shimmy of 60s influences and jazz-rock-prog organ that almost sounds like an Israeli Atomic Rooster.

Proving a highly popular (or just highly prolific), Sababa 5 get four goes at impressing us. A well-versed troupe of notable players, previously backing a host of Tel Aviv’s top artists and vocalists, and said to be influenced by everything from the legendary Wrecking Crew sessions ensemble to 70s Middle Eastern icons, the 5 lay a zippy, willowy groove underneath Shiran Tzfira’s upbeat psych-folk and pop-lit vocals on ‘Manginat Mahapeha’; play with ambient gazes, an closed eyes gesture of serenading Egyptian oud (or guitar) and more bouncy beats as the Japanese vocalist Yurika Hanashime sings in a sweetened Oriental romantic way on ‘Nasnusa’; evoke Charlie Megira, Meatraffle and Joe Meek in the shadow of the Sphinx on the tremolo-surf wrangled ‘Baksheesh’; and mix kitsch surf (ala The Ventures) with dot-dash organ (bordering on Ray Charles) on ‘Rosenzweig’.

Elsewhere, gaining my attention, the veteran Israeli bassist and producer, world-traveller and front man of the world music/reggae/funk band Ex-Centric Sound System, Joseph Thomas Fine (aka Yossi Fine) teams up with the African-influenced drummer Ben Aylan on the rock fusion and splashed dance, ‘Peres’. The unfamiliar (to me) Yuz come up with a 80s dry ice Israeli and Balearic spacy disco-electronica mini epic entitled ‘Galgalit’, and the Baharat trio circumnavigate a Mexican surfing Dick Dale, a removed Cumbia and stylophone-like buzzes on the Arabian Shadows reimagined ‘The Egyptian’. “Jewish princess” via Babylon, Cherry Bandora eases dreamy gauzy vocals on the shimmery and zappy synth airy ‘Esy’ (another of those previously unreleased tracks), and the long-running Boom Pam magic up a Hellenic wedding boogie and belly-dancing shimmy on ‘Uniton’.

A wealth of Middle Eastern inspirations from a blossoming epicenter, Batov’s grooving whirlwind spins and saunters, carouses and electrifies across a region of interconnected roots. The borders are eviscerated as the Adriatic, Med, Arabian and Red Seas ebb and flow across a music geography that mixes the sounds Egypt, Syria, the Lebanon, Turkey and Greece with the cosmopolitan buzz of Tel Aviv. If you’re fresh to the scene, this is a great place to start, from a label doing encouraging, exciting things in bringing sounds together.  

Marta Salogni And Tom Relleen ‘Music For Open Spaces’
(Hands In The Dark)

A posthumous tribute to one half of this sonic mapping partnership; left however exactly as the late Tom Relleen would have heard and recognized his and Marta Salogni’s site-specific peregrinations before his premature death from cancer in 2020, Music For Open Spaces is an atmospheric gift of subtlety and evocative callings from a geographical triangle of locations.

The leylines of this album spread from the pair’s London home to the Cornish coastline and the mystical Joshua Tree desert, where, inspired by such varied settings, Marta and Relleen conjured up a number of spontaneous atonal and electronic pieces. None of which are so obvious as to directly sonically reference the environment. Well, expect the album’s longest track, the opening mirage ‘Desert Glass’. Refracted light shines off a glass pyramid as airy fluted and hinged mirrored sounds permeate the legendary Joshua Tree located desert scene (a shrine to the late Gram Parsons and draw for various hallucinatory-induced communions). At one point you can pick up a partly obscured Marta (I think, anyway) asking her foil if he’d “heard that?” on tape; a tape that seems to be rewind and played back in real time, as a near-kosmische stillness of Frosse and Ariel Kalma evaporates around them.

This is followed by a more bobbled algorithm of paddled Ping-Pong balls, transformed to elicit a feel for far less mundane activities, on the much shorter ‘piNG poNGS’ passage. Those plastic table tennis balls take on a weight as the track progresses, moving into a techno effects realm of robotic laughing and metallic guiro scrapes. The even shorter ‘Snarls’ is both alien and a little disturbing; evoking the ominous uncertain spaces of Lucrecia Dalt (who I believe Marta has worked with) aboard some propeller-motored and humming craft.

Giant Desert Cats’ features, albeit transmogrified through various processes, the titular subjects. Bestial screeches of a kind echo across a strange, removed wilderness of ringing, repeated signals, forewarning and moderate drama. ‘Clocks’ also seems to abstractedly mirror the title, with a tubular plastic paddled and reverberating single repeated tight bass-string pluck denoting a measuring, a metronome-like passing of time. Featured in last month’s Digest column, the more expanded piece ‘Internal Logic II’ is a minimalist alchemy of light drawn and calling undulations and subtle twinkles; felt through a bendy lens of mystery. Staying in the minimal field of inspiration, ‘Furthest Fires’ obscures the flame in a gentle wind, whilst ‘Trains’ is a veiled ghostly blend of field recording, a passing motion of transport and almost nothingness.

Reading things into the ephemeral vapours and applications, I’m sure I can hear bulb-like notes of either a marimba or vibraphone on the wooed gauzy ‘March’. ‘Fauna’ sounds more like Day Of The Triffids than pleasant wild-planted blossom, and the finale, ‘FFXX’, barely registers above a blowing ambient and metallic percussive ebb and purr.

As much a physical and cerebral response to the elements and space (expanded further by the Hands In The Dark label’s Morgan Cuinet, who has illustrated each step on this “internal map” with a collage), Marta and the late Relleen’s geographic concept suggests new horizons, and makes the fleeting now permanent. With added poignancy, this generated soundtrack could be read in part as a fitting tribute. Regardless of the circumstances, this is a really fine album of atmospheric exploration, tactile scored environments and moods. 

Adjunct Ensemble ‘Sovereign Bodies/Ritual Taxonomy’
(Diatribe Records)

A behemoth of sonic, worded and performative multi-disciplines, with an eclectic cast to match, Jamie Thompson’s ambitious Sovereign Bodies/Ritual Taxonomy album seems to amorphously cross György Ligeti’s musical hallucinations with sound art, poetry, opera, theatre, jazz, the avant-garde and cinematic.

Under the Adjunct Ensemble title with foundations in the electro-acoustic, Thompson’s immersive but often jarring, somber and glitch-in-the-fabric-of-the-matrix style hallucinations are both riled and strung-out in a dystopian cosmology of Don Cherry, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Colin Stetson, Andy Haas, Amiri Baraka jazz, Linda Sharrock arias, re-contextualized Benjamin Blake hymnals and national song, Ligeti’s ominous 2001: A Space Odyssey chorales, later Scott Walker histrionics, fleeting passages of Ivor Novello-type nostalgia and A.I. malfunctions. All the while a permeating atmosphere of running water, wind chimes and metallic chills can be heard in the void; one in which Tarkovsky and Kubrick conjure up sci-fi visions of unease, uncertainty and the fear of a great big nothingness.  

Running to near on 90 minutes, across twenty often cryptic and questioning, proposed entitled tracks, you’ll hear the opera singer Amy Ni Fhearraigh’s haunted and dramatic vocals, and the spoken word poetry of Felicia Olusanya’s (aka FeliSpeaks) stream of conscious-political-humanistic lyrics, cutting through a feeling of near Orwellian oppression, suffocation. 

Composer, writer Thompson can be heard twisting, grappling and oozing sounds, effects out of synths, drum machines, a church organ (in more classical hymnal spells), dictaphones, turntables and other apparatus. This is further affected by the turntablist Mariam Rezaei, the spasmodic, drilling and twirled punkified jazz of the Taupe trio and a load of other notable musicians on tenor sax, drums, percussion and bass. At various conjunctures we’re spat out into a chasm; transported to the graveside of a New Orleans elegy; beamed down to that raining rooftop finale in Blade Runner; lost in an alien terror show; clamed with the sounds of a transcendental water garden; or, gently, dreamingly invited to sip a remedy to chaos on a virtual deck, kitted out to resemble a 60s jazzy cocktail lounge. Phew!

Otherworldly breakdowns one minute, a Zappa-esque entanglement the next, this merger of Tricky’s imagined opera, an unholy vision of English pride and the hermetic, with veils of the Southern Gothic, Voodoo and happening, politically actionist jazz, is an expansive conceptual document for the times we find ourselves in: a time capsule if you like.

Interestingly, one theme brought up in the press notes is that of migration. And, floating in and out of that consciousness of sound and art, lingered traces of travail, of voyages and ethnographical illusions do conjure up futuristic versions the immigrant song. Lost on the high seas, with the ship’s horn blowing amongst the fog of time and place, you could easily imagine the fear, specter of death in pursuit of reaching safer shores, as references to displacement crop up across the album’s continuum of horror, assimilation, accelerated machine-learning, surreal interviewing and resignation.

Certainly challenging, a commitment is needed from the listener to what is essentially one long soundtrack (more or less every track, episode, chapter running into the next without any real pause or hint of dead air, only when in ambient mode); a sort of conceptual art theatre without boundaries, which can replenish as much as stir up a maelstrom of disenchantment and strung-out despondency. Counter-history bleeds over a morose of art forms and freer radical protestations, activism on a very impressive project. 

Danûk ‘Morîk’
(Omni Sound) 19th May 2023

The longing, almost bluesy reflections cast on the finale, ‘Lo Șivano’, pretty much sum up and convey this “exiled” Middle Eastern group’s heartache at being forced to leave a war-ravaged Syria: Emotively, musically this, the curtain call from their debut album, is about missing home.

And yet, as that same album title translates, they’ve found a “pearl” of light in the tumult, as they confidently claim their heritage in the face of such distress and upheaval; reconnecting with their roots, imbued by the 1900s phonograph and wax cylinder recordings of Kurdish folklore in both The Berliner Phonogram and Austrian Academy of Sciences’ Phonogrammarchiv collections.

Studied graduates of Syria’s “best fine arts and music programs”; the Danûk ensemble was actually formed across the border in Turkey, in the Bosphorus-straddling metropolis of Istanbul, over seven years ago. Surviving on musical graft as street performers, they were seen and hired by a social enterprise; going on to score music for both films and radio. This though is the group’s first album proper, engineered in part by friend, admirer and musical foil Michael League (of Snarky Puppy fame). He produces but also lends a light touch of bass.

Morîk is the second release for the newly formed Istanbul/NYC connected label, Omni Sound. And what a flowing, dancing beauty of atmospheric Middle Eastern folk, shepherd song and wedding music it is too, from a quartet of Syrian-Kurdish and Turkish-Kurdish musicians steeped in atavistic allure. Traditions and songs on this work date back to the ancient sites of the excavated Sendshirli (now located in present day Northern Turkey) and beyond. From that imaginative channeled setting, the lute (in this case the long-necked “buzuqi”) twirled and trilled, country-like and seriously yearned ‘Xelîlo Lawo’, and roughly brushed and thrashed frame drum (the Persian “erbane-daf”) accentuated ‘Lê Lê Mi Go’ have a real ancestral pull, yet also draw on the veiled resonance of age-old shepherd song.

The opening holy city evoked whistled and fluted, granular-textured stirred frame drum skin swept ‘Axir Zemana’, and the poetically elegant, waves-splashing against the bow of a ship-like ‘Lo Lo Li Mino’ both use the voice of a Syrian priest singing in Jerusalem.

Serenaded and in celebratory form, Danûk spin, dance and ache across a cannon of Kurdish folk and wedding music: ‘De Çêkin’ is a journey of romantic longed allusions cast over a fluty pipe, whilst the more trinkets-sequined and small finger cymbal percussive ‘Finciko’ shimmies and shuffles to the fever of a Middle Eastern gypsy band performing at a nuptial ceremony.

Together, Ferhad Feyssal, Hozan Peyal, Yazan Ibrahim, Tarik Aslan and Ronas Sheikhmous respectively shake and electrify their heritage, breathing a new life into those roots as they reconnect with home t produce something almost timeless.

Kayhan Kalhor & Toumani Diabaté ‘The sky Is The Same Colour Everywhere’
(Real World Records)

In what proves to be a most congruous musical partnership, the renowned Iranian kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor and leading Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté merge each other’s cultures and the sound of antiquity with a previously untried, untested combination of instruments.

Brought together by the Morgenland Festival’s Michael Dreyer for a performance back in 2016, the pair who’d previously never met let alone play together, conjured up an unrehearsed, intuitive ninety-minute set of both Malian Mandé and Persian inspired beauty, longing and veiled panoramic landscape gazing. Nothing short of an incredible, adroit experience, this union proved successful enough to prompt a short European tour and a recording session in Paris. The results of which can be heard on this woven atmospheric and unifying album, The Sky Is The Same Colour Everywhere.

In a similar vane to Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita’s ongoing harpist and spindled collaboration, Kalhor and Diabaté blend their heritage into a masterful latticework of moods, time and geography.

From the Persian sphere (spreading to the Caucasus; to Azerbaijan and Armenia) Kalhor’s principle instrument, the kamancheh, is a relation of the rebab. Its appearance is somewhat exotic; a truncated inversed cone shape-like fiddle that has a spike to support it whilst being bowed, usually in a kneeling position. The original courtlier silk strings have long since been replaced by metal ones, but the sound is still unmistakably timeless; imbued with Persian romantic poetry, lyricism and spiritualism. Diabaté, who famously partnered with the late Mali icon Ali Farke Touré for a duo of Grammy Award winning albums, plays the resonating-bodied kora from Western Africa; a twenty-one string, harp-sounding (at times) long-necked lute, crafted out of half a gourd and covered with cow skin. Steeped in that region’s Mandé ethnic dialectal culture, Diabaté brings a watery-like cascaded trickle of plucked elegance, of desert rustic spun gilding and emotion to this fusion.

More or less uninterrupted, ninety minutes of both articulate and more dramatic performance flows like chapters in one long journey across mesmerizing, alluded to and deeply felt landscapes. Titles prompt escapism as much as they do attachment to those yearned for Arabian and African scenes, whilst also building common bonds; Sufism at the crossroads with the Griot.

Both instruments are shown to be versatile in application; a thwack woody-bodied rhythm from the kora as the kamancheh flutters like the wind or blows a stirring, airy veil across an imaginary topography. The former can take on a harp-like glide or mbira twanged sound, and the latter, a classical viola plaint or classical violin weepy resemblance. Throughout the album the duo often reach outside their respective disciplines and fields of influence; spinning a hint of Appalachian rural dances on the daintily rural twined ‘Anywhere That Is Not Here’, and branch out into Moorish Spain on the title-track.

To be experienced as if it was being performed live, right there in your living room, The Sky Is The Same Everywhere must be heard in its entirety; neither dipped into nor with interruptions. Sit or lie back with a masterful, intuitive work of artistry and beauty, escapism.

Trad. Attack!  ‘Bring It On’

We can take comfort in the fact that in the face of such barbarity, as Russia continues its heinous crimes against Ukraine to the south (and threats to its Baltic neighbours), there’s still so much light, joy and discovery to be found in the world of music. From their Estonian roots the Trad. Attack! trio of Sandra and Jalmar Vabarna and Tönu Tubli reach out across not only to their direct neighbours but to the Caucasus, North America and Yeman to expand their sound, understanding and spirit of collaboration.

Their latest album, a journey in fact, finds the propulsive and explosive trio exploring different musical fusions and playing a raft of new instruments, whilst transforming the rich culture of Estonia itself; especially the Seto ethnic/linguistic population’s (mostly living on the Estonian/Russian border in the southeast of the country) ancient polyphonic style of epic saga telling, which is sometimes improvised, “Leelo”. Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jalmar has that same Seto heritage – his great-grandmother was one of Estonia’s most famous folk singers. Here, that beautiful melodious song can be found at a fair pace being repeated and woven on the Block Party-like 2-Step breakbeat fueled ‘Keera’ (“spin it”). But its influence can be heard permeating throughout the entire trip; from woodland to euphoric expelled mountaintop.

The trio kicks things off however, with a burst of phaser electronic-pop and stamped punctuated beats on the “hey yeah” energy-flashed ‘Lase Käia’ (“bring it on”). Featuring the craning, Brian May like rocking guitar of the Estonian legend Laur Joamets (based in Nashville; a regular sideman to the American country artist Sturgill Simpson), a bold Euro-rock and EDM vision of a traditional song is injected with a modern energy and new anthemic brilliance. And so it continues, across an album of guest spotting hybrids with a mixture of Eurovision, dance music, pop, indie-rock and more acoustic instrumental gestures of longing and reflection: pride too I think.

On that journey there’s the earthier, gruffer-voiced (Alexander Hacke-esque) and Estonian bagpipes droned, fiddled gypsy ‘Pidu Lõppeb’ (“the party is ending”); the brokenhearted, metronome rim beat, dreamy trad-folk transformed ‘Makak’ (“sleep”); twinkled and felt, warmer climes Ed Sheeran ‘Liugu-Laugu’ (“glide long”), which features the Canadian East Pointers metaphorically releasing a guided sleigh into the big open world; the Yemen BluesRavid Kahalani featured Baltic-Arabian mirage of challenger verses, marching spiritual workers song and The Knife riled electronics, Öelge Sönnu’ (“say some words”); and longingly rasped ‘Kiigelaul’ (“the swan song”). ‘Tere’ (“hello”) however, is a rawkish, dizzy burst of the Red Hot Chili Peppers dancing around the encampment fire.         

A strong show of versatility with a myriad of dialects, instruments and musical partners uniting for a energetic transformation of Estonian folklore and culture, Bring It On is as fierce, highly spirited as it is soulful and kind to those traditions. A simultaneously bombastic, electrified and romantic, deeply felt connection is unleashed on a highly commercial pop and electro produced album that takes the Baltic state from the rural to the dancefloor.  


Meiko Kaji ‘Hajiki Uta’

From what I’ve gained from the press release, despite the Tarantino effect the cult garnered Japanese starlet Meiko Kaji’s iconic run of early to mid 1970s albums have never been reissued on vinyl: until now that is.

With the usual quality control of repackaging such lauded obscurities, WEWANTSOUNDS, in conjunction with both the artist herself and the original label that released this quintet of showcases, Teichiku, between 1972 and 1974, have called upon the services of Hashim Kotaro Bharoocha to interview Kaji, and fill us in on all the background, with insightful linear notes.

A sort of third revival you could say, the star of various “Japanese Exploitation” franchises inspired the one-time golden boy of auteur pulp, who not only loosely based the plot of his Kill Bill doublet on one of Kaji’s most (in)famous roles as the revenging angel of The Lady Snowblood period-drama revenge shlocker series, but placed a number of her songs in the movie too. This obviously shone a spotlight on the star of such cult curios as Female Prisoner Scorpion, Blind Woman’s Curse and Stray Cat/Alleycat Rock.

In more recent years Kaji has popped up with her own Youtube channel. And now, a vinyl reissue run of her 70s move into the recording industry, prompted by the film studios cashing in this icon’s popularity.

Coaxed into the recording booth, to initially sing songs associated with the films she starred in, the Tokyo-born actress nervously and with some trepidation, recorded her first album, Hajiki Uta, with the highly experienced TV, film and incidental music composer Shunsuke Kikuchi. The producer was able to put his charge at ease however, as Kaji recalls: “I told Shunsuke Kikuchi that I couldn’t imagine myself singing the songs. He said I could ignore the melody that he wrote, and just sing it the way I wanted to. That really lifted the pressure off my shoulders, and I decided to sing the song as the character in the film. The director was also happy with that idea.”

Produced to a high quality, the Hajiki Uta songbook covers a myriad of styles. The vibraphone-tinkled, gently rousing and swooned ‘Sounya-Ka Onna No Jumon’, and the yellow rose of Texas, Morricone-inspired canteen mirage ‘Urami Bushi’ (the tune famously used in Tarantino’s Kill Bill 2) are actually the only two direct tracks taken from Kaji’s films; both appearing in the torture-porn, rape revenge series Female Prisoner Scorpion #701. The former in the first film of that franchise, the latter in one of the sequels, Jail House 41, directed by Shunya Itõ. Yet despite that, the musical production sounds cinematic throughout, riffing on the already mentioned Morricone, but also Bacharach and Jean-Claude Vannier too. The opening electric scuzzy guitar buzzed, rattlesnake punctuated and yearned chanteuse serenaded ‘Meikono Futebushi’ is an obvious example: a Japanese(fied) version of a Spaghetti Western theme tune. The smooched saxophone and almost soul-hinted production of ‘Hizumi Moe’ sounds Bond-esque in comparison.

Elsewhere there’s light jazzy cocktail hours; the sweet scent of Japanese blossom; a touch of accordion accompanied walks along the Seine; and softened bouts of thriller and the clandestine. ‘Onna Kawaki Uta’ reminded me of Angela Morley’s string arrangements for Scott Walker’s early solo work (in fact, the bass, drums and feel of songs like ‘The Old Man’s Back Again’). And the harpsichord like, longed ‘Onna Hagure Uta’ sounds not too dissimilar to the Thomas Crown Affair: or something of that vogue. 

A fuzz of guitar is there to give it a certain edge, whilst the strings occasionally swirl and well up for dramatic effect. Elements of what’s called Enka are performed with pop sass and kitten heel coquettishness, as traditions are respectfully drawn into the 70s. It must be pointed out that Enka is a kind of performative traditional form but also said to refer to political texts set to music as a means of bypassing government curtails on dissent and activism at the turn of the 20th century in Japan. This form was stylised with modern pop sensibilities in the post-war period, but it’s quite hard to define: many of its leading lights, stars like Hachiro Kasuga and Michiya Mihashi, were themselves very dubious of the tag; if anything distancing themselves from this revived form. Enka, pop, beat music, a little buzz of psych, the string production of the cinema; all forms accompany Kaji’s very fine lulling, but sometimes impassioned poetic, singing voice. Coveting, cozy and in often-romantic swoons, the actress takes on the convincing role of songstress. Subtle and diaphanous yet able to express whatever emotion is needed on an album that shouldn’t be cast off as a mere cult nugget from the vaults, nor dismissed. It seems that Tarantino really was onto something after all.  

Harold Land ‘Damisi’
26th May 2023

Continuing a selective reissue program of Bob Shad’s 60s/70s Mainstream Records label catalogue, WEWANTSOUNDS hone in once more on the tenor saxophonist (quite deft on the oboe too) Harold Land with the first ever vinyl reissue of his 1972 spiritual jazz phase Damisi album.

Regulars of the Monolith Cocktail will know that I reviewed the Mainstream Funk compilation early last year, as the title suggests a showcase of Shad’s overseen funkier cuts. A self-proclaimed “broad church”, the label was just one of a myriad of companies the producer and A&R man had worked on; starting out in the 50s with jazz at the prestigious Savoy label, moving to National Records and launching his own subsidiary imprint EmArcy. Shad went on to find the talent for the switched-on psychedelic Mercury label (discovering such luminaries as Janis Joplin, Sarah Vaughen and Dinah Washington), whilst forging his own Mainstream platform in the 60s.

During his early years, Shad had famously recorded such notable artists as the Max Roach and Clifford Brown Quintet. Although it would be a fair time before working with him again in the 70s, Land was a member of that very same ionic hard bop Quintet; coming up through the ranks after leaving his Houston home, and his formative years in San Diego, for L.A.

Time had moved on, and jazz’s evolution was changing once more. Land, moving on himself, had started a fruitful musical partnership with the vibraphone legend Bobby Hutcherson in the late 60s after stints as an in-demand sax freelancer for labels like Contemporary and Pacific Jazz. It’s that partnership which led to a West Coast trip for the N.Y.C. based Shad and his A&R man Ernie Wilkens; touching down to record a series of sessions from both the Land and Hutcherson union, and Land’s own bandleader work with an enviable pool of serious talent on the scene. The results of which can be hear across a trio of albums: the Hutcherson foiled A New Shade Of Blue (reissued by WEWANTSOUNDS already) and the Choma and Damisi albums. The latter is held-up here as a worthy showcase for Land’s developing use of spiritual conscious jazz and his embrace of Coltrane; although all the signatures of that West Coast schooling and the California showmanship of bright and burnished soulful and funky horns is unmistakable.

Land leads a quartet of equally notable players on Damisi (the Swahili word for “cheerful”), with Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi ensemble bedfellows Buster Williams on double and electric bass and Leon “Ndugu” Chancler on drums (that nickname, bestowed on the Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis sideman by Hancock, is also Swahili, and translates as the affectionate “earth brother”). On electric piano and keys there’s L.A. pianist William Sydney Henderson, who’s CV includes recordings with the Pharaoh, Bobby Hutcherson, Billy Higgins and Hugh Masekela; and on both blazing trumpet and flugelhorn there’s Count Basie sideman and gun-for-hire (a dizzying roll call too numerous to list, but Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon and Quincy Jones are just three notable icons he’s worked with over the decades) Oscar Brashear.

Together, with Land’s heralding, spiraling and brassy tenor blowing away throughout, this highly experienced in-tune troupe lay down a modal-vibe show time of Lalo Schifrin funk action and a swing of Savoy, bop and Lee Morgon on the constantly moving opener, ‘Step Right Up To The Bottom’ – a kind of Hollywood Boulevard takes a turn down desolation road. It’s followed by the cool, hip and more laidback ‘In The Back Corner In The Dark’; a swing time Hollywood funk with shades of serenaded and elephant reeling Miles Davis under a baking sun. Projecting travels further afield, ‘Pakistan’ is the first real spiritual movement; a transcendence shimmer and rattle, bell shaking, snake-charming oboe odyssey that evokes the Pharaoh’s ‘Africa’ (I know, different continent entirely, but similar feel) and a surprising noir-ish Davis. Henderson’s piano really shines on this enchanted, beckoning homage to the country.

Side Two (in old money) features a duo of deeper, long suites; the first of which, ‘Chocolate Mess’, ups the tempo and takes on a funky Latino influence of soul-jazz. Yet, there’s also a strong African influence and smattering of Herbie Hancock on this dynamic sleigh bell shaking, freefalling and dappled electric piano rich jam. The title-track finale reaches once more for Far Eastern climes, perhaps Egypt, but with a West Coast be bop feel and spells of Ike Quebec, Yusef Lateef and Stanley Turrentine. WEWANTSOUNDS have played a blinder reissuing this quality travelogue of soulful, funky jazz from Land. Shy of truly outstanding and iconic, Damisi is nevertheless a great flowing album of notable performances that never loses its groove and swing. A jewel in the Mainstream Records cannon is given another welcome run.      

 Dyr Faser ‘Karmic Revenge’

Karma can be a bitch they say. Only on this occasion, spun out, weaved and languidly mulled over, karma is a drawn-out process of study in the barely warm rays of an occultist sun. For the Dyr Faser duo of Eric Boomhower and Amelia May stir up hermetic, drowsy and Krautrock arias under slumbered mires, and in esoteric visions of the Laurel Canyon.

The dread and gothic chthonian opener, ‘Suns Of Unseen Revival’, sets the atmosphere with the piped tubular drones of Death In June’s ‘Fall Apart’, sonorous palpitations and hints of Amon Düül II and an unholy Jefferson Airplane fragrant in the Fields Of Napalm. Yet, already by the second cut, the Boomhower voiced ‘Fun In The Sun’, the serious gloom is replaced by a kind of Californian slacker vibe of cymbal splish-splashing, ritualistic toms and a flange of the Velvet Underground, Boyd Rice And Friends, Sonic Youth and Pavement.

‘Keep Talking’ once again has May taking up the vocal mantle; channeling Grace Slick and a downer Besnard Lakes on the melting, intoxicating spell of dream-realism. ‘Symbolized’ however, motors down the BRMC and JAMC highway; thumbing a lift with Suicide’s “Ghost Rider” on a hippie biker kick. Within that leather-clad bohemian framework, there are evocations of The Stooges ‘Search And Destroy’, Jason Pierce and the sustained guitar lines, contours of Ash Ra Tempel.

Almost diaphanous, ‘Silver Night Run’ oozes a hypnotizing hallucination of acid-aria sung enchantment as its siren traces some mysterious metaphorical river trial. ‘Ghostly Vicious Acts’ is an indie-fuzz and gauzy scuzz of tumbled Spaceman 3, whilst ‘This Menace’ squalls and churns up a suitable acid-rock/krautrock mood of doom, as The Black Angels gaze on. Christ weeps from the holy mountain on the woodland fluted, but despondently mused, ‘Dead On The Vine’, and May wafts a plaintive Hackedpicciotto-esque emotive voice over a stylophone buzzing spooked ‘Despite The Party Atmosphere’ vignette. It all ends on the gristle and loose psychedelic, slipped drummed ‘Lifelike Stranger’; a conclusion to a most alluring if doom-imbued album.

It turns out that Dyr Faser are rather good at mixing the esoteric krautrock of the Amon Düül family (especially the Wagnerian acid-wash and otherworldly vocals of Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz) with grunge, alt/post/space rock and doom; bridging morbid curiosities, spirals of melancholy with black sun fun, fun, fun! A great duo to discover. 

Images Of Goo ‘S-T’
(Un Je-ne-sais-quoi) 26th May 2023

Responsible for, and “active members” of, trick noise making projects and alias as Das Hobus, Spiritual Emojis, The Notwist, AloaInput and a myriad of others, the maverick sonic union of Leo Hopfinger (aka LeRoy) and Cico Beck (likewise aka Juasihno) mess around with the proverbial “goo” on this self-titled workout.

As Images Of Goo they knock around in an echo chamber reverberation of drum heavy trip-hop, breakbeat, krautrock and post-krautrock, off-kilter techno, future soul and various electronic formats. This often sounds in practice like Valentino Magaletti on 90s Mo Wax, hanging out with Major Force, DJ Shadow and Matmos. And when emerging from a Joe Meek (if he’d been born much later and signed to Warp Records or the Leaf Label) retro space production of signals, sputniks and oscillations, like International Pony and The El Michaels Affair on the Fun Boy Three vine. Because the beats, the breaks move from hip-hop to Ethno sounding hints of Africa and Java, and more metallic mesh-bounces of tins, pots and pans percussion.

And most surprising, as we reach ‘Image 08’ (all tracks are just numerically entitled by the way) a drowsy tripping vocoder effected set of voices and vocals emerges from the knocking, Afro-wavy beats – imagine Afrikan Sciences, Dunkelzefer, late Can and Matthew Dear on one soulful languid mix. You can throw in Nino Nardini’s cult sounds, MDR-ADM, Gescom, the Aphex Twin and Yuk. into that bit-crush and scrunch, lunar echoed moon unit of psychedelic drum-led collages. The whys and wherefores don’t matter; it just exists as its own body of workings; a sci-fi tripped out production of hip German eclectic rewiring.

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Tinariwen ‘Amatssou’
19th May 2023

It shouldn’t really come as any surprise to find those Tuareg doyens Tinariwen embracing the country blues signature of Nashville; such is the two musical spheres connection and roots. After all, the late Malian legend Ali Frake Touré teamed up decades ago with Paris, Texas scoring American icon Ry Cooder for the Talking Timbuktu album – a Grammy Award winner no less.

Although still hotly debated, the blues is said to have taken shape, the seed laid in Mali and its disputed borderlands, deserts, centuries if not a millennia ago. The slave trade saw it carried to the European-colonized Americas; its purest, cultural, spiritual form proving, though subjugated, a fecund for a myriad of musical styles that grew in and around the blues in the Deep South, including agreeably everything from country to bluegrass and Americana.

With that in mind, but also with nothing less than a love and respect for the two-decade incarnation of this much older Tuareg nomadic band, Jack White was moved to invite Tinariwen over to record at his private recording studio in Nashville. White had previously lent out his engineer Joshua Vance Smith to mix the group’s last album, released in 2019, Amadjar. Oft “sideman” Fats Kaplin, who is one of the few select Nashville-imbued players to collaborate on this latest project, had also played on their 2014 album, Emmaar.

Unfortunately, due to a series of unfortunate setbacks, this American soil recording wasn’t to be. With the renowned Daniel Lanois and a circle of country musicians now attached to this proposal, the COVID pandemic grounded progress, with Tinariwen’s lineup of founders Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, Touhami Ag Alhassane and Abdallah Ag Alhousseyn and bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, percussionist Said Ag Ayad and guitarist Elaga Ag Hamid all prevented from flying. Lanois and company decided to travel to them instead, only the famed producer was struck down with the virus, and so forced to cancel plans.

Thrown into jeopardy, technology would prove the savior, as both partners on this album now recorded their parts separately, thousands of miles apart. Tinariwen’s inspired location was the Djanet “oasis”, within the borders of Algeria’s southern desert and the Tassili N’Ajjer National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site, famously home to prehistoric cave art. Whilst both Kaplin and fellow country muso Wes Corbett recorded their contributions in Nashville, with further percussion added by Amar Chaoui in a Paris studio: a tri-continental production you could say. Not that you’d ever know it, as the transition, process runs together seamlessly.

In their African surroundings, playing together in a makeshift tent with borrowed equipment from their Tuareg musical peers Imarhan (the band’s guitarist Hicham Bouhasse can be heard contributing and expanding the ensemble even further), Tinariwen entwine their “Assouf” (“nostalgia”) signature of pick-up picked, turned-over, constantly moving guitar hypnotism and camel-motion Bedouin rhythms, and desert chorus voices with the clip-clop, wagon-hitched, pedal-steel slide and twirled banjo sounds of the American prairie, cowshed, barn dance and Western trail.

The bluesy ache and pine of America finds solace in the tumult ache and longing of the Tuareg plight; many forced to scatter across the African continent and overseas as Mali plunges into further chaos. In the long-running fight for an autonomous state (the Azawad) in the North-Eastern reaches of Mali, the Tuareg people have suffered at the hands of the central government; had their cause hijacked by zealous Islamist insurgents (forced out for the most part when former colonists France were invited to stem their bloody progress); seen further civil unrest with a military coup in 2020 and subsequent coup d’état; and endured a catalogue of droughts and economic desperation. As a consequence of the Jihadist hardliners gains during this decade plus turmoil, some outlier regions of the Tuareg were under strict Islamist codes, including the banning of guitars and their music. This forced some groups to seek sanctuary over the borders, with some even moving on to Europe and further afield.

That struggle, travail is beautifully conveyed in the lyricism and the musical panoramic-gazed desert emotions of longing. And so, two desert settings in harmony merge; the unmistakable Tuareg ease and spindled play of guitars blending with subtle essences of bluegrass, Americana and Nashville country blues; disarming in delivery that plaintive song.

A Sahel version of The Band; a fiddled playing barn dance in Timbuktu; and Cooder looking out across a shamanistic vision of out-of-body, otherworldly Americana, the dual Western horizons, when coming together like this, offer up bendy mirages, spins, softened stomps, elliptical bobbing motion sways and scuzzy dirt music. Acoustic and electrified, with spells of the Deltas, the Grand Ole Opry, Appalachians and Missouri breaks throughout, the Tuareg sound finds an harmonious distant relative Stateside.

Amatssou is a captivating, hypnotic joy, the setbacks doing nothing to affect or dent the original concept of a combined, congruous union.

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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