Dominic Valvona’s ALBUM Reviews Roundup

Various ‘Pierre Barouh And The Saravah Sound: Jazz, Samba And Other Hallucinatory Grooves’
(WEWANTSOUNDS) 22nd July 2022

The story of Saravah Records in sixteen showcase tracks, this latest well-planned compilation from the vinyl specialists WEWANTSOUNDS (more or less a regular in this column over the past few years), in conjunction with the label’s guardian/historian Benjamin Barouh, builds a tale of cinematic, progressive, jazz accompanied escapism and exploration.

A haven for the founder Pierre Barouh’s love of Latin American and African grooves, the Parisian imprint, which triggered of a fecund of inspired, imbued or tempted jazz-rich artists, enjoyed a ten-year period in the sun; releasing records from a myriad of cult genuine one-offs, never to be repeated team-ups and journeymen and women between the mid 60s and 70s.

A fair share of that roster arrived from the stage and screen. Pierre, via his more musical talents, not only contributed lyrics and singing to Francis Lai’s score but also starred in Claude Lelouch’s feted A Man And A Woman. From this connection he was able to rub shoulders with a host of hot French new talent, including the legendary Brigitte Fontaine, Jacques Higelin and Béatrice Arnac. Fontaine, who’s been performing and making radical music for near on eighty years, has pretty much, occupied every square inch of the avant-garde. A novelist, poet, musician and of course actress polymath, she infamously performed and recorded with her equally renowned partner, the Berber-descended singer, multi-instrumentalist, comedian and composer Areski Belkacem.

Fontaine appears twice on this vinyl compilation, whilst Areski just the once. Of her two cuts there’s the inclusion of ‘Comme À La Radio’, taken from the eponymously entitled ’69 LP she recorded for Saravah. It features, unbelievably, the freeform jazz envelope-pushers The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, who appear to have hung around long enough to become an unofficial house-band, providing a barely contained avant-garde explosion to at least three of the artists on this collection. They traverse an organic Don Cherry mood; a simmered woodwind and soothed Afrocentric be-bop meander to Fontaine’s arty chanson cooed and spoken word vocals.

Completely in a different vogue, Fontaine’s ‘Cet Enfant Que Je Távais’ duet with the French pop-actor star turn radical activist Jacques Higelin, is a romantically serenaded affair-of-the-heart. Quite dreamy, without a care in the world, almost sympathetic, it does however show signs of ore existential aloofness. Higelin precedes this inclusion with the more jazzy, eastern psych limbering ‘Je Jovais Le Piano’. Hawk and untethered sax meets a semblance of the exotic and a R&B like flavour of guitar on this both sung and expressively descriptive cut from his hippie days. (Nothing to do with the album or choice of his tracks, but as a trivial bonus it was Higelin’s French-Vietnamese girlfriend, Kuelan Nguyen, who was chatted up by Iggy Pop – she brushed him off of course. This in turn inspired David Bowie’s own, if geographically wrong-footed, ‘China Girl’.) A big star with a legacy to prove it, Higelin’s music for Saravah proved experimental and beautifully executed.

Back to those other Art Ensemble-backed inclusions I mentioned a paragraph or two back. The compilation opener ‘Mystifying Mama’ finds the exploratory jazz doyens polishing off Muscle Shoals R&B with some Chicago soul-jazz. The ‘mysterious’ Marva Broome fronts this clavichord rich blast of horn-heralded funk. Later on they back the French-African actor Alfred Panou (notably in Jean-Luc Goddard’s ensemble) on his jungle-beat polemic freestyle rumble ‘Je Suis Un Sauvage’. Literally rolling in from the pub on a promise, with the Chicago troupe already set-up from a previous recording, Panou struts and trills his grievances to an elephant bellow of brass and swaying West African grooves. Fellow African traveller, the Gabonese artist Pierre Akendenge, released two albums for the label in the 70s. Arriving at the end of Saravah’s tenure, a cut from his ’76 LP Africa Obota appears now on this four-sided vinyl revue. ‘Orema Ka Ka Ka’ is an Afro-Cuban, with a South African and Congo lilt, fusion of spiritual warm 70s soul; a delightful, almost swaddled oasis of relaxed roots that represents another side to the Saravah Records story.

Back in the jazz mode there’s a number of tracks from the Paris label’s Piano Puzzle series of collaborations. Those with impressive, lengthy CVs need only apply, for this series featured such players as the keyboardist maestro Maurice Vander, who worked with such luminaries as Django Reinhardt and Chet Baker, and appeared in many sessions for the Fontana label. Here we’re treated to his folksy reminisce ‘Siciliene’, a subtle yearn for a picturesque if travailed slice of Southern Italy. We also have, from that same series, the French be-bop pianist – impressively playing with Miles Davis and Lester YoungRené Urtregar and his real cool Stax-like rolling ‘Tchac Poum Poum’, plus the pianist/organist and sideman to such notables as Dexter Gordon, Yusef Lateef and Manu Dibango, Georges Arvanitas, whose Coltrane-inspired, Savoy Jazz licked ‘Tane’s Call’ gets picked up for the compilation.

Aside from the jazz, briefly mentioned in the opening paragraph, another main driver of Pierre’s label was Latin America: especially Brazil. So taken with that exotic beauty, visiting in the late 50s, Pierre would return to Paris with his foil in such enterprises Baden Powell and record a version of the ‘Samba de Bêncão’ standard, renaming it ‘Samba Saravah’. He’d later make a special Rio music documentary with Powell, Maria Bethania, Paulinho da Viola and Pixinguinha. Although it doesn’t appear on this compilation, from that same Samba session in the mid 60s, this collection’s farewell ends on the rather less exotic and Latin storyteller romantic yearn ‘Saudade (Un Manque Habité)’. Still, more in the groove as it were, there is the inclusion of Michel Roques’ active samba swanning and tropicalia “soufflé” ‘Monsieur Chimpanzé’, which positively sails into the Rio harbor, blown by the increasingly hot-aired excitements of the vocalist and rattled percussion. Roques’ CV, in case you were wondering, includes a saxophone-fronted trio, a period on Fontana and one LP, Saravah Chorus, for (as the title would obviously indicate) Pierre’s label.

The reminder of this spread falls with the already mentioned fields of influence, genres; although the French actress, singer and composer Béatrice Arnac, with the jazzy cocktail come dramatically staged if lucid ‘Le Bruit Et Le Bruit’ slips into French Ye-Ye and new wave French cinema.

I’m pleased to be introduced to the likes of the relatively obscure Baroque Jazz Trio, E.D.F. and Cohelmee Ensemble; all three of which I will be trying to uncover and find out more about. But as an encapsulation of a period in independent French label history, this entire compilation is an illuminating, often dynamic, and always curious hotbed of actors, mavericks and jazz aficionados coming together to create an astonishing musical catalogue.

Various ‘Spirit of France’
(Spiritmuse Records) 8th July 2022

Another wisely considered release from the Spiritmuse jazz label, Spirit of France announces a new anthology style series of previously obscure ethnographical jazz peregrinations from a period of world music and new age exploration in the 70s and 80s.

Deliberating deeply on their catalogue the label in recent years has acted as a kind of promoter/custodian of the incredible healing prowess of Chicago jazz legend Kahil El’ Zabar (in his many set-ups) and also released spiritual imbued albums from David Ornate Cherry, Abdullah Sami and Mark de Clive Lowe and The Cosmic Vibrations. It’s at this point that I must declare I provided the liner notes to Kahil and his Quartet’s most recent album, A Time For Healing; going from fan to paid-up commission. But I’m donning my non-partisan critic’s hat for this latest compilation of rare experiments from the fringes of jazz, folk and psych.

Chosen by the label’s own Mark Gallagher and Theo Ioannou with the help of French crate-digger Tom Val, the inaugural collection’s standout inclusion is that of late genius Jef Gilson. Still, even after producing a litany of French greats and arguably the country’s leading explorative jazz guide, very much under-valued, Gilson somehow remains a cult figure. The Jazzman label went to great lengths to remedy that, with umpteen reissues, collections of his work. From furors into Malagasy culture to the concrete and freeform, Gilson’s legacy is both extraordinary and varied. Appearing on one such anthology showcase from years back, the changing compressed sulk and exotic swinging ‘Love Always’ now graces this compilation. Notable for featuring, amongst others, Byard ‘Dogtown’ Lancaster this concentrated lengthy flex moodily plows through Latin-American Bernstein, African facemask cubism and drunken motioned rolls.

A strong theme, suffusion of India and its neighbours’ runs throughout a number of other selected tracks; most obviously on the rather rare Adjenas Sidhar Khan’s album finale, ‘Mahabaratha Kali’ (taken from his Musique D’Adjenas LP that just scrapes into the 70s), but also with music by hurdy-gurdy man Rémy Couvez, the versatile Sylvain Kassap and short-lived Pân-Râ. The first of that quartet of artists casts a mini-meditative opus of brassy sitar, buoyant tablas and mantric “ahhhs”, but increasingly turns towards both hypnotising ritual and the psychedelic. “Vielle” maestro Couvez opens this collection with a ‘travel dream’ fluted aria churned transcendental traverse, in the fashion of Ariel Karma’s ‘Almora Sunrise’. From the more prolific Kassap and his 1983 LP Musiques Pour La Tortue Magique, with both the noted Jean-Michel Ponty and Pablo Cueco, there’s the Finis Africae, Jon Hassell and Eno-esque spiritual Southeast Asian jazz yin epic ‘Le Dessous Des Barges’ (“below the banks”).And, lastly, the Pân-Râ duo of Hungarian musician “Chobo” Casba Koncz and guitarist Michel Poiteau furnish the anthology with the acid-psych Eastern stirred and diaphanous apparitional voiced fantasy ‘Lorely’ – taken from the 1978 LP Music From Atlantis

To Arabia, the Middle East, the Aegean where sun worshipping and vernal equinox performances see the most obscure Dynamo evoke Agitation Free and a more congruous Soft Machine on a progressive jazz fusion in Arabia’s honour, and the guitarist/keyboardist André Fertier (under his Clivage group title) softly patters the spindly gilded strings and dulcimer-esque hammers on the krautrock-prog-jazz ‘Moving Waves’ – a touch of Lloyd Clifton Miller, Amon Düüi II and Embryo. 

Outside the areas of the mentioned geographical musicology, L’ Empire des Sons chosen track could be classed in the “primitive” mode; the octet’s ‘Quand Nos Pères Étaient Des Poissons’ a sort of jug poured Don Cherry-esque stripped and dusted reedy blown and bowed African invocation. The sibling and married conjunction of Parisian “musical revolutionaries”, as Finders Keepers called them (that crate-diggers label issuing a collection of their avant-garde futurism back in 2018), Structures Sonores Lasry-Baschot conjure up ambiguous Min Bul-like elasticated music that has a vague semblance of Japan (the country not the brooding synth doyens). 

Something very different indeed, cult favourite, the French-speaking Swiss singer-songwriter Catherine Derain talks, taunts, goads and wraps the listener around her finger on the dizzy avant-garde chanson and pop aloof ‘Les Crocodiles’. Of course certain arty cliques have already been evangelizing such outsider artists for a while, but I can’t say I’ve ever come across Derain in all my years of eclectic digging. So thank you for the Spiritmuse and Mr. Val.

You’d expect this to be a far more challenging, out-there compilation considering the inclusion of outsider artists, mavericks, yet the Spirit Of France is actually quite a transcendental, worldly collection of musical journeys, rituals and performances that take in jazz, pysch, prog and ethno-folk. You can hear just some of the seeds that were sown for future fusions, seamless border crossings. But rather than a note from history, an education this new anthology is filled with some cracking great music, very much alive. I look forward to hearing more of this series.

Nwando Ebizie ‘The Swan’
(Accidental Records) 22nd July 2022

After a number of feted singles from the Afro-futurist polymath Nwando Ebizie in 2021 a much-anticipated debut album extension of the British-Nigerian artist’s rich, lucid and multi-disciplinary cosmology is about to drop. The Swan arrives just in time for her invited curated The Black Fabulous weekender at the Southbank Centre this summer; part of a larger multi-event celebration of black arts and popular culture under The Black Fantastic season banner.

Scaled-up with room to fully develop a part dreamy, part yelped trauma of life experiences, the heavily-loaded Swan entitled journey seems to merge and weave Hellenic/Western deities with those of Africa and the Hispaniola. From out of the mouths of the black diaspora, largely uprooted and forced to comply with the rules of their colonial masters, Ebizie reclaims a fertile heritage to create an alternative pathway, life force and platform to unravel suppression and stigma.

Just one of the many rhythmic threads that runs throughout this highly percussive album, the latest single to be taken from The Swan, the Greek mythological woe that is ‘Myrrha’, features the Haitian Vodou Yanvalouu dance beat. Originally from the rich musical melting pot of Benin, this rhythmic supplication was performed as a welcoming ritual for the ancestors, with dancers working themselves into a trance. Any mention of Vodou and we’re into the dark arts stereotypes, but this atavistic rites, belief system grew into a resistance movement against slavery. Only in more recent times, even post-colonial, has this system and musical form escaped the chains of censorship, degradation and ignorance, with various artists drawn to its appeal, and various revitalisations. In this form, on this plaintive song of sufferance and metamorphosis (the fated poor Myrrha, mother of Adonis, turned into a tree for her incestuous relationship with her own father I believe), Ebizie channels it alongside contemporary soulful and even no wave sounds, dynamics.

Pumped, hollered when needs be, the album is a mostly fluid parade of Mardi Gras, modern Afro-beats, Afro-jazz (touch of Manu Dibango and some spiritual gazing from synth, saxophonist and co-producer Hugh Jones), post-punk and the bombarded beat production and excitement of M.I.A. and Santigold. Lamentable but diaphanous pains and yearns build up to shorter bursts of syllable whooping and near hyperventilating displays of expressive empowerment across a highly percussive balance of African elementals, spirits and the march of contemporary sonic forces. And that means an amorphous blurring of sources, as Lagos mixes it up with New Orleans, a black diaspora London with Port-Au-Prince.

Dreamy, hallucinogenic and magical yet feverish with protestation, Ebizie conjures up an equally bombastic and longing, quitter cosmology of her own making. Those waiting with bated breath for such a rich, stimulating tapestry won’t be disappointed. The Swan is a most deeply felt and multifaceted debut.          

Healing Force Project ‘Drifted Entities (Vol. 1)’
(Beat Machine Records)

Sent out reverberating into an infinite expanse, the spiritual contorted raps and strains of Albert Ayler’s Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe source material, the echoed dub washes of the On-U-Sound label and elements of Basic Channel, Luke Vibert, The Mosquitoes, Plug and Gescom drift towards the cosmos.

A continuously resonating ‘spiritual music mission’ the ghostly freefalling influences of jazz, dub, trip-hop, jungle, breakbeat and the strung-out move in layered circles that build-up an echo chamber of the otherworldly, space and at times the supernatural.

A decade in with the Healing Force Project moniker, Italian musician/producer Antonio Marini creates a universal soundtrack of ‘drifted entities’ that evoke transformed, stripped and lingered traces of both circular-breathing reeds, rim-shot and ricocheting drums, amorphous Eastern oboes and rumbling bass lines.

The vague sound of 80s soundtrack Miles Davis, Irreversible Entanglements and Black Dog circulate with short stubs and stunts of gospel style organ (threatening to open up the valves but falling short), wanes and a Lynchian atmosphere of the hallowed and esoteric gumshoe noir on the opening ‘Tiny Germs’ universal microcosm. Pulled By Magnets, Massive Attack and removed Jon Hassell prowl and linger on ‘Upbeat Damage’, whilst ‘Everything Is Frequency’ tunnels towards a hallucinogenic and skittle-skidded state.

There’s a jungle, or drum and bass beat on the shattering kosmische splash ‘Double Orbit’ and hinge-like trumpet gasped jazzy ‘Diorama Obscura’. When it comes it adds a new intensity and drive to the dissipation of resonated drifts – think Wagon Christ, or even Squarepusher meeting Binker And Moses in space. The ashes of a sonic harvest are scattered on the solar winds, those drifting entities set to resonate in a spooked and venerable cosmos well after the needle is lifted from the record, or curser comes down on a digital stop icon.       

Toni Tubna w/ the Stockholm Tuba Sect  ‘When The Magic Went Wrong’
(Gare du Nord) 29th July 2022

Another pseudonym for the Kentish and London estuary maverick Ian Button – he of the Gare du Nord label, session musician, producer and bandleader of Papernut Cambridge –, the fantasied anagram Toni Tubna guise is just the latest vehicle for his quintessentially English storytelling style of nostalgia.

Going the whole hog, Button has put together a multimedia package of songs, illustrations and, most importantly – the catalyst for this whole wheeze –, a book of short anecdotes from the life of a hapless, but spawny at times, cabaret magician on the English seaside circuit.

As with so many of his musical furors, the scent of nostalgia is heavy but fragrant. I don’t think it would be a criticism to suggest the puns, gags and wordplay resonates with those of a certain age – that includes me by the way. And so from the music hall to soft 70s rock, and from boarding house skits to saucy picture postcard humour the life of the likable, if always by the seat-of-his-pants, Toni Tubna regales his misadventures across ten mini-chapters.

What started as a correspondence between his band mates from another project entirely (The Catenary Wires) developed, riffing originally on a long-running joke/myth that some when in the fogs of time Button had worked as a magician.         

Now not only drawing in a myriad of brass and string players under the factitious Stockholm Tuba Sect moniker, but also the talents of Fay Hallem (contributing illustrations) and art historian, writing, lyricist collaborator Scott Thomas Buckle, the whole throwback ballooned into a sort of knockabout autobiography of a life un-lived, but conjured up as mere amusement.  

In a nutshell, each story, episode on the road to rack-and-ruin, with short bursts of the big time just out of his grasp, corresponds to one of the album’s songs. But in the true spirit of such concepted works we have a bookended intro and sort of curtain call finale reprise revue.

Our bearings, musical journey is mapped out on the opening ‘When The Magic Went Wrong’, a sort of continuation of Button’s 70s imbued Papernut house band with shades of a oompah brass band accompanied Mott The Hopple and David Essex. It also includes the first reveal of a lamented and repeated magical “disappearing” metaphor. The first actual gag, set-up is with ‘The Mayor Of Bridlington, whichintroduces us to a character straight out of a Carry On film, to the woozy dreamy longing tones of a enervated Beach Boys, Bad Finger and Bread – the long and short of it is a convoluted trapdoor joke that backfires on a jealous husband.

A “new assistant” serves as a sort of tug-of-love tale of woe, set to the strains of a faux-Tango and softened, concertinaed mirage of the Parisian Left Bank – the aromatic signatures of the amorous Dolores Mondo. A, rightly so, creepy vessel, ‘The Dummy’ tells the tale of Tubna’s fall from grace, suspended by the Magic Circle and forced to take a punt at ventriloquism: of which he’s utterly useless. A chance meeting with Barry – sound engineer to the Shaman (just credible and devoid of status as ring with the truth) and Howard Jones – and we’re suddenly thrust into the world of mediums before a major falling out that brings the house down. The music is part Alex Harvey, part The Kinks.

In a change from the Button-led songs of the first half of this album, the cursed ‘Talismano’ figurines story features a poetic, supernatural and creepy narration from Angela Loughran; unaccompanied except for an esoteric wind and dramatic touch of organ.

It’s artistic allusions that inspire both the Jeff Lynn, if he was into Britpop, ‘The Triennial’ and more wistful ‘The Painting’. The latter provides the cover illustration diorama of a lifted curse and the overall mists of time atmosphere for this book of British humoured yesteryear fun and mystery.

In what could be an episode straight out of Matt Berry’s Toast Of London there’s a shrinking “clash of minds” dual of egos with Tubna’s smug arch-nemesis Barrington Small that proves to be one of the album’s most mesmerist draws.

The Idle Race and Bonzos share the stage with Squeeze and Cockney Rebel on these magical shaggy dog tales made for a generation or two brought up on the idiosyncratic humour of an underwhelming cabaret act, episodes of Paul Daniel’s Magic Show and TV shows in the 80s (Bergerac for one). Fondly remembered, nostalgic pleasures prove fertile ground for vaguely reminiscent tunes and conceptual work of fun.

Anelli Beauchamp Cauduro  ‘Sometimes Someone Watches’
(CÆR)

Conjuring up all manner of occult and otherworldly mystery, the collaborative trio of Michele Anelli, Paul Beauchamp and Andrea Cauduro drag open the doors and portals to disturbing sonic voyeuristic realms.

Their latest series of improvised esoteric-laced, alien, often chthonian soundtracks for the Turin-based label of such curiosities, CÆR (a ‘dark psych branch’ of the underground zine collective Chierichetti Æditore) uses atonal guitar sculpting, field recordings, various textures and a surprisingly melodic sensibility that rises out of the motor and propeller generated industrial and cavernous atmospherics: those touches of the melodic not so much a reprieve from the unhurried hum and crackled drones as brief touch of humanity.

‘The last time the door was open’, as the first track is entitled, the mood was ominous and the soundtrack a mix of Jóhann Jóhannsson horror, kosmische music for the damned, distant bit-crushed quells and haunted cowboy tremolo; all of it channeled through the Fortean Times paranormal radio set. A bended spooked transmogrification of a lunar Western, dissonant swells emerge alongside echoes of Popol Vuh’s seagull-like twangs.

‘One Dwells There Within Who Talks To The Morning Mists’ sounds like a sagacious line from some mystic but once again lurks in the occult. Early Popol Vuh (them again), Kluster, Lucrecia Dalt and the avant-garde can be detected on this cosmic hell of slow-burning centrifugal magnetic forces, deep bassy drones, early analogue and dark material manifestations.   

‘A Sort Of Foreknowledge Of The Coming Series Of Events’ unfolds unrushed across a shadowy expanse in which planetary leviathans loom large. Like something from the 1970s crackling, brewing and rippling to early hints of Cluster (both albums I and II) and the Tangerine Dream, there’s a certain awe, a sense of those both unearthly and supernatural bodies in movement.

If you are already well versed with such occult experiments, maybe a Crow Versus Crow label regular, then both this label and trio collaboration are worth the immersive dread and time to devour.

The Dark Jazz Project ‘ST’
(Irregular Frequencies) 15th July 2022

A new regeneration is on the cards as the art-house electronic music maverick Andrew Spackman hangs up his longest running alias, the SAD MAN, and dons the ominous mantle of The Dark Jazz Project.

From the Duchampian-favoured Nimzo-Indian chess move moniker of a decade ago, and through various other guises including his own name, Andrew has been on a fidgety, restless progressive momentum; eking out a idiosyncratic pathway in the electronic music spectrum in the process. Pretty much obscure to the point that only the Monolith Cocktail would dare shout about this one-off talent, he’s come along way, and gained encouraging reviews and praise from an ever-larger cable of clique-y named publications and blogs: although only our opinion counts!

The SAD MAN has proven to be Andrew’s most prolific guise yet, with countless spasmodic, bewildering and madly engineered outpourings of techno and all its sub genre releases; culminating in that appellations most ambitious swan song, the Sad Stories multimedia collaboration with a number of music critics and fellow artists – though kindly asked to take part last year, time, personal crisis got in the way and I’m now pretty disappointed with myself for not contributing.

At the same time Andrew’s branched out both musically and art wise with moves into soundtracks and performances (see for example his score for Menilmontant).

A very busy man, but not too busy to once more reinvent himself with another project, in another form, along comes a taster of what’s to come. The inaugural preview release-style showcase of The Dark Jazz Project is a three-track affair of moody jarred spikes and alien landscapes. Like a moon-guided abstract fear; a ghostly voyage aboard a Kubrickian, Lovecraftian and Tarkovskyian space freighter this new vision scopes lunar caverns and the deep cosmos.

Plaintive and evocative strings stir up semi-classical filmic scores before galvanized ripples, shredded metallic components, gargled, burbled bestial signs of the Other emerge to conjure up all manner of galactic mystery, the paranormal and flippery. Detuned stars bend as bass-y dark matter merges with a Mogadon Jeff Mills and Phylps; a miserable Tangerine Dream out on the precipice. And that all happens within the perimeters of the first suite ‘The Forest’.

The second cosmic friction, ‘Eyes In The Trees’ features vague traces of hardcore and drum & bass; leaping into spasmodic action before summing up a sort of foreboding 2001: A Space Odyssey style symphony.

The “jazz” part of the name – albeit a transmogrified “jazzcore” and very removed version of John Zorn and his ilk – doesn’t really kick in until the final third section of ‘Fire Dance’: the EP’s finale as it were. A staccato breakbeat drum drills and twitches; rolls and bombards like a Wagon Christ (almighty) turn inside an epileptic triggering video arcade machine from the early 80s. It gets there however after first navigating passages of Warp Records’ Artificial Intelligence series, Autechre and Shepard Stevenson (yeah, there’s an obscure one for you).

More dark arts sci-fi cinema with bursts of generated techno and breaks than avant-garde noise jazz, Andrew’s latest incarnation is a welcome development. Wiser and without any limitations he’s, dare I say, taken his feet off the hadron collider accelerator for explorations with more depth and gravity.

A full album has been promised for later this year. Expect to see a review in a future revue.    

Delmore FX ‘Scompaio’
(Das Andere Selbst, Communion, Artetetra) 7th July 2022

Across three labels of various experimental peculiarities no less, the founder of one of those imprints (the limited tape numbered Das Andere Selbst) Elia Buletti unveils a unique, lopsided treatment of electroacoustic ethno-music. Under the Delmore FX alias the poet/artist creates a whole new avant-garde vision of West African music: at times almost in the realms of musique concète.

The jug-poured and twanged tines sounds of the kalimba and mbira, and bobbled woody bounce of the gourd-resonated balafon xylophone are transformed into a serial mirages, bended and beaded percussive suites. Carrying an essence of those original forms and evoking the West African scenery, the Scompaio album (a title that translates into the very existential “I disappear”) gives a tangible, thick and heavy metallic texture and more concertinaed lunar effect to the source instrumental patterns and rhythms. At times this amounts to (dripping) tap dances in the sink to the twitters and data roving calculus of a computer language.

Percussive bubbled bulbs, wind chimes stirrings, twinkles, tinkles and chinks both flow and get caught in gamelan-like garbles as trippy effects distort parped and skewered rhythms; that is until ‘Sailor’s Delight’ arrives with a beat that gets going in an elliptical fashion – like a ritual, seasick Aphex Twin and Prefuse 73.

Almost cartoonish in places with wild and more fun runs and dribbles, below the surface there’s a highly sophisticated skill in these layered, re-contextualized pieces that reconfigure, play with ethno musical sources. In the process a whole strange new sonic world of avant-garde experimentation, primitivism electronica and library music is opened up.

Runningonair ‘B.A.U.’
8th July 2022

With a semi-nostalgic arc of synthesized evocations, the four-decade spanning electronic composer Joe Evans traverses and electro glides through an array of tutorial sessions turn grand explorations, and perimeter-set exercises in minimal apparatus use.

By day, stuck in the monotony of an IT call centre, by night, both navel and stargazing; daring to dream of quantum leaps and the faraway prospects of travelling to the stars, Evans lets his imagination project across nine varied suites of mood music.

Under the Runningonair umbrella – a moniker that includes a label and Youtube channel of technical music lessons, music videos and Vlogs – a choice line-up of sound modules, software and synths is used to score and explore such themes as futurology, climate change and the human condition. B.A.U., which I take it is the acronym for “business as usual”, begins with one such crisis. ‘If Not Now’, with shades of Orbital, Vangelis and Jarre, moves from new age trance to melodious techno; ending up above the clouds with climbing harmonic notes that avoid, we’re told in the accompanying notes, the standard chords. With a heavy use of the ‘Air hybrid 3 synth’ this verbalized protestation has the climate emergency in its sights. An artificial female voice posits the rhetorical line on that one, but also appears later on the dreamy piano tinkled, airy and spacey swooned ‘As Far As You Can’. This is actually built-on a remix Evans made of a track by the artist Suborno; a transformation of that original project cast into an entirely different direction.

Out into the cosmos, the celestial-toned, aerial bending trance and techno ‘Lunar Lander’ features both adult and child-like promises of intergalactic progress. Mind you, after reading Michio Kaku’s wondrous The Future Of Humanity it looks like our poor enfeebled current forms won’t make the interstellar travel that’s needed, nor stand up to the conditions on those future planets we colonize – In all likelihood our consciousness will have to be uploaded to some distant avatar, purposely built on those distant stars by robots.

Elsewhere Evans is inspired by the classic synthwave catalyst score for the cult Hotline Miami computer game; tuning into the original game’s Russian mafia antagonists whilst alluding to some environmental disaster with an almost clandestine piece of broody EDM and dreamwave.

Whilst ‘showcasing’ the CZ1 synth, Evans musters up a quirks and quarks lunar spell of Vangelis (again) space hymn, X-Files paranormal activity and the original Air on the coded password-like ‘CeZ1um’. But the multiuse QY10 sound module and Alesis Microverb exercise of ‘Q4’ moves in a more cinematic mode of retro-futurism. In fact this whole album sent me back to a late 80s and early 90s period of electronic experiment – in a good way I might add. I found myself easing back, drifting but immersed on wave after wave of melodious, vapoured and synthesised EDM, techno, trance and electronic-classicism. Beyond just application, Evans transports us with his digital and analogue skills to new worlds.

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

Reviews
Dominic Valvona





Reaching a grand eightieth edition of my eclectic roundup, the Tickling My Fancy column continues to highlight the curious and recommended from across the globe. With no agenda, no demarcation of any kind, you can expect to find spiritual jazz alongside dream pop, space rock doom alongside desert blues.

My latest edition includes the long awaited new LP of timeless hushed reverence from Boa Morte, phobia-themed withering contorted progressive industrial jazz from the Russian band Rootea, the latest tactile album of dance music from the Shanghai Restoration Project, a new EP from the maverick lo fi dreamer Origami Repetika, the new aria space apocalypse augur of beauty and supernatural doom from Elizabeth Joan Kelly, and a double bill of cult excavations, the heavy metal prog Lucifer Was and more genteel short-lived soul-psych-folk-beat-group The Fox, from the Guerssen label hub.

Leading the charge though is the upcoming compilation of Somali funk, disco and Afro-Caribbean nuggets, Mogadisco, from Analog Africa.


Various ‘Mogadisco – Dancing Mogadishu (Somali 1972-1991)’

(Analog Africa) LP/ 13th December 2019



In the making since a security nightmare of a trip in 2016, Analog Africa’s chief instigator, Samy Ben Redjeb, finally releases a treasure trove of previously unreleased and passed-over nuggets from the vaults of Radio Mogadishu.

Researched and compiled on that same crate and archive-digging excursion, Analog Africa put out a celebratory compilation of the first two albums by Mogadishu’s legends-in-exile the Dur-Dur Band in 2018; the first bonafide release of the group’s tape cassette ‘volume’ albums. The infectious loose-limbed funk and fuzz pop group provide a trio of sweetly laced movers and serenades for this showcase of Somali wonders. All recorded in 1991, the last year this compilation covers, whilst exiled abroad, the Dur-Dur Band offer a stick-rattling feverish Indian summer love paean (‘Daradara Muxibo’), slicker dabbing mid-tempo funk workout (‘Shaleedayaa’) and oriental dappled-organ swoon (‘Ladaa’).

Covering a generational period arc, from the burgeoning optimistic dawn of Somali under the dictatorial leadership of Siad Barre to that same leader’s fateful swan song in 1991, as a once more liberal regime in just twenty years lurched towards the repressive, Mogadisco reflects the changes in a fractious state. Barre of course took power in a coup (though with an emphasis on the peaceful), yet the arts and music scenes flourished, with an explosion in both state-sanctioned and private bands. Many of the acts on this collection were hot-housed in the various ministerial department affiliated show bands or in the theatre (notably the Dur-Durs), and were open to outside influences, from Flea Kuti’s Afrobeat sensation – brought back, we’re told, to Somalia by the Mogadishu featured Iftin Band, after representing the country at the Festac Festival in Lagos in 1977 – to Bob Marley’s global-conquering brand of reggae, and later on, a moonwalking Michael Jackson. One of the most obvious of these, and continuing to influence Somalia’s finest in the second half of the 80s, Omar Shooli’s spiritually voiced ‘Hob Isii’ languorously sways to a proto-Wailers rock steady beat. Equally the influence of Motown, Stax, and as the compilation’s title makes apparent, disco can be heard ringing loudly throughout this mixed bag that Samy himself describes as music that “swam against the tide”.

Before Somalia imploded in the 90s and descended into a near anarchic state, the capital enjoyed a tourist boom; the Mogadishu boulevards loaded with ever-luxurious hotels, all playing host to the country’s best and most popular groups. Mogadisco however, selects previously dormant and forgotten recordings from the city’s top broadcaster, Radio Mogadishu. Filed away under ‘mainly instrumental and strange music’, an assortment of discarded jingles, background music, interludes, TV show tunes and theatre numbers now finally see daylight on an eye-opening collection of exotic funk-fried shufflers and sashaying Afro-Caribbean swoons.

Notable mentions should go to the Iftin Band for their Ethno-jazz dreamy shimmer ‘Ii Ouy Aniga’, both the Bakaka Band’s uptown rankin’ slinky ‘Gobonimada Jira’ – think the Lijadu Sisters meet Althea & Donna – and their swimmingly spy-thriller like transformation of a warrior’s song, the tropical Highlife tingle ‘Geesiyada Halgamayow’, and the southern ‘Orleans flavoured raunchy disco turn, ‘Baayo’, by Mukhtar Ramadan Iidi – a slicker 80s Arthur Conley if you will.

As always, the usual due diligence and insights into each and every artist/band and label on this latest brilliant compilation are chronicled in the accompanying booklet; a purview of Somalia’s musical legacy set within a tumultuous historical setting. Analog Africa are the first label to actually set foot in the country in years; the capital especially immortalized for a generation or more as one of the most dangerous places on Earth, synonymous for fractions-at-war and pirates. Progress has been made in recent years, hence Samy gaining permission to visit, albeit under heavy protection. For once though, here’s a celebration of the country’s music; a fit and proper essential joyful showcase of disco and funk inspired dynamism.






Shanghai Restoration Project ‘Flashbacks In A Crystal Ball’

(Undercover Culture Music) LP/ 8th November 2019



If brooding synth poets Japan had taken more stimulating drugs and been dragged onto the dancefloor they may very well have sounded a little like this colourful arpeggiator-cascading duo, the Shanghai Restoration Project. Though based in Brooklyn, the electro-symphonic duo transport the listener to an exotic Orient and beyond on a magical, ruminating flight of fantasy.

As the name suggests, on previous recordings the former Bad Boy label songwriter and producer Dave Laing and his foil Sun Yunfan have transduced the jazz and showtime music of a pre-WWII Shanghai; aligning it with, and filtering it through, nuanced electro pop, techno and hip-hop. The results of which have furnished a myriad of adverts, soundtracks, and even the Beijing Olympics.

SRP’s latest neon-lit dreamy dance album is framed as a reaction to “the increasingly fragmented and mindless soundbite culture we live in”. Softening the edges and lightening the tensions, the crystal ball flashbacks on this serene trip err towards elegance and the sophisticated rippling tactile.

This is a landscape of chopstick percussion, pagoda shaded water gardens, undulating marimba vibes, vocoder chanson, mirage-y waveforms, classical Chinese instrumentation and biplane rotor drones. Futuristically motoring and bobbing along, there are shades of Air, Moroder, Mark Ronson, Cuushe and Cornelius on a cosmic soundtrack of avant-garde Tango dalliances, retro-fit rapping R&B, 2-Step jazz, super-charged Tron video arcades and sweetened elegies.

Flashbacks In A Crystal Ball is a pliable dance album full of bright and magical lilted brilliance and fun; slow building dance music of the highest and smartest caliber.



Boa Morte ‘Before There Was Air’
(Gare du Nord) LP/ 29th November 2019


The understated majestic swells of the Irish band Boa Morte don’t come easy, or arrive regularly. Only the band’s third album proper in twenty years, the misty expansive mini-opuses found on the long awaited Before There Was Air are like gentle but deeply resonating ripples from a distant timeless shore.

Slow, methodical, every second of these air-y hushed suites moves at a stately pace: in no hurry to arrive, with many of the beautifully purposeful songs disappearing into the ether, out of earshot but somewhere carrying on forever.

Signing to Ian button’s one-man cottage industry Gare du Nord label this year, the Cork dreamers’ first complete work in nigh on a decade is worth the wait. Maturing in all that time, the peaceable sagacious results are augmented with subtle synthesized tones and stirring ambient atmospherics; building vague landscapes of longing; a constant ebbing tide lapping on the cerebral.

This is a classy magical music that doesn’t make allowances: the equivalent of slow food culture.

Elegantly unfurled, the burnished and brushed soundtrack moves between entrancing folk and the classical, between the choral and yearned. Songs such as the tenderly rendered ‘Cans’ evoke a more soulful Mogwai and, musically, Robert Wyatt, whilst the pastoral dainty ‘The Garden’ transports the listener to an Elizabethan Hampden Court. The pinning guitar-voiced ‘Sea Creatures’ has an air of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks score.

Lonely pianos, romantic prose, shimmered cymbals and sighed strings reverberate on metaphorical nautical terms of lovelorn detachment and the dangers of an emotional landslide. A finely crafted sweeping album Before There Was Air exudes a timeless quality; one that by all accounts has been well worth the wait.





The Fox ‘For Fox Sake’
Lucifer Was ‘Underground And Beyond’
(Sommer/ Guerssen) LP/ 13th November 2019




Churning out untold forgotten and cult missives and classics alike, the Guerssen umbrella of reissue imprints knocks out albums and compilations at a fair old rate. It’s often easy to miss the odd trio of same date releases from this hub of specialist labels: such is the turnover. One strand of this operation in digging up everything from 80s Spanish political underground cassette tape culture to 70s Turkish kitsch pop, is the 60s/70s garage band, psych, prog and heavy rock leaning Sommor, who retrieve and facilitate first-time vinyl reissues of albums by the blue-eyed soulful psych outfit The Fox and proto-metal theatrical troupe Lucifer Was.

The former of these has been a much sought-after album from a band of also-rans who’s sound harks back to the fag-end of the Mod boom; when beat group combos graduated to more psychedelic and progressive, heavier heights. Recorded a couple years after inception in the Mod haven of Brighton, The Fox released their debut and only LP proper, For Fox Sake, on the cusp of a new and changing decade. Though not entirely past-the-sell-by-date and removed from those shifts, the able-enough group could have been contenders (to a point).

With a dazzle of classical psych-baroque and faux-gospel church organ ala Procol Harum, softened fuzz guitar and swooning soulful vocals this fleeting South Coast combo recorded some glorious, if redolent, halcyon pop paeans and psychedelic shakers. Trouble is, Love Sculpture, Spooky Tooth, The Moody Blues, The Gods, Marmalade, Bread and Chris Farlowe had pretty much already covered this ground already rather well. Outside of those influences The Fox played with a Get Back/White Album honky-tonk McCartney (‘Goodtime Music’), Bacharach (‘As She Walks By’) and the Jimi Hendrix Experience (in fairground waltzing mode on ‘Madame Magical’).

Notable for supporting the Orpheus imbued Herd and opening for a burgeoning Bowie, The Fox’s brief fandango came to an end a year later; the only fruits of their labour being this album and a single. Still, in certain collectors’ circles this is a cult classic. For Fox Sake has its endearing charms and a couple of fuzz-thrilled love potion hits to make it worth the entry price.





A far heavier, and just as rare, prospect is the album-that-never-was from the Nordic psych-metal marauders Lucifer Was. Despite that satanic moniker (the group wore a number of macabre cloaks, such as Empty Coffin/Autumn Serenade and Erza West, before sticking with the daemonic Lucifer Was) the group’s debut dramatic opus is influenced as much by the flighty flute-playing prog of Jethro Tull as by the scuzzed leaden menace of Black Sabbath.

The first incarnation formed in Oslo in 1969 and lasted until ’75. Though they built a reputation and fanbase on the strength of their performances, this bewitched coven never actually recorded an album in that entire period. Songs were written and played live, yet lay dormant until more than two decades later, when a middle-aged version of the band picked-up from where they left off, entering a studio and finally recording that debut showcase. And so with music from another age now propelled into the late 90s, Underground And Beyond is a strange missive of fighting fantasy Tolkienism and River Styx schlock dark arts preening – all brooding romantic warrior troubadour, yearning for his muse whilst skulking by mythological waterways.

If you dig your Edgar Allen Poe, baroque metal, fairytale tangos and doomed tormented love lost suites then get a load of this. Josefus, Steppenwolf, Deep Purple and Ipsissimus hatched by proto-metal Vikings: what’s not to love?!

An album no one asked for, but buy it anyway.





Origami Repetika ‘Night Of The Jaguar’
EP




None the wiser after receiving the second CD of maverick chiming psychedelic pop from Adam Sigmund (otherwise known as Origami Repetika), I’m going blind with this recommendation. With scant information at hand, Sigmund’s drifty hallucinating-like music can be summed up as a stained glass lo fi union of Brian Wilson and Gary Wilson.

Following on from a recent radiant and glorious album, Singing Gulls, the four-track Night Of The Jaguar EP offers something slightly more dreamy and moody. Named not in homage to any literary title, the Jaguar of the title refers to the iconic electric guitar; a birthday present that’s put to good experimental use over a quartet of mellow vibrato and gauze-y alternative melodramas.

Romantic driftwood at its most idiosyncratic; a diy Beach Boys if they signed to Anticon; there’s a certain oddness lyrically. The naivety of the melting candy maudlin ‘Meet Me At The Peppermint’ belies a slight whimsical jar in its finale wafts: “It’s the way you smile, before you lost your teeth”.

This is cozy surf-psych pop and lo fi ambition at its finest. Disarming yet attuned to the ways of the world. Seek out this maverick pop excellence immediately.



Rootea ‘Phobias’
LP




I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as a collective noun for phobias but the strung-out Russian prog-jazz and industrial post-punk band Rootea attempts a reification of thirteen such debilitating fears on this untethered freeform therapy session. An often caustic, sometimes haunted travail, Phobias moves in an unshapely form. The vaporous soundtrack even threatens to drift off and escape from its performers: both riled and wafting into the ether, or down ambiguous passages and the dark recesses of the mind.

Emanating from east of the Urals, from Russia’s “third” city of Yekaterinburg (or Ekaterinburg), Rootea might very well be tapping into not only this Tsarina-christened (named in honour of the first Catherine, Tsar Peter The Great’s wife) city’s historical vantage but its more troubled psychodramas too. This is after all the fatal site of the Romanovs’ horrific, and botched, execution.

Anguish, paranoia, fear but also dream-like slumbers are triggered across a spectrum of air-y pondered phobias; from ‘Autophobia’ (that’s a fear of being alone or lonely) to the oddest, ‘Hellophobia’ (fear of Greeks; perhaps a hangover of that old adage, beware of Greeks bearing gifts). Thirteen tracks long, with a finale of post-industrial withering in its name, sufferers of ‘Triskaidekaphobia’ may want to avoid this album. But for the rest of us, this record (if over long) is a wrangling, caustic hallucinating avant-garde therapy session of apparitional narrators, strangulated guitars, sonorous trickles, Gothic throbs, gangly buzzing resonance and hi-pitched pecked saxophone. Permutations of dank lo-fi, Einstürzende Neubauten, A Happy Kitchen Is A Clean Kitchen, Faust, Cabaret Voltaire and 39 Clocks revolve like a languid carousel.

Untied to a particular location or time, Rootea amorphously linger in both the cerebral and visceral as they transcribe the untranscribable on an ambitious work. A difficult, often overlong, experience Phobias should be prescribed in small doses.





Elizabeth Joan Kelly ‘Farwell, Doomed Planet!’
LP/ 25th October 2019




Into the great expanse of a universe as ominous as it is magically mysterious, New Orleans-based composer Elizabeth Joan Kelly ventures far on her latest electronic suite. From the enormity of space the Cassandra of imperiled doom gazes back at Earth from advantageous lofty heights: a siren voice of lyrically cryptic lament and woe, strung-out aboard some sort of Kubrickian mission to gather research.

Equally deft at composing contemporary symphonies as she is Warp label imbued kinetic and industrial electronica, Kelly coos and soundscapes a lamentable vision of the apocalypse that combines aria-like space operatics with tubular metallic breakdowns, stirring ambient swells and darker twists of contorting nuanced sonics. Kelly even transduces the afflatus classical hymnal music of Bach on the swooned and serene ‘Trinity Quadrant Cantata’.

From pollution on land and in the seas to inner existential angst, the protagonist cosmonaut at the centre of this bleak analysis mourns amongst heavenly bodies in the celestial.

An album of both impending doom, yet filled with wondrous pulchritude, Farwell is a haunting enough score with evident supernatural atmospherics on tracks such as the reversal ethereal elegy ‘Harm’ – echoes of a spooked Broadcast and Quimper – and the ghostly nuclear landscape desolation ‘Exclusion Zone Earth (Or, All Hail Chernobyl Wolves)’.

Present vocally on a majority of the album’s tracks, Kelly’s voice is often veiled and gauze-y: so much so that you can barely hear a trace of it. Even in full song that voice is obscured; sounding like either a spirit from beyond the ether or, a distant broadcast from deepest space and time.

Cinematic in places, setting an astral mirage of dreamy and bestial proportions, Farewell is a beautifully scary drama that evokes touches of Bowie, Tangerine Dream, Bernard Szajner, Diva Dompe, Moroder and Vangelis. Kelly does wonderful things amongst the stars; the apocalypse has seldom sounded so celestially operatic and electronically choral.





Album Reviews
Words: Dominic Valvona
Photo Credit: Aziza Brahim taken by Ana Valiño






This week’s recommendations and reviews (for the most part) share a musical hunger for the polygenesis; combining and merging a cornucopia of international sounds and cultures to spread a message of universal suffrage. A case in point, the ever-evolving North-of-England assemblage of migrants and refugees, Rafiki Jazz feature voices and musicians from all over the globe: from Arabia to India. Their fourth and upcoming captivating album, Saraba Sufiyana, is featured in this roundup. Channeling a mystical Maghreb, the French trio of Karkara goes heavy and transcendent on their new acid-doom-rock epic, Crystal Gazer. The Belgium outfit Compro Oro manages to circumnavigate a myriad of international destinations without leaving the suburbs of their native home on the new dance jazz LP Suburban Exotica, and UK producer Dan Harper, under the Invisible System title, once more transforms the traditional and courtly music of Mali, on the new album Dance To The Full Moon. Closer to European shores, Xylouris White, the Hellenic framed project of Dirty Three drummer Jim White and Greek lute player Giorgos Xylouris, release a fourth installment of their Cretan soundscapes, The Sisypheans.

Leading the charge this week though is the encapsulating soulful Aziza Brahim with her upcoming new album, Sahari. Born in the hardened landscape of a Saharawi refugee camp on the border of Algeria and the Western Sahara, the beguiled vocalist now lives in a state of exile in Spain. Her latest album continues to draw attention to not only that plight but also that of all refugees on an album that tries some a little bit different musically.

Something a little different, and away from this general thread of global initiatives, Belgium composer Alex Stordiau releases his inaugural album of Kosmische imbued neo-classical visions, Poking Your Imagination, for Pure Spark Records.

Preview/Feature




Aziza Brahim ‘Sahari’
(Glitterbeat Records) Album/ 15th November 2019


Bringing the message of the displaced Saharawi people to the world stage, Western Saharan musician/activist Aziza Brahim follows up both her critically rewarded 2014 album Soutak, and the no less brilliant 2016 serene protest of poetic defiance Abbar el Hamada album with her third for Glitterbeat Records, Sahari.

Born in the hardened landscape of a Saharawi refugee camp on the border of Algeria and the Western Sahara, beguiled vocalist Aziza embodies the wandering spirit of her people; their settled, though often borderless and disputed lands, previously claimed by Spain, were invaded in 1975 by Morocco. Though made up of many tribes with many different goals the Saharawi people mounted a fight back. It was in this climate that Brahim was hewed. Exiled in effect, her travails have extended to Cuba, where she was educated as a teenager, and Barcelona, where she now resides and makes music.

Imbued as ever with the desert soul of that disputed region, the latest record, with its visual metaphor of optimism in even the most desperate of backdrops and times – dreams of growing up to be a ballerina proving universal – attempts to marry the beautifully longing and heartache yearns of Brahim’s voice to a number of different styles and rhythms: A subtle change towards the experimental.

Previous encounters have channeled the poetic roots of that heritage and merged it with both Arabian Spain and the lilted buoyancy of the Balearics. Working with the Spanish artist Amparo Sánchez of the band Amparanoia, Brahim has chosen to add a congruous subtle bed of synthesized effects to the recording process: before performing live in the studio, but now recording in various places, the results collected together and pieced together in post-production. This methodology and sound furnishes Brahim’s longing traditional voice with certain freshness and, sometimes, shuffled energy. Songs such as the loose and free ‘Hada Jil’ lay a two-step dance beat underneath a desert song drift. Later on there are dub-y rim-shot echoes and undulating waves of atmospheric tonal synthesizer underpinning that blues-y startling timbre. However, the most surprising fusions to be found on Sahari are the Compass Point reggae-gait ‘Las Huellas’ and the Arabian soul channeling Fado ‘Lmanfra’. There’s even room for a piano on the balladry ‘Ardel el Hub’; a song that plaintively conveys the “impossibility of returning home”, a sentiment the activist Brahim is only too familiar with – denied entry or the right of return, effectively in exile.

The sound of the Sahrawi is never far off, despite the technological upgrade. That most traditional of handed-down instruments, the “tabal drum”, can be heard guiding the rhythm throughout; rattling away and tapping out a beat that changes from the threadbare to the clattering. Brahim’s vocals are as ever effortlessly enriching, captivating and trilling. I dare say even veracious.

Articulating a broader message of global suffrage, Brahim once more encapsulates the sorrows of the exiled and stateless on a sumptuous album, The wanderer and Saharan siren invites new dynamics without changing the intrinsic character and message of her craft, yet ventures beyond those roots to embrace bold new sounds. A most fantastic, poetic songbook that will further cement Brahim’s deserved reputation as one of the deserts most serene artists.






Reviews

Compro Oro ‘Suburban Exotica’
(Sdban Ultra) Album/ 18th October 2019





Illuminating Belgium suburbia with a cornucopia of entrancing and limbering sounds and rhythms from across the world, Compro Oro transport the listener to imaginative vistas on their latest album of jazz imbued exotics. Making waves as part of a loose jazzy Benelux scene, the troupe have even managed to rope in the help of Ry Cooder’s accomplished scion, the multi-instrumentalist talent Joachim Cooder, who adds an “effects-laden” mbira and percussion to a trio of imaginative tracks.

Like their comrades on that scene, Black Flower, the Compro sail into various melting-pot rich harbors, soaking up the atmosphere and embracing what they found, weaving the multilingual sounds into a vibrant soundtrack of tropical new wave pop, dance music, alt rock ‘n’ roll, Turkish-psych and Ethno-jazz fantasy. Cal Tjader, Mulatu Astatke and Marc Ribot are all cited as inspirations, their indelible mark suffused throughout this LP. Add to that trio a strange interpretation of Herbie Hancock (on the Somalia ease-up ‘Mogadishu’; imagine the Dur-Dur Band floating on a kooky jazz cloud above the tumultuous city), Soulwax (on the palm tree Latin dance funk ‘Miami New Wave’) and a rewired Modern Jazz Quartet (that will be the often twinkly and trickling use of vibraphone, but also the marimba too). The curtain call thriller ‘Kruidvat’ even evokes the darker stirrings of later period Can, and the wafting ambiguous snuffles of Jon Hassell.

For the most part dreamy and under a gauze-y veil, Suburban Exotica sashays and drifts across a musical landscape of Arabia, Anatolia, Eastern Africa, The Caribbean and Hispaniola without setting foot outside of their Belgium front door. The more you listen the more you discover and get out of this brilliant dance album of borderless jazz. What a treat to the ears and feet.





Invisible System ‘Dance To The Full Moon’
(ARC Music) Album/ 25th October 2019





An apt hand in transforming the traditional sounds of Mali, the British producer Dan Harper’s experiment in this field stretches back two decades; set in motion by the rudimental laptop-produced Acid Mali project he created whilst working as a Capacity Builder for a local Malian environmental NGO. So taken was Harper with the country, he ended up not only meeting his future wife there but setting up home and a studio in the capital, Bamako. His wife, Hawa, would introduce Dan to childhood friend and renowned guitarist Bandjougou, who in turn would bring in tow the dusty soulful rich vocalist Sambou koyaté to sing for him. Both artists appear on this new album alongside the griot siren Astou Niamé Diabaté, who as it turns out sang at Dan and Hawa’s wedding.

Taken from the same recording sessions as Dan’s previous album, Bamako Sessions, his latest transportive exploration under the nom de plume of Invisible System, once more lends an electrified and synthesized pulse to the spiritual soul of Malian music. Originally put together in a more languorous fashion with a variety of musicians coming and going, jamming in a mattress proofed room in a rented house in the capital, Dance To The Full Moon took shape at the end of a tumultuous and violent period in Mali’s history. Experiencing firsthand (literally on Dan’s own doorstep) the terrorist attacks that followed in the wake of a, finally curtailed, Islamist insurrection and the ongoing war between Mali’s government in the West and the Tuaregs of the North and Eastern desert borders, fighting to set-up an autonomous region, known as the Azawad. Though a certain stability has returned in part to Mali, attacks still occur sporadically; the effects of which permeate throughout the work of the country’s artists, the majority offering a conciliatory tone with the emphasis on unity and understanding. With that in mind, Dan’s album is rich with passionate expressive longing and intensity; the varied juxtapositions of the griot tradition and less rural, more urban vocals combine to deliver some startling performances.

The gently resonate accents and fanned waft of the Malian guitarist’s Kalifa Koné and Sidi Touré accentuate the brilliant vocal parts; a gathering of powerful griot acolytes, singers and even a rapper (Mali rap star Penzy) that includes the already mentioned trio of Bandjougou, Koyaté and Diabaté spiral between the sweetened and intense, the hymnal and physical. Dan boosts and filters those strong performances with a production of techno, modern R&B, dub and futuristic post-punk that sonically weaves in echoes of Massive Attack, Daniel Lanois, King Ayisoba and Dennis Bovell.

Nothing can ever truly improve upon the roots and soul of the traditional courtly music of Mali, its desert blues and Bamako rock of course, but you can push it into exciting directions. Dan’s rewired buzz and pulse does just that, giving a kick and lending an attuned production to the Mali soundscape.



Alex Stordiau ‘Poking Your Imagination’
(Pure Spark) Album/ 30th September 2019





Enticing former label mates from Edinburgh’s Bearsuit Records to his burgeoning venture Pure Spark, Tokyo electronic wizkid Ippu Mitsui welcomes the Brussels based composer Alex Stordiau to the ranks. Featuring alongside House Of Tapes Yuuya Kuno, Stordiau also previously appeared on the Mid Lothian Bearsuit roster – mentioned on this very blog for his standout Vangelis-style voyager waltz into the cosmos ‘Fulfilling Eclipse’, from the label’s The Invisible And Divided Sea compilation.

Like a missing neoclassical Kosmische suite from the Sky Records vault, Stordiau’s inaugural album for Mitsui’s imprint is a serene, though often dramatically stirring, exercise in sculpting retro-electronic soundtracks.

With a classical background, studying at various Belgium conservators, Stordiau combines elements of cascading, romantically accentuated piano and suffused strings with synthesized and computer programmed sine waves, glassy tubular glistened percussion and vaporous sweeps.

The Belgium visionary often works with Bristol musician Lee Williams, who plays, among other things, both electric guitar and bass, and sometimes drums. It sounds as if Williams is present once more, on hand with warm ponderous bass and the odd bit of wilder kooky lead guitar.

Track titles on Poking Your Imagination only go so far in describing each composition’s route on an album of undulating mood pieces. The opening descriptive ‘In The Tepid Shine’ is pure escapist air-bending; crafting vague echoes of Jean Michel Jarre with Roedelius’ more beautifully spherical elevations. Most of these tracks waver over the course of duration; changing or pausing between parts, starting off like the Blade Runner neon skyline lighted ‘Tree Healing’ with a darker, theatrical classical grandeur but suddenly joined by drums and a touch of Vangelis sci-fi. Elsewhere you’re bound to identify the space peril looming shadow of Tangerine Dream and the more popcorn kookiness of Cluster amongst the Baroque cathedral and gravity arcing visions.

A panoramic, mostly cosmic soundtrack of classical Kosmische and humanized electronica, Poking Your Imagination is an assiduous suite of the mysterious, scientific and dreamy.





The Mining Co. ‘Frontier’
Album/ 25th October 2019





Not that you can detect it from his lilted peaceable, if hearty, Americana burr, or the Western-alluded nom de plume that he goes under, but singer/songwriter Michael Gallagher was born in Ireland. Obvious now you’ve read his actual name I know, but just sound wise, it is difficult to hear that Irish bent. In a similar vein to such luminaries as Simon Bonney, the County Donegal troubadour subtly channels a timeless vision of the lyrical, pioneering old West (and South for that matter) on his new LP, Frontier.

Via a Nashville, Texas and New Mexico panorama, Gallagher tailors personal anxieties of disconnection, dislocation and growing pains with familiar old tropes on a songbook of “hangdog” country fare. A romantic album at that, with shades of a pining Josh T. Pearson, The Thrills, Lee Hazlewood, Tom Petty and the Eels, Frontier showcases the artist’s most tender swoons and yearnings. This is a soundtrack of purposeful blues, skiffles and mellow gospel, all softly laced with a subtle echo of Mariachi horns and tremolo twang.

Various memories of a childhood back in Ireland (the night Elvis died sounding a special resonance on the lilted lap-steel rich ‘The Promised Line’) and phobias (a rational fear in my book of flying inspiring the country-prayer ‘Empty Row’) are transported to wistfully articulate American musical settings; a landscape and sound it seems Gallagher belongs.

The third such album from his The Mining Co. alter ego, Frontier is full of romantic intent and stirring candid cathartic heartache; a shuffling songbook handled with care and tenderness that will unfurl its charms over time.




Xylouris White ‘The Sisypheans’
(Drag City) Album/ 8th November 2019





Less a Greek tragedy, more a kind of acceptance of one’s fate (or, play the hand you’re dealt and make the best of it), the Hellenic inspired collaboration project of Giorgos Xylouris and Jim White take their lead on the purgatory fate of boulder carrier Sisyphean from Albert Camus: to a point.

The absurdist doyen once wrote a famous tract on that Greek fella’s predicament: Punished by Zeus to roll a large boulder up a mountainside in Hades, each time he reached the top the boulder would roll right back down to the start. And so the process began all over again: An endless, thankless trudge and metaphor for all the all too real daily grind of life outside the mythological imagination. Or so you’d think. Camus however saw it not has a pointless waste of effort and slow punishing meaningless task but as a challenge: noble even. That Sisypheans’ repeated burden should be seen as an achievement, that the struggle should be enough to “fill a man’s heart”. Sisyphean has accepted his it and so should you, or, words and sentiment to that effect.

Of course, even deeper contentions can be found in Camus’ essay; how our tragic figure confined to a limited limbo landscape created in his mind a whole universe from it. Xylouris and White themselves pondered how he might experiment with carrying that burdensome rock; alternating hands, carrying behind his back and so on. Essentially though, this is about experiencing, seeing and discovering anew each day with a concentrated mind the things you take for granted: especially your surroundings. The duo initially turn to the atavistic in conveying these ideas and sentiments; using the suffused blown stirrings of the Greek flute (Aulos) and vibrato resonating spindly fanning tones of the laouto (a long-necked fretted scion of the lute family). In addition to these two lead instruments, the scene is set with shrouded misty and soulfully yearned voices, Giorgos’ son Nick on cello and on the serialism waning moodscape second track a ‘Goat Hair Bowed’ instrument. And so a sweeping, mournful at times, traverse that takes in dancing Grecian figures, wedding celebrations, bewailed lament and travels to the furthest reaches of the Greek borders: sailing at one point into the tumultuous mysterious vision of the much-disputed and fought over ‘Black Sea’.

However, the both taught and freeform, skittish experimental percussion and breaks of Dirty Three drummer White adds another dimension to the rootsy and earthy feel. Always tactile and congruous, White lifts or underpins certain tracks with avant-garde taps, clutters, rim rattles and jazzy frills and crescendos. A touch of progressive jazz, even Krautrock, that sends this project into more contemporary climes.

Between the chthonian and ethereal, the philosophical and viscerally dreamy, The Sisypheans minor epic is an extraordinary musical peregrination worth exploring: Music for the cerebral and the senses.




Rafiki Jazz  ‘Saraba Sufiyana’
(Konimusic) Album/ October 2019





It’s no idle boast to suggest that the North of England based Rafiki Jazz could be one of the most diverse groups on the world stage. Testament of this can be heard on the troupe’s previous trio of polygenesis albums: an untethered sound that simultaneously evokes Arabia, the Indian Subcontinent, Northern African, the Caribbean, South America and Balkans.

With representatives from nearly every continent, many of which have escaped from their homelands to find sanctuary in the UK, Rafiki Jazz is an ever-evolving ensemble of migrants and refugees alike coming together to produce sweeping divine borderless music.

Their latest visionary songbook is a filmic panoramic beauty, no less worldly and stirring. The opening diaphanous spun ‘Su Jamfata’ encapsulates that perfectly; mirroring the group’s musical freedom and spiritual connection; lilting between a myriad of regions with stunning vocals that evoke both Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The following floaty and ethereal well-of-sorrows ‘Azadi’ even features a Celtic and folksy air (one that is repeated later on). This is in part due of course to the guest performances of both the English fiddle extraordinaire and songwriter Nancy Kerr and traditional Gaelic singer Kaitlin Ross. A third vocal addition, Juan Gabriel, can be heard lending a guttural throated underbelly to an already eclectic chorus of singers.

Buoyant tablas and spindled kora sit in perfect harmony with Arabian oud, tropical steel drums, the Brazilian berimbau and the varied voices of Sufi, Hebrew, Hindu, Egyptian-Coptic and Islamic, without ever feeling crowded or strained.

Saraba Sufiyana translates as “mystic utopia”, a title that epitomizes the group’s curiosity and respect for other culture as they build a brave new sonic world of possibility. One that takes in all the dramas and woes of the current international crisis and the lamenting poetry of venerable hardship – the final quartet cycle of prayer and spiritual yearning, ‘My Heart My Home’, beautifully conveys a multitude of gospel and traditional religious plaint, ending on the stirring Hebrew field song ‘Shedemati’. Twenty years in and still improving on that global remit, Rafiki Jazz delivers a magical and rich fourth LP. Devotional music at its most captivating and entrancing.



Karkara ‘Crystal Gazer’
(Stolen Body Records) Album/ 25th October 2019





There’s a hell of a lot wind blowing throughout the mystical and spiritually Toulouse trio of Karkara’s Crystal Gazer epic. North African wind that is; the exotic charms and mystery of the Maghreb on a swirling breeze, flows through and introduces each incantation heavy communal transcendence.

The mirage-shimmery title-track vignette even features a sirocco echo of ghostly enervated Tuareg desert guitars, whilst the electrified speed freak ‘Zarathoustra’ doesn’t just allude to Nietzsche’s infamous Thus Spoke but astrally heads back to the founding father of that mystical Persian faith via an eastern Link Wray and Gothic soup of Krautrock jazz and acid rock.

The counter flow breathes of another desert also permeate this LP, the sound of a veiled didgeridoo constantly present in building atmosphere and mysticism. Loud and physical, though not without some sensitivity, the trio chant, howl and pray their way through a vortex of flange and fuzz as they soar over a fantastical landscape that takes in the southern constellation star of “proxima centauri” and the gates of the Tunisian Medina, ‘Jedid’.

Allusions to seers, mystics and Gothic romantics abound, whilst the musical inspirations fluctuate between heavy space rock (Hawkwind) and Krautrock (Xhol Caravan, Embryo), post-punk (Killing Joke) and baggy (Stone Roses on a bum ride), and spooked, sleazy rock’ n ’roll (Alan Vega).

Transcended Tangier trips, Karkara aren’t exactly the first group to occupy this space, but they do it with volume and dreamy élan.




Posts 2021/2022

October 1, 2021

All the posts from this year and the last.

JANUARY 2022

Our Daily Bread 485: Omega Institute ‘Panic Mount’ (Graham Domain)

Monolith Cocktail Social #62: Fake Fruit, Large Plants, Jeff Parker, Family Portrait… (Dominic Valvona)

ODB 486: Labelle ‘Eclat‘ (DV)

ODB 487: The NoMen, The Jazz Butcher, Salem Trials, Colonial Skyline… (Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea)

The Perusal #24: Spaceface, Mainstream Funk, Roedelius & Story, Cephas Teom… (DV)

ODB 488: Acid Mother Reynols ‘Volume 2’ (DV)

Kalporz X Monolith Cocktail: Interview With Rival Consoles (Paolo Bardelli)

ODB 489: Trupa Trupa ‘B Flat A’ (DV)

Monthly Choice Music Playlist: Binker & Moses, RULES, Selci, Nelson Dialect & Mr Slipz… (Team)

FEBRUARY

ODB 490: Silverbacks ‘Archive Material’ (GD)

ODB 491: Provincials ‘Heaven Protect Us’ (DV)

ODB 492: Mermaid Avenue, Armstrong, Pulco, Ghosts Of Torrez… (BBS)

The Perusal #25: Ilmiliekki Quartet, Daisy Glaze, Wovenhand, T.E. Yates… (DV)

Monolith Cocktail Social #63: BDP, Bad Brains, Lata Mangeshkar, Ronnie Spector… (DV)

ODB 493: Brian Bordello ‘Cardboard Box Beatles’ (DV)

ODB 494: Marsiglia Records Special (GD)

ODB 495: Dubbledge & Forest DLG ‘Ten Toes Down’ (Matt Oliver)

ODB 496: Future Kult ‘S-T’ (DV)

ODB 497: The White Russian, Goa Express, Red Pants, Legless Trials… (BBS)

ODB 498: Carl Schilde ‘Europop’ (GD)

Premiere (Video): Ben Osborn ‘Are We The Flood?’ (DV)

The Perusal #26: Jane Inc., Nova Charm, Širom, Houseplants… (DV)

Monthly Choice Music Playlist: Animal Collective, Lucidvox, Your Old Droog, Gabrielle Ornate… (Team)

MARCH

Kalporz X MC: Big Thief ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’ (SAMUELE CONFICONI)

ODB 499: Simon Grab And Francesco Giudici ‘[No] Surrender’ (Graham Domain)

MC Social Playlist #64: National Choir Of The Ukraine, Your Old Droog, Oleska Suyhodolyak, Faust… (DV)

ODB 500: John Howard ‘LOOK! The Unknown Story Of Danielle Du Bois’ (DV)

ODB 501: Sweeney ‘Stay For the Sorrow’ (GD)

The Perusal #27: El Khat Aalbat Alawi Op. 99’, Tone Of Voice Orchestra ‘S-T’, Kristine Leschper ‘The Opening Or Closing Of A Door’, The Lancashire Hustlers ‘Big Ask’, Koma Saxo w/ Sofia Jernberg ‘Koma West’, Kick ‘Light Figures’, Pjusk ‘Sentrifuge’, Anthéne & Simon McCorry ‘Mind Of Winter’, Various ‘I Won’t Give Up’, Escupemetralla ‘Maldacena Duality’, Solidarity ‘Blue And Yellow’ & “Yellow And Blue’, The Post-Everything Collective & Friends Present: ‘Ukrainian Relief Compilation’, Various ‘Music For Ukraine’, Various Artists ‘Pacification’ (DV)

ODB 502: Papercuts ‘Lodger’, Adam Walton ‘Cloudburst EP’, Pit Pony ‘Black Tar’, Crows ‘Garden Of England’, The Monochrome Set ‘Allhallowtide’, Shelterheart ‘Shelterheart’, Chlorinefields ‘Reclaim Your Brain’, Plastic Candles ‘Dust’ (BBS)

ODB 503: Bleak Soul ‘Shouting With Nothing To Say’ (DV)

Premiere: Mai Mai Mai Ft. Vera di Lecce ‘Fimmene Fimmene’ (DV)

ODB 504: Stepbrothers featuring The Honourable Ted ‘EP’ (GD)

The Perusal #28: Amine Mesnaoui & Labelle ‘African Prayers’, Nicolas Zullo ‘Credendoti Montagna’, Bart Davenport ‘Episodes’, Harry Christelis & Pedro Velasco ‘Scribbling’,
Yamash’ta & The Horizon ‘Sunrise From West Sea Live’, Ben Vida And Lea Bertucci ‘Murmurations’, Kumo ‘Three Tigers’, Adams, Dunn & Haas ‘Future Moons (DV)

Monthly Playlist: El Khat, Koma Saxo, Big Thief, Sweeney, ASSASSUN, Crows, Alice Dreamt, Terakaft… (TEAM)

ODB 505: Sis ‘Gnani’ (GD)


APRIL

ODB 506: David J ‘What the Patrons Heard’ (GD)

ODB 507: Violet Nox ‘Eris Wakes’ (DV)

K X MC: Celebrating The Legacy Of Pat Fish (Matteo Maioli)

ODB 508: Matt Donovan ‘Habit Formations’ (DV)

ODB 509: The Good Ones ‘Rwanda…You See Ghosts, I See Sky’. (DV)

Monolith Cocktail Social #65: Mira Calix, Taylor Hawkins, Big Star, Bruiser Wolf… (DV)

ODB 510: Papercuts ‘Palm Sunday’, Crystal Eyes ‘Like A Movie’, Otoboke Beaver ‘Pardon’, YOVA ‘Make It Better’, East Portal ‘Untitled #3’, Evan Kertman ‘Rancho Shalom’, The Legless Crabs ‘Always Your Boy’, Mercvrial ‘Brief Algorithms’ (BBS)

The Perusal #29: IFRIQIYYA ELECTRIQUE ‘Nafta Naghara’, Jane Inc. ‘Faster Than I Can Take’, Birds In The Brickwork ‘Recovery’, Kota Motomura ‘Pay It Forward’, OK:KO ‘Liesu’, Kloot Per W ‘Arbre A Filles’, Jörg Thomasius ‘Acht Gesänge der Schwarzen Hunde (Experimenteller Elektronik-Underground DDR 1989)’ , Qrauer ‘Heeded’, Astrel K ‘Flickering I’, Sinnen ‘Hawk Moth Man’. (DV)

Premiere: (Video) Mike Gale ‘I’m Really Gone’. (DV)

ODB 511: Anton Barbeau ‘Power Pop’. (GD)

ODB 512: Brainwaltzera ‘ITSAME’ (Mikey McDonald)

Premiere: (Track) Luke Mawdsley ‘Higher Plains Suffering’. (DV)

ODB 513: Lyrics Born ‘Mobile Homies Season 1’. (MO)

ODB 514: Roger Eno ‘The Turning Year’, Dana Gavanski ‘When It Comes’, Ignacio Simon ‘Old Friends’, Bambara  ‘Love On My Mind’. (GD)

Monthly Playlist Revue: Şatellites, África Negra, Lunar C, Circe… (TEAM)

MAY 2022

ODB 515: Pussy Riot And Slayyyter ‘Hate Fuck’, Boycalledcrow ‘Wizards Castle’, Amoeba Teen ‘S-T’
The Walker Brigade ‘If Only’, Bithammer ‘Minimum Style, Maximum Effort!’, Ralph Of London ‘Yellow Sky Highway’, Cryptic Commands ‘Long Distance Call’, Salem Trials ‘Love Joan Jett’ & ‘Vegaland’, Adam Walton ‘Afal’, Sophie Sleigh-Johnson  ‘Nuncio Ref!’ (BBS)

K X MC: [Scoutcloud] Leoni Leoni. (Monica Mazzoli)

The Perusal #30: Stephanie Santiago ‘Activa Tu Cuerpo’, Celestial North ‘When The Gods Dance’, Orryx ‘Ifera’, Black Mango ‘Quicksand’, Private Agenda ‘A Mannequin’, Saturno 2000: La Rebajada de Los Sonideros 1962 – 1983, Ethan Woods ‘Burnout’, Misha Sultan ‘Roots’, Gustavo Yashimura ‘Living Legend Of The Ayacucho Guitar’, Ghost Power ‘S-T’, Exterior ‘Umbilical Digital’,
The Staple Jr. Singers ‘When Do We Get Paid’. (DV)

ODB 516: SAULT ‘AIR’. (ACK)

ODB 517: Ali Murray ‘Wilderness of Life’. (GD)

ODB 518: Guillotine Crowns ‘Hills to Die On’. (MO)

The Social #66: Ornette Coleman, Stereolab, Sinead O Brien, Clap! Clap!, PENDANT, Modern Studies, Nathan Francis, Farhot and Rancho Relaxo. (DV)

The Perusal #31: The Master Musicians Of Jajouka ‘Dancing Under The Moon’, Avalanche Kaito ‘ST’, Jimi Tenor ‘Multiversum’, Lucrecia Dalt ‘The Seed’, Brigitte Beraha ‘Blink’, Various ‘Sharayet El Disco: Egyptian Disco & Boogie Cassettes 1982-1992’, Sebastian Reynolds ‘Athletics EP’, Flat Worms ‘Live in Los Angeles’, Francesco Lurgo ‘Sleep Together Folded Like Origami’ (DV)

ODB 519: Schizo Fun Addict ‘Fate Chaser’, bigflower ‘The Pill’, Borben Dallas & His Filipino Cupids ‘Too Convenient’, Martha and the Muffins ‘Save It For Later’, James Howard ‘Baloo’, Fast De ‘Miss Trutti Finally Found Her Gem’, Pineapple ‘Trials’, Linn ‘Happiness is Real’, Faust ‘Punkt’, Jelly Crystall ‘ILY’, Alas The Sun ‘Wild Honey Inn’, Black Monitor  ‘Snake Of My Heart’, Super Hit ‘Pocket Rock EP’, Spiral Of Silence ‘Landmark’ (BBS)

The Monthly Playlist: Deca, Masai Bey, Ramson Badbonez, Vera Di Lecce… (DV)

JUNE 2022

ODB 520: Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita ‘Echo’. (DV)

ODB 521: Jacek Doroszenko ft. Ewa Doroszenko ‘Bodyfulness’. (ACK)

K X MC: (Essay) Bob Dylan. The Mask And The Songwriter. (Samuele Conficoni)

ODB 522: Cumgirl8 ‘Dumb Bitch’, Lucigenic ‘Joy’, Woog Riots ‘Beatnik’, Legless Trials ‘Dirt Bike/Failed Words’, Wolf Vanwymeersch ‘The Early Years’, Team Play ‘Wishes And Desires’, Spygenius ‘Jobbernowl’, Ghost Woman ‘Ghost Woman’, Rogers and Butler ‘Brighter Day’. (BBS)

Social Playlist #67: Julee Cruise, Cathal Coughlan, Party Dozen, Rachel Eckroth, Matthew Dear… (DV)

ODB 523: Vukovar ‘The Body Abdicator’. (DV)

The Perusal #32: Claude ‘Twenty Something’, La Chinaca ‘Juegos Malosos’, Gabrielle Ornate ‘Free Falling’, Tess Tyler (Ft. Barney Sage) ‘Sell The Sky’, The Paxton/Spangler Septet ‘Ugquozi’, Ghost Horse ‘Il Bene Comune’, Farmer ‘Things Do Things Without Thinking’, Omertà ‘Collection Particulière’, Xqui ‘Pieces Part 2’, The Mining Co. ‘Acoustic Phenomenology’, Loris Cericola ‘Metaphysical Graffiti’, Flying Moon In Space ‘Zwei’ (DV)

ODB 524: Angel Olsen  ‘Big Time’. (MM)

Monthly Playlist: Santigold, Taraka, Dungen, Pan Amsterdam & Damu The Fudgemunk, Bishop Nehru… (TEAM)

JULY 2022

ODB 525: Gillian Stone ‘Amends’, Hal Cannon  ‘Thirty-Six Miles’, The Legless Crabs ‘I Wanna Be A Cult Musician’, Beija Flo  ‘Waiting For The Sun’, A.D Luck ‘WORMWOOD’, The Doomed Bird of Providence  ‘A Flight Across Arnhem Land’, The Meltdown ‘Its A Long Road’, The Burning Hell ‘Garbage Island’. (BBS)

The Perusal #33: Various ‘Pierre Barouh And The Saravah Sound: Jazz, Samba And Other Hallucinatory Grooves’, Various ‘Spirit of France’, Nwando Ebizie ‘The Swan’, Healing Force Project ‘Drifted Entities (Vol. 1)’, Toni Tubna w/ the Stockholm Tuba Sect  ‘When The Magic Went Wrong’, Anelli Beauchamp Cauduro  ‘Sometimes Someone Watches’, The Dark Jazz Project ‘ST’, Delmore FX ‘Scompaio’, Runningonair ‘B.A.U.’ (DV)

ODB 526: Jill Richards/Kevin Volans  ‘Études’. (ACK)

ODB 527: The Difference Machine  ‘Unmasking The Spirit Fakers’. (MO)

MC Social #68:  Amon Düül II’, Curtis Mayfield, Wu-Lu, Horsegirl, Cities Aviv, Eerie Wanda, Basia Bulet… (DV)

ODB 528: Dreamworld Or: the fabulous life of Dan Treacy and his band The Television Personalities’ by Benjamin Berton. (Rick ACV)

ODB 529: Various ‘Live At WOMAD 1982’. (DV)

ODB 530: Aftab Darvishi  ‘A Thousand Butterflies’. (ACK)

ODB 531: Brona McVittie ‘The Woman in The Moon’ (Single), Panjoma ‘Sun and Moon’, Jose Medeles ‘Railroad, Cadences and Melancholic Anthems’, Hari Sima ‘Solo en Occidente’. (GD)

KXMC: (LIVE) Amyl And The Sniffers June 16 2022. (MM)

ODB 532: Catarina Barbieri ‘Spirit Exit’. (ACK)

Monthly Playlist: U.S. Girls, The Difference Machine, Archers Of Loaf, The Korea Town Oddity (Ft. Kahil Sadiq), BKO, Hatis Noit  (TEAM)

JANUARY 2021

Tribute: Temple Of (MF) Doom Playlist And Feature. (Dominic Valvona)

Our Daily Bread 416: Conny Frischauf ‘Die Drift’. (DV)

ODB 417: Verses Bang ‘The New Normal’. (DV)

ODB 418: University Challenged ‘Oh Temple!’. (DV)

Premiere: (Video) HESS ‘Substituer Un Traumatisme Imaginaire A Un Veritable Chagrin’. (DV)

Tickling Our Fancy 096: White Ring ‘Light Hours Linger’. Mazeppa ‘Roses’, Azmari ‘Samas’, Myles Cochran ‘Unsung’, Seb Reynolds ‘Nihilism Is Pointless’, RVDS ‘Moods & Dances 2021’, Anaximander Fragment ‘Wagon Down Horse’, SAD MAN ‘Music Of Dreams And Panic’. (DV)

ODB 419: Wedding Present ‘We Should Be Together’, Falcon Jane ‘Heaven’, bigflower ‘Medicine’, Black Twig ‘Devils Please Be Gone’, Cromwell ‘My Darkest Hour’, The Stan Laurels ‘There Is No Light Without The Dark’, Vapour Trails ‘Underneath Tomorrow’. (Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea)

Kalporz X Monolith Cocktail: Kalporz teams albums of 2020.

ODB 420: The Telescopes ‘Song Of Love And Revolution’. (DV)

ODB 421: Disco Zombies ‘South London Stinks’. (DV)

Prem: (Video) Balkan Taksim ‘Anadolka’. (DV)

Monthly Playlist: Melt Yourself Down, Madlib, Farhot, Paul McCartney, Jane Inc., Steve Swell… (Matt Oliver/DV/BBS)

FEBUARY

Kalporz X MC: IT. Alien Column Playlist. (Claudia Calabresi)

TOF 097: Altin Gun ‘Yol’, Lion’s Drum ‘Kagabas’, Meril Wubslin ‘Alors Quoi’, KYSE ‘Ayuno’, Chuck Johnson ‘The Cinder Grove’, Simon McCorry ‘Nature Is Nature’, Luke Brennan ‘The Rush To The Sky’. (DV)

ODB 422: Kipper Gillespie ‘No Sunshine’, Wedding Present ‘Locked Down And Stripped Back’, Fat Francis ‘Breakfasts For Losers’, The Legless Crabs ‘Onions’, Orphelia Bruuce ‘Psychodelia Vol.1’, LVDS ‘S/T’, Dolph Chaney ‘This Is Dolph Chaney’, Luke Russell ‘Upbeat Downbeat’, The Crushing Velvets ‘a Dream Without Colour’, Ocelot ‘Unelmoi‘. (BBS)

ODB 423: Mazeppa ‘S/T’. (DV)

Monolith Cocktail Social Playlist #52: Grazia, Slyvain Slyvain, Prince Lasha, Blade, Trees, Sven Wunder, Jody Grind… (DV)

ODB 424: Alesund ‘Lightning’, Hooveriii ‘Control’, Spam Javelin ‘Three Chords Of The Apocalyptic Cherry Fez…And Other Stories’, BOYA ‘Momentary Moments’, Seth Martin & The Dash Boys ‘The golden Book Of Favourite Songs’, Air Hunger ‘F-I-X-E-R’. (BBS)

ODB 425: White Ring ‘Show Me Heaven’. (DV)

TOF 098: The Invisible Sessions ‘Echoes Of Africa’, Don Cherry ‘Cherry Jam’, Omar Khorshid ‘With Love’, His Name Is Alive ‘Hope Is A Candle: Home Recordings Vol. 3’, Camera ‘Prousthuman’, Mapstation ‘My Frequencies, When We’, Julia Meijer ‘The Place Where You Are’, Obay Alsharani ‘Sandbox’. (DV)

ODB 426: Illman ‘Ugly Days’. (MO)

ODB 427: Anansy Cisse ‘Anoura’. (DV)

Monthly Playlist: Byard Lancaster, Samba Toure, Strange U, The Crushing Velvets, Dom La Nena… (DV/MO/BBS)

MARCH

ODB 428: Various ‘La Ola Interior: Spanish Ambient & Acid Exoticism 1983-1990‘. (DV)

Kalporz X MC: A Minor Place ‘It’ll End In Smile’. (Nicola Guerra)

ODB 429: Bloom De Wilde ‘Flying Carpenters’, New America ‘Hong Kong Free Pass’, Various ‘The Sound Of Northern Star’, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen ‘2 PCs Chicken – Live In Staines’, The Salem Trials ‘No Waving/File Under Concrete’, Armstrong ‘Beechwood Park’, Dare Above Nemo ‘Mimic EP’, Chris Church ‘Game Dirt’, Futurafter ‘Ep A’, Fatherfigures ‘Any Time Now…And High Time Too’. (BBS)

ODB 430: Witch Camp: I’ve Forgotten Now Who I Used To Be. (DV)

TOF 099: Jane Inc. ‘Number One’, Various ‘Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1’, Cory Hanson ‘Pale Horse Rider’, Ensemble Da Cadavres Exquis ‘The Warlock Tapes’, Mosquitoes ‘S/T’, Petrolio ‘Club Athletico’, Cementation Anxiety ‘In Continual’, Mecanica Clasica ‘Mar Interior’, Timo Lassy & Teppo Makynen ‘Live Recordings 2019-2020’. (DV)

ODB 431: Forest Robots ‘Amongst A landscape Of Spiritual Reckoning’. (DV)

MC Social #53: R.E.M., Amon Duul II, Poison Girls, Oblivians, Lejuan Love, Falle Nioke, Freur… (DV)

ODB 432: Rafiki Jazz ‘NDUGGU’. (DV)

ODB 433: Chinese American Bear ‘Dumpling’, Opus Kink ‘Wild Bill’, Abacaxi ‘Mainstream Desire’, Kaleidoscope/Fairfield Parlour ‘Sky Children’, Ex Norwegian And Friends ‘Sing Jimmy Campbell’, The Dials ‘And Another Thing…B sides and Asides’, Oliver Rocabois ‘Goes Too Far’. (BBS)

ODB 434: viA fAntAsticA ‘2 Any 1’. (DV)

ODB 435: Samba Toure ‘Binga’. (DV)

Kalporz X MC: Tim Cohen ‘You Are Still Here’. (NG)

Monthly Playlist: Floating Points & Pharaoh Sanders, Andrew Hung, Electric Jalaba, Chris Church… (DV/MO/BBS)

APRIL

TOF 100: Amanda Whiting ‘After Dark’, Der Plan ‘Save Your Software’, IOKOI ‘Tales Of another Felt Sense Of Self’, Conrad Schnitzler ‘Paracon’, Kirk Barley/Church Andrews ‘Parallels’, Violet Nox ‘Whispering Galaxy’, Federico Balduccli/Fourthousandblackbirds ‘Anta Odeli Uta’, Sone Institute ‘New Vermin Replace Old’, Matt Donovan ‘Underwater Swimming’. (DV)

ODB 436: The Flying Chaucers ‘Down The Creeps’, Joy Formidable ‘Into The Blue’, Vicky Gray ‘Atlaness’, James PM Philips ‘Bones’, Temple Garden Red ‘Shift’, The Armories ‘Incognito’, Nick Waterhouse ‘Promenade Blue’, Patto ‘And That’s Jazz: Live 1971-1973’, Ollie Halsall ‘Lovers Leaping’. (BBS)

MC Social Playlist #54: Erkin Koray, The Croissants, Gary Tucker, Demon Boyz, dogfeet... (DV)

ODB 437: Khalab & M’berra Ensemble ‘M’Berra’. (DV)

ODB 438: Various ‘Bongo Joe 5th Anniversary: Futur Anterieur’. (DV)

ODB 439: Occult Character ‘The Song Remains The Same’, BMX Bandits ‘Star Wars (30th anniversary)’, Salem Trials ‘Refuse To Die’, Toxic Chicken ‘Gamelan(d) 2’, Various ‘Big Stir Singles: The Ninth Waves’, The Forty Nineteens ‘The New Roaring Twenties’, Special Interest ‘Trust No Wave’, Mark E Moon ‘Old Blood’, Lark ‘The Last Woman’, Flowertown ‘S/T’. (BBS)

ODB 440: Vukovar ‘The Great Immurement’. (DV)

ODB 441: Polyphonic Spree ‘Afflatus’. (BBS)

PREM: (Track) John Duncan & Stefano Pilia ‘Fare Forward’. (DV)

TOF 101 (Last Ever): Lisa Gerrard & Jules Maxwell ‘Burn’, Comorian We Are An Island, But We’re Not Alone’, Koma Saxo ‘Live’, Nous Alpha ‘A Walk In The Woods’, IKLAN ‘Album Number 2’, Bagaski ‘Final’, Ocra, Attack! ‘C.M.S.O.’, Federico Balducci ‘And Watch The Earth Below’, David Newlyn ‘Tapes And Ghosts’, Daughters Of The Desert ‘Sorrow Soothe’. (DV)

Kalporz X MC: Minor Moon ‘Tethers’. (Paolo Bardelli)

Monthly Playlist: Flying Lotus, Racquel jones, Adult Books, Nick Waterhouse, Verses Bang… (DV/MO/BBS)

MAY

ODB 442: Can ‘Live In Stuttgart 1975’. (DV)

ODB 443: Antonis Antoniou ‘Kkismettin’. (DV)

PREM: (Video) Field Kit ‘Don’t‘. (DV)

PREM: (Single/Track) Crab Costume ‘Disaster’. (DV)

ODB 444: Dez Dare ‘Conspiracy O’ Conspiracy’, Big Flower ‘Wicked’, Holiday Ghosts ‘North Street Air’, Salem Trials ‘A Difference Of Living’, Satch Karens ‘Snake Eyez’, Suzi Moon ‘Call The Shots’, Draaier ‘The Town That Was Murdered’, Jude Cowen Montague & Bettina Schroeder ‘Versus’, TVForDogs ‘I Only Wanted To Make You Cry’. (BBS)

ODB 445: John Howard ‘The Best Of…’. (DV)

ODB 446: Rezo ‘Travalog’. (DV)

ODB 447: BLK JKS ‘Abantu/Before Humans’. (DV)

MC Social Playlist #55: Paul McCartney, Poets Of Elan, Digital Underground, Grace Jones, Joan Of Arc, Cassie… (DV)

The Perusal #13: Andres Vargas Pinedo ‘The Fab Sound Of Andres Vargas Pinedo’, Lunar Bird ‘S/T’, Khasi-Cymru Collective ‘Sai-thain ki Sar’, Rachael Langlais ‘Dothe’, Wladtslaw Trejo ‘Nuestra Voz’, Versylen ‘Radiance‘. (DV)

ODB 448: Spindle Ensemble ‘Inkling’. (DV)

ODB 449: ODB 449: Gruff Rhys ‘Mausoleum Of My Former Self’, Nicholsan Heal ‘Apophenia’, Island ‘Do You Remember The Times’, The Pink Chameleons ‘Peace & Love’, Amy Cutler ‘The End (Also ends) Of (The) Earth And Variants’, Brendan Byrnes ‘2227’, Mekong ‘End Of The World’, The Bablers ‘Psychadilly Circus’. (BBS)

ODB 450: Acid Reich ‘Mistress Of The Perpetual’. (DV)

Monthly Playlist: Los Kings, PS5, L’Orange & Namir Blade, Pony Hunt, Liars, Sarah Neufeld… (DV/MO/BBS)

JUNE

PREM: (Video) Kid Kin ‘Under A Cloud Of Fret’. (DV)

The Perusal #14: Pons ‘Leland’, Kety Fusco ‘Ma Gnossienne’, Meggie Lemon ‘Night Shift’, Modern Blonde ‘Candyland’, Clamb ‘Earth Mother Grapefruit’, Mike Gale ‘Twin Spirit’, Palais Schaumberg ‘S/T’. (DV)

MC Social Playlist #56: Joni Mitchell, Radiohead, Art d’Ecco, Low Cut Connie, Wicked Lady… (DV)

PREM: (Track) Everest Magma ‘Nues‘. (DV)

Kalporz X MC: Bob Dylan At 80: Interview With Prof. Richard F. Thomas. (Samuele Conficoni)

ODB 451: James Henry ‘Pluck’, Simon Waldram ‘So It Goes’, Sid Bradley ‘Child of The Sea’, Big Stir Singles ‘The Tenth Wave’, Occult Character ‘Bluzzed‘. (BBS)

The Perusal #15: Rules ‘Say It Ain’t So/Florence’, Violet Nox ‘Cosmic Bits (J. Bagist Remix)’, Whispering Sons ‘Several Others’, Black Tempel Pyramid ‘The Hierophant’, Sara Oswald & Feldermelder ‘Drawn’, Night Sky Pulse ‘These Possible Lives’, Heiko Miale ‘Demo Tapes 1984-86’. (DV)

ODB 452: Andrew Hung ‘Devastations’. (DV)

ODB 453: Dal:um ‘Similar & Different’. (DV)

ODB 454: Namgar ‘Nayan Navaa’. (DV)

ODB 455: Paragon Cause ‘Disconnected’, Salem Trials ‘Headful Of Stinging Bees’, Mega Bog ‘Weight Of The Earth, On Paper’, Synthetic Villains ‘Obstacle Navigation’, Foreign Age ‘Understanding Animals’, The Early Mornings ‘Unnecessary Creation’, Cathal Coughlan ‘Song Of Aklan’. (BBS)

Monthly Playlist: Squid, Pons, Edna Frau, dwi, Shannon And The Clams, Skyzoo, Tyler The Creator... (DV/MO/BBS)

JULY

Kalporz X MC: Le Marige Collectif. (Monica Mazzoli)

The Perusal #16: Raf And O ‘Thomas Newton’, Jason Nazary ‘Spring Collection’, Chris Sharkey ‘Presets’, Passepartout Duo ‘Daylighting’, The Corrupting Sea ‘Chamber Music For The Dead’, Manzanita ‘Trujillo, Peru 1971-1974’, Karen Zane ‘Cloaked’. (DV)

MC Social Playlist #57: Sparks, Guru Guru, Super Fury Animals, Trader Horne, King Just, CV Vision... (DV)

ODB 456: A Journey Of Giraffes ‘Spool’. (DV)

Prem: (Video) Violet Nox ‘Haumea‘. (DV)

ODB 457: Ed Scissors + Lamplighter ‘Joysville’. (DV)

ODB 458: Lauran Hibberd ‘Bleugh’, Yammerer ‘Tell Me What The Ancient Astronaut Theorists Believe’, Bigflower ‘Hanging On’, Brian ‘Cycle Super Highway’, Anton Barbeau ‘Oh The Joys We Live For’, The Poppermost ‘Hits To Spare’, Daniel Vujanic ‘Paramnesia’, Rob Majchrowski ‘Summer 2021’, The Telephone Numbers ‘The Ballad Of Doug’. (BBS)

The Perusal #17: Motorists ‘Through To You’, PTC ‘Papagaj Ft. Vazz’, Kaukolampi ‘We Jazz Reworks Vol. 1’, Requiem & Simon McCorry ‘Critical; Mass’, Taras Bulba ‘Sometimes The Night’, The Tape Recorders ‘Wire’, Antonello Perfetto & Greg Nieuwsma ‘Aquarium’, Rhombus Index ‘Planar EP’. (DV)

ODB 459: Heyme ‘Moving On‘. (DV)

ODB 460: Xhosa Cole ‘K(no)w Them, K(no)w Us’. (DV)

Monthly Playlist: The Beach Boys, Pozi, Native Souls, Joe Blow, Regressive Left, CIX… (DV/MO/BBS)

AUGUST

ODB 461: Uncommon Nasa ‘Only Child’. (DV)

ODB 462: Seaside Witch Coven ‘A.E.O’, Bloom De Wilde ‘Garden Of The Sun’, Emily Isherwood ‘See you go’, Various ‘The Rough Guide To The Best Country Blues you’ve Never Heard Vol.2’, Graham Domain ‘without The Darkness…The Stars Could Not Shine’, Corduroy Institute ‘Eight/Chance/Meetings’, Snowcrushed ‘A Frightened Man’, Various ‘Summer Sampler #8’, William Carlos Whitten ‘My Life In Cinema’, Girl No. III ‘High-Five For Five/Four’, Sorrows ‘Love Too Late’. (BBS)

MC Social Playlist #58: Shriekback, MF Grimm, Hus KingPin, Lotus Eaters, DMZ, Cypress Hill… (DV)

The Perusal #18: Pons ‘The Pons Estate’, Seb Reynolds ‘Crows EP’, Paxton Spangler Septet ‘Anthem For The New Nation’, Giacomelli ‘Interplanetary Thoughts’, Solyst ‘Spring’, Xqui X SEODAH ‘Sufficiently Disconcerting’, Viktor Timofeev ‘Palace Of Peace & Reconciliation’, D:Rom/Shreddies ‘Sucker’, Ester Poly ‘Wet’. (DV)

Prem: (Single) Julia Meijer ‘Borta Fran Allt‘. (DV)

ODB 463: Makoto Kubota & The Sunset Gang ‘Hawaii Champroo’. (DV)

ODB 464: Forest Robots ‘Horst & Graben’. (DV)

Kalporz X MC: When Helmet Was The Symbol For The Conquest Of The Majors. (PB)

Monthly Playlist: Liz Cooper, Homeboy Sandman, Ephat Mujuru, Brandee-Younger, Pons… (DV/MO/BBS)

ODB 465: The August List ‘Wax Cat’. (DV)

September

ODB 466: Iron Maiden ‘Stratego’, Santa Sprees ‘Run Wild When I’m Gone’, Ex Norwegian ‘Thot Patrol’, Birthday Cake! ‘Methods Of Madness’, Flowertown ‘time Trials’, The Legless Crabs ‘Reno’, Speed Of Sound ‘Museum Of Tomorrow’, Salem Trials ‘Something Beginning With’. (BBS)

MC Social #59: Lee Scratch Perry, Naughty By Nature, Ernst Ranglan, Bang, L’Rain, Wu-Lu & Lex Amor... (DV)

The Perusal #19: Motorists ‘Surrounded’, Timo Lassy ‘Trio’, Various ‘Cameroon Garage Funk’, Various ‘Peru: The Land Of Echo’, Variat ‘I Can See Everything From Here’, Andrew Wasylak ‘Bulgay Hills: Morning In Magnolia’, Steve Hadfield ‘See The World Anew Vol.1’, Simon McCorry ‘Flow’, Sone Institute ‘After The Glitter Before The Decay’, Blue Mysteries ‘Dislocated’. (DV)

ODB 467: Monsieur Doumani ‘Pissourin’. (DV)

ODB 468: Santa Sprees ‘Fanfare For Tonsils’. (BBS)

ODB 469: Esbe ‘UNDER COVER’. (DV)

ODB 470: Dead Rituals & Francis Moon ‘Tangled Up’, Hits ‘Cielo Nublado’, ONETWOTHREE ‘S/T’, Equinox X Xqui ‘External Combustion Tension’, Hanrath & Way ‘Prismatic Illusions’, Sun Atoms ‘Let There Be Light’, Will Feral ‘Hellweb’. (BBS)

The Perusal #20: Dr. Joy ‘S/T’, The Mining Co. ‘Phenomenolgy’, Catherine Graindorge ‘Eldorado’, Andrew Heath ‘New Eden’, Headboggle ‘Digital Digital Analog’, Niklas Wandt ‘Solar Musil’, Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters ‘Destiny Waiving’, Psycho & Plastic ‘Soundtrack 2: Pappel’. (DV)

ODB 471: (Track-by-Track) Bordello & Clarke ‘Atlantic Crossings’. (DV)

Monthly Playlist: The Felice Brothers, Blu, Jazzmeia Horn, Crystal Casino Band, Kondi Band, Timo Lassy… (DV/MO/BBS)

October

ODB 472: David Ornette Cherry’s Organic Nation Listening Club ‘The Continual‘. (DV)

Kalporz X MC: (Cover World): This Strange Effect’. (PB)

MC Social #61: The UMCs, Human League, Richard H. Kirk, Sakamoto, Lael Neal… (DV)

The Perusal #21: Lexagon ‘Feminine Care’, SAD MAN ‘5 Years Of Being SAD’, Dan Hayward ‘Country Dustbin’, King Champion Sounds ‘Between Two Worlds’, David Lance Callahan ‘English Primitive I’, Angelo Bignamini ‘8 Doublings’, Miguel A. Garcia ‘Artie’, Vapors Of Morphine ‘Fear & Fantasy’. (DV)

Premiere: (EP) Abir Patwary ‘Atmosphere’. (DV)

ODB 473: Xenia Rubinos ‘Una Rosa’. (DV)

ODB 474: Japan Review ‘Kvetch Sounds’, Aliens ‘Liberation Road’, They Might Be Giants ‘Part Of You Want To Believe Me’, bigflower ‘It Won’t Be Alright’, Good Morning ‘Barn Yard’, Swansea Sound ‘Live At The Rum Puncheon’, This Heel ‘Invisible Space’, Various ‘V4 Velindre’. Bunny & The Invalid Singers ‘Flight Of The Certainty Kids’, Legless Crabs & Salem Trials ‘Legless Trails’. (BBS)

Premiere: (Track) Antonio Raia & Renato Fiorito ‘Too Many Reasons‘. (DV)

ODB 475: Kuunatic ‘Gate Of Kluna’. (DV)

ODB 476: Violet Nox ‘Super Fan (J. Bagist Remix)‘. (DV)

Halloween Special Part One: Playlist: The Halo Benders, Sam Gopal, Gloria, Drab City, Last Exit… (DV)

Halloween Special Part Two: Itchy-O ‘Sypherlot/Hallowmass’. (DV)

Monthly Playlist: Atmosphere, The Beatles, Benny Diction, Jamael Dean, Monocled Man, Astrid Swan… (DV/MO/BBS)

November

ODB 477: Jamael Dean ‘Primordial Waters’. (DV)

Premiere: (Single/Remix) Cephas Teom ‘Tomorrow’s World’. (DV)

The Perusal #22: Jaguwar ‘Gold’, Boom. Diwan Ft. Nduduzo Makhathini ‘Minarets EP’, Noah ‘Etoile’, Dear Laika ‘Pluperfect Mind’, Charlotte Greve/Wood River/Cantus Domus ‘Sediments We Move’, Lisa Butel & Brent Cross ‘A Low Lament For Love And Loss/ The Feeling Of Walking’, Hellenica ‘Blood Meridian: An Imagined Soundtrack’, Spacelab ‘Dead Dimension’, Almeeva ‘To All My Friends’, Stereo Total ‘Chanson Hysterique 1995-2005’. (DV)

Kalporz X MC: [Scoutcloud] “Drommon”, Smote’s Acid-Folk Horror Spell. (MM)

ODB 478: Blush Club ‘A Hill To Die On’, Fran Ashcroft ‘A Tour Of British Duck Ponds’, Pepe Deluxe ‘Phantom Cabinet Vol.1’, YOL ‘Viral Dogs And Cats’, Nick Frater ‘Earworms’, Die Zimmermanner ‘golden Stunde (Alle Hits 1980-2017)’, Spring ’68 ‘Sightseeing Through Music’, Dub Chieftain ‘Homeworld’, Aliens ’30Ilbs Of Air’, Legless Trials ‘What We Did During The Fall’. (BBS)

MC Social Playlist #61: Bush Tetras, The Kinks, Stone The Crows, Atlas Sound, Teenage Fanclub, Japan, Sly & The Family Stone… (DV)

ODB 479: WEWANTSOUNDS Reissue Special: Ryuichi Sakamoto ‘Esperanto’, Omar Khorshid ‘Giant + Guitar’. (DV)

ODB 480: Toumastine ‘Assouf‘. (DV)

The Perusal #23: Meskerem Mees ‘Julius’, V/A ‘Nahma: A Gulf Polyphony’, Batila ‘Tatamana’, Wet Tuna ‘Eau’d To A Fake Bookie Vol 1 & 2’, Color Dolor ‘Blurry Things’, Jack Ellister ‘Lichtpyramide II’, Simon McCorry ‘The Illusion Of Beginning And Endings’, Kensho Nakamura ‘Llamhigyn Y Dwr’, Oliver Earnest ‘The Water Goes The Other Way’, Josh Semans ‘Winter Gesture’. (DV)

ODB 481: Hackedepiccioto ‘The Silver Threshold‘. (DV)

ODB 482: Can ‘Live In Brighton 1975’. (DV)
Premiere: (Track) Theoreme ‘Les Grifles Du Partietal’. (DV)

Monthly Playlist: Circe, Kosmovoid, Park Jiha, Pave The Jungle, Ash The Author, DJ Abilities, Dr. Syntax… (DV/MO/BBS)

December

ODB 483: Placebo ‘Surrounded By Spies’, Magon ‘Egyptian Music’, bigflower ‘Supersad’, Pulco ‘Stirred Beyond Surrender’, Modesty Blaise ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’, Craig Fortnam ‘Lunar One-November 21’, The Hawks ‘Obviously 5 Believers’, Goodparley X Ioan Morris ‘Surroundings’, McCookerybook & Rotfier ‘Equal Parts 2’, Legless Trials ‘Hotwire An Ambulance’. (BBS)

ODB 485: Various ‘Essiebons Special 1973-1984//Ghana Music Power House’. (DV)

Choice Albums of 2021: Part One: A Journey Of Giraffes to Kuunatic. (DV/MO/BBS)

Choice Albums of 2021: Part Two: L’ Orange to Your Old Droog. (DV/MO/BBS)

Kalporz X Monolith Cocktail: Kalporz Album Awards 2021: Damon Albarn, Snail Mail, Helado Negro, Low… (Kalporz Editorial Team)

DOMINIC VALVONA’S ECLETIC REVUE

Al-Qasar ‘Who Are We?’
(Glitterbeat Records) 16th September 2022

Bubbling up from the Barbès Algerian enclave of Paris (the 18th Arrondissment boulevard that’s home to the yet to be gentrified and tourist-friendly passed Little Algeria community) and crisscrossing continents, the Al-Qasar group fuzz-up and electrify the sound of Arabia and its diaspora.

Helmed by instigator-in-chief Thomas Attar Bellier that neighborhood bustle is elevated and blasted back out into the world at large, absorbing and picking up sonic waves, spikes from Northeast Africa to a hardcore California and a rich tasting Sublime Porte.

It all helps of course that Attar Bellier is a global nomad, having lived in New York, Lisbon and Paris, but also having worked in the recording studios of L.A. during that circumnavigation of multicultural living he produced enough tracks of his own, releasing the well-received Miraj EP.

I get the impression that this is a fluid project, but at the time of this, the debut longplayer, Attar Bellier has opened up the ranks to include Jaouad El Garouge on vocals and a number of instruments synonymous with Moroccan Gnwa and North African traditions, Guillaume Théoden on bass and sub-bass duties, Nicolas Derolin on a myriad of percussive and hand drum instruments and Paul Void on drums. That seems the core anyway, but in this electric saz tangling and psychedelic post-punk rich sound there’s a cast of guest pioneering musicians to add yet another layer, another sonic perspective.

From the start there’s Sonic Youth’s guitar-sculptor Lee Ranaldo providing multi-layers of sustain, whines and abrasions to both the opening Swans meet Faust squall turn spindled and more familiar Middle Eastern electric fez intro ‘Awtar Al Sharq’, and the second, dervish-spun spirited and phlegm-voiced tour of Anatolia, The Balkans and Arabia, ‘Awal’.

That legend of the California punk scene, miscreant Dead Kennedys founder Jello Biafra goes free-radical on the staccato jangling ‘Ya Malak’. In a kind of John Sinclair mode, he reads out a poignant translation of a poem by the famous Egyptian revolutionary poet Ahmed Fouad Negam, updated for the cataclysmic state of the world in 2022, and the crumbled, violently oppressed post Arab Spring. This is where, despite the Cairo-futurism, the rattled and slapped hand drum energy, that the political motivations, the despair and anger comes to the fore; all that history, the post-colonial tumult and also fall-out from an Arabian-wide protest movement seeking modernization, the right to earn and end to greed. Read through a tiny transistor style radio Biafra’s agitator spirit turns this into a sort of Arabian Fugazi.

Moving on, but just as political, the New York-based Sudanese vocal doyen Alsarah (of Alsarah & The Nubatones renown) brings her impressive expressive outpourings and trill to the rattlesnake desert song ‘Hobek Thawrat’. In that soulful, rising loved-yearned voice there’s a protest against the coup on her homeland, the chorus itself repeating a slogan from the recent demonstrations. A sound of the Sahel, the women folk of Tinariwen and a little Bab L’Bluz Gnawa hover over this beautifully delivered protestation.

It runs throughout, this sound’s birthplace, but Al-Qasar pay a special homage on the (so good they name it twice) ‘Barbès Barbès’, which also features the electric oud pioneer Mehdi Haddab (of Speed Caravan note). Metal work drums, a nice rolling groove and souk candour prove a friendly hustled soundtrack for a meander in the heavily African outpost. Haddab gets a solo of a kind, providing a romanticized, poetic and folksy oud, with bursts of blurred quickened neat fretwork that borders on Baba ZuLu style psychedelic rock.

The finale, ‘Mal Wa Jamal’, features the longing ached vocals of the Egyptian singer Hend Elrawy soaring over an inspirial organ and almost post-punk push. Elraway’s beautiful wails prove disarming as the song’s lyrics concern a female-centric outlook on prostitution and its consequences. There’s attitude certainly, but it’s all wrapped up in a fizzled, fuzzy and mystical film of Arabian dance and fantasy. No surprise that they’ve been added to the Glitterbeat Records label roster, an imprint for just this sort of fusion; one in which you’ll hear an Arabic Muscle Shoals merging with Anatolian psych, a touch of Electric Jalaba and Şatellites if remixed by Khalab. A brilliant package of transformed traditions wrapped up in electrifying futurism; the sounds of Arabia, North Africa and beyond are thrust into a dynamic, unifying and eclectic direction. 

Clear Path Ensemble ‘Solar Eclipse’
(Soundway Records)  9th September 2022

Out of the Wellington jamming session hothouse incubator and blossoming jazz scene in New Zealand Cory Champion rides the sun-birched rays and waves to cook-up a congruous album of many flavours. From a knowing position the jazz percussionist flows freely between a 70s ECM back catalogue of inspirations and the funk, fusion, spiritual and more freeform genres of his chosen art form.

Under the Clear Path Ensemble alias – his second such alias, also going under the Borrowed CS title when making leftfield deep house and techno cuts – Champion channels both Latin and Uniting Of Opposites style brassy Indian reverberations on the golden ‘Kihi’; offers up an acid jazz turn retro zippy-zappy late 70s disco funk fusion on ‘Drumatix’; and magic’s up a post-Bitches Brew Mile Davis band mystery of African-flavoured marimba and jug-poured, lava-lamp liquid cosmic spiritualism on ‘Revolutions’. But the mood, musicality changes again when we reach the jazzy-suspense score ‘Absolvo’: an early 70s cool cult vision of a Lalo Schifrin thriller.  

The finale, ‘Tennis Ball’, could be said to have taken Liquid Liquid’s percussion, beats and a bit of the Style Council’s laidback washy soul-funk. And the dreamy seasonal solstice ‘Sunrise Motif’ finds a blend of the Modern Jazz Quartet, the willowy fluted bucolic and Nate Morgan. All the while translucent bulb-like notes flow or float from the vibraphone as other light-footed percussive vibrations dance and softly quicken the pace.    

A harp run here and muffled, mizzle sax or trumpet there; a touch of electric piano and pining strings on anther track; all elements that come together across a changing groove.

Clive Zanda meets a less busy Michael Urbaniek on a minor jazz odyssey of nostalgic but very much alive and contemporary fusions, Champion’s second album in this role is a sophisticated, smooth but also freeform set of moods, visions and counterflows. It proves a perfect fit for the eclectic and much-praised Soundway label.

Forest Robots ‘Supermoon Moonlight Part Two’
(Subexotic)

After an initial redolent arpeggiator wave of Roedelius, a rainbow of trance, vapoured breathed coos and transience follows, marking what will be an entirely different kind of record for the Californian electronic artist and topographical trekker Fran Domingeuz.

Under the Forest Robots alias/umbrella, Fran has produced numerous adroit, studied and evocative ambient and neoclassical soundtracks to the myriad of landscapes and forest trials he’s traversed over the years. As the world dramatically succumbed to a global pandemic, and the chance to escape to the wilds became scarce, the signature form stayed but now the music was suddenly a therapy and a vehicle for channeling the anxiety, stresses of such uncertain times.

Now (thankfully) with the worse behind us, Fran emerges with the ‘long gestating’ follow-up to Part One of his Supermoon Moonlight suites from 2018. Although recording sessions for Part Two started back in 2019 it has taken a while to finally process the last couple of years and to finish and release this beautifully conceived album of suffused and uplifting hope.

The geography and National Geographic almanac proverb-like and Zen titles remain (‘All The Rivers Born In The Mountains’, ‘Wind Always Runs Wilder Along The River’s Current’) but the underlying theme has Fran exploring the complexities of parenthood and the ‘kind of spiritual and emotional legacy a father would wish to leave for his kids.’ A warming sentiment and inspired prompt makes for a very different kind of album though. From the same gifted mind and ear yet swimming in the sine waves of trance, synth-pop, 90s techno and dance music this is relatively a new but welcoming direction, expansion on his signature sound.

Upbeat as much as reflective, the feel is often dreamy; the gravity and awe of nature gently present; cut-out mountainsides, flowing connective rivers and a canopy of redwoods, the stage is set as stars shoot across the night skies and moonbeams illuminate.

In the slipstream and bubbled undulations The Beloved shares space with The Orb, Stereolab, 808 State, Sakamoto, Vince Clarke, Boards Of Canada, I.A.O., the Aphex Twin and Ulrich Schnauss. This is a beautiful combination that filters the aftermath of the rave culture, the burgeoning British minimal techno scene of the early 90s Warp label, 80s synth-pop and electronic body music. Yet there’s room for a certain crystallised chilled sparkle of the Chromatics and the Drive time moody, ruminated dry-ice scores of Cliff Martinez within that beat-driven glow. And the elements of charcoal fires crisply burning and flickering, and the poured waters have a certain Luc Ferrari influence – albeit far less avant-garde.

Playful and sophisticated with a surprising dance-y pulse and radiant outlook, Part Two should act as a testimony to an inspired and inspiring composer. I think his kids will be rightly proud of their dad and his musical legacy: electronic music with a soul and purpose.      

Machine ‘S-T’
(WEWANTSOUNDS)

Back again in The Perusal (becoming a 2022 regular) those vinyl specialists at WEWANTSOUNDS have remastered and pressed that rarest-of-rare conscious-soul-funk LPs, the obscure assembled Machine’s self-titled debut (and only) album from 1972.

The rumour-mill is strong on this one; the cause of its £500 plus price tag on Discogs believed to be a result of either a very limited release or no release at all – shelved as it were. It could be down to the sheer quality of the competition, arriving as it did in the wake of similar social-political soul as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly (but also his albums previous to that). Both prove a massive influence on this smooth and funky eight-track showcase.  

What we do know however is that the make up of this group included a trio of well-rehearsed session players from the All Platinum Studios stable in New Jersey. That included main man Michael Watson on vocals and guitar, bass-player Curtis McTeer (also playing with labelmates The Rimshots) and drummer Donald McCoy, who were then fattened out with the organist/pianist Ray Jones, another bassist, Frank Prescod, and both Dee and Cordy Pridges on horns. On the same label and one of the most established, successful acts The Whatnauts lent both their backing vocalists and, rather oddly, their manager (credited on percussion) Bunch Herndon to this widening lineup. And on top of all that, the notable Sammy Lowe (arranging for such distinguished company as Nina Simone, Sam Cooke and James Brown) offers a subtle suite of strings to the mix, taking it down the Rotary Connection route.

The Whatnauts prove a pretty integral ingredient to the Machine track list, lending both the ‘Only People Can Save The World’ and ‘Why Can’t People (Be Color Too?)’ songs to the album. Machine keep the sentiment of both, but add both an almost bucolic and pastoral gospel-rayed yearn to the first, and up the Gator funk and Stevie Wonder boogie on the Sly Stone on-message second.

They open on the relaxed but simmered Southern-funk-hits-the-streets-of-NYC style ‘Time Is Running Out’. Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s buzzy licks meet Maxayn attitude sass, sweet sax and touch of ‘Brotherman’ The Final Solution on a conscious-political workout – the repeated vocal refrain apparently ad-libbed.

Very much of its time and again on-message, ‘World’ tunes into the Vietnam War and its impact on and confliction with the African-American community. The actual groove is quite percussive with a touch of The Temptations Psychedelic Shack, Mayfield and The Meters.

There’s a seagull hovering harbor scene, not a million miles away from Otis’ wistful gaze, on the gear-changing ‘Trails’. It starts with that atmospheric rumination, a hint of the Latin and some romantic allusions before quickening into a banjo-rhythmic strumming West coast jive. It then goes on to wail and cry with a sequel of electric guitar. ‘Lock Your Door’ however could be a lost Northern Soul dancer, and the balladry pined ‘Boots In The Snow’ is another of those Marvin Gaye try-outs, with a touch of 70s Motown.

An enervated Nat Turner, Undisputed Truth, Mary Jane Hooper, Johnny Pate with those Mayfield and Gaye inspirations, Machine stepped-out to lead their own socially conscious project. But whilst the elements are all present, the sound isn’t quite unique enough, overshadowed as they were by a multitude of bands/artists working in the same groove and message. Still, at least you can now own a real rarity without forgoing this month’s rent, gas or mortgage payment. And it’s well worth a spin at that.

Noah ‘Noire’
(Flau Records) 26th August 2022

Ever the diaphanous siren of soothed vaporous experiments and song, the Hokkaido-born artist Noah once more drifts and floats across a sophisticated combination of futuristic etudes and distilled electronica. Following on from the beautiful balletic-inspiredÉtoile (given a glowing review by my good self), this latest emanation of whispered and cooed translucence is just as lovely and swathed in dreamy effects.

A collection of tracks from between a pre-Covid era of 2015-2020, the Noire album is awash with studied yet effortless sounding sonic theme variations; a nine-track congruous suite that riffs on Noah’s signature of ghostly plinky-plonked semi-classical piano (occasionally an electronic one by the sounds of it) and minimal 808-style synthesized waves, percussion and bobbled beats.

Noah’s breathless vocals and atmospherics seem to be reaching us from the ether: often just the reverberations of some distant hazy whisper. The opening transparent slow spiral ‘Twirl’ could be a distant relation to Julee Cruise; an enchanted but haunted echo from a palatial ballroom, yet still highly intimate. ‘Odette’ oozes languorous modern soul and R&B, like Solange drifting over the Boards of Canada.

Undulated by softened kinetic ratchets, screws and turns there’s a coming together of purposeful techno and more rhythmic retro house beats, enervated as to never overpower the general woozy and beautifully longing mood. 

Shorter reflections, pieces are balanced by extended tracks and the heavenly, bobbing and echoed looped single ‘Gemini – Mysterious Lot’; the sound relaxing as it moves from transformed Sakamoto to cool dreamy pop.

Remaining something of an enigma Noah appears and then floats away, leaving a lingering presence with music created in a dream. Noire is another great, captivating showcase for that talent.

Lampen ‘S-T’
(We Jazz) 9th September 2022

A re-release of a kind, in case you both missed it the first time around or because of its limited run on CD, the free and post-jazz Finnish duo Lampen are now offering their 2020 self-titled album on vinyl for the first time – a very nice package it is too.

I would be one of those people that did miss it the first time around, and so I now find myself discovering its highly experimental, explorative qualities, imbued as they are by the Japanese art of “kintsugi” (or “golden joinery”), the repairing art of mending areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver and platinum. As much a philosophy as a method of repair, the breaks and cracks are treated and documented rather than disguised or thrown away.

The binding metal dust is like a woven vein and testament to that object’s knocks and history. With all its obvious metaphors the Lampen lads are less than careful, seeming to deconstruct and rebuild simultaneously in an act of free-spirited concentration: if that makes sense. For they break and stretch the performances yet, because their craft is obviously brilliant, they seem to always be in unison, synchronicity throughout.

Across five crawling and more crescendo splashed tracks, guitarist Kelle Kalima and percussionist/sampler Tatu Rönkkö rattle and wane; bend and set in motion a tumult of krautrock, progressive, industrial, post-punk, psychedelic and avant-garde workouts and soundtracks. In abandoned rusted turbine dominated factories, mysterious chambers but also hovering over lunar terrains Lampen evoke hints of Rhyton, Peter Giger, Krononaut, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Orchestra, King Crimson, Faust and The Mosquitoes. All good and appealing to those like me longing to hear jazz pushed into such directions.

Rather surprisingly, amongst the sustained drones, harmonic pings and sculpting Kalima’s guitar bursts into acid-country indie-rock territory – think, of all people, John Squire on the Stone Roses second album. There’s even spots of no wave and dub to be found emerging from various tangents and untethered directions.

Impressive throughout, whether that’s in slow motion or more maelstrom driven bursts, Lampen’s debut album is a barely contained, unnerving in places, cranium-fuck of excellent moody jazz and industrial resonating experiment. Second time around then, the duo offer us another chance to indulge in their brand of unbridled post-jazz. I think you should take them up on the offer.

Qrauer ‘Odd Fazes’
(Nonostar) 22nd September

Following on from their debut Heeded showcase for Alex Stolze’s burgeoning Nonostar label back in April, arrives an extended debut album from the German electronic duo Qrauer, who transduce chamber music, the semi-classical and percussive into a sophisticated transformation of minimalist-techno and intelligent EDM suites.

The combined, refined but ever open skills of percussionist, producer and remixer Christian Grochau and his foil the pianist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Ludwig Bauer come together to fluidly remodel their chosen instruments into a both mindful and danceable work of electroacoustic moods and soundscape sonic worlds.

Instead of a pulled-together album of 12”’s and mixes and the like, Odd Fazes feels like a complete journey from beginning to end, with shorter more ambient gazing vignettes alongside longer more evolving pieces. And so you have the trance-y, droned and transformed glitch-y orchestral spell of the incipient stirring ‘Reg. Capture’ followed immediately by the polyrhythmic, clean percussive and galvanized EDM noirish ‘Drumthrives’. Or the Drukqs era Aphex Twin piano – played on a distant echo-y stage – beautifully, but slightly off-kilter, resonating ‘Fuq’ following on from the Artificial Intelligence series trance and suspense soundtrack ‘Cool Edit’. This offers a variation and nice set of breaks between the more techno pumped movers and sonic imaginations.

Later on, Nonostar labelmate Anne Müller adds her swoonstress cello to a couplet of evocative tracks. The first of which, ‘Rund’, has an air of the Aphex Twin (again) about it. Circling bowl rings, kinetic twists and percussive itches are woven into a mild tempo EDM pulse as Müller’s trembled and attentive cello saws and plucks are turned into repeating, recontextualized beats or motifs. On ‘Oval’ the adroit, experimental cellist seems to revive some of her stirring, pining gravitas from the Solo Collective project she shares with both Nonostar founder Stolze and, another labelmate, Sebastian Reynolds. There’s also a hint, I think, of fellow cellist and experimental artist Simon McCorry too on this deeply felt mournful piece.  

Multi-textured with a constant movement and undulated beat that builds and builds yet never settles for the predictable euphoric, anthem moment, there’s a lot of clever, purposeful work at play. I haven’t even mentioned the layers of satellite and moon-bending refractions, nor the cosmic flares, the droplets of notes, cooed waveforms, fizzes and experimental recondite sound sources that have been meticulously thought-out. Again, just like the Heeded EP, the debut album is another cerebral rework of electronic body music, techno, EDM and the classical; a complete dancefloor-ready and mindful journey. 

Simon McCorry ‘Scenes From The Sixth Floor’
(Shimmery Moods)

Turning the worries and mental strains of ill health into something creatively rewarding, the highly prolific cellist sound sculptor and composer Simon McCorry is thankfully back on the experimental electronic scene after a stay in hospital last Christmas. After a period of healing, recuperation, McCorry assembles a sort of soundtrack to that worrying, anxious period.

Following a loose ‘mental thread’ (as he puts it) Scenes From The Sixth Floor is an evocative and ruminating work of both studied ambient peregrinations and post-club techno comedowns; beginning with the cult kosmische drop through Tarkovsky’s glass portal, ‘Falling Through The Mirror Backwards’. Part illusion, part Moebius scores Hitchcock’s Spellbound, it’s the sound of our composer freefalling through a gauzy blanket, unable to latch onto the sides or gain traction as he spirals in sedated state to earth. Yet this there’s also no panic, rather a hallucinatory feel.

The next track, ‘Fragmentation’, is the first of two pieces developed from previous commissions/projects. Originally, albeit loosely, based on a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party dance piece, the landscape on this piece is less Lewis Carroll surrealism and more an evolving soundtrack that absorbs Bleiche Brunnen period Asmus Tietchens, Bernard Szajner sci-fi, Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter and Sven Vath.  From the primal liquid blobs to the supernatural and futuristic, McCorry creates a whole atmospheric world before building steadily towards a patter beat of early 90s set techno (R&S/Harthouse).

Another developed idea, ‘The Sea Of Stories’ takes its cue from Philip Ridley’s feted Moon Fleece book – an intense and thrilling exploration of memory and identity. One of the only tracks with which you can hear a mostly untreated, transformed as it is, cello, McCorry’s instrument of virtuoso choice aches and arches movingly whilst a constant arpeggiator waterfall cascades onto shimmered, light catching waves. Be careful, if you close your eyes you could just find yourself carried away on the tide.

Up above now to the skies and the stirring and soaring ‘The Secret Life Of Clouds’. A beautiful if almost little mysterious, unsure passage, I picked up Schulze, Frosse and even a touch of Air Liquide on this natural phenomenon. But it’s Roedelius’ fairground piped style of playfulness and new classical analogue electronica that’s felt on the arpeggiator-bounced ‘Surfacing’; although this mood changes with another of those post-club undulations, pitter-pattering way at the end.    

Tubular marimba and small thrusts of Kriedler and Pyrolator make up the mid-temp techno styled ‘Earth Best’, and the angrier entitled ‘Day Of Wrath’ has a certain European yearn and another echo of Roedelius’ whistled Bavarian fairground vibes. The cello, which remains pretty much hidden throughout the album, now starts to materialize, producing a weepy bowed melody and sense of purpose.  Constantly enriching the ambient genre and beyond McCorry has bounced back with a reflective and developed soundtrack of perfectly crafted and moving compositions, some of which contain a certain mystery, dreamy-realism that remains to be deciphered. Proving the cello still has some way to go as an imaginative and explorative tool, the gifted player finds new tones, textures and spells of magic to further that instrument’s sound, use and reach. It’s good to have him back is all I can say. And this album further cements an already impressive reputation as a true innovator and master of the form.  

REZO ‘Sew Change’
30th September 2022

Shy of just eighteen months the Irish duo of REZO follow up last year’s debut album Travalog with another relaxed, gentle-of-touch songbook, Sew Change. The seeds of this particular brand of disarming but deeply moving craft were sown from a distance, with both partners in this project recording their parts in separate locations on that debut. Nothing quite concentrates the mind as an epidemic and its confinement, and so the introspection flowed on that record, which despite the distance geld perfectly: in keeping with both musician’s Ireland and Med environments, the music effortlessly blended a touch of the Balearics with more soft-peddled Americana and singer-songwriter material.

As a sort of bridge back to Travalog, the spoken-word return down memory lane family themed ‘You Are What You Wear’ repurposes the sleepy, laidback rolled and Damon Alban-esque with a lick of Baxter Dury ‘Life During Lockdown’ backing. Only this time there’s an additional soulful female cooed chorus and the subject is Colm O’Connell’s family-run knitwear factory in the city centre of Dublin. Within that idyllic-natured return to a more carefree childhood, the whole gamut of life, death and remembrance is narrated both fondly and poignantly.

Concentrating on what’s most important, attempting to right some wrongs and holding one’s hands up to past mistakes, Colm and his foil Rory McDaid ease through some highly sensitive subjects to a musical accompaniment of Americana (once more), synthesized shading and gentle spacey takeoff sparkles, enervated bobbing dance music, piano-led balladry and wistful acoustics. However, within that scope they evoke a Muscle Shoals spiritual Rolling Stones, and a little Billy Preston, on the gospel organ sustained (with a cheeky hint of ‘Let It Be’ I might add) ‘I’m Not Enough’.      

Talking of the sensitive, and careful not to cancel themselves in the process, the duo filter their concerns on the increasingly problematic and volatile theme of cancel culture on the Med-twanged, gauzy ‘Erays’. Like passing through gargled spacy waters and a dry-ice machine they make sure to carefully word their take; misspelling “Erase” as a nod to rays of sunshine and hope in this struggle over censorship. They also seem to tackle teenage suicide and mental health issues on the iconic Dublin Nine Arches set drama ‘Boy On A Bridge’, and explore the grief of dementia by marrying solo McCartney to the Eels on the synth undulating ‘Sometimes’.

Already included on July’s monthly playlist, ‘Your Truth’ still stands out as one of the album’s best offerings. On a song about the cost of “freeing your mind”, or the indulgences of going too far, that Americana feel is taken in a novel direction with softly padded congas, a smooth bass and veil of psychedelic-indie ala later MGMT – I’m also positive I can also hear a touch of TV On The Radio.

In its entirety Sew Change is a completely realised album of reminisces, reflections and softly hushed reconciliations, set to a gentle wash of the spiritual, Irish snug and saloon bar piano, a lilted Dylan-esque lyrical cadence (see the nativity-evoked ‘Hiding In Plain View’) and hazy suffusion of synth. The duo expand the palette without upsetting the formula to produce a complimentary follow-up every bit as slowly captivating.  

John Howard ‘From The Far Side Of A Far Miss’
(Kool Kat)  9th September 2022

Following in the slipstream of his third and final volume of memoirs (In The Eyeline Of Furtherance) the singer-songwriter John Howard, with the wind in his sails, is back with yet another album. But instead of the usual songbook formula this is a continuous one-track work of disarming, gentle brilliance that runs to over thirty-five minutes.

You could say it was a return to Howard’s long form songwriting experiments of 2016 and the Across The Door Sill album, or perhaps even a reaction to (one of his heroes of the form) Bob Dylan and his Boomer odyssey ‘Across The Rubicon’, which more or less charts an entire epoch. Howard is a bit younger than Dylan of course, but both artists seem to be making some of their best work at this stage in their lives: uncompromising and unburdened by expectation or the need to suck up to fashions, labels, even the public they share an envious position. That Dylan mini-opus only lasted a mere seven-minutes in comparison, whilst Howard’s grand effort runs and runs, covering as it does a lifetime as a proxy soundtrack to his series of autobiographies.

Far more melodious than his hero’s reflections, this scrapbook photo album reminisce features Howard’s signature balladry-troubadour and stage musical verve of poetically candid prose, sung both wistfully and with a certain yearn.

Love is all though as Howard sets scene after scene, analogy after analogy; reconciling his past to a watery-mirrored piano-led score that’s constantly moving, picking up suffused strings, Dylan’s harmonica, a bucolic burnished harpsichord, a planetarium mood piece starry synth and light dabbing’s of congas and shaker. In what could be a reference to his own semi-cover version album Cut The Wire, there’s a hint of the Incredible String Band and also Roy Harper about this extended performance; especially Howard’s version of the former’s ‘In The Morning’. Later on it’s a lilt of The Beach Boys, bobbing on the “ripples of forever” line. Yet it’s unmistakably a John Howard sound, a lovingly executed piece of songwriting that more than holds its own across thirty-five minutes plus of ebbing drama.

But this is also a two-way conversation with Howard playing both sides of a long affair; the part of old lovers and new, friends, acquaintances and family, their words echoing now in the mists of the time that’s left. Dylan, that recurring idol, acts as a silent partner in one such discourse, as Howard sings about artistic integrity and his inspirations, a pantheon of uncompromising doyens. And in that same particular passage we also have Monroe and the Fab Four popping up; a Hard Days Night Beatles name-checked in what is both a celebrated yet fraught with delusion and remembrance chapter on this long winding road.

I particularly enjoyed the more salt-of-the-earth café scene diorama; Howard in voyeuristic mode describing a very unlikely cast, using both a kid who’s reading a Russian literary titan and a priest faraway in reflective thought (perhaps regret) as conduits for naming even more idols and favourites: “The kid who’s reading Tolstoy, listening to The Rolling Stones; I can hear old Jagger’s laughter floating from his phone.” Great lines by the way. The priest is “remembering Bowie’s Low”, which could of course be a reference to the same priest featured in the lyrics to ‘Five Years’ now contemplating a life that’s perhaps not all it seems.

Addressing, redressing whilst swanning through fantasies of a swish Ritz, 5th Avenue and Caesars Palace, imaging an alternative stratospheric career trajectory, headlining the Albert Hall, Howard takes us on a rolling, fluctuating journey through of his thoughts, dreams (realized and abandoned), regrets and hurt. By the end of this epic piece the final phrase, sung in a lasting glow, says it all: “It simply is what it always was”. Dylan couldn’t have put it much better.

An ambitious undertaking, From The Far Side Of A Far Miss is the work of an artist still willing to take chances and explore. Whilst his peers rely on the back catalogue, or drum out the same music they made over fifty plus years ago, Howard seems entirely comfortable in his own skin as a wiser yet still spritely young-at-heart artist composing music on his own terms. Fresh new introspections, concepts abound as he shows there’s still so much more to share and create.

Yara Asmar ‘Home Recordings 2018-2021’
(Hive Mind Records) 16th September 2022

The latest discovery on the Hive Mind radar emanates from Beirut, with the serialism and tonal atmospheres, ambient and minimal semi-classical melodies of Yara Asmar.

In a tumultuous climate, referenced in a sampled conversation piece on ‘Is An Okay Number’ and in the unsaid but moody reflections and vaporous drifts that push out into the unknown and untethered, the twenty-five year old multi-instrumentalist, video artist and puppeteer manages to often leave the earthly mess of a region in crisis and float out above the city.

From an airy viewing platform we can identify swirls, waves, gauzy veils and echoes of the concertinaed (courtesy of Asmar’s grandparents’ accordion), tubular metallic rings and tingles (that will be the metallophone), a serious but graceful piano, a music box, hinges and searing gleams and a beatified magical spell of Christian church liturgy. The latter source was recorded by Asmar from church hymnal services around the Lebanon; transduced into the hallowed yet otherworldly and mysterious, given a gentle waltz-like ghostly quality and only sense of a presence. A reference to country’s much troubled religious turmoil? The art of remembrance? Spiritualism? Or the familiar sounds of an upbringing? Whatever the reason it sounds both equally as ethereal, as it does supernatural: passages into other realms.

Tracks like ‘We Put Her In A Box And Never Spoke Of It Again’ are almost lunar in comparison to those hymns; lending a moon arc of Theremin-like UFO oscillations and cult library cosmic scores to this set of peregrinations and field-recordings. Yet for the most part this is a truly dreamy, translucent and amorphous album of delicate classicism, explorative percussion and ambient; an ebb and flow of reverberations and traces of moods, thoughts that literally floats above the clouds and out beyond the Lebanese borders. These home recordings recorded onto cassettes and a mobile phone capture something quite unique, in what are the most unique of times.   

Valentina Magaletti & Yves Chaudouët ‘Batterire Fragile’
(Un-Je-Ne-Sais-Quoi) 23rd September 2022

Is it performance art or just performance? Probably both as the lauded drummer extraordinaire Valentina Magaletti once more sits behind the artist Yves Chaudouët’s conceptualized porcelain drum kit.

If you follow either of these artists then you’ll know that this is the second installment of recordings to be taken from the original project back in 2017. Conceived by the painter turn multimedia artist Chaudouët as an exploration in texture and friction, wood, metal and rubber were all added to the porcelain kit; the effects of which, in the hands of such an accomplished musician traverse the concrete, avant-garde, art rock, breakbeat, the classical and freeform and dark jazz.

It’s been a couple of years since I last featured the highly prolific composer/producer and percussionist Magaletti, featuring her ‘tropical concrete’ communal with Marlene Riberio, Due Matte. In this space Magaletti continuously rattles, rolls, skids, skiffles, dusts and lays spidery tactile rhythms and strokes down as mooning, wailed and frayed bowed primal supernatural atmospherics stir.

We could be in Southeast Asia, Tibet or West Africa, even the Caribbean with passages that sound like steel drums bouncing away. We could also be in a subterranean chamber as resonating echoes of this tinny, metallic and deadened kit ricochet of the walls. Reductionist theatre, ceramic jazz, a paranormal drumming séance, the mood isn’t always easy to gauge. But as experimental as it is Magaletti is constantly rhythmic throughout; switching yet always hitting a beat, and even in some parts something that resembles a groove. An exercise on concept but also percussive, drumming performance, this collaboration straddles both the art and musical camps to bring us something quite different yet always engaging, interesting and virtuoso.  

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

Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Roundup

The Movers ‘Vol 1 – 1970 – 1976’
(Analog Africa) 5th August 2022

Although it struck Samy Ben Redjeb (founder of the Analog Africa label) instantaneously, the impact that was felt on that day in 1996 when introduced to the neat, sunny-side-up Township soul of The Movers has taken more than two-decades to come to fruition. But now in 2022, finally, there’s a choice compilation of the South African band’s back catalogue to rave about and soak up: just in time for a sizzling, Earth-scorching summer.  

Possibly one of the most popular bands of the 1970s in their homeland – even breaking the Apartheid bonds of segregation as the first black band to get airplay on white radio stations -, The Movers have nevertheless left behind scant information, and a provenance riddled with holes. This is despite selling 500,000 copies of their debut LP, Crying Guitars, in just the space of a few months and in providing a peaceable (almost Caribbean in lilt) anthem (‘Soweto Inn’) soundtrack to the mid-70s student revolts and resistance. Yet it proved extremely difficult to track down anyone involved in this South African sensation.

However, what Samy did glean after help and introductions from Kaya Radio’s Nicky Blumenfeld was that the band first took shape in the late 60s, instigated by the two relatively unknown musician brothers, the bassist Norman and guitarist Oupa Hlongwane. To make this band a reality, the brothers approached the Alexandra township-based businessman Kenneth Siphayi with a proposal: if Siphayi would lay-out the money for them to buy some instruments in return they’d give him a cut from future live shows and record deals. In the end their patron didn’t just dole out the funds but took on a manager’s role, introducing them to the simmered, evangelical balm organist Sankie Chounyane. The ranks soon swelled however to accommodate the funky tight drumming of Sam Thabo and the relaxed reeds of saxophonist Lulu Masilela.

Initially they signed to the Teal Records label in 1969, releasing an instrumental record. But almost right away they worked with the vocalists Blondie Makhene (a fourteen year-old vocal prodigy we’re told) and Sophie Thapedi. With a great soulful voice Thapedi sang one of the band’s most popular, enduring hits ‘Soweto Inn’, and channeled Miriam Makeba on the Overton Berry Trio-esque organ suffused, cheek-popping and beautifully wooed ‘Ku-Ku-Chi’. Makhene for his part sounds far beyond his years on the infectious, stained glass township boogie ‘Kudala Sithandana’ and, in harmony with a heavenly female chorus, sounds a bit like Labi Siffre on the whistled fluty R&B turn ‘Six Mabone’.   

Unmistakably South African; blessed with that languorous sunny disposition groove, The Movers took a piece of Stax soul revue, Booker Ts’ organ, Steve Cropper’s effective but never overplayed licks, and a taste of The Meters and combined it with the indigenous Mbaqanga (also known as “township jive”) and marabi (a sort of ragtime, jazzy and bluesy style that evolved out of the mining communities, synonymous for its cheap keyboard-led sound) styles. This spills out into reggae, even rock steady, yet always sounds inherently relaxed: never pushed, hurried. Chounyane’s organ standouts, but it never overpowers nor seems particular showy: thin but very effective, a township Ramsey Lewis bathing in the Lord’s light. ‘Give Five Or More’ is an unpressured eased introductory like beauty that features a buzzy organ but also those Stax chops and some gentle drum sizzles –for some reason it reminded me, melody-wise of The Monkees.

A soul revue from the heart of South Africa’s politically explosive townships, The Movers delivered a light gospel-tinged fusion of ripe hotfooted, containable energy. It would be a sacrilege to miss owning a slice of those sweetened South African-lilted R&B, soul, funk and rock steady grooves, so do yourselves a favour and pick up Vol. 1 this summer.  

Claude ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’
(American Dreams) 12th August 2022

Disarmingly wistful and woozy, the refined production and songwriting on Claudia Ferme’s debut album lays a gossamer veil over a litany of anxious quandaries and existential malaise.

Almost, to her credit, effortlessly dreamy, Ferme floats and drifts into a myriad of introspective roles, rooms and scenarios under the Claude alias. The Chicago-based artist nails the despondency of the times whilst giving a most languidly deadpan but essentially captivating voice to the growing pains of a “twenty something”: that first decade of “expectation”, of real responsibility, and yet in this infantile age, in which – especially my generation – we cling to youth and even childhood, you’re still considered an empty vessel and teenager with nothing to worry about and everything to look forward to. But Ferme offers up a certain emotionless face to such woes, troubles; even lightening the mood with the most diaphanous of laidback and aloof vocals, and a backing that is gently smoldered in a relaxed mix of 70s soft rock, synthwave, dream and art pop.

Featured a little while ago in one of my monthly perusals, the inaugural single and opener on this album, ‘Twenty Something’, sets out the vision and mood with its closed-eyes wispy saxophone motifs and perfectly dreamy reflections: “I’d rather be hurt by my own doing, then be let down by someone else. At least that’s what I tell myself.”

That’s followed by the most recent single, the Gabriel Garcia Márquez inspired ‘Roses’, which takes a line from the feted Colombian author’s famous Love in The Time Of Cholera novel and runs with all its metaphorical, symbolist connotations. The thorny prick of this flower’s stem and the book’s obsessive protagonist’s eating of it, bot alluding to themes of self-tortuous behavior. But what we take away from the song and lyrics is that we all need to be a lot more forgiving.      

Elsewhere the painful anxieties and mental fatigue hang like post-it notes attached to a bedroom mobile on the listless ‘I Think I’ll Pass Today’, and on the all-too realistic outcomes of a burst bubble of love naiveties, Chromatics vapour trailing ‘Claustrophobia’ – a longing if dry yearn for magic and something lasting in a cynical world of fleeting, vacuous feelings and connectedness. 

In contrast, the acoustically gorgeous ‘Meet Me’ has a slight air of Blonde Redhead and some kind of Spanish peppering. But the song that, softly, breaks the wafted, lush mold is the almost rocking ‘Oh, To Be’, which sets Ferme against a more electric spiky backing; adding a silent scream and edge to the synthesised suffusion. 

A Lot’s Gonna Change is a most wonderful, captivating and skilfully delicious debut that subtly evokes the worlds of Aldous Harding, EX:Re and Cate Le Bon. A coming of age songbook, a rebirth, in which the harshness of the epoch, the pressures both unique and synonymous with a generation finding its way, are snuggled in a relaxed balm.

Staraya Derevnya ‘Boulder Blues’
(Ramble Records)

The pan-Israel ensemble are once more on the move, recording another elevated and mystical ethnographical transportive work that takes in and transduces not only their native lands but also the UK, Germany and Mexico. Boulder Blues then is a geographical soundboard of history and the avant-garde; of evoked ancient nomadic tribes and primitivism made psychedelics, and a mantra iteration of a very removed form of what we know as the blues.

With up to eleven (could be more) band members involved, many of which drift in and out of this five-track assemblage of peregrinations and mental release, there’s a lot to take in: to work out. Like “what the hell was that sound?” Or, “where the hell are we?”

Scratchy nylon Beefheart and the Velvet’s guitar, hoots and erratic mooning voices merge with Širom-like (that’s the second time I mention them in this roundup) percussion, Unlimited E.F.S. series Can skits and Faust as fantasies of the Mongolian steppes, the Black Sea, Kabbalah mysticism and krautrock era Germany are invoked. At times it resembles a communion between the Red Crayola and Holgar Czukay; at others, 666 era Aphrodite’s Child share the byway with Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders.

Staraya Derevnya are totally out there with their “bubbling pelt” and “gallant spider” poetic descriptive wanderings, pains and blues abstractions. Still, they remain rhythmic, even melodious in places; dancing, marching and on the trinket ringed, shadowy ritual title-track, exhaustively repeating the same incantation for five-minutes straight.

I must confess. I really dig this collective. And I’ve even included them in the blog’s choice albums list before now. Boulder Blues is another incipient esoteric, magical album of post-punk, krautrock, psychedelic, far-out and primitive traverses.

Li Yilei ‘Secondary Self’
(LTR Records) 26th August 2022

Spanning the entire Covid epoch, so to speak, and a period in which the sonic sculptor-composer Li Yilei travelled from her London-based home to native China and to Shanghai, Secondary Self is a surprisingly (as the PR notes remark) cohesive album of hidden source material powered recordings, abstract hymnals and coded language.

Made up for the most part by pieces originating from a Café OTO commission, there’s also an omitted (due to time constraints) track from Yilei’s 2020 debut album Unabled Form, plus the more recent serene meditation ‘Melt’ from February of this year. That spare experiment, ‘Warmth Ageing’, was created during sessions for the inaugural album synthesis of the evanescent and tactile; an album that received a glowing review from me at the time. Not so much interchangeable this searing, buzzy winged metallic current is a congruous fit on both albums; neither of which particularly offer connective themes of concepts.

That main body of work continues Yilei’s keening simulations of transformed settings, rumination’s and repurposed white spaces; created from a number of obscured and experimentally stretched instruments: the reverberation of percussive bowls and a serial wrangle of echoed guitar tabbing, harmonics and improvised squiggles. There may well be some kind of stringed instrument in there, effected and smothered in reverb, but for the majority of the time the trace of anything familiar is synthesised, electronically morphed into something more abstract, stranger, and on occasion, diaphanous.

It’s something approaching the beautiful that opens up the Secondary Self as an affecting otherworldly siren is sustained across the near ethereal, crystallised freeze of ‘A Hush In The Dark’. A semblance of some kind of voice and almost tender notes provide a touch of the natural: the composer even. As the title would suggest, the second suite ‘Bird Box’ once again features the familiar: the whistle and tweets of birds. Only this avian chorus is given a lunar galvanised bouncy buzz; accompanied later by a drilled code, or, a pummelled Morse-coded read-out. And so a back garden bird box is pierced with the higher sonic register and transported to some place else entirely.

‘Mosquito Alarm’ seems to be slowly driven by a looped photocopier, but flits with deeper bass-y pitches and cosmic mystery. There’s a brief spell of dog howls and more bird communication amongst the dreamy, near psychedelic lapping reversals, incanted whispers and memory recalls of ‘Murmur’ however.

The remaining tracks burble, vibrate and oscillate, recalling vague signs of early 70s analogue experiments, Ambient Works Vol. 2 Richard James, the kosmische and the unsaid. Yilei’s square waves, acousmatics and ruminated efforts cannot be easily defined. Instead, this is a sound that fluctuates between the arts space, the outdoors, and an amorphous myriad of electronic genres. This third album will do much to reinforce what I already knew back in 2020, that Li Yilei’s visions are quite unique, and that the artist is constantly pushing at the boundaries to create both the challenging and meditative.

Foch/Delplanque ‘Live Au GRM’
(Parenthèses Records)

From the equally hallowed and chthonian atmospheric environment of the Maison de la Radio et de la Musique’s studio 104 in Paris, an extemporized performance recording now made available, nearly, six years after its initial transmission.

By 2016, the year of this Groupe de Recherches Musicales curated concert series, the drummer-percussionist Philippe Foch and his foil at the time, and subsequently, the multi-tasking electronic music composer, critic, author, teacher (the list goes on and on) Mathias Delplanque had already produced the collaborative Taarang album that led to a 2015 residency at the National Centre For Musical Creation in Reims, and the Secret album of material recorded from that performance. 

Pretty much accustomed to each other’s methods, by the time of Live Au GRM the synchronicity was at an apex, with Foch at the centre of a world percussive assemblage and Delplanque at his side sampling the results in real time.

Recondite empirical vibrations, scratches and stretches across frame drum skins and the resonance of cymbals are transformed further by Delplanque into otherworldly, mysterious forms of primitivism, mythology, musique concrete, the strung-out and cavernous. For we could well be in the incense chambers of Byzantium, the Minotaur’s maze, or, transported to India with a serialism burst of tablas.

Over the course of 26 minutes there’s bot spacious and sporadic passages of unprepared playfulness and exploration in an environment circled by scurrying bestial movements and noises from the darkness. Incipient patterns, traces across tubular metals emerge but are often shunted, shuttered and dissipated back into the shadows.

An alchemy of slapped and paddled physicality and shimmered reverberated trinkets, tinkles emanate from Foch’s eclectic ensemble of instrumentation on a polygenesis performance of hollowed and far denser bass-y tones. In places it reminded me of an entirely stripped of melody Širom, bits of Amon Düül II’s more experimental Dance Of The Lemmings and a little of Faust’s Werner “Zappi” Diermaier.

Scrabbled, almost clawed, and more singular beaten sounds, the hushed ssh-like whispers of a voice and galvanised buzzes appear out of nowhere on a transformative piece of treated and developing improvisation. There really is no telling where this sonic partnership will end up, or what atmospheres they’ll create, only that it will be both esoteric and in an avant-garde direction of percussive and drummed fascination.   

Shepherd Stevenson ‘Man Down’
THLTTLDBB ‘SeeUSearching’
(both on Somewherecold Records)

Taking on a filmic quality the multi-tasking L.A. musician, composer and actor Shepherd Stevenson’s inaugural solo effort is rich with the sound of placeable cinematic soundtracks.

Although starting out as and then becoming a stalwart of the alternative 1980s Denver scene (The Aviators, The Young Weasels, Crankcall Loveaffiar), and then going on to help found the L.A. rock band Pigmy Love Circus, Stevenson has also proved a considered hand at composing music for films – a recent list of which includes Erasing Eden, Doobious Sources and Mermaid Down.  This album debut, Man Down, was itself originally written to accompany Annie Sperling and Mason Rothschild’s Deep Map art installation, which was projected onto the side of the U.S.S. Iowa, moored in Long Beach; part of the Alta Sea’s Project Blue, a ‘digital port for content and education resources for the emerging Blue Economy’ (that is, exploration, preservation and regeneration of the marine environment). And whether it’s intentional or not, Stevenson often conjures up spells of fluted and dreamy underwater fantasies: ‘Submissions’ to these ears sounds like a Verne-inspired dive beneath the waves, with a touch of both equal enchantment and scuba-equipped Bond thriller.

Occasionally something more foreboding, alien emerges from the depths like some ancient Lovecraftian leviathan. This effect, evocation can be felt on the oppressive and crushing bass, shadowy ‘Old Legions’ – a mix of Jóhann Jóhannsson at his most ominous and touch of Bernard Szajner and Room Of Wires.

For the majority of the time Stevenson molds kosmische, techno and synthwave into various futurist and mysterious projections; stirring up a gently burbled and bubbled acid and fluttered progressive-techno suite of otherworldly sonar waves and cosmic noir on the opening ‘B. Whaler’, and channeling Cliff Martinez on the scalextric-set looping dystopian scares ‘Sadurday’. There’s also some strange Germanic classical fairground thing going on with the Wendy Carlos and Roedelius harped, heavenly ‘ode to toy’ ‘With Dots’. I also detect some lovely climbing Eno notes on the deeply felt and bass-stamped, but neoclassical ebbing, ‘Hoary Notions’. And just when you think you’ve got him worked out, ‘Way Down’ motors at a nice speed towards Germanic 80s synth pop.

Hymnal Western-twanged dives, sci-fi vistas and unknown entities await on a finely-crafted, cinematic quality debut. Stripped of its original visuals, it’s left to the listener to dream and be moved to the lilted and more feared aspects of the imagination.

Under what could just be the longest acronym ever, or a particular recondite sequence known only to the artists, the duo of Matt Greenwall and Phillip Andrew Lewis conjure up the both gently cooed and reverberated hauntings of various imagined transmissions and transduced whispers on their new album of wispy and soothingly effective ambient suites.   

Barely above that whisper, these quite but deeply stirring pieces seem to feed a collection of processed video and tape loops into the ether; the returning sound waves, broadcasts now sonic mirages, passages of the American strange, the waves lapping onto a cult 50s soft surf soundtrack, or, the breeze blowing gently across the Appalachian Mountains.

AM/FM radio signals crisply spark as glass birds sound and translucent bulbs ring in the resonance of a drone. The nebulous meets the ghostly; traces of a less fearful Twin Peaks and a haunted theatre are suffused in an ebbing ambient cycle. Voices come and go as movie dialogue is manipulated into echoes of the past. The dreamy spells linger as you catch some hallowed or mysterious presence drifting off into the empirical.

Elements of the semi-classical, trip-hop experiments, European library music, old film image reels and analogue ambient music can all be detected and felt on this both organic but artificially constructed, amorphous album. The opening ambient aria beauty, ‘Angela’s Light’, is worth the entrance fee alone.

Brown Calvin ‘dimension//perspective’
(AKP Recordings) 26th August 2022

Although split into “dimension” and “perspective” suites the latest elemental album from the Portland, via Philly, producer and composer Andre Burgos is an almost uninterrupted, constantly moving beat-making and cosmic expansive ball of energy.

Under the Brown Calvin alias, and uncoupled from his vocalist foil Brown Alice in the “intergalactic” Brown Calculus duo, Burgos’ Afrofuturist soundtrack transduces all the strains, stresses and rage of the last few years into a controlled chaos of universal proportions.

Traces of hip-hop, jazz, electronica, kosmische, soul and funk can be heard, morphed, effected, and warped as sporadic African hand drums spring into action and scrapped percussion add a sense of ancestral continuity to this ascension into space. Civility, society maybe a tinder box on Earth, but out into the cosmos lies possibilities; a certain escape and serenity, especially sonically, as this album can testify.

An ambitious, lengthy, infinity even, peregrination opens this album. What, in old money, would constitute the whole side of an LP is an astral and contorting vision of analogue-soundboard pulsating circuitry kosmische (ala Tangerine Dream, Moebius and Schulze), Afrikan Sciences oscillations and tangents of beats, ripples and purrs of Rhodes and progressive jazz.

The rest of the album isn’t so much broken up into demarcated parts as a number of symbolist, calculus numbered points along a flipped, staccato or churned journey of expressive freedom. All the shit, the despair and hate is fuelled into a spiritual quest for answers. A multitude of coded, infinity (that word again) suffixed ‘perspectives’ offer variations on the musical themes; some parts in that scope are more liquid, whilst others fracture off into to the psychedelic. Some float, others catch on a ball-in-the-cup loop or form a tumble of breaks. Shooting stars cross the great expanse and dancing translucent bulbs act as notation of a kind. There’s plenty of bending, arcs of distortion in those heavenly realms too; but also the threat of overload.

This is the soundtrack to the African space programme; an untethered energy of J. Dilla, Flying Lotus, slugabed, Don Cherry, Labelle and Floating Points. Burgos has a great capacity, hunger to try out many ideas and to take from eclectic sources; opening the way to free-form movements and a sonic alchemy. The Brown Calvin moniker proves a fruitful transition but also the vessel for a new cosmology and language with which to process our troubling times.       

Die Welttraumforscher ‘Liederbuch’
(Bureau B) 26th August 2022

It’s a novel way in which to reconnect with an enchanted world inspired back catalogue; a project that’s spawned at least thirty albums and a fecund of illustrative, multimedia works. But for this latest Die Welttraumforscher (translating as The Space Explorers) album a couple of concept characters look back over a forty-year multiverse and pick out their favourite songs to tell a different story.

Conjured up from the mind of Christian Pfluger, the part Dadaist, part Swiss maverick fantasist, this “pop-up book” of imaginative fairytales now puts the “insect twins” turn compilers Brtz and Brxl at the centre of a new songbook.

Although already receiving a two-part retrospective last year (the fortieth anniversary year) the Liederbuch album seems to reach back to titles from Ein Sommer In Der Wirklichkert (from 1991) and Binike (1986) and keeps up the character board from across the decades.

In this magical landscape we meet cosmic-travellers (Lia and Mira from the Northern Crystal realm), silent forest dweller Ohm Olunde, the mysterious dark pilots, crop-circle researcher Leguan Rätselmann and the Owlmaster Kip Eulenmeister. Reminding me a little of the same magical dioramas and cast that inhabit the musical world of Scarlet’s Well, albeit a both very Germanic and Transalpine version, these characters are often playful, childlike and sweetly placed within an eclectic soundtrack.

Fluctuating between musical moods, genres, Pfluger (who remains very much an enigma) skips through echoes of the German new wave, the bucolic and ambrosian, and more lo fi. From the acoustic, with a touch of some Spanish flair and the pastoral, to preset Casio keyboard synth wheezes, the musical scope is varied and large. Mooning through woodlands to cosmic Theremin-like aerial loons, the storyboard drums up a myriad of settings too.

As influential as he is influenced, touches of progressive idiosyncratic stars mingle with shades of the kosmische, Per W, The Incredible String Band, SFA, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Spike & Debbie and trip-hop. There’s also a bit in ‘Goldene Barken’ where someone blows their nose and coughs to a semi-post-punk, scratchy Velvets guitar backing.

Whimsical, cartoonish, and eccentric Pfluger’s imaginative cosmology remains a curio, a vehicle for escapism but the absurd and fantastical; the music, still after all this time, just as captivating and inviting. 

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

Choice Music From The Last Month
Curated By Dominic Valvona

Those July tunes from the Monolith Cocktail team of Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Andrew C. Kidd; 45 tracks that represent the blog’s tastes this month.

As a companion piece, we’ve now started compiling a version over on our Youtube channel. With some video tracks not included in, and a different order to, the Spotify playlist. This includes the brand new Violet Nox (the Boston synth futurists) video for ‘Magnetar’ and Sebastian Reynolds athletics-inspired alternative soundtrack ‘Cheptegei’ (the Extra Mile Edit), plus a track from Andrew Spackman’s newest alias The Dark Jazz Project. We also have a few alternative track selections from the artists.

But first here’s that Spotify link and track list:

The Difference Machine (Ft. Sa-Roc)  ‘Repeater’
Ree-Vo  ‘Groove With It’
Wu-Lu  ‘Scrambled Tricks’ Ferry Djimmy  ‘Toba Walemi’
Marva Broome  ‘Mystifying Mama’
The Legless Crabs  ‘(I Wanna Be A) Cult Musician’
Toni Tubna w/ The Stockholm Tuba Section  ‘The Triennial’
The Doomed Bird Of Providence  ‘Unlawfully And Maliciously Murdered’
Archers Of Loaf  ‘In The Surface Of Noise’ The Burning Hell  ‘No Peace’
Kamikaze Palm Tree  ‘In The Sand’
Bruno Hibombo  ‘Black Dogs Down At Marie’s’
Elle E  ‘Oh Blue Eyes’
Kick  ‘Some Velvet Morning’
U.S. Girls  ‘So Typically Now’
Gillian Stone  ‘Amends’
Rezo  ‘Your Truth’
Tau & The Drones Of Praise  ‘It Is Right To Give Drones And Praise’
The Meltdown  ‘Lie To Me’
group O  ‘Kabelslat’
Axel Holy, Galloping Ghosts (Ft. Wish Master)  ‘Nothing Personal’
Stevie Pre  ‘Sent From The Top’
Sly Moon  ‘Banned From The Vic’
BKO  ‘NGON’
Amos, Mt. Stupid  ‘Technophobia’
Apollo Brown  ‘Just Like Home’
The Korea Town Oddity (Ft. Kahil Sadiq)  ‘HOMEBOYS IN OUTERSPACE’
Tumi Mogorosi  ‘Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child’
CMPND  ‘Acid Reign’
Healing Force Project  ‘Double Orbit’
Moebius  ‘Rast’
Fera  ‘Animale’
Nwando Ebizie  ‘I Seduce’
Ekome  ‘Gahu (Live At WOMAD 1982)’
Dynamo  ‘Arabia’
Skuff  ‘Sly Flute’
Blaktrix, A.H. Fly (Ft. Sonnyjim)  ‘Shoey’
The Difference Machine  ‘Flat Circles’
Aftab Darvishi  ‘Sahar’
Hatis Noit  ‘Jomon’
La Chinaca  ‘Sin Titulo’
Penza Penza  ‘Neanderthal Rock’
No Age  ‘Andy Helping Andy’
Jill Richards, Kevin Volans  ‘Third Etude’
Caterina Barbieri  ‘Transfixed’

And here’s that Youtube version:


Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Roundup
Unless stated otherwise, all releases are available now

SHORTS:: Singles/Tracks:

Claude ‘Twenty Something’
(American Dreams Records)

Navigating the disappointments and those sinking feelings of resignation, Claude, the alias of one Claudia Ferme, release’s a wistful, almost languid but searching slice of prime dream-pop ahead of a new album in August. The inaugural single from that album, A Lot’s Gonna Change, ‘Twenty Something’ swims in the same waters as Aldous Harding, a disarming piece of woozy existential malaise that reflects Claude’s frustrations of society’s expectations when faced with reality.

As that title suggests, this dreamy, almost mirage like single encapsulates an informative yet scary and confusing age. Reilly Drew’s video for the song perfectly captures the mood, with the emptiness and the surreal, dream-like quality of a number of spaces serving as representations of Claude’s internal environment: “I’m alone in each scene, on some strange kind of journey, walking, thinking, looking inward, even when I’m surrounded by people.”

Wearing what could just be a cool bit of in-character chainmail, Claude’s literal armour comes and goes with a number of wardrobe changes, as she poses in coolly aloof, nonplussed reflective ways: an echo in there of 70s troubadours, female singer-songwriters gazing out thoughtfully. A mellowed yearn with snuggled and snozzled saxophone, ‘Twenty Something’ is a softened piece of captivating art-pop that shows a lot of promise. Expect to see a full album review in the future.

La Chinaca ‘Juegos Malosos’
(Movimientos Records)

Conjured up in a psychedelic vapour of bendiness and slinking dreaminess, La Chinaca’s latest wheeze is to transmogrify the brooding Chris Izaak classic ‘Wicked Games’, attuning it to their own special blend of Tropicana and more dystopian Cumbia.

A straight Spanish translation of “Juegos Malosos” is “evil games”, and on this slice of Island life theirs a sense that we’re being intoxicatingly led towards a sacrificial leap into the volcano. A mirage of languid reverbed South America percussion and drugged wooed vocals place this in the evanescent ether, between worlds, the final faded out winds sending this brilliant cover version into the cosmos. I look forward to hearing more.

Gabrielle Ornate ‘Free Falling’

With the bonus of youth on her side the highly motivated “bohemian siren” has released a string of energetic alternative rock and pop winners over the last year, whilst also covering, in a unique and musically skillful manner, an eclectic mix of songs on Instagram.

Gabrielle Ornate has all the right elements with her balancing act of colourful maximalist dynamism and charged emotional attitudes and politics. The latest track, ‘Free Falling’, leans towards “rawk” but still evokes an impish spirit. I for one see big things coming Ornate’s way.

Tess Tyler (Ft. Barney Sage) ‘Sell The Sky’
(Manners McDade)

You have to say that the Bristol-based composer Tess Tyler doesn’t do things by half, announcing not just a single but double album debut. Released on the same day, Fractals LP 1 will contain original neo-classical and experimental electronic explorations of Tess’ work, whilst LP 2 is billed as a “once in a lifetime” live recording of the brilliant and congruous Spindle Ensemble’s interpretations of the album’s graphic scores, designed by Tess, recorded at St George’s Hall in Bristol.

You could say it has been a decade in the making with Tess’ varied and experienced career including collaborations with Imogen Heap, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, The Budapest Art Orchestra and The Bratislava Symphony. Her work has appeared on many orchestral scores showcased in concert halls across the United Kingdom as well as on video games such as LEGO® Marvel Avengers and indie hits including Human: Fall Flat. The year 2020 saw the release of Tess’ debut solo work, Stasis: Five Sketches for Piano; a five track EP influenced by Phillip Glass and Steve Reich, whilst integrating her innate cinematic compositional style.

To announce The Fractals doublet, Tess is sharing both versions of lead single ‘Sell The Sky’. We’re sharing the original version of the track, found on LP1 and featuring the kick-drummed bounce and stuttered drumming of the multi-instrumentalist, and fellow Bristol resident, Barney Sage. As the video shows, Tess, in moody gray shot colours moves from sculpting the stirrings of synthesized wind-blown cosmic forces to neo-classical, ala Roedelius and Tim Story, piano waves. Sage waits until the halfway mark to let off a jazzy loose splash and tumble roll of shadow play that stirs up the waters.

Expect to a full review of the two-part debut album nearer the time of release, later this year on the 9th September.

LONGFORM::Albums/EPs

The Paxton/Spangler Septet ‘Ugquozi’
(Eastlawn Records)

The co-led Paxton/Spangler Septet once more dance and join the South African jazz appreciation society parade with a new album of riffs on compositions and freedom marches from the country’s most celebrated icons.

Stalwarts of the Detroit scene for decades, trombonist John Tbone Paxton and his congas, percussionist foil RJ Spangler have been exalting an inspirational South African legacy since the 1980s. Continuing in various forms and with a myriad of players and guests they’ve built up an enviable reputation as true acolytes of such incredible talents as the late Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim. The latter’s songbook provided all the material for the partnership’s last album (which garnered a very favourable review from me) Anthems For The New Nation.

With such a long-spanning career, and still going strong in the neoclassical mode, it’s no surprise to find the artist formerly known as Dollar Bill once more gracing a Paxton/Spangler album. As a final flourish, the man anointed, no less, by Nelson Mandela as ‘South Africa’s Mozart’ has his seasonal ‘Jabulani Easter Joy’ hymn taken on a journey of both blessed spiritual reverence and a more controlled cacophony of wailed squalling horns, tumbled, galloping drums and detuned piano: a sort of New Orleans Prince Lasha in communion with Nate Morgan. 

It feels like the generational baton has been handed down from Ibrahim to the increasingly celebrated Nduduzo Makhathini, taking on the mantle (arguably) as South Africa’s foremost jazz-pianist. Although releasing at least eight albums over the last seven years, it was his Zulu roots and beyond traversing, liquid spiritual Modes Of Communication: Letters From The Underworld opus that cemented Makhathini’sreputation internationally. The Blue Note anointed star’s ‘Ithemba’ swings from the vine here, to a lively but also serenaded transformation of melodious Leon Thomas, the brassy trilled trumpet evocations of Masekela, concerto-style piano and lush bird-like flute.

Another titan of not just her homeland but a continent too, Mama Africa Miriam Makeba is represented by a New Orleans and Chicago R&B grooving joyful vision of her famous ‘Pata Pata’ anthem: There’s almost a hint of Dave Brubeck on that circular-rasped horns lilt of sweetened collective energy.

From the South African diaspora of the Apartheid years, the renowned, late, trumpeter/flutist Mongezi Fezu (leaving his native home for Europe in the late 60s, famously turned-on to progressive, psych and Afro-jazz sounds and playing with such luminaries as Robert Wyatt, before joining Henry’s Cow and the very underappreciated Assagai) sees his ‘You Ain’t Gonna Know Me ‘Cos’ handled like a soothing balm of sunny side-up reeds and sauntering relaxed grooves, whilst the Johannesburg born composer/musician Caiphus Semenya (upping sticks to L.A. in the 60s and working with such legends as Makeba and Nina Simone) has his Masekela-penned collaboration ‘Part Of A Whole’ given a respectful soulful and acid-jazz transformation of Southern organ funk and smooth Freddie Hubbard-like blasts and squawks.   

Spreading the love further afield, to outside the South African borders and reach, there’s a suffused bluesy turbulence of huffed, burnished and kettle whistling horns version of Afro-beat progenitor Fela Kuti’s ‘Water’s Got No Enemy’, and a dreamy woodwind swaddled Afro-jazz (throw in a pinch of Yusef Lateef and Lee Morgan) take on NYC native and reeds maestro Salim Washington’s ‘Lwandle Luulaby’. Salim appears as a greater circle of guests on this album’s lineup, adding a unique oboe sound alongside tenor sax and flute turns. 

An inspired channeling of the very elements that make South African jazz so appealing, stirring and bright, Ugquozi is a sagacious and masterful rework of the familiar. Not so much an album of cover standards as a chance to riff on and guide the material to new heights; some of which is down to the fresh perspective of using the trombone and oboe. This is a great testament to a jazz heritage that’s worth celebrating more often, and shouting from the rafters.

Ghost Horse ‘Il Bene Comune’
(HORA Records)

Created during, what seems like an age ago, Italy’s second round of lockdowns in the winter of 2020/2021, the latest expletory jazz album from Ghost Horse is quite a brooding, strung-out affair of fusions.

An extended partner to the already decade-running Hobby Horse trio of reeds man Dan Kinzelmap, bassist Joe Rehmas and drummer Stefano Tamborrino, the Ghost Horse expands to accommodate the brass section prowess of Filippo Vignato and Glauco Benedetti and the baritone guitarist contortions, wanes of Gabrio Baldacci as they venture out into the alien, physical and, at times, uneasy. 

Whilst you’d be none the wiser, this sonic prowl and free-form expression of counterbalanced attitude and drifted, untied space walks into the cosmos was created over the Internet; with some face-to face meetings it must be added. It doesn’t show, and rather than a fragmented sextet performance all the elements, no matter how out there, seem to gel, or at least move in the same direction together.

In the notes there’s a description of the group’s methodology; the underlying structural theme one of “shared familiarity” with an emphasis on “basic modular, predominantly simple, repeating motifs”. In practice this sounds like a considered tumult of conscious, funky, breakbeat, avant-garde, Afro and industrial jazz. Yet, breaks out into all kinds of other styles, from prog to hip-hop and the cinematic.

The opening ‘Fulfillment Centre’ is a case in point of these hybrids; with creeping bass, New Orleans style horns, an untethered relaxed notion of motion, and yet urges of Sons Of Kemet, Comet Is Coming and Irreversible Entanglements all in the mix. By the second track its all change, as ‘Idea’ bounces downtown to 80s no wave NYC (Mofunge and Vortex) with a dose of South Africa’s BLK/JKS and a modern trip-breakbeat injection of UNCLE.

Floating out over the lunar landscapes, ‘Q’ goes mysterious on us with its astral strident and industrial hysterics and garbled guitar: an exercise that could be described as rage against the modal. Pinged harmonics echo off slow strained horns on the Floyddian and Zappa-esque simmered ‘Stand Stan’, and ‘EBO’ reverberates to the sounds of Krononaut as a tabbing guitar sends out a satellite communication code of whelps.   

Free of gravity once more the Polish city of ‘Warsaw’ begins with a both prog-rock and soothed, serenaded beautiful classical suite, before stretching out into spidery rattles on the drum kit and a symphonic Ornette Coleman, elephant horn blowing take on a Lalo Schifrin score.

Tuba ship prowls and circular breathing brass warble to another cosmic performance on the finale, and titular-track, which in English translates as “the common good”.

Out on the fringes, on the perimeters of mystery and moody investigation, Ghost Horse emerges from the pandemic with a fairly unique blend of jazz, created for a troubled and confused world ill at ease with itself. The Italian jazz scene looks to be in good hands.

Farmer ‘Things Do Things Without Thinking’
(Gare du Nord)

Let loose and decoupled from his union with Tim Ward in the more deliberated Cold Spells (a Monolith Cocktail favourite and recommendation), a soloist Michael Farmer unleashes and unloads an imaginative psyche on the world.

Uploaded to a MIDI keyboard of maverick eccentricities, dreamt-up cosmic meanders and mental spasms, Farmer’s idiosyncratic experiment in “maximalism” is less a rage and more a progressive mindfuck rile against the machine.

You got prog-rock running wild to garbled Manga and electro loony tunes; avant-garde, Fluxus classicism sporadically competing with euro-synth pop; and the ominous gravitas of Kubrick sized space odyssey stirrings lined-up against Deep Purple and Alex Harvey.

This is a full-blown the madcap laughs (and despairs) at the universe kind of an album, with Syd, David Allen, Robert Wyatt and Martin Dupont rattled and harassed by noodling sprints of Zappa and rampart snatches of Devo, XTC, Crack Cloud and The Flaming Lips. On one hand it sounds like Steve Vai having a chuckle, on the other, a beautifully emergent celestial epic. Throw in a fairground of curiosities that’s just manifested from the noggin’ of Suggs, Trevor Horn suffering an animism, ELO rehearsing with Sakamoto, Der Plan and Klaxons at the 80s Eurovision contest and Santana mixing it with Todd Rundgren. Too much?!

Most of the time each track seems to lead into the next, with little demarcation. Even the track titles can be read, strung together, into a couple of sentences. Farmer’s cacophony isn’t so much reflected in the vocal delivery however, though the lyrics ran like a splutter of universal resignation, serenaded discourse and precarious enormity. I have to take my hat off to anyone who can make this line sound lucid and fleeting: “It’s a common understanding that we happen to be standing on a mass of exponentiation-radiating rubble led by tyrants.” All true by the way.   

Lyrics from the inner and outer spaces often get brought back down to Earth as Farmer’s brain gets stretched and warped.

You could say Farmer’s thrown a whole lifetime of ideas, musical inspirations and aspirations into this untethered madness. Yet despite what reads on paper as a competing, chaotic mess, on repeated plays Things Do Things Without Thinking unfurls its magic, sensibilities and unique qualities and starts to make sense. An astonishing album that almost defies description.

Omertà ‘Collection Particulière’
(Zamzam Rec.)

On pain of death dare you mention the secret society, Omertà’s dreaded connotations couldn’t be less overtly fearful and criminal as the Florence Giroud instigated ensemble loom large in a cosmic psychedelic, bass guitar-heavy spell of post-punk, no wave, synth music and soul. Yes, that’s right, soul!

The dreamy opening, ‘Air Instrumental’, has a surprising feel of the El Michaels Affair, a little Shacks and 79.5 to ease us all in to a lucid artsy cosmology of repeating leitmotifs, or “ritornellos” as they call it – in case you are wondering, that’s a recurring passage in Baroque music for orchestra or chorus that when translated from it Italian etymology means “little return”.

This French experiment, with members drawn from across a lofty underground scene, dwells in mysterious chambers, yet seeks the illuminating light of melted moonbeams to a slide-y deep bass groove and starry twinkles, shimmery resonating cymbals and Giroud’s text, passage-reading and sung invocations.

Despite a host of esoteric references and the use of that seraphim-touched seer William Blake, this world of relaxed soulful lucidity, Numan-esque synths, celestial serenades is mostly a warm woozy affair.  Touches of The Pop Group, Le Volume Courbe and Caravan Of Anti-Matter all rear their heads. But you could also add a general feeling of the 60s to that list, plus a little Rhyton on the psych-country space fireworks turn coarser distorting fuzz ‘Kremer & Bergert’ – vocally featuring text from not only Giroud but also the Julie Kremer of half that title and Raphaël Dafour.   Avant-garde in source with hidden depths of meaning, allusions cast to higher purposes, Omertà’s latest album is dreamy escapism on one hand, yet stalking chthonian mystery on the other. But in essence: Sault meets Tim Gane in the French underground.      

Xqui ‘Pieces Part 2’
(Somewherecold Records) 24th June 2022

The soundtrack to a both mysterious and uneasy film, or, a piece of video and installation art, Xqui’s experiments with the voice are as challenging as they are successful in drawing the listener into a strange world. Images unfold, atmospheres, memories take shape in a language of field recordings, repeated annunciations, speech and obscured choral cosmic and esoteric moans and metallic industrial sounds.

It must be pointed out that the only actual credited voice belongs to the writer/performer Lynn Gerrard, who reads out an underworld vision of Biblical hell from a furnace of hanging chains, rolling stock machinery and broken glass underfoot – actually, sounding more abandoned retail park warehouse than the bowels of hell.

Almost automated, accumulating in an increasingly cacophony of accents, there’s a Laurie Anderson thesaurus of “ate” ending words (“Motivate”, “Captivate”, “Violate” and so on) being repeated in some moist cave-like atmospheric chamber on ‘Narrator’: A place, environment in which the mysterious tapping of mining tools chip away in time to the wisps of rhythm and the vocal cadence.

These voices, apparitions, become more erratic with what sounds like a shout of “Fire!” on the warped psychedelic churned ‘Piece’, and form an almost unholy 2001: A Space Odyssey style eerie chanted moan on the esoteric funneled cosmic disturbance ‘Vykings’. “Amputate”, “Deactivate”, “Eradicate”, “Detonate” sound out to the tones, space fizzles, alien whirly bird twitters and ghost freighter moods of the Tangerine Dream on the semi-classical hinted, dreamy ‘Apathetic’. There’s samples of presidential enquiry on the looming threat turn warped, morphed maelstrom spin ‘Demetri Prentiss’

Things liven up as the previous solar wind powered vapours and deepened throbbing heavy bass pulsations leap into a more driving beat on the Günter Schickert Krautrock charge, ‘Adam Brasso’.   Otherworldly, paranormal and obscured visitations form an unsettled climate and deep concentration of Meta awaits those searching for a fully immersive experience. Neither ambient, sound art nor musique concrete Xqui’s latest work opens up a portal into the captured familiar made altogether more creepy and out of this world.

The Mining Co. ‘Acoustic Phenomenology’
(PinDrop Records) 17th June 2022

Not so much the afterthought as a return to the essence, with a clutch of songs from his most recent (and in my view best) album, Phenomenology, stripped of their previous electronic effects, gravity-less forms and augmentation and taken back to a more intimate form. In fact, this is where you’d usually start with the songwriting process, with the very bones of the song. And usually singer-songwriter Michael Gallagher would start with these versions and work towards the frills, swells and atmospherics. But prompted during sessions by his producer Paco, those original incarnations have appeared as a sort of additional showcase for the County Donegal artist’s sense of melody, storytelling and effortless emotional draws.

But let’s go back a bit to last year, and the original space cowboy Phenomenology: Gallagher’s first furor into electronics. Floating his usual brand of country-laced cathartic heartache towards deep space, riffing off John Carpenter’s 1974 cult sci-fi movie Dark Star, Gallagher seemed to weave the fatalistic return to the astrological bodies themes of being cast adrift in space with the lamentable and touching agonies of life on Earth.

One of the movie’s main protagonists, the jettisoned Talby, was and is once more immortalized on his floated rendezvous with the Phoenix Asteroids. His swansong of a kind, ‘Talby Drift’ returns to its original form of Americana held plaint. The same goes too for the more rhythmic, but still country-burred ‘Universal Son’. However, the more heavy-set darkened ‘IWBHM’ (believe it or not, a song about a child who dreams of being a heavy metal star that worships the ‘devil’) has a touch now of Josh T. Pearson and alt-90s stripped-down rock that could be mistaken for grunge. The resigned crash site malady, ‘Astral Investigation’, would sound beautiful in any form, as it does here on this vulnerable, Lukas Creswell-like soft acoustic version.  

Almost free of its vaporous synths and celestial atmospherics, this stripped-down suite does however purr, percolate and ripple with the broadcast waves of an undulated cosmic presence. And so keeping that relatively subtle connection going – also sometimes reflected in the vocal echo, reverb – Gallagher reminds us of the original celestial sentiment and environments that pushed his usual earthy songwriting into the stratosphere. 

A lovely companion piece to last year’s minor triumph, which would have worked well as a bonus extra, this less cosmic showcase of the original material is nice enough. Yet really just sends us full circle back to Gallagher’s signature sound, whilst Phenomenology seemed to dream bigger and set the artist on the open road to larger scale, even conceptual, works. I said it was his most creative, and best album to date. This little EP is brilliant though; the performances low key yet just as emotionally charged.  

Loris Cericola ‘Metaphysical Graffiti’
(Artetetra) 22nd June 2022

The Montecosaru-residing musician and video artist is off to a good start already. For Loris is in fact both my old man’s Christian name and my middle name.

Though quite far down the ancestry chain, and you probably guessed by my full name, my family can claim its Italian roots. Right, lets get on with the task of critiquing Loris’s new supernatural album of atmospheric unease and discombobulating environments. A kind of avant-garde ambient and sound collage, Metaphysical Graffiti (a riff on Led Zep’s “physical” bombastic double-album from 1975) lurks, scratches about and generally takes in the both primordial and esoteric resonance of the unfamiliar.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Loris Cericola is part of the multidisciplinary audio-visual collective Cerchio 23 (I’m sure the ‘Planet 23’, which clocks in at 2 minutes and 3 seconds exactly, is a nod to that project in name). And so with an ear to conjuring up such visual Meta as cave dwelling horrors, communications with the otherworldly through a TV set or across the ether, and oscillating and propeller zipped craft, looming overhead, Loris’s sonic visions seem to soundtrack a paranormal movie that hasn’t yet been made.

Muffled voices in the subterranean and purring ripples announce a ‘Premonition’; a repeated gong-like shudder, hammey snatches of organ, cut-up dialogue, whirled UFOs and animalistic whelps ebb and flow on ‘Droid’s Memory Coding’; stone movements and spirit activity light up the daemonic meter on ‘Message From Beyond’.

The dank, the mirrored, the veiled, the moaning, the slurred, the semi-orgasmic woes make for something unearthly and also primitive. Italian and Spanish 80s underground cassette tape culture both meet around an atavistic campfire communal with the esoteric as hidden motors and machinery hum and gliders hover overhead, on what is a most eerie peregrination.

Flying Moon In Space ‘Zwei’
(Fuzz Club Records) 24th
June 2022

The Tangerine Dream crosses flight paths with the Young Knives and Kavinsky on the second album from the Leipzig-based experimental sextet, Flying Moon In Space. With an astrological motorik driven beat, trebly post-punk bass line, prodded and goading yelps and vocals the group harmoniously, even when in shouted protest, channel a German music legacy of krautrock, kosmische and Nue Deutsche Welle with the Transatlantic sound of Crack Cloud and the LCD Soundsystem.

They sort of borrow a numerated “zwei’ from Kluster – the 1970 album Zwei-Osterei under the original formation of what would soon become Cluster after the departure of Conrad Schnitzler – and often evoke vaporous wisps of Klaus Schulze whilst charging forward on a Pyrolator metallic techno beat, or slinking along to a club-friendly International Pony cosmic-disco-funk.

With an improvised themed methodology, the escalating ‘Traum Für Alle’ (“dream for everyone”) has time to build from an incipient start of rotor-bladed ripples, wooing drones and effected electronica into a sort of post-punk materialistic themed overdrive of Bis, Japandorf and Electralane. ‘Optimist’ however, is set to a neon Stranger Things 80s and techno-knocked vibe of krautrock-disco-pop.

On the event horizon precipice, earthly yearns and riled injustices get sent out into the abysses of space; the group playing on, even dancing to a both pulsating charge and more Euro-synth slick motor-funk. The album’s finale, ‘Prophet’ (just as easily a reference to the religious as it is to the famous line of sequential synths), imagines a breathless Damo Suzuki drifting across a yacht moored in the new wave harbour.

There’s the excitable, the dreamy and the sighed all wrapped up in an oscillation of synth-pop, punk and motoring velocity; a universe in which Private Agenda groove with Bloc Party, Loved Drones, Dunkelziffer and Klaus Dinger.

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

Dominic Valvona’s Essential Roundup
Unless stated otherwise, all releases are available to buy now.

The Master Musicians Of Jajouka ‘Dancing Under The Moon’
(Glitterbeat Records) 13th May 2022

Truly atavistic, the Rif Mountain ensemble known as The Master Musicians Of Jajouka were once heralded by William Burroughs (no less) as, “the four thousand year old rock and roll band”.  Carrying a real mystique until more recent times this Moroccan outpost, holy mountain shrine located group claim descent from the venerable Ahl Serif tribe (which roughly translates as “the saintly”) and their sacred idol, the legendary Arab healer Sidi Hamid Sheich. And in an act of preservation they continue to keep the signature double reed Ghaita flute (an instrument almost identical to the Arabian Mizmar) and Lira (a fiddle-like instrument) led mesmerising, entrancing and leaping performative music that goes hand-in-hand with their devotion alive.

Until the last century Jajouka and music created there were virtually unknown. That was until the well-travelled artist and Burroughs foil Brion Gysin made the wild trip across an antiquity-rich African landscape to that remote village hideaway in the Jebala foothills.  Passing such incredible ancient relics as The Pillars Of Hercules, and the final resting place of Jean Genet at Larache, Gysin found real nourishment and something inspiring when introduced to a previous incarnation of the troupe. Making various connections after witnessing shaggy sheepskin adorned dancers bounding over a bonfire to ‘wooden trumpeted fanfares’, Gysin saw something far older, a cultural lineage that predated Sufi mysticism, going back further towards Pan-like Greek and Roman ritual and Persia.

Bringing back his own recordings to London at a later date in 1968, he’d turn on his old mucker and Rolling Stone Brian Jones to this ancient, but very much alive, trance. No stranger to picking up on and embracing world sounds and instruments, Jones would be inspired to make his own trip to Jajouka, taking the sound engineer George Ckiantz with him. God only knows what the locals must have thought of the pretty much strung out by now, hippie Jones, but they welcomed him into the fold nonetheless, introduced to the chief in that period and defacto band leader Abdeslam Attar. As was the custom, Jones and Ckiantz made a number of recordings during their stay. Released at a later date (posthumously for Jones) with added electronic phasing and cutting methods to encourage a more psychedelic montage effect, these tapes made up the first release on the Stones own label imprint in the 70s.

Pretty much blowing the lid of this isolated group, a succession of visitors made the journey pilgrimage; from jazz deity Ornette Coleman, who jammed with the ensemble for his 1975 album Dancing In Your Head, to Rolling Stone writer Robert Palmer and the American photographer Joel Rubines. The latter, who as it happened was fluent in the Darija Arabic dialect, made the now famous, and purist at that point, The Master Musicians Of Jajouka recordings. A decade on and the Stones came knocking for real this time with an offer of collaboration, followed not too soon by the explorative Bill Laswell.

Fast forward another couple of decades and the now Bachir Attar led group invited the Italian musician and engineer Jacupo Andreini to record the most comprehensive testament yet. What he captured is now in the hands of Glitterbeat Records, a double-CD spread of ten-minute plus adorations, romances, courtly music and processions.

A septet of heralding circular-breathing fluted horns, the quivering frayed twang and pluck of Liras, galloping drums and a unison of voices conjure up visions of mystery, rituals and moonbeam bathed dances. We could be atop of the holy mountains, but also anywhere along the antiquated Mediterranean coastline, to Moorish Spain.

Venerations to the master but also Islamic faith, including a flighty, swallow-winged wispy and willowy avian prayer to Allah, appear alongside the regal and lively. ‘Hlilya’ is something altogether different; a sort of ancient bounced progenitor of Breakbeat and 2-Step.’Khamsa Khamsin’ with its triple reedy drones and fanfare parade could even be said to have a hint of swing, even jazz about it. This processional, as well as the dancing ‘Opening The Gate’, would have, at one time, been the accompanying tunes for the Sultan’s walk to and back from the mosque.

Like a chorus of busy buzzes or a sustained mizzle, the sound of a trio of Ghaitas is a thing to behold. And when the frame-like drums appear it’s a both beautified and racing entrancing experience like no other. That weaved and bowed Lira has a great sound too; a twine and bandy tone that reminded me of the Appalachians.

Atonal, mesmerising and yet melodic the atavistic music of this holy anointed sanctuary has never sounded so intriguing. No wonder Ornette was so eager – they were even flown over to play at the science-fiction jazz innovator’s funeral. He heard, saw what you yourself can now enjoy, bathe in; music that doesn’t just travel back decades but a millennia, all the way back to the once great Persian empire and beyond. But this isn’t just artifact, an exercise in ethnography, but a living, breathing form very much alive and stirring.

Avalanche Kaito ‘ST’
(Glitterbeat Records)

Full disclosure time. Many of you maybe be aware that on occasion I’ve moonlighted to pay the rent as it were, working with various labels (Analog Africa, Spiritmuse, Pindrop) and artists (Kahil El’Zabar, Lost Colours, Hello Cosmos, Matt Donovan) over the last five or more years. In the last year I’ve been commissioned to write the inviting words for a couple of Glitterbeat Records projects, most recently Širom’s The Liquefied Throne Of Simplicity album. But I’ve also provided the words for the label’s Griot post-punk phenomenon Avalanche Kaito and their debut titular album. I’ve included it not so much as a promotion, but just because it’s a truly incredible record. Anyway, find my original draft-like review showcase below:

Emerging from an entirely original dimension in sound, the polygenesis Avalanche Kaito redefine what it is to talk with the ancients whilst leaping forth into a futuristic chaos of noise on their debut album journey. A palpable experience with each sonic blast, each layer a revelation, this simultaneously taut but expansive universe in which the oral traditions of the West African griot converge with Belgium post-punk, krautrock, math rock and the industrial exists in its own space.

Initialing colliding together as a duo, the Burkina Faso urban griot and multi-instrumentalist Kaito Winse and Brussels noise punk drummer Benjamin Chaval were joined by Chaval’s growling, grinded bassist sparring partner from a previous incarnation, Le Jour du Seigneur, Arnuad Paquotte on this specific line-up’s vision of ancestral proverb metaphors and dataist inspired technology. Although released this summer, eight months after the debut showcase EP, Dabalomuni, the guitarist from that extraordinary otherworldly session, Nico Gitto is now, going forward, part of the transformed setup; not so much replacing Paquotte as expanding the sound into another direction.

Aided by another influential cog in this wheel, Chaval’s previous band manager Michael Wolteche helped to shape this myriad of elements and strands, which coalesce into a dynamic, often intense yet unruly cosmic ritual and unlimited expression of change.

That previous EP was just a small window into a greater universe of animalistic symbolism poetics and allegorical stories wildly vociferated and loquaciously delivered under a rich exotic canopy or, echoed out into space, the ether. With the help of the visual language programme PureData (an open source apparatus for creating interactive computer music and multimedia works) and his pummeling, rattled drumming, Benjamin and his deeply trebly prowling, sinewy bassist foil Arnuad create an effective torque of post-punk-prog-tribal-free-jazz-industrial-electronic tumult for Kaito’s fluty rasped, bow quivered, messenger drums beating commune with his roots and life in a very different bush of ghosts. 

The message that underlines Kaito’s griot ancestry and the band’s motivation, spontaneity, was explained in a recent interview they did with Parisa Eshrati for the Trial & Error Collective site, with Michael’s onus on the ‘live’, opining that: ‘Today we see that everything is dematerialized, everyone is addicted to playlists and clicks on the Internet. When the moment of the concert comes, we forget all that, and we get back to the spirit of the ritual, of the interaction between flesh and blood people.’

Although created in a studio setting that live in the moment feeling and dynamism is authentically recreated on this album. In that same interview Ben outlines the process: ‘There was an improvised stage in the studio with Kaito and me, and then this material was worked on, it went into the digital mixer, to be enriched with computational sourdough.’

In practice that blows up and out into the interdimensional slackened bass stalk of ‘Sunguru’, the wilder, quickened hysterics and danger of the progressive deconstruction ‘Douaga’, the Jah Wobble throbbed esoteric and celestial manifestation ‘Goomde’, and the Scott Walker atmospheric gloom and earthy soul tumbling ‘Eya’. At any one-time snarling yet hypnotic, willowy but thickened with brooding menace, animal spirits from an African exotica come alive to a mysterious matrix that evokes but never settles on warped sparks of 70s era Zappa, Yontan Gat, Fugazi, Black Midi, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen.

Magnetic, straddling multiple worlds, universes Avlanche Kaito are metal and flesh, blood and biometrics, tradition and transition, all wrapped up on a chaotic road trip. The open road, pathway from Kaito’s village home of Lankoé in landlocked Burkina Faso to Brussels via a digital mill in Montpellier and Mount Analouge proves infinitely more important, radical and creative than the destination.  

Jimi Tenor ‘Multiversum’
(Bureau B) 20th May 2022

Continuing his “ikigai” (as it’s called in the press blurb) passion for diy home recording, the polymath Finn Jimi Tenor releases his third album for the Bureau B label this month. Following on from the catch-up retrospective NY, Hel, Barca and a collection of rarities, Deep Sound Learning, the multi-instrumentalist, nee “renaissance man”, now knocks out an album of originals that work around and off of drum machine beats and synth loops.

Multiversum channels the well-travelled and three-decade plus recording maverick’s eclectic tastes, but is also prompted by the label’s invitation to record an album based on Tenor’s basic live set-up of reeds and synth; a minimalist approach that he’s been using successfully for the past two decades. Proving no less effective, the scale of this enterprise is wide and deep; a brilliant run through a smorgasbord of musical styles and rhythms.

For an artist already renowned for his use of Afro-beat and jazz, and for his collaborations with the former’s beat provider doyen Tony Allen and other such luminaries as Kabu Kabu and Abdissa Assefa, Tenor once more draws on those founding genres to build up a mixed bag of dance and pop tracks, jazz-fusion peregrinations and nostalgic filmic and TV series theme tunes. Talking of which, Tenor’s ‘Slow Intro’ lead-in of cosmic flute, apparitional choral voices and passing satellites is part Les Baxter, part 70s soundtrack score.

A minute later (quite literally) and we’re properly transported to the multiverse with a touch of Greg Foat library music and shooting beam electro pop spiritual guided ‘Life Hugger’. Spells of floated, rasped sax and flute with beams of organ follow, on the acid-jazz bent ‘Jazznouveau’, and a trip-hop flighty fluted and whistled Cousteau dives languidly into ‘Uncharted Waters’ on the next fusion of sounds.

By the time we reach ‘Baby Free Spirit’ Tenor’s bobbing and bouncing down to a dance track of late 80s Chicago House and electronic body music: although the bass is extremely deep and menacing.

Showcasing more of his soulful, funky side, ‘Birthday Magic’ sends Marvin Gaye “skinny-dipping” down in West Africa. The Finale, ‘Bad Trip Good’, however, voyages seamlessly into both Jon Hassell and Desert Players era Ornette Coleman territories, to finish on a polygenesis sonic score, which also features an undulated low-level techno beat, sax lulls and coos and a soaring build-up of strings.   

Kutiman, Alex Puddu, Eden Ahbez, Jeremy Steig, Weldon Irvine can all be detected, though Tenor’s cosmology hardly waits around to land on any of them for long. Jimi Tenor, like his name (a convergence of teen idol Jimmy Osmond and the Finn’s favourite instrument, the tenor sax), could rattle off these kinds of hybrid fusions all day long. His sensibility errs towards electronic pop but also a knowing, sometimes tongue-in-cheek take on cult, kitsch composers too.

Fundamentally its all dance music of a kind with an injection of global tourism; a universal canvas for omnivorous playtimes.

And if you can’t get enough of Tenor this month, a new Omniverse survey, almanac of his second great passion, photography, is dues out in tandem with this album.

During a break in his musical exploits – well, more like hitting a brick wall of a kind, believing it to be over before it had even started -, in 1992 Tenor found himself upping sticks to live in New York, where he took a job photographing tourists at the Empire State Building.

Images taken during that heady frantic time, when Tenor was juggling work with late night drinking bouts at the local Dominican restaurants and cramming in a seven hour shift at (once more) making music, sit alongside his promo shots and album covers. Fellow tourist booth pal and Tenor archivist of a sort, Hitoshi Toyoda lends a helping hand, having squirrelled away some of those New York shots. For fans and completists alike, it will prove an essential addition; sound-tracked by that latest album. 

Lucrecia Dalt ‘The Seed’
(Invada Records) 20th May 2022

Lucrecia Dalt’s debut score deserves a better movie. Separated from the exclusive Shudder streaming service’s Sam Walker directed alien-horror trip The Seed, Dalt’s soundtrack proves a far more interesting, mysterious proposition of the otherworldly, esoteric and sci-fi.

The sound artist, musician and composer conjures up a pulsation of short evocations, stirrings and sinister presences fit for a Gallio horror, yet has to provide the atmospheric shocks and creeping menace for a millennial staycation under the stars: a narcissistic poolside monotony destroyed by an alien meteor shower. An E.T. body shocker, the visitor from another constellation proves both a helpless baby and yet alluring threat to the protagonists of this movie. All kinds of ugly, distressing impregnations follow as a seed is indeed planted: though it all could just be down to a particular grotesque trip.

Emanating from tape loops made through a Copicat tape delay, various digital synths and a Korg Monologue, the Biblical, mythological and cosmic all cross paths with sinister metallic forces. Rippled, purred tones, tubular mothership pipework, a frayed bow or two, drones and throbbing pulses are all that’s needed to convey the unsettling and alien. But there’s also plenty of bestial movements and some electronic beats to set the heart racing: the eyes flitting intently towards the dark corners of the room.

Set in a peculiar, bad mezcal tripping Mojave Desert, yet sonically without much in the way of a locational prompt, we could be in a macabre underground vault, bounding across lunar landscapes or aboard some Venutian spaceship. Diaphanous gravitas at the sight of astral phenomenon, concepts of E.T. contamination brought to Earth via meteors, ancient exorcism miracles and the fate of a penance-cursed Greek boulder pusher reference titles point to the action, drama unfolding on screen. The soundtrack growing gradually more warped as the characters lose their bodies, soul and minds.

Shades of Laurie Spiegel, Cliff Martinez, Bernard Szajner, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Pauline Oliverous and early Aphex Twin lurk amongst the considered, skilfully built soundscapes, zones, fears and wraith like stalking terrors. Saying that, there’s the odd ethereal voiced spirit, plus a springy catgut thumbed rhythm to be found on the mosey-down canter ‘Blob On The Lawn’

Removed from the movie itself, the 26-track (all of which are mostly under the three-minute mark) soundtrack for The Seed signals a promising start to Dalt’s filmic aspirations. Though saying that, we shouldn’t be surprised that the incredibly experienced, multimedia composer has taken to this quite comfortably. With great care and a handle on leitmotifs, sounds the polymath artist convincingly scores horror and sci-fi with a certain atmospheric élan, a depth and real sense of the ‘other’.

It seems we won’t have to wait long for the next score either. Just as this review goes out, word reaches us that Dalt’s soundtrack for the recent SKY/HBO comic-horror The Baby is due to be released next week (May 27th), by the same label. ‘A journey into motherhood through a new – quite unexpected – lens’, we’re told, ‘the central character Natasha (played by Michelle De Swarte of The Duchess fame) is landed with a baby after a life of doing exactly what she wants, when she wants. Controlling, manipulative and with violent powers, the baby twists Natasha’s life into a horror show.’ The series was created by Siân Robins-Grace (Kaos, Sex Education) and Lucy Gaymer, and directed by Nicole Kassell and is produced by SISTER (Chernobyl, Landscapers) and Proverbial Pictures. Here’s a sneak peek:

Brigitte Beraha ‘Blink’
20th May 2022

Barely tethered the second album from the incredibly voiced composer Brigitte Beraha and the Lucid Dreamers quartet captures the fleeting, the blink-and-you-miss-it moments, the intangible and abstract.

As the ensemble’s name implies, this is a must lucid and dreamy affair; an explorative jazzy spell that wonders into the avant-garde, minimal and classical, and evokes the free-flowing inspirations of a post Soft Machines Robert Wyatt, Talk Talk, Basil Kirchen and Steve Lacy.

Flanked and enveloped by George Crowley (on reeds and electronics), Aleyona Mick (piano and synth) and Tim Giles (drums, percussion and also electronics) Beraha’s ambled, cooed, fluid vocals are repeatedly morphed and transformed to sound like wisped siren calls and instruments; anything to give it all a congruous but experimental expression.

The improvised exploration tiptoe of post-punk-jazz meandering, ‘Doors’, features a spoken word journey that’s part Raincoats, part inanimate object fetish. A symbolic, conscious freedom that opens, sizes up and dances around the concept of doors and their wooden origins, suddenly takes in a philosophical sadness with spontaneous creaks and yucky yelps.

On the third improvised track, ‘Remembering’, Beraha’s voice takes on a phonetic transformation over a sparse, piano-plonky semi-classical accompaniment. The album’s most electronically charged of electronic compositions ‘Wait For Me’ almost merges that voice with the galvanized steel and zinc of Basic Channel techno sonics, squelches and tubular kinetics. Moans and coos blend with the emotional machine stimulator.

If we’re talking emotions then ‘Lullaby’ proves an evocative beauty of sadness and loss. Lyrically touching base with a father and daughter relationship, hints are conveyed of an eternal sleep, a resting place and conversations left unsaid. It has that Wyatt-like brilliance of lucid vulnerability. Swaned soothed saxophone, softened cymbal taps and plaintive piano offer the accompaniment. On another Wyatt enchantment, the title-track poetically articulates a yearn for the evanescent as trickles, washes and serenades flow into the cosmic-light territory of Donny McCaslin and Matthew Dunn.

Beautifully liquid, magical and unburdened Blink is a hazy brill and airy exhale of explorative jazz that will further cement the reputation of everyone involved: A most fantastic spell indeed.   

Various ‘Sharayet El Disco: Egyptian Disco & Boogie Cassettes 1982-1992’
(Wewantsounds) 3rd June 2022

Pulled from the tape cassette culture of 80s and very early 90s Egypt by the Amsterdam-resided Egyptian deejay, Disco Arabesquo (otherwise known as Moataz Rageb), the latest release from the Wewantsounds label showcases a city, country that embraced the disco trend but made it their own. 

Previously confined to what was a full-on endorsement of technology at the time, the majority of tracks on this compilation were only available on the cassette format. And so for the very first time those obscure and hard to track down Cairo tunes have now been made available on vinyl.

As one exotic, faraway oasis, North Africa (see Casablanca Records as only one of the most glaringly obvious examples) and especially a palm shaded Egypt has inspired and had the alluring effect on the original home of disco in the States. With its own special desert and Nile romanticisms and fantasies the Cairo scene was graced by a litany of stars from the not only the Arabian music world but stage and screen. Two such stars, actresses, Simone Philip Kamel (known simply as Simone on record) and Ninochka Manoug Kupelion (known professionally to adoring fans as Lebleba) make appearances on this boogie survey. The former, Simone, rests her signature soprano voice for Cairo Francophone chic and coquettish fun. ‘Merci’ could be a relative of the French female disco troupe New Paradise, only with a distinct Arabian dreaminess and matinee strings. Lebleba, who cuts a fun Egyptian version of a overflowing fruit hatted Carmen Miranda on the original cassette artwork, goes for a laser shooting disco heart-to-heart on the pop ‘Ana Alby Har Nar’

Removed to the land of the pyramids, hints of Boney M can be detected wrapped up in the matinee stringed female/male shared pop-funk ‘Hezeny’ by the popular Al Massrieen (who Habbi Funk dedicated a compilation to a number of years back), whilst Odyssey dances hand-in-hand with Hot Chocolate and the Hues Corporation on Dr. Ezat Abou Ouf And El Four M’s enervated laser sweeping glitterball pastiche ‘Genoun el Disco’ – the four M’s by the way is a reference to the family group’s fourtet of diaphanous voiced sisters, Maha, Mona, Mervat and Manal

Barely adopting the disco trend from across the ocean, no one could sound more Egyptian and less American than the famous singer/actor Eman el Bahr Darwish, grandson of the even more legendary ‘peoples’ artist Sayed Darwish. Eman shimmies across the bazaars to a souk funk of bellydancing percussion, rattling hand drums, willowed flute and a swirl of strings. It’s almost as if he’s stepping straight off a film set, delivering a number.

A disco exotica of cinematic romantic drama without the Studio 64 excess, the Sharayet El Disco compilation is a pop kitsch and seductive treat to the ears. Recommended for those seeking something a little special, cute from outside the myopic disco frontiers of the USA and Europe.

Sebastian Reynolds ‘Athletics EP’
(Faith & Industry) 20th May 2022

Not that the new athletics-inspired EP from serial polymath Sebastian Reynolds isn’t a motivator and driver, but you probably won’t be hearing it anytime soon pumping out of your gym’s speakers, or used in conjunction with the fireworks, pyrotechnic glitz of modern sport, as athletes emerge from the tunnel onto the track. No, for this is a far more layered, sophisticated set of electronic evocations to keep the loneliness of a middle-distance runner at bay.

Seb both celebrates and scores the euphoria, pressures and pains of running at an amateur and professional level on his latest labour-of-love project. As a blossoming runner in his own right, he combines his two greatest passions to create a sympathetic and subtle race through the emotions and trails. Athletics hasn’t always attracted the most nuanced of soundtracks. Lucky to have been front row at a number of championships myself, I can testify that it’s mostly all EDM and bombastic rubbish.

Vangelis had a good crack at it, thought admittedly for another age entirely, the dawning of the modern Olympics, with the onus on track and field. The score for Chariots of Fire remains the benchmark, and it informs, to some degree, at least one of the EP’s bookended world record breaker paeans, ‘Four-Minute Mile’. In tribute to the patron saint of middle-distance runners, Seb has transduced Sir Roger Bannister’s 1954 record breaking run – achieved really more through science, strength of mind and character, as our Rodger didn’t even train that thoroughly, balancing his amateur running credentials with a career as a neurologist – into a short electronic suite; part atmospheric broadcast, part dreamy synthesized joy.

Leap forward sixty plus years and it’s the Ugandan superstar Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei’s 5000M world record beating run that Seb turns into a swimmingly warm, almost semi-carnival celebration of human endurance. Paying certain homage to Cheptegei’s African roots the versatile acclaimed ‘reeds man’ Peter Fraser plays a semi-modern Afrobeat suffusion of sax whilst former Guillemot Grieg Stewart follows suit with vague African clattered drumming. It’s all actually quite club-y, quite trance-y too.

In between those two giants of the sport there’s a succession of dub-y electronica motivations, build-ups and workouts. Spurred on, ‘Final Push’ has a drive and motion, and a real sense of gravitas (even mystery): a struggle against the body’s fatigue, muscle aches and those burning lungs. ‘Dominance Hierarchy’ with its electro kinetics, knocking drums has an air of both Sabers Of Paradise and Boards Of Canada, whilst the gong resonated, mid-tempo swim ‘Hammering’ reminded me of The Future Sound Of London and southern dub Clap! Clap!

Seb quantifies the rush, the pulse, and expectations of his passion without slipping into the superficial exuberance of EDM bombast. Stereotypes are more or less missing from this athletic purview. This would make a great series of soundtracks for sporting documentaries, highlights. BBC Sport needs to get on the blower to our Seb now.

Flat Worms ‘Live in Los Angeles’
(Frontier Records) 13th May 2022

As introductions go, this smash and bash (but very much controlled) driving live showcase from L.A.’s garage-punk trio Flat Worms proves a compact baptism of fire. You could say it has roused my interest.

Admittedly I’ve never come across this tumult before now, so have no idea how the originals sound. I’d imagine the torque, grind, sustain and dynamism is ramped up with adrenaline, and is “in the moment” as they say. Though it has of course been recorded for posterity, hence why this isn’t a live review but a ‘live recorded’ album one instead.

Still, as live records go it’s a lively scowled, crescendo-packed, screwy and heavy trebly-loaded surge; a high velocity hammering of King Gizzard, Electric Eels, The Croissants, Salem Trials, The Damned and Ty Segall. The latter is hardly surprising considering the trio of guitar/vocalist Will Ivy, bassist/vocalist Tim Hellman and drummer Justin Sullivan have previously recorded with that singular talent at his home studio: Hellman has even been a Segall wingman at times.

We now pause for a succinct background check. Between them, members of this congruous L.A. union of garage, drudge-rock, punk and post-punk attack have played with Kevin Morby, The Babies and the Oh Sees. They formed this tight unit back in 2015 though, going on to release a clutch of singles, EPs and two albums, some, as I’ve mentioned, recorded at Segall’s HQ. In more recent times Steve Albini’s sat in that engineer’s chair: one hell of a vote of confidence boost.

They now make an impressive debut on the ‘seminal punk’ operators Frontier Records with this live demonstration. And just like all the best punk-garage records it both blasts and stutters through a short set: no breaks, just a couple of acknowledgments to the whooping, egged-on and goading (in the best possible way) audience.

It’s a thrashing, distorting yet melodic performance; sometimes like a butchered Modern Lovers ‘Roadrunner’, or a Heartbreakers turn at CBGBs. There’s a song in every performance, a tune that breaks out of the seedy back alley kickings and gnarled fizz. Neither dark nor a joy, this Zebulon gig is a great night out spent indoors, with the volume cranked up and curtains drawn. I look forward to now acquainting myself with the lads back catalogue. 

Francesco Lurgo ‘Sleep Together Folded Like Origami’
(Bosco Rec.)

Nothing quite concentrates the mind nor offers an unwelcome window of enforced reflection like a pandemic, especially one that grinded society to a standstill. Forced into confinement, with face-to-face socializing restricted like never before, many of us either broke down or found a distraction and chance to connect with life’s simpler pleasures. In the case of the Italian musician/artist Francesco Lurgo that was an exploration of the ideas of intimacy.

As a mood board that’s both a celebration and search of that intimate theme, Lurgo’s debut solo album is an atonal, sonic and stirred-up account of ambient, neoclassical and electronic suites. Formerly one half of the FLeUR duo, the now uncoupled Lurgo voyages through varied states; a flux of emotional pulls, draws that are backed up by literary and artistic sources, inspirations. The album’s title itself, Sleep Together Like Folded Origami, paraphrases an excerpt from Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends novel, and the artist Aurora Bertoli reflects the same motif of that sleepy realm of togetherness on the album’s sleeve.

Sailing through these emotions and nocturnal symbols, Lurgo’s ship drifts upon the rocks to the sound of an atmospheric fog and wafted vapours on the album’s penultimate timed ominous beauty ‘One Moment Before The Shipwreck’. As a couplet, recorded a minute later, the final suite has a disorientated feel of cut-up reversals and pieced together perspectives, memories. With shipping analogies, cast adrift metaphors of finding solid land, something less veiled and hidden, the rest of this dreamy swell and synthesized purred, rippled textured album evokes hints of Simon McCorry, Rhomus Index, Andrew Wasylak and on the light tubular score, ‘Carnation Bloom’, Vangelis.

Metals, low horn-like drones, a pressing slackened high piano note or two, a sense of gravity and depth, reverberations and subtle use of strings are all used to convey the languid, comforting at times, longed and cerebral nature of the album’s themes. Those origami folded comforts, embraces and thoughts ride out the stresses of the pandemic and signal an interesting, creatively enquiring start to a solo pathway.

ALBUMS AND EXTENDED RELEASE REVIEWS/PLUS A SPECIAL LITTLE SOMETHING/Dominic Valvona

PHOTO CREDIT: Joona Möttö

SPECIAL LITTLE SOMETHING

IFRIQIYYA ELECTRIQUE ‘Nafta Naghara’
From the 25th March 2022

From our friends IFRIQIYYA ELECTRIQUE, a mesmerizing, loud and incredible dynamic fusion of unworldly chthonian elements, Sufi trance, spirit possession performance and post-punk electronics; recorded live in the last month at La Casa Musicale in Perpignan, France.

Originally formed in the Djerid Desert, a coloration between field-recordist and veteran guitarist of the politically-charged Mediterranean punk and “avant-rock” scenes, François Cambuzat, and bassist Gianna Greco – both of which occasionally join forces with that livewire icon of the N.Y. underground, Lydia Lunch, to form the Putan Club – and Banga musician Ali Chouchen – joined in the live theatre by an expanded cast of fellow voices, krabebs and Tunisian tabla players from the community, which has featured Tarek Sultan, Yahia Chouchen and Youssef Ghazala – the lineup has fluctuated over two stunning albums and live dates.

Performing a track from their second album Laylet El Booree (released back in 2019) ‘Nafta Naghara’ sees both Syna Awel and Dyaa Zniber (on both voice duties and percussion) change the dynamic once more as they join Greco (voice & bass) and Cambuzat (on guitar, choir & computer) for breathtaking communal.

ALBUMS

Jane Inc. ‘Faster Than I Can Take’
(Telephone Explosion Records) 22nd April 2022

Although the musical DNA was there from the start, through her dance pop duo Ice Cream with Amanda Crist and contributions to Darlene Shrugg and Meg Remy’s ever growing U.S. Girls ensemble, Carlyn Bezic effortlessly shimmied towards the disco, dream-pop dancefloor with last year’s Number One album debut as Jane Inc. – one of my choice albums of 2021.

Bearing all the strains, vulnerabilities but shorn of pity, Carlyn makes good on that previous congruous change with a both disarming fantasy and more heartbreaking plaintive songbook, fit for the age of high anxiety, self-doubt and connection through the computer, smart phone lens.

Life just never feels right, and time…well, time seems to have sped up, hijacked by those seeking to consume all our precise use of it, concentrated down the portal of a constantly changing feed of attention grabbing, virtue competiveness and narcissistic obsessions. Without the space to breathe, process, to take it all in, we’ve been mostly reduced to vacuous, fleeting well-wishers; meaningful, deep connections just for a few, because whose got the time to offer anything lasting. Ok, I’ve gone slightly off the rail, but our epoch, lurches from, but then forgetting, one crisis to the next: though in recent months that carousal has swung from the climate emergency to Covid to the cost-of-living and Ukraine. Who wouldn’t be anxious, drained mentally under such an onslaught?

On the album’s opener, and first single, ‘Contortionists’ Carlyn sings about the effects of time anxiety, of being both trapped simultaneously in the past, present and future, all in the same moment. Transfiguring a 80s musical palette, this crystalized arpeggiator emotional pull dances through softened shades of n-r-g, robotic soul pop, fitness video music and disco: with a certain echo of Chaka Khan thrown in. Fellow Toronto collaborator Dorothea Pass adds a touch of ethereal cooing to a vulnerable but danceable highlight.

Although a mostly synthesized, electro affair, Carlyn finds the human soul, a connectedness throughout. No more so then on tracks like ‘Human Being’ (for obvious reasons), which explores isolation, the requirements of instagram, and that always living your ‘best life’ crap, in an online world to the dualist Giallo glitterball pop, and suggestions of the Juan MacLean and St. Vincent (via Wendy & Lisa). Dreamy realism meets with a haunted reflection, with another signature mirror turn. In a similar lamentable disconnect, the four-to-the-floor, Vogue era Madonna ‘Dancing With You’ projects a romantic embraced dance at the Paradise Garage, but is really a dance for one in front of the computer screen in a bedroom.

Amongst the glitterball emitting lasers Carlyn expands the musical scope, sauntering down to Rio like a 70s Joni Mitchell sharing a fantasy with Seu Jorge on ‘Picture The Future’ – which actually, despite its accompaniment of soft-paddled samba moves, describes a calendar rota of metaphorical growth. ‘An Ordinary Thing’ takes an acoustic direction towards the troubadour sorrow of Evie Sands or Catherine Howe on a cathartic, candid Baroque turn of resignation. The close, ‘Pummeled Into Sand’, features strains of both reversed phaser and Brian May guitar licks, hints of Aldous Harding and Eleanor Friedberger on the Mexican border.

I’m drawn however to the gorgeous if heartbreaking ‘Every Rip’. A Diplo remixed Vangelis patterned lush ache of vulnerability, this dream-wave pop lament will bring a tear to the eye.

The absence of the physical (love, friendship) echoed through the full spectrum of emotions couldn’t sound more effortless. Even if the artist feels fragile, this second album under the Jane Inc. flag couldn’t be more assured in pop brilliance. Taking the familiar tones of disco, pop, new wave, fitness video n-r-g, Carlyn takes a more carefree, danceable approach to deeper feelings in an era of rapid change and disorientation. You won’t hear much better.

Birds In The Brickwork ‘Recovery’
(Wayside And Woodland)

The first in a promised series of multimedia releases from Benjamin Holton’s latest inspired alias, Birds In The Brickwork, the Recovery album contours a both faded and quintessentially damp English landscape; as seen through Holt’s photographic lens.

A concomitant partner to the gauzy, washed guitar and synth music of epic45, his longstanding duo with foil Rob Glover, Holton once more plugs into a familiar, if far more dreamy and beautifully languid, mode.

Before we dive in though, a little background to this newly adopted moniker is needed. Sympathising greatly myself with this, Holton was forced to give up work due to a ‘massive flare-up’ with his back. During a time of recovery (hence that title) the Staffordshire native attempted to document the period with the tools-at-hand. This included that already mentioned guitar (both acoustic and electric by the sounds of it), a camera and computer.

Finding all life’s answers, pathos and bathos in the natural typography and its artificial markers, structures, the focus of this project is on the landscape; something that could be seen as a reoccurring feature, theme in much of his work, especially the pylon straddled haze and nostalgic glaze of My Autumn Empire

Capturing the ephemeral through various instrumental traverses, Holton sculpts magical, mysterious radiating versant slopes, hills and the ghostly pastoral visage of a village hall, as he wells up a mood board of the wondrous, universal and cerebral. Evoking a languorous Land Observations without his bass notes, the descriptive and higher-purposed guitar playing of Craig Ward, Spiritualized Jason Pierce and Myles Cochran, Holton evokes the halcyon, conversational, the empirical.

Through lingered, floated, finely attuned guitar work, synthesized washes and waves, pitch-shifts and attentive drums he gently encompasses the fields of post-rock, the psychedelic, shoegaze, acid-country and kosmische; whether that’s unveiling the enormity of the great expanse or in solitude, waiting to get back out into the world of small wonders: ‘small glimmers’, the ‘old blossom’ and the reconnected resonance of ‘people talking’. All things missed and now documented with a lightness of touches.

The inaugural visions of a geography taken for granted, barely noticed, comes to life in the first Birds In The Brickwork audio setting. With art prints, DVDs and postcards still to come Recovery puts down the marker for a fruitful new musical horizon: even if it was borne out of pain.

Kota Motomura ‘Pay It Forward’
(Hobbes Music) 22nd April 2022

Although it’s been a few years, the experimental Tokyo artist Kota Motomura makes good on his previous free-floating, swimmingly jacked-up House and Balearic flowed EP for the Hobbes Music imprint with a just as tropical, eclectic album.

Pay It Forward once more sees Kota reunited with his foil Mutsumi Takeuchi on reeds. Later on, with this album’s paradise plaint closer, ‘Flowers’, a second guest, Akichi, joins the twosome, adding a wistful but dreamy Balearic acoustic guitar accompaniment, sat under a canopy of heavenly bird song and humid tropical heat. That curtain call is the most placid, scenic track on the whole album, with the rest destined for the club environment: albeit set in the rainforests or in some futuristic vision of 80s Tokyo.

The actual entitled ‘Paradise’ features Mutsumi’s snozzled jazz-house toots, spirals and drifted hazy rasps and Kota’s detuned, almost distorted, piano stabs over a sort of Japanese 80s new wave pop production with shooting lasers: imagine a bit of Haruomi Hosono shaking it down with Yasuaki Shimizu.

A change in style, ‘Tropical’ sounds more like an ethnographic sampled lost treasure from Byrne and Eno or, the sort of no wave experiment Basquiat would have been throwing down in ’82. Native voices, pneumatic drilled samples, shuttled sticks and hand drums evoke the veldt, the Maasai, as remixed by Coldcut and the 900ft Jesus.

‘To Be Free’ is an upbeat number of Farley Jackmaster Funk’s Chicago grooves, handclap beats, arpeggiator patterns and funk, whilst ‘Emotion’ sees Mutsumi on flute, blowing merry suffused charms over a pumped N-R-G meets New Orleans Mardi Gras House music groove.

The highlight for me though is the constantly changing, evolving percussive and drumming relay, ‘Rhythm’. It could be a Brazilian Samba band, the African diaspora or even a Cuban rhythm section on a coked-up Miami night, but the beats just keep rolling and rattling, even galloping.

Pay It Forward is essentially a well-crafted, fun experiment in dance music genre hopping. It’s House and Techno music with a spirit of adventure that’s never idol and always up for taking the audience across a movable dance floor.

OK:KO ‘Liesu’
(We Jazz) 15th April 2022

Named after its drummer-composer/bandleader Okko Saastamoinen, the Finnish OK:KO quartet have been accumulating fans and acclaim alike over the last five years. Now onto their third album with the leading Euro jazz label and festival hub (and now quarterly magazine) We Jazz, they once more show-off a signature sound that’s imbued by the roots of hard-bop, free jazz and the more explorative, envelope pushing of a small tight combo. The notes sum up that style perfectly as, ‘adventurous but accessible’. 

In practice that means Coltrane and Harden on the Savoy label, Charlie Parker, the Bill Evans Trio, Nate Morgan and Sonny Stitt taken on a scenic, poetic ride across the Finnish pastoral. Mikael Saastamoinen’s double-bass on the most naturalistic composition, ‘Kirkkis’, even manages to emote an oaken tree spreading its branching: The bass actually begins to sound like a cello against a wooded stretch of rim rattles and brushes. Later on, with that same composition, the quartet moves towards both the blues and luxuriant swing; beamed and trained on 60s NYC.

Bandleader Okko’s drums follow a constant leitmotif of splashed cymbals and rolling maelstroms that never quite penetrate the sea wall defenses, as Jarno Tikka goes high with flighty spirals and lower register rasps and descriptive lulls, and Toomas Keski-Säntti plays piano with a sense of both freedom and emergent-gestured melodies.   

Tunes vary between expressive dances and erudite scene-setting emotions. The opener, ‘Anima’, goes for a visceral encapsulation of that title’s Latin origins – the breath, soul, spirit of vital forces -, whilst ‘Arvo’ pushes into more serious, noirish directions: like a bluesy but mysterious sassy accompanied skulk in a 1950s stripe joint.   Throughout this album were constantly drawn back to the sea; both a very real Baltic one but also a metaphorical one of choppy emotions and swelled intensities. There’s drama yet nothing that ever proves too frantic, fierce, as this quartet keep it all in check, constantly flowing no matter how high those waves get. I love it, and still think Finland is producing some of the best contemporary jazz in not only Europe but beyond that. OK:KO’s reputation is save and broadening on the strength of this third album of the lively and emotive. 

Kloot Per W ‘Arbre A Filles’
(Jezus Factory) 22nd April 2022

Despite doing it all so well, the maverick Kloot Per W, as a Belgian from the other side of the multi-linguistic quandary that is Belgium, apparently should be frowned upon, snubbed for singing in the French vernacular. In a culture, historical battle I’m unwilling to get drawn into, there’s a whole legacy of political backlashes against those with the Flemish mother tongue singing or speaking in the much-guarded French language: Jacques Brel aside. Actually that’s a terrible example, as Brel’s Flemish family actually dropped it to adopt the French language.

Anyway, the seven-decade spanning journeyman Kloot has decided to give it another bash, following the success of his inaugural Francophone EP, Nuits Blanches, from last year. Like the already mentioned Brel, and because of a history of reinvention, sagacious wit and self-depreciation, the Flemish cult artist dons a gauloise smoking jacket with élan and a certain fuck you attitude on his new songbook, Arbre A Filles (or the odd phrased “girl tree”).

A sort of intergenerational project, again, Kloot calls upon the production, collaborative help of Pascal Deweze: a full twenty-years Kloot’s junior we’re informed. And swinging by the studio, repeat offender foil, guitar-slinger for hire and ex dEUS band member Mauro Pawlowski and his collaborative partner Randy Trouvé add a bit of (middle-age) youthfulness; a taste of contemporary alt-rock to the songs. Keen Monolith Cocktail followers will of course remember (hopefully) that Marco and Kloot brought out their very own dysfunctional, knockabout White Album, called Outsider/Insider, a while back (making our choice picks at the time).

A road well-travailed, Kloot’s numerous musical changes – stretching back to the late 60s and early 70s as a bassist for The Misters and as a guitarist for The Employees, to a solo spell and the JJ Brunel produced Polyphonic Size – have lent the music a wise ring of authenticity; a life well-lived and experienced. And on this new songbook themes range from such timeless concerns as facing one’s mortality and more contemporary fare like Internet conspiracy theorists, cultural divisions. This is a grown-ups album then: despite the reference to Kloot’s worries on his cock size, though thankfully not a French speaker, I have no idea where this obsession springs-up on the album, as it’s only pointed out in the accompanying notes.

It all begins with the opening fuck you attitude of the French new wave, via Lou Reed, Mick Harvey and Anton Barbeau, styled ‘Tu Me Troubles’ (“you disturb me”), which has both bristle and sophistication, coquettish doo wop female backing singers and a touch of Britpop melody. ‘Le Pays’ (“the country”) moves the action towards a smoky blend of the Jazz Butcher and the Bad Seeds, as satellites’ twinkled communications blink over a psychedelic starry, starry night café scene. A spooked Morricone creeps around on the vibrato, cooing female-voiced backed ‘Girl On The Phone’, but it’s Blixa Bargeld fronting the Os Mutantes in a haunted jazz lounge on the title-track.

Raspy, grizzled and also mooning when not crooning, Kloot’s lyricism is fitted with a movable backing of both salon and Muscle Shores piano, strokes of beat music, glam, rock ‘n’ roll, radio city music hall, a touch of Cohen, and on the “lalala” flittered ‘Super Likeus’ a hint of both rebel country and the paisley underground. Yet everything is still contained in the French vogue, if from a unique perspective.

There’s a lot to like about this album, and it goes someway to Andrew Bennett (Jezus Factory’s one-man cottage industry founder) aggrandisement that Kloot is “Belgium’s best kept secret”. If there was any justice in the world (you’re kidding, right?!) this album would reach a wide audience and shine a light on, certainly, one of Belgium’s great talents. It’s also a killer French language songbook that proves the Flemish can indeed sing the Frenchman blues.

Jörg Thomasius ‘Acht Gesänge der Schwarzen Hunde (Experimenteller Elektronik-Underground DDR 1989)’ (Bureau B) 15th April 2022

From the steel curtained side of the Berlin Wall, a second GDR dedicated showcase of electronica from the noted Jörg Thomasius. At various times an artist in his own right (under the Tomato moniker), but also a member of the Das Freie Orchester, a radio show presenter, author, boiler man and exhibition technician, the East German maverick knocked-about with the likes of Andreas Grosser, Lars Stroschen and Conrad Schnitzler – working with the last two to set up the Tonart label. 

It was the former, the renowned technician Grosser who opened up a whole world of electronic exploration, and instigated a train of events that led to Jörg meeting Terry Riley: freely handing out LSD at the time. Whilst under the authoritarian grip, Jörg still managed to connect with the burgeoning scene in West Berlin. And his experiments, collected together here from three different sources, easily fall into the greater Kosmische and new wave brackets.

Acht Gesänge der Schwarzen Hunde brings together diy explorations, peregrinations, sketches from his 80-85 documented Schwarze Hände (“black hands”) cassette, his own Kröten Kassetten label’s Gesänge der Komparsen (“songs of the extras”) 89 release, and the 90s After Eight – released again on another of his own label hubs, just after he left Das Freie Orchester.

Across the majority of this collection each modulated, oscillated, effected idea weighs in under the three-minute mark; glimpsing at, vanishing clips of what could be more expanded, drawn-out scores. The opener, ‘Besen Im kopf’ (“broom in the head”), seems to feature a strung-out, deconstructed orchestra of the avant-garde, classical and even Fluxus kind: Low ship horns sound, the inner workings of a piano resonate with a brassy metallic spindly sound. ‘Okoschadel’ (“eco skull”) and ‘Erste Himmelsmelodie’ (“first heavenly melody”) have more than a hint of early computer tech sampling; the kind Sakamoto was experimenting with in the early 80s. A mix if synthesized cut-ups, tubular bell percussion and staccato fashioned splurges.

‘Küss Mich Mien Liebchen’ (“kiss my love”) features (I take it) Jörg’s vocal ravings over a squiggled loon of underground tape culture, post-punk, Faust and Populäre Mechanik weirdness.

Ghosts in the machine, aerial whirled chattering space birds, slapped beats, timpani and lo fi computerized effects permeate the first nine oddities on this compilation. The tenth and final track however is an expansive twenty-minute plus sun rays ‘Meditation’. In that languid, relaxed time frame, Jörg astral-planes hints of Popol Vuh, Frosse, Ocean Of Tenderness Ash Ra on a new age equinox of spiritual alignment.

The Hamburg label Bureau B continues as custodians of Germany’s past and present electronic, experimental, Kosmische and new wave genres with another intriguing showcase come reminder of East Germany’s part in the underground music scene that defined a generation. Fans of those musical fields will find this an interesting addition to that story.

Qrauer ‘Heeded’
(Nonostar Records) 22nd April 2022

The most electronic signing yet to Alex Stolze’s burgeoning Nonostar imprint, the congruous fit of Christian Grochau and Ludwig Bauer coalesce their respective disciplines once more as the Qrauer duo.

With Christian’s percussionist, production and remix and Ludwig’s pianist, multi-instrumentalist and composing skills, Qrauer’s latest EP is a sophisticated shift of layered electronic body movement techno and reverberated spells both on and inside a neoclassical attuned piano. In the former camp, the EP’s first trio of tracks includes the subtle air-pinched filtered, cybernetic convergence of Four Tet, Carl Graig and trance style techno ‘The Mess’; the tinkling, translucent bulb mirrored short ‘Stardoll’; and the more clean-cut beats meets mysterious and gauzy wooed ‘No Sh.Left’, which features the wafted, ghostly and vaporous vocals of the German singer Sea Of Love.

Taking a slightly different path, the title-track is a sort of experiment in scoring a mini electroacoustic soundtrack. ‘Heeded’ is highly atmospheric, with the echoed resonance of a piano’s guts being touched by various textured materials, and a moving melody of both singular and a more uninterrupted flow of notes played from the keyboard itself. Almost a seamless follow-on, ‘Lustend’ features staccato cut-up samples of a voice and piano, but soon, in a relaxed fashion, bobs along to jug-poured and steel drum reverberated techno effects – like a calypso Phylyps on Basic Channel.

Sounding in many ways like a remix of chamber piano work, with all the original elements washed-out, the Heeded EP is a cerebral version of techno, trance and electronic dance music for people who hanker after more than just a four-to-the-floor beat and repetition. 

Astrel K ‘Flickering I’
(Duophonic Super 45s Mail Order) 29th April 2022

Like one long mirage, a psychedelic tinged wavy trip inside the preoccupations of Rhys Edwards, the newly imagined Astrel K set-up sees the one-time Ulrika Spacek member swim in solo Scandinavian waters.

Although a solo platform, a moniker under which to pursue his songwriting, Astrel K does in fact include an array of local musicians from Rhys new(ish) home of Stockholm. We should of course name them at least: Lili Holényi, Milton Öhrström, Niklas Mellberg and Thomas Hellberg; all of whom make it possible for this hallucinogenic musical world to float.

Leaving behind the now defunct Spacek music factory, KEN, in (one of my old stomping grounds) Homerton, Rhys finds inspiration in the Swedish capital. Via the mail order label, Duophonic Super 45s, his debut Astrel long-player (the first single, the wobbled, languid and quivered Beatles and Velvets jangle, ‘You Could If You Can’ sold out rapidly on vinyl) swimmingly and with a gauzy lushness balances hazy winding L.A. scenery detective and romantic movie scores and tinkled ray-shining Library music with somnolent Floyd, Edward Penfold and Flaming Lips psychedelic pop, dreamwave and distant lingered, suffused trails of saxophone. All elements that come together across golden slumber cooed songs and shorter Stereolab and KPM like instrumental interludes.

Actually, one of the album’s best tracks is the expanded burnished and sax-swaddled ambient score ‘Forwardmomentum’ – reminding me of the Canadian school of such astral peregrinations, Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn’s work.

Whimsy, wistfulness and druggy stupors hide pressing matters in the real world: the anxieties of the environment and online worlds especially. Certain paradoxes and idiosyncratic observations, plaints are dreamily wooed to a most fluid and softened backing of light and shade. Occasionally there’s a touch of fuzz, a little electric grind, but it’s mostly a lunar and tropical affair of psychedelic pop, enervated soundtrack strings, quirky changes, knowing easy-listening and beautifully conveyed, soulful songwriting.

No matter what the themes are, Flickering i is a languorous, swell and trippy bubble of a place to sit and reflect.     

Sinnen ‘Hawk Moth Man’
(Hreám Recordings) 11th April 2022

I’m going to be honest with you all. I’m going in blind with this slow-release of pent-up energy; woes and guitar pedal effects sustain contouring.

Released on the always intriguing, and reliable, Hreám Recordings, Sinnen’s latest drudge and cymbal-splashed resonated traverse has an esoteric menace running throughout its gnawing and yearned core. A psychogeography of darwave, grunge, slowcore, the industrial, doom and the dreamy, the sword and sorcery title referencing Hawk Moth Man reimagines Mike Cooper fronting Sunn O))). Well, at least some of the time.

Shafts of soulful despondency, a release of abstract imagings languidly emerges from a slow-motion dissipation of shimmy and halftime beaten drums and amplified hums, drones. After one of those amplifier-contoured lead-ins, the first expanded track proper, ‘Painting Daisy’, grinds through a sludge of Codine, Fritch and Dinosaur Jnr.; a haze of the occult and that already mentioned grunge sound.

As the title would suggest, the next slow driven gruel, ‘Bury Your Regrets In Frozen Ground’, drags the listener across a harrowed soundscape. By contrast, a brief pause, an interlude of a sorts, ‘Shifter’ is an ambient (almost) vignette of holy orders as preached by Popol Vuh and Vukovar.

Personally I’m hearing shades of Outside Bowie on the very strange and curious ‘Hill’: a creeping sense of menace, trauma that seems to reach back into civil war period England. But it’s the semi-epic slowcore and flange wave, force field vibrating ‘Se Boda’, which sounds like Michael Stipe singing with The Telescopes, in some alternate universe, that I especially love.

There’s much to untangle, demystify from the heavy atmosphere of suspended pain, discord: one being, why the reference to the swordsman character from the 80s cartoon adventure, The Black Cauldron, ‘Taran’? What’s that all about then?

In all that slow dissonance there’s still some light, and so it never feels too dark, too much to bear. Having never crossed paths with the band/artist before, this could be their stock-in-trade signature: or not of course. Anyway, it gets a recommendation from me.

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

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