M.I.A. cover detail

Part two of the annual Monolith Cocktail ‘choice LPs’ list. Continuing with the haranguing experimental saxophone jazz of Rudresh Mahanthappa and ending with the exploratory free-spirited Krautrock of Zacht Automaat.

Expect the usual polygenesis bag of collaory soul, afrobeat at the Apollo, Mali desert blues, sauntering Angola carnival grooves and esoteric spiritual jazz.

Rudresh Mahanthappa

Rudresh Mahanthappa  ‘Gamak’   (ACT)

A squalling, multi-limbed hybrid of avant-garde jazz and Scott Bradley-esque cartoonish exuberance, Rudresh Mahanthappa‘s latest virtuoso alto saxophone led experiments take an even more radical step beyond convention.

A reinvention of sorts Gamak is informed by the burgeoning experimental relationship between Mahanthappa and his latest foil, the microtonal guitar wizard David Fiuczynski – both originally met whilst playing in the legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette band together. For his part, Fiuczynski’s spread of arching, twanging and fluctuating linear licks and chops add a dash of wired rock and ‘Cosmic Slop’ strange funk to the abstracted shape of Mahanthappa’s complex, jilting, compositions.

Equally as imbued, if not guided, by his own Indian heritage, the bandleader’s 13th album continues to recontextualize the sounds and timings of the east – making stop overs via Arabia and the Orient. Gamak is itself an Indian form of specific stylized and studied melodic ornamentation: appropriated and used for a more amorphous purpose here.

That other synonymous foundation stone of the Indian music scene, the ‘raga’, gets a modern twist too with the blurted sax and primordial soup ‘Aboghi’, and thriller taut, pined ‘We’ll Make More’ – a re-imaging of the alto-sax wailers own ‘Balancing Act’ track from the 2002 LP Black Water.

This exploratory – and for the most part hard-hitting – thumping ‘east meets west’ approach makes for a bumpy trip, with the hour plus running time galloping by. Hurtling as it does, through a sophisticated sketch of electric mambo, a modern ‘love supreme’, off-world Ornette Coleman, and Guru Guru-esque Avant-jazz, there’s a right royal mix of styles and influences competing for attention.

Read the full review HERE……

Manic Street Preachers

Manic Street Preachers  ‘Rewind The Film’  (Columbia) 

Rewind The Film is perhaps one of the Manic‘s most charming, soulful and spiritually uplifting opuses of the last decade or more. The ageing process has been quite kind to the trio, whose maturity oozes from every pore of this melodically inspiring and beatific songbook of social commentary and erudite romantic pop. An often sad and wry political bite still remains solid, yet this is also a paean to the valleys and earnest weary plight of a land time has eroded, and successive governments have filed away under ‘lost causes’.

Imagine Love if they’d been a south Wales colliery brass band (‘Show Me Wonder’), or Scott Walker had been born and bred in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, and you’re half way to capturing the sound. It’s Scott, albeit when part of the Walker Brothers, and his often called upon arranger and conductor Jack Nitzsche that springs to mind with lovely lamented odes such as the title track – which features the lead vocals of that tormented balladeer, Richard Hawley; harking back to another era entirely, but speaking of a constant weariness and toil that is suffered by the redundant, left to wallow, pit towns. But tender moments of optimism and proud memories can’t be tarnished and forgotten, as James Dean Bradfield’s brief respite from the gloom, upscale accompaniment, testifies. Something magical is at play here.

Perhaps one of the most in-depth pieces of fandom yet, fellow scriber at God Is In The TV, Ben P Scott was among the very first to review the album. His erudite, insightful and enthusiastically engaging survey can be read HERE….

Metamono WCONP

Metamono  ‘With The Compliments Of Nuclear Physics’   (Instrumentarium)

More attuned to the humanistic virtues of Cluster than to the deadpan automation ofKraftwerk, the Crystal Palace based trio, Metamono, break from the ‘man machine’ dictate to inject some soul back into the electronica movement.

Though borne with a clarion call manifesto of intent, the Metamono sound is one laced with both sophisticated vaporous experimentation and humour; manipulated, guided if you like, by the tour-de-force triumvirate of Jono Podmore (KumoCyclopean and collaborator with Can’s Irmin Schmidt), Paul Conboy (Bomb The Bass) and fine artist, Mark Hill.

Deconstructing the apparatus of algorithmic and impersonal techno for one that harks back to an era of bright-eyed exuberance and discovery, the trio is invigorated if not inspired by, what seem, the restrictions and perimeters of the analogue equipment they’ve chosen to adopt – or as Podmore summarises, “limitations breed resourcefulness”.

Over the last 18-months the trio have been releasing gaseous and chemical formula referencing EPs and singles; their progress followed closely by your humble author, who has reviewed nearly all of them in some capacity or another (see links). For God is In The TV’s recent ‘David Bowie Month’ celebrations mixtape and as a release in its own right (sharing the double A-side with their own ‘Shafty’), they covered the sublime Berlin period peregrination soundscape, ‘Warszawa’; producing a magical tributary revue that doesn’t supersede but manages to sound like it could have predated the original.

Via the popular crowd-funding hub, Kickstarter, they’ve now produced the debut LP they’d always threatened. Comprising of seventeen-tracks spread over four sides of fluctuating thematic exploration, With The Compliments Of Nuclear Physics squelches, simmers, modulates and fidgets through a gravity free environment, from The Orb like preoccupation of our immediate cloud blessed atmosphere to something approaching an unidentified lunar bounding landscape.

Though not easily demarcated, the traversing chapters do change subtly to encompass both the thoughtful and harassed. Starting with the odd mechanical stirrings and busy tweaking twittering sound collages of ‘Uplink’ and continuing to erode bit by bit until reaching the ‘bonkers’ caustic primordial soup finale, ‘Amillaria Solidipes’, on Side Four. A constant feed of chatter and veiled conversation between the ‘instrumentarium’ flight deck of radios, switches and accumulated ‘retro’ equipment permeates as the broadcasts evoke hints of Air LiquideBrian Eno, early Kreidler and the Artificial Intelligence series on Warp records.

Though there’s no mistaking the decade this analogue bank of trickery and dial turning foolery was made, the Metamono excavate and transduce the bleeps, burbles and textures of a period that stretches back decades; passing through the early attempts of Roedelius and Moebiusin the 70s to the R&S, Rising High and Machine Codes enriched acid/intelligent techno record labels of the early 90s.

Each side of the album is awash with sonorous and eyebrow rising piques of interest and amusement, the four semi-extemporised suites offering even its own authors a few surprises; gravitating and reaching far beyond their control, as the frequencies and waves interact and fuse, left untethered and free to roam.

In search of a parallel modernistic electronica in an age of square wave dullness and laptop anonymity, then look no further.

My comrade-in-arms at God Is In The TV, Ben P Scott, has also written a comprehensive purview of wise words for his own humble blog RW/FF (READ IT HERE).

M.I.A. Screenshot Y.A.L.A Vid

M.I.A.  ‘Matangi’  

Not so much a klaxon sounding clarion call as a reaffirmation of the voracious M.I.A. manifesto, the latest ‘hyperbolic’ riot of polygenesis colour and sound, Matangi, is quite a measured, translucent, and sparkly in places, personal affair. Mellowed somewhat by the delay in its release by more than a year (at one point M.I.A. threatened to leak the record online, frustrated at the label’s negative response – apparently it wasn’t dark enough for them!).

But fear not as that same explosive ennui driven mix of earth-shaking bhangra, boombox subversion and Arabian chic – as evidenced on the last three records – still permeates and threatens to piss on the apathetic parade: Indecorous to a fault, yet dangerously alive and exciting.

Following in the family name tradition of the last three albums, Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam explores the etymological source of her own namesake, the Hindu goddess Matangi. Found amongst the ‘untouchables’ – the poor and destitute – in the slums, Matangi chose to live away from the temples of the gods, to gain a deeper understanding and knowledge of the lower castes: the salt of the earth so to speak. The goddess of inner thought as well as music, her mythical presence and attitude are used as a reference and guide throughout, channeled in the more meditative escapist passages.

A perfect figurehead and encapsulated spirit of the times, a cross-pollinated artist-musician-polymath character seemingly congruous with the Internet, M.I.A. is both an advocate and fierce foil of the digital world. The burgeoning promise of a carefree, interconnected, community, richly educated and informative, has rather disappointingly been hijacked by a camarilla of ‘facilitators’, corporations and an over-zealous state. Intent it seems on eroding free speech and free movement, imposing instead a military style control and surveillance on our lives. In short…. we’ve been sold down the river.

None of this is new to M.I.A. of course, already a well publicized supporter of Wikileaks and its defacto – exiled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London – leader Julian Assange (who recently opened for a M.I.A. performance in New York, via a skype link, and is said to have contributed to the schizoid dubstep Matangi LP track, ‘atTENTion’). But with the ongoing revelations of Edward Snowdon and the increasing torrid of abusive vitriol from her detractors (mostly it must be said from America), there’s more than enough material to transduce into anger, even if M.I.A. and her augury warning, ‘THE MESSAGE’ (the opening gambit from the 2010 MAYA LP), pretty much summed it all up: “iPhone connected to the internet/ Connected to the Goggle/ Connected to the government.”

Using a similar template then, M.I.A. begins with a mantra of intent, delivered over a stuttering electric current: “Ain’t Dalai Lama, Ain’t Sai Baba/ My words are my armour, and you’re about to meet your kharma.” From then on in she amorphously twists and turns, from protestation to romantic stomp, cutting up and reworking R&B, pop and Hip Hop into ringside swagger (‘Only 1 U!’), bombastic gangsta strut (‘Warriors’) and bubblegum dancehall (‘Come Walk With Us’).

Hardly light on rhetoric – whether collecting all the data of hate and criticism, leveled against her (including the ‘one-finger’ Super Bowl debacle, N.Y. Times spread and accusations of provocation), or banging heads on the lack of originality in culture and railing against our failure to fight the systems that seek to turn everything into a humongous pile of shit: “If you only live once, why keep doing the same shit?”

‘Bad Girls’, ‘Bring The Noize’ and ‘Y.A.L.A.’ have all previously been made public in the long run-up to this fourth LP – the original Bad Girls in incubated form was first aired on the 2010 mixtape, Vicki Leeks, later to be accompanied by a car-crazy, Sheiks-do-Hip Hop wild video in 2012. This triumvirate of revved-up ‘nasty’ tracks more or less gives the album its most hardened, prowling highlights. But as the smoke from those riotous, sophisticated joints clear, M.I.A. choses a more indolent swaying direction (well less threatening anyway), her rhyming couplets smoothed and laid back on the neon lit, Siam charmed, ‘Come Walk With Me’, and lamentably swinging on the bookended pairing of ‘Exodus/Sexodus’.

In case you never got the admonitory memo or understood the ‘Lady of Rage’ the first, second and third time around, she once again rattles off another dictate and denunciation for you, whilst raising the game for those who seek to follow in the vapour trail. M.I.A. proves to be the most exhilarating, provocative artist to crossover into the general psyche, without losing their soul; able to roll with the punches and at least stand for something in a mixed-up world of contrary stifled debate and fucked-up moral objection to all the wrong things.

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou ‘The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk’

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou  ‘The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk’  
(Analog Africa)

Other than its atavistic lost kingdoms and multi-boarded West African location, the unassuming Benin is remarkable for its cheerful readiness to absorb and weave countless forms of music together to create something intrinsically rich and hotfooted in the groove department.

Bringing the continents forgotten sauntering carnival grooves and rhythmic blasts to a wider audience, Samy Ben Redjeb, under the guise of his assiduous imprint Analog Africa, has already unleashed the phenomenal Legends Of Benin showcase alongside three (including this latest collection) volumes of the country’s most celebrated rhythm specialists, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou.

With a legacy that stretches back to 1969, and with over 500 songs to sift through, there’s more than enough quality jams and stifling heated performances to pick from, covering all styles: from the obscure Vodoun, Jerk Fon and Cavacha Fon to synonymous Afro Beat, and even Bossa Afro.

In some respects a timely tribute to the ‘all powerful’ group’s founder Melome ‘The Boss’ Clement, who suffered a fatal heart attack in December of 2012, The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk features 14-tracks, never before heard outside their native land.

More variety than previous editions, this third chapter still thumps with that ‘Meters support James Brown at the Cotonou Apollo’ explosive vibe, but moves omnivorously through screaming Farfisa organ funk and Nigerian delta blues (Ai Gabani and Houzou Houzou Wa), infectious Stax r’n’b rattlers (Houton Kan Do Gome) and plaintive Spanish-twanged soul (Min We Tun So).

Boosting one of Africa’s ‘funkiest rhythm sections’ (the dual congruous pairing of dynamic drummer Leopold Yehouessi and ‘mythical’ bassist Gustave Bentho) there’s much to admire.

Quiet Marauder MEN LP

Quiet Marauder  ‘MEN’  (Bubblewrap Records)

Filling rather than ‘touching the void’,  Bonzo inebriated troubadours Simon M. Reed and Jonathan Day (assisted by a magnificent cast of other lost souls and miscreants from across the anti-folk musical spectrum) create what maybe (Guinness Book Of Records pending) the longest debut album in recording history; a four way split opus chronicling the lows, foibles, anguish and responsibilities of manhood.

A weighty satirical manifesto, a sketch show of earnest rebukes that just keeps giving, MEN sounds like Sparks without the pizzazz. The group’s deadpan, often vaudeville modernist intonation is self-deprecating in audacity, yet at its heart beats the leitmotif of masculinity.

So not a clarion call to arms but an ironic lament to inadequacy, the quartet of tragic comedies’ mocks via a cast of oddballs, perverts and shy, soft-handed male characters the deficiencies and rituals of past, present and modern courtship. Those predatory thoughts and chat-up lines, best kept inside your own dome, are discussed on the Bonzo-esque, ‘Internal Monologue Date’, via a deadpan conversation, whilst ‘Pretty Girls Are (Pretty)’ is a mooning Vivian Stanshall discussion between two unhinged acquaintances on public transport – a hotspot to pick up women. It gets sillier and more deranged, as our brethren of clueless fellas evoke Victoriana style serenades on the sex-pest, white gloved slobbering, themed, ‘It Wasn’t Me, It Was The Moon’. They even stoop to the level of employing a ‘co-pilot’ in the shape of a cute dog and ‘a bubbly guy who’s gay’, as a failsafe shoehorn into the ladies affections. Sexual predilections are numerous too, one of the most lighthearted if bizarre is the Toreador’s love for his prey on ‘Sad Spanish Eyes, Rodrigo’; a touching tale of man falls for bull.

Varying between quite poignant under-riding lament and lampoon. A ridiculous incanted list of the British prime ministers, is made even more silly by the hovering presence of a ghoulish imp and a Eno-esque spooky soundscape on the vignette, ‘Prime Ministers (1952 – Present)’; reducing them to their unsettling but almost irrelevant status as power-hungry dickheads. ‘If We Were Playas’ is another suitable ‘piss-take’ that sounds like the bastard child of Cliff Richard and The Chefs, and offers a dandyish opine on matching up to the paragons of machismo.

Quite the collaborative effort, prized guests feature everywhere. One of the most startling contributions and a tune that stands out from the witty rhetoric, is the soft-lilting, dry-ice synthesiser balled, ‘Caged’. Lost in a parodied misty smog of 80s neon-tubed remorse, it features the voguish siren Gothic swoons of Jemma Roper; a duet of sorts that actually manage to almost sound convincingly emotive.

Released in their native homeland last month but held-back from the marauding hoards of English till January 2014, it shouldn’t technically be counted in the list….but fuck it, you can find it on Spotify so it’s pretty much international now.

Superman Revenge Squad Band

The Superman Revenge Squad Band  ‘There Is Nothing More Frightening Than The Passing Of  Time’  (Audio Antihero)

In keeping with the despondent romantic’s verbose take on the real anxieties that face us all, his album is suitably entitled There Is Nothing More Frightening Than The Passing Of Time.

Formerly a leading member of the merchants of  ‘crap town’ resignation, Croydon’s Noseferatu D2, Parker is now sporting the equally baffling if odd non-de plume, The Superman Revenge Squad Band, and once again writing heartfelt prangs of guilt and frustration for the times we’re in.

Not so much ‘modern life is rubbish’ then but just ‘reliably disappointing’, Parker references the foibles and mundane aspects of the digital age through an often self-depreciative gala of hurt and forlorn despair. Whether it’s the fictional character of Rocky Balboa’s brother-in-law Paulie smashing up a pinball machine in Rocky III or the old school pantomime bad guy wrestler Kendo Nagasaki, metaphors are played out through the films, TV, literature and music of the 80s; Parker often looking back at those days with a certain gratitude; thankful in part that he grew up in a time with less pressures, devoid of the omnipresent 24-hour miasma of digitalism. Though hardly nostalgic or even rosy, Parker farms his own past to make sense of the now in both a harassed and elegiac manner.

Galloping through truthful rattled guitar ditties like ‘Lately I’ve Found Myself Regressing’ – filled with great lines like, “I’m so indie I could die, I like to underachieve and call it D.I.Y, but still listen to the radio, still wonder why they don’t wanna play me.” – or picking sweetly through ‘We’re Here For The Duration’, there’s a elegant beauty at work. Some might call it indie, some might lean towards a kind of kitchen sink estate version of folk, but as Parker sings, “Persistence Of Time by Anthrax means more to me than something like Blood On The Tracks…” his influences vary dramatically.

Tamikrest 'Chatma'

Tamikrest  ‘Chatma’  (Glitterbeat Records)

Mali’s rich musical culture isn’t confined to just the central and southern regions of the country,  the northern Tuareg desert lands also evoke some passionate, soulfully rhythmic surprises too. Despite the unfavourable attention meted out to the Tuareg community in recent years (there cause for autonomy hijacked by far less scrupulous zealots for there own religious and political ends), many voices from that community have offered their services to peace. One example is the nomadic, sub-Saharan rock’n’rollers Tamikrest, whose Hendrix meets desert blues template proves there are two sides to every story; the new album, Chatma – which translates as ‘sisters’ – a tribute to the courage of the Tuareg women and spirit of a people.

Forced into exile in Algeria, Tamikrest plaintively, but with an ear for a good melody, reflect on the imposition of Sharia law – by those outsiders who at first lent help to the course but soon dominated with their own destructive agenda – and the loss of there heritage. Producing beautifully cooed laments with an infectious kick, but also deftly crafting meandrous, ethereal, desert songs, the group can transverse the grooviest of Bedouin rhythmic funk anthems with ponderous soundscapes – ‘Assikal’ is pure Ash Ra Temple meets atavistic sand dune eulogy.

Separated into many a ‘world music’ best of list this year, the Monolith Cocktail sees no such reason for such boundaries or demarcated categorising; Chatma is simply a wondrous piece of ‘head music’.

Samba Toure

Samba Touré  ‘Albala’   (Glitterbeat Records)

Ideally the musicians of Mali would prefer to showcase their desert songs and dulcet tones under more optimistic circumstances, but the recent insurgency, now curtailed by former colonial masters France (with additional support from the UK), has shone a light on the troubled west African state.

Years of good work and hard worn research by a host of humble labels couldn’t have ever hoped to compete with the Azawad Bedouin tribes fight; hijacked by a horde of Islamist terrorist groups, which if left unchecked would have imposed a bullying culture far removed from the peaceable and musically tolerant form of Islam, practiced by a majority of the country’s population.

Compelled to speak out, a host of Mali’s great and good (Bassekou KouyateFatoumata DiawaraBaba Salah to name just a few) have added gravitas to their praised sweet tribal blues, in defiance. Known for his work with the late Malian legend, Ali Farka TouréSamba Touré is an amiable enough chap whose previous acclaimed albums, Songhaï Blues andCrocodile Blues, were more genial affairs, now shows his disproval with a grittier, riskier new protest, Albala.

Touré performs a measured response, though indignation is seething on the ‘well-travelled road’ song Fondora. Strewn by the unwanted obstacles of conflict, Touré harangues Mali’s less than welcome miscreants: “I say, leave our road/ All killers leave our road/Thieves leave our road, looters leave our road/Rapists, leave our road/Betrayers, leave our road.”

Albala – translates from the Songhaï language as ‘danger’ or ‘risk’ – is a darker, albeit lamentably so, LP. But so delicately melodious and nimble is the delivery that the cries of woe remain hymn-like and hypnotically diaphanous: the blues may have turned a deeper shade of forlorn, yet still sways with meandrous buoyancy and restrained elegance.

A traditional accompaniment from Touré’s regular band mates Djimé Sissoko (on ngoni) and Madou Sanogo (tapping out a suitable candour on congas and djembe), with guest performances from celebrated ‘master’ of the one-stringed violin, souk, Zoumana Tereta, and fellow Malian ‘neo-traditional’ singer Aminata Wassidje Touré is bolstered by effective guitar and keyboard layers from Hugo Race (The Bad SeedsDirtmusicFatalists). This subtle mix works wonders, giving the overall sound a mystical delta blues feel, resplendent with fuzz, wah-wah and wailing soul.

As Mali – politically anyway – vanishes from the 24-hour news roll we’re thankfully left to enjoy the enduring musical spoils, of which there has been and is likely to be many. This alone is the  third artist/group from the region to have made the Monolith Cocktail list this year – and second from the acclaimed label, Glitterbeat.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Unknown Mortal Orchestra  ‘II’  (Jagjaguwar) 

Languidly seeping over from beyond the ‘calico wall’ of hazy-faded psych, the Unknown Orchestra‘s second album proper is nostalgically translucent and attempts to recreate an era that never really existed.

Of course those veiled late 60s San Francisco and The Valley turned sour allusions dominate, yet the contemporary lustre for sepia-drenched seredepity calls, creating a odd soporific funk of pastoral psych and fuzz pedal acid rock. Plus the opening ‘From The Sun’ is just one hell of a  majestic, vapourous and diaphanous treatment on the state of inertia.

Angola 2

Various   ‘Angola Soundtrack 2 – Hypnosis, Distortions & Other Sonic Innovations 1969 – 1978’   (Analog Africa)

Samy Ben Redjeb’s Analog Africa label journeys south of the African equator once more to Angola: or to be more specific the capital port, and thriving center of the country’s nightlife, Luanda.

The former Portuguese colony had to wait until 1975 before gaining its independence, a year that not only sparked autonomy but a flourishing of the local music culture, which had been previously suppressed. However despite this suppression and the over-zealous banning in 1961 of carnival performances by the local street musicians (known as Turmans), Angola did have a fruitful recording industry: if sporadic one. With three companies producing 800 records, mostly singles, in a relatively short period between 1969-1978.

This 20-track (plus bonus track) compilation is a dedicated perusal through some of the most rare, hypnotic and addictive records to have been recorded during that golden era. Less funky and dynamic than their West African counterparts, yet perhaps more slinky and sauntering, the Angola music scene’s own familiar Kazukuta, Semba, Rebita styles were blended with influences from the Congo, Cape Verde and Dominican Republic, to create a Latin-flavoured percussive carnival groove.

Building on the award-winning inaugural compilation (which won the German Record Critics prize for best ‘black music’ album in 2010), volume 2 features another cast of stripped down reedy wah-wah bluesmen and gentle horn blowing, cowbell tapping dancehall bands, serenading the shoe-shuffling congregation. Sedately enchanting, though still able to cause even the most reserved of listeners to shake it, the album shuffles along, evoking moments of samba, Cuba, Colombia and even the Shadows twang (especially in evidence on the spring-y Africa Ritmo instrumental, ‘Agarrem’).

Full context and review can be read HERE….

FTMOTW compilation Dark Mountain

Various  ‘From The Mourning Of The World’  (Dark Mountain Project)

In-between work on his latest tome, Sweet Dregs, the much-put-upon troubadour of morose and Monolith Cocktail favourite, Maramaduke Dando, has been tasked with curating a compilation of earthy protests and daemonic plight (collated from the ‘wild and uncivilised’) for the global-wide, Dark Mountain Project.

Previously collaborating with a network of artists and supporters to fund a trio of essays/stories/art and poetry anthologies, the not-for-profit organisation has successfully released its first ever album through ‘crowd funding’.

The final artefact is a lavish double-gatefold (with artwork design and execution by Rima Staines and Andy Garside) affair, and, rightly so, pressed onto heavyweight vinyl, limited to only 500 copies.

Certainly unique in its cast of featured artists, the darkly entitled From The Mourning Of The World collection doesn’t so much harangue as plaintively offer condolences to our desperate age: ‘crafting new stories for a civilisation in trouble’.

Starkly stoic and troubling choices sit consanguine with jauntier, bawdry and wistful kooky balladry. Bleakly setting the scene, DRKMTR’s biblical augury ‘The Wild Hunt’, is a disturbing introduction. Describing in a somnambulant state the caustic pastoral landscape, bedecked with a ominous ‘pale horse’, ‘false prophet’ and creepy chthonian other, this tale sounds like a missing passage from Aphrodite’s Child’s ‘antichrist superstar’ 666 opus, and is thankfully the darkest it gets.

A series of less gothic songs follow in its wake; including The General Assembly’s pained sentiment to losing direction, ‘Wildwood’, and Rebecca Jade’s  – Cardigans converse with Fairport Convention, – ditzy folk swooning triumph ‘Brother’.

Keeping good company (of the acclaimed sort), former winners of BBC Radio 2’s ‘Folk Singer Of The Year’, Chris Wood (in 2011) and Jon Boden (in 2010) lend both Parisian accordion chic – on his Men Without Hats Georgian jolly, ‘Beating The Bounds’ – and earnest wantonness – an alternative version of Boden’s ‘Caesar’, especially recorded for this album – to proceedings, yet shine far less than their peers.

Without parallel, the velvety ‘honeysuckle bloom’ tone of, inspired choice, Bethia Beadman stands out as the albums startling highlight. Vocally mesmerizing and compositionally assiduous, her resonating hymn like swoon, ‘Georgia’, is a drifting, opulent duet with REM’s Mike Mills and sounds like a long-suffering Joan Baez fronting Anthony And the Johnsons: oh yes it certainly stirs the soul!

Returning to more grounded, and ancestral pursuits, The Boycott Coca-Cola Experiencemeander through an ever-regressive family tree on the whimsical Nottinghamshire-located, Apeman variant, ‘Mum’.

Using an amusing set of leaps and bounds across time, our troubadour journey’s from the present incarnation of his mum back to the stone age: “Her mum was born in 2000 BC/Her mum was there when they were building Stonehenge for the first time/Her mum never saw the wheel.”

A paean to simpler, ancient communal times, our modest protagonist seeks a retreat, unshelling shellfish, surrounded by his tribe and partner on the Meden.

From the confrontational voice of dissent to bygone alluded scriptures, Dando’s astute ‘picks’ harmoniously merge in an almost uninterrupted flow.

Spiritual Jazz 4

Various  ‘Spiritual Jazz 4:  Americans In Europe  (Modal, Esoteric  And  Progressive  Jazz 1963 – 1979’   (Jazzman Records)

In keeping with the Jazzman labels survey of the ‘spiritual’ imbued and enamoured European jazz scene – in what is arguably counted as the golden era – the fourth volume in this successful series centres on those Yanks who found themselves either marooned on or fascinated with, our fair continent. Many of course were fleeing the poverty and racism of the States to find acceptance and a society that encouraged the expansion of jazz into new territories.

From the scintillating exotica of Sahib Shihab & Pierre Cavalli‘s opening ‘camel train’ peregrination to the Sun Ra‘s enchanted cosmic prayer, every track is a golden nugget. Traversing many vistas and daring to swing – Johnny Hawksworth and Hampton Hawes ‘Jazz Rule’ is sophisticated grooving at its best – the album criss-crosses the modal, avant-garde and progressive to compile a forgotten history, in which two cultures merged to form something esoterically electric.

Zacht Automaat

Zacht Automaat  ‘Disturbed Ground’

Broadcasting at the lowest of frequencies, a rare if obscure find, Canada’s Zacht Automaat remain undiscovered. Albums come and go without fanfare or even the merest hint of structured promotion. The trouble is that because they lie low under the radar, they’re easy to miss, which is a crying shame as their one of the most interesting experimental groups of the ‘krautrock’ and ‘avant-garde’ scenes.

Rapidly moving through ideas, sketches and sound collages without any prejudice, the Zacht’s previous releases have been pure unregulated ‘free-for-alls’ of exploration at its best. A typical 18-minute plus suite traverses the Faust TapesStockhausen, BBC sound workshop, Wendy Carlos, prog rock and Eno – sometimes all of the above in the opening two minutes! The latest  – slipped in without warning or announcement – oeuvre Disturbed Ground is no exception, working congruously through freeform jazz (especially the Soft Machine), ClusterFocus and esoteric reverberations of The Doors (and their west coast psychedelic scene of 1968 counterparts). A magical, sometimes ominous and foolhardy, journey awaits.

And for those not available via Spotify…..


One Response to “Choice LPs of 2013 (L – Z)”

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