Irmin Schmidt VW LP

Tickling My Fancy Music Selection:  Anna Calvi, The Chewers, Coppe, Eat Lights Become Lights, Poeticat, Irmin Schmidt and Zacht Automaat.

Anna Calvi  ‘Sing To Me’ & ‘Eliza’  (Domino Records) – 7th October

Back with yet more pining laments of virtue, the atavistic Spanish mantled Anna Calvi once again sets out to bring a flair of integrity and class to the morose. Taken from the forthcoming LP, One Breath, both ‘Sing To Me’ and ‘Eliza’ prove hauntingly pained and veracious; the latter at least building to an esoteric rousing Spector-esque crescendo as a sort of nod to hope.

The Chewers  ‘Techno-Slaves/ Funnel Head’  – Available Now

Sometimes on occasion, the Monolith Cocktail acts as a mere bystander or vessel whilst hosting some of the more strange and weird musical selections from beyond the ‘calico wall’. The Chewers are one of those exceptions; a band I just can’t make my mind up about. Self-proclaimed ‘freaks’ from the backwaters and woods of West Virginia via Nashville, the foul odorous gnashed acid head band produce a sound so unappealing that it has to be commended.

With scant information – which I doubt would help inform or help their cause – I have managed to surmise that they’re making some kind of stand against the onslaught of the digital age; intentionally cut-off in a manner from the outside world, with only a cacophony of wind-up noise making devices and a disturbed chorus of baying, bleating and impish voices to keep them company.

Their most recent deranged introspections, ‘Funnel Head’ and ‘Techno Slave’, emit a screech of Devo, shoe gaze, horror and Dadaist primitivism; all of which work surprisingly well, even if it is a hard sell. Both tracks feature on the group’s second album, Chuckle Change And Also’.

Details of all their obscure epistles and musings can be found on the cartoonish, garage-esque website here. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Coppe  ‘Only U!’ & ‘Strawberry + Tuna’  (Mango + Sweetrice Records) – 30th September 2013

In union with the purveyors of disjointed, but always quite melodious glitch, Bit-Phalanx and her own culinary delectable record label, Mango + Sweetrice, the progenitor or as she’s known, the ‘godmother’, of Japanese electronica, Coppe returns with both a new moiety of releases and tour of the UK.

Preceding the Void album (which will be available in both 5″ vinyl and deluxe CD editions) in October is the colourful, lulling five-track digital EP Null that features both static-efflux rolling, dreamy trip-hop, and lolloping fantastical electro. Almost cartoonish if not bubblegum-esque in theme, there is still a sense of certain forebode and seriousness; as every quirky uplift is set off against some brooding modulator or pinched brow synth. The full track list is:

1. Strawberry + Tuna

2. Figment Of Imagination

3. Only U!

4. Tux Dance Death

5. Gee

South east coast readers may just be in time to catch Coppe headline the Digital Playground stage at Brighton’s annual, and growing in popularity and success I might add, Japan Festival, on the 17th September. Details can be found here.

Eat Lights Become Lights  ‘Modular Living’  (Rocket Girl) – Available Now

There’s fierce, confrontational, abrasive and even ugly Krautrock, and then there’s the more refined, melodic and dreamy gazing form of Krautrock, of which London’s Eat Lights Become Lights are very much enamoured.

A band of two halves so to speak, the recorded version almost totally helmed and written by the group’s Neil Rudd, and the live version which swells to a concomitant quartet (that greedily includes two drummers), follow the investigative footsteps of those that precede them; riffing and then locking down into the pulsing rhythm of an idealised Dusseldorf, Berlin and Cologne landscape of the early to late 70s. Though many thousands have trodden this pathway already, the Lights manage to navigate a subtler passage of veneration for the likes of Klaus Dinger, Michael Rothar and Roedelius; honing the halcyon dappled structures and beatific synth-textured symphonies of Cluster, Harmonia and Kraftwerk to produce something quite majestic.

From the title track in we’re propelled ever forward on a sophisticated road trip across the nebula. Occasional stopovers slow the tempo down on the eastern tinged Eno lies back in contemplation on a drifting raft ‘Rowley Way Overlook’, and heavenly piano chorded Popol Vuh-esque ‘Los Feliz To Griffith’, as the Lights invite us to breathe in the view.

Finishing on perhaps the album’s most ethereal high note, ‘Habitat ’67’ could be either a glorious fashioned paean to the stylish furniture makers or an illusion to some utopian environment and time. Whatever the inspiration, it sounds like an afflatus mix of swelling classicism and futuristic bliss.

Another choice selection for the Monolith Cocktail end of year albums list.

The kosmiche travellers are supporting Japan’s finest, Acid Mother Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O in Brighton on October 6th: this one is set to be an interstellar cracker.

Details and tickets here.

Poeticat  ‘Kind Words Soft Kill / Centre Of The Concrete Square’  – 28th October 2013

Bringing the soliloquy narrated poetry of the council estate to a wider audience, Poeticat (supported in their endeavour by The Arts Council) launch themselves upon the public with this new double A-sided single. Led by the surly monologues of Catherine Martindale, the polygenesis band – made up of Lisbon, Basildon and London natives – underpin a social message with a mellow backing of fluid bass, cooing experimental choral harmonies and reverberating textures, counterbalanced by a piqued punchline of snarling guitar and increasingly hostile vocal jabs.

‘Centre Of the Concrete Square’ offers a home video like paean on both the growing pains and more ernest charms of life on the council estate. Martindale’s delivery is quite a refreshing one, the closet comparisons, if a tad lazy but true, being The Streets and Scroobious Pip – and to some extent there are even traces of a less irritating, Kate Nash.

The Monolith will definitely be keeping an ear to the ground on this one.


Schmidt the man himself

Irmin Schmidt  ‘Villa Wunderbar (Sampler)’  (Mute/Spoon) – 4th November 2013

Hothoused in both the Stockhausen system and more starched schools of classical composition, the future titan of Teutonic innovation and experimentation, Irmin Schmidt chose, early on, to lose himself in the burgeoning reverberations of the late 60s American counter culture. Whilst taking part in a compositional competition in New York, Schmidt took a detour via the Chelsea Hotel: seduced in a manner by a city that hosted a rich, but seedy, underworld of pop art and the Neo-dadist high jinx conceptualism of Fluxus; the musical score supplied by the burgeoning Velvet Underground, Steve Reich, Terry Rilley and John Cage (all introduced to Schmidt during his sojourn in the city).

Tuned-in to the generational divide that saw Schmidt and his compatriots reject Germany’s past horrors and fanaticism, he returned from the States with a new outlook and mission. Initially influenced more by The Jimi Hendrix Experience than the avant-garde, Schmidt helped form, what was essentially, the acid rock band, Can. Their debut album proper, Monster Movie, was a feverish rolling totem: part psychedelic west coast part Velvet Underground east coast, those exploratory jams were held and concentrated around the strange beat poetic vocals of the American – ‘lost in a foreign land’ – sculptor, Malcolm Mooney. Not until Tago Mago would Can really venture into their own; shaking off the shackles of music history, creating as they did a unique esoteric sound, totally adrift and bereft of any obvious influence from outside their own deranged and genius minds. An integral part of that experience – and all the Cologne-based group’s releases – would be their talisman organ, keyboards, effects magnet and composer Schmidt, whose databank of tricks and dials pumped out creatively warped textures and fluctuating soundscapes of otherworldly and mystical magnificence and horror.

Much more than just a acclaimed and respected Krautrock band, Can were and remain perhaps one of the most reverential, landmark, groups of gifted players in the music annals. But it is Schmidt’s solo and collaborative work, away from that supergroup, which is honed into a celebratory compilation here: the like of which long exceeded and outstripped the Can catalogue. Spread over two discs, the first entitled ‘solo work’ and the second ‘soundtracks’, this congruous survey pays homage to the visionary and polygenesis spirit of Schmidt’s highly evocative, and always, descriptive oeuvre.

Taking a sporadic journey through Schmidt’s back catalogue on the first CD, both Mute and Spoon have chosen a mix of benchmark compositions and more neglected pieces, including the languorous drifting, jazzy Can-tastic, title track (from his 1987 LP, Musk At Dusk); esoteric Bavarian fairground of the damned, tounge-in-cheek castanet and wild strangled guitar ‘Le Weekend’ (a 1991 single); and the Miles Davis accompanied by a drum machine siesta turn darker warped David Arnold Bond theme, ‘Kick On The Floods’ (from the 2008 Schmidt and Kumo collaboration project, Axolotl Eyes, album).

Wim Wenders

Popol Vuh had Werner Herzog, Can (and to some degree in their incubater state, Amon Düül II), had their own film auteur in the guise of Wim Wenders. A relationship which saw Schmidt score many of his projects. Wenders curates and writes the sleeve notes for this collection; picking another rich tapestry of Schmidt suites and extracts on CD number 2.

From Wenders 2008 movie, Palermo Shooting, there is the, closer to Paris in influence, noir ‘Flavia Theme’ leitmotif and thematic accompanying riffs. There’s also the creepy watchmakers piano concerto sounding ‘Zicke Zick’, and sadly strung eulogy ‘Lied Vom Verschwinden’ (both formally featured on the Filmmusik Anthology Vol 4 + 5), on offer alongside the lumbering gaited swing of ‘Morning In Berlin’ and the Baroque reverb spy themed, ‘Rote Erde (Titel Musik)’.

Notable complimentary extras to this collection include two never before released remixes of Can’s ‘Alice’ and ‘Last Night Sleep’ (originally featured on Wenders’ 1991 science fiction meets road movie. Until The End Of The World). Though we should all be aware of Schmidt’s transferrable skills, we’re reminded just how versatile a composer he is with the inclusion of an unreleased extract from Youri VàmosLa Fermosa ballet, entitled ‘Bėtes De Passage’.

That Full Track List 

CD 1 – Solo Work


Le Weekend

Rapido De Noir


Villa Wunderbar

Time The Dreamkiller

Burning Straw in Sky


Kick On The Floods

Fuchsia’s Song – Rainbow Party

Ensemble – Joy

Bêtes De Passage

CD 2 – Soundtracks

Flavia Theme

Quattrocanti (Dream Theme IV)

Fresco & Finale (Flavia Theme III & IV)

Zicke Zick



Lied vom Verschwinden


Rote Erde (Titel Musik)

Es Geht Ein Schnitter

Bohemian Step

Roll On Euphrates

Aller Tage Abend Walzer

Messer im Kopf


Morning In Berlin

Verdi Prati Valse

Alice – Remix

Last Night Sleep – Remix

In more recent times Schmidt has penned a suite for Mervyn Peak‘s fantasy trilogy turned opera, Gormenghast; struck up a profitable musical tenure collaboration with Monolith Cocktail favourite and Metamono helmsman, Jono Podmore (under the guises of Kumo), and just this year recorded a new project with Podmore, Burnt Friedman and Can compatriot, Jaki Liebezeit, under the Cyclopean moniker.

Carrying on the heralded celebratory spirit of late (well last two years) that has seen the release of the near-mythical holy grail of uncovered musical nuggets, The Lost Tapes (Read full gamut review here) and various art crossover events and appraisals; the Can juggernaut of appreciation is set to continue until at least December, when the studio albums are all re-released in one shiny box set. All fourteen LPs, including an exclusive live bonus album, will get the full remastered treatment; pressed onto 180g vinyl.

If you can’t wait till then, take a gander at what you can expect or fill in those missing parts of the Can bio you never got around to with my guide (well at least most of those albums):









Zacht Automaat  ‘Disturbed Ground’ – Available Now

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 Tapes, Stockhausen, 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), Cluster, Focus and esoteric reverberations of The Doors (and their west coast psychedelic scene of 1968 counterparts). A magical, sometimes ominous and foolhardy, journey awaits. Already one of Monolith’s ‘choice’ albums of 2013.

The Monolith Cocktail is one of the group’s biggest cheerleaders. Proved by previous reviews and inclusions in the ‘choice list of the year’ (twice, and set to be included in 2013’s).




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