Feature: A triumvirate of esoteric releases from Spanish label Màgia Roja.
Tickling My Fancy: Christian Gregory, Rocket Girl 100, Scorpio Rising, Oli Spleen & Benbo
and White Witch.
Feature: A triumvirate of harrowing, harassed and stressed-guitar experiments from Spain’s esoteric underground.
Qa’a ‘Sang’ (Màgia Roja) Available Now
Jochen Arbeit & Huan ‘Jochen Arbeit & Huan’ (Màgia Roja) Available Now
Coàgul ‘La Roda de la Justíca’ (Màgia Roja)
Promising to dig up, unearth and prise all manner of unseemly and magical exploratory daemons from their slumbering crypts and grottos for your aural delight, Barcelona-based label and ‘not for profit’ cultural association Màgia Roja release a trio of ‘challenging’ albums.
Label stalwart Víctor Hurtado is the driving force of both the cryptic quasi-Egyptian imbued Qa’a, and the collaborative partnership, Jochen Arbeit & Huan – an eponymous named three-song collection with Einstürzende Neubauten and Die Haut‘s Arbeit.
Reviewed on this very site in its inaugural blossoming, many moons ago, the debut Qa’a LP, Chi’en was described thus:
‘Ancient ethnography and inspirational Germans aside, Chi’en is a rather ambitious undertaking, eighty lavished minutes in length it certainly runs through the full spectrum of emotions, building us up and taking us down throughout. Somewhere between the moody dark rock of latter day bands such as Dead Meadows and Black Mountain mixed with the modular tinkering of groups like Holy Fuck and Leafcutter John, our plucky duo manage to throw up enough surprises to make sure that this is not merely a homage, even though there is an abundance of influences played out on the record. The opening salvo of ‘Eastdown Westdown’ for instance evokes the ambient sound experiments from the Rolling Stones ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ before an acoustic guitar and rolling tender drums evoke the lush sounds of Acid Mother Temple. Picking up a momentum, the track becomes more sleazy and brooding as wailing feedback and scuzzy distortion build towards a serious crescendo of noise, before sinking into ungodly whispering and shadows that creep up on you as the now gothic charged atmosphere crackles with electrifying discharge. Imagine to yourselves Kasabian if they’d listened to Black Sabbath.’
Sang (the bands third) is a far, far scarier proposition, drenched as it is in a sthenic morose of ungodly horror and meat factory industrial distress. Though recorded in a 19th century Catalunya bathhouse, the sedately bygone location seems to have been built close to the portal into the underworld. The ‘Tago Mago as played by Ash Ra Tempel onboard Guru Guru‘s U.F.O’ musical blueprint is testing, with only the occasional threat of a Faust(ic) totem rhythm or beat to break the discordant harangued spell. Ambitiously played out over a triple vinyl spread and running to over 80-minutes, the psychedelic Krautrock voyage into the void is not for the fainthearted, though if you listen carefully enough you will hear some wondrous, melodic guitar passages and dreamy percussion.
Hurtado pairs up with the Teutonic avant-hard Jochen Arbeit for a sonic investigation, way beyond the calico wall, on the Jochen Arbeit & Huan project. Not strictly an album, containing as it does only three mapped-out travails into the ether, the 45rpm 12″ does feel like one: each track a multilayered narrative of bending, folding and stressed guitar soundscapes that builds into a mental picture of some esoteric expanse. Eruditely and slowly crafted, the guitar led drones build up an entire environment, spookily evocative of a journey into the heart of darkness. The obscured plaintive strains increasingly whine away wildly, landing on some mysterious forbidden planet of alien machinery. It’s minimalism but not as we know it!
Concluding this morbidly curious triangle, the primal howled buzz saw drone of fellow Spanish miscreants Coàgul takes its cue from Throbbing Gristle.
Wallowing beastly loops are flayed by ring modulations, electric shock therapy and all manner of dial twisting fuckery. A harassed chorus of chained up dogs, starved grunting pigs and unidentifiable scuttling creatures that dart in and out of the darkened corners of the speakers, add a sense of forbidding dread. For an album of such miasma, fuzz and distortion – Boris without the luxury of space and time – this self-titled opus can be quite melodically pleasing at times, breaking out from the primordial soup to sniff at the passing nuclear breeze of harmony.
All three suites of Satanic and cosmic magic are lavishing accorded a decorative vinyl release, and can be found via the labels website (READ HERE). I’d recommend the bloodied lot.
Christian Gregory ‘Count On You’ (Movement Records) – Available Now
Smoothly rolling in on a partial Philadelphia meets Marvin Gaye tip, the debut single from Michael Kiwanuka‘s (a British soul revivalist, who has himself been favourably compared to Bill Withers and Otis Redding) newly formed Movement records, ‘Count On You’ is sultry soulful cup of funk. Recorded by multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Christian Gregory, the tracks slinky drive builds to a classic soul hook; repeating the chorus to a climax of raw gospel sweetness.
Co-written by the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll winner, Kiwanuka, the track is imbued with a strong sensibility of the past: recorded in one take at a North London studio, using an assortment of ‘accumulated instruments’ and vintage analogue equipment to recreate a warm, silky like feel.
An very impressive inaugural release.
Scorpio Rising ‘Skin Match Version’ – Available Now
What seemed like a jolly swizz and indicative comment on an enigmatic ‘pop idol’ grandee – hidden away from the public gaze in another cleverly orchestrated campaign of isolation – has, in the stupor of a particularly good piss-up, quickly and soberly led to a shitstorm of vitriol and insult, and questioned that very characters integrity.
Fooling many, Sean BW Parker‘s (a contributor to the Monolith Cocktail on occasion) ‘too good to be true’ apparent breakthrough interview with the great white dame, David Bowie, proved to be…well, a joke. The reclusive star has been known to love a bit of misdirection himself, so a rather uncontroversial (almost banal) chat with the only critic to navigate through Bowie’s defence system and PR, could in a sense be believable to some.
Unfortunately many sincere fans and staff at the zine/blog God Is In The TV (who printed it) invested a lot of trust in the inimitable Parker, who for better or worse attracts a sizeable audience to the site. Not quite believing it but throwing a certain caution to the wind anyway, though it must be pointed out that a full disclaimer was posted alongside the interview, questioning its authenticity.
Offensive though always erudite and witty, Parker’s misguided faux-paux has inevitably turned into a torrid of abuse – personally it’s the sanctimony of certain critics that goads me the most, rather than out and out insults. A full apology was forthcoming from Parker, and the damage has been limited, almost forgotten as time passes by. It would be a shame if Parker withdraws – which seems likely now, at least for GIITTV – from criticism and music writing in general, as I’ve found is acerbic pontifications and musings quite entertaining.
Just as well then that Parker’s got the odd day job or two to fall back on. He will welcome the spotlight being directed once again on his musical aspirations with the band, Scorpio Rising. And in this case, the brand new track, ‘Skin Match Version’.
All the better for its rambunctious tumble in the Istanbul streets with Dexys and Talking Heads, the songs loose lively feel hangs together just long enough to be recorded for posterity. I hope this Jonathan Richman meets folkloric Arcade Fire sound is a new direction; the band producing perhaps one of their best tracks yet.
Sean has since published another statement – though more a rebuttal than call for redemption.
‘It’s No Game: Why I Fabricated A David Bowie Interview’
‘On the night of the 11th December 2013, after having prepared interviews for many musicians and cultural figures such as Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses, Mark Morriss ex of The Bluetones, plus writers like Julie Burchill and Neil Kulkarni, I decided to mock up an interview with David Bowie, for fun.
The aim was mainly to see if I could capture his ‘tone’ – Bowie is known for agreeing with most of what the interviewer asks. After a couple of bottles of wine and completing it, I released it as a facebook note, tagging a few friends – and also sent it to a respected UK music and culture website, to which I had been submitting the above interviews, plus album reviews and ‘think’ pieces for the previous year. I then slept it off.
When I awoke the next day, I logged on to find a flurry of messages from the editor of said website – a solid and decent person and journalist – trying to contact me to find out if the interview was legitimate or not. As my head cleared, I avoided with the question with the answer: ‘Well how can we know what is really genuine or not over email?’ Until I fessed up. I also realised that the interview had been up on the site for a couple of hours, giving it a little time to get its claws into the music world’s browsers.
I had abused the trust of a group of well-meaning people at a website which I enjoyed reading as well as contributing to – indeed the editor was an early, positive reviewer of my own music. For this I feel regret and shame – which drunken nights so often end in – and the very abusive comments on the site – not so much Bowie fans, as site fans – bore this out. I submitted my own apology, which was duly published (and not commented on so much).
Past my careless mistake, there is a wider discussion to be had. A part of my original reason for writing the ‘interview’ was a frustration at Bowie – of whom I have been a serious fan since age 16 – keeping media silence, only to be broken by an appearance in a Louis Vuitton handbag ad, presumably for millions. It was pointed out that Bowie has always been a media whore, doing Japanese whiskey ads here, floating himself on the stock excahnge there. I do love the music – do we then sit and take everything?
Rock and roll was borne of a frustration with post-war staight-laced US values; punk rock in turn was a violent reaction against the upper middle-class rock being pushed by Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson etc at the time. The Vaccines, Florence and the Machine, anyone? These movements presumably weren’t thinking at the time too much about the financial ramifications of their anger. Much online culture now is tepid, afraid, kowtowing to the law; my hoax may indeed have been offensive (more disappointing, I’d guess) – but I’d argue no more offensive than the dismal rubbish peddled continuously by Fox News or The Daily Mail.
Transparency is important – this is why I couldn’t keep up the interview facade for long. I am genuinely contrite regarding my breach of trust regarding the website, and particularly its editor. This said, Bowie’s manipulation of the Simulacra, and our collective participation in the attendant, instant hyperreality, renders many more people accountable than they would like to admit. Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?
Sean Bw Parker
Oli Spleen & Benbo ‘A Carol For Joseph’
(P V N K L V Z R D) – Available Now
Upholding a fine tradition of miserable cynicism, ex Flesh Happening frontman Oli Spleen and his partner in blasphemous affront, Cooking Vinyl signing Benbo, bring us a carol of woe for Christmas.
God may have the title but poor old Joseph was lumbered with the job: expected to keep quite, head bowed and allow his wife to be impregnated by a deity, and then bring up the offspring of this ‘so-called immaculate conception’ without a word of disproval. Well Spleen and Benbo have jumped to his defence, placing the cuckold martyr at the centre of a plaintive, but often caustic, potty-mouth, appeal to do the dirty with Mary: “Mother Mary moist and wise, let me feel your silken thighs/ Let me in between your knees, let me please you if you please.”
The offensive duo have also roped in award winning film director Nichola Bruce on accordion and Lucy Ward collaborator Izzi Cooper on cello to bolster their Leonard Cohen-esque burred ‘fuck you!’.
For the shy retiring sort and obvious offended religious groups, there is a lesser of the two evils indecorous radio edit – the original being full of sexual innuendo and blasphemous language. You’re all going to hell in a handcart you heathens.
Various ‘100’ (Rocket Girl) – Available Now
Heralding their recent centenary release, independent label Rocket Girl have brought out a celebratory digital download compilation of exemplary space rock, embittered balladry and esoteric pumped electronica.
Reinforcing the spirit of their inaugural Silver Apples/ Windy & Carl split 7″ back in 1997, this 16-track concatenate suite includes the neo-krautrock of Eat Lights Become Lights, Walker-esque toiled folk of Jon DeRosa and the diaphanous ambient landscape building of Pieter Nooten.
Added to the exploratory party are a few unreleased exclusives; a live version of God is an Astronaut‘s ‘Transmissions’ plus Jacques Caramac & the Sweet Generation’s ‘On the Rocky Road’ and Anthony Reynolds‘ ‘Why Honey’.
In such an unsettling climate, where business models seem at best tenuous and at worst untenable Rocket Girls perseverance should be welcomed, or at least worthy of an audience ready to sample their wares. Here’s to another one hundred!
Full track list below:
Eat Lights Become Lights – Bound For Magic Mountain
Jon DeRosa – True Men
Anthony Reynolds, Colin Wilson – The Colour and Light Around Me
Pieter Nooten – Ode
Fuxa – Dream (Don’t Give Up)
Eat Lights Become Lights – Electromagnetika
Jacques Caramac & the Sweet Generation – Snowballs
God is an Astronaut – Transmissions (live)
Jon DeRosa -Signs of Life
Anthony Reynolds – Why Honey
Jacques Caramac & the Sweet Generation – On the Rocky Road
Fuxa – Shout Out Loud
God is an Astronaut – Light Years From Home
White Ring – Roses
Pieter Nooten – Transit
Fuxa – Some Things Last a Long Time
White Witches ‘Secret Club’ – Available Now
Rollicking in an indecorous fashion through the thin white duke’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ (a particular favourite in the Valvona & Vine saloon) for God Is In The TV’s more recent David Bowie covers mix tape, Ashes To Ashes, Rory Lewarne‘s mooning art school White Witches brood deliver a sneering rambunctious post-punk sound.
Infamous for the fag-end of Brit Pop glam-trash outfit Pink Grease (of which I own two glowing graphic picture disc 7″ singles), Lewarne’s latest incarnation sees him sporting a David Vanian style slicked-back blonde barnet; striding through a gothic den of hallucinatory characters as the backing tramples over a stroppy Bauhaus backbeat.
Already making Dazed digital’s ‘record of the month’, ‘Secret Club’ and the EP that spawned it have just been released on Akira The Don‘s Living In The Future label. The single is also accompanied by a congruous lurid video, directed by BAFTA winner Aaron Shrimpton.
PART THREE of the Monolith Cocktail’s ‘choice tracks of 2013’
The last instalment of our ‘choice tracks and singles’ list, bringing the Monolith’s 2013 revue to a triumphant close.