Hip-Hop Revue
Matt Oliver





Singles

Front page news in hip-hop this month has been the unexpected return of Gang Starr – whether it needed a guest spot from J Cole or not, ‘Family and Loyalty’ is nicely nostalgic and respectful, pure Guru wisdom about what matters most, and DJ Premier bringing boom bap sparkle, making you sigh with both contentment and for what once was.

 Rodney P roughing up the right path reveals ‘The Next Chapter’, at his influential best and calling the tune to Urban Monk extending carnival season. The surprise return of Tommy Evans wants you to feel his ‘Flow (H20)’, hosting a drowsy, frilly-collared sway with a killer hook and his clear-minded navigation of gentle waves.





Some modest Trevvy Trev production, boom bap jabbing at you rather than going for the all-out roundhouse, allows San Man & MC Small World to stroll freely and get the coolness of their deadliness to set up an old skool prowl of authority on the five track ‘EP’. The music may be of a smooth funk vintage, but Dark Lo pulls the pin to set the record straight on ‘American Made’ and exerts sheer street control on ‘Ripped Apart’ with Benny the Butcher. Catch him if you can – Nodoz is ‘All Ready Up’, “staying woke ‘til the white sheet cover my eyes”, the early bird fiercely catching Will C’s smooth funk with a magical mystery tale to tell.






Albums

‘Retropolitan’ rolls with a capital R as “a love letter and a wakeup call to the city” from Skyzoo and Pete Rock, a well suited duo speculators must secretly have been hoping would get together, and whose Big Apple toughness comes with polished corners, epitomising the concrete jungle encasing the big city of dreams. Bustling and ‘bout it but barely breaking sweat, it’s an exemplary expo of sights and sounds, achieving easy listening when the pair’s objective is anything but.

Now sporting a short back and sides and Colgate smile and aligning himself with Q-Tip as executive producer, the energy of Danny Brown stays undiminished on ‘uknowhatimsayin¿ ’, but this time around you can tell he’s given more thought as to which wet square pegs should go in which live round holes. Paul White, Flying Lotus, JPEGMAFIA and Run the Jewels are all part of a medium reset, updating the livewire’s instincts that still come through loud, clear and uncouth (“I ignore a whore, like an email from LinkedIn”).





“I may never rock the Garden, but I did plant the seed, and it’s far from Autumn” – Von Pea, with his Pusha T-ish rasp, declares ‘City for Sale’ but also mi casa su casa, endlessly funky with production baked in sunshine and snappy cypherisms penning local postcards about how hood the hood really is right now.





The ever likely lads Dr Syntax and Pete Cannon are back to break their unique brand of bread until they’ve defined ‘Wallop’, chatting solemnly over tea and biscuits before giving it some jump-up, bass-mainlining welly. Whatever the mood of your favourite plain English rapper and wildcard producer combo, they leave you feeling invigorated from all the angles they cover.





Bending your ear with his usual best of British, Kid Acne’s South Yorkshire styling receives a boost from Illinois’ Spectacular Diagnostics, pulling ‘Have a Word’ from fuggy pillars to raw and whip-smart posts. Another time capsule of references tripping off the tongue, that continued sense of Acne picking up the mic and diving straight into the close-to-home anarchy with no warm up, sustains his latest keeper of the faith as flavoursome and full of unfettered character, shared with members of New Kingdom, Juga-Naut and Juice Aleem.

Ocean Wisdom’s extensive lung squeezer ‘Big Talk’ has got the mouth to go with the trousers, unstoppably menacing when riding jittery danger zone trappers rarely feeling the need to pull the handbrake. Assists from Dizzee Rascal, P Money, Ghetts, Akala, Freddie Gibbs and Fatboy Slim underline the star quality finding six million more ways to end careers at the same rate of words per minute.

When the long stretch of ‘Eagle Court’ is in session, CMPND trio Wundrop, Kemastry and Vitamin G invest in deep bass shudders of trap/drill genealogy that you can somehow find solitude in, and disgust-registering rhymes consistently keeping heads down while speaking up for bad boys moving in silence. Probably ineffective in daylight hours, a different beast when the graveyard shift ticks by, banging like a gavel in the hand of the Grim Reaper.

Livewire rhymes with clean means of execution from VersesBang advocate ‘Cardigans & Calories’, taking over tough/rubbery bass steppers and sending the fortunes of foes into hiding. Most unexpected is the appearance of D12’s Bizarre on the concluding ‘W.E.I.R.D.O.’, showing that rap/grime is not a funny old game. Junior Disprol’s ‘Def Valley’ is like a hip-hop game of Tough Mudder, gruffly ravaging a tricky selection of beats (yacht rockers to blips-n-bleeps to pots-n-pans, drum machine brawlers) with the unfazed, warpaint-daubed mindset of no-one else is gonna manage it, so it may as well be the Dead Residents emcee.





The LA addicts fiending for static that are Clipping are back to confirm ‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’, an oxymoron where no-one can hear you scream in space until its engine room sucks you in and spits you out. The trio continue to give braincells a thrashing but still love a good hook, with emcee Daveed Diggs’ style in charge of the captain’s log recited by a sentient streetwise super-computer, taking Benny the Butcher, El Camino and La Chat along for the ride.





The heavy burdens of Big Turks gang Rome Streetz, Jamal Gasol and Lord Juco handle dangerous day-to-days to Ro Data’s expressive Turkish folk skills. Inducing a hush as they step in the place and where spotting weakness can be cataclysmic, this it tough Mafioso styling holding a certain cinematic exotica until the heavies on the mic – few grand gestures = time is money – begin their rearranging. Clinical, allowing for one traditional Turkish jig to conclude.

An invite to ‘The Gold Room’ from SadhuGold prepares ears for heavy instrumentalism straining towards the grey area of your DAB, too focussed on trip hop toil and a certain prog rock/gangsta determination so as to avoid playing the strung out chestnut. Slithering and curling itself around late night like a serpent ready for its chokehold moment, plucky emcees will flinch at the Philly producer’s muddy Midas touch.

‘Complicate Your Life With Violence’ suggest L’Orange and Jeremiah Jae, the folklore of old war stories and wild westerns mined by the former, schooled by a 5 o’clock shadow of a faintly numb flow keeping an ear to the street belonging to the latter. An expert in throwing you for a loop in its disregard for boom bap boundaries, seems to house a cast of hundreds when in reality it’s a good old fashioned (uniquely telepathic) MC-producer two-for. Proof that violence can solve matters.

Zilla Rocca and Curly Castro could tell you what Grift Company are all about, but then they’d probably have to kill you: ‘Too Many Secrets’ takes true school to the bank with a stick-up kid swagger. Giving it all they’ve got by using the 32 minute duration as a ticking time bomb to their savagery roaming the streets, it’s a slick and dangerous operation, pushing underground cinema full of proper hip-hop spirit.





Premiere
Dominic Valvona 




Sebastian Reynolds  ‘Maṇīmekhalā’
(Pindrop Records)  EP/ 18th October 2019


Released in anticipation of the upcoming UK tour of the multimedia Mahajanaka Dance Drama, which starts in November, a second EP of serene devotional music from that production’s score is being shared with our readers two days in advance of its official release date (18th October).

Based on the stories of the venerated Jataka, one of the oldest collections of mythological texts in the world, the theme of this interpretive dance, music and visual production is taken from the Mahajanaka, a moralistic chronicle of Buddha’s previous lives, which describes the future guru’s birth as the prince of that title. Prince Mahajanaka, we’re relayed, is usurped by a ‘wicked uncle’. During exile he becomes a merchant so he can gain the fortune he needs to regain his kingdom. Of the many travails the prince experiences, there’s one that appeals especially to the artist and collaborators behind the leading peregrination of this EP: Mahajanaka’s rescue from a shipwreck by the guardian of the seas, the goddess Maṇīmekhalā – who as it transpires, very important to the story, only saves the lives of the virtuous. The man behind this project’s visceral soundtrack, Oxford-based polymath Sebastian Reynolds, composes a most diaphanous ascendant theme to that deity; the leading transcendent evocation from this new EP is a subtle, resonating vision of blissful devotion that softly (angelically even) transforms the rich sounds of Southeast Asian traditional music to produce a dreamy lofty cloud gazing homage.

The musical, dance and artful direction of this production and its score can be found in Thailand. Sparked, in part, by Reynolds’ arts-funded trip to Bangkok in 2016, the reedy sound of the native Pi-Nai instrument, which he recorded during his time there, can be heard permeating the goddess saviors theme. You may also hear the accentuated and understated tonal drones of German cellist extraordinaire Anne Müller woven into the effortless fusion of veneration tradition and the contemporary ambient. Müller of course recently released a debut LP, but has collaborated with Reynolds on a number of albums and performances, most notably the triumvirate of experimental chamber electronica, the Solo Collective, with both Reynolds and German virtuosi Alex Stolze.

The EP’s accompanying track, the lively bamboo skittering South Seas ‘Cherd’, features an attentive cascading mallet bouncing regal dash performance from the Thai piphat troupe, The Jongkraben Ensemble; a performance that was originally specially commissioned by Reynolds. Continuing with the many Thai connections, one of the two remixes on this EP is by the Thai producer, musician, composer and project collaborator Pradit Saengkral, who expands Reynolds original Maṇīmekhalā theme into a both expansively dreamy and more seriously intense journey of caressed piano, pondered bass guitar notes and mysterious atmospherics.

As I’ve already said, a collaborative affair, The Mahanjanka project from which this latest EP derives, was conceived and put together by Reynolds, the contemporary dance company Neon Dance and the award-winning Thai dancer and choreographer Pichet Klunchun. Taking their source material and inspirations extremely serious, not only by spending time abroad absorbing and working with an array of Thai talent, Buddhist scholar and author of the Penguin Classics translations of the Jataka, Dr. Sarah Shaw, was on-hand to lend support and monitor this special interpretation.

Closer to home, cult producer of the moment, Capitol K offers a brilliant transportive and sophisticated ‘psytrance’ pumped exotic treatment of The Jongkraben Ensemble’s wooden mallet dash to nirvana, ‘Cherd’. Of which he opines:

“From playing the Goat Herder album out live I found myself recently developing more ambient long form dance floor tracks, focusing on the low midrange and kick frequencies in particular. In conversation with a producer friend recently we were discussing the merits of the much maligned idea of psytrance in a festival context, I don’t think this remix quite makes it to psytrance but I felt that in remixing the ancient and complex scores of piphat, the only way I could be humble with my illiteracy to the form was with my own take on a trance remix.”

 

A most beautifully conceived vision that fuses tradition with the subtlest of electronica, ambient and trance, this multi-disciplined performance is worth experiencing in the flesh. You can catch the UK leg of the tour at the following venues and on these dates.

Mahajanaka Dance Drama – UK Tour November 2019

13th – Jacqueline du Pré, Oxford

14th – Pavilion Dance, Bournemouth

16th+17th – British Library, London

20th+21st – The Library Presents, Cambridgeshire

Plus a talk and excerpt performance event at the Multi-Faith Centre, University of Derby, on 19th November.

 

Until then, enjoy the second EP of congruous spiritual evocations from that captivating project.


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.




Reviews
Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea




Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea joined the Monolith Cocktail team in January 2019. The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His most recent project, Roi (with John McCarthy and Dan Shea, of Beauty Stab and Vukovar infamy) debuted recently through Metal Postcard Records.

Each week or so we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick  to see what sticks. In his own idiosyncratic style and turn-of-phrase, pontificating aloud and reviewing with scrutiny an eclectic deluge of releases, here Brian’s latest batch of recommendations.

Comet Gain ‘Institute Debased’
Single/ 11th October 2019


I love the music of Comet Gain. David Feck is one of the finest songwriters to emerge over the last 20 years or so; his songs are full of feelings, yearnings from the past clashing with the failures of today and this, ‘Institute Debased’, the first single taken from forthcoming LP Fireraisers Forever, is a marvelous romp; a collision of 60s psych and post punk merriment – like Dylan fronting a hyped up Velvet Underground. A track of pure delight and magic.




Pete Astor  ‘Paradise’
Album/ 8th November 2019



I have always enjoyed the music of Pete Astor, be it with the Weather Prophets or his solo work, but somewhere along the way I missed this. That omission has finally been put right with this rerelease, 25 years later.

Paradise is a album of well written songs bringing to mind the early nineties work of Lloyd Cole; the same slight country rock influence beginning to creep into the music – almost a bar band quality in the sound. It’s the sound of a man maturing as a person and a songwriter, cutting back in the verve and excitement of youth and replacing it with a beautiful melancholy that only comes with the passing of time, broken hearts and experience.

I am really quite taken with this album and wish I had come across it all those years ago as I have missed out on 25 years of wrapping myself in the beautiful comfort blanket of mellow beautifully crafted guitar songs.



Red Gaze ‘S/T’
(Numavi) EP/ 8th October 2019




Three tracks of early 80s influenced “anarcho” punk terror on a cassette EP takes me right on back to those wonderful days of hanging around Liverpool in the mid 80s and Newport in the early 90s – when it was known as the Seattle of the UK -; a time of darkness and political unrest, when bands used to share their energy and the spirit of unease to the gathered masses of like-minded gig goers. And it’s great to see that there are still bands sound tracking these dark times with their music.

The three tracks are much more than the under three minute thrash I was expecting. All are blessed with dark melodies and an air of dark foreboding and inventive guitar riffs that are a joy to these old weary ears, the track ‘Blister Blaster’ being the stand out. All good stuff indeed; I will have to check out their album.


SUO ‘Dancing Spots And Dungeons’
(Stolen Body Records) Album/ 18th October 2019



Stolen Body Records have released some wonderful albums this year, and here is yet another one. This is a fine pop album, all power punk chords and girl group kisses. Part Blondie part Suzi Quatro, it really has a late 70s feel to it; the kind of record you can imagine blasting from your old tiny transistor on a summer night. An LP with a lovely warm sound (maybe one of the best sounding records I’ve have heard all year) it embraces all that is magical about pop music; it is sexy, laid back, moving and fun all at the same time, an album album of extremely well written and crafted guitar pop songs with a 70s new wave twist. Dancing Spots And Dungeons is a really lovely sounding record.






Haq  ‘Evaporator’
(Bearsuit Records) Album/ 27th September 2019



The new release from the fine Bearsuit Records finds us tumbling down to the spiraling sounds of Haq; 60s spy theme sexiness merges with the avant-garde dreampop of a bewitched Stereolab playing hopscotch with Delia Derbyshire whilst sucking on the feedback of a JAMC lollipop.

The obvious love and understanding of pop music in its many genres and changes throughout the decades are lovingly brought together to make a wash of beautiful tunes. Angel like vocals float over gentle beats, soulful guitars and well constructed rhythms, delicately plucking at the heartstrings. This album really is a beautiful work of aural magic that can and will take you AWAY from the drudgery of everyday life and makes for quite a moving experience: maybe there is a god after all.






The Lounge Bar Orchestra ‘The Omeroyd Sound’
(Fruits de Mer) EP



As I’ve mentioned in an earlier review previously about the opening track of this EP, ‘Washing Lines’, it is a track that I would like to live in – and that goes for the rest of the record. A land where ever night is a Saturday night, a Saturday night filled with kitsch TV shows from your past, the kind of shows that used to be big and loud presented by Bruce Forsyth or Cilla Black, the kind of show when you would witness Cilla dueting with Marc Bolan or Scott Walker with Matt Monro, and as child you would marvel at the glitzy glamour whilst sipping on your bottle of ginger ale wondering, “is this what it’s like to be in showbiz”, hanging around men in evening jackets and long legged high kicking dancers in short mini skirts or silver dresses. This quite wonderful EP takes me back to those wonderful carefree days when music was art and art was music and gave you tingles every time you turned on the radio or TV; when people had to turn on the radio or TV not just lift your laptop lid or stare at your smartphone screen.

This three track is a must have for those who remember simpler times, and for those who want to, for a brief time, return to them. This is your chance this is your time machine. The Lounge Bar Orchestra and their signature Omeroyd Sound.

Released as a limited edition vinyl EP by Fruits de Mer Records (as part of Fruits de Mer and Megadodo’s one day Thunderbolt Festival in Bristol, on November 2nd), it will be subsequently made available by Ousewater Television Recordings on the 6th of November as a downloadable computer online digital recorded music file.






James Mcarthur and The Head Gardeners  ‘Intergalactic Sailor’
(Moorland Records) Album/ 11th October 2019



There is a nice 60s psych folk feel to this album that at times reminds me of the beauty caress of the Lilac Time and the slight oddness of the Beta Band covering Simon and Garfunkel. It’s quite nice to close ones eyes and be swept away by the well-written mellow pop songs that James McArthur and The Head Gardeners offer up. It makes a very pleasant change to be presented with music with such subtlety and an eloquent grace that seems to be lost in these days of wham bam thank you mam generic indie rock; here today forgotten tomorrow, or, the smartphone pop that seems to clog up the radio.

Intergalactic Sailor succeeds in the difficult task of sounding timeless. This is a album that could have been made anytime over the last fifty or so years and offers a charm that sadly one does not come across much these days; an LP where melodies are sprinkled with McCartney-esque fairy dust and a young Paul Simon lyrical cunning.



Album Review
Dominic Valvona




Owen Tromans ‘Between Stones’
(Sacred Geometry) 11th October 2019


In the spirit of maverick adventure, Hampshire-based singer-songwriter Owen Tromans walks a similar path to the arch druid of counterculture and psychogeography traversing, Julian Cope. The co-founder of the most informative sonic accompanied rambling fanzine guide, Weird Walks, Tromans (and his co-authors) circumnavigates the hidden British landscape of run-down flat roof pubs whilst waxing lyrical about the fantasy role-play meets Black Metal flowering of the Dungeon synth scene, and the more well-known traipsed chalk pits and megalith landmarks.

The soundtrack is important, both as an enriching experience and communicative tool. And on Between Stones the soundtrack could be said to be a surprising one. Ambling certainly; wandering this sceptered Isle imbued typography with all the ancient lore it entails, yet far from held-down to the British sound, Tromans actually channels a English pen pal version of R.E.M. and the great expansive outdoor epic trudge of Simon Bonney on the album’s hard-won stirring opus ‘Grimcross’: Imagine an 80s American college radio John Barleycorn. There’s even a touch of a mellower Pixies and early Dinosaur Jnr. on the grunge-y ‘Vague Summer’, and hints of Mick Harvey throughout the rest of the album.

It’s not just musically, but also the album’s mythology and fantastical themes that reach beyond these shores. Between The Stones entwines both episodes (real and imaginary) from Greek and German history into a rich green tableau. The protagonist in the former, a lamentable questioning soldier on the shores of Troy, attempts to make sense of the woes of that infamous war whilst communing with Zeus on the subtle organ-bathed ‘A Dialogue’, the latter, explores the fact and fiction behind the Disney castle eccentric Bavarian King, Ludwig II, on the plaintive Neil Young-esque ‘Burying The Moon King’. Perhaps only ever immortalized before by the Munich acid-rock gods Amon Düül II in a suite of songs from their Germanic conceptual epic, Made In Germany, the “mad” fantastical Ludwig may or may not have met his demise on Lake Starnberg at the hands of nebulas intrigue and the encroaching behavior of a unified German authority – Ludwig’s own ministers conspired to have him sanctioned at one point. Troy of course plays well in the lyrical alternative history of Britain; through a convoluted suspension of belief historiography, via the pen of many atavistic chroniclers (including Geoffrey of Monmouth), the fleeing survivors of that legendary city and war have been linked to the founding of both Rome, through their champion Aeneas, and Britain, through his descendant Brutus.

Beautifully conveyed throughout with subtle Baroque-psych chamber strings and a country falsetto, Tromans follows the desire lines, hill forts and undulating well-travail(ed) pathways on a most ruminating magical songbook; a thoughtful and poetic accompaniment that goes hand-in-hand with those “weird” and wonderful walks.




Playlist
Compiled by Dominic Valvona with contributions from Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Andrew C. Kidd and Gianluigi Marsibilio.
Graphics by Gianluigi Marsibilio.








Reflecting the Monolith Cocktail’s tastes and favourite choice tracks from the last few months, the Quarterly Revue is a diverse musical journey; an eclectic international playlist of discoveries. This is a space in which you are as likely to find the skewered Gary Wilson meets Brian Wilson stained-glass psychedelic songwriting of the Origami Repetika creative hub as you are the conscious transportive jazz of Horace Tapscott. Brand new tracks appear alongside reissues and recently uncovered nuggets as we move through funk, jazz, hip-hop, post-punk, shoegaze, desert blues, techno, psychedelic, acid rock, space rock, and the most experimental of musical genres.

 

Behold…part three…


Tracklist::

Snapped Ankles  ‘Three Steps To A Development’
DJ Shadow  ‘Rosie’
Kid Acne/Nosaj/Spectacular Diagnostics  ‘Crest Of A Wave’
Gang Starr/J. Cole  ‘Family and Loyalty’
Danny Brown  ‘Best Life’
Bronx Slang  ‘More Grief’
SAULT  ‘Let Me Go’
clipping.  ‘Nothing Is Safe’
Bloke Music  ‘Everything On’
Seaside Witch Coven  ‘Splutter’
Trupa Trupa  ‘Remainder’
Stereo Total  ‘Einfach’
Los Piranas  ‘Palermo’s Grunch’
Baba Zula  ‘Salincak In’
Abdallah Oumbadougou  ‘Thingalene’
Grup Dogus  ‘Namus Belasi’
Taichmania  ‘See Ya at Six or Seven’
Kota Motomura  ‘Cry Baby’
Baby Taylah  ‘Reclaim’
House Of Tapes  ‘Melted Ice’
Camino Willow  ‘Hollywood’
Callum Easter  ‘Only Sun’
Junkboy  ‘Waiting Room’
Elizabeth Everts  ‘Contraband’
Bloom de Wilde  ‘Soul Siren’
Badge Epoque Ensemble  ‘Milk Split on Eternity’
Chrissie Hynde/The Valve Bone Woe Ensemble  ‘Meditation on a Pair of Wire Cutters’
Swan/Koistinen  ‘Diagnosis’
Sirom  ‘Low Probability of a Hug’
Koma Saxo  ‘Fanfarum for Komarun’
Matana Roberts  ‘Raise Yourself Up/Backbone Once More/How Bright They Shine’
Die Achse/Ghostface Killah/Agent Sasco  ‘Baby Osamas’
U-Bahn  ‘Beta Boyz’
Occult Character  ‘Half-Wits and Cultists’
Asbestos Lead Asbestos  ‘Shrimp Asmr’
Repo-Man  ‘Evan The Runt’
Issac Birituro & The Rail Abandon  ‘Kalba’
Nicolas Gaunin  ‘Vava’u’
Mazouni  ‘Daag Dagui’
Mdou Moctar  ‘Wiwasharnine’
Aziza Brahim  ‘Leil’
Resavoir  ‘Resavoir’
Purple Mountains  ‘All My Happiness is Gone’
Babybird  ‘Cave In’
Adam Green  ‘Freeze My Love’
Catgod  ‘Blood’
Frog  ‘RIP to the Empire State Flea Market’
Pozi  ‘Engaged’
Roi  ‘Dormouse Records’
Origami Repetika  ‘Winged Creatures’
Horace Tapscott  ‘Future Sally’s Time’
A Journey Of Giraffes  ‘September 11 1977’
Jodie Lowther  ‘The Cat Collects’
Equinox/Vukovar  ‘Lament’
Kandodo 3  ‘King Vulture’

Reviews Roundup
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea





Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea joined the Monolith Cocktail team in January 2019. The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His most recent project, Roi (with John McCarthy and Dan Shea, of Beauty Stab and Vukovar infamy) debuted recently through Metal Postcard Records.

Each week we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick to see what sticks. In his own idiosyncratic style and turn-of-phrase, pontificating aloud and reviewing with scrutiny an eclectic deluge of releases, here Brian’s latest batch of recommendations.

The Monochrome Set  ‘Fabula Mandax’
(Tapete Records)  27th September 2019


The new LP by The Monochrome Set is a concept album about the female warrior Armande de Pange, a sidekick of Joan Of Arc. It takes all sorts I suppose; whatever floats your boat and other such benign sayings. It really doesn’t make any difference really as long as the songs/tracks are of an enjoyable quality and this LP, I’m pleased to say, is full of enjoyability. It is positively rammed with the stuff.

The usual twangy and hastily strummed guitars are all present and correct as you would expect from the mighty Monochrome Set; spaghetti western melodies float above the spinning strange story of Armande, bringing a party to ones headphones, and making it a most enjoyable listening experience.





The New Art School ‘Mod Kid (Single)’
(Metal Postcard Records) 27th August 2019



Well what a wonderful song; what a wonderful single. I don’t know what I was expecting; maybe sub Secret Affair or the Lambrettas, but no, what we get is a five minute foray into the edgy joy of ripped up teenage yearning with a guitar riff equivalent of a sneaky smoke at the back of the school bike sheds with a quick snifter of your mums stolen gin. A song that makes you wish you were fifteen again so you could show off to your mates about a great new band you have discovered; a track covered in magic normally only normally woven by the mighty Comet Gain. Another winner from Metal Postcard records.





The Pooh Sticks ‘Seven Inch Box’
(Optic Nerve Recordings) 22nd November 2019



The Pooh Sticks are one of the most perfect pop bands from the last 40 years; they released the “Great White Wonder” album for god sake, so how could they not be, and this, a box set of their first singles, captures them at their most immature fun best two minute-blasts of pure pop perfection. This is how The Shangri-Las would have sounded if they’d produced by Pete Shelley rather than Shadow Morton.

It’s the sound of teenage summer pop. It has a song called ‘Life’s A Gas’ and they’re, maybe, the only band that could get away with it – and not being disappointed that it’s not the Marc Bolan classic.

They even released a song that mentions Alan McGee without calling him an arse (which he is obviously).

They have such a pure outlook on pop life they should be sainted. They have ba ba ba choruses they do versions of ‘Knock Three Times’ that does not pale in comparison to the original. They are pure pop for forever people; the sound of buzz saw bubblegum you never ever want to pop. I do like the Pooh Sticks and so should you…if you don’t already.






Lounge Bar Orchestra ‘Washing Lines’
11th September 2019



A tremor of sixties England, the soundtrack of Joe Meek picnicking with the swinging hipsters of yesteryear; open top sport cars speed around the county lanes as the sun shines and the radio plays the latest Sandie Shaw hit wide eyed barefooted and pulling on the heartstrings of boys who should know better. This is the soundtrack to a land I would quite happily live in; a beautiful magical land of cord jackets and mini skirts; a land when shops closed on a Sunday; a land where Ray Davies resides. I could quite happily live inside this song.





The Cult Of Free Love And The Magic Seas ‘Split EP’
28th October 2019



What we have here is a split 12-inch single of excellence. Kicking off we have Welsh electro psych gothic cult The Cult Of Free Love offering up a rather stunning voyage of psychosis want with the sublime ‘Visions’, a song to haunt, flaunt, bewitch, caress the bejesus out of your record player; a modern day ‘Porpoise Song’, a track already a musical highlight in a year when there has been many a fine tune. Track 2 by The Cult Of Free Love is ‘Substance’, a 7 minute plus journey of trance like adventure sounding like the feeding of The Beatles ‘It’s All Too Much’ through a psychedelic trip hammer of dance inspired Acid House; a return to the misty fields of your deepest feelings, late 80s Manchester but without the guns just pure love and emotion: another stunner. Get ready for The Cult Of Free Love to be your new favourite band.

To the other side of the 12 inch we find The Magic Seas kicking off their side with ‘Count In Threes’, a song that once again takes you back to the golden days of guitar pop, a song with the wonderful gift of melody flowing throughout guitars shimmer and shine and lassoing the sun, pulling the warmth into the indie boy and girls hearts: a truly lovely song. The second track by The Magic Seas, ‘Long Winter’, is even better. A hypnotic 12 string dives straight in to gently rattle the insides of your doubts that you are listening to a very special band indeed. Oh if I were only eighteen again, The Magic Seas would be my new favourite band alongside The Cult Of Free Love: I would just have to alternate days. This EP is indeed something special.





Equinox ‘Correction’
(Wormhole) 30th August 2019



The new LP by Equinox carries on from were the last triumph of his debut left off, taking in the darker feelings of the psych. Poetic spoken word utterings of the lovelorn, crestfallen and heartbroken fourteen collaborations with fourteen underground artists that range from the electronica of ‘Driven’ with Reed Hayes to the almost Oasis like ‘Janine’ with the Razorrawks.

An album to wrap around the drunken late nights of the inward looking, the sound of a man who is past the end of his tether; someone who has found love in the second coming of remembrance the first view of the last rainbow of summer, the coiling of the fading leaf of Autumn, a current so deep one cannot do anything else but curl up into the epiphany of a mistake anyone can make but only the lucky few do. This is an album the shamelessly poetic will take to their heart and listen and cherish as there heartbreaks and their mind explodes. An album of pure beauty, to have, to hold and not let go.






Occult Character ‘Cult Of Ignorance’
(Metal Postcard Records) 5th September 2019



In this day and age you need people like Occult Character to tell the world how it is and what just is happening, and this mini LP is, as I have said before about OC, a modern day Woody Guthrie writing modern day electro folk songs describing life in the Trump led America: and this album proves it.

This could be one of the most important albums released this year. It is the sound of the underground raising two fingers to the “Me” generation. If OC were as well known as John Lennon the US government would be trying the damnedest to get him deported. This is the sound of a artist at the end of his tether writing short requiems to the death of the country he loves ‘Police State /Shit Sandwich’ could be the angriest songs you will hear all year. He pulls no punches; dark humour hides the sadness in these short songs the harshness of the beats only goes on to soundtrack the knife-edge world in which we live today. This is a must be heard album by the most important artist in the US underground today.





Premiere
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea





A couple of weeks ago we at Monolith gave the Storm the Palace Delicious Monster LP a well deserved rave review as the album is both beautiful, cheeky and a little dirty. So I am pleased that they have sent us their latest video-single, ‘Clive’, as an exclusive treat, a video that is entertaining, beautiful, cheeky and a little dirty. In fact a video that introduces potted plant porn to the world.

The Edinburgh indie Baroque folk outfit have this to say about their pot plant swingers’ new video:

The video follows the story of the song’s protagonist – a morally bankrupt cheese plant named Clive. We were inspired by 1970s films of excess, pretension and indulgence, such as La Grande Bouffe, Abigail’s Party and the soft-porn classic, Emmanuelle.

 

So ladies and gentlemen please feast your eyes your ears and your loins to the beautiful sights and sounds of Storm The Palace and ‘Clive’, a song taken from their forthcoming Delicious Monster album (released on the 4th October 2019). A must own LP of 2019 I might add.




Hip-Hop Revue
Words: Matt Oliver





Singles

The summer into autumn changeover is upon us, so here’s Rapture & Verse packed with all new stationery for term time. The tang of Joey Paro’s ‘Victory Gin’, charming you with Illinformed’s sweeping strings before stout flavours are brought out, serves four shots of Bristol cream capable of dumping you on your backside when Eric the Red, Smellington Piff, Datkid and Res One chip in. An EP spraying like winner’s champagne. Four tracks of Rodney P, Ty and Blak Twang stamping their authority is ‘The KingDem’ reminding everyone of UK hip-hop’s rightful sovereignty; steered by presence most will never achieve (“man are OG, shoulda know me”), and with the ‘Kingstep’ switch into drum & bass guaranteeing a multiple carnival float pile-up. More elite elder statesman status from Blade continues to roar from strength to strength, ‘Dark Friends’ vanquishing enemies from the belltower and ‘Make It Connect’ staging a smooth and deadly old skool takedown. For an elbow sharpener, head to Denzel Himself’s ‘Birdie’, live and direct from London’s crucible with a blue touch paper hook.





DZ The Unknown bringing the ‘Thunder Slap’ with Celph Titled, M-Dot, Esoteric and Big Shug stands up for all crime rhyme Houdini Gs, rounding on C-Lance’s Gotham brass beating you into bloody pulp fiction. In contrast, Bishop Nehru and Brady Watt’s ‘The Real Book’ has got your back when coffee either eases you into the weekend or is your bargaining chip to extend the evening. Five smooth, strong aromas. Assuming things go well, J Lately’s ‘Run’ brings the cosmos into line when you’re blissfully between sound asleep and waking up.






Albums

Long owning one of UK hip-hop’s best poker faces, whether up, down or in between (“I just wanna smoke blunts, chillin’ in the bathtub”), Verb T posing ‘A Question of Time’ is his umpteenth delivery of lyrical intricacy with his feet up. The production of Pitch 92 – neo-soulful, sharply jazzed, occasionally exotic, always generously drummed – runs in parallel, the album’s calming influence matched by its best foot forward getting shit done. Grown man hip-hop in the business of casual downtime that just happens to see off those that can’t handle ‘Time’ on their hands.

Blackburn-repping bard Bill Shakes gets quizzical on ‘Eh?’, making convincing arguments on shaky ground, the down-at-heel with the dossers vibe making the bravado work harder – ‘Once Upon a Time in Blackburn’ does his best Slick Rick – and getting the strange realities, born out of the local day-to-day, to slap. One to listen to by the spark of a lighter.

Mikill Pane’s ‘The Night Elm on Mare Street’ is no video nasty, cutting through dry ice and keyboards of a certain dystopian/romantic vintage. Overfeeding punchlines like Gremlins after dark, the patent lyrical agility and care with words is entertainingly nostalgic, and dealing with a whole host of first worlders against banks of VHS-ready synth-pop pulses gives the album its distinction. Don’t sleep. As the ‘Heart Break Kid’, Rick Fury hits with prizefighter accuracy despite looking into wrestling federation glam and with the slouch of someone who’s downed tools. Working harder than the languid North East verbs appear, the soulful beats that Fury hangs his namedrops, home comforts and passive-aggressive coin flips on, sound carefully handpicked from a dusty VIP reserve, adding to the man and myth.

Expect party-hardy funk and frolics from Chali 2na and Krafty Kuts at your peril. When ‘Adventures of a Reluctant Superhero’ seems geared towards cartwheeling breaks and lyrical calisthenics, reinforced by ‘Guard the Fort’ and the sleeve/title, the dominant powers are a variety of tempos – KK releasing simple, neck-aware energies – and flows in thought (covert life coach ‘Feel the Power’) that make incisions: i.e., 2na doing what 2na does. Victory assured.





Two albums that are rough and rugged, but know the game enough to spruce up the raw. Elevating his status to ‘GITU (Greatest in the Universe)’, Chris Rivers doesn’t lose sight of the road ahead, and where the title and look-at-me connotations run deeper. The Big Pun bloodline has never run truer; capable of reading the room so lighter crossover moments share space with ripsnorters to rattle the place. Overall, a polished player with reach. Switch the accessible trap to boom-bap clean enough to eat off, and you have Joell Ortiz’ ‘Monday’ running alongside. Strong armed wistfulness (if that’s a thing), it’s a case of the rhyme animal finding a comfortable lane to put his priorities in order with open eyes, making one particularly good point on ‘Screens’ lamenting the tech-obsessed generation’s refusal to enjoy the fresh air.





Straight shooting from Rapsody earns a promotion to first lady on ‘Eve’, looking to emulate heroes and icons and wanting to be mentioned in the same breath. Making soft touches that much sharper, mixing up Phil Collins and Wu-Tang stashes as she goes, an unflinching belief system sees off the ill-equipped (“ain’t an emcee on this earth that make me feel afraid”), not so much striking a chord as demolishing it with style and sass. Queen Latifah joins the update of the ladies first manifesto from someone who comes “like Left Eye with the matches”.

The celebrated return of Little Brother – funky, soulful and with a killer side eye – is like they’ve never been away. Despite the absence of 9th Wonder, Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh’s proclamation of ‘May the Lord Watch You’ shines summery light over all. Effortless and erudite (“20-20 ain’t shit without foresight”), LB still have the remedy for when your last nerve has been worked over. Two essential elements Blu and Damu the Fudgemunk abide by are ‘Ground & Water’. You already know which other two they come through with, declaring at eight tracks once they’ve refreshed heads but also left in some necessary dirty backwash as well. Therefore, moving crowds, no mistakes allowed, and more than once, Damu giving up the goods to just step. A combination that was never in doubt re-ignites those in need of an enthusiasm boost.

Long a protestor of hip-hop being him against the world, Ras Kass’ ‘Soul on Ice 2’ is in the mood for a high score body count, maximising velocity on every single word as if it’s his last. Shattering myths and ciphers and perfect for two cents worth on the current state of the world, the backing of Diamond D, Snoop, Cee-Lo, JUSTICE League and Immortal Technique allows for valuable variation without dilution of the destruction.





A slimline serving of chintzy hors d’oeuvres and comfortable linens from Alchemist invites heavyweights such as Benny the Butcher, Meyhem Lauren, Boldy James and Action Bronson to scarf down the funk schmaltz and schmooze of ‘Yacht Rock 2’. Your entry aboard is non-refundable, though the imagery of rappers networking in floral shirts with snifter in hand while the band plays on is very believable.

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