Gabríel Ólafs ‘Lullabies for Piano and Cello’
(Decca Records) 9th June 2023

Unsurprisingly, Icelandic lullabies are hard to come by. The few that do exist are comparatively bleaker – less cradle song; one could argue abstruse. Take the title of Móðir Mín Í Kví, Kví (in English, Mother of mine in the sheep pen), or the lines of Bíum bíum bambaló, a lullaby from Iceland made famous by Icelandic post-rock stalwarts Sigur Rós: ‘Bíum bíum bambaló / Bambaló og dillidillidó’; in English, ‘My little friend I lull to rest / But outside, a face looms at the window’. Still, a lullaby in the orthodox sense should serve to lull. Enter pianist Gabríel Ólafs. Lullabies for Piano and Cello offers something altogether gentler and less menacing. It is his second long play after the 2019 release Absent Minded, which earned him plenty of plaudits.

The opening piece is the spry Fantasía. It is finely poised and well-balanced. The long notes of Sigurðardóttir’s cello play slowly and jig around the piano keys that staccato and pirouette. Sálmur derives its title from the Old Norse word ‘salmr’, a psalm. The keys are bittersweet. Here there is clever use of the foot pedal: Ólafs holds the notes suspensefully, allowing the cello to inhale and exhale measuredly as they alternate between legato and bowed tremolo. Octaves are climbed by the piano, but the cello remains rooted in the bass clef. Moonlight streams in glittering certitude on Noktúrna. The piano is light and a little more distant than it was previously, perhaps in the same way that the eye perceives the blue light of the moon: familiar but altered – illusory even. Embers emerge and billow away on Eldur (from the Old Norse ‘eldr’, or fire). The cello enters and vacates as quickly as it emerged. It echoes the
piano, elongating the notes as it evaporates into the ether.

Ólafs is an effective narrator. On Frost, the left-hand plays gently. Its melody is simple and dots around a major scale. It is clear and glistens and is made momentary as it welcomes the sun; soon, it will become water, evaporating to air, exiting the world as quickly as it entered it. Is it too far-fetched to suggest that this is a bleak allegory of life? I shall leave that for the listener to decide. It is an Icelandic lullaby after all.

The harmonics of the cello play quietly, deepening the piano on Vísa. The melody is played legato. It is fluent. This deftness, this wonderful una corda (soft pedal) of the piano is felt again on Mamma which almost progresses into a lullaby; I write ‘almost’ because although the structure is circular, the melody is not repeated. Barnkind is Icelandic for ‘child’. The cello is the sole focus here. In the accompanying album notes, the cello is considered to be the “mother’s voice, sometimes speaking, sometimes singing” – this assertion is most evident on this piece. It soothes.

On Bambaló the cello bows quietly. It encompasses the mysticism of early folk – was this an ode to a tree, or a long-lost lover, or an ideal? The piece intensifies, yet the piano remains light and unimodal throughout. Its chords, its narrative, are progressed solely by the cello. The keys mimic in gentle accompaniment. It ends thoughtfully. Draumheimar is the final piece. It translates into English as ‘dreamworlds’. Clocking in at over three-minutes, it is longest piece on the album. The piano takes centre stage and plays a major key melody. I hear echoes of Ólafs’s previous LP at this juncture. The keys become less distinct and the hammer-action of the piano strings are audible here: they are dulcimer-like. It is pianissimo: very quiet; then calando: it softens and slows.

Lullabies for Piano and Cello is beguiling. Compared to much of modern-day classical composition, the pieces are very short, yet none are perfunctory. More so, it is completely emptied of electronics and field recordings. It is a work of simplicity. The melodies are short-lived and never reprised. Even more beguiling is the origins of this album: Ólafs chancing upon a collection of melodies in an antique bookshop. It beggars the question as to how many unplayed lullabies are lying unthumbed and unturned in bookshelves elsewhere in our world.



The four-bar amen drum break has defined jungle and drum n’ bass music for the past three decades. In this essay, we seek to showcase the present-day preservationists, revisionists and revivalists who serve to uphold the eclectic standards of these energetic and soulful sub-genres. Through their innovation, jungle and drum n’ bass remains as heterogeneous as it did when it was first introduced.

“You can compile your own orchestra out of one module”, LTJ Bukem

The focus of the fantastically produced BBC documentary Modern TimesLTJ Bukem was Daniel Williamson, better known by his alias LTJ Bukem, and his trip to Japan with his enigmatic manager Tony Fordham in 1997. It offered some wonderful insights into drum n’ bass production. Sounds were spliced through vinyl manipulation, breaks were chopped, and rhythms were crafted. This is the beauty of do-it-yourself production: it encourages innovation. And innovation there was aplenty in the mid-to-late 1990s. Take the tribalism and 45-rpm-isms of Witchman and early Photek (himself a Good Looking Records label mate of Williamson – he was known as Aquarius then). There was the scale-climbing and shuffling two-step of Terraforming by 4Hero (on the Parallel Universe LP on Reinforced in 1994) – perhaps the first example of the footwork musical sub-genre? Moments of comedy were delivered by Plug in Drum’n’Bass For Papa, released on Blue Angel in 1996, which has been proffered in small measures in recent times by Coco Bryce whose work features heavily on the Breda-based label Myor. His sound is an eclectic and innovative one: listen to the handcrafted approach of A Cherry Riddim (released on 3rd May 2022) and the variety performance of Grand Larceny (Bootlegs 2012 – 2022, released 15th November 2022).

“We are I.E / let me hear you scream”, Lennie De-Ice

A detailed purview of the evolution of jungle and drum n’ bass is beyond the scope of this essay. For a comprehensive commentary, read Martin James’ insightful book State of Bass: Jungle – The Story So Far [1]. Strictly speaking, drum n’ bass has evolved from jungle. Drum n’ bass has less amen loops and ragga influences but more synths and organic beats. Drum n’ bass is two-step-heavy whereas jungle cycled around chopped breakbeats at a higher beats per minute. Some argue that drum n’ bass was refinement in the jungle sound. The liquid drum n’ bass scene provides some weight to that argument. Others cite political differences with drum n’ bass moving away from the protestations and political origins of jungle and its precursor, (proto)jungle and its fusion of breakbeat, rap and soul. Lennie De-Ice’s We Are I.E has been credited as the seminal work in jungle (released by Reel 2 Reel Productions in 1991). Like all formulae of new musical sub-genres, its heterogeneous elements coalesce into a homogenized constant. Jungle, the compound of breakbeat hardcore, reggae, dub, dancehall and hip-hop, had one constant: the amen break. This simple drum loop was taken from a Winstons’ single B- side titled Amen, Brother (Color Him Father, released on Metromedia in 1969). Jungle’s origins can be traced back to the social construct of late 1980s Blighty. Sound systems, which had emanated from 1950’s Kingston, were found across cityscapes. Legendary clubs such as Roast and Telepathy showcased the sounds of DJ Ron, DJ Hype and Kenny Ken. Raves became commonplace. Pirate radio was a highly influential communicator of the sound. Raids on underground raves and the digitalisation of music contributed. Some argue that when General Levy brought the sound into the charts with his single Incredible (M-Beat song) on the label Renk in 1994 – jungle’s appearance under the spotlight of the mainstream stage proved too bright and too far removed from the warehouses and underground spaces of this anarchistic sub-culture.

The metallurgist’s metallurgist Clifford Joseph Price, better known as Goldie, released Timeless on the Metalheadz label in 1995. It is a masterpiece in sound. Its eponymous opener is contrapuntal: a canonical layering of vocals and synths. State of Mind is caprice-like. Sea of Tears is a bittersweet fantasia. Adrift is soulful. You & Me is a melodious ballad. Its beautiful piano prelude is joyous. Timeless was the conception of Price, however Rob Playford (of the trailblazing label Moving Shadow) and Dego and Marc Mac (fellow junglists in 4hero) were heavily involved in its production and engineering. It was perhaps overlooked for the Mercury Music Prize shortlist that year, albeit this was deservedly won by Portishead with trip-hop legend Tricky and electronic stalwarts Leftfield making the shortlist. Testament to the musicality of the drum n’ bass genre, New Forms by Roni Size & Reprazent did eventually win the coveted prize in 1997. Recently the Metalheadz label has embraced a behemoth: a 25 Years of Metalheadz project. Part 1 opened with John B and a remastering of his Up All Night in January 2021 (the original was released in 2001). Part 9 dropped on 17th March 2023. As alluded to, Timeless and orchestral composition have similitude. The Heritage Orchestra version of Sea of Tears is telling in this regard. Goldie has experimented with classical elements to great effect (watch Classic Goldie, a two-part BBC documentary in 2009 where Price composes a piece of classical music which is played by the BBC Concert Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir). The string sections on his albums are reminiscent of the ambience of Edward Elgar, especially the soft chords of the larghetto from his second symphony, and the drama of Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from the opera Peter Grimes.

Logical Progression, a compilation album released by the venerable and aforementioned LTJ Bukem in 1996, was a further landmark in the genre. Its fusion of ragga and dancehall elements from the earliest days of jungle and the progression of the amen break into mathematical convolutions remains lauded to this day; for example, Cassini’s Dream by Theory, released as recently as 7th October 2022 on the RuptureLDN label, is referential. However, the sound that had come to define the drum n’ bass of the mid-1990s fizzled out in the early 2000s like the corked champagne proffered by the ‘theme park’ UK garage scene (2-step garage is not included this reference), and eventually completely following the denouement of speed garage and its frustrating one-dimensionality (Groove Armada did give it a popular send-off with Superstylin’ on Pepper/Jive Electro in the early noughties). Although it vacated the mainstream arena, jungle and drum n’ bass did not disappear. Artists like Andy F continued to evolve the sound (listen to Colours on F-Jams in 1997). High Society by High Contrast, released by Hospital Record in 2004, was probably the last hurrah of the mid-1990s aesthetic. Artists such as Luke Vibert, particularly his mid-noughties throwback-jungle work under the alias Amen Andrews, and the liquid drum n’ bass purist Calibre continued to make forays out in the open, reminding the general populace that the sound was alive somewhere. Calibre’s Second Sun LP, released on Signature Recordings in 2005 with Diane Charlemagne (who sung on Timeless) featuring on the track Bullets is one of the finest amalgams of soul and drum n’ bass. Artists like Pendulum and Chase & Status and the drum n’ bass super group Bad Company (members: dBridge, Fresh and Vegas) were releasing albums in the mid-noughties, marking the end of the second heyday of drum n’ bass (in the mainstream electronic sense). The sound had been commercialised again: it was liquid-sound predominant – music for the masses. However, unlike its 1994 metamorphosis, the shelf-life of drum n’ bass was more pronounced: dubstep had completely supplanted it.

Preservation, noun, prezəˈveɪʃn: keeping something in its original state [2]

Jungle and drum n’ bass long plays, extended plays, split sides, compilations and singles are as abundant in 2023 as they ever have been. Take the Future Retro London label and their roster, which boasts the likes of Phineus II and Ricky Force alongside drum n’ bass ‘lifers’ Kloke and Tim Reaper. Their ragga sample-heavy outputs would not sound out of place if one had stumbled into Helter Skelter or Voodoo Magic in the early 1990s (the sci-fi explorative Nebula’s The Future, released on 7th April 2023, is an avant-garde exception in some respect). So where does Future Retro’s output sit? Testimonial? – no; revivalist? – probably not; yet, they reference and reclaim the iconic elements of jungle. Are they preservationists? – yes. A sonic time capsule self-propagating within itself. Sub Code Records also carefully serve to preserve the genre with ragga samples spliced around space age synth effects. Take the pentatonic sub-bass lines on Cream by Freegroove (released on 6th April 2020) and Badboy Bloodclaat by Lavery (7th September 2020) and the rapid breaks on Run It… Cos Dis Is How We Roll by Krave (15th November 2018) and Juice-E’s Golly Gosh (31st July 2019). Janaway’s Sensi Lover (17th March 2023), Bow Street Runner’s The Fear (31st January 2023) and Millie’s Back 2 Life / So High (30th January 2019) slam the gear stick into reverse with a high-octanereturn to the breakbeat hardcore of yore. Hands across chests, each track kneels to In Effect byDJ Red Alert and Mike Slammer (released on Slammin’ Vinyl in 1993). Returning to jungle, the ironically-named South Korean Jungle Fatigue Records also seeks to preserve the amen break (listen to their two recently release mixtapes Jungle Fatigue Volumes 1and 2; Volume 2 dropped as recently as 4th April 2023). Heavier drum-work is offered by fellow preservationists Kid Drama and DJ Trace and their collaborative project Nine Windows: their cosmic, LTJ- inspired (and befittingly titled) track Looking Back on the Rules of Thirds LP dropped on 15th March 2023.

Revision, noun, rɪˈvɪʒn: a change or set of changes to something [3]

Those producing jungle and drum n’ bass music have always cut down their listeners with swash-buckling snares and the bombast of bassy sub-rhythms, yet this aural onslaught has always been offset somewhat by its soft-gloved atmospheric edge. The sustained pads and symphonic influences of these sub-genres are synonymous with LTJ Bukem. He alluded to this when discussing his own approach to track composition in a XLR8R interview, considering tracks to have multiple sections with amen-less intros and breakdowns [4]. He also highlighted the importance of narrative in composition. The finest example of narrative in drum n’ bass is Goldie’s sixty-minute matriarchal masterpiece and opener to Saturnz Return, released by Metalheadz in 1998. Mother offered otherworldly glimpses into what was possible when an ambient approach was taken. The ambient opening four-minutes of the seminal Self Evident Truth of an Intuitive Mind by T.Power (released on SOUR in 1995) was pioneering. T.Power is worthy of his own article – the reviewers’ lens would be focused firmly on the synthetic string sections of Trapezium that appear and re-appear like sunlight that bathe the listener in warmth. There was the slightly lower-rpm of Black Street Technology by A Guy Called Gerald (released on Juicebox in 1995) and the lof-fi synth-wash and distorted guitars of Semtex by Third Eye Foundation (Linda’s Strange Vacation, 1995). The latter builds into the same intensity as a spaceship cockpit that tears through the mesosphere. In more times, on his Pool LP released on Ilian Tape on 7th May 2021, the trailblazing multi-disciplinarian Skee Mask infused ambience into his jungle track Testo BC Mashup. Its snare-heavy amen cuts splinteroff from dark atmospherics; this junglist tour de force continues into the lustrous Dolan Tours:the foot pedal kicks away in hypnotic cyclism – 170+rpm snares pop and pull the listener around a gentle synth melody.

Ludvig Cimbrelius, better known under his alias Illuvia, inhabits these sand-land fringes, producing an entirely ambient drum n’ bass album. Iridescence of Clouds was released on A Strangely Isolated Place on 25th January 2021. It is truly symphonic. From the opening allegro of Iridescence to the andante of the sub-bass meditations of Veil of Mist, and the syncopated and choppy scherzo of Wanderer to the concluding sonata of Sky Beyond Sky. It is as if Illuvia listened to Goldie’s Sea of Tears and decided to make a full-length album homage. A broad theme of water percolates this release. From the swathes of synths and droplets of quietly playing piano notes on Iridescence to the tear-dropping emotions of Veil of Mist and its piano flurries that cut through the sub-bass and pads to glint like sun glitter. Nirmala II is the most rhythmically complex of the movements, flitting between low-frequency breaks and higher frequency snare-driven cuts. Illuvia maintains a steady hand on the faders and holds a balanced attack ratio. The vocal samples filter through at different intervals: high-sub-bass calls personify this. It is an uplifting listen, for example, the major key melody that plays throughout Sky Beyond Sky. The rhythm has evaporated by this point. Those mid-range, personified bong- boings make a further and final appearance.

Truly innovative works such as Iridescence of Clouds are golden apples grown from the revisionist tree rather than the revivalist’s soil. Pizza Hotline dropped similar fruit in their Level Select release on Cityman Productions on 1st January 2022. This had liquid influences (EMOTION ENGINE), sustained string sections akin to 808 State (DREAMSHELL) and amen-heavy breaks (SHADOW MOSES). The latter track also features the fusion of see-sawing synths which were very typical of breakbeat of the earliest jungle. One of the album highlights is LOW POLY ROMANCE with its melodic gaming bleeps and strobing synths. The remix that accompanies the release (JAPAN NOVELTY‘S CHEAP LUXURY MIX) is very listenable. Demonic off-key synth splinter as if Noise Factory had been sedated (listen to their track My Mind released on 3rd Party in 1992); synths shimmer rather than strobe; the darkcore of sawing black keys offset a soulful influence (think Right Before by 1st Project released on Fokus UK in 1992). On revisiting ‘97 Energy by DJ Javascript, which was released on 20th February 2022, it has an incredibly erratic flow: every odd track is revivalist drum n’ bass, and the even tracks are a grab-bag of lo-fi house, techno and dubstep. He is undeniably talented and quite adept at weaving the synths, samples and breaks together to build some satisfying soundscapes. Highlights are Drifting Away and Forward Motion, both capturing Good Looking-era drum n’ bass well.

There are others who lionise the high-rpm amen in the temple of jungle yet build annexes. Perhaps this was inevitable. After the first waves of drum n’ bass came dubstep in the early-to- mid noughties. Works from Horsepower Productions, Benga and Skream were early incarnations of dubstep, likewise the sounds showcased by igneous rock-hewing labels such as Big Apple, Tempa, Amunition and Skull Disco (the latter introduced us to Shackleton and Appleblim). The Hyperdub label brought us Burial and his landmark release Untrue in 2007. Burial has since dug deeper and resides somewhere in the ambient and inky black badger-set of the ambient sub-genre (listen to the gossamer Streetlands released on the label on 21st October 2022). Djrum infuses drum n’ bass with turntablism and UK bass in releases such as Seven Lies (released on 2nd Drop Records in 2013) and Portrait With Firewood (released on the mighty R&S Records in 2018). Over the last two-years Lan Party dropped the What U Want EP, somewhat reviving an even more niche UK jungle music sub-genre: breaks. Further recent examples of this ‘in-betweenism’ are Imy From The Fruit Farm on Artificial Red’s Mystics, released on 19th November 2021 (its rhythm and bass are undoubtably jungle, yet the undeniable haze of vaporwave fumigates) and Andrea’s Due in Color, released on Ilian Tape on 23rd March 2023, which carefully crafts drum backroom rhythms that boom throughout (the granular live instrumentation is reminiscent of Spring Heel Jack’s masterful jazz-suffused Disappeared which dropped on Thirsty Ear in 2000). Nia Archives is another revisionist. Her debut LP, titled Forbidden Feelingz, released on 9th March 2022, is a totem to the soulfulness of the amen break. Ode 2 Maya Angelou is a juxtaposition of bass-heavy sub-melodies and psychedelic synths. There is Roni Size & Reprazent circa New Forms within this. She samples Angelou’s poem Still I Rise: “Up from a past rooted in pain, I rise / I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide / Welding and swelling, I bear in the tide”. The infective breakbeat rhythm and unmistakable reggae bass on 18 & Over are fused with heavily-sampled gaming effects, effortlessly, and to wonderful effect – jungle revisionism at its finest.

Revival, noun, rɪˈvaɪvl: something becoming or being made popular again [5]

Revivalism can take many forms; ultimately, it should inspire, and renew. Astrophonica, the London-based “cosmic electronic music label” spearheaded by Fracture and Neptune circa 2009, have offered two of the most exciting revivalist releases over the last few months: 0860 by Fracture on 18th November 2022 and After Life on 24th March 2023. Both are thumping shoves; but firstly, a note on Astrophonica who are unarguably at the forefront of the genre. Their lauded 2011 release Retrospect – A Decade Of Fracture & Neptune, particularly the track Colemanism, showcased the duo’s adroitness and aphorism for jungle music. They clearly have an ear for those who serve to preserve and advance the genre. They had the prolific Sully on their roster in 2015 whose track Flock was also included in APHA20 on 20th January 2020, a release, which celebrated the label’s first 20 EPs. Sully went on to self-release 5ives / Sliding on 3rd December 2021. This was a skirmish between plucked string-acoustics and heavily percussive breaks: a sword fight of the ages. Back to Fracture and 0860. It was inspired by pirate radio and is available as both a LP and mixtape. The focus here will be on the mixtape for two reasons: firstly, the interludes on the mixtape immerse the listener in the world of 1990s jungle in Greater London; secondly, the mixtape track sequence provides superior context and meaning over the LP. 0860 offers simplicity in sound. Many modern jungle-inspired releases windmill around into an electro-melee of uninspired noise (the authors reserve judgement on the false tunnels that the ‘autonomic’ and ‘microfunk’ drum n’ bass dalliances will take you down). An example of how less-is-more is preferred is the track Telepathy on the Side B of the 0860 mixtape. Deep vocal cuts (“telepathyyyyyyyyyyyyy”, drones the frequency-altered voice) work around the boings and tone-shifting bass that anchors the track. The percussive section shuffles liberally around the reverberated guitar cuts and simple two-key synth melody. The high-pitched synth cuts through the piece like white light streaking across a sunset. Having made the journey from dancehalls out west to rave venues across the UK and eventually into the bedrooms of those tuned in to pirate radio, jungle is strongest when it communicates with the listener. This human connection is felt on 0860. Random samples of various media – television, radio, news clips –are scattered throughout The Raid. I can also hear the worn cassette tape of Champion Jungle Sound (Kemet Crew, 1995). The UB40 sample was spotted on All The Massive as was the strange radio presenter’s report of what someone saw outside their front door. “Yeah ‘ello! ELLLO?????” is spoken on the Charlton Crew interlude. The yawning, crowing of cockerelsand banality of modern-day radio is sampled on the second half of mixtape (particularly First Aid Kit) imbuing the slow pace and eventual focus of a Sunday morning. The robotic chatter at the end of the track has resulted in split opinions of the authors, particularly what time-period is being referenced. Has this sound occurred when a voice message is sent to someone in the car but the internet connection fails? Mobile phones had not pervaded everyday communications back in the early-1990s – has this ruined the ‘90s immersion? Or is this a creative composite of the early-1990s source material and twenty-twenties recording? The authors of this essay remain conflicted. There are also fleeting pop-dancehall and reggaeton tracks that float by in the radio static at the end of Buzzing Crew and Booyaka Style. Another time paradox perhaps?

Fracture’s musicianship is evident throughout. Everything is considered. The growling bassline and initial slow beat of Sounds of the Rush rapidly picks up pace and barks orders to kick up your chair. The intentional drop in intensity brings the first half to a close. A similarly deliberate bridge is Alongside, which is used to transition between its preceding track (First Aid Kit) and subsequent track (Bad Traffic), slowly resetting the mood from lush to neutral. Fracture also makes references to the different sub-genres that jungle incorporates. Take the mesmeric First Aid Kit, which is an ode to the finest deep jungle impressed into wax. It could really stand alongside something put out by DJ Trace or anyone on the Good Looking roster. The first half of Kinda Late for a Sunday Night is reminiscent of Miles High by DJ Trace on the Dee Jay Recordings label. Technician on the Case has (proto)jungle and late-rave inspired hooks and cuts (Prodigy or Chrome and Time put out similar sounds in 1992/93). The more menacing side to jungle is evident on All The Massive and Booyaka Style with its sinister breakdown and build-up halfway through. One criticism of the mixtape is that selection of Blaze as its concluding track is somewhat anti-climactic. The LP version gets the sequencing right, concluding with Blaze before From the Very Top and Kinda Late for a Sunday Night. Despite this minor criticism, Fracture pulls off a masterfully crafted ode to the world of 1990s jungle, and even with the sequencing at the end being a little iffy, the authors conclude that the mixtape version offers a better listen than the LP.

After Life by Damian’s Ghost is the truer of the two releases in the junglist sense. Voices opens; it is an immerse listen. Its staggering synths beckons the listener forward. Its vocals are from recent times. Look At The Lights is more technically adept. The lithe synths build and change key. The American-accented vocal cuts harp back to the earliest origins. The beats are punchy (the cut vocals that appear in its later stages are FSOL-inspired). High Places is ambient. Its chiptune melody welcomes its first drop and harks back to Plaid’s chipper and syncopated progression of the earliest hardcore (probably 30-rpm lower) on Anything (Mbuki Mvuki BDP, 1991). 8-bit appears frequently on the Astrophonica label: listen to the futurism of Orbit on Off World Tales by sci-fi spoonerism Philip D. Kick (released on 24th February 2023). Similarly, chiptune is central to DJ Sofa’s Dilemma released on the FFF label on 31st March 2023. The drum cuts and chops come at you quickly; defenceless, the listener can do nothing other than accept the rhythmic onslaught. Perhaps inspired by the snare work of Omni Trio on The Deepest Cut (Candidate Records, 1993), the leading rhythmicity of High Places is placed firmly on the snare. Simplicity once again reigns supreme on Into the Night. The 8-bit resurfaces. Its vocals are less distinct. The synths wash over the listener just like they did on his 26th November 2021 release All I Remember / On The Mist.

0860 and After Life are glass bridges that take us back to the very earliest hallmarks of jungle. They are simple, transparent and composite. They both serve to revive. In the album credits of After Life, Fracture states that Damien’s Ghost is “Vangelis meets Jungle”. This describes his synchronicity. Both Fracture and Damien’s Ghost are champions of jungle of old. They also offer insights into drum n’ bass of the future. Revivalists – yes; but better still: these forward- looking archivists are dynamic. It is this dynamism that will keep jungle and drum n’ bass playing into future times. Amen to that.


1. James M. State of Bass: Jungle – The Story So Far. Boxtree: Macmillan; 1997

2. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. Preservation. 2023

3. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. Revision. 2023


5. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. Revival. 2023

Thanks again to the authors Andrew C. Kidd and Ross Perry.


The Monthly Revue playlist of 2023; a choice selection of tracks from the last month on the blog. Curated by Dominic Valvona with Matt Oliver on the Rap Control once more, and music from reviews by our latest recruit Gillian Stone plus Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Graham Domain and a returning Andrew C. Kidd. Expect to hear the unexpected as we leave you with this 45 track selection before we go off on a May sabbatical (well half of May, be back around the 15th with a packed schedule of choice music).


Altın Gün ‘Ç​ı​t Ç​ı​t Çedene’
Ammar 808 Ft. Belhassen Mihoub ‘Yarima’
Les Abranis ‘Achethkhi’
Orti, Mayorga y Chiriboga ‘Mu​ñ​equita Blanca’
Tuzeint ‘Mujer Divina’
United Grind Ft. Gamechangers ‘Doin This All Night’
King Kashmere & Alecs DeLarge ‘Most Blunted’
Neon Kittens ‘Loving Your Neighbour’s Wife’
Opus Kink ‘1:18’
Gabrielle Ornate ‘Delirium’
H. Hawkline ‘Plastic Man’
Land Of OOO ‘Matthew’
African Head Charge ‘A Bad Attitude’
Swans ‘Paradise Is Mine’
The Oldest Voice In The World ‘Talysh Mountain Border’
La Faute ‘The Crown’
fhae ‘Love You’
Alice ‘Triste et tout seul’
foil ‘Don’t Look’
Ali Murray ‘Spirit Of Unknowing’
Khotin ‘Lovely’
MultiTraction Orchestra ‘Reactor One’
Tobias Meinhart ‘Luna Park’
Deca & Ol’ Burger Beats ‘Blight’
Prastense & Shortrock Ft. Uncommon Nasa ‘A Broken Letter’
Micall Parknsun ‘Back’
Your Old Droog ‘Pronouns’
Illinformed Ft. Eric The Red ‘Doctor’
Silver Moth ‘Sedna’
Escupemetralla ‘Several specimens of ruminant animals with large udders chewing grass in a Cambridge meadow’
Sweeney ‘High School Damage’
Ale Hop & Laura Robles ‘Son de los diablos’
Cornelius Corvidae ‘Silver Flower’
James Howard ‘The Reckoning’
Draag ‘Mitsuwa’
Mike Cale ‘Slow Club’
Suki Sou ‘Petrichor’
Issei Herr ‘Aria’
Carla Boregas ‘A Cidade doe Outros’
Simon McCorry ‘Halcyon Fire’
CIEL ‘Somebody’
Tomato Flower ‘Destroyer’
Cindy ‘Earthly Belonging’
Circe ‘Riot Of Sunlight’
Chloe Gallardo ‘Bloodline’

ALBUM PURVIEW by Andrew C. Kidd

Greg Nieuwsma and Antonello Perfetto ‘Earth’
(Submarine Broadcasting Co.)

Although Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s Earth aligned with many of the Soviet ideologies of its day, the film stands irresolute in this regard. This is perhaps because it is viewed through the retrospectoscopic lens of the present-day. Even so, its poetic symbols must have seemed somewhat removed from the usual plainsong of socialist realism of its day. I detect agitation. Take the crushed chaff of the wheat that billows into the air, referencing the yellow-blue bicolour of the Ukrainian flag that was banned at the time. In the same breath, Earth promotes atheism and contains split-screen shots of humans and plant life (depicting the ‘community of life’), which are more in keeping with the Soviet aesthetic. These opposing philosophies are not co- equal; rather, Earth is predominantly realist, somewhat beset by moments of idealism. In newspeak: idrealism.

The silent film inspired Greg Nieuwsma and Antonello Perfetto to compose a novel score, which has been released on the Submarine Broadcasting Company label. Before the tribulation of synchronising the original cinematic footage on YouTube with this new score (which, coincidentally, was one of the joys of reviewing this piece), I decided to explore some of the antecedent outputs by the duo. Asylum, released by Hreám Recordings in May 2021, is absurdist, disentangling reality through its revision of everyday objects. Then there is the obfuscous Aquarium LP, another Submarine Broadcasting Company release in June 2021. The track ‘Momento’ on the Hiyachuchi LP (Submarine Broadcasting Company, April 2022) had all the xylophonic-analogue-drone futurism of a Jon Hassell release. The musique concrete of El-Dabh echoes distantly on ‘dsinθ=mλ’ on the LP Interference Patterns (released on Strategic Tape Reserve in November 2021).

I return to Earth. The Carpenter-esque ‘Opening Credits’ rattle and jangle into Chapter 1. We are standing in an open field of grass and grain and sunflowers and apples. Songbirds natter in the background. A lightly tapped acoustic drum beats down rhythmically like the hot sun. Altered strings and distorted guitars cut into the tiers of droning synths that sway like wheat crops in the wind. The strings are like that of a bandura, the lute-zither of Ukraine. It is an Eden-like opening – a Tolstoyan utopia. It is equally unnerving and fugitive. An old peasant, the grandfather of Vasyl who we will meet shortly, dies quietly in an orchard. An arabesque melody is played out on woodwind. I imagine this as a sopilka flute. It is limber, and light. This Byzantine influence features throughout the score. It is synonymous with the music of the Russian orthodoxy (I suspect antonymic on the most part here).

We inevitably meet the cold hand of conflict in Chapter 2. This is Soviet cinema after all. On screen, fists clench. Vasyl and his father argue. Their argument concerns dekulakisation, the targeting of wealthier landowners (kulak in Russian, or kurkul in Ukrainian) under Stalin’s First Five-Year Plan. The son takes a pro-stance on the assimilation of individuals’ farms into landholdings owned by the state. The father is doubting. The hammer action of piano keys pulse scornfully and guitar chords stab into an ascending scale. We meet Vasyl again in Chapter 3. He smiles youthfully. His father is ashen. A plodding off-key melody kicks in as the plot quickens. In Chapter 4 we are outside again. This time, clouds gather and wheatgrass jolts. The music is sustained. The piano from Chapter 2 is reprised – this time it plays freeform. Children observe an old man sitting reflectively by a grave. He places his ear to the ground. The children laugh and are scorned. The rhythm is kick-drum-heavy. A glockenspiel plays melodiously. The cowbells match the cows in the field. Farmers and tractors are in motion. The score quickens and loops round like the brief shot of a windmill. The tractor makes its arrival to a full audience. It overheats. Peasants piss onto the radiator tank. After it cools down, it flies. “We’ll prosper with tractors!”. The music is privately triumphant: stock brass and horns play gleefully, perhaps ironically. They dance a desultory dance. This chapter concludes with a ritardando and staccatos to a halt. Nieuwsma and Perfetto have been clever here, matching the antagonistic approach taken by Dovzhenko. Did he know that the celebrations would be short-lived? In the two years that followed the premiere of Earth, a famine caused by collectivisation would kill millions.

Earth was filmed in Poltava Oblast in Ukraine on the left bank of the Dnieper. I can visualize Tara Shevchenko’s poem Testament: “in steppeland without bound / whence one may see wide-skirted wheatland”.  An arpeggiated synthesiser melody ascends and descends and churns into itself like the harvester threshing the land on Chapter 5. The modular sequence twists into complex patterns like the hands of the on-screen women who thatch-weave. Vasyl is taking a merry ride in his tractor. His father hacks at the land with his scythe. The score pulses and thrums and clangs and echoes. A baying horse welcomes a counter melody. It is here that the famous sequence starts to play out: the grain of wheat jostles and shakes fervently in its wooden containers and carriages. A psychedelic mélange of guitar notes tremolo as the wet dough peels off the churning blades – and just like that, bread is made. It conveyor-belts away on the soft bow of a stringed solo.

Chapter 6 opens circumspectly. The strings are tentative, the visuals blurry. It is dawn. A light choral section is advective: it rolls off like water vapour on a cold river. The morning mist manoeuvres in diagonal ascent: step-like, and slow. The effect here is to disarm the listener. The same effect is created on-screen as crepuscular rays rip through the sky. The piano opens up here despite this. The guitar and drum sections are undeniably krautrock as Vasyl dances a traditional dance called a hopak. The altering time signature of the score keeps apace with his heels that kick white dust of the track into the air. It is incorporeal. Again, we have poetic symbols: Vasyl’s hopak mirrors the earlier mechanisms of the modern bread-making process; the dust dug up from the land serves to foretell his murder.

Chapter 7A is mesmeric. “Vasyl is dead!”. Horror is scored into his fiancé’s face. The guitar and drums rattle into an accusatory double-snare-hit rock rhythm. “Khoma, was it you?”. A cymbal crashes. The melody flat-lines out into a whorled mass of contemplation. An off-beat rhythm drives the scene forward. It was Khoma. He will eventually go insane. The synth sparkles as the guitar picks away unconsciously. The piano keys half-glissando as the score disintegrates, almost completely, until it finds salvation in a glockenspiel. This is apparition-like as it appears and reappears. The burial will be an irreligious affair. Denuntiatio dei. Vasyl’s father opts for a new way. The score masterfully conveys this. Simple synth-fare plays a melodic canto; wordlessly, it sings peacefully – funereal even. Chapter 7B is a powerful sequence. The aforementioned music of the Byzantium Empire reappears here as women make crosses with their hands. The composers start to revisit all their previous motifs and compositional elements. I close my eyes for a moment. I imagine the reverse-tape looping as the farmers on-screen playing the otherworldly tsymbaly (a Ukrainian hammer dulcimer). I imagine the swathes of synths as long notes of a trembita (wooden horn) and gusli (a Ukrainian relative of the zither). G-modal tuning is being plucked on a kobza (lute). The dead Vasyl files past the bowing sunflowers in a cart- coffin. The scene is both warm and distant. The priest scorns the impious. Words of resistance flash on the screen: “It’s my Earth, I won’t give it up!”. Rather poignantly, the chorus line is not sung in anger. A mournful string section plays as the synths are laid bare like Vasyl’s naked fiancé. A symbolic downpour ensues to cleanse the world. It is the lifeblood of the fields and the orchards. The bright key change in the score reflects this. In its denouement, there is false peace.

I have listened to previous scores to Dovzhenko’s Earth, including Ovchinnikov’s famous 1971 version and the poly-symphonia of the live bijū recording on Komuna Warszawa. The score offered by Nieuwsma and Perfetto is as complex and intricate as the source material. Their waveforms and filters arpeggiate poetically to illuminate its idealism. They bring me closer to the chimaera of collectivisation that Dovzhenko was perhaps intending to showcase.


Khotin ‘Release Spirit’
(Khotin Industries)

I have been following the story of Dylan Khotin-Foote and his musical adventures for nigh on a decade. He released Hello World under his Khotin alias in 2014. New Tab followed. It was a wonderful collection of digital grooves and soundscapes that moved mellifluously through transformational field recordings and unabashed Russiky-Angliysky conservations. Beautiful You was meltingly tender and chock-full of quasi-melodies. It was also somewhat non-conformist and rhythmically periodic – tracks diverged and converged to and from the downtempo (Planet B), vaporwave (Alla’s Scans) and beatless trance musical sub-genres (Vacation). Finds You Well was low-fidelity, tape hissing gold.

It is March 2023. A month has passed since Release Spirit was released on Ghostly International. The harmonic distortion and analogue warmth of HV Road once again immerse me in a vessel of unknowable proportions. A phantasmagoria of tonal and atonal synths playfully hopscotch around on Lovely and My Same Size: synthetic bowed strings vibrato and legato on the former; the semi-automated synths twinkle in the half-light of the latter as its hook climbs up and down a laddering scale akin to the hyper-ambience of his Area 3 alias. The semitonal key drop on the crystalline keys on Unlimited underpins his predilection for modulation. Home World 303 is unmistakably litmus-red; the bass synthesiser melody ascends up a broad staircase of sound. Khotin progresses his signature melodia, plashing (not saturating) his 4-4 beat with stock cymbal crashes and hi-hat taps.

3 pz delivers the moment of tragicommedia that has become so idiosyncratic with his work. The lithe water-plopping synths and whirling synths gently cycle around the darkly comic Anglo-Russian vocal sampling. They are dichotomous like a Pinter play. Incongruity persists on the dreamworld of Computer Break (Late Mix). High-pitched synths lasso themselves around the rhythm section. It is the closest Khotin-Foote gets to the temple of house music that he once resided. This celebration of its 4-4 and hook-heavy totem is particularly evident on and the eponymous and Flight Theme tracks of Hello World and the fantastically named Data Orb / Nessie’s Revenge under his Waterpark nom de plume.

And then there is Fountain, Growth. Piano keys push through waves of bright and reverberating synths. The breathy vocals of Tess Roby billow beautifully. She sings the chorus line “let go all you know / let go” with lyrical litheness. The piano is reprised on Life Mask. Birdsong and the ambience of a cityscape echo quietly in the background. A tin can- like sound disappears chaotically into the distance. The esoteric Techno Creep emerges. Its Subotnick-esque noises and shaman-like rhythm section which make the dream scenario more complex. It is as if the conscious self (guitar tremolo, zither-like cascades) and the subconscious self (modular synth improvisation) exist contemporaneously, and openly.

Release Spirit is at times unsubstantial, chimeric – oneiric even. It is no less illusory or meltingly melodic than its precursors. Arguably the strongest piece is its finale: Sound Gathering Trip. Indistinct sounds tremble in the opening seconds. Piano notes play measuredly. It is without percussion – this is not needed as no formal time signature has been applied. Khotin builds the piece but never progresses it beyond where it has to be. It remains ambivalent throughout. Low-fidelity moments like this defined his earliest works (listen to For Trial Listening, particularly tracks #08 and #15, which he recorded under the alias Happy Trendy). Refinement in sound has meant that such instances in his work are fleeting, yet Khotin-Foote’s musical narrative started in this imperfect space of thudding keyboards, rough-cut crackles and degraded audio signal. These chapters are the ones that leave the most indelible of impressions.

A (near) 150 albums survey of the year, with choice eclectic albums chosen by the Monolith Cocktail Team.

Well was I wrong last year when I called 2021 the annus horribilis of all years. It has been soundly beaten by the shit-show that is 2022. The invasion of the Ukraine, cost of living crisis, another hideous wave of Covid – which even if the jabs are being rolled out, and the deaths rate, hospitalisations is nothing like the first wave back in 2020, is still causing major illness, absences and disruptions to a society already facing a heap of doomsday scenarios -, strikes, activism, fuel poverty, Iranian protests, and the continuing horror show of a zombie government being just some examples. Yes 2022 qualifies as one of the most incomprehensible years on record of any epoch; an ungovernable country in the grip of austerity point 2.0, and greater world untethered and at the mercy of the harridans on either side of the extreme political divide, the billionaire corporates and narcissist puritans.

And yet, it has been another great year for music. Despite the myriad of problems that face artists and bands in the industry, from a lack of general interest to the increasingly punitive costs of touring and playing live, and the ever encroaching problems of streaming against physical sales and exposure, people just can’t quit making music. And for that we, as critics – though most of us have either been musicians or still are – really appreciate what you guys do. In fact, as we have always tried to convey, we celebrate you all. And so, instead of those silly, factious and plain dumb numerical charts that our peers and rivals insist on continuing to print – how can you really suggest one album deserves their place above or below another (why does one entry get the 23rd spot and another the 22nd; unless it is a vote count) –, the Monolith Cocktail has always chosen a much more diplomatic, democratic alphabetical order – something we more or less started in the first place. We also throw every genre, nationality together in a serious of eclectic lists: no demarcation involved.

The lists include those albums we reviewed, featured on the site in some capacity, and those we just didn’t get the time to include. All entries are displayed thus: Artist in alphabetical order, then the album title, label, who chose it, a review link where applicable, and finally a link to the album itself.  

Because of the sheer number of entries, we’ve split that list in to two parts: Part One (A – L) starts with Anthéne & Simon McCorry and finishes with Lyrics Born; Part Two (M-Z) begins with Machine Girl and finishes with The Zew.

This year’s picks have been chosen by (Dominic Valvona), Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Matt Oliver, Andrew C. Kidd and Graham Domain.


Anthéne & Simon McCorry  ‘Mind Of Winter’  (Hidden Vibes)  Dominic Valvona

Seigo Aoyama  ‘Prelude For The Spring’  (Audiobulb)  DV

Armstrong ‘Happy Graffiti’  Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Yara Asmar  ‘Home Recordings 2018-2021’  (Hive Mind)  DV

Avalanche Kaito  ‘S-T’  (Glitterbeat)  DV

Avantdale Bowling Club  ‘TREES’  Andrew C. Kidd


Caterina Barbieri  ‘Spirit Exit’  (Warp Records)  ACK

Jam Baxter  ‘Fetch the Poison’  (Blah)  Matt Oliver

Oliver Birch  ‘Burning Daylight’  BBS

Black Mesa ‘Research Facility’  (猫 シ Corp. ‘Selected Works’)  ACK

Brigitte Beraha  ‘Blink’  DV

Brian Bordello  ‘Cardboard Box Beatles’  (Metal Postcard Records)  DV

The Bordellos ‘Ronco Revival Sound’ (Metal Postcard Records)  Graham Domain

Boycalledcrow  ‘Wizards Castle’  (Waxing Crescent Records)  BBS

Broadcast  ‘The Maida Vale Sessions’ (Warp Records)  GD

Apollo Brown & Philmore Greene  ‘Cost of Living’  (Mello Music Group)  MO

Brown Calvin  ‘dimension//perspective’  (AKP Recordings)  DV


Loyle Carner  ‘Hugo’ (EMI)  MO

Tom Caruana  ‘Strange Planet’  (Tea Sea Records)  MO

Cities Aviv  ‘Man Plays The Horn’  (D.O.T.) DV

Claude  ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’  (American Dreams)  DV

Clouds in a Headlock  ‘Breakfast in Phantasia’  (Offkiltr/Fat Beats)  MO

Julian Cope  ‘England Expectorates’  BBS


The Dark Jazz Project  ‘S-T’ (Irregular Frequencies)  DV

Aftab Darvishi  ‘A Thousand Butterflies’  ACK

The Difference Machine  ‘Unmasking the Spirit Fakers’  (Full Plate)  MO

Ferry Djimmy  ‘Rhythm Revolution’  (Acid Jazz) DV

Matt Donovan  ‘Habit Formation’  DV

The Doomed Bird Of Providence  ‘A Flight Across Arnham Land’  DV/BBS

Dubbledge  ‘Ten Toes Down’  (Potent Funk)  MO


Eamon The Destroyer  ‘A Small Blue Car – Re-made/Re-modelled’  (Bearsuit Records)  BBS

El Khat  ‘Albat Alawi Op​.​99’  (Glitterbeat)  DV

Kahil El’Zabar Quartet  ‘A Time For Healing’  (Spiritmuse)  DV

Roger Eno ‘The Turning Year’ (Deutsche Grammophon)  GD

Eerie Wanda  ‘Internal Radio’  (Joyful Noise Recordings)  DV

Exociety  ‘Deception Falls’  (Exociety)  MO


Fera  ‘Corpo Senza Carne’  (Maple Death Records)  DV

Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita  ‘Echo’  (bendigedig)  DV

Flat Worms  ‘Live In Los Angeles’  (Frontier Records)  DV

Forest Robots  ‘Supermoon Moonlight Part Two’  (Subexotic)  DV

Nick Frater  ‘Aerodrome Motel’  (Big Stir Records)  BBS

Future Kult  ‘S-T’  (Action Wolf/AWAL)  DV


Mike Gale  ‘Mañana Man’  DV

Dana Gavanski ‘When it Comes’ (Full Time Hobby / Flemish Eye)  GD

Gold Panda  ‘The Work’  (City Slang)  ACK

The Good Ones  ‘Rwanda…You See Ghosts I See Sky’  (Six Degrees)  DV

Goon  ‘Hour of Green Evening’ (Demode Recordings)  Graham Domain

Guillotine Crowns  ‘Hills to Die On’  (Uncommon Records)  MO

Gwenno ‘Tresor’ (Heavenly Recordings)  GD


Aldous Harding  ‘Warm Chris’ (4AD)  GD

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

Sven Helbig  ‘Skills’  (Modern Recordings)  DV

Bruno Hibombo  ‘Parting Words’  DV

Houseplants  ‘II’  (Win Big Records)  DV

John Howard  ‘From The Far Side Of A Miss’  (Kool Kat)  DV


IBERI  ‘Supra’  (Naxos World Music)  DV


Juga-Naut  ‘Time & Place’ (Juga-Naut)  MO



Kamikaze Palm Tree ‘Mint Chip’  (Drag City)  BBS

Kick  ‘Light Figures’  (Anomic Records/Dischi Sottoernnei/Sour Grapes)  DV

King Kashmere  ‘Woof’  (High Focus)  MO

Evan Kertman ‘Rancho Shalom’  (Perpetual Doom)  BBS

KMRU  ‘Temporary Stored’  ACK


Labelle  ‘Éclat’  (Infiné)  DV

The Legless Crabs ‘Always Your Boy’  (Metal Postcard Records)  BBS

The Legless Trials ‘Cheese Sandwich’  (Metal Postcard Records)  BBS

Kristine Leschper  ‘The Opening Or Closing Of A Door’  (Anti-)  DV

Liraz  ‘Roya’  (Glitterbeat)  DV

Francesco Lurgo  ‘Sleep Together Folded Like Origami’  (Bosco Records)  DV

Lyrics Born  ‘Mobile Homies’  (Mobile Home Recordings)  MO

Keep an eye out later this week for Part Two.

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


Each month the Monolith Cocktail pool of collaborators search long and hard for the choicest of choice tracks; mixing genres and geography into an encapsulation of the last month on the blog.

That team includes me (Dominic Valvona), Matt ‘rap control’ Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Andrew C. Kidd and Graham Domain.

You may have noticed since the summer that we’ve started compiling a Youtube playlist version, which includes extra bonuses from the No Base Trio and a seasonal treat from Escupemetralla plus some alternative tunes from the same artists on the Spotify list.

So without further ado, here is the October Revue:

And the Youtube version:

Full Track List:-

Montparnasse Musique Ft. Muambuyi and Mopero Mupemba ‘Panter’
Muramuke ‘Just One More’
Balaklava Blues ‘BEAT UP’
Marlowe/L’Orange/Solemn Brigham Ft. Deniro Farrar ‘Godfist’
Rockness Monsta/Method Man/Ron Browz ‘Beastie Boyz’
BeTheGun ‘Metropolis’
Lee Tracy/Isaac Manning  ‘Love Is Everything’
Voice Actor ‘Battling Dust’
Juga-Naut ‘To The Table’
Ernesto Djédjé ‘Nini’
Liraz ‘Mimiram’
Mehmet Aslan/Niño de Elche ‘Tangerine’
Underground Canopy ‘Space Gems’
Valentina Magaletti ‘Low Delights’
Carl Stone ‘Sasagin’
Tau & The Drones Of Praise ‘Bandia’
Keep Shelly In London Ft. Sugar For The Pill ‘Don’t Want Your Romance’
Librarians With Hickeys ‘I Better Get Home’
Una Rose ‘Partly’
Carla dal Formo ‘Side By Side’
Derrero ‘Long Are The Days’
Super Hit ‘Donde’
Rahill ‘Haenim’
David Westlake ‘English Parish Churches’
Cormac o Caoimh ‘Didn’t We’
VRï ‘Aberhonddu’
Tuomo & Markus ‘Highest Mountain’
Pitou ‘Dancer’ Dana Gavanski ‘Strangers’
The Zew ‘Come On Down’
Brona McVittie ‘Living Without You’
Brian Eno ‘These Small Noises’
Edouard Ferlet ‘REFLEX’
Rich Aucoin ‘Esc’
Puppies In The Sun ‘Light Became Light’
Short Fuze Ft. Dr. Khil ‘Love Letters To The Lost’
Loyle Camer ‘Speed Of Flight’
Ill Move Sporadic/Tenchoo ‘Amulet Chamber’
Atmosphere ‘Sculpting With Fire’
Ghoster ‘CRAME 4’
Clark ‘Frau Wav (Brief Fling)’
Verbz/Mr Slipz ‘Music Banging Like’
Jester Jacobs/Jack Danz ‘Opportune’
Darko The Super/Yuri Beats ‘Don’t Stay’
Open Mike Eagle ‘I’ll Fight You’ A.G. ‘The Sphinx’
El Gant Ft. DJ Premier ‘Leave It Alone’
Heavy Links/Luca Brazi ‘Complicated Theory’
Fliptrix, King Kashmere/Pitch 92 ‘Primordial Soup’
Shirt/Jack Splash ‘Death To Wall Art’
Smellington Piff/Ill Informed ‘Hard Times’

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


(Organ Reframed, 2022)

I am writing this review in 2022. But to give it its full consideration, I have to transport myself back to October 2006 when I was relatively new to Warp’s output. I spent much of my spare cash on the label’s releases in the local music shop, and by the autumn of that year, my CD collection included the likes of Geogaddi by Boards of Canada (2002), Arrhythmia by Antipop Consortium (2002), One Word Extinguisher by Prefuse 73 (2003) and Untilted by Autechre (2005). I owned no Clark records at that time. Body Riddle was my first. I found the CD wedged somewhere between Basement Jaxx and Deep Dish in a dusty shelf of said local music shop.

Back to 2022. Body Riddle has been remastered and released alongside a LP titled 05-10, a collection of previously unreleased recordings. For the purposes of this review, I will critique Body Riddle as a record in its own right with no references to Clark’s other portfolio pieces. I have left any comparisons to his preceding and proceeding works in my write-up of 05-10.


Body Riddle sounds as chaotic now as it did back when it was first released. From the opening, hung-drawn-and-quartered live drumming of Herr Barr, to the steely bells and light analogue melodies that ascend to the heady-high treble of altered synths, its opening track spans all the frequency ranges. Shining out of this rhythmic roughhouse are glints of fragility on Frau Wav. The immersive string section is drawn and meditative. Bridging outros were in mode back in its day; less so nowadays. Brother Boards had already lain the concrete slabs within which skits and short between-pieces had become cemented in the electronica of the day. Springtime Epigram and the already-struck cymbals and strange analogue moments on Dew on the Mouth are examples of these on Body Riddle. What Clark masterfully constructed though were doorways and dark hatches of half-melodies and tones chipped into these slabs that would become part of later pieces. Clark reaches his live drumming zenith on Roulette Thrift Run. The snare rolls, playful claps and off-beat vocal cuts showcase his command of knotty rhythms. Clark’s track placement is also noteworthy. The progression from Herzog to Ted remains one of the best track transitions in electronic music. On Herzog there are counter melodies within melodies and clock hands that keep time and strangely held wind-whorling notes that appear and disappear. The synths crunch and grain and spit and shout and yell and yell louder. The chain-rattling outro that precedes Ted is a master stroke. Ted is a piece of brutalistic beauty that builds upon itself to eventually tower like a giant musical steel structure. Metallic sounds bounce around, sparking off molten beats and alloyed rhythms.

The syncopated rhythms of Vengeance Drools is Four-Tet-circa-Rounds. The everyday ambience is Shadow-esque. Its pulsatile beat denatures uncomfortably. It is grotesque, and beautiful. Now to Matthew Unburdened and its macabre, off-key, honky tonk sound that builds into a deeply emotive whorl of otherworldly pianos and deep-noted cello strings that pull the listener by the lapels towards Clark. We are so close to him that we can feel his breath. We are facing the man at this moment.The chiming fibrillation of Night Knuckles has always been hypnotic. The playful melody runs away on marimba- and kettle drum-like notes. The shuffling percussive elements add depth. The switch between syncopation and gentle horn-frequency swathes of sound would fill any empty space. Its claustrophobia is finally offset by the introspections of The Autumnal Crash. Tom- and crash cymbal-heavy drums circle around to uplift the listener before everything quietly disintegrates away.


05-10 is an offering for the fans who are treated to sounds and styles that nestle somewhere between late-90s IDM and mid-2000 ambience. Re-Scar is more of the former. It is acid-infused and cymbal-driven. Dead Shark Eyes and Roller the Wick would result in a similar tone of red on musical litmus paper. The unmistakable amen break of Urgent Jack Hell showcases his rhythmicity (was this a nod to label mate Squarepusher?). The energy on these tracks is reminiscent of Clark’s own phantasmagoric album, Turning Dragons (Warp, 2008). 05-10 is an imperfect release. It is not the gesamtkunstwerk of Body Riddle; rather, we are offered sketches and faint reflections that reference Clark’s other works, for example, Dusk Raid shades a little like Iradelphic (Warp 2012). There are passages of brilliance in each of its pieces. One such example is the modern-day landscape that Clark builds on Dusk Swells. We are in a land far removed from Body Riddle. Here we have Clark the composer. His signature strings build and layer to become polysymphonic. I am reminded of the eerily tonality of The Last Panthers (Warp, 2016).

05-10 is strongest as it approaches its ambient end. Dusk Raid is a deeply complex piece. The rhythm shuffles around the wheezes of a recorder and distorted guitar strums. Its faintly-definable chorus decays even further before illuminating the second half of the piece. There is progression of the previous rhythm. The plucks and faint horn sounds melt away again into quietude. The downtempo vibe is welcome catharsis. The sustained synths of Autumn Linn are held and played in free-form fashion. The watery change in timbre during its concluding minutes is life-giving. Sparrow Arc Tall is interludinal. It provides an inkling of hope, like a slit of light that steals through a closed curtain. The light piano notes and synth throbs are rays of illuminated dust. Clark also has an enduring ability to distort. Take the other-dimensional Herr Barr (Improv). The rhythm pulses like an incantation, and despite the departure from its source material, the original’s élan vital still flickers. Such transmutation continues on Observe Harvest which opens with an end-times-like pummel of minor key and splintered Rhodes notes. The white noise oscillates to crackle and pop as if this were the last vinyl being played. Dust has filled the grooves. The stylus scores its way into the record, edging slowly towards an inevitable end.


My anatomisation of Clark’s body of work could be essay-length. This review has already surpassed 1,000 words. To sum up, I regard Body Riddle as his most influential album. It remains one of the defining sounds of mid-noughties Warp. Despite it being a full sixteen years after the original release, its complex rhythms are as intricate as the milled timepiece it was back then, and its fresh metal sounds are as burnised as they were upon its formation. Body Riddle was composed in a gilded age of electronic music. It is still lustrous like gold.

Andrew C. Kidd

Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison and John Also Bennett ‘Self-Tilted’
(Séance Centre)

The Séance Centre is one of those labels that rove. They are a little bit like Phaethon with headphones except that they are in control of the chariot. From the map-making Schleswig​-Holstein Aufnahmen (Phil Struck) to the modular musings of Kobzir (Oren Cantrell) and dubby zings of Le Sommeil Vertical (Shelter) they command a central place in the cobbled and too-often potholed ambient avenue of today. Bandcamp Daily even featured them in one of their revues last year. Before Dominic Valvona (Editor of The Monolith Cocktail) contacted me about this self-titled release, I had listened to Fly Me to the Moon (Joseph Shabason/ Vibrant Matter) during a Bandcamp lottery play day earlier this year.

So enter Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison and John Also Bennett with a very different sound. Their principal instrument is the piano, played by Harrison. There is clever use of droning synthetics by Bennett. Under Vantzou’s direction (or “observation”, as alluded to in the pre-release information provided by the label), their tri-synergy is powerful. It is a difficult sound to describe. I have tried a few different approaches to summarising what has been offered here. The creator of the faded geometric artwork that accompanies the album (Parul Gupta) is quoted as saying that “the songs feel like an extension of silence”. I think this is an accurate description.

The listener is immediately met by ‘Open Delay’, which wave-forms and disfigures to scale its octaves. Notes are held before being gently released. The left hand keys are altered and rustle quietly in the background. ‘Tilang (33SC)’ opens up to showcase more technical pianistic nous. A tilang is a classical Indian raga, or form of melodic improvisation. Both the ascent up (arohana) and descent down the scale (avarohana) are played here. The piano on this album is the string of a sitar, and the synth is the plucking of a tanpura.

There are beautifully expressive moments on the album, such as those played on ‘Bageshri’ and ‘Joanna’. More on ‘Bageshri‘ later. The piano notes of Joanna play atop a droning and subtly changing synth backdrop. The piano notes have an indefinable depth of feeling. I cannot tell if loss or joy was felt when the composer penciled this. I suppose it does not matter as each emotion inevitably self-circles to meet the other in the ceaseless sphere of life. This contrasts heavily with the discord of ‘Piano on Tape’. The left hand of the piano climbs a seemingly unattainable summit. It is masterfully contained.

Electronics feature heavily in tracks such as ‘Sirens’ and ‘Open Delay’. The former opens with a Vangelis-esque whorl of modular synths, as if wind is coursing through its coiled and interconnecting wires. There are analogue ‘Subotnicktronics’ that dial in later. The elongated acoustics melt in like long notes played on a future accordion where the ivories have been replaced by emotionally receptive faders. The album at times feels like a giant echo chamber.

‘Open Delay 2’ shares reverberances with its predecessor. It is more fragmented though, as if some of the wavelengths have been swallowed in the endless ether of space. The same can be said of the heptatonic ‘Harp of Yaman (33SC)’. When viewed on my music player, its amplitudes display as a sawtooth-like waveforms. The tone is not sharp but muted. Its denouement is an album highlight where deep bass notes gradually climb to grace note at the scale’s peak.

As previously alluded to, ‘Bageshri’ is beautiful. A bageshri is a raga that portrays the emotions of a lover’s reunion. In this piece we have the soft interplay of finely balanced notes that are sustained by clever foot peddling. An introspective motif appears around its halfway mark and expands to hit piercingly high top notes that tie. The frequencies do not exceed pianissimo or mezzo piano. A feeling of anticipation is invoked here. The entire piece also sits within a major key, which is joyous. It gently filters away in quasi niente. What a peaceful way to conclude this most delicate and modest of albums.


All the choice tracks from the last month, selected by the entire Monolith Cocktail team: Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Graham Domain and Andrew C. Kidd.

For the past couple of months we’ve been experimenting with both Spotify version and Youtube (track list will vary) versions of the playlist. Whatever your preference found both below:


Future Kult  ‘We’
Grooto Terazza  ‘Tropische Krankheiten’
Speech Debelle Ft. Baby Sol  ‘Away From Home’
Joe Nora & Mick Jenkins  ‘Early’
A.G.  ‘Alpha Beta’
Your Old Droog & Madlib  ‘The Return Of The Sasquatch’
Gabrielle Ornate  ‘The Undying Sleep’
Yumi And The Weather  ‘Can You Tell’
Baby Cool  ‘Magic’
Claude  ‘Turn’
Lunar Bird  ‘Venilia’
Imaad Wasif  ‘Fader’
Legless Trials  ‘X-Tyrant’
Dearly Beloved  ‘Walker Park’
Staraya Derevnya  ‘Scythian Nest’
Short Fuze & Dr. Kill  ‘Me And My Demons’
Group  ‘The Feeling’ JJ Doom ‘Guv’nor’  (Chad Hugo Remix)
DJ Nappa  ‘Homeboys Hit It’
DJ Premier Ft. Run The Jewels  ‘Terrible 2’s’
Zero dB  ‘Anything’s Possible’  (Daisuke Tanabe Remix)
Underground Canopy  ‘Feelm’
Revelators Sound System  ‘George The Revelator’
Montparnasse Musique Ft. Muambuyi & Mopero Mupemba  ‘Bonjour’
The Movers  ‘Ku-Ku-Chi’
Yanna Momina  ‘Heya (Welcome)’
Vieux Farka Toure & Khruangbin  ‘Savanne’
Barrio Lindo  ‘Espuma De Mur’
Brown Calvin  ‘Perspective3’
Nok Cultural Ensemble Ft. Angel Bat Dawid  ‘Enlightenment’
Li Yilei  ‘A Hush In The Dark
Celestial North  ‘Yarrow’
Andres Alcover  ‘White Heat’
Nick Frater  ‘Aerodrome Motel’
Drug Couple  ‘Lemon Trees’
Cari Cari  ‘Last Days On Earth’
Ali Murray  ‘Passing Through The Void’
Diamanda La Berge Dramm  ‘Orangut The Orangutan’
Your Old Droog  ‘The Unknown Comic’
Jesse The Tree  ‘Sun Dance’
TrueMendous & MysDiggi  ‘Talkk’
STS & RJD2  ‘I Excel’
Jester Jacobs & Jack Danz  ‘HIT’
Oliver Birch  ‘Docile Healthier’
GOON  ‘Emily Says’
Lucy & The Drill Holes  ‘It’s Not My War’
Apathy, Jadekiss & Stu Bangas  ‘No Time To Waste’
Verbz & Mr Slipz  ‘Music Banging Like’
Sly Moon  ‘Back For More’
Guilty Simpson Ft. Jason Rose & DJ Ragz  ‘Make It Count’

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

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