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.

A.

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

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

Armstrong ‘Happy Graffiti’  Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea
Review

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

Avalanche Kaito  ‘S-T’  (Glitterbeat)  DV
Review

Avantdale Bowling Club  ‘TREES’  Andrew C. Kidd

B.

Caterina Barbieri  ‘Spirit Exit’  (Warp Records)  ACK
Review

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

Oliver Birch  ‘Burning Daylight’  BBS
Review

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

Brigitte Beraha  ‘Blink’  DV
Review

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

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

Boycalledcrow  ‘Wizards Castle’  (Waxing Crescent Records)  BBS
Review

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
Review

C.

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
Review

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

Julian Cope  ‘England Expectorates’  BBS
Link

D.

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

Aftab Darvishi  ‘A Thousand Butterflies’  ACK
Review

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

Ferry Djimmy  ‘Rhythm Revolution’  (Acid Jazz) DV

Matt Donovan  ‘Habit Formation’  DV
Review

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

Dubbledge  ‘Ten Toes Down’  (Potent Funk)  MO
Review

E.

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

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

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

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

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

Exociety  ‘Deception Falls’  (Exociety)  MO

F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

G.

Mike Gale  ‘Mañana Man’  DV
Premiere

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

Gold Panda  ‘The Work’  (City Slang)  ACK

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

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

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

Gwenno ‘Tresor’ (Heavenly Recordings)  GD

H.

Aldous Harding  ‘Warm Chris’ (4AD)  GD

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

Sven Helbig  ‘Skills’  (Modern Recordings)  DV
Review

Bruno Hibombo  ‘Parting Words’  DV

Houseplants  ‘II’  (Win Big Records)  DV
Review

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

I.

IBERI  ‘Supra’  (Naxos World Music)  DV

J.

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

JPEGMAFIA  ‘OFFLINE!’  ACK

K.

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

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

King Kashmere  ‘Woof’  (High Focus)  MO

Evan Kertman ‘Rancho Shalom’  (Perpetual Doom)  BBS
Review

KMRU  ‘Temporary Stored’  ACK

L.

Labelle  ‘Éclat’  (Infiné)  DV
Review

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

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

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

Liraz  ‘Roya’  (Glitterbeat)  DV
Review

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

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

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 monolithcocktail.com 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 https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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PLAYLIST SPECIAL
TEAM EFOORT/COMPILED BY DOMINIC VALVONA

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’
Lee Scott Ft. Sly Moon ‘THE MORE I THINK ABOUT IT, THE LESS I CARE’
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 monolithcocktail.com 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 https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

ALBUM REVIEW
ANDREW C. KIDD

ÉLIANE RADIGUE ‘Occam XXV’
(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.

ALBUM REVIEW
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.

PLAYLISTS SPECIAL
TEAM EFFORT/ CURATED BY DOMINIC VALVONA

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:

TRACKLIST

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 monolithcocktail.com 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 https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

ALBUM REVIEW
ANDREW C. KIDD

Helena Celle ‘Music For Counterflows’
(False Walls)

Marilyn Monroe once affirmed, “if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”. I think Helena Celle (aka Kay Logan) paraphrased this quote in the title of her debut release on Night School Records. It was filled with trippy tape loops and glitch-skips. Imagine Oval underwater, Yasunao Tone upside-down, Prefuse 73 in reverse. The outcome: an aqueous amalgam of melodia, a scatterplot of musical notation. The neighbouring tracks ‘I’m Done With 666’ and ‘Miming Swinging Baseball Bat’ were electronica bliss, ambrosia for the audiophile. That was 2016. Fast forward to present times and Music For Counterflows, which was recently released on the False Walls label. This one-hour continuous piece of music was originally written for Counterflows 2021, Glasgow’s annual festival celebrating experimentalism. The name suggests a stream pushing itself upriver. It serves as an artistic anti-current.

Patterned is how I would describe Music For Counterflows. Celle’s repeated designs are muddy clangs and clock-like bells that helicopter around in fragmenting movements. Although cyclical, each of its musical lines never cross the x- and y-axes twice. The grains of a broken beat provide minimal reference, like the paper of a map that has lost its inked markings. During my first listen, I wondered whether the drum machine was going to be the constant in this altering equation. Alas, it disintegrates later like every other variable in the algorithm. The Waldorf Blofeld synthesiser wails and howls. Its syncopated notes eventually become held-notes. There are key changes aplenty. Melody is fugitive. Music for Counterflows was composed using MaxMSP, the limitless visual programming system with graphical as opposed to textual programming. This partly explains what I am listening to. The rest I have attributed to Celle’s magicry.

According to the interview on the Counterflows website [1] (and also included in the CD booklet), Celle described similarities in her sound to “late-period Frank Zappa”, particularly his Synclavier works. I can also hear echoes of influence on Amnerika from his post-humour album Civilization Phase III. She also mentioned being inspired by Annea Lockwood. Lockwood, the piano burner. Lockwood, the academic. I regard Celle as more of an alchemist than an academic. She transfigures time and place and transforms rhythm into the irrhythmic. She improvises and hypnotises and experiments from an electronic playbook less-leafed. My applause goes to her.

Reference:

  1. Helena Celle by Stewart Smith. Available from: https://counterflows.com/interview/helena-celle-by-stewart-smith/

ALBUM REVIEW
Andrew C. Kidd

Jill Richards/Kevin Volans  ‘Études’
(Diatribe Records)

Kevin Volans is probably most famous for the 1984 Kronos reworking of White Man Sleeps. His beginnings in South Africa to the Neue Einfacheit (in English, New Simplicity) of West Germany with the theorist Karlheinz Stockhausen, whose seminal sine-waves and soundscapes shaped the landscape we understand in electronic music today, are well-documented. The Man With Footsoles of Wind, an opera about the enterprise of the influential poet Arthur Rimbaud in Ethiopia, remains very much on my ‘listening wishlist’. Volans is obviously a musicologist. He is undoubtedly a modernist. This is 2022. He has offered us Études, a collection of his own previously unreleased solo piano works performed by Jill Richards and a second-half where he performs Liszt. The listener has been invited into “a sound world” with “extremely complex and challenging arrangements”. There is also an allusion to twenty fingers playing, rather than ten. These are just some of the insights that accompany the liner notes. My following review reflects the two halves of this collection.

Jill Richards plays Kevin Volans

Jill Richards by Graham de Lacy

An étude is a short piece of music that demonstrates skill. The skill is in the composition as well as the performance. Jill Richards, an accomplished pianist and long-standing collaborator of Volans, opens with the Second Étude. It is a rift of split chords and dissociated notation. There are mirroring moments: chords that delve inwards, returning later at varying degrees, but never selfsame. The piece is steady but not stately. It is measured, and open. Throughout this first half, this openness, or rather, these open spaces, are particularly evident on the Seventh Étude where the musical interstices are left unfilled. He also offers more fleeting movements such as the brushed-stabs that flee as harmonic echoes on the Fourth Étude and the alarm-like opening to the First Étude. The latter piece has a walk-around dance motif which toes lightly over the weighty bass clef. Volans opts to juxtapose the tempos of his works on Études. He presses for accelerando whilst raising the reins of decelerando. The icy and pointed Third Étude marks a sudden departure from the glacial kinesia of the Second Étude. The notes of the former rise and fall. Nothing is sequential. There is rhythmic abandonment, best evidenced by the First Étude. The Sixth Étude is an example of anti-meter. It quietly stirs. The Seventh Étude is periodic and concludes by disintegrating completely.

Kevin Volans plays Franz Liszt

Kevin Volans by Jose Pedro Salinar

From the glissandos that flitter away like rippling caustics of light through water on Fountains Of The Villa D’este to the sweeping whorl of Transcendental Étude No 11 Harmonies Du Soir, Volans captures the beauty and rhythmic complexity of Lizst. On Cypresses Of The Villa D’este, a padding crescendo presses and stresses and accentuates. Liszt’s transcription of Wagner’s Liebestod (from the German, liebe, love, and tod, death) was originally the concluding act to Wagner’s operatic drama, Tristan und Isolde. The famous five-note motif is delicately played by Volans. The lovers are beside one another. The piano slowly grows, the tremolandi becomes stronger, the accelerando pulses, the appassionato intensifies. There is quiet transfiguration in its concluding major key. Here Isolde is weeping over the dead Tristan. The calando that Volans plays out continues to emanate away into the lull and loft of her tears that river and mouth and basin. The theme is solemn, yet the piano notes wave and glint away like sun-glitter. The listener is carried outwards to drift on this sonorous and sonic sea. My water metaphor was inspired by the libretto from Tristan: “ertrinken, versinken, – unbewusst, – höchste Lust!” (in English, “to drown, to founder – unconscious – utmost bliss!”).

I consider Études to be a diptych. Volans showcases his pianistic skill and appreciation of the transformative romanticism of Liszt. There is catharsis in the atonality and arrhythmia of his preceding compositions that blow open like air. In the interstitial spaces of each half, he beckons the listener into darkness, yet ultimately bathes us in light.

ALBUM REVIEWS
ANDREW C. KIDD

Jacek Doroszenko ft. Ewa Doroszenko ‘Bodyfulness’
(Audiobulb) 25th June 2022

It is May. I am penning this review when my tissue tethers to the touchscreen. My hands pixelate to dissipate into my keyboard. I centrifuge away on algorithms and platforms. My consciousness becomes collective. My flesh is cast aside. I am husked hollow and left as a digitalised hide. It is here in this virtual space that I encounter Bodyfulness.

I am met by art: first, a lenticular and lipless fleshy lower face; then, a predominance of pink and bluish blushes and hazy ribbon-like photographs pushed into position. There are prints of arms. I see hands handling hands. Are these the same hands that play the fluted-key flourishes on Landscape of Algorithmic Desire? They are husky and light. Ghostly background clicks are fleeting and apparition-like. They reappear as the gentle euphoria that blends into the pulsing syncopation of Generated Pleasures. Sub-bass melodies emerge, merge and exit reimagined. It is this symbiosis of the analogue and sounds from the natural world on Bodyfulness that fills me. Composed as a critique of digital intimacy, it is a distorting melange of imagery and music. At times there is opposition. For example, the opaque drones on the title track and depths of analogue on Night Masque contrast starkly with the clarity of the field recordings of water on The Molecule of Everyday Life. The album finale – Visible Dream Space – is dissonant. A slightly off-key synth sequence brims away into nothingness. It disconnects me from the melodia and fusion of what preceded it.

The Dorozenkos’ triumph though is their mid-album triptych. A dreamlike nostalgia weeps and stoops over the sun-kiss and splash of past summers on Get The Perfect Mental Surface. Bells are part-sung atop heavy production and dart around a Rhodes piano and subtle bass melody on Synthetic Skin. This complex symphony weaves and weaves some more until it is shocked into life by two clear bells. Oh these bells! How they sing! I could write poetry about them. They pitch high and are kept momentarily afloat by the fleeting breath of a string section that twists away into the earthy distance. Synthetic Nap is the entr’acte: analogue synths hum and thrum and bass and turn and twist and heighten and heighten higher to steeple and quieten and quieten further to silence to further silence and still.

Flavia Massimo ‘Glitch’
(Audiobulb) 8th June 2022

Classico-electonica is an atoll where music is bountiful. The ringed-islets and sandy spaces have surfaced as the result of the volcanism of the modernists and post-romanticists. A deep lagoon saucers in the centre. The turquoise-blue water quavers and trebles endlessly. Time is not continuous here. Varèse and Stockhausen had once inhabited the islets and moved on to become coral. This is the post-world of Moondog and Pierre Henry. This is the precursor to an unknowable futurism. This is the present day space where Frahm and Richter key quietly in the twilight. The reedy bass of Stetson offsets the lilting harp strings of Lattimore. The warmth of the cello-bowing of Coates radiates like the sun. Along the shorelines and sands, the horizon is momentarily interrupted by a dot that hazes gently in the distance. The dot blots and slowly comes into focus. This is Flavia Massimo. She is rowing across the calm sea. She will shortly arrive on the beach to play Glitch.

There is an innate delicateness to Massimo’s sound. Gentle gongs reverberate and pace-make on ‘Gagaku’. They bob like buoys in open water. She hits, strings and bows in triadic equipoise. The result is meditative. Here, Massimo beautifully blends these ritualistic traditions (Gagaku is an ancient form of Japanese court music) with the opposing turbulence (at points she channels the lightspeed of L. Shankar) and broad-stroke soundscaped minimalism that are idiosyncratic to modern ambienism. She approaches the beach.

‘Steps’ is balladic. The notes disembark and tip-toe around a pas de deux interplay of slapped pizzicato. This motif steadily repeats around the brooding narrative of tremolo and white noise and analog effects. It beguiles.

‘Data Transfer’ opens as a thrashing melee. Alive and anatomical, the piece builds into a pulsing polyphony. The vocals inhale and exhale. The held chords are choral. The 4-4 beat is plainsong steady. The élan vital here is Massimo’s mastering of the interstitium, i.e., the spaces between the tissue planes that she slowly electrifies and neon-ifies. She lets her attack-mode-driven pulses laser and spark. She stands steady with cutters and feeds wires into her classical instrumentation.

‘Oxygen’ is a journey of aerobic respiration. The oxygen enters our bodies through the measured adagio. The sforzando is the lifeblood: rubrous, iron-clad, heavy. Her legato bowing echoes the held synths of Vangelis. The beat is opaque. Through its structural complexities, and eventual degradation, we witness the metamorphosis of oxygen. We are left with energy, and water.

I envisage quiet rainfall on ‘Bit Pass’. The leggiero sings. High-pitched static are droplets on my window. The subtle percussive pops puddle on the periphery. The piece is endless, like precipitation. It is symphonic. It is beautiful. If Glitch was a symphony, this would be its adagietto. It simply glistens.

‘Chromosome Xx’ marks a departure from the organic. The machinations and collé bowing are rhythmically complex and the plucked-strings halo circumferentially in slow-motion to disintegrate into noisecore distance. The ending is subtle. It warps into quietude, like Tchaikovsky’s Sixth.

This is undoubtedly a strong debut from Massimo. She has set up camp on the atoll where her sound pools quietly in the lagoon. She offers us abstract minimalism. There is an off-set asymmetry to her sound. The tone is elegiac. She channels classicism but in measured doses. She appears to find joy in the uncertainty. To her, form appears unnecessary. Like the wavelets that milled through her cogwheeling oars in open water, she is strongest in the existential spaces that float around us.

ALBUM REVIEW: Andrew C. Kidd

SAULT ‘AIR’

The summit has been reached. The artist is left poised precipitously on a creative aiguille. There is no higher peak. There is no ground left to conquer. Only true sky-reachers seek higher heights. I have no doubts that SAULT, aka Dean Josiah Cover, was pointedly tiptoed in such a place prior to writing AIR.

Reality is operatic. Cyclical pulsing strings belly staccatoed and libretto-less choral notes. They oscillate beautifully. The scale is pentatonic and it floats. The string section gallops. I am reminded of Phillips Glass’s Akhenaten. This is theological Richter.

On Air I am nonchalantly oaring my sky-canoe through wisps of clouds and the dreamy blue. Its jazz strings provide buoyancy. The slow ride rushes glisten as I traverse hazy white into breezy clearings. The mono mezzo-soprano is heat-haze. The sun-glittering percussion touches the tips of waves of the old world below. The piano – a familiar friend – is a subtle hand that lets me go. My canoe slips away into the polychromatic, undulating on brassy ascents and descents

Harpy Heart is all pizzicato. The opening melody is the foundation of somewhere where we lived long ago. The glockenspiels are the brickwork of houses. The ascending brass are the hearth fires of stone. There are Gerschwin crescendos: we climb the stairs of this dwelling by way of the feather-light chorus. The house is eventually made roofless by the vocals that simply spill out to kite around the playful strings. The ascent begins.

The long synths of Solar hold and hold and undertow the cycling chorus. The horns are thrust bursts. The wind section is heraldic. Glockenspiels glint and shimmer and pulse. Chords are stacked fifths; their forward motion could move moons. The brass provides volume and strength. Future rhodes, theremin magicry and analogue pads lead into a grandstand choral finish. This is Alexander Courage conquering deep space in the ‘60s.

Time Is Precious is Bowie-falling-back-to-earth melody. Think cosmic kaleidoscopes. Think starry sequins. The brass is Aaron Copland: pioneer-spirited, triumphant, enduring. The neo-soul vocals – casual reminiscence of previous SAULT – make an appearance at the mid-point of this piece. They sing of the most elusive and untradeable of currencies: time.

On June 55 I am peering into the novel, the fantastical, the new worldly, the shimmering brilliance of a future time. I am at home. Advancing brass and reverse-tape sequences disorient me. Quietude follows. Warmer, fuller, sun-laden horns melt into rhythmic trombones and deep sprechgesang melody. It is a sort of gentler David Shire, with a choir and zithers.

Luos Higher is a sonic smoke signal. I enter somewhere akin to Andreas Vollenweider’s Caverna Magica. A thumping, all-tribe dance ensues: feet tread to an interplay of pizzicatos. The synergy is Crosby, Stills and Nash, except they are playing erhus, guzhengs and sanxians. It is communicating something that I cannot comprehend yet. I am on a higher plane. I am left truly at peace.

Back on the aiguille. AIR places its listener on a mountaintop observatory. The lens is a long one. It telescopes towards new sounds. It is mesmeric. It is circuitous. It never meets in the middle. Through its prism I eye optimism. Through this lens I can celebrate future times.




Choice Albums of 2019 Part Two: Haq to Pozi


For those that might have missed Part One of this three-parter, I will reiterate:

Because we’ve never seen the point in arguing the toss over numerical orders, or even compiling a list of the best of albums of the year, the Monolith Cocktail’s lighter, less competitive and hierarchical ‘choice albums’ features have always listed all entrants in alphabetical order (since our inception, a decade ago). We also hate separating genres and so everybody in these features, regardless of genre, location, shares the same space.

All the albums in part two were chosen by Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Ginaluigi Marsibilio.

Part One can be found here…

H……..

Haq ‘Evaporator’
(Bearsuit Records)







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. (Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea)

Full review…


Homeboy Sandman ‘Dusty’
(Mello Music Group)





“Pure skills unfazed by tempo, turning fleeting thoughts into elaborate dissections. Long may the cult of the Sandman continue” – RnV Nov 19




Something that will never be lost to the dusts of time is Homeboy Sandman and that flow that still sounds just past a cipher amongst friends. Mono En Stereo tease out his kooks with production springy in step and managing a melting pot and the bare bones. Actually the continued kooky associations do Homeboy a disservice, as Dusty is Sandman doing what he does best in all his multifaceted greatness, able to pull off sincere and sombre on a sixpence before pulling the rug through sleight of verb (“anybody asks, I was never here/in the lunchroom sitting alone my whole career/wear my pants so you can’t see my underwear”), aiming for personal bests as if the aforementioned cipher is strictly for him. An undisputed battler and hip-hop student, and whose streams of consciousness you won’t find anywhere else (including moulding the mundane into something profound), Homeboy is a good egg who just happens to have the ability to destroy whoever. (Matt Oliver)


Chrissie Hynde & The Valve Bone Orchestra ‘Valve Bone Woe’
(BMG)





I’m probably in a minority, but I feel Chrissie Hynde has been in the past restricted by her proto-rock icon status. Never sounding better, and not entirely a shock, Hynde, linking up with The Valve Bone Orchestra, transduces a collection of standards from stage, film, 60s pop and jazz on, probably, her most mature work yet, Valve Bone Woe.

As showy as it is experimental, this orchestrated album is both romantically brooding and brazen. Dotting brooding and dreamy versions of classics with more spiritual jazz and retro-space age fantasy, Hynde delivers an offbeat jazz snozzled slinky salacious version of Nancy Wilson’s ‘So Glad I Am’, and sends Brian Wilson’s ‘Caroline, No’ drifting off towards the stars, whilst relegating herself to lulling coos on the Charlie Mingus ‘Meditation On A Pair Of Wire Cutters’ – a workout in as much for the ensemble to flex their spirit of peregrination.

Bond like theme visions of Frank Sinatra’s ‘I’m A Fool To Want You’, sit well next to a strung out rendition of ‘Wild Is The Wind’ (made famous by many, but namely Nina Simone and Bowie) on an album that, though beautiful and magical, pushes Hynde to ever dizzying heights of sophistication and experiment. (Dominic Valvona)


Hifiklub & Mike Cooper  ‘Aran Stories’
(Ruptured)





Bringing the ever-evolving Toulon eclectic collective Hifiklub and English polygenesis journeyman Mike Cooper together, the harsh unforgiving coastal terrain and psychogeography of the Isle Of Aran provides a perfect bleak backdrop for an unholy union of conceptual plaint and experimental strung-out visions. Primal, harrowing, steel, waning, craning, expanding and untethered this visceral collaboration hews out an evocative off-kilter post-punk and abstract electronica soundtrack that winds and beats-out of shape tales and traces of the island’s history. The album’s opening lyrics let you know straight away where this is heading: “This year I see a darker side of life”.

The source material for this exploration and therapy is Robert J. Flaherty’s Man Of Aran documentary – his third such documentary feature film after the famous groundbreaking 1922 Nanook of the North and South Seas set Moana – and John Millington Synge’s 1907 The Aran Islands text, which Cooper takes on a more harsh version of Robert Wyatt-like meandering intense wonder.

Dark and ominous, conveying a hardy way of life and travails, this album is a tough but mesmerizing and hauntingly beautiful work of art. (DV)


I………

Ifriqiyya Electrique ‘Laylet el Booree’
(Glitterbeat Records)







Just as electrifying, exotic and barracking as the previous ritualistic post-punk tumult of Rûwâhîne, Ifriqiyya Electrique’s second album, Laylet el Booree, (which translates as the “night of the madness”) features another invigorating surged vortex of rustic percussion, strange computer-generated sounds, static, sparks and two-speed rhythms.

Mirroring the stamping, emotive and sometimes confusing hallowed intensity of the adorcist ritual from the Banga followers of Tozeur that this album’s title references, the collaborative Tunisian-Italian troupe work themselves up into a fervor as they communion with the spirit world. The Electrique integrate different rhythmic changes and timings; seeming to experiment even more this time around; pushing the envelope further without losing that original tumultuous barrage of bombarding drums/percussion and edgy growling grinding industrial guitar sounds. If anything they’ve unleashed the spirits to roam the amorphous sphere of exploration to draw on even more diverse musical inspirations, creating a highly unique invigorating sensory experience in the process. Industrial post-punk ritual leaves the furnace once more to cause an explosive cacophony. (DV)

Full Review


Invisible System ‘Dance To The Full Moon’
(ARC Music)





Taken from the same recording sessions as Dan Harper’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 was created and shaped at the end of a tumultuous and violent period in Mali’s history. That tumult, along with a passion for his adopted country, has been energized as Dan transforms the music of a myriad of Mali’s great and good (a lineup of players that includes Kalifa Koné, Sidi Touré and Sambou Kouyaté) into an attuned and dynamic remix of the Mali soundscape. (DV)

Full review…


J……….

Juga-Naut & Giallo Point ‘Back to the Grill Again’
(Tuff Kong)





“Running through crews like a hot knife through butter, from now only order these cordon bleu beats and rhymes, a gangster gourmet with an all important UK garnish” – RnV Aug 19




Someone who definitely needs to enter the conversation when it comes to naming the UK’s top tier of rhymers, Juga-Naut stays up by showing that show-n-prove and aspirational, ostentatious folly do pay. Given that this follows relatively hot on the heels of 2018’s Bon Vivant, Jugs has officially got both designs for days and commitment to quality control – list toppers others find hard to fathom. Giallo Point, the money man when it comes to Little Italy dramas on the boards, fills his beats with a hydration he usually leaves out on purpose, chaperoning the Nottingham emcee who may shuffle realities – a kind of surrealism that takes logical steps – but fundamentally has the presence to shut down backchatters with granite-set rhymes that calibrates a kind of one inch punch that hasn’t got time for any dramatics. Heavy, no heartburn. (MO)


John Johanna ‘Seven Metal Mountains’
(Faith & Industry)







With afflatus fervor Norfolk-based artist John Johanna transduces the mountain allegories and metaphors as laid down by Noah’s grandfather in the vision-dream-revelatory Book Of Enoch into a gospel-raga-blues and Radio Clash prescient Biblical cosmology. Interrupted from Enoch’s visits to the heavenly realms – where, as Johanna’s Strummer fronts Wah! Heat, Gothic redemption goer ‘Standing At The Gates Of Love’ takes its title from, you will find a no-nonsense angel guarding the Pearly Gates with a flaming sword in hand – the Seven Metal Mountains metallurgy passage is as much an augur as observed proclamation. Used here as a frame for Johanna’s second visionary album of spiritual nutrition in a Godless age for the always brilliant Faith & Industry label, the dour liturgy of Judaic tradition and law inspires a message of forewarning and yearns for less materialistic avarice.

Seven Metal Mountains translates Biblical prophecy marvelously into a vivid eclectic songbook of protestation post-punk, indie, folk, psych and lilting Krautrock. (DV)

Full review…


Junkboy ‘Trains, Trees, Topophilia’







Disarmingly chilled yet full of wistful rumination and contemplation, Junkboy’s Brighton-Seaford-Southend traverse wonders what it would sound like if Brian Wilson was born and bred on the English Riviera instead of Hawthorne, California: The beachcomber vibes of Pet Sounds permeate this quint lush English affair. You can safely add vague notions of Britpop era Octopus, a touch of the Super Furry Animals more folksy psych instrumentals, some early Beta Band, echoes of 90s Chicago post-rock, and on the dreamboat bluegrass lilted-and-silted ‘Sweetheart Of The Estuary’ more than a nod to Roger McGuinn and pals.

The Brothers Hanscomb long awaited new instrumental opus, Trains, Trees, Topophilia is a peaceable musical landscape littered with the ghostly reverb of railways station interchanges, mew-dewed laced green hillsides, tidal ebbs and flows and Cluniac Abbeys. Call it pastoral musical care for the soul; a beautifully conveyed canvas of the imagined and idyllic and a subtle ode to the Southeast cartography and painters, poets, writers that captured it so perfectly. (DV)

Full review…


K………..

Kel Assouf ‘Black Tenere’
(Glitterbeat Records)







Mirroring the borderless Nomadic freewheeling of the Berber ancestral Tuareg people, a loosely atavistic-connected confederacy (to put it into any kind of meaningful context) of diverse tribes that have traditionally roamed Sub-Saharan Africa since time immemorial, Kel Assouf channel a wealth of musical influences both historically and geographically into an electrified reworking of (as vague and over-used a term as it is) desert rock. Headed by charismatic Gibson Flying V slinger front man Anana Ag Haroun, who’s own lineage takes in both the landlocked behemoth Niger and bordering Nigeria, the highly propulsive, cyclonic spiraling trio propel that heritage into the 21st century; thanks in many ways to the futuristic cosmic electronic and bass frequency production of the band’s rising innovative keyboardist/producer Sofyann Ben Youssef.

A stunning rock odyssey that draws its multiple sources together in both defiance and in the spirit of communication – the Kel Tamashek plight, as guardian-custodians of the desert, translated via the poetic heartfelt earthy soulful lyrics of Haroun – Black Tenere stretches the roots of nomadic rock and blues to reflect ever-expanding musical horizons as the global community grows ever-smaller and music becomes more fluid and spreads with ease. Kel Assouf is on another plane entirely, propelling rock music into the future. (DV)

Full review…


Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba ‘Miri’
(Outhere Records)







The courtly sound of the Mali Empire from the 13th century, accompanying the griot tradition of storytelling for an age, the (usually) dried-animal skin wrapped, canoe-shaped ngoni lute has been electrifyingly revitalized in recent years thanks in part to the virtuoso dexterity and energy of one of its leading practitioners, Malian legend, Bassekou Kouyate.

Following up the more electrified 2015 LP, Ba Power (which made our albums of the year feature), with a fifth album of innovative paeans, hymns, protestations and calls for peace, Bassekou takes a more reflective pause for thought on Miri; gazing out across his crisis-ridden homeland, contemplating on how the fragmented landscape and people can be brought back together for the common good. Backed as always by the family band that features his wife, the soulful and beautifully voiced ‘nightingale of the north’, Amy Secko, and his son, Madou Kouyate, on bass ngoni, but also now including his niece Kankou (making a special guest appearance on vocals), the Bamana entitled encapsulation of ‘dream’, or ‘contemplation’, Miri record touches base with Bassekou’s roots.

A visceral picture of a land in crisis, yet one that has hope for a united Mali, Miri is a sublime connective and rallying collection of compelling and thrilling performances and songs (Sacko especially on fine form delivering the most tender and rich vocals throughout); another essential album from the ngoni master. (DV)

Full review…


L…………

Labelle ‘Orchestre Univers’
(Infiné)







Jérémy Labelle is clearly a very talented musician, composer and producer. He casts his net of influence wide to draw upon many musical styles. His synthesis of modal harmonies and tribal rhythms is very reminiscent of the ‘Fourth World’ created by the venerable Jon Hassell. His latest album, Orchestre Univers, was performed by the Orchestre Regional of Réunion Island; conducted by Laurent Goossaert. The ten pieces from the album (three previously published and seven original works) were recorded live over four concerts that took place on the island.

I have read numerous interviews with Labelle who cites identity and anthropology as themes that have inspired him to write music. Orchestre Univers feels more like a celebration, a coming together of musicians and audiences to rejoice at the unique music that has emerged from the island of Réunion. The electronics and compositional complexities offered by Labelle are merely 21st century adaptations to what is an age-old sound. They should not be dismissed. His concept of “Maloya electronics” is truly global and will ensure that the next generation of Réunionese continue to declare, “Nous Maloya lé mondial!” (Andrew C. Kidd)

Full review…


Little Brother ‘May the Lord Watch’
(Foreign Exchange Music)





“Effortless and erudite, LB still have the remedy for when your last nerve has been worked over” – RnV Sep 19



The return of Gang Starr claimed a glut of headlines in 2019, but the reconvening of Little Brother’s Phonte and Big Pooh was no undercard announcement, their first album in nine years instantly restoring goodwill to flagging hip-hop naysayers. Supremely funky, soulful, still getting the maximum mileage out of a running joke-made-critical, cultural commentary, and with the likes of Khrysis, Nottz, Focus and Black Milk upholding 9th Wonder’s gold-fingered role on the boards, all is well with the world once this blooms from speakers. The ease of the pair’s back and forth is no less marvelous as we approach the twenties – masterful, as if they’re just hanging somewhere nondescript, and just ready to go and express themselves – there’s still a lot to be said for their all-seeing chemistry, keeping of the faith and words to the wise, even this deep in the game. May there be mercy upon your soul if you’re not already excited for 2028. (MO)


M…………..

Mazouni ‘Un Dandy En Exil/Algérie-France/1969-1983’
(Born Bad Records)







Our review copy must have been lost in the post or missed the inbox, but this compilation of hits and rarities from the exiled dandy of “Francarabe” (a unique blend of French and Arabic lyrics) Mohamed Mazouni was one of the year’s most enchanting discoveries. Swooning and crooning poignant touching and lamenting songs about exile, love and the travails of being a first-generation Algerian immigrant in France, Mazouni sashays, shakes, belly dances and saunters to the sounds of the Orient on the first ever compilation dedicated in his honour. (DV)


Meursault ‘Crow Hill’
(Common Grounds)







An ambitious literary-enriched album with a loose story and range of perspectives that will unfold further in comic book form and through live performance, Neil Scott Pennycook’s Crow Hill diorama delivers a whirlwind of dark emotions; many of which feel like a punch to the heart.

Announced as a new chapter for Pennycook’s alter ego Meursault, released as the launch album for the new independent Common Grounds label, Crow Hill marks a move into fiction for the Edinburgh artist. An “urban horror” of vignettes, each song on this album represents twelve chapters of plaintive and lamentable grief and broken promises from the imagined town’s inhabitants, set to a constantly beautifully aching soundtrack that either builds and builds towards anthemic crescendo or despairingly gallops towards the flames: in the case of the brutal punishing ‘Jennifer’, a discordant scream of anguish, on what could be a crime of domestic abuse.

An outstanding album full of both heartache and brilliance, this is a vivid, richly and descriptively revealing minor-opus; the first chapter or part of a much grander multimedia universe that crosses songwriting with veiled fiction, illustration and performance. As first stabs go, Pennycook has shown an encouraging erudite skill for writing, which translates well when put to music. (DV)

Full review…


Mr Muthaf*ckin’ eXquire ‘Mr Muthaf*ckin’ eXquire’
(Soulspazm)





“Satisfying your ignorant itch and also reducing dancefloors to bloody smithereens, it’s a surprisingly, satisfyingly well-rounded album where the bite backs up the bark” – RnV May 19




In a sea of clones, drone and cookie cutters, eXquire remains the genuine, genuinely outrageous article, putting up without shutting up and attacking this album with bloodlust right from the off. Leaving clubs to check their insurance policies, Mr MFX is the valve that releases the pressure when people are getting in your way, saturating front rows before levelling out with kerbside rollers, showing that with shock value comes some degree of responsibility. Maybe the real cliché is when you come for the outrage (the outright base ‘I Love Hoes’) and end up staying for him having something to say (admittedly, it’s usually to a deafening, disorientating backdrop). ‘Rumblefish’ expertly get emotions tangled, and the prophetic novella ‘Nothing’s What It Seems’: Short Film’ grows artistically ahead of a closing monologue of self-discovery. Whatever his angle, he’s always on and leaves everything in the booth. (MO)


O……………

Occult Character ‘Chittering Noises’
(Small Bear Records)







Here we have the brand new Occult Character LP. Yes another one. This time an all acoustic guitar affair that once again proves my previous claim correct that Occult is the most important songwriter in the USA today: 13 songs in 15 minutes, strumming through short songs dealing with the subjects of abortion, having the shits, being nice to people, among many others all written and sang in Occults inimitable style.

What I love about Occult Character is the point on accuracy of his lyrics and his talent for finding the bizarreness of everyday living – especially him contemplating and commentating on life in a Trump led America – with a verve and shambolic dark humour all of his own. This album and the sister piece LP to this, The Cult Of Ignorance, released on Metal Postcard Records earlier in the year should be downloaded by all American Schools and stored away and in ten years time played to the students as part of their American History lessons. This is another must have album of 2019 and may come to be seen as one of the most important and influential and considered a cult classic in the years to come. (BBS)


Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou ‘Anou Malane’
(Sahel Sounds)







More a ‘choice album’ of 1995 of course, lifted and reset from the original cassette for the first time, this new reissue of the Tuareg legend and doyen of the desert guitar, Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou, is a worthy addition to any right-minded eclectic music lovers collection.

Addressing the troops as a front-runner in the armed Tuareg rebellion of the 1990s – another phase in the long-running campaign for the desert peoples of Northern Mali and bordering regions to set up an autonomous state of their own -, Oumbadougou’s reputation grew from humble, isolated beginnings; his protestations and balladry spread through a network of cassette tape dubbers.

In exile for his troubles, the desert blues minstrel traveled to Benin to record an official release with the West African producer Nel Oliver – known for his work on a number of seminal boogie and afro-funk records of the period. Oliver lends a sauntering boogie and discotheque production to the earthy soulful magic of Oumbadougou’s signature influence on one of the first ever records to capture the Tuareg guitar style. A seminal and essential bridge between styles, Anou Malane is one of the best records to come out of the troubles and period. Own it now! (DV)


P……………

Park Jiha ‘Philos’
(tak:til)







Following her universally applauded debut album, Communion, Park Jiha has chosen Philos – from Greek, plural: loving, fond of, tending to – as the title for her latest release on Glitterbeat‘s sub-label, tak:til.

It has been described as an “evocation of her love for time, space and sound”. This is certainly evidenced in the multi-instrumental and baleful opener, ‘Arrival’, which consists of simple, metronomic strums and reedy high notes that lace around each other in ominous prismaticism. The piri, a double-reed bamboo flute played by Park, features heavily in this piece, as it does later during the album’s title track.

The album departs from the instrumental during the track, ‘Easy’, which features the breezy and philosophical (or, rather, extrajudicial) spoken word of the Lebanese poet, Dima El Sayed. The upper notes intensify and push the vocals to a dizzying and distorting conclusion.

There is an eloquent passage in the album notes which describes Philos as “[looking] to the future whilst continuing to converse with a rich instrumental language from the past”. This admixture of traditional Korean and Western instrumentation, coupled with compositions that lean towards the ambient and neoclassical, transmute Park’s experiences of a world awash with changing tides, transitory weather and ever-expanding cities into something that is indefinably atemporal. (ACK)

Full review…


Per W/Pawlowski ‘Outsider/Insider’
(Jezus Factory/Starman Records)







Thirteen years after their first collaboration together, two stalwarts of the alternative Belgian music scene once more reunite to produce, what they call, their very own unique White Album curiosity. The intergenerational musical partnership of one-time dEUS guitar-slinger for hire Mauro Pawlowski and maverick legend Kloot Per W proves an experimental – if odd – success in mining both artist’s influences and providence; the results of which, transformed into a playful, often knowing and pastiche, misadventure, are performed with conviction. Behind the often-masked mayhem and classic rock poses lurk serious, sometimes cathartic wise observations.

With the deep sagacious and world-weary voice of Per W leading, Outsider/Insider merges the mixed fortunes of both artists; whether it’s the jangly Traveling Wilburys like power rock pastiche ‘KPW On 45’ and its commentary on the cultural overbearing of America (“American rock star live in my European food!”) or, the iron fire-escape tapping, industrial funk gyrating, seductive if awkward ‘Room!’, Per W adds just enough off-center lyricism and ambivalence to make even the most obvious-sounding straight-A tune take a turn into weirdville.

Off-white to The Beatles stark magnolia gloss, Outsider/Insider is hardly a classic – dysfunctional or otherwise –, but is an amusing, sometimes absurd, and well-crafted alternative art-rock record of some ambition and style. (DV)

Full review…


Pozi ‘PZ1’
(PRAH Recordings)







Jabbed finger punk with a cushioned impact of bowed melodic and even dashes of doomed romanticism, the London band Pozi produce a kind of disarming malcontent anger. Like the results of a merger between Stiff Records and Sub Pop, this nervy troupe prod and waltz to spiky punkish drums, brooding bass, and fractious and waning strings as they cast a resigned eye over the current political climate. If the Sleaford Mods had more grace and ideas, they could have sounded like this. Quite simply: bloody brilliant. (DV)


PART ONE


album of 2019 part one - monolith cocktail


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