Choice Albums of 2019 Part Three: Chris Quelle to Yugen Blakrok


Welcome to the final part of our ‘choice albums’ features of 2019. To reiterate once more in case you missed parts one and two, 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.

Choice were made by Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Gianluigi Marsibilio.


Previous parts:

One

Two

Q…………….

Quelle Chris ‘Guns’
(Mello Music Group)




“The definition of enterprising, Quelle Chris remains a singular underground voice, loading latest album ‘Guns’ with intelligent angles on a topic never far from the news” – RnV Apr 19





You’ve got guns, we’ve got guns, the serious ones…Quelle Chris leaps to your attention at the best of times, now notwithstanding an album called Guns and his head engulfed in firearms on the sleeve – he could well have parodied the world’s accessory of choice such is the way he owns his own lane (the next album will guaranteed to be off on a completely different tangent). Instead of simply just pointing and shooting, his firing range is well-rounded opinion and scenario without turning Guns into documentary, his chuntering under his breath potent enough to never have to repeat himself, and knitted tightly enough to get you going back over and over. He holds back some of his stock off-kilterness – “I was never a weirdo, they just had to acclimate” – for production that can go from slight and soulful to screwface to thick and sludgily underground. That said, we can’t pass by the fact that on ‘Straight Shot’, he builds into a solemn contemplation somehow featuring comedian James Acaster as an apparitional, free-roaming sensei. (Matt Oliver)


R………………

Raf And O ‘The Space Between Nothing And Desire’
(Telephone Records)







Imbued by both the musicality and spirit of David Bowie, Scott Walker, David Sylvian (both as a solo artist and with the fey romantics Japan), Kate Bush and in their most avant-garde mode, Bjork, the South London based duo of Raf (Raf Montelli) and O (Richard Smith) occupy the perimeters of alternative art-rock and experimental electronica as the true inheritors of those cerebral inspirations.

Sublime in execution, subtle but with a real depth and levity, TSBNAD is an astonishing piece of new romantic, avant-theater pop and electronica that dares to unlock the mind and fathom emotion. I’m not sure if they’ve found or articulated that space they seek, between nothing and desire, but the duo have certainly created a master class of pulchritude magnificence. Lurking leviathans, strange cosmic spells and trips into the unknown beckon on this, perhaps their most accomplished and best album yet; an example of tactile machinations and a most pure voice in synergy.

The influences might be old and well used, but Raf And O, as quasi-torchbearers, show the way forward. They deserve far more exposure and acclaim, and so here’s hoping that TSBNAD finally gains this brilliant duo their true worth. (Dominic Valvona)

Full review…


Rafiki Jazz ‘Saraba Sufiyana’
(Konimusic)





It’s no idle boast to suggest that the North of England based Rafiki Jazz could be one of the most diverse groups on the world stage. Testament of this can be heard on the troupe’s previous trio of polygenesis albums: an untethered sound that simultaneously evokes Arabia, the Indian Subcontinent, Northern African, the Caribbean, South America and Balkans.

The troupe’s latest visionary songbook is a filmic panoramic beauty, no less worldly and stirring. The opening diaphanous spun ‘Su Jamfata’ encapsulates that perfectly; mirroring the group’s musical freedom and spiritual connection; lilting between a myriad of regions with stunning vocals that evoke both Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Saraba Sufiyana translates as “mystic utopia”, a title that epitomizes the group’s curiosity and respect for other cultures as they build a brave new sonic world of possibility. One that takes in all the dramas and woes of the current international crisis and the lamenting poetry of venerable hardship – the final quartet cycle of prayer and spiritual yearning, ‘My Heart My Home’, beautifully conveys a multitude of gospel and traditional religious plaint, ending on the stirring Hebrew field song ‘Shedemati’. Devotional music at its most captivating and entrancing. (DV)

Full review…


Rapsody ‘Eve’
(Jamla)




“An unflinching belief system sees off the ill-equipped not so much striking a chord as demolishing it with style” – RnV Sep 19



Certainly not short on confidence or ambition – second track ‘Cleo’ goes for self over Phil Collins’ most famous ode to lifeguards – this is good and sassy throughout from an emcee going from strength to strength. ‘Eve’ = education, verbs, entertainment, dovetailing with the knowledge and understanding of Sa-Roc and the fearlessness of Rah Digga. “To be more than a woman now comes with some ties” – but digging in and challenging the status quo is all Rapsody knows, not by just saying that women on the mic aren’t going quietly, but you should know that they’ve always been putting in work. Every track is named after an influential female figure (‘Oprah’, ‘Serena’), and 9th Wonder’s lion’s share of production is a direct reflection of the orator – wise, feisty, a savant of pure hip-hop’s nuts and bolts, playful, and able to take on anyone on away turf. A safe pair of hands for the artform’s future that’s celebratory, but adamantly not cutting corners. (MO)


Ras Kass ‘Soul on Ice 2’
(Mello Music Group)




“In the mood for a high score body count, maximising velocity on every single word as if it’s his last” – RnV Sep 19





If you’re fake, wack or simply don’t measure up to his standards, eternal underdog Ras Kass will call you on it, the ‘sequel’ to 1995’s Soul On Ice roaring out the traps with two opening cuts that should soundtrack summits and state of emergency think tanks. In a way the phony stasis of hip-hop should keep up its shoddy work – it’s all ammunition for the West Coaster to dismantle and hopefully reroute some career paths. More than just a battler to the death doling out deliciously vindictive punchlines, the world in its entirety is made to wobble on its axis once Ras has got stuck into society as well: again, thank God life is hurtling towards hell in a handbasket, so Ras can take its photo like an end of rollercoaster insta-snap. His knowledge of album flow and addition of prestige guests, plus production that 1) makes Ras flip his lid and 2) makes him even more potent when reducing the heat…how many more warnings do you need? Go get. (MO)


Royal Trux ‘White Stuff’
(Fat Possum Records)







Royal Trux has returned without great proclamations and arrogance, to put themselves to the test with a music scene completely revolutionized since the early 90s. The duo have maintained the avant-garde drive and the desire to be something else, completely different from whatever the word Rock means today, because even if important projects such as The War On Drugs, The National or others are easily indicated in one vein, the Royal Trux remain other, but not only in terms of sound, their choice is an aptitude that deeply distances the duo from any other band.

Twin Infinities (1990) could be a good problem, such a monumental work of historical impact can lead to comparisons, further comparisons, but in the end an album like White Stuff also touches important peaks in songs like ‘Sic Em Slow’ or ‘Under Ice’. The psychedelic progression is preponderant in tracks like ‘Purple Audacity #2’, and the dreamlike wandering that lasted about 20 years offers a solid and iconic cue. Hagerty and Herrema show that they can complete themselves extensively, but above all they can make up for each other at the limits of the other, hiding personal and non personal smears and imperfections: it’s clear that the tumultuous journey that ended in 2001 is an example of what it means to complete, wander and start again. (GM)

Full review…


S………………

Sad Man ‘Untitled Album’ ‘Indigenous & Indigenous 2’







Haphazardly prolific, Andrew Spackman, under the plaint alter ego of the Sad Man, improves with every release he puts out. Included yet again in the choice features, a trio of releases from 2019 cement a growing reputation for pushing the electronic music envelope. Still on the peripheral, Spackman has been working like a boffin from his shed, building the homemade musical contraptions that form the base of his loony and radical deconstructions for years.

Perhaps coming near to his most perfect album yet, Untitled is a full spread of cosmic techno imbued and ridiculous pottering’s, debris, flotsam and more celestial dancefloor goers. The Indigenous moiety of releases however further muddies the waters, as Spackman’s improvised mixes of his own tracks go into jazzier, tribal and skittish realms of unpredictability. All three are worthy of your attention.  (DV)


Sampa the Great ‘The Return’
(Ninja Tune)




“A debut to have critics clamouring” – RnV Aug 19





Brought to the fore by the fantastic front foot funk of Final Form, The Return is an event calling the shots as to which top 10s it’ll occupy in the year’s retrospectives. Culturally rich, musically articulate and ambitious, and with a rhymer fighting for every movement and inch of space with a heavy side of attitude blowing bubblegum bombs, The Great one carves out a singular mic presence. The album’s extended length turns the Aussie-based sovereign’s debut into act-by-act theatre, full of moving parts and motifs in shifting through global soul and jazz, always evolving and with twists, turns and exclamation points to jolt you from you wind down and settle you back down from a vicious dancefloor circle. These variations mean that even if your powers of endurance aren’t up to much, you can still make two or three separate playlists from the styles she assimilates and owns, including the crowns previously held by Hill and Badu. (MO)


SAULT ‘5’ and ‘7’
(Forever Living Originals)








Knowing next to nothing about this limbered band of no wave funk ravers, I completely came across this release by chance. SAULT has released two albums of similar sassy ESG meets Liquid Liquid buffalo girls hopscotch this year; the sound of New York, an 1980s one I admit, but they have given it a touch of the contemporary to make it once more dynamically and soundly relevant and alive.

There’s nothing in it really, both albums are equally class in merging political funk with post punk, Annie, R&B, early Hip-Hop and neo-soul to infectious heights of both smooth and elasticated contorting. Buy both. (DV)


Seba Kaapstad ‘Thina’
(Mello Music Group)







Soulfully churning a cornucopia of intricate but organic kinetics and beatific yearnings, the polygenesis Seba Kaapstad create a beautiful cosmology on the sumptuous Thina. Capturing the moment and mood with the most meandrous and softened of diaphanous deliveries, they merge R&B with jazz, hip-hop with neo-soul to forge a seamless celestial and spiritual imbued traverse. Joyful and lamentable in equal measures, Seba Kaapstad lushly reaches dizzying heights on this magically sophisticated bowed, arching, liquid soundtrack. (DV)


Silver Sound Explosion ‘Pop Dithyramp’







Hooray the Silver Sound Explosion is back together after splitting about six or seven years ago. They were and are a wonderful band from the Manchester area. They recorded many demos that make up this their debut LP. And after much encouragement and prompting by myself, they have finally released it.

They’re led by Ben Fuzz, one of those songwriters who has soaked up the spirit and history of Rock N roll and releases the spirit in finely written pop songs that take in 60s pop, garage rock, late seventies power pop and the post punk 80s indie, and mesh it all together to make the most perfect pop imaginable.

You will be hard pressed to find a better debut LP this year; an LP that deserves much more than a small scale release on the bands band camp: creeping out without any fanfare. And it is a pay what you want to download release at that. So what you waiting for?! Fill your winklepickers. A true undiscovered gem that needs discovering. (Brain ‘Bordello’ Shea)


Širom ‘A Universe That Roasts Blossoms For A Horse’
(tak:til/Glitterbeat)







Channeling the varied topography of their respective parts of the Slovenian landscape via a kitchen table of both recognizable instrumentation and found assemblage (everything including the kitchen sink and water tank), the Širom trio of Iztok Koren, Ana Kravanja and Samo Kutin create another vivid album of dream realism with their second LP, A Universe That Roasts Blossoms For A Horse. Inspired by this environment yet ambiguous, they float across the borders to evoke a certain mystery and yearn to create something new. In so doing, they’ve coined the term ‘imaginary folk’ to describe their amorphous blending of geographical evocations and echoed fables.

From the Mongolian Steppes to sorrows of East Europe and the hints of the Appalachians and Sumatra, Širom draw inspiration – whether intentional or not – from a fecund of sources; the Slovenian backdrop melting into a polygenesis mirage. With this spiritual, ritual, dreamy longing for a kaleidoscope of real and imaginary cultures the trio’s second album for the Glitterbeat label’s instrumental imprint tak:til is as poetically wondrous as it is (sometimes) supernatural and otherworldly. An alternative folk fantasy imbued in part by the hard won geography, Širom once more wander unafraid across an ever-ambiguous musical cartography that (almost) fulfills their wish to produce something unique: A soundtrack of infinite possibilities. (DV)

Full review…


Snapped Ankles ‘Stunning Luxury’







The whirring and exciting sounds of post punk circa 2019 coming at you like a extravagant wholemeal piece of chiffon scarred alternative disco meat; the sound of Devo fucking the brains and beats out of the B52s whilst the horny ghost of Mark E Smith watches on making cutting asides whilst stomping on the hopes and dreams of the not yet born love child of David Byrne and Lena Lovich.

Stunning Luxury is dirty, it is funky, it is experimental, it is blistering rock ‘n’ roll. (BBS)

Full review…


Stereo Total ‘Ah! Que! Cinema’







This LP is bloody genius. Any LP that kicks off with a track that sounds like The Prodigy but played on a Bontempi organ is not going to go very wrong, and then carries on with the pure blissfulness of French lo-fi garage pop.

This LP is so good it has pissed me off a little. I thought I’d made the album of the year with the Bordello and Clark Atlantic Crossing LP, but this has knocked it into a cocked hat. But I don’t mind, especially when there are bands capable of making records of such beauty; when bands can come on like Stereolab one minute and a French Velvet Underground the next – ‘Brazil Says’ is a track worthy of the Velvets at their finest: pure pop heaven.

I think the playing of Ah! Quel Cinema may become a daily event this year; an LP to lose yourself in the pure beauty of perfect lo fi pop. (BBS)

Full review…


SUO ‘Dancing Spots And Dungeons’
(Stolen Body Records)





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

Full review…


T………………

The Telescopes ‘Exploding Head Syndrome’







There is no place like drone, well not at least if you are a member of The Telescopes: Just over thirty minutes of top class dronery, not something I normally spend my Friday evenings listening to but as they say a change is as good as a rest.

If this LP were a debut album by some young new psychsters they would be being raved about and hailed to the rafters as the second coming, the next new big thing. I hope the same platitudes are heaved onto this wonderful LP by this wonderful band, as it really has taken me by surprise how much I love it and I feel guilty in not expecting to like it. For that The Telescopes I offer my humble apologies you have indeed blown my head. (BBS)

 Full review…


Thirty Pounds Of Bone and Philip Reeder ‘Still Every Year They Went’
(Armellodie Records)







This is a bewitching LP of old sea shanties recorded on a working fishing boat at sea; a wonderful idea and quite stunningly performed. There is a beauty in the loftiness which captures the dark magic romance of the sea and also keeps alive some quite genius beautiful old folk songs.

Acoustic guitars blend beautifully with the sound of crashing waves and sea birds weaving a spellbinding web of sound. In this day and age of here-today- thrown-away-tomorrow it makes more than a refreshing change to hear a album that you will keep and play and be a mainstay in your music collection for the rest of your days: a truly beautiful collection. (BBS)

Full review…


Toxic Chicken ‘Uncomfortable Music’







This LP has everything that I love about the magic and joy of music. It has humour and a madness that at times reminds me of the great Syd Barrett and the wonderful White Noise Electric Storm LP. It is eccentric pushed to the extreme. Songs with the subject matter of eating politicians and love songs for cats and for Mother Nature and what is bad about England, but that track only being under two minutes long does not quite manage to list everything.

Uncomfortable Music is certainly an enjoyable and rewarding listening experience, and at times, the subject matter does live up to its title. But this album is a pay-what-you-want to download, so is well worth a listen. Another great album from a great artist: And I mean artist. And the track ‘Little Snail’ is the best dance track I have heard all year. (BBS)

Full review…


Owen Tromans ‘Between Stones’
(Sacred Geometry)







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

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

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

Full review…


Trupa Trupa ‘Of The Sun’
(Glitterbeat Records)







Freshly signing over to the German-based label Glitterbeat, the multi-limbed quartet play off gnarling propulsive post-punk menace and tumult with echo-y falsetto despondent vocals and hymnal rock on their fifth album, Of The Sun. Feeding into the history of their regularly fought-over home city, Gdansk, Trupa Trupa create a monster of an album steeped in psychodrama, dream revelation and hypnotic industrialism.

A sinewy, pendulous embodiment of their Polish city environment and metaphysical philosophy, Trupa Trupa write “songs about extremes”, but use an often ambiguous lyrical message when doing it: usually a repeated like poetic mantra rather than charged protest. On one of those framed “extremes”, the wrangling guitar-heavy post-punk-meets-80s-Aussie-new-wave ‘Remainder’ sounds like Swans covering The Church, as the group repeat the refrain, “Well, it did not take place.”

 The PR spill that accompanies this nihilistic-with-a-heart LP is right to state, “Of The Sun is an unbroken string of hits.” There are no fillers, no let-up in the quality and restless friction, each track could exist as a separate showcase for the group’s dynamism: a single. East European, Baltic facing, lean post-punk mixes it up in the Gdansk backstreets and harbor with spasmodic-jazz, baggy, math-rock, psych, doom and choir practice as this coiled quartet deliver an angst-ridden damnation of humanity in 2019. (DV)

Full review…


U……………….

Uncommon Nasa & Kount Fif ‘City as School’
(Man Bites Dog)




“Blockbuster burners laid end to end as outlaws of the corridors, “trust the process, avoid the nonsense” at all costs” – RnV Nov 19





If Uncommon Nasa and Kount Fif were headmasters, the pep rally would be a Deftones meltdown and the Ofsted inspection would get ‘Funcrusher Plus’, ‘The Cold Vein’, ‘The Multi Platinum Debut Album’ etc straight on the syllabus. Blocky, rocking beats, rhymes that hang with a critical pause and judder across the page for greatest impact, b-boys and backpackers and headbangers all in the same corner…City as School gives hope as to what the underground can still be. By mining the last great boundary and perspective shift from the mid to late 90s, its drum machines and steel rain synth sweeps also sound like a comic book metropolis to sink yourself in, and its New York influence replicates there being so much to take in amidst a battery of dazzling lights, but with something always rumbling in the sewers. “History don’t repeat, it rhymes” is Nasa & Fif’s ‘O Captain My Captain’ call to arms – class not to be dismissed. (MO)


The Untied Knot ‘Falling Off The Evolutionary Ladder’
(Sonic Imperfections)







Imbued with a sense of scientific methodology and monocular dissection, the experimental United Knot duo of Nigel Bryant and Matt Donovan attempt once more to sonically convey the wonders and enormity and chaos of the universe on Falling Off The Evolutionary Ladder.

With both band members serving a variation of roles in the improvisational and electronic music fields, Bryant and Donovan have all the experience and skills needed to create something that is refreshingly dynamic as it is ponderous. Playing hard and loose with a myriad of influences, Donovan’s constantly progressive drum rolls, tribal patters, cymbal burnishes and more skipping jazzy fills recall Faust’s Weiner ‘Zappi’ Diermaier and Guru Guru’s Mani Neumeier, whilst surprisingly, on the late 60s West Coast rock experiment ‘Rhythm From Three Intervals’ a touch of Mick Fleetwood. Meanwhile, Bryant, on both bass and atonal guitar duties (both also share the synth), channels Ax Genrich, Jah Wobble and Youth.

On what could be the duo’s, in this incarnation, last furore together, the Untied Knot sound far from weary and burnt-out: going out on a high. They stretch their influences with improvised skill and depth, a buzz saw, scrawling caustic but investigative soundtrack for the times. (DV)

Full review…


V………………….

Vampire Weekend ‘Father of The Bride’
(Columbia Records)





Vampire Weekend sings on Father of The Bride, of a humanity that lives on a suffering planet. The album is, however, an opportunity to subvert a catastrophic narrative and, in fact, throughout the work, it raises, through a series of pop melodies perfectly designed by Ezra Koenig and his companions, an aura of incredible positivity. Vampire Weekend give their best in songs like ‘Married In a Gold Rush’ or ‘Jerusalem, New York, Berlin’, which through a dialogue between various piano chords draws a line that links stories, eras and ideas, not only in music but also in politics. The key to the album is the story of a humanity that, on the brink of a catastrophe, finds the right coordinates to find itself, to be reborn.

The Vampire Weekend in each of the 18 tracks try to deconstruct, both conceptually and semantically, the idea of an end in itself chaos applied to the world. The essence of the poetic and tragic paradox of life itself is sung in ‘Harmony Hall’: “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die”.

Vampire’s songs always show an ethereal shine, this characteristic has always been fundamental for their clear and absolutely unique songwriting. The culture in which Ezra & co are immersed is a melting pot functional to the construction of a strong identity, and that in a few years has also established itself in the live dimension of the band. The album plays with the tragic and stimulating oppositions of contemporary society, confronts itself with the cultural and technological change that pushes all of us to a deeper analysis, which also touches on issues such as faith and the mystery of humanity.

Ezra Koenig is a pop-priest, but he doesn’t need to draw moral conclusions, he simply points to a new way to tell us the tales of the world.

Exactly in this set of meanings and themes moves this band that, in recent years, has shown to be a multifaceted reality but perfect.

The strength is all in the centered ability to develop a story, an idea and a vision of the world that is transformed into storytelling that speaks and is combined with the present. (GM)


Verb T & Pitch 92 ‘A Question of Time’
(High Focus)




“Grown man hip-hop in the business of casual downtime – will see off those that can’t handle ‘Time’ on their hands” – RnV Sep 19





One of the UK’s great unflinching voices – get all up in his grill and he won’t bat an eyelid, just deconstruct you with a slight shrug – teams with a producer becoming a fixture on the phones of homegrown hip-hop’s best and brightest. A muscular sound full of fluid funk melodies, dimming the lights before snapping out of it with Mobb Deep levels of hectic on ‘Frostbitten’, is glided over by modern life manifestos with the usual one-take snap that could go back to chatting at the bar at any moment. This is the 14th+ album Verb T has put his name to in a remarkably consistent run, but there’s much more to simply knowing what you’re gonna get. He won’t be starting anything stupid, but has formed yet another partnership of strong potential when in cahoots with someone who sounds like he’s tracked his partner’s every move for the whole of the noughties (also see Pitch 92’s ‘3rd Culture’ collaboration from this year). Beats and rhymes not to be questioned. (MO)


Vukovar ‘Cremator’
(Other Voices Records)







In a constant state of erratic flux, you never know which particular inception of Vukovar will show up when the time comes to laying down their brand of hermetic imbued visions for posterity, the only constant being de facto avatar, whether anyone agreed or not to this appointment, Rick Antonsson.

Suffused with disillusion, as they row across a veiled River Styx (or in this case, as alluded to in the yearning slow junk ride over the lapping black waves of tortured cries of ‘The River Of Three Crossings’, the Japanese Buddhist version of that mythological destination), Vukovar and converts add more fuel to a bonfire of vanities to an overall sound that reimagines Bernard Summer as the frontman of a Arthur Baker produced Jesus And Mary Chain.

Though always wearing their influences on their sleeves, there’s also this time around a trio of cover versions, both obvious and more obscure. These include a despondent if scuzzed growling bass with radiant synth live version of the Go-Betweens ‘Dive For Your Memory’, a cooed ethereal voiced dreamy, with phaser-effects set to stun, diaphanous vision of Psychic TV’s ‘The Orchids’, and, most poignant, a gauze-y heaven-bound ghostly homage (complete with Hebrew vocals) to the late Tel Aviv cowboy Charlie Megira, on the hymnal ‘Tomorrow’s Gone’.

Cremator is a death knell; the end of one era and setting in motion of a new chapter: whatever that ends up looking or sounding like. It just happens that they’ve bowed out in style with, perhaps, the original lineup (of a sort) most brooding masterpiece yet. Long may they continue, in one form or another. (DV)

 Full review…


W…………………..

White Fence ‘I Have To Feed Larry’s Hawk’







The unassuming maverick artist Tim Presley paints outside the lines; his idiosyncratic applied coloring-in like a double vision of kaleidoscopic floating blurriness. Deeply felt yet softened and often languid in practice, Presley’s off-kilter musings blend lo fi psychedelia with quirky troubadour sadness, jilting punk, library music, and early analogue synthesized music, and on this latest album of sweetened, hazy malady, the Kosmische to create the most dreamy of soft bulletins.

Amorphously wafting between the bucolic and tragic psychedelic whimsy of England, the Warm Jets era of Eno, the fragility lament of Nilsson and the cerebral lurch of The Swell Maps, Richard Hell and David Byrne, Presley’s bendy vulnerabilities sound understated and lo fi but dream big. The title-track, with postmodernist élan, embodies this spirit perfectly, merging the magical if unsure twinkle of Willy Wonka with Pete Dello, Syd Barrett and a slacker Ray Davis. Suffused venerable organs, monastery-like intonations, and the lightest of washes all sit well with the gangly disjointed lolloping guitars and the woozy drug-induced new wave rock’n’roll longing of such tragic mavericks as Johnny Thunders, who Presley dreamt appeared before him, from beyond the grave, with a message of encouragement: “To be honest and simple”.

Tethering a multitude of ideas and influences to something more concrete and solid can’t have been easy, but I Have To Feed Larry’s Hawk captures those blurred reimaging’s within the amorphous boundaries of a successful off-kilter album of dreamy magnificence and wonky indulgences. (DV)

Full review…


Y……………………

Your Old Droog ‘Transportation’
(Mongoloid Banks)





“The smoothest source of scornful, so-what couplets and eyewitness accounts” – RnV May 19




An end of year round up in itself given that Droog release two more stellar albums within months of one another, Transportation edges out the prior It Wasn’t Even Close (though just buy both and be done with it) on account of its vaguely attached vehicular theme (see the ad campaign-in-waiting ‘Taxi’). Otherwise it’s Droog groundhog day: punchlines to pull faces to, and that ever pleasingly natural delivery that for all its cheek-pinching aggression is like a serene countryside commute, while a batch of funk, soul and psych rock rifles gambol and prance (YOD doesn’t seem to have a natural habitat beats-wise, everything’s fair game to get taken). Also housing a bunch of sampled misfits, the kind of which you’d only meet on the night train or on the highway with their thumbs out, ‘My Plane’, including the most straightforwardly effective dis on everyone, and ‘Train Love’ smooth it out with a knowing nod, still creating an expressive world as easy on the eye as the ear. (MO)


Yugen Blakrok ‘Anima Mysterium’
(IOT)




“Prophecies and riddles raining down like an RPG sherpa, where you best take the right path or else” – RnV Jan 19





Hip-hop has a long, varied and invariably inaccurate relationship with the scientific and forces of another nature. On Anima Mysterium, South Africa’s Yugen Blakrok pulls back the curtain to her own vision of Alice in Wonderland, a grimly relentless world of full moon theoreticals, secret handshakes and rune-patterned combination locks to burial ground gates. Karma is looking bad, and believable, with this one. With her expressive doom-mongering, Kanif the Jhatmaster’s 50 shades of black production is as big a trigger for imaginations running wild, leaving you fearful as to what’s not being revealed, intimation and presence of blank gaps as powerful as revealing truths by torch light. Which brings up another premise – Yugen, delivering parables like she herself is being subjected to some sort of mind control. You’ll be hard pressed to find an album from the last 12 months that sounds like anything like this one: umpteen rewinds later and you’ll still only be half way towards the truth. (MO)

album of 2019 part one - monolith cocktail


Choice Albums of 2019 Part One: A Journey Of Giraffes to Adam Green


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. We also hate separating genres and so everybody in these features, regardless of genre, location, shares the same space.

Void of points systems and voting, the Monolith Cocktail team selection is pretty transparent: just favourites and albums we all feel you, our audience, should check out. Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Gianluigi Marsibilio and Andrew C. Kidd made all of 2019’s selections.

Spread over three parts, the inaugural selection here runs from A to G, from A Journey Of Giraffes to the Adam Green. Part Two will run from H to P and Part Three from Q to Z.

A.

A Journey Of Giraffes ‘Hour Club’ & ‘Kona’









Two atmospherically evocative peaceable ambient suites from the brilliant lo fi maverick A Journey Of Giraffes (nom de plume for many years of the Baltimore composer John Lane) make this year’s ‘choice’ list. Released earlier in 2019, the Hour Club pushes Lane further than ever away from his previous Beach Boys homage experiments into both deeper, darker recesses and sweeping traverses. From Terry Riley to Sky Records, Hour Club is an often-magical soundtrack, with every track sharing a 7 minutes and 1 second rule.

The second album, Kona, an unassuming love letter to the iconic late Japanese composer Susumu Yokota, was premiered back on the Monolith Cocktail in August. Magically ruminating, offering both the beatific and uncertain, this pagoda dreamt fantasy is an exotic, sometimes ceremonial, Zen like album that evokes the Fourth World Possible Musics of Jon Hassell, Popol Vuh and the higher plain communal glistened zither transcendence of Laraaji. Quite possibly, Lane’s most realized, complete album yet. (Dominic Valvona)

Full review feature…

Aesop Rock & TOBACCO ‘Malibu Ken’
(Rhymesayers)




“Both happen upon a sharp splinter of hip-hop pitching to the left, but not way out left” – RnV Jan 19





Straight off the bat the gaudily sleeved Malibu Ken foresees a tough slog in store, given the respective running through brick walls of these decidedly non-plastic conspirators. Aesop Rock rhymes like a rebooted Max Headroom, TOBACCO activates at the moment where Rock starts glitching as synths home in on your VHS tracking button. Obviously it’s a jerky leftfield match made in heaven, primitive videogame set pieces overridden by one of the underground’s most enduring, levelling out bad trips but still very much needing these cracked, skeletal neon runways to assure his own navigation and empowerment. Take it as post-modern, post-Armageddon, welcome respite from the mainstream etc etc, or the faultless engineering of the technical and the broken, backwater flights of fancy and stranger than fiction truths jamming in a keyboard repair shop. (Matt Oliver)

Armstrong ‘Under Blue Skies’
(Country Mile Records)






Julian Pitt, aka Armstrong, is one of the finest songwriters to emerge from Wales in recent years: a man who has been blessed with the gift of melody that can be comparable to McCartney, Wilson and Jimmy Webb – Yes, he really is that good.

This is an expanded reissue of his first LP, which was originally released as a limited edition cdr, one that I played constantly. Thankfully it’s getting a much-deserved official re-release from The Beautiful Music label. I am so happy this great lost LP has finally got the release it deserves; it is no longer lost just simply Great, one of the finest pastoral pop LPs you will ever hear. (Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea)

Full review…


B..

Babybird ‘Photosynthesis’







What I love about Stephen Jones, aka Babybird, apart from his wonderful songwriting talent and his dark humor and his obvious love of music and its many genres, is that he has so much soul. He has so much love for music in fact that he makes music not just because he may make a decent living from it but because he has no choice, he has to make it like he has to breath to stay alive. He has to create music, create art, he has to experiment with the magic of melody and write such beautiful songs, and Photosynthesis is an LP full of dark beauty and such bloody good songs. A small dark masterpiece, a master class in songwriting. (BBS)

Full review…


Baileys Brown ‘Still Fresh’
(Potent Funk)




“Skimming the scummy but with buckets of fizz and a little soul stardust answering the title’s call, BB keeps the hottest point of the club within striking distance of a couch and headphones combo” – RnV Aug 19





Investing in a gang of absolute mic-snatching hoodlums, bringing the sort of posse cuts where you dial the first two nines in anticipation, just to be on the safe side, Baileys Brown swings the wrecking ball club-wards before looming as a quiet storm presence fuelling dark alley unease. His best work where you can’t see in front of your face – add damp air or a biting breeze for maximum effect – the raw basics of Still Fresh are more than enough for emcees to chow down on (Axel Holy, Datkid, Dabbla), while a certain juju drifts in and out as if it’s not just testosterone at work. Animal instinct floods from a group who have the trousers to go with the mouth (“yeah I’m talking shit, but you’re doing it without flow”); however, a soulful section towards the back end shows Brown can rise above the rough stuff, reaching out towards a bigger stage for something that shouldn’t be skipped on account of what’s gone before. (MO)


Bantou Mentale ‘ST’
(Glitterbeat Records)







A sizzle. A static shock, a charge that most importantly signals something is changing in the musical fabric; a signal of something dynamic but also something dangerous, a mirror image of the real world, the real refugee and migrant experience and chaos. Vivid and fresh being the optimum words as the Bantou Mentale vehicle shakes up the melting pot convergence of Paris’ infamous Chateau Rouge; addressing assumptions/presumptions about their native Democratic Republic of Congo home in the process. Not so much explosive, the electric quartet seem relaxed, even drifting as they channel the soul and spirit of cooperation; opening up aspects of the DRC culture and humility often lost or obscured in the noise of negativity – and the Congo has had more than its fair share of violence and tumult both pre and post Colonialism.

Kinshasa reloaded; Bantou Mentale is a thoroughly modern sonic vision of peaceful cross-border fraternization. Lingering traces of Jon Hassell & Eno, Radio Tarifa, UNCLE, TV On The Radio and even label mates Dirtmusic are absorbed into an electrified subterranean of frizzles, pylon-scratches and hustle-bustle. Above all, despite the subject matter, despite the polygenesis sonic hubbub this is a soulful soundtrack: cooperation ahead of fractious division and hostility. A more positive collaboration for a 21st century chaos. (DV)

Full review…

Bathtub Gin Band ‘From The Old Navy Club’







The Bathtub Gin Band are a duo from my hometown of St Helens, and this there debut LP. A mini LP in fact, recorded live in a local studio, just acoustic guitar and drums and fine songwriting; the sound of two talented musicians enjoying themselves; an LP that recalls the sound of the Liverpool bandwagon club of the early noughties; quickly strummed guitar ragtime blues telling tales of drunken nights out and failed romantic adventures, an album to listen to as you are getting ready for a wild night out or after you have staggered in after one.

Beautifully written and crafted with well-arranged songs performed with verve and vigor, From The Old Navy Club is another little gem for 2019… (BBS)

Full review…


Blu & Oh No ‘A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night’
(Nature Sounds)




“A mosey across the West Coast to capture the hustles and bustle as a frontline tour guide mapping out all the no-go areas and places to tap into local electricity” – RnV Mar 19




Drawing on both the energy of the locale and when that red mist begins its descent (‘Pop Shots’ feeling the heat to the point of delusion), there’s Blu, unafraid of foregoing any sort of word association for the sake of putting a brick on the accelerator out of Thunderdome – sometimes straight talking will only do when the stakes are high. Then there’s Oh No, performing funky wheelspins between cruising and hot pursuit, capturing all the glamour, glitz, hustle and insanity the City of Angels calls everyday. The pair switch career mode from local big timers to chancers seeing how far their luck will stretch, and A Long Red Hot… is one of the year’s coolest releases; find somewhere where it’s 96 degrees in the shade before throwing on loud, sequenced to directorial perfection so the highs, lows and inbetweens form a logical thread, and where the action-packed comes with composure remaining everything. (MO)


Blue House ‘Gobstopper’
(Faith And Industry)







The fruits of two-years labour, James Howard’s (aka Thomas Nation) latest appearance as principle writer is with the Blue House collaboration; a group that boosts the talents of Ursula Russell (drumming for the brilliant Snapped Ankle, and soon to release music under the Ursa Major Moving Group), Dimitrios Ntontis (film composer and member of a host of bands including Pre Goblin) and Capitol K (the nom de plume of the ever-in-demand star producer Kristian Craig Robinson). Following up on the group’s 2016 acclaimed Suppose LP with another rich mellow empirical state-of-the-nation address, the Blue House’s Gobstopper is suffused with a languid disdain, as they drift through the archetypal bleak waiting rooms of nostalgia and the limbo of benefit Britain.

Gently stunning throughout with hues of a gauze-y Kinks, a less nasal Lennon, a more wistful Bowie and woozy Stereolab, Howard and friends perform a disarming mini opus that soaks up the forlorn stench of an out-of-season postcard seaside pub, air-conditioned gyms and quaint English motorways – ‘Accelerate’ in name only, the speed and candour of a hitched-up caravan that’s more ambling (with the radio dial set to Fleetwood Mac bounce) than autobahn motorik futurism. (DV)

Full review…

Boa Morte ‘Before There Was Air’
(Gare du Nord)







The understated majestic swells of the Irish band Boa Morte don’t come easy, or arrive regularly. Only the band’s third album proper in twenty years, the misty expansive mini-opuses found on the long awaited Before There Was Air are like gentle but deeply resonating ripples from a distant shore. Slow, methodical, every second of these air-y hushed suites moves at a stately pace: in no hurry to arrive, with many of the beautifully purposeful songs disappearing into the ether, out of earshot but forever lingering.

A finely crafted sweeping album Before There Was Air exudes a timeless quality; one that by all accounts has been well worth the wait. (DV)

Full review…

Simon Bonney ‘Past, Present, Future’
(Mute)







Arguably one of the great voices of Australian music over the last four decades, Simon Bonney is nothing if not proficient in taking hiatuses. Emerging from just the most recent one, five years after the release of the last Crime And The City Solution opus American Twilight – itself, the first album by the iconic alienated nihilists turn beatific augurs of country-doom in twenty years -, and twenty-odd years since the shelving of his third solo LP Eyes Of Blue, Bonney has made a welcome return to the musical fold.

Prompted by the decision of Mute Records to facilitate the release of that fabled last solo songbook, the Past, Present, Future collection is both a reminder, featuring as it does tracks from both the 1992 Forever and 1994 Everyman albums, and showcase for six previously unreleased tracks from Eyes Of Blue.

Not new material but a catalyst for projects going forward, this solo collection proves as prescient today as it did back then. Especially the beguiling cover turns homage (in light of Scott Walker’s passing) of the brooding maestro’s stately majestic lament to fading beauty and decadence, ‘Duchess’. Much of the Bonney songbook, delivered with earnest, deep timeless country-imbued veneration, aches, even worships, for a string of muses; an undying, unwavering love to both the unattainable and lost. One such elegiac object of such pathos-inspired yearning is Edgar Allan Poe’s famous ‘Annabelle Lee’ –the metaphorical lamentable figure of the Gothic polymath’s last poem -, who appears on both the eponymous and title tracks from Eyes OF Blue. Lovingly conveyed, even if it marks the death of that lady, it proves symmetry to the album’s profound poetic loss of influence, desire and alluring surface beauty of ‘Duchess’. Eyes Of Blue, which makes up half of this collection, follows on from the previous solo works perfectly. A touch deeper, even reverent perhaps, but every bit as bathed in country suffrage. Salvaged at long last, that lost album offers a closure of a kind. Proving however, to chime with the present, far from dated, this collection is a perfect finish to a great run of epic, though highly intimate, solo opuses; the songwriting as encapsulating and grandiose, earthy as you would expect. (DV)

Full review…

Aziza Brahim ‘Sahari’
(Glitterbeat Records)







Bringing the message of the displaced Saharawi people to the world stage, Western Saharan musician/activist Aziza Brahim follows up both her critically rewarded 2014 album Soutak, and the no less brilliant 2016 serene protest of poetic defiance Abbar el Hamada album with her third for Glitterbeat Records, Sahari.

Imbued as ever with the desert soul of that disputed region, the latest record, with its visual metaphor of optimism in even the most desperate of backdrops and times – dreams of growing up to be a ballerina proving universal – attempts to marry the beautifully longing and heartache yearns of Brahim’s voice to a number of different styles and rhythms: A subtle change towards the experimental. Imbued as ever with the desert soul of that disputed region, the latest record, with its visual metaphor of optimism in even the most desperate of backdrops and times – dreams of growing up to be a ballerina proving universal – attempts to marry the beautifully longing and heartache yearns of Brahim’s voice to a number of different styles and rhythms: A subtle change towards the experimental. Previous encounters have channeled the poetic roots of that heritage and merged it with both Arabian Spain and the lilted buoyancy of the Balearics. Working with the Spanish artist Amparo Sánchez of the band Amparanoia, Brahim has chosen to add a congruous subtle bed of synthesized effects to the recording process: before performing live in the studio, but now recording in various places, the results collected together and pieced together in post-production. This methodology and sound furnishes Brahim’s longing traditional voice with certain freshness and, sometimes, shuffled energy.

A most fantastic, poetic songbook that will further cement Brahim’s deserved reputation as one of the deserts most serene artists. (DV)

Full review…

Bronx Slang ‘Bronx Slang’
(Fabyl)




“Jerry Beeks and Miggs are more sages than saviours, proving you don’t have to settle for what’s supposedly trending. Proper hip-hop citizenship” – RnV Feb 19




Golden era restoration, true school appreciation…so many attempt to recreate/pay respects to hip-hop’s glory days but often overcook it to the point of self-neutering. Nothing of the sort applies here: Bronx Slang press home the pervading advantage (if you can call it that) of volatile politics, loud and clear messaging deriding the powers that be without resorting to playground tactics. Miggs and Jerry Beeks also know they’re in the entertainment business (‘Well Well Well’ > 50 Cent’s ‘21 Questions’/How to Rob’, Jadakiss’ ‘Why?’), and the baritone-midrange contrast frames the all-important dynamic duo telepathy, catching last breaths should anyone step to them. A box fresh success…and this is before the dirty little secret of the downtown funk hustles being hatched by two UK ringers: one-time big beat ne’er-do-well Jadell, assisted by fellow frat partier and bass house dabbler Fake Blood. Proof therefore of 90s boom bap as international language slash Holy Grail. (MO)


Danny Brown ‘uknowwhatimsayin”
(Warp)




“Still coming through loud, clear and uncouth” – RnV Oct 19



A slight tweak to the Danny Brown experience doesn’t make him any less of a livewire. Q-Tip as executive producer is not an invitation to keep his new, freshly coiffured muse in check, and despite a slightly exploratory start sonically, it’s the same old Danny boy keeping the spirit of ODB alive, quickly into his shit-chatting rhythm and proving that emperor’s new clothes do not make the man. Whether he’d enjoy being tagged as more well-rounded (rather than versatile – Brown’s mind remains pretty much one track in its own strain of ADHD that never misses a beat), the likes of ‘Belly of the Beast’ and the title track pull him in different directions but have that up-to-no-good personality keeping the peace, though he’s a smoother operator than you’d probably give credit for. Short but sweet, like a high sugar soda hit, and still highly strung, but hey – that’s entertainment. (MO)


C…

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ‘Ghosteen’





We knew it would come but not when; Nick Cave’s moving concept elegy Ghosteen articulates both the grief and coming-to-terms of the loss of his son Arthur in 2015. And so this often striking, if lamenting, and beautifully poised opus arrives four years later with grandiose expectations.

Often conflicted, Cave articulates despair to a bared atmospheric led Bad Seeds soundtrack of vivid and poetic images and feelings. With a tonal backing of choirs, the afflatus Kosmische of Roedelius and touches of The Boatman’s Call, Ghosteen is a mournful work of pulchritude and grief. It’s also perhaps one of Cave’s best albums in decades. (DV)

Choosey & Exile ‘Black Beans’
(Dirty Science)




“The comforts of soulful Cali ear butter, and rhymes of a valued familiarity, eye a top 10 spot come the end of the year” – RnV Mar 19




“Come and get your soul food”, a wise band once said. Treating Black Beans as an album that brings the family together around the record player, though it’s just as strong as an edutainment pursuit with headphones and your own private enclave, Choosey and Exile are the master cross-section of warm, good-old-days idealism and a voice providing revisions to nostalgia, telling the fuzzy feelings to sit up straight and tucking you in without forgetting that in love and life there’s always a moral to the story. Aloe Blacc’s deployment to send spines shivering on the all-seasons champ ‘Low Low’ is a masterstroke, the blues and soul source material carefully sifted and restored so that heads are set to thinking that maybe, everything is gonna be alright, pausing today’s mile-a-minute trends and attitudes. Grooves and truths set to soothe and move you. (MO)

Clipping ‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’
(Sub Pop)




“Where no-one can hear you scream in space until its engine room sucks you in and spits you out” – RnV Oct 19




‘Nothing is Safe’, ‘He Dead’, ‘Run for Your Life’, ‘All in Your Head’…there’s nothing like a cult Clipping cakewalk leaving you gasping for breath. Holographic rhymes and reedy synth beats programmed like a doomed ignition sequence, whose sometimes beatlessness is replaced by wailing walls of surround sound hell and empty, nervous atmospherics, it’s the perfect deployment of the textbook pincer movement, peering stealthily around corners before letting the autofire get open until one great ball of fire engulfs everything. Crew commander Daveed Diggs plays on the edge of rogue Andre3000 operative with ambitions of hero decoration, and as blood both pumps and runs cold, the LA crew still manage to get street lifers Elcamino, Benny the Butcher and La Chat to buy into the mission of a burnt out future – game recognise game. Forget West Coast low-riders, these are the men who fell to earth: you’re pleased they just about survived to tell the tale, and something tells you they’d do it all over again, for club and country. (MO)

Cosmic Range ‘The Gratitude Principle’







Guided by Toronto based everyman Matthew “Doc” Dunn the multi-limbed super-group collective of faces from the city’s most recent creative rise to prominence follow up their 2016 polygenesis New Latitudes debut with more of the same: Spotted dabbed slinking sexy spiritual jazz, flute-y Orientalism, snuggling air-y saxophone, wallowing subterranean funk and primal scream therapy peregrinations.

The Gratitude Principle gathers together the Slim Twig’s raging, wild wah-wah licks, the experimental snozzles and spiraling wildly saxophone of Andy Haas, Isla Craig’s ethereal siren vocal and flute duties, Kieran Adams’ drums and tinkerings with electronics, Brandon Valdivia’s congas and percussion, and the keys of Mike “Muskox” Smith and Jonathan Adjemian in a sub-aquatic yearning union of free and Afro jazz and Krautrock. Another trip into the cerebral: a jam session of epic mapping. (DV)


D….

Jack Danz ‘TMIB’
(Blah)




“Entwining the concepts of lo-fi and low life and guaranteed to get under your skin…the voice of someone who’s seen too much but knows exactly what’s going on” – RnV May 19




With rhymes offered as a grunt through what sounds like a prison intercom, Leeds’ Jack Danz is an on-point example of making something cutting edge out of a squalid image – aka, the Blah battalions. Sawn off trap bass, rinky-dink riffs taking on a spectral/lost perspective, and Danz succumbing/thriving while up to his eyeballs, TMIB is the cold light of day after a dive of debauchery: ideal listening for a trashed hotel room or freshly decorated squat riddled with wrongdoing. Danz’ numbness to what are undeniably a set of head nodders (where everything else appears dead from the neck down), makes his flow both out-of-body and trudgingly destructive. If he happens to be in character, it’s a natural role, giving him an impenetrability that means few can answer back to him. Including the engineered ambiguity of the sleeve, this is high power stuff out of sobering surroundings, particularly as there’s definite vulnerability being shown by the album’s end. (MO)

Datkid ‘Confessions of a Crud Lord’
(High Focus)




“On his worst behaviour when ‘Confessions of a Crud Lord’ writes red-top headlines, Datkid bullies the beats of Leaf Dog until he’s administering toilet swirlies” – RnV Apr 19




Goaded by 16 South Westerly beats that’ll have you nodding your way into an MRI scan – your neighbours will love being trolled by the bottom ends – from the moment the word ‘Crud’ stinks the title out, Datkid has it all his own way. An ambassador for UK hip-hop’s rise of the footsoldier, this Bristol blitzkrieg bop is detailed with the confidence of someone thinking they can take on the whole pub and exit with barely a scratch. Suffice to say it’s a relentless baseball bat swing of not giving a monkeys, loving to pounce on out-of-towner weakness in a heartbeat, and whose purity of show and prove, go hard or go home, is enough for guests Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine and Roc Marciano to show support. Once upon a time this would’ve been slapped with an ASBO, but the Crud is strong with this one: “what’s the point of living if you’re just surviving” shows that Datkid really knows where it’s at. (MO)

Graham Domain ‘Fragments Of Light’
(Metal Postcard Records)







Graham Domain is an acquired taste I suppose. Why, I do not know as everyone needs some dark weird music in their drab lives, an ideal cross taste cannon submerge of Tom Waits, Bela Lugosi and Brian Cant naked massaging the tears out of a neglected and abused cabbage patch doll. Stray keyboard drifts beautifully over simple drum beats whilst duetting with the memory of a long lost lover’s memories of tasting your alcohol on her lips and tongue, the ghost of her naked form haunting the side of the bed that once belonged to her.

This mini album, as has been the other two Graham Domain releases this year, is a really must be heard LP that sadly are not being heard. Why, I really do not know. Maybe they are just too strange or just too emotional or simply people are not getting to know or hear about them. So if you are reading this review give it a listen and tell your friends. (BBS)


E…..

Callum Easter ‘Here Or Nowhere’
(Lost Map Records)







One of those dreamy disarming albums that creeps up on you, the Edinburgh-based Callum Easter’s poised and indolently profound debut, Here Or Nowhere, is a sparse affair of the heart. Often lyrically succinct, saying a lot with few words, Easter shifts tonally between the heavenly and more moody. Songs such as the South Seas charmed and swimmingly ‘Fall In Love’ offers the dreamy, whilst the enervated industrial strikes and gritty Scottish bur narration of ‘Fall Down’ offers something grittier.

After a late conversion to music, the self-taught afflatus voiced troubadour leaving a career in professional football behind him at the age of 21, Easter adopts a number of well-travil(ed) and dragged over musical influences. Somehow he makes them sound new, especially on the wonderful Southern echo-y bar room piano rock’n’roll blues hymnal ‘Only Sun’. There’s also a channeling of Charlie Megira, Alan Vega and The Legendary Stardust Cowboy on a range of beautifully poignant songs, and hints of a lot of 2000s Canadian and American indie.

Despite some of the wry mistrust and resigned despondency, Here Or Nowhere is a spiritual pop album suffused – for the main part – by choral angelics, reverent glissandos and a touch of the afflatus. It’s also an album of singles, with every track standing alone and separate in its own right away from the album as a whole: Nothing short of a marvelous alternative pop and gospel triumph. (DV)

Eerie Wanda ‘Pet Town’
(Joyful Noise Recordings)







The lost sounds of childhood summers, the finger clicking bliss of a Joe Meek hit, the beauty of the lost rainbow in an angels wish, this LP by Eerie Wanda makes me recall all this. Pet Town is a fine album indeed, at times it gives me the same feelings of joy I have when playing The Beach Boys much-underrated classic Friends; songs wrapped up in the power of the pureness in being alone.

This is simple in its beauty and the beauty is its simpleness, the vinyl etchings of acoustic nights wrapped in your ex’s arms soundtracked by a lovingly compiled mixtape of the Marine Girls and Holly Golightly’s softer moments.

Summing up, this is an LP to wrap around you to keep you warm in the coming winter months and the LP to play as you walk in the summer sun remembering how happy sad life can be. A stunner. (BBS)

Full review…

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble ‘Be Known Ancient/Future/Music’
(Spiritmuse Records)







From the doyen of the Chicago scene and alumni of that city’s famous hothouse of talent, the School of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, drummer/percussionist and bandleader Kahil El’Zabar is still exploring, still connecting five decades on from forming the spiritual jazz troupe Ethnic Heritage Ensemble.

Kahil and the current troupe of Corey Wilkes (trumpet), Alex Harding (baritone saxophone) and Ian Maksin (cello) together celebrate a prestigious 45-year career whilst also, and always, looking forward on the latest collection Be Known Ancient/Future/Music. Spanning live performances, recordings and even a track from the 2015 documentary that forms part of the title of this LP, Dwayne Johnson-Cochran’s exploration Be Known, the ensemble once more channel the ever-developing Chicago rhythm that has marked this city out for its unique, often raw, take on R&B, Soul, Dance Music and of course jazz.

Less cosmic than Sun Ra, and less out-of-the-park than the Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Kahil and the EHE tread a different path towards enlightenment; spreading the gospel of positive Afrocentric jazz to ever more dizzying and entrancing heights. Spiritual music with a message doesn’t come much better than this, the EHE showing no signs of waning after 45 years in the business. I’m off to hunt down and digest that lengthy cannon now and suggest you do too. (DV)

Full review…


F……

Frog ‘Count Bateman’
(Audio Antihero/Tape Wormies)







Frog are a kiosk by the sea, on a suburban beach. The essence of their work is gathered in a search for intimacy that is expressed in DIY and lo-fi passages; a very successful sound universe touched by Bon Iver, Daniel Johnston and other such sacred monsters. Their flame is lit on Count Bateman.

The new album in fact captures the peak of a clear path and placed lo-fi sound. The interweaving of stories on this record are a safe place that puts us at peace and in dialogue with the idea of Frog’s music.

Frog are like Matisse, painters of windows and fixtures that open in an expanse of neighborhoods, cities and stories. Count Bateman is an open window from which air enters and often there is also a hurricane breeze; in fact the second part of the record is full of unusual sounds and more driven, electronically, for the duo. (Gianluigi Marsibilio)

Full review…


G…….

Mike Gale ‘Summer Deluxe’







Escaping the short days and dreary dampness of an English winter, the Hampshire-based polymath Mike Gale (notable for his work with the Americana imbued Co-Pilgrim) suns himself in the dappled rays of lilted surf pop on his new solo album, Summer Deluxe.

Liberally splashing about in the efflux surf of The Beach Boys the much-prolific Gale (this is his fifth album alone in just five years) hides a certain sorrow, longing and yearn under the most colorful and dreamy of melodious harmonies.

Dazed and hazy, a hushed mirage of summer, the leaf-turning breeze of autumn is never far away, its arrival denoting all the connotations and metaphors you’d expect, that fleeting optimism of the summer masks and makes all our woes seem far less burdening. Summer Deluxe is swimmingly brilliant in its indie slacker charm with hints of Sparklehorse, Animal Collective and McCartney; a scion indeed of that Beach Boys spirit. (DV)

Full review…

Nicolas Gaunin ‘Noa Noa Noa’
(Hive Mind Records)







This is included because it sounds unlike anything else I’ve listened to in 2019. Originally put out in 2018 on the obscure Artetetra Records label, Nicola Sanguin, under his barely concealed appellation alter ego Nicolas Gaunin, strange exotic minimalist Noa Noa Noa LP has found a new home on the Brighton-based imprint Hive Mind.

With vague hints of Krautrock legends Embryo’s more percussive experiments in Africa, the dreamy mysterious invocations of Le Mystere Jazz de Tumbautau, Radio Tarifa, Ethno-jazz at its most untethered and Analogue Bubblebath era Richard James, Sanguin’s fantastical experiments mix vague sounds of thumb-piano, Serengeti and jungle wildlife, bamboo glockenspiel, clacking wooden and bass-heavy hand drums and nuanced workshop Techno.

Noa Noa Noa is indeed a thing of curious evocation; a searing balmy transduced soundtrack worth investigating.

Full review…

Gawd Status ‘Firmamentum’
(Tru Thoughts)




“Militant pride that’ll uproot those sitting on the fence, it’s a saga that must run and run. Absolutely boomin’” – RnV May 19



When the Big Bang wiped everything out first time around, Gawd Status saw it as an opportunity, in which Kashmere’s Strange U spaceship nosedives into the jungle, moondust dementia still sputtering from its exhaust, and Joker Starr swaps the battle arena for the cannibalistic, kill or be killed lawlessness of the Firmamentum outback. The Gawd Status is a complicated one, seriously heavy at a skinflint eight tracks long (even in the current age of artists finally getting album length right, 28 minutes is a bit of a choker), fiercely standing up for itself in articulation of black rage and examination of conspiracy theories, and revelling in The Iguana Man’s thick doomsday fog. The event completed by some utterly bumping soul sisterhood from Fae Simon, its arrival at Tru Thoughts is a slight surprise. Nonetheless it’s a work of art that burns bright like a brilliant, tumultuous dream. (MO)

The Good Ones ‘Rwanda, You Should Be Loved’
(Anti-Records)







Finding the most earthy of uncluttered soul in the most inhospitable and traumatized of environments, global renowned producer/facilitator Ian Brennan once more sets up the most minimalist and unobtrusive of recording sessions; capturing the raw, natural magic of Rwanda’s The Good Ones for posterity before it dies out.

Though moving slowly past the scars of the country’s genocide, the glorious encapsulating and whistling voices that make up this collective live a bare sustenance, eking out a meager life as farmers in the remotest of landscapes.

Recorded at guitarist and vocalist Adrien Kazigira’s hillside farm, Rwanda, You Should Be Loved Place is as poignant as it is hearty; a songbook of lilting lullaby’s, forewarnings and lament. Not that there presence is needed, but a cast of Western artists – Kevin Shields, Corin Tucker, Tunde Adebimpe and Nels Cline – lend support on a number of these beautiful songs.   (DV)

Adam Green ‘Engine Of Paradise’
(30th Century)





Meandering through the modern world of incessant tech-babble and validation cult, the former Moldy Peach turn left banke troubadour Adam Green once more traverses the boulevards and Greenwich Village hangouts of a more simpler, connected time on his wonderful folksy songbook, Engine Of Paradise.

Channeling a homage of Lee Hazlewood, Burt Bacharach, Harry Nilsson, Ian McCulloch, Jim Sullivan and Father John Misty our romantic and candid swooner delivers Midnight Cowboy like cocktail ruminations on love in the context of a society in the grip of an ever intrusive and alienating social media. Nostalgic certainly…but all the better for it. (DV)

REVIEWS ROUNDUP
Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea





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

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


Bloom De Wilde ‘Atlas Cassandra’
Single/ 29th November 2019


2019 has been a hell of a bad year, maybe the worst I can remember, but one of the only bright spots has been the wonderful new music I have been sent to review for Monolith Cocktail, and a highlight, a godsend in fact, has been the music of Bloom De Wilde. This is her third single of the year, and in fact her three singles are up there as being in the singles of the year; all three sprinkled in the strange life affirming pop magic that great music provides.




Kill Your Boyfriend ‘Elizabeth’
(Depths Records) Single/29th November 2019




This is metallic sounding; it has throbbing bass and screaming vocals, so what’s not to like. Imagine PIL in a bad mood covering Sigue Sigue Sputnik and you will get close to what it sounds like. If that appeals to you give it a listen if not still give it a listen as I could be completely wrong, it might sound like the Carpenters having a massage whilst having sexual thoughts about a buzz saw.




Ringfinger ‘Pressure’
(Other Voices Records) Mini LP/25th December 2019




If moody synth is your thing this could well be just what you are looking for: a mini LP of cold wave ambiance and 80s dark synth pop that will have you reaching for your debit card to order this very limited cassette [only 30 copies] from the extremely fine Other Voices Label.

Memories of Aha, Sisters Of Mercy, The Passage and The Wild Swans are brought to mind; dark sultry but with a pop aftertaste; the sort of songs you would occasionally be lucky to glimpse on Top Of The Pops all those years ago.

The release day for this is the 25th of December so I would advise you treat yourself or your 80s synth obsessed friends to a late Christmas gift and see the New Year in with some cold wave and maybe a glass of Babysham.




bigflower ‘The Other Place’
Single




Dark metallic guitars sweep over you, taking you to a new and frightening place, a place where only the talented do not fear to tread. Yes another fine release from bigflower. Another gem that recalls the halcyon days of post punk and late 60s psychedelia; a track so powerful it could have easily replaced any number of tracks from Bowie’s Scary Monsters opus. Yes it is that good.

As wonderfully cool as ever, and even cooler because it can be downloaded for free.




Modesty Blaise ‘Natalie Vendredi’
(From Lo-Fi To Disco!) Single/ 22nd November 2019


A sublime sugar lump of a single; a song that captures what is great about charming English pop. Part c86 part 67 psych pop, a beautifully written slice of nostalgia that captures and brings to mind images of what England never was, apart from in Carry on Films and in the minds of Brexiteers: tea cakes and rainy days at the seaside quiver under the urge to rub shit into the gurning face of Nigel Farage. A splendid thing indeed – the single that is, not rubbing shit in the gurning face of Nigel Farage. Oh alright then that is also splendid.




The Kanz ‘Carpe Diem’
Single/6th December 2019




Ever thought of what a knees up thrown by Green Day and The Coral might be soundtracked by? Well here is your answer; a strange epiphany of punk rock and the skifflitus [no such word but you know what I mean]; a song to make the sleeping dog awaken have a smile a dance a chew on the old man’s memories of the organ solos of The Stranglers and how Madness could have been a decent band if Suggs was not such a cunt. Give it a listen they may well be onto something.


Cascade Lakes ‘For The Record’
(Affairs Of The Heart) Single/2nd December 2019




A sonic spoonful of dark sugar, fuzz guitar and songwriting savvy erupt in this single of Pavement/The Silver Jews like wonderment; the kind of song you used to hear in the evenings when Radio was not a joke: and what a unfunny one it has become. The good old days’ when songwriting was an art form that paid and was appreciated. Thank god there are still bands like Cascade Lakes creating their art.




Pocket Knife ‘The Archipelago EPs 3’
(Olive Grove Records) EP/29th November 2019




As the year draws to the end, the release of fine music is not slowing up. This EP by Pocketknife features five tracks of indie pop bliss humour, catchy basslines simple one finger organ riffs and off kilter lyrics that offer a delightful venture into a musical land where pretty much anything goes as long as it is off kilter and as joyfully catchy as a hell. A lovely place were musical petulance prettiness and pettiness is king. A fine EP.



REVIEWS
Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea



Thirty Pounds Of Bone and Philip Reeder ‘Still Every Year They Went’
LP/ 29th November 2019

This is a bewitching LP of old sea shanties recorded on a working fishing boat at sea; a wonderful idea and quite stunningly performed. There is a beauty in the loftiness which captures the dark magic romance of the sea and also keeps alive some quite genius beautiful old folk songs.

Acoustic guitars blend beautifully with the sound of crashing waves and sea birds weaving a spellbinding web of sound. In this day and age of here-today- thrown-away-tomorrow it makes more than a refreshing change to hear a album that you will keep and play and be a mainstay in your music collection for the rest of your days: a truly beautiful collection.




Lark ‘Bleeding Songs’
(Wormhole World) LP



This is the fourth LP by Lark, originally released in 2014 and now re-released by the wonderful Wormhole World label – available as a limited edition CD release and download. Once again we find Lark soundtracking the darker side of the psyche with their alternative guitar sounds that at times remind me of the Spear of Destiny and Theatre Of Hate and early Nick Cave. Songs that bark and whirl and reach for the stars, grabbing and devouring the nighttime sky, spewing out reams of beautiful poetical bile. An album that lovers of late 80s early 90s alternative music will take to their black and decaying hearts.




New Art School ‘The Chosen Ones’
(Metal Postcard Records) Single/ 25th October 2019



The magic of a Stones like riff really cannot be underestimated; there is a beauty to it, there is a certain life affirming quality that really cannot be denied. This the third single in as many months from New Art School is as essential as the first two. ‘The Chosen Ones’ is a song that once again captures the vim and vigor of youth, a remembrance to the days when music really did matter and the radio and a 45” single was your god.




Pieter Nooten ‘Se Dire Au Revoir’
(Rocket Girl) LP/ 22nd November 2019



Music like time is a great healer, and this is an album of exceptional instrumental beauty; an album to help heal yourself, with music to lose yourself in, to wrap yourself in the memories of total forgiveness; a sound solid state of lost rapture and misunderstandings, the aftershock of melancholia and sadness colliding to leave the etched image of the birthmark you will no longer stroke and caress; the semi drunken smile of a semi drunken lover you will no longer have the honour of taking for granted, watching them walk away for the last time, the streets forever stained with the holy image of your regrets. Music like time is indeed a great healer.




TROIA = Pascal Deweze + Helder Deploige + Sjoerd Bruil ‘S​/​T’
(Jezus Factory) LP/13th December 2019



This is actually quite a commercial sounding album; not what I was expecting at all: funk, retro spy theme craziness interspersed with chopped up backward piano and atmospheric melancholia Sci fi wonkiness and Krautrock sensibilities abound.

Available to buy on a ltd edition cassette, only 50 copies, or on download I would certainly recommend to anyone with a taste for the unusual or anyone wanting to dip their toe into the slightly avant-garde before submerging themselves into the joy of the madness, as this LP really does have some fine melodies. A wonderful little adventure of a record; like watching a split screen TV showing Bagpuss and The Clangers.



Reviews Roundup
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea





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

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

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


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

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





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



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





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



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

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

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

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






Lounge Bar Orchestra ‘Washing Lines’
11th September 2019



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





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



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

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





Equinox ‘Correction’
(Wormhole) 30th August 2019



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

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






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



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

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





Premiere
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea





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

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

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

 

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




REVIEWS
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea




Proving a highly popular roundup from the idiosyncratic Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, the cult leader of St. Helens dysfunctional geniuses The Bordellos, this regular splurge of advice/critique and pontificating is doing a roaring trade with our readers. We even love the constant self-publicising – God knows he needs it -; a constant reminder that the Bordellos have been gnawing away at the coalface equivalent of the music industry for decades without success, knocking out albums at a rate that even makes The Fall seem fucking slack – though they have lost their titan figurehead leader in recent years and grinded to a halt, that might be an unfair comparison to make. You can find a tiny portion of that back catalogue here… A new album – which Brain has aggrandised as one of the best albums ever made, period -, Bordello And Clarke, is due out next month.




Skyjelly  ‘We Pull The Stars Over Our Heads Like Covers’
(I Heart Noise) 25th May 2019


This is a slandered youth of an LP, a jab in the eye with a rusty nail, a rewound coil waiting to spring the bejesus out of a waiting catholic mass of persuasion.

Slaughtered guitars and hyperactive bass makes light with the idea of topping the hit parade with reverb littered witterings of your off-the-head-neighbour trying to make sense of the backward spinning of the Brianjonestown Massacre after overdosing on the best tea served in the china cup, after being retrieved from Carol Deckers vagina.

Skyjelly are the type of band you would take home to meet your parents if they were dead or blissfully unaware of any situation; the type of boy I would love my daughter to bring home as it would mean she would be enjoying her youth and hanging out with people with a outsider view on life and art: A band that sticks two fingers up to the bland and monotone; a band with an attitude that can only be admired, and an LP that should be enjoyed by all.








Stereo Total ‘Ah! Que! Cinema’
(Tapete Records) 12th July 2019


This LP is bloody genius. Any LP that kicks off with a track that sounds like The Prodigy but played on a Bontempi organ is not going to go very wrong, and then carries on with the pure blissfulness of French lo-fi garage pop.

‘Ich Bin Cool’ lives up to its name – if only all pop could be as glorious as this I would actually walk about with a smile instead of my constant unbecoming frown.

There are melodies that could melt the heart of the sternest of motherfuckers: Tin pot drum machine twangy guitars wonderful sexy French female vocals dripping with drop dead Sandie Shaw like shoeless beauty, and when the ballad ‘Methadrine’ kicks in, has there been a better song recorded this year? A beautiful offbeat ballad of sadness and humour and drugs: “nine days a week we were so high”. 

This LP is so good it has pissed me off a little. I thought I had made the album of the year with the Bordello and Clark Atlantic Crossing LP, but this has knocked it into a cocked hat. But don’t mind, especially when there are bands capable of making records of such beauty; when bands can come on like Stereolab one minute and a French Velvet Underground the next – ‘Brezil Says’ is a track worthy of the Velvets at their finest: pure pop heaven.

I think the playing of Ah! Quel Cinema may become a daily event this year; an LP to lose yourself in the pure beauty of perfect lo fi pop.





Spam Javelin ‘Fake News’
(link2wales Records) 7th June 2019


In these days of blandness and political correctness I’m happy to report that there is something of an underground renaissance of the guitar band; the kind of band that actually have something to say and to bring back the feeling of ‘oh fuck off you cunts, Buddy Holly did not die so you could pitch tune the hell out of this smartphone friendly soulless money making piece of fluff.’

Leading this charge are the North Wales non stop gigging machine Spam Javelin, who have just released a fine piece of punk rock fuck offery in the shape of Fake News. Three minutes of pure rock ’n’ roll, nothing more nothing less: Do you need anything more than three minutes of pure rock ’n’ roll? If the answer is yes you do, then you are dead from the waist down and the neck up. You are nothing but a chest with arms. I look forward to the LP, The Crack Whores Of Betws Garmon, and so should you.







Bloome De Wilde ‘Soul Siren’
8th July 2019


There is beauty in life and there is life in beauty, and this single by Bloome de Wilde is brimming with both; a wonderful shimmering haze of early summer evenings wrapped in a chocolate box wish; a slow dance to the long forgotten hits of Sergio Mendes; the rapture of your first long lingering kiss, this song in under four minutes captures the magic of all this.

This lovely chime of aural pop art is the first single taken from Bloome de Wilde’s debut solo LP, which going off the loveliness of ‘Soul Siren’ could well be this years “Shoegaze Bossa Nova” – which of course was last year’s submergence in blissful if onlys by Schizo Fun Addict. If Bloome de Wilde’s debut is half as good, then we are truly in for a summer of love.

Listen download and enjoy.







Krause ‘The Ecstasy Of Infinite Sterility’
(Riot Season) 5th July 2019


Rock ’n’ roll sludge, but good rock ’n’ roll sludge.







The Goa Express ‘The Day’
5th July 2019


I like this: It has a wonderful old early 80s post-punk feel about it, like the Teardrop Explodes before they signed with a major. It’s like a ramshackle polyphonic Spree; a band erupting out of the rehearsal rooms with a willingness to share their love of pop music with the garage psych subtleties of a young Syd preferring to do lasting damage to his brain than spend time in the company of geography teachers. I look forward to the LP.



Reviews Roundup: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea



John MOuse ‘There’s A Hole In My Heart (An Area The Size Of Wales)’
(Keep Me In your Heart Records) 24th May 2019


John MOuse and the wonderfully titled ‘There’s A Hole In My Heart An Area The Size Of Wales’ is a rampant romp through the indie pop hills of blissful wanton love. A song that could bring the smile to the face and polish the soul of even the most miserable of curmudgeon gits: it made me smile anyway.

Orange Juice guitars and Neil Hannon like vocals erupt from the speakers to nudge radio programmers to add the ode to forthcoming playlists…if there is any justice in radio land that is. A fine pop single.


Sue ‘It Will Never End’
Out Now





Stooges and Sex Pistols riffs abound as Sue put in their claim for the for leaders of the wannabe kings of the new guitar movement – as there certainly are a number of fine guitar bands forming and releasing records at the moment, and Sue are indeed up there with a fighting chance of making their way To the top of the pile.

What gives Sue the edge is that they have a fine vocalist; he has the Lyndon sneer perfected, and when he screams “I gotta get outta here” in ‘Gotta Gotta Gotta’ you somehow believe him. This boy has soul. Anybody can scream but not everybody can scream with such style – he has a wonderful early Marc Almond quality too his voice (listen to Soft Cells Last Night In Sodom and see if you disagree).

I await with interest to see how this band develops and grows over future albums as they certainly show that they know how to knock out a decent tune and know their way around the art of songwriting, and am sure more influences will show as they progress with their career and yes they are indeed fine enough to have a career. Mark out as ones to watch.





The Pinheads ‘Is This Real?’
(Stolen Body Records) 24th May 2019





I love how the first track is called ‘Pure Hate’, it is a fine way to start a rock’n’roll LP and the song in itself lives up to its title; a song that has a subtle spite and fuck you quality that all the best Stooges tracks have. This is the sound of a band at the top of its game. The world, us, theirs, it’s there for the taking and the great thing about it is they know it is theirs.

It really is a joy to listen to guitar music as joyous as this: What is it about guitar bands that come from Australia they all seem to have a certain magic with a melody that we Brits seem to have discarded in a fit of generic apathy: maybe it’s the lack of sun. For this is what it sounds like to be young. Well, in a rock’n’roll road movie kind of way.

What I really love about this album is how it makes me want to be young again myself; it makes me want to experience hearing these riffs for the first time as they have been played so many times by so many bands over the years but when it is played with so much passion energy and enjoyment as this the pleasure spits itself out of the speakers. This LP should be forced into the lives of today’s teenagers and maybe then they will take their eyes off the screens of their fucking Smartphones and start listening to music and going to gigs and experience life instead of posting a “selfie” on instagram.

Is this real? is a fine LP, and indeed, is the real deal.





Earth Tongue ‘Floating Being’
(Stolen Body) 14th June 2019





Is Stolen Body Records quietly, or not so quietly, becoming one of the best record labels on the planet at the moment? It has not only just released the fine new LP by The Pinheads but also this wonderful album by Earth Tongue. [I wonder if they fancy releasing a Bordellos LP?]

If you have ever wondered what the sound of the d&a of the B52’s, Bongwater and the Cardiacs would sound like if they were melted down and stirred in a big rock n roll pot then purchase this fine album and find out, even if you haven’t ever wondered, still buy the LP anyway as at the time of writing it has stormed right into my 5 faves of the year already.

This is what real psych punk should sound like; distorted fuzz bass and guitar colliding with the chiming guitars with beautifully stomping drums. I never knew ethereal vocals could sound so enthusiastic, like an angel after drinking too much fizzy pop.

Floating Being is a beautifully produced rock’n’roll psych punk rock gem that could be destined for bigger things. I love discovering new exciting bands.






The Blue Orchids ‘The Magical Records Of The Blue Orchids’
(Tiny Global Productions) 7th June 2019





The Blue Orchids doing an LP of obscure 60s garage rock covers and an unrecorded song written with Mark E Smith, what is there not to like.

A quite beatastic affair in fact, I do like The Blue Orchids and am very passionate about 60s garage/psych music so it is pretty obvious I’m going to like it. It doesn’t matter that the versions are not quite as good as the originals as they are all performed with enough style and panache and love for the music for the album to be a huge success.

Something else I like about the album is that it sounds like all the songs could have been written by the Blue Orchids in one of their poppier frame of minds, and to hear Martin Bramah play garage rock riffs as sublime as these is quite heavenly, like for example, ‘Painted Air’, a stand alone wonder of a version.

This album is a nothing more or nothing less than a gem of a listen, go and give your ears a treat.





Delta Mainline ‘Bel Avenir’
3rd May 2019





This is quite a pretty record at times, resembling a quite not as heartbreakingly dark or as special Sparklehorse – a band I have a deep love for -, and at other times, it resembles Wilco. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it is a most pleasing way to spend forty minutes or so.

Bel Avenir is one of those albums I’d love to hear stripped right down to the bone; to take away as much of the production as possible and see if it would stand up on its own two feet, or whether it would wither and diminish. Production sometimes can be the enemy of song and I feel as well produced as this LP is and as commercial as it sounds it may actually take the genius away from the song: as they are all in fact, very fine songs.

Although I think the LP may flow more if it wasn’t interrupted by soundcloud ads for just eat and car insurance, but I am sure they will not appear on the compact disc or vinyl version, or maybe they will. If so, an original and groundbreaking money making idea selling advertising space on your album. But back to the album. Delta Mainline are a band that wear their influences on their sleeves, but wear them pretty well and with great style. For example, ‘Mountain Music’ is a fine country lament that brings Spiritualized to mind – my favourite track on the whole Album. Bel Avenir is an album I would recommend to all fans of the above mentioned in this review.






Brian Shea is the maverick patriarch bandleader of the infamous St. Helens family cult lo fi band, The Bordellos.  


Reviews: Brian ‘Bordellos’ Shea




Every other week we ask Brian ‘Bordellos’ Shea, of the legendary St. Helens lo fi cult that is The Bordellos, to accelerate through a mixed bag of new releases for the Monolith Cocktail, offering opine, vitriol and words of wisdom. This week he runs through a trio of oddities and madcap releases from the Guerssen hub, has chemical induced fun with a Toxic Chicken, and finds the Gang Of Four’s latest a drag and disappointment.

Susana Estrada ‘Amor y Libertad’
(Espacial Discos) 18th April 2019


This LP was originally released in 1981, and is a fine early 80’s Italo disco/funk album that really couldn’t of come from any other time.

The opening track, setting you in the mind to get down and boogie, is all Chic guitar riffs and ‘Good Time’ bass, the rapping of Susana Estrada recalling a girl who left her heart on the dancefloor of San Francisco, orgasm yelps and the faint popping of cheap champagne corks: a wonderful way to start any album.

The sign of a good disco or dance LP from the late 70’s/early 80s is that it should not just make you smile, but should also have the effect of a tidal wave of memories that wash you away, taking you back to those long summer nights of bad small town discos, you trying not to look too stupid with your slightly out of time drunk dance moves, trying to catch the eye of the pretty girl dressed in white with her not as attractive friend trying her best not to spill her drink whilst tossing her hair and wondering what time the chippy stays open till.

Amor y Libertad is not just a fine disco album but also succeeds in being a fine pop album of melodies abound, which is not always the case with disco LPs from this time – quite often just a couple of singles surrounded by extended dance filler. But this really is a well-written, well-performed, well-played, disco funk pop album; worthy of investigation by anyone with an interest in Italo Disco.






Mcphee ‘ST’
(Sommor) 18th April 2019




Mcphee were a psych rock band from Australia, this album being originally released in 1971 and described as one of the rarest albums from that country, which is maybe why I have never heard of it before – as I do have a love for psych rock.

This is a fine LP of the genre, riff heavy, wailing Hammond organ and Jefferson Airplay like vocals and with all the great Psych rock nonsensical lyrics, “Sunday Shuffle of the freedom kind”, but when have lyrics really ever mattered in Psych rock, they are feel good preaching peace kind of songs.

The group’s limited songwriting ability may explain the inclusion of some covers; the version of Neil Youngs ‘Southern Man’ is indeed a fine version and gives the chance for the guitarist to show off his no doubted ability. There is also a cover of Spooky Tooth and a strange ill advised slowed down almost stoner rock rendition of ‘I Am The Walrus’ which needs to be heard to be believed. And also, they do a more than good version of the Leon Russell/ Carpenters ‘Superstar’; in fact it is rather beautiful, even the sax solo does not destroy the moment.

The real highlight of the album is the 10 minute plus final track, ‘Out To Lunch’, a song that takes you on a trip that starts off all fab lounge music then leads you into the blues and then the Jazz rock of the Mothers of Invention: But I’ve always been a sucker for a heavy wah-wah workout. All in all a very enjoyable album and another great reissue of a lost out there classic.





Thomas Hamilton ‘Pieces For Kohn’
(Mental Experience) 18th April 2019




I find writing about music sometimes as hard as writing about sex. Not that I actually write about Sex; I’m no Jackie Collins, but to try and capture the passion music evokes is sometimes very difficult without sounding clichéd.

Pieces For Kohn is a case in point, an LP that was originally released in 1976 by Thomas Hamilton on his own label Somnath records, based around a series of electronic noises and spaced out beeps. And so, not the sort of music you can sing along to in the bath or something you would play whilst getting ready to hit the town in a wild night out unless you are R2 D2. Not something to turn the lights down and get ready for love, it isn’t exactly Barry White, it is as I said a series of spaced out beeps and electronic noises after all. Saying that, I find these four long instrumental pieces very enjoyable, they have a certain treasure in their strangeness; I could quite happily sit alone to this record and lose myself in my thoughts whilst sipping on a glass of red.

Not an LP to everyone’s taste I’m sure [but what is], but anyone who enjoys the workings and experiments of such doyens as Delia Derbyshire could well find this a rewarding listening experience.





Toxic Chicken ‘Fun’
6th April 2019




There is a genius in this LP that can really only be described by listening to it. Generic indie bands should be injected with this album, it may spark some sense of wild abandon and make them realise that there is more to life than dreaming about playing Glastonbury and getting a badly written review in a clickbait blog by someone who thinks Oasis are the be all and end all of rock n roll.

Fun is a emotional breakdown of a album; there is just so much happiness going on it is like a psychedelic children’s party, there are jelly riffs with fondant icing, a game of musical chairs when all the competitors are on speed, or their fizzy pop shaken to the extent of a eruption of volcanic LSD proportions.

Please do yourself a favour and give this album a listen, even if it’s just the once: you might be only able to listen once as the happiness might rot your brain. I do love eccentrics; there are just not enough of them. Toxic Chicken should be cherished.





Xqui ‘Settlers EP’
(Wormhole)




I am currently a little obsessed with the record label Wormhole, and I make no apologies for it, for they currently release some of the strangest, more out there, music available and it needs some praise and people writing about it or otherwise how are people going to hear about it and want to investigate the total mind expanding hipness. After all if the Monolith Cocktail don’t feature it there are not many other blogs brave enough to.

This latest release is a 5 track, more mini LP than, EP, as it lasts over 25 minutes and it is by Xqui, the Beatles of found and manipulated sounds if you like. He manages to find sounds and expand their strange and wonderfulness to new and strange heights, taking a low drone and turning it into a Bittersweet symphony. On ‘Biff’ he starts off with just a low hum and over the 11 minutes takes you on a slow relaxing trip towards heaven.

‘Suppose’ is a backward walk through snow; an aural delight of ignoring the scream of a MJ wannabe; starting something from a found sound dance of monks, a striptease nun licking the blood off the cross, on, what is, the shortest track on this entire EP. Settlers finishes with ‘Eye’, a Philip Glass like silent explosion of experimental pop. One might hope to hear the title track itself on the radio, if music like this got played on the radio: are you reading Stuart Maconie?! Get it on the Freak Zone.





Gang Of Four ‘Happy Now’
(Townsend Music) 19th April 2019




It must be hard being punk/post punk legends as obviously you have a history to live up to, but Gang of Four make it sound oh so easy with Happy Now. Maybe it’s because Andy Gill the legendary guitarist is the only remaining original member, but there’s a freshness that I wasn’t expecting to be honest.

It sounds like a new modern BBC 6 Music friendly band, making commercial easy on the ear guitar indie rock/pop with an occasional nod to dance. You can hear influences of bands that Gang Of Four themselves influenced: Nine Inch Nails in their poppier moments, Franz Ferdinand, even LCD Soundsystem.

Not everything is perfect; the lyrics are sometimes, shall we say, on the poor side but are covered up well with the ultra smooth production.

Happy Now is a well-produced modern sounding radio friendly album that would make an ideal soundtrack to your drive to work or to drop your kids off to school. There is a place for an album like this; an easy on the ear undemanding steering wheel tapper.






Reviews Roundup: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea



Wand ‘Laughing Matter’
(Drag City) 19th April 2019


A wave of the Wand and the magic commences. An album of sublime modern life psychedelia, ‘Scarecrow’ kicks it all off with the sound of Radiohead melting in a honey tangle web of sunshine sadness. I cannot believe this band are not fans of the wonder that is Clinic; ‘XoXo’ could easily fit in amongst the Liverpool band’s finest. The repetitive synth and drum beat of that track descends into a mass wave of wonky a plonkyness.

This really is a fun listen, fun but with a dark undertow of sadness – a serial killer with a painted on smile on someone else’s face, or should that be someone else’s farce.

There is a balance to the madness that emits from this Laughing Matter, the more it goes on the more I lose myself in their crazy world of sullen sunshine; it’s a real pick you up in these days of uncertainty and sadness whether it be the Stone Roses meet Jed Clampett like instrumental ‘Hare’ or the fuzz bass monster of a wonder track, which is actually called ‘Wonder’, and is one of the finest pop moments on the whole album: which is actually full of them. ‘Airplane’ for instance is a nine-minute flight of beauty a true marvel of a track, air-pure vocals float over a reflective shadow of instrumental solitude only to explode in a mass of singular eclectic guitar frenzy. Track thirteen, ‘Lucky’s Sight’ is a modern space rock masterpiece; ‘Wonder (II)’ lives up to its name, and the final song, ‘Jennifer’s Gone’, is worthy of the mighty Lou Reed in his early 70s pomp.

Laughing Matter really is a fantastic album, and it reminds us that such makes delightfully heartbreakingly beautiful and adventurous music such as this is still being made and released.






Charly Bliss ‘Young Enough’
10th May 2019




To be honest I nearly dismissed this LP, but I’m glad I didn’t. As I don’t really think I’m the target audience Charly Bliss are going for – I probably have older guitars than this bunch of pesky kids.

I can though imagine my 20-year-old daughter loving this record; it is power pop, punk pop, or is it pop punk? Anyway, whatever it is they do it very well but pop music is pop music whatever your age, whether you are making it or listening to it and if you cannot enjoy well written catchy songs, if you cannot remember what is like to be young and falling in love for the first time or remember the yearning for the girl/guy you will never get or the girl/guy you did get but could not keep, if you cannot remember I recommend you give Young Enough a listen and all those wonderful happy sad memories will come flooding back.

It has the wonderful melancholy magic all great pop is blessed with, and Charly Bliss are blessed with a fine pop singer in Eva Hendricks who writes fine catchy pop punk songs with darker than normal lyrics: “Eyes like a funeral mouth like a bruise” she declares in the beautiful ballad ‘Hurt Me’.

So the next time one of my middle-aged friends says to me “they just do not know how to make music these days” I will think of this album and tell them to FUCK OFF!







Shit Creek ‘Prozac Rainbow’
(Wormhole World) 15th March 2019



I have been told many times that I’m going insane, and if so, this could be the LP to soundtrack my descent into that madness. This is not music as such, well actually it is, it has melodies it has an obscure soul to it that I find quite heartwarming.

It is not something you will hear if you tune into BBC 6 music during the daytime or night time, come to think of it, maybe the Freakzone if you are lucky.

Prozac Rainbow is a magic concoction of found sounds manipulated into a series of experimental sound bites; a wavitude of spellbinding oddities that verge not just on the psychedelic: The ‘Ice Cream Van Glimmering In the Nascent Sun’ track is a modern piece of psychedelic wonder though – Imagine the Clangers winding up a giant clock whilst kicking Roger Waters up the arse. Marvelous stuff indeed.

Once again that marvelous new record label Wormhole has unearthed another experimental gem, still available at the time of writing on very ltd cd. Get in there quick my beauties.







She Keeps Bees ‘Kinship’
(BB* Island) 10th May 2019



I am tense. I am uninspired. I am in need of an escape, something to take my mind off the general shallowness of modern life: mobile smart phones, ipads on buses, people losing themselves in the latest stream of facebook, twitter posts of mediocre mass produced mainstream music cluttering up my once invaluable, once best friend, the radio. I am in need of this LP by She Keeps Bees.

I need this call for the beauty hymn to nature. I need this maybe a modern equivalent to Gene Clark No Other album, all brushed drums haunting organ/keyboards strummed and plucked acoustic guitars that at times remind me of Nirvana’s finest moment [their Unplugged LP].

This LP is indeed a lifesaver; an LP to lose yourself in as the world turns from mad to insane. But there is power, there is magic in this life and that magic is music. And She Keeps Bee’s cast such wonderful spells.

I could give you many reasons why you should buy this LP, but I won’t. I will just say you need this album more than you will ever know.






Outside The Glitch ‘ST’
(Wormhole World) 22nd March 2019




What is the word I’m looking for? Ambiance. That is the word to describe this mini LP/EP; a work that Eno would no doubt put on his slippers to whilst lighting his pipe after a night out with Bryan Ferry, everybody’s favourite lounge lizard.

These five tracks you can imagine turning up in a late night thriller; one can smell the tension in the air; one could throw down ones towel and whisper quietly to your old time neighbour called Cecil and wish him a fond goodnight. Like good old canary sex it is both unexpected and highly unlikely. What on earth am I reading?! That’s probably what you are thinking to yourself as you read this review. Well that is my point, ambient music means different things to different people everybody has a different way of viewing things, one man’s goose is another man’s gander. Music like this sets people’s imagination floating in different directions.

This a fine release with a quintet of very mellow tracks that set one’s imagination into flight. From the sublime to the sublime, Wormhole Records should be congratulated on yet another unusual and different release: You really should check out their catalogue.






Julinko ‘Néktar’
(Toten Schwan/ Stoned To Death Records) 15th April 2019




Looking at the song titles I realised that this wasn’t going to be an album of happy disco stompers, and I was right. The intro, called ‘The Flowing Stream Plunge Me Deep’, is a beautiful short instrumental piece that sets the mood for the whole LP; an LP that has the decadent shimmer of an Autumn day spent with your dead memories, a slowed down purge of emotion of grief for a former lover who is not dead but still alive and living in the same town, the same house, you have to pass every day on the way to work, so you can afford to carry on with your mundane existence.

Néktar brings to the surface the same emotions you feel when listening the magic weaved by the Cocteau Twins. At times it reminds me of listening to PJ Harvey in slow motion; not the LP to play whilst doing the housework unless you live in 16th century castle surrounded by cobwebs with a hunchback dwarf sat on a wooden stool in the corner begging you to put away your broom and to pay him some attention.

This is indeed a dark beauty that is not only to be cherished but also indulged. A fine album indeed.



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