Premiere/Dominic Valvona




Junkboy ‘Salt Water’


(Fretsore Records) Download only single, released 14th August 2020. Taken from the upcoming digitally issued/reissued Sovereign Sky album, released on the 25th September 2020

Attracting a sort of cult status over the years since it’s initial release back in 2014, the Estuary soft psychedelic and pastoral beachcomber Hanscomb brothers’ unassuming Sovereign Sky album, it seems, was limited to only a select few despite its critical acclaim: especially by the Monolith Cocktail. A culmination of Mik and Rich Hanscomb‘s experiments with a number of styles, Sovereign Sky adopted a relaxed attitude to the pastoral, cooing frat-folk, surf music, psychedelia, Britpop and the hip sound of Tokyo’s Shibuya Kei district. That album gave fair voice and a wistfully charmed backing of tenderly picked acoustic guitars, stirring strings and hushed, almost whispered, vocals to both the pains and loves of maturity, the brothers mellowed tones and introspection offered a mature observation on the world around them: especially, at the time, their new found home of Brighton. It’s a place in which Marc Eric meets Cornelius, and epic45 make friends with Harpers Bizarre; a place where Hawthorne, California is transcribed to the English downs and seaside.

One such convert to that most peaceable of songbooks is Fretsore Records’ Ian Sephton, who signed the brothers back in 2019, releasing their South Coast topography imbued Trains Trees Topophilia album that same year. He suggested re-releasing the album on all digital platforms and on digipack CD; augmented with liner notes written by Parisian record collector, vinyl archivist and fellow believer, Quentin Orlean. The boys rightly jumped at that suggestion, as Mik explains: ‘We used this as an opportunity to go back to the tapes and improve the sound for digital release utilizing our home studio’s new outboard gear and tech acquired in the interim period. And the benefit of hindsight!’





Sovereign Sky channels the kind of music Mik and Rich have listened to since their youth. A Thames Estuary take on the lo-fidelity, budget -baroque of the first Cardinal LP and the vintage mellifluousness of The Lilys. There’s also a healthy dose of British Romanticism – an imaginary Albion in their heads somewhere between the socialist utopia of William Morris and Bob Stanley’s Gather In The Mushrooms compilations- while their hearts lie sun-kissed and blissed in Southern California like a pair of burnt out troubadours in deck shoes sourced with meticulous discernment from the Shibuya Kei district of Tokyo.

‘And yes’ confirms Rich, ‘we were enamoured with so many (often) home studio cooked and lost West Coast psych records – A Gift from Euphoria by Euphoria, Save for a Rainy Day by Jan & Dean, Another Day, Another Lifetime by The David, Initiation of a Mystic by Bob Ray, The Smoke’s self-titled album, Marc Eric’s A Midsummer’s Day Dream, and anything by Merrell Fankhauser….’

Presented here in an enhanced format that manages to transcend even the original vinyl’s beauty, Sovereign Sky is a Nugget that deserves to be a little less lost and a lot more loved.

 

Taken from that revitalised album we have the video accompanied teaser, reminder, and downloadable single, the relaxed soulful Love-esque rhythm guitar played lapping tidal reflection ‘Salt Water’. A concise, post-sike ode to the soul replenishing nature of sea side town existence, the brothers made field recordings at Hove Lagoon, East Sussex and wove them into a song built around a circular riff Rich devised after he woke up from a dream in which a version of ‘Yacht Dance’ by XTC produced by American Beauty era Jerry Garcia was on the radio twenty-four-seven. Sweet dream, man!

For the video, the boys sought to juxtapose the gaudy, grim reality of Brighton beach with the soothing calm waves of neighbouring Hove by means of a gently psychedelic, deep chilled Zen trip undertaken by an origami boat: Music and visuals in perfect harmony. Lap it up while you can.





Related posts from the Archives:

Junkboy ‘Sovereign Sky’ Review

Albums of 2019: Junkboy ‘Trains, Trees, Topophilia’

Premiere ‘Waiting Room’

‘Fulfil b/w Streets Of Dobuita’ Review


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

 

REVIEW
WORDS: DOMINIC VALVONA

Maalem Mahmoud Gani   ‘Colours Of The Night’
Hive Mind Records,  September 8th 2017

Adding its name to an already crowded but all the same welcome market of world music reissues and contemporary undiscovered obscurities, Brighton based label Hive Mind Records announces its intentions and presence with an album of Gnawa trance recordings from the late great Maalem Mahmoud Gania.

The near-exulted star of the Moroccan honed Gnawa – a style of traditional Islamic dance, music and poetry with roots spread across the sub-Saharan crescent of Africa; considered by many to be one of the origins of the “blues” rhythm – and artisan of the genre’s key instrument, the camel-skin covered three-string lute like “guimbri”, released an extensive catalogue of recordings for labels such as Tichkaphone, La Voix El Maaraf and Sonya Disques.

Colours Of The Night however, the final studio recording by Gania, will be the first solo release by the artist outside his native homeland to be released on vinyl: six performances spread over four sides of vinyl to be exact.

For the uninitiated, Gnawa is a highly hypnotic experience based around the repetition of a musical phrase, a few succinct lines of poetic devotion or a communion with the spiritual for a duration that can last hours. Performances tend to bleed into each other, and so what can seem like one uninterrupted piece of music are, often, three or four different songs strung together. Building up an entrancing rhythm of spindly plucked vibrating guimbri and metallic scratchy percussion (courtesy of the iron castanets, the “krakebs”), call and response vocals in paean and lament break the instrumental monotony. Though there’s room for nuanced fleches and riffs to add variety, intonation and intensity. These are all the key components then; of a style that evokes both the sound of Arabia and desert blues traditions.

Equally influencing others whilst, it seems, also embracing and exploring sounds from further afield himself, during his illustrious career Gania worked with artists as diverse as Pharaoh Sanders, Bill Laswell and Carlos Santana. Enriching his own recordings perhaps, the suffused mirage-like synthesizer that hovers over the horizon on this album’s Sidi Sma Ya Boulandi track shows a late penchant for electronic keyboards and ambient waves of atmospheric soundscaping: though this is the only time the instrument is used on these specific recordings.

Stringy, wiry, occasionally a tone or two lower and played like a quasi-bass guitar, Gania’s playing style is raw, deep and always infectious: from blistering solos to slower and lighter ruminating descriptive articulations; this is equally matched by his atavistic soulful voice and the chorus of swooning, venerated female and male voices and harmonies that join him on each track.

As an introduction, Colours Of The Night would be better experienced in sections – a side at a time perhaps. After a while it can all sound a little tiring. Gania advocates will however find this a worthy addition to the legacy.

Hive Mind start as they mean to go on, with the full sanctioning of the Gania family and artists who appear on this album, releasing a most brilliant set of recordings that could so easily have disappeared off the radar. As inaugural releases go, this one is definitely a winner.

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