The Monolith Cocktail’s Monthly Playlist Of Choice Music
Picked By Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’, Gillian Stone, Graham Domain

Three and a half hours of choice music from March, the Monolith Cocktail Revue features tunes from our reviews and columns, plus the tracks we didn’t get room to feature. This month’s selection is courtesy of Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ She, Graham Domain and Gillian Stone.

____TRACK LIST____

Snapped Ankles ‘Planet You’
Sparkz ‘Overlord’
Spectacular Diagnostics ‘Political Monsters’
Anemic Cinema ‘Oneirophrenia’
ASSASSUN ‘Unfold On My Chest’
Man/Woman/Chainsaw ‘Back/Burden’
Salem Trials ‘Calculating R’
Ruxpin & Stafraenn Hakon ‘Unmapped Landscapes’
DJ Black Low ‘Thando’
Tinariwen w/ Fats Kaplin ‘Tenere Den’
Dur-Dur Band International ‘Wan Ka Helaa’
Adrian Younge/Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Lonnie Liston Smith ‘A New Spring’
Juppe ‘Fade’
Ramson Badbonez ‘Stir Fried (Remix)’
The Waeve ‘Kill Me Again’
Tilo Weber ‘Nacre Nacre’
Areia ‘The Deaf Man Three’
Sultan Stevenson ‘Summer Was Our Holy Place’
Chairman Maf ‘Deep Water’
Dub Sonata/BlackLiq ‘The B-Side’
Ali Farka Toure (Ft. Oumou Sangare) ‘Bandolobourou’
Philip Selway ‘Strange Dance’
Benedict Benjamin ‘White Noise’
Schizo Fun Addict ‘Over The Hill And Far Away’
Nivis ‘Rain On A Funeral March’
Saba Alizadeh ‘Nafir’
Frederic D. Oberland ‘Quatre Epaves d’Acier’
Qrauer ‘Foq (ANGRiDAD RMX)’
Carmen Jaci ‘I See’
Healing Force Project ‘Adrift In The Stratosphere’
Murs ‘Spaghetti At The Ghetty’
Efeks Ft. Breezy Lee & Steady ‘Grateful’
Rico James ‘All Candles’
Varnish La Piscine ‘NUBIAN FARLOW’
ILLAMAN Ft. Pitch 92 ‘Sometimes Relax’
AJ Suede/ Televangel ‘Terrible’
ILLAMAN Ft. Pitch 92 ‘Absolutely Tidy’
Che Noir/ Big Ghost Ltd. ‘Quiet Movers’
Niclas Tamas ‘Cosmology Mammal’
Tomo-Nakaguchi ‘The Starry Night’
Jman/The Argonautz ‘Dying Breed’
Farmabeats/Baileys Brown ‘They Live We Sleep (Pricks From The Thorn)’
Joel Harrison & Anthony Pirog ‘Critical Conversation’
Lukas Traxel ‘The Call’
Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys ‘Heaving’
Smashing Red ‘Hot Sun’
Goodbye Karelle ‘Moonroad’
Halo Maud ‘Catch The Wave’
Night Noise Team ‘Little Shocks’
Ghosts On TV ‘Life In Plastic’
Salem Trials ‘Super Spreader’
$T33D$_uv-LUV ‘J.O.1.’


Upcoming and recent albums in review
Dominic Valvona

Frédéric D. Oberland ‘Solstices’
(ZamZamRec) Available Now

An epic reverberated fusion of recondite apparatus and the mystical, spiritual music of Tunisia, the self-taught multi-instrumentalist Frédéric D. Oberland and his zoukra mizzle playing and ritualistic percussion foil Awlad Fayala, magic up a performative soundtrack of Solstices on this incredibly immersive album.

A journey into the cosmos, the co-funding instigator of such experimental projects as Oiseaux-Tempête, Fourde!, Le Réveil Des Tropiques and Farwell Poetry absorbs the environments, the alarmism of climate change and the spirit of improvisation to create an untethered work of wonderment, woe and mysticism.

The first quartet of atmospheric scores – an avant-garde soundtrack to the Discovery Channel – on this album are taken from a 2021 performance in Paris. Marking the tenth anniversary of Petit Bain, Frédéric chartered a course for space. The theory of alien DNA, organisms and bacteria from other planets and solar systems making its way via comets and meteoroids, unscathed in the depths of space, to land and spread life to another world, aka “panspermia”, is used as a title to the first of these peregrinations. The rumble of thrusters, of rocket fuel gases comes later but first a monologue from the late Cassandra of environmental doom, Stephen Hawking, who offers a cataclysmic assessment of humanity with little glimmer of hope (hey, at least the hole in the Ozone Layer is closing up). This is done to the sound of tingling and shimmery sounds, fizzing valves and a synthesized lunar choral requiem. University Challenged and Tomat spring to mind musically, sonically, on this warning from the genius of propound theories and quantum mechanics.  

Those boosters are ignited at the start of À Norte Nuit’ (“to our night”), but evolve into the kosmische feels of Cluster: that or some lost recording from the Sky Records catalogue. Within that rocketed atmosphere a zoukra or something like it can be heard blowing away like Colin Stetson’s saxophone, lingering and circulating in the foggy resonating loops. Moving on, ‘Quatre Épaves d’Acies’ (“four steel works”) sounds like a 80s VHS sci-fi, or horror, score made by Kavinsky and Klaus Schulze. Zodiac in the fourth house of the moon, or whatever, there’s a sense of both mysterious ceremony and heavens-like ascendency.

By the time we reach the more dramatic, electric storm of bounding drums and alien minimalist techno ‘Worst Case Scenario’ the Arabian radio waves of North Africa are growing stronger, caught up in a vacuum of constant building echoes whipped up by Frédéric’s transformed hidden sound sources. 

The final movement, ‘Cosmos Bou Dellif’, is taken form another incredible live performance, this time in a Tunisian butcher’s market, part of the Gabè’s Cinema Festival. In contrast to the meat trade, Frédéric and Awlad get swept up into a cyclonic swirl of drones, piped and whistled atavistic Tunisian Hermeticism and machine oscillations. Occasionally it wonders into the veil of Tibetan esotericism, and at others, Walker’s partnership with Sunn O))). It’s almost chaotic, nearly unnerving, yet also strangely mesmerising with its architect entranced as he feeds the live elements in real time into loops and a synthesis of cosmic veneration. It proves a great visceral and universally mysterious way to finish a great sonic project of fusions; an alchemy of earthly propositions and the all-too real omens of destruction seen from the wonderment of space and beyond.

Carmen Jaci ‘Happy Child’
(Noumenal Loom) 30th March 2023

With knowing childlike wonder and curiosity the French-Canadian (based in the Netherlands) composer Carmen Jaci bounces through a soft play crèche portal into a day-glow surrealist rainbow of giddy disjointed harmony. I say harmony, because despite the discombobulated polyphonic orchestrations, the deconstructed zips, zaps and sporadic voices that pop up and the Esperanto era floppy-disc cut-ups of Sakamoto, every one of these experiments is fun, cute and surprisingly melodious.   

Instead of friction, abrasion, there’s a softening; a dizzy lightness and sensibility that borders on pop: granted a strange, loose version of it.

A visual feast for the eyes too – a blusher of Kandinsky, Sonia Delaney and Léger pulled into a hyper-vivid geometric fantasy studio of contemporary abstraction -, Carmen has gone for a full immersive experience, taking time to place every acoustic, synthesized and vocal transduced sample in the best place to stimulate a kooky idiosyncratic mix of naïve (I mean in the best possible sense of the word) electronica, art and theatre.

This Happy Child climbs the arpeggiator stairway to slide back down into a bubble bath of illimitable alacrity, serrated rubbed vibes, manipulated assonant and aria-like voices and placeable collage. We’re talking a skipping pleasant feeling of sinfonietta, of Bauhaus ballet and a mix of Trans Zimmer & The DJs, Mira Calix, Der Plan and Coldcut. In one lush-coloured environment Stravinsky’s Rites Of Spring meets Prokfiev atop of a marshmallow beanbag; early Chicago techno bounces along to a saturation of Skittles; and MIDI timpani and harp orchestrate an ornamental garden of 80s Japanese electronic-pop.

A brilliance of candy-electronica and Casio symphonies, Happy Child is a clever work of unburdened, unpretentious, but indeed deliberate and well-crafted, kidulthood. Carmen’s magical, if occasionally straying into the mysterious, new album pings back and forth with humour and, above all else, playfulness. Not for the burgeoning artist (I say burgeoning, Carmen is quite the professional technician with some years of experience: you can even pay for one-on-one tuitions at her own studio) the sour-faced seriousness of many of her peers, this is electronic music with a taste of fantasy and fun recollections of childhood.

Boycalledcrow ‘Nightmare Folk Art’
(Subexotic) 31st March 2023

Despite the god awful, ungovernable times we live in, and after absorbing the alternative-future of a San Fran(sicko) class conflict of survival, as laid out in William Gibson’s dystopian sci-fi novel Virtual Light (stolen nanotech glasses ensue a caper of renegades, assassins and corporate foes), the Chester-based sound artist Carl Knott has found some sort of solace in a dreamy escapist vision of the pastoral on his latest album, Nightmare Folk Art.  That title suggests some sort of dread, darkness, but in fact this is the sound of Knott’s home and extended county country-walks landscape transduced into a magic-realism and hallucinated version of outsider art and weird folk music.

Unsure in places, mysterious and often spun into a reverberating loop of interlayered nylon-stringed acoustic samples that can confuse, Knott, under yet another successful alias as a Boycalledcrow (previous incarnations include Wonderful Beasts and Spacelab), conjures up the unreal. Again, this is a dream state in which you’re never quite relaxed but never really thrown into a nightmare. There’s even a track named after the family dog (‘Sister Poppy Is A Good Girl’) for heaven’s sake! And talking of heaven, occasionally those various stringed instruments actually take on a harp-like beauty: that or a mandolin, a dulcimer and even the African kora. 

Off-kilter in a resonated movement of picked, fanned, spindled guitar loops, metallic and whipped drums, constant echoes and rotor or flickered speed-shifted vapours, a distant essence of folk music can just about be detected. In fact it’s more Fripp and Eno (especially on the sailing ‘Be More Kind, Like Frank’), more Syrinx and Popol Vuh (on the diaphanous, hallowed and melodious ‘Sister Poppy…’) than idyllic or psychedelic folk. There’s a semblance of Cluster for instance on ‘Easy Tiger’, and the growl of a trebly amped-up post-punk bass on the reversed and breathing, Warp drums smacking ‘Beautiful Women’.

Sometimes a synthesis of guitar manipulations turn into something almost indescribable, hard to quantify; into an atmosphere or rhythm that stirs up a strange mood, environment far from the idylls of an English countryside or the abstract portals of family and emotions. From a deconstructive process something strangely weird and yet something that can be very emotive takes shape or merely dissipates into the ether. Boycalledcrow conjures up a phantom dream world in which the acoustic guitar iterations and looped bass-y rhythms of Land Observation are transformed into a mere echo and whisper of that folk seed.

Joel Harrison & Anthony Pirog ‘The Great Mirage’
(AGS Recordings) 17th March 2023

A cross-generational partnership of guitar virtuosos pull together their individual provenance and art for a showcase journey of atmospheric evocations of place and time, on a new musical mirage.

The longer standing senior partner on this enterprise, Joel Harrison, has an enviable CV and catalogue of 22 albums to his name. The Guggenheim fellow and polymath guitar language and technique educator, composer, arranger, lyricist and writer’s music has appeared on film (Southern Comfort and the Oscar-nominated Traffic Stop) and across a myriad of other stages (one such notable commission for Chamber Music America). His previous albums have featured some incredibly talented artists, including such luminaries as Norah jones and the contemporary jazz mover and shaker (and Bowie’s last recording foil) Donny McCaslin.

Harrison’s jazz-trained junior (in age only) partner Anthony Pirog has recorded and played in an eclectic lineup of projects over the years; from his collaboration with his life partner and cellist Janel Leppin to the harder-rocking New Electric quartet.

Both based in the Washington D.C. area, both students of jazz, their shared geography and musical interests crossover into the spheres of rock, country, prog, folk, psych and even, what I would describe as both post-punk and krautrock. This could all be wrapped up as fusion music. Fusion music, that is, with a roaming curiosity to redefine or at least play with stretching the capabilities of the guitar in the 21st century: good luck with that.

Harrison and Pirog are not alone on that venture, bringing in the talents of Stephen Crump on bass and Allison Miller on drums to widen the scope and bolster the sound; to give body, a drive and even groove too: Miller’s drumming skills, it must be said, can be just as free and loose as they can be in smashing, drilling and motoring along the compositions.

Unsurprisingly both highly competent guitarist technicians and creative of their craft are pretty good at conveying the mood, at building, expressing a sense of place whilst at switching on the Steve Vai and Pat Methany blazing fretwork soloing dynamics. On the title-track itself they fuse later 70s King Crimson with a certain aria-bending mystique, hints of that jazz learning and final biting fuzz bedding of Sunn O))). Later on with ‘Mortgage My Soul’ they rev-up that same fuzz and scuzz for a concentration of bashed-out heavy rock.

Easing the pace, compositions like the wistful, plaintive ‘There’s Never Enough Time’ and ‘Desert Solitaire’ take on a country music lilt of waning and bottleneck sliding, whilst the shorter vignette, ‘Last Rose Of Summer’, lingers beautifully in an rustic-acoustic charm of gauzy serenaded country-folk. ‘I’ll See You In The Shinning World’ starts off in a similar mode (reminding me in part of Myles Cochran) but then subtly moves through changes of funk, the jazzy and spacey.

Travelling south musically, ‘Clarksdale’ takes a pinch of Muscle Shoals and the blues to evoke a very American landscape, whilst at the other end of the scale, the no less evocative mood of ‘Critical Conversation’ feels like a tumult, a squirming tension of energetic discourse and guitar effects experimentation – post-punk, post-rock in sound, jazzy in channeling a certain angst.        

Anything but a demonstration, this album is an impressive showcase of dexterity and virtuoso skill of composition and expressive playing. The Great Mirage stays constantly interesting as it moves between reflection and displays of whining and squealed guitar frippery. Never indulgent, the focus is always on merging a shared experience in which the guitar (both electric and acoustic) bends, molds and wields to its practitioner’s concept of free-expression. I’d suggest they’ve done quite well in mining their eclectic sources to shape that freedom and pushing of the boundaries in a modern age.  

Bhajan Bhoy ‘To Love Is To Love (Volumes 1 & 2)’
(Cardinal Fuzz in the UK/Feeding Tube in the US) Available Now

Ajay Saggar once again travels the astral highway and byways as guru Bhajan Bhoy, across two volumes of transcendence, raga mantras and afflatus dreamwave psychedelia.

When not masquerading under the Deutsche Ashram title or acting the part of foil to Oli Hefferman and Kohhei Matsuda in the University Challenged trio, and again with Oli in the long-running King Champion Sounds troupe, Saggar channels his divine styles into this newish incarnation – the debut Bhajan Bhoy album, Bless Bless, was released in 2020.

Three years later, and out the other side of the pandemic, Saggar brings us “love” in abundance with a moiety of albums that channel previous projects: especially the intoxicating club beat, shoegaze, post-punk haze of his Deutsche Ashram duo with the gauzy-hushed Merinde Verbeck. Because sometimes amongst the radio waves of India and the brassy resonance of the sitar there is a hint of a transported and flange fanning Stone Roses, the Cocteau Twins, Jah Wobble and MBV. I’m not sure who accompanies Saggar this time around, but those similar airy vapours f ethereal vocals can e heard suffused across a number of peregrinations that have lyrics; these being utterances, vague chants and the sort of hippie new age speak of the 90s trance and rave scenes.

Volume 1 opens with the Mancunian acid dripped and Indian echoed mizzle of ‘The Guiding Light’; a both kaleidoscopic and druggy vacuum of Ash Ra Tempel, the Moon Duo and 80s neo-pop. ‘On A Higher Plain’, with concertinaed spells and reverberating tremolo twangs, envisions El Topo transported to the Indian subcontinent. ‘Raga Shanti’ as the name makes clear, fulfills the spiritual Eastern quota well with a spectrum of cosmic dialing tones, echoes of Amon Düül II-speaks-to-Yogi and the sound of Shankar. ‘Oh Seeker’ brings back those near-ethereal washy female vocals – reminding me a lot of the female tri-vocal led French psych group Gloria – across synthesized accelerating waves, flange-like guitar and entrancing drones.

Volume 1 ends however on the mystified, dreamy fairytale enveloped ‘Lovely Day For Cricket’. I’m not sure if there’s a hidden meaning – you can never be sure these days when even the most harmless or joyous innocuous activities can enrage or fuel discourse on the British Empire, who of course brought that sport to most of their colonies -, or, if it’s merely a celebration of this sport’s obvious mega popularity, cultural importance – the national game in India (and its neighbours too) more or less.  Commentary and the crowd from a match is morphed and sent out gently into a sort of cosmic twilight zone.

Volume 2 follows on with the sequined bejeweled chimes of finger cymbals and bells and the fanned-out and spindled raga and kosmische trance of ‘Hari Om Sharan’ – Popol Vuh and Floyd meet Harrison for a daily devotional. That Popol Vuh sound, unsurprisingly, can be heard on the Aguirre-like Amazonian atmospheric dedication to that group’s cinematic soundtrack patron, Werner Herzog, on ‘Abshaku…The Ecstatic Truth’. The Vuh, in communion with late 70s/early 80s Tangerine Dream and Vangelis, traverse Herzog’s dream-realism and documented travels with vague panpipe blows, drifted Heart of Darkness guitar and the misty veils of Machu Picchu.

‘Accordi-Ohm’ meanwhile, sounds like a dub-y bellowing and concertinaed vision of Augustus Pablo on the trial of the crystal skulls: yeah imagine that! That leaves the finale, ‘Eliane’s Conch’, another of those vaporous dreamy and static-charged dreamwave echoed traverses that reminded, a little, of the Dead Skeletons’ hypnotic mantras.

Overall both albums flow, waft or linger across the cosmic, spiritual pathway of kosmische, krautrock, acid-rock, psych, shoegaze and beyond. The sound of India is taken to various planes within that spectrum, woven into a fabric of cultish, trippy and new age influences. Blessed be the search for love in an increasingly hostile, intense, divisive and mentally draining world; Saggar’s Bhajan Bhoy incarnation certainly has its work cut out. And yet, with his collected ensemble of musical partners, he creates a musical escape route on a purview of enlightenment and even fun transcendental spiritualism.

Healing Force Project ‘Drifted Entities (Vol. 2)’
(Beat Machine Records) 17th March 2023

The re-rebirth of cool in an ever-forward momentum of flux, Antonio Marini’s Healing Force Project once more tumbles across a broken-beat, jungle, free-jazz and cosmic spectrum of reverberating exploration and spliced assemblage.

Last year’s first Drifted Entities volume made my choice albums list of 2022 with its echoed washes of On-U Sound and elements of Basic Channel, Plug, Luke Vibert and The Mosquitoes; all bouncing and resonating with the contorted rasps and strains and inspirations of Albert Ayler’s Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe –the title and source of this sonic untethered beat-sculpted project.

Volume 2 adheres to the same principles but is heavier on the beats and the percussion. Filtering, falling, paddled, sifting and shivered throughout this deconstruction-reconstruction are echoes of Miles Davis’ 80s soundtrack suffused trumpet blows and noirish winds, Jan Hammer and Greg Foat’s organ and synth held chords and bulb-like notes and Billy Cobham’s expletory drum kit. Constantly developing, in motion, each track throws up all manner of shuttled and skimming contortions. Brown Calvin, Thundercat, Roni Size, the Aphex Twin and the worldly musical adventures of Don Cherry simultaneously exist in Marini’s singular and off-kilter rhythmic quadrant of cosmic freefalling and electrified jazz.

A splashy mirage of effected, realigned beats and reframed jazz inspirations sent out into space, Volume 2 in this series continues the ‘spiritual music mission’ but offers something once more eclectic and boundless.

Areia ‘Stories’
Available Now

An album of stories imbued by various triplet-like references and cycles, the latest lightly executed work of chamber, neoclassical and explorative jazz from the guitarist and bandleader Siebren Smink is rich with descriptive wistfulness and reflection.

Inspired in part by the cause of the “three Marias”, whose feminist stance in the early 1970s against the fascist Catholic conservatism of António de Oliveira Salazar’s dictatorship in Portugal helped usher in the downfall of that regime, and by the near inscrutable scribed “language music” methods of the free-jazz luminary Anthony Braxton, these two influences converge in a balancing act of quiet thought and more expressive drama, dynamics. And so, rather than create an erratic exploration of Braxton’s cryptic drawings, plans of trills and brills, and the rage of those incensed by Maria Isobel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta and Maria Velha da Costa’s struggle to fight the oppressive moralistic legal system of authoritarian Portugal, this album of mood suites manages to control those looser free-forming ideas with subtlety and sensitivity.

That Marias story was seen by Smink whilst visiting the Resistance Museum (a former prison for political prisoners) in Lisbon, and struck a chord. This trio’s crime was to publish a collection of unsigned essays, poetry, stories and letters that drew on the letters of a Portuguese Nun in the 17th century, obsessed as she was with a French soldier who abandoned her. The book proved a sensation, falling foul instantly of the regime’s censorship laws, quickly banned and destroyed. The actual court case that ensued – the penalty, imprisonment at the least – ended just as the country’s Carnation Revolution – so called because of the flowers the crowds gave to the soldiers who carried out the coup to replace him – helped topple Salazar’s rule. The penal code was especially discriminating towards women, treating them as second-class citizens, and so the odds of overturning the ban and escaping sentencing didn’t look good. But fortunately as the regime came crashing down, and with support from activists from around the world, the case was thrown out, the ladies collection even declared a work of art of the highest quality by the judge.

Sympathetic to that cause, chiming with the contemporary, Smink and his returning quartet of Adrián Moncada on piano, Antonio Moreno Glazkor on trumpet and Hristo Goleminov on tenor saxophone take musical cues from Pat Metheny and the Jimmy Giuffre 3, but the ACT label too, to produce music that hopefully doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Not that any of this is obvious, nor an on-message sound as such, but it is descriptive and resonates with a language of thoughtful yet roaming and loosened feelings.

Instruments interact or just fly off into opposite, but always congruous, directions of play. Harmonics ping, guitar strings softly accentuate or subtly climb the frets, and the tenor sax blows in both a suffused manner or in quicker circles, whilst the trumpet flits, spirals or holds a particular expressive note. The piano parts seem to drift or linger with a harder, starker prods or in a softened way evokes reminisces, aches and reflections. In parts the action accelerates with dotted notes, a little tension and even tumult: though nothing like a discourse, a cacophony or even crescendo. Sometimes just the mere essence of an instrument is all that’s needed to conjure up the mood, and sometimes just shortened prompts and small bursts of activity will speak volumes.

The Stories album is full of stirring moments and a melodious and not quite so melodious interplay, but also has a spirit of the untethered explorations synonymous with free jazz. Upsides mingle with deep thoughts, a flit of action and dialed down reflected sadness on an album that reveals more with every subsequent listen.

Above all, this album finds Smink and his Areia quartet vehicle on a refined journey of distilled and considered jazz; a balancing act that successfully weaves together freer interactions and the sort of expressive musical language that Antony Braxton would find very encouraging.  

Lukas Traxel ‘One-Eyed Daruma’
(We Jazz) Available Now

The Swiss double-bassist maestro and composer Lukas Traxel is back with a new trio project prompted by an open invitation from the Moods jazz club in Zurich. With We Jazz label stalwart Otis Sandsjö on tenor saxophone and Moritz Baumgärtner on drums; Traxel creates a mysterious, plaintive, conscious and abstract environment out of avant-garde, free jazz and experimental counterpoints with this new turn. And the influences on this new project include Caroline Shaw, Colin Vallon’s trio, Gabriel Kahane, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Guiffre and Keith Jarrett, but I’d add Sam Rivers, the late great Pharoah and the contemporary, mirroring Ill Considered trio. 

Initially stumped, emotionally coming to terms with the death of his father, Traxel was suddenly freed from the dreaded writer’s block after noticing the mysterious-looking figure of an eyeless “Daruma”, starring out from the corner of his piano. In Japanese lore this harbinger of fate brings luck and prosperity. And as tradition dictates, you must first draw an eye on your daruma whilst making a wish; only adding a second eye if this wish comes true. It remains, for now, the ‘one-eyed daruma’ of the album title.

Conveying that loss and absence, but little bit of hope too, the trio build simmering, rasped and probing atmospheres from which subtle melodious ideas and feelings emerge; breaking out at points into either broken beats, break beats and cymbal splashes – the conscious jazz and elliptical rhythmic ‘The Call’ reminded me a little of Gescom. However, the album opens with the Rollins leads Floydian sizzled and brushed ‘First Times’: a balance of both thinly parched tenor and the wane, whine of hidden rusty metallic or brass instruments, gently prompted by the double-bass. The more chaotic ‘Nasty People’ stumbles and lurches through an Art Ensemble Of Chicago workshop and toy box. I’m not sure of the intention or the theme, but at one point a kid’s police siren whoops amongst the squiggles, shakes and craziness; and as it continues on, it feels like the drums are hitting out at, or being flung at, something/someone: A sort of venting of torque and tensions.

An act of flexing instruments and sounds to quantify expression and mood, Lukas Traxel’s sparsely executed showcases a theme of counterpoint – actions counterpointed by reflections, hinged and resonating, and by more recognizable holds and shortened toots of sax. The performances coalesce different tensions, speeds and articulations in the same track: for example, Baumgärtner’s drums moving at pace and drive whilst Sandsjö’s sax brushes the surface and Traxel’s double-bass plucks out singular notes.

Initially brought about by invitation, I wouldn’t mind hearing more from this successful trio experiment in the future. Their burgeoning debut an essential addition to the We Jazz catalogue and in turn, your record collection.  

John Atkinson ‘Energy Fields’
(AKP Recordings) 15th march 2023

A reification of the hidden energy sources that power industry and the homes of America, John Atkinson’s atmospheric synthesized treatments lend a both morphed factory and more alien sound to both carbon and renewable technology on this new solo work. Uncoupled from his foil Patrick Taylor and their East Portal duo, Atkinson funnels the sounds of his 2019 residency at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming – the largest coal-producing state in the whole of America, and in recent times the hub of renewable energy and carbon capture – into a conceptual investigation and peregrination of transition. As much in awe as he is anxious about the shifting tides and changes (I’m guessing that transition isn’t fast enough) in that field, this quartet of ambient, electrified soundscapes evoke states of uncertainty and mystery; an otherworldly balance of machinery and a removed, transformed vision of nature living side by side in the shadow of a climate change emergency (depending on who you listen to).

Atkinson has skin in the game so to speak, having spent the last fifteen years writing about this energy shift in terms of policy, tech and economics, as a day job. And so that drive and interest is channeled into a sonic experience of shunting coal trucks, the swing and hinge movements of heavy bucketed tools and cranes, and the rotation of bladed turbines.

A static energy current ripples through a soundtrack of filaments, high-pitched steam and industrial thumps on the opening ‘Spiritual Electricity’ track. A coal-fired plant errs towards a strange stirring of the unfamiliar, recondite, as Atkinson gives sound to such abstract concepts. ‘Black Thunder’ delves into the furnace with what sounds like boxcars unloading their materials and the pressurized whistles of dials and valves. Cleaner, sonorous waves and purrs emerge from out of the industrial activity however, hinting at some kind of submerged mystery, unease.

Across a windy plain from atop of a wind turbine, ‘Casper’ features ambient drifts, glints of the outdoors and a suffusion of twinkles and chimes. A strange nature exists alongside those imposing machines and tech that borders on the supernatural; a snatch of passing traffic perhaps caught in a blowy gloom. The more implicitly entitled ‘World Wind’ features more of those natural elements – the mating call of bison perhaps – running side-by-side with slowly stirring neoclassical gravitas and the churning turns of rotor blades.

Atkinson captures an evocative and interesting enough theme, a necessity to understanding or relating to that which remains disconnected to us; the apparatus, resources that generate our lives at the flip of switch seldom considered. As fossil fuels remain the principle source in a global climate of war, fear and increasing authoritarian, post-pandemic insecurity, Atkinson draws our attention to the burgeoning developments in off-setting that reliance; an abstract propound proposition transduced into a fully immersive site-specific world of industry and field recordings.

Anthéne & Simon McCorry ‘Florescence’
(Oscarson) 31st March 2023

As stirring evocative ambient-neoclassical-kosmische partnerships go, Brad Deschamps – under the Anthéne signature alias – and Simon McCorry seem the perfect match of subtle expressive drone guitar contours and equally descriptive, majestic cello. These two stalwarts of their forms set out to capture the essence of the seasons again; honing in on the first light, slow blossoming of Spring for this, their third such, collaboration – the first to be released on vinyl.

The previous Wallace Stevens, The Snow Man, inspired, poetic Mind Of Winter (which made my choice albums of 2022 list) was a sublime reification of the beauty of a crystalized, snow-dusted soundscape; a gentle yet deeply felt album of Wintery suites. From out of winter’s minimal light, Deschamps and McCorry, with both serenity and a touch of mystery, blend subtle electronics and what sounds like non-musical objects with their chosen stringed instruments; the processes of their atmospheric methodology mirroring Spring’s process of flowering and blooming.   

In practice this leads to abstract reflections, thoughts, moods and the near unquantifiable transduced into both scores of hidden and more familiar sounding instrumentation. No one manages to expand the cello quite like McCorry, but that bowed, hollowed resonating cello body often sighs or pines more melodious phrases alongside trembled or droning sustain. Likewise Deschamps both obscures and yet also casts recognizable phrases, lingering tracery and permeating drones.

Nature comes alive as the light begins to play across meadows, versants and an often more mystically veiled landscape in which ripples across a pool of water can musically evoke so much more than a simple observation of the environment: one that’s awakens from a seasonal hibernation. Although the majority of the time we’re in the same musical sonic sphere as Eno (even a touch of his late 70s partnership with Bowie on the mirrored mirage, ‘Reach Towards The Earth’), Andrew Wasylyk and early Ambient Works Richard James ‘Unreflecting Pool’, with its plucked tines, chimes and generally gauzy airy mood, evokes a sort of misty Avalon; the sort of Arthurian waters so beloved of the Pre-Raphaelites (I could be letting my own imagination run away with me here). A both hallowed and moving merger of seasonal changes, suffused with a certain gravitas and meaning, the pastoral is revalued and sent out on a voyage of reflection. Florescence is yet another minimalistic work of sublime quality from a collaboration perfectly in-synch with each other.        

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

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