CHOICE MUSIC FROM THE LAST MONTH: TEAM EFFORT

The inaugural Monthly Revue playlist of 2023; a choice selection of tracks from the last month on the blog. Curated by Dominic Valvona with Matt Oliver on the Rap Control once more, and music from reviews by our latest recruit Gillian Stone plus Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Graham Domain. Expect to hear the unexpected.

TRACK LIST//

Mentrix ‘Be Mahsa Be Nika’
Meadow Argus ‘No Company’
Anton Barbeau. ‘Dollis Hill Butchers’
Guided By Voices ‘Wild Kingdom’
The Wot Nots ‘Oi!’
Wings Of Desire ‘Runnin”
The Gangsta Rabbi ‘Ana’mika (138the Entr’acte)’
Neon Kittens ‘Chalk’
Smuts ‘Kalashnikova’
Dyr Faser ‘Life Form’
Earth ‘Rocker’
Xqui Ft. Bettina Schroeder ‘I Have A Knife’
Flexagon ‘Fort Saumarez: MP2’
George Winstone & Ben Monder ‘Part I’
Liela Moss ‘Empathy Files’
The Good Samaritans ‘Onughara’
Phil Ranelin & Wendell Harrison. ‘Genesis’
Fliptrix/Onoe Caponoe/Ramson Badbonez ‘SM58’
Masai Bey/BMS ‘I.a.a’
Micall Parknsun/Jazz T ‘Still…’
Dexter Dine ‘Sunshine In A Can’
Elise Preys/Marc-Antoine Perrio ‘Petites Heures’
Bjorn Magnusson ‘Everybody’s Got Something’
Designers ‘Moulindjek’
dal:um ‘Dot’
Clamb ‘Glittering Watermelon Oracle – Live’
Justo The MC/Axian ‘Autopilot’
Skyzoo/The Other Guys ‘Bodies!’
Carlos Nino & Friends ‘Drum Solo +, “Sounds Like Memory…”‘
Ghostwoods ‘Terminus’
Kety Fusco ‘2072’
Raul Refree ‘La Plage’
Esbe ‘Coventry Carol’
Sara Noelle. ‘Blooming Yucca’
Kahil El’Zabar And The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble ‘Harvest Time’
Beats & Pieces Big Band ‘Op’
Galactapus ‘Radio Kolossos’
Oddisee ‘Many Hats’
Upfront MC/Badhabitz ‘Stay Afloat’
Your Old Droog ‘Here’s Johnny’
Onoe Caponoe ‘Pet Cemetry’




















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New Music on our radar, news and archive spots
Dominic Valvona

A new thread, feed for 2023, the Digest pulls together tracks, videos and snippets of new music plus significant archival material and anniversary celebrating albums or artists. In the inaugural edition we draw your attention to exploratory harp virtuoso Kety Fusco, Iranian backbeat techno from Mentrix, a relatively short mash of post-punk-metal-lo fo from the cult Gangsta Rabbi, a slice of Edo Funk from The Good Samaritans and news that De La Soul finally make it to streaming platforms. The Beach Boys Holland LP reaches 50, and a nod to the passing of Japanese icon and Yellow Magic Orchestra member Yukihiro Takahashi.

TRACKS

Ket Fusco ‘2072’ – Single, taken from the upcoming The Harp, Chapter I album, released 3rd March 2023

Not quite as far into the future as Zagar & Evans, the Italian virtuoso harpist Kety Fusco transforms her instrument into a premonition eulogy of her own death in that titled year of 2072. So sure of this far-off inevitable, Kety has even whittled it down to an exact date: “On 13 January 2072 I will die”. With a certain mysterious if plaintive quality, a translucent picked reverberation of notes that convey memories and tubular peaks of diaphanous grief, the live processed and spell-casted melody of this music will accompany Kety to her tomb.

The composition of this track, we are told, is based on a live granulation of Kety’s electric harp, combined with drone sounds created with a pulsating massager on the soundbox of the 47-string classical harp, and vocal reminiscences emitted by Kety with scratchy screams inside the harp soundboard, which decorate this post- classical sound. The gifted exploratory artist is renowned for pushing the envelope and the very definition of what a harp sounds like with experimental generated augmentation, effects and various manipulations. To see it live, on video, is extraordinary and performative, with a method that is usually improvised and felt rather than studied.

2072 is part of a much longer suite taken from the upcoming album The Harp, Chapter 1 – itself part of trilogy I believe of such works, released over the next few years. You will be able to read my review of it in time for its inaugural full performance on the 3rd of March at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Mentrix ‘Be Masha Be Nika’ – Taken from the upcoming Arpanik labels’ Woman, Life, Freedom compilation, released 20th January 2023

As the West’s attention is quite rightly invested in the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine, it’s fallen on artists, musicians to draw that intense scrutiny on the Iranian regime and its heinous treatment of women. Prompted by the death of Mahsa Jina Amini in the custody of the authorities last year, an ensuing battle of ideals and freedoms has ensued that threatens to topple the tyranny. However, the regime has pushed back harder and with an almost unprecedented violence started executing (mainly men so far) supporters and activists on trumped up, tortured confessional charges of treason. But even in the face of this bloody repression history is on the side of Iran’s younger more liberal generations.

As artists, the Iranian’s AIDA and Nesa Azadikhah have announced a not-for-profit compilation Woman, Life, Freedom in support:

‘Throughout Iranian history, women have been at the forefront of music and performing arts. However for the past 44 years under the Islamic regime, women in Iran have been banned from singing, dancing, and performance. Facing threats to the safety of themselves and their families, to their career and reputation, female artists are forced to quit, leave Iran, or to go underground facing grave risks. Despite this, Iranian women have remained active and at the forefront of their art, pushing boundaries from Iran and different corners of the world.

Woman, Life Freedom is a collection of original music from Iranian women artists, dedicated to the recent uprising of people, especially the women in Iran who have endured silencing, censorship, and forced control over the past four decades.

The compilation consists of 12 new tracks across electro, breaks, techno, ambient and experimental from Iranian artists including SarrSew, MENTRIX, Sharona Lico and AIDA and Nesa Azadikhah themselves, with many of the tracks either directly addressing or inspired by the current revolution.

The goal of this project is to raise awareness of the international music community about the bravery, talent, and difficulty of female musicians to work under the Islamic Republic’s Regime, as well as the brutal killings of people who have been speaking up since the start of the revolution in September 2022.

AIDA can be found at the intersection of two contrasting worlds: rich Iranian roots and a serene west-coast Canadian upbringing. This dichotomy is infused in everything she crafts, combining elements of world-inspired music with electronic, she gives colorful twists to masterful blends of groovy house, techno, and breaks geared for the dancefloor.

Nesa Azadikhah is a Tehran-based DJ, music producer, composer, sound artist, and musician. From playing Tonbak and Daf at the age of six to DJing at the age of sixteen in the underground dance scene, she has established herself as one of Tehran’s most in-demand electronic music and sound artists and composers. Nesa is also the founder and managing director of Deep House Tehran, which focuses on showcasing Iranian electronic musicians.

Proceeds from this release will be donated to charities that help struggling women in Iran. The first selected charity is Saraye Mehr, an organisation that helps women and children recovering from domestic violence, addiction, homelessness, and societal distress in Iran.’

Today, we are happy to share Mentrix‘s ‘Be Masha Be Nika‘, a backbeat reverberating Matmos-esque slice of Iranian techno. You can purchase the compilation, and we encourage you to do that, from bandcamp.

The Gangsta Rabbi ‘Ana’mika (138th Entr’acte)’

In comparison to his usual hour plus long ‘militia punk’ performances, this newest concentrated dirge and explosive force of post-punk antagonism and mayhem from Steve Lieberman, aka the Gangsta Rabbi, is a mere vignette-sized grenade toss of fleeting lo fi paranoia and radio unfriendly twaddled madness.

The new single ‘Ana’mika (138th Entr’acte)’ is taken from the upcoming 4th King of Jewish Punk Calling Out From Radio Bad’lania (#41/79) album. It will be his 79th album in his catalog, which includes the Guinness World Record holder for Longest Officially Released Song, ‘The Noise Militia (#38/76)’ running close to 36 hours long. Unbelievably it has already racked up over 400,000 plays on Spotify alone! After thirty years at this shit, we can perhaps say the cult polymath (from magician to punk-metal singer, arranger and songwriter) name is out of the bag.

The Good Samaritans ‘Onughara’ – Taken from the upcoming No Food Without Taste If By Hunger album, released on 3rd March 2023 by Analog Africa

From the rarified vaults of Nigeria’s Benin City , a shuffling lively funky slice of Highlife action. Many just know it as ‘modern Highlife’, others as a whole different brew entirely called ‘Edo Funk’: a more stripped and raw sheen-less and less slick version of the productions emanating from the nightclubs of 80s Nigeria. Born in the much fought-over Edo State capital of Benin City in the cosmopolitan region of Southern Nigeria, the Edo Funk phenomenon was a reductive alternative to the polished productions that dominated the scene, and one that delivered, in many cases, the same spirited protestations that Fela Kuti wrapped around Afrobeat.

Analog Africa released a first volume of such hits a couple of years back. Now, they’ve unearthed No Food Without Taste If By Hunger by The Good Samaritans, one of the most obscure Nigerian albums ever recorded. Originally released in 1982, The Good Samaritans is Philosopher Okundaye‘s Edo Funk project. He produced four albums under this name (No Food Without Taste If By Hunger is the first of these), all recorded with a 24 track at Phonodisk Studio in Ijebu Igbo in Ogun State, east of Lagos. Okundaye who played many instruments, engaged the right musicians for each project and mixed the whole thing himself, is known as the composer of a large part of Benin City’s celebrated hits in the 80s. His name keeps popping up but somehow his role in the scene remains a bit hazy, giving the character an image of something like the gray eminence of Edo Funk.

Here’s the first cut to drop in the run-up to that treasure’s release in March.

ARCHIVE

The Daisy Age’s chief protagonists will finally make it to streaming platforms – for better or worse. With a deal cut at last, samples cleared, copyrights navigated, De La Soul can now officially be shared on such behemoths as Spotify. It was the trio themselves that felt left out of the picture; the glaring missing link from the story of Hip-Hop. They announced this deal by dropping ‘The Magic Number’ single and 3 Feet High And Rising album track. The full debut will be released in due course along with the group’s first quartet of albums.

The dawning of a ‘daisy age’, a psychedelic trigger to expand rap music’s horizons, the debut album from the New York trio dared to dream bigger and better. The Haight Asbury to the street level epistles and rage of such luminaries as KRS-One and his Boogie Down Bronx collective or Public Enemy, and far less dogmatically pro-Nation of Islam as X Clan and the Brand Nubians, De La Soul wove an almost electric kool aid tapestry of skittish humour and enlightened social commentary: closer in spirit to Prince than their fellow Hip Hop brethren.

A change had to come, and 3 Feet High And Rising was a zeitgeist: nothing before or after was quite the same creatively. Of course, they weren’t the first to sample outside the usual soul, funk and R&B influences; both Run DMC and The Beastie Boys had beaten them to AM rock and heavy metal. They weren’t the first either to take up the Afrocentric cause, their fellow Native Tongues partners, The Jungle Brothers (bookending 1989 with their own accomplished and, arguably, one of the genres best albums, Done By The Forces Of Nature) already delivering that with their, soul-zap, jazz, hip house debut, Straight Out Of The Jungle, the previous year. Yet they managed with the help of original Stetsasonic honcho and Hip Hop’s leading experimental light, Prince Paul, to create the Sgt.Pepper of rap; a counterbalance to the tough and egotistic mantra gesticulating stereotype hoods that had dominated the scene for the past decade, turning the party jam and electro golden dawn into a bloody rivalry of dangerous put downs and postcode spates.

In keeping with the burgeoning of the intelligent hoodlum, De La Soul used their halcyon flower sprouting noodles to turn on society’s ills. Not only, ingenuously, making Hall & Oates hip for a brief moment, ‘Say No Go’ and the beat poetic nursery rhyme resigned ‘Ghetto Thang’ both deliberated on the cruel and seamier side of the shaded sidewalk without swearing or boasting.

For sure it would be a milestone, but it would also be a millstone around the trio’s neck. The accolades and acclaim that followed would never match the debut’s impact, though not for want of trying. Even as far back as their sophomore release they pessimistically – though with an ironic knowing – announced their own demise with the equally sophisticated but much serene De La Soul Is Dead. Decades later they’re still making records, and once, as a bestowed gift to the world, gave all their music away free for a 24-hour period. The legacy that followed cannot be overstated, sparking a leftfield revolution that helped spawn and motivate A Tribe Called QuestLeaders Of The New SchoolQueen LatifahThe Black SheepKMDDivine StylerDigable Planets and Main Source to name just a few, though we could also arguably blame them for PM Dawn too!

.

The Beach Boys Holland LP makes fifty this month. Recently part of the double album appraisal box set Sail On Sailor 1972, this pilgrims trail, for many of us, marks a return to form after the previous passable Carl And The Passions – So Tough R&B and soft-rock revue. With former Flames Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Faatar on board again, but a lacklustre, meditating Brian Wilson yet to break out of his malaise, the songwriting was even more varied but good. They lost Bruce ‘Disney Girls’ Johnston from the lineup, and handed control over to Carl Wilson and manager, producer (and general instigator, mentor) Jack Rieley – the man mostly responsible for shaking the group out of their stupor, and encouraging the Surf’s Up cult favourite.

Relocating out of some misplaced belief that in a different location miles from home, it would either shake or force Brian to take up the mantle, the group instead found themselves writing a lovesick postcard to their Californian home. Rather than break out of repeating patterns, Brian felt ill at ease in new surroundings – no sandbox beneath his feet. He did write the nursery rhyme, radio hall ‘Mount Vernon And Fairway’ transistor bedtime story – for better or worse. Step forward Carl, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Dennis Wilson and the South African duo of Chaplin and Faatar to compose an American almanac.

I’d always thought that the reason for crossing the Atlantic to Holland was some kind of homage to the founding fathers; being the port of call after leaving England, for the pilgrim fathers and mothers. And so why not a songbook dedicated to this history. One that seems to follow the Western trials, the steamboat river journeys all the way to California; not flinching from Steinbeck’s visions of the great depression in the dust bowl states, the Trail of Tears and Borrow My Heart sentiments of crimes against the Native Indian populations. ‘The Trader’ an encapsulation of the latter, paints a sort of Americana picture – I’m reminded of The Band’s ‘Arcadian Driftwood‘. The poetry, imbued words of Robinson Jeffers and Robert Frost ring clear as the old West meets the new age vibrations of Country Joe And The Fish at Big Sur. And yet there’s room for the incredible heart-aching ‘Leaving This Town‘, from the Chaplin/Faatar pact, opening favourite nautical themed ‘Sail On Sailor’ and Dennis/Love penned heart-crushing piano ballad ‘Only With You’ (sang by Carl) – the former reflecting a mature love despondent yearn of soft balladry from the group.

And so couple of my personal favourites from that album:

From the Beach Boys vaults on the Monolith Cocktail:

Surf’s Up: An Evaluation

Made In California

The SMiLE Sessions

Brian Wilson And Friends Live In Glasgow

Love And Mercy Film

Also…added to at regular intervals, my defining playlist:

Obituary

Musically (sartorial too for that matter) one of the great pantheon influences of modernist Japanese music, part of the holy Yellow Magic Orchestra trinity of Haruomi Hosono and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yukihiro Takahasi helped birth the Tokyo, or City, glow pop explosion of the 80s in his homeland. Which thanks to labels such as WEWANTSOUNDS have been in an ascendence of late – that label also re-releasing his debut, more European cool and suave album Saravah too – a kind of Japanese Brian Ferry!

Japan before there was a Japan (the David Slyvian kind), Takahasi first took up with his YMO foils, playing drums in the country’s premier and most innovative electro-pop group, before swanning off and trying to out-Bowie 80s Bowie. Crafting some irresistible, charismatic neo-romantic hits, the star released an abundance of sentimental but always cooly-lit neon heartaches and pensive croons, even a cover version or two. Here’s just a few of them:

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.

A look at both the new live album and video from the Boston trio Clamb
Words by Dominic Valvona

Clamb ‘Glittering Watermelon Oracle (Live At The Midway Café, July 19th 2021)’
“Eggs’ video created by Peter Danilchuk and Collaborators Digital

All hail the grapefruit, the egg and… well, the watermelon deities as our Boston pyramid schematic of jazz-funk-prog-krautrock-fusion release a live album of their pumped works. Once more into the magik temple with a sound that can only be described as warped mix of Mahavishu Orchestra, the Zapp band and Qüassi, Clamb both reinterpret tracks from their debut album Earth Mother Grapefruit and improvise new peregrinations – the title-track for one.

From the Midway Café stage (Jamaica Plain, Boston to be exact) on one excitable night after coming out from lockdown, the three-piece (though it looks like they extend to a quartet live) whoop and howl, simmer and stutter to polymetric drums (courtesy of Joshua Merhas), synthesized zips and zaps (Peter Danilchuk) and jazzy, funk-fried noodling fretless basslines (Jameson Stewart). Egged-on by an enthusiastic, let loose from pandemic morose, audience at all times, they transform the debut album tracks ‘Oyster Sunday’, ‘Land Breath’, ‘Triangular Fÿord’ and ‘Fields Cornelius’. The first two being twinned as it were, connected in one almost continuous performance that’s one-third Parliament, one-third Yes, and another third Can. The Floydian “Fÿord” (encouraged with a “we can do this one!”) is retuned to the gothic flange of The Banshees and various krautrock evocations of the vapourous and evaporating. The latter, and album finale, combines the Jah (Wobble) with the Jarre (Jean-Michael) on a radiating progressive voyager trip.

In-between those Earth Mother Grapefruit inclusions there’s the stuttered and scuttled, cymbal dancing, ray emitted astro-funk title-track (imagine Tortoise sharing room on an 80s sci-fi soundtrack with Holy Fuck and the Van Allen Belt); the Numan/Vangelis modulating, oscillating sine wave plant life panorama ‘Emerge! O Citroid’; and Tangerine Dream(ed) space dusted orbital re-entry ‘Plutonian Auspex’. And through it all there’s a sense that Clamb is having fun with these outlandish prog-jazz fusions: those heads being raised up shaking with enjoyment rather than downcast towards the navel and erstwhile. This same attitude bleeds into the band’s new hand-made animated video for ‘Eggs’ – taken from their already mentioned debut album. Danilchuk’s volcanic erupted covered Hellenic columns and ruins strewn landscape and phoenix rising from Easter eggs cut-ups are handed over to Digital Awareness (responsible for projecting the visuals at the group’s live shows), who dress it up further with various psychedelic acid-rain, buzzing and lava spewing effects. It’s a collaboration that perfectly captures Clamb’s cyber-generating mix of the surreal, charming, goofy and magical. All hail the fruits of a funked nature.

Ahead of the Italian quartet’s new album Moonlit Panacea, the Monolith Cocktail premieres Dottor Pira’s video for the second single Mithra Night Soup.

Rainbow Island ‘Mithra Night Soup’
Single taken from the Moonlight Panacea album, released on the 18th January 2023 by Riforma

In theosophical vision-scope the scattered but originally Rome based quartet of Rainbow Island conjure up another interdimensional world of mystifying crystal-lined chasms and frozen or blancmange-like landscapes pulled from fantasy playing cards, myth and the occult. Their newest album, arriving a few years after the omnivorous and warped derangement of the frazzled bubble bath Illmatrix, finds the group communing under the banner of the ‘fantastic’, ‘unfolding a snug and meditative ritual’ under a Moonlit Panacea of healing vibes.

As therapeutic as it is esoteric and strange, the album’s atmospheres, evaporations and musical mirages have been completed both online and at home by the repeating lineup of PikkioMania (analog synths and lem baby operator), Simne Donadni (pure data percussion and karplus-strong arpeggios), Lou Pappagallo (processed Vocals and endless flow) and DJ Kimchi (op1 virtuoso and semi-modular engineer). Together in this a curious world that references magical games, the mystical and paranormal concept of Tulpa manifestations and sugarcoated kingdoms, the quartet create alternate realms and play with a real sense of freedom: the destinations, goals undecided, the listener allowed to just be guided wherever the flow and direction of travel takes them. In practice this translates into the wobbled, gravity-defying strange soft lollop and spells of the almost dub-y ‘Karplusan Forest’, the obscured and foggy atavistic ethnographic sourced, bird twittering, turn piercingly fluted ‘Hidden Birubu’ and the beautifully esoteric match of Cosey Fanni Tutti, Clovvder and Dance Of The Lemmings Amon Düül II imbued ‘Marzipan Castle’. All the while Pappagallo’s Cabaret Voltaire and Xqui-like muffled, processed vocals gabble, speak in futuristic tongues and cry throughout. 

Alluding to gods in both the album title and the single video premier the Monolith Cocktail is pleased to share with you today, the Greek Panacea’s remedy for all the difficulties and ills of the world sits on the same plane as the Persian adopted Zoroastrian deity Mithra in a soundscape of primitivism, European underground tape cassette culture, the psychedelic, experimental modulations, Krautrock, futuristic folk and what’s been labeled in recent years as ‘new weird Italia’. And so for the unveiling of ‘Mithra Night Soup’, a tune, an experience of vague nuzzled sax-like floating, ringing droplets, hovering, paddled plastic tubular bass, campfire trance and rumblings and vibrations from the bowels of the Earth, presented in cartoonish comic book form with the past crumbling edifices of old civilizations and the purple cold mountain, moonlit backdrop video designed and animated by Dotter Pira. For the ones who don’t know the character, Dr. Pira is the creator of Fumetti della Gleba (the longest running Italian webcomic since the 90s, only worst quality for your eyes). He’s published several books with the major Italian editors (Feltrinelli, Rizzoli, Coconino…), different series for magazines (L’Internazionale, XL di Repubblica, Vice Magazine, Smemoranda…) and several self-published editions. His works have been exhibited at some of the most important gastronomic festivals too.

The quartet describe’s that collaboration thus: “Pira set up ‘Mithra Night Soup’ in a digital medieval land, where the gang of four characters stand around the campfire. The track is a banging dreamrecall where squared and saturated synths triggers this weirdomagique ritual. So-called “vanga dub” broken riddim and clody ambient solos beat time and draw a nocturnal scenario: Mithra Night Soup is the turning point in Moonlit Panacea’s adventures.”

Going further, they describe that peregrination with this illuminating – of further masking obfuscation – description:

“Drinking the soup by the moonlight, they did good with gentle detailing, such as capping the highlights with bold bubbles. When the warp rounded, Leela paused in revising her timeline: “I will forgive you. But I’m afraid we could lose the warp. As is our duty. If all goes according to plan, I will hold it open. Please supply me the task recommended by you. We’ll finish off the Hydra and Megotons in Graith Warp. Fence the pond so they don’t overlap and try to cross.” Leela grabbed one of the tallest rocks in the world, confidently plucking it from his power’s spectrum and scraping it onto his open revolving brightly lit plate. She sacrificed regret to maintain connection to her ears”

Moonlit Panacea is due out on the 18th January via the Rome/Turin “screw-wave” label Riforma, so not long to wait. Until then, here is the premiered video:

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.

The second part of the Monolith Cocktail teams favourite albums of 2022.

A recap in case you haven’t yet read part one

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

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

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

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

M.

Machine Girl  ‘Neon White OST-The Wicked Heart’  ACK


Billy MacKenzie  ‘Satellite Life’ (Cherry Red Records)  GD

Mai Mai Mai  ‘Rimorso’  (Maple Death Records)  DV
Review

Nduduzo Makhathini  ‘In The Spirit Of Ntu’  (Blue Note)  DV

Marlowe  ‘Marlowe 3’  (Mello Music Group)  MO

Luke Mawdsley  ‘Luke Two’  (Spine Records)  DV
Premiere

Simon McCorry  ‘Scenes From The Sixth Floor’  DV
Review

Brona McVittie  ‘The Woman in the Moon’ (Arts Council of N. Ireland)  GD
Review

Amine Mesnaoui & Labelle  ‘African Prayers’  (Lo Recordings)  DV
Review

Milc & Televangel  ‘Neutral Milc Hotel’  (Filthy Broke Records)  MO

Modern Nature  ‘Island Of Noise’  (Bella Union) DV



Tumi Mogorosi  ‘Group Theory: Black Music’  (Mushroom Hour & New Soil)  DV

Montparnasse Musique  ‘Archeology’  (Real World)  DV
Review

Mount Kimbie  ‘MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning’  ACK

Muramuke  ‘S-T’  (Accidental)  DV

Ali Murray  ‘Wilderness of Life’ (Dead Forest Records)  GD
Reviews

N.

Nicole Faux Naiv  ‘Moon Rally’  (Bronzerat) DV

No Age  ‘People Helping People’  (Drag City)  DV
Review

No Base Trio  ‘II’  (Setoladi Maiale)  DV
Review

Noah  ‘Noire’  (Flau)  DV
Review

Che Noir  ‘Food For Thought’  (TCF Music Group)  MO

O.

Old Fire  ‘Voids’ (Western Vinyl Records)  GD
Review

Open Mike Eagle  ‘A Tape Called Component System With The Auto Reverse’ (Auto Reverse Records)  MO

Orange Crate Art  ‘Contemporary Guitar Music’  (Somewherecold)  DV
Review

P.

The Paxton/Spangler Septet  ‘Ugqozi’  (Eastlawn Records)  DV
Review

Peace De Résistance  ‘Bits And Pieces’ DV

Penza Penza  ‘Neanderthal Rock’  (Funk Night Records)  DV

Le Pietre Dei Giganti  ‘Vetie e Culti’  (Overdub Recordings)  DV
Review

Plastic Candles ‘Dust’  (Paisley Shirt Records)  BBS
Review

Plop & Junnu  ‘S-T’  (Fiasko Records) DV

R.

Revelators ‘Revelators Sound System’ (37d03d records)  GD
Reviews

J Rocc  ‘A Wonderful Letter’  (Stones Throw)  MO

Robert  ‘Orange is the New Black’  (Antelope Records)  MO

Scott Robertson  ‘Footprints In The Butter’  (Subjungle)  BBS
Review

S.

Salem Trials  ‘Love Joan Jett’  (Metal Postcard Records)  BBS
Review

SAULT  ‘AIR’  (Forever Living Originals)  ACK
Review

Say What  ‘S-T’  (We Jazz)  DV
Review

Shabaka  ‘Afrikan Culture’  (Verve/Impulse!) DV

Ignacio Simón ‘Old Friends’ (Bandcamp)  GD
Review

Širom  ‘The Liquefied Throne Of Simplicity’  (Glitterbeat)  DV

Sis  ‘Gnani’ (Native Cat Recordings)  GD
Review

Silverbacks  ‘Archive Material’ (Full Time Hobby)  GD
Review

The Soft Pink Truth  ‘Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This?’  ACK

Spygenius  ‘Jobbernowl’  (Big Stir Records)  BBS
Review

Staraya Derevnya  ‘Boulder Blues’  (Ramble Records)  DV
Review

Stepbrothers featuring the Honourable Ted  ‘S/T’ EP (German Shepherd Records)  GD
Review

Shepard Stevenson  ‘Man Down’  (Somewherecold)  DV
Review

Stereolab  ‘Pulse of the Early Brain’ (Duophonic and Warp Records)  GD

Robert Stillman  ‘What Does It Mean To Be American’ (Orindal Records) DV

Carl Stone  ‘We Jazz Reworks Vol. 2’  (We Jazz)  DV
Review

Gillian Stone ‘Spirit Photographs’ DV
Review

STS & RJD2  ‘Escape From Sweet Auburn’  (RJ’s Electrical Connections)  MO

Misha Sultan  ‘Roots’  (Hive Mind)  DV
Review

Sweeney  ‘Stay for the Sorrow’ (Sound in Silence)  GD
Review

T.

Team Play  ‘Wishes And Desire’  (Soliti) DV

Mauricio Takara and Carla Boregas  ‘Grande Massa D’Agua’  (Hive Mind)  DV
Review

Tone Of Voice Orchestra  ‘S-T’  (Stunt Records)  DV
Review

Trupa Trupa  ‘B Flat A’  (Glitterbeat)  DV
Review

V.

Various/Solidary  ‘Blue And Yellow’ & ‘Yellow And Blue: Help For Ukraine’  (Binaural Space)  DV
Review

Various  ‘Live at WOMAD 1982’  (Real World)  DV
Review

Various  ‘Mensajes del Agua: Nuevos Sonidos Desde Peru Vol 1’  (Buh Records) DV

Various  ‘Music For Ukraine’  (We Jazz)  DV
Review

Various  ‘Pierre Barouh And The Saravah Sound: Jazz, Gumbo And Other Hallucinatory Grooves’  (WEWANTSOUNDS)  DV
Review

Various  ‘Spirit Of France’  (Spiritmuse)  DV
Review

Vera Di Lecce  ‘Alter Of Love’ DV

Violet Nox  ‘Eris Wakes’  (Infinity Vine)  DV
Review

Vukovar  ‘The Body Abdicator’  (Other Voices)  DV/BBS
Review

W.

Wish Master & Axel Holy  ‘First Nature’  (Official Recordings)  MO

Ethan Wood  ‘Burnout’  (Whatever’s Clever)  DV
Review

Billy Woods  ‘Aethiopes’ & ‘Church’ (Backwoodz Studioz)  MO

X.

Iannis Xenakis  ‘Electroacoustic Works’  (Karlrecords)  ACK

Z.

THE Zew ‘IFI1IFO’  (Numavi Records)  BBS
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A.

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

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

Armstrong ‘Happy Graffiti’  Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea
Review

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

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

Avantdale Bowling Club  ‘TREES’  Andrew C. Kidd

B.

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

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

Oliver Birch  ‘Burning Daylight’  BBS
Review

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

Brigitte Beraha  ‘Blink’  DV
Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.

Loyle Carner  ‘Hugo’ (EMI)  MO

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

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

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

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

Julian Cope  ‘England Expectorates’  BBS
Link

D.

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

Aftab Darvishi  ‘A Thousand Butterflies’  ACK
Review

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

Ferry Djimmy  ‘Rhythm Revolution’  (Acid Jazz) DV

Matt Donovan  ‘Habit Formation’  DV
Review

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

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

E.

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

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

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

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

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

Exociety  ‘Deception Falls’  (Exociety)  MO

F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

G.

Mike Gale  ‘Mañana Man’  DV
Premiere

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

Gold Panda  ‘The Work’  (City Slang)  ACK

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

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

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

Gwenno ‘Tresor’ (Heavenly Recordings)  GD

H.

Aldous Harding  ‘Warm Chris’ (4AD)  GD

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

Sven Helbig  ‘Skills’  (Modern Recordings)  DV
Review

Bruno Hibombo  ‘Parting Words’  DV

Houseplants  ‘II’  (Win Big Records)  DV
Review

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

I.

IBERI  ‘Supra’  (Naxos World Music)  DV

J.

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

JPEGMAFIA  ‘OFFLINE!’  ACK

K.

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

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

King Kashmere  ‘Woof’  (High Focus)  MO

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

KMRU  ‘Temporary Stored’  ACK

L.

Labelle  ‘Éclat’  (Infiné)  DV
Review

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

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

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

Liraz  ‘Roya’  (Glitterbeat)  DV
Review

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

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

Keep an eye out later this week for Part Two.

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

Dominic Valvona’s Album Roundup

A final roundup of eclectic and interesting new albums released at the end of last month and in December.

David Lance Callahan  ‘English Primitive II’
(Tiny Global Productions)

As the current political shit show moves on at a rapid pace, with even 24 hours now seeming such a ‘long time in politics’, music makers can quickly seem out of step with the changing circumstances, upheavals and latest outrage. Unfortunately the climate in the UK has been bleak for a good many years, and so when David Lance Callahan originally set out on his address to the nation last year the despondency mixed with anger held: and still holds today, even if it has got a lot worse.

The former mover of both The Wolfhounds and Moonshake bands, Callahan wears his own name whilst retreading and reflecting the psychogeography and rich maverick history of England; the positives of which (social experiments and Bevin’s state institutions) are balanced against the overwhelming negatives. 

Mostly recorded during the same sessions as English Primitive I, which felt like a modern lens angled at an eclectic Commonwealth style soundtrack, set to Punch and A Rake’s Progress. In the same vein round II in this repurposed folk mode uses a similar dirt music, African, Arabian, psych and Southern swamp boogie sound and that (for most of the album) winning male/female vocal delivery: a disarming it must be said, often harmonic, union that articulates tragedy, alarm, plague and even murder.

It begins with the pent-up grievances of a “regular person” played out to rusty Benin guitar fuzz and facemask shaking Mummers, ‘Invisible Man’. It’s as if The Pop Group shared bread with Francis Bebey on a churned kick of primitivism, on this load-bearing opener.

Hanif Kureishi’s iconic ‘Beautiful Launderette’ is repurposed as a metaphor for the sleazy enterprise of laundering ill-gotten gains and the proceeds of crime (from Russian oligarchs to financial rip-offs, the drug’s trade and kleptomaniac tyrants, civil servants and politicians). London being the leading epicenter of such a rotten trade comes in for a kicking to the music of Afro-post-punk and a stoner Doors. A ‘rant at the government’, ‘The Parrot’ uses various avian Scarfe-like sharpened ink pen cuts at the enablers that fail to be held to account. Musically its swamp boogie, a hint of Rhyton, Mick Harvey, David Cronenberg’s Wife and Canned Heat moving to a menacing backbeat and scuzz of tangled whining guitar.

A darkly disturbing prowl down memory lane, ‘Bear Factory’ is the album’s most serious drama. Back to the 1970s, in a world that’s described with the miasma of a David Peace novel, and the events that led to and around the murder of one of Callahan’s primary school mates is played out to plaintive melodramatic strings.

He who walked with astral beings and angels, William Blake and his famous London poem forms the literary food for the album’s finale, ‘London By Blakelight’; a walk across a manacled meta-layered city to a fuzzed drum beat and touch of John Johanna psych-blues-African-buzz. 

Callahan’s worldly sound threads converge with a more idiosyncratic leftfield English (un)civil war commentary on a society gone to rack and ruin: one that’s mostly been fucked-up and over through self-sabotage. Part II of this rewired English, Gilbert & George- like stained glass-anointed gumbo extends on that ‘primitive’ vibe, the use of the word being a positive one, finding a familiar sense of the roots that bind us all.   

Noémi Büchi  ‘Matter’
(-OUS)

Exploding with a beautiful dramatic form of broken glass symmetry, the burgeoning composer and sound artist Noémi Büchi cerebrally and stunningly transforms the musical hallucinations of György Liget and the classical romanticism of the last century on the debut album suite, Matter.

Taking such symphonic inspirations as a starting point, Büchi thrusts this material into the contemporary and future with a centrifugal rotation of various electronic, metallic affects, sound waves and rhythms.

Mirrored and reflected back from states of stirring emotional intense gravitas and catharsis, the “matter” at hand is transformed out of the abstract into something more solid: a reification of feelings, anxieties and stresses you could say. Using an often-dramatic maximalist method in processing these moods, a perfect balance is struck between the harsher, granular and deep, even seismic, use of techno and the magical swells and pulls of pioneering classical music. But, as Büchi states in the accompanying press notes, this album is also a playful exploration of counterbalances and opposing forces too: like decay and growth; consonance and dissonance; the physical and ephemeral.

In pure sonic spectacle this translates into revolving suites of heavy Meta, more brutalistic scrunched and sharper focused intensity, and soundtrack sorcery – both the fantastical, kinetic Basic Channel like static-pelted ball-bearing beat driven ‘Measuring All Possibilities’, and Vangelis future world hallucination of unease, travail and alien mystique ‘Uncertainty Of An Undefined Interpendence’ would make great scores.

At times these tracks evoke illusions of chimed timepiece Baroque, set in some sci-fi environment, and at others, Jeff Mills conducting and warping the works of Igor Stravinsky. ‘Taking The Train With Mr. Shark’ travels down the stargate rails in the company of Mira Calix and Kraftwerk’s ‘Europe Endless’. ‘Screaming At Brutism’, as the title shouts, pounds away at the granite edifice of violence like the Pyrolator and Emptyset.

There is however as much beauty, light and hymnal stark release as there is the mysterious, the churned and weighted on an album that pulls together opposing forces to create a truly out-of-time, out-of-frame electronic symphony. Matter is a startling, intense and machine-sculpted debut.

Björn Magnusson  ‘Nightclub Music & Ethereal Faith’
(Specter Fix Press)  16th December 2022

From an alpine location looking back at the mood music, emotional pulling atmospheres and moments caught in a reminiscing wooziness the Zurich-based artist Björn Magnusson seems to have encompassed a particular amalgamation of New York City arty aloofness and streetwise existential pain on his new album. For this is a songbook suffused by two factories of influence: Warhol’s and Tony Conrad’s. Lou Reed’s Transformer (a little throwback to the Velvets as well) and Conrad’s Theater Of Eternal Music circle and his drone conjuncture Four Violins come together, or threaten to come unstuck, on a both loosened and more intensified dissonant album that hoovers up the psychogeography of the city.

But within that framework lies a sort of no wave, Hansa Studio and jazz vibe, with both Nikki Sudden and Kid Congo Power’s Danny Hole (amongst a rafter of other instruments played) and the Swiss-Zimbabwean free jazz musician Tapiwa Svosve both on saxophone duties throughout. Never forceful or overriding the rest of the musical circle (which also includes Dean & Britta and Luna foil Sean Eden on guitar and of course Björn) those sax sounds offer both an atonal mizzle and freeform breathes and parped wails, strains and contortions.

When pulled together with Björn voice and songwriting this all sounds like a brilliant, sophisticated mismatch of Arto Lindsay, Hunky Dory and Heroes Bowie, England’s Glory, Chris Spedding, Low Cut Connie, Ariel Pink and John Cale in a well-worn city, gathered around a rolling barrel organ in some lower Manhattan bar, washed up and out, yet still capable of producing pop, rock and jazz with a certain off-kilter spirit of wistfulness, despondency and romantic disconnection. Something like that anyway.

As the RP blurb usefully summarizes, Björn’s almost final lyric, on the album’s swansong ‘Everybody’s Got Something’, says it all: “Sometimes the world is an oyster, sometimes an ashtray”.No better line is needed for an album that sits on the blues junction between a rambunctious and artsy NYC. There’s even a dreamily strung-out loosened piano with brassy resonance vision of the city’s leftfield auteurs Suicide and their own take on “America eats its young”, sleaze in leather and haunting polemic, ‘Ghost Rider’. You can’t get much more underground New York than that. And this tribune repurposes that cult jukebox turn for a wistful splice of hallucinogenic bar room philosophizing.

Five years on from Björn’s Almost Transparent Blues debut and the wait has been worthwhile, with an album of lived-in dreams and momentary abstract feelings captured for posterity on a sort of new wave suite composed for the iconic meeting spots and streets of an almost romanticised New York boardwalk. A great album to finish the year off on.   

Orchid Mantis ‘How long Will It Take’

Bleached by the sun over time and through various hazy sepia lenses, the placable recordings of the Atlanta artist Thomas Howard languidly bleed into a number of musical genres. Dream pop, lo fi, the psychedelic, surf and indie all merge with the field recordings of subway and airport lobby limbos to construct an attenuate-layered soundtrack to a world of wistful plaint, transient yearns and drowsy, if deeply felt, romantic sentiment: “You have my soul forever, and always.”

Under the Orchid Mantis moniker, Howard has been somnolently and dreamily applying that method since 2014, releasing six albums and a number of EPs in that period. How Long will It Take – a generous fifteen-track offering – marks his seventh expanded release of sun bendy enervated, affected and mirage trippy pop songs that embrace a certain lucidity and disarming quality of nostalgia for the early noughties wave of lo fi washed-out warmth.

On each wave, both brushed and mono-tunneled drum beat, and evaporated effect Howard seems to go with a very nice bendy flow. That’s not to say there’s a lack of direction or focus. Oh no. Just a more veiled and dappled intimate softened sharing of waking moment’s anxieties, the nature of our world and declarations of love.

If phases and flanged blurred suffusions of Cass McCombs, Yoni Wolf, epic45, Summer Heat, The Drums and laidback later 70s California ocean view singer/songwriter material grabs you, then Howard’s Orchid Mantis alias will snuggly wrap its arms around your lugholes and work its inquiring magic. 

Designers ‘S-T’
(We Jazz Records)

Another month and another freshly assembled addition to the leading Scandinavian-based label We Jazz. This time it’s in the shape of the impressive geometric and architectural imbued/inspired Designers trio.

An international hailed group based in Nantes, the trio’s Belgium composer and double-bassist (also a very dab hand at the piano) Joachim Florent is joined by the Finnish pianist Aki Rissanen and Australian drummer Will Guthrie on a debut album suite of both patterned and freer empirical mod pieces.

Florent’s accompanying quotes set the scene and theme for this eight-track work of various jazz and semi-classical styles. The defacto instigator, leader found that his piano studies back in 2019 were, happily, but unintentionally resembling what he called a “pretty” geometry. Further on, Florent chanced upon the often surreal, imaginative architectural photography of Filip Dujardin. Rather than building blocks though, the Designers turn clever forms into feelings, reflections and melodic atmospheric journeys to vaguely geographic locations, landscapes: The opening, stirring and subtly Middle Eastern/Arabian ‘Lebanon’ being one such example; a camel motioned caravan through a soft Yusef Lateef, Tarek Yamani and Ahmed Jamel Trio scored trinket percussive and trickled piano notation market place. I’ve no idea what or where ‘Moulindjek’ is but it sounds very mysterious with its dabbed and busier plinks and plonks, country-bowed graceful evocations, glissando and fluctuations.  

Elsewhere there is a reference to the iconic Estonian minimalist composer Arvo Pärt’s “tintinnabules” compositional process and writing technique. Translating as “bells” more or less, and borrowed from the Catholic liturgy, it also translates as “crosstalk”, when two voices come together to form something inseparable, or, when pairs of notes are constructed one against the other. In this capacity the trio invoke the technique on the reflective, spiritual jazz hinted and serious minded ‘Tintinabulisme’ piece.

Touches of 60s period Blue Note, the Bad Plus, Keith Jarrett and the Neil Cowley Trio can be picked up across an album of poised thoughtfulness and more playful freeform musicianship. He geometric waters are both choppy, heightened and yet equally in a legato style throughout. Florent uses every inch of the double-bass to offer a foundation, a rhythm, a droning or sonorous bed, but also springs into action on occasion and quickens into a blur during one particular near solo act. His foil Rissanen’s piano seems to overlay itself, yet also displays more singular accentuations, descriptive patterns or trickles. And Guthrie’s drums seem to sizzle and simmer beneath the surface, yet also dish out tumbles, tight breaks and more loose percussive displays of skill.

A sophisticated, movable synthesis of balanced geometry awaits on an album of fluctuating tides, climbs, spiralled descents and even a little positivity – see the ‘White Keys’ finale, a dash and simmering charge in the right direction. The Designers set down quite the marker in that European semi-classical jazz vogue.

Greg Nieuwsma & Antonello Perfetto  ‘Chase ritual’
(Cruel Nature Records)

Connecting in Krakow as members of the progressively experimental Sawark before an eventual disbandment, the Midwest American and Neapolitan bred musicians Gerg Nieuwsma and Antonello Perfetto formed the Corticem partnership before sporting their own birth names in a new avant-garde chapter.

Last year’s Aquarium album cemented a reputation for both playful and strange experimentation and exploration. The latest, Chase Ritual, strays into ever more expansive realms, with an entrancing (for the most part) long form trio of cosmic-reflective and krautrock/kosmische imbued ethnographic journeys.

‘Star Birthmark’ sets things in motion with a near twenty-minute warm revolving Cluster-like peregrination. Roedelius and Florian Fricke sit at the piano as waves of flange guitar drones and fairground synth rotate around them. There are stopovers in North Africa (by the sounds of it) with vague echoes of scrappy-tinny Gnawa percussion (that will be the krakebs), some Egyptian flute or oboe, and spiritual paean of worldly voices. Half mirage, half prog-jazz suite, this side one spanning track builds towards a final squall of noise, haphazard piano and tumbled drums.

As a comedown, of a kind, the lengthy entitled ‘Supernatural Ears Hear The Call Of Faraway Mountains’ – half a haiku in its own right – floats off into the celestial. Spherical galactic rotations, serenading prog guitar and relaxed splashy and rattled drums drift around the outer reaches like a Tangerine Dream score.

The final track, ‘Ovine Wheel’, is all cathedral harmonia reverberated Popol Vuh, with spells of holy swoons, hints of a more traversing later Guru Guru and an ongoing, sometimes looped, analogue phone call between two European characters. Extra voices are added to the swell from what could be (again) Africa, but also Arabia and further afield.

Chase Ritual is an album to plug straight into; headphones on, ready to be immersed in globe-spanning and cosmic listening adventures.

Anton Barbeau  ‘Stranger’
(Gare Du Nord)  9th December 2022

An omnivorous child of Ian Hunter, Lawrence Haywood, Kim Fowley and David Bowie, the both playful and broody artist Anton Barbeau is at it again with his myriad of influences, taking the familiar and bending it to his own ends.

Psychedelia, glam, new wave (that’s the German, American and Australian kinds), pop, scuzz rock and noughties indie gel together on a lamentable yet also romantically gestured catchy songbook; one that finds Barbeau “bumped” back to his wife’s farmstead in small town California from his Berlin sojourn. We have the pandemic to thank for that move, as Barbeau struggles to adjust to life back in the States, a “stranger” as it were to a culture and environment he left behind for Europe. As a Yellow Brick Elton once despondently sang, “I’m going back to my farm”. And it does seem there is a theme of shunning one life of endless pro-Covid tours and artistic pressures for a rustic idyll, isolated yet finding eventual content and purpose settling down with his wife Julia in domestic bliss.

Even his worldly band of contributors added their parts remotely; tuning in from Chesterfield, Lille, Detroit, Hastings and elsewhere. It doesn’t show for a minute, as everything seems to gel together so well.

Inner and outer turmoil, the turning over of thoughts and a sense of detachment are the main drivers on what most be Barbeau’s 30th, or something like that, album – so prolific that near enough everyone at the blog has had a go at reviewing one of his untold many albums, now coming full circle back to me. It starts with, I think, one of the album’s best tracks, a self-titled kind of gently brooding Heyme, Eno and Bowie-esque laced longing, searching plaint about being a stranger in a strange land. That disconnection bleeds over into the transatlantic version of Kraftwerk, via DAF, Der Plan and the new romantics, ‘Ant Lion’.

Barbeau’s musical allies are 2000s Bowie (Reality and Heathen especially), later 70s Roxy, the female harmony backed Kevin Ayers of Bananamour, Bolan, Ty Segall and Beck, but that extends, expands to so much more. At times I can hear (intentionally or not) an air of Neil Finn (admittedly arm-in-arm once more with Bowie) on the new wave-ish ‘Sugarcube City’ – a good line of which, as the song disappears into the ether, being, “You’re only as beautiful as your mirror.” And many of the album’s shorter, vignettes evoke all sorts of musical inspirations; from a drip reverbed, female cooed listing of ‘Favourite Items’ to the dreamy vapoured, soft dalek-like ‘Out Of Sight’.

To more romantic settings and the declaration of wedding vowels, the Stranger album pays a serious noted tribute to Barbeau’s wife, who may just have saved him from himself. Dedicated to his better half then, the Casio preset, nutritious-kissed ‘Farm Wife’ slips into the more Lennon-esque soppy “I owe you everything” sentiment of ‘Slight Chance’. It means all the insecurities and wantonness of many of the previous songs finds a balance and that sense of comfort, ending on a note of marital contentment.   Barbeau bounces, trips and moodily sulks his way around a psychedelic ‘microdosed’ cannon of the fuzzed, serenaded, backbeat sprung and pop powered-up. The returning stranger may just have found his place for now, conjuring up a familiar sounding songbook of ideas and poignancy. As my colleague Mr. Domain has already written, when reviewing what is meant to be Stranger’s sister album, Power Pop!!! earlier this year, there’s nothing highly original here. Yet it is still a cracking album nonetheless, an idiosyncratic offering from a constantly evolving and changing artist.

Kinked And Señor Service ‘Reincanto/Real Bwoy’
(Artetetra)

From the bonkers symphony of experimental and playful electronic music label that last month brought us the insane sinfonetta that was Trans Zimmer & The DJs a split showcase of liquid, bubbled kooky arcade music and imaginative alien soundscaping. Sharing, in a most congruous fashion, the bill is the interchangeable Lapo Sorride/Don Sorride alter ego Kinked, and Umberto Pasinetti solo project Señor Service.

Sorride, whose music is described as a ‘leftfield-ritualism of vocal gestures and granular realities’, appears in various forms as a ‘visual and text researcher’ and ‘tenco-grime lyricist’ (whatever that is). In the Kinked guise we find Sorride running back and forth across a digital audio workstation, a Roland VT3 and Yamaha PSR E363 keyboard. Landing on everything but only holding onto any specific micro-sound for a few seconds, the action is constantly moving. Singular drum hits with some occasional rolls of a kind and even melodic, ambient waves emerge from out of a pneumatic soundtrack of power-ups, high-pitched frequencies, moistened effects, burbles and a strange version of computer game primitivism.

It’s as if µ-Ziq had created the early evolving forms of new life, a whole contained world; growing and learning to communicate with life outside a virtual biosphere. An improvisation with some very interesting, playful, on occasion, fun but also touching on quieter more serious tones, Reincanto, through chance, conjures up an alien and haphazard world of skittish soundscaping.

In a similar, if more realized and slightly more settled, mode, Señor Service sounds like Sakamoto’s floppy disks in the hands of the Aphex Twin. Quirks, looms and concertinaed MIDI-like sounds emanate from Pasinetti’s omnivorous feasting soundboard of quarks and cutesy dialogue samples.

At times this sounds like a marimba-twinkled score to some fantasy island level on a Japanese computer game of the nighties, at others, like the light flash patterned communications between the aliens of Close Encounters and the imagined inner worlds of a microchip. Cartoon arias and 64-bit scales combine with pleasing melodies, melodica-like waves and furry creatures on a synthesized, programmed collage of constantly evolving and progressive play. This is what happens when no one tells you to stop messing around in your bedroom with all those electronic music making devices. A free reign that magic’s up the goods.

It seems that to qualify for the Artetetra label nod of approval you need to be drinking from a whole other, fun and mad source than the rest of the electronic music fraternity. Always on a leftfield bent, and entertaining to boot, the Milan-based collective imprint once again delights as much as it does amuse in the pursuit of pushing at the fun buttons and outer limits of electronic and avant-garde music. A great split coupling of intriguing artists that demand further investigation.

Various  ‘Perú Selvático – Sonic Expedition Into The Peruvian Amazon 1972 – 1986’ 
(Analog Africa) 16th December 2022

Sometimes as a critic you just want something fun and playful to listen to. To escape the lectures, the woes. And with Analog Africa’s latest visit to the cumbia mecca of Perú, you’re suddenly whisked away to the beach side parties and jungle shindigs of South America.

Released in conjunction with a rarefied collection of dance tunes from Sonido Verde de Moyobamba by the label’s Limited Dance Editions imprint, the Perú Selvático compilation draws together a survey of Amazon style cumbia movers and shakers from the early 1970s to the mid 80s. Sonido make a couple of appearances on this selection, so you can pretty much test whether you want to shell out for both albums in this two-pronged Perúvian showcase.

But before all that, just a little context and information is needed first. If you’re just a cursory listener or newcomer to the phenomenon of cumbia music then in short it can be described loosely as a Latin-wide style that swaps or picks up changes wherever it falls within the South and Central American regions. Originally starting off in Colombia as a merger of African, indigenous and European styles of music, cumbia spread like wildfire to most communities; adopted, adapted and again melded with even more sounds as it travelled. That underlying saunter cannot be mistaken however, nor the courtship for that matter.

The main European element, the accordion, would later be replaced by the electric guitar as electricity reached even the most densely covered areas of the Amazon; once more changing the sound in the process. Just to confuse matters, a sub-genre called “chichi” was to emerge specifically from inland Perú. This was a kind of Andean music that became popular in the country’s coastal cities, especially in Lima. Named after the favoured Inca corn-based liquor, chichi’s roots began in the oil boomtowns and interchanges of the Amazon. Speaking totally as a mere student of ethnography, I’m sure the music on this compilation is either part of it or at least a close relative. They both share the same penchant for surf guitar and rudimental synthesised sounds if this compilation is anything to go by. Add to that the party spirit – an itch to join a long conga line -, the use of Bill Justus-like raunchy licks, tropical hints of the Caribbean and a suffusion of bandy organ.

Behind the pin-up cover lies a less seedy, a bit sensual, collection of rare hits mostly confined, success wise, to the Amazon. Highly popular locally, it would take time to make it to the Lima airwaves. A smattering of producers took to the road, helping to spread that sound to cities like Tarapoto, Moyobamba and Pucallpa – only reachable by air or boat that last one. There’s a god showing of groups (I presume) from those mentioned regions, with The Ventures and Shadows twing-twang, scuffed percussion and playful spirit of the already mentioned Sonido Verde de Moyobamba, to the opening swimmingly wavy beachside Latin, low-volt amped guitar buzz of Pucallpa’s Los Royals, and the Meek-like echo-y reverb of Fresa Juvenil De Tarapoto. Talking of popularity, or just more prolific if you like, Los Zheros get three bites of the cherry. They saunter to congas and spindly percussion on ‘Selva Virgen’, stir up slightly more exotic sandy relaxed vibes on ‘Alibaba’ – some Arabian night fantasy perhaps -, and magic up seductive move on ‘La Uñita’. Likewise Los Cisnes get an equal three-way selection, with the Brazilian-flavoured ‘La Hamaca’, bendy and fuzz guitar surfing ‘Safari En La Selva’, and the held-organ, soft drum rolling ‘Rio Mar’

Elsewhere there’s a balance of the laidback and racing, and a number of attempts to electrify cumbia with some synthesized technology; some zaps and wobbles and bobbed liquid bendy bits here and there, which mostly lean towards the lo fi and kitsch.

Intentional or not, some tracks veer over the borders, picking up sounds, grooves, rhythms from the East Coast of South America, Sun Records America and Mexico: or so it sounds. It’s a party whatever way you choose to look at it.

Analog Africa lift some sweet, cool tunes from out of obscurity, or at least highlight a cult sound to a wider audience. So give Christmas a more infectious Latin feel and joy this year, you won’t regret it.

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.

CHOICE MUSIC FROM THE LAST MONTH
CURATED BY DOMINIC VALVONA

The very last monthly playlist of 2022 is a bumper edition of eclectic choice music from the last month, with a smattering of tracks from upcoming December releases too.

This month’s picks have been collected from Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Shea’ Bordello and Graham Domain. The full track list can be found below the Spotify link.

The monthly will be back in the New Year. Until then absorb this behemoth of a selection, and next month, ponder and peruse the blog’s 140 plus albums of 2022 features.

TRACK LIST IN FULL

Black Market Karma/Tess Parks  ‘The Sky Was All Diseased’
Enter Laughing  ‘Met Me When I landed’
Salem Trials  ‘Man From Atlantis Is Dead’
Humour  ‘Jeans’
Cities Aviv  ‘Funktion’
Vlimmer  ‘Mathematik’
Gabrielle Ornate  ‘Phantasm’
Dead Horses  ‘Can’t Talk, Can’t Sleep’
Lunar Bird  ‘Driven By The Light’
Mui Zyu  ‘Rotten Bun’
Thank You Lord For Satan  ‘When We Dance’
Pozi  ‘Slightly Shaking Cells’
My Friend Peter  ‘When I Was’
U.S. Girls  ‘Bless This Mess’
Sofie Royer  ‘Feeling Bad Forsyth Street’
Surya Botofasina  ‘Beloved California Temple’
Edrix Puzzle  ‘Shadow of Phobe’
Let Spin  ‘Waveform Guru’
Etceteral  ‘Gologlavka’
Juga-Naut  ‘Camel Walk’
The Pyramids  ‘Queens Of The Spirits Part 1’
Illogic  ‘Nowhere Fast’
Planet Asia/Snowgoons/Flash  ‘Metabolism’
Dabbla/alone  ‘Adept’
Karu  ‘Spears Of Leaves’
Neon Kittens  ‘Nil By Vein’
Renelle 893/King Kashmere  ‘My Demons’
Mount Kimbie/Don Maker/Kai Campos Ft. Slowthai  ‘Kissing’
Homeboy Sandman/Deca  ‘Satellite’
Uusi Aika  ‘S-T’
Gillian Stone  ‘The Throne’
Raw Poetic/Damu The Fudgemunk  ‘A Mile In My Head’
Boldy James/Futurewave  ‘Mortemir Milestone’
Arthur King  ‘Dig Precious Things’
Tom Skinner  ‘Voices (Of The Past)’
Trans Zimmer & The DJs  ‘Wind Quintet No. 3 In E Major, Second Movement’
George T  ‘Dub On, King’s Cross’
The Dark Jazz Project  ‘Great Skies’
Noémi Büchi  ‘Measuring All Possibilities’
Russ Spence  ‘Spectrum’
Seez Mics/Aupheus  ‘Cancel The Guillotine’
Dezron Douglas  ‘J Bird’
Fliptrix/Illinformed  ‘Eden’
Apollo Brown/Philmore Greene  ‘This Is Me’
Illogic  ‘She Didn’t Write’
Milc/Televangel Ft. AJ Suede  ‘Ronald Reagan’
Vincent/The Owl/Nick Catchdubs  ‘Fade 2 Black’
Shirt/Jack Splash  ‘Cancel Culture’
Clouds In A Headlock/ASM/Daylight Robbery  ‘3D Maze’
The Strange Neighbour/Leolex/Bobby Slice Ft. DJ Sixkay  ‘Keep Your Head Straight’
Kormac  Ft. Loah & Jafaris  ‘Bottom Of The Ocean’
A. O. Gerber  ‘Walk In The Dark’
Ben Pagano  ‘Hot Capital’
Hög Sjö  ‘Love Is A Gamble’
Kinked  ‘Introduzione Alla Fabula’
Årabrot  ‘Going Up’
Old Fire Ft. Julia Holter  ‘Window Without A World’
Meg Baird  ‘Star Hill Song’
Susanna/Stina Stjern/Delphine Dora  ‘Elevation’
Rita Braga  ‘Nothing Came From Nowhere’
Orchid Mantis  ‘Endless Life’
The Zew  ‘Come On Down’
Ocelot  ‘Santa Ana’
LINN  ‘Okay, Sister’
Sanfeliu  ‘Grassy Patch’
Young Ritual  ‘Ages’
Yermot  ‘Leaning To Lie’


ALBUM REVIEW
Dominic Valvona

Mauricio Takara and Carla Boregas  ‘Grande Massa D’Agua’
(Hive Mind)   

Nestled somewhere between the Brazilin oceanic coastline and the rainforest waterfalls’ of the interior, the impressive duo of Mauricio Takara and Carla Boregas embrace the replenishing vibes of water on their new album for the Hive Mind set.

Both foils in this electroacoustic avant-garde enterprise bring much to the water table, with Takara playing in the (highly recommended) São Paulo Underground, Hurtmold and MNTH set-ups but also involved in an array of sit-ins with such icons as the late Pharoah Sanders, the one-time mushroom mantra haiku Can front man Damo Suziki, and Acid Mothers Temple guardian Makoto Kawabata, and Boregas instigating the Rakto and Fronte Violeta projects, a soloist and founder of the experimental Brazilian venue AUTA and the Dama Da Noite label.

From the fringes of jazz, primitivism and electronica they pour that experience into the immersive, often mysterious, and otherworldly Grande Massa D’Agua set of peregrinations and ushering-ins of the elements.

Tightening, ratcheting, tinkled percussive tools that evoke the work of Walter Smetak sit with both singular bounced and more skittish drum rolls and tumbles across ceremonial, ritualistic, atavistic yet also futuristic invocations. São Paulo and its surrounding nature might be the catalyst but whole different auras and planes are summoned; some of which fall upon the realms of the kosmische and even Faust.

Amongst the rustles of grass, the circled ring of ceremonial bowls and drips of water hints of Aquiles Navarro and Jon Hassell-like trumpet linger on the veiled, textured air, all the while as the drums leap into action, rebounding off the rims and splashes of cymbal.

This is Art Ensemble Of Chicago via the Portico Quartet style jazz meets the percussive, rhythmic experiments and intuition of Valentina Magaletti and Ibn Battuta period Embryo. And yet as the sun rises on the horizon of this exotic landscape, we’re beamed almost into a lunar bending cosmos. Although the refracted, reversed and entrancing ‘Areia Preta’ feels like you’re at the centre of a hallucinatory dream. 

Melodic parts emerge out of the avant-garde free-play throughout this both suffused and zigzag rhythmic skate, rattled, poured and chimed water world. The idea of kinetic type energy in the movement (at one point taking on the illusion of a steam chuffed train ride down loose tracks) and sense of progression offer a semblance of musicality and melody even in the middle of the most singular serialism-edging and abstract performances.

Deeply felt and convincing, Grande Massa D’Agua is both an intriguing and true measure of the duo’s quality, pushing at the elementals without losing the listener or thread. They delve with adroit skill and a curiosity for sounding the abstract, and succeed in creating a mysterious and evocative soundtrack.

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

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