PLAYLIST
TEAM EFFORT/CURATED BY DOMINIC VALVONA

After avoiding Covid for nearly two and a half years (with periods of shielding) I’ve finally succumbed to the dreaded virus this week. And it’s hit me hard. But because I’m such a martyr to the cause of music sharing I’ve managed to compile this eclectic bonanza of choice music from the last month.

The Monolith Cocktail Monthly features tracks from the team’s reviews and mentions, but also includes those tunes we’ve just not had the room to feature. That team includes me (Dominic Valvona), Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Andrew C. Kidd and Graham Domain.

We’ve supplemented the original audio playlist with a video version on our Youtube channel. This will feature a slightly different lineup (the electronic music collective Violet Nox’s ‘Senzor’ primer for one).

 The full track list is as follows:

Dead Horses ‘Macabro’
Grave Goods ‘Source’
No Age ‘Compact Flashes’
Etceteral ‘Rome Burns’
Al-Qasar Ft. Jello Biafra ‘Ya Malak’
Clear Path Ensemble ‘Plazma Plaza’
Antonis Antoniou ‘Syntagi’
Ocelot ‘Vanha Hollywood’
The Beach Boys ‘You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone – Live At Carnegie Hall’
Rezo ‘Soemtimes’
Blue Violet ‘Favorite Jeans’
Teo Russo ‘Novembre’
Keiron Phelan & The Peace Signs ‘Guessing Game’
Micah P. Hinson ‘Ignore The Days’
Sonnyjim/The Purist Ft. MF DOOM & Jay Electronica ‘Barz Simpson’
Salem Trials ‘Just Give Up’
The Bordellos ‘Nurse The Screens!’
Legless Trials ‘Ray’s Kid Brother Is The Bomb’
S. Kalibre ‘Hip Hop World’
King Kashmere/Leatherette ‘G-Cell’
Depf/Linefizzy ‘Rain’
Isomonstrosity/645AR/John Lenox Ft. Danny Brown ‘Careful What You Wish For’
Tess Tyler ‘Try Harder’
Qrauer Ft. Anne Muller ‘Rund’
Sampa The Great Ft. W.I.T.C.H. ‘Can I Live?’
Rob Cave/Small Professor ‘Eastern Migration’
Salem Trials ‘Jc Cells’
Wish Master/Axel Holy Ft. Wundrop ‘FLIGHT MODE’
Alexander Stordiau ‘Nothing’s Ever Acquired’
Simon McCorry/Andrew Heath ‘Mist’
Andrei Rikichi ‘At Home I Hammer Ceramic Golfing Dogs’
OdNu ‘My Own Island’
Floorbrothers ‘In Touch’
Conformist X H O R S E S ‘Heddiw’
Slim Wrist ‘Milk Teeth’
Forest Robots ‘Everything Changes Color With The Rainfall’
Noah ‘Odette’
Yara Asmar ‘there is a science to days like these (but I am a slow learner)’
Tess Tyler/Spindle Ensemble ‘Origami Dogs (Graphic Score Interpretation)’
Christina Vantzou/Michael Harrsion/John Also Bennett ‘Piano On Tape’
Yemrot ‘Big Tree’







ALBUM REVIEW
DOMINIC VALVONA

No Age ‘People Helping People’
(Drag City) 16th September 2022

Fucked-over like the rest of us during the Covid pandemic, the drum and guitar pushing No Age partnership of Randy and Dean lost their original studio space of the last decade. Forced to take up space in Randy’s garage instead, the duo set out on another sonic adventure of both languid and more weighted slacker angst, pain and dismissal.

Six albums into a feted career that began sixteen years ago, No Age have lasted the course and maintained their thirst for experiment; taking that drum, guitar and vocal combo further than most. And for the first time ever the new optimistically, daresay hopeful, entitled People Helping People album is entirely recorded by the duo themselves.

They bookend it with two of the most dreamy resonating instrumental pieces: the first, ‘You’re Cooked’ envelopes and traverses cylindrical vaporous loops, reversed sucked-in guitar sonics and sparse drum pad hits, the second, ‘Andy Helping Andy’ is even more psychedelically sleepy and ghostly; a wistfully aching and hazy vision that could have easily soundtracked the recent Netflix documentary, The Andy Warhol Diaries. The former reminded me of the Liars Aaron Hemphill and his solo Nonpareil project, the latter, like a languorous, quite sad waft of remembrance. The Warhol track is actually among my favourites. Over time it gets better and better, more evocative on every play.

So, No Age continue to change the mood, waiting until well into the album’s second track, ‘Compact Flashes’, to open up the vocal valves, chase wild horses and skid, clash and clatter with sporadic free fall jazz spills, new wave sensibilities and a loosened concept of timing. It is however a continuous balance of those stirring instrumental fogs, wisps and a rolling, fanned and disjointed unique vision of scuzz, garage, punk, grunge, shoegaze and music that no ones quite been able to name convincingly yet.

If you could even call them reference points, there’s a taste of the already mentioned Liars, a guzzle fuzz of Lou Reed (‘Violence’), Iggy period Stooges and Dylan if he’d be born as a generation Xer snot rocker (‘Flutter freer’), Crispy Ambulance (in many places) and Rudolf Sosna’s scratchy guitar work on the Faust albums (‘Plastic (You Want It)’).

At times on a lo fi vibe and at other times pushing at the halcyon, No Age keep moving, keep navel gazing and keep on surprising.  Just when you get a sense of direction they change tact, plant a new seed. On waves, in bombardments and fizzled petulance the duo redefine their sound and push the envelope a little further forward down the road. 

DOMINIC VALVONA’S ECLETIC REVUE

Al-Qasar ‘Who Are We?’
(Glitterbeat Records) 16th September 2022

Bubbling up from the Barbès Algerian enclave of Paris (the 18th Arrondissment boulevard that’s home to the yet to be gentrified and tourist-friendly passed Little Algeria community) and crisscrossing continents, the Al-Qasar group fuzz-up and electrify the sound of Arabia and its diaspora.

Helmed by instigator-in-chief Thomas Attar Bellier that neighborhood bustle is elevated and blasted back out into the world at large, absorbing and picking up sonic waves, spikes from Northeast Africa to a hardcore California and a rich tasting Sublime Porte.

It all helps of course that Attar Bellier is a global nomad, having lived in New York, Lisbon and Paris, but also having worked in the recording studios of L.A. during that circumnavigation of multicultural living he produced enough tracks of his own, releasing the well-received Miraj EP.

I get the impression that this is a fluid project, but at the time of this, the debut longplayer, Attar Bellier has opened up the ranks to include Jaouad El Garouge on vocals and a number of instruments synonymous with Moroccan Gnwa and North African traditions, Guillaume Théoden on bass and sub-bass duties, Nicolas Derolin on a myriad of percussive and hand drum instruments and Paul Void on drums. That seems the core anyway, but in this electric saz tangling and psychedelic post-punk rich sound there’s a cast of guest pioneering musicians to add yet another layer, another sonic perspective.

From the start there’s Sonic Youth’s guitar-sculptor Lee Ranaldo providing multi-layers of sustain, whines and abrasions to both the opening Swans meet Faust squall turn spindled and more familiar Middle Eastern electric fez intro ‘Awtar Al Sharq’, and the second, dervish-spun spirited and phlegm-voiced tour of Anatolia, The Balkans and Arabia, ‘Awal’.

That legend of the California punk scene, miscreant Dead Kennedys founder Jello Biafra goes free-radical on the staccato jangling ‘Ya Malak’. In a kind of John Sinclair mode, he reads out a poignant translation of a poem by the famous Egyptian revolutionary poet Ahmed Fouad Negam, updated for the cataclysmic state of the world in 2022, and the crumbled, violently oppressed post Arab Spring. This is where, despite the Cairo-futurism, the rattled and slapped hand drum energy, that the political motivations, the despair and anger comes to the fore; all that history, the post-colonial tumult and also fall-out from an Arabian-wide protest movement seeking modernization, the right to earn and end to greed. Read through a tiny transistor style radio Biafra’s agitator spirit turns this into a sort of Arabian Fugazi.

Moving on, but just as political, the New York-based Sudanese vocal doyen Alsarah (of Alsarah & The Nubatones renown) brings her impressive expressive outpourings and trill to the rattlesnake desert song ‘Hobek Thawrat’. In that soulful, rising loved-yearned voice there’s a protest against the coup on her homeland, the chorus itself repeating a slogan from the recent demonstrations. A sound of the Sahel, the women folk of Tinariwen and a little Bab L’Bluz Gnawa hover over this beautifully delivered protestation.

It runs throughout, this sound’s birthplace, but Al-Qasar pay a special homage on the (so good they name it twice) ‘Barbès Barbès’, which also features the electric oud pioneer Mehdi Haddab (of Speed Caravan note). Metal work drums, a nice rolling groove and souk candour prove a friendly hustled soundtrack for a meander in the heavily African outpost. Haddab gets a solo of a kind, providing a romanticized, poetic and folksy oud, with bursts of blurred quickened neat fretwork that borders on Baba ZuLu style psychedelic rock.

The finale, ‘Mal Wa Jamal’, features the longing ached vocals of the Egyptian singer Hend Elrawy soaring over an inspirial organ and almost post-punk push. Elraway’s beautiful wails prove disarming as the song’s lyrics concern a female-centric outlook on prostitution and its consequences. There’s attitude certainly, but it’s all wrapped up in a fizzled, fuzzy and mystical film of Arabian dance and fantasy. No surprise that they’ve been added to the Glitterbeat Records label roster, an imprint for just this sort of fusion; one in which you’ll hear an Arabic Muscle Shoals merging with Anatolian psych, a touch of Electric Jalaba and Şatellites if remixed by Khalab. A brilliant package of transformed traditions wrapped up in electrifying futurism; the sounds of Arabia, North Africa and beyond are thrust into a dynamic, unifying and eclectic direction. 

Clear Path Ensemble ‘Solar Eclipse’
(Soundway Records)  9th September 2022

Out of the Wellington jamming session hothouse incubator and blossoming jazz scene in New Zealand Cory Champion rides the sun-birched rays and waves to cook-up a congruous album of many flavours. From a knowing position the jazz percussionist flows freely between a 70s ECM back catalogue of inspirations and the funk, fusion, spiritual and more freeform genres of his chosen art form.

Under the Clear Path Ensemble alias – his second such alias, also going under the Borrowed CS title when making leftfield deep house and techno cuts – Champion channels both Latin and Uniting Of Opposites style brassy Indian reverberations on the golden ‘Kihi’; offers up an acid jazz turn retro zippy-zappy late 70s disco funk fusion on ‘Drumatix’; and magic’s up a post-Bitches Brew Mile Davis band mystery of African-flavoured marimba and jug-poured, lava-lamp liquid cosmic spiritualism on ‘Revolutions’. But the mood, musicality changes again when we reach the jazzy-suspense score ‘Absolvo’: an early 70s cool cult vision of a Lalo Schifrin thriller.  

The finale, ‘Tennis Ball’, could be said to have taken Liquid Liquid’s percussion, beats and a bit of the Style Council’s laidback washy soul-funk. And the dreamy seasonal solstice ‘Sunrise Motif’ finds a blend of the Modern Jazz Quartet, the willowy fluted bucolic and Nate Morgan. All the while translucent bulb-like notes flow or float from the vibraphone as other light-footed percussive vibrations dance and softly quicken the pace.    

A harp run here and muffled, mizzle sax or trumpet there; a touch of electric piano and pining strings on anther track; all elements that come together across a changing groove.

Clive Zanda meets a less busy Michael Urbaniek on a minor jazz odyssey of nostalgic but very much alive and contemporary fusions, Champion’s second album in this role is a sophisticated, smooth but also freeform set of moods, visions and counterflows. It proves a perfect fit for the eclectic and much-praised Soundway label.

Forest Robots ‘Supermoon Moonlight Part Two’
(Subexotic)

After an initial redolent arpeggiator wave of Roedelius, a rainbow of trance, vapoured breathed coos and transience follows, marking what will be an entirely different kind of record for the Californian electronic artist and topographical trekker Fran Domingeuz.

Under the Forest Robots alias/umbrella, Fran has produced numerous adroit, studied and evocative ambient and neoclassical soundtracks to the myriad of landscapes and forest trials he’s traversed over the years. As the world dramatically succumbed to a global pandemic, and the chance to escape to the wilds became scarce, the signature form stayed but now the music was suddenly a therapy and a vehicle for channeling the anxiety, stresses of such uncertain times.

Now (thankfully) with the worse behind us, Fran emerges with the ‘long gestating’ follow-up to Part One of his Supermoon Moonlight suites from 2018. Although recording sessions for Part Two started back in 2019 it has taken a while to finally process the last couple of years and to finish and release this beautifully conceived album of suffused and uplifting hope.

The geography and National Geographic almanac proverb-like and Zen titles remain (‘All The Rivers Born In The Mountains’, ‘Wind Always Runs Wilder Along The River’s Current’) but the underlying theme has Fran exploring the complexities of parenthood and the ‘kind of spiritual and emotional legacy a father would wish to leave for his kids.’ A warming sentiment and inspired prompt makes for a very different kind of album though. From the same gifted mind and ear yet swimming in the sine waves of trance, synth-pop, 90s techno and dance music this is relatively a new but welcoming direction, expansion on his signature sound.

Upbeat as much as reflective, the feel is often dreamy; the gravity and awe of nature gently present; cut-out mountainsides, flowing connective rivers and a canopy of redwoods, the stage is set as stars shoot across the night skies and moonbeams illuminate.

In the slipstream and bubbled undulations The Beloved shares space with The Orb, Stereolab, 808 State, Sakamoto, Vince Clarke, Boards Of Canada, I.A.O., the Aphex Twin and Ulrich Schnauss. This is a beautiful combination that filters the aftermath of the rave culture, the burgeoning British minimal techno scene of the early 90s Warp label, 80s synth-pop and electronic body music. Yet there’s room for a certain crystallised chilled sparkle of the Chromatics and the Drive time moody, ruminated dry-ice scores of Cliff Martinez within that beat-driven glow. And the elements of charcoal fires crisply burning and flickering, and the poured waters have a certain Luc Ferrari influence – albeit far less avant-garde.

Playful and sophisticated with a surprising dance-y pulse and radiant outlook, Part Two should act as a testimony to an inspired and inspiring composer. I think his kids will be rightly proud of their dad and his musical legacy: electronic music with a soul and purpose.      

Machine ‘S-T’
(WEWANTSOUNDS)

Back again in The Perusal (becoming a 2022 regular) those vinyl specialists at WEWANTSOUNDS have remastered and pressed that rarest-of-rare conscious-soul-funk LPs, the obscure assembled Machine’s self-titled debut (and only) album from 1972.

The rumour-mill is strong on this one; the cause of its £500 plus price tag on Discogs believed to be a result of either a very limited release or no release at all – shelved as it were. It could be down to the sheer quality of the competition, arriving as it did in the wake of similar social-political soul as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly (but also his albums previous to that). Both prove a massive influence on this smooth and funky eight-track showcase.  

What we do know however is that the make up of this group included a trio of well-rehearsed session players from the All Platinum Studios stable in New Jersey. That included main man Michael Watson on vocals and guitar, bass-player Curtis McTeer (also playing with labelmates The Rimshots) and drummer Donald McCoy, who were then fattened out with the organist/pianist Ray Jones, another bassist, Frank Prescod, and both Dee and Cordy Pridges on horns. On the same label and one of the most established, successful acts The Whatnauts lent both their backing vocalists and, rather oddly, their manager (credited on percussion) Bunch Herndon to this widening lineup. And on top of all that, the notable Sammy Lowe (arranging for such distinguished company as Nina Simone, Sam Cooke and James Brown) offers a subtle suite of strings to the mix, taking it down the Rotary Connection route.

The Whatnauts prove a pretty integral ingredient to the Machine track list, lending both the ‘Only People Can Save The World’ and ‘Why Can’t People (Be Color Too?)’ songs to the album. Machine keep the sentiment of both, but add both an almost bucolic and pastoral gospel-rayed yearn to the first, and up the Gator funk and Stevie Wonder boogie on the Sly Stone on-message second.

They open on the relaxed but simmered Southern-funk-hits-the-streets-of-NYC style ‘Time Is Running Out’. Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s buzzy licks meet Maxayn attitude sass, sweet sax and touch of ‘Brotherman’ The Final Solution on a conscious-political workout – the repeated vocal refrain apparently ad-libbed.

Very much of its time and again on-message, ‘World’ tunes into the Vietnam War and its impact on and confliction with the African-American community. The actual groove is quite percussive with a touch of The Temptations Psychedelic Shack, Mayfield and The Meters.

There’s a seagull hovering harbor scene, not a million miles away from Otis’ wistful gaze, on the gear-changing ‘Trails’. It starts with that atmospheric rumination, a hint of the Latin and some romantic allusions before quickening into a banjo-rhythmic strumming West coast jive. It then goes on to wail and cry with a sequel of electric guitar. ‘Lock Your Door’ however could be a lost Northern Soul dancer, and the balladry pined ‘Boots In The Snow’ is another of those Marvin Gaye try-outs, with a touch of 70s Motown.

An enervated Nat Turner, Undisputed Truth, Mary Jane Hooper, Johnny Pate with those Mayfield and Gaye inspirations, Machine stepped-out to lead their own socially conscious project. But whilst the elements are all present, the sound isn’t quite unique enough, overshadowed as they were by a multitude of bands/artists working in the same groove and message. Still, at least you can now own a real rarity without forgoing this month’s rent, gas or mortgage payment. And it’s well worth a spin at that.

Noah ‘Noire’
(Flau Records) 26th August 2022

Ever the diaphanous siren of soothed vaporous experiments and song, the Hokkaido-born artist Noah once more drifts and floats across a sophisticated combination of futuristic etudes and distilled electronica. Following on from the beautiful balletic-inspiredÉtoile (given a glowing review by my good self), this latest emanation of whispered and cooed translucence is just as lovely and swathed in dreamy effects.

A collection of tracks from between a pre-Covid era of 2015-2020, the Noire album is awash with studied yet effortless sounding sonic theme variations; a nine-track congruous suite that riffs on Noah’s signature of ghostly plinky-plonked semi-classical piano (occasionally an electronic one by the sounds of it) and minimal 808-style synthesized waves, percussion and bobbled beats.

Noah’s breathless vocals and atmospherics seem to be reaching us from the ether: often just the reverberations of some distant hazy whisper. The opening transparent slow spiral ‘Twirl’ could be a distant relation to Julee Cruise; an enchanted but haunted echo from a palatial ballroom, yet still highly intimate. ‘Odette’ oozes languorous modern soul and R&B, like Solange drifting over the Boards of Canada.

Undulated by softened kinetic ratchets, screws and turns there’s a coming together of purposeful techno and more rhythmic retro house beats, enervated as to never overpower the general woozy and beautifully longing mood. 

Shorter reflections, pieces are balanced by extended tracks and the heavenly, bobbing and echoed looped single ‘Gemini – Mysterious Lot’; the sound relaxing as it moves from transformed Sakamoto to cool dreamy pop.

Remaining something of an enigma Noah appears and then floats away, leaving a lingering presence with music created in a dream. Noire is another great, captivating showcase for that talent.

Lampen ‘S-T’
(We Jazz) 9th September 2022

A re-release of a kind, in case you both missed it the first time around or because of its limited run on CD, the free and post-jazz Finnish duo Lampen are now offering their 2020 self-titled album on vinyl for the first time – a very nice package it is too.

I would be one of those people that did miss it the first time around, and so I now find myself discovering its highly experimental, explorative qualities, imbued as they are by the Japanese art of “kintsugi” (or “golden joinery”), the repairing art of mending areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver and platinum. As much a philosophy as a method of repair, the breaks and cracks are treated and documented rather than disguised or thrown away.

The binding metal dust is like a woven vein and testament to that object’s knocks and history. With all its obvious metaphors the Lampen lads are less than careful, seeming to deconstruct and rebuild simultaneously in an act of free-spirited concentration: if that makes sense. For they break and stretch the performances yet, because their craft is obviously brilliant, they seem to always be in unison, synchronicity throughout.

Across five crawling and more crescendo splashed tracks, guitarist Kelle Kalima and percussionist/sampler Tatu Rönkkö rattle and wane; bend and set in motion a tumult of krautrock, progressive, industrial, post-punk, psychedelic and avant-garde workouts and soundtracks. In abandoned rusted turbine dominated factories, mysterious chambers but also hovering over lunar terrains Lampen evoke hints of Rhyton, Peter Giger, Krononaut, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Orchestra, King Crimson, Faust and The Mosquitoes. All good and appealing to those like me longing to hear jazz pushed into such directions.

Rather surprisingly, amongst the sustained drones, harmonic pings and sculpting Kalima’s guitar bursts into acid-country indie-rock territory – think, of all people, John Squire on the Stone Roses second album. There’s even spots of no wave and dub to be found emerging from various tangents and untethered directions.

Impressive throughout, whether that’s in slow motion or more maelstrom driven bursts, Lampen’s debut album is a barely contained, unnerving in places, cranium-fuck of excellent moody jazz and industrial resonating experiment. Second time around then, the duo offer us another chance to indulge in their brand of unbridled post-jazz. I think you should take them up on the offer.

Qrauer ‘Odd Fazes’
(Nonostar) 22nd September

Following on from their debut Heeded showcase for Alex Stolze’s burgeoning Nonostar label back in April, arrives an extended debut album from the German electronic duo Qrauer, who transduce chamber music, the semi-classical and percussive into a sophisticated transformation of minimalist-techno and intelligent EDM suites.

The combined, refined but ever open skills of percussionist, producer and remixer Christian Grochau and his foil the pianist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Ludwig Bauer come together to fluidly remodel their chosen instruments into a both mindful and danceable work of electroacoustic moods and soundscape sonic worlds.

Instead of a pulled-together album of 12”’s and mixes and the like, Odd Fazes feels like a complete journey from beginning to end, with shorter more ambient gazing vignettes alongside longer more evolving pieces. And so you have the trance-y, droned and transformed glitch-y orchestral spell of the incipient stirring ‘Reg. Capture’ followed immediately by the polyrhythmic, clean percussive and galvanized EDM noirish ‘Drumthrives’. Or the Drukqs era Aphex Twin piano – played on a distant echo-y stage – beautifully, but slightly off-kilter, resonating ‘Fuq’ following on from the Artificial Intelligence series trance and suspense soundtrack ‘Cool Edit’. This offers a variation and nice set of breaks between the more techno pumped movers and sonic imaginations.

Later on, Nonostar labelmate Anne Müller adds her swoonstress cello to a couplet of evocative tracks. The first of which, ‘Rund’, has an air of the Aphex Twin (again) about it. Circling bowl rings, kinetic twists and percussive itches are woven into a mild tempo EDM pulse as Müller’s trembled and attentive cello saws and plucks are turned into repeating, recontextualized beats or motifs. On ‘Oval’ the adroit, experimental cellist seems to revive some of her stirring, pining gravitas from the Solo Collective project she shares with both Nonostar founder Stolze and, another labelmate, Sebastian Reynolds. There’s also a hint, I think, of fellow cellist and experimental artist Simon McCorry too on this deeply felt mournful piece.  

Multi-textured with a constant movement and undulated beat that builds and builds yet never settles for the predictable euphoric, anthem moment, there’s a lot of clever, purposeful work at play. I haven’t even mentioned the layers of satellite and moon-bending refractions, nor the cosmic flares, the droplets of notes, cooed waveforms, fizzes and experimental recondite sound sources that have been meticulously thought-out. Again, just like the Heeded EP, the debut album is another cerebral rework of electronic body music, techno, EDM and the classical; a complete dancefloor-ready and mindful journey. 

Simon McCorry ‘Scenes From The Sixth Floor’
(Shimmery Moods)

Turning the worries and mental strains of ill health into something creatively rewarding, the highly prolific cellist sound sculptor and composer Simon McCorry is thankfully back on the experimental electronic scene after a stay in hospital last Christmas. After a period of healing, recuperation, McCorry assembles a sort of soundtrack to that worrying, anxious period.

Following a loose ‘mental thread’ (as he puts it) Scenes From The Sixth Floor is an evocative and ruminating work of both studied ambient peregrinations and post-club techno comedowns; beginning with the cult kosmische drop through Tarkovsky’s glass portal, ‘Falling Through The Mirror Backwards’. Part illusion, part Moebius scores Hitchcock’s Spellbound, it’s the sound of our composer freefalling through a gauzy blanket, unable to latch onto the sides or gain traction as he spirals in sedated state to earth. Yet this there’s also no panic, rather a hallucinatory feel.

The next track, ‘Fragmentation’, is the first of two pieces developed from previous commissions/projects. Originally, albeit loosely, based on a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party dance piece, the landscape on this piece is less Lewis Carroll surrealism and more an evolving soundtrack that absorbs Bleiche Brunnen period Asmus Tietchens, Bernard Szajner sci-fi, Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter and Sven Vath.  From the primal liquid blobs to the supernatural and futuristic, McCorry creates a whole atmospheric world before building steadily towards a patter beat of early 90s set techno (R&S/Harthouse).

Another developed idea, ‘The Sea Of Stories’ takes its cue from Philip Ridley’s feted Moon Fleece book – an intense and thrilling exploration of memory and identity. One of the only tracks with which you can hear a mostly untreated, transformed as it is, cello, McCorry’s instrument of virtuoso choice aches and arches movingly whilst a constant arpeggiator waterfall cascades onto shimmered, light catching waves. Be careful, if you close your eyes you could just find yourself carried away on the tide.

Up above now to the skies and the stirring and soaring ‘The Secret Life Of Clouds’. A beautiful if almost little mysterious, unsure passage, I picked up Schulze, Frosse and even a touch of Air Liquide on this natural phenomenon. But it’s Roedelius’ fairground piped style of playfulness and new classical analogue electronica that’s felt on the arpeggiator-bounced ‘Surfacing’; although this mood changes with another of those post-club undulations, pitter-pattering way at the end.    

Tubular marimba and small thrusts of Kriedler and Pyrolator make up the mid-temp techno styled ‘Earth Best’, and the angrier entitled ‘Day Of Wrath’ has a certain European yearn and another echo of Roedelius’ whistled Bavarian fairground vibes. The cello, which remains pretty much hidden throughout the album, now starts to materialize, producing a weepy bowed melody and sense of purpose.  Constantly enriching the ambient genre and beyond McCorry has bounced back with a reflective and developed soundtrack of perfectly crafted and moving compositions, some of which contain a certain mystery, dreamy-realism that remains to be deciphered. Proving the cello still has some way to go as an imaginative and explorative tool, the gifted player finds new tones, textures and spells of magic to further that instrument’s sound, use and reach. It’s good to have him back is all I can say. And this album further cements an already impressive reputation as a true innovator and master of the form.  

REZO ‘Sew Change’
30th September 2022

Shy of just eighteen months the Irish duo of REZO follow up last year’s debut album Travalog with another relaxed, gentle-of-touch songbook, Sew Change. The seeds of this particular brand of disarming but deeply moving craft were sown from a distance, with both partners in this project recording their parts in separate locations on that debut. Nothing quite concentrates the mind as an epidemic and its confinement, and so the introspection flowed on that record, which despite the distance geld perfectly: in keeping with both musician’s Ireland and Med environments, the music effortlessly blended a touch of the Balearics with more soft-peddled Americana and singer-songwriter material.

As a sort of bridge back to Travalog, the spoken-word return down memory lane family themed ‘You Are What You Wear’ repurposes the sleepy, laidback rolled and Damon Alban-esque with a lick of Baxter Dury ‘Life During Lockdown’ backing. Only this time there’s an additional soulful female cooed chorus and the subject is Colm O’Connell’s family-run knitwear factory in the city centre of Dublin. Within that idyllic-natured return to a more carefree childhood, the whole gamut of life, death and remembrance is narrated both fondly and poignantly.

Concentrating on what’s most important, attempting to right some wrongs and holding one’s hands up to past mistakes, Colm and his foil Rory McDaid ease through some highly sensitive subjects to a musical accompaniment of Americana (once more), synthesized shading and gentle spacey takeoff sparkles, enervated bobbing dance music, piano-led balladry and wistful acoustics. However, within that scope they evoke a Muscle Shoals spiritual Rolling Stones, and a little Billy Preston, on the gospel organ sustained (with a cheeky hint of ‘Let It Be’ I might add) ‘I’m Not Enough’.      

Talking of the sensitive, and careful not to cancel themselves in the process, the duo filter their concerns on the increasingly problematic and volatile theme of cancel culture on the Med-twanged, gauzy ‘Erays’. Like passing through gargled spacy waters and a dry-ice machine they make sure to carefully word their take; misspelling “Erase” as a nod to rays of sunshine and hope in this struggle over censorship. They also seem to tackle teenage suicide and mental health issues on the iconic Dublin Nine Arches set drama ‘Boy On A Bridge’, and explore the grief of dementia by marrying solo McCartney to the Eels on the synth undulating ‘Sometimes’.

Already included on July’s monthly playlist, ‘Your Truth’ still stands out as one of the album’s best offerings. On a song about the cost of “freeing your mind”, or the indulgences of going too far, that Americana feel is taken in a novel direction with softly padded congas, a smooth bass and veil of psychedelic-indie ala later MGMT – I’m also positive I can also hear a touch of TV On The Radio.

In its entirety Sew Change is a completely realised album of reminisces, reflections and softly hushed reconciliations, set to a gentle wash of the spiritual, Irish snug and saloon bar piano, a lilted Dylan-esque lyrical cadence (see the nativity-evoked ‘Hiding In Plain View’) and hazy suffusion of synth. The duo expand the palette without upsetting the formula to produce a complimentary follow-up every bit as slowly captivating.  

John Howard ‘From The Far Side Of A Far Miss’
(Kool Kat)  9th September 2022

Following in the slipstream of his third and final volume of memoirs (In The Eyeline Of Furtherance) the singer-songwriter John Howard, with the wind in his sails, is back with yet another album. But instead of the usual songbook formula this is a continuous one-track work of disarming, gentle brilliance that runs to over thirty-five minutes.

You could say it was a return to Howard’s long form songwriting experiments of 2016 and the Across The Door Sill album, or perhaps even a reaction to (one of his heroes of the form) Bob Dylan and his Boomer odyssey ‘Across The Rubicon’, which more or less charts an entire epoch. Howard is a bit younger than Dylan of course, but both artists seem to be making some of their best work at this stage in their lives: uncompromising and unburdened by expectation or the need to suck up to fashions, labels, even the public they share an envious position. That Dylan mini-opus only lasted a mere seven-minutes in comparison, whilst Howard’s grand effort runs and runs, covering as it does a lifetime as a proxy soundtrack to his series of autobiographies.

Far more melodious than his hero’s reflections, this scrapbook photo album reminisce features Howard’s signature balladry-troubadour and stage musical verve of poetically candid prose, sung both wistfully and with a certain yearn.

Love is all though as Howard sets scene after scene, analogy after analogy; reconciling his past to a watery-mirrored piano-led score that’s constantly moving, picking up suffused strings, Dylan’s harmonica, a bucolic burnished harpsichord, a planetarium mood piece starry synth and light dabbing’s of congas and shaker. In what could be a reference to his own semi-cover version album Cut The Wire, there’s a hint of the Incredible String Band and also Roy Harper about this extended performance; especially Howard’s version of the former’s ‘In The Morning’. Later on it’s a lilt of The Beach Boys, bobbing on the “ripples of forever” line. Yet it’s unmistakably a John Howard sound, a lovingly executed piece of songwriting that more than holds its own across thirty-five minutes plus of ebbing drama.

But this is also a two-way conversation with Howard playing both sides of a long affair; the part of old lovers and new, friends, acquaintances and family, their words echoing now in the mists of the time that’s left. Dylan, that recurring idol, acts as a silent partner in one such discourse, as Howard sings about artistic integrity and his inspirations, a pantheon of uncompromising doyens. And in that same particular passage we also have Monroe and the Fab Four popping up; a Hard Days Night Beatles name-checked in what is both a celebrated yet fraught with delusion and remembrance chapter on this long winding road.

I particularly enjoyed the more salt-of-the-earth café scene diorama; Howard in voyeuristic mode describing a very unlikely cast, using both a kid who’s reading a Russian literary titan and a priest faraway in reflective thought (perhaps regret) as conduits for naming even more idols and favourites: “The kid who’s reading Tolstoy, listening to The Rolling Stones; I can hear old Jagger’s laughter floating from his phone.” Great lines by the way. The priest is “remembering Bowie’s Low”, which could of course be a reference to the same priest featured in the lyrics to ‘Five Years’ now contemplating a life that’s perhaps not all it seems.

Addressing, redressing whilst swanning through fantasies of a swish Ritz, 5th Avenue and Caesars Palace, imaging an alternative stratospheric career trajectory, headlining the Albert Hall, Howard takes us on a rolling, fluctuating journey through of his thoughts, dreams (realized and abandoned), regrets and hurt. By the end of this epic piece the final phrase, sung in a lasting glow, says it all: “It simply is what it always was”. Dylan couldn’t have put it much better.

An ambitious undertaking, From The Far Side Of A Far Miss is the work of an artist still willing to take chances and explore. Whilst his peers rely on the back catalogue, or drum out the same music they made over fifty plus years ago, Howard seems entirely comfortable in his own skin as a wiser yet still spritely young-at-heart artist composing music on his own terms. Fresh new introspections, concepts abound as he shows there’s still so much more to share and create.

Yara Asmar ‘Home Recordings 2018-2021’
(Hive Mind Records) 16th September 2022

The latest discovery on the Hive Mind radar emanates from Beirut, with the serialism and tonal atmospheres, ambient and minimal semi-classical melodies of Yara Asmar.

In a tumultuous climate, referenced in a sampled conversation piece on ‘Is An Okay Number’ and in the unsaid but moody reflections and vaporous drifts that push out into the unknown and untethered, the twenty-five year old multi-instrumentalist, video artist and puppeteer manages to often leave the earthly mess of a region in crisis and float out above the city.

From an airy viewing platform we can identify swirls, waves, gauzy veils and echoes of the concertinaed (courtesy of Asmar’s grandparents’ accordion), tubular metallic rings and tingles (that will be the metallophone), a serious but graceful piano, a music box, hinges and searing gleams and a beatified magical spell of Christian church liturgy. The latter source was recorded by Asmar from church hymnal services around the Lebanon; transduced into the hallowed yet otherworldly and mysterious, given a gentle waltz-like ghostly quality and only sense of a presence. A reference to country’s much troubled religious turmoil? The art of remembrance? Spiritualism? Or the familiar sounds of an upbringing? Whatever the reason it sounds both equally as ethereal, as it does supernatural: passages into other realms.

Tracks like ‘We Put Her In A Box And Never Spoke Of It Again’ are almost lunar in comparison to those hymns; lending a moon arc of Theremin-like UFO oscillations and cult library cosmic scores to this set of peregrinations and field-recordings. Yet for the most part this is a truly dreamy, translucent and amorphous album of delicate classicism, explorative percussion and ambient; an ebb and flow of reverberations and traces of moods, thoughts that literally floats above the clouds and out beyond the Lebanese borders. These home recordings recorded onto cassettes and a mobile phone capture something quite unique, in what are the most unique of times.   

Valentina Magaletti & Yves Chaudouët ‘Batterire Fragile’
(Un-Je-Ne-Sais-Quoi) 23rd September 2022

Is it performance art or just performance? Probably both as the lauded drummer extraordinaire Valentina Magaletti once more sits behind the artist Yves Chaudouët’s conceptualized porcelain drum kit.

If you follow either of these artists then you’ll know that this is the second installment of recordings to be taken from the original project back in 2017. Conceived by the painter turn multimedia artist Chaudouët as an exploration in texture and friction, wood, metal and rubber were all added to the porcelain kit; the effects of which, in the hands of such an accomplished musician traverse the concrete, avant-garde, art rock, breakbeat, the classical and freeform and dark jazz.

It’s been a couple of years since I last featured the highly prolific composer/producer and percussionist Magaletti, featuring her ‘tropical concrete’ communal with Marlene Riberio, Due Matte. In this space Magaletti continuously rattles, rolls, skids, skiffles, dusts and lays spidery tactile rhythms and strokes down as mooning, wailed and frayed bowed primal supernatural atmospherics stir.

We could be in Southeast Asia, Tibet or West Africa, even the Caribbean with passages that sound like steel drums bouncing away. We could also be in a subterranean chamber as resonating echoes of this tinny, metallic and deadened kit ricochet of the walls. Reductionist theatre, ceramic jazz, a paranormal drumming séance, the mood isn’t always easy to gauge. But as experimental as it is Magaletti is constantly rhythmic throughout; switching yet always hitting a beat, and even in some parts something that resembles a groove. An exercise on concept but also percussive, drumming performance, this collaboration straddles both the art and musical camps to bring us something quite different yet always engaging, interesting and virtuoso.  

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.

PLAYLISTS SPECIAL
TEAM EFFORT/ CURATED BY DOMINIC VALVONA

All the choice tracks from the last month, selected by the entire Monolith Cocktail team: Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Graham Domain and Andrew C. Kidd.

For the past couple of months we’ve been experimenting with both Spotify version and Youtube (track list will vary) versions of the playlist. Whatever your preference found both below:

TRACKLIST

Future Kult  ‘We’
Grooto Terazza  ‘Tropische Krankheiten’
Speech Debelle Ft. Baby Sol  ‘Away From Home’
Joe Nora & Mick Jenkins  ‘Early’
A.G.  ‘Alpha Beta’
Your Old Droog & Madlib  ‘The Return Of The Sasquatch’
Gabrielle Ornate  ‘The Undying Sleep’
Yumi And The Weather  ‘Can You Tell’
Baby Cool  ‘Magic’
Claude  ‘Turn’
Lunar Bird  ‘Venilia’
Imaad Wasif  ‘Fader’
Legless Trials  ‘X-Tyrant’
Dearly Beloved  ‘Walker Park’
Staraya Derevnya  ‘Scythian Nest’
Short Fuze & Dr. Kill  ‘Me And My Demons’
Group  ‘The Feeling’ JJ Doom ‘Guv’nor’  (Chad Hugo Remix)
DJ Nappa  ‘Homeboys Hit It’
DJ Premier Ft. Run The Jewels  ‘Terrible 2’s’
Zero dB  ‘Anything’s Possible’  (Daisuke Tanabe Remix)
Underground Canopy  ‘Feelm’
Revelators Sound System  ‘George The Revelator’
Montparnasse Musique Ft. Muambuyi & Mopero Mupemba  ‘Bonjour’
The Movers  ‘Ku-Ku-Chi’
Yanna Momina  ‘Heya (Welcome)’
Vieux Farka Toure & Khruangbin  ‘Savanne’
Barrio Lindo  ‘Espuma De Mur’
Brown Calvin  ‘Perspective3’
Nok Cultural Ensemble Ft. Angel Bat Dawid  ‘Enlightenment’
Li Yilei  ‘A Hush In The Dark
Celestial North  ‘Yarrow’
Andres Alcover  ‘White Heat’
Nick Frater  ‘Aerodrome Motel’
Drug Couple  ‘Lemon Trees’
Cari Cari  ‘Last Days On Earth’
Ali Murray  ‘Passing Through The Void’
Diamanda La Berge Dramm  ‘Orangut The Orangutan’
Your Old Droog  ‘The Unknown Comic’
Jesse The Tree  ‘Sun Dance’
TrueMendous & MysDiggi  ‘Talkk’
STS & RJD2  ‘I Excel’
Jester Jacobs & Jack Danz  ‘HIT’
Oliver Birch  ‘Docile Healthier’
GOON  ‘Emily Says’
Lucy & The Drill Holes  ‘It’s Not My War’
Apathy, Jadekiss & Stu Bangas  ‘No Time To Waste’
Verbz & Mr Slipz  ‘Music Banging Like’
Sly Moon  ‘Back For More’
Guilty Simpson Ft. Jason Rose & DJ Ragz  ‘Make It Count’



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

SINGLES/VIDEO TRACKS ROUNDUP
BY DOMINIC VALVONA

PHOTO CREDIT: ERIC BECKMAN

Montparnasse Musique by Eric Beckman

A one-off revue of recent and upcoming singles and videos being dropped that I didn’t have room for in my perusal roundups, I’m trying something very new with this post, as the blog’s never specifically done this sort of thing before.

Montparnasse Musique ‘Bonjour’
(Real World Records)

A welcoming polygenesis, South African lilted and woozy pattered beat teaser for the forthcoming album from the duo Montparnasse Musique, ‘Bonjour’ is full of pan-African essences, rhythms and goodwill. A collaborative affair, the new single features both Muambuyi and Mopero Mupemba of the Congotronics outfit, the Kassai Allstars. Another layer to this complimentary electric mix, a congruous, scene-setting music video has been created – shot on the streets of Kinshasa – by the renowned filmmaker Renaud Barrett (Systeme K!, KOKOKO!).

Carrying on from where they left off with their self-titled EP, Aero Manyelo and Nadjib Ben Bella combine their South African and Algerian roots with both the old and new to create a 21st century African hybrid that mixes ritual, ceremony and ancient mysticism with what’s happening on the streets and dancefloors of the continent now. The debut album dig, Archeology is due out on the 11th November 2022. Expect a review in the coming months.  

Future Kult ‘We’
(Action Wolf Records/AWAL)

One of my favourite renegade soundclashs of 2022, the Berlin-based Welsh-Austrian sonic-visual partnership of Sion Trefor and Benjamin Zombori pump out their fourth and newest single ‘We’ this week.

In the wake of their highly recommended self-titled pan-global sounds album (by us), arrives another eclectic, omnivorous power grab that drags the vacuous, soul-destroying and destructive selfish, image obsessed malignant hyperbole of the 21st century onto the dance floor. Moodily bouncing to the sound of barricade drums and climatic EDM, with shades of Battles, Front 242, The Juan Maclean and Midnight Juggernauts, the Future Kult duo and friends turn anguish and riled-up anger into an infectious broody anthemic electronic flashpoint. It gets better on every play I’m telling you. And Benjamin’s visual effects add a cosmic energy to the sound.

Lunar Bird ‘Venilia’

Excuse my ignorance for one second, but I did think the title of this latest diaphanous, magical enchantment from the Joan Miro-inspired Lunar Bird was just another spelling of the word ‘vanilla’. It is of course ‘Venilia’ the Roman deity associated with the winds and the sea that proves a both lofty and atavistic poetic subject for another dreamwave wisp of a song from the band. Allured hallucinatory towards that goddess, the lush Beach House-like soundtrack of synthesised fizz, gauzy psychedelic breathlessness and swimmingly vibed restlessness entwines mythology with a beautiful language of rebirth and longing; an Italian cinematic beach paradise in song – even if it is probably the band’s claimed home of Wales.

Celestial North ‘Yarrow’

Like a muse siren from the canvases of the Pre-Raphaelites or the cooed breathless yearns of a chivalry medieval tapestry depicting some magical garden of escapism, Celestial North once more steps over into the ethereal realms with this enchanted botanical themed suite. A meditative fauna dwelling score of beautiful piano tinkled reflection and sentiment, misty synthesised dreamy atmospherics and diaphanous sighed voices, has the air of something magical and sublime. ‘Yarrow’ then is something of a healing balm; nature’s ways distilled into a most stirring but pleasant mirage.

The Edinburgh artist, now based in the Lake District, has been graciously releasing tracks in the run up to the debut album, earmarked for this September. I suggest you keep an ear out for that album.

Violet Nox ‘Magnetar’
(Aumega Project Records – Germany/Infinity Vine – USA)
Available since the end of July 2022

From the Gaia attuned Eris Wakes album, another colourful, textural exploration visualisation to accompany an aria voiced (courtesy of the trained opera singer and guest vocalist Noell Dorsey) electronic state of consciousness. Yes, the Boston synth collective (working around and off the core of Dez De Carlo and Andrew Abrahamson) send out more positive if mysterious vibes with Chris Konopka’s magnetic filings turn psychedelic corrosion video for the ticking House rhythmic, phaser waves and buoyant drum pad bobbled ‘Magnetar’. Artist Konopka manages to add allure and to entrance a track that is already fairly wispily cosmic and trance-heavy.

Gabrielle Ornate ‘The Undying Sleep


Proving quite the prolific artist, the colourful mélange imbued Gabrielle Ornate has just released her seventh single, The Undying Sleep. More pop, slightly less bohemian, the language remains but the trance and maximalist production is upped another level with a slow release of cosmic fizzled star bursts, churned trip-hop like beats and St. Vincent-style guitar licks. Teardrops fall into the ether under the hippie eye of Horus on another hit record from the burgeoning artist. One to watch as they say.

Barrio Lindo ‘Espuma de Mar’
(Shika Shika)

A move by the Latin American folktronica artist Barrio Lindo (alias of Agustín Rivaldo) to create music for the listener to get lost in, this new wafted, dreamy project was made with friends on the outskirts of Buenos Aires in early 2020. The sea foamed imbued Espuma de Mar album is filled with refined, studied evocations of a jazzy tinged, ambient and woozy South America, Africa and the Caribbean, and chamber orchestral music.

The title-track traverse features the hazy blows, lingers and spells of Mariana Iturri (on flute and vocals), Nicolás Lapine (on trumpet), Ignus on drums and Rumbo Tumba and removes Latin lilted moves to somewhere entirely different, even ethereal. The album is due out on the 23rd September 2022.

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 Reviews Roundup

The Movers ‘Vol 1 – 1970 – 1976’
(Analog Africa) 5th August 2022

Although it struck Samy Ben Redjeb (founder of the Analog Africa label) instantaneously, the impact that was felt on that day in 1996 when introduced to the neat, sunny-side-up Township soul of The Movers has taken more than two-decades to come to fruition. But now in 2022, finally, there’s a choice compilation of the South African band’s back catalogue to rave about and soak up: just in time for a sizzling, Earth-scorching summer.  

Possibly one of the most popular bands of the 1970s in their homeland – even breaking the Apartheid bonds of segregation as the first black band to get airplay on white radio stations -, The Movers have nevertheless left behind scant information, and a provenance riddled with holes. This is despite selling 500,000 copies of their debut LP, Crying Guitars, in just the space of a few months and in providing a peaceable (almost Caribbean in lilt) anthem (‘Soweto Inn’) soundtrack to the mid-70s student revolts and resistance. Yet it proved extremely difficult to track down anyone involved in this South African sensation.

However, what Samy did glean after help and introductions from Kaya Radio’s Nicky Blumenfeld was that the band first took shape in the late 60s, instigated by the two relatively unknown musician brothers, the bassist Norman and guitarist Oupa Hlongwane. To make this band a reality, the brothers approached the Alexandra township-based businessman Kenneth Siphayi with a proposal: if Siphayi would lay-out the money for them to buy some instruments in return they’d give him a cut from future live shows and record deals. In the end their patron didn’t just dole out the funds but took on a manager’s role, introducing them to the simmered, evangelical balm organist Sankie Chounyane. The ranks soon swelled however to accommodate the funky tight drumming of Sam Thabo and the relaxed reeds of saxophonist Lulu Masilela.

Initially they signed to the Teal Records label in 1969, releasing an instrumental record. But almost right away they worked with the vocalists Blondie Makhene (a fourteen year-old vocal prodigy we’re told) and Sophie Thapedi. With a great soulful voice Thapedi sang one of the band’s most popular, enduring hits ‘Soweto Inn’, and channeled Miriam Makeba on the Overton Berry Trio-esque organ suffused, cheek-popping and beautifully wooed ‘Ku-Ku-Chi’. Makhene for his part sounds far beyond his years on the infectious, stained glass township boogie ‘Kudala Sithandana’ and, in harmony with a heavenly female chorus, sounds a bit like Labi Siffre on the whistled fluty R&B turn ‘Six Mabone’.   

Unmistakably South African; blessed with that languorous sunny disposition groove, The Movers took a piece of Stax soul revue, Booker Ts’ organ, Steve Cropper’s effective but never overplayed licks, and a taste of The Meters and combined it with the indigenous Mbaqanga (also known as “township jive”) and marabi (a sort of ragtime, jazzy and bluesy style that evolved out of the mining communities, synonymous for its cheap keyboard-led sound) styles. This spills out into reggae, even rock steady, yet always sounds inherently relaxed: never pushed, hurried. Chounyane’s organ standouts, but it never overpowers nor seems particular showy: thin but very effective, a township Ramsey Lewis bathing in the Lord’s light. ‘Give Five Or More’ is an unpressured eased introductory like beauty that features a buzzy organ but also those Stax chops and some gentle drum sizzles –for some reason it reminded me, melody-wise of The Monkees.

A soul revue from the heart of South Africa’s politically explosive townships, The Movers delivered a light gospel-tinged fusion of ripe hotfooted, containable energy. It would be a sacrilege to miss owning a slice of those sweetened South African-lilted R&B, soul, funk and rock steady grooves, so do yourselves a favour and pick up Vol. 1 this summer.  

Claude ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’
(American Dreams) 12th August 2022

Disarmingly wistful and woozy, the refined production and songwriting on Claudia Ferme’s debut album lays a gossamer veil over a litany of anxious quandaries and existential malaise.

Almost, to her credit, effortlessly dreamy, Ferme floats and drifts into a myriad of introspective roles, rooms and scenarios under the Claude alias. The Chicago-based artist nails the despondency of the times whilst giving a most languidly deadpan but essentially captivating voice to the growing pains of a “twenty something”: that first decade of “expectation”, of real responsibility, and yet in this infantile age, in which – especially my generation – we cling to youth and even childhood, you’re still considered an empty vessel and teenager with nothing to worry about and everything to look forward to. But Ferme offers up a certain emotionless face to such woes, troubles; even lightening the mood with the most diaphanous of laidback and aloof vocals, and a backing that is gently smoldered in a relaxed mix of 70s soft rock, synthwave, dream and art pop.

Featured a little while ago in one of my monthly perusals, the inaugural single and opener on this album, ‘Twenty Something’, sets out the vision and mood with its closed-eyes wispy saxophone motifs and perfectly dreamy reflections: “I’d rather be hurt by my own doing, then be let down by someone else. At least that’s what I tell myself.”

That’s followed by the most recent single, the Gabriel Garcia Márquez inspired ‘Roses’, which takes a line from the feted Colombian author’s famous Love in The Time Of Cholera novel and runs with all its metaphorical, symbolist connotations. The thorny prick of this flower’s stem and the book’s obsessive protagonist’s eating of it, bot alluding to themes of self-tortuous behavior. But what we take away from the song and lyrics is that we all need to be a lot more forgiving.      

Elsewhere the painful anxieties and mental fatigue hang like post-it notes attached to a bedroom mobile on the listless ‘I Think I’ll Pass Today’, and on the all-too realistic outcomes of a burst bubble of love naiveties, Chromatics vapour trailing ‘Claustrophobia’ – a longing if dry yearn for magic and something lasting in a cynical world of fleeting, vacuous feelings and connectedness. 

In contrast, the acoustically gorgeous ‘Meet Me’ has a slight air of Blonde Redhead and some kind of Spanish peppering. But the song that, softly, breaks the wafted, lush mold is the almost rocking ‘Oh, To Be’, which sets Ferme against a more electric spiky backing; adding a silent scream and edge to the synthesised suffusion. 

A Lot’s Gonna Change is a most wonderful, captivating and skilfully delicious debut that subtly evokes the worlds of Aldous Harding, EX:Re and Cate Le Bon. A coming of age songbook, a rebirth, in which the harshness of the epoch, the pressures both unique and synonymous with a generation finding its way, are snuggled in a relaxed balm.

Staraya Derevnya ‘Boulder Blues’
(Ramble Records)

The pan-Israel ensemble are once more on the move, recording another elevated and mystical ethnographical transportive work that takes in and transduces not only their native lands but also the UK, Germany and Mexico. Boulder Blues then is a geographical soundboard of history and the avant-garde; of evoked ancient nomadic tribes and primitivism made psychedelics, and a mantra iteration of a very removed form of what we know as the blues.

With up to eleven (could be more) band members involved, many of which drift in and out of this five-track assemblage of peregrinations and mental release, there’s a lot to take in: to work out. Like “what the hell was that sound?” Or, “where the hell are we?”

Scratchy nylon Beefheart and the Velvet’s guitar, hoots and erratic mooning voices merge with Širom-like (that’s the second time I mention them in this roundup) percussion, Unlimited E.F.S. series Can skits and Faust as fantasies of the Mongolian steppes, the Black Sea, Kabbalah mysticism and krautrock era Germany are invoked. At times it resembles a communion between the Red Crayola and Holgar Czukay; at others, 666 era Aphrodite’s Child share the byway with Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders.

Staraya Derevnya are totally out there with their “bubbling pelt” and “gallant spider” poetic descriptive wanderings, pains and blues abstractions. Still, they remain rhythmic, even melodious in places; dancing, marching and on the trinket ringed, shadowy ritual title-track, exhaustively repeating the same incantation for five-minutes straight.

I must confess. I really dig this collective. And I’ve even included them in the blog’s choice albums list before now. Boulder Blues is another incipient esoteric, magical album of post-punk, krautrock, psychedelic, far-out and primitive traverses.

Li Yilei ‘Secondary Self’
(LTR Records) 26th August 2022

Spanning the entire Covid epoch, so to speak, and a period in which the sonic sculptor-composer Li Yilei travelled from her London-based home to native China and to Shanghai, Secondary Self is a surprisingly (as the PR notes remark) cohesive album of hidden source material powered recordings, abstract hymnals and coded language.

Made up for the most part by pieces originating from a Café OTO commission, there’s also an omitted (due to time constraints) track from Yilei’s 2020 debut album Unabled Form, plus the more recent serene meditation ‘Melt’ from February of this year. That spare experiment, ‘Warmth Ageing’, was created during sessions for the inaugural album synthesis of the evanescent and tactile; an album that received a glowing review from me at the time. Not so much interchangeable this searing, buzzy winged metallic current is a congruous fit on both albums; neither of which particularly offer connective themes of concepts.

That main body of work continues Yilei’s keening simulations of transformed settings, rumination’s and repurposed white spaces; created from a number of obscured and experimentally stretched instruments: the reverberation of percussive bowls and a serial wrangle of echoed guitar tabbing, harmonics and improvised squiggles. There may well be some kind of stringed instrument in there, effected and smothered in reverb, but for the majority of the time the trace of anything familiar is synthesised, electronically morphed into something more abstract, stranger, and on occasion, diaphanous.

It’s something approaching the beautiful that opens up the Secondary Self as an affecting otherworldly siren is sustained across the near ethereal, crystallised freeze of ‘A Hush In The Dark’. A semblance of some kind of voice and almost tender notes provide a touch of the natural: the composer even. As the title would suggest, the second suite ‘Bird Box’ once again features the familiar: the whistle and tweets of birds. Only this avian chorus is given a lunar galvanised bouncy buzz; accompanied later by a drilled code, or, a pummelled Morse-coded read-out. And so a back garden bird box is pierced with the higher sonic register and transported to some place else entirely.

‘Mosquito Alarm’ seems to be slowly driven by a looped photocopier, but flits with deeper bass-y pitches and cosmic mystery. There’s a brief spell of dog howls and more bird communication amongst the dreamy, near psychedelic lapping reversals, incanted whispers and memory recalls of ‘Murmur’ however.

The remaining tracks burble, vibrate and oscillate, recalling vague signs of early 70s analogue experiments, Ambient Works Vol. 2 Richard James, the kosmische and the unsaid. Yilei’s square waves, acousmatics and ruminated efforts cannot be easily defined. Instead, this is a sound that fluctuates between the arts space, the outdoors, and an amorphous myriad of electronic genres. This third album will do much to reinforce what I already knew back in 2020, that Li Yilei’s visions are quite unique, and that the artist is constantly pushing at the boundaries to create both the challenging and meditative.

Foch/Delplanque ‘Live Au GRM’
(Parenthèses Records)

From the equally hallowed and chthonian atmospheric environment of the Maison de la Radio et de la Musique’s studio 104 in Paris, an extemporized performance recording now made available, nearly, six years after its initial transmission.

By 2016, the year of this Groupe de Recherches Musicales curated concert series, the drummer-percussionist Philippe Foch and his foil at the time, and subsequently, the multi-tasking electronic music composer, critic, author, teacher (the list goes on and on) Mathias Delplanque had already produced the collaborative Taarang album that led to a 2015 residency at the National Centre For Musical Creation in Reims, and the Secret album of material recorded from that performance. 

Pretty much accustomed to each other’s methods, by the time of Live Au GRM the synchronicity was at an apex, with Foch at the centre of a world percussive assemblage and Delplanque at his side sampling the results in real time.

Recondite empirical vibrations, scratches and stretches across frame drum skins and the resonance of cymbals are transformed further by Delplanque into otherworldly, mysterious forms of primitivism, mythology, musique concrete, the strung-out and cavernous. For we could well be in the incense chambers of Byzantium, the Minotaur’s maze, or, transported to India with a serialism burst of tablas.

Over the course of 26 minutes there’s bot spacious and sporadic passages of unprepared playfulness and exploration in an environment circled by scurrying bestial movements and noises from the darkness. Incipient patterns, traces across tubular metals emerge but are often shunted, shuttered and dissipated back into the shadows.

An alchemy of slapped and paddled physicality and shimmered reverberated trinkets, tinkles emanate from Foch’s eclectic ensemble of instrumentation on a polygenesis performance of hollowed and far denser bass-y tones. In places it reminded me of an entirely stripped of melody Širom, bits of Amon Düül II’s more experimental Dance Of The Lemmings and a little of Faust’s Werner “Zappi” Diermaier.

Scrabbled, almost clawed, and more singular beaten sounds, the hushed ssh-like whispers of a voice and galvanised buzzes appear out of nowhere on a transformative piece of treated and developing improvisation. There really is no telling where this sonic partnership will end up, or what atmospheres they’ll create, only that it will be both esoteric and in an avant-garde direction of percussive and drummed fascination.   

Shepherd Stevenson ‘Man Down’
THLTTLDBB ‘SeeUSearching’
(both on Somewherecold Records)

Taking on a filmic quality the multi-tasking L.A. musician, composer and actor Shepherd Stevenson’s inaugural solo effort is rich with the sound of placeable cinematic soundtracks.

Although starting out as and then becoming a stalwart of the alternative 1980s Denver scene (The Aviators, The Young Weasels, Crankcall Loveaffiar), and then going on to help found the L.A. rock band Pigmy Love Circus, Stevenson has also proved a considered hand at composing music for films – a recent list of which includes Erasing Eden, Doobious Sources and Mermaid Down.  This album debut, Man Down, was itself originally written to accompany Annie Sperling and Mason Rothschild’s Deep Map art installation, which was projected onto the side of the U.S.S. Iowa, moored in Long Beach; part of the Alta Sea’s Project Blue, a ‘digital port for content and education resources for the emerging Blue Economy’ (that is, exploration, preservation and regeneration of the marine environment). And whether it’s intentional or not, Stevenson often conjures up spells of fluted and dreamy underwater fantasies: ‘Submissions’ to these ears sounds like a Verne-inspired dive beneath the waves, with a touch of both equal enchantment and scuba-equipped Bond thriller.

Occasionally something more foreboding, alien emerges from the depths like some ancient Lovecraftian leviathan. This effect, evocation can be felt on the oppressive and crushing bass, shadowy ‘Old Legions’ – a mix of Jóhann Jóhannsson at his most ominous and touch of Bernard Szajner and Room Of Wires.

For the majority of the time Stevenson molds kosmische, techno and synthwave into various futurist and mysterious projections; stirring up a gently burbled and bubbled acid and fluttered progressive-techno suite of otherworldly sonar waves and cosmic noir on the opening ‘B. Whaler’, and channeling Cliff Martinez on the scalextric-set looping dystopian scares ‘Sadurday’. There’s also some strange Germanic classical fairground thing going on with the Wendy Carlos and Roedelius harped, heavenly ‘ode to toy’ ‘With Dots’. I also detect some lovely climbing Eno notes on the deeply felt and bass-stamped, but neoclassical ebbing, ‘Hoary Notions’. And just when you think you’ve got him worked out, ‘Way Down’ motors at a nice speed towards Germanic 80s synth pop.

Hymnal Western-twanged dives, sci-fi vistas and unknown entities await on a finely-crafted, cinematic quality debut. Stripped of its original visuals, it’s left to the listener to dream and be moved to the lilted and more feared aspects of the imagination.

Under what could just be the longest acronym ever, or a particular recondite sequence known only to the artists, the duo of Matt Greenwall and Phillip Andrew Lewis conjure up the both gently cooed and reverberated hauntings of various imagined transmissions and transduced whispers on their new album of wispy and soothingly effective ambient suites.   

Barely above that whisper, these quite but deeply stirring pieces seem to feed a collection of processed video and tape loops into the ether; the returning sound waves, broadcasts now sonic mirages, passages of the American strange, the waves lapping onto a cult 50s soft surf soundtrack, or, the breeze blowing gently across the Appalachian Mountains.

AM/FM radio signals crisply spark as glass birds sound and translucent bulbs ring in the resonance of a drone. The nebulous meets the ghostly; traces of a less fearful Twin Peaks and a haunted theatre are suffused in an ebbing ambient cycle. Voices come and go as movie dialogue is manipulated into echoes of the past. The dreamy spells linger as you catch some hallowed or mysterious presence drifting off into the empirical.

Elements of the semi-classical, trip-hop experiments, European library music, old film image reels and analogue ambient music can all be detected and felt on this both organic but artificially constructed, amorphous album. The opening ambient aria beauty, ‘Angela’s Light’, is worth the entrance fee alone.

Brown Calvin ‘dimension//perspective’
(AKP Recordings) 26th August 2022

Although split into “dimension” and “perspective” suites the latest elemental album from the Portland, via Philly, producer and composer Andre Burgos is an almost uninterrupted, constantly moving beat-making and cosmic expansive ball of energy.

Under the Brown Calvin alias, and uncoupled from his vocalist foil Brown Alice in the “intergalactic” Brown Calculus duo, Burgos’ Afrofuturist soundtrack transduces all the strains, stresses and rage of the last few years into a controlled chaos of universal proportions.

Traces of hip-hop, jazz, electronica, kosmische, soul and funk can be heard, morphed, effected, and warped as sporadic African hand drums spring into action and scrapped percussion add a sense of ancestral continuity to this ascension into space. Civility, society maybe a tinder box on Earth, but out into the cosmos lies possibilities; a certain escape and serenity, especially sonically, as this album can testify.

An ambitious, lengthy, infinity even, peregrination opens this album. What, in old money, would constitute the whole side of an LP is an astral and contorting vision of analogue-soundboard pulsating circuitry kosmische (ala Tangerine Dream, Moebius and Schulze), Afrikan Sciences oscillations and tangents of beats, ripples and purrs of Rhodes and progressive jazz.

The rest of the album isn’t so much broken up into demarcated parts as a number of symbolist, calculus numbered points along a flipped, staccato or churned journey of expressive freedom. All the shit, the despair and hate is fuelled into a spiritual quest for answers. A multitude of coded, infinity (that word again) suffixed ‘perspectives’ offer variations on the musical themes; some parts in that scope are more liquid, whilst others fracture off into to the psychedelic. Some float, others catch on a ball-in-the-cup loop or form a tumble of breaks. Shooting stars cross the great expanse and dancing translucent bulbs act as notation of a kind. There’s plenty of bending, arcs of distortion in those heavenly realms too; but also the threat of overload.

This is the soundtrack to the African space programme; an untethered energy of J. Dilla, Flying Lotus, slugabed, Don Cherry, Labelle and Floating Points. Burgos has a great capacity, hunger to try out many ideas and to take from eclectic sources; opening the way to free-form movements and a sonic alchemy. The Brown Calvin moniker proves a fruitful transition but also the vessel for a new cosmology and language with which to process our troubling times.       

Die Welttraumforscher ‘Liederbuch’
(Bureau B) 26th August 2022

It’s a novel way in which to reconnect with an enchanted world inspired back catalogue; a project that’s spawned at least thirty albums and a fecund of illustrative, multimedia works. But for this latest Die Welttraumforscher (translating as The Space Explorers) album a couple of concept characters look back over a forty-year multiverse and pick out their favourite songs to tell a different story.

Conjured up from the mind of Christian Pfluger, the part Dadaist, part Swiss maverick fantasist, this “pop-up book” of imaginative fairytales now puts the “insect twins” turn compilers Brtz and Brxl at the centre of a new songbook.

Although already receiving a two-part retrospective last year (the fortieth anniversary year) the Liederbuch album seems to reach back to titles from Ein Sommer In Der Wirklichkert (from 1991) and Binike (1986) and keeps up the character board from across the decades.

In this magical landscape we meet cosmic-travellers (Lia and Mira from the Northern Crystal realm), silent forest dweller Ohm Olunde, the mysterious dark pilots, crop-circle researcher Leguan Rätselmann and the Owlmaster Kip Eulenmeister. Reminding me a little of the same magical dioramas and cast that inhabit the musical world of Scarlet’s Well, albeit a both very Germanic and Transalpine version, these characters are often playful, childlike and sweetly placed within an eclectic soundtrack.

Fluctuating between musical moods, genres, Pfluger (who remains very much an enigma) skips through echoes of the German new wave, the bucolic and ambrosian, and more lo fi. From the acoustic, with a touch of some Spanish flair and the pastoral, to preset Casio keyboard synth wheezes, the musical scope is varied and large. Mooning through woodlands to cosmic Theremin-like aerial loons, the storyboard drums up a myriad of settings too.

As influential as he is influenced, touches of progressive idiosyncratic stars mingle with shades of the kosmische, Per W, The Incredible String Band, SFA, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Spike & Debbie and trip-hop. There’s also a bit in ‘Goldene Barken’ where someone blows their nose and coughs to a semi-post-punk, scratchy Velvets guitar backing.

Whimsical, cartoonish, and eccentric Pfluger’s imaginative cosmology remains a curio, a vehicle for escapism but the absurd and fantastical; the music, still after all this time, just as captivating and inviting. 

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

ALBUM COMPILATION REVIEW
Dominic Valvona

Various ‘Live At WOMAD 1982’
(Real World Records) 29th July 2022

Chief among those promoting (what has become a problematic term in itself) “world music”, the WOMAD festival and organization took a punt forty years ago in treating those artists considered outside the rather myopic scope of Westernized music with equal validity and respect. Even now, as we like to believe our tastes are so much more eclectic, festivals struggle with giving parity to the stars of Africa, South America, and Asia. Glastonbury, that so called totem, consigns (for the most part) world music to its own stage and fringe.

These days of course all festivals need to balance commercial concerns with the creative. It’s a business after all, and anyone setting up such an enterprise has a litany of historical financial failures to jolt them from taking gambles on lineups: the extraordinary naïve but possibly musically, as well as diverse, benchmark being both Woodstock and the 1970 Isle Of Wight festivals, but in more recent times, the failure of many so-called boutique mini-festivals.

It does however seem that WOMAD remains the “allowable” alternative; although even they had to include some stellar pop, rock bands and artists on the bill at the inaugural event in 1982: The likes of a rising Simple Minds and the blossoming Echo And The Bunnymen, albeit with the sonorous galloping and clattering drum beat of WOMAD stars and stalwarts, the Drummers Of Burundi – appearing under the elevated Royal Burundi Drummers name in this case. 

Credit: Chris Greenwood

What could have seemed a vanity project for its main instigator Peter Gabriel became a mainstay of the international music festival circuit. That very first event, now celebrating its fortieth anniversary, was almost the last.

Creatively and collaboration wise an incredible success, WOMAD was an unmitigated financial disaster for Gabriel and his partners. Facing bankruptcy, personal physical violence, the former Genesis star turned soloist and producer, label boss was thankfully able to pay off the accrued debts when his former prog-rock band mates offered to play a benefit concert. With the sagacious advice of Harold and Barbara Pendleton, who’d created the relatively successful Reading Jazz And Blues Festival, and others the WOMAD ideal was saved from collapse and a minor footnote in Rock’s Back Pages.  

Arguably still one of the only avenues for world music, the WOMAD festival is one of the most cherished if not important events of its kind anywhere. But those early days in the idea incubator of Gabriel’s mind, it seemed pure madness to even conceive of such a thing. Being called mad or crazy was part of the course for Gabriel however, who not only saw it as a challenge but adopted such derisory language in his various projects: Syco being another one. And so “MAD” became part of the festival signature, appellation, though it also, when put together with the “WO” bit made up the World Of Music Arts Dance acronym. Corralled into this mad project, the young collective of post-punk tastemakers that made up The Bristol Recorder went from interviewing Gabriel for one of their magazines (with accompanying vinyl) to taking on the day-to-day running of what would be the first grand-scale festival of its kind dedicated to world music and its ilk. What might have surprised, or set a spark for Gabriel was the zine team’s mutual interest in eclectic music; a love for the Gamelan music of Bali and Java especially. They would also be pretty useful at sniffing out the talent and bringing attention to new sounds, new fusions, many of which featured in the very first WOMAD lineup. 

A benefit concert helped to ease WOMAD out of a financial blackout, and in the very beginning too, when announced to the press from a farmhouse north of Bath, Gabriel would have to release a charity album to help fund it. Music And Rhythm, as it was called, featured a rafter of the acts that appeared in 1982. In conjuring up the spirit of WOMAD, the Burundi Drummers would beat out a thunderous performance on the front lawn – so thunderous in fact that the local farmers were worried that it would upset the livestock grazing in this idyllic valley retreat. Overcoming such protests, a lack of support and any sponsors the tribal drummers and an international cast from over twenty countries appeared at the Royal Bath and West Showground near Shepton Mallet in Somerset in the July of 1982.

Photo Credit: Larry Fast

Now forty years later in the act of both preservation and celebration, Real World Records have retrieved and restored (including bonus material) nineteen live tracks from that event; many of which have never been heard before. Original programme notes, with even the times of performances, have also been included in this snapshot of not just WOMAD’s foundations but a changing post-punk scene; an age of fusions, collaborations and the increasing influence of world music on the Western cannon.

I could regale countless artists just before and after this event that would work with those from South Africa to Timbuktu; from Hispaniola to Southeastern Asia. But here were ensembles with atavistic and more contemporary heritages mixing it and existing on equal terms with rock bands in the West. As Gabriel would put it: “Our dream was not to sprinkle world music around a rock festival, but to prove that these great artists could be headliners in their own right.”

Ian McCulloch and his Bunnymen, riding high at the time in the indie scene and obviously a draw, appeared with the (already mentioned) Royal Burundi Drummers in one such meeting of alien cultures. A stirring emergence from the Gothic mists vision of ‘Zimbo’ is taken up a level of the exotic and moody by a deep lumbering of beaten drums; a union of Joy Division pain and authentic African tribal rhythms.

The familiar Drummers Of Burundi, who’s ranks could swell to thirty plus members but appeared in a reduced, but no less impactful, form at WOMAD, have their incredible floor-shaking front lawn performance ‘Kama K’iwacu’ included on this compilation. Due to the physicality of their performances these rousing bombastic drum initiations, rituals could only be played in short sets, and so during that three-day festival they appeared at least four times, across multiple stages.

In a similar mode, passed on through generations, compilation openers The Musicians Of The Nile brought an Upper Nile touch of the ancients to proceedings. The gypsy descendants from the age of the Pharaohs are represented by a mystical, mizmar-drone sandy embankment peregrination entitled ‘Taksim Arghul’ (which both by its name and sound has a real Turkish feel to it) and shorter, quickening tabla rhythmic sunrise introduction called ‘Tabla Iqae’

Staying in Africa, highlife doyen Prince Nico Mbarga, appearing with the actually London-based The Ivory Coasters, shines with a sun brilliance and life-affirming rendition of ‘Wayo In-Law’ – a bonus track and really worthy of inclusion; among my favourite turns on the whole album. The Cameroon-Nigerian star is famous for releasing one of the continent’s best-selling records of all time, ‘Sweet Mother’, and famously appeared with various versions of the Rocafil Jazz troupe. If you love the lilted South African leaning sounds of King Sunny Ade, then you’re in for a treat.

Travelling eastwards, the Chinese (though there’s no information to hand on the provenance of this group) Tian Jin Music And Dance Ensemble provided a peaceable Zen moment of blossom tree beautification, fluted and dulcet mallet atmospherics on the forked and bowed ‘Raindrops Pattering On Banana Leaves’. Representing the Gamelan sound, the twenty-five strong Sasono Mulyo ensemble of Javanese and Balinese musicians and dancers magnificently set out on a two-speed voyage of discovery.

Circumnavigating the Pacific, and to the Hispaniola and Americas, the Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, Colombian and Dominican Republic troupe of NYC salsa stalwarts, Salsa de Hoy (notably playing with such luminaries as Oscar Hernandez and Tito Puenta) give a suitable Latin buzz of sauntering and horn paraded fun to the festival with their signature barroom jazz signature.

Showcasing a burgeoning world music infused spirit of diversity in the UK, as the transference from punk to post-punk was now complete, there’s a great, if looser and more dubby rendition of The Beat’s two-tone single ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ and a Mardi Gras, via Manu Dibango, and ska version of Pig Bag’s self-titled anthem. Evolving out of The Pop Group, picking up on the way a burgeoning Neneh Cherry and the Antiguan-British dub bassist/guitarist Jean Oliver, the eclectic Rip Rig & Panic serve up a sassy and pumped-up smorgasbord of Liquid Liquid no wave, neo-soul, Pablo dub and bleated, trilled lurching saxophone with ‘You’re My Kind Of Climate’. Previously of both groups, the pianist Mark Springer appears in his solo guise playing an electric-piano like flange-effected soulful, spiritual hymn ‘Key Release’ – actually, it has more than a semblance of Bill Withers too.

Photo Credit: Chris Greenwood

Despite the name Ekome were a Bristol dance and music company formed in the aftermath of a Ghanaian steel and skin-drumming workshop. Members appeared twice at WOMAD, rattling away to call and response trills and an Afro-Brazilian carnival feel on ‘Gahu’, and also in accompanying Gabriel on the Scottish-piped yearned cry of universal suffrage and apartheid anthem ‘Biko’ – a cry of lament for the late leading South African activist that has an air of both Marillion and Mission To Burma about it. Gabriel’s plaint proved a worthy and indeed poignant reminder of the festival’s platform in not only sharing the global community’s music but in shining a light on global issues, the crimes of world leaders, and in this case, the apartheid movement. This stirred rendition did a lot to raise the profile of detention deaths in South Africa, paying special homage to one of the leading activists of that struggle in the 70s, Steve Biko, who died in police custody five years previous to this event.

Gabriel, as much for his formative years steering Genesis as for his subsequent solo endeavours and collaborations, was of course one of the festival’s main attractions. And so he appears twice on this live collection; once with the already mentioned ‘Biko’ tribute and before that with a bittersweet irony, over a hammer and tongs electronic production, performing a pop-fusion version of ‘I Have The Touch’ – taken from his then current self-tilted album and a single in its own right.

From a similar orbit, Robert Fripp (at the time reforming King Crimson) offered up as almost Eno-esque, late Tangerine Dream classical-strained electronic suite; an ambient stirred anthem that gave a certain gravitas to the festival, named in its honour, ‘WOMAD II’.  Fripp’s solo recitals were self-confessed challenges to the audience, needing certain conditions, and restricted to smaller crowds of 150, and so hence the maverick’s higher number of performances across the three-day event.

Fellow former idiosyncratic prog-rocker Peter Hammill, of Van Der Graf Generator fame, is captured with a new age Cope and Gong-like version of the almost theatrical, giddy ‘A Ritual Mask’ – the opening meandered and building maelstrom from his twelve album, Loops And Reels.

No festival of its nature could be complete without the Irish, and the famous Dublin institution The Chieftains. Proving a popular choice, the Irish-Gaelic troupe (almost together for twenty years by this point), fiddle and clap a merry Celtic jigged version of the hoedown country standard ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’ – the Emerald Isle goes West to Arkansas.

Still, just about in their infancy and most interesting period, a pre-arena anthem-hitting Simple Minds stand out as a usual choice. Their current at the time ‘Promised You A Miracle’ 12” is performed with professional clarity and vigor; a decent enough live version of the original anyway, sounding a bit in places like ABC. 

Taken as a whole this run-through of the inaugural WOMAD holds-up as a pretty unique, open and international experiment. Astonishing to think that despite barriers coming down, and with a supposedly easier than ever access to every music scene in every corner of the world, WOMAD remains the only real prominent and long-running celebration and showcase for such worldly wonders in the UK. That year, 1982, sounds pretty vibrant even now by recent standards. And this live album proves Gabriel and associates were right in fighting to keep it alive, no matter the cost, sniping and criticism that came their way. Not just a worthy album, but a global, polygenesis power house of sounds and energy that’s well worth the admission price. Live albums don’t come much more eclectic. Here’s to the next forty years. 

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.

PLAYLIST SPECIAL
Dominic Valvona

An imaginary radio show if you like, a taste also of my DJ sets, the Monolith Cocktail Social is a playlist selection that spans genres and eras to create the most eclectic of soundtracks. Each month I compile a mixed bag of anniversary celebrating albums (this month being 50 years since the release of Amon Düül II’s seminal acid-rock communions with Yeti, Wolf City, Curtis Mayfield’s equally seminal soul triumph soundtrack Superfly, T-Rex’s big-hitter The Slider, and the more obscure self-titled album of brown-eyed soul and singer-songwriter woes from the mellow New York artists Alzo), newish tracks (this month that includes Wu-Lu, Horsegirl, Cities Aviv, Eerie Wanda, Basia Bulet and Robert Stillman) and music from the last six, seven decades (that includes The Wolfgang Press, Delaney Bramlett, Readykill, 5 Revolutions, Lew Lewis, Sergius Golowin and many more). Expect to anything and everything.

That track list in full—–

5 Revolutions  ‘Greetings’
Deeper  ‘Willing’
Horsegirl  ‘Anti-Glory’
Free Loan Investments  ‘BBC’
The Wolfgang Press  ‘Shut The Door’
Bill Jerpe  ‘Behind The Times’
Delaney Bramlett  ‘What Am I Doin’ (In A Place Like This)’
Spontaneous Overthrow  ‘All About Money’
Crimewave  ‘Disposable’
Krack Free Media  ‘Let The Band Play’
Cities Aviv  ‘BLACK PLEASURE’
Wu-Lu  ‘South’
Readykill  ‘Watching The World Going Down’
Thirsty Moon  ‘Speak For Yourself’
Curtis Mayfield  ‘Little Child Runnin’ Wild’
Patrick Gauthier  ‘The Good Book’
Wax Machine  ‘Canto De Lemanjá’
Sun Ra Arkestra Meets Salah Ragab  ‘Ramadan’
Amon Düül II  ‘Sleepwalker’s Timeless Bridge’
Pugh Rogefeldt  ‘Haru Sett Mej Va…’
Misha Panfilov Sound Combo  ‘Way Higher’
Chris Corsano/Bill Orcutt  ‘The Secret Engine Of History’
Idassane Wallet Mohamed  ‘Aylana’
Susanna w/Delphine Dora  ‘Le Possédé’
Basia Bulet  ‘The Garden (The Garden Version)’
Azalia Snail  ‘You Belong To Me’
Eerie Wanda  ‘Sail To The Silver Sun’
T. Rex  ‘Ballrooms Of Mars’
Grave Flowers Bongo Band  ‘Squeaky Wheel Oil Can’
Lew Lewis  ‘Wait’
Os Mundi  ‘Gloria’
Daevid Allen & Kramer  ‘Thinking Thoughts’
Shoes  ‘Tomorrow Night’
Alzo  ‘Without You Girl’
The Ladybug Transistor  ‘Windy’
Ben Marc w/Joshua Idehen  ‘Dark Clouds’
Robert Stillman  ‘Cherry Ocean’
Sergius Golowin  ‘Die weiβe Alm’



ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita ‘Echo’
(bendigedig) 27th May 2022

Marking a decade-long collaboration, the harmonic pairing of Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Senegal kora player and vocalist Seckou Keita are back with the third in a trilogy of cross-lineage, cross-cultural and cross-border gilded rich albums.

Imbued by traditions that go back centuries, Finch’s legacy includes Celtic folklore, the classical and the harp’s age-old reverence – Finch was at one time the UK’s Royal Harpist to Prince Charles, a revered title revived at the turn of the millennium, last used during the Autumn years of Queen Victoria’s reign. Keita can trace his lineage back to a long line of Griot bards and kings, and through his father, right back directly to the Medieval Malian Empire’s founder Sunjata Keita.

Garnering much critical and creative praise for their previous SOAR (2018) and Clychau Dibon (2013) records, the duo, caught up like the rest of us obviously in the pandemic, suffered the travails of social-distancing to complete this latest shared experience of loss, reflection and hope. Unable to work this incredible, adroit collaboration of instruments remotely however, both partners in this international union managed to book a conference room in a hotel on the outskirts of Birmingham, in the UK. 

Possibly not the most inspiring of locations, both removed artists found themselves having to reconnect, as if from scratch, separated as they had been by distance, and of course with lockdowns: concentrating on those closer to home and pursing more localized projects. 

As sparks and prompts, accumulated projects as varied as a ballet score to TV commissions, festival collaborations and work-in-progress sketches offered a framework on which to build new ideas. It helps that both maestros of their disciplines have an enviable CV and plenty of experience, awards and concert performances (more than 200) to their names. And so this distance, break in the creative period couldn’t hold the partnership back from picking up on where they left off, pre-Covid.

The backstory to this partnership, a bringing together of musical spheres and instrumentation from, what looks on the surface unrelated, suddenly makes sense; a harmonious connection, fueled by the duo’s last two albums together. For the very first time, Echo welcomes the addition of a strings; a couple of violin, viola, cello and double-bass players from Cardiff. The initial idea was inspired by the partnerships work in 2021 with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Here it offers a whole new layer, and a swell of moving classicism and a cinematic score quality to the weaved and enchanted sounds of the harp and kora.  

As always, each composition tells a story, is motivated by the personal and organically showcases a particular unique tuning and skill without losing sight of the melody. Devoid of soulless displays of virtuoso Echo draws the listener right into the moment.

Despite the horrendous last two years, the album actually starts with a peaceable, charmed and gliding display of hope. Originally the ‘overture’ score for the ballet Giselle, and a “scrap of a tune” that surfaced during a sound-check jam before a 2019 gig in Manchester, ‘Gobaith’ (which means “hope” in Welsh) us remolded, turned into a lushly blessed performance of subtle filmic strings, lilted lattice work kora and gently sparkling harp.

Lifting the emotional pull, the string ensemble-free ‘Dual Rising’ weaves a groove out of quickened caresses, flourishes and undulations. With a dash of the Latin, even some Greco antiquity, that liquid – with only some softened small stamps – rhythmic workout takes its inspiration from the duo’s past collaboration with the ‘breackneck’ speedy style of Edmar Castañeda’s Colombian harp.

In a display of the lightened and sweetened, ‘Tabadbang’ has a spring in its step, a sense of happy adventure. In keeping a restless kid busy, hanging around as the adults wish to discuss something far too important for prying ears, back in Keita’s homeland they’d send the youngsters on a wild goose chase of distraction. Here that memory is turned into a lifted, hummed-like lullaby amble.

A testament to this duo’s hybrid of languages, craft and inspirations the enervated pulse setting, spindled and soaring ballad ‘Jeleh Calon’ brings together the Mandinka work for ‘smile’ and Welsh for ‘heart’. It was actually sparked off by Finch’s NHS research into tinnitus, which led to investigating the yoga of sound and, in particular, – hence the heartbeat-like rhythm – the practice of synching one’s heartbeat to a specific timing, or ‘entrainment’ as it’s known.

Though every composition feeds on that hybrid and the counterbalance of cultures, the harmonious qualities of each artist’s particular instrument, ‘Julu Kuta’ challenges both, but especially the kora, with a tricky chromatic scale. As a tribute to innovation, inspired by Keita’s experiment in 2007 to construct a double-necked kora (which he managed to successfully pull-off with the help of his cousin), the Db to D to Eb to E to A scale sounds like a beautiful spell being unfurled. Despite being difficult, Finch’s heaven-calling brushes and waves and Keita’s dainty spirals and spins sound melodically reminiscent and very much at ease.

As a timely reminder of loss and remembrance, there’s the sweetly pronounced ‘Chaminuka’ dedication to Keita’s late friend and fellow musician, the mbira player Chartwell Dutiro. Instead of a mournful elegy, this is a beautifully sung (both in Dutiro’s native Zimbabwean dialect of Shona and in Keita’s own Mandinka) and soothingly played homage.  

The journey from West Africa to Wales has never seemed shorter; the difference in cultures never so close. Finch and Keita perform wondrous parallels together, further elevated by the subtle but evocative additional classical strings. Echo moves this combined strength further along the road, adding depth to the duo’s sound and showing that despite the hardships, distancing, everything still comes together in a unified brilliance of forms and shared experiences. 

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 PLAYLIST
Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brian Bordello Shea

All the choice tracks from the last month, plus a few missed ones we’ve corralled from last month, the Monolith Cocktail team’s playlist revue is both a catch-up and showcase of the blog’s eclectic and mind bending tastes. Sitting in on this month’s selection panel is Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver and Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

TRACK LIST IN FULL IS:

Junior Disprol Ft. Krash Slaughta  ‘Rotund Shogun’
Deca  ‘Tuning’
Exterior  ‘Orthodox Dreams’
FAST DE  ‘Miss Trutti Finally Found Her Gem’
Pussy Riot Ft. Slayyter  ‘HATEFUCK’
Masai Bey  ‘Stanza X’
BITHAMMER!  ‘Make You Mine’
Flat Worms  ‘Into The Iris (Live)’
Salem Trials  ‘Vegaville’
Walker Brigade  ‘Disease’
Team Play  ‘Sunrise’
James Howard  ‘Baloo’ Adam Walton  ‘Mary Sees U.F.O.S.’
Joviale  ‘UW4GM’
Shabaka  ‘Black Meditation’
Kritters  ‘New York’
Ralph Of London  ‘Lys’
Ethan Woods  ‘Utopia Limited (Cuddly Tie-In)’
Staples Jr. Singers  ‘I’m looking For A Man’
Ramson Badbonez  ‘Rap Bio’
Mr. SOS & Maxamill  ‘War Criminal’
The Difference Machine  ‘Old Men’
Omega Sapien  ‘Jenny’
Mr. SOS  ‘Peace & Prosperity’
Jermiside & The Expert Ft. Tanya Morgan  ‘Crime Rule The City’
Quelle Chris  ‘DEATHFAME’
Wish Master & Billy Whizz  ‘THOUGHTS OF THOUGHTS’
Guillotine Crowns  ‘Killer’ Orryx  ‘Eldritch’
Celestial North  ‘When The Gods Dance’
Henna Emilia Hietamäki  ‘Protesti’
Lucrecia Dalt  ‘No One Around’
STANLAEY  ‘Fluorescent Fossils’
Your Old Droog  ‘Go To Sleep’
Tommaso Moretti Ft. Ben LaMar Gay  ‘A Call For Awareness’
Black Mango Ft. Samba Touré  ‘Are U Satisfied’
Avalanche Kaito  ‘Flany Konare’
Tomo-Nakaguchi  ‘Halation’
Private Agenda  ‘Splendour’
Sebastian Reynolds  ‘Four-Minute Mile’
Chouk Bwa & The Ångströmers  ‘Agwetaroyo’
Misha Sultan  ‘Nyepi’
The Master Musicians Of Jajouka  ‘Khamsa Khamsin’
Gustavo Yashimura  ‘Las Prendas del Corazon’
Stephanie Santiago  ‘Activa Tu Cuerpo’
Gabrielle Ornate  ‘Free Falling’
Black Monitor  ‘Xexagon77’
Borban Dallas & His Filipino Cupids  ‘Too Convenient’
Martha And The Muffins  ‘Save It For Later’
Super Hit  ‘Blink 182’
Reverend Baron  ‘Let The Radio Play’
Alas The Sun  ‘Distant Drone’
Jelly Crystal  ‘I Tryyy’
LINN  ‘Happiness Is Real’
Lenka Lichtenberg  ‘That Monster, Custom’
Brigitte Beraha  ‘Blink’
Vera Di Lecce  ‘Altar Of Love’
Francesco Lurgo  ‘I Am Already Far Away’



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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