ALBUM REVIEW
Words: Dominic Valvona




Roedelius   ‘Selbstporträt Wahre Liebe’
(Bureau B)   LP/10th April 2020


Losing none of that zest for creating and wonderment, the eight-five year old progenitor of ambient, new age and neo-classical music Hans-Joachim Roedelius is still exploring and still producing experimental compositions at a prolific rate. There is, four decades on from his richest period of self-discovery and defining the perimeters of what electronic music could be, no let up in the Roedelius schedule. As famous for his collaborative partnership with the late Dieter Moebius in the Kluster/Cluster/Qluster arc, the Berlin born masseur and physiotherapist turned self-taught composer, has also laid down a breadcrumb trail of impressive and highly influential solo releases, numbering somewhere in the 100s.

Just one part of that extensive catalogue of solo work, the introspective Selbstporträt series is being revisited by the aging doyen for the Bureau B label. Originally made during various sessions for Cluster, between 1973 to 1979, these intimate contemplative and ruminating self-portraits were released in the late 70s and early 80s – later volumes appear sporadically in the 90s and 2000s too. Though always going forward, Roedelius has been nudged into a challenge as Bureau B founder Gunther Buskies proposes the octogenarian return to the processes and methodology of that period to create another ‘Selbstporträt’. Cheekily as the PR spill has it, seeing if he, ‘was capable of “beaming back” to his youthful years, reaching into the sonic past of the Self-Portrait series to deliver similarly persuasive results.’ The short answer to that is: Yes. But before we divine the results of Selbstporträt Wahre Liebe, a little background colour first.





A founding pillar of the Kosmische sound in the late 1960s and early 70s, originally taking shape from experimental performances at the legendary Berlin club they helped found, the Zodiak Free Arts Lab, the first incarnation of this amorphous partnership that made Roedelius’ name, Cluster, featured Joseph Beuys disciple and electronic music progenitor Conrad Schnitzler; the music, almost dark, Lutheran and hymn like, an early modulation of piano, organ and guitar, fed through an array of homemade effects, that made its debut on a label sonorous for its stoic church organ music. This was the first incarnation, Kluster.

Many ‘head music’ fans will be enamored or at least familiar with the second phase, as Kluster interchanged its capital letter to a ‘C’ and Schnitzler left (for the first time). Releasing some of the most sublime peregrinations and odd candy coated pop electronica under the Cluster banner, their most formative period during the early to mid 70s remains their most famous and influential. This brought plenty of admirers and fellow sonic travelers to the Forst located woodland glade studio retreat. Most famously Brian Eno and Michael Rothar of Neu! Both of whom would join Roedelius and Moebius to form the (a)side project supergroup Harmonia.

Apart from a dormant period during the 80s, as Roedelius and Moebius pursued both solo and collaborative careers (many of which would overlap), Cluster survived well into the next century. Finally calling it a day in 2010: For this version of the partnership anyway. Dropping the C for a ‘Q’ this time around, Roedelius found a new collaborative partner in the sound installation artist and like-minded sonic explorer keyboardist Onnen Bock. After a number of albums together the duo expanded to a trio when bass player virtuoso and (another) keyboardist Armin Metz joined the ranks. In the last few years the Qluster trio have been drawn to Roedelius’ neo-classical piano compositional improvisations and sketches; the previous suite Tasten was built around a trio of them, and the more electronic offering Echtzeit, though far less so, also seemed informed by it.

In many ways following on from the last album together, making a return to the warmth and traversing heavenly space sounds we have come to associate with all things Kosmische, the golden epoch of that genre filled our ears once more on Qluster’s seventh (and so far last) album, Elemente; a feat that is repeated on this solo portrait.

 

Leaving Qluster aside for the moment, Onnen Bock, together with Wolf Bock, shadows Roedelius on this vintage warm-up. Intimately (re)acquainted with himself, the fascinations and interests that originally sparked the previous series of visceral sketches may have changed but the soundboard tools remain the same, with Roedelius once more making use of the Farfisa organ, Fender Rhodes, drum machine and tape-delay to fashion a new empirical suite of Kosmische neo-classical moods and dreamgazing.

Though it’s been over four decades since those iconic peaceable recordings, the old apparatus from that period is just as warm and receptive to the ambient progenitor’s touch and imagination. If you’re familiar with those composition then you’ll bound to recognize the recurring Baroque fairground piped merry-go-rounds and serene glide motifs that appear on this wonderful erudite album. Especially the playful but calmed trans-alpine gliding ‘Geruhsam’, which – in my imagination anyway – conjured up an image of either a bossa signature steamboat sailing across a Swiss lake, or, a enervated chuffing steam engine travelling across a tranquil mindscape.

Elsewhere the bright diaphanous notes of the Rhodes lightly hang in the air as they did before; lingering with an echo of glassy Kosmische reverent soul on compositions such as the romantic resonate ‘Wahre Liebe’ – that’s ‘true love’ – and dreamily fanned on the comforting cloud breathing ‘Nahwärme’ – which translates as, depending on your fancy, either ‘local heating’ or ‘convenient heat’; an aloof soundtrack for a German boiler installation company perhaps? Sometimes that organ glistens and at other times almost drifts into the ecclesiastical. The complimentary Farfisa is equally as gorgeous; deftly played and perfectly attuned. A real warmth is created (there’s that word again), but also an overlapping cascade of bulb-like notation and subtle refractions of light play.

 

Reverent, beautiful, encapsulating, with even a touch of giddy uncertainty – I’m referring to the ‘roundabout’ motion of ‘Im Kreisel’ – Roedelius has lost none of his sparkle, or for that matter his romanticism and hope. A fine balance between past triumphs and the new, Selbstporträt Wahre Liebe is unhurried and playfully understated; a timeless album simultaneously made with a sagacious touch and young curiosity. At the stately age of 85, Roedelius proves to still be on form as he looks back once more before easing forward.






Related posts from the Archives:

Hans-Joachim Roedelius Interview

Qluster ‘Elemente’ Review

Hans-Joachim Roedelius ‘Kollektion 2: Roedelius – Electronic Music Compiled By Lloyd Cole’ &   ‘Tape Archive 1973-1978’ Review

Cluster ‘1971 – 1981’ Boxset Review


And Now, A Word From Our Founder

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
Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’





By now we’ll probably all aware and getting jaded by the constant newsroll of Covid-19 horror stories, and the ominous stench of pandemic armageddon. To return to some sort of normality, the Monolith Cocktail promises to keep finding all the best new music for you to enjoy and mull over. No cheap epidemic cash-ins and no tenuous links to self-promotional lockdowns here. Just great music, which we hope you will all keep supporting during these anxious uncertain times.

For those of you that have only just joined us as new followers and readers, our former behemoth Quarterly Playlist Revue is now no more! With a massive increase in submissions month-on-month, we’ve decided to go monthly instead, in 2020. The March playlist carries on from where the popular quarterly left off; picking out the choice tracks that represent the Monolith Cocktail’s eclectic output – from all the most essential new Hip-Hop cuts to the most dynamic music from across the globe. New releases and the best of reissues have been chosen by me, Dominic Valvona, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Matt Oliver.



THE TRACKS IN FULL ARE:

Lunar Bird  ‘A Walk’
TrueMendous  ‘Hmmm’
Awale Jant Band  ‘Just Be Free’
Mdou Moctar  ‘Ibitlan’
Collocutor  ‘The Angry One’
Superposition  ‘Antiplace’
The Stroppies  ‘Holes In Everything’
Pozi  ‘Whitewashing’
Loose Fit  ‘PULL THE LEVER’
The National Honor Society  ‘First Among The Last’
Jacqueline Tucci  ‘Fear’
Jaga Jazzist  ‘Spiral Era (EDit)’
Jennifer Touch  ‘Attic’
Bedd  ‘Auto Harp’
The Saxophones  ‘Flower Spirit’
Schizo Fun Addict  ‘Whiskey’
Ploom  ‘Swish’
Tamikrest  ‘Amidnin Tad Adouniya’
Hifiklub & Roddy Bottum  ‘David Says’
Rowland S Howard  ‘Pop Crimes’
The Hannah Barbeas  ‘No Majesty’
The Proper Ornaments  ‘Broken Insect’
Irreversible Entanglements  ‘No Mas’
Nduduzo Makhathini  ‘Indawu’
Masta Ace  ‘GMO’
Riz Ahmed  ‘Fast Lava’
Voodoo Black  ‘Fizzy’
dug & Hassan el HoBo  ‘Electric Sheep’
Harold Nano  ‘Menton Train Jump’
Slitty Wrists  ‘Su-Mi-Ma-Sen’
Shortwave Research Group  ‘Perpetual Midnight’
Cult Of The Damned (Lee Scott, Mikavelli, BeTheGun, Bill Shakes, Sly Moon & Saler)  ‘OFFIE’
Run The Jewels Ft. Greg Nice & DJ Premier  ‘Ooh LA LA’
Super Inuit  ‘Mothering Tongue’
Sebastian Reynolds  ‘The Universe Remembers’
Chouk Bwa & The Angstromers  ‘Move Ten’
Tom Caruana  ‘Dennis The Space Hopper’
Clear Soul Forces  ‘Chinese Funk’
Ghostwood Development Project Ft. Kool Keith  ‘Gulley’
Bishop Nehru  ‘Too Last’
Nomad, Chester P  ‘Athens In Mordor (Secondson Remix)’
Cut Beetlez. Nice Guys  ‘Cut Ya Ass Up’
Jehst  ‘Wild Herb’
Mr Key  ‘Kids Story 2’
Pwaz One, DJ Dister, Akrobatik  ‘No Contest’
Estee Nack, Superior ft. Daniel Son  ‘POPROCKCLASSICS’



And Now, A Word From Our Founder

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


REVIEW
Dominic Valvona


Mick Harvey - Monolith Cocktail

Mick Harvey   ‘Waves Of Anzac/The Journey’
(Mute)  17th April 2020

Excuse the obligatory uninspired platitudes but Mick Harvey’s first soundtrack release in a decade is a most worthy and stirring orchestration for two poignant themes; the often forgotten story of the ANZACs and their sacrifices and loyal service during both World Wars and, later, Vietnam, and the ongoing crisis of child refugees and people seeking asylum in offshore detention centers scattered throughout the South Pacific atolls.

 

Though it’s been a long time since Harvey released a soundtrack the former Birthday Party bruiser, Bad Seeds and Crime And The City Solution instigator has been busy. Despite being ignored by the majority of press and blogs, his charmingly understated Four (Acts Of Love) album of afflatus paeans and lamentable covers and original numbers, was wholly embraced by the Monolith Cocktail, the only blog, to our knowledge, to both critically endorse it and grant it a coveted place in a ‘choice LPs of the year’ list. In 2014, Harvey alongside Crime and the City Solutions’ Alexander Hacke and Danielle De Picciotto and musical director Paul Wallfisch, formed the nursery grime musical outfit, The Ministry Of Wolves, for a set of theater performances. By way of the Pulitzer Prize winning author Anne Sexton’s, even more, macabre revisionist take on the original Brothers Grimm fairy tales, the acclaimed stage production also spawned an LP, Music From Republik De Wölfe. Inspired and finding it far more fun than he originally envisaged, Mick Harvey’s 90s English translations of the louche coffee society genius of wit, salacious and often dark humoured song, Serge Gainsbourg, were given a new lease of life that same year. To coincide with the anniversary of the bawdry polymath’s birth, Harvey’s moiety of homages, Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants were re-issued, followed up with a small number of select live shows in Australia and Europe (including shows at Primavera and London’s Union Chapel). Invigorated by this return to the back catalogue, Harvey and his congruous band mates, which include the assiduous multi-instrumentalist J.P. Shilo and the no-less talented Glen Lewis and Hugo Cran, set up camp in Harvey’s Melbourne base of operations to record another two volumes of Gainsbourg prose, Delirium Tremens and Intoxicated Women. Fast-forward to this year and once more alongside J.P. Shilo, Harvey has been paying another homage. This time to the late knockabout foil Rowland S. Howard. Originally involved with and playing on the maverick’s Teenage Snuff Film and, later, Pop Crimes albums, Harvey has taken part in a tribute concert, whilst his label Mute have recently re-issued those two high influential totems.

 

The Waves Of Anzac/The Journey LP collects together two recent soundtracks of evocative timeless classical gravitas; composed and performed with an attentive touch, only occasionally revving up the unsettling electrified caustic waning specter of the late Scott Walker when scoring the most ominous, tumultuous of moods.

As a concatenate relative to Waves Of Anzac, at the end of last year Harvey collaborated (on yet another project) with Christopher Richard Barkes on the tragic WWI pliant The Fall And Rise Of Edgar Bourchier And The Horrors Of War. Before this and only now seeing the light, the soundtrack to Kriv Stenders 2015 directed Why ANZAC? documentary with Sam Neill was released to coincide with the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign. A campaign that featured the recently formed Australian And New Zealand Army Corps of the acronym title, commanded by General William Birdwood, the concentration of which took part in the ill-fated fight to open up a second front in the bogged-down war against Germany and her Ottoman allies. Even by the standards of the carnage on the Western Front and the badly laid plans of removed generals, this invasion of The Dardanelles was a tragic horror show. Audaciously planned by Churchill with certain fatal assumptions made about the Turkish forces who held the high ground, had knowledge of the terrain and were, unfortunately for the Allies, commanded by the military genius and future young Turk leader of a post-Ottoman Turkey, Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), many of the antipodeans most hardy, loyal and brave died on the beaches in a eight month slog against tenacious defenders. The final tally of 56,000 Allied deaths included 8,070 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders; disproportionate figures considering the populations of these British overseas territories: a generation lost as they say.





Part of an ABC documentary series on ‘forgotten war stories’, the Aussie actor Neill presented a personal journey and family attachment to that sorry chapter; setting the Gallipoli and Western Front against a contemporary background of political division. Harvey for his part composed a mostly subtle, moving movement of short spiraling strings and atonal searing atmospheric leitmotifs. From melodious ripples to elbowed cello maladies, Waves Of Anzac is both a yearned and moody, with the final timpani and pealing bell tolled ‘The Aftermath’ being the album’s most dark. Though the focus of this album is Gallipoli, half of the tracks reference the ANZACs various actions on The Somme and in Mesopotamia during WWI, and their part in the defense of Greece and Crete during WWII. There’s even a piece of edgy reverberated trauma in motion music for a chapter on Vietnam. Though, in hindsight rather wisely, Britain declined to join the Americans, Australia and New Zealand unfortunately did.

A balance of stain glass lit annotations, the stately and aching; Harvey produces an articulate tribute to the horrors of war.

 

The four-part Journey performance is no less evocative, reflecting as it does the travails and terror of refuges making their way across the Pacific maelstrom towards sanctuary and the hope of asylum. Most of these unfortunate souls however, find themselves metaphorically washed up in detention camps indefinitely, marooned on islets such as Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island. Released in support of #KidsOffNauru, Harvey conducts a tumult mix of chamber and Baroque-pop, an oceanic waltz of dramatic swells and mournful torrents. Harvey and his The Letter String Quartet ensemble track that journey, from the ‘Pyramids’ like Radiohead signature beckoning and lamentable march of ‘Conflict’, through the confusion intense torrid of ‘All At Sea’ to the lulled ethereal choral ‘Hope’.

Classical music with an augmentation of the modern, Waves Of Anzacs/The Journey is an often-understated work of sadness, fear, trauma and also anger that stands well in any period. Harvey offers a moving testament of assured maturity to his subjects, connecting as he does, two different tragedies, from wartime and a so-called peacetime, on one sublime album.



Related posts from the Archives:-

Mick Harvey ‘Delirium Tremens’

Mick Harvey Live At The Oran Mor

Mick Harvey ‘Four Acts Of Love’

Rowland S. Howard ‘Teenage Snuff Film’ & ‘Pop Crimes’



The Monolith Cocktail is now on the micro-donation hub Ko-Fi:

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 REVIEWS
Dominic Valvona





Easing the boredom of coronavirus lockdown, join me from the safety of your own home on a global journey of discovery. Let me do all the footwork for you, as I recommend a batch of interesting and essential new releases from a myriad of genres, which I hope you will support in these anxious times. With all live gigs and events more or less quashed for the foreseeable future, buying music (whether it’s physical or through digital platforms such as Bandcamp) has never been more important for the survival of the bands/artists/collectives that create it.

From Java, there’s the latest project from the Hive Mind label in collaboration with Indonesian music digger Kai Riedl, a showcase of 2007 recordings from Idjah Hadidjah & Jugala Jaipongan plus a number of reworked transformations from a host of sonic and electronic artists. Various Maghreb artists from the 80s and 90s Lyon café and club scene can be heard for the first time on vinyl with a new compilation from Bongo Joe, the electrified Raï, Chaoui and Staifi K7 Club collection. Formed in London, the combined talents of Senegal singer/songwriter Biram Seck and French guitarist foil Thibaut Remy come together once more under the Awale Jant Band umbrella for another Afrobeat and soul showcase, Yewoulen. I also take a look at the Passepartout Duo of Nicoletta Favari and Christopher Salvito’s amorphous travelogue peregrination through Switzerland, the Caucasus, former Soviet Asiatic satellites and China performances, Vis-à-Vis; available next month on vinyl and digitally.

There’s also the upcoming Mexican cross border fraternization musical odyssey from Sergio Mendoza and his Orkesta, Curandero.

Back in Europe jazz bassist extraordinaire Ville Herrala is doing inventive things as a solo artist with the double bass; releasing his debut experimental LP for the Helsinki label We jazz. Still in a European jazz setting, there’s the debut LP from the disruptive JZ Replacement pairing of Zhenya Strigalev and Jamie Murray; the saxophonist and his drummer foil collide together with a myriad of rhythms and ideas to kick jazz into a new decade. We also have the most recent ambient voyage across graph paper from Moonside Tape’s founder Jimmy W, Midi Canoe.


Idjah Hadidjah & Jugala Jaipongan   ‘Javasounds Vol.1: Jaipongan Music Of West Java’   (Hive Mind) LP/6th March 2020




Borne from a dire situation, Indonesian composer and choreographer Gugum Gumbira circumnavigated the country’s authoritarian ban on rock and roll by creating the traditional infused Jaipongan style. Hidden beneath a hybrid of honest harvesting ritual music and atavistic gamelan lay a more sensual spark that encouraged dancing intimacy and a rapid, galloping rhythm that pushed this musical form towards rock: seen by those who made it and loved it as a rebellious gesture. The authorities seemed to have been unaware of its creator’s motives, as the dynamic sound spread throughout the country, unabated, finding favour amongst both the working classes and more affluent.

Mesmerizing with its quickened, often complicated, rhythms – which either flow constantly like a trickle or tumble in a sporadic fit – and bowed quivers, Jaipongan percussion and undulated metallophones are counterbalanced by untethered vocals of romantic and humbled wooing; sung, in this case, on this new edition of Gumbira recordings by the beautiful aria fluctuating Idjah Hadidjah. Gumbira met his muse in the early 80s, luring the iconic singer away from the Sundanese Shadow Puppet Theatre to join his Jugala Orchestra troupe; a collaboration that would go on to last the decade. They would reunite in 2007, recording at the Jugala Studios in Bandung, Java, backed by the studio’s house band. That session now forms the basis of this new vinyl/digi release from Hive Mind and the Indonesian music evangelist Kai Riedl, who present six original tracks from that reunion and a second disc of ‘reworks’ from a variety of contemporary artists in the field of soundscaping and sonic transformations. Riedl, of the Indo-influenced Macha band, has plenty of experience in this sector having made trips to the island of Java with sound engineer Suny Lyons in the noughties to record everything from solo string players to thirty-member gamelan orchestras, in locations as diverse as a darkly-lit nightclub to off-the-grid hideaways. As facilitators they offer up a showcase of the genre’s most entrancing siren and backing group.

Transporting the listener towards the gateway of an exotic unfamiliar geography, the resonating chimes, trinkets, gongs and clapping woody undulations, in fits and starts, playfully evoke both the earthy and ethereal in equal measure. Songs like ‘Sanja’ have a rustic, ritualistic vibe, yet the accelerating rhythm and beat suggests the club dancefloor.





Those Javanese intonations and accentuate sounds are transformed with this package’s Riedl instigated ‘reworks’, an extension of his project to open-up access to the music of Indonesia to western musicians. A range of assemblage inventive artists takes the source material on a journey of variously successful experiments: a music that lends itself well to this treatment as it happens. The North Carolina based artists Bana Haffar turns in a slow trance-y skying vision of the tumbling ‘Hiji Catetan’. N.Y. based musician Bergsonist transduces gamelan into signaled code on her dreamy Orbital-esque remembrance transformation, and Indonesian composer, sound-designer Fahmi Mursyid ratchets up the material with a Autechre breakdown of rewiring, buzz saw beats, dropped metallic ball bearings and zapped bass. For the most part these reworks wander in a serialism and ambient fashion of transcendence; the use of Hadidjah’s startling vocals especially lends itself well to these float-y deconstructions: It’s Jaipongan, but not as we know it.

This latest well-chosen project from the label and friends is another enticing, captivating window into a musical world few of us are even aware of: A great discovery eastwards, with more to follow hopefully.





JZ Replacement  ‘Disrespectful’
(Rainy Days Record)  LP/13th March 2020




Positively disruptive rather than ‘disrespectful’ to the fundamentals of jazz, the ‘symbiosis’ (as they call it) pairing of saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev (Ambrose Akinmusire, Eric Harland) and drummer Jamie Murray (Sun Ra Arkestra, Native Dancer) play hard and frantically fast with the genre on their latest union, JZ Replacement.

Crossing paths regularly on the London jazz stage, Strigalev has already made an appearance on Murray’s solo project, Beat Replacement. Pooling that talent once more for a new iteration, the JZ duo flex, bounce and distort an abundance of contemporary influences, from trip-hop to d’n’b, on their debut album. Recording with the very much in demand bass guitar maestro Tim Lefebvre – a member of Donny McCaslin’s troupe that famously backed Bowie on his last curtain call -, who brings yet another eclectic layer of dynamism to the polygenesis stew, the JZ pile full-throttle through off-kilter accelerations, breakbeats, hard-bop and vague Eastern European folk traditions to knock jazz into a new decade.

They’re as connected to Roni Size’s own transformative 90s fusions as they are to both modern North American and European jazz, and the explorative deconstructions of Ornette Coleman; blending in a dramatic, sometimes hardcore, fashion a spiraling vortex of squawking bleats with rattling erratic drumming. The previously featured ‘Tubuka’ is an example of those wide-ranging influences; skulking along as it does to a Massive Attack like broody bass line and a dubby post-punk menace before being harried by Murray’s drums and the spooked elephant heraldings of Strigalev’s saxophone. Wavering between a number of rhythmic and intense step-changes, the duo deftly react with both a rush and relaxed vigor. ‘Marmalade For Radhika’ changes that dynamic again with a sweetened drifting exploration that wafts through lingering traces of Savoy label jazz, the blues and the Cuban. But you’re just as likely to hear staccato jerks, short bursts of no wave Blurt and Liquid Liquid, hovering flange, space echoes and piercing squalls in a suffusion of ever-progressive performances.

Two artists at the height of their imaginative prowess, the JZ show a healthy disrespect for conventions as they blast apart the jazz scene; yet somehow make the intensity and waywardness flow. More please!





Awale Jant Band   ‘Yewoulen (Wake Up)’
(ARC)   LP/27th March 2020




Predominantly imbued by the Senegalese heritage and ‘gawlo’ storyteller tradition of this London-formed polygenesis collective’s songwriter/singer Biram Seck, and by some of its drumming/percussionist circle, the Awale Jant Band effortlessly broadens its musical horizons with another loose fusion of Afrobeat, soft heralded horn section soul and bustled funk. A merger of the Dakar-born dynamic Jant band and French guitarist foil Thibaut Remy’s Awale group, the lilted unison of West African and European musicianship once more leaps into action on the debut follow-up Yewoulen.

It’s a title which when translated from the Wolof people’s language – the dialect that Seck mostly sings in – of Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania encourages a “wake up” call. A unifying wake up call that is, with many of the both expressively joyful and sadder yearns driven by injustice and a need for understanding in a morosely hostile society. First though, there’s romanticism of a sort in the form of the album’s ascendant, snozzled horn and soft rolling, rattled and skipping ‘Sope’; a tender love paean that features a soulful trilling Seck vocally crossing paths with Al Green and Youssou N’Dour – which is handy, as the group’s Senegalese percussionist Medoune Ndiaye was a member of his backing group. Equally as loving, even sweet, is the Highlife with echoes of South America celebration ‘Amandine’; written by Remy as a dedication his first daughter. Staying with the upbeat (musically speaking), there’s what sounds like a busy groove-generated stopover in Lagos with the mellow Kuti vibes funk ‘Domi Adama’; a live feel track with plenty of swirling horns and bobbing sabra drumming action, courtesy of Fofoulah’s Kaw Secka). It’s followed by the Accra vibe and Stax Watts’s horn blasting song of happiness ‘Cubalkafo’.

In the more poignant and societal-political vane, Seck pays a plaintive jazzy lament to an old friend on the two-speed cantaloupe ‘Jules’, and comments on the sensitive issue of ritual circumcision on the African-rock lilted ‘Kassak’.

The message though is one of shared ancestry and a coming together for the benefit of others in an increasingly unsympathetic and dangerous world. This combined force of musicians does it with a real swerve on a groove that is constantly, gently moving between the spiritual and the soulful and funky. The Awale Jant Band turns in another great showcase of cross-fertilized rhythms.




Ville Herrala  ‘Pu:’
(We Jazz)  LP/21st February 2020




The Helsinki label of We Jazz is one that excels in pushing and remixing the boundaries of contemporary jazz; especially the role of the soloist, turning out vividly dexterous breathing experiments in counter-flow looped saxophone with Jonah Parzen-Johnson’s Imagine Giving Up, and now a suite of taut and quivering string and rhythmic slapped bodywork miniatures played using only the double-bass, by the Finnish bassist Ville Herrala.

A mainstay of the much admired Scandinavian jazz scene, the Turku born native has lent his adroit skills to such scene-setters as PLOP, Otto Donner, U-Street All Stars, Jukka Eskola Orquesta Bossa and the UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra. Stepping out from the group set-up, the conservatoire graduate goes solo for his debut LP Pu:. Herrala knocks, pads and bends out-of-shape the familiar bass sound to often take on the characteristics of a distressed cello. Consisting of fourteen vignettes split between the bowed and rhythmic, Pu: balances the springy and elasticated with the spindled and ponderous on an album of various moody experiments. ‘Pu:2’ (all the track titles by the way have this suffix) has the sort of quivery sustain intro you might expect to hear on a Hendrix record – hanging on an air-string before launching into a wild psychedelic scream – whilst ‘Pu:6’ has the double-bass almost mooing. In the minimalist, more sound experiment camp, the pendulous ‘Pu:3’ sounds like something scuttling in the attic, and the pitter-patter ‘Pu:5’ sounds like Herrala’s rolling a ball-bearing across the spider-like strings.

There’s oblique runs up the fretboard, bows across the bridge and saw-motioned tautened frictions throughout an LP that is equally as morose and haunted as it is mysteriously avant-garde. Semi-classical, semi-jazz, semi-minimalist and semi-soundscape, Pu: is an inventive suite of articulations, tones and atmospheres fashioned from a double bass in discomfort; stretched to its limits. Herrala proves a congruous edition to a most explorative jazz label on the fringes of reinvention.





Jimmy W  ‘Midi Canoe’
(Moonside Tapes)  LP/22nd February 2020




Featured recently in the last Tickling Our Fancy revue with his Kirigirisu Recordings enabled Singapore Police Background collaboration with fellow ambient peregrination explorer Dan Burwood, James Wilson is back this month with an equally minimal atmospheric solo under the Jimmy W appellation. Released via his own brilliant limited cassette specialist label Moonside Tapes, his latest ebb and flow traverse, Midi Canoe, flutters and drifts across crackling graph paper. A concatenate collection of vignettes, passages and extracts, Wilson builds a evanescent soundtrack of static fields, snozzled foggy wafts and air flows; pricked by bendy space warbles, metallic shivers and a gliding piano. There’s also a masked twinkled chime that sounds like a marimba, falling like droplets on a bedding of gauzy washes.

Tracks like ‘Unnameable Little Broom’ are given a Casio preset choral effect lull, whereas the poetically surreal evoked ‘It Was Evening All Afternoon’ has an air of early Cluster.

Showing just how well read this ambient composer is, there’s a third-note emphasized chiming mirage with space birdy warbled piece entitled ‘Mr. Cogito’s Last Dream’; a reference to the Polish author-poet Zbigniew Herbert’s philosophical canvas everyman of the title, the protagonist of a number of reflective, questioning dialogues and poems written under the despair of Communism. Getting technical, there’s an overlap of ghostly trailing notes and repeated nice piano motifs piece that refers to the white notes ‘Lydian’ scale. A mode as it were, this particular scale includes all the notes of an F scale without the Bb.

A suffused wash of enervated motorization and dreamy resonance, Wilson’s Midi Canoe is a mysterious voyage of inner meditation and the otherworldly that’s well worth seeking out. And whilst you are at it, take a look through the whole Moonside catalogue, especially the 2018 abstract hand-painted Mhva LP Scend, a concentrated vapour of sublime ambience.





Passepartout Duo   ‘Vis-à-Vis’
(AnyOne)   LP/10th April 2020




A project that sadly now seems inconceivable in the face of a growing coronavirus pandemic, the freely traversing duo of Nicoletta Favari and Christopher Salvito use the sounds and discoveries of a journey they made from Switzerland, via the Caucasus and former Soviet Asiatic satellites, to China. In conjunction with the AnyOne Beijing arts company label and curatorial platform to promote experimental and contemporary classical music to a ‘budding’ Chinese audience, the Passepartout Duo collaboration is a transportive album of scrap-built instruments and synthesized peregrinations, split into two separate seventeen-minute amorphous soundtracks.

The first part of these cross-panoramic sound adventures, ‘Heartwood’, expresses a sense of time passing; the metronome ticking away as the cycles of chimed strikes, sonorous drones and scuttling wooden undulations make way to crystalized gleams, spindled mechanisms and vague echoes of gamelan. The final section of this journey moves through uninterrupted duel divided melodies, glassy tubular drops and low veiled foghorn bass until ending on a trance-y spell.

The titular track begins with a busier sonic language of clanging and mallet metallics, overlapped with what sounds like an avant-garde video arcade of speed shifts, trickles and pattered Orientalism.

You’re never really sure of which terrain you might be passing through at any given time on this exploratory project of neo-classical travelogues, and that’s what’s so magical about it: anticipating what sonic landscape might come next, or where the duo will take us. In the process Vis-à-Vis flows through an undefined geography to create something fresh and different; a soundtrack untethered, if you will, to a particular time and place.




Orkesta Mendoza  ‘Curandero’
(Glitterbeat Records)  LP/10th April 2020




Another crisscrossing romp over the southern border, scion of the Calexico-Giant Sand-Xixa axis of Arizona-Mexican fusions, Sergio Mendoza once more leads his Orkesta out across a fertile musical geography on his new LP, Curandero.

And yet again, Mendoza pays a special homage to the sounds and myriad of styles he heard growing up between his two homes of Nogales, Arizona and Sonora, Mexico on an album that is playful and varied.

With an emphasis on pop, this guest heavy follow-up to 2016’s ¡Vamos A Guarachar! Has a more commercial and light sound. Recorded at a breakneck pace, without much planning. Mendoza and his collaborators go with the flow and mood on a Latino odyssey of reinvigorated musical staples. Songs like the 50s rock’n’roll tonk and cowbell tapping ‘Eres Official’ are meant to evoke the ghost of Buddy Holly, but also stir-up Ritchie Valens. US singer of Latin soul, violinist and fellow Arizona native Quetzal Guerrero makes one of many appearances on this low-rider wolf-whistle of a song. Mendoza says he was thinking about Stuart Copeland of The Police and his loud up the front in production style of drums when recording the bubbly undulated heatwave ‘Head Above Waters’. It sounds though like a jolly trek across the desert with Paul Simon in tow. The strangest flash of inspiration is with the broody love song ‘Little Space’, which features Nick Urata of Devotchka crooning like a mix of the Big O and Chris Isaak. Supposedly starting out like The Jam, Mendoza seems to have instead transformed The Beatles ‘I’m Looking Through You’ with the popular folk tradition of cumbia – a style that has had a renaissance in the last decade; modified, transmogrified to fuse with anything going, including electronica and dance music.

From the rambunctious to sauntering, cumbia is just one of the many Central and South American genres to make this LP. Expect to also hear concertina and raunchy ‘rancho’, blasted and serenaded ‘mariachi’, echoes of Joey Bataan and Andrew Sisters, the ‘boogaloo’ and matinee idol Mexican R&B on this sprawling songbook.

Mendoza is having a great time with all this, as he builds a musical escapism that one minute offers the corney, the next, a Ska like gallop across the border towards the Amazon. It’s a whistle-stop tour of lo fi Casio preset shimmy accompanied cruise ship lounge bars, wistful pining Western savannahs and Tijuana parties; a pop and rock celebration of a multifaceted and inspiring cross border melting pot, with something for everyone.




Various   ‘Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi 1985-1997’
(Sofa Records & Bongo Joe)   LP/27th March 2020




Music from the North African geography of the Maghreb as you’ve probably never heard it; shimmying with Arabian trinkets, rapid tabbing hand drums and exotic sand dune fantasy certainly, yet made otherworldly cosmic and electro-fied for the burgeoning democratized age of affordable low end tech: welcome to the Arabian expat scene in 80s and 90s Lyon.

From the assured collators Bongo Joe and, on this compilation, their partners Sofa Records a eight-song collection of Casio-preset and synthesized transformed musical poetry and lovelorn heartache from a myriad of Algerian artist’s that congregated around the French city’s North Eastern African café and bar hub. Joints such as the Le But Café, the Croix-Rousse and Guillotière were home to a social network hive of activity for conducting business and booking appearances for weddings, galas and studio sessions.

Musically a crossover of the Oran City folk Raï tradition and Zendari rhythm festive Staifi style from back home, the electrified sounds that emanated from this fertile scene were mostly distributed on cassettes, released by facilitators like Top Music, Édition Merabet and SEDICAV. Extraordinarily, and the reason for this collection, vinyl was discarded for the cheap and flexible culture of tape sharing at the time. The fast turnover, not only in recording these tracks but also in getting them on the market, cut out the middleman and helped foster a thriving local distribution network. Still, the power seemed to be with the publishers who could not only modify the lyrics but tamper with the style itself – adding synthesizer and drums – without seeking consent or even running it by the artists that recorded them. This led to some interesting results, as you’ll hear.

For the first time ever, the Maghreb K7 Club LP makes available a smattering of tracks on vinyl; tunes like the Arabian milky way swish ‘Maliky a Malik’ by Zaidi El Batni – which has a strange intro; someone’s footsteps walking through a cheap echo-chamber effect and some slapping – and the bandy, slinky liquid pop mirage with soothing female sighs ‘Goultili Bye Bye’ by funk-disco maestro Nordine Staïfi. Nordine gets two bites of the dancefloor glazed cherry on this album; his second feature, the infectious whistle-and-clap ‘Zine Ezzinet’ is a standout highlight – imagine an Arabian Nile Rodgers mixing down an Orange Juice funk.

Elsewhere, 808 rattles and harmonium merge with spirited song, whilst heavy accentuated Algerian romanticism is augmented by a Miami soundclash of electro beats. Though the most blatant use of that synthesizer influence is found with Salah El Annabi’s Francophone ‘Hata Fi Annabi’, which unexpectedly drops in a whole chunk of Jean-Michel Jarre’s famous ‘Oxygene’ to the mix.

The 90s sourced tracks in this collection are for obvious reasons more polished, but there’s a certain innocence and fuzzy sheen that I quite like about those older, 80s recordings.

Worth a punt just to own ‘Zine Ezzinet’ – fast becoming one of my favourite, essential movers of the year -, this compilation from Bongo Joe and friends is a wonderful platform to discover another bit of ear-opening musical history.



The Monolith Cocktail is now on the micro-payment donation site Ko-Fi:


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
Compiled by Dominic Valvona
Graphics Gianluigi Marsibilio 





For all our friends and followers alike in coronavirus lockdown, let the Monolith Cocktail ease some of the doldrums and boredoms of quarantine with another Social Playlist (the 43rd edition in fact). The blog’s imaginary radisohow (or podcast if you prefer) brings together tracks from across time, genres and the globe to take the listener on a musical odyssey of discovery.

For those of you without access to Spotify, we’ve chosen a random smattering of tracks from Youtube.


Tracks:

Evie Sands  ‘I’ll Hold Out My Hand’
Clarence Reid  ‘Along Came A Woman’
Urbano de Castro  ‘Urbanito’
Marva Whitney  ‘What Kind Of Man’
The Scruffs  ‘Go Faster’
The Cake  ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’
The Koobas  ‘A Little Piece Of My Heart’
Eternity’s Children  ‘The Sidewalks Of The Ghetto’
Armando Trovajoli  ‘I Love You’
Ziad Rahbani  ‘Raksat Tahiat’
Eris Van Bloom  ‘Forget Me After’
Yasuaki Shimizu  ‘Lebon Lipon’
The Clientele  ‘I Had To Say This’
The Plastic Cloud  ‘Shadows Of Your Mind’
Grapefruit  ‘Yesterday’s Sunshine’
Moses Gunn Collective  ‘Mercy Mountain’
3Ds  ‘Evocation Of W.C. Fields
The Exploding Hearts  ‘Throwaway Style’
Rockin’ Ramrods  ‘Willie’s Plastic People Factory’
The Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2  ‘Pick Up Your Head’
The Pazant Brothers  ‘Dancing In The Street’
Anthony Braxton  ‘G-647 (Opus 23H)’
Sonny Sharrock  ‘Bailero’
Crispy Ambulance  ‘Chill’
Big L  ‘Devil’s Son’
Ramson Badbonez  ‘I Got Dat Sting’
Tuff Crew  ‘Show Em Hell’
Sonny & The Sunsets  ‘Ghost Days’
Moonshake  ‘Mugshot Heroine’
Lungleg  ‘Punk Pop Travesty’
Thee Headcoats  ‘The Messerschmitt Pilot’s Severed Hand’
The Intelligence  ‘My Ears Are Dust’
Jeremy Steig  ‘Home’
Weldon Irvine  ‘Turkish Bath’
Bembeya Jazz National  ‘N’Lanyo’
Bongos Ikwue  ‘Ella’
Seamajesty  ‘Abacat’
Acid Arab  ‘Electrique Yarghol’
Pan Ron  ‘Pros Reang Yeh Yeh’
Benkadi International  ‘Kelou Na’
Dzyan  ‘Light Shining Out Of Darkness’
Green On Red  ‘Drifter’






For Youtubers 

























All Selections made by Dominic Valvona





A quick shifty, glance, a perusal of the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload our inboxes this month by me, Dominic Valvona.

This week’s roll call includes the following picks: Gawd Status, Ghostwood Development Project, Adam Green, Irreversible Entanglements and Lunar Bird.

Gawd Status   ‘Admiral Byrd’
(Tru Thoughts)   Video/Happening Now





Taken from last year’s debut LP Firmamentum, the ether emanating Hip-Hop conspiracy hallucination ‘Admiral Byrd’ is the latest video to drop from the unholy Gawd Status union of leading UK rap architects King Kashmere and Joker Starr. Making our albums of 2019 features (picked by our resident know-all on the Hip-Hop essentials, Matt Oliver), the visionary psychedelic combo enter the sanctum of the tinfoil hat brigade to merge the real life exploits of the famed and heavily decorated American explorer, navel hero and aviator Admiral Richard E. Byrd with flat and hollow Earth rabbit hole lunacy. Byrd is notable amongst other things, for being the first to fly across Antarctica; a flight that may or may not of been sanctioned as a deep cover operation to find Nazis and UFOs in the uncharted frozen wastes. The mind boggles as a silver-suited adorned Gawd Status set out to unlock a truth.

Matt Oliver had this to say about them and their debut LP, Firmamentum, back in 2019:

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


Ghostwood Development Project Feat. Kool Keith   ‘Gulley’
(Nepotismo Records)  Single/6th March





Lazer guided, Lee Brunskjill hooks up with one-man cult Hip-Hop progenitor Kool Keith on his new electrified cosmic project the Ghostwood Development Project.

Dr. Octagon throws out a heavy-reference potted cosmology over a dialed calculating electrical field on the project’s inaugural single, ‘Gully’. Originally conceived after the pair met at Mike Patton & The Melvins curated chapter of All Tomorrow’s Parties Nightmare, all the way back in 2008, an initial spark was ignited over a mutual love of Sci-Fi movies, music and horror movie soundtracks.

This whole project has been a long time in the making, Lee was instrumental in putting together Leeds based Punk outfit Autopsy Boys and after they disbanded he went into social isolation to reevaluate his music and what it meant to him.

Lee rebuilt everything he’d known about music and self taught himself to mix, master and scratch and even built his own syths, which you can hear throughout this track.

By the time Lee had got his newfound skills on point he’d created ‘Gulley’ and found himself in need of a vocal and knew there and then that only Kool Keith would work. Having swapped numbers Lee contacted him, played him the track to which he said “This shit is hot!”. Lee remembers: “Within two days Kool Keith recorded his part and sent back his vocals. With that I set about mixing and mastering my first solo release. I wanted to announce my new project with something special but never imagined it would turn out this good.”

The Ghostwood Development Project moniker is a Twin Peaks reference as Lee explains:

“A few people have asked where I got the name from. It was a plan originally spearheaded by Benjamin Horne to build a country club on the location of Ghostwood National Forest. An intriguing subplot in Twin Peaks. Had this plot continued, I believe it would have revealed the imminent destruction of the town and elaborated on the evil spirits as well as the backstory of Bob, and his Lucifer-like nature. It also plays along nicely with the Twin Peaks‘ narrative of “evil in the woods.” The idea is to present my own personal experiences from an alternate timeline within the Twin Peaks universe where the project did happen and chaos was unleashed. My imagery, music, art, narrative and videos come from the area known as Ghostwood. “Stop Ghostwood” is a recurring theme throughout the saga. Naturally I adopted the term ‘Vote Ghostwood’ insinuating hell on earth has arrived.”


Irreversible Entanglements   ‘No Más’
(International Anthem/Don Giovanni)  Teaser/20th March 2020





The third of my recommendations this week is a tumbling and bowed untethered work of conscious jazz from the free-welding Irreversible Entanglements. Taken from the quintet’s upcoming album Who Sent You?, ‘No Más’ is a sublime rolling gauzy horns wafting teaser for what sounds like a beatified tapestry of poetic actions and contemplations.

Join Camae Ayewa (aka Moor Mother), saxophonist Keir Neuringer, trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, bassist Luke Stewart, and drummer Tcheser Holmes now on this political remonstration.


Lunar Bird   ‘A Walk’
Single/6th March 2020



Transforming vulnerability into something positively and celebratory spellbinding and golden, the psychedelic gauzy pop band Lunar Bird turn on the translucent diaphanous charm for their brand new single, ‘A Walk’. Valuing instead of diminishing fragility and all it entails, the Italian formed, but in recent years Wales-based, band wash away all the travails with a most radiant dreamy pop mirage that evokes ethereal and lush moments from Beach House, Stereolab, Diva Dompe and Deerhunter.

A reference to Joan Miró’s famous abstract bronze sculpture of the same name, Lunar Bird is a cosmic fantasy duo spearheaded by Roberta Musillami and Francis George, that on this particular gorgeous recording expanded to also include Eliseo DiMalto on bass guitar and Andrea Rizzo on drums.

A Walk precedes the band’s debut album, released sometime in the Spring.


Adam Green  ‘All Hell Breaks Loose (Misfits Cover)’
(30th Century)  Track/Available Now





A lot of homages going on in one place here, as the former Moldy Peach turn left banke troubadour Adam Green pays his respects to the Misfits’ towering influential instigator Glenn Danzig with a cover of the band’s Western gallop homage to Scott Walker and John Franz, ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’. Green corrals the talents of producer Loren Humphrey (who also played drums), James Richardson of MGMT (guitar, bass, piano, brass arrangement, brass), and Jesse Kotansky (string arrangement, strings) on this heightened dramatic sweep through the imaginative mind of Danzig, who as it happens is apparently releasing a new album next month of Elvis covers.

In short, this is a congruous cover version that wouldn’t look out of place on Green last nostalgic songbook Engine Of Paradise; an album that channeled Lee Hazlewood, Burt Bacharach, Harry Nilsson, Ian McCulloch, Jim Sullivan and Father John Misty to produce romantic and candid swooners, Midnight Cowboy like cocktail ruminations on love in the context of a society in the grip of an ever intrusive and alienating social media, and folksy ditties imbibed with strolls in the Greenwich Village.


Support the Monolith Cocktail:

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.

LP REVIEW
Dominic Valvona




U.S. Girls  ‘Heavy Light’
(4AD)  LP/6th March 2020


Marking a decade in a recording career that extends just beyond that, Meg Remy as the ambiguous U.S. Girls has progressed from bedroom diy-style 60s bleeding hearts girl group tape-loops to ever more sophisticated femme fatale politicized boogie, disco and funk. From performing as a, more or less, solitary figure from 2008 until she signed on in 2015 to 4AD, Meg has not only expanded her musical horizons and production techniques but also cast of collaborators: the last two albums for the much-mythologized indie label have included a full-on contorting live band, made up of Meg’s oft musical foil and partner the maverick guitar-slinging Maximilian Turnball (under his nom de plume of Slim Twig) and a host of Toronto talent; many of whom perform together as the multi-limbed collective Cosmic Range.

 

In (re)cycle mode Meg’s latest thematic cerebral pop opus, Heavy Light, is full of reflections and retrospection, not just on duality but hindsight. The seventh LP proper even features a trio of reworked recordings from the back catalogue; songs that chime with and make a connection to those very same themes, as Meg turns away (to a point) from her previous, almost, removed character sketches to gaze inward and take stock: going back even to recollections of childhood experiences. The first of this trio and a recent single ’Overtime’ first appeared on the 2013 Free Advice Column EP. Missing its lo fi Ronettes chimes, replaced with a more up-tempo gyrating workout of withering, cheated heart sassy funk, the refreshed Overtime now features a cameo pined saxophone requiem solo from Bruce Springsteen’s current E Street Band member Jake Clemons: his wane and whining contortions in parallel with the Linda Sharrock like pained wails. An annoyed song of deceit, the title an allusion to a partner drinking away his extra pay in overtime, is pretty much a universal and timeless theme given an uncomfortable twist: the protagonist laying six feet deep in the soil.

The second song to be lifted from its original time, ‘State House (It’s A Man’s World)’, first featured on the 2011 LP U.S. Girls On KRAAK. Given a little pep, crisper production too, the 2020 version keeps the backbeat but adds a choral quality of descending voices – on what sounds like a protest sway rather than march – and one of the album’s most featured backing instruments, the marimba. The lilted undulating sparkle and trickling marimba is interesting, as Meg has decided to record this latest album a little differently to the last; using a live band but with less augmenting beats and synthesized effects, to give it a different feel entirely to In A Poem Unlimited. And so it has a more natural less post-produced sound: “un-automated”, as the PR spill calls it. Though many of the same musicians from that previous LP remain, and Meg has brought in dance producer and remixing luminary Rick Morel (Pet Shop Boys, Cyndi Lauper, Yoko Ono), the instrumentation is more classical, chamber and symphonic – timpani, strings, double bass, balladry melodramatic piano, hand drums and percussion.

Album closer, ‘Red Ford Radio’, is the final track of the three revisions; having first appeared on Meg’s second LP, 2010’s grainy and discordant Go Grey. The lumbered slow-steamed haunting clang of the original remains, if slightly cleaner, and the revolving repetitive vocal loop of “I can’t breathe in this red ford anymore, I’d do anything to get out, get out” is intact, but lifted from the swampy mono gauze so that you can now hear the increasingly panicked mantra and the menacing bounced beats of an oil drum that allude to something far darker.






Heavy Light is as much about the vocals as the instrumentation and production, as Meg works with a host of singers to create a jubilation of gospel, soulful and theatre production chorus voices. Meg’s host of harmonious singers, conducted by the multi-talented Toronto stalwart and motivator Kitty Uranowski, sound like Bowie’s Philly-inspired plastic soul troupe on the weaponised Plastic Ono Band go disco swirled boogie, with Anita Baker in tow, ‘4 American Dollars’, and impassionedly sorrowful on the Mick Ronson tickles the ivories stage-y ballad to the complex notions of consent, ‘IOU’. This chorus not only sings with aria like ascendance but also lends it to the sound-art like collages that break-up the album’s collection of songs. Overlapping individual voices recollect their own unique anecdotes in a number of thematic vignettes, the question being posed through the track titles (‘Advice To Teenage Self’, ‘The Most Hurtful Thing’, ‘The Color Of Your Childhood Room’), with answers both cathartic and bland.

Taking its title cue from the Franz Kafka aphorism “A faith like an axe. As heavy as light”, this album takes both a wry and revisionist look at the past. The contrast of experiences themed ‘Woodstock ‘99’ – itself, a perhaps ill-advised festival cashing in on it’s own mythologized past; generation X attempting in some way to own a piece of the boomers history – even lifts lines from Jimmy Webbs classical pop breakup song, ‘MacArthur Park’: “Someone left the cake out in the rain, I don’t think that I can take it, ‘Cause it took so long to bake it. And I’ll never have that recipe again.” Written – I’m assured – about Webb’s breakup with Susan Ronstadt, turned down initially by The Association, it was Richard Harris who first made it a hit, but its Donna Summers version which seems to have inspired this vague transmogrification – that and a piece of Springsteen, The Boomtown Rats and Bowie’s piano moments on Hunky Dory. Almost with one eye winking, Meg’s impassioned sadness denotes a slight melodramatic indulgence on a song that has some really good lines about revising expectations and relationships with divided loyalties. ‘The Quiver To The Bomb’ goes much further back: four billion years in fact, to the dawn of womankind on a withering repetitive LCD Soundsystem piano drama.

Talking of borrowing, the brushed jazzy stagey, timpani rolled ‘Born To Lose’ has echoes of the sort of glass-y marimba and vibraphone chimes you’d hear on a Modern Jazz Quartet record. Those effective vibes, given a Latin makeover, can be heard again on the tropical, even Tango-esque, sauntering South American Spanish pop song ‘And Yet it Moves/Y Se Mueve’.






Personally though, it’s the beautifully conveyed and dreamy lulled ‘Denise, Don’t Wait’ and the already mentioned liquid funk soulful ‘4 American Dollars’ that I’m most endeared to. The former has that hanging on the end of a call that never comes, the expectant longing of a 60s girl-group heart breaker feel, skewered and reset in the now as a minor symphonic ballad. The latter shows off those over layered harmonies on a resigned polemic rile against the money men and the systematic failure of neoliberalism’s skewered capitalism- though I’d argue that a new elite of tech evangelists is a major driver of the inequality gap; those tech giants so-called altruistic virtues don’t wash as they hold onto ever greater reservoirs of capital and cash, usually offshore, instead of investing and spending in the economy at large: the drip down effect always an unsafe claim of multiple governments, even less effective when the rich don’t offer up even the most measly of crumbs.

 

Meg Remy remains one of the most consistent, (re)inventive and important pop artists and voices of the last decade. This, now, trio of 4AD records marks an unbroken run of assured quality; her finest work so far. No one quite politicizes disco, boogie and pop like it. No one sounds quite like her at the moment: not even close. There’s a lot of pain, a lot of hurt, and a lot of revising on Heavy Light as Meg holds up a mirror to both our conscious and unconscious biases, willing to root about in the grey areas and contradictions. Yet there is a sign of hope, a celebration of diversity –not in the achingly virtuous sense –, through the inclusion of eclectic voices and collaborators. U.S. Girls is not an expanded solo project but a hub, an all-welcoming activist umbrella that happens to produce some of the grooviest and most brilliant pop. I really do hope that I’m going to be marking Meg’s next decade in 2030!




Related posts from the Archives:

Half Free LP Review

In A Poem Unlimited Review

U.S. Girls Live Report



The Monolith Cocktail Is Now On Ko-Fi

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.


Ranil y su Conjunto Tropical -monolith cocktail


A quick shifty, glance, a perusal of the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload our inboxes this month by me, Dominic Valvona.

This week’s roll call of honours includes A Journey Of Giraffes, Northwest, Ranil and Violet Nox.


Ranil y su Conjunto Tropical ‘Cumbia Sin Nombre’
(Analog Africa)   Teaser from the upcoming LP ‘Iquitos – Amazonía – Perú’, released 20th March 2020



Drifting back towards the Amazon, Analog Africa – via their congruous Limited Dance Editions imprint – once more float upstream towards the outposts of the South American continent to discover the sauntering sumptuous delights of ‘cumbia’ music. Venturing past the city of Manaus and past the Brazilian/Peruvian border, to the city of Iquitos. It might be fatalistic or encouraging depending on your feelings about the film, but the remote Iquitos, completely cut off from the Peruvian coast, accessible only by air and water, and surrounded by impenetrable forests, was where Werner Herzog filmed the maddening visionary Fitzcarraldo: the epic story of one man’s struggle to bring opera to the Amazon; the travails of which entailed dragging a great big paddle ship over a mountain. Cut off then from the outside world, this lush if hardy place to eke out a living, incubated a novel version of the famous, polygenesis folkloric music.

Though everyone on the continent has had a go at adopting and tinkering with the original form, the melodious Cumbia hails from Colombia. Informed by a trio of cultural influences it can be broken down as thus: the rhythmic foundations derive from Africa, the indigenous offer up the flute-y sound, and the Europeans the costume and choreography. In recent times it has been electrified, adopted by untold contemporary bands.

Iquitos’ favourite son of cumbia Raúl Llerena Vásquez – known to the world as Ranil – was a Peruvian singer, bandleader, record-label entrepreneur and larger-than-life personality who moved to the heady lights of the capital, Lima where he swirled the teeming buzz of the Amazonian jungle, the unstoppable rhythms of Colombian and Brazilian dance music, and the psychedelic electricity of guitar-driven rock-and-roll into a knock-out, party-starting concoction.

When Ranil returned to Iquitos after several years teaching in small towns, he assembled a group of musicians and prepared to take the city’s nightlife by storm. His unique blend of galloping rhythms and trebly, reverberant guitar was so successful that he was soon able to take his new band to Lima to record their first record at MAG studios, where many of Peru’s most successful psych, rock and salsa bands began their recording careers.

Yet Ranil had no intention of entering into the indentured servitude that comes with signing one’s life away to a record company. Instead he established Produccions Llerena – possibly the first record label founded in the Peruvian Amazon – which allowed him to maintain complete control over the release and distribution of his music. His fearsome negotiation skills and his insistence on organising his own tours turned him into one of the central figures of the Amazonian music scene.

Although his records were popular throughout the region, Ranil never sought his fortune in the capital, preferring to remain in his hometown of Iquitos where, in recent decades, he has concentrated his considerable energies on his radio and television stations, and become involved with local civic politics. Yet his legacy has continued to grow among those fortunate enough to track down copies of his legendary – and legendarily difficult to find – LPs.

Ranil’s extraordinary output has remained one of the best-kept secrets among collectors of the genre and psychedelic Latin sounds.

Ahead of the Ranil y su Conjunto Tropical album we’re sharing just one of the three teaser tracks currently doing the rounds; the sauntering lilted and scrappy ‘Cumbia Sin Nombre’. This will go some way to keeping you warm during these miserable rain-lashed and freezing winter months.

Of interest from the Archives:

Analog Africa Tenth Anniversary Special

Mestre Cupijó e Seu Ritmo ‘Siriá’ Compilation Review

Bitori ‘Legend of Funaná ‘The Forbidden Music Of The Cape Verde Islands’ LP Review

Dur-Dur Band ‘Dur Dur Of Somalia: Volume 1, Volume 2 And Previously Unreleased Tracks’ Review


Northwest ‘All Of A Sudden’
(Temple Arts) Video





On occasion, due to time constraints and the sheer volume of requests/submissions thrust upon the Monolith Cocktail each day (let alone week or month) the odd sublime band slips through our hands. The adroit cerebral and artfully beautiful Northwest duo is one such example of this: though we managed to at least feature the slow-released beatific ‘The Day’ lull in our last ever Quarterly Revue Playlist, at the end of 2019. Taken from the duos most recent (and second) album of subtle yearning pop and neo-classical lent mini-opuses II, the achingly ethereal voiced and purposeful heart-breaking ‘All Of A Sudden’ has been furnished with a new video. A favourite not only of ours but the duo themselves, who consider it one of the best songs they’ve ever written (they might just be right on that), Northwest’s heavenly voiced Mariuca García-Lomas explains that the message behind this tender feely classically brushed and gauze-y trembled strings evocation has been difficult to express before in words. Hopefully these metaphorically blinded and bandaged visuals – recorded on an emotionally charged cold morning in an English garden – will enlighten us further.

Taking the plunge a few years back, quitting their jobs in the bargain and relocating to the UK, Mariuca and her foil Ignacio Simón have released two albums so far under the Northwest moniker, though they also appear under various other guises – this particular incarnation of the duo expands to accommodate a small chamber orchestra. They’ve also recently launched their own label hub, Temple Arts, for all theses projects; a one-stop platform you could say. Not confined to just breathtaking music, they’ve also released a series of little films and performances, two manifestos, organized an arts festival in a church in London and collaborated with a wealth of other artists, such as dancers and costume designers.

Romantically plaintive with a political dimension, their last video-track ‘Pyramid’ (taken from the first LP) was directed by the artist Álvaro Gómez-Pidal on 16mm film and used a drawn-on-film animation technique. This latest visual accompaniment is no less sublime.

Of interest from the Archives

Quarterly Revue Playlist Part 4



Violet Nox  ‘Future Fast’
(Sleep FUSE)  EP/Out Now





A slightly disorientating and ominous vision of futurism waits on the new unearthly cybernetic EP from the Boston, Massachusetts synth-heavy troupe Violet Nox. Gazing into the mainframe this quartet of light-bending minimal techno and ambient explorers fashion a strange cosmology from their tech setup. The subtly engineered wispy and whispery vapour trail opening ‘Cosmic Bits’ features an ever-intense soundscape of lightbeams, downplayed acid burbles, resonating satellite signals and air-y sine waves. It also reminded me a bit of the organic subterranean trance of the Future Sound of London and various records put out by the R&S and Hart House labels in the early to mid 90s. The moist atmospheric ‘Moonshine’ merges post-punk with bity techno, with its use of what sounds like flange-y guitar – though this could be the sound of a guest ‘ukulele’ – reverberations, bendy effects and cybernetic voices on an increasingly mind-altering journey. More metallic robotic like voices can be found on the fizzle lashed echo-y ‘Superfan’ – a track that just keeps getting weirder and nosier as it progresses – whilst ‘Bell Song’ sends those broadcasts and masked annunciations into a vacuum of trance-y tubular ambience and vague percussive industrial washes.

More intriguing and mysterious than dystopian augur, Violet Nox’s warped explorations prove intriguing and adroit in navigating brave new (alien) worlds.



A Journey Of Giraffes  ‘Armenia’
LP/Out Now





Seeming to get better with every release, the unassuming maverick ambient and soundscape explorer behind this most picturesque of animalistic monikers, John Lane, has in recent years been prolific in churning out the most subtle but deeply effective under-the-radar soundtracks. The safari has moved, in more recent years, away from Lane’s Beach Boys imbued driftwood suites to more ambient and traversing experimental influences. Previous excursions from the Baltimore composer include an aimless supernatural field-recorded walk through the forest, – a mixture of Arthur Russell meets Panda Bear and Alejandro Jodorowsky in John’s Maryland backyard -, and the love letter to the late Japanese electronic composer Susumu Yokota, Kona – a ceremonial, Zen like soundtrack that evokes the Fourth World Possible Musics of Jon Hassell, Popol Vuh and the higher plain communal glistened zither transcendence of Laraaji.

The latest album looks to the edges of Eastern Europe, where the Caucasus meets the Middle East, and the mysterious of Armenia. A land much disputed, fought over and most tragically, its population during WWI herded from their lands towards one of the 20th century’s most heinous genocides (still contested by the perpetrates to this day). Atavistic psychogeography, myths, ancient readings and poetry form the inspiration on this generous 44-track album of differing stirring soundscapes, traverses, contemplations and ruminations. From the air-y and sublime to the more ominous, primal and fraught, minimal evocations sit alongside more churned oblique scrapped moody horrors. Voices from the old religions swirl and echo amongst the hewn stone monuments to Armenia’s ghosts on an outstanding mesmerizing soundtrack. I’m not sure how many more great records John has to make before he gets the recognition he deserves, but it better be soon.

Of interest from the Archives

A Journey Of Giraffes ‘Kona’

A Journey Of Giraffes ‘F²’

Expo ‘She Sells Seashells’


The Monolith Cocktail is now on Ko-fi

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 REVIEW
Dominic Valvona




Various   ‘INTENTA: Experimental & Electronic Music From Switzerland 1981 – 1993’   (Les Disques Bongo Joe/Décalé Records)   LP/28th February 2020


Overshadowed by its neighbours, the landlocked trans-alpine polyglot nation of Switzerland has a mixed history, both politically and culturally. The neutralized haven for at least the last century, the 26 canton state has proved a fertile climate for the arts especially; a key incubator for the birth of Dadaism and in turn, from its ashes, Surrealism (dreamed up in part by the Zurich Cabaret Voltaire of such luminaries Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara, Richard Huelsenbeck and Hans Arp, to name just a few), to the role of modern conceptual stars such as Urs Fischer, Thomas Hirschhorn and Sylvie Fleury.

Musically though, I draw a bit of a blank.

Bongo Joe along with their partners on this electrified Swiss odyssey, Décalé Records, are here to help, filling in those blanks with at least one important transitional period in the country’s music history; a twelve-year window in which the synthesized ‘hedonism’ of club and burgeoning Techno scenes emerged from a more politicized radical youth-led movement.

From 1981 onwards the great and good and more obscure mavericks of Switzerland embraced the technology and production; experimenting to varying degrees of success, from louche Euro-pop to the avant-garde; Kosmische style peregrinations to lo fi futurism. Plucked from the crates by Matthias Orsett and Maxi Fischer, a mixed bag of the ‘under-appreciated’, ‘sought-after’ and plain odd are brought together under the INTENTA title.

An intergenerational compilation, old hands like the multi-tasker artist/actor/poet/ski instructor and Jacques Brel adapt Jean-Pierre Huser feature alongside a rabble of Swiss post-punk-turn-synth-pioneers such as the ex-Grauzone saxophonist Claudine Chirac. The former, Huser, high on the Gauloises nicotine of Gainsbourg wraps a seedy Yello-esque gauze-y electro production around the 1984 down and out cocaine languor in ‘Chinatown’; the latter, sees Chirac reimagine what it might sound like if Wendy Carlos had been signed to the early Mute label, composing a Baroque-futurist elegy on the 1982 ‘Etudes’ exercise: part neoclassical, part videogame.





Quality and access, from the privately pressed to bigger full-on slick productions, this collection – which is neither linear nor thematic – dots Eurovision starlets amongst the most rudimentary of early synth tinkerings. At the more polished end, Swiss pop-chanteuse Carol Rich makes the cut with the vaporous hushed air-y ‘Computered Love’; the congruous flip side to Rich’s 1984 Eurovision entry ‘Tokyo Boy’. At the more lofi level, Dressed Up Animals 1983 serialism and ritualistic sound experiment ‘Mondtanz’, morphs Faust and Cabaret Voltaire.

The influences are just as wide-ranging; smoky, sexy Grace Jones vibes and Trevor Horn on Peter Philippe Weiss’ soulfully sultry underground transport diorama ‘Subway’ – a private pressing with high production values, remastered especially for this compilation – and D-Sire’s French-esque bluesy drumpad splash crescendo ‘Wintertime’.





Other notable attractions on this selection include the opening ‘Untitled’ Krautrock traverse, attributed to the 19th century Swiss folk hero Andreas Hofer – the Tyrolean innkeeper/drover turn rebel leader in the fight against Bonaparte; captured and later executed -; the Ryuichi Sakamoto with touches of the Yellow Magic Orchestra, dance across the Alpine glacial, ‘Swiss Air’, by Bells Of Kyoto; and mechanical water-treading ‘Django’, labeled as the Unknownmix.

As varied as Juan Atkins is to the 39 Clocks or Niles Rodger’s 80s Bowie production is to The Normal, the differences in synthesizer production and style is numerous. You can hear more or less every development in electronic music, from soundscaping to city lights NYC electro funk on this eager compilation that traces a less cherished passage in the evolution of European electronica. A collection of artists that absorbed but lent a certain Swiss bent to the genre. INTENTA is well worth seeking out, if not only to own some very rare and expensive sounds.





The Monolith Cocktail is now on Ko-Fi

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.

PREVIEW/REVIEW
Dominic Valvona





A quick shifty, glance, a perusal of the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload our inboxes this month by me, Dominic Valvona.

For your consideration this week, tracks, even a film trailer, from The Band, Chassol, Nordine Staifi, Graham Costello’s Strata and, Van Pool.


Graham Costello’s Strata  ‘Cygnus’
(Gearbox Records)  Single/14th February 2020




From out the burgeoning Glasgow jazz scene rises Graham Costello’s Strata; an impressive sextet that edges towards post-rock and minimalism but was founded on a synthesis of flowing progressive and fusion jazz. Embodied in their latest untethered mini-opus, a free-flowing ascendance to the northern constellation of ‘Cygnus’, drummer Graham and his Strata troupe dynamically turn in an amorphous performance. Both moody and mysterious, with a certain gravitas, they build subtly from horizon emergent lingering caressed saxophone and ebbing gentle piano to a crescendo of rapid percussive barreling rolls, punchier horns, slam the lid down on the keys avant-garde piano and Afro-jazz undulations on a suffused journey towards the stars.

A freestanding single, ‘Cygnus’ was recorded, as it happens, at Bryan Ferry’s Studio One in West London, and engineered by Hugh Padgham. Alongside Graham on this night flight peregrination were Harry Weir on tenor saxophone, Liam Shortall on trombone, Fergus McCreadie on piano, Mark Hendry on guitar and Joe Williamson on electric bass.

Of interest from the Archives:

Also on Gearbox Records: Abdullah Ibrahim ‘The Balance’ (review)



Nordine Staifi  ‘Zine Ezzinet’
(Sofa Records/Bongo Joe)  Teaser track from the MAGHREB K7 CLUB: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi 1985​-​1997 compilation/27th March 2020




The Maghreb as you’ve probably never heard it before: All whistles, Casio presets and boogie disco on the cusp of alt-pop, like a North African Postcard Records. Sofa Records in conjunction with Les Disques Bongo Joe present Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staiif 1985-1997, a compilation of tracks recorded and produced between those years in Lyon, France by musicians from North Africa’s Maghreb region; created in the hothouse environment of the city’s café culture by artist mostly from Algeria. This compilation brings together eight tracks that were then released on audio cassettes only, offering them for the first time ever on vinyl. Now there’s an offer you should find hard to refuse.

As the PR spill explains: ‘Most of Lyon’s musical scene is composed of men originating from eastern Algeria, but since the 1950s, the Croix-Rousse and Guillotière cafés have counted musicians from all over Maghreb. These cafés were social hubs, where these individuals met up weekly; playing together and sharing their everyday life experience — but they also had a major role in the development of popular music of French-based North Africans. In Lyon, Le But Café in the 3rd arrondissement or the bars on Sébastien Gryphe Street in the 7th arrondissement were among these: one could conduct business there, getting booked for a wedding, a baptism, a gala, or a studio session… all took place there.

Playing together in Lyon. The practice of music was cross-regional with different North African influences, but also with local traditions. These versatile musicians also absorbed new local influences: music within the context of immigration was a perfect school for musical cosmopolitanism. Chachacha or tango versions of some Cheikh El Hasnaoui tracks come to mind, or Mohamed Mazouni’s jerks and twists. Like their predecessors, the musicians in this compilation brilliantly integrate raï or staïfi tunes with disco aesthetics or funk guitar riffs as Nordine Staifi did. You could also think of Salah El Annabi who used the Oxygene theme (1976) by Jean-Michel Jarre, the Lyon-based composer and electronic music pioneer. “As we say around here, mixed weddings make good-looking lads!” said Abbès Hamou, a musician from Place du Pont. Following on from their musical traditions and unrestrained inventiveness, the musicians’ repertoire naturally assimilated their era’s aesthetics and technologies.’

From that compilation here’s Nordine Staifi’s ‘Zine Ezzinet’. Expect a full review report next month.


Robbie Robertson And The Band documentary   ‘Once Were Brothers’
Film/Select cinemas from 21st February 2020




As the earnest progenitors of a peregrination soundtrack, later to be expanded into a whole genre in its own right, under the audacious ‘Americana’ moniker, The Band defined a bygone pioneering spirit at a time when the American youth (especially) were pushing for both social and political change. Their songs spoke and sympathized with a certain inherent truth and hardiness from an age of steam, aligned with the country’s most destructive historical chapter, the civil war; out-of-step yet somehow wholly relevant in the face of civil rights and the Vietnam war. In a manner they would also be chief instigators of the whole ‘revival’ scene that saw The Beatles and bands like The Kinks return to more pastoral roots.

It didn’t matter, and is a totally fatuous bum-steer that four fifths of that quintet were born and raised over the boarder in Canada; an historical America will forever be immortalized by such summary tales of the old west as ‘The Weight’, ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and ‘Across The Great Divide’ regardless of the authors nationality. Tales, which were so vivid as to be cinematic in their storytelling and nature; encompassing both tragedy and perseverance through the eyes of richly textured characters: the sort of individuals that could have easily stepped out of the novels of Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemmingway and the photo-plated almanac chronicles of the 19th century.

It wasn’t just the landscape and their own interpretations they owned so convincingly, they could also be relied upon to adopt the mantle of the artists they covered too, from Chuck Berry to Sam Cooke. As a backing band themselves for such luminaries as Ronnie Hawkins, through to Bob Dylan (electrifying the troubadour laureate’s sound), that spiritually revered line-up of Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel lived up to their presumptuous ‘THE BAND’ moniker; incorporating the sweet gospel soul of the deep south with country, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley and bluegrass at the drop of an old proverbial hat; they were ethereal and superior in musicianship, way beyond most of their contemporaries reach.

Rightly receiving another moment in the spotlight, a new documentary film, focused towards the group’s only surviving member, Once Were Brothers is inspired by Robertson’s 2016 bestselling memoir testimony of the same name. Presumptuous (that word again) to now single out his name (Robbie Robertson and the Band), even if he saw himself as unelected leader, this latest overview is billed as a confessional, cautionary, and sometimes humorous tale of Robertson’s young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music. The film, directed and put together by the trio of old hand Martin Scorsese (who of course memorably captured The Band’s The Last Waltz curtain call for posterity), Brian Grazer and Ron Howard blends rare archival footage and interviews with many of Robertson’s friends and collaborators, including Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Scorsese, Taj Mahal, Peter Gabriel, David Geffen and Ronnie Hawkins, among others.

Hopefully it will prove a worthy chapter in the story of one of the greatest Bands to have ever stalked the Earth.



Chassol  ‘Rollercoaster (pt.2)’
(Tricatel)  Single/Out Now




On the big dipper of life, the surreal mindscape of the very much in-vogue idiosyncratic French producer Chassol is as cerebral as it is fun.

Firstly though, for those who’d like a bit of background, Paris-Martiniquais Chassol (real name Christophe Chassol) has been finessing his own experimental ‘ultrascore’ approach to composition, in which – inspired by Steve Reich and Hermeto Pascoal – vocal and ambient sounds from video footage are harmonised in perfect sync to create a living, breathing soundtrack. His experiments caught the ear of Diplo, who in turn put Frank Ocean onto Chassol’s 2013 album, Indiamore. Ocean – at the time working on Blonde – then tapped Chassol to join him at Abbey Road, to develop speech harmonisation on the album (following a period of Chassol ignoring his calls, having no idea who Ocean was). Shortly afterwards Solange – having Shazam-ed his music at a performance installation – sought out Chassol to produce several tracks on 2019’s When I Get Home.

His latest album, the upcoming Ludi (released on 6th March) is inspired by Hermann Hesse’s first long-form novel The Glass Bead Game, or as it is sometimes published the Magister Ludi (hence the LP title), and the themes of play, both in relation to that novel’s central board game theory and to an inspired reification of four sociology-based elements of ‘play’, as envisaged by sociologist Roger Caillois: chance, masks, competition (as depicted in the previous single, ‘Savana, Céline, Aya’) and on this latest single, ‘Rollercoaster (Pt.2)’, vertigo.

A bizarre ride that transduces and harmonises the sounds and sights Chassol captured on a ride at the Tokyo Dome theme park (captured GoPro gonzo style and without permission in the accompanying video), ‘Rollercoaster (pt.2)’ is a kooky adrenaline rush that features the guest vocal “ohms” of Alice Lewis, Thomas de Pourquery and Alice Orpheus.

There are certainly some heavy depths to both this single and the forthcoming multi-disciplinary double-album, yet a sense of wonderment, exploration and excitement too.


Van Pool  ‘Bathing In The Open’
LP/26th January 2020




If you’re familiar with the expletory saxophone playing and electronic manipulations of the prolific Andy Haas – from his burgeoning days as a Muffin in Martha’s new wave outfit in the late 70s to his work with Meg Remy’s ever expanding U.S. Girls troupe, to his myriad of solo and collaborative projects, then you’ll be thrilled to hear he’s just formed a new group, the Van Pool. Different in mood to the amorphous unsettling augers and outright nightmares that permeated the evocations of his collaboration with Dan Fiorino on the American Nocturne visions, this latest improvised experiment of smoldering, squawking and yearning saxophone contortions and attuned blowing is a traverse of contemporary jazz.

Joining Andy on the quartet’s second album, Bathing In The Open, are the guiartist/bassists Omer Leibovitz and Kirk Schoenherr and drummer Layton Weedeman. From tranquil undergrowth wanderings, permeated by wafted guitar twangs and lingering saxophone to the more bent out of shape, more piercing and intense, this fantastical, transportive suite of ‘ideas’ is for fans of the Cosmic Range, Donny McCaslin, the Ross McHenry Trio, but also just fans of free-form, unburdened performance in general.

Of interest from the Archives:

Don Fiorino and Andy Haas ‘American Nocturne’ Review

U.S. Girls ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ Review


The Monolith Cocktail is now on Ko-fi

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.