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.

Dominic Valvona’s Essential Roundup
Unless stated otherwise, all releases are available to buy now.

The Master Musicians Of Jajouka ‘Dancing Under The Moon’
(Glitterbeat Records) 13th May 2022

Truly atavistic, the Rif Mountain ensemble known as The Master Musicians Of Jajouka were once heralded by William Burroughs (no less) as, “the four thousand year old rock and roll band”.  Carrying a real mystique until more recent times this Moroccan outpost, holy mountain shrine located group claim descent from the venerable Ahl Serif tribe (which roughly translates as “the saintly”) and their sacred idol, the legendary Arab healer Sidi Hamid Sheich. And in an act of preservation they continue to keep the signature double reed Ghaita flute (an instrument almost identical to the Arabian Mizmar) and Lira (a fiddle-like instrument) led mesmerising, entrancing and leaping performative music that goes hand-in-hand with their devotion alive.

Until the last century Jajouka and music created there were virtually unknown. That was until the well-travelled artist and Burroughs foil Brion Gysin made the wild trip across an antiquity-rich African landscape to that remote village hideaway in the Jebala foothills.  Passing such incredible ancient relics as The Pillars Of Hercules, and the final resting place of Jean Genet at Larache, Gysin found real nourishment and something inspiring when introduced to a previous incarnation of the troupe. Making various connections after witnessing shaggy sheepskin adorned dancers bounding over a bonfire to ‘wooden trumpeted fanfares’, Gysin saw something far older, a cultural lineage that predated Sufi mysticism, going back further towards Pan-like Greek and Roman ritual and Persia.

Bringing back his own recordings to London at a later date in 1968, he’d turn on his old mucker and Rolling Stone Brian Jones to this ancient, but very much alive, trance. No stranger to picking up on and embracing world sounds and instruments, Jones would be inspired to make his own trip to Jajouka, taking the sound engineer George Ckiantz with him. God only knows what the locals must have thought of the pretty much strung out by now, hippie Jones, but they welcomed him into the fold nonetheless, introduced to the chief in that period and defacto band leader Abdeslam Attar. As was the custom, Jones and Ckiantz made a number of recordings during their stay. Released at a later date (posthumously for Jones) with added electronic phasing and cutting methods to encourage a more psychedelic montage effect, these tapes made up the first release on the Stones own label imprint in the 70s.

Pretty much blowing the lid of this isolated group, a succession of visitors made the journey pilgrimage; from jazz deity Ornette Coleman, who jammed with the ensemble for his 1975 album Dancing In Your Head, to Rolling Stone writer Robert Palmer and the American photographer Joel Rubines. The latter, who as it happened was fluent in the Darija Arabic dialect, made the now famous, and purist at that point, The Master Musicians Of Jajouka recordings. A decade on and the Stones came knocking for real this time with an offer of collaboration, followed not too soon by the explorative Bill Laswell.

Fast forward another couple of decades and the now Bachir Attar led group invited the Italian musician and engineer Jacupo Andreini to record the most comprehensive testament yet. What he captured is now in the hands of Glitterbeat Records, a double-CD spread of ten-minute plus adorations, romances, courtly music and processions.

A septet of heralding circular-breathing fluted horns, the quivering frayed twang and pluck of Liras, galloping drums and a unison of voices conjure up visions of mystery, rituals and moonbeam bathed dances. We could be atop of the holy mountains, but also anywhere along the antiquated Mediterranean coastline, to Moorish Spain.

Venerations to the master but also Islamic faith, including a flighty, swallow-winged wispy and willowy avian prayer to Allah, appear alongside the regal and lively. ‘Hlilya’ is something altogether different; a sort of ancient bounced progenitor of Breakbeat and 2-Step.’Khamsa Khamsin’ with its triple reedy drones and fanfare parade could even be said to have a hint of swing, even jazz about it. This processional, as well as the dancing ‘Opening The Gate’, would have, at one time, been the accompanying tunes for the Sultan’s walk to and back from the mosque.

Like a chorus of busy buzzes or a sustained mizzle, the sound of a trio of Ghaitas is a thing to behold. And when the frame-like drums appear it’s a both beautified and racing entrancing experience like no other. That weaved and bowed Lira has a great sound too; a twine and bandy tone that reminded me of the Appalachians.

Atonal, mesmerising and yet melodic the atavistic music of this holy anointed sanctuary has never sounded so intriguing. No wonder Ornette was so eager – they were even flown over to play at the science-fiction jazz innovator’s funeral. He heard, saw what you yourself can now enjoy, bathe in; music that doesn’t just travel back decades but a millennia, all the way back to the once great Persian empire and beyond. But this isn’t just artifact, an exercise in ethnography, but a living, breathing form very much alive and stirring.

Avalanche Kaito ‘ST’
(Glitterbeat Records)

Full disclosure time. Many of you maybe be aware that on occasion I’ve moonlighted to pay the rent as it were, working with various labels (Analog Africa, Spiritmuse, Pindrop) and artists (Kahil El’Zabar, Lost Colours, Hello Cosmos, Matt Donovan) over the last five or more years. In the last year I’ve been commissioned to write the inviting words for a couple of Glitterbeat Records projects, most recently Širom’s The Liquefied Throne Of Simplicity album. But I’ve also provided the words for the label’s Griot post-punk phenomenon Avalanche Kaito and their debut titular album. I’ve included it not so much as a promotion, but just because it’s a truly incredible record. Anyway, find my original draft-like review showcase below:

Emerging from an entirely original dimension in sound, the polygenesis Avalanche Kaito redefine what it is to talk with the ancients whilst leaping forth into a futuristic chaos of noise on their debut album journey. A palpable experience with each sonic blast, each layer a revelation, this simultaneously taut but expansive universe in which the oral traditions of the West African griot converge with Belgium post-punk, krautrock, math rock and the industrial exists in its own space.

Initialing colliding together as a duo, the Burkina Faso urban griot and multi-instrumentalist Kaito Winse and Brussels noise punk drummer Benjamin Chaval were joined by Chaval’s growling, grinded bassist sparring partner from a previous incarnation, Le Jour du Seigneur, Arnuad Paquotte on this specific line-up’s vision of ancestral proverb metaphors and dataist inspired technology. Although released this summer, eight months after the debut showcase EP, Dabalomuni, the guitarist from that extraordinary otherworldly session, Nico Gitto is now, going forward, part of the transformed setup; not so much replacing Paquotte as expanding the sound into another direction.

Aided by another influential cog in this wheel, Chaval’s previous band manager Michael Wolteche helped to shape this myriad of elements and strands, which coalesce into a dynamic, often intense yet unruly cosmic ritual and unlimited expression of change.

That previous EP was just a small window into a greater universe of animalistic symbolism poetics and allegorical stories wildly vociferated and loquaciously delivered under a rich exotic canopy or, echoed out into space, the ether. With the help of the visual language programme PureData (an open source apparatus for creating interactive computer music and multimedia works) and his pummeling, rattled drumming, Benjamin and his deeply trebly prowling, sinewy bassist foil Arnuad create an effective torque of post-punk-prog-tribal-free-jazz-industrial-electronic tumult for Kaito’s fluty rasped, bow quivered, messenger drums beating commune with his roots and life in a very different bush of ghosts. 

The message that underlines Kaito’s griot ancestry and the band’s motivation, spontaneity, was explained in a recent interview they did with Parisa Eshrati for the Trial & Error Collective site, with Michael’s onus on the ‘live’, opining that: ‘Today we see that everything is dematerialized, everyone is addicted to playlists and clicks on the Internet. When the moment of the concert comes, we forget all that, and we get back to the spirit of the ritual, of the interaction between flesh and blood people.’

Although created in a studio setting that live in the moment feeling and dynamism is authentically recreated on this album. In that same interview Ben outlines the process: ‘There was an improvised stage in the studio with Kaito and me, and then this material was worked on, it went into the digital mixer, to be enriched with computational sourdough.’

In practice that blows up and out into the interdimensional slackened bass stalk of ‘Sunguru’, the wilder, quickened hysterics and danger of the progressive deconstruction ‘Douaga’, the Jah Wobble throbbed esoteric and celestial manifestation ‘Goomde’, and the Scott Walker atmospheric gloom and earthy soul tumbling ‘Eya’. At any one-time snarling yet hypnotic, willowy but thickened with brooding menace, animal spirits from an African exotica come alive to a mysterious matrix that evokes but never settles on warped sparks of 70s era Zappa, Yontan Gat, Fugazi, Black Midi, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen.

Magnetic, straddling multiple worlds, universes Avlanche Kaito are metal and flesh, blood and biometrics, tradition and transition, all wrapped up on a chaotic road trip. The open road, pathway from Kaito’s village home of Lankoé in landlocked Burkina Faso to Brussels via a digital mill in Montpellier and Mount Analouge proves infinitely more important, radical and creative than the destination.  

Jimi Tenor ‘Multiversum’
(Bureau B) 20th May 2022

Continuing his “ikigai” (as it’s called in the press blurb) passion for diy home recording, the polymath Finn Jimi Tenor releases his third album for the Bureau B label this month. Following on from the catch-up retrospective NY, Hel, Barca and a collection of rarities, Deep Sound Learning, the multi-instrumentalist, nee “renaissance man”, now knocks out an album of originals that work around and off of drum machine beats and synth loops.

Multiversum channels the well-travelled and three-decade plus recording maverick’s eclectic tastes, but is also prompted by the label’s invitation to record an album based on Tenor’s basic live set-up of reeds and synth; a minimalist approach that he’s been using successfully for the past two decades. Proving no less effective, the scale of this enterprise is wide and deep; a brilliant run through a smorgasbord of musical styles and rhythms.

For an artist already renowned for his use of Afro-beat and jazz, and for his collaborations with the former’s beat provider doyen Tony Allen and other such luminaries as Kabu Kabu and Abdissa Assefa, Tenor once more draws on those founding genres to build up a mixed bag of dance and pop tracks, jazz-fusion peregrinations and nostalgic filmic and TV series theme tunes. Talking of which, Tenor’s ‘Slow Intro’ lead-in of cosmic flute, apparitional choral voices and passing satellites is part Les Baxter, part 70s soundtrack score.

A minute later (quite literally) and we’re properly transported to the multiverse with a touch of Greg Foat library music and shooting beam electro pop spiritual guided ‘Life Hugger’. Spells of floated, rasped sax and flute with beams of organ follow, on the acid-jazz bent ‘Jazznouveau’, and a trip-hop flighty fluted and whistled Cousteau dives languidly into ‘Uncharted Waters’ on the next fusion of sounds.

By the time we reach ‘Baby Free Spirit’ Tenor’s bobbing and bouncing down to a dance track of late 80s Chicago House and electronic body music: although the bass is extremely deep and menacing.

Showcasing more of his soulful, funky side, ‘Birthday Magic’ sends Marvin Gaye “skinny-dipping” down in West Africa. The Finale, ‘Bad Trip Good’, however, voyages seamlessly into both Jon Hassell and Desert Players era Ornette Coleman territories, to finish on a polygenesis sonic score, which also features an undulated low-level techno beat, sax lulls and coos and a soaring build-up of strings.   

Kutiman, Alex Puddu, Eden Ahbez, Jeremy Steig, Weldon Irvine can all be detected, though Tenor’s cosmology hardly waits around to land on any of them for long. Jimi Tenor, like his name (a convergence of teen idol Jimmy Osmond and the Finn’s favourite instrument, the tenor sax), could rattle off these kinds of hybrid fusions all day long. His sensibility errs towards electronic pop but also a knowing, sometimes tongue-in-cheek take on cult, kitsch composers too.

Fundamentally its all dance music of a kind with an injection of global tourism; a universal canvas for omnivorous playtimes.

And if you can’t get enough of Tenor this month, a new Omniverse survey, almanac of his second great passion, photography, is dues out in tandem with this album.

During a break in his musical exploits – well, more like hitting a brick wall of a kind, believing it to be over before it had even started -, in 1992 Tenor found himself upping sticks to live in New York, where he took a job photographing tourists at the Empire State Building.

Images taken during that heady frantic time, when Tenor was juggling work with late night drinking bouts at the local Dominican restaurants and cramming in a seven hour shift at (once more) making music, sit alongside his promo shots and album covers. Fellow tourist booth pal and Tenor archivist of a sort, Hitoshi Toyoda lends a helping hand, having squirrelled away some of those New York shots. For fans and completists alike, it will prove an essential addition; sound-tracked by that latest album. 

Lucrecia Dalt ‘The Seed’
(Invada Records) 20th May 2022

Lucrecia Dalt’s debut score deserves a better movie. Separated from the exclusive Shudder streaming service’s Sam Walker directed alien-horror trip The Seed, Dalt’s soundtrack proves a far more interesting, mysterious proposition of the otherworldly, esoteric and sci-fi.

The sound artist, musician and composer conjures up a pulsation of short evocations, stirrings and sinister presences fit for a Gallio horror, yet has to provide the atmospheric shocks and creeping menace for a millennial staycation under the stars: a narcissistic poolside monotony destroyed by an alien meteor shower. An E.T. body shocker, the visitor from another constellation proves both a helpless baby and yet alluring threat to the protagonists of this movie. All kinds of ugly, distressing impregnations follow as a seed is indeed planted: though it all could just be down to a particular grotesque trip.

Emanating from tape loops made through a Copicat tape delay, various digital synths and a Korg Monologue, the Biblical, mythological and cosmic all cross paths with sinister metallic forces. Rippled, purred tones, tubular mothership pipework, a frayed bow or two, drones and throbbing pulses are all that’s needed to convey the unsettling and alien. But there’s also plenty of bestial movements and some electronic beats to set the heart racing: the eyes flitting intently towards the dark corners of the room.

Set in a peculiar, bad mezcal tripping Mojave Desert, yet sonically without much in the way of a locational prompt, we could be in a macabre underground vault, bounding across lunar landscapes or aboard some Venutian spaceship. Diaphanous gravitas at the sight of astral phenomenon, concepts of E.T. contamination brought to Earth via meteors, ancient exorcism miracles and the fate of a penance-cursed Greek boulder pusher reference titles point to the action, drama unfolding on screen. The soundtrack growing gradually more warped as the characters lose their bodies, soul and minds.

Shades of Laurie Spiegel, Cliff Martinez, Bernard Szajner, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Pauline Oliverous and early Aphex Twin lurk amongst the considered, skilfully built soundscapes, zones, fears and wraith like stalking terrors. Saying that, there’s the odd ethereal voiced spirit, plus a springy catgut thumbed rhythm to be found on the mosey-down canter ‘Blob On The Lawn’

Removed from the movie itself, the 26-track (all of which are mostly under the three-minute mark) soundtrack for The Seed signals a promising start to Dalt’s filmic aspirations. Though saying that, we shouldn’t be surprised that the incredibly experienced, multimedia composer has taken to this quite comfortably. With great care and a handle on leitmotifs, sounds the polymath artist convincingly scores horror and sci-fi with a certain atmospheric élan, a depth and real sense of the ‘other’.

It seems we won’t have to wait long for the next score either. Just as this review goes out, word reaches us that Dalt’s soundtrack for the recent SKY/HBO comic-horror The Baby is due to be released next week (May 27th), by the same label. ‘A journey into motherhood through a new – quite unexpected – lens’, we’re told, ‘the central character Natasha (played by Michelle De Swarte of The Duchess fame) is landed with a baby after a life of doing exactly what she wants, when she wants. Controlling, manipulative and with violent powers, the baby twists Natasha’s life into a horror show.’ The series was created by Siân Robins-Grace (Kaos, Sex Education) and Lucy Gaymer, and directed by Nicole Kassell and is produced by SISTER (Chernobyl, Landscapers) and Proverbial Pictures. Here’s a sneak peek:

Brigitte Beraha ‘Blink’
20th May 2022

Barely tethered the second album from the incredibly voiced composer Brigitte Beraha and the Lucid Dreamers quartet captures the fleeting, the blink-and-you-miss-it moments, the intangible and abstract.

As the ensemble’s name implies, this is a must lucid and dreamy affair; an explorative jazzy spell that wonders into the avant-garde, minimal and classical, and evokes the free-flowing inspirations of a post Soft Machines Robert Wyatt, Talk Talk, Basil Kirchen and Steve Lacy.

Flanked and enveloped by George Crowley (on reeds and electronics), Aleyona Mick (piano and synth) and Tim Giles (drums, percussion and also electronics) Beraha’s ambled, cooed, fluid vocals are repeatedly morphed and transformed to sound like wisped siren calls and instruments; anything to give it all a congruous but experimental expression.

The improvised exploration tiptoe of post-punk-jazz meandering, ‘Doors’, features a spoken word journey that’s part Raincoats, part inanimate object fetish. A symbolic, conscious freedom that opens, sizes up and dances around the concept of doors and their wooden origins, suddenly takes in a philosophical sadness with spontaneous creaks and yucky yelps.

On the third improvised track, ‘Remembering’, Beraha’s voice takes on a phonetic transformation over a sparse, piano-plonky semi-classical accompaniment. The album’s most electronically charged of electronic compositions ‘Wait For Me’ almost merges that voice with the galvanized steel and zinc of Basic Channel techno sonics, squelches and tubular kinetics. Moans and coos blend with the emotional machine stimulator.

If we’re talking emotions then ‘Lullaby’ proves an evocative beauty of sadness and loss. Lyrically touching base with a father and daughter relationship, hints are conveyed of an eternal sleep, a resting place and conversations left unsaid. It has that Wyatt-like brilliance of lucid vulnerability. Swaned soothed saxophone, softened cymbal taps and plaintive piano offer the accompaniment. On another Wyatt enchantment, the title-track poetically articulates a yearn for the evanescent as trickles, washes and serenades flow into the cosmic-light territory of Donny McCaslin and Matthew Dunn.

Beautifully liquid, magical and unburdened Blink is a hazy brill and airy exhale of explorative jazz that will further cement the reputation of everyone involved: A most fantastic spell indeed.   

Various ‘Sharayet El Disco: Egyptian Disco & Boogie Cassettes 1982-1992’
(Wewantsounds) 3rd June 2022

Pulled from the tape cassette culture of 80s and very early 90s Egypt by the Amsterdam-resided Egyptian deejay, Disco Arabesquo (otherwise known as Moataz Rageb), the latest release from the Wewantsounds label showcases a city, country that embraced the disco trend but made it their own. 

Previously confined to what was a full-on endorsement of technology at the time, the majority of tracks on this compilation were only available on the cassette format. And so for the very first time those obscure and hard to track down Cairo tunes have now been made available on vinyl.

As one exotic, faraway oasis, North Africa (see Casablanca Records as only one of the most glaringly obvious examples) and especially a palm shaded Egypt has inspired and had the alluring effect on the original home of disco in the States. With its own special desert and Nile romanticisms and fantasies the Cairo scene was graced by a litany of stars from the not only the Arabian music world but stage and screen. Two such stars, actresses, Simone Philip Kamel (known simply as Simone on record) and Ninochka Manoug Kupelion (known professionally to adoring fans as Lebleba) make appearances on this boogie survey. The former, Simone, rests her signature soprano voice for Cairo Francophone chic and coquettish fun. ‘Merci’ could be a relative of the French female disco troupe New Paradise, only with a distinct Arabian dreaminess and matinee strings. Lebleba, who cuts a fun Egyptian version of a overflowing fruit hatted Carmen Miranda on the original cassette artwork, goes for a laser shooting disco heart-to-heart on the pop ‘Ana Alby Har Nar’

Removed to the land of the pyramids, hints of Boney M can be detected wrapped up in the matinee stringed female/male shared pop-funk ‘Hezeny’ by the popular Al Massrieen (who Habbi Funk dedicated a compilation to a number of years back), whilst Odyssey dances hand-in-hand with Hot Chocolate and the Hues Corporation on Dr. Ezat Abou Ouf And El Four M’s enervated laser sweeping glitterball pastiche ‘Genoun el Disco’ – the four M’s by the way is a reference to the family group’s fourtet of diaphanous voiced sisters, Maha, Mona, Mervat and Manal

Barely adopting the disco trend from across the ocean, no one could sound more Egyptian and less American than the famous singer/actor Eman el Bahr Darwish, grandson of the even more legendary ‘peoples’ artist Sayed Darwish. Eman shimmies across the bazaars to a souk funk of bellydancing percussion, rattling hand drums, willowed flute and a swirl of strings. It’s almost as if he’s stepping straight off a film set, delivering a number.

A disco exotica of cinematic romantic drama without the Studio 64 excess, the Sharayet El Disco compilation is a pop kitsch and seductive treat to the ears. Recommended for those seeking something a little special, cute from outside the myopic disco frontiers of the USA and Europe.

Sebastian Reynolds ‘Athletics EP’
(Faith & Industry) 20th May 2022

Not that the new athletics-inspired EP from serial polymath Sebastian Reynolds isn’t a motivator and driver, but you probably won’t be hearing it anytime soon pumping out of your gym’s speakers, or used in conjunction with the fireworks, pyrotechnic glitz of modern sport, as athletes emerge from the tunnel onto the track. No, for this is a far more layered, sophisticated set of electronic evocations to keep the loneliness of a middle-distance runner at bay.

Seb both celebrates and scores the euphoria, pressures and pains of running at an amateur and professional level on his latest labour-of-love project. As a blossoming runner in his own right, he combines his two greatest passions to create a sympathetic and subtle race through the emotions and trails. Athletics hasn’t always attracted the most nuanced of soundtracks. Lucky to have been front row at a number of championships myself, I can testify that it’s mostly all EDM and bombastic rubbish.

Vangelis had a good crack at it, thought admittedly for another age entirely, the dawning of the modern Olympics, with the onus on track and field. The score for Chariots of Fire remains the benchmark, and it informs, to some degree, at least one of the EP’s bookended world record breaker paeans, ‘Four-Minute Mile’. In tribute to the patron saint of middle-distance runners, Seb has transduced Sir Roger Bannister’s 1954 record breaking run – achieved really more through science, strength of mind and character, as our Rodger didn’t even train that thoroughly, balancing his amateur running credentials with a career as a neurologist – into a short electronic suite; part atmospheric broadcast, part dreamy synthesized joy.

Leap forward sixty plus years and it’s the Ugandan superstar Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei’s 5000M world record beating run that Seb turns into a swimmingly warm, almost semi-carnival celebration of human endurance. Paying certain homage to Cheptegei’s African roots the versatile acclaimed ‘reeds man’ Peter Fraser plays a semi-modern Afrobeat suffusion of sax whilst former Guillemot Grieg Stewart follows suit with vague African clattered drumming. It’s all actually quite club-y, quite trance-y too.

In between those two giants of the sport there’s a succession of dub-y electronica motivations, build-ups and workouts. Spurred on, ‘Final Push’ has a drive and motion, and a real sense of gravitas (even mystery): a struggle against the body’s fatigue, muscle aches and those burning lungs. ‘Dominance Hierarchy’ with its electro kinetics, knocking drums has an air of both Sabers Of Paradise and Boards Of Canada, whilst the gong resonated, mid-tempo swim ‘Hammering’ reminded me of The Future Sound Of London and southern dub Clap! Clap!

Seb quantifies the rush, the pulse, and expectations of his passion without slipping into the superficial exuberance of EDM bombast. Stereotypes are more or less missing from this athletic purview. This would make a great series of soundtracks for sporting documentaries, highlights. BBC Sport needs to get on the blower to our Seb now.

Flat Worms ‘Live in Los Angeles’
(Frontier Records) 13th May 2022

As introductions go, this smash and bash (but very much controlled) driving live showcase from L.A.’s garage-punk trio Flat Worms proves a compact baptism of fire. You could say it has roused my interest.

Admittedly I’ve never come across this tumult before now, so have no idea how the originals sound. I’d imagine the torque, grind, sustain and dynamism is ramped up with adrenaline, and is “in the moment” as they say. Though it has of course been recorded for posterity, hence why this isn’t a live review but a ‘live recorded’ album one instead.

Still, as live records go it’s a lively scowled, crescendo-packed, screwy and heavy trebly-loaded surge; a high velocity hammering of King Gizzard, Electric Eels, The Croissants, Salem Trials, The Damned and Ty Segall. The latter is hardly surprising considering the trio of guitar/vocalist Will Ivy, bassist/vocalist Tim Hellman and drummer Justin Sullivan have previously recorded with that singular talent at his home studio: Hellman has even been a Segall wingman at times.

We now pause for a succinct background check. Between them, members of this congruous L.A. union of garage, drudge-rock, punk and post-punk attack have played with Kevin Morby, The Babies and the Oh Sees. They formed this tight unit back in 2015 though, going on to release a clutch of singles, EPs and two albums, some, as I’ve mentioned, recorded at Segall’s HQ. In more recent times Steve Albini’s sat in that engineer’s chair: one hell of a vote of confidence boost.

They now make an impressive debut on the ‘seminal punk’ operators Frontier Records with this live demonstration. And just like all the best punk-garage records it both blasts and stutters through a short set: no breaks, just a couple of acknowledgments to the whooping, egged-on and goading (in the best possible way) audience.

It’s a thrashing, distorting yet melodic performance; sometimes like a butchered Modern Lovers ‘Roadrunner’, or a Heartbreakers turn at CBGBs. There’s a song in every performance, a tune that breaks out of the seedy back alley kickings and gnarled fizz. Neither dark nor a joy, this Zebulon gig is a great night out spent indoors, with the volume cranked up and curtains drawn. I look forward to now acquainting myself with the lads back catalogue. 

Francesco Lurgo ‘Sleep Together Folded Like Origami’
(Bosco Rec.)

Nothing quite concentrates the mind nor offers an unwelcome window of enforced reflection like a pandemic, especially one that grinded society to a standstill. Forced into confinement, with face-to-face socializing restricted like never before, many of us either broke down or found a distraction and chance to connect with life’s simpler pleasures. In the case of the Italian musician/artist Francesco Lurgo that was an exploration of the ideas of intimacy.

As a mood board that’s both a celebration and search of that intimate theme, Lurgo’s debut solo album is an atonal, sonic and stirred-up account of ambient, neoclassical and electronic suites. Formerly one half of the FLeUR duo, the now uncoupled Lurgo voyages through varied states; a flux of emotional pulls, draws that are backed up by literary and artistic sources, inspirations. The album’s title itself, Sleep Together Like Folded Origami, paraphrases an excerpt from Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends novel, and the artist Aurora Bertoli reflects the same motif of that sleepy realm of togetherness on the album’s sleeve.

Sailing through these emotions and nocturnal symbols, Lurgo’s ship drifts upon the rocks to the sound of an atmospheric fog and wafted vapours on the album’s penultimate timed ominous beauty ‘One Moment Before The Shipwreck’. As a couplet, recorded a minute later, the final suite has a disorientated feel of cut-up reversals and pieced together perspectives, memories. With shipping analogies, cast adrift metaphors of finding solid land, something less veiled and hidden, the rest of this dreamy swell and synthesized purred, rippled textured album evokes hints of Simon McCorry, Rhomus Index, Andrew Wasylak and on the light tubular score, ‘Carnation Bloom’, Vangelis.

Metals, low horn-like drones, a pressing slackened high piano note or two, a sense of gravity and depth, reverberations and subtle use of strings are all used to convey the languid, comforting at times, longed and cerebral nature of the album’s themes. Those origami folded comforts, embraces and thoughts ride out the stresses of the pandemic and signal an interesting, creatively enquiring start to a solo pathway.

Dominic Valvona’s Roundup

The Shorts (videos, tracks, singles)

Stephanie Santiago ‘Activa Tu Cuerpo’
(Movimientos Records)

Soulfully lucid with a tinge of jazzy R&B and a reverberation of Cumbia, the London-born ‘Colombianx’ burgeoning sensation Stephanie Santiago entrances with another vision of her Latin roots. Growing up as the daughter of Colombian musician parents – her father an accordionist, her mother a singer –, in a home filled with the joyous, sauntering music of South America, Stephanie embraced the ancestral vibes but lent them an expanded eclectic mix of sounds: from soul to jazz, reggaeton and even punk.

Via the Latin contemporary Movimientos Records label, Stephanie continues to find her place, sense of community in the bustled melting pot of London. From the Alma Carnavalera EP, and most recent single, the Monolith Cocktail is spreading the good word and happy to share the funk-dripped bass and dreamy rich ‘Activa Tu Cuerpo’.

Celestial North ‘When The Gods Dance’

A magical, softened driving gallop over Celtic folklore and hillsides, the diaphanous voiced Celestial North dreams big, dancing with the gods, on her new enchanted and cinematic swelled gauzy single. From our side of the border here in Scotland, but based in the splendor of the Lake District, the soloist counters turbulence and drama with atavistic veils from a mythology to create a whole new entrancing fantasy.

Orryx ‘Ifera’
(ZamZam Records)

The titular evocation from the Bristol-based artist Christelle Atenstaedt’s new EP, ‘Ifera’ sounds like it’s been woven from the ether. As a repeated chime rings out suffused atmospherics envelope a yearned vocal. Materializing from the vapours, a trance-y beat finds a sort of traction and drive. Under the Lovecraftian guise of Orryx, esoteric and Byzantine stirrings draw the listener into a slowly powerful world of gothic-pop and electronica.

Christelle combines ethereal vocal loops with a selection of hardware synths, samplers and effects pedals on the EP’s quartet of original tracks – the fifth being a remix from dark wave techno duo Fever 103°. Delve in, and succumb to the mantric powers of this hypnotic artist.

ALBUMS/EPs

Black Mango ‘Quicksand’
(Gusstaff Records)

Transforming Mali’s world-renowned signature blues sound – from the city streets, back lanes of the Bamako capital to Tuareg roaming desert regions – the visionary producer Philippe Sanmiguel has been instrumental in fusing that sound with rock music, atmospheric mirages and electronics.

Based in the capital for the last sixteen years, Philippe has amassed an enviable roll call of productions for such icons and talents as Samba Touré, Anansay Cissé, Tartit and Mariam Koné. During that time he’s enjoyed a creative partnership with the Glitterbeat Records label and its founding partner Chris Eckman. Alongside his foil Hugo Race (who appears on this album), Eckman’s Dirtmusic band was drawn to Mali a decade ago, recording sessions for both the Troubles and Lion City albums whilst in Bamako with Philippe.  

An integral part of the scene then, I’m guessing it didn’t take much persuading to get most of those artists to appear on his new showcase, Quicksand.

Under the Black Mango alias, Philippe opens up his own compositions to the great and good of Mali, and admirers alike. Produced over several years in various recording sessions, each collaborator has been given “free range”. The results of which are equally as searching as they are dreamy: even hallucinogenic. The opening heat bending, dub-y ‘Bakeina’s Dream’ straddles both; melting in a desert setting as the earthy soulful vocals of Bocar Sana Coulibaly drift through from some mirage oasis. Bocar, a member alongside Ali Traoré (both also nephews of the late esteemed Ali Farke Touré) of Espoirs de Niafunké, makes a second appearance later on, joining the brilliant guitarist and artist Anansy Cissé on the meandered, spoke-plucked and gauzy ‘The First Stone’.

Pretty much one of the most popular and gifted guitarists to emerge from Mali, Samba Touré adds a sustained flange of bended notes and expressive lines to the Phantom Band meets Belgium alt-rock ‘Are U Satisfied’ – Philippe’s voice on this one almost channels Michael Karoli of Can’s languid lyrical, questioning malaise. Samba plays some nice electric-blues and semi-classical tones in harmony with the mandolin and harp-like airy spirals of the ngoni on the infinity ether R&B flavoured ‘Mad Girl’. Offering up the R&B, the soul on that same track is the celebrated Malian songstress, music teacher and Les Amazons d’Afrique super group member Mariam Koné. Mariam can also be found lending a searching cosmic gospel vocal on the Flyodian, astral and progressive tumultuous ‘Minamba’.

From Samba’s regular band setup the ngoni and tama (a hour-glass shaped talking drum, the pitch of which can be tuned mirror the human voice) maestro Djime Sissoko gets to let loose on the percussive heavy, spacey ‘Bankoni’. With buoyant drums, bottle taps, ricochets and buzzes this scrapped and scuttled finale marks a mysteriously veiled ending to a Mali traversing psychogeography of both magic and the all too real consequences of the violence that’s plagued, and continues to plague, the country and its borders. 

Talking of those fraught, violent themes, the already mentioned Hugo Race moodily channels his Dirt Music calling on the bleeding ‘Heaven Sands’. Part swamp gator blues, part outback Mick Harvey, Hugo leads us across a much troubled, metaphorical landscape towards better days. Though Philippe’s dub-y, Terry Hall-like ‘Quicksand Blues’ has far more ominous, political references to a desert storm of terrorism, immigration and blood-soaked sand dunes. ‘Ghost Sand’ meanwhile is just that, an instrumental passage of haunted lingers, traces of those both missing or forced to abandon the deserts of Mali for the cities; out of displacement, conflict or poverty.

There’s a far greater talent pool involved on this album, which transcends Mali’s extraordinary legacy as arguably one of the true homes of the blues and rock genres. Quicksand marks a sagacious yet experimental achievement for the producer-musician and artist in his own right. A showcase for his own talents, his friends and for the country itself; roots music taken to another level and given a contemporary lift.

Further Reading::

Dirtmusic ‘Lion City’

Samba Toure ‘Gandadiko’

Anasay Cissé ‘Anoura’

Private Agenda ‘A Mannequin’
(Lo Recordings)

A sophisticated mood board of veiled, gauzy electronica with hints of real tinkered piano, A Mannequin is the second studio album from Berlin/London portal Private Agenda: the languorous sonic partnership of Sean Phillips and Martin Aggrowe

Conceptually using each song and shorter breather, pause, to reflect particular character traits, and in doing so, asking certain questions about the ‘dichotomies’ that define us, this duo play around with a soundboard of synth-pop, nu-soul, ambient, downtempo, new age, chillwave, new wave, AOR gold and house music.

A fantasy with spells of starry, shimmery tinkled magic and more hazy, vaporous plaintiveness, this mostly dreamy, relaxed album glides or drifts through twelve degrees of being; starting with the ambient turn, the Air-like mirage ‘Irresistible’. I haven’t made my mind up if this is about holding a mirror up to narcissistic self-love or a complete 360 degrees turn, and in fact dreamily cooing for ore of it.

‘Neo-Nostalgia’ not just a track in itself, could be a perfect description for the whole record, with its constant lingering traces, the essence of 80s songwriter and synth pop, electronica, disco and yacht rock. The duelist ‘Gemini’ seems to lushly brood through Tokyo 80s glowing new wave, the Balearic new age, and yet also fit within the perimeters of the music of the cult Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter Ned Dohney.

There’s a change in musical mood, instrumentation by the fourth lovelorn song, ‘Touching’, which features an eloquent spell of classical light piano. It returns later on with just a hint of distant birdsong and a synthesized pre-set on the interlude-like ‘Purity’.   

Elsewhere those floated ethereal vocals – which are never pushed, never sang in anger or even loudly – are wrapped in relaxed funk, castaway tropical percussion, neon-lit drama, opulent gauze and airy filters. With nothing strained, no real tensions, the music glides through a swirl of pre-Miami Vice Jan Hammer, Vangelis, Groove Armada, Spaceface, and on the finale, ‘Substance’, an exotic laidback pan-pipe hint of South American trance: As they’ve coined it, a ‘musical hyper-realism’.   

Despite that laidback, even disarming if saddened at times production, the personality is seriously mined to create a fantasy come lyrical expression of who we truly are. A voyage of self-discovery you could say.

Saturno 2000: La Rebajada de Los Sonideros 1962 – 1983
(Analog Africa)

Once more landing on South and Central American shores Analog Africa airways celebrates the obscure ‘Rebajada’ phenomenon with what must be the only, if not first, compilation of its kind dedicated to that trippy, slowed-down form. Originally asked by Analog’s founder Samy Ben Redjeb back in 2010 to come up with an idea for a collection, noted DJ expert Eamon Ore-Giron (stage name DJ Lengua) offered up the Rebajada Mota Mix, which as a real slow-burner took time to reveal its magic. And so more then a decade on, this proposal now sees the light of day on a dedicated 15 track survey, taking in a twenty-one year period from ’62 to ’81.

First though, a little background. In a nutshell, ‘Rebajada’ is a well-coined name that literally translates as ‘to reduce, or to lower’, in this case slowing down the continent’s famous Cumbia and, to a lesser extent, Porro rhythms. Cumbia, a catch-all for a Latin American amalgamation of rhythms and folk dances drawn from the indigenous, enslaved African community and Spanish colonial cultures, and Porro, a style originally seeded in the Caribbean facing region of Colombia that evolved into a ballroom dance played by brass heavy bands and orchestras, are both simmered down with the speed and much of the gallop taken out so as to produce sometimes crazy but often sauntering, more relaxed dances. It’s a sound that allows the listener to drink it all in.

Brought to Mexico by ‘the sonidero’ (sound-system operators as they were known), tunes from Peru and Ecuador were by accident or luck transformed into a new style that sent the audience wild. Two cities and groups of people lay claim to initiating it though. In one corner the catalyst Pereas and Ortegas brothers, who travelled across Latin America crate digging before returning home to Mexico City. They sold their wares, finds to various sound-systems on the hunt for something new and fresh to blow away the competition. A number of which, in trying to match the beats of each region with that of Mexico City’s own styles began experimenting. One such maverick, Marco Antonio Cedilio of the Sonido Imperial fame, created a ‘revolutionary’ pitching system that could slow records down. In the opposing corner, the northern Mexican city of Monterrey and Sonidero Gabriel Dueñez, who by happenstance set in motion a chain of events that would see the city, lay claim to inventing the ‘Rebajada’ style. By escaping electrocution at the hands of a short circuit spark that nearly set his turntable on fire, the revolutions were slurred and slowed down by the damage, playing Cumbia at much reduced bpm and so creating this new rhythm and dance sensation. Another well-known sonidera, Joyce Musicolor, as mediator puts it best: “Rebajada, and the equipment to perform it, is from here [Mexico City] but it was Monterrey that popularized it.”

Contentious to this day, no matter what the truth, a new sound was born that grew and grew, yet remains relatively unknown outside Latin America. Here then is a survey of that scene, with a majority of the songs sounding unlike the originals; notable exceptions being the few classics composed by Polibio Mayorga, or rather the Ecuadorian Junior Y Su Equipo, and the Mexican Los Dinners group’s scrappy, tinny shuffled percussive and giddy-horse canter, bounding drum saunter ‘Sampuesana’.   

Although we’ve heard a lot about Mexico, the lion’s share of choice selections are drawn from Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. Well, there’s actually only one apiece from both Venezuela and Colombia; the tremolo quivered Western themed reverberation of Duane Eddy, if produced by Joe Meek, ‘Infinito’ by Hugo Blanco Y Su Arpa Viajera, and the rattle-y percussive chapel squeeze-box, organ stuttered ‘La Danza Del Mono’ by Lucho Gavilanes

Obviously when taken down a notch of two in the speed stakes it produces some funny as well as odd subgenres, and with the elements of low rent tech makes some tracks sound like 8-bit zappy and warbled versions of Andean pipe music. In that category you can include the oscillating ghost-synth like filtered Ecuadorian Junior Y Su Equipo group’s ‘La Borrachita’ and their second contribution, the googly, high-pitched and fluted ‘Bien Bailadito’.

From Peru, Los Santos’ cosmic futuro entitled ‘Saturno 2000’ (borrowed for this compilation’s title) sounds like a slowed fusion of Porro and Highlife with its raised and suffused blasted horns, galloped hand drums and distinct tropical Latin lilt. Monolith Cocktail followers and Analog Africa aficionados will recognize one name from the list, the Peruvian cat Manzanita. A compilation of his influential music was released only last summer by the label. Here, in a very different guise is his bottle-rolling duet of the slurred ‘Paga La Cuenta Sinverguenza’, and, with Su Conjunto, the more strung-out gangly guitar wondering ‘El Jardinero’

Back to where it all got so peculiar and relaxed, the Mexican outfit Conjunto Tipico Contreras turn in a shunted, scrappy and concertinaed vision of a epic exotic film score from the MGM studio heydays; a record that has both a mix of the Mayan jungles and fertile crescent. The beat is destined, if not already, to be sampled.

Could Rebajada be the sound of this summer? It’s certainly a contender, just because it’s often so strange and hypnotising. You kind of hear the process, the slowness, yet it works as a sauntering, relaxed yet somehow still busy tropical shuffle. Having constantly documented all the best African nuggets, Samy and his partner on this compilation, Eamon, have put together an essential guide to a Latin American treasure trove. 

Ethan Woods ‘Burnout’
(Whatever’s Clever Records)

From out of the rustic idylls of Western North Carolina emerges a cabin essence songbook; a disarming pastoral lilted and psychedelic melt of connectedness, and yet, also yearning heartache. Ethan Woods and friends absorbed the meandered thoughts that take shape when disconnected from the newsfeed roll of social media and bustle of the city, out on a summer balm encased porch, and under a wooded canopy.

First conceived back in Brooklyn between 2015 and 2017, Woods fine-tuned his collection of dreamy, mesmerizing songs when he moved to Asheville, North Carolina a year later. Created in-situ at the foothills of the Appalachians, but brushed-up upon returning to Brooklyn once more with added parts recorded at the now defunct Fort Briscoe during the pandemic, the fruits of Woods and his sympathetic ensemble is let loose just in time for the summer of 22.

From beginning to end Burnout unfolds over the course of a day, following the sundial’s shadow until nightfall drops. That’s when the nocturnal soundscape collage, performed in part by the electronic experimentalist Aaron Smith, opens up a whole new evocation of nighttime camouflaged hoots, insect chatter and an Americana ether of obscured sounds.

Apart from Aaron there’s contributions from Woods partner Lauren Gerndt, percussionist Matt Evans, Trevor Wilson, Sarah Goldfeather, Finn Shanahan, Karl Larson, Jude Shimer and Alvin the rooster. Yes that’s correct, a credit goes to the rooster, who sets the alarm and atmosphere. No contribution is too small: from Gerndt’s read out one-liner about teddy bears to helping in the development of the arrangements themselves.

In the press notes, as an ample description, we’re told to think Alan Lomax recording a super group of Sufjan Stevens and The Books. I’d suggest led by David Byrne with Paul McCartney, Animal Collective, Galaxie 500, Ladybug Transistor and Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah vibes. In all, a sort of ebb and flow of psych, troubadour, soft rock and enervated dirt music country.

Characters from childhood, like ‘Mrs. Moo’, are accorded a lo fi swim of the sentimental and playful, with humble spells of honesty.  Never quite straight up, always melting in with the arable outdoors on waves and oscillations of marching drumbeats, cymbal splashes, distant snozzles, tinkled piano and lax acoustic guitar. Music finds form and a rhythm; an either melancholic or romantic emotive tune in untroubled and unguarded song forms. Most of which bleed into each other, almost like a continuous recording.

Woods pastoral retreat proves a most magical, heart rendering, if sometimes pining, place to spend an hour or two. I’m really impressed by this slow-burning trip that drops The Books off for the weekend in a log cabin for a soliloquy session of candid therapy.   

Misha Sultan ‘Roots’
Gustavo Yashimura ‘Living Legend Of The Ayacucho Guitar’
(Both Hive Minds Records) 6th May 2022

Nearing the label’s fifth anniversary (see my future purview celebration later this year) with no signs of flagging, Hive Mind Records are stepping up with two releases on the same day. Both cassette and digital albums couldn’t be more different too; with organic and global electronica from the Russian artist Misha Sultan and Peruvian Andes guitar evocations, flourishes from the Ayacucho-imbued maestro Gustavo Yashimura.

It shouldn’t really be that surprising, the eclectic richness of this dual release, as the label has previously traversed an electric Atlas Mountains, celebrated the colourful rituals of Gnawa music, and stopped over in Java, Highlife Western Africa and tripped out with the Acid mothers and Reynols.

The first of these showcases brings together the work of the multi-instrumentalist Misha Sultan, collecting pieces from 2015 to 2022. Hailing from the heart of Siberia, and industrious city of Novosibirsk, Misha was forced to leave his homeland.

The so-called ‘Chicago of Siberia’, on the banks of the Ob River, a crossing point of the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway and historically an important flashpoint of the civil war, informs, inspires some of the recordings. A geographical behemoth that sits between the Ural Mountains and Northern Asia, touching the Pacific Ocean in the East, Siberia isn’t just the exiled, infamous hardened remote atelier of literature, art and politics but a beautifully diverse landscape; the Eurasian melting pot as it were. Mirroring that diversity, Misha’s music travels to the Congo, Bali and Arabia whilst absorbing bits of kosmische, ambient, trance, washed-out psych, 90s chill-out, breakbeat and dub. 

Real instruments, such as bubbled and shuttled mallets, flighty and dreamy flute and bamboo and metal percussion melt into synthesised waves, rays and atmospherics; some of which, on the odd track, are provided by the mysterious Mårble and Dyad. ‘Ant Invasion’ sets the tone, the scene, with a peaceable-like meadow field recording of hedgerow birds and tranquil washes of Mythos and Andrew Wasylyk. A shuffle of hand drums kick in and vague Ash Ra Tempel prompts take us towards more far eastern fringes. ‘Sand Ashram’ wobbles and bobs to Richard H. Kirk’s red sands invocations, Warp Records early Artificial Intelligence series, Banco de Gaia and the chill-out vibes of Liquid and William Orbit. ‘Why Are We Here?’ meanwhile could be either set in an Finis Africae vision of the Amazon, or indeed, Western Africa, whilst the railway station inspired ‘Beloostrov’ offers a fluted and drifting piano daydream aboard a train bound for the Finnish border. ‘Slow Flow’ with its shooting stars and whistles floats into spacey dub Orb territory, and the banjo-like radiance of ‘Bubbles’ moves from Indonesian evocations to Japan; well, something like that.

The final two tracks journey to the Congo and Bali; with the latter settling into a meditative mood amongst the New Year celebrations of the Balinese day of Silence.

Misha sonically travels the world, bringing together interesting references, emotions and atmospheres. He remains however rooted, connected to that Siberian topography and mood.

The second showcase of the Hive Mind set this month assembles a collection of adroit but also intensely skillful acoustic guitar music by the rather obscure champion of the Ayacucho Peru culture, Gustavo Yashimura.

Picking up the guitar in 1987, Gustavo travelled onto Uruguay to study, later on journeying to Japan where he played a classical style. He’d return home however in 2004 (still eager to learn and study) and would later take up the Andean style of guitar with the onus on the proud Ayacucho region of Peru. His teacher during that period was the 80-year-old veteran Don Alberto Juscamaita Gastelú, known famously as just Rahtako. It seems Gustavo learned much; straddling both the classics and more frantic modern styles.

In trying to reclaim the pre-colonial Spanish Ayacucho folklore and culture, these nimble and busy performances incorporate an age-old yearn.

A number of tracks (‘Dandé Te Fuistes Paloma’ and ‘Negra Del Alma’ being two of them) feature a heartening, aching female vocal: not quite Fado, but certainly on the lamentable side. Beautifully sung, expressive, they prove my particular highlights on this compilation.

Gaucho western horizons, ancient symbols on the plains, romantic flourished and dalliances stream forth from an incredibly fluid style; a mix of Spanish and the indigenous. Dainty, sizzling, blurry at times, Gustavo’s skills prove magical. Well worth adding to an eclectic collection. Better still buy both albums.

Ghost Power ‘S-T’
(Duophonic Super 45s)

Two of the Duophonic Super 45s mail order label’s roster combine forces this month for a cult sounds coalesce of library music, soundtracks, psych and trip-hop. Serial offender in all things cultish, the kosmische universe and beyond, Stereolab’s Timothy Gane bounces nostalgic trips off his foil, Dymaxion instigator Jeremy Novak, under the newly minted Ghost Power guise.

Imbued by all that’s gone before them, recorded between sessions in both Berlin and New York (and remotely), the duo evoke a cosmology of cool and obscure mavericks on an album of fantasy (see the reference to Joseph Delaney’s witch assassin ‘Grimalkin’) and kitsch.

Matmos on a bum ride bubbles up inside a lava lamp with Bruno Spoerri and Arto Lindsay on the opening ‘Asteroid Witch’, whilst ‘Panic In The Isles Of Splendor’ could be the sort of obscurity dug up by the Finders Keepers label: that and a nocturnal insect rhythm of Alex Puddu and timpani soundtrack rousing piece of nonsense.    

A transmogrification of an enviable record collection, in which Giallo schlock shares space on the shelves with space-disco-trance, 60s backbeats and Nino Nardini scores. Ghost power is a very knowing experiment in art for art’s sake; a knowledgeable take on library and cult sounds, with a few contemporary surprises. 

Exterior ‘Umbilical Digital’
(Hobbes Music)

Without losing touch with rhythm and melody, the latest album from Edinburgh producer Doug MacDonald (under the guise of Exterior) is an experiment in texture, club sonics and live-sounding instrumentation. A largely percussive tapping, drum-skidding and bouncing affair, Umbilical Digital channels some quite eclectic tastes, with an array of both bpms and styles; from ambient scores to coarse abrasive guitar techno fusions.

The titular track, and opener, is a sophisticated metallic chrome propulsion of Basic Channel, Euro-trance and heightened warbles of something almost quivery and spooked. Yet by the second track, ‘Menu Diving Olympics’, the filters are subdued and more cosmic, the bass deeper, the beats like rattled ricochets, and the direction progressive. ‘Orthodox Dreams’ seems to have been partially lifted from the 90s: a bit of Sabers Of Paradise, a little Future Sound Of London. Yet it knocks and shakes, zaps and reverberates, to a contemporary mix of electronics.

The bottle, metal and tin rhythm tapping and pneumatic alarm clock bell chimed ‘Populist’ has a funky techno bent; reminding me of Psycho & Plastic and International Pony. ‘The Unbearable Shiteness Of Indie’ is less a polemic on guitar bands – MacDonald himself wielding one on this album; all feedback whines and caustic contouring – and more a floated, tunneled and slightly tropical merger between Sven Vath and Andy Weatherall.

The acid effects are subtly turned on for the trance-y geometric and soft thumped ‘Adoption’, and the Aphex Twin is sent down a flume on the slower beat-crunched, reversal tubular, robotic-stuttered ‘Tyranny Of Choice’.  Carrying a certain weight, the finale, ‘Load Bearing’, goes all ambient and mysterious; a sort of soundtrack evocation of smoke forming on an otherworldly lake scene: creeping, sad with haunted, apparitional voices. As a last chill, it could be a lost Brian Reitzell score.

Synthesised music with a human touch, this album loses none of its experimental luster; still honed for the dancefloor as well as the head, whilst turning steel into something far more melodious. This is techno, electronica with a heart and purpose.  

    

The Staple Jr. Singers ‘When Do We Get Paid’
(Luka Bop) 6th May 2022

Revived five decades after its original, localized released in 1975, the good folk at Luka Bop make good on their incredible, enlightening compilation of obscured gospel and soul, The Time For Peace Is Now, with a dedicated reissue of The Staple Jr. Singers rarity When Do We Get Paid.

Pressed by that extremely young family unit themselves and sold at shows and on their neighbors front lawns, this rarefied showcase is finally getting an international release, prompting a number of live dates for the trio: their first in forty years!

From the banks of the Tombigbee River, honed in the family’s hometown of Aberdeen, Monroe County, the salvation searching, baptismal liturgy of Southern gospel gets an injection of conscious political soul, R&B, funk and delta blues. From the name you may have assumed that this trio were scions, the offspring perhaps of the divine stylers the Staple Singers. Without doubt a chip off the old block, the group’s moniker is purely used as homage in honour of their idols. Far younger, the Brown family of beautified and expressive soulful vocalists Annie and A.R.C. and guitarist Edward were in their teens when they recorded this, their sole, album in ’75. Yet despite being so young, the travails of the civil rights movement, social issues of the day, run throughout the trio’s equally earthy and heavenly soul music.

This was a sound touched by the afflatus yet grounded in the wake of Southern desegregation, unrest, the Vietnam War…the list goes on. So whilst Annie soars in full baby Staples mode, and with a vibe of Eula Cooper and Shirley Ann Lee about her, there’s plenty of attitude and sass to go around. Gospel music remains central however, with plenty of standard Bible belt exultations, paeans and passionate plaints. Some of which, no matter how familiar, seem to have some pretty unique and idiosyncratic rearrangement going on. Bolstered on the original recordings by bassist Ronnel Brown and Drummer Corl Walker, we’re treated to s Stax-like revue of reverence, the venerable and just down-country soulful funk. Echoes of Sam Cooke, Lulu Collins, Crusade Records, Chairman Of The Board and Nolan Porter follow humbled sermons on the soul train to Galilee. An electrifying songbook, When Do We Get Paid proves that this family trio possessed a raw talent, and could hold their own in a field packed with such incredible voices. It also proves there’s still much to learn and hear from that era of Southern soul and gospel. Great job Luka Bop.   

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

The sounds that have piqued the team’s interest, filled their hearts, fucked with their heads, or just sent sauntering towards escapism, the Monthly playlist gathers together all the music we’ve featured over the last month. We’ve also picked some of those tracks that managed to evade us and some we just didn’t get the time or room to exalt.

Our eclectic as usual mix starts in Tel Aviv with the Şatellites and moves across continents to take in Rwanda’s The Good Ones, Sao Tomé and Principe’s vintage África Negra, the Georgian choir Iberi, and one of Scandinavia’s principle jazz ensembles, OK:KO.

There’s plenty of more, with a freshly produced diaphanous, slow knocking beat gauzy treatment of the burgeoning pop enchantress and dystopian muse Circe’s ‘Mess With Your Head’ – now transformed into ‘It’s All Over’ under the Secret World Orchestra guise -, and a rafter of choice hip-hop cuts from Billy Woods, Dabbla, Lyrics Born and Lunar C with Jehst. Pop, jazz, electronic, dreamwave, psychedelic and post-punk are all represented. And there’s even a track from our very own Brian Shea and his cult dysfunctional family band The Bordellos.

The Monolith Cocktail team, corralled into action by me, Dominic Valvona, currently includes Matt Oliver, Brain ‘Bordello’ Shea, Graham Domain and Mikey MacDonald.  

Those Tracks In Full Are:{

Şatellites  ‘Zuhtu (Live)’
Melody’s Echo Chamber  ‘Personal Message’
IKE (Ft. Sera Kalo)  ‘What Then’
Dana Gavanski  ‘Indigo Highway’ Crystal Eyes  ‘Wishes’
Pete Rock  ‘Brother On The Run’
Steve Monite  ‘Only You’
África Negra  ‘Vence Vitoria’
Samora Pinderhughes  ‘Holding Cell’
Izzi Sleep & Rat Motel  ‘Good Going Down’
Mercvrial  ‘Look Inside’
The Bordellos  ‘I Hate Pink Floyd Without Syd Barrett’
Peace De Résistance  ‘Boston Dynamics’
The Legless Crabs  ‘Boo Hoo Hoo’
Otoboke Beaver  ‘YAKITORI’
Papercuts  ‘Palm Sunday’
Kloot Per W  ‘Le Pays’
Nicole Faux Naiv  ‘Moon Really’
Liz Davinci  ‘Daisy’
Julia Holter, Harper Simon & Meditations On Crime  ‘Heloise’
Amine Mesnaoui & Labelle  ‘Bleu Noir’ Billy Woods  ‘Wharves’
Professor Elemental  ‘Inn At The End Of Time (Remix)’
Dabbla  ‘Alec Baldwin’
Nelson Dialect & Mr. Slipz  ‘Association’
SAULT  ‘June 55’
Nduduzo Makhathini  ‘Amathongo’
Rob Cave & Small Professor  ‘Respect Wildlife’
Lyrics Born (Ft. Rakaa Iriscience, Shing02, Bohan Phoenix, Cutso)  ‘Anti (Remix)’
Kino & Sadistik  ‘The Earth Was Empty’
Aethiopes (Ft. El-P, Breeze Brewin)  ‘Heavy Winter’
Laddio Bolocko  ‘Nurser’
Novelistme  ‘Never’
Astrel K  ‘Maybe It All Comes At Once’
David J  ‘(I Don’t Want To Destroy) Our Beautiful Thing’
Jörg Thomasius  ‘Okoschadel’
Ed Scissor  ‘Dad’
Violet Nox  ‘Eris’
Moscoman  ‘Dalmar Is Back And It’s Final’
Grandamme, Claudia Kane & Bastien Keb  ‘Nirvana’
FloFilz (Ft. Dal)  ‘Levada’
Chairman Maf  ‘Gammon Island’
Moon Mullins  ‘Welcome To Tilden’
IBERI  ‘Arkhalalo’
Papé Nziengui  ‘Gho Boka Nzambé’
The Good Ones  ‘Happiness Is When We Are Together’
OK:KO  ‘Vanhatie’
Ubunye  ‘Our Time’
Shrimpnose & BLOOD $MOKE BODY  ‘Beyond The Villian’
Justo The MC & Remulak  ‘Knockturnal’
Lunar C (Ft. Jehst)  ‘Any Given Wednesday’
Qrauer  ‘The Mess’ Circe/Secret World Orchestra  ‘It’s All Over’
Brianwaltzera  ‘tracing Rays [reality glo]’
Kota Motomura (Ft. Akichi)  ‘Flower’



ALBUMS AND EXTENDED RELEASE REVIEWS/PLUS A SPECIAL LITTLE SOMETHING/Dominic Valvona

PHOTO CREDIT: Joona Möttö

SPECIAL LITTLE SOMETHING

IFRIQIYYA ELECTRIQUE ‘Nafta Naghara’
From the 25th March 2022

From our friends IFRIQIYYA ELECTRIQUE, a mesmerizing, loud and incredible dynamic fusion of unworldly chthonian elements, Sufi trance, spirit possession performance and post-punk electronics; recorded live in the last month at La Casa Musicale in Perpignan, France.

Originally formed in the Djerid Desert, a coloration between field-recordist and veteran guitarist of the politically-charged Mediterranean punk and “avant-rock” scenes, François Cambuzat, and bassist Gianna Greco – both of which occasionally join forces with that livewire icon of the N.Y. underground, Lydia Lunch, to form the Putan Club – and Banga musician Ali Chouchen – joined in the live theatre by an expanded cast of fellow voices, krabebs and Tunisian tabla players from the community, which has featured Tarek Sultan, Yahia Chouchen and Youssef Ghazala – the lineup has fluctuated over two stunning albums and live dates.

Performing a track from their second album Laylet El Booree (released back in 2019) ‘Nafta Naghara’ sees both Syna Awel and Dyaa Zniber (on both voice duties and percussion) change the dynamic once more as they join Greco (voice & bass) and Cambuzat (on guitar, choir & computer) for breathtaking communal.

ALBUMS

Jane Inc. ‘Faster Than I Can Take’
(Telephone Explosion Records) 22nd April 2022

Although the musical DNA was there from the start, through her dance pop duo Ice Cream with Amanda Crist and contributions to Darlene Shrugg and Meg Remy’s ever growing U.S. Girls ensemble, Carlyn Bezic effortlessly shimmied towards the disco, dream-pop dancefloor with last year’s Number One album debut as Jane Inc. – one of my choice albums of 2021.

Bearing all the strains, vulnerabilities but shorn of pity, Carlyn makes good on that previous congruous change with a both disarming fantasy and more heartbreaking plaintive songbook, fit for the age of high anxiety, self-doubt and connection through the computer, smart phone lens.

Life just never feels right, and time…well, time seems to have sped up, hijacked by those seeking to consume all our precise use of it, concentrated down the portal of a constantly changing feed of attention grabbing, virtue competiveness and narcissistic obsessions. Without the space to breathe, process, to take it all in, we’ve been mostly reduced to vacuous, fleeting well-wishers; meaningful, deep connections just for a few, because whose got the time to offer anything lasting. Ok, I’ve gone slightly off the rail, but our epoch, lurches from, but then forgetting, one crisis to the next: though in recent months that carousal has swung from the climate emergency to Covid to the cost-of-living and Ukraine. Who wouldn’t be anxious, drained mentally under such an onslaught?

On the album’s opener, and first single, ‘Contortionists’ Carlyn sings about the effects of time anxiety, of being both trapped simultaneously in the past, present and future, all in the same moment. Transfiguring a 80s musical palette, this crystalized arpeggiator emotional pull dances through softened shades of n-r-g, robotic soul pop, fitness video music and disco: with a certain echo of Chaka Khan thrown in. Fellow Toronto collaborator Dorothea Pass adds a touch of ethereal cooing to a vulnerable but danceable highlight.

Although a mostly synthesized, electro affair, Carlyn finds the human soul, a connectedness throughout. No more so then on tracks like ‘Human Being’ (for obvious reasons), which explores isolation, the requirements of instagram, and that always living your ‘best life’ crap, in an online world to the dualist Giallo glitterball pop, and suggestions of the Juan MacLean and St. Vincent (via Wendy & Lisa). Dreamy realism meets with a haunted reflection, with another signature mirror turn. In a similar lamentable disconnect, the four-to-the-floor, Vogue era Madonna ‘Dancing With You’ projects a romantic embraced dance at the Paradise Garage, but is really a dance for one in front of the computer screen in a bedroom.

Amongst the glitterball emitting lasers Carlyn expands the musical scope, sauntering down to Rio like a 70s Joni Mitchell sharing a fantasy with Seu Jorge on ‘Picture The Future’ – which actually, despite its accompaniment of soft-paddled samba moves, describes a calendar rota of metaphorical growth. ‘An Ordinary Thing’ takes an acoustic direction towards the troubadour sorrow of Evie Sands or Catherine Howe on a cathartic, candid Baroque turn of resignation. The close, ‘Pummeled Into Sand’, features strains of both reversed phaser and Brian May guitar licks, hints of Aldous Harding and Eleanor Friedberger on the Mexican border.

I’m drawn however to the gorgeous if heartbreaking ‘Every Rip’. A Diplo remixed Vangelis patterned lush ache of vulnerability, this dream-wave pop lament will bring a tear to the eye.

The absence of the physical (love, friendship) echoed through the full spectrum of emotions couldn’t sound more effortless. Even if the artist feels fragile, this second album under the Jane Inc. flag couldn’t be more assured in pop brilliance. Taking the familiar tones of disco, pop, new wave, fitness video n-r-g, Carlyn takes a more carefree, danceable approach to deeper feelings in an era of rapid change and disorientation. You won’t hear much better.

Birds In The Brickwork ‘Recovery’
(Wayside And Woodland)

The first in a promised series of multimedia releases from Benjamin Holton’s latest inspired alias, Birds In The Brickwork, the Recovery album contours a both faded and quintessentially damp English landscape; as seen through Holt’s photographic lens.

A concomitant partner to the gauzy, washed guitar and synth music of epic45, his longstanding duo with foil Rob Glover, Holton once more plugs into a familiar, if far more dreamy and beautifully languid, mode.

Before we dive in though, a little background to this newly adopted moniker is needed. Sympathising greatly myself with this, Holton was forced to give up work due to a ‘massive flare-up’ with his back. During a time of recovery (hence that title) the Staffordshire native attempted to document the period with the tools-at-hand. This included that already mentioned guitar (both acoustic and electric by the sounds of it), a camera and computer.

Finding all life’s answers, pathos and bathos in the natural typography and its artificial markers, structures, the focus of this project is on the landscape; something that could be seen as a reoccurring feature, theme in much of his work, especially the pylon straddled haze and nostalgic glaze of My Autumn Empire

Capturing the ephemeral through various instrumental traverses, Holton sculpts magical, mysterious radiating versant slopes, hills and the ghostly pastoral visage of a village hall, as he wells up a mood board of the wondrous, universal and cerebral. Evoking a languorous Land Observations without his bass notes, the descriptive and higher-purposed guitar playing of Craig Ward, Spiritualized Jason Pierce and Myles Cochran, Holton evokes the halcyon, conversational, the empirical.

Through lingered, floated, finely attuned guitar work, synthesized washes and waves, pitch-shifts and attentive drums he gently encompasses the fields of post-rock, the psychedelic, shoegaze, acid-country and kosmische; whether that’s unveiling the enormity of the great expanse or in solitude, waiting to get back out into the world of small wonders: ‘small glimmers’, the ‘old blossom’ and the reconnected resonance of ‘people talking’. All things missed and now documented with a lightness of touches.

The inaugural visions of a geography taken for granted, barely noticed, comes to life in the first Birds In The Brickwork audio setting. With art prints, DVDs and postcards still to come Recovery puts down the marker for a fruitful new musical horizon: even if it was borne out of pain.

Kota Motomura ‘Pay It Forward’
(Hobbes Music) 22nd April 2022

Although it’s been a few years, the experimental Tokyo artist Kota Motomura makes good on his previous free-floating, swimmingly jacked-up House and Balearic flowed EP for the Hobbes Music imprint with a just as tropical, eclectic album.

Pay It Forward once more sees Kota reunited with his foil Mutsumi Takeuchi on reeds. Later on, with this album’s paradise plaint closer, ‘Flowers’, a second guest, Akichi, joins the twosome, adding a wistful but dreamy Balearic acoustic guitar accompaniment, sat under a canopy of heavenly bird song and humid tropical heat. That curtain call is the most placid, scenic track on the whole album, with the rest destined for the club environment: albeit set in the rainforests or in some futuristic vision of 80s Tokyo.

The actual entitled ‘Paradise’ features Mutsumi’s snozzled jazz-house toots, spirals and drifted hazy rasps and Kota’s detuned, almost distorted, piano stabs over a sort of Japanese 80s new wave pop production with shooting lasers: imagine a bit of Haruomi Hosono shaking it down with Yasuaki Shimizu.

A change in style, ‘Tropical’ sounds more like an ethnographic sampled lost treasure from Byrne and Eno or, the sort of no wave experiment Basquiat would have been throwing down in ’82. Native voices, pneumatic drilled samples, shuttled sticks and hand drums evoke the veldt, the Maasai, as remixed by Coldcut and the 900ft Jesus.

‘To Be Free’ is an upbeat number of Farley Jackmaster Funk’s Chicago grooves, handclap beats, arpeggiator patterns and funk, whilst ‘Emotion’ sees Mutsumi on flute, blowing merry suffused charms over a pumped N-R-G meets New Orleans Mardi Gras House music groove.

The highlight for me though is the constantly changing, evolving percussive and drumming relay, ‘Rhythm’. It could be a Brazilian Samba band, the African diaspora or even a Cuban rhythm section on a coked-up Miami night, but the beats just keep rolling and rattling, even galloping.

Pay It Forward is essentially a well-crafted, fun experiment in dance music genre hopping. It’s House and Techno music with a spirit of adventure that’s never idol and always up for taking the audience across a movable dance floor.

OK:KO ‘Liesu’
(We Jazz) 15th April 2022

Named after its drummer-composer/bandleader Okko Saastamoinen, the Finnish OK:KO quartet have been accumulating fans and acclaim alike over the last five years. Now onto their third album with the leading Euro jazz label and festival hub (and now quarterly magazine) We Jazz, they once more show-off a signature sound that’s imbued by the roots of hard-bop, free jazz and the more explorative, envelope pushing of a small tight combo. The notes sum up that style perfectly as, ‘adventurous but accessible’. 

In practice that means Coltrane and Harden on the Savoy label, Charlie Parker, the Bill Evans Trio, Nate Morgan and Sonny Stitt taken on a scenic, poetic ride across the Finnish pastoral. Mikael Saastamoinen’s double-bass on the most naturalistic composition, ‘Kirkkis’, even manages to emote an oaken tree spreading its branching: The bass actually begins to sound like a cello against a wooded stretch of rim rattles and brushes. Later on, with that same composition, the quartet moves towards both the blues and luxuriant swing; beamed and trained on 60s NYC.

Bandleader Okko’s drums follow a constant leitmotif of splashed cymbals and rolling maelstroms that never quite penetrate the sea wall defenses, as Jarno Tikka goes high with flighty spirals and lower register rasps and descriptive lulls, and Toomas Keski-Säntti plays piano with a sense of both freedom and emergent-gestured melodies.   

Tunes vary between expressive dances and erudite scene-setting emotions. The opener, ‘Anima’, goes for a visceral encapsulation of that title’s Latin origins – the breath, soul, spirit of vital forces -, whilst ‘Arvo’ pushes into more serious, noirish directions: like a bluesy but mysterious sassy accompanied skulk in a 1950s stripe joint.   Throughout this album were constantly drawn back to the sea; both a very real Baltic one but also a metaphorical one of choppy emotions and swelled intensities. There’s drama yet nothing that ever proves too frantic, fierce, as this quartet keep it all in check, constantly flowing no matter how high those waves get. I love it, and still think Finland is producing some of the best contemporary jazz in not only Europe but beyond that. OK:KO’s reputation is save and broadening on the strength of this third album of the lively and emotive. 

Kloot Per W ‘Arbre A Filles’
(Jezus Factory) 22nd April 2022

Despite doing it all so well, the maverick Kloot Per W, as a Belgian from the other side of the multi-linguistic quandary that is Belgium, apparently should be frowned upon, snubbed for singing in the French vernacular. In a culture, historical battle I’m unwilling to get drawn into, there’s a whole legacy of political backlashes against those with the Flemish mother tongue singing or speaking in the much-guarded French language: Jacques Brel aside. Actually that’s a terrible example, as Brel’s Flemish family actually dropped it to adopt the French language.

Anyway, the seven-decade spanning journeyman Kloot has decided to give it another bash, following the success of his inaugural Francophone EP, Nuits Blanches, from last year. Like the already mentioned Brel, and because of a history of reinvention, sagacious wit and self-depreciation, the Flemish cult artist dons a gauloise smoking jacket with élan and a certain fuck you attitude on his new songbook, Arbre A Filles (or the odd phrased “girl tree”).

A sort of intergenerational project, again, Kloot calls upon the production, collaborative help of Pascal Deweze: a full twenty-years Kloot’s junior we’re informed. And swinging by the studio, repeat offender foil, guitar-slinger for hire and ex dEUS band member Mauro Pawlowski and his collaborative partner Randy Trouvé add a bit of (middle-age) youthfulness; a taste of contemporary alt-rock to the songs. Keen Monolith Cocktail followers will of course remember (hopefully) that Marco and Kloot brought out their very own dysfunctional, knockabout White Album, called Outsider/Insider, a while back (making our choice picks at the time).

A road well-travailed, Kloot’s numerous musical changes – stretching back to the late 60s and early 70s as a bassist for The Misters and as a guitarist for The Employees, to a solo spell and the JJ Brunel produced Polyphonic Size – have lent the music a wise ring of authenticity; a life well-lived and experienced. And on this new songbook themes range from such timeless concerns as facing one’s mortality and more contemporary fare like Internet conspiracy theorists, cultural divisions. This is a grown-ups album then: despite the reference to Kloot’s worries on his cock size, though thankfully not a French speaker, I have no idea where this obsession springs-up on the album, as it’s only pointed out in the accompanying notes.

It all begins with the opening fuck you attitude of the French new wave, via Lou Reed, Mick Harvey and Anton Barbeau, styled ‘Tu Me Troubles’ (“you disturb me”), which has both bristle and sophistication, coquettish doo wop female backing singers and a touch of Britpop melody. ‘Le Pays’ (“the country”) moves the action towards a smoky blend of the Jazz Butcher and the Bad Seeds, as satellites’ twinkled communications blink over a psychedelic starry, starry night café scene. A spooked Morricone creeps around on the vibrato, cooing female-voiced backed ‘Girl On The Phone’, but it’s Blixa Bargeld fronting the Os Mutantes in a haunted jazz lounge on the title-track.

Raspy, grizzled and also mooning when not crooning, Kloot’s lyricism is fitted with a movable backing of both salon and Muscle Shores piano, strokes of beat music, glam, rock ‘n’ roll, radio city music hall, a touch of Cohen, and on the “lalala” flittered ‘Super Likeus’ a hint of both rebel country and the paisley underground. Yet everything is still contained in the French vogue, if from a unique perspective.

There’s a lot to like about this album, and it goes someway to Andrew Bennett (Jezus Factory’s one-man cottage industry founder) aggrandisement that Kloot is “Belgium’s best kept secret”. If there was any justice in the world (you’re kidding, right?!) this album would reach a wide audience and shine a light on, certainly, one of Belgium’s great talents. It’s also a killer French language songbook that proves the Flemish can indeed sing the Frenchman blues.

Jörg Thomasius ‘Acht Gesänge der Schwarzen Hunde (Experimenteller Elektronik-Underground DDR 1989)’ (Bureau B) 15th April 2022

From the steel curtained side of the Berlin Wall, a second GDR dedicated showcase of electronica from the noted Jörg Thomasius. At various times an artist in his own right (under the Tomato moniker), but also a member of the Das Freie Orchester, a radio show presenter, author, boiler man and exhibition technician, the East German maverick knocked-about with the likes of Andreas Grosser, Lars Stroschen and Conrad Schnitzler – working with the last two to set up the Tonart label. 

It was the former, the renowned technician Grosser who opened up a whole world of electronic exploration, and instigated a train of events that led to Jörg meeting Terry Riley: freely handing out LSD at the time. Whilst under the authoritarian grip, Jörg still managed to connect with the burgeoning scene in West Berlin. And his experiments, collected together here from three different sources, easily fall into the greater Kosmische and new wave brackets.

Acht Gesänge der Schwarzen Hunde brings together diy explorations, peregrinations, sketches from his 80-85 documented Schwarze Hände (“black hands”) cassette, his own Kröten Kassetten label’s Gesänge der Komparsen (“songs of the extras”) 89 release, and the 90s After Eight – released again on another of his own label hubs, just after he left Das Freie Orchester.

Across the majority of this collection each modulated, oscillated, effected idea weighs in under the three-minute mark; glimpsing at, vanishing clips of what could be more expanded, drawn-out scores. The opener, ‘Besen Im kopf’ (“broom in the head”), seems to feature a strung-out, deconstructed orchestra of the avant-garde, classical and even Fluxus kind: Low ship horns sound, the inner workings of a piano resonate with a brassy metallic spindly sound. ‘Okoschadel’ (“eco skull”) and ‘Erste Himmelsmelodie’ (“first heavenly melody”) have more than a hint of early computer tech sampling; the kind Sakamoto was experimenting with in the early 80s. A mix if synthesized cut-ups, tubular bell percussion and staccato fashioned splurges.

‘Küss Mich Mien Liebchen’ (“kiss my love”) features (I take it) Jörg’s vocal ravings over a squiggled loon of underground tape culture, post-punk, Faust and Populäre Mechanik weirdness.

Ghosts in the machine, aerial whirled chattering space birds, slapped beats, timpani and lo fi computerized effects permeate the first nine oddities on this compilation. The tenth and final track however is an expansive twenty-minute plus sun rays ‘Meditation’. In that languid, relaxed time frame, Jörg astral-planes hints of Popol Vuh, Frosse, Ocean Of Tenderness Ash Ra on a new age equinox of spiritual alignment.

The Hamburg label Bureau B continues as custodians of Germany’s past and present electronic, experimental, Kosmische and new wave genres with another intriguing showcase come reminder of East Germany’s part in the underground music scene that defined a generation. Fans of those musical fields will find this an interesting addition to that story.

Qrauer ‘Heeded’
(Nonostar Records) 22nd April 2022

The most electronic signing yet to Alex Stolze’s burgeoning Nonostar imprint, the congruous fit of Christian Grochau and Ludwig Bauer coalesce their respective disciplines once more as the Qrauer duo.

With Christian’s percussionist, production and remix and Ludwig’s pianist, multi-instrumentalist and composing skills, Qrauer’s latest EP is a sophisticated shift of layered electronic body movement techno and reverberated spells both on and inside a neoclassical attuned piano. In the former camp, the EP’s first trio of tracks includes the subtle air-pinched filtered, cybernetic convergence of Four Tet, Carl Graig and trance style techno ‘The Mess’; the tinkling, translucent bulb mirrored short ‘Stardoll’; and the more clean-cut beats meets mysterious and gauzy wooed ‘No Sh.Left’, which features the wafted, ghostly and vaporous vocals of the German singer Sea Of Love.

Taking a slightly different path, the title-track is a sort of experiment in scoring a mini electroacoustic soundtrack. ‘Heeded’ is highly atmospheric, with the echoed resonance of a piano’s guts being touched by various textured materials, and a moving melody of both singular and a more uninterrupted flow of notes played from the keyboard itself. Almost a seamless follow-on, ‘Lustend’ features staccato cut-up samples of a voice and piano, but soon, in a relaxed fashion, bobs along to jug-poured and steel drum reverberated techno effects – like a calypso Phylyps on Basic Channel.

Sounding in many ways like a remix of chamber piano work, with all the original elements washed-out, the Heeded EP is a cerebral version of techno, trance and electronic dance music for people who hanker after more than just a four-to-the-floor beat and repetition. 

Astrel K ‘Flickering I’
(Duophonic Super 45s Mail Order) 29th April 2022

Like one long mirage, a psychedelic tinged wavy trip inside the preoccupations of Rhys Edwards, the newly imagined Astrel K set-up sees the one-time Ulrika Spacek member swim in solo Scandinavian waters.

Although a solo platform, a moniker under which to pursue his songwriting, Astrel K does in fact include an array of local musicians from Rhys new(ish) home of Stockholm. We should of course name them at least: Lili Holényi, Milton Öhrström, Niklas Mellberg and Thomas Hellberg; all of whom make it possible for this hallucinogenic musical world to float.

Leaving behind the now defunct Spacek music factory, KEN, in (one of my old stomping grounds) Homerton, Rhys finds inspiration in the Swedish capital. Via the mail order label, Duophonic Super 45s, his debut Astrel long-player (the first single, the wobbled, languid and quivered Beatles and Velvets jangle, ‘You Could If You Can’ sold out rapidly on vinyl) swimmingly and with a gauzy lushness balances hazy winding L.A. scenery detective and romantic movie scores and tinkled ray-shining Library music with somnolent Floyd, Edward Penfold and Flaming Lips psychedelic pop, dreamwave and distant lingered, suffused trails of saxophone. All elements that come together across golden slumber cooed songs and shorter Stereolab and KPM like instrumental interludes.

Actually, one of the album’s best tracks is the expanded burnished and sax-swaddled ambient score ‘Forwardmomentum’ – reminding me of the Canadian school of such astral peregrinations, Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn’s work.

Whimsy, wistfulness and druggy stupors hide pressing matters in the real world: the anxieties of the environment and online worlds especially. Certain paradoxes and idiosyncratic observations, plaints are dreamily wooed to a most fluid and softened backing of light and shade. Occasionally there’s a touch of fuzz, a little electric grind, but it’s mostly a lunar and tropical affair of psychedelic pop, enervated soundtrack strings, quirky changes, knowing easy-listening and beautifully conveyed, soulful songwriting.

No matter what the themes are, Flickering i is a languorous, swell and trippy bubble of a place to sit and reflect.     

Sinnen ‘Hawk Moth Man’
(Hreám Recordings) 11th April 2022

I’m going to be honest with you all. I’m going in blind with this slow-release of pent-up energy; woes and guitar pedal effects sustain contouring.

Released on the always intriguing, and reliable, Hreám Recordings, Sinnen’s latest drudge and cymbal-splashed resonated traverse has an esoteric menace running throughout its gnawing and yearned core. A psychogeography of darwave, grunge, slowcore, the industrial, doom and the dreamy, the sword and sorcery title referencing Hawk Moth Man reimagines Mike Cooper fronting Sunn O))). Well, at least some of the time.

Shafts of soulful despondency, a release of abstract imagings languidly emerges from a slow-motion dissipation of shimmy and halftime beaten drums and amplified hums, drones. After one of those amplifier-contoured lead-ins, the first expanded track proper, ‘Painting Daisy’, grinds through a sludge of Codine, Fritch and Dinosaur Jnr.; a haze of the occult and that already mentioned grunge sound.

As the title would suggest, the next slow driven gruel, ‘Bury Your Regrets In Frozen Ground’, drags the listener across a harrowed soundscape. By contrast, a brief pause, an interlude of a sorts, ‘Shifter’ is an ambient (almost) vignette of holy orders as preached by Popol Vuh and Vukovar.

Personally I’m hearing shades of Outside Bowie on the very strange and curious ‘Hill’: a creeping sense of menace, trauma that seems to reach back into civil war period England. But it’s the semi-epic slowcore and flange wave, force field vibrating ‘Se Boda’, which sounds like Michael Stipe singing with The Telescopes, in some alternate universe, that I especially love.

There’s much to untangle, demystify from the heavy atmosphere of suspended pain, discord: one being, why the reference to the swordsman character from the 80s cartoon adventure, The Black Cauldron, ‘Taran’? What’s that all about then?

In all that slow dissonance there’s still some light, and so it never feels too dark, too much to bear. Having never crossed paths with the band/artist before, this could be their stock-in-trade signature: or not of course. Anyway, it gets a recommendation from me.

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/Dominic Valonva

The Good Ones ‘Rwanda…You See Ghosts, I See Sky’
(Six Degrees Records) 8th April 2022

Once more returning to the rural farmlands of a genocide scarred Rwanda, producer polymath Ian Brennan presses the record button on another in-situ, free-of-artifice and superficial production. The fourth such album of unimaginable stirred grief, heartache and reconciliation from the country’s nearest relation to American Bluegrass, The Good Ones latest songbook arrives in time to mark the 28th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide in the mid-90s; a 100 days of massacre, the fastest ever recorded of its kind in the 20th century with the true figures disputed but believed to be around the million mark.

Triggered, its argued even to this day, by a history of tribal warfare, insurrection, civil war, foreign interventions and the assassination of the then president Juvénal Habyarimana, the events of that three month period in 1994 saw a sudden death cull, ethnic cleansing of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority at the hands of the majority Hutus: though even moderate Hutus, along with Rwanda’s third main tribe the Twa were also far from safe, with many caught-up, trapped in the ensuing bloodbath.

Barbaric beyond any semblance to humanity, victims were brutalized, raped, cut to ribbons or herded together in buildings, churches, and schools and burnt alive. Unlike so many previous genocides however, most of those victims were murdered by hand with machetes, rudimental tools, weapons and gallons of Kerosene. No family was left untouched, with both The Good Ones dual roots vocalist set-up of Adrien Kazigira and Janvier Havugimana both losing loved ones, siblings and relatives.

On the remote hilltop farm where he was born and still continues to work, but record too, Adrien managed to hide and survive. But Janvier lost his older brother, a loss felt considerably by the whole trio who looked up to him as an early musical mentor. As a healing balm all three members, including the as yet unmentioned Javan Mahoro, all represent one of Rwanda’s main three tribes: Hutus, Tutsi and Twa. And so bring each culture together in an act of union, therapy and as a voice with which to reconcile the past.

Instantly drawn to the band during a research trip in 2009, Ian recorded their debut international album and the subsequent trio of records that followed: 2015’s Rwanda Is My Home, 2019’s Rwanda, You Should Be Loved, and now in 2022, Rwanda…You See Ghosts, I See Sky. Ian’s wife and longtime partner on both this fourteen-year recording relationship and countless other worldly projects, the filmmaker, photographer, activist, writer Marilena Umuhoza Delli was the one to instigate this Rwanda field trip. Marilena’s mother herself ended up immigrating for refuge to Italy, her entire family wiped out..

In between numerous productions in dangerous and traumatized spots (from Mali to Cambodia and Kosovo) the partners recorded the fourth volume of Glitterbeat Records Hidden Musics series in Rwanda (back in 2017); bringing the incredible stirring songs, performances of the country’s Twa people (or pygmy as they’re unfortunately known; bullied and treated with a certain suspicion by others) to a wider audience.

Back again on Adrien’s farm and haven, this quintet was reunited to record a thirty-song session. Already receiving accolades aplenty in the West, working with an enviable array of admirers, from Wilco to TV On The Radio, Gugazi, Sleater-Kinney and MBV, it’s extraordinary to think that these earthy harmonic songs were produced in an environment without electricity; music that’s made from the most rudimental of borrowed farm tools in some cases.

The true spirit of diy, raw emotion, The Good Ones speak of both love and the everyday concerns facing a population stunned and dealing with the effects of not only that genocide but the ongoing struggle to survive economically. The album begins on a reflective tone of disarming hope however, with the tinny scrappy cutlery drawer percussive and rustic natty-picking bluegrass leaning, ‘The Darkness Has Passed’. From the outset those beautiful of-the-soil sagacious and honest vocals and harmonies prove moving and powerful. Whilst songs like the Afro-Cuban and bluesy bandy turn ‘Columbia River Flowers’ sound positively romantic; a sentiment that also permeates the almost childlike abandon of ‘Happiness Is When We Are Together’, which sounds not too dissimilar to a sort of African version of Beefheart or Zappa. ‘Berta, Please Sing A Love Song For Me’ is another lovely romantic smooch, which features the Orlando Julius like serenades of the noted NYC saxophonist Daniel Carter.

Often, the outdoors can be heard as an integral, fourth band member, with the farmyard, cowshed gates struck like a percussive metal rhythm, as on the poetically romantic ‘Beloved (As Clouds Move West, We Think Of You)’

Considering the themes of the last three albums, the fourth is said to be the group’s most personal yet. ‘My Son Has Special Needs, But There’s Nowhere For Him To Go’ has a more edgy tone, featuring a sort of post-punk dissonant electric guitar – almost Stooges like – and relates to Janvier’s struggle to get educational assistance for his son who has special needs. ‘My Brother, Your Murder Has Left A Hole In Our Hearts (We Hope We Can Meet Again One Day)’ makes reference to those lost in the genocide, and in this most personal of cases, a sibling but also musical mentor. Again, the sound of the rural escape can be heard, its chorus of chirping birds mingling with a banged tambourine.

Existing almost in its own musical category, its own world, The Good Ones play real raw but also melodic, rhythmic roots music that sways, resonates with vague threads of folk, bluegrass, rock, punk and even a touch of the Baroque. Ian, a man with an enviable catalogue of productions behind him, from every region of the globe, considers Adrien ‘one of the greatest living roots writers in the world, in any language’. That’s some praise; one I’m willing to believe and repeat.

The Rwanda trio expand their sound and bolster their artistic merits to produce another essential album of honest graft, heartache and longing for better times on the most incredible of songbooks.

PLAYLIST SPECIAL

Another eclectic spread of all the artists/bands/ensembles/collaborations that have piqued our interest, warmed our hearts and got us thinking during March, the Monthly playlist collects tracks from all the reviews, mentions during the last 31 days on the blog. There are also a number of tracks that got away, or we just didn’t have room for.

We have Matt Oliver once more on the rap control, picking another essential showcase of new hip-hop cuts from Your Old Droog, Fly Anakin, Juga-Naut, The God Fahim and Jesht. Plus a myriad of borderless picks from every genre imaginable; including tracks from El Khat, Koma Saxo, Big Thief, Sweeney, ASSASSUN, Crows, Alice Dreamt, Kick, Adam Walton, Kristine Leschper and plenty more.

THOSE TRACKS IN FULL ARE:::

Paten Locke & Edan  ‘Fried’
Koma Saxo w/ Sofia Jernberg ‘Koma Krig (Ft. Lucy Railton & Maria Reich)’
El Khat  ‘Djaja’
Terakaft  ‘Jagwar’
Etienne Jaumet & Fabrizio Rat  ‘Rive Opposte’
Big Thief  ‘Time Escaping’
Tone Of Voice Orchestra  ‘That Kind Of Day’
Pussy Riot w/ Vérité & Latashá  ‘Laugh It Off’
Martha D Lewis  ‘Dawn’
Sweeney  ‘The Break Up’
ASSASSUN  ‘Over Again’

Le Pietre Dei Giganti  ‘Ohm’
Bleak Soul  ‘Mundane, USA’

Kick  ‘Sirens Never Sleep’
Nova Charm  ‘Over.Loading’
Exociety  ‘Good Grief (Ft. Rav, Kill Bill: The Rapper, Scuare & Airospace)’
Raw Poetic & Damu The Fudgemunk  ‘Chewing Gum’
Fly Anakin  ‘Sean Price’
Neuro… No Neuro  ‘Take A Step Outside Of Yourself’
Mai Mai Mai  ‘Fimmine, Fimmine (Ft. Vera Di Lecce)’
Your Old Droog  ‘.500’

Flying Monk  ‘Fuck The Fame (Ft. Axel Holy)’
Elzhi & Georgia Anne Muldrow  ‘Every moment (Ft. Dudley Perkins)’
PLOP & JUNNU  ‘Totnoy’
Tom Caruana  ‘3000 Volt Scarf (Ft. Lee Scott & Jazz T)’
Psych Major ‘Peace Bridge (Ft. Jamal Gasol, Wyze Wonda, DNTE & Toneyboi)’
J Scienide  ‘Danceteria’
Juga-Naut  ‘Dressed As Myself’
V Don & Sauce Heist  ‘Wray & Nephew’
The Other Guys  ‘Crepes And Breaks’
Isambard Khroustaliov  ‘Cryptoersatz’
Simon McCorry & Anthéne  ‘Distant Glitter’
Leaf Dog & BVA  ‘Devil’s Breath’

Stinkin Slumrok  ‘SHOW ME’
Jehst, Confucius & Mr Brown  ‘Daily Planet’
The God Fahim  ‘4 Matic’
Nicolas Zullo  ‘Strano Siero’
Chlorinefields  ‘Finally’
The White Russian  ‘B Child’
Shelterheart  ‘Empty Pockets’
The Lancashire Hustlers  ‘Happiness On A String’
David Åhlén  ‘My Only Treasure’
Rodrigo Bragança  ‘Third Walkers’
Fatoumata Diawara  ‘Dji L’eau (Malian Movement)’
Amaru Tribe  ‘La Serpiente’

Istanbul Blues Kumpanyasi  ‘Keep The Lord (In You) – Live’
Papercuts  ‘Palm Sunday’
Crows  ‘Garden Of England’
Alice Dreamt  ‘All Those Little Things’
Harry Christelis & Pedro Velasco  ‘LD13’

Alex Izenberg  ‘Egyptian Cadillac’
Bart Davenport  ‘Billionaires’
Carl Erdmann  ‘Turritella Flats’
Σtella & Redinho  ‘Charmed’
Adam Walton Cloudbursts II’
Kristine Leschper  ‘Carina’
Pjusk  ‘Aftenblå’

A LOOK AT WHAT’S OUT THERE: Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Roundup

PHOTO CREDIT: Iveta Rysava.

Amine Mesnaoui & Labelle ‘African Prayers’
(Lo Recordings) 1st April 2022

Back again conducting wonders, Jérémy Labelle finally makes the album he always dreamed of with friend and musical partner, the Moroccan-in-Paris pianist, Amine Mesnaoui, 15 years after first crossing paths on the Seine riverbank. As backstories go it’s a fated one, Labelle DJing a Techno set (just one of many musical genres under his belt) suddenly leaping into action to save his future collaborator and party attendee, drowning in the iconic river. Thrown together under the most insane conditions, both musician-composers formed a bond, which is now transduced into a most atmospheric mood suite of atavistic ritual, ceremony and futurism.

Already riding high this year off the back of his expansive universal vision of Maloy music and the classical, this January’s Éclat album, Labelle now appears alongside his classical and jazz studied foil on a both electroacoustic and avant-garde transformation of the North African, but more specifically Moroccan, Gnawa Ritual of the Seven Colours liturgy.

Performed traditionally with the entrancing music of the ‘maâlem’ masters and the spiritual guidance of a ‘shuwafa’ (a clairvoyant, of a kind) this important communion, invocation of the seven main manifestations of the divine ‘demiurgic’ activity calls for the seven saints and ‘mluk’ who are all represented by various shades of colour – hence the name. To go deeper into the meaning, this ritual represents a prismatic decomposition of the original light/energy; the first sacrifice and genesis of the universe as outlined in this Islamic belief and form of religious songs, rhythms, poetry and dance.

However, instead of the signature hypnotic scratchy, scrapped energy of the ‘guembri’ we instead have Mensnaoui’s modified brassy, buzzy resonating piano, which has various objects, props inserted into its strings, and Labelle’s array of electronic interactions and effects to stimulate the mystery and ethereal prayer of that arcane ritual. The mood is every bit as mystical and venerable, only those colourful representations now extend into Cage-style modern classical experimentation, deconstructive spiritual jazz and electronica.

‘Lueur’, ‘white” the colour of the Gnawa religion itself, does have a hint of spindled desert contouring Arabia yet features softened but deep bass stamps and thuds and quivery trills of something otherworldly. Those ‘celestial spirits’ are invoked on the “dark blue” shaded ‘Pérjastre’, stirred up by both chimed and spidery runs up and down the piano’s strings, the sound of softened foot pedal movements, percussive shimmers and breaths from the ether.

The rhythms really get moving on the colour ensemble of ‘Krazé Muneataf Tanzen’, the tribal and avant-garde coming together in a reimagined dance that evokes a meeting between Jeff Mills and Afrikan Sciences. On the aquatic, liquid ‘Bleu Noir’ (the album’s lead single, and in case you didn’t guess, represents the colour “light blue”, a symbol of the ocean and sky) Mesnaoui plays freely with trickled and cascading notes, sounding not that far off from the experimental works of Abdullah Ibrahim.

Familiar African percussion, cattle and long tubular bells and piano turn into electrified forms of futurism. It’s certainly a different perspective, playful, explorative yet attuned to the source material, inspiration. This is Gnawa music and ritual as you’ve never heard it; moving into new realms of sonic enterprise. Just don’t wait so long next time guys, as this is a match made in the elementals. 

   

Nicolas Zullo ‘Credendoti Montagna’
(Ibexhouse) 18th March 2022

The Italian philosophy student turn songwriter Nicolas Zullo interprets and translates a fertile imagination into a lucid dream theatre on his debut solo album, Credendoti Montagna: that’s “believing you are a mountain” to my non-Italian speaking friends.

Unravelling a most poetic psyche, Zullo is aided by Mirko Bianchini on bass, Eduardo Dinelli on drums, Umberto Ciccarelli on keys and the notable Alessandro Fiori on synths, violin and choirs; he also helps to record these enigmatic songs, journeys of the mind, which gently unfurl to traverse the Renaissance, psychedelic, folk, prog, Britpop, 70s soft rock and spells of 60s troubadourism.

Imbued with the bellissimo diverse splendours of the Viareggio, with its gorgeous coastlines, lakes and mountains, these softened studies move with ease through a magical world: simultaneously Freudian and Flyodian! That’s both a Syd-era Pipers At The Gates Of Dawn and a post-Syd Dark Side Of The Moon meets The Wall versions of the Floyd I might add. Unconsciously perhaps, though Zullo name checks a list of artists he grew up absorbing, there’s a light of touch lean towards the Floyd across at least half this album. That and beatified echoes of 10cc, Tame Impala, The Beatles, Ralph McTell, Donovan, Dylan’s harmonica, and 60s/70s Italian cinema soundtracks. Although the part cabaret, part circus trippy ‘Se Fussi’ (“if I were”) is like a Sgt. Pepper Jacques Brel.   

Submerged into an enchanted songbook and subconscious of swoons, swirls, romanticism and reflection the listener will find the soft, almost pop-lit with touches of the neoclassical, just quirky enough to hold the attention. Throughout a bathos and pathos of interpretation, and an escape from the ugly machine, there’s a lovely fluid lyricism – OK I’m going on the timbre, candour, feeling, as despite my name and roots I cannot speak Italian. Zullo has crafted a spellbinding, impressive debut, a magnificent, sensory dream-realism of scale and erudite musicianship.    

Bart Davenport ‘Episodes’
(Tapete Records) 25th March 2022

A revolving door of labels, from mod to blues singer and soft rock troubadour, Bart Davenport seems to inhabit them all, and many others, on his new episodic songbook.

There’s a certain 60s backbeat in evidence, and chinks and brassy rings of The Beatles and The Byrds, Powerman era Kinks, crooning swoons from the Scott Walker playbook (a sort of reminiscence of ‘Deadlier Than The Male’, removed to Turkish shores, on the eastern psych Ipcress Files scored ‘Naked Man’)and 70s singer/songwriter vibes. Fans of the L.A. artist will feel comfortable anyway, as Bart, in a disarming, melodically timeless fashion, immortalises idiosyncratic characters, lovelorn remiss and more psychedelic episodes from an everyday diorama.      

Bart’s joined in this enterprise by regular band mates Jessica Espeleto (on bass) and Wayne Faler (on lead guitar). The invitation is however extended beyond those two regulars. Complimenting the Davenport combo is drummer Graeme Gibson, who eases that backbeat I mentioned on the album’s wanton Baroque and Glenn Tilbrock-like ‘It’s You’ (one of my favourites by the way); percussionist Andres Renteria (of Jose Gonzales and Roderigo Amaranto note), providing sauntered shakers and (I take it) the quasi-Curtis Mayfield soft soul hand drums on the tropicola-like George Michael on AM radio ‘Easy Listeners’; and Aaron M. Olson, adding inspiral suffused organ to the second eastern-psych, with Spanish flourishes and deft Rolling Stones guitar scales, ‘Strange Animals’.  Aaron has already, in the past, produced the Bart & The Bedazzled’s previous album Blue Motel, so he knows this set-up well. Swelling with subtle cinematic, romantic and sentimental strings, Dina Macabee lays down a number of original arrangements; notably on the Greek/Med serenaded ‘Billionaires’ and more acoustic folk-psych yearn ‘Alice Arrives’. The first of those is a quite forlorn, if laughable wistful window in on the tech giant oligarchs: messers Bezos, Gates and Zuck radiating a deep sadness and emptiness, as witnessed by our troubadour. They soon have the last laugh as they board a rocket bound to some new idyllic utopia they can fuck up. The second of these songs uses a befitting psychedelic language of paisley and flowery acid-folk, a mix of Fairport Convention acoustic backing and Ralph McTell delivery.

Bart proves he has an ear for a familiar tune, as he regales heartfelt declarations, ambles through modern life and interacts with a strange cast. His melodious craftsmanship often hides, at least some, of the deeper social tragedy and lamentable ills of a world in deep shit. Yet, it’s all there in full comical glory. Episodes will really grow on you as a first rate songbook from an artist who knows how to write a good tune. 

Harry Christelis & Pedro Velasco ‘Scribbling’
(Ubuntu Music) 25th March 2022

It’s a title that suggests the mere scribbled doodles, unplanned accumulations of two musicians idling away their time until something more meaningful, better comes along to focus on. In fact the congruous (as it would appear) and adroit partnership of acclaimed guitarists Harry Christelis and Pedro Velasco is anything but: improvise most certainly but skilfully measured and crafted all the same.

Both based in London – though of course Pedro is originally from Portugal – and so crossing paths over the years (actually first coming together to play at a concert in 2016 in the capital) via their respective improvised experimental and jazz set-ups (from Harry’s part in the Walrus Trio, Jamie Doe’s The Magic Lantern and his very own Moostak Trio, to Pedro’s own trio, Akimbo and Machimbombo led turns), this pairing once more teamed-up, just before lockdown restriction in the December of 2020. As the pandemic (hopefully) ebbs and life in the UK gradually starts to look more normal, those mental strains of isolation and themes of disconnection now seem almost to pale insignificance to the onset of war in Eastern Europe. Scribbling’s intentions remain just as relevant, important, to find solace, a space in which to escape the distractions of our modern overpowering Internet age. As a platform to ‘focus, to develop’ and measure time in a more serene way this album of both shared and individual composed mood music gently evokes and mines each artist’s state of mind and musings at that particular point in time.

Chimes, gestures, subtle phrases and caresses of the blues, jazz, neoclassical, Iberian evoke everything from late Clapton and Ferderico Balducci to Myles Cochran and Pink Floyd. Pedro’s off world hovered ‘Nos Entrentos do Silênco’ (“In between the silence”) even has an air of the Kosmische about it: a bit of Ash Ra Tempel perhaps. Laidback jazzy summer wine melodies share the space with atonal mirages and more abstract vignettes; tracks that concentrate more on the effects, spidery finger tabs on buzzing electrified guitar strings and the sound manipulation, contouring of amp hums and reverb.

Both guitarists never seem to indulge themselves, nor overfill that special emotive space with excessive soloing. There’s even room for the synthesized, with a constant presence of ambient waves, drones, tape reversals, tubular metals and more sci-fi computerised sums. Together these elements, atmospheres add mystery, calculation, and the cosmic to proceedings: the electronic bits on the opener, ‘Paul’s Closet’, even reminded me of a very early Aphex Twin.   

A fine balance of contemplation, the measuring of time in a reflective way, and pedal board hardware trickery is struck. The artful and obvious articulate skills of both Harry and Pedro emote far deeper connections, descriptions and horizons than mere daubing’s. Scribbling is a fine piece of sagacious, subtle musicianship.

Yamash’ta & The Horizon ‘Sunrise From West Sea Live’
(WEWANTSOUNDS) 1st April 2022

Reissue specialists WEWANTSOUNDS (their caps lock signature not mine) continue to drop rarities, cult favourites and avant0garde eccentricities with the first ever reissue of Yamash’ta & The Horizon’s ’71 dream team live special, Sunrise From West Sea. This edited down spilt peregrination of freefrom jazz, kool-aid and Fluxus-like classical deconstruction, performed at the Yamaha Hall in Tokyo on April 18th of that year, can now be yours on vinyl; remastered, it should be added, from the original tapes. 

The Julliard and Bekrlee alumni and Japanese genius Stomu Yamash’ta assembles an enviable cast, joined in this far-out improvisation by fellow jazz pianist compatriot and Berklee student Masahiko Satoh, the Julian Cope Japrocksampler noted and Fluxus instigator/composer/violinist/artist Takehisa Kosugi on electric violin, and electrified shamisen player (a traditional three-string Japanese instrument played with a ‘bachi’ plectrum) Hideakira Sakurai. All together, untethered from reality and the rules of composition this Japanese quartet inhabits an alien soundscape of the submerged and wildly bendy!

From the depths of Atlantis to the South China Seas into an archipelago of Pacific Island native drumming circles, the associations are free and loosely ethnological and yet beyond any real tangible geography that exists.

As you might expect from a critically renowned percussionist (hailed no less by John Cage, who he worked with on occasion, as one of the world’s best) there’s plenty of hand-drumming and rasps, thrashes of obscured percussive instrumentation to be found, both serial and galloping or, slapped into something that resembles a rhythmic propulsion. In the meantime Satoh seems to scratch and physically pull at the inner workings of his piano; occasionally tinkling with actual recognisable notes. Taj Mahel Traveller Kosugi pinches, strains and bows away at the catgut; somehow making the electric-violin sound otherworldly, wailing and quivered. In a similar vein Sakurai transports us to some abstract, primordial vision of the Far East, again, only now and then offering his shamisen instrument an easy ride with recognisable frayed stirrings and yearns.

‘Part 2’ is almost filmic in places, which is unsurprising as both Yamash’ta and Satoh were engaged in or, about to score some movies. Yamash’ta already well versed having a collaborative relationship with the English conductor Peter Maxwell Davies, who’s score for Altman’s 1972 Images movie would feature his contributions, also instigated, ran the Red Buddha Theatre and had his music used in Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth and later, the BBC’s Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Satoh would most notably go on to provide the score for the 1973 cult erotic psychedelic anime Bellodonna of Sadness.

Four avant-garde travellers cross paths and dream about the life-giving forces on the West Sea horizon in a show of explorative mania, trepidation, supernatural and cosmic hovering. This is a weird performative space of tightrope walked resonated string instrument drama, whale song, shuttled percussion and abstract forces. The sort of thing Cope would lap up and recommend to the head music community.

Ben Vida And Lea Bertucci ‘Murmurations’
(Cibachrome Editions) 1st April 2022

Stalwarts of the NYC experimental scene Ben Vida And Lea Bertucci appear together for the first time as an electroacoustic and transformed voice duo. At opposite sides of the same mountain in the famous arts and music retreat of Woodstock, both artists initially began conversing as friends before taking the plunge and developing a special ‘non-hierarchical’ improvised collaboration.

Although more or less obscuring, coating in various effects each other’s contributions, murmurs of Lea’s wind instruments and rasped, reedy saxophone can just be detected amongst the magnetic fizzles and slithery, tentacle tape thrashing. Live tape manipulation, modular synth, sampling, real-time instrumental and vocal improvisation are all set in motion to create an often alien, avant-garde and often low-grade industrial atmosphere; a cosmic soundtrack and art gallery installation score.

It constantly feels as intimate as it does expansive, with the looming and hovering presence of some kind of extra-terrestrial craft. There are hums, pulses that could be motors, and the sound of rippled propellers in the air. Some passages even evoke the lunar. Yet there’s also the resonance of some eco-system: strange bird echoes, insects chatter and the most humid of sub-tropical heats buzz – think A.I. exotica of Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama.

Fluted hinged and solar windy funnelled real instruments blow across a sulphur spool of vapour and wispy ghostly waves. Occasionally you can hear the most un-rhythmic of tub patters in that atmosphere.

Both artists work with the human voice too, offering Cuushe-like utterances of an undefined language, and on the album’s title-track, a transformed, broken-up conversation between Ben and Lea. Phonetic breakdowns, sucked up and reversed snippets of dialog turn into harped arias and the giggles.

This could be a static-charged paradise or a virtual existence in the bubble, whatever it is Murmurations has some strange, explorative sonic worlds and new esoteric-like communication processes to draw the listener in.        

Kumo ‘Three Tigers’
(Self Release)

Unless you’re Chinese or a student of that country’s culture or, like the electronic polymath Jono Podmore, an acolyte of its martial arts (in this case the Taoist-imbued Tai Chi), it may very well have escaped your notice that 2022 is the year of the ‘Tiger’.

Born under that Chinese Zodiac cycle myself I was always curious to its omens, augurs. Of which, the Tai Chi teaching Jono seems to have predicated an omen, a very bad one, when asked by a student back in February (the official start of the Chinese calendar) what to expect in the year of the Tiger. His answer: war! And so perhaps we can blame him now for what’s happened in light of the invasion of Ukraine – only kidding.

However, we’re informed that despite this magnificent animal’s more dangerous attributes, ‘there are many tigers’ to decipher, to draw meaning from: the ‘strength’ to overcome problems, its beauty, even calmness.

Exploring all these aspects, traits and metaphorical quandaries, symbols Jono draws from the atavistic Tai Chi teachings on his latest Kumo alias release. And just like that regal big cat’s dualism – ‘a force for peace and reconciliation as a harbinger of war’ – the trio of electronic encapsulations, calligraphy brushed evocations, are a surprising mix of the experimental and dynamic.

In a more serene setting the opening ‘Tiger Lies Down’ surveys an electrified Spring landscape of lush flowing, cascaded waters, our magnificent beats wandering an ambient-charged calm that encourages tranquillity and meditative pause: at least a moment to retract those claws anyway. Undulating this natural scene is a subtle, nuanced bobbing Orb and Banco da Gaia like trance beat, synthesized percussive shimmers and dissipating steam. Things do turn a little wild at the end with a contortion of transmitted wiry signals; a sound that will return later on.

Upping the energy, ‘(Retreat To) Ride Tiger’ prowls a techno and house infused bob and bounce beat of Jeff Mills, Juan Atkins and Felix Da Housecat coming together for Basic Channel. Representing the tiger’s reluctance to take passengers, but taking that wild ride anyway, the waves, dance pulses, glints of spiritual mystery and danger keeps on coming.

The final push to holy peaks brings our subject to the mountains for perhaps the most serial, explorative track of the three. Edging through tubular bamboo and undergrowth, Jono guides us through an arching, bendy and looming electronic terrain. Oscillating spirits, the echoes of a sacred space envelope a sensory tread. Those signal frequencies from the fist track make that return I mentioned, as the tone become more otherworldly, mythical and cosmic.

Neither in the spirit of Eno’s own Tiger mountain excursions nor in the manner of Orientalism, Jono surprises with a soundtrack representation devoid of those Chinese musical signatures. Instead, traversing ambient, techno, soundscaping and the kosmische he paints a unique homage, respectful acknowledgment to China’s ancient symbolism and the most majestic, powerful (unfortunately endangered; much of which is down to the Chinese themselves hunting them down to extract their magical properties for medicines) of creatures. Juts please don’t act the Cassandra again! We have enough on our plates already without more predictions!

Adams, Dunn & Haas ‘Future Moons’

New York postcard penpal Andy Haas (you can find Andy’s Covid years series of regular Museum of Modern Art imbued postcards on our Instagram account) with regular Toronto foil Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn and Kieran Adams travel untethered to one of our nearest constellations and beyond on the starry Future Moons.

A contortion of wailed avant-garde, galactic freeform jazz, cosmic courier kosmische and far-out peregrinations, each sonic astronaut brings something both different and explorative to the far-flung outer limits.

But before we travel any further, a little provenance is needed. Adams CV includes the synth pop group DIANA and various stints alongside Bonjay, the Weather Station, and Joseph Shabason. His latest project is Vibrant Matter. Dunn’s been a chief instigator in the experimental Canadian scene, most notably as the driver behind The Cosmic Range collective. Haas’ near five-decade career includes the Canadian new wave trailblazers and international hit makers Martha And The Muffins, and an enviable catalogue of collaborative ensemble projects with Mar Ribot, Zeena Parkins, John Zorn, Ikue Mori, Don Fiorino, U.S. Girls plus Dunn’s Cosmic Range. Here and now, Haas’ fluted, spiralled and wild signature saxophone contours and trilling blowouts veer off like a mirage of Sam Rivers, Pete Brützmann and former foil Zorn as Adams and Dunn’s drums and electronic apparatus run amok in hyper space, hinting at Ilhan Mimaroglu, Anatoly Vaprirov and Dzyan.

Within that swanned nebula and astral worship there’s oboe-like sounds from a removed Arabia, strangled screams, flailed wails and cries and library music like leaps, bubbly chemistry, space gate light speed tripping, holy disorder and modal jazz blues: sonnets, screaming declarations and flowery offerings to majestic universal bodies. Strung-out in the highest heavens of space this exploratory, expressive trio navigate an abstract starry passage to new dimensions.    

How You Can Help Us Continue In 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.

WORDS: Dominic Valvona

Credit: Niccolo Berretta

Mai Mai Mai Ft. Vera di Lecce ‘Fimmene Fimmene’
Released through Maple Death Records ahead of the May released album Rimorso

Drawn once more towards the Apulia corner of Italy’s deep south – the jiggered stiletto-like heel of the country’s roughly contoured boot – the Italian experimental electronic and noise artist Mai Mai Mai conjures up another extraordinary vision of gothic ethnological collective toil and ethereal voiced mirages with his brand new single.

Premièred ahead of the ‘colossal’ double-album Rimorso (released 20th May) ‘Fimmene Fimmene’ summons up the spirited protestations of the women labouring in the tobacco fields as part of an extended sonic and vocal psychogeography of Italy’s southern Mediterranean regions. Following in the wake of previous scopes in this area, Mai Mai Mai’s signature blend of southern Italian folklore, industrial drone, proto-techno and punishing miasmic electronica is wiped clean, the heavy sampling and sound manipulations of the past shed with a focus now on the human. And so, as this intoxicating invocation proves, the collaborative door is left wide open to an array of mostly fellow Italian foils, contributors who use both their voices and instruments to transform and investigate Italy’s past and traditions. Step right up the Salento siren priestess Vera di Lecce whose incredible translucent wraith evocations channel not just the traditional but the supernatural and the magical too. A vocal and dance performance member of the lauded ethnic electrifying ensemble Nidi d’Arac turn prolific soloist with a penchant for making magical aggressive synth and exotic percussive potions, and practitioner of the age-old dances of the Apulia, now recasts one of its protest songs as Mai Mai Mai lays down a reverberated pronounced drum beaten march, haunted and scented atmospherics and crystal synthesised shimmers, sparkles.

A two-way mirror between worlds; a communion with troubled souls, ‘Fimmene Fimmene’ is a beautiful hallucination of the mysterious and sorrowful, which you can now experience for yourselves:

The inaugural single from the upcoming double-album is just one piece of a greater work that sees the noted artist morph our understanding of traditions and nostalgia.

An album of deep re-interpretive connective Italian collaborations – with the exceptions of the brilliant maverick Mike Copper, on ‘Mediterranean Gothic’, and the Beirut-born Youmna Saba, on the thematic ‘Nostalgia’ –  Mai Mai Mai revisits a piece by the Puglia polyphony voiced female quartet Faraulla with the Rome-based techno-outsider Cosimo Damiano and percussionist ensemble Ars Ludi, on the track ‘Sind’; invites Nziria to hover over the slow thump chopper pulsating techno serenade ‘Musica Nova’, a loosely based vision of the Musicanova orchestra’s own ‘Pizzica Minore’. The album is bookended by the visceral voice of electro-Arabian-punkster Maria Violenza (the solo project alias of the Rome-based Cristina Cusimano), on the obscure folk transformation, reconfigured as a southern gothic mix of enchanted filtered choir and hypnotic voodoo drumming, ‘Secondo Coro Delle Lavandaie’, and ‘Antiche Memorie’, which features longtime Franco Battiato foil, the percussionist and composer Lino Capra Vaccina

Rimorso promises to be a whole ‘new ritual’ that turns absence into presence; dismantling nostalgia for consummation, framed as an immersion into the ‘temporal disjunction we are experiencing through the essence of (the) human fabric’. You can order that album here.

Mai Mai Mai also has the following dates set-up for a April tour with GNOD:

Apr 6th – GENT @ TREFPUNT
Apr 7th – UTRECHT @ DB’s
Apr 8th – PARIS @ ESPACE B
Apr 9th – NANTES @ LES ATELIERS DE BITCHE
Apr 11th – LYON @ LE SONIC
Apr 12th – ZURICH @ HELSINKI
Apr 13th – GENEVE @ LA CAVE12
Apr 15th – RAVENNA @ BRONSON
Apr 16th – VERONA @ COLORIFICIO KROEN
Apr 17th – NOVA GORICA @ MOSTOVNA
Apr 18th –  LJUBLJANA @ GALA HALA
Apr 19th – WIEN @ CHELSEA
Apr 20th – BRNO @ KABINET MUZ
Apr 21st – PRAHA @ UNDERDOGS
Apr 22nd – BERLIN @ URBAN SPREE
Apr 25th – BRUXELLES @ MAGASIN 4
Apr 26th – BREDA @ MEZZ
Apr 27th – LILLE @ LA MALTERIE

Mai Mai Mai is the nom de plume of Toni Cutrone, occasional foil of GNOD and one of both Italy and the wider EU’s most well known experimental artists. Highly prolific, Toni’s released music through Boring Machines, Yerevan Tapes, Not Not Fun, God Unknown, Instruments Of Discipline, La Tempesta International and now the Maple Death label, and worked with a myriad of artists that includes Lina Capra Vaccina, Luciano Lamanna, go Dugong and Maria Violenza. There’s also been various music scores for documentaries, short movies and a project with the fashion house Gucci.    

Photo Credit: Niccolo Berretta
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