NOVEL SERIALISATION
AUTHOR: RICK ACV

Following in the wake of his debut novel THE GREAT IMMUREMENT, which we serialised during the summer of 2020, Vukovar helmsman Rick ACV now follows up with the surreal, esoteric and challenging Astral Deaths & Astral Lights. Playing with format, language, font, with half-thoughts of waking hours and occult merge with dream-realism and a languid sense of discomfort: a sorry state of existence. William Blake and Austin Osman Spare meet Kōbō Abe in the hotel lobby portal of the never-world: personal and universal. Parts One & Two were debuted earlier this week. We continue with the next chapter, HOTEL NOTHING/III, below:

HOTEL NOTHING

I’m stooped and my joints don’t seem to want to acknowledge my directions for them. 

I gather my thoughts. All there is, is nothing to me. 

A phone rings and I answer it, but for a few moments the words spoken appear in vision as a series of symbols and guttural colours. Flashes from the language axis. The world has spun in a new direction without me and I’m left behind; in a strange place and a strange time, now I can reach towards something new. 

Then I am comforted as everything falls into place. Those symbols I saw before me, as that mysterious voice spoke, shift into something I understand a little easier and then turn to vapour, finally vanishing as I reach out with a curious finger.

Almost suddenly, I fall back out of a comforting understanding into something terrifying as I actually listen to the voice. This is a panicked unknowing. I have never felt this way before.

In response to my ‘hello’ the voice says “Good afternoon. I hope you are well.” I see strange flashes of someone and something. “I hope you are well.” it repeats and continues “I assume I am speaking to Mr Hanshiro?”

“Yes.” I utter, in the almost-exact same voice as from the phone, only mine isn’t as deep.

The voice continues to tell me about an important letter I will receive and to make sure I deal with it immediately.

The someone and something I see without seeing is a man in a back room. I recognise the man as myself for some reason, though his features are obscured by bright light.

I am aware of this self as though I have lived it all my life. My stomach turns.

“May I ask to whom I am speaking?” I say with as little suspicion as I can muster. My opposing line responds with a polite ‘of course’ then on to “

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

My ears may bleed. My brain may catch fire. My limbs may collapse in on themselves.

The answer was drowned out by a bell sound so abrasive…. I briefly lost myself.

I come back to myself, This Self.

A letter drops to the floor in this neat, bare office-house. As I read it, the inner voice is one I don’t recognise and the disturbing biloquism only further serves to disrupt my adaptation to my new surroundings. 

The letter:

Dear Mr Hanshiro,

I write to inform you of the regrettable and unfortunate death of your dear insert family name. In his her will, he she passed on to you the UNRESTRICTED ownership of the Hotel Nothing in the [REDACTED] district in [REDACTED].

Under his her instruction, the keys will be passed to you by ourselves, [REDACTED], on his her behalf. Please come to us at your earliest convenience in order to conclude this matter. We are situated on [REDACTED]. I look forward to meeting you.]

Yours Sincerely,

[REDACTED].

***

I arrive as a recipient of a substantial inheritance outside the vast building. There are swarms of people around the entrance. I make my way through the crush, passing hot flashes of hot fleshes. I come to a corridor full of people only occasionally moving forwards – I spot the door behind the reception. Only one sweating, stinking shape of human is permitted through at a time. 

I need some water.

I am old and tired and hot. This airless hole will be the death of me, I begin to not-even-worry, and instead just accept the fact. The noise is deafening.

***

The receptionist and I shout to no avail as she allows me through the door.

There is only one chair in here and another door. I make to sit down but a young woman, drenched in sweat, angered and flustered points to the door.

“I’ve been sent this letter…”

My voice is weak and pathetic before it’s cut off by her simple, straight-to-the-soul statement:

“Yes, that’s why you’re here, you have no more relatives, go through the door.”

I do so and find inside a cavernous room an empty desk, atop of which is the keys to my new empire. I am so tired. 

I am so tired of being close to death that I ignore my own hesitation, take the keys and make my exit. There is no-body and no-thing and I am back in the cool rain that has shifted here from another day.

X X X

I arrive at the place. It’s an imposing, pristine concrete thing, looking for all the world like a Las Vegas hotel stripped totally bare, picked up and left to just simply exist in some industrial wasteland purgatory. There are well-tended gardens that are clear boundaries between two worlds, from the Hotel Nothing to the wild and overgrown wasteland that surrounds and suffocates all else. The extreme and striking border forms a perfect square around the hotel, even taking in some woodland, and I can’t help but allow my mind to wander and wonder about halos… their meaning… what shapes they may take and any significance of any of this.

Taking a slow and ambling walk around the grounds, stopping to smell the roses, it crosses my mind; an old creaky man such as this-myself is just as easily pleased by the gentle and pleasant as the ease of the confusion that comes to the limbs at the end of their use. There is a remarkable freshness inside the Lines and I could swear that it’s brighter than I have ever experienced, whereas as the whole of the sky, all within and without it, was pitch grey just a few metres and moments previous. 

There is a pond and marsh which I cross over on an immaculate wooden walkway, feeling no effort in my movements and have to check I am not floating into the day. I haven’t felt this graceful for years. The path I am on takes me back towards the back of the hotel, but in my way is a maze. 

There is no way around; all-ways seem to lead up to and then away from the building so I reluctantly enter this maze that has somehow bloomed from nowhere. I walk and walk and walk and I encounter no Dead Ends. I do-not and can-not understand. I am walking in circles, the length of which are undeterminable. I think as quickly as my slowing mind will allow: I put down my hat on the ground and walk on.

I carry on for several minutes, still gliding, effortless, and can feel panic rising from the very soul of me. Suddenly my joints ache, my breathing is hard and the Glory Of The Day becomes as a recurrence of a terrible memory. I go to lean upon the hedge-wall and find myself going through a door right to the centre of the maze. All centres. All things must have a centre or they are unthinkable. I have found this one. In this centre, a strange man is sitting at a small table with an empty chair facing him. Upon spotting me he pours us both a cup of tea and beckons me to join. I shuffle forwards. His face is powdered white. A brilliant white. Total white. I want to feel apprehensive but can’t. I feel nothing. I decide I will decline the tea, remain standing and simply ask for directions.

Now I am sat opposite him.

Now he stares. His features seem to change. 

Now he speaks.

The Mystery Man greets me. I ask him for directions. 

“In time. Why not take the tea? It’s hot and delicious.” He smiles. “I insist you join me.”

I ask about the maze and its impenetrable nature. Or actually, the ease in which it is penetrated but the difficulty of getting out. 

“Surely the new owner is not in a rush? The place and employees take care of themselves.”

His smirk bothers me now. Feelings, all feelings, are slowly returning.

I agree in supposition and ask how he knows who I am, careful to mask my un-nerve. 

“May I ask how it is that you already had the keys? Or how it is that two versions of you held a coherent telephone conversation; both in the present but one in the past and one still in the future?”

I take notice of his voice. Something about the thick-lightness makes my stomach knot in almost-nausea. 

I can no longer mask anything and I make my confessions to Him, of how bizarre I found his question and how confused – to the point of fear – I am. All of this without saying a word.

“I may not. Drink your tea, Mr Hanshiro.”

I do so and it’s delicious and warming. Just as he said. I tell him. 

“It’s a recipe I’ve had for hundreds of years.”

I suggest he misspoke and assume he means his family have had it for hundreds of years. 

“If you would prefer, sir.”

I wish he would not speak. That voice. That voice of all-substance and no-substance. 

I put all thought out of my mind ask how to get to the Hotel Nothing from here once again.

“Look to your right.”

I open my mouth to speak but the mystery man so forcefully stares into my eyes and it feels he is controlling them, directing them to where he instructed.

The maze is no longer there. Well, it is, but it’s nothing more than a painting upon the ground. An optical illusion. I turn back to the Mystery Man, dumbfounded, but find nobody there. I sit in silence. I do not care for how long. I go to put the cup on the table. There is no table.

The table is not a table. That, too, is a painting on the ground.

Along with both chairs.

I’m squatting mid air and at this realization I recognise the agony most of my body is in.

I slowly make my way to the hotel. 

A SHIFT.

Huge, open hotel lobby. There isn’t anybody. Any-Body at all.

A pressed bell.

A deafening noise.

The noise down dark corridors. The noise in the hidden staff spaces. The noise everywhere.

Abandon hotel lobby.

A story of an old, disfigured ex-prostitute on a radio.

Sleep.

A RETURNING AND RECURRING SHIFT.

I enter my hotel and find a row of people all in a line awaiting my arrival. All are hotel staff it seems and all are ignoring the growing, silent queue behind and beyond them.

A man with a young face and an old body approaches me. 

“Welcome back Mr Hanshiro! Glad to see you’re better.”

His eyes widen with horror. 

Everything but his face is old, decrepit almost, in ways that are obvious yet these ways I cannot process.

I have to ask what he means. I have to. So I do.

Please forgive my ignorance, sir, I meant to simply say ‘welcome’. I am the manager of your Hotel Nothing, my name is Mr John; you may call me Mr Manager if you find it difficult to recall names.”

I do not like these people.

I assure him I can recall names perfectly well. I ask Mr John to show me to my quarters. 

He seems affronted.

He pleads.

“Well, that really isn’t part of my job… besides, there are things we must see-to before anything else.”

His suit is sharp and expensive looking. It appears to me as funeral attire. I understand nothing of business. For now, I’ll agree to whatever I’m told. I just want to rest.

His countenance is changed and becomes abrupt and impatient. He storms to the employees and angrily urges me to follow. 

One at a time the employees bow to me and walk away without saying a word and without looking back. This takes a long time and then all is finished. 

I ask Mr John how useful this time was spent without learning their names. 

“Mr Hanshiro, please, that introduction was just fine. You will learn the names over time, and even if not, you probably won’t need to anyway. 

I nod. 

I have no energy, none to waste on further questioning. 

I’m taken into the office behind the front desk. Here, there is a familiar looking young woman; she seems shy and speaks to me in a language My-Self in This-Self understands. She tells me her name – Catherine – and that she is the junior manager. This exchange is easy and welcome. 

“I will show you around and to your room if it pleases you, sir.”

I would be pleased to go straight to my room and gather in my rapidly fracturing being.

She looks unsure and explains they aren’t the orders she has received, but will make an exception.

I should think so.

We make our own way without Mr John and come upon a lift, into which I happily step, thinking of a time in the coming futures where I will be well-rested. Catherine tells me of how she rose to her position through merit and excellency, whereas…

“Mr John took advantage of your absence to seize control of the running of this place…”

There is a blackout for less than negligible amount of time. Or maybe it was just me. Or maybe nothing at all.

“Mr John took advantage of The Owner’s absence to seize control of the running of this place.”

I do not feel this is appropriate. 

“I hasten to speak ill of my colleagues – or indeed anybody at all – especially if they are not present, sir. But this may be my only chance.”

This is too much stress for today. I try to tell her she may see me first thing tomorrow and tell all so I may sort all.

“Please! Mr John is a degenerate and a deviant. He claims to love me, that he can’t be without me. He is probably watching and listening in to us. Right now. He just wants to control me. He spies on my everywhere I go. There are cameras everywhere. Everywhere!”

I’m aware of Catherine adjusting her breasts but I ignore it and tell her I will sack the disgusting pig. 

“You can’t.”

“Why not?”

“He is… irreplaceable… it isn’t possible.” She says this with a disarming nonchalance. Just a few seconds ago she was begging for my sympathetic ear and now she is completely and totally resigned to her treatment. “A necessary evil.”

I start to press her further on this but notice she has now bared her breasts and I become enraged. I express my contempt. 

“He’s watching even now. My flesh will blind him to our discussion, blind him to his own fury. I think he’s gone. Would you like to touch?”

She turns to me with sparkling eyes. 

I am filled with horror. 

No…

Please no…

She approaches and presses up against me. I weaken. I try to push her away and in doing so I touch her naked skin. It burns me. I retch and cower in the corner. Catherine is concerned and strokes my hair, unknowing of the panic I am stricken with. Her breasts are in my face. The air is unbreathable and I can no longer cope. 

The lift doors open.

I run.

I am in a room with only one door. Catherine is looking on, uncomprehending. 

I force my way into the darkened space. Harsh pulsating lights begin to flash on and off, strobe-like, as a gently throbbing music plays, quietened, as though through water. The room is covered from floor to ceiling with breasts. I vomit uncontrollably. It lands on the ceiling. It stays there. I see a door and crawl towards it, pulling myself along, wishing for nothing but the retching and heaving to subside. The door is a towering vagina and I have no choice but to have to go through it. 

I am birthed into a blinding whiteness.

My senses come to me intermittently. 

A crowd of women.

They fuss over me.

They clean me.

They cut the newly attached umbilical cord from me and I scream in agony. 

I am put onto a moving surface and am carried away into The White.

I drift.

I am moved.

My existence is vapour-light. 

I am in yet another room. Everything is monochrome. Empty but for two small tables, each with a telephone atop. An old man. I think of him as Il Duce. He is at the furthest one. He faces me.

Il Duce indicates towards the phone on my table.

Pick it up.

His lips do not move but his voice comes to me down the phone.

He stares into the whites of my eyes. He stares into the total depths of me as he un-talks.

“Do no fear me.”

Who are you?

“I will not answer.”

Why not?

“There could be any number of reasons, but I am not here to discuss them.”

How come you have appeared to me?

“I am to recite to you a warning, from a different story, from a different time, but it applies to all human life at some point in different ways and the point has now come in yours. Will you listen?”

I will.

I awake in my room.

I think about what he said. 

There was a story of a gatekeeper and a man seeking passage through the gate. The gatekeeper denied the man entry on unknowable and unchangeable grounds. 

I recognised this as a story from deep within another story. 

X X X

I arise, I dress, I stop; I feel eyes upon me. I allow them to continue for a few moments and I begin to hear a rising, heavy breathing which digs its way just so into the centre of me, forcing itself through ears, through mind, as though this is all I have ever heard. It becomes piercing as I search for the source and I in turn become manic as it turns to pain. This is unbecoming of me. I burst out of my room and with this expense of my energies I fall to my face in a silent living area in a confused St Vitus dance. Catherine is sitting on a couch, looking me over. 

“Come here Mr Hanshiro.”

I respond with a blank look. 

“Come on, it’s okay.” She is insistent and I lose myself to her maternal authority. I go over to her, childlike and pathetic.

“Rest your head upon my lap. Shh. I’ll make it all better for you.”

Catherine starts to sing softly a lullaby as I comply and, soon, she is stroking my hair.

I tell her I think I am getting a cold.

She leans down and starts to kiss me sensually. Paralysis and transfixion.

“Poor baby. Do you want a feed?”

“Do you want a feed from mummy?”

This is not what I want. She begins to take out her breasts. Again. What does this life, this myself mean? Why is she starting with this indecent nonsense again?

The shift.

“Mr Hanshiro?”

“Mr Hanshiro?”

We are sitting on the couch, together but apart, still in this silent living area that is nowhere. 

“Do you want to get some food? From the bar?”

Confused and erring to begin with, I respond in agreement. I want to get out of this dark room.

Catherine smiles.

“I’ll organise some company for us.”

I’d much rather you didnt, Catherine.

“I’ll organise some company for us.”

I am so taken aback by the strength in her will in just those six simple words that I don’t argue.

These people have total control over me.

This place has total control over me.

And every-thing and every-one else.

Total Body Control, whether in-body or out-body.

Hotel Restaurant:

This is viewed from outside this myself, at times.

Catherine and myself sit at a table with a couple that look exactly the same as us. The setting changes from time to time between two places. It starts as normal, smoky restaurant and bar, high-ceilinged and large with constant chatter, waiters milling about busily and there is a band playing some unintrusive music on a stage. The other place is a tiny, perfectly square room that contains only our table and a bar that isn’t quite right. On the wall in front of us is a projection showing the ‘rest’ of the restaurant and all its inhabitants. 

Catherine: I’ll do the introductions then shall I, darling? (I see myself begin to stir as though woken from daydreams long and old) I’m Catherine and this is my husband Mr Hanshiro. Nice to finally meet you.

Mirror Catherine: It’s lovely to meet you, too. I’m Catherine and this is my husband, Mr Hanshiro.

Catherine: (Turning to me) Catherine and dear Mr Hanshiro live in the hotel. They’re high up in a sub chain of command here.

The constant state of confusion I am mired in within my hotel is starting to become tedious.

I view ourselves and theirselves through tired eyes slowly burning as they discuss how it is that both sets own and run the place in parallels without any knowledge of each other’s domain. This goes on for a while until Mirror Catherine suggests and hints at things of a sexual nature, before Catherine confirms it without me understanding the real meaning. We are all turned towards the idea of going to our room under the pretence, in my unaware understanding, of continuing our meal there. 

Catherine violently rides me in a rape that I cannot and do not fight against. I watch this and can do nothing. 

X X X

This is now the next day or the next time or the next whenever it is. I seek out Mr John and try to make a complaint about Catherine. He calls me a liar and we argue until he tells me she has already been removed and hidden away somewhere. I am ill and I am tired and I care little for any of this. I dismiss him. The room behind the office simply marked ‘Manager’s Bedroom’ appeals to me. 

Inside the tiny room is a human sized nest on the floor. There is little to describe about the rest. It feels so empty and so bare that I cannot help but question its existence and quantum lack-of-presence.

There is a phone. I am drawn to it. I pick it up. The voice on the other end sounds familiar.

“Hello?”

Good afternoon. I hope you are well. I assume I am talking to Mr Hanshiro?

“Yes that’s correct. What is the nature of the call?”

Information. You will receive a letter in the post today that carries with it some weight of importance. Please pay it with your upmost attention.

“May I ask who I am speaking to?”

I do not know. This Self is no longer My Self. I watch myself disappear from my own view as I slip away.

III

The partner sits upon a step.

The partner is upset.

The partner weeps and lets the realism that THEIR partner is less and less present become the biggest prescience. 

I am further and far removed from the usual world and it has its effects and affects. I understand that there are consequences to every action as I am not a moron.

However, which place is it whereby the actions count for anything? Even something… It feels less and less like the usual world.

I must try and make it up to the partner in this world. Just in case.

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ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Can ‘Live In Brighton 1975’
(Spoon/Mute) 3rd December 2021

From the highly experimental and omnivorous German legends, who once proclaimed ‘all gates’ are ‘open’, another ’75 special from the ongoing Can “live” series.

Plagued by gremlins when attempting to record their own concerts, it’s been largely down to the bootleg head community of fans to make this latest series in the Can archive release schedule possible. They couldn’t possibly have known it at the time of course, when smuggling in their rudimental equipment, but these clandestine recordings now form the foundations of this live cannon. Tidied up and processed under the watchful eyes of the group’s only surviving founding member, Irmin Schmidt, but left mostly unedited and flowing (that includes leaving in all the downtime quiet breaks and the audience shout outs: I’m sure that bloke from the previous Stuttgart live volume is back at it again, heckling out “Amon Düül!”), these improvised live recordings capture both a band in a constant state of flux yet still attached to what many Krautrock aficionados would call their “golden period” of the early 70s. In this case, at this time on the live album that means a grand cosmic and drum hurtling transformation of ‘Vitamin C’: the closet it gets to a Can standard. The main guitar riff and shadowing bass, if a bit more languid, and Jaki Liebezeit’s bounce remain but that Ege Bamyasi classic is sucked, vacuumed up into a galloping dark star for this Brighton audience. If you happened to love this version above all other at the time, tough, as they never played the same track in the same way ever again.

It must be pointed out at this stage that there’s no date or venue listed, only that it’s Brighton 1975. I’m sure it’s not the same concert but live versions of ‘Dizzy Dizzy’ and ‘Vernal Equinox’ (both reoccurring Can peregrinations in the live catalogue) appear on the millennial-approaching Can Live Music: 1971-1977 compilation. The lunar, Michael Karoli hushed ‘Dizzy Dizzy’ appears here too, albeit the familiar “Got to get up/Got to get over it” lyrics and essence of the original appear fleetingly, immersed in a climatic star burst of heavy pummelled kick drum, proto-reggae gangly chops (bit of Afro-rock feel too) and bended, mooning solo guitar wanderings. The ridiculously sublime experiment in acid celestial magic ‘Vernal Equinox’ also appears in various altered states; unleashed in a solar rock jam that also puts out feelers to the daemonic psychedelic parts of Tago Mago and takes on the more outlandish freeform live playing of ELP and a leaderless Miles Davis Band of the whomp, heavy psych jazz era in the 70s. Possibly seen showcased on a 1975 transmission of the Old Grey Whistle Test (if you haven’t viewed that incredible footage, please seek it out) this epic odyssey formed the grand finale of side one on the group’s Landed album, released in the September of 1975.

Although it’s difficult to spot, the Landed album’s signature appears scattered throughout these seven live performances. Landed but also the emergence of the more relaxed swimming and liquid rhythms and bobbing that would be heard on Can’s next studio album proper, Flow Motion, can be detected as sonic bridges, connections to past psychedelic, avant-garde triumphs. You can also hear the resonating reach of Soon Over Babaluma and Future Days in that heady mix: An apparitional glimpse of ‘Bel Air’ here, a Hammond horror mystery from Tago Mago there.

An interesting period in Can’s history is represented in the year when Cologne’s greatest exports released their first album, Landed, for the Virgin label; a stipulation of which resulted in a studio upgrade for the group: more tracks to play with, greater separation, and a better sound quality didn’t necessarily mean better music though. And the studio albums during this period, as excellent as they are in my opinion, seldom make the top five lists of Can triumphs. Yet live, and even without their previous mushroom haiku chanting and wailing vocalist Damo Suzki (leaving the band after laying down vocals on the sublime Future Days album), they could still match their earlier days of exploration, improvised on the stage. 

Here in the Brighton recordings you can hear sonic worlds collide. Proton waves and radiating organ lines from Schmidt’s box of tricks build atmospheres around a stargazing funk (imagine Funkadelic’s mother ship landed in the Inner Space studios) and sonorous and craning, aching ascending Holger Czukay bass lines on the opener (just marked down as the numerical ‘Eins’) whilst a rewired vision of ‘Moonshake’ gets turned on by a more soulful Floyd, reggae and what could be a taste of ‘Hunters And Collectors’.  Telephone dialled bells, generators, haunted fairground creeps and an impressive barrage of drums all get sucked into deep space on the off-script ‘Drei’. Bendy, luminous, transcending and in interstellar overdrive, Can lock-in to their untethered, leaderless sense of place and time; remixing their own ideas in real time whilst probing sonic possibilities and stretching the imagination. The Brighton live tapes prove to be a congruous shadow of the previous Stuttgart recordings, released just a couple of months ago. Yet both live albums spotlight entirely different performances; proving the old Can adage that you never hear the same band twice: a lesson for all musicians. If proof were ever needed of Can’s appeal, venerated worship and incredible musicianship then the Brighton live album will make converts of us all.

The Can Archives on the Monolith Cocktail (Further Reading):

Monster Movie

Soundtracks

Tago Mago

Ege Bamyasi

Future Days

Soon Over Babaluma

Landed

Saw Delight

The Lost Tapes

Live In Stuttgart 1975

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.

PREMIERE SPECIAL/Dominic Valvona

In partnership with our Italian pen pals at Kalporz, both our sites have been chosen to simultaneously premiere the opening peregrination from the new collaboration between Antonio Raia & Renato Fiorito: the Thin Reactions album.

Eighteen minutes long, and taking up the entire A-side of that upcoming album ‘Too Many Reasons’ sees the amorphous saxophonist improviser and sound artist join together to capture the abstract atmospheres of cerebral reconnection; a sonic field in which to escape the stresses and weight of the pandemic.

Produced in lockdown, in the partnership’s native Napoli, this imagined space, in which a faded, fuzzy pining and wandering saxophone wafts around a rotated motorised humming and propeller purred windy and airy isolated soundtrack, brings together two experimental composers looking to create an ‘intimate and visceral experience’.

Although crossing paths years ago on site-specific performances and movie soundtracks, this traverse in tonal soundscapes marks the duo’s first fully released album together. They’ve chosen to deliver it on the new Italian label Non Sempre nuoce; the focus of which is on the burgeoning Neapolitan underground scene, covering, as the PR notes state, the city’s ‘post-clubbing music’, ‘Mediterranean retro sonorities’ and everything in-between.

Almost haunting in places, with field recordings that sound like a mysterious cyclonic desert, hinged fuzzes, vapours, fluted ambiguous regional sax and subtle little bursts of fizzled sonics are the only interruptions in this secluded landscape.

This is how the duo themselves describe this album venture: ‘Thin Reactions is an album consisting of sounds coming from invisible cities and intimate landscapes. It is a sonic trip you can take through a sensory experience. It is music that allows you to take a deep breath.’

You can now experience that immersive soundtrack below.

The Thin Reactions album will be released on the 29th October via the Non Sempre nuove imprint.

Album Reviews Roundup/Dominic Valvona






In-between lockdowns the only good news is that at least this month and next is shaping up to be the busiest months in 2020 so far, with a significant rise in the number of releases. And so, just scratching the surface, I’ve picked out just a smattering of interesting and brilliant albums from the thousands that the Monolith Cocktail receives each month.

German contemporary electronic music pioneer Stefan Schwander under the Harmonious Thelonious title, creates a new sophisticated polygenesis dance album of itchy scratching no wave, the tribal and industrial for the Hamburg label Bureau B; a survey of various contemporary experimental artists come together for charity to interpret the amorphous Plague Score graphic score of Nick Gill; Japanese underground luminary Phew releases a sort of mixed compilation of new material and unreleased sessions from her 2017 album’s Light Sleep and Voice Hardcore for the Disciples imprint. Lurking in the jazz-fusion subterranean, a new project from classically leaning producer and guitarist Leo Abraham and jazz drummer Martin France and their ensemble of collaborators, is the latest release on Glitterbeat’s experimental instrumental imprint tak:til. Krononaut converges the avant-garde with post-rock, post-punk and krautrock. Sometime Roedelius foil Andrew Heath releases yet another understated ambient sound collage of the real and imaginary for the Disco Gecko label; the patient escapist ‘The Alchemist’s Muse’. The Israeli-Russian collective Staraya Derevnya release a treble album haul, though I’m concentrating on the marvellous culmination of improvised performances pieces and additional material avant-garde krautrock folk Inwards Opened The Floor.

Handling the pandemic and escalating divisive free fall with spite, energy and violence, there’s the new Map 71 album, Turn Back Metropolis, and a barricade breaching, loud and primal return for the Young Knives with their first full-on album in nearly seven years, Barbarians.


Young Knives ‘Barbarians’
(Gadzook) Album/4th September 2020


Hurtling back from a four-year hiatus with a barrage, the brothers Dartnall unleash an angry firestorm of a dystopian album; the first fully realised collision since 2013’s Sick Octave.

The now not so Young Knives have been busy sharpening their sonic disconsolations in all that time, ready to pounce with an attack on the senses; reappearing at a most depressingly divisive time. Not that there hasn’t been more than enough material to keep the Knives awake at night, but they’ve been inspired to light the fuse by reading up on the apocalyptic philosopher/writer John Gray’s resigned tract on the illusions (as he sees it) of self-determination, Straw Dogs, and the controversial professional man-hater Valerie Solanas and her patriarchal death-knell, the S.C.U.M. Manifesto (an abbreviation of the Society For Cutting Up Men). In what’s said to be their most “cathartic” and “noisy” release yet, the self-confessed nihilists and miserablists have channeled the Clockwork Orange borstal of primal savage human nature, as explored in Gray’s polarizing theorem, and Solanas’ (what some critics and commentators consider a clever parody, even satire of “the performance of patriarchal social order it refuses”; though attempting to murder Andy Warhol, and by association the American critic Maria Amaya, puts a damper on that suggestion) utopian pipe-dream to knock seven bells out of the indie-dance and post-post-punk blueprints.

Essentially, as the title makes clear, despite all our graces, technologic advances and awareness, humans have never lost their barbaric cruelty. Is this just part of our nature and makeup? And if so, how do we live with it? It’s a quandary that hasn’t diminished over time, and a fate amplified in the pressing destructive times of 2020; a cold war of ideals, divisive politics kindled by a raging pandemic. And so, you can expect an explosive despondency from the Knives as they tear up and skulk through the debris.





It starts by plowing into a sustained menacing buzzy and harassed krautrock like grooving thrust merger of Techno, Siouxsie’s Banshees and PiL (Henry Dartnall will use will Lydon’s signature cocky sneer and haranguing rage throughout this Molotov hurling album), and continues to caustically cut-up a barreling and marching rant of These New Puritans, Scary Monsters and Outside era Bowie, NIN, the Chemical Brothers, Death From Above 1979 and The Slits. There’s even, I might suggest, a hint of supernatural Alex Harvey, albeit jazzed-up with rollicking Bloc Party drums, on the creeping witchery ‘Jenny Haniver’. I’m not surprised it has a daemonic esoteric feel, as the title refers to the ghastly unnatural looking mummified carcasses of rays and skates that have been dried-out and modified to resemble fanciful creatures like dragons and demons.

Brutality is everywhere, with samples of audio from a bare-knuckle brawl on the tortuous fist-clenched whirlwind title-track, and a squall of harsh and heavy breakbeats and alarms constantly rattle the cerebral. Yet breaking the barbarous grind and bounce are moments of brief relief: the venerable and prayerful female chorus on the ‘Holy Name 68’’ vignette (a distorted calm from the past), and the milder relief of a vague brass band finale serenade on the previously Blurt honking post-punk ‘Slashed What I Saw’ curtain call.

Henry shouts that the “scum will inherit the earth” and other such sloganism, knowing full well his rage will inevitably dissipate as the barricades come tumbling down once more. A future hell on repeat, the Knives at least have a good go at firing up the audience; it’s a noise and row that has been largely missing in the music world, and proves the perfect poisoned tonic for these end times. It’s good to have them back.






Phew ‘Vertigo KO’
(Disciples) Album/4th September 2020





In case you haven’t been introduced to the avant-garde voice iterations and various drone landscaping experiments of the Japanese artist known as Phew, then this new and unique compilation of her personal sonic statements and moods is both an eye-opener and a good place to start.

Phew’s entry into this field started with the instigation of the Osaka psychedelic-punk group Aunt Sally in 1978, which she fronted until their brief but influential burnout just a couple of years later. During the next decade Phew would work with an enviable cast of experimental doyens including Ryuchi Sakamoto, Alex Hacke of Einstürzende Neubauten fame and DAF’s Christo Haar, and also making an album with the illustrious Can pairing of Holgar Czukay and Jaki Leibzeit and legendary producer Conny Plank. Fast-forwarding to the noughties and the underground pioneer has performed live and recorded with The Raincoats’ Ana Da Silva, Jim O’Rourke and Ikue Mori and Yoshimi of the OOIOO/Boredoms/Saicobab arc of ensembles. Quite the providence, it’s a back catalogue that can be heard suffused throughout the latest collection of specially recorded new material, unreleased works from Phew’s two most recent solo album sessions (2017’s Light Sleep and Voice Hardcore) and a, removed from its original disjointed source, cover version.

Framed by the artist herself as “An unconscious sound sketch…” and as “personal documentary music”, Vertigo KO is a special kind of compilation. Forward thinking, progressive rather than looking back, the tracks on this album can’t be dated or easily linked back to those previous works. It sounds in fact like a new work entirely, made in the moment, all at the same conjuncture of creativity and thought. The label Disciples has already put out a limited edition cassette, Vertical Jamming, of Phew’s “long form drone work”, but this collection seems untethered, themeless concept wise and musically. Well that’s not entirely true, Phew states that her last two albums from which some of the martial has been lifted is personal and not an attempt at a “worldview”: the overall undercurrent and hidden message being “what a terrible world we live in, but let’s survive”. Phew seems to convey this survival by counterbalancing ascendant crystal rays of nature and heavenly with mysticism, otherworldliness and ominous Sci-fi: The skying drones and refractions that build towards a cathedral in the clouds on the opening ‘The Very Ears Of Morning’ evoke the beauty and enormity of nature’s first light. Yet by the second track Phew has transmogrified the loose post-punk slumbering Raincoats distress ‘The Void’; transporting the bare bones to a neon-futuristic industrial setting, ala Bladerunner.

Some of the more truly “out there” avant-garde moods involve various vocal repetitions and multi layering. These voices, intonations and peculiar annunciations can be in the form of obscured incantations (as they are on the vaporous hive humming consciousness mystery ‘Let’s Dance, Let’s Go’), vowel stretching (on the dial twisting ‘All That Vertigo’) or monastic (on the mystical Buddhist/Shinto call to prayer vacuum ‘Hearts And Flowers’). Sometimes it’s used as a rhythm, at other times as a lingering trace of yearning from the “void”.

Phew’s amorphous sonic sensibilities exist both in the metallic gauze of space and in more concentrated earthly reverence. A pioneer of the form, the Japanese icon of the underground continues to produce some of her strongest work as a new decade beckons, birthed in a pandemic. The signatures, reference points and mode will be familiar to those already well acquainted with the Phew’s varied catalogue, yet Vertigo KO offers some sublime and inventive surprises to be an essential edition to the collection. Those unfamiliar would do well to experience this set of suites and then work backwards.




Krononaut ‘Krononaut’
(tak:til/Glitterbeat Records) 4th September 2020





Out on the peripherals of identifiable jazz-fusion the newly assembled Krononaut ensemble conjure up a mysterious extemporize performance on their debut vision for Glitterbeat’s highly experimental instrumental imprint tak:til.

Instigated, led by producer and guitarist Leo Abraham (who’s contextual guitar lines can be heard on Eno’s sublime Small Craft On A Milk Sea LP) and drummer Martin France (who’s played with, amongst others, Nils Petter Molvaer and Evan Parker) but methodology wise a democratized unit that embraces the atmospherical leanings and peregrinations of its extended lineup of collaborators, Krononaut was created out of a musical disciplinary challenge: To converge Leo’s classical sensibilities and learning with Martin’s jazz background. The results of which linger, spiral and prowl in an abstract subterranean space of hybrid jazz, Jon Hassell’s possible musics, krautrock, post-punk, post-rock and, at least in part, are informed, inspired by the unique rhythms found in the Madoh Shamanic funeral music of Tajikistan.

Recorded in London last year over two sessions, the inaugural featuring multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily (from Tom Waits to Laurie Anderson) on bass, the follow-up, the enigmatic saxophonist Matana Roberts, Swedish trumpeter Arve Henriksen and on bass duties too, Tim Harries, the Krononaut album reimagines a musique concrete Miles Davis, Sam Rivers and Grachen Moncur III skulking a masked, mournful to a point, ether that once in a while floats into the ethereal (in evidence on the diaphanous aria veneration ‘Vision Of The Cross’).

Navigating dark recesses in a spidery probing with the bass on the shadowy ‘Location 14’, and evoking their label mates Pulled By Magnets on the semi-industrial, cavernous and falling ‘Power Law’, this ensemble creep into post-punk; sounding like a transmogrified deconstructive PiL. Yet despite this the Krononaut’s are never so disjointed, dark or brash as to raise the volume above the discordant or even delicate; nothing runs away or untethers itself completely from the musicians’ grip.

Vague bursts of Guru Guru, drifting Eastern horns and filmic qualities drift in and out of serialism vaporuos industrial soundscapes and odd primal lagoons. Sporadic fits of propulsive drummed rhythms materialize from these non-liner recordings, but for the most part we’re strung out in the stresses and entanglements of composed, sophisticated avant-garde explorers: jazz and those classical leanings only really play one of many parts to this conjuncture of elements.

Ponderous, stalking, lolloping, spiritual, fluctuating – an exercise in relearning and discovery in fact – the Krononaut album of fourth world like experiments is free of limitations. It’s a project that escapes, even defies, categorization; another congruous fit with the ethos of the tak:til label.






Harmonious Thelonious ‘Plong’
(Bureau B) 28th August 2020





Fitting congruously within the Bureau B label family, Stefan Schwander’s inaugural album of sophisticated minimalist dance music for the Hamburg platform chimes with its roster of German experimental electronic pioneers; from Zuckerzeit candy era Cluster to the deconstructive Populäre Mechanik and the more contemporary Pyrolator.

More or less ten years into his Harmonious Thelonious alter ego, Schwander now offers a more “industrial sound” made from concrete objects vision of his American “minimalism” convergence with African rhythms and European melodies signatures. Inspired in part by the iconic Basle club of Totentanz, where the German electronic artist spent some of his misspent youth catching performances by the no wave dance act Liquid Liquid, the Gun Club, Jonathan Richman and a very young Aztec Camera, the Plong album channels some of the atmosphere and nostalgic vibes of those formative years. The club is immortalized on the final track; a sort of tribal beat with a barely audible hooted dance track that could be described as “intelligent” techno for the soul. In fact, the Liquid Liquid reference, or at least that vibrant post-new wave dance sound that they excelled at, can be heard permeating tracks like ‘Höhlenmenschenmuzik’; a multi-textural bass pronounced no wave dance of Carl Craig and Kriedler, the title of which translates as “caveman music” and evokes atavistic cave daubings leaping off the dank walls and vibrating, dancing like a host of Keith Harring characters bouncing down a NYC boardwalk.

Elsewhere amongst the deep Detroit techno and house music the tubular and knocking mettalics, tight delayed electronic sequencing and cleverly layered kinetics and mirages of a mysterious Arabia can be detected on the opening desert sands ‘Original Member Of A Wedding Band’. An obscured xylophone or marimba somehow captures an air of Africa on the lightly malleted and translucent itching vibrant ‘Geistertrio Booking’, and the staccato clumsy motioned ‘The Roller’ features a quasi-bobbing West African rhythm.

The tribal is subtly transformed into a futuristic suspense; 80s electro and no wave dance is twinned with lurking industrial electronica; bubbling concoctions float across mechanical refractions on a meticulously constructed deep dance soundtrack of multiple interesting rhythms. Plong, which could be a title Harmonia/Cluster may very well have used, fits perfectly with the Bureau B vibe, yet cuts a clean polygenesis electronic dance sound of its own.




Various ‘Plague Song’
(Via Bandcamp) Album/14th August 2020





A plague has descended on all our houses it seems, with no corner of the globe left untouched by Covid-19. Yet not so much a plague in either the Biblical sense or even a 1000th as destructive as the Black Death that left populations decimated Covid-19 predicted effects and the measures being used to contain it and our civil liberties is proving more destructive and stressful. As lockdown lifts for some, only to be reintroduced as clusters break out in localized areas, and thoughts and anxieties can be translated, we’re seeing creatives release their cathartic impressions and traumas.

One such contextualization, instigated by the North Yorkshire based composer, multi-instrumentalist, solo artist and member of Fireworks Night and The Monroe Transfer ensemble, Nick Gill brings together a international cast of experimental artists and composers to interpret the project leader’s pencil-shaded abstract ‘Plague Song’ graphic score. Following in the footsteps of John Cage who first pioneered the concept, Gill sketches a roughly hewn amorphous score that offers a freehand to those invited to respond. With no instructions as to duration, instrumentation or performance style it’s entirely down to the artists to conjure up something evocative; a sonic representation from the elongated funnels and arched lines found beneath sharper cross-hatching scribbled noise. The author of that graphic score does offer his own interpretation however; offering a suitably atmospheric and watery composition of Craig Ward like multi-textural guitar reverberations.

Erring towards the perimeters of ambient, neo-classical and experimental music the guests on this charitable compilation (proceeds going towards Médecins sans Frontières) produce some searching visions of the present mood. Carrying on the imbued literary (Anthony Burgess to Joseph Heller) cross chatter and abstracted resonance of his many sonic adventures in India and Southeast Asia, Oxford polymath Seb Reynolds cuts-up and morphs a recurring “not as fatal” line with the sound of veiled Orient and tram clatter on his take of the score. Others, such as the renowned NYC stage, film and even opera composer Nico Muhly, produce something more sublime and trembling; the composer behind soundtracks for The Reader and Marnie glides towards a skying ascendance of rippling ambient beauty.

In the quasi Sci-fi mood, electronic composer and performer Hainbach generates some strange off-world atmospheres and primal lunar threats with his interpretation: evoking, I think, Bernard Szajner’s Dune imagings. The spherical Canadian team-up of musician, activist and producer Rebecca Foon and Polaris Prize winning singer-songwriter, producer Patrick Watson prove a congruous pairing, offering up an almost cosmically heavenly searing soundtrack of voices obscured in the vapour.

The track list is numerous; too numerous to mention everyone, so I’ll just mention a few more highlights and standouts. Tiece beckon with a signature “witchery” and “smoky” trip-hop soulful jazzy vision that evokes a warped Four Tet, whilst vocalist, sound artist David Michael Curry goes for something more supernatural, strung-out, with his added locational cryptic post-rock bluesy “scene report from Somerville Masc.” And perhaps one of the oddest interpretations, double-bassist and organist composer, arranger Ben Summers takes the listener through shades of South America, jazzy cocktail hour club soiree and 60s Italian soundtracks: a million miles removed from the compilations leitmotif of shared mysterious ominous drones and recondite ambient carpeting.

Gill’s original graphics are lent a swathe of interpretations, some less somber than others, from a cosmology of contemporary composers. A survey of mood pieces, from science fiction augurs to introspective concentrations. Yet seldom does the soundtrack wallow in the darkness, or creep into nightmares, which considering the title seems both optimistic and a relief. Plague Song is a worthy embrace of the uncertain; a translation of abstract stress and danger given an expansive treatment.






Map 71 ‘Turn Back Metropolis’
(Foolproof Projects/Fourth Dimension Records) Album/4th September 2020





Just the sort of J.G Ballard and Anthony Burgess flavoured dystopian claustrophobia we need in these pandemic striven times; the estuary high-rise colliding duo of disillusioned poet and artist Lisa Jayne and pounding sonic foil Andy Pyne deliver a skulking barrage from the edges of the inner city and suburban wastelands. Under the Map 71 cover they release a fifth album sound-clash of post punk electronica, no wave, post Krautrock and tribal industrial music.

Turn Back Metropolis finds the urban-planners of derision and concrete hardened social realism back in the stairwells and landings of a decaying omnipresent city, dreaming of escapism: “The fields are in sight of the city, but there’s a curfew and the city waits for your return.”

Against the stench of this imposed backdrop of societal misdemeanors, the grime of everyday existence is lyrically and starkly drip-fed by Lisa over beating toms, slinking dub, sporadic drumming, alarmed synths, contorted metals and London swagger. Lisa channels a petulant Ari Up and Viv Albertine, whilst Andy, at any onetime, conjures up an accompaniment of Cabaret Voltaire, Fad Gadget, PiL, The Au Pairs, Lonelady, 80s Rick Rubin and The Classical.

Seething yet composed, they stalk their subjects like prey through the entrancing, spiraling and more cutting on a futuristic punk album of malcontent. Tracks such as the squalling, speed-shifting, arcade-fire over-surge ‘Highrise’ can induce vertigo, and the rattling ‘Stitches’ evokes a seedy switch-bladed administered trauma. Descriptively as livid as it is poetically brilliant, with a musically edgy, harrowing but crafted sonic accompaniment to match, Map 71 delivers another sinister violent architectural imposing shockwave.





Related posts from the Archives:

Map 71 ‘Sado-Technical-Exercise’ Review



Andrew Heath ‘The Alchemist’s Muse’
(Disco Gecko) Album/4th September 2020





Carrying the torch for the kind of ambient and neo-classical swathes and calmly evolving ruminations pioneered by such luminaries as Roedelius, Andrew Heath is a maestro of, what he calls, “small-case minimalism”. Lucky enough to work with the self-taught acolyte and co-founder of the electronic music and kosmsiche legends Kluster/Cluster/Qluster arc, Heath has obviously picked up some ideas from the best in the field. The English composer of refined, understated evocations collaborated with Roedelius on both the Meeting The Magus and Triptych In Blue suites.

The “magus” pupil has become the “alchemist” on this latest exploration of minimalism, texture, tone and the “sonic detritus that litters our environment”. Using, as ever, a kind of English pastoral and esoteric poetry to reference moods and locations, as well as the sources of some of his field recordings, Heath counterbalances his naturalistic settings with delicately played (but deeply felt) piano, resonating electric guitar, and on the album’s title track the swan like and sonorous bass-clarinet of guest Bill Howgego, and of course the various apparatus that transmits those soft, veiled ambient tones and gossamer atmospheres. This translates into translucent compositions that merge the intercom chatter of a pilot’s radio with dropped bauble piano notes and stratospheric gliding, on the opening piece ‘Observers And Airmen’, and the squawk of a woodland menagerie and running water with Eno-esque pining scenic mystery and alien wiry quivers, on ‘Of Mill Leats And The Walter Meadows’.

Hints, traces of voice can be found throughout, but its Heath’s second guest, Romanian poet, writer and journalist Maria Stadnika, who offers the most fragile and emotional. Returning, after appearing on heath’s 2018 Evanfall album, Stadnika’s sighed wistful whispery ‘The Garden Reveals Itself’ receives a ‘Night Mix’ re-run. The senses of those waiting on the inevitable cycle of life and other such poignant chimes on the passing of time are soundtracked with an accentuated magical dreamy night garden score.

Recorded at his home in the Cotswolds’ earlier in the year, and framed as an album that provides a certain sense of calm and tranquility, Heath’s idyllic set piece is indeed rich with moments of stillness and contemplation. It all sounds serenely beautiful. From the announcer on the subway vignette ‘A Good Service,’ to the wooing undercurrents of ‘The Muse And Her Dreams’, both echoes of daily life blend with more mysterious surroundings in a superb sound collage. Ambient music it seems is in good hands, Heath’s seventh album for the Disco Gecko label is a sublime patient suite that offers a rest in these most troubling, intense times.





Archives:

Andrew Heath And Toby Marks ‘Motion’ Review

Andrew Heath ‘Soundings’ Review

Andrew Heath ‘Evenfall’ Review tof068



Staraya Derevnya ‘Inwards Opened The Floor’
(Raash Records) Album/4th September 2020





A culmination of Café OTO Project Space recorded performances from 2017 and additional material from that same year to 2019, the latest avant-garde inter-dimensional experiment from the Russian-Israeli straddling Staraya Derevnya is part of treble release schedule. Alongside the featured Inwards Opened The Floor there’s also a duo of improvisations recorded with Hans Grusel’s Kranken Kabinet entitled Still Life With Apples, released on cassette by Steep Gloss, and more live material under the OTO/Tusk title, released as a double CD spread by TQN-aut. A veritable bonanza of imaginative, much improvised albums from the St. Petersburg metro stop adorned group; though I’m going to concentrate on just the hallucinatory doors-of-perception opening opus, an expansive set of traverses, deconstructive marches and post-punk harangues built around lyrics inspired by the poems of Arthur Molev.

Expanding to accommodate up to twelve musicians, and an assemblage of musique concrete apparatus, radio waves, voices and more conventional instruments the Staraya Derevnya inhabit a shrouded soundscape of kosmische, post-punk and what can only be described as a kind of krautrock folk – think a meeting of The Faust Tapes and Can’s Unlimited scrapes and incipient windows in on cut short experiments but extended and more rhythmic.

Developing, magically entitled tracks such as ‘On How The Thorny Orbs Got Here’ drift off almost dreamily to a hushed narration and strung-out jazzy clarinet, brassy sonorous vibrations and short drum rolls, whilst the attic toy box clockwork march of ‘Chirik’ Is Heard From The Treetops’ chugs along at first like a wooden top Ballet Russes but then takes on a more traumatic force of industrial hooting and ripped, revved guitar: Russian folklore goes bananas.

Kazoos, rocking chairs, a not so “silent cello” help create a mysterious aura throughout: one that moves between the strained and distressed, the ambient and biting. For instance garroting wire cello and wooden tubular like percussion tangle with speed-shift space void effects and scrapes on the menacing ‘Hogweed Is Done With Buckwheat’, and on the almost swooning existential romance ‘Burning Bush And Apple Sauces’; soup plops, a radio broadcasted talky duet and a collage of piano and strings echo with hints of late Popul Vuh, OMD and the Pale Fountains.

The poetry is as whispery, haunting as it is erratic and harassed on these most probing clattery, screamed, rasped but equally fantastical tracks. I’m hooked. This is an astonishing set of cross-city amorphous urges, lingers and deconstructions like no other; an avant-garde wandering into the tapestry of Russian folklore and magic dream realism.




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

ALBUM REVIEW/DOMINIC VALVONA




Gunther Wüsthoff  ‘Total Digital’
(Bureau B)  Album/10th July 2020


Attuned to the signals and broadcast traffic chatter of a very different kind when serving out his military service as a naval radio operator, the one-time Faust instigator and soloist Gunther Wüsthoff tapped into that formative training to search and tune-in to more imaginative and alien frequencies when set loose from the tumult of post-war Germany.

As the legend goes, Wüsthoff’s pathway towards sonic experimentation was laid out in art school, where he met future Faust comrades Rudolf Sosna and Jean-Hervé Peron. All three musical malcontents came together in the late 60s to from the band Nukleus. It was during this point that former leftist mouthpiece publication Konkret editor turn ad hoc record producer and scout for Polydor Records, Uwe Nettelbeck (through his filmmaker contact Helmut Costa) was introduced to the trio. Nettelbeck was handed the task by the label’s A&R honcho Kurt Enders, to find a German version of The Beatles, but also to tap into the burgeoning “Krautrock” scene that was emerging. What they got was something far more revolutionary and avant-garde: at their most confrontational and hostile they made Throbbing Gristle sound like The Beach Boys. As opposed to their compatriots Can, Faust excelled at breaking things.

The musical trio was merged with members of another Hamburg band, Campylognatus Citelli, whose ranks included Werner “Zappi” Diermaier, Hans-Joachim Irmler and Arnulf Meifert. Instead of a Teutonic Fab Four, Polydor were delivered an unruly fist full of industry dissonance and barracking noise. Wüsthoff for his part would play both synthesizer and the saxophone during his time with the often-fractious group; lasting through Faust’s most important and influential run of records during the first half of the 1970s (from the X-Ray iconic sleeved debut to the only album Wüsthoff would design the cover for, Faust IV).

Following his departure, Wüsthoff would take on roles at both Studio and Filmhaus Hamburg; but also take further studies in editing so that he could work freelance. Continuing his musical practice however, Wüsthoff’s sonic experiments became more and more informed by the aleatory.

Looking for imperfections and friction in the increasingly repetitive and slick production of the Western canon, he found that in explaining his theory to those accustomed to playing music in the doctrinal fashion, and against the intuitive grain of human instinct that the machine might be better placed to his musical methodology and motto: “Due to previous but also temporary excesses of mainstream consumption and the omnipresent, repetitive emissions of the western world’s music industry, devoid of contours and as slick as possible, we are faced with an indissoluble weariness. A criterion for music one can listen to today is, for me, that an element of friction is present: temporally, metrically, rhythmically, tonally or harmonically. Or that somewhere, something is somehow imperfect. Only then can music be truly alive.”[Gunther Wüsthoff 2005]

“Today I would add: Regardless of whether it is created by man or machine.”

And so, becoming a “music machinist”, Wüsthoff relinquished the idea of virtuosity for good, handing over a major part of the process to the machine. A compositional counterbalance between the synthesized and the human touch you could say: not “total digital” but getting there.

Collected in this retrospective compilation is a scattering of tracks from a twenty-year time span; from a trio of solar orbiting ‘TransNeptun’ suites to a number of more rhythmic erratic dashes and tubular metallic chimes. Tuning into planetary waves, the three-part (‘Anflung’, ‘Ankunft’ and ‘Begrüßung) ‘TransNeptun’ traces the tones and contours of cosmic satellites with a sonic generator palette of lunar delay, arpeggiator, whining dialed squiggles and hums. Through this off world broadcast, Wüsthoff traverses the Kosmische, hints of Bernard Szajner, a dance of binary languages and ominous prowling shadowy dwarf planets.

In a different direction the avant-garde ‘Dragon Walking’ sounds like a convolution of Populäre Mechanik and Reich; with touches even of Eno’s off kilter Warm Jets. Going through numerous cycles, from post-punk to robotic ballet, instruments are introduced in stages: a real sounding drum kit, hand drums, marimba (I think) and pizzicato notes. ‘Alien Crosstalk’ is a strange one. Bagpipe type bellows and concertinaed sounds are integrated with fucked-up House music, out-of-time piano and titular’s “crosstalk” of obscured voices. Though far too sophisticated as to sound distorted or a mess, the elements all seem to fit together in the end. And even when erring towards the disturbing and dark, seems less chilling but mysterious.

Wüsthoff’s philosophical driver, the “transitory nature of life”, is evident in the fleeting presence of those random generated sonics and instruments, which pass through an evanescent process.

Perhaps Wüsthoff doesn’t enjoy the profile of some of his former Faust comrades, but if your only knowledge of his experiments were from that period then make time to explore the solo work. A good place to start will be with this handy compilation, from a label that seems to act as a hub for members from that group’s subsequent work.





Faust Faust, So Far, Faust Tapes’

Faust ‘Faust IV’

Faust ‘j US t’



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.

REVIEWS SPECIAL/Dominic Valvona





From the very start of the Covid-19 epidemic I’ve emphasized the importance of supporting artists and bands. More than ever in an industry with ever diminishing returns for the majority, and with the ever increasingly domination of streaming taking over from sales, they need our financial help.

With that in mind, there are more than enough new and upcoming releases to get you salivating at the prospect of spending those dwindling funds in my July roundup. Travelling to and beyond both Earthly and Heavenly realms from the comfort of you own sofa, I take a look at the upcoming debut suite from Jason Kohnen’s newest adventure (in collaboration with Dimitry El-Demerdashi and Martina Hórvath), Mansur; a wanderers traverse of burnished ruins and temenos set to a cinematic, warping trip-hop soundtrack called Temples. Fresh out of Rio, Brazilian wonderkid Thiago Nassif releases another vibrant and sophisticated pop album of samba and bossa no wave. Melbourne artist Wu Cloud returns from his off-the-beaten-track Indonesian getaway with an atmospheric exotic ambient electronica suite of jungle sonics. Out of Helsinki, two Nordic jazz albums from the We Jazz label; the first, the Danish-Finn JAF Trio lay down their dynamic live sound on wax for the first time, and the experimental Gothenburg tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Otis Sandsjö produces another volume of deconstructive electronic-hip-hop-trip-hop-jazz. From the relatively untouched musical atoll of São Tomé & Principe, Bongo Joe reissue Pedro Lima’s 80s classic Maguidala. Closer to home, The Lancashire Hustlers offer another nostalgic songbook of quality psych pop and troubadour pastoral soul with their fifth album, Four Hands, Two Voices.


Thiago Nassif  ‘Mente’
(Gearbox Records)  Album/3rd July 2020



Feted no less by “no wave” off-kilter maverick and former Lounge Lizard Arto Lindsay, the Brazilian multi-instrumentalist and producer Thiago Nassif has made a name for himself over the last decade for producing the most idiosyncratic tropical-flavoured pop music. Drawn to Nassif’s transformed visions of bossa nova and samba, Lindsay, who has a reputation for refreshing those genres and working with many of the forms star turns, has co-produced a number of albums for the Rio-based artist; including this latest neon afterglow, Mente.

Channeling some of the American all-rounder’s past productions, most notably his work with the legend Caetano Veloso and more contemporary Tom Zé, Nassif balances those balmy softened open-toed sandal sauntering rhythms with harder edged experimental no wave and synthesized tubular metallics. It’s a juxtaposition of atmospherics, of light and shade, of the organic and plastic, and even languages: Portuguese and English. In practice this sounds pretty brilliant; a liquid (a blancmange even) of often slinking, bubbling, uptown/downtown Beck, Eno & Cale, Prince, Ariel Pink and St. Vincent, picked up and flown to a retro-futuristic Brazilian beachfront nightclub. The opening no wave soul mirage ‘Soar Estranho’ (one of my tracks of the year) shows off this cultural mix; reimagining Lodger era Bowie flanked by James Chance and Lou Reed’s doo wop chorus of female backing singers perusing in a discotheque. In short: cool as fuck. But just as you get comfortable, a lurch and shriek of tumbled drums enters the fray: less a harsh jerk, more a delightful off-kilter excursion.

Yet despite those interesting excursions, jolts and hooks and the contemporary feel, the melodies prove often nostalgic: a dreamy electro-fashioned sheen envelopes those bossa and samba grooves and tango washes that headily send the listener back to the 70s and early 80s. Still, it’s a fascinating world that escapes Nassif’s mind; a place where vague Robert Fripp guitar traces wane against a sunbaked percussion of bottle rattling; off-center piano and elliptical grooves merge with Herbie Hancock funk; fanned phaser guitar comes of against skulking seedy Gauloise-puffing French sophisticated cool aloof; an alternative reality in which Eno remixes Caetano’s more showy popular samba romantics.

Very imaginative and experimental, Nassif pushes South American music into exciting directions with an album that oozes a coolness of liquid tropical no and new wave. Mente surfs a delicious ebb and flowing tide of quirky “plastique” pop: A leopard skin upholstered, neon lit sumptuous groove of the fuzzy, fizzling and sauntering.






Mansur  ‘Temple’
(Denovali Records) Album/10th July



Venturing once more into amorphous mysterious musical territories, Jason Kohnen finds another outlet for his traversing invocations with the Arabic named Mansur. Worn by infamous caliphs, this popular Middle Eastern name translates as “the one who is victorious”. The caliphate ruled by those who wore it was as vast and multicultural as the array of evocations and geography found on Kohen’s latest mini-album, Temple.

Previous esoteric and panoramic soundtracks by Kohen, from The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation to The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, roamed a borderless realm of influences. With even less jazz on offer (though those previous two jazz affixed outfits always had a vague interpretation of the genre), the cinematic atmospherics of this newest incarnation, the Temple drifts, sweeps and swoons across a gauzy veiled expanse of ancient Persia, India, Arabia, South Eastern Europe and the Aegean. Much of this is down to the array of international instruments that both Kohnen and his collaborating foil Dimitry El-Demerdashi (ex-Phurpa fame) use to stirrup this mirage state of Dionysus acropolises and atavistic Sufi mysticism. Various two-string and more bowed instruments (such as the Chinese “erhu”, Iranian, Armenian and beyond “kemenche”, and Indian “dilruba”) rub up against reedy flutes (the Persian “ney” and Indian “bansuri”) and both staggered and slurred trip-hop beats, slithered synthesized effects.

Floating in and out of the album’s titular spell, vocalist Martina Hórvath appears like an ancestral spirit or forgotten deity dreamily cooing sweet evocations; part Hellenic, part Celtic. This and its “revisited” companion piece both reminded me of the experimental Greek duo Xaos; though the second ‘Temple’ altarpiece offers up crunchier giant’s footsteps like thuds, and casts supernatural shadows on the pillars.

Elsewhere on this well-travelled five-track adventure, the esoteric Balearic chill in the sun ‘Disciples’ takes the listener to Muslim Spain via the toiled troubles and lament of the East, and the five notes per octave scale ‘Pentatonic Ruins’ travels in slow-releases across both the Arabian deserts and foothills of Tibet. The album’s final magical escape ‘Leyenda’ (or “legend”) brings in a piano, bowls and the kemenche flute to evoke a kind of semblance of 1930s Cairo: A soundscape of intrigue, suspense, bazaars and Arabian music halls converge.

Wandering a proscenium of afflatus burnished ruins and temenos to a cinematic, warping trip-hop soundtrack, Kohnen finds another fruitful creative release for his mesmerizing mythology of mystical and spiritual sounds.






JAF Trio ‘S/T’  (3rd July 2020)
Otis Sandsjö ‘ Y-OTIS 2’ (24th July 2020)
(We Jazz) Albums



Constantly delivering some of the best in contemporary jazz over the years, the Helsinki label and festival platform We Jazz has regularly popped up on the site with its quality catalogue of, mostly, European talent. This month sees the Nordic facilitators release two albums of opposing styled experimentation.

Dropping just this week, the first of these deft workouts sees the lauded Danish-Finn live act JAF Trio of saxophonist Adele Sauros (of Superposition renown), bassist Joonas Tuuri (Bowman Trio) and drummer Emil Bülow lay down their dynamic buzz on wax for the first time. Formerly awarded the We Jazz “rising star” award in 2017 for their “loft style” conjunction of cool but busy American and European jazz frills, tumbles and stretches, the trio now capture that live spark in a studio setting.

With a faint air of nostalgia, or at least the influence of those hip cats Mingus and Wayne Shorter, and a lift of Be-Bop, the trio proves to be one classy act. Sauros blows and honks both a mean and snozzling (even clarinet like at times) sax over Tuuri’s double-bass bodywork tapping runs and bowed sloping and Bülow’s quickened drum spills and accentuated concentrations. Signature loftcore, the opening account of ‘Ninth Row Of The Fifth Floor’ is a showcase for clicked walking basslines, skipping breaks and schmoozing sax spontaneity.

Each track seems to start in one place but end up in another; liberally handing out solos and more stripped spots, both busy and more methodically studied, as they go. Whatever the mood, whether that’s more humming and whistled saxophone contemplation or counter d’n’b like rhythm erratics, the chemistry is playful but always probing. Loft space meets Pierrick Pédron on a contemporary breakbeat, the JAF Trio bounce ideas around in the studio to produce some top-drawer jazz.





Making good on his previous free-fall in motion Y-OTIS LP (which made our albums of the year), the second of We Jazz Records’ July releases finds the Berlin-based Swedish tenor sax and clarinet bandleader Otis Sandsjö once more pushing the boundaries of electronic jazz. Volume Two of this simultaneously flowing and fractured, stumbled jazz breakdown sees Otis deconstruct his group’s performances in real time. Like a remix before the originals even been finished, Otis enacts his ennui like wonder for changing the rhythm, groove and direction.

Backed by fellow label mates Petter Eldh (bass and synth) and Jonas Kullhammar (flute) of Koma Saxo fame, plus Dan Nicholls (keys and synth duties), Tilo Weber (drums), and with featured spots from Per “Texas” Johansson (flute), Lucy Railton (cello) and Ruhi Erdogan (trumpet), the native Gothenburg sonic explorer elliptically skips and trips through hints of J Dilla, Flying Lotus, Four Tet, John Wizard, Takashi Kokubo, 808 State and Bobbi Humphrey.

The jazz elements, which sound like a transmogrified electric Byrd, drift and waft in starts and stops. Otis sax hoots like a magical owl on the woodland fairytale turn Eddie Gale spiritual joint ‘Tremendoce’.

With two flute players in the ranks and Otis also on clarinet, there’s obviously a lot of wind being blown around; and again it’s mostly quite dreamy, organic and floating as it wraps around the constant breaks and lurch or dragging drum parts.

From the cosmic and celestial to earthy, the familiar is turned inside out on an album that mixes soul, hip-hop, d’n’b, trance, electronica and jazz together. Every bit as extraordinary and inventive as the previous volume, part two is a unique, re contextualized, pinball flipper driven rush that takes jazz forward. This is a really great trip of an album, as blissful as it is intense. Definitely in my choice picks of 2020; one of the best jazz albums you’ll hear all year.






The Lancashire Hustlers  ‘Four Hands, Two Voices’
(Steep Hill) Album/12th June 2020



There’s nothing more reassuring and cozy than a new Lancashire Hustlers album. Bathed in a nostalgic glow of peaceable 60s and 70s harmonies and a lilted haze of the familiar, Brent Thorley and Ian Pakes always turn-out a disarming songbook of psychedelic and troubadour melodies worth savoring.

Following previous mini pop operas and a collection of songs based on the poems of Walter de la Mare, the Stockport duo reconvene for an album of self-discovery, raincloud love-lost misery, the philosophical and regretted: Not strictly a thematic album, more a concept of age-old tropes that continue to trouble the soul.

Musically combining the shared harmony of Turn Breaks with the idiosyncratic romantic psych pop of bands such as The Left Banke, they often stirrup a smorgasbord of congruous bands and artists. Four Hands, Two Voices is no exception, with surprise shades of Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield on the pastoral soul opener ‘Top Gun (In Retirement)’, and a kind of Anthony Newly starring musical meets XTC on the more theatrical ‘Stuck In The Middle Of A Week’. Elsewhere amongst a repeating musical leitmotif of quasi-swami atmospheres (brassy resonating faux-sitar and finger-cymbal trinket charms), you will find dalliances with Bacharach (sharing a stage with George Harrison) on the lilting romantic waltz whimsy ‘It’s Too Early’, the voice of Glenn Tilbrook on the beautifully pining rained-off ‘The Flowers And The Reservoirs’, and Badfinger harmonizing with Dylan on the quivery, dreamy malady ‘Letters I Should’ve Written’.

Disarming what is a touching but poignant selection of both melancholy and lamentable reflection, the duo’s loving and comfortable, even smooth musical sheen makes the sadness and yearning parts more palatable.

Whether venturing into the mind to connect with an object of desire or sailing across the subconscious on an adventurous voyage into psychoanalysis, these northern hustlers are guaranteed to make the journey a most harmonious one. The duo’s fifth album is another lovely songbook of maverick encounters, pastoral soul and soft bulletins.






Wu Cloud  ‘Pulsa Rimba’
(The Slow Music Movement) Album/18th June 2020



Under the sticking heat of a lush Indonesian jungle canopy and on the edge of golden idyllic Sumatran beaches, the free-rolling Melbourne artist Wu Cloud places the listener in a sumptuous soundtrack of resonating, delayed field recordings and subtle, distant lo fi rhythms on his debut longplayer for the Lisbon label The Slow Music Movement. An immersive sound experience, produced from a “rucksack studio”, Pulsa Rimba –which literally translates as the “pulse of the jungle” – is a insect chattering, monkey (or in this case, to use the old world appellation of the species, a “Monyet”) calling, bird hooting menagerie of local Indonesian wildlife and fauna; augmented by the most accentuating and intuitive of effects and enervated tricking and chiming of beats.

Almost carefree and meandering, Wu’s backpacker recordings take-in the exotics and dense jungle throbs of ‘Weh Island’ (an island off the northwest of Sumatra, often known by its biggest city and capital, Sabang) and the cross-traffic sounds of both nature and human encroachment in the Sumatran city of ‘Jambi’ (a busy port metropolis and greater province that lies close to the ruins of the ancient Srivijaya kingdom city of Muaro Jambi) on a gentle, unfolding ambient suite of the organic and synthesized.

From the hammock to bumpy bus rides, Wu captures in an ad hoc fashion a living moistened terrain. And those field recordings are left to drift and waft as a fine gossamer layer of undulated gamelan-esque rhythms, hand bell like softened chimes from the local bamboo tube apparatus known as a “angklung”, sloping refractions and water pouring percussion is added. Sometimes so hypnotic as to be somnolent, at other times mysterious and exotic enough to evoke some extraterrestrial activity (the lunar bound ‘Flying Lizard’), the jungle pulse is a mirage of kinetics, Eno and Cluster ambience and spacey-echoed remembrance of geography experienced.

Enchanting escapism, Wu Cloud’s atmospheric Indonesian jaunt is a conservation of sound; a contemplative wildlife sonic survey of what’s left of an untamed landscape.






Reissue


Pedro Lima  ‘Maguidala’
(Bongo Joe) Album/17th July 2020



Seldom in the spotlight or given much attention, the African island nation of São Tomé & Principe remains relatively obscure: especially music wise.

A former Portuguese colony, whose African population were mostly enslaved souls shipped in from the continent’s interior and coastlines, this fertile island became famous for growing cocoa, sugar and coffee. Most heinously though, it soon became a transit post for the slave trade itself; its location off the coast of Gabon in the mid Atlantic offering an ideal cove for the transporting human cargo.

It would take over four hundred years but independence finally came in 1975. Though revolts against the colonial masters were a constant throughout its history, even as late as the 1950s when long-suffering Angolan contract workers rioted, enforced labour continued right up until political revolutionary groups such as the Movement For The Liberation of São Tomé & Principe overthrew the Caetano dictatorship. Democratic reforms would be slow but peacefully introduced in the 90s, and the island is now considered one of the most stable free nations in Africa.

An outspoken advocate of change, and star of this welcoming reissue, Pedro Lima was an activist and lauded recording artist who for his political stance was anointed by the islanders as “A voz de povo de São Tomé”: “the people’s voice of the island”. Not that you detect that revolutionary zeal in his most joyous, sun-scorched island life harmonies. Those sweetened but dynamic tones disarm any kind of anger or rage.

Remarkably, until recently, and through those discerning people at the Bongo Joe label/store, there hadn’t really been any musical survey of the São Tomé & Principe. Their Léve Léve compilation, which takes its title from the locals carefree “take it easy” attitude, was the first. Bongo Joe now hones in one of that compilation’s star turns with this reissue of what is considered as Lima’s best album, Maguidala – if nothing else, this reissue could save you a hefty sum, as the original is going for anywhere up to £350 on discogs.

Originally recorded in ’85 with his trusted band Os Leonenses, this both sauntering and scuffled four track highlight from the catalogue showcases an artist at his peak. Relaxed but also driven at times, Maguidala is a conjunction, as fertile as the soil, of influences from across not only the island but also African continent. Perhaps picked up when recording on the mainland in Angola for a number of labels, and further afield in Lisbon during the 80s for the IEFE imprint, Lima’s sound took in the famous Congolese rumba style of Soukous, the Dominican Merengue and local “Puxa” rhythms. The results are a most buoyant, harmonious dancing groove of scuttling percussion, beautifully lulled sweet voices, trickling, picked and streaked guitar and peaceable goodwill. The title-track and finale (‘Lionensi Sá Tindadji’) are both busy, more constantly, if softly, driven performances that skiffle and rattle along. Lima for the most part serenading, attempts to add a few shrills and “whompahs” on the latter.

‘Sãma Nanzalé’ seems more drifting; almost a beachcomber lullaby. Whilst ‘Cxi Compa Sã Cã Batéla’ skips, saunters and shuffles towards that Congolese rumba influence.

The laissez faire sound of an island hideaway, Lima’s Maguidala showcase is a perfect summer album; a piece of escapism we could all do with right now. Prompted in part by Lima’s death last year, Bongo Joe has revived a warranted classic and shone a light on a musical legacy. Stick it on and let the good time rumba and Créole harmonies wash over you.






Special word from me, founder and basically one-man operator behind the Monolith Cocktail.

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

Playlist/Dominic Valvona/Brian “Bordello” Shea/Matt Oliver





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

Tracklist In Full:


Thiago Nassif  ‘Soar Estranho’
Freak Heat Waves  ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’
Lithics  ‘Hands’
Ammar 808 ft. Susha  ‘Marivere Gati’
Bab L’ Bluz  ‘Gnawa Beat’
The Koreatown Oddity ft. Taz Arnold  ‘Ginkabiloba’ 
Koma Saxo  ‘Koma Mate’
Wish Master  ‘Write Pages’
Gee Bag, Illinformed  ‘I Can Be (Sam Krats Remix)’
Gorilla Twins  ‘Highs & Lows’
Jeffrey Lewis  ‘Keep It Chill In The East Village’
Armand Hammer  ‘Slew Foot’
Public Enemy  ‘State Of The Union’
Run The Jewels  ‘Yankee And The Brave (ep.4)’
Gaul Plus  ‘Church Of The Motorway’
Tamburi Neri  ‘Indio’
Ty, Durrty Goodz  ‘The Real Ones’
Fierro Ex Machina  ‘A Sail Of All Tears’
Skyzoo  ‘Turning 10’
Kahil El’Zabar ft. David Murray  ‘Necktar’
Afel Bocoum  ‘Avion’
Etienne de la Sayette  ‘Safari Kamer’
The Lancashire Hustlers  ‘Stuck In The Middle Of A Week’
Scarlet’s Well  ‘Sweetmeat’
Campbell Sibthorpe  ‘Good Lord’
Westerman  ‘Drawbridge’
The Fiery Furnaces  ‘Down At The So And So On Somewhere’
Kutiman  ‘Copasavana’
Caleb Landry Jones  ‘The Great I Am’
Bedd  ‘You Have Nice Things’
The Original Magnetic Light Parade  ‘Confusion Reigns’
Cosse  ‘Sun Forget Me’
Bananagun  ‘Modern Day Problems’
Salem Trials  ‘Head On Rong’
Lucidvox  ‘Runaway’
HighSchool  ‘Frosting’
Jon Hassell  ‘Fearless’

All our monthly playlists so far in 2020

 

 

 

 


Premiere Single/Dominic Valvona




Provincials   ‘One-Armed Swordsman’
(Sacred Geometry)   Single/Video


Released during the tumult and crisis of 2019, in the throes of post-Brexit negotiations, alternative-folk duo Provincials produced the mesmerizing and spellbinding miasma The Dark Ages. At the time it can be seen as a protestation against the forces of Nationalism, even Imperialism, but as Covid-19 reaps its harvest and sweeps across the world in 2020 you can’t help but see it now as an augur of an all too real plague-crisis Dark Age. Despite the dread, the duo portrayed that Domesday dystopia with a diaphanous lulled and beautifully administered deft touch, painting a bleakly poetic diorama of being swept under a despairing riptide. That album – the duo’s second – was an increasingly more experimental move away from the serene changing-of-the-seasons joyful reflection of their earlier work, especially the Ascending Summer EP: which seemed like a dreamy folk ode and peaceable traverse of the English scenery.

Meandering along a path that stretches from the Norman church dotted shingly shoreline of the southeast coast of Romney to a revenge-soaked Iberia, taking in the trauma, stress of The Crimean War and WWI, Provincials conjured up a lamentable present on that last minor-epic. Recorded in the same period but left off the album, today’s premiere ‘One-Armed Swordsman’ was deemed perhaps too wild, different and incongruous to sit on that songbook. Not a problem, as the duo has found the ideal time to release it as a separate entity in the most anxious of epochs, and furnished with a rustic-set esoteric symbolized video, shot in lockdown isolation. In separate rural homes, Seb Hunter hangs his head wearily from atop of the stable, strains the lyrics from some dusty tome form behind his eagle like garden sculpture and re-strings his ‘baritone-growled’ guitar, whilst siren foil Polly Perry flails and dances round the Theremin. Both exude the pining mood of our alienated stasis.

A precursor to their third LP (scheduled for the Spring of 2021), to be released on Weird Walks co-founder and psychogeography musical artist Owen Tromans’ marvelous expletory landscape inspired label, Sacred Geometry, this gnarled, grunge-y plaintive tumult was recorded and produced by Dan Parkinson at Wooden Heart Studios, Hampshire. Dan also plays the grinded-out drums, which take time to emerge from the opening sustained gristle and entanglement of Hunter’s experimental guitar and Polly’s Theremin fluctuations lead-in.

A pained expression waiting to be let out, the encumbered ‘One-Armed Swordsman’ sounds like a torrid merger of Swans, Dinosaur Jnr. and Ultrasound. Marking a change perhaps in direction, this single may have been recorded in less daunting times, but encompasses the feelings of disconnection and nervousness in the now. We wait to hear the results of lockdown on the Provincials next album in the Spring of 2021.





Related posts from the Archives:

Provincials ‘Dark Ages’ Review

Provincials ‘Ascending Summer EP’   Review

Owen Tromans ‘Between Stones’   Review



You can now support the Monolith Cocktail via the micro-donation platform Ko-Fi.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for interest/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.

Premiere/Dominic Valvona




Myles Cochran  ‘It’s Like This’
(9Ball Records)  Single/15th May 2020


Somewhere on the outskirts of a recognizable American panorama, a hazy semblance of Myles Cochran’s Kentuckian bluegrass roots can be heard resonating on his newest subtly evocative single, ‘It’s Like This’. A continuation of the composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer’s previous ‘Early Dark’ traverse (released just a few months ago), today’s premiere is an attuned and sophisticated merger of vaguely reminiscent, rustically dreamy guitar, waned and bowing strings, spindled movements and various lightly administered production effects. Here is how Myles sums up this musical assemblage of ideas and inspirations:

“Roots and country music were in the air when I was growing up and they still shape my aesthetic. My love of improvised music, whether Miles Davis or Talk Talk, also informs what I do, and the American Primitive guitarists such as John Fahey and Leo Kottke made a deep impact. To me, all these aren’t disparate influences, but make beautiful sense together”.

 

A both lingered minimalist and sonorous soundtrack, with echoes of such titans of the form as Ry Cooder, Robert Fripp, Warren Ellis, Daniel Lanois, Steve Reich and even Mick Harvey, ‘It’s Like This’ was composed, produced and performed by Myles at his rural studios in the UK and France. Myles is joined on this oft-emotional tarverse by the cello virtuoso Richard Curran, who supplies the atmospherically charged low bows.

Marking a sort of flurry of activity from the Kentucky born artist, now residing full-time in the UK, this latest single is being released via Myles own 9Ball Records label ahead of the June 19th EP, My Own Devices. Myles will follow this up, we’re told, with an album entitled UNSUNG.

Myles Cochran · It’s Like This (Radio Edit)




If you like what you found, hear and see on the Monolith Cocktail, you can now support us via the micro-donation platform Ko-Fi:

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

Album Review
Dominic Valvona




Pulled By Magnets  ‘Rose Golden Doorways’
(tak:til/Glitterbeat)  LP/28 February 2020


Prime motivator/instigator behind a myriad of acclaimed experimental jazz outfits, Seb Rochford’s influences and scope could be said to be wide-ranging and highly eclectic. This is due in part to the prolific and very much in-demand polymath’s Anglo-Indian and Irish-Scottish heritage; all of which has been fed, transduced into contemporary luminaries Polar Bear, Sons Of Kemet and Basquiat Strings, his collaborations with such notable doyens as Patti Smith, David Byrne and Brian Eno, and his soundtrack work. Though it might not be initially obvious, but the Indian part of that heritage informs his newest and most dark, murky abstracted project yet, Pulled By Magnets. Imbued by that and recent travels to India itself, the pacing and timings of the improvisational colouring ‘raag’ permeate the serialism subterraneans of this new trio’s debut LP, Rose Golden Doorways.

Featuring fellow Polar Bear Pete Wareham on contorting inpained and withering saxophone and Zed-U and Empirical’s Neil Charles on stalking, menacing bass guitar duties, Seb instigates, sets in motion opaque industrial post-punk rituals and esoteric jazz moods from his drum kit on an album of both the primal and mysteriously cryptic – adding another layer of mystique and interpretation through the album’s artwork, Seb visually offers a number of numerical value symbols to decipher.

Recorded in a Stoke Newington church (of all places), the atmosphere is not so much godly as supernatural, often even chthonian. No holy communion here, rather a recondite performance of searching and roaming about in the darkness under various stresses. The album starts with a howl of machinery and industrial wanes; a heart of darkness oscillation of piercing quivers and Bish Bosch style Scott Walker mood accompaniment. From this the staccato and strung-out evocations move with a certain menace through a suite of pendulous tribal witchery, lurking leviathans, lunar prisms, dungeons and cosmic doldrums. Between the churning maelstrom and river Styx voyages you may hear shadows of Andy Haas, Arthur Russell, Massive Attack, Mani Neumeier, Faust and a sedated King Crimson. All of which is of course undulated with that transformed vision of classical Indian music; a melodic framework that has no direct translation to the classical ideas of European music, and so encourages this kind of experimentation that Seb’s new project grants it.

Not a jazz album in the traditional or even avant-garde sense, Rose Golden Doorways is Seb’s most amorphous dark exploration yet; a total escapism from the tangible. It will be interesting to hear where he goes next.






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

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