Premiere
Dominic Valona
Photo Credit: Miles Hart




Sebastian Reynolds   ‘The Universe Remembers’
(Faith & Industry)   Single/27th March 2020


Oxford-based polymath Sebastian Reynolds has finally found the time in his prolific schedule of collaborations, remixes, session work and productions to create his very own solo soundtrack of various inspired peregrinations. The Universe Remembers quintet drifts and wafts across an ambiguous, often vaporous soundscape of neo-classical composition, retro futurist production, swanned Tibetan mystical jazz, both languid and accelerated running breakbeats, and ghostly visitations – haunted narrated extracts from T.S. Eliot’s all-encompassing philosophical, religious and metaphysical Holy Grail purview The Wasteland, can be heard in fuzzy echo on the featured title-track single.

A cosmological junction of dystopian literature and Buddhist Eschatology, The Universe Remembers is, as you might expect from a composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer who’s created music as varied as the transcendent Southeast Asian Manīmekhalā score that accompanied the multimedia Mahajanaka Dance Drama and the visceral chamber pieces of his collaboration with the pan-European Solo Collective trio, the evocations are simultaneously as dreamy as they are ominous and mysterious.

A guest producer on the premiere track we’re hosting today, Capitol K has lent his skills before to Seb’s work as a remixer. His Faith & Industry label, the platform for Capitol K’s output as well as luminaries such as previous Monolith Cocktail albums of the year entrant John Johanna and Champagne Dub, is facilitating the release of this EP. Ahead of the 22nd May 2020 release date, Seb has kindly agreed to share that twinkled trembled cascaded piano and slow beat vaporous turn tumultuous reversal title-track. Featuring the ambiguous mystical fluttering, spiraling and drifting clarinet of Rachel Coombes, and a penchant for the glitch-y piano resonance of Susumu Yokota, this traverse wafts between the snake charmer bazaars of Egypt and Calcutta, the Hitchcockian, and avant-garde.

Expect to be enticed into a wonderfully amorphous soundscape of trance, esoteric mysticism, trip-hop, new age, satellite jazz and the poetic.








Background:

Following his formative years leading premier UK cult musical ensembles the Keyboard Choir and Braindead Collective, Sebastian has more latterly made a name for himself with the modern classical trio Solo Collective in which he performs with German chamber musicians Alex Stolze and Anne Müller (Erased Tapes) and the Thai/Anglo dance and music show Mahajanaka Dance Drama that he scored and produced. The Universe Remembers is a distillation of these various musical inclinations, from the distorted crescendos of tracks such as the elegiac, otherworldly ‘Everest’, evoking the digital climaxes of the Keyboard Choir, to the deft use of clarinet on the title track and the swooning saxophone melodies of ‘You Are Forgotten’ evoking the retro futurism of the Blade Runner score and nodding to the post-jazz interests of the Braindead Collective. The vocal samples on the title track are from T.S. Elliot’s epic poem The Waste Land and they represent Sebastian’s ongoing interest in dystopian contemporary literature, as previously heard on the Catch 22 based piece ‘Ripeness Is All’ (featured on Solo Collective Part 2). EP opener ‘Amoniker’ calls to mind Boards of Canada’s use of tape-warped samples and stuttering rhythms. The Universe Remembers is Sebastian’s first solo release aside from the dance score commissions and it certainly serves as a further glimpse into the inner workings of a prolific, wide ranging and unpredictable music creator.

Previous releases include the two Solo Collective albums, Part 1 (November 2017) and Part 2 (June 2019), both released through Alex Stolze’s imprint Nonostar, and two EPs from the Mahajanaka Dance Drama Thai project, Mahajanaka (April 2017) via Nonostar again, and Maṇīmekhalā (October 2019) via his own PinDrop label and PR company. Sebastian’s projects have had glowing critical acclaim from across the media, and received airtime across the BBC and far beyond.




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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 or love for. 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: especially in these most uncertain and anxious times.

ALBUM REVIEW
Words: Dominic Valvona



John Johanna ‘Seven Metal Mountains’
(Faith & Industry) 19th July 2019


‘And the mountains which thine eyes have seen,

The mountain of iron, and the mountain of copper, and the mountain of silver,

And the mountain of gold, and the mountain of soft metal, and the mountain of lead,

All these shall be in the presence of the Elect One.
As wax: before the fire.’

 

With afflatus fervor Norfolk-based artist John Johanna transduces the mountain allegories and metaphors as laid down by Noah’s grandfather in the vision-dream-revelatory Book Of Enoch into a gospel-raga-blues and Radio Clash prescient Biblical cosmology. Interrupted from Enoch’s visits to the heavenly realms – where, as Johanna’s Strummer fronts Wah! Heat, Gothic redemption goer ‘Standing At The Gates Of Love’ takes its title from, you will find a no-nonsense angel guarding the Pearly Gates with a flaming sword in hand – the Seven Metal Mountains metallurgy passage is as much an augur as observed proclamation. Used here as a frame for Johanna’s second visionary album of spiritual nutrition in a Godless age for the always brilliant Faith & Industry label, the dour liturgy of Judaic tradition and law inspires a message of forewarning and yearns for less materialistic avarice: The actual verset golden anointed title-track that closes this album fashions a pastoral English church vision of the more angelic communal Popol Vuh, and has a certain ray of optimism musically as Johanna croons “when love sets us free.”

In the same mode are the faux-reggae gait, loose but driving anthemic recent single (as featured on the Monolith Cocktail last month) ‘Children Of Zion’, the regal tabla meets Matmos producing Wendy Carlos going Elizabethan processional psychedelic ‘In The Court Of King David’, and the sashaying Malian esoteric trip ‘The New Jerusalem’: Hebrew history and mysticism, and those good ol’ “Babylon is falling” and Tower Of Babel tropes, as overcooked so often in the Dub and Reggae realms, used to great effect as a prescient reminders of our own impending doom.

Even that Babylon titan, scourge of the Judean people, King Nebuchadnezzar gets a seat at the table of rich Biblical imagery and song; the antagonist of the propulsive Sensations Fix fronted by Robyn Hitchcock raga ode to the Coptic triumvirate of passages ‘Songs Of Three’. The longest reigning, all-conquering King of lore, plays a most pivotal part of the history of the Jews of course, having laid siege to the Judah seat of power in Jerusalem, carrying off much of the population into Babylonian captivity – though in kind, the aggrandized Persian King, Cyrus The Great, would take Nebuchadnezzar’s lavish and impressive capital in the sixth century BC, freeing the Jewish population, and allowing them to return back home.

But this is an album that also explores those atavistic Holy Land offerings as translated by various cultures: from Ethiopia to the American Deep South. For example, the George Harrison deft guitar peddling, reed bank gospel soul ‘Deep River’ is an interpretation of the African-American spiritual lament of the same name; Johanna keeping the original yearning for escape from bondage (as inspired by the Jews own enslavements in Babylon and Egypt) lyrics – made famous in the 1929 film Show Boat, and given an even greater gravitas by the booming baritone of Paul Robeson – but honing a congruous new accompaniment. Johanna also sets the Elizabethan-age “idiomatic” psalms of Archbishop Matthew Parker, as put to music by the courtly composer Thomas Tallis, on the bathed in glory Western soundtrack rhapsody ‘Parker Tallis Version’: Imagine Richard Hawley crooning over a Jack Nitzsche does a Ennio Morricone score.

The gospels according to John Johanna (and friends of course, with the prolific and in-demand Capitol K once more on production, and The Comet Is Coming drummer Betamax and Seafoxes’ Karina Zakri both making guest appearances) offer love and caution, not fire-and-brimstone: As the PR spill mentioned, a congruous bedfellow would be PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. Johanna’s Seven Metal Mountains translates Biblical prophecy marvelously into a vivid eclectic songbook of protestation post-punk, indie, folk, psych and lilting Krautrock.




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