THE PLAYLIST
Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brian Bordello Shea

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

TRACK LIST IN FULL IS:

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avalanche Kaito ‘ST’
(Glitterbeat Records)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brigitte Beraha ‘Blink’
20th May 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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