ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona
Band Photo Credit: Karim Diarra

Samba Touré ‘Binga’
(Glitterbeat Records) 9th April 2021

Learning his craft as a member of the late and iconic Ali Farka Touré band, the Malian guitar star and artist Samba Touré soon found his own voice and signature style when he began a career as bandleader in the 90s. Samba’s wonderings and spirit of curiosity has seen him weave his Songhoy heritage with rock ‘n’ roll, r ‘n’ b and the blues to much acclaim; both nationally and internationally.

Yet for most of that time, especially within the last decade, this musical legacy has been created during the turbulence of war, drought, insurgencies and coups. Most of which Samba has addressed on his last three albums for the highly prolific global showcase label Glitterbeat Records. Two of those albums, Albala and Gandadiko, were both produced during the (still ongoing) Islamist terror group insurgency that more or less hijacked Mali’s Tuareg militants fight for an autonomous state within the Saharan bordering regions of the country. Spared at least some of the worst violence and atrocities having left his village home in the rural Malian region of Binga as a young man to find work in the capital of Bamako, Samba managed to record some most entrancing, captivating work; most of which called for unity and especially – a subject it seems very dear to his heart – issued calls to open the schools in Mali hit by security problems, strikes, but also in the last year, the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. On Samba’s fourth release for the label, and a nod to his homely roots, Binga, he channels a wizened, grizzled Muddy Waters on the stately blues and stoic but incandescent with angry cries ‘Atahas’; a song, more like a protest, against the sorry state of education in the country.

As if the tumult couldn’t be even more, well…tumultuous; after halting the Islamist militants with the help of former colonialists France, the Malian army is currently in the frontline with units from Chad, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, alongside the UN, in multiple operations to stave off Isis affiliated groups on the Mali borders and in its neighbor’s backyards. Attacks on government targets, soldiers and civilians continue unabated however: even as recent as January 2021.

With all these pressures, Mali’s own government continues to lurch from one crisis to the next; an uneasy interim style leadership, peppered by young officers from the Army who staged a coup back in the summer of last year (the exact same time this album was recorded), currently holds power. That coup’s leader, Colonel Assimi Goita, holds the title of Vice President, though this is only until elections are held later in the year.

Reminiscing of better times, or at least a ‘golden epoch’ in the greater region’s history, Samba’s new album features an opening and bookended tribute to songs from the Songhoy era; an empire that once stretched across most of the Western Sahel, the largest such kingdom in Africa during the 15th and 16th centuries. That empire’s crowning glory, Timbuktu, lies just 100 Km from Samba’s birthplace: It’s reverence, almost destroyed in the recent fighting, still inspires. Covering a couplet of traditional Songhoy fair, Samba and his intimate band join a great legacy of compatriots who’s also covered, interrupted atavistic songs from that period. Recounting the exploits of that tradition’s ‘great figures’, Samba’s version of the ‘Tamala’ standard is helped along on its way by his relaxed signature weaves of trickled and nimbly spun notes, played over a sinking but rooted bluesy rhythm. With a courtly evocation, and the harmonized vocal accompaniment of guest Djeneba Diakité, Samba softly flows with a little buoyancy across a Sahel vision. ‘Terey Kongo’ meanwhile is almost elliptical in its rhythm; almost sensual to a point; a nice wash in fact for a tale about admiring looks at the Malian women on the riverbank, observed on a trip down the Niger river towards Timbuktu.

Drawing back a little from the fuller sound of his previous album Wande – Samba’s bass player having now moved to the States – Samba mainstays Djimé Sissoko (on the ngoni) and Souleymane Kane (on calabash) move in close and intimately on what’s billed as the Malian virtuoso’s ‘most personal album yet’. This trio is augmented in parts with the most subtle of brooding low synthesized atmospherics, some country waned harmonica and additional shaken and tub patting percussion. Nothing ever quite breaks out, yet the sound is full, deep and resonating all the same; and above all, just as hypnotic: like a dipped motion camel ride across the desert plains. It’s a beautiful undulated journey that features jammed horizon mirages (the matter of fact entitled ‘Instrumental’) and elegiac reverent tributes (‘Kola Cissé).  

Once more Samba Touré embodies the music of the Songhoy on an album of mixed blessings: the bittersweet in counterpoint with sagacious optimism. Returning to the source, geographically and creatively, the Binga albums is as soulful as it is bluesy; as courtly as it is traversing; and a really satisfying immersive experience all round from one of Mali’s greatest exports.

See also…

Samba Touré ‘Gandadiko’   

Samba Touré ‘Wande’

Glitterbeat Records 5th Anniversary Special

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


Review
Words: Dominic Valvona




Ustad Saami ‘Pakistan Is For The Peaceful’
(Glitterbeat Records) Album/9th October 2020


The only living master of an ancient Sufi devotional form in transcendence, the seventy-six year old Ustad Saami lives in hope that his transportive blessed “Surti” music may yet bring peace to a most turbulent and dangerous Pakistan. In a region in which fundamentalism holds a powerful grip of fear on the population, most forms of music that don’t conform to a strict Islamic code are banned or at the very least pressured to go underground.

The danger is all too real and prevalent, and in venturing to Pakistan a few years ago to record the great adorations of Saami, the in-situ American producer Ian Brennan (no stranger to this blog) was taking a huge risk. Brennan is of course used (to a point) of luring out forgotten, ignored and obscure voices from some of the most inhospitable places and warzones in the world. The Hidden Music series for Glitterbeat Records, of which this is the second Saami album to be appear, has seen the Grammy Award winning producer already travel to both a post genocide Rwanda and Cambodia, and also to a mine-riddled Vietnam to coax out the most striking emotional of open and frank recordings. Now capturing for posterity, he once again facilitates the most intimate conditions for another deeply immersive liturgy of heavenly Surti adulations.





Pakistan Is For The Peaceful is, considering the geopolitical tumult and violence, a hopeful title. But then the exalted master has spent a lifetime in the service of his music; learning the forms 49-note microtonal system of vocal prayers since being singled out for the pathway to devotion. It has been a harsh learning at that; the pupil Saami forbidden by his master from speaking or communicating verbally, instead guided towards lyrical expressions. He wouldn’t even get to step on stage to perform this eight centuries generational hand-me-down veneration until the age of thirty-five. And then, until only in recent years, more or less confined to his home of Pakistan. Now in his mid seventies, a more worn Saami still manages to rise every morning at 4am to practice and perform his drill exercises until dawn.

Following on from the well-received 2019 album God Is Not A Terrorist this second brassy resonating, concertinaed and bellowed magisterial rich suite of incredibly hypnotic lengthy performances is even better.

Joined by his four sons (Rauf, Urooj, Ahmed and Azeem), who both vocally respond to Saami’s paeans and provide an assortment of dipped, purposeful and reverberating harmonium, tambura and tabla, the master conjures up a holy out-of-body experience. Performing from Saami’s rooftop home in Karachi, this ensemble entrance and send the listener off into the inspired heavens.

The leading voice of Saami comes from the gut, but isn’t so much guttural as aching in its reverence and otherworldliness. Those shimmering nodes of resonance and sorrowed drones meanwhile stir up a spiritual epiphany: something extremely special.

This album is why I started this whole damn blog; a search for those uncynical real performances that get lost in the daily hubris of incessant noise and divisive outrage. This is music from another dimension in comparison to all that. And thanks in part to Brennan; it will now exist as a recorded testament forever, even if it this form of Islamic spiritualist music is set to die out with its leading light. As sad as that sounds, that dying art has never sounded so ethereal and yet alive. So I say: soak it up; bathe in the glow.





Also…

Ustad Saami ‘God Is Not A Terrorist’ here…

Glitterbeat Records 5th anniversary special here…

The Ian Brennan interview here…


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.

New Music/Dominic Valvona





The Perusal is a great chance to catch up, taking a quick shifty at the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload the Monolith Cocktail’s inboxes each month. Chosen by Dominic Valvona, this week’s roundup includes choice picks from Mexico City, Moscow, Lyon, and the UK from Shaw & Grossfeldt, Lucidvox, Makoto Kino, Quimper and Supergombo.

Lucidvox   ‘Knife (Нож)’
(Glitterbeat Records)   Single/28th April 2020 & Video/29th April 2020





Hell hath no fury like a squalling sonic quartet of post-punk and psychedelic razor slashing Muscovites banshees intent on a musical knife fight. Better known as the firebrands Lucidvox, Alina (vocals/flute), Nadezhda (drums), Galla (guitar) and Anna (bass) have returned from a two-year hiatus to once more kick up a caustic anarchic storm of emotional guttural truth with a new album, appropriately entitled, Knife (Нож). In a baptism of fire, the modestly acclaimed diy band will release this LP on the ever worldly Glitterbeat Records label: another coup and string to the bow of an ever expanding eclectic and welcoming hub for interesting new sounds.

Shared with our readers today, way ahead of the album’s release on the 9th October 2020, is the lead introductory single ‘We Are (мы Есть)’; a swirling post-punk meets prog and math rock union of stumbling and lugging drums, scuzzy resonance and tangled riffing guitars that regales a harshly worded witch-burning metaphorical story of guilt, affection, and acceptance:

I stuck a knife in your back

Trampled your dreams

Burn me like I’m a witch

Don’t look in my eyes, but burn

I’m lying, protecting myself

Burn me like I’m a witch

Burn me to the bottom, to the bottom

I don’t ask for trust

 

I’m not close, I don’t wait and don’t believe

I laugh and spit in your face

Crucify me and feed me to the beast

I don’t repent, I don’t care

I don’t cry asking for forgiveness

Do not believe my sweet lies anymore

Burn me like I’m a witch

Do not seek my salvation, but burn.

 

The fuse has definitely been lit for the third phase of the Lucidvox movement. You have been warned.


Shaw & Grossfeldt   ‘Klavier p’
Single/Available To Stream Now



Simian Mobile Disco’s Jas Shaw and “new talent” Bas Grossfeldt have teamed up to deliver a cerebral and sophisticated propulsive album of both Basic Channel imbued Techno and Hauschka purposeful piano minimalism built around the high-tech reproducing Yamaha Disklavier keyboard. It’s an apparatus style concept that produces the most poised and deep of albums without losing the throbbing and dub-y rhythms of dance music; a centrifugal unveiling of deft piano and kinetics in motion.

The background story and inspiration for this album, Klavier, came about by chance; whilst Jas was in Cologne for a gig with Bas, the latter booked studio time in the local art school he was working and studying at. On arriving, they noticed a Disklavier in the live room – a real piano fitted with electronic sensors and triggers.

Ditching their original plan to set up and use synths, this union decided instead to use the Disklavier and its attributes to produce something different. Instead of sequencing the synths, they ended up with an unusual and unplanned system where a Max MSP software patch controlled the piano and, while one guided the patch, the other controlled the piano by dampening strings to create interesting sounds.

Klavier is comprised partly of sections from the session where their system came together nicely – simply documented and with minimal postproduction. Other tracks are the result of treating the piano recordings as one might treat a synth – chopping and processing them through gear. The entire LP is defined by that lucky day though, when a spontaneous change of plan bore strange new fruit.

As one half of Simian Mobile Disco, Jas Shaw has been a key fixture in electronic music for over a decade. With SMD on temporary hiatus, in 2018 he released a collaborative album called On Reflection with Gold Panda under the name Selling, followed by his solo project Exquisite Cops last year. He continues to receive treatment for AL amyloidosis – a rare disorder of bone marrow cells.

Coming from a fine arts background working in installation, choreography and performance art under real name Søren Siebel, Shaw’s partner on this sonic voyage has adopted the alias Bas Grossfeldt to focus on music. His talent for recording has quickly been recognised, both with this album and also a forthcoming solo EP on Detroit legend Juan Atkins’ feted label Metroplex. Back in the wider arts world, he is working on “a constellation of seven contemporary dancers, a spatial intervention and a live-sound performance” called ‘The Architecture Of The Unconscious’.

Shaw & Grossfeldt are already working on more new material, a live show and a club tour – which will showcase their intense back-to-back DJ sets. Ahead of that new album, released on June 5th, here’s the single ‘Klavier p’.



Supergombo   ‘Alien Felines From Across The Galaxy’
(Z Production)  Video/Available Now





With paper-cut diorama visuals of half-human animals battling it out in a titanic struggle, the newest fused jamboree video from the seven-piece troupe Supergombo is a surreal anthropomorphic collage every bit as fun as the band’s eclectic sound. Underlined with an obvious cosmological message of interconnectivity amongst the debris of all-out worldwide war, the Supergombo raise their sun-bleached Afrobeat horns, strum their space funk licks and chops, and aim their guided Afrodisco lasers at the dancefloor on the B-movie entitled ‘Alien Felines From Across The Galaxy’.

There’s a lot to take in with this French group’s international offshoot-of-offshoot hybrid of rhythms and sounds; mixing as they do those sci-fi honk and squawks and infectious Kuti with the ‘a shock’, ‘jolt’ ‘jerk’ of the Congolese Soukous – a dance with seeds in the local rumba phenomenon -, and the sacred ceremonial Sabar drumming of Senegalese Mbalax. It all combines to produce a most pleasing funk.

A heralded fanfare and tantalizing taster, ‘Alien Felines From Across The Galaxy’ is being released ahead of the troupe’s extravaganza album showcase SigiTolo, released in October.


Makoto Kino  ‘Glitter Rose Garden’
Mini LP/available Now





The alter ego of the Mexico City based musician Francisco Cabrera Celio, Makoto Kino is a both dreamy and Gothic kaleidoscopic platform for the artist’s sonic rituals and multi-layering entranced mantras.

Composed and produced between 2015 and 2020, in-between other projects by the musician, Glitter Rose Garden showcases Francisco’s various electronic music influences; from the electronic stuttering cut-up abrasions and Grimes like dreamy high-pitched trip-hop pop of the opening ‘West Madoka’ to the cavernous bity club glitch spooky reverberations of ‘Scorpio Waters’ and the building trance-y traverse of the whispery chiming ‘Hànzì Semiotics’. However, the final twelve-minute opus ‘Angel’s Garden’ veers away from the electronica towards a strange dreamy fusion of bluesy Prince guitar licks and soulful gossamer vocals that eventually drifts towards a spiraling escalation of reverberated texturing.

Using the metaphor of a garden that needs due care and attention if it’s to avoid decay, Francisco explores the central themes of the consequences and emotional burdens of putting oneself as priority. This comes across as often searching, and even hallucinatory, on a soundscape and melodious mini-album of reflective quixotic electronica.

Francisco is influenced by artists like Rites Wild, Holly Herndon, Laurel Halo, Tentenko, Aqours, the Japanese idol scene, contemporary Asian music, the international club scene, astrology and mysticism, so expect some interesting if subtle multi-layering of ideas.



Quimper   ‘Boroq-Thaddoi’
EP/Available Now





Conjured up from the disturbed, if often quaint, imaginations of John Vertigen, who is on occasions joined in his visions by the ghostly visitation whispers of foil Jodie Lowther (Jodie also provides the neo-surrealist De Chirico meets Ensor praying to the Wicker Man artwork), Quimper gently and mysterious drift towards the most serenely disturbing of ruins.

Once more summoning up vague vapours of Eastern European art house magical-realism, 1970s library music and the sort of British horror soundtracks favoured by the Belbury Poly, The Advisory Circle and Berberian Sound Studios period Broadcast, Vertigen’s latest invocation of escapism, Boroq-Thaddoi, evokes The Cleaners From Venus in a haunted house of ambient paranormal activity.

The songs on this particular EP – though you’d be pushed to ever work it out for yourselves – are about ‘waiting, cleaning up, cheerful annihilation and monochrome computer games about ants’. In short, a strange plane of the supernatural and retro-futurism.



The Monolith Cocktail is now on Ko-Fi, the micro-donation and support platform.

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.

REVIEW
Words: Dominic Valvona
Images: Luis Mileo



Lina_Raül Refree ‘S/T’
(Glitterbeat Records) LP/17th January 2020

Stripped bare and rebuilt from the foundations up, the congruous and accentuate sonic and voice union of the striking siren simply known as Lina and Raül Refree subtly revive the often sullen and forlorn Portuguese tradition of ‘fado’. Working together for the first time, this collaborative partnership transforms a classic songbook of material made famous by the queen of fado, Amália Rodrigues, whilst keeping an essence of that folkloric style’s veneration and plaintive pull.

Continuing with a fresh formula that in the last few years has worked wonders for his collaborations with Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and the “incendiary” flamenco artist Rosalia, and created an experimental sonic mirage out of the on and off set atmosphere of Isaki Lacuesta’s flamenco exploration ‘Entre dos Agua’, Refree transports that tradition beyond its origins into an abstract soundscape that could evoke French Chanson as much as the Kosmische, and even the soundtrack work of Angelo Badalamenti. Not so much a sacrilege as a move away from past constrictions the multi talented musician/producer puts a contemporary spin on the indigenous musical form by removing the synonymous acoustic guitar accompaniment for a nuanced atmosphere of augmented, reverent and ambient analogue synthesizer and neoclassical piano.

Enervated circular metallic, vaporous mists and centrifugal forces envelope, caress or appear like distant murmurings, layered beneath Lina’s diaphanous and starkly sonorous vocals; taking the determined and soulful kernel of fado into some gauze-y, ominous and alien dimensions. Channeling the spirit of chanteuse and actress Amália Rodrigues – who did more than anyone to spread fado beyond the borders of Portugal – Lina’s adroit refashioning of the late performer’s repertoire plays centre stage on this experimentally minimalist LP.





A scion of fado, Lina inherited an interest in the style at the age of fifthteen. Broadening horizons, the burgeoning enchantress also studied opera; the barest, although highly impressive, opening up of those scales can be heard at key punctuated moments throughout. Building a reputation for her haunted interpretations and range, Lina has performed as a regular at the venerated Clube de Fado in Lisbon. Venturing into new uncharted soundscapes, Lina invited Refree in to apply a more liberal contemporary, even mysterious, production.

The dynamics of these two artists works in part because of Refree’s lack of investment or adherence to fado’s signatures and history. Relatively unburdened by its weighty worthiness, though no less respectful, these classical lamentable yearns and ballads open out into magical realism, the dreamy and the esoteric. On the echoed ‘Sta Luzia’ Lina sounds like a Portuguese transmogrification of Marianne Faithfull singing the ‘Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’, and on the rising torrid haunted sea omen ‘Gaivota’ you can hear touches of Diamanda Galas.

The beauty of morose and tragedy is explored with a synthesized and reconstructive intimacy that loses none of fado’s naturalistic and guttural heartbroken fragility. Refree’s production proves complimentary if subtly transformative; underpinning and accentuating the power and stark brilliance of Lina’s stirring performances without infringing upon the sensitivity or meaning.

Bellowed, ghostly, sensual, soothed and melodic: this album is all of these. Yet it is also sparse and stripped, almost to just the faintest of renderings with Refree’s presence at times almost recorded from beyond the ether. Fado’s legacy is in good hands as it lingers on into a new decade with a contemporary purpose.

Dominic Valvona





 

Album Reviews
Words: Dominic Valvona




After a short but knackering break from the site – moving house if you must know -, and with a waiting period nearly as long as the proroguing of parliament, as my broadband was activated – surely in this day and age it can’t seriously take over two weeks to be connected – I’m back with another eclectic roundup of the curious and recommended.

An international affair as ever, flying the flag for Colombia, the Bogotá union of Los Pirañas provides a cultish, kitsch and cosmic psychedelic cosmology on their third album, Historia Natural. Back across the Atlantic, and to Nigeria, I take a look at the seminal 80s Highlife-meets-Caribbean Osondi Owendi LP from the legendary Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, whilst in Europe, the Chateau Rouge borne project Bantou Mentale rewires the sounds and energy of the Democratic Republic Of Congo to create a dynamic and soulful new sound for the 21st century chaos. I also find much to enjoy about the Flemish language rewiring of Calypso and Savoy era jazz classics and obscurities from one-time dEUS guitarist Mauro Pawlowski – going under just one many of his alter egos, Maurits Pauwels.

Closer to home, a couple of UK releases, the first, Feel It Go Round, from the folksy psychedelic Oxford-based sibling led Catgod, and the second, Scottish Space Race, from the Glasgow ‘head music’ group The Cosmic Dead.

Finally, I take a look at a duo of albums that rewire and channel the influence of Robert Wyatt; the first, by Max Andrzejewski and his Hütte troupe of friends, pays a special homage to the maverick’s back catalogue, whilst the second, from the alternative pastoral Cold Spells, resonates with his more vulnerable fragile qualities.


Bantou Mentale ‘Bantou Mentale’
(Glitterbeat Records) 25th October 2019



A sizzle. A static shock, a charge that most importantly signals something is changing in the musical fabric; a signal of something dynamic but also something dangerous, a mirror image of the real world, the real refugee and migrant experience and chaos. Vivid and fresh being the optimum words as the Bantou Mentale vehicle shakes up the melting pot convergence of Paris’ infamous Chateau Rouge; addressing assumptions/presumptions about their native Democratic Republic of Congo home in the process. Not so much explosive, the electric quartet seem relaxed, even drifting as they channel the soul and spirit of co-operation; opening up aspects of the DRC culture and humility often lost or obscured in the noise of negativity – and the Congo has had more than its fair share of violence and tumult both pre and post Colonialism.

More light (enlightenment even) than darkness, the rim-shot echo-y untethered sonics chime as much with dub and Afro-psychedelic soul traverses as they do post-punk and a contemporary hybrid of various dance trends. But before we go any deeper, a little background information, some providence is needed.

Drawn from a rich selection of Kinshasa (and beyond) sonic propulsive outfits and artists, including Staff Benda Bilili, Konono No.1, Koffi Olomide, Jupiter & Okwess and Mbongwana Star, concept guy (for this is a project, a statement, that moves beyond music to encompass performance and visuals), drummer and singer/songwriter Cubain Kabeya, guitarist Chicco Katembo and singer Apocalypse have all been around the block, fronting or backing every fresh new development on the Paris scene. Closing the circle, the Irish born and Parisian raised all-rounder and producer Liam Farrell (professionally known as Doctor L) brings an equally impressive resume to the dynamic venture; working with such luminaries as Tony Allen and Babani Koné. Cubain and Katembo both previously worked with Damon Albarn back in 2010 as part of the Kinshasa One Two album, whilst Farrell has collaborated with Cubain on a number of electro-fried African dance projects: Black Cowboys and Negro-P.

Here and now they combine forces with scenester Apocalypse to push the envelope further still, merging the industrial with 2-step, d-n-b, electro, hip-hop, soukous, ndombolo, grime, funk and rock. Everything except the DRC’s rumba; far too smooth for the raw energy and prescient turmoil that the Mentale are articulating.

Borne in the furnace of a riotous, equally hostile city, this latest album follows the migrant’s plight like a pilgrimage, commentating sorrowfully on a pitiful existence traversing deserts on the way to escape – as documented on the reimagined PiL trip-toeing with a dub-transformed Ben Zabo in the wilderness ‘Zanzibar’. Though they also celebrate the fellowship and “wild uncertainty” of the migrant’s progress on the album’s scatter-like ratcheting and kinetic beat homage to the African village diaspora where it all started, ‘Chateau Rouge’: for the band but also the destination for so many migrants too. There’s also cautionary advice on this adventure in the form of the wanton mirage-flange prayer style ‘stay out of jail’, ‘Boloko’.

But for the most part this album is suffused with reverb-relaxed intentions of peace; underscored with a subject close to the quartet’s heart, the travail and inhumanity that has been inflicted on the peaceable Batswa (or Batshua) people by their own community, the ‘Bantou’ of the band name. These atavistic people, guardians of the environment – if not forced out or persecuted -, the Batswa are known by the more derogatory term of “pygmy”. Though once respected for their deep knowledge of nature and close connection with the land, they have been colonized, enslaved and derided by not only the Bantou but also various forest tribes and colonial powers. In more recent years though their story and culture has been shared. Label mate of a kind, and on-hand producer Ian Brennan has even recorded the Why Did We Stop Growing Tall? of Rwanda “abatwa” for Glitterbeat Records Hidden Musics series , and documentaries, such as Livia Simoka’s Extreme Tribe: The Last Pygmies, have shone a light on these communities. In a chance meeting with a Batswa named Wengy Loponya Bilongi, Cubain traveled into the bush and spent time with the “genies of the forest”, as they’re known in more compassionate, complimentary circles. This journey was captured by the filmmakers Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye for the Pygmy Blues film; a journey that has changed Cubain, and now informs at least some of the underlying messages of respect and peaceful reconciliation that are suffused throughout this album.

Kinshasa reloaded; Bantou Mentale is a thoroughly modern sonic vision of peaceful cross-border fraternization. Lingering traces of Jon Hassell & Eno, Radio Tarifa, UNCLE, TV On The Radio and even label mates Dirtmusic are absorbed into an electrified subterranean of frizzles, pylon-scratches and hustle-bustle. Above all, despite the subject matter, despite the polygenesis sonic hubbub this is a soulful soundtrack: cooperation ahead of fractious division and hostility. A more positive collaboration for a 21st century chaos.





Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe  ‘Osondi Owendi’
(Hive Mind)  6th September 2019

Reviving an unassuming Highlife classic from the mid 80s, the Brighton-based vinyl and cassette specialists Hive Mind have chosen to push the laidback balmy saunter delights of the Nigerian legend Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe for their next ‘choice’ release.

First appearing on the Lagos scene in 1958 as a crooning Nat King Cole influenced vocalist with the Steven Amechi led Empire Rhythm Skies Orchestra, the regally entitled Chief Stephen released his debut single, ‘Lagos Life Na So So Enjoyment’, the following year. He’d soon become an important and pivotal figure on the Nigerian scene for decades to come.

Produced at a time when Nigeria’s once popular and dominant Highlife had lost some of its appeal, superseded not only by Fela Kuti’s more explosive Afrobeat marriage of that same style to funk, soul and R&B but a post Biafra War generation cultivated on the music of America and looking for something with a rawer, sometimes hostile, edge, Chief Stephen’s Osondi Owendi LP chimed with the more relaxed, soothing undulations of the 50s and 60s, and the lullaby lilting sounds of South Africa. Sweetly laced with those signature gentle Highlife swinging and singing horns and busy percussion, the two lengthy workouts drift on a raft anchored in the Caribbean, as waves of those Island’s calypso swash are suffused with the sounds of Nigeria.

More or less translated from the old Igbo adage as “what is cherished by some is despised by others”, the album’s title track is a beautifully conceived meander of soothing vocals, rattling and tub-thumping rhythms, scraping percussion and tethered but loose solos: from cupped Afro-Cuban cornet trumpet to thin wah-wah guitar riffs. The searching accompaniment, ‘Nigeria Kanyi Jikota’ is an extension of that relaxed spirit; a downtown canter with a dash more brassy resonance and Spanish Hispaniola frills.

A less intense alternative, more in keeping with the smoother production of 80s soul, the Chief’s quilted shimmy and sway is a tropical fused balance of congruous sweltering sounds; the perfect last dance of the summer season.






Max Andrzejewski’s Hütte ‘Hütte And Guests Play The Music Of Robert Wyatt’
(Why Play Jazz) 4th October 2019



Meandering both playfully and experimentally outside the lucid, often serendipitous, guidelines of their idiosyncratic muse Robert Wyatt, Max Andrzejewski’s Hütte and guests style ensemble pay homage to the fated maverick’s surreal and unpredictable back catalogue.

Originally formed for the 42nd Leipzig Jazztage, bandleader, drummer and vocalist Andrzejewski’s adroit sextet chose to perform the music of the much-cherished icon for a tribute program themed around British jazz artists. Remaining together beyond that inaugural performance they decided to record their unique takes of Wyatt’s original material for posterity.

Counterbalancing the former Soft Machine and Matching Mole alternative-England visionaries’ venerable fragility with his whimsical sense of humour and play, they offer a dreamy tension of free-falling avant-garde jazz and elasticated limbering breaks. Riffing wondrously throughout on their well-chosen track list, picked from across four decades and eight albums, the fluid troupe accentuate the longer, more realised peregrinations and extend some of Wyatt’s shorter mumble-y musings. Fro Wyatt’s interregnum years between the Soft Machine and (albeit with a host of facilitators and collaborators) his solo run there’s a synth-y cosmic soul vision of the 1972 Matching Mole prog and organ heavy (veering towards The Nice) ‘Instant Kitten’ that sounds like a jazzy reworking of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, and a skippy, gently tumbling soothing take on the Maoist-faux period operatic lament ‘Starting In The Middle Of The Day We Can Drink Our Politics Away’, taken from the Mole’s Little Red Record – marking not only Wyatt’s, far from flirtatious, commitment to Communism (though we won’t hold that against him) but informing his worldly view.

The fantastical Floydian progressive jazz meets Wind In The Willows road trip nursery rhyme moiety of ‘Little Red Riding Hood Hits The Road’ and ‘Little Red Robin Hood Hits The Road’, taken from Wyatt’s 1974 Rock Bottom LP, are faithfully recreated, leaving just enough space and room to be stretched and remodeled into timeless traversing drifts. Band member Cansu Tanrikulu’s high-falutin fluting untethered and Nordic-soul bent vocals on the latter – they’ve chosen to turn the former into a vocal-free instrumental piece – grow increasingly raspy, croaky and almost sulky as she not only sings Wyatt’s original lyrics but Ivor Cutler’s original faux-Scottish Jamaican burr poetics on this whimsical if unsettling piece. Of course, the album that these two choices comes from, Rock Bottom, remains an important turning point for Wyatt, creatively and personally; the almost fatal accident that led to his paraplegic brittle state happened during recording sessions for the album.

Slipping into the oddness of Wyatt’s 80s catalogue, the ensemble transforms the 1982 Eno meets Indian tabla quirk ‘Grass’ by adding an undulation of vibrating, dipping and chirping retro-electronica and tripping vocals. Paying a funny sort of homage to his writing-partner and wife, illustrator/lyricist Alfreda Benge, the bubbled, lax jazzy and vocally mumbled ambling ‘Duchess’, from the 1997 daydreaming LP Shleep, is taken on a particularly meandrous journey. The canter of the old nursery-rhyme riff is further eroded on this tiptoeing version; Tanrikulu applies a cocktail jazz swoon and croon to the original passive/aggressive lyricism.

From this millennium the Jon Hassell breaks bread with Talk Talk venerable ‘You You’, from 2007’s guest-heavy Comicopera, is swerved towards Skip Spence and The Velvet Underground, and the Sparks-esque choral synth elegy to the maligned ‘Cuckoo Madam’, from the 2003 Cuckooland LP, is lent a sympathetic romantic malady.

A seriously good tribute to every facet of the Wyatt sound, with some surprising choices (not all the most obvious jazz-friendly ones neither) Max Andrzejewski’s Hütte and guests fill every nook and twist with something worth listening to. Learning from one of the best, they inhabit but also revive the, unfortunately retired, maverick’s back catalogue with élan and dexterity.



Los Pirañas ‘Historia Natural’
(Glitterbeat Records) 11th October 2019



A proxy “supergroup” of celebrated Colombian musicians, the Los Pirañas   features a triumvirate of Bogotá players from such luminary bands as the Meridian Brothers, Chúpame el Dedo, Frente Cumbiero, Ondatropica and Romperayo. Pals and collaborators since High School, the coalesce trio of Eblis Alvarez, Mario Galeano and Pedro Ojeda return to those school daze roots twenty five years later on their new, and third, album together, Historia Natural.

Harking back to more unburdened and carefree times with a sense of idolized unabashed joy, Los Pirañas   play loose with their influences; transducing decades worth of Colombian culture into a quivery retro-futurist purview.

Yet, though they saunter and sway to the native rhythms throughout this zippy, tropical album there’s a cross-pollination of source material and references from outside the South American idyll woven into the kooky tapestry: ‘Palermo’s Crunch’ take’s its name from the bustling cornucopia capital port city of Sicily, and its musical direction from Tex-Mex 60s garage bands, The Monkees and California surf music to create a lunar Pradomar surf soundtrack.

From Bogotá to Barranquilla, throwing together everything from Cumbia, Afro-Colombia, Champeta, Salsa and Mambo Loco they reignite a familiar backdrop to gallop and canter across a reimagined cosmology. Most of the time this sounds like a tropical island marooned Joe Meek and Les Baxter, and at other times, a quirky oscillating rave-up of the Julián y Su Combo and a hornless version of Glitterbeat label mates Sonido Gallo Negro. They do all this with a lively, sometimes silly, FX heavy backing of retro-calculating computers, kazoos, bee-trapped-in-a-jar and tremolo guitar and a constantly busy tapping, tinkering, rattling and scraping percussion that flows between the relaxed and erratic.

A fun oddity of the traditional, psychedelic and kitsch, Historia Natural conjures up an imaginative fertile landscape of surfin-bird Caribbean facing Colombian beaches, UFO landing site mountain tops, abandoned mythological temples, volcanoes and piranha-infested rivers on what is one hell of a trippy cultish South American lark.






The Cold Spells ‘Interstitial’
(Gare du Nord) 11th October 2019



Tentatively hoping that the English duo’s 2018 self-titled debut (which made our “choice albums of the year” features) wasn’t just a fluke I’m happy to announce that their 2019 follow-up, Interstitial, is every bit as subtly plaintive and melodically beautiful as that record.

A lucid meander across a divisive, anxious landscape in turmoil, Tim Ward and Michael Farmer’s Cold Spells ruminations ponder on the spaces between both the more incidental and loftier metaphysical. This “interstitial” state is a Kosmische folktronica vision; a pylon-dotted pastoral countryside, where the psychic resonance of history bleeds into the present stasis; a place in which Georgian tavern poesy and lamentable tragedy converge with the Canterbury and 60s psychedelic folk scenes.

Vocally they marry the despondent but beatific fragile lyrical profoundness of Robert Wyatt with the estuary lilt of Damon Albarn, musically, the Incredible String Band, Shirley Collins and Davy Graham with the subtlest of synth-generated undertones, undulations and atmospherics: reminiscent in places of both Arthur Russell and Broadcast. It’s a seemingly familiar soundtrack, yet there’s something quite different going on as the duo squeeze what they can out of their influences. And so just when you might have a handle on the Faustian deal-with-the-devil rustic-psych, ‘For All Us Sorry Travellers’, the Thackeray-etched lyricism suddenly jolts with a well-timed, pushed into the present, use of the word “cunt”: In what seems to be an 18th century English sorry tale, with the protagonist spilling his woes from atop of a perched chair, a noose around his neck, suddenly resonates with suicidal despair in the here and now. This counterpoint between timelines continues, suffused, throughout the album. Songs such as the opening ‘Leviathan’ balance a maudlin balmy charm with a codex of aerials and intermittent broadcast signals, and the instrumental title-track interlude imagines an Eagle Comic’s envisioned spaceport in the idylls of a twill English meadow: though it must be said, the album closer, ‘You Play My Mistakes’, stands out for its plaintive Soho lounge bar feel, more in the mode of Scott Walker.

Understated in execution, this sophisticated album gently unfurls its serious ruminations and forlorn slowly to reveal a melodious pastoral-cosmic treasure every bit as deep and unassuming as their magnum opus debut.





Maurits Pauwels en de Benelux Calypso ‘Tien Toppers Uit Trinidad’
(Jezus Factory) 23rd August 2019



Even for a label that prides itself on pushing beyond the alt-rock cliché to discover and then promote new and interesting finds from the Benelux countries, the latest curiosity and change (again) in direction from one-time dEUS guitar-for-hire Mauro Pawlowski could be considered a surprise even by the standards of Jezus Factory Records output. Used to releasing a multitude of projects and sidebars from a host of Northern Europe’s rockers, a Flemish-style rave-up of Calypso music classics and obscurities raises eyebrows. Happily it works, as the sound of the Caribbean is given a rambunctious Lutheran makeover.

Under the Dutch native tongue alter ego of Maurits Pauwels, Mauro and his troupe take on the Calypso sound and the age in which it was most influential; adding Savoy label, be-bop, New Orleans’ ragtime jazz, dancehall and, on the LP’s most surprising break from the formula remit, ‘Alleen een Dwaas’, a kind of mish-mash of saddened progressive balladry and requiem Procol Harum.

Jostling to a backing track accompaniment of cupped and heralding brass, tumbled toms and saloon bar tonk (no honk) piano Mauro and his band sumptuously roll between vine-swinging Jungle Book, Caribbean cruise ships, be-bop joints and Egyptian art deco gin palaces; atmospheres in which you’re likely to hear the jovial Byron Lee, Lloyd Miller, New York Jazz Ensemble, Mighty Sparrow and Dizzy Gillespie rubbing up against more contemporary wry and serious themes: “dancing whilst thinking” as it’s billed.

It works well, as I said, another string to a crowded bow and one of Mauro’s most brilliantly executed and absorbing vehicles yet. And that’s from someone who’s back catalogue features over 90 projects. Take a punt and a swing whilst this limited edition release is still available.





Catgod ‘Feel It Go Round’
September 2019



Less an adoration style worship of a feline deity and more a peaceable, if deep, gentle collection of modern sonnets, the Oxford based Catgod attempt to make sense of all life’s woes with the subtlest of touches on their debut LP, Feel It Go Round.

Fronted, if that’s the right word, by the dual vocalist siblings Robin Christensen-Marriott and Catherine Marriott this gauze-y, dreamy, on occasion haunted, folksy troupe wind through a contemporary Southeast of England landscape in hushed, diaphanous tones.

Somehow making the daily humdrum trudge of commuting sound like a John Martyn psychedelic mirage of beautifully lulled harmonies and hazy-light dappled wistful heartache, they can turn the most mundane into the magical. The song in question here, ‘New Cross’, almost romanticizes Robin’s commute between East London and his Oxford home; immortalizing familiar locations (obviously the title itself but also Dalston) in ruminating song. Standard tropes appear in the form of mortality anxiety on the wonderfully, if plaintive, Catherine lead ‘Heartbeat In My Hand’, and the tumult of a difficult relationship is dramatized on the drowning-in-the-mire of ‘Cold, Numb And Empty’. A concern of our times however, the unease of privacy erosion and validation in an increasingly infringing social media epoch is mused over on the wistful malady chorus piece ‘What They Think’.

Musically untethered in folk and country, Catgod surprisingly often sound like a pastoral hybrid of Radiohead and Lamb at their most interesting and trip-hoping psychedelic: The flute-y ‘Sleep In’ the most surprising song on the entire LP crosses Joni Mitchell with Pentangle and then adds a faux-reggae gait. Vocally (on occasion narrated and half-spoken) the sibling dynamic is entrancing, softly yearning and brilliantly harmonious. Catherine’s voice especially sounds like a Nordic bent version of Sandy Denny or Christine McVie.

A considered placeable debut of both enchantment and forlorn, Feel It Go Round is gently stirring and quite lovely. Indeed, a “hushed reverie” as the PR spill puts it; a better description than any I can find for this magnificent album.



The Cosmic Dead ‘Scottish Space Race’
(Riot Season Records) 20th September 2019



Letting the kaleidoscopic imagination lift-off, Glasgow’s head music astronauts, The Cosmic Dead, blast off from a Central Belt vision of a futuristic spaceport into the void on their latest interstellar overdrive, scoring the “Scottish space race”.

The recently modified line-up (the group’s first LP to feature the propulsive drumming of Tommy Duffin and quivery evocative lap-steel of Russell Andrew Gray) pierces the stratosphere and astral plane in opiate symmetry over four live-recorded performances from the summer of 2018. Sucked through the ‘Portal’ the Dead begin their ascendance in communion with the Kosmische leviathan sculpting of Tangerine Dream, the eastern esoteric acid-psych of the Acid Mothers, mantra incantations of the Dead Skeletons, Native Indian pow wow and sorcery. By the time they reach the “Great Bear” constellation we’re in space rock and acid country; funneling dawn emergent transcending Ash Ra with Xhol caravan, Guru Guru and Rhyton.

The air is heavier however on the album’s title-track, melding Sabbath with Hawkwind on a stomp punctuated by the doom-rock “can you dig it!” refrain, and the galactic chorus, lap-steel waning and bashed out ‘The Grizzard’ feeds The Dead Meadows, Birth Control and Ten Years After into the Hadron Collider.

The Dead set a course for a stoner-doom ridden Krautrock cosmology of sonic possibilities on a sprawling, pulsing epic. Strap yourselves in tightly, the stars have aligned; the Scottish space race now has its own unofficial ‘head music’ soundtrack.





ALBUM REVIEW
Words: Dominic Valvona
Photo Credit: 
Tadej Čauševič






Širom ‘A Universe That Roasts Blossoms For A Horse’
(tak:til/Glitterbeat)
30th August 2019


Channeling the varied topography of their respective parts of the Slovenian landscape via a kitchen table of both recognizable instrumentation and found assemblage (everything including the kitchen sink and water tank), the Širom trio of Iztok Koren, Ana Kravanja and Samo Kutin create a kind of dream realism. Inspired by this environment yet ambiguous, they float across the borders to evoke a certain mystery and yearn to create something new. In so doing, they’ve coined the term ‘imaginary folk’ to describe their amorphous blending of geographical evocations and echoed fables.

However, the roots of this music is tethered to the cartography of Slovenia, a country that the empirical travel writer Simon Winder summarizes in his Danubia purview as a state “[…] stuck together from the rubble of the [Habsburg] Empire’s end, with its core made up from the Duchy of Carniola with bits of Styria, Gorizia, Istria and a small piece of the old Hungarian country of Vas.” Despite being pulled this way and that over a millennia; despite countless displacements and border changes/reductions – mostly enforced by a succession of conquering empires and invaders – Slovenia’s people remained stoic with a distinct identity. Yet rather than nationalistic pride, the trio in this instance use their native environment’s history and sense of belonging and its apparatus to traverse new sonic terrains. And so with vague undulations and floating echoes of an atavistic Balkans remaining a constant they venture into the Orient, North Africa, Middle East and Americas; never quite settling anywhere, in place or time.

Whilst improvisation is part of the initial creative process for Širom, all these drifting and free moving sounding peregrinations are planned and crafted with precision: the end results very considered and articulated and not left to chance.





A concomitant extension of their last musical journey, I Can Be A Clay Snapper (which made our albums of 2017 features), the propound folkloric entitled A Universe That Roasts Blossoms For A Horse features many of the lingering, visionary magical astral planning themes of that previous unique album. Humdrum items from the trio’s rural retreat studio rub against a myriad of instrumentation from every continent: ribab, balafon, gamelan, banjo and lyre. In their hands a rack of kitchen utensils can suddenly be transformed into something cosmic and mystical, even ominous. And on this five-track suite, there’s plenty of that. Even the voice takes on a veiled new form, as both Kravanja and Kutin bewail, lull and warble melodically like sirens and ghosts: Kravanja, on the opening magik soundtrack ‘Spran Fantič Iz Vreče Žabje Vzema Fosile’ (A Washed Out Boy Taking Fossils From A Frog Sack), simultaneously evokes, with her vivid longing wails, images of India, Kathmandu, Marrakesh and Greek tragedy.

From the Mongolian Steppes to sorrows of East Europe and the hints of the Appalachians and Sumatra, Širom draw inspiration – whether intentional or not – from a fecund of sources; the Slovenian backdrop melting into a polygenesis mirage. With this spiritual, ritual, dreamy longing for a kaleidoscope of real and imaginary cultures the trio’s second album for the Glitterbeat label’s instrumental imprint tak:til is as poetically wondrous as it is (sometimes) supernatural and otherworldly. An alternative folk fantasy imbued in part by the hard won geography, Širom once more wander unafraid across an ever-ambiguous musical cartography that (almost) fulfills their wish to produce something unique: A soundtrack of infinite possibilities.

If you were in love with, or found a connection with the last album than this latest expansive query will not disappoint. There are really few musical excursions and explorations quite like it.





Photo Credit: Tadej Čauševič

PLAYLIST
Compiled: Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver
Art: Gianluigi Marsibilio









From an abundance of sources, via a myriad of social media platforms and messaging services, even accosted when buying a coffee from a barristo-musician, the Quarterly Revue is expanding constantly to accommodate a reasonable spread that best represents the Monolith Cocktail’s raison d’etre.

As you will hear for yourselves, new releases and the best of reissues plucked from the team – me, Dominic ValvonaMatt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Andrew C. Kidd and Gianluigi Marsibilio (who also put together the playlist artwork) – rub shoulders in the most eclectic of playlists, with tracks as geographically different to each other as Belem and Palermo.

Digest and discover as you will, but we compile each playlist to run in order so it feels like the best uninterrupted radio show or most surprising of DJ sets.



REVIEWS ROUNDUP
Words: Dominic Valvona

75 Dollar Bill - Monolith Cocktail


Another eclectic roundup of recommendations from Dominic Valvona, with recent and upcoming albums and EPs from the polygenesis amorphous traversing NYC band 75 Dollar Bill, cellist sound-sculptor of ambiguous environments Simon McCorry, oddball Belgian Manu Louis, the Dhoad Gypsies Of Rajasthan, Dictaphone welder Joe Posset and improvise experimental cellist, Charlie Ulyatt, and Balearic expletory House and Techno artist Kota Motomura.

Building their own ambitious universes Camino Willow releases his debut electronic vision Monotopia and Edinburgh artist Neil Scott Pennycook, under his Meursault alter ego, launches a move into fiction with his latest masterpiece Crow Hill. I also take a look at two special cult favourite reissues, the first from the Venezuelan legend Chelique Sarabia – his transformed psych vision of the country’s traditional music, ‘Revolución “Electrónica” en Música Venezolana’ – the second, from the Anglo-French troubadour Nick Garrie – the late 60s debut psychedelic and folksy opus The Nightmare Of J.B. Stanislas.




75 Dollar Bill  ‘I Was Real’
(tak:til/Glitterbeat/Thin Wrist Recordings)  28th June 2019


Via Glitterbeat’s burgeoning specialist imprint tak:til and Thin Wrist Recordings, a second album of uncharted transient instrumental performances, passages and traverses from the polygenesis sophisticated NYC troupe, 75 Dollar Bill. Headed, though by no means controlled or dictated, by multi-instrumentalists Rick Brown and Che Chen, the amorphous group expands its ranks accordingly to feature a highly talented lineup of musicians and fellow experimentalists.

Previously making a subtle impact with their long-winded staccato entitled Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock album a few years back, Chen and Brown travelled a listless pan-global terrain; a fourth world Hassell imbued sonic geography of possibility.

Extending the perimeters and cast – expanding to a double album release this time around –, I Was Real features a variety of instrumental and sound manipulated combinations on a mix of performances, jams and studio created “fragment” sound collages. One of which, the opening sextet performed ‘Every Last Coffee Or Tea’, is a rearrangement of the same entitled song that originally appeared on the debut album, Cassette, whilst the “ghost inverted” follow-on of that opener, ‘C or T (Verso)’, references their cassette tape release of the same name. The former of these atmospheric peregrinations features a haze of wafting baritone sax and suffused viola and guitar lines, set to a “classic 3 against 2 rhythm”; a effortless but technical transportative soundtrack that evokes both the shrouded mystery of a Tibetan shrine and waking up to the sound of cattle herders in Mali. The reversal mirage of the latter of these two tracks sucks that opening suite backwards through a transmogrified Captain Beefheart prism.

The title-track, on what is an album that often uses past material to build anew, is itself a regular 75 Dollar Bill live set closer. Often building up a momentum that could run to thirty minutes, ‘I Was Real’ is more like a springboard; never quite repeating itself, always performed in different settings and taking in not only more recognizable instruments but also the surrounding environment. By contrast this seventeen-minute studio version is considered relatively “short”, though no less extemporized, as it takes in similar concrete reverberations, hums and drones.

The “impromptu” unruly avant-garde blues jam ‘There’s No Such Thing As A King Bee’ is one of my favourites. A “rebuke” to the titan of the form, Slim Harpo, and his famous raw blues-standard, this scuzzy, flange-effect overload boogie hoedown (with furious hi-hat bashing from Carey Balch) is wild: even primal.

Cleverly bending, no matter how free and improvised they might be, complicated timings and adroit microtonal notes to their will, 75 Dollar Bill turn elliptic and compound rhythms, undefined adventurous playing and collaged fragments into either 21st century desert musing blues or futuristic swamp music. As re-inventive as ever, I Was Real transforms the familiar to roam the borderless.







Simon McCorry  ‘Border Land’
14th June 2019


Strange escapist environments and spaces materialize from the gauzy wanes and gestures of Simon McCorry’s cello on the ambiguous atmosphere-building Border Land. The third such ambient album of field recording manipulations from the classically trained cellist, this latest highly evocative work of the otherworldly transforms the recognizable into something mysterious, even on occasion, the supernatural.

Cloaked in echo and various effects, even the wind whistling through the rustic metal gate to an Orkney lighthouse can suddenly become a strange spooked siren song of countless memories; the sound of lost souls from beyond the ether perhaps: suggestible much?! One of a duo of similar recordings made on a road trip to the Island of Westray – the other windy projection being the Ambient Works era Aphex Twin influenced ‘Sacred Geometrics’ – the fog enveloped ‘Not One Thing’ channels the psychogeography of the environment in which it was recorded to create an entirely new imaginative soundscape.

Remnants and traces of McCorry’s principle instrument can be heard mournfully and achingly guiding the listener towards the skylight: Towards a warm glimmer on the haunted chilled rising ‘Awake A Moment’, and towards the aura of an orbiting astral object of serene desire, on the Tangerine Dream like ‘Spheric’.

Traversing detuned descending aerial arcs, dusty particles, gaseous clouds and corridors to constellations without actually remaining locked to any particular sound or atmospheric mood, the sonic possibilities seem endless: the ambiguity too. And although much of this album is mysterious and uncertain, so untethered, as it is to anything concrete and tenable, McCorry is really exploring the ideas of “stillness”; finding something approaching it anyway, a purposeful pause and break from the chaotic overload of our intensive and intrusive technologically-connected modern world.

Border Land reframes its sources, masks its frayed and bowed cello articulations to produce an often vivid transient amorphous series of intelligently improvised environments and horizons: both inward and outward.







Meursault  ‘Crow Hill’
(Common Grounds)  21st June 2019


An ambitious literary-enriched album with a loose story and range of perspectives that will unfold further in comic book form and through live performance, Neil Scott Pennycook’s Crow Hill diorama delivers a whirlwind of dark emotions; many of which feel like a punch to the heart.

Announced as a new chapter for Pennycook’s alter ego Meursault, released as the launch album for the new independent Common Grounds label (set-up and run by the Edinburgh Chamber Studios owner and engineer Graeme Young; the location for the recording of this album) Crow Hill marks a move into fiction for the Edinburgh artist. An “urban horror” of vignettes, each song on this album represents twelve chapters of plaintive and lamentable grief and broken promises from the imagined town’s inhabitants, set to a constantly beautifully aching soundtrack that either builds and builds towards anthemic crescendo or despairingly gallops towards the flames: in the case of the brutal punishing ‘Jennifer’, a discordant scream of anguish, on what could be a crime of domestic abuse.

Gazing into the dark souls of his cast with tales of inner demons and the like, Pennycook can be as ominous as he can be achingly vulnerable. Especially on the heartbreaking psychiatric episode title-track, “She sees me with kindness in my eyes/And tells me she still loves me” being just one of many poignant lines.

Though constantly impressive in the past, his characteristic Lothian burr quivery warble and tumult-pained vocals have never been delivered with such depth and profound elegiac maturity. Still channeling Clap Your Hands Say Yeah with a penchant for country, an Indie-Americana feel and banjo rhythm permeates throughout most of the album. There’s even a campfire version of Audrey Williams gospel-country teary ‘I Heard My Mother Weeping For Me’, a venerable hymn made famous by Audrey’s tragic cowboy husband Hank no less. With the pinning hurt and travails of such an icon ringing in his ear, Pennycock’s own lonesome trail is unmistakably honed in austerity Britain.

Apart from the country influences – as filtered through the Scottish East Coast –you may also pick up echoes of Adrian Moffett, Talk Talk, Radiohead era The Bends, and even Bowie on the increasingly hostile, whipped and thrashed ‘Art School’ fuck-off.

An outstanding album full of both heartache and brilliance, Crow Hill is a vivid, richly and descriptively revealing minor-opus; the first chapter or part of a much grander multimedia universe that crosses songwriting with veiled fiction, illustration and performance. As first stabs go, Pennycook has shown an encouraging erudite skill for writing, which translates well when put to music. This will be an album in many end-of-year lists.





Dhoad Gypsies Of Rajasthan ‘Times Of Maharaja’
(ARC Music) 28th June 2019


Proud custodians of the courtly music of the Maharajas, Rahis Bharti and his brothers Amrat Hussain, Teepu and Sanjay Khan continue a family tradition that can be traced back over seven generations. Handed-down through their gifted great grandfather Ustad Rasool Buxkhan and his equally talented grandson Ustad Rasool, the sibling troupe practice the travelling Khan Saheb style that originated amongst the Romani population who left India over a thousand years ago. It is a special musical caste and title bestowed upon these followers by the bejeweled rulers, in an era when opulence was king in Rajasthan.

The court house band so to speak, these most exhilarating musicians provided both the ceremonial, celebratory and entertaining accompaniment to religious and public events; marking everything from births to marriages and even the arrival of the rain season. Times Of Maharaja is a brilliant showcase to that grand tradition; a tradition that comes alive through dynamic virtuoso playing and the just as complex, remarkable vocals.

Already a well-established and acclaimed group, playing notably for a host of world leaders, the Queen and even at Mick Jagger’s birthday, the Gypsies gallop and giddily swirl through an effortless songbook of paeans and majestic longings as they wind back the clock to the palace epoch.

The jubilance of a new born prince is buoyantly celebrated on the brassy-resonant sumptuous ‘Sona Ra Button Banna’, whilst the “dream wedding” is given a yearned, pondered – later hurriedly – accompaniment on the processional ‘Dhanraj Sahebji’. An album of solid showmanship throughout at every turn, with the flickering, fluttering tablas almost catching fire at times, such is the blurry rapidness of the playing, Times of Maharaja is a rich regal tableau of romantic exultations, elephant lolloping sways, suffused drones and bobbing rhythms. No longer in the service of those legendary kings and queens of India, this travelling band spread their music internationally as both an educational tool and of course as entertainment. They prove that the legacy is, without doubt, in good hands.




Camino Willow ‘Monotopia’
(Willow Music)  28th June 2019


Exploring the post-millennial epoch burgeoning Bedford-based producer and songwriter Maximillian Newell explores both the anguish and potentials of an ever intrusive and dominant Internet. Sharing and connecting more than ever yet simultaneously feeling more lonely and vulnerable, the benefits outweighed by a Pandora’s Box of unfiltered anger, validation causing anxiety and discord, Newell represents generation smartphone; a generation working out individual expression in a “collective consciousness”.

Further tied conceptually to “an adventure in a cult-like city in the sky where the main characters embark on an epic journey into the desert”, Newell’s ambitious debut album has a wide scope thematically and sonically. Creating his own universe of both the plaintive and euphoric, the inward and expansive, under the Camino Willow moniker – a world that will be extended to the medium of graphic novel in the future – he circumnavigates modern-day suburban Britain; escaping boredom and constriction of uncertainty and depression for moments of languid hypnotics and blasts of neo-pop ascendant electro anthems.

Throughout, Monotopia is full of light and shade, despondency and hope, with passages and more full realized tracks (some featuring soulful vocals, some purely instrumental) flowing into each other almost uninterrupted. And with a nuanced balance that is musically imbued by Dean Blunt one minute, Django Django the next, even Fuck Buttons and Liars, Newell sounds like Everything Everything signed to Ninja Tunes as centrifugal drums meet breakbeat, the ambient meets dreamy blissful psych-pop and R&B, the romantic meets sophisticated cynicism.

There’s a lot to be excited about as Newell’s visions take shape. Though cast as a project of despondency and uncertainty, reflecting the state of the author and his subject’s mental health, there’s plenty of emergent dreamy efference and diaphanous light to be found on this escape from the suburbs. Monotopia is a glittering start to an ambitious career.




Posset/Ulyatt ‘A Jar Full’
(Crow Versus Crow) 7th June 2019


It won’t come as any surprise to find that the most unlikely of experimental pairings, between a sporadic and garbled Dictaphone operator and frayed, friction-stretched cellist, offers up the strangest of results.

The first set of recordings from this peculiar avant-garde union, released digitally and on (very) limited cassette tape, features both uninterrupted serialism pieces, knocked back and forth between Dictaphone welder Joe Posset and cellist Charlie Ulyatt, and extemporized live performance.

Side A of this revived physical format version posts the results of a remote exchange; both artists’ providing first-take experiments for their counterparts to further improvise over. With no advance preparations and neither artist interfering, not even peremptorily listening to the results, the final versions of ‘At This Lost Hour’ and ‘A Reasonable Remedy’ are as surprising to them as they are to us. Squiggly, warping, real-time and rewound slurred and more fidgety recognizable voices emanate from Posset’s overworked Dictaphone as the strung-out quivers and free-roaming plucks and prods of Ulyatt’s creaking cello amorphously wanes away. The first of these odd couplings (think Faust Tapes meets Fluxus and The Books in Tony Conrad’s Dream Factory) features almost demonical voices and obscured snatches of dialogue as the cello meanders, yet also offers at least a small string of plucked notes. The second of these tracks has a harsher edge, with the violent tape spool cutting and horsehair bow carving away at its prey.

Previous to these exchanges, both artists performed an impromptu set together at a venue in Posset’s hometown of Nottingham. Inhabiting a shared space of mention in a magazine, Posset invited Ulyatt to play a one-off collaboration. Only meeting for the first time a few hours before the show, with no rehearsal or preparation the pairing performed, as the second side of this tape bears out, a haunting environmental invocation. Using the whole cello, especially its wooden body to evoke the uneasy sound of unsettling movement (like spirits making their presence known by knocking, kicking a box down some steps and scraping large objects across the floor), Ulyatt conjures up sounds you wouldn’t believe possible as Posset, attuned to the same esoteric mood, triggers just as ominous sounding supernatural elements from the ether.

Mysteriously tangled, surreptitious voices and creaking atmospherics abound on both these live tracks, ‘High Head’ and ‘At The Angel’, and on the mini-album as a whole. Perfectly in keeping with the Crow Versus Crow house style of such sonic and tape-collage experiments, A Jar Full is a strange avant-garde proposition worth your attention: It sounds both mad and fucked-up, but also paranormal.







Manu Louis ‘Cream Parade’
(Igloo Records) July 2019


At the heart of the Belgian artists Manu Louis’s second album lays a disenchantment with society’s dependence on technology; the Internet of these visions rightly examined through the medium of, often, odd-ball unrequited serenades and cybernetic jazz elegy. Kooky throughout, Louis and his guests – which include the versatile London-based singer Heidi Heidelberg shadowing Louis or channeling an automated staccato vessel on a series of quasi-duets, and fellow Belgian and virtuoso saxophonist Greg Tirtiaux adding strung-out blues-y and romantically pining horns – roam freely across a number of musical genres in their quest to articulate that unease.

After the initial opening introductory futuristic smoky cocktail lounge horn suffused waft of ‘Saxophone’, Louis traverses Yello, Kreidler and Jack Dutronic on ‘Internet’, and on the clack-y percussive (down to another guest, Brazilian percussionist Nylo Canella) skip and pulse ‘Efface’, Stereo Total meets Einstürzende Neubauten. Technology’s electronic presence comes up against more traditional, if masked, instrumentation on what is, despite the anxious themes, a mostly bouncy, goofy and cool affair: A cynical Louis perhaps, even lampooning his own idiosyncratic European heritage, laying-it-on-thick vocally on the album’s part-homage, part despondent finale ‘Tardigrade’; increasingly losing the plot with a loopy aria as he yearns about the peculiar, near-immortal, microscopic ‘water bear’ of the title; an animal whose resilience to environmental extremities is second to none: Perhaps the only other living thing kicking about with cockroaches in a nuclear aftermath.

Vogue chanson crosses paths with Station 17, Sparks with Dean Blunt and Stereolab on an album that fuses the Belle Epoch with Tresor, Euro-kitsch pop with St. Vincent. However odd, colorful and unique these aloof visionary tales and yearnings might sound they are meant to be dystopian and serious in nature – partly inspired by Samuel Beckett’s own literary depictions of a “postmodern world of obsession and social and existential disorientation” outlined in his Unnameable and Molly novels. A pilotless journey in fact, into the all-consuming matrix, an augur alarm before it’s all too late and the Internet’s strangulating tentacles cut off our air of free will forever. It just so happens to be fun.







Chelique Sarabia ‘Revolución “Electrónica” en Música Venezolana’
(Pharaway Sounds) 29th May 2019


A welcome distraction from the current political tumult in Venezuela, the whacked-out flange and reverb-drenched visions of the country’s legendary polymath José Enrique “Chelique” Sarabia arrive just in time as a reminder of that South America’s cultural legacy; from a period when the country enjoyed a renaissance in arts and music, partly fueled (as we will see) by the oil boom of the 1960s and 70s.

Going through a number of incarnations, originally released exclusively as part of a Christmas gift package for employees and customers of Shell in 1973, under the title of 4 Fases del Cuatro-Música Venezulana desarrollada Electrónicamente por Chelique sarabia (translating as 4 Phases of four – Venezuelan Music Electronically Developed By Chelique Sarabia), the retitled and repackaged 1971 Revolución “Electrónica” en Música Venezolana has been dusted off once more and given a new lease of life.

An example of when an established composer/arranger takes a sudden leap into the unknown, the “electronic revolución” that Chelique created was one that transformed the traditional folkloric music of the country into an exotica space-age trip. Already established and renowned, notably for penning the famous ‘Ansiedad’ and for a substantial back catalogue of standards, Chelique took a gamble, plugging himself into the psychedelic mainframe and going wild with a troupe of adroit musicians in an effect-mad studio. Using we’re told, “especially developed equipment (M.R.A.A.), based off of the principles of the Moog”, the now very experimental minded maverick filtered more traditional instruments – such as the local variant of the four-string Spanish folk guitar, the “cuatro”, and pear-shaped chordophone “bandola Llanera” – through cavernous echo, tape delay and synthesized frequencies to create a resonating mirage.

The source material of signature cantina and mountainside folk, via flourishing Flamingo and Spanish Catholic liturgy, is consumed and removed so that only veiled watery and ghostly traces remain: vapours even.

Hardly created in a vacuum, this musical quartet themed album often saunters up to the chic open-top driving music of Italian and French soundtrack composers, to the breakbeat psychedelics of David Axelrod, kitsch-jazz and pop. It could also fall into the cult Library Music missive; an oddball South American fusion of hallucinatory reimagined traditions.

You don’t necessarily need this LP in your life, but it’s plenty of fun and worth a punt out of curiosity if nothing else. Viva la electronic revolution.







Nick Garrie ‘The Nightmare Of J.B. Stanislas’
(Tapete Records) 29th June 2019


Worthy of a proper release, resurfacing for the first time in 2005, but finally receiving a full revival by Tapete Records, the poet-troubadour Nick Garrie’s lost debut album of 1969 is remarkable for a number of reasons. Provenance alone being one, recorded as it was at the studios of the Parisian label Disc AZ with Eddie Vartan and his full orchestra on swelling gravitas duties (even if Garrie wasn’t exactly happy with the results; much preferring, as the demos bear out, a more stripped acoustic intimacy). Remarkable still, despite being the weary and worldly restless traveller that he was, Garrie was only nineteen at the time.

The son of a fiery turbulent union between a Russian father and Scottish mother, living for a time in England (long enough for Nick to be dragged through the boarding school system; his peers evidentially, because of his Russian ancestry and original Miansarow family name, assumed he was Jewish and so meted out plenty of bullying punishment) before being forced to take up French citizenship with a move across the channel, Garrie was always too British for the French, and too French for the British. However, whilst making roots in France, Garrie studied European literature – the inspiration and foundations of his music starting out as an exercise in Surrealist automatic writing. Dodging the compulsory French requirement for national service (two-years service from the age of eighteen), he went on the run; taking his guitar and gift for considered poetic evocation with him. He would soon turn up in Brussels, where he soon renounced that French citizenship, auditioning for the fated Disc AZ label boss Lucien Morisse: “I got my guitar out and played ‘Deeper Tune Of Blue’. He pulled out a contract and said ‘signez, monsieur, signez!’

Given a great opportunity, especially so young, to record an album, what would be the Anglo-French artist’s debut was lavished with sumptuous orchestration; a pomp that gave Garrie’s more stripped originals an air of the string-grandeur of Nirvana, The Herd, Love Sculpture and pre-progressive Aphrodite’s Child. Fate unfortunately struck on the eve of its release, with the suicide of Morisse, which sent everything into chaos for the label and Garrie. His debut suite would end up in limbo, with only a few copies making it out of the factory before deletion. Gaining an instant cult status, this lost treasure has only officially seen the light of day on a couple of occasions since.

The ‘nightmare’ of both this album title’ and the all-too-real one of seeing a burgeoning career curtailed, is the backstory and theme of this properly sanctioned re-release. The collection and original ‘nightmare’ entitled standout, is also a rousing minor-opus to finding identity and belonging. Weaving that Russian heritage into a George Harrison-esque guitar motif, swirling strings rich globetrotting fantasy, inspired by that literary learning and penchant for automatic writing, Garrie laments about his own self as an alter ego, finding out and unveiling his true ancestry: much to his dismay. ‘The Nightmare Of J.B. Stanislas’ is an anthem to wrap the rest of this songbook around, with few tracks matching its gravitas and scale as a Psychedelic and folk pop opus.

Featuring the full running order original, both sides of Garrie’s ‘Queen Of Spades’ single and a septet of demos, this showcase captures the torn troubadour in youthful escapism. It also shows an artist finding his niche, a checkered songbook of Bacharach-like pastoral romance (‘Can I Stay With You’), the spiritual and filmic (‘David’s Prayer’), Mike Nesmith Monkees (‘The Wanderer’, ‘Little Bird’) and The Moody Blues adrift a Turkish flying carpet (the 1968 demo ‘Stone And Silk’). Scattered amongst these redolent love-serenades and brooding pathos is the more curious coach trip ‘Bungle’s Tours’ (an air of sniffy snobbishness and Magical Mystery Tour showhall scorn about mass-tourism – then in its infancy of course – and package tours that sounds like the Bonzos and Simon & Garfunkel are at the wheel) and lampooning country-gal hoedown ‘Queen Of Queens’.

The most elegiac bit of inevitable pathos is saved for the original album’s swansong, ‘Evening’. A highly descriptive nocturnal diorama unfolds as it reflects a metaphorical end to all our days, this plaintive spell is as sad as it is poignantly beautiful.

As a debut from a fairly young aspiring artist poet, The Nightmare Of J.B. Stanislas’ is quite impressive and ambitious, if not quite original or unique enough to stand-out from his peers that did make it, on either side of the Channel. Yet, there’s some interesting experimentation and lyricism at play to make this a worthwhile purchase; a curiosity of a lost album from an unparalleled epoch.





Kota Motomura ‘New Experience’
(Hobbes Music) Vinyl/Stream: 14th June 2019, DL: 13th September 2019


Free floating on a moistened tropical air that blows between the rainforests and the Balearics, Tokyo artist Kota Motomura makes an impressive debut on the Hobbes Music imprint with his new exotic EP suite. Motomura moves fluidly but deeply through a myriad of House, Techno and electronic sub-styles to produce an often sauntering, bobbing cornucopia of lush entranced dance music.

Via proper study, learning the aural/pitch/sight-reading method of Solfege under the tutelage of Master Masahiko Muraoka, and a penchant for the music of Japanese Techno legend Ken Ishii, Motomura has been steadily, if without much fanfare, building a reputation for his unique experiments.

But this release nearly never happened. Originally sending demos to Hobbes as far back as 2017, and agreeing on a release, the line went dead for more than six months. It eventually transpired that Motomura had been taken ill, and so dropped off the radar. Better late than never, and back in contact, New Experiences- is now finally seeing the light of day.

The four-track, expanding to six on the ‘download’ version, EP first touches down in a sonic paradise on the lapping tidal, glistening tranquil opener ‘Aboy’, and then dreamily travels inland to a greenery of bird calls, frogs and insect choruses on the bopping 808 beats chiming electro-pop progression ‘Yes’. Melting swaddled and wafting jazzy-lilt saxophone (courtesy of Mutsumi Takeuchi) and veiled diaphanous vocals (Sawako Yanagida) with deep beats and Chicago House style piano motifs, Motomura plays around merging Bossa Nova with orgasmic slow-fucking samples on the shaking ‘Status’, and weaves echoes of early Moby, Carl Craig and Felix da Housecat into an increasingly warping Morse code slice of classy dance music on ‘Cry Baby’. Of the bonus tracks, ‘Satellites’ (as you’d expect from its title) features a Sputnik circumnavigating orbit of transduced lunar broadcasts and submarine sonar bleeps, which gets more piercing and mad as it goes on, whilst ‘Return’ has an otherworldly X Files vibe to it.

In all a great showcase of the exotic, lush and more mysterious that propels the origins of House and Techno into curious, mostly subtropical directions.





Words: Dominic Valvona


Review: Dominic Valvona



Altin Gün ‘Gece’
(Glitterbeat Records) 26th April 2019


Injecting an enthusiastic energy and desire into the music of their forbearers, the Dutch sextet with Turkish roots revitalize the Anatolian songbook once again, on the follow-up LP to last year’s debut.

As the band name eludes, Altin Gün, or “golden days”, celebrate a halcyon age in Turkish music, with the germ being the country’s folk legacy, but emphasis on the developments and reinvention of the 1960s and 1970s.

Pitched somewhere between the cult, often kitsch, nuggets you find in abundance on various collections compiled by the Finders Keepers troupe (Özdemir Erdoğan ‘Karaoğlan Almanya’da’ in particular, and anything from Sevil & Ayla), and the failed Eurovision missives of bubbly zappy disco, this limbering dexterous group take the listener on a sonic flight of fantasy: both romantic and cosmic.

Some of the chosen songs on this album are associated with the late national icon, Neset Ertaś, others less so familiar. Whatever the source the halcyon tingle, shimmer and psychedelic funk licks that pump throughout each one are given a contemporary livener, but undoubtedly sound retro – though there is at least one original composition, the Lalo Schifrin meets Anatolian rap funked-up psych number, ‘Şofor Bey’.

Currently very much in vogue – though the already mentioned Finders Keepers team and many crate diggers were already on this wave decades ago -, both the old and present Turkish music scenes are enjoying their moment of exposure. Glitterbeat Records, the fine provider of this group’s latest album, have already had success with the burgeoning psychedelic-Turkish siren Gaye Su Akyol and released a collection from the legendary Istanbul doyens of acid-saz and dub, Baba Zulu. All of which, alongside Altin Gün can’t help but feed into the prescient politics of Turkey itself – all of which is far too convoluted and numerous to go into detail here, but in short, a country under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, moving away from the more secular foundations of its celebrated moderniser Atatürk towards authoritarianism under a leadership that – after a staged (allegedly) coup – has crushed countless dissenters, critics and oppositional voices. In this heightened tension, artists, both in the country and overseas, remain cautious; the very act of playing certain kinds of music almost rebellious, especially anything with traces or a heritage that can be traced to the Kurds.

 

The group’s second LP, Gece, looks out wider than its own borders however, absorbing an eclectic collage of Egyptian, Moroder like arpeggiator, Bossa, fuzzed-up psych and funk; a sound that often simultaneously evokes Africa, Arabia and the Mediterranean.

Though tracing an ancestry back to Turkey, the sextet only born-and-raised band member from the homeland is Merve Daşdemir, who as one of the lead vocalists lends a lingering dreamy romanticism to the music, shifting between nostalgic B-movie soundtrack swoon and gauzy disco diva. Sharing those duties with her is the oozing, yearning and resigned suffering Erdinç Ecevit.

Rifling through the crates of an Istanbul record mart bazar, Altin Gün revitalizes a golden period in Turkish music; a grand age reconfigured and introduced to a global audience, saved from certain obscurity. Many listeners won’t be concerned with any of that, and will nevertheless enjoy the cosmic-fuzzed internationalism of a troupe on the rise. The Turkish legacy is in good hands.




 

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