Album Review
by Graham Domain

Brona McVittie ‘The Woman in The Moon’

This album is like being able to travel back in time to days of childhood innocence. A time when things were simpler. Life was less hectic. People took the time to talk to each other. Shops shut on Sundays. The seasons had defined weather patterns. In the summer the days were carefree, long and sunny, thunderstorms occasionally breaking the humidity. In the winter, it was cold and often freezing with large downfalls of snow. Ice often froze the water pipes creating icicles of all sizes. Life was hard but somehow more bearable. There was less stress, less craving for more! People seemed to smile more often and enjoy nature, the woods, the fields, newts, frogs and fish swimming in a myriad of tiny ponds.

The music is Irish folk but with a modern twist – there are electronic keyboards sprinkled across the songs, but not merely as an afterthought. They fit in perfectly with the laid-back atmosphere, often underpinned by soft jazz drumming and swathes of ambient sound – almost like David Sylvian has joined the party.

The album version of the title track differs greatly from the more commercial single with its slower pace creating more space and a smoky jazz ambience. It’s still a great song though and works in both settings.

Summer Will Come’, sung in the native language, holds the attention of the listener with its quiet beauty and melodic charm. The fact I have no idea if any of the songs are traditional or new compositions shows that the whole album avoids cliché and manages to create its own world of wonder, magic, fairy-folk, peace and tranquility. In today’s hectic times it provides a great refuge from the chaos of an angry world, with its beauty and quiet reflection. Simply wonderful!

ALBUM REVIEW
GRAHAM DOMAIN

Tess Tyler ‘Fractals Vols. 1 & 2’
9th September 2022

Fractals is the wonderful debut album by Bristol based composer Tess Tyler. It works well, both as an artistic statement and also as a shop window for what the composer can do. Having composed already for film and video game soundtracks, the album includes dark sci-fi experimental electronic soundscapes such as ‘Overture’ and ‘Interlude 1’ and also neoclassical pieces that have an expansive cinematic quality used to conjure up a whole range of emotion. Undoubtedly many of the pieces will be used in films, documentaries and adverts and cause the viewer to wonder who has created this incredible music and hence track down the album.

Individually, there are some incredibly exciting tracks, such as ‘Sell the Sky’, which has all the energy and thrill of a Bond film action sequence but with its own individual sound and quirkiness! Most notably, the incredibly propulsive, expressive, explosive drumming that stop, starts and erupts into euphoria! It is so joyful, that it almost has its own transcendent trans-dimensional reality! Existing, as it does, outside of time and space and, only in the moment!

Beginning with processed electronic orchestral strings, ‘Origami Dogs’ is another propulsive, forward- moving, tribal, dark exciting cinematic piece that builds via sequencers and minimalist piano before rhythmically abstract drums and power chord guitars drive it to its climax.

Black disturbed noise begins ‘Not Mine’ before a minimalist piano motif and sequencers combine with sad brass and off-kilter drums to produce a sublime jazz in-flecked late night moonlit masterpiece!

Dark electronic noise gives way to minimalist piano, synth, white noise and backward drums in ‘7ero’ to produce a melodically sad refrain and Japan-like melody.

‘Instinct’ begins with drones of guitar, synth arpeggios and computer babble before a minimalist, expressive piano motif takes over, augmented by plucked strings creating an air of anticipation. The track builds with driving drums and guitar propelling the song to its conclusion.

One of the best tracks on the album is ‘The Nothing Cycle’ which begins with a cyclical, minimal Steve Reich piano and electronically manipulated orchestral noise before evolving into a Mike Oldfield type moody piano refrain with heavy guitar chords. A mad drum and pummelling bass soon kick in and build to a crescendo of noise that suddenly stops to leave just a bass and drum pulse and piano chords before a sequencer adds to the sense of drama and anticipation and rapidly builds momentum to a mad rock drum and tense guitar finale!

The studio album is augmented by a second album of one-off live re-imaginings of five of the pieces by The Spindle Ensemble with their interpretations of Tyler’s graphic score. (A graphic score being a way to represent the music outside of traditional notation, using visual symbols. Each instrument being assigned a different symbol). Thus, we get radically different versions of ‘Sell the Sky’, ‘Origami Dogs’, ‘7ero’, ‘Instinct’ and ‘The Nothing Cycle’. It is an interesting concept and one that reveals a different side to each composition. ‘Sell the Sky’ appears here as decidedly more downbeat, almost gloomy compared to the original studio version. Cello and violin are employed to bring out the melancholy in the music, which is augmented by disturbed orchestral dissonance with piano strings being hit and plucked to maximum effect! Similarly, ‘Origami Dogs’ employs violin, slow strings and piano to convey feelings of sadness, anxiety and loneliness.

‘7ero’ meanwhile, employs a descending marimba motif while a disturbed violin plays a lonely refrain, conveying feelings of intrigue and unease. When the piano comes in the music portrays feelings of alienation and mental imbalance before the marimba and bass play a single note to fade.

Violin overshot with minimal marimba provides the setting and a sense of space on ‘The Nothing Cycle’. The music resonates with a sadness almost verging on despair. The marimba conveys anxiety and resignation with its minimal note runs while a depressed violin conjures up the ghosts of regret.

In its reworked format, ‘Instinct’ is transformed into a beautiful melancholic piece with violin and one note marimba giving way to ascending piano arpeggios and two note double bass creating tension and suspense. Plucked guitar strings and ruminating marimba improvisations combine with violin to create feelings of sadness and regret – a lament for something lost, a missed chance. Beauty in sadness.

A debut album of beauty, versatility, energy and vision. Outstanding!

PLAYLISTS SPECIAL
TEAM EFFORT/ CURATED BY DOMINIC VALVONA

All the choice tracks from the last month, selected by the entire Monolith Cocktail team: Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Graham Domain and Andrew C. Kidd.

For the past couple of months we’ve been experimenting with both Spotify version and Youtube (track list will vary) versions of the playlist. Whatever your preference found both below:

TRACKLIST

Future Kult  ‘We’
Grooto Terazza  ‘Tropische Krankheiten’
Speech Debelle Ft. Baby Sol  ‘Away From Home’
Joe Nora & Mick Jenkins  ‘Early’
A.G.  ‘Alpha Beta’
Your Old Droog & Madlib  ‘The Return Of The Sasquatch’
Gabrielle Ornate  ‘The Undying Sleep’
Yumi And The Weather  ‘Can You Tell’
Baby Cool  ‘Magic’
Claude  ‘Turn’
Lunar Bird  ‘Venilia’
Imaad Wasif  ‘Fader’
Legless Trials  ‘X-Tyrant’
Dearly Beloved  ‘Walker Park’
Staraya Derevnya  ‘Scythian Nest’
Short Fuze & Dr. Kill  ‘Me And My Demons’
Group  ‘The Feeling’ JJ Doom ‘Guv’nor’  (Chad Hugo Remix)
DJ Nappa  ‘Homeboys Hit It’
DJ Premier Ft. Run The Jewels  ‘Terrible 2’s’
Zero dB  ‘Anything’s Possible’  (Daisuke Tanabe Remix)
Underground Canopy  ‘Feelm’
Revelators Sound System  ‘George The Revelator’
Montparnasse Musique Ft. Muambuyi & Mopero Mupemba  ‘Bonjour’
The Movers  ‘Ku-Ku-Chi’
Yanna Momina  ‘Heya (Welcome)’
Vieux Farka Toure & Khruangbin  ‘Savanne’
Barrio Lindo  ‘Espuma De Mur’
Brown Calvin  ‘Perspective3’
Nok Cultural Ensemble Ft. Angel Bat Dawid  ‘Enlightenment’
Li Yilei  ‘A Hush In The Dark
Celestial North  ‘Yarrow’
Andres Alcover  ‘White Heat’
Nick Frater  ‘Aerodrome Motel’
Drug Couple  ‘Lemon Trees’
Cari Cari  ‘Last Days On Earth’
Ali Murray  ‘Passing Through The Void’
Diamanda La Berge Dramm  ‘Orangut The Orangutan’
Your Old Droog  ‘The Unknown Comic’
Jesse The Tree  ‘Sun Dance’
TrueMendous & MysDiggi  ‘Talkk’
STS & RJD2  ‘I Excel’
Jester Jacobs & Jack Danz  ‘HIT’
Oliver Birch  ‘Docile Healthier’
GOON  ‘Emily Says’
Lucy & The Drill Holes  ‘It’s Not My War’
Apathy, Jadekiss & Stu Bangas  ‘No Time To Waste’
Verbz & Mr Slipz  ‘Music Banging Like’
Sly Moon  ‘Back For More’
Guilty Simpson Ft. Jason Rose & DJ Ragz  ‘Make It Count’



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.

EP REVIEW
GRAHAM DOMAIN

Ali Murray ‘Passing Through the Void EP’

The loneliness, the isolation of mind. Where are we headed? What’s round the corner? The doubts, the fears, forever gnawing away! No-one survives? We all survive? Eternity never ending? So why am I wasting time on the mundane? The daily routine! The useless, pointless, never-ending nonsense! The soulless celebrity culture as a means of escape? Or eternal imprisonment? We all have a life sentence! Better make the most of it! Transient beauty, youth vanished too soon! The temporary bliss of love before the tsunami of devastation! Pain! Longing! The landscape forever changed! Eroded! What is important? Don’t sweat the small things! Go for the Big One! Go for It! Go for it! Go for it! Go for It! What is it?

Three songs! Howls in the dark! Cries to the abyss! The dark poetry echoing in the blackness! The guitars garrotted! Nailed to the cross! The sound bleeding out on a canvass of emotion! Colours seen in the mind! The soul connecting with Spirit! Healing! Healing energy! Positivity! There is Light! Life continues as it has always done. The once impenetrable darkness recedes! Melancholy as a means of redemption – coming through the other side – into the light, once more. Passing through the Void that is life in the material world! The journey is important, the learning, the experience, the empathy gained, the understanding and knowledge. To stand in another’s shoes. To reach out to each other and connect. Love. That’s what’s important. That’s the Big One! The test, everyday! To think and act with love. It is hard! Human kindness! Love! Why do we find it so difficult? Never give up! Each small step is worth the effort! Music for the soul!

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

REVIEWS ROUNDUP
GRAHAM DOMAIN

Here are this month’s catch-up reviews of some wonderful Albums, and an EP, released in June/July 2022 and out now! Have a listen to the eclectic sounds of: Goon, Revelators, Diamanda La Berge Dramm, Social Union and Julian Tenembaum.

Goon ‘Hour of Green Evening’
Released on Demode Recordings (CD and Download)

When I first heard the wonderful single ‘Ochre’ I thought the band had a girl singer! However, the possessor of this fine voice is non-other than bandleader Kenny Becker. His voice is a laid-back instrument of calm wonder as he explores memories of childhood juxtaposed with the ups and downs of adult life. Nature and its cycle of decay and renewal form a backdrop to the lyrics – hope ever present like summer rain falling overnight to welcome a fresh day.

The songs have a melodic complexity and melancholic, but uplifting, emotional heft. Shifting between melodic rock-folk and shoe gaze pretension they create a psychedelic haze of hot summer, broken only once by lightning storms as the singer lets out a scream amid a deluge of distorted guitar on the Pixies-like ‘Wavy Maze’.

The more I listened to the album the more I wanted to listen again. It took a few plays to sink its teeth into my psyche but then I couldn’t get enough. Sitting somewhere between Mercury Rev, Midlake and the Pale Saints, this is one of my favourite albums so far, this year. All the tracks are great – the melodies play in the mind long after the record has ended.

Key Tracks: ‘Angel Number 1210’, ‘Buffalo’, ‘Emily says’, ‘Ochre’, ‘Last Light On’.

Revelators ‘Revelators Sound System’
Released on 37d03d Records (Vinyl, CD and Download)

Revelators is a collaboration between singer MC Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger) and Cameron Ralston (bass player with the Spacebomb House Band). The album consists of four very different improvised and expressive instrumental jams incorporating free jazz expression – both modal and spiritual, funk-jazz fusion, cosmic meditation, tape loop manipulation and sumptuous Indian strings.

The first track ‘Grieving’ is a funk-flavoured jazz instrumental that references Miles Davis 1970’s funk jazz-fusion, in particular ‘On the Corner’. At 10 minutes and eleven seconds we get music that mixes funky clavichord with jazz bass, piano, electric keyboards, woodwind, tape looped guitar and loose funk-jazz drums. At around six minutes the drums drop out and, amid layers of space, we get echoing blues piano riffs, keyboard tinkles and manipulated tape loops that create a certain ambience which promises much, but fails to deliver on its potential, eventually going nowhere.

The second track, ‘Collected Water’, comes over like a small trio from the late 50s or early 60s, spaced out on drugs, playing cosmic modal jazz. J C Kuhl’s saxophone overshadows brushed drums, double bass and piano – the night alive with echo, memories reverberating in dream, until the cold roar of daylight penetrates the astral plane and dissolves the dream reality.

Track three, ‘Bury the Bell’ is an expansive semi-meditational, spiritual piece of music that recalls David Sylvians’ more meditative explorations of the Psyche. Gorgeous Indian strings combine with synth, guitar tape loop manipulation, clarinet and lap steel guitar to create a thing of beauty amid cosmic dissonance! Like music of the spheres heard in the mind, whilst viewing the spectacular Aurora Borealis or the whole Milky Way displayed in a clear night sky! The final track ‘George the Revelator’ is an epic piece of progressive Spiritual Jazz. Cinematic and uplifting, the swelling strings and clipped bass recall the soul-funk of David Axelrod’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Subtle wah-wah guitar, Fender Rhodes, bass and funky drums combine with saxophone and foregrounded strings to sublime effect. Just over half way through the loose rhythm leaves space for echoing snare and drum fills and reverberating talking sax, to create an illusionary dub landscape. The music continues to drive forward and develop, in the end producing a sublime imaginary film score, part Blaxploitation, part Pharoah Sanders.

A truly interesting and engrossing collaboration producing a fine album of funk-jazz fusion, experimental and cinematic Spiritual jazz.

Diamanda La Berge Dramm ‘Chimp’
Released on Diatribe Records (CD and Download)

This is strange record by the classically trained Dutch violinist in which she sings/talks while playing most of the music on, and sampling her own playing of, the violin. She makes the violin sound at times like a keyboard, synth, bass drum and so forth. Whilst she is undoubtedly a master of her instrument, here she makes minimal avant-garde music set to compliment and highlight the words of British poet and writer Steven J Fowler. The theme seems to be around monkeys, the workings of the brain and humanity itself.

Her voice, at times, has hints of Kristin Hersh, such as on the standout track ‘Chimp is Who’. At other times, on tracks like ‘Orangut the Orangutan’ her voice has traces of a more reserved but still ‘mad as a hatter’ Joanna Newsome! The songs are separated by the sound of falling rain, birds and other found sounds. In its conceptual arrangement it probably has some common ground with Costello’s ‘The Juliet Letters’. However, this is Art and as such may only appeal to a select few.

Key tracks: ‘Chimp is Who’, ‘Born’, ‘Orangut the Orangutan’, ‘Voices’.

Julian Tenembaum ‘Fragmentos’  
Released on Schole Records (CD and download)

The debut album by Argentinian composer Julian Tenembaum, Fragmentos is an album of nine modern classical compositions for piano. The music is melodic and holds the listeners interest throughout, the pianist having studied and absorbed the style and compositional skill of many of the old and new masters of piano. Sometimes it is easy to see the influence of a particular composer on a piece. ‘Nocturno’ reminds me very much of ‘Porz Goret’ by Yann Tiersen in the way it is played and the melodic progression. ‘1-13 swd’ reveals the influence of Hans Zimmer’s Inception movie theme. However, both pieces are not copies they merely show that the composer has been listening to and absorbing some of the best music around.

It is a tribute to the pianist’s compositional skill and way with melody that the music is original but still makes one think they have heard the melody somewhere before. ‘Eclipse’ put me in mind of ‘The Theme’ from The Deer Hunter, while ‘Fragmentos’ has echoes of both Satie and Billy Mackenzie‘s ‘Nocturne Seven’.

This is a wonderful melodic album that will appeal to fans of Yann Tiersen, Roger Eno, Nils Frahm, Satie, Debussy and Agnes Obel even.

Social Union ‘Fall into Me’ EP
Released July 2022 on Blackjack Illuminist Records (CD, Cassette, and Download)

The four-song debut EP by Social Union sounds like it could have been recorded in the early to mid 1980s! A repetitive cheap drum machine and burbling bass synth, topped with effects laden guitar and jolting synth melodies, underpin cold, distant girl vocals of a certain frosty charm. Goth, Darkwave, Industrial and dark-pop combine in an outsider stance – all black on black! Numan meets the Sisters of Mercy and early Cocteau Twins on a late night, last bus home through Hulme (Manchester) circa 1983!

ALBUM REVIEW/GRAHAM DOMAIN

Ali Murray ‘Wilderness of Life’
(Dead Forest Records)

Wilderness Of Life is the new album by Ali Murray, out now via Dead Forest Records. It is an album of Dark Intense Folk Pop with intermittent Shoegaze guitars. The songs are full of imagery, nature reimagined as pain, the loneliness of the Cosmos painted in sound on a skyscraper guitar.

His voice lies somewhere between Tom McCrae and Simone Felice with nods to Elliot Smith. The songs are dark hymns to loneliness, heartbreak, and emotional turmoil, with enduring hope in the face of adversity.

Songs such as ‘Wilderness of Life’ and ‘Rainbox’ point the way forward – the words brought to life with intense effect laden guitars akin to Slowdive or Big Flower. In this setting he could become a cult hero, a modern-day Elliot Smith painting his pain not just with words but also with emotion as sound. One to watch!

PLAYLIST SPECIAL

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

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

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

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

Those Tracks In Full Are:{

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



REVIEWS ROUNDUP: Graham Domain

PHOTO CREDIT: CECILY ENO

Roger Eno ‘The Turning Year’
(Deustsche Grammophon) 22nd April 2022

Walking down rain sodden streets, the lights from car headlights and shop windows reflected in the wet pavements and puddle-strewn roads. Shops closing early, café’s empty and being cleaned. A sepia world of sadness over-shot with colour, hope, a need, a craving for love and an end to this all-pervading sense of loneliness.

The Turning Year inhabits this world of rain, loneliness, hope, longing, forever searching. Always the sense of arriving too late, shops closing, opportunities missed, soaked to the skin but still looking to the stars – forever chasing the elusive shadow that is love. Glimpsed for a fleeting heartbeat. A dream, of hope. To love is to live. Love is the beginning, the awakening. Happiness and heartache, sadness and ecstasy, purpose and despair, confusion and belief, danger and grace.

The Turning Year is music of beauty, simplicity, sadness with underlying hope. At its best it is melodic or mysterious piano underscored by beautiful string orchestration. It engages the mind, the body, the emotions. It is music to treasure.

Highlights: ‘The Turning Year’, ‘A Place We Once Walked’, ‘On the Horizon’, ‘Low Cloud Dark Skies’.

Dana Gavanski ‘When It Comes’
(Flemish Eye/North America, Full Time Hobby/UK) 29th April 2022

Photo Credit: Clementine Schneidermann

When it Comes is the wonderful second album by Canadian/Serbian singer songwriter Dana Gavanski. It is an album of strange melodic songs that don’t quite make sense in a literal way but imprint themselves on the mind of the listener, stirring emotions, attaching themselves to the psyche and staying there like half-remembered memories of past lives.

The songs exist in dream dimensions where images are thrown up in random succession, touching emotions at an elemental level, like ancestral knowledge or the wonders of the natural world – the untamed ocean, stunning mountain sunsets, summer meadow’s humming with bees and wild flying insects.

The album begins with ‘I Kiss The Night’ a strange intriguing song that engenders feelings of isolation, loneliness: abandonment even. The protagonist just about holding things together, dissecting and controlling her emotions – “I built a fortress in my mind– take apart the thoughts – leave the furthest far behind.” But is her dream lover all in her mind as she imagines “milk white words of love falling on (her) sleepy head” and pictures “the faces that were never there” leading to the sad refrain of “I needed you to help me – but every night… it’s just the moon that I see”.

In ‘Bend Away And Fall’ the singer focuses in on her feelings as they change “bend away and fall” and considers that the love she is now experiencing is “slower, scented, experience altering!” The words are impressionistic, non-specific and primordial, painting emotive colour over metal black memory.

Dana Gavanski possesses a voice that is light, tender but somehow emotionally detached with a tone and phrasing similar to Cate Le Bon. But, while Cate Le Bon writes intelligent absurdist lyrics that cut to the chase, Dana Gavanski’s lyrics are more abstract and non-linear, reflecting feelings that cannot easily be expressed in words.

Perhaps the most commercial song is ‘Letting Go’ a simple song about reaching a point where a person is able to let go of emotions from past relationships and move on: “I thought I saw my solitude end it’s hour of grieving.” The singer unconsciously seeking love again, “it happens every time I find a hole, just to fill it.” She is finally ready emotionally to re-take the plunge, her confidence re-charged she is feeling good once more: ‘The Sun’s so hot, I heat up again”

‘The Day Unfolds‘… begins with a crawling crab of a rhythm walking sideways and sounding not unlike Wire circa Chairs Missing. Again, the words are abstract and open to interpretation with “snow falling bright, shapes in plight”, but may be about losing your own sense of self in a bad relationship…”Control, a bending knife you will shine… I’m losing my way, down the avenue… I found my soul undone… I know fallen one your time will come.”

Meantime, the song ‘Lisa’ reminds me of Weyes Blood but plays like a Scott Walker suburban drama of loneliness, longing, desperation, and unrequited love. The protagonist pleading “Please Sir have you noticed me… I watch you roam the streets a frown sketched on your face, chasing after days that melt behind… crowds form early on, dogs and families and city siren songs, I wait until they’re gone to show my face… Something like this I have never felt… a belly full of tremors… and what I can offer you?”

The album ends with the hymnal ‘Knowing to Trust’, which comes across like Beach House covering Mazzy Star. Again the abstract lyrics breath life and strangeness into the song… “Face on, am I howling too loud, does my worry crowd your view?”

Although I have tried to interpret some of the songs on the album, it is often not the words she sings but the feelings the songs stir. The songs and the album are the musical equivalent of Penda’s Fen, you can’t elicit why it’s great but it leaves an emotive lasting impression.

Dana Gavanski has created a wonderful album, mysterious, beguiling, intriguing, full of wonders to be uncovered with each listen. The music that underpins the songs is sparse, minimal but warm, played on strummed guitar, piano, electric keyboards, synth, organ and drum-machine. Vocally Dana Gavanski falls somewhere in-between Cate Le Bon and Weyes Blood. Creatively, she perhaps falls closer to Nico or Aldous Harding with her oblique, abstract words conjuring up scenarios of emotion by the juxtaposition of images and lyrical ambience.

Key Tracks: ‘I Kiss The Night’, ‘Letting Go’, ‘The Day Unfolds’, ‘Knowing to Trust’.

Ignacio Simon ‘Old Friends’

Old Friends is the beautiful new album by Ignacio Simon (a composer, musician and artist, Spanish but based in England). Seven years in the making, it is the attention to detail and beautiful understatement, that makes this such a compelling listen. The space as important as the notes played.

The album begins with the whispered sigh of a song that is ‘Don’t be Long’. As the song progresses, minimal guitar gives way to silence, cello and a choir of mermaids singing on a distant shore. Sounding like it was arranged by Scott Walker circa Tilt, it is a thing of beauty, hope mixed with sadness.

The following mood piece ‘Victor’ begins with dissonance and single piano chords with ten seconds of silence, repeated, before cello, double bass and more dissonance make their own small marks on the canvas. Just when you think it has ended, mumbles of words come in creating an ambience of regret and longing from a jumble of memory and half remembered dream. More an expression of feeling than a song, the words are oblique and the message non-linear, understood more on a primordial, emotional, unconscious level.

‘Being Here’ follows like a disturbing nightmare with its discordant clangs, ghostly murmurs and sighs, suggesting suspense, dread, a stalking evil, dark rooms of terror, confinement and lunacy!

By way of contrast ‘Old Friends’ sighs in with soft brushed drums, double bass, understated guitar and ripples of orchestra, sounding majestic, like David Sylvian at his most heart breaking. The vocals, like “gentle drones inside our heads”, have echoes of Mark Hollis, Bill Callahan and Rufus Wainwright. This is perhaps the standout track on the album with its minimal soft jazz beauty and uplifting sadness.

The night terror interlude of ‘Being There’ begins with a crescendo stab of orchestral menace and a choir of distant full moon madness – like howling lost souls heard from far, far, away. Soon gone, it is replaced by the serene magic of…

‘The Magician’, a mystic hymn to nature and the continual cycle of life – birth, death, decline and renewal. Minor key piano chords underpin feelings of detachment and isolation as the words seep out … “We won’t touch, we won’t exchange a word…” Echoes of the Pop Group’s ‘The Savage Sea’ can be heard in the abstraction and widescreen sonic wastelands as he sings, “When will the sun come up?” The song fading into raptures of delirium, drowning in a sea of sirens… lost beneath the waves, but overtaken by calm… soon to be “long, long, gone.”

You won’t find a more beautiful record this year, full of uplifting sadness and hope. It is already my album of the year 2022! You can download it or buy the CD version on Bandcamp. Have a listen to this great record, particularly if you like Mark Hollis, Talk Talk, David Sylvian, Scott Walker, and Graham Domain. This wonderful record is deserving of a much wider audience.

Bambara  ‘Love On My Mind’

Bambara hail from Athens, Georgia, but have all the street punk attitude of the dark side of New York, where they now reside. Like one of the street gangs from the film The Warriors they possess a cool menace and visceral charm.

Musically they are a strange mixture of The Birthday Party, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Lou Reed, New Model Army, Swans, The Telescopes and The Modern Lovers. Big guitars, driving bass, machine-like drumming give them an 80’s Goth vibe but with a low-life reality and fighting spirit.

Reid Bateh sounds like a young Nick Cave, full of energy and bite but with a drawling vocal more akin to Lou Reed on speed, cranked really high!

The new six song EP has energy in abundance, great literate songs full of imagery and fire, the shadow of death close by. A band set to burn bright live fast and die in a blaze of glory! See them on tour this spring before they’re gone!

ALBUM REVIEW/Graham Domain

Anton Barbeau ‘Power Pop’
(Big Stir Records)

The new album by, Sacramento native, Anton Barbeau is called Power Pop. The irony is that it is not power pop! It is however Pop! More accurately, it is Pop with the sound of the early 1980’s, when bands like Vince Clarkes’ Depeche Mode and Howard Jones troubled the charts!

The new single ‘Rain, Rain’ is a case in point and comes across like the Eurythmics with male vocals! Complete with thunderstorm sound effects, the lyrics are standard Pop fare “rain on me, wash away my tears, set me free!”

Similarly, ‘The Never Crying Wolf Boy’ sounds like a cross between Yazoo and the Human League with its pulsing bass synth and daft lyrics… “The sound of silver tambourines spells out my name at Halloween.”

The short instrumental pieces between songs, such as ‘Slash Zed Zip’ and ‘Pompadour Toupee’ sound like off cuttings from The Art of Noise but don’t really add anything to the album!

The song ‘Power Pop’ meanwhile, begins like an alternative dance record before morphing into acoustic rock dourness, but still manages to have throwaway pop lyrics like “if this is war I’ve had enough, my mouth is full of power pop!” Sometimes, the songs stray into pure pastiche of the comedic type (like Neil Innes or The Rutles), for example, ‘The Drugs’. Elsewhere, the guitar pop of ‘Julian Cope’ reveals some terrible rhymes such as “Julian Cope, how do you cope?” and “I saw you Vibing, we beamed up Croyden Style-y, next thing it’s Bracknell and we’re backstage getting smiley!”

Overall it’s a fine pop album even if it’s a bit Retro in its sound and vision.

ALBUM REVIEW/Graham Domain

David J ‘What the Patrons Heard’
(GIVE/TAKE)

The new album by David J (one-time bassist with Bauhaus and Love and Rockets) is a collection of 10 songs recorded over the past 34 years and now released for the first time on CD, Vinyl and download. It is a mixture of original and cover version songs that cover a variety of musical styles from folk, country to punk, goth, blues, and poetry.

The first song ‘Lay Over And Lay’ sounds like the Clash or the Pogues. It has the brashness of an alternative song from the early 1980’s with its punky folk-country charge along!

The second song ‘(I Don’t Want to Destroy) Our Beautiful Thing’ sounds uncannily like Mark Lanegan in both voice and musical accompaniment: sounding not unlike the songs on Whisky for The Holy Ghost. Never the less it is an accomplished song and performance and is perhaps the best song on the album.

The next song is a rendition of Neil Youngs ‘Vampire Blues’ with funeral organ and drums underpinning intermittent heavy guitar chords and resonance. The vocals sound worn and tired like an old blues-singing preacher.

John Lennon’s ‘Gimme Some Truth’ follows sounding like a cross between Barry Adamson and The Eels. It is an interesting twisting version that adds to the original.

‘His Majesty The Executioner’ is an original song that begins like an ambient David Sylvian piece of music with acoustic guitar and looped piano before being overtaken by a storied narration, part horror, part mystery. Unfortunately, the voice is not engaging enough and the words too repetitive to sustain repeat listens.

Track 6 is ‘The Shadow’, a kind of gothic folk song, part murder ballad. It sounds like a folk song from the late 60’s or early 70’s and is reminiscent of such folk singers as Fred Neil or Nick Garrie. Perhaps it will be covered by other artists in the future.

‘The Rape of The Rose Garden’ follows and is a melancholy tale using a Rose Garden in decline as a metaphor for the decline of the American dream after the death of JFK. Musically it is a folk-country piano ballad and is successful in its telling and construction.

In ‘Scott Walker 1996’, an acoustic guitar figure repeats creating an air of mystery, suspense and drama as David J recites a poem about Scott Walker living in Holland Park, 1996, the album Tilt had been released and had put him back in the spotlight once again, but he still craved his anonymity, invisibility, wearing his baseball cap as disguise, ‘dark blue glasses for eyes’…

‘Down In the Tenderloin’ is another original song that David J sings in a higher register sounding a bit like David Bowie with the acoustic guitar somehow reminiscent of Blue Oyster Cults ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’.

‘A Girl in Port’ – is a cover version of a song written by Will Sheff for his band Okkervil River. David J here sounds like a cross between John Bramwell (I Am Kloot) and Richard Ashcroft (The Verve). A nice countryfied version of the song.

Overall, a good album. However, given the time period over which the songs were recorded, it does lack cohesion. Nevertheless it has some good songs, ‘(I Don’t Want to Destroy) Our Beautiful Thing’, ‘A Girl in Port’ and ‘Lay Over And Lay’ being the stand-out tracks.

%d bloggers like this: