PHOTO CREDITS: Memorandum Media and Michael Rehdish

Itchy-O ‘Sypherlot/Hallowmass: Double Live 2020’
(Alternative Tentacles)  5th November 2021

At their satanic majesty’s pleasure the Denver invocation, and 57-strong collective, Itchy-O decided last year to record for posterity two of their esoteric-industrial-drive-in shows.  If you’ve never set eyes on this immersive spectacle for all the senses, the Itch both resemble and sound like a LED light show and workshop sparked carnival of Holy Mountain Alejandro Jodorowsky, Mad Max, Ministry and a drum rattling regiment from the Mexican day of the dead.

With morbid curiosity this behemoth of a performance ritual have mostly kept recordings to a minimum, with captured live activities popping up either on Youtube or exclusively streamed via a chosen platform. Across an epic scale double-album format, two such chthonian and daemonic concerts appear on wax; the first, Sypherlot, captured an August performance in the “expansive” parking lot of Denver’s Mission Ballroom, the second, Hallowmass, captured a Halloween communal cleansing at the Colorado city’s now demolished New Tech Machinery building. Both occasions took off despite the miasma and restrictions of the pandemic, and both signaled a cathartic and provocative gesture in the last year of Trump’s presidency. Above all, Itchy-O seek to “eviscerate” both old and new ideas of entertainment and live music.

Photo Credit: Memorandum Media

Like a macabre theatre in which various belief systems and deities are called forth, the masked, almost anonymous costumed cast provide a real dark arts sanctuary, which they haven’t always limited to their own pentangle spread arena, but gatecrashed various events, festivals and even appeared onstage with David Byrne and St. Vincent.

Last August’s Sypherlot show (if the recordings are anything to go by) conjured up occult forces from across the globe and time: The MGM back lot sword and sandal meets krautrock doom rumbled march of ‘Saptaloka’ even referenced both Buddhist and Hindu cosmological realms of existence. Growled distorted and fuzzed up metal wielding guitar riffs and scowls, a carnival of lost souls vision of Brazilian samba drum chaos, slithered metallic tentacles and gestured bestial menace prove the order of the day. Under a ‘Blood Moon’ atavistic rituals and mantras receive a regimental rhythmic rattle and deeper thudding bass accompaniment and a vague scent of Haiti, Africa, Arabia. ‘Gallow’s Disco’ shows some…well, gallows humour of a kind as the dead man walking swings and dances to a strange transmogrification of samba drums and whistles – a bit more of that Brazilian carnival of the dammed vibe. By the time we’ve made it through the creeps, ghouls and Biblical scale heavy metal doom rocking drama, we’re led into a primordial soup of ectoplasm grief, wails and ghostly visitations.

Photo Credit: Michael Rehdish

Originally a three-night run last Halloween, the second half of this double-album, Hallowmass, is every bit as supernaturally menacing and esoteric in scope, with its communions with the old gods. In fact, ‘Dance Of The Anunnaki’ makes reference to deities from the ancient world, from the Babylon and Sumerian to the Assyrian. The atmosphere is mystical Tibet, chariots of the gods Maya, Byzantium and alien. Mind you the opening ‘Mystrabia, Under The Lake’ sounds like Jah Wobble meets Sunn O))). With a signature chorus of taiko drummers and devilish sonics the acolytes beat and clatter away whilst tuning into spook radio.  

Monolithic sized Sabbath riffs and flamed tequila shots permeate an often surprisingly rhythmic black mass bonfire night; the meeting point for a ritual burning of the stresses, agonies of such end times. Hallowmass was an opportunity for attendees to hand over artifacts, mementos and representations to be burned and sacrificed, a ceremony to “honour impermanence” and “the loss felt so heavily” during the Covid pandemic.

The car seat audience certainly felt connected, part of these theatrical rites and magick entertainment: You can hear that with through the ad hoc applause of car horns after each mammoth track. Without the visuals, live spark it could all seem flat, disconnected, but sonically this wild double-album is as atmospheric as it gets; a bombastic esoteric circus of doom, torment but also spooked levity – put it this way, I get the impression Itchy-O don’t take themselves too seriously. Released oddly on what will be our Bonfire night celebrations, the album obviously screams Halloween – admittedly the album will be on sale at the collective’s three-night Hallowmass performance this year. Anyway, it’s a great piece of occult, and cult for that matter, musical performance to both enflame and raise the spirits.  

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog 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 to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.


New Music Of Interest Style Roundup/Dominic Valvona

The Perusal is my regular one-stop chance to catch up with the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload the Monolith Cocktail’s inboxes each month. A right old mishmash of previews, reviews and informative inquiry, this weeks assortment includes Ammar 808, Jon Hassell, Itchy-O, Kamo Saxo and Tony Price.

Ammar 808  ‘Marivere Gati (featuring SUSHA )’
(Glitterbeat Records)  Single/12th June 2020

“Except you, Divine mother, who else in this earth is to protect us ?

The ones who fall on your feet, giving up completely their ego,

you protect them, take care of them.

Meenakshi I believe in you.”

Dropping out of the nowhere, the latest trailblazing syncopation of transformed futuristic Pan-Maghreb languages, rhythms and ceremony from the leading producer Sofyann Ben Youssef expands the sonic horizons to collaborate with the Carnatic singer Susha.

Converging under Youssef’s most free spirited of electronic projects AMMAR 808, the signature propulsive TR-808 bass and warped effects of that alias meet with the alluring, buoyant spinning tabla driven devotional music of southern India, on the first single to be released from the forthcoming ‘Global Control / Invisible Invasion’ album. An ode to the goddess Meenakshi, who is an avatar of Parvati, the Hindu goddess of Fertility, love, and devotion, this hypnotizing throbbing fusion paves the way for an ever evolving and worldly sonic adventure.

Related from the Archives:

Ammar 808 ‘Maghreb United’ Album Review

Kamo Saxo  ‘Koma Mate / Jagd (Feat. Jameszoo)’
(We Jazz Records)  Single/12th June 2020

With a psychosis of breakbeats and prowling, jostling conscious jazz – the kind that channels the likes of such titans of the form as Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, Lloyd Miller, Leon Thomas and Albert Ayler – the exciting quintet Koma Saxo emerged last year as a new vehicle for a wealth of adroit European contemporary jazz musicians. Assembled by the Berlin-based Swedish bassist/producer Petter Eldh under the umbrella of the brilliant Finnish Jazz label We Jazz, the horn heavy ensemble includes many of the label’s stars, including Jonas Kullhammar, Mikko Innanen, and Otis Sandsjö on brass, and Christian Lillinger on the drums. The group made their performance debut at the label’s own festival in 2019, followed by a double A side single, the exotic flight of fantasy entitled ‘Part Koma/Fanfare For Komarum’, and a self-titled long player.

The latest double A-side single to drop from the ensemble refashions the conscious jazz swinging, double-bass tripping ‘Koma Tema’ performance from that debut album. Reincarnated as ‘Koma Mate’, the beats are dialed up, the skipping even more tripping, and the horns serenading. A sort of breakbeat abstraction with signs of melodious drifting, and cooing diaphanous spirits it doesn’t so much improve on the original as take it in a oft-kilter direction.

On the “flip” side, the Dutch producer Jameszoo is let loose to deconstruct and rebuild the Koma Saxo sound on the flexed and untethered tooting horn ‘Jagd’. Tenor sax floats and meanders over another tripped-up fluctuating groove to push the jazz group towards a hypnotized and fractured dancefloor.

Related from the Archives:

Koma Saxo ‘Port Koma/Fanfare For Komarum’ Single Review

Itchy-O  ‘Milk Moon Rite’
(Commissioned by Onassis Foundation as part of the ENTER series) Performance/3rd June 2020

First aired at the beginning of June but recorded on May 7th, as the moon loomed large orbiting at its closest point to Earth, the grand gesturing esoteric Denver collective of Itchy-O executed its own “Milk Moon Rite” performance.

As the ensemble explain: “Earth’s only natural satellite has orbited our sky as a massive emblem for countless religious worshippers across the eons. Known to the Greeks as Selene, the Hebrew Yarcah, and the Hindu lunar god Chandra; Egyptians also associated the moon with Isis, to name just a few appearances across mythos. It personifies the mysteries of life and death, both scientifically and spiritually.”

The 13-minute film is part of ENTER, a series of new works commissioned from artists across the globe, created in 120 hours or less, and drawing on experiences and transformations faced through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In a call to the gods for balance between opposites”, members of the drum driven art ensemble laid down a squalling friction of extemporized industrial ceremony and repetitive taiko beatings and hammerings: a vision that evokes Alejandro Jodorowsky conducting a unholy communion between Faust and Sunn O))) in a landscape in which the chthonian meets satanic. Settle down to the unsettling my children.

Itchy-O have in the past performed with David Byrne & St. Vincent’s band, shared the stage with experimental legends Devo, and anchored the world-renowned Dark Mofo Festival in Tasmania. Other performances include opening for Beats Antique, Melvins, and headlining Austin-based Fantastic Fest three years in a row.

Jon Hassell  ‘Fearless’
Taken from the upcoming new album Seeing Through Sound Pentimento Volume Two/24th July 2020

Progenitor of the borderless and amorphous evocatively traced, hazy dream experiments, John Hassell’s transmogrified nuzzling trumpet and sonic soundscape textures have inspired a generation of artists over the last forty odd years. The composer and trumpet player’s pathway, from adroit pupil of Stockhausen to seminal work on Terry Riley’s harangued piano guided In C, encompassed an polygenesis of influences: a lineage that draws inspiration from avant-garde progenitors like La Monte Young, and travels far and wide, absorbing sounds from Java to Burundi. Hassell attempted a reification of what he would term the “fourth world”; a style that reimagined an amorphous hybrid of cultures; a merger between the traditions and spiritualism of the third world (conceived during the “cold war” to denote any country that fell outside the industrious wealthier West, and not under the control of the Soviet Empire) and the technology of the first.

Though an independent artist pioneer in his own right, his name has become synonymous with that of Brian Eno’s, the pair working together on the first ambient traversing volume in Hassell’s Possible Musics series of iconic albums, in the late 70s.

Though he has continued to produce futuristic amorphous peregrinations, his back catalogue has in more recent years been rediscovered through various reissues. As a companion piece to the first Pentimento series of albums, 2018’s Listening To Pictures suite, a second volume is being released later next month. Pentimento is defined as the “reappearance in a painting of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over”; a process, a layering of coats that is reflected musically on this upcoming experimental vision, Seeing Through Sound. From that album, the foggy-headed mysterious lurking, fanning rayed, early Can metronomic ‘Fearless’.

Related from the Archives:

Jon Hassell/Brian Eno ‘Fourth World Vol.1: Possible Musics’ Album Review

Jon Hassell ‘Dream Theory In Malaya’ Album Review

Jon Hassell/Farafina ‘Flash Of The Spirit’ Album Review

Tony Price ‘Interview’
Track preview from the upcoming LP Interview/Discount/17th July 2020

Abstracted No Wave meets dream fuzzy sparkled organ jazz on the latest suffused nuzzled trip from the multitasking Toronto visionary Tony Price. The New York based producer, musician, and songwriter makes his debut on the Telephone Explosion hub with a new album; a couplet of traversed vaporous jazzy meditations that seem to have been recorded from behind a cozy if mysterious fog. Maybe not a veiled fog, but as the first track from this side-long duo of tracks, ‘Interview’, is described in the accompanying blurb “a meditative exploration of the tile-tunneled labyrinths of NYC’s subway system at night.” You could say a field recording of the most amorphous group of subway jazz buskers emanating thoughts and musings into the nocturnal ether.

Leader on this dial tone hazed peregrination, Price lends his fingertips to an assortment of eye-candy keyboards and synthesizers (Fender Rhodes, Hohner D6 Clavinet, Arp 2600, SP1200, Prophet 5), sketches out gossamer guitar strands and a repetitive lurking bass and also programs the drums. Flanking him on this distant recording are some experimentalist heavyweights: Giosue Rosati on fretless electric bass, blog stalwart and friend Andy Haas on signature untethered saxophones & effects, and Dan Pencer on bass clarinet.

The imbued fleeted spark of modal jazz, electro-funk and narcotic non-linearity of 1970s minimalism style LP is framed as “an electrifying collision of fractured jazz- concréte and combustible downtown funk that crushes the entire continuum between minimalism and maximalism into a hypnotic wreck of metropolitan sound matter.” In practice, to these ears, it sounds like a communion of the Cosmic Range and Zacht Automaat. A winner in my book.

Price has lent his expertise to a wide range of critically acclaimed records on labels like 4AD, DFA, Slumberland and Burger Records amongst many others. In 2017 he founded his label and creative services unit Maximum Exposure, which quickly became an in-demand entity, providing production and design expertise to the likes of Capitol Records, Pat McGrath Labs, Vogue, SSENSE, 4AD, and Night School Recordings amongst others. The new album will be released next month, 17th July 2020, but you can now sneak a listen of the A-Side.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog 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 to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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