Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brian Bordello Shea

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


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

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog 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.


An encapsulation of the last month, the Monolith Cocktail team (Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Graham Domain) chose some of the choicest and favourite tracks from February. It may have been the shortest of months, yet we’ve probably put together our largest playlist in ages: all good signs that despite everything, from Covid to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, artists, bands everywhere are continuing to create.

65 tracks, over 4 hours of music, February’s edition can be found below:

That exhaustive track list in full:::

Animal Collective ‘Walker’
Modern Nature ‘Performance’
Gabrielle Ornate ‘Spirit Of The Times’
The Conspiracy ‘Red Bird’
Cubbiebear/Seez Mics ‘All Friended Up’
Dubbledge/Chemo ‘Itchy Itchy’
Dirty Dike ‘Bucket Kicker’
Future Kult ‘Beasts With No Name’
Lunch Money Life ‘Jimmy J Sunset’
Ben Corrigan/Hannah Peel ‘Unbox’
Uncommon Nasa ‘Epiphany’
War Women Of Kosovo ‘War Is Very Hard’
Ben Corrigan/Douglas Dare ‘Ministry 101’
Sven Helbig ‘Repetition (Ft. Surachai)’
Ayver ‘Reconciliacion Con La Vida’
Lucidvox ‘Swarm’
Provincials ‘Planetary Stand-Off’
Wovenhand ‘Acacia’
Aesop Rock ‘Kodokushi (Blockhead Remix)’
Junglepussy ‘Critiqua’
Tanya Morgan/Brickbeats ‘No Tricks (Chris Crack) Remix’
Buckwild ‘Savage Mons (Ft. Daniel Son, Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon & Eto) Remix’
Che Noir ‘Praises’
Koma Saxo w/Sofia Jernberg ‘Croydon Koma’
Medicine Singers/Yontan Gat/Jamie Branch ‘Sanctuary’
Black Josh/Milkavelli/Lee Scott ‘Die To This’
Funky DL ‘I Can Never Tell (Ft. Stee Moglie)’
Mopes ‘Home Is Like A Tough Leather Jacket’
ANY Given TWOSDAY ‘Hot Sauce (Ft. Sum)’
Split Prophets/Res One/Bil Next/Upfront Mc/0079 ‘Bet Fred’
Nelson Dialect/Mr. Slipz/Vitamin G/Verbz ‘Oxford Scholars’
Immi Larusso/Morriarchi ‘Inland’
Homeboy Sandman ‘Keep That Same Energy’
Wax Tailor/Mick Jenkins ‘No More Magical’
Ilmiliekki Quartet ‘Sgr A*’
Your Old Droog/The God Fahim ‘War Of Millionz’
Ramson Badbonez/Jehst ‘Alpha’
Ghosts Of Torrez ‘The Wailing’
Pom Poko ‘Time’
Daisy Glaze ‘Statues Of Villians’
Orange Crate Art ‘Wendy Underway’
Seigo Aoyama ‘Overture/Loop’
Duncan Park ‘Rivers Are A Place Of Power’
Drug Couple ‘Linda’s Tripp’
Ebi Soda/Yazz Ahmed ‘Chandler’
Brian Bordello ‘Yes, I Am The New Nick Drake’
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets ‘Bubblegum Infinity’
Steve Gunn ‘Protection (Ft. Mdou Moctar)’
Jane Inc. ‘Contortionists’
Black Flower ‘Morning in The Jungle (Ft. Meskerem Mees)’
Jo Schornikow ‘Visions’
The Goa Express ‘Everybody In The UK’
Pintandwefall ‘Aihai’
Thomas Dollbaum ‘God’s Country’
Crystal Eyes ‘Don’t Turn Around’
Glue ‘Red Pants’
Super Hit ‘New Day’
Legless Trials ‘Junior Sales Club Of America’
Monoscopes ‘The Edge Of The Day’
Alabaster DePlume ‘Don’t Forget You’re Precious’
Orlando Weeks ‘High Kicking’
Carl Schilde ‘The Master Tape’
Bank Myna ‘Los Ojos de un Cielo sin Luz’
Park Jiha ‘Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans’
Simon McCorry ‘Interstices’

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Jamael Dean ‘Primordial Waters’
(Stones Throw)  29th October 2021

Anything but indulgent, the much acclaimed American jazz and hip-hop prodigy, Jamael Dean, dreams big with a most ambitious new twenty-track album of tribune and social-political clout. Nothing less than raising the spirits of Black-America, Dean weaves together both a respectful acknowledgement of his Yoruba roots and a street view celestial hip-hop/jazz symphony tribute to L.A.’s Leimart Park – a predominantly Black neighbourhood that’s said to be on the ‘frontline of gentrification’, known for its Black business owned community hubs like Eso Won Books, the Sika Art Gallery, Ride On bike shop and World Stage.

Not so clear cut, nor divided, the Primordial Waters flow between jazz, soul, hip-hop and the classical; the vocals, a mix of diaphanous contoured, lush, lulled and more worked female voices and Dean’s own Freestyle Fellowship mixed with Tanya Morgan and Odd Future poetic, aggrieved observational and conscious raps.

Referencing various deities, spirits from the Yoruba peoples ‘primordial’ creation myth, much of the material splashes around in tumultuous waters as Dean’s collaborative foils, Sharada Shashidas and Mekala Session, use their voices like melodious instruments. At their most intense those vocals, which flow between ancestral dialects, lyrics and sounds, evoke a wailing Linda Sharrock, and just beautifully transcendent when untethered and free. All the while that electric piano spot, dashes and lays down baubles of brightened notes, whilst the drums splash around and offer shimmers and waves of choppy, galloping swells. Beyond-this-realm atmospherics build up a dreamy yet earthy soundtrack of Yoruba mythology.

The Yoruba’s roots began in what are now Nigeria, Benin and Togo, spreading out to all corners of the continent and overseas as a result of both conquest and enslavement. Their deities, traditions are both paid homage to throughout this mini opus. As a musical legacy this civilisation, which spawned the Oyo Kingdom and Benin Empire, is immensely rich and influential. And so across this story of creation there’s hint’s of that influence as well as touches of Sun-Ra, Bobby Hutcherson, Alice Coltrane (Dean’s own ‘Galaxy In Leimert’ is inspired, influenced by Alice Coltrane’s harp-piano spiritualist ‘Galaxy Around Olodumore’), Clive Zanda, Nate Morgan (especially ‘Mrafu’), Nduduzo Makhathini, Mango Santamaria and Pharaoh Sanders.

This grand sweeping cosmology (well, the last third of it anyway) takes a turn towards hip-hop, with Dean rapping over, in some cases, his own jazzier tracks. Like in the style of the late J. Dilla, even Madlib, these groundings are often chopped up, looped, slowed down and reconfigured: The shadowy but celestial mirage ‘Abyss’ reminded me a little of cLOUDEAD. It’s a congruous but expansive turn that takes on a whole different mood, rhythm and cadence; becoming more like a rap album then a wholly jazz orientated one: And for that it works well.

The Primordial Waters have been stirred up to create a grand scheme of spiritual, ancestral inspiration. Multi-layered with titles that in themselves encourage further study – naming a pantheon of African gods -, this is a wonderfully executed work of free-flowing picturesque and more turbulent beauty. If I believed in those fatuous scoring systems used by so many rival sites, this would be a nine of out ten: awarded not just for effect but effort too.

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

David Ornette Cherry’s Organic Nation Listening Club (The Continual)
(Spiritmuse)  15th October 2021

What providence. What two outstanding luminaries to live up to. David Ornette Cherry’s name marks the extraordinary point in time when his trumpet-pioneering father Don Cherry joined forces with jazz deity Ornette Coleman on the 1958 free jazz defining Something Else!!! LP. It was also the year the musical polymath David was born.

Thankfully taken under his father’s wing, nurtured with the same freewheeling ‘cosmic nomad’ spirit, this sagacious scion of an enviable lineage continues to tread a polygenesis pathway on his latest album of on-message peregrination and rhythmic dances. Attuned to the universal vibrations, channeling the ancients and both his father’s African-American and Choctaw roots, the Organic Nation Listening Club bandleader, prompter and navigator lays out an atavistic form of electronic body movement, echoes of Hassell’s amorphous ‘fourth world’ explorations, the astral and, of course, spiritual jazz on the parenthesis entitled The Continual journey.

David leads a fourteen strong ensemble of global instrument-playing musicians and voices, which includes his niece Tyson McVey (daughter of the no less famous musical sibling, Neneh Cherry) performing vocal soundscape harmonization and wandering siren duties on the diaphanous courtly Indian accompanied, part conscious, part mindfulness yoga session, ‘So & So & So And So’ (imagine Prince joining forces with Linda Sharrock and Brother Ah). 

Almost meandering across continents, you’ll hear the resonated echoes, impressions, twine and spindled sounds of North and West Africa, the Asian sub-continent (a lovely brassy reverberation of sitar and the rhythm of tablas can be heard throughout), the Fertile Crescent and an 80s NYC melting pot on this spiritually enlivened trip. The keen-elbowed viola and tapping beat groove ‘Parallel Experience’, with its West African dun dun drum beat suggests that continent’s mood, yet also spreads its scope towards echoes of Farhot’s reimagined breakbeat visions of Afghanistan. The majestic mountain crust positioned ‘Eagle Play’ takes in musical views of not only the recurring spiritual Indian leitmotif but also Anatolia and Harilu Mergia’s Ethiopia (if put together by J Dilla that is).

Elsewhere David and his human, as well as nature’s chorus of ‘hummingbird’ singing cast embody the untethered soul of Don Cherry’s Om Shanti Om and Eternal Now works (and even a touch of the musical microbe calculus of building blocks and life that you’ll find on Don’s collaboration with Terry Riley, Köln). There’s also the fluted presence of Jeremy Steig, and with the more free jazz, almost improvised interactions between David and his drummer John L. Price, electric piano player Naima Karlsson and trumpeter Paul Simms, a touch of Sam Rivers and the Chicago Underground. Meanwhile, in what is an especially expansive field of instrumentation and influence, Gemi Taylor’s guitar straddles krautrock, jazz and drifted cries of a more ambiguous nature. 

From the cosmos to the age of the Pharaohs, the garden of earthly delights to dancing through the tumult of our modern times, the rhythms of life merge with more avant-garde performances of serialism, free jazz and even the psychedelic.

All the while the mood is electric, both of the moment and the past; a both sporadic and flowing set of reincarnations existing in a timeless scene under the guidance of an outstanding musical traveller. Anchored in the history of jazz, but so much more beyond that, David lives up to the family name on another eclectic album of borderless healing and wisdom. Be sure to check in at the global retreat and take heed of the advice.  


Motorists  ‘Surrounded’
(We Are Time/Bobo Integral/Debt Offensive)  3rd September 2021

Ah, for the mythology of rock music’s open road, highway 66 kicks and Kerouac misadventures. It seemed the easiest of escapes to new horizons; to hit the road U.S.A style and take in all the pit stop catalysts of rock ‘n’ roll lore. Not so easy to disappear now of course, the use of sat navs more or less keeping to a regimented map, with little in the way, or room, to shoot off on detours, and to come across surprises. Also, we’re all tracked, moving dots on a data system unable to truly run free.

Fueling this jangly Canadian trio’s automobile, those same tropes come up head-on with the actual realities of driving in the 21st century: gridlocks, congestion and nothing but bad juju on the radio. Motorists however do head down that fabled motorway as best they can; making for the open road with a carload of friends, the dial tuned into a new wave and power pop soundtrack of the Athens, Georgia sound, The Church, Teenage Fanclub and the Paisley Underground scene.  

However, they don’t so much cruise as motorik down a road less well travelled, as the Toronto group navigate the pandemic and the resulting anxieties of isolation, distress and mental fatigue that’s cursed most of us in a new pandemic reality. The album’s precursor lead track (recently featured on the blog) ‘Through To You’ was about a yearning to connect once more: what better way then a road trip. But isolation means different things to different people. The group’s guitarist and Alex Chilten-shares-the-mouthwash-with-Tom Verlaine styled vocalist Craig Fahner is concerned with the kind of “isolation” you find in “a technologically saturated society, laden with romanticism around radical togetherness.”

The trio’s debut album is a spaghetti junction of suffocation and melodious despondency that opens with the titular album song, ‘Surrounded’, a lovely jangle backbeat of Green On Red and R.E.M.ish influences that features a downbeat dissatisfaction with everywhere they lay their hat: the city, “too many creeps, too many bars”; suburbs, “too many houses, and noisy neighbours and perfect yards”; and the commune, “too much love, and power trips”.   

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t in anyway a downbeat songbook; the music’s just far too…well, jangly and driven for that. No flashiness, overindulgences, every song’s a tight winner, whether that’s the edgy power pop 80s throwback ‘Hidden Hands’ or the Soft Boys, if they’d been signed to Stiff Records, new wave crossover ‘Turn It Around’.

This whole album has a real nice feel, with pull-ins at Weezer, Television and grunge music’s lay-bys. Nothing new, just great indie, new wave (a little sneer of punk) music at its best, Surrounded has really grown on me. A great cathartic soundtrack to adventures on the freeway.

Timo Lassy  ‘Trio’
(We Jazz Records)  27th August 2021

A new combo and a new sound, the celebrated Finnish tenor saxophonist and bandleader Timo Lassy’s latest album of We Jazz crossovers is perhaps the Helsinki label’s most surprising release yet.

Cinematic, luxurious, Timo’s new “trio” are augmented, made more sweeping and grand, by the introduction of both synthesized effects and lush filmic strings – performed by the Budapest Art Orchestra and arranged by fellow Finn, Marzi Nyman. It’s almost as if David Arnold thumbed through the Savoy Jazz label’s back catalogue and various Italian and French movie soundtracks from the 60s and 70s: some exotica too! For the sound is both familiar, and as I already said, cinematic, yet somehow transformed enough to throw up the odd surprise and reverberation of the avant-garde and artsy jazz performativity.

Flanked either side by We Jazz and Finnish scene stalwarts, Ville Herrala on double-bass and Jaska Lukkarinen on drums, the expanded trio both playfully and more longingly move through the scenes of an imaginative romance it seems. Straight away they evoke that Savoy swing and a bit of sophisticated European vogue celluloid as they symphonically, in a rhapsody of swooning serenade, transport us to Monte Carlo (perhaps even Rio) on the sweeping ‘Foreign Routes’. Timo follows the tender contours and toots away on the equally romantic, tiptoed beauty ‘Better Together’.

Hearts skip and are harassed on the more jumping and dashing couplet of ‘Pumping C’ and ‘Orlo’. Timo goes through the register with dub-like effected echoes on his dabbing and busy saxophone riffs as Lukkarinen provides rattles of cymbal and little drilled snare rolls on the first of these two ‘groovers’.  The latter goes for a trip-hop like feel of shuffled breaks, funky and soulful tenor squeals.

Rain-on-the-windowpane moments of solemn gazing occur on the moody double-bass quivering, snuggled forlorn sax reflection ‘Sonitu’, and on the swirled wind blowing through the spiritual jazz cannon’s chimed and trinket percussion, elegant serenade ‘Sunday 20’.

For excursions further afield, the trio take us on an exotic journey to more fiery climes on the gong struck announced ‘Subtropical’ – imagine Jef Gilson and Les Baxter sound-tracking some mating ritual in the sort of hip but down-at-heel tropical nightspot, draped with fishing nets; where the clientele are of course wearing the Breton stripes, dancing away to Candido’s banging away on the congas.

A surprising route to take, Timo and his compatriots’ return to the classics on an album of both accentuated and dynamic jazz swing; boosted by the most beautiful of strings accompaniments. 

Various  ‘Cameroon Garage Funk’
(Analog Africa)  3rd September 2021

Blistering hot, howled ravers from an undiscovered treasure trove of 60s and 70s Cameroon Afro-garage, Afro-funk and Afro-psych records, Analog Africa have dug deep once more to bring us yet another essential compilation of lost or forgotten nuggets.

This bustling tropical survey tells the story of the country’s capital nightspots and the groups that frequented them, on what sounds like an unbelievably impressive live scene. But away from the sweltering heat of those busy dance floors, Cameroon lacked most of the facilities needed to record and promote it. Instead, it was left to covertly recording under the radar of an Adventist church, on the down low in between services and the ire of the priests. For a price, bands could use the church’s rudimental but sound recording equipment and incognito engineer, Monsieur Awono. Whoever had the readies could also then buy the master reel. But then what?  

Without a proper distribution network and few label opportunities, groups had to rely on the French label Sonafric. As it happened this imprint was very forgiving, open to anything it seems, and in a rare example of altruism releasing records on merit alone. The results of this generous spirit can be heard on, what is, a quite eclectic spread of genres and themes: ‘garage funk’ being a good springboard for a selection that reaches beyond its title grabber.

Low tech in many ways, yet the music on offer, leaps out of the speakers: the louder the better. For example, Jean-Pierre Djeukam’s squealing organ introduction opener, ‘Africa Iyo’, is a twitching Africa Screams like stonker that fully encompasses the “garage funk” tag.  But whilst this is a James Brown in league with The Gators style stormer, the next track, ‘Sie Tcheu’, takes some imbued guidance from Curtis Mayfield. Joseph Kamga, guitar virtuoso of the L’Orchestre Super Rock’ a Fiesta pedigree, lets loose on that 1974 “jerk tune”; sung, it should be noted, in the country’s largest ethnic language of Bamiléké.

It should also be noted at this point that Cameroon was under both French and British rule until 1961. They gained independence firstly from the French, in one half of the country, the year before, and then from Britain the following year. This brought in a renewed thrust and vigor for Cameroon traditions and its pre-colonial history, which filtered through to the music. Groups like the impressive Los Camaroes (the house band at the edgy Mango bar) incorporated a local version of the Rhumba, Méringue (the style that would blaze through the Latin world but stared in Africa), and the local Bikutsi style (the literal translation of which is “beat the earth”). They appear twice on the compilation, but it’s their tropical hammock swayed ‘Ma Wde Wa’ that favours this sauntered, often local, array of rhythms best. In comparison ‘Esele Malema Moam’ moves to an elliptical rhythm, more in keeping with New Orleans funk.

Transported across the Atlantic, seasoned and well-travelled talent Charles Lembe evokes Afro-Cuban gaucho vibes on ‘Qwero Wapatcha’. An interesting fella, moving at the age of sixteen to Europe, Lembe signed his first record deal with Vogue records in 1959, going on to write French film scores, open the rather poorly chosen named La Plantation club in Paris, and release his own The Voice Of Africa LP – Myriam Makebla and Henry Belafonte no less, asked permission to reinterpret his ‘Mota Benoma’ tune too.

The rest of the compilation seems to owe, at least some, debt to Fela Kuti. The architect of Afrobeat can certainly be felt on Tsanga Dieudonne’s ‘Les Souffrances’; written incidentally by Johnny Black, who’s owb Ewondo dialect advisory themed, Otis grabs James Brown styled, groover ‘Mayi Bo Ya?’ is a highlight. Willie Songue and his ‘Les Showmen’ sound like they may have even influenced late 70s Can with the whacker wah-wah flange peddled, live sounding, relaxed funk track ‘Moni Ngan’.

Cameroon garage funk is a riot; an encapsulation of a musically rich eco-system that managed to break on through despite all the setbacks and the lack of facilities. This compilation is the story of a conjuncture of Western and Cameroon styles; with the emphasis on corrupting those cross-Atlantic radio influences into something distinctly African. It’s another great introduction.

Various  ‘The Land Of Echo: Experimentations And Visions Of The Ancestral In Peru (1975-1989)’  (Buh Records)  27th August 2021

Photo Credit: Tony D’Urso

The second compilation this month to receive my seal of approval, Buh Records points me in the direction of the experimental fusions of mid 70s and 80s Peru. Surveying a conjuncture of brave new sounds and the country’s traditions, this pretty self-explanatory entitled compilation unveils both unreleased and released obscure explorations from a clutch of mavericks and forgotten pioneers who pushed the South American sonic envelope.

Mainly due to the political turbulence and a lack of studios, distribution and the like, most of the artists on this collection either self released recordings from their rudimental home studio set-ups, or, found opportunity to test the perimeters in the very few official facilities that existed: with labels such as Corva, and in studios such as Alliance Fançaise. 

Due to the ruling regime of this period’s emphasis on promoting Peru’s culture and traditions, and because of intense economic migration to the cities (in particular the capital, Lima), there was a greater exposure to the sounds of the country’s mountains and rainforest topography; many of which ended up being transformed by the lineup on this inaugural compilation.

Artists, composers working in the fields of rock, jazz, the contemporary classical and avant-garde began to merge and manipulate those localised customs and sounds into a new South American hybrid. The results of which can be heard on Omar Aramayo’s wind pipe Andean mountain peregrination ‘Nocturno 1’. From the lofty heights of a mountain’s crust, Omar it seems tracks the airy flight of an eagle, whilst evoking an atmospheric mirage of a train’s reverberated chuffed steam and the dreamy contouring of its magical journey. In contrast to that ambient minor symphony, Corina Barta swoons, exults, sings strange arias over both messenger and detuned drums on the mesmerising new age ‘Jungle’.

In the mid 70s Ave Acústica produced the sort of tape manipulations you might hear both Can and Faust playing around with it. A previously unreleased sound collage, produced on magnetic tape, announces each hissy segment of inner piano workings, radio dial fuckery and atmospheric downpours with a repeated Peruvian guitar motif on the avant-garde suite ‘Liegue a Lima al Atardecar’. Another unreleased track, ‘Indio de la Ciudad’ by Miguel Flores, leans towards Cage with an almost avant-garde experiment of classical heralded layered trumpets. 

The most obvious sounds of the futurism however, can be heard on Luis David Aguilar’s mid 80s Casio CZ10000 synthesizer heavy ‘La Tarkeada’. Touches of Sakamoto and Eno permeate this space-y bubbled wah-wah rayed and arpeggiator dotted neo-classical transformation of an Andean ancestral melody.

Echoes of Tangerine Dream, Oscar Peterson, Anthony Braxton, Cluster and the Fluxus arm of music can be heard in tandem with Peru’s most synonymous panpipes sound, but also disturbances of the local bird life (lots of flight and wing flapping going on) and spiritual inspired ritual. What all these experimental composers capture is an essence of a revitalised Peruvian culture, whilst dreaming about a more inclusive future.

Variát  ‘I Can See Everything From Here’
(Prostir)  10th September 2021

Ukrainian multimedia artist and co-label launcher Dmyto Fedorenko makes an abrasive, thickset and caustic noisy statement of mystery and forebode on his latest dissonant album.

Under the Variát alias the static, fizzled and pulverized pulsating sonic sculptor uses a busted and transmogrified apparatus of blown amps, hammer thumped toms, cymbals that have been drilled to make unpredictable resonating distortions, and countless found objects to conjure up the most heavy and deep of savage and alien discomfort.

One artist’s reaction to the times we now live in, launched from Fedorenko’s own Prostir imprint that he set-up with fellow electronic music experimentalist Kateryna Zavoloka, the album’s eight fizzing contortions burble, squeal, scream and drone lethargically with unknown ritualistic invocation.

The accompanying PR notes tell me that this project (in part) was conceived last year as a ‘provocative outlet’ for transgression, reinvention and liberation. This all becomes a bestial, doomed industrial freedom when channeled through a fried crunched distortion. Unknown propelled craft hover as the stark brushes and scrapes of an electric guitar are magnified to sound like an unholy alliance of Sunn O))) and The Telescopes. Reversed sharpened blades, searing drones, metal machine music concrete, vaporised static, the sound of a robbed manic knocking on the gates of Hades and various bone and gristle menace converge as leviathans, secret ceremony and regurgitations emerge from the discordant mass.

Itchy-O, Faust and Emptyset bring in augurs and break the limits in a suffused display of heavy metal primitivism, as Variát craves out meaning, description and evocations from a corrosive block of fucked-up serpent like dark materials. It’s probably, exactly, the right sound we need at the moment. 

Andrew Wasylyk  ‘Balgay Hill: Morning In Magnolia’
(Clay Pipe Music)  20th August 2021

Seeking a sanctuary away from the collective anxieties and uncertainties of the Covid-19 age, the Dundee composer Andrew Wasylyk found that it’s a beautiful world once you disconnect from the hyperbole and relentless crisis negativity fed to us minute-by-minute through the gogglebox and Goggle hub.

His safe haven, the city’s Victorian period Balgay Park, proved both a solace and sonic inspiration for this latest album of evocative captured-in-the-moment peregrinations and hymns to natures eternal optimistic dawn rise.

A sort of ambient waft along the park trail, with fragrant and almost cosmic reflective stops at the astronomical observatory (the first and only public built one in the UK) sitting beside the flowery and fauna at the adjourning cemetery and from atop of the panoramic view that reaches out across the Firth of Tay’s inner estuary.

Eased in with both the glazed light of a Dundee Spring and the suffused swaddled and warm dreamy trumpet and flugelhorn of fellow Taysider Rachael Simpson, Wasylyk once more pays an ambient – with hazy pastoral touches of the psychedelic and even esoteric – homage to his home city’s psychogeography. For there is a marking, musically, of not just the passing of time but an acknowledgment also to those who’ve lived and followed a similar lifetime in the one-time jute manufacturing capital. There’s even a track title, ‘Smiling School For Calvinists’, that references Bill Duncan’s short stories collection of imagined and all too real characters eking out a living or existence in a slightly surreal vision of Dundee – alternating between the insular fishing community of Broughty Ferry and the imposing tower blocks of the nearby city.

The soundtrack to this world layers dappled gauzes of the Boards Of Canada and epic45 with the ambience of Eno and Forest Robots; the accentuated and caressed bendy guitar playing of Junkboy and Federico Balducci with just a hint of 70s children’s TV ghost stories.

The abstract essence of a place and mood are made no less concrete or real by this lovely, often mirage-like soundtrack. Sounds, instrumentation plays like the light source material that inspired it, whether it’s the undulating synthesized bobbled notes or the winding, meandering melodies of piano. Grayscale-like fades come alive with the occasional breakout of padded and pattered drums and, on the sweet colliery trumpeted and gilded piano rich, already mentioned, book title, a pre-set bossa groove.

Casting a timeless spell, worries seem to evaporate as Wasylyk gently immerses the listener into another world: the bustle, movement of a city is still there, but a most scenic film of escape keeps it all at bay behind cushioning fauna. Balgay Hill is another wonderful, peaceable yet evocative album from the Dundee maestro.

Steve Hadfield  ‘See The World Anew Vol.1’
(See Blue Audio)  27th August 2021

It’s been a miserable, anxious and unsecure eighteen months for all of us; the political and generational divisions, already torrid enough before the advent of Covid-19, now like chasms. Yet for many it’s also been a time of catharsis, an opportunity to concentrate on what matters the most. Leeds electronic music artist Steve Hadfield is one such soul, sharing the collective experiences of lockdown, but also impacted by a number of personal life changes unrelated to the miasma of the pandemic. Inspired by his young daughter to look at the world, universe with fresh wide-eyed wonder and new perspective, Hadfield is spurred on to create a new series of ambient suites dedicated to stargazing and atmospheric discovery.

Following a prolific release schedule in 2021, Hadfield’s ‘most ambient’ statement has been saved for the blossoming ambient and beyond label See Blue Audio. And so volume one of this universal wonderment feels like the multiple stages of an ascendance into space; there’s even a mirage melting, serene spherical gliding suite named ‘Ascension’ for heaven’s sake!

Reacquainting with the night sky Hadfield offers up moonbeam corridors of light, reversed cosmic white noise, detuned Tibetan like ceremonial percussion, and a veiled untethered waltz in the great expanse. The composer takes off aboard some sort of propelled craft through an arching buzzed ‘Mesosphere’ towards an orbital avant-garde.

Volume One is a sensitive, often mysterious, but always interestingly serene start to a period of renewed reflection and discovery.

Simon McCorry  ‘Flow’
(See Blue Audio)  10th September 2021

The highly prolific “cellist sound-sculptor of ambiguous environments” and composer Simon McCorry has appeared numerous times this year on the blog. Just last month I featured his Critical; Mass collaboration with the Washington D.C. duo of Requiem (of which a second volume is set to be released next month), and before that, his Nature In Nature EP for the burgeoning ambient and beyond label See Blue Audio. For that very same label (and the second See Blue release to be featured in this month’s roundup) imprint McCorry plucks inspiration from out of the air and the psychogeography of the Lake District, the Outer Hebrides’ Isle Of Harris, and the Orkney Islands on the almost uninterrupted Flow suites showcase. 

Treading in ancient times, the unknown mysticisms and mysterious essences we’ve attached to our atavistic ancestors in those locations is picked up by McCorry’s sonic antenna and channeled into five flowing sequences of ambient and kosmische style immersions. The source of which stems from one long improvisation; created using Eurorack modules passed through to cassette tape and further processed to acquire a degraded feel, like something that’s been left lain dormant and undiscovered under the dirt: a kind of mood board time capsule if you will.

Imbued by those surroundings, and the various stone circles that stand in some of them, McCorry ushers in the autumnal light and low sun rises as seasonal rituals indicate the last moments of the summer.  Horizon gazing sun worship, supernatural elements, vibrating force fields, slowly bowed ascending and descending tubular elevations, and searing drones seem the order of the day as the adroit composer manages to produce a natural, organic vision of synthesized machine made mood music. The roots of which start in the landscape and travel up towards the sci-fi.

Deep yet translucent, McCorry’s stream of conscious ambience has both weight and a mirage-like quality. Its yet another angle, a side to his craft; a most appealing, entranced and mystical work of airy suspense and investigation. 

Sone Institute  ‘After The Glitter Before The Decay’
(Mystery Bridge Records)  6th September 2021

Not quite left behind, nor entirely bound to the next stage of decay, Roman Bezdyk emerges from the ruins of one glittery age to contour, reverberate and evoke both mysterious and ominous atmospheres on his new Sone Institute album.

Crouched in post-industrial wastelands, gazing at the stars, the UK-based electronic musician, guitarist and producer conveys both dreams and nightmarish environments of unknown specters, shapes and broadcasts on what amounts to a kosmische, ambient and experimental guitar styled soundtrack to a resigned future shock.

You could say it follows on from Bezdyk’s previous New Vermin Replace Old EP from April. There’s even a second ‘Studded By Stars’ chapter; although it’s a more industrial, post-rock like journey into the alien as opposed to the first version’s stratospheric ambient glide.

Against obstructed and ghostly transmissions, cosmic sonic hymnal synthesized voices, beams of light, digital code calculations and veiled gray environments Bezdyk adds serial and resonated guitar gestures, brushes. With much delay, sometimes flange, and always plenty of lunar echo, his guitar wrangling, air hanging notes and gentle sweeps recall elements of Günter Schickert, Manuel Göttsching and an even more strung out version of Ry Coder. On the apparitional entitled ‘Insect House’ that same guitar sound apes the craning and scuttled movements of those said creepy-crawlies, whilst also evoking a sweltered heat and a strange bowing rustic saw. 

Whilst new Rome crumbles and burns, Bezdyk imagines broody spy thrillers piano music played by Cage (‘Echo Zulu India’) and Bernard Szajner like envisioned sci-fi. Wherever he’s taking us it sounds as alien as it does foreboding; a crumbling visage of the world headed for the shitter. 

Blue Mysteries  ‘Dislocated’
(Hive Mind Records)  10th September 2021

I can sympathize greatly with Marc Teare, the humanoid behind the Dislocated Blue Mysteries alias and head honcho at the global sounds (and beyond) label Hive Mind. Suffering greatly from bastard cluster headaches myself in the past, I know exactly what he’s going through. As a distraction from this heavy leaden fog and intense painful experience, Teare assimilates with a number of A.I. sonic software applications on his new project.

Not so much removing himself from the process, as that title may suggest, but more in keeping with how the curse of those headaches can not only course chronic pain but ‘dislocate’ a person from everything around them. Teare actually ties and propounds this same damaging feeling in with the dislocation so many of us have felt during the COVID pandemic.

Intuitive as he might be, he’s left much of the work to the transmogrified re-programming of Khyam Allami & Counterpoint’s Apotome and, the electronic artist, Holly Herndon’s ‘digital twin’ Holly+. The first is a free browser-based generative music system that enables users to explore transcultural tunings, the second, a custom vocal and instrumental interface in which users can upload polyphonic audio to a website and receive it back, sung in Herndon’s voice. Of course it all depends on whatever source material you feed it as to how effective the results.  In this case, Teare has initiated very odd, hallucinogenic and acid lunar dream of library music sci-fi and inner mind-bending. 

Like a transformed twist of Asmus Tietchens, Stereolab and Klaus Weiss, dislocated from their own times, this chiming, twinkled and chemistry set bubbled and burbling soundtrack floats freely inside a psychedelic lava lamp. Droplets, sometimes arpeggiator flows of bobbing chimes make vague connections to the Far East, Thailand, even Polynesia. On the gulp filtered slow beat primordial soup ‘Humming, Pre-Dawn’ there’s a touch of electronic bamboo music; removed to sound like detuned chopsticks. Something approaching aria-like voices (of a sort) appear like whelping alien creatures and higher squawking space mice on ‘Shadows’. In a manner Blue Mysteries floats around a strange retro-library futurism of droning crafts, crystallised notes (some of which pierce, others, linger with sonorous effects), blades of bass-y synth and liquid movements. Concentrating the mind like nothing else can, Teare escapes the numbing pain to an imaginary sonic flotsam; handing over at least some of his escape route to A.I., and so in the process creating something lucidly weird and mirage-like. These cluster headaches fortunately pass, returning either sporadically or years later. Though this is an interesting sonic album, let’s hope for Teare’s sake those headaches never return. 


Xhosa Cole ‘K(no)w Them, K(no)w Us’
(Stoney Lane Records)  30th July 2021

Collecting an enviable array of accolades already, at such an early point in their career, the Jazz FM Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2020 and BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year in 2018 tipped saxophonist Xhosa Cole, can boast quite a resume. With it however comes great expectations and anticipation.

Xhosa certainly has the skills, as shown when performing at the BBC Proms and at Ronnie Scotts’; rubbing shoulders with the UK’s stalwart jazz luminary Courtney Pine and Monty Alexander. There’s also been the most congruous of guest spots on both Soweto Kinch’s The Black Peril and the R&B songwriter Machalia’s Love And Compromise albums.

That’s the professional CV out of the way. Let’s now talk about Xhosa’s formative years, exposed to the African-American progenitors of jazz. Various anecdotal experiences that unleashed a passion in the saxophonist are channeled into this debut album of jazz standards reinterpretations; and surprisingly a number of smoother 1920s romantic serenades from the great American songbook,

Through a contemporary ‘black British lens’, as it’s framed, K(no)w Them, K(no)w Us (which adopts and repurposes Dizzy Gillespie’s original homage quote about Louis Armstrong: ‘no him, no me’) is a largely faithful attempt to capture the spark, joy and essence of creating something new with old jazz favorites. Although loaded with a biography in the press spill, with all good intentional references to Xhosa’s LGBTQIA+ community identity, the issues of race, and campaigns to help black hopefuls to get a decent break in the music industry, this album isn’t so much a cry for justice, opportunity and equality but a very decent, sometimes exceptional, transformation from a different, contemporary perspective of jazz music that in its own way was just as fresh, dynamic and game changing back in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. An expression of fluidity and freedom you could say that finds room to expand and play with the original signatures of those seven classic compositions.

Joining Xhosa on this homage to the greats, the innovators, and sweet spot inspirations are Jay Phelps on trumpet, James Owston on double bass and James Bashford on drums. This set up is further expanded with guest spots from fellow Birmingham jazz talents, the already mentioned saxophonist Kinch and pianist Reuben James. All of who prove as adroit, masterful and dynamic as their focal bandleader.
It all begins with a free rolling NYC style skyline tooted and spiralled horns version of Woody Shaw’s Hungarian folk opera and Lydian mode free jazz march ‘Zoltan’. Originally the kick starter on the organist Larry Young’s iconic ‘post-bop’ classic Unity, for the equally iconic Blue Note label in ’66, Xhosa and quartet turn it inside out with dry spit rasping horns, splashes and cushioned tight drilled drum rolls. They do however maintain the core drive and melodies of the original.
The great innovator extraordinaire and saxophone god Ornette Coleman, has his turn-of-the-60s ‘Blues Connotation’ composition injected with a well-oiled dynamism that feels quite faithful to the source again. Appearing on Coleman’s fifth album, This Is Our Music, with his quartet, that track followed a thematic concept; blending all the various strands of group improvisation, from Dixie to the progressive, and of course the blues and swing. This take of that class performance skips, quickens and even rushes along to that same set of influences, both wildly and in step; loose and fluted; swinging and abstract.
Another of the great jazz progenitors, Thelonious Monk sees his ’59 ‘Played Twice’ composition handled with care by the quartet. The original of course featured on Monk and his quintet’s (hence the album riffed title) 5 By Monk By 5 album. With a dash of be-bop swing and leaning towards Dizzy, this contemporary version seems to be constantly on the move in a dot-dash like progression.
Album finale, ‘Untitled Boogaloo’ by the fatalistic trumpet demigod Lee Morgan also gets into the swing of things; Boogaloo alright, bordering on driving R&B and Stax like soul. The original appears on a couple of posthumously released late 70 albums (on the Blue Note catalogue), but was recorded a decade before. A real hot-stepper groove, Xhosa uses it to announce and credit each member of his band; all of who get a little solo spot. Just as cool, rambunctious and fun, the ensemble makes a great job of it.
In a less busy mode, and playing to the romantic in Xhosa, there’s a trio of pre-war standards. The oldest of which, ‘Manhattan’, first appeared in the Garrick Gaieties revue of ’25. Composed by Richard Rodgers with words by Lorenz Hart, this meandrous jolly lovers budget tour of the city skit made lyrical “delights” out of Manhattan’s least desirable spots and cheap side landmarks: “We’ll turn Manhattan into an Isle Of Joy”. Wordless on this occasion, the quartet play hard and fast with the original score; refashioning the piano parts to resemble Oscar Peterson’s idiosyncratic touch rather than roaring 20s gaiety. It must be stated at this point that James’ pianist skills are very, very good; with keyboard patterns that seem to flow like a waterfall, merged with more loosened trills, dabs and off-kilter singular stabs.   
A moonlit serenade, Tadd Dameron’s (in this version arranged by W. Markham) bluesy caress, ‘On A Misty Night’, is played with a tenderness. This legendary composer and arranger worked with a litany of the crème de crème: from Count Basie through to Coltrane and Dizzy. And this song has been reinterpreted by the best of them to in the past, with Xhosa’ version sailing closest to the latter of those great names.
Also close to Xhosa’s heart is Bob Haggart’s original 30s torch song, ‘What’s New’, which a year after its initial unveiling by Bob Crosby and his Orchestra saw Johnny Burke add ‘casual conversational lovers’ style lyrics. Again, covered by a litany of legends, from Louis Armstrong to Dexter Gordon, and made extra special and stirring by Billie Holiday, Xhosa and guests conjure up a sentimental enough and elegant performance of wandering languorous yearned saxophone and walking basslines. 
If anything, all these reinterpretations prove just how innovative and even pleasurable the source material was, and still is. And this album remains a touching, respectful tribute to those pleasures. There’s always enough space to chance something a little different and fresh; some individual flares, expansions and concentrated thrills. Despite all the outside motivations that are funnelled into this debut, it remains a loving homage to the unadulterated joys of discovering music in your formative years; especially something you can instantly relate to, or that makes the growing pains, woes and uncertainties of youth seem so much clearer: an inspiration rather than drawback. Whilst never personally really thinking at all about the sexuality of those that have gone before in the jazz community, Xhosa offers a fresh perspective, musical language in what is, at least from my experiences, still an overwhelmingly heterosexual male dominated scene: an extremely egotistical and snobby one at that.
What Xhosa does is now help to widen that community and scope, whilst still keeping faithful to the music. And what a talent Xhosa is; backed by a more than capable, in fact highly adroit, band that feels its way around a great legacy. One to keep an ear out for; the potential is great in this rising jazz star.

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.

ALBUM REVIEWS/Dominic Valvona

Lisa Gerrard & Jules Maxwell ‘Burn’
(Atlantic Curve) 7th May 2021

Those already enraptured by the sublime billowing vistas and ethereal music of the four-decade spanning Dead Can Dance will quite rightly settle for nothing less than the stunning. Those fans will be hoping for the best in light of this new project conceived by that partnership’s leading siren Lisa Gerrard and the most recent member to join the Dead Can Dance fold (playing keyboards and co-composing for the Melbourne-birthed band since the world tour of 2012) Jules Maxwell.

Well, I can tell you it’s a sonic-voiced match made in the heavens; every bit as grandiose, visceral, dreamy and moving as anything Gerrard recorded under the DCD banner. Once more in the amorphous swell and vapour of atavistic and more recent cultural influences, myth and folklore whilst progressing towards something new, Gerrard and Maxwell conjure up a visionary, filmic opera of the neo-classical and electronica.

The quality and scope of elementals are unsurprising, with the contralto/mezzo-soprano voiced Gerrard channeling past collaborations with Bulgarian choirs, the otherworldly and cinematic, and her foil the Irish theatre composer, songwriter bringing his explorative grandeur.

Two become three with the addition of the English record producer, Last Space Recordings label founder, songwriter, remixer and artist in his own right (under the MAPS guise) James Chapman, who brings yet another air of experimental sophistication and some more horizon-gazing to the project.

Before we continue we need some background to how this immersive triumvirate took shape. The story goes right back to Maxwell’s inauguration as a live band member of, the long established, Dead Can Dance band in 2012. Not only playing keyboards but also already starting to write material from the outset with Gerrard, this creative partnership’s blossoming ‘Rising Of The Moon’ suite became the band’s final encore choice. Moving forward a few years, and having now struck up a certain ‘affinity’, Maxwell invited his siren partner to co-write songs for The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices project; travelling to Gerrard’s Australian studio to put this beautifully conceived choral requiem together. It was during these sessions that the duo also began writing ideas and conceptions for what would be the cerebral Burn album saga.

Chapman’s involvement stemmed from an introduction through Maxwell’s publisher over dinner in Sofia: proposed as a possible congruous edition to an already artfully transportive collaboration.

Fast forward to the pandemic epoch, and with the trio now scattered between three locations (Gerrard in Australia, Maxwell in France and Chapman in England), Burn finally and thankfully made it. And what an album experience it is; a slow-released epic of deep yet gauzy and ambitious dense atmospheric layering. Gerrard is as ever on a whole different plane to anyone; one minute dredging the longing yearn of shield maidens and at other times singing in diaphanous, weep inducing tongues like an operatic aria version of Elizabeth Frazer. She evokes everything from Fado and the Celtic, to the Ancient proscenium; a worldly amorphous intake of influences that stretches from the Balkans to Anatolia. She even made me bloody cry on the interstellar veneration, and one of the album’s stand-out grand scale longing visions, ‘Orion (The Weary Huntsman)’.

It’s passionate, stirring stuff that fills the soul, set to a musical score that transduces the synthesized film soundtrack futurist rayed visions of Vangelis (and a touch of Moroder), the pulsed emotive moody basslines of In Rainbows era Radiohead (‘All I Need’ springs to mind), slow controlled swelling drums, the celestial and beatific cathedral ascendance. The themes are no less full of both the same gravitas and the more tactile: made even more prescient and personal in the current isolating pandemic. Yet the sagacious title track is itself an invitation to (no less) “walk in peace, unlock the passive passion within, engage in the diversity of life and celebrate.”       

So unbelievably beautiful in parts and always emotionally powerful, Burn is an incredible statement from this creative communion. A triumph even and among the best, most heart aching and immersive experiences you’ll hear this year: nothing short of sublime.

Comorian ‘We Are An Island, But We’re Not Alone’
(Glitterbeat Records) 7th May 2021

A crossroads of migratory civilizations in the Indian Ocean, the volcanic archipelago of islets collectively known as the Comoro Islands lies between Madagascar and the mainland African coastline of Mozambique (located in what is referred to as the Mozambique channel to be precise). Though the exact date of human habitation is vague – dating to somewhere in the 6th century – these distant islands are populated by the ancestors of those oceanic travellers from the Middle East, Africa and even further afield. In the 19th century it was the turn of European colonization, with the French planting a flag on the relatively far-flung islands. And so amongst the local Comoran dialect (a mixture of both Swahili and Arabic) and Arabic languages you’ll also find French being spoken and used still to name the largest of the Comoro Island’s, ‘Grande Comore’. It’s the location that the Grammy Award winning producer and polymath Ian Brennan and his partner (and wife) on such ventures, the Italian-Rwandan filmmaker, author, activist and photographer Marilena Umuhoza Delli, travelled to record the latest installment of blog favorites Glitterbeat RecordsHidden Musics series.  

Brennan is once more well-matched for the task of capturing the raw, unfretted and most direct performances of those African islands, having already travelled to some of the world’s most dangerous, furthest places; recording all but one volume of this now eight volume series for the label. Previous editions have taken Brennan (twice) to Pakistan (Ustad Saami  ‘Pakistan Is For The Peaceful’ and ‘God Is not A Terrorist’ albums), Cambodia (‘They Will Kill You, If You Cry’), Vietnam (‘Hanoi Masters’), Rwanda (‘Why Did We Stop Growing Tall’) and Ghana (Fra Fra ‘Funeral Songs’). Many of these recordings have acted almost like healing sessions, whilst others have amplified the voices of many oppressed, forgotten and ignored ethnic communities.

The whole Hidden Musics raison d’etre is to illuminate ‘localized sounds that are time-honored’ and bound to a specific place, culture. You couldn’t get much more obscure and hidden than this latest excursion. Brennan’s air miles must be jaw dropping, with this journey alone taking six flights to reach the final destination. 

Painting a vivid and desperate picture of Island life (as laidback as it is), Brennan’s own linear notes describe such illuminating observations as the sunblock mud masks worn by local women, the litter strewn lapping tides that throw up a world’s ocean of international crap against the beachside walls of the President’s Palace (previous coup leader Azali Assoumani holds that role in case you were asking), and Comorian’s relationship to the car. As Brennan found out, there’s just as many empty car wrecks, strewn at the side of the Island’s few roads, as there are working ones. It’s the shell of one such abandoned car that the producer used as the most rudimental of on-location studios; shielded from the harsh winds blowing in off the Indian Ocean.

Packing light as usual, and setting up the most nonintrusive of recording apparatus, Brennan presses record and let’s the natural surroundings take their course – there’s a great anecdote about breaking a cardinal rule of recording; packing up too early, but determined to catch what would have perhaps been one of those empirical moments in the sodden rain with just a handheld back-up mic and device, only to find the moisture had killed it.

Attempting even to find the Island’s musicians proved almost as convoluted as the journey; a contact of a contact introduces Brennan to the album’s eventual stars Soubi, his musical mentor partner Mmadi and the guma drummer and background vocalist D. Alimzé. Unfortunately the legendary reputation of the Island’s ‘ndzumara’ players (a sort of double-reed pipe; a primitive oboe if you will) is declared ‘dead’ upon arrival. Soubi and Mmadi however seem to have mastered it – sounding at times like a weird kazoo at times when things get excitable.

Renowned for letting events take their course, with little, even no interference (even post-production, which is often done there and then) Brennan puts his trio subjects at ease. The music, utterances, yearns and roots-like blues exaltations just flow because of that hands-off approach.

Taking it in turns on lead vocals, Mmadi offers up sung and head and lips shaking spirit-channeled emotions (this becomes fiery and madly agitated on the highly energetic ‘America, Crazy’) and earthy soul. He even channels a merger of Ritchie Havens and The Last Poets on the foot-tapped timed, quasi-rap tune ‘Bandits Are Doing Bad Deeds’. Soubi for his part, also playing the rustic string-y spindly and threaded ‘gambussi’ (a localized version of the Yemen short-necked lute, transformed when brought overseas with a replaced flat-shaped pegbox and a different soundbox), gives a lulled at times soft yearn and spiritual voice to these illuminating performances. His gambussi playing meanwhile evokes hints of Appalachian banjo and a fecund of descendent lute-like instruments as far away as China.  But the crosswinds meeting of cultures can be heard with vague traces of Arabia, Malawi, Madagascar and even Polynesia.

Once more ‘free of artifice’, with those matter-of fact titled declarations, traumas and prayers; once more with the most stripped-down and lo fi of productions, Brennan captures music in its most natural environment. The desperations of an Island microcosm, with the allurement of leaving to find a better life on the mainland, and the travails of subsistence are transduced through these incredible performances. And again, it’s unlike anything you would have quite heard before; I’d say that was another illuminating success.

Koma Saxo ‘Live’
(We Jazz) 30th April 2021

Devoid of live music (for nearly most of us anyway) during the last year of the pandemic, the reputable Helsinki based label We Jazz is making up for this loss with an abundance of live albums from its roster; most of which were recorded in 2019. The latest live extravaganza in that loose run of performances is the dynamic, excitable and egged-on dizzy run of folk songs, lullaby transformations, Soviet era symphonies and the avant-garde by the Koma Saxo quintet.

With a heavy Swedish jazz bent, the Saxo boast an impressive lineup. Leading the charge is band instigator and bassist Petter Eldh, joined by a trio of saxophonists (as the band name stresses) that includes Otis Sandsjö and Jonas Kullhammer on tenor and Mikko Innanen on alto and baritone, plus drummer Christian Lilling. Sandsjö, riding high these days off the back of his remix in motion style of trip-hop, hip-hop and electronica Y-OTIS albums (imagine Madlib and J Dilla deconstructing and rebuilding contemporary European jazz in play), of course features the ever adaptable Eldh and Kullhammer in his own band and recordings. So this exchange of ideas and musicianship has already been forged, and already ablaze with energy.

The Saxo made their debut with a clutch of impressive freewheeling jazz singles in 2019, followed up by a phenomenal encouraged (by the audience and band) free-fall live performance at We Jazz’s annul Helsinki-sited festival in the December of that same year. A full-extended self-titled album parade of the troupe’s own compositions plus a number of re-interpretations popped up just before that, as it proves, legendary live furor. There doesn’t seem to be much material from that inaugural longplayer on this improvised tumult; only the Sergi Prokofiev fairytale meets avant-garde tripping jazz woodland fluted ‘Blumer’.

What does make an appearance is the early singe-sharing double A-side ‘Fanfarum Fur Komarum’ anthem, a ‘fanfare’ as it were, and sort of anthem signature. The original’s tooted Valley of the Kings procession of Sun Ra, Ayler period Spiritual Unity, Leon Thomas and more hustled NYC skyline components are all present and correct, but with an added excitement of the live atmosphere and crowd reaction. Dizzying piques and even screaming sax contort and blurt out (almost in reedy breathlessness at one point) over the jostling carnival turn stuttering and strung-out movement.

It all starts however with the almost twinned opening torrent of ‘Euro Koma’ and ‘Puls Koma’. The First of which begins with a tuning session on a cartoon harassed frisk but develops quickly into a scuttle and bumbled tumbling physical of New Orleans Mardi Gras brass, hip-hop breakbeat and ska (even a squawked transmogrified version of ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’). The latter, strains and stretches out into a no less exciting dash and commotion, with hints of that Andy Haas magic.

For examples of the quintet’s most explorative and stripped-down ventures there’s a sort of breather vignette passage that has Sandsjö and Lilling adapt their respective tenor sax and drums into a metal workshop of descriptive sounds and scuttles over corrugated tin and industrial apparatus.

There are re-interpretations of a kind too, in the shape of the semi-classical serenaded ‘Fiskeskärsmelodin’ (a Meta riff on a riff take on the Swedish polymath and national poet Evert Taube’s own made version of a traditional lullaby), and the quickened jazz Russian Polyphonic Spree meets Sun Ra choral ‘Stepp, Min Step’ (riffing on the 60s Swedish jazz pianist Jan Johansson’s version of a 30s Soviet paean). The band and audience seem to have fun on that last one with a finale group effort of lulling solemn choir antics, in unison to an unmistakable familiar Russian tune.

Koma Saxo shows a certain virtuoso playfulness live; the music deeply felt however, even almost pining, but thoroughly enjoyed and pushed to the limits. It’s an infectious atmosphere that makes you ache (same thing I said about another We Jazz live wonder, Timo Lassy and Teppo Mäkynen’s communion game-changer back in March) for the intimacy and the now(ness) of a live performance. I envy those who were present that day, as even this recorded version threatens to leap out of the speakers and engulf you – it sounds to all intents and purposes like the group were playing in the middle of the audience, surrounded on all sides. Vibrant, flexing and free-spirited, the sax heavy troupe runs away with it: another essential contemporary jazz album from one of Europe’s best labels.   

NOUS Alpha ‘A Walk In The Woods’
(Our Silent Canvas) 7th May 2021

Well they’ve picked as good a spot as any to inspire them, out in the dense woodlands and on the mountains that make up part of the famous Catskills landscape. Part of the larger Appalachians, this film set backdrop and gravitas inspiration for the Hudson River School of painters has always been a draw for creatives of every stripe. It’s home to Woodstock for Christ sake; how could it not be a mecca for musicians and artists.

That spirit, atmosphere now lends itself to the second album by the collaborative sonic partnership NOUS Alpha; bringing together the transatlantic and well-travelled sagacious musicianship of both the American composer, songwriter and founder of the multidisciplinary label hub Our Silent Canvas (the facilitator platform for this project) Christopher Bono and esteemed English producer, engineer, digital pioneer Gareth Jones. You expect great things from the duo’s combined CV, which includes Bono’s multiple experimental projects BARDO, Ghost Against Ghost and NOUS, and Jones’ countless production, engineering contributions to the Mute Records catalogue (including Crime And The City Solution, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Wire) and for introducing such luminaries as the Mode and Einstürzende Neubauten to sampling. In fact, some of those previous named doyens of the industrial and synthesized radiance pop scenes make themselves heard on this sophisticated mantra of the universal, blessed nature and more esoteric investigations: especially both Depeche Mode and Einstürzende Neubauten. Some of the sonic material is produced from the foliage, the stones and rocks picked up on the duo’s gong struck meditative strolls; and some of the sourced sounds for what they call ‘foraged sounds’ (great phrase that) came from a tranquil pond.

With grand spiritual plans of rejuvenation and self-discovery, it seems both Bono and Jones didn’t flinch away from stirring the waters of a darker sub-consciousness too: ‘Black Water’, as the title may suggest, sounds like a cloaked holy chorus of fraters rowing across the Styx; the waters around them slithery and atmosphere occult. But in the main we’re treated to the cathedral electronica of a cosmic, connective requiem; vaporised moody metallic ripples; a constantly in flux momentum of tapped, pattered sampled kinetic beats and calculations; and repeated, if cut-up and manipulated, mantras sent out into the wilds. It reminded me in places of both His Name Is Alive and Daniel Lanois, and on the album’s final woodland peregrination spell, ‘Forest Jam’, an Appalachian country astral version of Ash Ra Tempel: In my book that’s a winner. A light and shaded ‘walk in the woods’ with sparks of ingenuity and emotive transcendence, this continued collaboration sets an otherworldly, spiritual scene; a funnelled journey into the cerebral and back out into the expanse that offers sonic awakenings and meditative revelations aplenty.

IKLAN ‘Album Number 2’
(Soulpunk) 23rd April 2021

A collective, a manifesto that draws in a myriad of intergenerational artists, musicians and fashion designers from across three cities (Edinburgh, London and Birmingham) IKLAN once more dance towards the barricades with another iron fist in a velvet glove groove album of disarming soul-punk and R&B. For despite the complete purview of propaganda (the music being the main focus of a campaign of information networks, art, pamphlets and booklets) and protest diy ascetics, IKLAN’s sound is produced by Mercury Prize winner and stalwart of the UK underground scene for forty years, Tim London, who’s sagacious skills and experience lift it out of what could be a discordant, caustic rabble of rage.

It’s actually quite high value in that respect, mixing elements of post-punk, trip-hop, neo-soul, indie and pop together in a loose cross-pollination of influences that flows in natural cohesion: one minute Family Fodder, the next, Xenia Rubinos.

Taking it in turns to front each track on this latest eclectic album are the singer-nurse Law Holt, the JnP siblings (otherwise known as Jacqui and Pauline Cuff of the Leith Congregational Choir and the Soho Sisters Of Love), the Dalston-based Washington RaysFabio D’Agostino (stepping in as the pay-as-you-go guru on the divine retribution ‘Come To My Church’) and Nigerian, via Scottish capital, singer Cheng Cheng. Holt as usual leads in this department with a voice that evokes a soulful imbued Merrill Garbus, FKA Twigs and Tamar Kamen. She appears on the lion’s share of material, from the Lilly Allen and M.I.A. bouncing to a carnival sauntering filthy lucre chanted ‘Money’, to the Morcheeba in cahoots with Tricky atonal and atmospheric turn churned-up industrial vortex ‘Funny Man’. London himself appears as a sort of Boggles faded (robot-like) voice on the saddened Stereolab Kosmische ‘Karaoke’: a hallucinogenic dreamy plaint to immortality on wax.  JnP’s efforts include the Siouxsie Sioux fronts Crack Cloud strut with punk aria echoes ‘Big Boss’, and disconnected, surface-only ‘holiday romance’ on the Iberian coastline ‘Ola Ola’. Below a vaporous gauzy wash, Cheng Cheng channels Macy Gray as she pines in ‘lockdown isolation’ on the sparser, dub and kinetic beat tingled, wavy ‘Sure You’re Doing Fine’. Almost wistful, faded, lost in the enormity of the pandemic and divisive anxieties of our present times, the IKLAN collective aren’t so much resigned or indolent as controlled in firing broadsides at the ire of their discontent and scorn. Mental health, the Tories, the crushed desires of Capitalism’s losers, and the commercial, validation, enervation of art and music are all explored with a soulful energy of melodious strength; an album of earworms essentially. The intention, propaganda of change has never sounded so harmonious and well produced.

Bagaski ‘Final’
(See Blue Audio) 16th April 2021

More shade than light we’re told in the label’s notes for this latest atmospheric album from the Barcelona-based imprint See Blue Audio – those fine providers and facilitators for some of the most unrushed sublime ambient, electronica and slow-release cinematic works from a rich roster of leading sonic explorers. Yet to these ears it seems the opposite might be true, as the Cretan traveller, now resident Berliner, Bagaski refracts, turns to face, and radiates from the shadows and darkened spaces of a synthesized soundscape towards the light on his newest album, Final

From the opening reverent glasshouse Kosmische psalm to nature’s cathedrals in the sky ‘Spring Prayer’, to the caustic fizzled lapping tides and Roedelius modes of the descriptive explanation ‘Lydian Sequence & Filtered Noise’ (the ‘Lydian’ bit a reference to the atavistic F scale and Anatolian kingdom that gives it the name) there’s either a subtle hint of emitted light sources; sometimes a bathing radiance, at other times, as empirical, distant as a star twinkling in a great universal expanse. 

Bagaski’s often translucent, vaporous world is as diaphanous as it is often mysterious and deep. For amongst the gentle breathes and blowing, the cloud hovering and incipient hazy, faded stirrings there’s passages of distilled scuzz and beats from the early days of Techno and House, and even further back to the birth of Mute Records – I’m sure I can hear the moody echoes of the first Human League incarnation wafting in the lunar strangeness, coo-y warbles and 2-step tetchy beats of ‘Bellcat Melt’.

But in many ways this sounds like a soundtrack imbued by those progenitors of the Kosmische sound (from Tangerine Dream and Conrad Schnitzler to Asmus Tietchens), especially on both the already mentioned springtime opener and the bookended ethereal veneration ‘Heartfelt IV’. Talking of the ethereal, the barely concealed ‘homage’ to 4AD Records’ own pioneers (‘AD4’) channels that label’s Shoegaze gauzy luminaries MBV and the equally beatific ambient, synwave and electronic music innovator His Name Is Alive on what is a short drifting passage.

A lovely affecting album of the tidal, spiritual, cosmic, Bagaski’s sonic odyssey is a most rewarding experience of adroit, ascending and lofted materialisations: another impressive if unassuming release on the selective See Blue Audio label – fast becoming a stamp of excellence.

Orca, Attack! ‘C.M.S.O. (Learning By Listening Vol.1)’
16th April 2021

Not a million light years away from the orbital draw of New Orleans sonic siren Elizabeth Joan Kelly’s afflatus celestial imperilled Farewell, Doomed Planet album (featured back on the Monolith Cocktail in November of 2019), this latest venture, in collaboration with fellow Orleans writer, teacher and musician David Rodriguez, once more travels in the cosmic, astral direction. Under the killer whale actionist moniker the duo embrace the Tomorrow’s World library music visions of Raymond Scott (plus a touch of both the equally maverick Bruno Spoeri and Franco Battiato), Star Trek Foley and nods to Tangerine Dream and Air Liquide on a conceptual suite part tech guru mindfulness, part new age middle management speak and part self-help navigated gobbledegook.

Under the auspices and the inaugural chapter of the ‘Strategic Tape Reserve’ series – in short, ‘an instructive cassette tape series designed to bring information of the world into your home and your brain’ -, the kitsch consultancy entitled ‘Course Management System Optimization’ programme plunges the listener into this creative partnership’s odd knowing electronic world of theatrics and retro-futurism.

A writer of repute on the failures of tech, communication and self-preservation, Rodriguez (who also files his musical experiments under Alison’s Disapproval) lends a constantly filtered and affected spoken word narration across all six tracks as Kelly swans, touches the ethereal with her diaphanous woos, calls, arias (a merger of Laurie Anderson, cosmic opera and Jane Weaver). Often transmogrified by robotic effects and the slowing and speeding up of that instructive monologue, Rodriguez’s message is constantly warped, broken up: sometimes on the verge of some Max Headroom glitch stutter, or the slurred falling apart speech of HAL.

Musically the mood weaves serenely between a Kosmische floatation tank and more ominous pitched piped reverent organ scares. A suffusion of various filters, modulators, oscillations and arpeggiator do their work in coating this experiment with an almost tongue-in-cheek homage to the more altruistic, hopeful early pioneers of Electronica and those who never set out to be corralled into such a pigeon hole vacuum of genre demarcation but found themselves filed under Library music. There’s obviously some serious message hiding within the playful spirit of enterprise and scrambled self-help therapy, but for the most part this is a strange glide and traverse across the astral planes that’s well worth the price of travel.  


In Short:

There now follows condensed mentions and recommendations that I also found appealing:

Federico Balducci ‘And Watch The Earth Below (Cadet Chronicles I)’
2nd April 2021

The prolific adroit guitar sculptor takes an untethered flight above the clouds on his most recent gently resonating, spacey and drifting album. Signature spells of the jazzy, empirical, neo-classical, ambient and experimental merge on a most beautiful scenic and inner meditation. Whether floating in a hot-air balloon, accompanied by sparse Leaf Label like slow beats and dipped and wafted hanging notes, or in a more spherical dreamy broadcast, touching on the cosmic, Balducci uses the subtlest, most gentle of touches: even on the album finale, ‘Bridgers’, which echoes along on a bed of coarser droning electric guitar sustain. An incredible album to lose yourself in.

See also Balducci’s recent collaboration atmospheric soundtrack of paranormal like communications and drifts with Fourthousandblackbirds, Anta Odeli Uta.

David Newlyn ‘Tapes And Ghosts’
(Somewherecold Records) 30th April 2021

Deserves far more room than I’m able to give this month, but the seductively diaphanous lower case ambient suites of the UK’s David Newlyn need raving about (quietly). The Cathedral Transmissions label boss is set to release this mostly peaceable, sensory illusion of neoclassical and Cluster/Roedelius imbued compositions on the ridiculously prolific North American facilitator Somewherecold Records at the end of this month. 

Elegant, adroit, spacious and also ruminating, Tapes And Ghosts draws you in to a softly composed sublimity. I implore you to try it. Better still, buy into it.

Daughters Of The Desert ‘Sorrow Soothe’
(New Cat) 26th March 2021

Through mutual appreciation, coming together in the Resonance FM hothouse, three daughters of the hallowed and illusionary desert join forces on the plaint soundscape and mirage rich Sorrow Soothe album. Regular readers will (hopefully) recognize one of those sand dune traversing sisters, the diaphanous-breathed enchantress Esbe (featured on the blog last year with the congruous desert bathed epic Saqqara). That composer, and producer on this album, siren is joined on this both vexed and fantastical odyssey by the writer, presenter Jude Cowan Montague and audio engineer Mia Kukathasan. All three have a special connection, roots or affinity to the desert landscape they now use as a mysterious, aching and reverberating backdrop.

Magical and echoed with mystical electronica, Sorrow Soothe is a most stunning, vaporous, venerable and dreamy resonated merger of electronica, the filmic and vocal incantations, enchantments and lament. Desert songs have seldom sounded so atavistic yet modern: especially when dealing with the prescient themes of the times, as this album does.  It’s a brilliantly conceived atmospheric project, pulled together in isolation and in the middle of a pandemic. 

See Esbe’s review here from last September (Here).

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.

Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Roundup

The Invisible Sessions ‘Echoes Of Africa’ (Space Echo) 29th January 2021

The very first sounds you hear on the long awaited follow up to The Invisible Sessions last album in 2006 are those of an aircraft touching down on the runway, somewhere between a straddled geography of Lagos and Addis Ababa. From then on in those compass points of inspiration permeate the collective’s first album for the newly launched Space Echo imprint.

An odyssey across the motherland, The Invisible Sessions instigator Luciano Cantone (also the co-founder of the Schema label) is joined by the multi-instrumentalist and trombonist Gianluca Petrella, poet, rapper/MC, lyrist Martin Thomas Paavilainen, and a host of respected players on this respectful homage to African music, culture and consciousness. A congruous display of riches, from Egypt 80 Afro-beat epiphany to trinket shimmering spiritual jazz, the extended ranks of this group benefit from the stirring spindled and spun weaving of the Gambian kora maestro Jalimansa Haruna Kuyatech and the rhythm setting Ethiopian drummer and percussionist Abdisa “Mambo” Assefato.   

In the intervening years, busy with other projects, running a label and sow forth, Cantone has taken note of all the world’s ills and woes, from BLM to the climate change emergency: two themes that dominate what is a loose drift, limped and brassy heralding strut through the continent’s rich musical heritage. Ethio-jazz, and more specifically, the vibraphone spells, reverberations of the iconic Mulatu Astake inspire tracks like the bandy, bendy guitar lolloping reggae gait motioned ‘Journey To The East’, the more quickened, sprouted ‘Breathe The Rhythm’, and the Addis Ababa version of The Shadows casting dreamy vibrato and twanged shapes over the city ‘Entoto’.  Elsewhere it’s a fluency of Kuti and Tony Allen that is suffused throughout the simmering upbeat ‘West Island’ and funkier, skipping, knowing ‘Pull The Handbrake’. Both of which also evoke hints of Orlando Julius and The Heliocentrics recordings.

It’s soul music that sumptuously seeps into the tunes with either a conscious stream of narration or repeated silkily voiced enforced message of social commentary action. In that mode there’s the Issac Hayes in Africa, or even a touch of Curtis Mayfield and The 4th Coming, echo-peddle dreamy ‘Ideas Can Make The World’, the Undisputed Truth affirmation, horns rising ‘People All Around The World Can Make It’, and Gil Scott-Heron (at a pinch), earthly plaint ‘Mother Forgive Me’.  Paavilainen is joined in his loose style of spoken wake-up calls, despair and half-sung laments by fellow stateside vocalist Joyce Elaine Yuille, who shadows, harmonizes and wafts along.

A conscious ark of funk, jazz and soul; a homage and thank you to a continent that has heard, inspired Cantone and his sparring partners, Echoes Of Africa is a travelogue of protestation, spiritualism and love performed by a most impressive tight unit of African music acolytes. 

Don Cherry ‘Cherry Jam’
(Gearbox Records) 26th February 2021

On his way to becoming the restless musical nomad of jazz lore, the mid 1960s Don Cherry was already well acquainted with Scandinavia, especially Denmark. The burgeoning trumpeter and cornet star played in the country’s capital of Copenhagen in ’63 with Archie Shepp, and in ’64 with Albert Ayler before returning in the pivotal year of ’65 to record a quartet of original and standard performances for Denmark’s national radio station.  Though often dismissed by cats like Miles Davis for a lack of technical proficiency, Cherry’s constantly evolving visceral style had gained him an envious apprenticeship, partnering up as a foil to a litany of be-bop, hard-bop and free jazz doyens: from Sonny Rollins to John Coltrane and Ornate Coleman, appearing in the pioneer’s groundbreaking Shape Of Jazz To Come quartet of ’59.

Just a short time from releasing his first album as band leader – the “landmark” Complete Communion for the prestigious seal-of-approval Blue Note – Cherry once more found himself in the northern European hub of jazz, collaborating in a jam session mode with the Danish pianist Atli Bjørn. It was this set up and communal that attracted local attention, leading to the session recordings that until recently lay dormant in the radio station vaults: only ever heard when first broadcast over the airwaves in ’65.

Those sessions was collected together as the Cherry Jam EP by Gearbox Records;originally for Record Store Day. Now in 2021 and to tie-in with the recent opening of offices in the land of the jazz obsessive collector, Japan, the label is making this record more widely and worldly available – previously part of the Japanese Edition series that GB launched exclusively for the far east.  

Mastered from the original tapes and showcased in the label’s customary well-furnished style and linear notes, this four track EP is neither wholly rehearsed nor spontaneous in the way it sounds; capturing as it does a still reasonably tethered Cherry, yet to completely immerse himself in those out-there traverses and world fusions.  

Working with the Danish quartet of tenor saxophonist Mogens Bollerup, double-bassist Benny Nielson, drummer Simon Koppel and the already mentioned, and future Dexter Gordon foil, Bjørn on piano, Cherry toots, pipes, trills and spirals through a trio of his own compositions and the Broadway legend Richard Rodgers alternative, sassy stage ballad ‘You Took Advantage Of Me’.

In an expressive, playful mood Cherry and his troupe provide a disarming, bluesy rendition of ‘The Ambassador From Greenland’ – written by Cherry in his youth. Too light to be bumbling, there’s a certain hang low like noodling, descending feel to this one. The sax and cornet almost override, bump into each other at certain moments, with even a few muffed notes and a piano style that moves between stage and striking, struck high notes.

The second Cherry original, ‘Priceless’, has a bop-like swing to its jamming candor. Duel horns contort, swan and blurt as the drums bounce and double-bass runs away with it. Everyone gets at least a spotlight opportunity on a track that sends the listener back to NYC. ‘Nigeria’ is the most obvious example of Cherry’s Marco Polo spirit of embracing international sounds: a more freely flowing bluesy performance that saunters along to Afro-Cuban influences.  

To finish it off, the cover of Rodgers stalwart theatre number is soulfully handled, the playing like a sort of mating-call serenade: a dinner jazz sorbet.

There’s nothing especially dynamic about this captured performance, but as a lost recording chapter in the development of Cherry’s time in Denmark and his craft it is an intriguing link in the story; and a testament to the icon’s abilities in the run-up to his first album as a band leader.  

Omar Khorshid ‘With Love’
(Wewantsounds) 26th February 2021

It seems there were few styles the dashing and tragic Middle Eastern hot-trotting Omar Khorshid wouldn’t weave into his Egyptian imbued guitar-led music; from the cinematic to rock and roll, Arabia to the giddy spindled Hellenic chimes of Zorba the Greek.

As it would seem in the land of his birth, most of Egypt’s stars diversified as matinee screen idols, singers, musicians for hire, and Khorshid was no different; pursuing a career in the film business before dying in a motorbike accident at the age of only 36, in 1981 – apparently speeding down Giza’s El Haram Street, his pillion passenger, the third of four wives, Dina miraculously surviving the head-on collision with a pole.

Born in 1945 and wasting no time in picking up the violin and piano, it would be a third instrument, the guitar that would make him famous. By the mid 60s he had attracted wide attention as part of the Western-influenced, pop(ish) act Les Petits Chats, invited to play with fellow compatriot and legend Abdel Halim Hafez, who in turn led him to the country’s most celebrated, accomplished and rated of divas, Umm Kulthum.

A new decade brought civil and international strife for Egypt and its neighbours: war with Israel, the oil embargo. Khorshid upped and left the homeland for the Lebanon in ’73, where he began recording records for the Voice Of Lebanon and Voice Of Orient labels. As peace was finally agreed between Egypt and Israel later that decade, the Egyptian president Anwar El-Sadet invited the roaming guitarist to play at the celebrations that came after the famous Camp David peace treaty, taking part at the White House. For a brief time during that same period he hopped over into Syria, where he acted and soaked up even more musical influences, before once again returning to his roots in ’78: the year that this instrumental classic, now remastered and reissued for the first time on vinyl by those Arabian specialists Wewantsounds, was originally released.

A rich tapestry of Egyptian and extended Arabian fusions, With Love offers up a serenade and desert-romance camel led caravan of transformed timeless cover versions from some of the regions greats. Mohamed Abdel Wahab’s ‘Ahwak’ in the deft hands of Khorshid sounds like some undersea enchantment with its mermaid-like sung aria high quivers and submerged production. But then just when you think you have this song pegged, this beautifully ethereal composition suddenly comes up for air in a sort of Joe Meek version of Egyptian rock and roll.  

An interpretation of Farid El-Alrache’s ‘Hebbina Hebbina’ (a favourite we’re told of Eno), with its tambourine trinkets, heavy flange and galloping tremolo, could be an Arabian Shadows. Whilst the Rahbani Brothers‘Rahbaniyat’ slides towards rattled hand drums, synthesizer laser bobbing Arabian disco.  

I’ve already referenced that famous Greek signature evocation, ‘Zorba’, which Khorshid plays with dizzying skill, spindling that original into a sort of mix of Anton Karas zither and an old fashioned fairground ride. Unfamiliar as I am with much of the remaining material, ‘Habibati’ saunters and trots between romantic thriller and a Wurlitzer matinee soundtrack, and ‘Beyni Ou Beynak puts vibrato siren like spooks amongst cult Italian 60s cinema.

Almost at odds with the times it was made, yet ahead in adopting subtle hints of synth and Western musical influences, this gift from the Egyptian icon swoons in and out of the decades that preceded it. With Love is a dreamy fantasy of balladry, surf-y twanged cult rock and roll and film scores; an Arabian adventure amongst the sand dunes and Cairo discothèques that serves as a showcase for an artists able to flip between Mambo, music hall orchestration, the blues and even psychedelic. A tribute to an Egyptian musical innovator that can now, at last, be yours to own.

His Name Is Alive ‘Hope Is A Candle: Home Recordings Vol.3’
(Disciples) 12th February 2021

His Name Is Alive with the sound of beatific abrasive reversals on the third such collection of untethered incipient sonic renderings from Warren Defever’s creative process archives. Part of a much wider survey of the prolific HNIA appellation Detroit artist, producer, engineer and remixer that now includes (with this latest volume) a trio of albums of home-recorded developing material, Help Is A Candle features much of the nucleus of music that was duplicated on the “infamous” tape that first caught the ear of Ivo Watts-Russell, leading to a seven album run for the 4AD label in the 90s. Elements of which were reworked for the album Livonia: the title a reference to his birthplace in Michigan.  

Circulated in a bootleg form for many years, Defever now showcases this archival scrapbook of sonic ideas in a new light; remastered from the original tape reels so that the quality now shines through.

Guides, impressions and slowly, gently unfolding, the candle light is never in danger of blowing out as atmospherics and ascending tones emerge from blessed post-punk ambience and industrial, coarser reverberations. You’re going to hear many comparisons to both This Mortal Coil and The Cocteau Twins, and that’s more than fair. But much of this material remains cut adrift of either example, neither dissonant nor vaporous. Traces and lingers of familiarity offer a semblance of Daniel Lanois, Eno, and the collection’s most caustic, sharpened knife cutting reversal of dark matter, ‘Halo’, evokes a vision of a fuzztone Hendrix as lead guitarist in The Telescopes. 

Murky, lurking moods sit alongside tingled enchantments and even country music ragas, as hints of rattled, transformed hand drums, spindled zither-like spiritual crystal shimmers, slapped and crying, waning bass guitar and mechanical tic-tocking devices resonate.

Envisioned as his very own Reichian Music For 18 Musicians, though falling short at the first hurdle having few friends let alone 18 to enact such a grand scale performance, Defever instead contributed to developing a rafter of music scenes off the back of his 80s home recordings. You can hear the seedlings, inspiration in the work of artists as diverse as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Dean Blunt, Inga Coupland and Land Observation. It’s no wonder he was on Bowie’s radar and playlist.

Following on from All The Mirrors In The House and Return To Never, and part of a greater light shedding exercise in evaluating, elevating Defever’s formative experiments, Hope Is A Candle is subtle and minimal. This album points the way to some of the more developed pieces in the series. It works though as a showcase for the visions to come; tracks that you can take a lot away from; tracks that evoke; tracks to mull over.  

Camera ‘Prousthuman’
(Bureau B) 19th February 2021

Third, fourth generation disciples of Krautrock, the decade-old Berlin instigators of “guerilla” tactic performance art-rock Camera once more shed band members for a new intake (well, partly) of idea-bouncing reciprocators on the fifth studio album, Prousthuman.

With all the connotations and baggage that title’s titan of prose holds, the newest conception of the trio thrash, jerk, limber and lollop through familiar influences in the Teutonic cannon. Anchored by the only original, remaining, founding member Michael Drummer, Camera moves away from the dual keyboard dynamics of the previous album (Emotional Detox) for a more squealing, flange and phaser swirled new wave, psot-punk and even C86 guitar suffusion. Drummer, who unsurprisingly is the band’s drummer, but also weighs in on the guitar riffs, ropes in the composer and musician Alex Kozmidid as a six-string sparring partner. To finish this trio off and informally first joining Camera for their 2017 USA tour as a performance and video artist, Tim Schroeder unveils a talent for the synth.

Locked down in self-isolation for at least some of the recording sessions and jams for this latest Krautrock replica, the trio’s methodology and process has obviously been affected by the raging pandemic. Rather then claustrophobic, the latest chapter contorts or glides out of confinement in the search for space, room. Even when coming on like the sound of Island Records ’79 new wave meets the Gang Of Four, Wire and Neu! on the opening guitar squall and no-wave disco hi-hat action jam ‘Kartoffelstampf’ (that’s “mashed potatoes” in English).

They’ve already changed the timings and mood style by the album’s next track, ‘Alar Alar’; bounding to a stretched quasi-dub gait that also features the drifting melodies of something Egyptian or Turkish: plus loads of dial bending Kosmische fun.

It’s a soundtrack that weaves motorik Klaus Dinger with the solo Kosmische scores of his brother Thomas; the Au Pairs with Sky Records’ greats; Dunkelziffer with Holgar Czukay; and Faust radio broadcasts with Cluster and early 80s Tangerine Dream soundtracks. Though at its most spiky, wrangling and fuzzy, tracks like the buzzy ‘Schmwarf’ mash NIN with Kriedler and Can. Skying in synthesized harpsichord mirrored circles, grinding out a submerged woozy and gauzy dream envelope, and tuning into old frequencies, Camera emerge from their basement studio and the pandemic with a brilliant and knowing post-punk-krautrock-kosmische trip. 

Mapstation ‘My Frequencies, When We’
(Bureau B/TAL) 26th February 2021

A second album on the Bureau B imprint roster this month that benefits from and taps into the Hamburg label’s ever-expanding catalogue of Kosmische and neu-electronica explorers: even some of the form’s progenitors, from Roedelius to his early foil Conrad Schnitzler. Both of these doyens can be heard permeating this, the 8th album under Stefan Schneider’s Mapstation alias, the former, prolific soloist and co-founder of the Kluster/Cluster/Qluster arc and mini Kosmische supergroup Harmonia, Roedelius even paired up with Schneider for an eponymous entitled collaborative album in 2011: A very congruous union as it turned out.  

The Düsseldorf artist and label honcho (running the Tal label) channels that Kosmische first, and second, generation influence on a highly sophisticated minimalist traverse if Sci-Fi, futuristic and tubular metallic looping and warping environments. An album for the times we find ourselves in – at least methodology and production wise -, for the first time in years Schneider flies solo. This stripped down, undulated pulsing and rhythmic album is marked by an absence of collaborators and guests.

Simplification is key it seems, with Schneider aware that the intensity of some of his past productions may have got lost in the enthusiasm to add too many instruments and sounds. My Frequencies, When We then is very considered sparse production of lo fi futurism; rich with reverberations, signals, squelches and the chiming acid-techno rings of early Warp Records, 90s Seal Phuric and Kreidler; even touches of Matthew Dear and a stripped Boris Dzanck. 

On the opening mused ‘No No Staying’ Schneider adds Eno-esque hushed voices to a pared down form of techno. Whilst tracks like ‘My Mother Sailor’ evoke images of Tangerine Dream standing in front of a large patch bay apparatus, plugging leads into various holes as gaseous and reversed loops swirl around them. Elsewhere you’ll hear the motor buzzing hum and throb of Affenstunde era Popol Vuh, synthesized bells, 808 drum machine pre-set percussion, slithered electronic magnetics and Schneider’s whispered underpass anxieties about the, now distant, movement, bustle of cities.

I’d suggest that Schneider has found a good balance in creating intensity, and setting moods with a more sparse, minimalist intelligent sound. Lean but just as expressive, this new Mapstation album might be amongst his most sagacious and sophisticated; a coming together of various strands in the electronic music sphere that soundtracks the current emptiness and unsure atmospherical moods of the present.

Julia Meijer ‘The place Where You Are’
(PinDrop Records) 26th February 2021

A consolidation if you like of recent singles and the self-titled song from the debut album, Always Awake, the Swedish singer-songwriter and guitarist’s latest EP seems a good opportunity to catch up with Julia Meijer’s tactile songbook.

From glacial enormity to the more intimate; the hymnal to indie-pop; Meijer has proved a very interesting artist over the last few years, and this showcase offers a full oeuvre.

The glimpse into a dream EP opener is sparse but full of depth and moving atmospherics. It’s a lushly conceived slice of folk and pop, with Kate Nash-esque tones and an air of Fairfield Parlour about it. Next we have the first of a couplet of singles to feature ex-Guillemot and regular foil Fyfe Dangerfield. ‘Under Water’ is submerged in a suffusion of both lulling and sighed harmonies, dreamy undulations (again) and splashes of cymbal. The song melts between two rhythm signatures on a snorkeling meditation beneath an aquatic expanse.

Scandinavian illusions are cast on the EP’s third song ‘Skydda Dig’; a song originally even more intimate, performed as a solo live that’s now given a steady and minimal augmentation by guests, guitarist Andrew Warne and bassist Jamie Morris, who actually turns to the keyboard for this recorded version. A protective plaint theme wise, Julia’s Swedish evocation resonates with haunted sorrow and almost otherworldly trembles as turns over a sort of late 80s, early 90s, American indie riff.

The finale, and second song to see Julie accompanied by Dangerfield, ‘The Place Where You Are’ expresses loss to an ebb and flow of subtle organ and Irish folk lament.   Beautifully conceived as ever, flowing between a never world of dreams and indie guitar music reflections, Julia’s latest showcase serves her talent for experimenting without the loss of melody and songwriting craft well. I recommend you seek her back catalogue out.

Obay Alsharani ‘Sandbox’
(Hive Mind Records) 19th February 2021

Finding solace and escapism in equal measures in the colder Baltic air of Sweden, Syrian migrant and beat-maker Obay Alsharani, forced to leave behind the chaos of an imploding homeland, takes in the awe and beauty of his Scandinavian refuge on the debut album Sandbox.

For despite a background in composing lo fi productions of dusty Arabic samplers under the Khan El Rouch moniker, Obay now reaches out into more glacier tonal ambient soundscapes; finding sanctuary in icy snow-covered and woodland gladded environments on an album geographically remote from the heat and sandy horizons of the Middle East.

It’s good to hear a success story in the convoluted tumult of the Syrian crisis. A decade on from the civil war that has now engulfed almost the entire region, and grown into the most complicated of proxy wars, Syria’s ruling Bashar al-Assad regime may yet collapse due to an economic fall out prompted by neighbouring Lebanon and the catastrophic failure off its government and banking crisis. As it stands, and now with the global pandemic just another tier of burden upon a region and population that’s suffered beyond any of our imaginations, Russia now has that foothold it always wanted on the Mediterranean coastline of Syria; Turkey has widened its own borders, unopposed in threatening the Kurds in the south, who are fighting for autonomy; and ISIL have been all but beaten, with fragmenting survivors scurrying away to spread panic and their death cult into Eastern and Central Africa. Those resistance groups that grew from the oppressive clamp down by the Syrian government remain in small clusters, holding on, whilst Iran without its nebulous mastermind and death-bringer general Qassim Suleiman, remain in the area holding up Bashir’s regime.

The fallout has resulted in eye-watering numbers of displaced people, with more than six million Syrians forced into neighbouring safe havens or further overseas into Europe and North America. Obay gained a lifeline himself through a scholarship in Sweden, leading to an extended period of stay in refugee accommodation in the far north of the country. After finally gaining a permanent residency, Obay was able to resume his music, whilst also experimenting with visual art (providing the colourful-feedback cover art for the limited edition cassette format of his debut album).

Branching out sound wise, Obay now captures the breath-taking spectacle and calmness of his new home. Literally, those breath-chilled winds of the far north can be heard channeled through often majestic, gliding and crackled static textured ambient suites: all of which evoke a certain stillness and sense of spaciousness. Less sandbox and more Artic, frozen tubular and piped notes, haunted but lovely church music and icicle-like droplets drip, drift and are cast across a snowy pine-covered land as the Northern Lights shimmer and play with the refractive light overhead. ‘Release’ evokes a far breezier scene though, out on the porch of some woodland cabin, with birds chirping away in the noisy movement of branches and leaves. Added to this weather recording are glassy piercing bulbs of synthesized music and what sounds like a lingering electric-organ. From coarser static grains and blowing, to soft bellows and concertinaed wisps, and even a bestial landscape of unidentified wildlife, Obay subtly creates a moving scenic and reflective study of a very different horizon to the one that he was forced to abandon. It sounds as if the Syrian beat-maker turned assiduous composer has at least sonically found a semblance of solace and a safe environment in which to reflect and heal. Music almost as therapy, Sandbox without any context is really just a deeply affected fine example of minimal and ambient mood music: A most beautiful conception.

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.

Monolith Cocktail Social #52

February 10, 2021

Playlist/Dominic Valvona

The inaugural Monolith Cocktail Social playlist of 2021, the blog’s eclectic/generational spanning version of our ideal radio show, includes the unusual mix of wonders, gems, missives and oddities from across time. With a couple of tracks in tribute to those we’ve recently lost too (including former down ‘n’ dirty Doll face glam puss Sylvain Sylvain and British progressive folk darlings the Trees siren Celia Humphris).


Grazia  ‘Soyle Beni’

Tiger B. Smith  ‘Everything I Need’
Sylvain Sylvain  ‘Trash’
The Spaceshits  ‘Backstreet Boogie’
Paladin  ‘Third World’
Prince Lasha, Sonny Simmons  ‘Psalms Of Solomon’
Hareton Salvanini  ‘Seios’
Cleveland Eaton  ‘Chitown Theme’
Rotary Connection  ‘The Weight’
Christy Essien  ‘Take Life Easy’
King Tee  ‘At Your Own Risk (Marley Marl Remix)’
Blade  ‘Fade ‘Em Out’
Killa Instinct  ‘The Bambi Murders’
Black Sheep  ‘Yeaaahhh’
Marion Brown  ’27 Cooper Square’
Night Beats  ‘Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark’
Tucker Zimmerman  ‘Bird Lives’
Anne Briggs  ‘Step Right Up’

Trees  ‘Epitaph’
Sven Wunder  ‘Toryanse’
Jody Grind  ‘Plastic Shit’
Andrew Cyrille  ‘Metamusican’s Stomp’
Colosseum  ‘Take Me Back To Doomsday’
Electric Moon  ‘Hotel Hell’

Rialto  ‘Untouchable’
Made In Sweden  ‘Winter’s A Bummer’
Mythos  ‘Terra Incognita’
Odd Nosdam  ‘Wig 02’
Rancho Relaxo  ‘Sugar For The Devil’
Annexus Quam  ‘Osmose I’
African Head Charge  ‘Crocodile Shoes’
MRR-ADM  ‘11even’
The Auteurs Vs µ-Ziq  ‘Chinese Bakery’

Colin Newman  ‘I’ve Waited Ages’ Martin Dupont  ‘I Love The Lovers’
Ron Geesin  ‘Parallel Bar’
Krohme  ‘Goon Opera’
Azanyah  ‘Let God Come First’
Yumi Arai  ‘曇り空’
Dino Valente  ‘Tomorrow’

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.

Album Review/Dominic Valvona

Kahil El’Zabar ‘America The Beautiful’
(Spiritmuse) 23rd October 2020

Continuing a creative partnership with the Spiritmuse label, Chicago jazz luminary Kahil El’Zabar releases his third African rhythmic imbued spiritual album in two years; working yet again with an ever changing lineup of fellow visionaries and rising virtuosos from his home city and beyond. Following last year’s Be Known Ancient/Future/Music (which made our albums of the year) and this year’s Spirit Groove album collaboration with David Murray, the jazz incubator School of The Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians alumni and five decade jazz veteran pieces together a suitable afflatus cry from the despair of modern America on his latest sweeping grand gesture, America The Beautiful.

Though obviously, as you will hear for yourselves, chiming with the current divisive turmoil that has erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s “unconstitutional murder, and the Covid-19 pandemic, the catalyst was Kahil’s score for Darryl Robert’s award winning documentary film of the same title: a 2007 film about “self-image” in the USA. That title music, two versions of which bookend this ancient with a modern pulse oeuvre, is itself both an ironic and sneering riff on the original patriotic anthem that was written by Katherine Lee Bater, with music by church organist Samuel A. Ward, over a century ago. Bates the scholar, collage professor and highly prolific writer first wrote the proud-swelling lyrics as a poem (Rikes Peak) after being inspired by the great American outdoors and the country’s own version of the seven wonders. Countless versions have been performed, recorded since, including the maverick jazz artist Gary McFarland who devoted a conceptual eclectic musical suite to its rousing evocations; in the process jazzing and funking up the old bird. This take however finds little to rouse patriotism, sharing more in common with Ornette Coleman’s grandiose symphonic dissonance Skies Of America; that suite a contortion of Coleman’s naturalistic Native American rituals inspired master plan.

Kahil includes both a lilted and horn blown Bernstein-via-a-century’s-worth-of-Chicago jazz instrumental take, and a 80s pepped dance groove vocal version: The latter features the bandleader straining, pulling, mooning and crooning the original lyrics of ‘America The Beautiful’ to a dance limbering Chicago House like beat.

Building a fully realized album around that anthem, Kahil went back to record an array of new material and riffs on standards: his choices proving more spiritual, healing than angry and enraged. For this is a jazz artist preaching connectivity during a momentous epoch. A time, he hopes, that despite the tumultuous unrest and anxieties can offer us time to pause, reflect and reassess. In the spirit of one of Kahil’s idols, Coltrane, his inspiration is that grand doyen of jazz’s message of a “love supreme”, and also the African adventures of Byrd and Gillespie via Sun Ra’s cosmology of Afro-futurism. And so musically, despite the swells and layering of discordant instrumentation wailing, and crying out, this is a mostly divine experience; sweetened by the inclusion of a romanticized, serenaded beautiful version of the Bee Gees (via Al Green’s more soulfully hushed vision) ‘How Can You Mend A Broken Heart’. Only Kahil switches the “you” to “we”, and in doing so forces the emphasis on all of us to mend the rift. Musically it’s a swoon; a walk through a sweet Central Park backdrop. It has an air of both pained heartbreak yet also hope, and is the album’s most tender performance.

Swinging to a ‘Orleans gait, Kahil’s big band version of Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band’s famous strut ‘Express Yourself’ is reimagined as a semi-classical jazz funk of King Curtis and Albert Ayler. Classically trained jazz cellist and Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble student, Tomeka Reid offers part of that semi-classical feel with a deep, arching quivery cello accompaniment.

Closing a quartet of congruous cover transformations, Kahil ad his troupe expand on the Afro-jazz percussive-heavy ‘Afro-Blue’ odyssey; the first jazz standard in the States built on a typical African 3:2 cross rhythm. Made famous by Mongo Santamaria with the Cal Tjader Sextet in ’59, and transformed by Coltrane who took it in a waltz-y swinging direction, this Chicago hothouse of talent goes earthy and deep, atavistic and dramatic. Samuel Williams plays a harassed, pointed elbow thrashing violin against the clay percussion and Masekela trumpet on a message from the motherland. 

With all the original connotations bought into a modern epoch of discord, these standards now echo a longing and pain for change.

The rest of the album channels the inimitable groove that runs through Chicago jazz, soul, R&B, blues and dance music. ‘Jump And Shout (For Those Now Gone)’ is a poignant example of this history; evoking the city’s spiritual and avant-garde masters – The Art Ensemble Of Chicago being one. It’s a kind of sentiment, a yearning for justice, but with a bounce and venerated enlightenment. ‘Freedom March’ couldn’t be more relevant; the long march to equality accompanied by apparitional wails, shackles shaking percussion and anguished rasps of sax. It also sadly marks one of the late baritone saxophonist greats, Hamiet Bluiett’s last performances. Not only a phenomenal sax presence, but also a renowned clarinetist and composer, the co-founder of the late 60s Louisiana Black Artists Group and former member of the Charlie Mingus Quintet and the Sam Rivers large ensemble, blows a moving honked and aria-like squealing raspy baritone through this counterbalance of Mardi Gras swing and the disconsolate.

Kahil, literally, preys for guidance on both the electric piano dabbing, lamenting swell ‘That We Ask Of Our Creator, and the sweeping fluty beat-stretched ‘Prayer For The Unwarranted Sufferings’.  Both draw from the pool of despair, yet find just as much hope to offer some glimmer of overcoming the impasse.

An extraordinary portrait of the current mood, Kahil’s conscious divine spiritual jazz opus channels the contorted soul of Chicago’s rich musical heritage; spanning eras as old as atavistic Africa, the be-bop, swing eras, leaping through the avant-garde and 80s dance music culture to create a soulful and always grooving purview of the American social-political divide in 2020: Election year.

An incredible jazz score no less from one of the most active and transformative artists in the field, a true acolyte of the scene’s most celebrated, progressive greats, Kahil carries the torch for a more healing engagement with the causes, activism he holds dear. There’s no mistaking where he’s coming from, with an album that has never been more vital and enriching to a culture and creative form under pressure and fire to react to the changes taking place.

See also…

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble ‘Be Known Ancient/Future/Music’  (here…)

Kahil El’ Zabar’s ‘Spirit Groove Ft. David Murray’ (here…)

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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