CHOICE MUSIC FROM THE LAST MONTH: TEAM EFFORT

The inaugural Monthly Revue playlist of 2023; a choice selection of tracks from the last month on the blog. Curated by Dominic Valvona with Matt Oliver on the Rap Control once more, and music from reviews by our latest recruit Gillian Stone plus Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Graham Domain. Expect to hear the unexpected.

TRACK LIST//

Mentrix ‘Be Mahsa Be Nika’
Meadow Argus ‘No Company’
Anton Barbeau. ‘Dollis Hill Butchers’
Guided By Voices ‘Wild Kingdom’
The Wot Nots ‘Oi!’
Wings Of Desire ‘Runnin”
The Gangsta Rabbi ‘Ana’mika (138the Entr’acte)’
Neon Kittens ‘Chalk’
Smuts ‘Kalashnikova’
Dyr Faser ‘Life Form’
Earth ‘Rocker’
Xqui Ft. Bettina Schroeder ‘I Have A Knife’
Flexagon ‘Fort Saumarez: MP2’
George Winstone & Ben Monder ‘Part I’
Liela Moss ‘Empathy Files’
The Good Samaritans ‘Onughara’
Phil Ranelin & Wendell Harrison. ‘Genesis’
Fliptrix/Onoe Caponoe/Ramson Badbonez ‘SM58’
Masai Bey/BMS ‘I.a.a’
Micall Parknsun/Jazz T ‘Still…’
Dexter Dine ‘Sunshine In A Can’
Elise Preys/Marc-Antoine Perrio ‘Petites Heures’
Bjorn Magnusson ‘Everybody’s Got Something’
Designers ‘Moulindjek’
dal:um ‘Dot’
Clamb ‘Glittering Watermelon Oracle – Live’
Justo The MC/Axian ‘Autopilot’
Skyzoo/The Other Guys ‘Bodies!’
Carlos Nino & Friends ‘Drum Solo +, “Sounds Like Memory…”‘
Ghostwoods ‘Terminus’
Kety Fusco ‘2072’
Raul Refree ‘La Plage’
Esbe ‘Coventry Carol’
Sara Noelle. ‘Blooming Yucca’
Kahil El’Zabar And The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble ‘Harvest Time’
Beats & Pieces Big Band ‘Op’
Galactapus ‘Radio Kolossos’
Oddisee ‘Many Hats’
Upfront MC/Badhabitz ‘Stay Afloat’
Your Old Droog ‘Here’s Johnny’
Onoe Caponoe ‘Pet Cemetry’




















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The second part of the Monolith Cocktail teams favourite albums of 2022.

A recap in case you haven’t yet read part one

Well was I wrong last year when called 2021 the annus horribilis of all years. It has been soundly beaten by the shit-show that is 2022. The invasion of the Ukraine, cost of living crisis, another hideous wave of Covid – which even if the jabs are being rolled out, and the deaths rate, hospitalizations is nothing like the first wave back in 2020, is still causing major illness, absences and disruptions to a society already facing a heap of doomsday scenarios -, strikes, activism, fuel poverty, looming austerity, and the continuing horror show of a zombie government being just some examples. Yes 2022 qualifies as one of the most incomprehensible years on record of any epoch; an ungovernable country in the grip of austerity point 2.0, and greater world untethered and at the mercy of the harridans on either side of the extreme political divide, the billionaire corporates and narcissist puritans.

And yet, it has been another great year for music. Despite the myriad of problems that face artists and bands in the industry, from a lack of general interest to the increasingly punitive costs of touring and playing live, and the ever encroaching problems of streaming against physical sales and exposure, people just can’t quit making music. And for that we, as critics – though most of us have either been musicians or still are – really appreciate what you guys do. In fact, as we have always tried to convey, we celebrate you all. And so, instead of those silly, factious and plain dumb numerical charts that our peers and rivals insist on continuing to print – how can you really suggest one album deserves their place above or below another (why does one entry get the 23rd spot and another the 22nd; unless it is a vote count) –, the Monolith Cocktail has always chosen a much more diplomatic, democratic alphabetical order – something we more or less started in the first place. We also throw every genre, nationality together in a serious of eclectic lists: no demarcation involved.

The lists include those albums we reviewed, featured on the site in some capacity, and those we just didn’t get the time to include. All entries are displayed thus: Artist in alphabetical order, then the album title, label, who chose it, a review link where applicable, and finally a link to the album itself. 

This year’s picks have been chosen by (Dominic Valvona), Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Matt Oliver, Andrew C. Kidd and Graham Domain.

M.

Machine Girl  ‘Neon White OST-The Wicked Heart’  ACK


Billy MacKenzie  ‘Satellite Life’ (Cherry Red Records)  GD

Mai Mai Mai  ‘Rimorso’  (Maple Death Records)  DV
Review

Nduduzo Makhathini  ‘In The Spirit Of Ntu’  (Blue Note)  DV

Marlowe  ‘Marlowe 3’  (Mello Music Group)  MO

Luke Mawdsley  ‘Luke Two’  (Spine Records)  DV
Premiere

Simon McCorry  ‘Scenes From The Sixth Floor’  DV
Review

Brona McVittie  ‘The Woman in the Moon’ (Arts Council of N. Ireland)  GD
Review

Amine Mesnaoui & Labelle  ‘African Prayers’  (Lo Recordings)  DV
Review

Milc & Televangel  ‘Neutral Milc Hotel’  (Filthy Broke Records)  MO

Modern Nature  ‘Island Of Noise’  (Bella Union) DV



Tumi Mogorosi  ‘Group Theory: Black Music’  (Mushroom Hour & New Soil)  DV

Montparnasse Musique  ‘Archeology’  (Real World)  DV
Review

Mount Kimbie  ‘MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning’  ACK

Muramuke  ‘S-T’  (Accidental)  DV

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

N.

Nicole Faux Naiv  ‘Moon Rally’  (Bronzerat) DV

No Age  ‘People Helping People’  (Drag City)  DV
Review

No Base Trio  ‘II’  (Setoladi Maiale)  DV
Review

Noah  ‘Noire’  (Flau)  DV
Review

Che Noir  ‘Food For Thought’  (TCF Music Group)  MO

O.

Old Fire  ‘Voids’ (Western Vinyl Records)  GD
Review

Open Mike Eagle  ‘A Tape Called Component System With The Auto Reverse’ (Auto Reverse Records)  MO

Orange Crate Art  ‘Contemporary Guitar Music’  (Somewherecold)  DV
Review

P.

The Paxton/Spangler Septet  ‘Ugqozi’  (Eastlawn Records)  DV
Review

Peace De Résistance  ‘Bits And Pieces’ DV

Penza Penza  ‘Neanderthal Rock’  (Funk Night Records)  DV

Le Pietre Dei Giganti  ‘Vetie e Culti’  (Overdub Recordings)  DV
Review

Plastic Candles ‘Dust’  (Paisley Shirt Records)  BBS
Review

Plop & Junnu  ‘S-T’  (Fiasko Records) DV

R.

Revelators ‘Revelators Sound System’ (37d03d records)  GD
Reviews

J Rocc  ‘A Wonderful Letter’  (Stones Throw)  MO

Robert  ‘Orange is the New Black’  (Antelope Records)  MO

Scott Robertson  ‘Footprints In The Butter’  (Subjungle)  BBS
Review

S.

Salem Trials  ‘Love Joan Jett’  (Metal Postcard Records)  BBS
Review

SAULT  ‘AIR’  (Forever Living Originals)  ACK
Review

Say What  ‘S-T’  (We Jazz)  DV
Review

Shabaka  ‘Afrikan Culture’  (Verve/Impulse!) DV

Ignacio Simón ‘Old Friends’ (Bandcamp)  GD
Review

Širom  ‘The Liquefied Throne Of Simplicity’  (Glitterbeat)  DV

Sis  ‘Gnani’ (Native Cat Recordings)  GD
Review

Silverbacks  ‘Archive Material’ (Full Time Hobby)  GD
Review

The Soft Pink Truth  ‘Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This?’  ACK

Spygenius  ‘Jobbernowl’  (Big Stir Records)  BBS
Review

Staraya Derevnya  ‘Boulder Blues’  (Ramble Records)  DV
Review

Stepbrothers featuring the Honourable Ted  ‘S/T’ EP (German Shepherd Records)  GD
Review

Shepard Stevenson  ‘Man Down’  (Somewherecold)  DV
Review

Stereolab  ‘Pulse of the Early Brain’ (Duophonic and Warp Records)  GD

Robert Stillman  ‘What Does It Mean To Be American’ (Orindal Records) DV

Carl Stone  ‘We Jazz Reworks Vol. 2’  (We Jazz)  DV
Review

Gillian Stone ‘Spirit Photographs’ DV
Review

STS & RJD2  ‘Escape From Sweet Auburn’  (RJ’s Electrical Connections)  MO

Misha Sultan  ‘Roots’  (Hive Mind)  DV
Review

Sweeney  ‘Stay for the Sorrow’ (Sound in Silence)  GD
Review

T.

Team Play  ‘Wishes And Desire’  (Soliti) DV

Mauricio Takara and Carla Boregas  ‘Grande Massa D’Agua’  (Hive Mind)  DV
Review

Tone Of Voice Orchestra  ‘S-T’  (Stunt Records)  DV
Review

Trupa Trupa  ‘B Flat A’  (Glitterbeat)  DV
Review

V.

Various/Solidary  ‘Blue And Yellow’ & ‘Yellow And Blue: Help For Ukraine’  (Binaural Space)  DV
Review

Various  ‘Live at WOMAD 1982’  (Real World)  DV
Review

Various  ‘Mensajes del Agua: Nuevos Sonidos Desde Peru Vol 1’  (Buh Records) DV

Various  ‘Music For Ukraine’  (We Jazz)  DV
Review

Various  ‘Pierre Barouh And The Saravah Sound: Jazz, Gumbo And Other Hallucinatory Grooves’  (WEWANTSOUNDS)  DV
Review

Various  ‘Spirit Of France’  (Spiritmuse)  DV
Review

Vera Di Lecce  ‘Alter Of Love’ DV

Violet Nox  ‘Eris Wakes’  (Infinity Vine)  DV
Review

Vukovar  ‘The Body Abdicator’  (Other Voices)  DV/BBS
Review

W.

Wish Master & Axel Holy  ‘First Nature’  (Official Recordings)  MO

Ethan Wood  ‘Burnout’  (Whatever’s Clever)  DV
Review

Billy Woods  ‘Aethiopes’ & ‘Church’ (Backwoodz Studioz)  MO

X.

Iannis Xenakis  ‘Electroacoustic Works’  (Karlrecords)  ACK

Z.

THE Zew ‘IFI1IFO’  (Numavi Records)  BBS
Review

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

Dominic Valvona’s Album Roundup

A final roundup of eclectic and interesting new albums released at the end of last month and in December.

David Lance Callahan  ‘English Primitive II’
(Tiny Global Productions)

As the current political shit show moves on at a rapid pace, with even 24 hours now seeming such a ‘long time in politics’, music makers can quickly seem out of step with the changing circumstances, upheavals and latest outrage. Unfortunately the climate in the UK has been bleak for a good many years, and so when David Lance Callahan originally set out on his address to the nation last year the despondency mixed with anger held: and still holds today, even if it has got a lot worse.

The former mover of both The Wolfhounds and Moonshake bands, Callahan wears his own name whilst retreading and reflecting the psychogeography and rich maverick history of England; the positives of which (social experiments and Bevin’s state institutions) are balanced against the overwhelming negatives. 

Mostly recorded during the same sessions as English Primitive I, which felt like a modern lens angled at an eclectic Commonwealth style soundtrack, set to Punch and A Rake’s Progress. In the same vein round II in this repurposed folk mode uses a similar dirt music, African, Arabian, psych and Southern swamp boogie sound and that (for most of the album) winning male/female vocal delivery: a disarming it must be said, often harmonic, union that articulates tragedy, alarm, plague and even murder.

It begins with the pent-up grievances of a “regular person” played out to rusty Benin guitar fuzz and facemask shaking Mummers, ‘Invisible Man’. It’s as if The Pop Group shared bread with Francis Bebey on a churned kick of primitivism, on this load-bearing opener.

Hanif Kureishi’s iconic ‘Beautiful Launderette’ is repurposed as a metaphor for the sleazy enterprise of laundering ill-gotten gains and the proceeds of crime (from Russian oligarchs to financial rip-offs, the drug’s trade and kleptomaniac tyrants, civil servants and politicians). London being the leading epicenter of such a rotten trade comes in for a kicking to the music of Afro-post-punk and a stoner Doors. A ‘rant at the government’, ‘The Parrot’ uses various avian Scarfe-like sharpened ink pen cuts at the enablers that fail to be held to account. Musically its swamp boogie, a hint of Rhyton, Mick Harvey, David Cronenberg’s Wife and Canned Heat moving to a menacing backbeat and scuzz of tangled whining guitar.

A darkly disturbing prowl down memory lane, ‘Bear Factory’ is the album’s most serious drama. Back to the 1970s, in a world that’s described with the miasma of a David Peace novel, and the events that led to and around the murder of one of Callahan’s primary school mates is played out to plaintive melodramatic strings.

He who walked with astral beings and angels, William Blake and his famous London poem forms the literary food for the album’s finale, ‘London By Blakelight’; a walk across a manacled meta-layered city to a fuzzed drum beat and touch of John Johanna psych-blues-African-buzz. 

Callahan’s worldly sound threads converge with a more idiosyncratic leftfield English (un)civil war commentary on a society gone to rack and ruin: one that’s mostly been fucked-up and over through self-sabotage. Part II of this rewired English, Gilbert & George- like stained glass-anointed gumbo extends on that ‘primitive’ vibe, the use of the word being a positive one, finding a familiar sense of the roots that bind us all.   

Noémi Büchi  ‘Matter’
(-OUS)

Exploding with a beautiful dramatic form of broken glass symmetry, the burgeoning composer and sound artist Noémi Büchi cerebrally and stunningly transforms the musical hallucinations of György Liget and the classical romanticism of the last century on the debut album suite, Matter.

Taking such symphonic inspirations as a starting point, Büchi thrusts this material into the contemporary and future with a centrifugal rotation of various electronic, metallic affects, sound waves and rhythms.

Mirrored and reflected back from states of stirring emotional intense gravitas and catharsis, the “matter” at hand is transformed out of the abstract into something more solid: a reification of feelings, anxieties and stresses you could say. Using an often-dramatic maximalist method in processing these moods, a perfect balance is struck between the harsher, granular and deep, even seismic, use of techno and the magical swells and pulls of pioneering classical music. But, as Büchi states in the accompanying press notes, this album is also a playful exploration of counterbalances and opposing forces too: like decay and growth; consonance and dissonance; the physical and ephemeral.

In pure sonic spectacle this translates into revolving suites of heavy Meta, more brutalistic scrunched and sharper focused intensity, and soundtrack sorcery – both the fantastical, kinetic Basic Channel like static-pelted ball-bearing beat driven ‘Measuring All Possibilities’, and Vangelis future world hallucination of unease, travail and alien mystique ‘Uncertainty Of An Undefined Interpendence’ would make great scores.

At times these tracks evoke illusions of chimed timepiece Baroque, set in some sci-fi environment, and at others, Jeff Mills conducting and warping the works of Igor Stravinsky. ‘Taking The Train With Mr. Shark’ travels down the stargate rails in the company of Mira Calix and Kraftwerk’s ‘Europe Endless’. ‘Screaming At Brutism’, as the title shouts, pounds away at the granite edifice of violence like the Pyrolator and Emptyset.

There is however as much beauty, light and hymnal stark release as there is the mysterious, the churned and weighted on an album that pulls together opposing forces to create a truly out-of-time, out-of-frame electronic symphony. Matter is a startling, intense and machine-sculpted debut.

Björn Magnusson  ‘Nightclub Music & Ethereal Faith’
(Specter Fix Press)  16th December 2022

From an alpine location looking back at the mood music, emotional pulling atmospheres and moments caught in a reminiscing wooziness the Zurich-based artist Björn Magnusson seems to have encompassed a particular amalgamation of New York City arty aloofness and streetwise existential pain on his new album. For this is a songbook suffused by two factories of influence: Warhol’s and Tony Conrad’s. Lou Reed’s Transformer (a little throwback to the Velvets as well) and Conrad’s Theater Of Eternal Music circle and his drone conjuncture Four Violins come together, or threaten to come unstuck, on a both loosened and more intensified dissonant album that hoovers up the psychogeography of the city.

But within that framework lies a sort of no wave, Hansa Studio and jazz vibe, with both Nikki Sudden and Kid Congo Power’s Danny Hole (amongst a rafter of other instruments played) and the Swiss-Zimbabwean free jazz musician Tapiwa Svosve both on saxophone duties throughout. Never forceful or overriding the rest of the musical circle (which also includes Dean & Britta and Luna foil Sean Eden on guitar and of course Björn) those sax sounds offer both an atonal mizzle and freeform breathes and parped wails, strains and contortions.

When pulled together with Björn voice and songwriting this all sounds like a brilliant, sophisticated mismatch of Arto Lindsay, Hunky Dory and Heroes Bowie, England’s Glory, Chris Spedding, Low Cut Connie, Ariel Pink and John Cale in a well-worn city, gathered around a rolling barrel organ in some lower Manhattan bar, washed up and out, yet still capable of producing pop, rock and jazz with a certain off-kilter spirit of wistfulness, despondency and romantic disconnection. Something like that anyway.

As the RP blurb usefully summarizes, Björn’s almost final lyric, on the album’s swansong ‘Everybody’s Got Something’, says it all: “Sometimes the world is an oyster, sometimes an ashtray”.No better line is needed for an album that sits on the blues junction between a rambunctious and artsy NYC. There’s even a dreamily strung-out loosened piano with brassy resonance vision of the city’s leftfield auteurs Suicide and their own take on “America eats its young”, sleaze in leather and haunting polemic, ‘Ghost Rider’. You can’t get much more underground New York than that. And this tribune repurposes that cult jukebox turn for a wistful splice of hallucinogenic bar room philosophizing.

Five years on from Björn’s Almost Transparent Blues debut and the wait has been worthwhile, with an album of lived-in dreams and momentary abstract feelings captured for posterity on a sort of new wave suite composed for the iconic meeting spots and streets of an almost romanticised New York boardwalk. A great album to finish the year off on.   

Orchid Mantis ‘How long Will It Take’

Bleached by the sun over time and through various hazy sepia lenses, the placable recordings of the Atlanta artist Thomas Howard languidly bleed into a number of musical genres. Dream pop, lo fi, the psychedelic, surf and indie all merge with the field recordings of subway and airport lobby limbos to construct an attenuate-layered soundtrack to a world of wistful plaint, transient yearns and drowsy, if deeply felt, romantic sentiment: “You have my soul forever, and always.”

Under the Orchid Mantis moniker, Howard has been somnolently and dreamily applying that method since 2014, releasing six albums and a number of EPs in that period. How Long will It Take – a generous fifteen-track offering – marks his seventh expanded release of sun bendy enervated, affected and mirage trippy pop songs that embrace a certain lucidity and disarming quality of nostalgia for the early noughties wave of lo fi washed-out warmth.

On each wave, both brushed and mono-tunneled drum beat, and evaporated effect Howard seems to go with a very nice bendy flow. That’s not to say there’s a lack of direction or focus. Oh no. Just a more veiled and dappled intimate softened sharing of waking moment’s anxieties, the nature of our world and declarations of love.

If phases and flanged blurred suffusions of Cass McCombs, Yoni Wolf, epic45, Summer Heat, The Drums and laidback later 70s California ocean view singer/songwriter material grabs you, then Howard’s Orchid Mantis alias will snuggly wrap its arms around your lugholes and work its inquiring magic. 

Designers ‘S-T’
(We Jazz Records)

Another month and another freshly assembled addition to the leading Scandinavian-based label We Jazz. This time it’s in the shape of the impressive geometric and architectural imbued/inspired Designers trio.

An international hailed group based in Nantes, the trio’s Belgium composer and double-bassist (also a very dab hand at the piano) Joachim Florent is joined by the Finnish pianist Aki Rissanen and Australian drummer Will Guthrie on a debut album suite of both patterned and freer empirical mod pieces.

Florent’s accompanying quotes set the scene and theme for this eight-track work of various jazz and semi-classical styles. The defacto instigator, leader found that his piano studies back in 2019 were, happily, but unintentionally resembling what he called a “pretty” geometry. Further on, Florent chanced upon the often surreal, imaginative architectural photography of Filip Dujardin. Rather than building blocks though, the Designers turn clever forms into feelings, reflections and melodic atmospheric journeys to vaguely geographic locations, landscapes: The opening, stirring and subtly Middle Eastern/Arabian ‘Lebanon’ being one such example; a camel motioned caravan through a soft Yusef Lateef, Tarek Yamani and Ahmed Jamel Trio scored trinket percussive and trickled piano notation market place. I’ve no idea what or where ‘Moulindjek’ is but it sounds very mysterious with its dabbed and busier plinks and plonks, country-bowed graceful evocations, glissando and fluctuations.  

Elsewhere there is a reference to the iconic Estonian minimalist composer Arvo Pärt’s “tintinnabules” compositional process and writing technique. Translating as “bells” more or less, and borrowed from the Catholic liturgy, it also translates as “crosstalk”, when two voices come together to form something inseparable, or, when pairs of notes are constructed one against the other. In this capacity the trio invoke the technique on the reflective, spiritual jazz hinted and serious minded ‘Tintinabulisme’ piece.

Touches of 60s period Blue Note, the Bad Plus, Keith Jarrett and the Neil Cowley Trio can be picked up across an album of poised thoughtfulness and more playful freeform musicianship. He geometric waters are both choppy, heightened and yet equally in a legato style throughout. Florent uses every inch of the double-bass to offer a foundation, a rhythm, a droning or sonorous bed, but also springs into action on occasion and quickens into a blur during one particular near solo act. His foil Rissanen’s piano seems to overlay itself, yet also displays more singular accentuations, descriptive patterns or trickles. And Guthrie’s drums seem to sizzle and simmer beneath the surface, yet also dish out tumbles, tight breaks and more loose percussive displays of skill.

A sophisticated, movable synthesis of balanced geometry awaits on an album of fluctuating tides, climbs, spiralled descents and even a little positivity – see the ‘White Keys’ finale, a dash and simmering charge in the right direction. The Designers set down quite the marker in that European semi-classical jazz vogue.

Greg Nieuwsma & Antonello Perfetto  ‘Chase ritual’
(Cruel Nature Records)

Connecting in Krakow as members of the progressively experimental Sawark before an eventual disbandment, the Midwest American and Neapolitan bred musicians Gerg Nieuwsma and Antonello Perfetto formed the Corticem partnership before sporting their own birth names in a new avant-garde chapter.

Last year’s Aquarium album cemented a reputation for both playful and strange experimentation and exploration. The latest, Chase Ritual, strays into ever more expansive realms, with an entrancing (for the most part) long form trio of cosmic-reflective and krautrock/kosmische imbued ethnographic journeys.

‘Star Birthmark’ sets things in motion with a near twenty-minute warm revolving Cluster-like peregrination. Roedelius and Florian Fricke sit at the piano as waves of flange guitar drones and fairground synth rotate around them. There are stopovers in North Africa (by the sounds of it) with vague echoes of scrappy-tinny Gnawa percussion (that will be the krakebs), some Egyptian flute or oboe, and spiritual paean of worldly voices. Half mirage, half prog-jazz suite, this side one spanning track builds towards a final squall of noise, haphazard piano and tumbled drums.

As a comedown, of a kind, the lengthy entitled ‘Supernatural Ears Hear The Call Of Faraway Mountains’ – half a haiku in its own right – floats off into the celestial. Spherical galactic rotations, serenading prog guitar and relaxed splashy and rattled drums drift around the outer reaches like a Tangerine Dream score.

The final track, ‘Ovine Wheel’, is all cathedral harmonia reverberated Popol Vuh, with spells of holy swoons, hints of a more traversing later Guru Guru and an ongoing, sometimes looped, analogue phone call between two European characters. Extra voices are added to the swell from what could be (again) Africa, but also Arabia and further afield.

Chase Ritual is an album to plug straight into; headphones on, ready to be immersed in globe-spanning and cosmic listening adventures.

Anton Barbeau  ‘Stranger’
(Gare Du Nord)  9th December 2022

An omnivorous child of Ian Hunter, Lawrence Haywood, Kim Fowley and David Bowie, the both playful and broody artist Anton Barbeau is at it again with his myriad of influences, taking the familiar and bending it to his own ends.

Psychedelia, glam, new wave (that’s the German, American and Australian kinds), pop, scuzz rock and noughties indie gel together on a lamentable yet also romantically gestured catchy songbook; one that finds Barbeau “bumped” back to his wife’s farmstead in small town California from his Berlin sojourn. We have the pandemic to thank for that move, as Barbeau struggles to adjust to life back in the States, a “stranger” as it were to a culture and environment he left behind for Europe. As a Yellow Brick Elton once despondently sang, “I’m going back to my farm”. And it does seem there is a theme of shunning one life of endless pro-Covid tours and artistic pressures for a rustic idyll, isolated yet finding eventual content and purpose settling down with his wife Julia in domestic bliss.

Even his worldly band of contributors added their parts remotely; tuning in from Chesterfield, Lille, Detroit, Hastings and elsewhere. It doesn’t show for a minute, as everything seems to gel together so well.

Inner and outer turmoil, the turning over of thoughts and a sense of detachment are the main drivers on what most be Barbeau’s 30th, or something like that, album – so prolific that near enough everyone at the blog has had a go at reviewing one of his untold many albums, now coming full circle back to me. It starts with, I think, one of the album’s best tracks, a self-titled kind of gently brooding Heyme, Eno and Bowie-esque laced longing, searching plaint about being a stranger in a strange land. That disconnection bleeds over into the transatlantic version of Kraftwerk, via DAF, Der Plan and the new romantics, ‘Ant Lion’.

Barbeau’s musical allies are 2000s Bowie (Reality and Heathen especially), later 70s Roxy, the female harmony backed Kevin Ayers of Bananamour, Bolan, Ty Segall and Beck, but that extends, expands to so much more. At times I can hear (intentionally or not) an air of Neil Finn (admittedly arm-in-arm once more with Bowie) on the new wave-ish ‘Sugarcube City’ – a good line of which, as the song disappears into the ether, being, “You’re only as beautiful as your mirror.” And many of the album’s shorter, vignettes evoke all sorts of musical inspirations; from a drip reverbed, female cooed listing of ‘Favourite Items’ to the dreamy vapoured, soft dalek-like ‘Out Of Sight’.

To more romantic settings and the declaration of wedding vowels, the Stranger album pays a serious noted tribute to Barbeau’s wife, who may just have saved him from himself. Dedicated to his better half then, the Casio preset, nutritious-kissed ‘Farm Wife’ slips into the more Lennon-esque soppy “I owe you everything” sentiment of ‘Slight Chance’. It means all the insecurities and wantonness of many of the previous songs finds a balance and that sense of comfort, ending on a note of marital contentment.   Barbeau bounces, trips and moodily sulks his way around a psychedelic ‘microdosed’ cannon of the fuzzed, serenaded, backbeat sprung and pop powered-up. The returning stranger may just have found his place for now, conjuring up a familiar sounding songbook of ideas and poignancy. As my colleague Mr. Domain has already written, when reviewing what is meant to be Stranger’s sister album, Power Pop!!! earlier this year, there’s nothing highly original here. Yet it is still a cracking album nonetheless, an idiosyncratic offering from a constantly evolving and changing artist.

Kinked And Señor Service ‘Reincanto/Real Bwoy’
(Artetetra)

From the bonkers symphony of experimental and playful electronic music label that last month brought us the insane sinfonetta that was Trans Zimmer & The DJs a split showcase of liquid, bubbled kooky arcade music and imaginative alien soundscaping. Sharing, in a most congruous fashion, the bill is the interchangeable Lapo Sorride/Don Sorride alter ego Kinked, and Umberto Pasinetti solo project Señor Service.

Sorride, whose music is described as a ‘leftfield-ritualism of vocal gestures and granular realities’, appears in various forms as a ‘visual and text researcher’ and ‘tenco-grime lyricist’ (whatever that is). In the Kinked guise we find Sorride running back and forth across a digital audio workstation, a Roland VT3 and Yamaha PSR E363 keyboard. Landing on everything but only holding onto any specific micro-sound for a few seconds, the action is constantly moving. Singular drum hits with some occasional rolls of a kind and even melodic, ambient waves emerge from out of a pneumatic soundtrack of power-ups, high-pitched frequencies, moistened effects, burbles and a strange version of computer game primitivism.

It’s as if µ-Ziq had created the early evolving forms of new life, a whole contained world; growing and learning to communicate with life outside a virtual biosphere. An improvisation with some very interesting, playful, on occasion, fun but also touching on quieter more serious tones, Reincanto, through chance, conjures up an alien and haphazard world of skittish soundscaping.

In a similar, if more realized and slightly more settled, mode, Señor Service sounds like Sakamoto’s floppy disks in the hands of the Aphex Twin. Quirks, looms and concertinaed MIDI-like sounds emanate from Pasinetti’s omnivorous feasting soundboard of quarks and cutesy dialogue samples.

At times this sounds like a marimba-twinkled score to some fantasy island level on a Japanese computer game of the nighties, at others, like the light flash patterned communications between the aliens of Close Encounters and the imagined inner worlds of a microchip. Cartoon arias and 64-bit scales combine with pleasing melodies, melodica-like waves and furry creatures on a synthesized, programmed collage of constantly evolving and progressive play. This is what happens when no one tells you to stop messing around in your bedroom with all those electronic music making devices. A free reign that magic’s up the goods.

It seems that to qualify for the Artetetra label nod of approval you need to be drinking from a whole other, fun and mad source than the rest of the electronic music fraternity. Always on a leftfield bent, and entertaining to boot, the Milan-based collective imprint once again delights as much as it does amuse in the pursuit of pushing at the fun buttons and outer limits of electronic and avant-garde music. A great split coupling of intriguing artists that demand further investigation.

Various  ‘Perú Selvático – Sonic Expedition Into The Peruvian Amazon 1972 – 1986’ 
(Analog Africa) 16th December 2022

Sometimes as a critic you just want something fun and playful to listen to. To escape the lectures, the woes. And with Analog Africa’s latest visit to the cumbia mecca of Perú, you’re suddenly whisked away to the beach side parties and jungle shindigs of South America.

Released in conjunction with a rarefied collection of dance tunes from Sonido Verde de Moyobamba by the label’s Limited Dance Editions imprint, the Perú Selvático compilation draws together a survey of Amazon style cumbia movers and shakers from the early 1970s to the mid 80s. Sonido make a couple of appearances on this selection, so you can pretty much test whether you want to shell out for both albums in this two-pronged Perúvian showcase.

But before all that, just a little context and information is needed first. If you’re just a cursory listener or newcomer to the phenomenon of cumbia music then in short it can be described loosely as a Latin-wide style that swaps or picks up changes wherever it falls within the South and Central American regions. Originally starting off in Colombia as a merger of African, indigenous and European styles of music, cumbia spread like wildfire to most communities; adopted, adapted and again melded with even more sounds as it travelled. That underlying saunter cannot be mistaken however, nor the courtship for that matter.

The main European element, the accordion, would later be replaced by the electric guitar as electricity reached even the most densely covered areas of the Amazon; once more changing the sound in the process. Just to confuse matters, a sub-genre called “chichi” was to emerge specifically from inland Perú. This was a kind of Andean music that became popular in the country’s coastal cities, especially in Lima. Named after the favoured Inca corn-based liquor, chichi’s roots began in the oil boomtowns and interchanges of the Amazon. Speaking totally as a mere student of ethnography, I’m sure the music on this compilation is either part of it or at least a close relative. They both share the same penchant for surf guitar and rudimental synthesised sounds if this compilation is anything to go by. Add to that the party spirit – an itch to join a long conga line -, the use of Bill Justus-like raunchy licks, tropical hints of the Caribbean and a suffusion of bandy organ.

Behind the pin-up cover lies a less seedy, a bit sensual, collection of rare hits mostly confined, success wise, to the Amazon. Highly popular locally, it would take time to make it to the Lima airwaves. A smattering of producers took to the road, helping to spread that sound to cities like Tarapoto, Moyobamba and Pucallpa – only reachable by air or boat that last one. There’s a god showing of groups (I presume) from those mentioned regions, with The Ventures and Shadows twing-twang, scuffed percussion and playful spirit of the already mentioned Sonido Verde de Moyobamba, to the opening swimmingly wavy beachside Latin, low-volt amped guitar buzz of Pucallpa’s Los Royals, and the Meek-like echo-y reverb of Fresa Juvenil De Tarapoto. Talking of popularity, or just more prolific if you like, Los Zheros get three bites of the cherry. They saunter to congas and spindly percussion on ‘Selva Virgen’, stir up slightly more exotic sandy relaxed vibes on ‘Alibaba’ – some Arabian night fantasy perhaps -, and magic up seductive move on ‘La Uñita’. Likewise Los Cisnes get an equal three-way selection, with the Brazilian-flavoured ‘La Hamaca’, bendy and fuzz guitar surfing ‘Safari En La Selva’, and the held-organ, soft drum rolling ‘Rio Mar’

Elsewhere there’s a balance of the laidback and racing, and a number of attempts to electrify cumbia with some synthesized technology; some zaps and wobbles and bobbed liquid bendy bits here and there, which mostly lean towards the lo fi and kitsch.

Intentional or not, some tracks veer over the borders, picking up sounds, grooves, rhythms from the East Coast of South America, Sun Records America and Mexico: or so it sounds. It’s a party whatever way you choose to look at it.

Analog Africa lift some sweet, cool tunes from out of obscurity, or at least highlight a cult sound to a wider audience. So give Christmas a more infectious Latin feel and joy this year, you won’t regret it.

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

CHOICE MUSIC FROM THE LAST MONTH
CURATED BY DOMINIC VALVONA

The very last monthly playlist of 2022 is a bumper edition of eclectic choice music from the last month, with a smattering of tracks from upcoming December releases too.

This month’s picks have been collected from Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Shea’ Bordello and Graham Domain. The full track list can be found below the Spotify link.

The monthly will be back in the New Year. Until then absorb this behemoth of a selection, and next month, ponder and peruse the blog’s 140 plus albums of 2022 features.

TRACK LIST IN FULL

Black Market Karma/Tess Parks  ‘The Sky Was All Diseased’
Enter Laughing  ‘Met Me When I landed’
Salem Trials  ‘Man From Atlantis Is Dead’
Humour  ‘Jeans’
Cities Aviv  ‘Funktion’
Vlimmer  ‘Mathematik’
Gabrielle Ornate  ‘Phantasm’
Dead Horses  ‘Can’t Talk, Can’t Sleep’
Lunar Bird  ‘Driven By The Light’
Mui Zyu  ‘Rotten Bun’
Thank You Lord For Satan  ‘When We Dance’
Pozi  ‘Slightly Shaking Cells’
My Friend Peter  ‘When I Was’
U.S. Girls  ‘Bless This Mess’
Sofie Royer  ‘Feeling Bad Forsyth Street’
Surya Botofasina  ‘Beloved California Temple’
Edrix Puzzle  ‘Shadow of Phobe’
Let Spin  ‘Waveform Guru’
Etceteral  ‘Gologlavka’
Juga-Naut  ‘Camel Walk’
The Pyramids  ‘Queens Of The Spirits Part 1’
Illogic  ‘Nowhere Fast’
Planet Asia/Snowgoons/Flash  ‘Metabolism’
Dabbla/alone  ‘Adept’
Karu  ‘Spears Of Leaves’
Neon Kittens  ‘Nil By Vein’
Renelle 893/King Kashmere  ‘My Demons’
Mount Kimbie/Don Maker/Kai Campos Ft. Slowthai  ‘Kissing’
Homeboy Sandman/Deca  ‘Satellite’
Uusi Aika  ‘S-T’
Gillian Stone  ‘The Throne’
Raw Poetic/Damu The Fudgemunk  ‘A Mile In My Head’
Boldy James/Futurewave  ‘Mortemir Milestone’
Arthur King  ‘Dig Precious Things’
Tom Skinner  ‘Voices (Of The Past)’
Trans Zimmer & The DJs  ‘Wind Quintet No. 3 In E Major, Second Movement’
George T  ‘Dub On, King’s Cross’
The Dark Jazz Project  ‘Great Skies’
Noémi Büchi  ‘Measuring All Possibilities’
Russ Spence  ‘Spectrum’
Seez Mics/Aupheus  ‘Cancel The Guillotine’
Dezron Douglas  ‘J Bird’
Fliptrix/Illinformed  ‘Eden’
Apollo Brown/Philmore Greene  ‘This Is Me’
Illogic  ‘She Didn’t Write’
Milc/Televangel Ft. AJ Suede  ‘Ronald Reagan’
Vincent/The Owl/Nick Catchdubs  ‘Fade 2 Black’
Shirt/Jack Splash  ‘Cancel Culture’
Clouds In A Headlock/ASM/Daylight Robbery  ‘3D Maze’
The Strange Neighbour/Leolex/Bobby Slice Ft. DJ Sixkay  ‘Keep Your Head Straight’
Kormac  Ft. Loah & Jafaris  ‘Bottom Of The Ocean’
A. O. Gerber  ‘Walk In The Dark’
Ben Pagano  ‘Hot Capital’
Hög Sjö  ‘Love Is A Gamble’
Kinked  ‘Introduzione Alla Fabula’
Årabrot  ‘Going Up’
Old Fire Ft. Julia Holter  ‘Window Without A World’
Meg Baird  ‘Star Hill Song’
Susanna/Stina Stjern/Delphine Dora  ‘Elevation’
Rita Braga  ‘Nothing Came From Nowhere’
Orchid Mantis  ‘Endless Life’
The Zew  ‘Come On Down’
Ocelot  ‘Santa Ana’
LINN  ‘Okay, Sister’
Sanfeliu  ‘Grassy Patch’
Young Ritual  ‘Ages’
Yermot  ‘Leaning To Lie’


ALBUM REVIEW
Dominic Valvona

Mauricio Takara and Carla Boregas  ‘Grande Massa D’Agua’
(Hive Mind)   

Nestled somewhere between the Brazilin oceanic coastline and the rainforest waterfalls’ of the interior, the impressive duo of Mauricio Takara and Carla Boregas embrace the replenishing vibes of water on their new album for the Hive Mind set.

Both foils in this electroacoustic avant-garde enterprise bring much to the water table, with Takara playing in the (highly recommended) São Paulo Underground, Hurtmold and MNTH set-ups but also involved in an array of sit-ins with such icons as the late Pharoah Sanders, the one-time mushroom mantra haiku Can front man Damo Suziki, and Acid Mothers Temple guardian Makoto Kawabata, and Boregas instigating the Rakto and Fronte Violeta projects, a soloist and founder of the experimental Brazilian venue AUTA and the Dama Da Noite label.

From the fringes of jazz, primitivism and electronica they pour that experience into the immersive, often mysterious, and otherworldly Grande Massa D’Agua set of peregrinations and ushering-ins of the elements.

Tightening, ratcheting, tinkled percussive tools that evoke the work of Walter Smetak sit with both singular bounced and more skittish drum rolls and tumbles across ceremonial, ritualistic, atavistic yet also futuristic invocations. São Paulo and its surrounding nature might be the catalyst but whole different auras and planes are summoned; some of which fall upon the realms of the kosmische and even Faust.

Amongst the rustles of grass, the circled ring of ceremonial bowls and drips of water hints of Aquiles Navarro and Jon Hassell-like trumpet linger on the veiled, textured air, all the while as the drums leap into action, rebounding off the rims and splashes of cymbal.

This is Art Ensemble Of Chicago via the Portico Quartet style jazz meets the percussive, rhythmic experiments and intuition of Valentina Magaletti and Ibn Battuta period Embryo. And yet as the sun rises on the horizon of this exotic landscape, we’re beamed almost into a lunar bending cosmos. Although the refracted, reversed and entrancing ‘Areia Preta’ feels like you’re at the centre of a hallucinatory dream. 

Melodic parts emerge out of the avant-garde free-play throughout this both suffused and zigzag rhythmic skate, rattled, poured and chimed water world. The idea of kinetic type energy in the movement (at one point taking on the illusion of a steam chuffed train ride down loose tracks) and sense of progression offer a semblance of musicality and melody even in the middle of the most singular serialism-edging and abstract performances.

Deeply felt and convincing, Grande Massa D’Agua is both an intriguing and true measure of the duo’s quality, pushing at the elementals without losing the listener or thread. They delve with adroit skill and a curiosity for sounding the abstract, and succeed in creating a mysterious and evocative soundtrack.

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

Dominic Valvona’s Albums Revue For November
Unless stated otherwise all releases are now available to buy

Edrix Puzzle ‘Coming Of The Moon Dogs’
(On The Corner Records)

Looping string theory jazz particles to a rocket ship bound for a deep space cosmology of titan referenced stellar sets, the Nathan “Tugg” Curan led Edrix Puzzle ensemble find a musical freedom amongst the stars of an alien concept world on their newest trip, the Coming Of The Moon Dogs.

Reimaging Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi transferred to the made-up body-locking Afro and futurist jazz planet of Battagon, Curan and his astro crew of Martin Slattery (on bass guitar, clarinet and saxophone duties), Tom Mason (double-bass), Oli Savill (percussion) and Darren Berry (violin) zip and zap across a lunar environment overseen by a galactic vision of mythology’s Gia and Uranus and some of their kin: Rhea, Dione, Hyperion and Phobe.

Amongst the analog calculus, signals and bleeps an equally elastic and moon-bound tripping transformation of the Art Ensemble of Chicago vibe takes shape on an imaginative off world. It’s a world in which Afrikan Sciences break bread with King Crimson; where Soweto Kinch reassembles the late Pharaoh’s astral projections. Within that science fiction the troupe balance totally untethered chaos with breakbeats and a certain swing.

David Ornate Cherry’s organic water bowl percussion joins a celestial voodoo march on the old country resonated Art Ensemble fiddled ‘Deep In Dione’, whilst Matthew “Doc” Dunn and Andy Haas slink and waft the vapoured murk of the living, breathing ‘V11’ coded suite.

Tracks like the time changing spin around the Van Allen Belt ‘Unhuman Hyperion’ verge on hip-hop. But it’s the imbued spirit of Herb, his peers and acolytes in the space, progressive jazz field that permeate this alchemist exploration of far out atmospheres. In a constant motion throughout with the energy released in all directions, and on all planes, Coming Of The moon Dogs is an incredible survey of quickened and more floated, waning galactic jazz evocations. A solid piece of art, lit by a remote chemistry and performed with assured but always probing musicianship. Rather an escape to the planet of the breaks than an escape from it, sci-fi jazz meets the experimental, spiritual and progressive in a visceral explosion of ideas, vibes and grooves.        

Surya Botofasina ‘Everyone’s Children’
(Spiritmuse Records)

An acolyte of Alice Coltrane’s devotional embrace of Eastern spiritualism, imbued by that sagacious innovating jazz seer’s afflatus music and teachings, the keyboardist, composer and actor of some repute (from parts in Vinyl and Broadwalk Empire) Surya Botofasina bathes in his mentor’s light on this debut opus.

With the meditative, motored ascending arcs of Om Rama and such threaded throughout, Botofasina and friends set out on an astral and naturally felt work of spiritual jazz, trance, new age and ambient transcendence.

Our guide on this album of worship, remembrance and healing grew up at the Sai Anantam Ashram in the Southern Californian hills, where Coltrane led the daily bhajans, the traditional Hindu songs of praise and paean. His mother, Radha, was a disciple before him of this idyllic retreat’s guardian, a notable harpist but also pianist and vocalist herself and a one-time member of the American string band, The Spirits Of Rhythm. With such an enviable musical lineage and influence it’s no wonder that Botofasina would go on to become the Ashram’s music director and to internationally spread the word of this particular devotional form.

Encompassing all that reverence on his first fully realized album, Botofasina, aided by a cross-generational cast of guests, seeks to calmly honour but also demonstrate that faith. As a album to these enraged, divisive times, Everyone’s Children – with everything that album title’s metaphors, allusions, analogy entail – perseveres in the face of turbulence; softening and weakening the choppy waters in a blessed light of disarming but deeply felt warm suffused elevation.

With a both sentimental and yearning new age language of utterances from the Los Angles jazz singer stalwart Dwight Trible and fellow Californian indie folk vocalist Mia Doi Todd welling up and adding a certain wailed gravity, these divine acts of veneration ascend at a peaceable pace. The opening beachside temple suite running to over twenty-seven minutes as it shimmers and glistens with dappled electric piano, a serene air of the holy and washes of ambient synth.

Although often soothing with lightened touches of astral plane jazz and soul music, Botofasina’s piano occasionally stirs up outpourings of louder and harder pressed expressive emotions and serenades – as on the semi-classical and 60s jazz riptide evoked ‘I Love Dew, Sophie’

Accentuating these spells of keyboard cascades, lit-up bulb like notes and rays the Canadian jazz drummer Efa Etoroma Jnr. adds splashes and tumbles, and the New York saxophonist Pablo Calogero wafts in with a suitable longing embrace. And overseeing it all is the Californian polymath (from noted producer to radio host, poet, percussionist and performer) Carlos Niño, who resembles a counter-culture 70s Carl Wilson chic. Together on this swami dedicated odyssey they border the heavenly as successful inheritors of Alice Coltrane’s devotional magic. As a debut album it’s a grand statement of spiritualism, nature and peacefully ascendant jazz; an escape from the material world.

Etceteral ‘Rhizome’
(tak:til/Glitterbeat Records) 11th November 2022

In what is a different, unique fashion, the Slovenian trio’s musical pairing of Boštjan Simon and Marek Fakuč (in part) react to their bandmate Lina Rica’s visual stimulus to create a cosmic electronic-jazz album of interlaced networks, connectivity and environmental crisis alarm. 

Joining their fellow Slovenian compatriots, the dream-realism Širom, at Glitterbeat’s explorative, fourth world imbued instrumental sister imprint tak:til, the kosmische and organically freeform Etceteral base their new, mostly improvised album on the concept of its title, Rhizome: A continually growing horizontal underground stem, which puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals; a non-linear network that connects any point to any other point.  

With that theme, process in mind the trio reflect back a constant motion of soundscaping, rhythm and probing; balancing, at times, contemporary jazz with computer calculus, data, signals and metallic polygon shaped electronica. Yet, whilst Simon’s saxophone often drifts off into space, and his electronic effects, undulations more than hint at gravity-free zones in the cosmos, tracks such as the rolling, bounced and techno purred ‘Rome Burns’ allude to climate change and the extreme wildfires that engulfed much of Europe this year. It’s a great piece of flexible jazz that fuses Donny McCaslin and Go Go Penguin with Basic Channel to reflect an environmental angst of doom – fiddling with your suv sat nav whilst Rome burns to a cinder.

The rest of this interconnected, visual reactive album of performances and electronic augmented pulses and fusions goes through varying degrees of warping and reverberating transference. A jazz foundation is guided through a mirrored and computerised apparatus, which evokes shades of Squarepusher, Anteloper, Alfa Mist, Pyrolator and (rather handle as they share this column this month) Edrix Puzzle. Familiar echoes of rasped, cyclonic and honked sax, drum breaks and splashes receive an outer space production. Fakuč’s drums actually go into slow motion on the chrome soundscape ‘Dunno’. Etceteral turn it on and out on their improvised odyssey and contortion of activism.  And yet the rhythms often driven, progressive and on occasion buoyant or bobbing, make this a most unique sort of an electronic dance album, despite its avant-garde, free and cosmic jazz foundations. 

Karu ‘An Imaginary Journey’
(Beat Machine Music) 18th November 2022

Lost in the Karu alias of mystical, atavistic mining and reimagined absorptions and traverses, the Italian double-bassist and producer Alberto Brutti’s collaborative project transforms, transmogrifies a fertile polygenesis palette of rituals and dances and ethnography to produce a contemporary affected album of Afro-Futurism, jazz and primitivism.

Wrapped up into a musical journey across both familiar and more ambiguous, vague cultural landscapes, Brutti creates suggestive atmospheres and ceremonies; many of which are conjured from title references to old worlds, religious and mythological etymology. In that wide field of influences, inspirations there’s the Abrabic “kalam”, which can roughly be used to mean “speech”, “word” or “utterances” pertaining to the Islamic faith, but was also the catchall term to define that religion’s tenants of faith in the face of the philosophical doubters; the antiquity Hattian empire festival “purulli”, held at the Bronze Age settlement of Nerik, dedicated to the earth goddess Hannahanna (which may well be the source of the Biblical “hosanna”); the West Slavic (otherwise known as Lechites) tribal name for the chthonian god “Nyia”; and the ancient Greek word for “breath”, or in the religious context, “spirit” or “soul”, “pneuma”. 

The first of that quartet lends itself to the album’s opening peregrination of African drums, Blacks’ Myth and cut-up Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell jazz renderings, reversals, abrasive industrial resonated sounds, Širom type otherworldly primitivism and stick choppy rhythms. Following in its wake there’s signs of Andy Haas, the esoteric, elephant trunk raising horns and the no wave sound of Mars and Milk TV. The latter title of that same quartet of wordy mentions signals a move further East, with again, vague notions of the Indian, Baul but also a soundtrack of downtempo breaks (ala Alfa Mist and J Dilla) and the hallucinogenic trance of Fursaxa (if remixed by Clap! Clap!).

‘Spear Of Leaves’ however, rearranges the bedeviled Faustus pact blues and dialogue of Robert Johnson on a palanquin caravan lumber across vapours of snorkeled saxophone.  The final dream sequence on this imaginary travelogue drifts into a hollowed-out cane spun and fluted rainforest wash; ending on a more laidback piece of South American flavoured geography and waning jazz.

Between the haunted illusionary and mysterious, a removed time-travelling worldly plane emerges. Herbs, Roberto Musci, Amorphous Androgynous and Drexciya converge somewhere in the middle of the underworld and elevated.   

The Dark Jazz Project ‘S-T’
(Irregular Frequencies) 14th November 2022

Making good on this summer’s three-track introductory EP, Andrew Spackman now unleashes a whole album of his latest regeneration creation, The Dark Jazz Project, on an unsuspecting audience.

The singular maverick electronic and art-house boffin recently hung-up his SAD MAN alias (after a splurge of numerous releases over the last five years) to crunch the codes of jazzcore.

‘100% political, 100% jazz, 100% dark’ we’re told, this latest platform for Andrew’s often sporadic leaps in electronic music and crushing techno filament cut-ups is about as removed from that jazz tag as you can get. The fact he’s also borrowed Sun Ra’s ‘Space Is The Place’ mantra too only feeds into the confusion. Any semblance to jazz is lost under a heavy tubular and granular transmogrification of the ominous, mysterious and, well, dark.

For this is the alien, sci-fi broken and fed through the Aphex Twin, Basic Channel, Radium, Rob Hood, Jeff Mills and Niereich & Shadym machine. Although the album’s opening hardline, dialed-in and pummeled beat gabbling Sun Ra lend sounds like Holly Herndon being thrown into the Hadron Collider, and Madlib seems to get trampled over, detuned and dissimulated on the bladed, driven and compressed frequency lunar ‘No Input’.

Andrews full gamut of skills, sonic palette comes to bear, as touches of primal, and even paradise moulding scores are set against more dissonant and chrome coated beats. Pins rain down on pulsating graphite spiky landscapes and imaginative darkly lit techno blocks of scrunched giant, weighted noise. A mirage or a topographic ocean; Olympus Mons or scorched earth, it all sounds a million miles away from even the most edgy and freeform ideals of jazz: not a saxophone in sight.

The Dark Jazz Project is yet another challenging move from one of the UK’s most inventive, inspired and, crucially, interesting leftfield electronic and techno composers of the last decade.    

Yemrot ‘The Sunken Garden’
(PRAH Recordings)

Who wouldn’t when faced with the despair of the modern world and in processing the deep loss of a parent want to take a giant leap into escapism and the fantastical? Looking into one such yearning chasm the Margate-based musician Jimi Tormey, acting under the alias of both Yemrot and the character Dill Dandin, finds solace in a neverworld of the dreamy and plaintive: a creeping sadness to be exact.

Unfortunately, in part, triggered by the death of his father (the gorgeous, welling-up and heavenly ached ‘Big Tree’ being the most obvious eulogy to that passing) The Sunken Garden is a both heartfelt and also psychedelic process of grief and some drama.

That process is, at times, a family affair with his mother Lisa providing the majority of emotive violin/viola, and his brother Eric offering harmonies alongside their sister Tuli, but also mixing and mastering the whole mini album. The results are achingly beautiful, yet there’s a constant deep feeling and vapour of unease, despondency and shadowy despair that swells up or looms over the magical illusions.

Canterbury scene troubadours and Syd Barrett influences wind and delicately emerge from the heavier atmospheres of Alex Harvey, Daevid Allen, Soundgarden and Radiohead. The album’s centerpiece, ‘The Ballad Of Dill Dandin’, is an eleven-minute stretching instrumental of changing, moving parts and passages. From the Floydian to chimes of Mark Hollis an almost theatrical drama and shimmer of something magical and creates a starry aura. Dill floats and tumbles across a trio of “Learning To” affixed songs that balance the soft with the harsh, the cosmic with the mournful.  

Classical forms, the psychedelic, progressive and alternative all merge to form an interesting twisting journey of loss and acceptance; a working through of beautifully heart wrenching and articulated poetic expression. In the end I don’t think that sinkhole world is an escape route, but just a more imaginative coping strategy at dealing and conveying such miserable times. The masterful, gentle ‘Big Tree’ alone will move even the most numbed to tears, and deserves a place in any list of the best songs in 2022.

The Magic City Trio ‘Amerikana Arkana’
(Kailva) Late November 2022

Finally out the other side of the pandemic The Magic City Trio emerges with the second half of their originally conceived double album package of Americana, Country and Western scored songs from 2018. If part one was consumed with death, bad luck and mental health, part two is concentrated on the themes of serenaded, romantic affairs, with disarming little tales, alms, hymns and barn dances dedicated to both unrequited and strained relationships and knockabout love.

As with the previous album, a familiar soundtrack and language, lyricism is used to convey the contemporary: something of the moment. The bell tolls and tremolo rattle snake sets of Ennio Morricone and untold Western themes rub up against Nashville, the Carter Family, Lee Hazelwood, Mariachi brass, Willie Nelson and the psalms songs of America’s Methodist Church, yet this is an unmistakably modern record. Timeless feelings, subjects nonetheless, but with a slight updated twist. 

An extended guest list joins the band’s principles, the June BridesFrank Sweeney and Annie And The AeroplanesAnnie Holder. Most notably the Nashville virtuoso John Heinrich, who lends that irresistible steel pedal quiver and upward bend to the Sweetheart Of The Rodeo if covered by Teenage Fanclub, with Orbison and The Carters in tow, ‘Our Life In Chains’, and the Red Rhodes-esque accompanied Gram and Bonnie Raitt in heartache duet ‘She Left Without A Warning’. “Record breaking” (for what I’m not sure) banjo player Johnny Button meanwhile adds his Appalachian hoedown spring to ‘The Final Day On Earth’ tale of woe and alarm. Also on that same lamentable group effort, Primal Scream’s Andrew Innes offers up bird sounds, flutes and mellotron. He’s back, playing both electric and acoustic guitars, on the Muscle Shoals Stones like, touching ‘You’re My Best Friend’ – which actually could be a Primal Scream attempt to once more ape the Stones’ spiritual washed-up tides.

Frank, when not carrying a tone and timbre that evokes both Richard Hawley and Mick Harvey, and Annie, vocally a mix of Kirsty MacColl and a rustic Marianne Faithfull, share an array of twanged, bowed and stirring and washboard scratched instruments with Jeff Mead, Matt Lloyd, Larry Saltzman, Dave Howell and others: a full panoply of the country sound.

Amongst the self-penned declarations, hungdog lovelorn regrets and outlaws-on-the-run sense of rebellious romance, the band cover the theme from the archetypal thrown-together-in-desperate-circumstances Western ‘3:10 To Yuma’ (great movie, both the original and remake) and the Wesleyan Methodist church hymn, ‘And Am I Born To Die’. The first of which, originally penned by Frankie Laine, keeps a sense of the matinee drama and atmosphere but now sounds a bit like later Crime And The City Solution bounded together with Scott Walker (At The Movies) on a heavenly aria touched dusty trail. The latter, is every bit as reverent and elegiac, conjuring up the “trembling spirit” and quivering to the sounds of timpani and the bells of judgment. It did remind me however of Rick Danko; more lovely than stoic serious damnation.

Amerikana Arkina once more sets the mood, a complimentary partner to their more moody, plaintive 2018 songbook. Souls are bared; heartache delivered with a cinematic panache, and the Americana cannon once more successfully invoked. 

Leverton Fox ‘In The Flicker’
(Not Applicable)

The gentle breeze rustling through the leaves and the sound of bracken and broken sticks underfoot in a less circumspect Sussex woodland has seldom sounded more alien, inter-dimensional and mysterious. Yet the Leverton Fox trio of Alex Bonney, Tim Giles and Isambard Khroustaliov has transmogrified the environment/atmosphere of their site-specific improvisation to beam out towards altogether more imaginative realms.

Intensified, if that’s the word, the trio of noted musicians/composers/artists in their own right attempt to sonically sculpt a 3D world with the added use of Dolby Atmos, a ‘surround’ format. Immersive being the key word, they draw the listener into lost worlds, primal soups and a more eerie lunar looming, time-travelling spheres.

Širom set-up in the undergrowth with Miles Davis at his most transient and wafting, Autechre, Tangerine Dream and Jon Hassell as ghostly traces of hidden sources merge with various aerial squiggles, zip-lines, machine purrs, occult sounds beamed from the Fortean Times transmitter, whipped up winds, clapped beats, crackles, raps, propeller and exotic sounding wildlife. A fully improvised soundscape that crosses mystical terra firma and unearthly corridors, In The Flicker takes in the most far-out, minimalist touches of jazz, electronica, dub, the dark arts, industrial, kosmische and Foley to create a certain mystique. The Leverton Fox(es) skilfully, intuitively explore and push a concept, conjuring up portals to more abstract planes; the familiar woodland site a mere jumping point for misty and bubbling invocations of an entirely different nature. 

Dead Horses ‘Sunny Days’
(Maple Death Records) 14th November 2022

Jangling to a soft-stomping flange-induced country, rock ‘n’ roll bluesy acid dirge the Dead Horses esoteric sense of despair rings loud with slackened melodrama and scuzzy, dirty wiles. Whether it’s uprooting Spaghetti Western sets or up amongst the Andean condor nests looking down on the Nazca Lines, or, wading through swamps and thumbing a bum ride to a less idealized Laurel Canyon, the shared male/female vocal Italian group add a chthonian mystique and a touch of the Gothic to their brand of wrangled malcontent and doomed romantic aloofness. 

A fair share of the new album, Sunny Days (released on the always intriguing and quality-delivered Maple Death Records label), rattles, spooks and melodically inhabits a reverberated atmosphere of Appalachian mountain songs and both languid and more heightened hysterics. A rewired Grace Slick, early Bad Seeds, Gun Club, Wall Of Voodoo and ‘Up The Hill Backwards’ Bowie flail about The Blood Meridian on the album’s opening song, ‘Can’t Talk, Can’t Sleep’, and Bosco DelRey mixes it up with the Velvets, Rey Crayola on ‘Hobo Talks’. The more mournful ‘The Cross’ has both an hallucinatory and The Kills vibe about it.

One of the standout songs however, takes a different direction. ‘Macabro’ still has that acid-folk country kick but also summons up a Latin drama, with a stirring vocal performance and Italo-Iberian stamp of bolero. Apparently this is the band’s first ever song in their native Italian tongue, and it’s all the better for it: more mysterious and hot-bloodily intense. No wonder it has become a sort of live anthem for the band.

It’s a long stretch from the Po Valley of antiquity to the Death Valley of inspired, mirage shimmered Western blues, but the Dead Horses as our guides navigate it with a flourish and macabre curiosity. If Crime And The City Solution buddying up with Aguaturbia and The Vaselines sounds like a desirable description then the rather ironically entitled Sunny Days stunt ‘n’ stomper is for you.

Biensüre ‘S-T’
(WEWANTSOUNDS)

Bringing together a mixed Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diaspora of musicians with a collective sense of belonging and yearn for their homelands, Biensüre transduces various cultural threads into a sophisticated and cool production of electro-pop, disco and sorrow.

Crossing paths in the cosmopolitan port city of Marseille, a refuge for centuries of émigrés and exiles, the group’s ranks include Kurdish, Turkish, Italian and Armenian lineages: The latter as a consequence of the early 20th century genocide. Within that gathering of cultural affiliations, and using the repurposed French expression for “of course”, Biensüre rally around the experiences of their poetically and longing yearned vocalist and saz player Haken Toprak. By the sounds of it that includes not just pining aches for his Kurdish-Turkish roots but declarations of unattainable love and serenaded exotic fantasies.

Already well into a contemporary revival of Anatolian and Middle Eastern synthesized pop, electro and disco (see groups such as Altin Gün and the Şatellites) Biensüre evoke such original trailblazers and icons as Erin Koray, Baris Manco, Moğollar and Kamuran Akkur. They augment those influences with subtle hints of Moroder, Vangelis, a throb of EDM and an unlikely bit of Nu Shooz on the drum-pad sizzled new waver Çawa’.  

Electrified misty veils hug the dancefloor, seductive movers are made, and swooned wanton vocals ache for what’s been lost on a unhurried smooth production that is simultaneously Turkish, Kurdish, Greek and Arabian in nature.  

As funky as it is clean and lush, the Biensüre LP soaks up the great Marseille exile community and comes up with the goods. Breathlessly groovy yet casting back to the language (‘Zivistan’ the Northern-Kurdish word for “winter”) and memories of their ancestral homes, a nice balance is struck emotionally and musically between the modern and tradition. In all, a great pop record of Med flavours, with a soul and purpose.

Trans Zimmer & The DJs ‘S-T’
(Artetetra)

Launched into the most bonkers MIDI sound collage of platform hopping video game music, Esperanto era Sakamoto experimentation, slacker American dialogue, kooky fantasy and cartoon classical movements, the collective Trans Zimmer & The DJs (surely a play on the notable German film composer Hans) reimagine a Ritalin-starved Wendy Carlos running amok on Candy Crush.

Within the walls of a Taito/Capcom 80s arcade a loony tunes of polyphonic pre-set symphonies and chaotic snatches of gameplay chat trample over the course of a most silly bubblegum opera. It’s Baroque on speed; the Flaming Lips colouring in classical music scores; a grand misadventure of super hyped-up fanfares and cute vocoder J-Pop, hip-hop, electronica and lemon meringue pie snacks. Even aboard the S.S. Romulus the waters are choppy, tossing us around in a strange voyage of cult library music and late 90s American psych. I haven’t a clue what’s going on: not that it matters. The whole manic, yet always melodious and fun, experience seemingly a run through of the kitsch, crazy, miss-matched playful minds of those who created it. Skidding and scrabbling on a quest inside a 32-bit fantasy, Zimmer and friends level up across a most confusing, colourful whistle and skipped aural sinfonietta.   

FOR THE FUNS

Casta ‘The Temple Of Doom’
(Bandcamp)

I suppose it was inevitable that at some point someone from the extensive late metal face villain and underground hip-hop genius MF Doom fandom would play on the Indiana Jones franchise – Indy literally escaping death in an airplane crush only to fall into the clutches of the Thuggee cult. I even named my playlist homage to the former Kausing Much Damage founder and prolific name riffing soloist, collaborator after the second Jones cinematic adventure myself. And I’m not alone on that score.

Released a year to the day of Daniel Dumile nee DOOM, Viktor Vaughn, Zev Love X’s death, the enterprising Portland producer Casta has merged the score from the Temple Of Doom with both samples and interview snippets from the MF Doom cannon: though it could have done with more Short Round quips in the mix.

In the spirit of such hip-hop mashups, with even Doom himself not adverse to sampling some cult, obscure and leftfield scores, Casta has some fun in paying tribute to a much-missed artist. From the Monsta Island Czars all-stars team-up to his work with a new breed of rap stars, such as Bishop Nehru, he leaves behind one of the greatest legacies in Hip-Hop: though his influence, creativeness, wordplay, pop culture, visuals and artwork reaches far beyond rap music, as this project proves.

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

PLAYLIST SPECIAL
TEAM EFOORT/COMPILED BY DOMINIC VALVONA

Each month the Monolith Cocktail pool of collaborators search long and hard for the choicest of choice tracks; mixing genres and geography into an encapsulation of the last month on the blog.

That team includes me (Dominic Valvona), Matt ‘rap control’ Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Andrew C. Kidd and Graham Domain.

You may have noticed since the summer that we’ve started compiling a Youtube playlist version, which includes extra bonuses from the No Base Trio and a seasonal treat from Escupemetralla plus some alternative tunes from the same artists on the Spotify list.

So without further ado, here is the October Revue:

And the Youtube version:

Full Track List:-

Montparnasse Musique Ft. Muambuyi and Mopero Mupemba ‘Panter’
Muramuke ‘Just One More’
Balaklava Blues ‘BEAT UP’
Marlowe/L’Orange/Solemn Brigham Ft. Deniro Farrar ‘Godfist’
Rockness Monsta/Method Man/Ron Browz ‘Beastie Boyz’
BeTheGun ‘Metropolis’
Lee Tracy/Isaac Manning  ‘Love Is Everything’
Lee Scott Ft. Sly Moon ‘THE MORE I THINK ABOUT IT, THE LESS I CARE’
Voice Actor ‘Battling Dust’
Juga-Naut ‘To The Table’
Ernesto Djédjé ‘Nini’
Liraz ‘Mimiram’
Mehmet Aslan/Niño de Elche ‘Tangerine’
Underground Canopy ‘Space Gems’
Valentina Magaletti ‘Low Delights’
Carl Stone ‘Sasagin’
Tau & The Drones Of Praise ‘Bandia’
Keep Shelly In London Ft. Sugar For The Pill ‘Don’t Want Your Romance’
Librarians With Hickeys ‘I Better Get Home’
Una Rose ‘Partly’
Carla dal Formo ‘Side By Side’
Derrero ‘Long Are The Days’
Super Hit ‘Donde’
Rahill ‘Haenim’
David Westlake ‘English Parish Churches’
Cormac o Caoimh ‘Didn’t We’
VRï ‘Aberhonddu’
Tuomo & Markus ‘Highest Mountain’
Pitou ‘Dancer’ Dana Gavanski ‘Strangers’
The Zew ‘Come On Down’
Brona McVittie ‘Living Without You’
Brian Eno ‘These Small Noises’
Edouard Ferlet ‘REFLEX’
Rich Aucoin ‘Esc’
Puppies In The Sun ‘Light Became Light’
Short Fuze Ft. Dr. Khil ‘Love Letters To The Lost’
Loyle Camer ‘Speed Of Flight’
Ill Move Sporadic/Tenchoo ‘Amulet Chamber’
Atmosphere ‘Sculpting With Fire’
Ghoster ‘CRAME 4’
Clark ‘Frau Wav (Brief Fling)’
Verbz/Mr Slipz ‘Music Banging Like’
Jester Jacobs/Jack Danz ‘Opportune’
Darko The Super/Yuri Beats ‘Don’t Stay’
Open Mike Eagle ‘I’ll Fight You’ A.G. ‘The Sphinx’
El Gant Ft. DJ Premier ‘Leave It Alone’
Heavy Links/Luca Brazi ‘Complicated Theory’
Fliptrix, King Kashmere/Pitch 92 ‘Primordial Soup’
Shirt/Jack Splash ‘Death To Wall Art’
Smellington Piff/Ill Informed ‘Hard Times’



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

Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Roundup

A Glitterbeat Records Double-Bill:-

Liraz ‘Roya’
(Glitterbeat Records) 7th October 2022

With one foot on the nostalgic dance floors of, a pre-revolutionary, Tehran, Cairo, Beirut and Tel Aviv, and another, sweeping a fantastical Persian landscape, pop princess Liraz oozes passionate yearns and diaphanous delivered protestations on her third album, Roya. In the adopted Farsi-tongue that title translates as ‘fantasy’. And this latest harmonious Israeli-Iranian traverse has plenty of it; swirled in vaporous whispers, veils and the airy across matinée romantic swoons and the yearning.

It’s a fantasy in the fact that Liraz has once more recorded an album in a clandestine manner, with musicians from Iran in Istanbul – a flavor of that city’s age-old cultural wellspring is evident in the music. Out of the shadows of Tehran’s secret police and having to remain anonymous, this form of fantasy imagines peace throughout the Middle East and good relations specifically between Liraz’s ancestral Iranian and adopted Israeli homes. The daughter of Sephardic Jews who left Iran at a time of cordial relations with Israel, in the time since, both countries have locked horns in a both cold and hot war. Although being Jewish in what was once the heartlands of the atavistic Persian Empire has never been exactly easy, with persecutions going back generations and a millennia or three. And so the ensemble cast of ‘tar’ lute, wasp-waisted wooden Iranian flute, viola and violin players and voices have taken a big risk in fraternizing and making an album with an Israeli citizen; especially one of Jewish heritage. It probably doesn’t help that Liraz also starred as a Farsi-speaking Mossad operative in the semi-successful Apple TV espionage series Tehran. And in light of the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, demonstrations and civil unrest is being met with extreme violence and subjugation by the state. We could even being seeing the catalyst of regime change, with talk of what comes next, power and administration wise, daring to be aired and seriously challenged by a more liberal generation of young Iranians: such has been the outcry.

As an actor, now in the role of her life, Liraz builds bridges across those barriers as she imagines and retells in song the stories and yearnings of women silenced in Iran, banned from singing. A union is formed between a life and ancestry she can only be a part of in the Iranian diaspora.

Musically this translates into exotic sweeps, bouncy and retro disco zapped pop with a Middle Eastern suffusion of familiar panovison framed fantasies. With a swell and weeping of moving strings it could even be a musical reference to the classical strained beauty and lament of the Eastern European Jewish community – although Liraz’s ancestry is connected to the Iberian Sephardic Jews.

The album’s bookended by two versions of the title-track. The first is a lifting of veils Arabian Kate Bush, galloping up that hill of sand, the second, a tearful, stripped of electronics traditional and classical-bowed farewell. Between those points there’s an incredibly voiced stirring of disco, pop, psychedelic and Middle Eastern fusions; the near-halcyon against retro throwbacks to more liberated freer times in the region. Yet all thoroughly invigorated, refreshed and given a suitably contemporary electric feel.

Contouring the piques and lows there’s a dance of disco-funk (with even the fuzz whacker-whacker buzz of Fred Wesley & The J.B.s) and kitsch Franco-Arabian pop, soulful longing and Moroder-esque synth-electro pop. Liraz is all the while the perfect enchantress or moving vocalist, with a beautiful voice, cadence and articulation.

By far Liraz’s greatest adventure and sound, this is a fantasy with an all too real, alarming undercurrent of suppressed voices, forced to go underground in the act of creating some magical pop music. Please venture further than the myopic pop cliques and commercial output of the UK, America and Europe, as Roya is a stunning, sublime electro-charged album imbued with a myriad of forbearers from the Iranian, Egyptian, Turkish disco, psych, funk and balladry scenes of better times.    

Tau & The Drones Of Praise ‘Misneach’
(Glitterbeat Records) 21st October 2022

The second in a Glitterbeat Records double-bill and another fantasy-inspired spell of ancestry and magic, Seán Mulrooney’s led Tau & The Drones Of Praise band reconnect with their Celtic roots.

A return to an Ireland of myth, fables, enchantment and allurement, Mulrooney and his core of foils Robbie Moore (who also recorded this, the band’s third album, at the Impression Studios in Berlin), the TindersticksEarl Harvin and Iain Faulkner (who ‘helmed additional recording at the Sonic Studios in Dublin’) are bolstered further by a large cast of musicians and voices. None more congruous and influential to the overall Celtic feel as the new age misty Irish veiled Clannad, who lend Damien Dempsey and Pól Brennan to this ensemble piece of folk and beyond theatre and reconnection.

Like a Mummers troupe, a merry procession, this harmonious bunch pay reverence to the tree spirits; homage to the ancestors; and fall at the feet of enchantress muses. With a concertinaed air of Breton, a Men Without Hats vibe and a singer who sounds like an Irish Michael Stipe or Alasdair Roberts, they invoke nature’s children making amends with the evergreen sprites on the opening, and brilliant, chorus call of alms, ‘It Is Right To Give Drones And Praise’.

From then on in we’re pulled into a world and across timelines: from atavistic Ireland to the Medieval, Georgian and Present. Old traditions via the folk-psych of The Incredible String Band, Pentangle and Sproutly Smith merge with the already mentioned misty-mystique of Clannad – but also their former ethereal siren Enya too –, The Polyphonic Spree, Flaming Lips and Octopus. Although the group’s lasting message and finale, ‘Hope’, reminded me of both Echo And The Bunnymen and The Mission. An atmosphere of bucolic wistfulness and idyllic idling prevail as the rhythm and soft marches change between the dreamy and courtly, the folksy and anguished. Always melodious in whatever realm, there is however a moment on ‘The Sixth Sun’ when the beautiful if longed female choral voices swim against a more wild, dissonance of noise. But that is the exception. Yet despite the challenges, the history Misneach (from the Old Irish lexicon, it translates as ‘courage’ and ‘spirit’) is a fantastical wilding, droning mélange of Celtic influences, the psychedelic, ancient and folk. And at its heart is a story of reconnection and an environmental yearn.

And A We Jazz Double-Bill:

Carl Stone ‘We Jazz Reworks Vol.2’
(We Jazz) 21st October 2022

Three years on and out the other side of the pandemic, my favourite contemporary jazz label is releasing a second volume of “reworks”.

The Helsinki label, festival and magazine has once more opened up its back catalogue to reinvention/transformation, inviting in the reputable and noted American artist/electronic composer Carl Stone to work his magic on another chronologically ordered stack of ten albums from their growing discography. Inaugural guest Timo Kaukolampi of K-X-P fame conjured up an ambiguous cosmic mix of We Jazz’s first ten albums on Volume 1 of course. And now Stone likewise takes familiar phrases, riffs, rhythms and performances somewhere entirely new and out there. Although both exciting and equally daunting, overwhelmed by a sizeable chunk of material at his disposal, Stone favoured intuition and feel over everything else. That process (re)works wonders as the already experimental and brilliant music of acts and collaborations like Terkel Nørgaard (his album with Ralph Alessi), OK:KO (Syrtti), Jonah Parzen-Johnson (Helsinki 8.12.18) and traces of 3TM, Ilmiliekki Quartet, Peter Eldh and Timo Lassy & Tappo Mäkynen are sent out towards the stars, expanse or morphed into gauzy states of untethered freeform hallucinations.

The opening circular-wafted peregrination ‘Umi’ is more like a mirage of snozzled and snored saxophone cycles, undulated piano and space vapours: Pharaoh Sanders, Donny McCaslin transmogrified by Brown Calvin on the edge of the Milky Way.

A suffusion of drifted, woozy and more hysterical horns, submerged double-bass runs and noodling sporadic and more rhythmic rolling, crescendo drums and ghostly tinkled, hazed piano is handled differently on each track. On the quickened to slow counterbalance timed skiffle and stuttered ‘Sasagin’ Zorn and Haas skit-scat and dream with Tortoise on the NYC underground jazz scene of the 80s, whereas the strange ‘Hippo’ sounds like some kind of Baroque holy ritual piece as reimagined by some kosmische act on Sky Records.

The action is often chaotic and in freeform discourse: like Chat Baker on speed or Oscar Peterson running out of notes. Yet somehow these transformations keep moving in the right direction; finding a rhythm and even a touch of melody on occasions. Avant-garde, free jazz, the cosmic and electronic converge on another alternative vision of the We Jazz catalogue. Stone creates some incredible, even beautiful, experiments; probing the ether, void and hyper-stellar realms of his imagination.

Say What ‘S-T’
(We Jazz) 7th October 2022

Shrouded with a certain mystery, the second We Jazz label release this month is tight-lipped in the information department. There’s very little to go on other than that this was a never to be repeated, existing just at that specific time in that arena (Austin, Texas’ Sonic Transmissions festival), performance, the trio’s defacto leader and saxophonist luckily names his bassist and drummer partners on this wild, contorted free jazz with a punk and no wave attitude recording. The Black Myths partnership of Luke Stewart and Warren ‘Trae” Grudup III join forces with our unnamed saxophonist across riled, spiritual funking, post-rock and avant-garde frenzy growled, swinging and dynamic performances. Taking no breaks, but sorted into seven Roman numeral marked tracks, the obviously versatile/talented trio turn our idea of jazz music inside out.

With the welcoming pleasantries out of the way we’re straight out smacked-up with a badass merger of Miles’ The Last Septet whomp, the sinewy rage of a wrangled Fugazi and the whelp, wail and manic expressive experiments of Roscoe Mitchell doing ‘Ornate’ doing Ornate Coleman, Sam Rivers and The Chicago Underground. That’s only the opening number. It gets even more free range and hysterical with Stewart’s blurred bass slides, crazy frictions and thick-stringed scuttles and slippery entanglements up against Grudup’s splashes, crescendos, tight rolls, slips and smashes all growing ever more experimental and probing.

Track ‘III’ finds a sort of strut and attitude with sax toots, trills and stresses over a busy drums and gnarly bass. It changes from a warped Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Zappa to something approaching the spiritual. That spiritual, almost oboe-like sax carries over into track ‘IV’, like some kind of Pharaoh Sanders Egyptian odyssey. But then Stewart descends his instrument like a scratching spider, sliding in tandem with Grudup’s quickened drumming until both synchronize in a quivered blur before imploding.  

With some of these parts running to well over thirteen minutes in length, it’s an incredible energy that keeps the gig continuously moving and bursting into the purely psychical. Say What enters and exits on a high; an energetic, moody and powerfully adroit expression of riled-up tensions, rage and the explorative. One of the best slices of jazz you’ll hear all this year. 

Aucoin ‘Synthetic: A Synth Odyssey Season 1’
19th October 2022

Given an enviable access to The National Music Centre in Calgary’s extensive archive of rare and historically iconic synthesizers, Rich Aucoin as artist-in-residence models the first chapter in an ambitious seasonal project.

 A Synth Odyssey Season 1is the maverick composer’s latest magnum opus; a four-part work released in six month intervals over the next two years.

Such ventures have been tried before, although a decade ago with his debut album proper, the orchestral rocking We’re All Dying To Live, which included untold collaborators. Ten years on with a grand project interrupted by the Covid pandemic, the first fruits of his synth palace residency are about to be released.

Originally conceived and let loose in 2020 on a synth collection that features such prized and cult apparatus as the Supertramp-owned Elka Rhapsody 610 String Machine, the ARP 2600, Selmar Clavioline CM 8 and Oxford Synthesizer Company Oscar (analogue boffins’ wet dreams), the pandemic restrictions, lockdowns and such put the project on hold. In the meantime, Aucoin carried on producing film scores, most notably for the No Ordinary Man documentary about the trans-masculine jazz musician Billy Tipton. Picking up again in 2021, he was finally able to finish this wonderful synth cosmology.  

No doubt enthusiasts will know every waveform, arpeggiator, knob-tweaking signature but as a handy guide of a sort, some of the tracks on this inaugural seasoned album are named after the synths used in the process. It all starts with the multitimbral polyphonic analogue synth, the TONTO (or ‘The Original New Timbral Orchestra’). On the opening suite it turns from a moody kosmische shimmer into a more upbeat Orbital acid dance track. During that transformation you can pick up the German New Wave, early Warp and R&S Records. 

A bit later on and it’s the turn of a Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments company synth – named after its Californian innovator Don Buchla. In this capacity it sounds suitably retro-futuristic, crossing towards a cosmic void on fanned rays, orbiting bit-crush handclaps and bobbing synth tom rolls.

Elsewhere Aucoin slips into, or surges towards moments of EDM euphoria, Vangelis peregrinations of gravitas, simmered techno, electro and House music – especially on the female vocal N-R-G club track ‘456’. However, the vapourous, prowled and cinematic ‘Space Western’ theme teleports a Moroder vision of the Blood Meridian to a venerated chorus Arrakis.

Sophisticated and well crafted throughout, these aren’t so much experiments or synth showcases as hopeful and more moody traverses and cerebral dance tracks. Iconic synths are given a contemporary feel both playful and adroit, a balance of both serious knowledgeable musicianship and welcoming levity. I look forward to next season’s accomplishments in the field synth escapism.  

Montparnasse Musique ‘Archeology’
(Real World Records) 7th October 2022

What was a chance encounter on the busy Montparnasse-Bienvenüe subway interchange has led to a far wider Pan-African sonic adventure. From Paris to mother Africa, the sophisticated dance music production of South African House DJ Aero Manyelo and his foil, the French-Algerian producer Nadjib Ben Bella, transforms the street cultural electronic and more traditional sounds of the continent for a congruous fusion of collaborative polygenesis energy and warmth.

Wiring into the various electrifying movements of the D.R.C. and South Africa, the burgeoning duo met and worked with the leading lights of Kinshasa and Johannesburg. Members from such trailblazing combos and collectives as the Kasai Allstars, Konono No. 1, Mbongwa Star, Bantou Mentale and Kokoko weave, bob and express themselves over and to the attuned but deeply felt synthesized House beats, Acid burbles and squelches, polygon Techno evocative vapours, and pulsating dance music.

The familiar sounds of Congolese rock-blues-soul guitar, voices both earthy and pure, the lilt of sunny joy and a constantly moving assemblage of African percussion meet synthesised, sub-bass throbbing and zapping electronica in a almost perfect synchronicity.

At times it reminded me of Khalab’s similar African productions, at others, like a remixed Francis Bebay, some Clap! Clap! and Four Tet. The Menga Waku featured ‘Makonda’ evoked the early Detroit House and Techno scenes of a toned-down Kevin Saunderson, whilst the following, more moody, piped and experimental ‘Plowman’ (featuring the voice of Cubain Kaleya) had me thinking of Black Mango. However, all things change on the sand dune Arabian fantasy score ‘Chibinda Ilunga’, which moves to Northern African and a romanticised, mysterious Bedouin court; the music more like a film score, or Finis Africae traversing a trinket-percussive and synthesised Arabia.    

Whatever the methodology the results are as welcoming as they are entrancing, with a pathway formed towards the dance floor. Archeology is neither an ethnography-type dig or revived language of sonic forms, but a lively and inviting great fusion of Congotronics, more traditional sounds and the European club scenes. Definitely an album for the end of year lists.

   

CAN ‘Live In Cuxhaven, 1976’
(Mute/Spoon) 14th October 2022

1976 the year of the bandy reggae waltzing, discothèque probing Flow Motion album, and CAN’s only bonafide hit, ‘I Want More’. It’s also a treasure trove year of bootleg material if Youtubes anything to go by, with countless live dates across Europe and the UK.

Almost two albums into their 1975 contract with Virgin, recording wise, the Cologne band were loosening up with a sound that moved ever closer to world music fusions and even the commercial: well, of a kind. Not universally a welcoming move with diehards and the head community however, the results were mixed at best. Performance wise, in concert, CAN still riffed off an admirable, innovative and experimental legacy, right up until the end of that year.

Although no gig is the same, you can find transformed, explorative version jams of material that stretches right back to the Galactus sported Monster Movie debut. Popping up like a signature anthem, ‘Dizzy Dizzy’ from the 1974 space-programmed trip Soon Over Babluma appears as a staple groove and prompt on the latest, and third, CAN Live album. Officially sanctioned by the band’s Spoon and Mute label custodians, this previous sneaky bootlegged recording captures them on stage in the German (Lower Saxony to be exact) seaside town of Cuxhaven, on the North Sea coastline – as a bit of useless trivia, its twinned with, amongst others, the English port town of Penzance.

I don’t think this time, like previous bootlegs, it was recorded by the sadly, recently, departed Andrew Hall, who’s handed over a bounty of such material to CAN’s sole survivor Irmin Schmidt and producer/engineer René Tinne to be brushed-up and mastered to acceptable aural pleasures. But why the need for this bootleg series? Well, as I lay out in previous CAN Live reviews, the band were always victims of bad luck when attempting to record any sort of official, legitimate “live” album performance. Gremlins in the works – once failing to record someone’s entire part – the technical glitches meant that there was never a proper live CAN record as such. Mind you, this was a band that more or less played live in the studio setting, making albums out of countless hours of extemporised or improvised sessions. And, as I’ve already said, CAN never quite played the same thing twice, let alone an entire set.

Here on the ’76 special you will hear a once more transformed, in-the-moment vision of tracks from Future Days (‘Bel Air’), Soon Over Babluma (‘Dizzy Dizzy’, ‘Splash’, ‘Chain Reaction’) and Landed (‘Full Moon On The Highway’). There may very well be even traces of Tago Mago, and the yet to be released, Flow Motion albums too in that heady mix.

Across four Germanic-numerical sections it’s the lunar, wailed, bendy, squalling whacker-whacker guitar contours, licks, chops and phrases of Michael Karoli that win out. Ten Years After blues meets the whomp-whomp of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew live band and the psychedelic, Karoli transforms familiar album cut riffs into fuzz-scorched, garbbled, loose and seared cosmic acid rock magic.

Other live performances from the same year include far more vocals, with Karoli having to take over after the departure of the mushroom haiku incanting Damo Suzuki after Future Days. Here his barely audible enervated whispers can just about be detectable during one bout of locked-in grooving.

Keyboards chopping aviator Schmidt offers up another suitable chemistry of the celestial, tubular and avant-garde, going as far as to start laying down something approaching gospel, or Southern Blues on the first track, ‘Eins’.  As always, Jaki Liebezeit keeps that human metronome ticking, holding flights of fantasy, tangents and spacey ascendance all together with his impeccable sense of rhythm and time. Dare I say, he ventures into funk at times, and during part of track ‘Drei’ bobs and rattles out a tin and bottle percussive Latin-soul passage: the sort Santana would happily embrace.

Unfortunately I couldn’t hear all that much of the designated bassist Holger Czukay; it’s there but very much lost against a louder Karoli, Schmidt and Liebezeit, the frequencies a bit foggy.

Still, this is yet another example of a band in total synchronicity, no matter how wild or off the beaten tracks the direction taken. Though to be honest, this is nowhere near CAN at their wildest or avant-garde, nor most dynamic and interesting. In fact the performances are a little more composed and tight. Not disappointing, just not so amazing.

A different time, a different version of CAN, Live In Cuxhaven offers yet another side to the feted band; a bridge towards Flow Motion for a start. It will be interesting to see what follows: my own particular interest being their expansion of the lineup and the Saw Delight album period.  

Puppies In The Sun ‘Light Became Light’
(Buh Records)

A slow release of maximalist energy and cosmic explosions the Puppies In The Sun duo conjure up a big sound on their debut album, Light Became Light.

Buddies since childhood back in Peru, but serendipitously crossing paths a longtime later in Barcelona, Alberto Cendra and Cristóbal Pereira made base camp together in Rotterdam. But despite the European-wide travelling it’s the great universal void and expanses of space that they’ve chosen to sonically navigate and transcend, with just the use of a drum kit, apparatus of synths and open mind.

The notes, quotes however mention the duo’s noise rock credentials, which despite a lack of any guitar or bass is nevertheless present on these peregrinations, vortex hyper-drives and odysseys.

Locked in to each track of starry wonder and languorous crescendo, the pace of direction is often in slow motion. Dissipated crashes and rolls, slow dives and frazzled oscillations head towards the explored and unexplored realms of Mythos, Embryo, Adam’s Castle, LNZNDRF, Angels Die Hard and the Secret Machines. Although the N-R-G pumped ‘Raging’, They Came To Dance’ sounds more like Cabaret Voltaire and FSOL at a space cowboy hoedown.     

Space is deep, as Hawkwind once aggrandised. And so it is too on this light travelling discover of a big-sounding kosmische. Krautrock, prog and controlled noise rock score.  

Spelterini ‘Paréidolie’
(Kythibong) 4th October 2022

Named in honour of the 19th century Italian tightrope walker, Maria Spelterini, who’s death-defying stunts included numerous handicapped (blindfolded, manacled or with weighted peach baskets strapped to her feet) walks across the Niagara Falls, the quartet Spelterini pairing of Papier Tigre and Chasusse Trappe members do a bit of their own tightrope walk on this new peregrination and driving motorik long form performance. Keeping balanced whilst straddling modes, chapters and movements, Pierre-Antoine Parois, Arthur de la Grandière, Meriadeg Orgebin and Nicolas Joubaud embrace kosmische. Krautrock, psych and the esoteric on a continuous, thirty-five minute opus. 

After the phenomenon in which the brain creates optical illusions of familiar faces or shapes where there is only abstraction, “Paréidolie” progresses from hymnal drones and rays to something far more haunted, uneasy and razored – the notes reference the Lynchian (think the most recent Twin peaks series return mixed with The Land Of Ukko & Rauni era live documented Faust). And so, incipient and building from the kosmische and reverent ambient the direction begins to drive towards rhythmic and totem ritualistic evocations of both Embryo and ‘Rainy Day’ and later Just Us/Is Last Faust (them again). This in turn sees a real physical weight start to embody the hypnotising knocks, hi-hat scuffs and beat.

Elements of The Velvets, avant-garde, France and Neu! all get drawn into the pummeled march before the portal opens up a far more ominous world of shadows, metallic abrasions and bestial industrial squalls. It’s Bernard Szajner holding a cosmic séance with Emptyset and Jóhann Jóhannsson if you like.

That alien leviathan suite passes as a reverberated cacophony of percussion shimmers and splashes away until a final crescendo-like beat of a thousand butterfly wings. 

Spelterini mystify and invoke a locked-in rhythm across a half hour of probed illusion, disillusion and inter-dimensional abstraction. Imbued with krautrock they magic up an impressive drum and drone journey. 

No Base Trio ‘II’
(Setola di Maiale) 14th October 2022

It’s a port we at the Monolith Cocktail have seldom sailed to, but Puerto Rico boasts an impressive contemporary jazz scene; one that the adroit and accomplished No Base Trio endeavor to export to the global community.

In the field for twelve years as a unit, horns and EWI practitioner Jonathan Suazo is flanked by the versatile guitarist Gabriel Vicéns and drummer Leonardo Osuna on another intuitive, fully improvised work of free jazz, jazz rock, fusion and beyond.

A grandiose, nigh two hour extemporized septet of performances – recorded the day after a highly successful concert at the El Bastión in Old San Juan – work II finds the trio in perfect synchronicity ready to probe and venture forth with atonal, tactile and juddered rhythmic explorations.

Across passages that last over twenty minutes in length, the recognisable jazz elements are stretched, repurposed and entangled in various bendy mirages and naturalistic atmospheres as ascending and descending patterns and more serialism type abstract musicality takes shape.

Suazo moves between flighty flute and windy spiraled alto/tenor saxophones like some sort of expressive natural force, caught up in mysterious soundscapes that evoke both fertile environments and more arid landscapes. Vicéns guitar accents, twangs and nimble finer work reminded me a little of the South American jazz guitarist Rodrigo Tavares, and on ‘ST 4’, a little bit of Ry Cooder articulating a mysterious psychedelic desert setting. Osuna’s drums meanwhile, sound out the tribal, spiritual and freeform, often sophisticated, quiet and spindled, or, taking time to find a rhythm. In action, all together, the trio varies the mood from the more abstract and avant-garde to built-up dynamic tumultuous climaxes: that translates as croaked and plectrum scratched guitar and industrial detuned sounds on ‘ST 2’, and a Hobby Horse meets head-on with Irreversible Entanglements in a rock-jazz crescendo squall on ‘ST 5’.    

Each track is like a score in itself, cast adrift of a subject, theme or visual inspiration; a mix of jazz with various percussive influences and sources that swings between Buh label outsiders to the ACT label, Donny McCaslin, an avant-garde Americas and Ornate Coleman. It’s an impressive album of synergy that manages to probe the wilds without bombast and total dissonance; kept together at all times with the most intuitive of unsaid musicianship and deft foresight.          

PLAYLIST
TEAM EFFORT/CURATED BY DOMINIC VALVONA

After avoiding Covid for nearly two and a half years (with periods of shielding) I’ve finally succumbed to the dreaded virus this week. And it’s hit me hard. But because I’m such a martyr to the cause of music sharing I’ve managed to compile this eclectic bonanza of choice music from the last month.

The Monolith Cocktail Monthly features tracks from the team’s reviews and mentions, but also includes those tunes we’ve just not had the room to feature. That team includes me (Dominic Valvona), Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Andrew C. Kidd and Graham Domain.

We’ve supplemented the original audio playlist with a video version on our Youtube channel. This will feature a slightly different lineup (the electronic music collective Violet Nox’s ‘Senzor’ primer for one).

 The full track list is as follows:

Dead Horses ‘Macabro’
Grave Goods ‘Source’
No Age ‘Compact Flashes’
Etceteral ‘Rome Burns’
Al-Qasar Ft. Jello Biafra ‘Ya Malak’
Clear Path Ensemble ‘Plazma Plaza’
Antonis Antoniou ‘Syntagi’
Ocelot ‘Vanha Hollywood’
The Beach Boys ‘You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone – Live At Carnegie Hall’
Rezo ‘Soemtimes’
Blue Violet ‘Favorite Jeans’
Teo Russo ‘Novembre’
Keiron Phelan & The Peace Signs ‘Guessing Game’
Micah P. Hinson ‘Ignore The Days’
Sonnyjim/The Purist Ft. MF DOOM & Jay Electronica ‘Barz Simpson’
Salem Trials ‘Just Give Up’
The Bordellos ‘Nurse The Screens!’
Legless Trials ‘Ray’s Kid Brother Is The Bomb’
S. Kalibre ‘Hip Hop World’
King Kashmere/Leatherette ‘G-Cell’
Depf/Linefizzy ‘Rain’
Isomonstrosity/645AR/John Lenox Ft. Danny Brown ‘Careful What You Wish For’
Tess Tyler ‘Try Harder’
Qrauer Ft. Anne Muller ‘Rund’
Sampa The Great Ft. W.I.T.C.H. ‘Can I Live?’
Rob Cave/Small Professor ‘Eastern Migration’
Salem Trials ‘Jc Cells’
Wish Master/Axel Holy Ft. Wundrop ‘FLIGHT MODE’
Alexander Stordiau ‘Nothing’s Ever Acquired’
Simon McCorry/Andrew Heath ‘Mist’
Andrei Rikichi ‘At Home I Hammer Ceramic Golfing Dogs’
OdNu ‘My Own Island’
Floorbrothers ‘In Touch’
Conformist X H O R S E S ‘Heddiw’
Slim Wrist ‘Milk Teeth’
Forest Robots ‘Everything Changes Color With The Rainfall’
Noah ‘Odette’
Yara Asmar ‘there is a science to days like these (but I am a slow learner)’
Tess Tyler/Spindle Ensemble ‘Origami Dogs (Graphic Score Interpretation)’
Christina Vantzou/Michael Harrsion/John Also Bennett ‘Piano On Tape’
Yemrot ‘Big Tree’







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