A LOOK AT WHAT’S OUT THERE: Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Roundup

PHOTO CREDIT: Iveta Rysava.

Amine Mesnaoui & Labelle ‘African Prayers’
(Lo Recordings) 1st April 2022

Back again conducting wonders, Jérémy Labelle finally makes the album he always dreamed of with friend and musical partner, the Moroccan-in-Paris pianist, Amine Mesnaoui, 15 years after first crossing paths on the Seine riverbank. As backstories go it’s a fated one, Labelle DJing a Techno set (just one of many musical genres under his belt) suddenly leaping into action to save his future collaborator and party attendee, drowning in the iconic river. Thrown together under the most insane conditions, both musician-composers formed a bond, which is now transduced into a most atmospheric mood suite of atavistic ritual, ceremony and futurism.

Already riding high this year off the back of his expansive universal vision of Maloy music and the classical, this January’s Éclat album, Labelle now appears alongside his classical and jazz studied foil on a both electroacoustic and avant-garde transformation of the North African, but more specifically Moroccan, Gnawa Ritual of the Seven Colours liturgy.

Performed traditionally with the entrancing music of the ‘maâlem’ masters and the spiritual guidance of a ‘shuwafa’ (a clairvoyant, of a kind) this important communion, invocation of the seven main manifestations of the divine ‘demiurgic’ activity calls for the seven saints and ‘mluk’ who are all represented by various shades of colour – hence the name. To go deeper into the meaning, this ritual represents a prismatic decomposition of the original light/energy; the first sacrifice and genesis of the universe as outlined in this Islamic belief and form of religious songs, rhythms, poetry and dance.

However, instead of the signature hypnotic scratchy, scrapped energy of the ‘guembri’ we instead have Mensnaoui’s modified brassy, buzzy resonating piano, which has various objects, props inserted into its strings, and Labelle’s array of electronic interactions and effects to stimulate the mystery and ethereal prayer of that arcane ritual. The mood is every bit as mystical and venerable, only those colourful representations now extend into Cage-style modern classical experimentation, deconstructive spiritual jazz and electronica.

‘Lueur’, ‘white” the colour of the Gnawa religion itself, does have a hint of spindled desert contouring Arabia yet features softened but deep bass stamps and thuds and quivery trills of something otherworldly. Those ‘celestial spirits’ are invoked on the “dark blue” shaded ‘Pérjastre’, stirred up by both chimed and spidery runs up and down the piano’s strings, the sound of softened foot pedal movements, percussive shimmers and breaths from the ether.

The rhythms really get moving on the colour ensemble of ‘Krazé Muneataf Tanzen’, the tribal and avant-garde coming together in a reimagined dance that evokes a meeting between Jeff Mills and Afrikan Sciences. On the aquatic, liquid ‘Bleu Noir’ (the album’s lead single, and in case you didn’t guess, represents the colour “light blue”, a symbol of the ocean and sky) Mesnaoui plays freely with trickled and cascading notes, sounding not that far off from the experimental works of Abdullah Ibrahim.

Familiar African percussion, cattle and long tubular bells and piano turn into electrified forms of futurism. It’s certainly a different perspective, playful, explorative yet attuned to the source material, inspiration. This is Gnawa music and ritual as you’ve never heard it; moving into new realms of sonic enterprise. Just don’t wait so long next time guys, as this is a match made in the elementals. 

   

Nicolas Zullo ‘Credendoti Montagna’
(Ibexhouse) 18th March 2022

The Italian philosophy student turn songwriter Nicolas Zullo interprets and translates a fertile imagination into a lucid dream theatre on his debut solo album, Credendoti Montagna: that’s “believing you are a mountain” to my non-Italian speaking friends.

Unravelling a most poetic psyche, Zullo is aided by Mirko Bianchini on bass, Eduardo Dinelli on drums, Umberto Ciccarelli on keys and the notable Alessandro Fiori on synths, violin and choirs; he also helps to record these enigmatic songs, journeys of the mind, which gently unfurl to traverse the Renaissance, psychedelic, folk, prog, Britpop, 70s soft rock and spells of 60s troubadourism.

Imbued with the bellissimo diverse splendours of the Viareggio, with its gorgeous coastlines, lakes and mountains, these softened studies move with ease through a magical world: simultaneously Freudian and Flyodian! That’s both a Syd-era Pipers At The Gates Of Dawn and a post-Syd Dark Side Of The Moon meets The Wall versions of the Floyd I might add. Unconsciously perhaps, though Zullo name checks a list of artists he grew up absorbing, there’s a light of touch lean towards the Floyd across at least half this album. That and beatified echoes of 10cc, Tame Impala, The Beatles, Ralph McTell, Donovan, Dylan’s harmonica, and 60s/70s Italian cinema soundtracks. Although the part cabaret, part circus trippy ‘Se Fussi’ (“if I were”) is like a Sgt. Pepper Jacques Brel.   

Submerged into an enchanted songbook and subconscious of swoons, swirls, romanticism and reflection the listener will find the soft, almost pop-lit with touches of the neoclassical, just quirky enough to hold the attention. Throughout a bathos and pathos of interpretation, and an escape from the ugly machine, there’s a lovely fluid lyricism – OK I’m going on the timbre, candour, feeling, as despite my name and roots I cannot speak Italian. Zullo has crafted a spellbinding, impressive debut, a magnificent, sensory dream-realism of scale and erudite musicianship.    

Bart Davenport ‘Episodes’
(Tapete Records) 25th March 2022

A revolving door of labels, from mod to blues singer and soft rock troubadour, Bart Davenport seems to inhabit them all, and many others, on his new episodic songbook.

There’s a certain 60s backbeat in evidence, and chinks and brassy rings of The Beatles and The Byrds, Powerman era Kinks, crooning swoons from the Scott Walker playbook (a sort of reminiscence of ‘Deadlier Than The Male’, removed to Turkish shores, on the eastern psych Ipcress Files scored ‘Naked Man’)and 70s singer/songwriter vibes. Fans of the L.A. artist will feel comfortable anyway, as Bart, in a disarming, melodically timeless fashion, immortalises idiosyncratic characters, lovelorn remiss and more psychedelic episodes from an everyday diorama.      

Bart’s joined in this enterprise by regular band mates Jessica Espeleto (on bass) and Wayne Faler (on lead guitar). The invitation is however extended beyond those two regulars. Complimenting the Davenport combo is drummer Graeme Gibson, who eases that backbeat I mentioned on the album’s wanton Baroque and Glenn Tilbrock-like ‘It’s You’ (one of my favourites by the way); percussionist Andres Renteria (of Jose Gonzales and Roderigo Amaranto note), providing sauntered shakers and (I take it) the quasi-Curtis Mayfield soft soul hand drums on the tropicola-like George Michael on AM radio ‘Easy Listeners’; and Aaron M. Olson, adding inspiral suffused organ to the second eastern-psych, with Spanish flourishes and deft Rolling Stones guitar scales, ‘Strange Animals’.  Aaron has already, in the past, produced the Bart & The Bedazzled’s previous album Blue Motel, so he knows this set-up well. Swelling with subtle cinematic, romantic and sentimental strings, Dina Macabee lays down a number of original arrangements; notably on the Greek/Med serenaded ‘Billionaires’ and more acoustic folk-psych yearn ‘Alice Arrives’. The first of those is a quite forlorn, if laughable wistful window in on the tech giant oligarchs: messers Bezos, Gates and Zuck radiating a deep sadness and emptiness, as witnessed by our troubadour. They soon have the last laugh as they board a rocket bound to some new idyllic utopia they can fuck up. The second of these songs uses a befitting psychedelic language of paisley and flowery acid-folk, a mix of Fairport Convention acoustic backing and Ralph McTell delivery.

Bart proves he has an ear for a familiar tune, as he regales heartfelt declarations, ambles through modern life and interacts with a strange cast. His melodious craftsmanship often hides, at least some, of the deeper social tragedy and lamentable ills of a world in deep shit. Yet, it’s all there in full comical glory. Episodes will really grow on you as a first rate songbook from an artist who knows how to write a good tune. 

Harry Christelis & Pedro Velasco ‘Scribbling’
(Ubuntu Music) 25th March 2022

It’s a title that suggests the mere scribbled doodles, unplanned accumulations of two musicians idling away their time until something more meaningful, better comes along to focus on. In fact the congruous (as it would appear) and adroit partnership of acclaimed guitarists Harry Christelis and Pedro Velasco is anything but: improvise most certainly but skilfully measured and crafted all the same.

Both based in London – though of course Pedro is originally from Portugal – and so crossing paths over the years (actually first coming together to play at a concert in 2016 in the capital) via their respective improvised experimental and jazz set-ups (from Harry’s part in the Walrus Trio, Jamie Doe’s The Magic Lantern and his very own Moostak Trio, to Pedro’s own trio, Akimbo and Machimbombo led turns), this pairing once more teamed-up, just before lockdown restriction in the December of 2020. As the pandemic (hopefully) ebbs and life in the UK gradually starts to look more normal, those mental strains of isolation and themes of disconnection now seem almost to pale insignificance to the onset of war in Eastern Europe. Scribbling’s intentions remain just as relevant, important, to find solace, a space in which to escape the distractions of our modern overpowering Internet age. As a platform to ‘focus, to develop’ and measure time in a more serene way this album of both shared and individual composed mood music gently evokes and mines each artist’s state of mind and musings at that particular point in time.

Chimes, gestures, subtle phrases and caresses of the blues, jazz, neoclassical, Iberian evoke everything from late Clapton and Ferderico Balducci to Myles Cochran and Pink Floyd. Pedro’s off world hovered ‘Nos Entrentos do Silênco’ (“In between the silence”) even has an air of the Kosmische about it: a bit of Ash Ra Tempel perhaps. Laidback jazzy summer wine melodies share the space with atonal mirages and more abstract vignettes; tracks that concentrate more on the effects, spidery finger tabs on buzzing electrified guitar strings and the sound manipulation, contouring of amp hums and reverb.

Both guitarists never seem to indulge themselves, nor overfill that special emotive space with excessive soloing. There’s even room for the synthesized, with a constant presence of ambient waves, drones, tape reversals, tubular metals and more sci-fi computerised sums. Together these elements, atmospheres add mystery, calculation, and the cosmic to proceedings: the electronic bits on the opener, ‘Paul’s Closet’, even reminded me of a very early Aphex Twin.   

A fine balance of contemplation, the measuring of time in a reflective way, and pedal board hardware trickery is struck. The artful and obvious articulate skills of both Harry and Pedro emote far deeper connections, descriptions and horizons than mere daubing’s. Scribbling is a fine piece of sagacious, subtle musicianship.

Yamash’ta & The Horizon ‘Sunrise From West Sea Live’
(WEWANTSOUNDS) 1st April 2022

Reissue specialists WEWANTSOUNDS (their caps lock signature not mine) continue to drop rarities, cult favourites and avant0garde eccentricities with the first ever reissue of Yamash’ta & The Horizon’s ’71 dream team live special, Sunrise From West Sea. This edited down spilt peregrination of freefrom jazz, kool-aid and Fluxus-like classical deconstruction, performed at the Yamaha Hall in Tokyo on April 18th of that year, can now be yours on vinyl; remastered, it should be added, from the original tapes. 

The Julliard and Bekrlee alumni and Japanese genius Stomu Yamash’ta assembles an enviable cast, joined in this far-out improvisation by fellow jazz pianist compatriot and Berklee student Masahiko Satoh, the Julian Cope Japrocksampler noted and Fluxus instigator/composer/violinist/artist Takehisa Kosugi on electric violin, and electrified shamisen player (a traditional three-string Japanese instrument played with a ‘bachi’ plectrum) Hideakira Sakurai. All together, untethered from reality and the rules of composition this Japanese quartet inhabits an alien soundscape of the submerged and wildly bendy!

From the depths of Atlantis to the South China Seas into an archipelago of Pacific Island native drumming circles, the associations are free and loosely ethnological and yet beyond any real tangible geography that exists.

As you might expect from a critically renowned percussionist (hailed no less by John Cage, who he worked with on occasion, as one of the world’s best) there’s plenty of hand-drumming and rasps, thrashes of obscured percussive instrumentation to be found, both serial and galloping or, slapped into something that resembles a rhythmic propulsion. In the meantime Satoh seems to scratch and physically pull at the inner workings of his piano; occasionally tinkling with actual recognisable notes. Taj Mahel Traveller Kosugi pinches, strains and bows away at the catgut; somehow making the electric-violin sound otherworldly, wailing and quivered. In a similar vein Sakurai transports us to some abstract, primordial vision of the Far East, again, only now and then offering his shamisen instrument an easy ride with recognisable frayed stirrings and yearns.

‘Part 2’ is almost filmic in places, which is unsurprising as both Yamash’ta and Satoh were engaged in or, about to score some movies. Yamash’ta already well versed having a collaborative relationship with the English conductor Peter Maxwell Davies, who’s score for Altman’s 1972 Images movie would feature his contributions, also instigated, ran the Red Buddha Theatre and had his music used in Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth and later, the BBC’s Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Satoh would most notably go on to provide the score for the 1973 cult erotic psychedelic anime Bellodonna of Sadness.

Four avant-garde travellers cross paths and dream about the life-giving forces on the West Sea horizon in a show of explorative mania, trepidation, supernatural and cosmic hovering. This is a weird performative space of tightrope walked resonated string instrument drama, whale song, shuttled percussion and abstract forces. The sort of thing Cope would lap up and recommend to the head music community.

Ben Vida And Lea Bertucci ‘Murmurations’
(Cibachrome Editions) 1st April 2022

Stalwarts of the NYC experimental scene Ben Vida And Lea Bertucci appear together for the first time as an electroacoustic and transformed voice duo. At opposite sides of the same mountain in the famous arts and music retreat of Woodstock, both artists initially began conversing as friends before taking the plunge and developing a special ‘non-hierarchical’ improvised collaboration.

Although more or less obscuring, coating in various effects each other’s contributions, murmurs of Lea’s wind instruments and rasped, reedy saxophone can just be detected amongst the magnetic fizzles and slithery, tentacle tape thrashing. Live tape manipulation, modular synth, sampling, real-time instrumental and vocal improvisation are all set in motion to create an often alien, avant-garde and often low-grade industrial atmosphere; a cosmic soundtrack and art gallery installation score.

It constantly feels as intimate as it does expansive, with the looming and hovering presence of some kind of extra-terrestrial craft. There are hums, pulses that could be motors, and the sound of rippled propellers in the air. Some passages even evoke the lunar. Yet there’s also the resonance of some eco-system: strange bird echoes, insects chatter and the most humid of sub-tropical heats buzz – think A.I. exotica of Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama.

Fluted hinged and solar windy funnelled real instruments blow across a sulphur spool of vapour and wispy ghostly waves. Occasionally you can hear the most un-rhythmic of tub patters in that atmosphere.

Both artists work with the human voice too, offering Cuushe-like utterances of an undefined language, and on the album’s title-track, a transformed, broken-up conversation between Ben and Lea. Phonetic breakdowns, sucked up and reversed snippets of dialog turn into harped arias and the giggles.

This could be a static-charged paradise or a virtual existence in the bubble, whatever it is Murmurations has some strange, explorative sonic worlds and new esoteric-like communication processes to draw the listener in.        

Kumo ‘Three Tigers’
(Self Release)

Unless you’re Chinese or a student of that country’s culture or, like the electronic polymath Jono Podmore, an acolyte of its martial arts (in this case the Taoist-imbued Tai Chi), it may very well have escaped your notice that 2022 is the year of the ‘Tiger’.

Born under that Chinese Zodiac cycle myself I was always curious to its omens, augurs. Of which, the Tai Chi teaching Jono seems to have predicated an omen, a very bad one, when asked by a student back in February (the official start of the Chinese calendar) what to expect in the year of the Tiger. His answer: war! And so perhaps we can blame him now for what’s happened in light of the invasion of Ukraine – only kidding.

However, we’re informed that despite this magnificent animal’s more dangerous attributes, ‘there are many tigers’ to decipher, to draw meaning from: the ‘strength’ to overcome problems, its beauty, even calmness.

Exploring all these aspects, traits and metaphorical quandaries, symbols Jono draws from the atavistic Tai Chi teachings on his latest Kumo alias release. And just like that regal big cat’s dualism – ‘a force for peace and reconciliation as a harbinger of war’ – the trio of electronic encapsulations, calligraphy brushed evocations, are a surprising mix of the experimental and dynamic.

In a more serene setting the opening ‘Tiger Lies Down’ surveys an electrified Spring landscape of lush flowing, cascaded waters, our magnificent beats wandering an ambient-charged calm that encourages tranquillity and meditative pause: at least a moment to retract those claws anyway. Undulating this natural scene is a subtle, nuanced bobbing Orb and Banco da Gaia like trance beat, synthesized percussive shimmers and dissipating steam. Things do turn a little wild at the end with a contortion of transmitted wiry signals; a sound that will return later on.

Upping the energy, ‘(Retreat To) Ride Tiger’ prowls a techno and house infused bob and bounce beat of Jeff Mills, Juan Atkins and Felix Da Housecat coming together for Basic Channel. Representing the tiger’s reluctance to take passengers, but taking that wild ride anyway, the waves, dance pulses, glints of spiritual mystery and danger keeps on coming.

The final push to holy peaks brings our subject to the mountains for perhaps the most serial, explorative track of the three. Edging through tubular bamboo and undergrowth, Jono guides us through an arching, bendy and looming electronic terrain. Oscillating spirits, the echoes of a sacred space envelope a sensory tread. Those signal frequencies from the fist track make that return I mentioned, as the tone become more otherworldly, mythical and cosmic.

Neither in the spirit of Eno’s own Tiger mountain excursions nor in the manner of Orientalism, Jono surprises with a soundtrack representation devoid of those Chinese musical signatures. Instead, traversing ambient, techno, soundscaping and the kosmische he paints a unique homage, respectful acknowledgment to China’s ancient symbolism and the most majestic, powerful (unfortunately endangered; much of which is down to the Chinese themselves hunting them down to extract their magical properties for medicines) of creatures. Juts please don’t act the Cassandra again! We have enough on our plates already without more predictions!

Adams, Dunn & Haas ‘Future Moons’

New York postcard penpal Andy Haas (you can find Andy’s Covid years series of regular Museum of Modern Art imbued postcards on our Instagram account) with regular Toronto foil Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn and Kieran Adams travel untethered to one of our nearest constellations and beyond on the starry Future Moons.

A contortion of wailed avant-garde, galactic freeform jazz, cosmic courier kosmische and far-out peregrinations, each sonic astronaut brings something both different and explorative to the far-flung outer limits.

But before we travel any further, a little provenance is needed. Adams CV includes the synth pop group DIANA and various stints alongside Bonjay, the Weather Station, and Joseph Shabason. His latest project is Vibrant Matter. Dunn’s been a chief instigator in the experimental Canadian scene, most notably as the driver behind The Cosmic Range collective. Haas’ near five-decade career includes the Canadian new wave trailblazers and international hit makers Martha And The Muffins, and an enviable catalogue of collaborative ensemble projects with Mar Ribot, Zeena Parkins, John Zorn, Ikue Mori, Don Fiorino, U.S. Girls plus Dunn’s Cosmic Range. Here and now, Haas’ fluted, spiralled and wild signature saxophone contours and trilling blowouts veer off like a mirage of Sam Rivers, Pete Brützmann and former foil Zorn as Adams and Dunn’s drums and electronic apparatus run amok in hyper space, hinting at Ilhan Mimaroglu, Anatoly Vaprirov and Dzyan.

Within that swanned nebula and astral worship there’s oboe-like sounds from a removed Arabia, strangled screams, flailed wails and cries and library music like leaps, bubbly chemistry, space gate light speed tripping, holy disorder and modal jazz blues: sonnets, screaming declarations and flowery offerings to majestic universal bodies. Strung-out in the highest heavens of space this exploratory, expressive trio navigate an abstract starry passage to new dimensions.    

How You Can Help Us Continue In 2022:

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 REVUE/Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brain ‘Bordello’ Shea





Join us once more for the most eclectic of musical journeys as the Monolith Cocktail compiles another monthly playlist of new release and recent reissues we’ve featured on the site, and tracks we’ve not had time to write about but have been on the radar.

The August edition kicks off with a blistering sunny-disposition Ron Gallo,space rock barrage returning Secret Machines and riotous Young Knives. Later on we’ve a host of jazz smarts from Stanley J. Zappa & Simo Laihonen, Charles Tolliver and Donny McCaslin.

As diverse as ever though, there’s a host of genres represented, including ‘Sufi Dub’ (Ashraf Sharif Khan & Viktor Marek) ‘after geography’ ambience (Forest Robots), ‘Eastern European femme fatal punk’ (Shishi) and ‘Euclid inspired polygon techno’ (Kumo).

Matt Oliver furnishes as ever with a host of choice hip-hop tracks from Fliptrix, Helsinki Booze Mercanhts, Loki Dope and Verb T.

There’s also a second despondent melodious grunge-y new wave rocker from the burgeoning talent that is Jacqueline Tucci. Something for everyone, more or less.





TRACKS 

Ron Gallo  ‘HIDE (MYSELF BEHIND YOU)’
Secret Machines  ‘Everything’s Under’
Young Knives  ‘Swarm’
Death By Unga Bunga  ‘Trouble’
Shishi  ‘OK Thx Bye’
Jacqueline Tucci  ‘Sweeter Things’
Elian Gray  ‘High Art’
Loki Dope  ‘Have You Any Wool?’
Stanley J. Zappa & Simo Laihonen  ‘E38 E 14th, City Of Piss, USA’
Charles Tolliver  ‘Copasetic’
Nosaj Thing  ‘For The Light’
Donny McCaslin  ‘Reckoning’
VRITRA  ‘CLOSER TO GOD’
Remulak & Type.Raw  ‘Mad Skillz’
Vex Ruffin  ‘Hinde Naman’
Mazi & Otarel  ‘Staiy’
Fliptrix  ‘Holy Kush’
Sausage Spine & Relentless Exquisite  ‘Skin Diamond’
Verb T & Illinformed  ‘Rotten Luck’
Pitch 92 & Lord Apex  ‘Suttin’ In The Trunk’
Helsinki Booze Merchants  ‘Tokyo Drift’
Fliptrix  ‘Powerizm’
Diassembler  ‘A Wave From A Shore’
Forest Robots  ‘Over The Drainage Divide’
Mark Cale, Ines Loubet and Joseph Costi  ‘Bodies Of Water’
Lucia Cadotsch, Otis Sandsjo, Petter Eldh  ‘Azure’
Paradise Cinema  ‘Possible Futures’
Only Now  ‘Merciless Destiny’
J. Zunz  ‘Four Women And Darkness’
Alan Wakeman, Gordon Beck  ‘Chaturanga’
BROTHER SUN SISTER MOON  ‘Numb’
Brian Bordello  ‘Rock n Roll Is Dead’
The Hannah Barberas  ‘W.Y.E.’
AUA  ‘I Don’t Want It Darker’
Ashraf Sharif Khan & Viktor Marek  ‘Drive Me On The Floor’
Harmonious Thelonious  ‘Hohlenmenschemuziek’
Kumo  ‘South African Euclid’
Cabaret Voltaire  ‘Vasto’
Pons  ‘Subliminal Messages’
Freak Heat Waves  ‘Busted’
Constant Bop  ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’
Josephine Foster  ‘Freemason Drag’
John Howard  ‘Injuries Sustained In Surviving’


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

 

REVIEWS ROUNDUP/ WORDS: DOMINIC VALVONA




Welcome to Dominic Valvona’s regular reviews roundup. This latest edition of Tickling Our Fancy includes albums, EPs and singles by Rat The Magnificent, Papernut Cambridge, Kumo, Deben Bhattacharya, Mehdi Rostami & Adib Rostami, Moa Mckay, Crayola Lectern and Ippu Mitsui.

Interesting releases from across the world and music spectrums; Tickling Our Fancy is my most eclectic of reviews roundups. With no themes, demarcations of any kind, or reasoning other than providing a balanced platform for the intriguing, the great and at times, most odd releases, I bring you this month’s selection.

Electronic music composer extraordinaire Jono Podmore is back under the guises of Kumo with another serialism styled field recording, released through the London-based cassette tape label, Tapeworm; Rat The Magnificent rock, grunge, drone and grind their way through a new caustic shoegaze and industrial album, The Body As Pleasure; ARC Music sift through more of the celebrated late ethnomusicologist Deben Bhattacharya’s archives to bring us the fifth edition of their Musical Explorers series, Waves Of Joy/Bauls From Bengal, and also bring us a mesmerizing album of Kurdish traditional performances, Melodic Circles, by the Iranian cousins Mehdi Rostami & Adib Rostami; the Gare Du Nord label’s unofficial house band, Papernut Cambridge, return with another enviable ensemble led songbook of Glam Rock, Psych and poetic resignation, honouring the late polymath maverick scientist and utopian dreamer, Richard Buckminster Fuller; the enchanting quivery psychedelic bathers, Crayola Lectern, return with a new album of ghostly voiced heartbreak, ‘Happy Endings’. We also have the new peppy modern soul pop fusion EP from Moa McKay and friends, Illusions Of A Dream, and a more relaxed, calming electronic cruise from the Tokyo composer Ippu Mitsui.


Rat The Magnificent  ‘The Body As Pleasure’  TTWD Records,  21st June 2018

Not as the name suggests, celebrating their rodent status whilst scratching like vermin at the bin bags in the gutter, as more guttural with seething yearning, Rat The Magnificent claw away in melodically dark despair on the new album, The Body As Pleasure. The noisy rock trio both clash and ponder on a grinding synthesis of pain, regret and isolation; dragging an impressive chorus of guest drone, grunge, shoegaze and post-rock exponents behind them. For the record, at any one time either caustic twiddling guitar, sonorous bass notes and harrowing longing vocals from Future Of The Left and Art Brut wingman Ian Gatskilkin, My Bloody Valentine and Graham Coxon band member Jen Marco and Hot Sauce Pony’s Caroline Gilchrist appear alongside a number of guest contributors – another Gilchrist for one, Stephen Gilchrist of Graham Coxon, The Damned and the Cardiacs infamy, being just one of the many.

That main catalyst and drive however is pendulously swung and elliptically (especially on the off-set rotation of the increasingly unhinged and entangled ‘Where You Been’) powered by the maverick trio maelstrom. Yet it’s a maelstrom of both fuzzed-up sinister prowling and melodious sensibilities. Like a Nordic sounding Thom Yorke drowning in a heavy dynamism of Swans, Interpol and Death From Above 1979 one minute, and plaintively following the contours of The Telescopes drones the next, the band conjure up all kinds of heavy rock and indie-on-steroids splinters, from The Birthday Party to DEUS, Marilyn Manson and the Archers Of Loaf.

Though the forebode and drone of songs like the skate punk Muse meets slacker rock ‘Olon’ and the Nick Cave No More Shall We Part swooned and trilled female vocalized like ‘Inevitable’ there’s a hint of lovelorn despair and confession. The most subdued dissipation, and oddest of finales, is the piano-accompanied-by-a-strange-crunching-Foley-sound ‘Panarron’, which stripes away the vortex of industrial anguish for an esoteric ambient soliloquy; the vocals so hushed as to be barely audible, as if the singer’s run out of steam, enervated and worn out: everything now off his chest, relieved yet fucked.

Noisy and caustic for sure, yet full of surprises (even space-age alpha wave synth on one track) The Body As Pleasure contorts and channels the energetic chaos through a prism of relief and accentuated tinkering. An illusion to all manner of references, the rodent’s left scurrying in the aftermath pick at the morsels to deliver a most intense album.




Papernut Cambridge  ‘Outstairs Instairs’  Gare Du Nord,  29th June 2018

 

The first full length album since 2016’s generous carrier-bag packaged Love The Things Your Lover Love, the Ian Button instigated cottage industry, known as the Anglo-French romanticized Gare Du Nord, finally releases a follow-up from the label’s unofficial house band, Papernut Cambridge. Like a session group but made-up of mostly deft and critically applauded artists in their own rights, Button’s ragtag group of friends, acquaintances and label mates includes such refined minstrels and troubadours as Darren Hayman, Robert Rotifer, Jack Hayter, Emma Watson and Ralegh Long. This already enviable ensemble is broadened by the Hunky Dory period piano accents and Mike Garson plays Gershwin flourishes of pianists Terry Miles and Luke Smith, smatterings of Malcolm Doherty’s recorder arrangements, Sterling Roswell’s synth and the wailing, squawking and slinking Roxy Music saxophone of Stabs Mackenzie.

In a convoluted family tree style, this cast has consistently overlapped on a myriad of projects and releases; all emanating from Button’s end of the London train line HQ on the borders of Kent. As with that previous album and incarnation, the Papernut Cambridge conveys idiosyncratic tragedies, injustices and heartache through an often wistful and whimsical prism of 1970s musical nostalgia; the cut-off point of their inspiration and influence being the change over from the snug hazy security of late 60s to mid 70s Top Of The Pops, beaming and disarming the gender-bending teenage angst of Glam and Art Rock through a fond afterglow, to the petulant arrival of punk. Certainly nostalgic and cosy then, Outstairs Instairs builds a rich melody and frequent Glam-beat stonk around its deeper themes of loss, anger, resentment and malady. Yet with quintessential English humour dragging Button and his cast from feeling despondent and conceited, lyrics often finish with a subtle note of resigned wit to snap the protagonists and listener from despair: The Hollies conducting an elegiac service of remembrance styled ‘No Pressure’ pays a fond and warm homage to Button’s late father; humble recollections of dad’s sagacious advice to tickling ivory is saved from over-sentimentality by the final line of the song, “Sometimes you have to cater for cunts!”

As referencing goes, conducing the maverick utopia and inventive theorems of the late American scientist polymath Richard Buckminster Fuller takes some doing. Yet, from borrowing his, perhaps, far too over-analyzed (and thought) but astronomically accurate method of describing the actions of going up or down a staircase – going as far as to cleverly cut the vinyl version of this album so each side mirrors this spiraling rotation – for an album title to framing the name given in his honour for a carbon molecular, the ‘Fullercenes’, as a metaphor for the charged chemistry of love on the starry Alvin Stardust-Mott The Hoople-Bowie-esque opening track, Papernut Cambridge weave their icons and cerebral pining’s into articulate hazy pop. Though, making concessions for, as I’ve already remarked, 60s beat groups, psych and even grown-up rock’n’roll blues, the Nuts graze Goats Head Soup era Stones romantic weeping on ‘How To Love Someone’, and waft in their honky tonk Orleans boogie on the pastoral garden party ‘House Of Pink Icing’.   On the Victoriana fairground knees-up comes sad tale of the “best dog in Battersea”, ‘Angelo Eggy’, they sound like a mongrel-breed of the Alex Harvey Band, Wings and Marmalade, and on the St. Peter-as-overburdened-civil-servant ‘New Forever’, they reimagine Highway 61 Revisited Dylan fronts The Soup Dragons or early The Charlatans. You can also expect to hear at any one time in the mix, hints of Edison Lighthouse, Fleetwood Mac, Cockney Rebel and The Rubettes.

From ill fated, nee cursed, characters to the all too-real forgotten victims of industry and losers in life, the Papernut Cambridge envelop pain and resignation in a warm caring blanket of nostalgic and beautifully crafted pop music. With an ensemble to die for, this is a sweetened if sad album of cherished memories and augurs to come; a missing link between 70s Top Of The Pops annuals, Hunky Dory and Aladdin Sane Bowie, Glam Rock and I Can See For Miles’ halcyon English songwriting compilations. A most magnificent return from a most maverick of outfits.






Crayola Lectern  ‘Happy Endings’  Onomatopoeia,  1st June 2018

 

Bathing in the same South Downs of Southeast England water, even if it’s further west along the coastline at Worthing, as the gentle psych imbued outfits Electric Soft Parade and The Fiction Aisle, the Chris Anderson instigated Crayola Lectern embark on a most pastoral, stirring malady on the group’s second album, Happy Endings.

Featuring band members and guest spots from the former of those two Brighton bands, but also a trio from London stalwarts, The Cardiacs, the Crayola Lectern fondly and nostalgically absorb a cannon of rich 1960s psychedelia, seaside vaudeville, dancehall tea parties and quintessential irreverent witty eccentricity. Gazing through the pea green sea-like gauze-y sepia of the album’s cover (a photo of Anderson’s grandmother on her wedding day), revisiting old ghosts to a vague backing of early Floyd, Robert Wyatt, and even at times a spot of Family, Anderson moves amorphously through time whilst alluding to a rafter of contemporary problems: One of the overriding sentiments of which, gleamed from the beautifully hazy melodious piano led, and cherubic sung, opener ‘Rescue Mission’, is that love is really all; but whatever this self-centered world throws at you, “Don’t let the buggers bring you down.”

 Diaphanously played throughout, softened, occasionally venerable and choral with dreaming visages of mellotron, trumpet and finely cast musical spells, the album can seem like it’s being summoned from the ether and beyond. Emerging from a burial-at-sea like seaweed covered aquatic specters on the ode to a ‘Submarine’ metaphor (which even includes lines in Latin), or caught in a nursery rhyme loop, lying in bed each night thinking of the inevitable, the theme of death is always close at hand; but handled with sighing reassurance and the comforting strains of a dashing about lullaby.

From end-of-the-pier shows to séances on a wet afternoon, the nostalgic quaintness of Happy Endings dips its toes into vibrato like waters, with shades of The Beach Boys Surf’s Up on ‘Secrets’, and presence of a lapping tide on the theatrical pining and beautiful ‘Barbara’s Persecution Complex’. A general ebb and flow motion, not just rhythmically and musically but in the relationship between an almost childlike innocence and the sagacious meditations of experience, is suffused throughout; though breakouts of rock opera, ascendant spiraling and more dramatic loveliness do splash about in the psychedelic mysterious waters. And on the title track, though it’s prefixed in brackets with ‘(No More)’, there’s an allusion to alien visitors that could be read as a metaphor for the illegal alien otherness of not starbound extraterrestrials but migrants, refugees and even our cousins across the Channel.

Conveying the mood and plaguing anxieties of the past and contemporary; circumnavigating the choppy waters of uncertainty; Anderson and his troupe effortlessly exude a subtle elegance and enchanting charm to produce a gauze-y psychedelic melodrama. Lush and quivery, Anderson’s vocals almost ghostly heartbreaking throughout, the piano played with an understated but emotive caring patience, Happy Endings is a peaceably beauty of a minor opus.






Various  ‘Musical Explorers: Waves Of Joy/Bauls From Bengal: Field Recordings By Deben Bhattacharya’  ARC Music,  25th May 2018

If you’re a regular visitor to my reviews roundup then you might already be familiar with ARC Music’s Musical Explorer series: celebrating the work of pioneering ethnomusicologists, and currently sifting through the renowned archives of the late Indian field recordist and filmmaker, Deben Bhattacharya.

The fifth volume in this series once again delves into the rich vaults of material Bhattacharya captured when travelling his native Indian homeland: Other volumes highlight his recordings from Taiwan and Tibet; though he recorded in a multitude of locations and countries during his career.

Settling in London at the turn of the 1950s with mixed results (though after juggling many jobs, finally able to make a living from documenting exotic music, at the time mostly unknown to Western ears), Bhattacharya made many return trips, especially to his birthplace of Benares in Bengal. Previous editions in this explorers series (Colours Of Raga, Krishna In Spring) have either included or alluded to music from the region, and the dual film/audio recordings of Waves Of Joy/Bauls From Bengal is no different.

Amateurish and make-do by the technical standards of today, Bhattacharya’s ’12-volt battery’ powered laden ‘one-man mobile’ recording apparatus still magically captures the most unpretentious in-situ purity of performances. In natural surroundings, the majority in adulation or paean to spiritualist guidance and, not exclusively by any means, Hinduism, these timeless recordings seem to have been caught serendipitously: the opposite of staged, directed and scholarly.

 

Recorded before his death in 2001, the audio part of this package features a revolving troupe of players performing the spiritual enlightened poetics of the traditional holy wandering minstrels known as the Baul. Translated from the original Sanskrit word for ‘vatula’ or ‘mad’ – though in this case a kind of entranced devotional madness -, these sagacious weavers of philosophical devotion study the ambiguity between divine and sensual love; unburdened by established religion or dogma. Finding a commonality with the Sufis, and especially the ideas of the Persian mystic Rumi, the Baul’s song (also known as ‘bauls’, which can be confusing) are filled with poetic worship, but always stating humbleness, offering nothing other than love as the opening ‘Doya Kore Esho’, sung in exultation by Robi Das Baul, exemplifies:

How shall I adore Thy feet – incomparable?

No prayer or dedication have I

O gracious one!

No devotion,

nor wisdom do appear within my heart of hearts,

Bid farewell to my joylessness,

Give me more joy

In this humble abode of my heart.

 

Analogies to a “shoreless sea” and the desirable banks of joyful aspiration and nirvana that meet its waves coupled with symbolist fauna, dealing with death, and the conversion of lost souls to whatever guru is being venerated flow throughout this collection’s fourteen track songbook on a buoyant bending and dipping rhythmical accompaniment. Beautifully sung, hollering and soaring even, a quintet of baul minstrels take turns, accompanied by atavistic instrumentation. An intrinsic feature of which is the tucked under the arm ‘anandalahari’, a tabla like tension drum with a plucked string. Held tightly in one arm, the player can pull on a small knob to stretch this string whilst using his other hand to pluck away with a plectrum. Its bending resonance can be heard alongside the one-string drone ‘ektara’, fretless long-necked lute like ‘dotara’, small metal pellet ankle bells chiming ‘ghungru’, bamboo flute ‘banshi’ and tied around the waist clay kettle drum, the ‘duggi’.

All recorded in Shantiniketan, an area synonymous with baul history, these performances feature compositions from such revered gurus as the 19th century mystic/poet Lalon Shah Fakir and Matam Chand Gosain, but also more contemporary figures, such as the film actor and folk musician Mujib Paradeshi and lyricist, composer Bhaba Pagla: It all sounds timeless however, with only a subtle allocation made for more modern themed metaphors.

The documentary, filmed in 1973, is a grainy but colourful informative (if slightly stiff in narration) highlight, featuring as it does the Kenduli Mela festival in West Bengal. A huge momentous musical and religious gathering, it’s held at the birthplace of the famous poet Jaidev in the Birbhum district, attracting, as you’ll see, a myriad of baul ensembles. Probably unrecognizable today – in fact Simon Broughton, of Songlines fame, and the author of this compilation’s linear notes, remarks on its built-up modernity – the plains and riverside of Kenduli in the 1970s is agrarian with the only transport in sight, a multitude of ox pulled carts. Reading out poetic, wise lyrics whilst moving the camera from temples to villages and bazaars, the narrator informs and explains not only the folklore and myths of the baul, but also the basics of the instruments and songs. The message of this study is of the individual’s pursuit in communing with their spiritual guide unburdened by barriers, as the words, read out whilst resting the camera on the icon carvings of a temple sum up so well:

The road to you is barricaded with temples and mosques

I hear you calling my lord, but cannot reach you.

Teachers, preachers and prophets bar the way.  

 

Both revelatory and insightful, an education you could say, Bhattacharya’s extensive archives showcase Indian music at its most venerable and spiritual. A snapshot on the devotional and a survey on the baul phenomenon this latest stimulating Musical Explorers package is a visual and audio treat.




Mehdi Rostami & Adib Rostami  ‘Melodic Circles: Urban Classical Music From Iran’ ARC Music, 27th July 2018

 

The second ARC Music release to grab my attention this month, the entrancing circular and eastern mirage rippling evocations of the Mehdi & Adib Rostami cousins bring a certain modernity to the classical ‘urban’ music of their homeland, Iran. Tensions between Iran (both with the nebulas and all too real physical influences) and its neighbours in the region, and of course the West, have never been shakier; especially with the recent collapse of the ‘nuclear deal’ and renewal of sanctions, but also with its military presence in Syria and the Yemen. And with the roots of the Rostami cousins’ performances deriving from the Kurdish music of Iran’s Fars province (‘widely considered’, as the liner notes suggests, ‘the cultural capital of Iran’; it is indeed the original home of the Persian people after all) you can’t help but think of the controversies and complexities that hound the Kurdish people in a number of violent flashpoints; most of which derive from the fight for an independent state: though not all Kurds are involved or even agree on the issue.

It makes a change then, to celebrate rather than hector or feel despondent about Iranian culture; ARC Music shedding a light on a positive, magical aspect of the country and its musicians; showcasing, as they do, the technical and creative improvisational skills of the Rostami maestros.

Conventionally divided into two general branches; one deriving from the ethnic minorities (which also includes Nomadic traditions), each with its own distant musical system, the second, and what you’ll hear on this album, is the urban tradition, though it’s a much later style: the ‘radif-e dastgāhi’. Passed down orally, the, what seems like an amalgamation of systems and ‘melodic circles’ structures (so named for the manner in which these Iranian melodies link together to form ‘circles’), ‘radif’ is traditionally divided into ‘instrumental and vocal music’. A serious dedication is needed, as each student of this system must learn their art with a number of masters; the ultimate goal of which, we’re told, is ‘for the musician to cultivate, through many years of practice and performance, the capacity to improvise, wherein ideally, the musician would create a new work in each performance.’ Not just able scions of that learning but international artists of repute and masters of their chosen Iranian instruments, the long-necked, plucked lute ‘setār’ and goblet-shaped drum, the ‘tombak’, the cousins studied with a wealth of talent. Mehdi began playing the wooden fretted setār at the tender age of six, going on to study under the tutelage of Mohammadreza Lofi and Hossein Alizadeh, and take a ‘masterclass’ with Kayhan Kalhor, whilst Adib started out learning the principal percussion instrument, the tombak, on his own before later taking lessons and refining his technique with Mohammed Ghodsi and Pejman Hadadi. He also studied the Iranian fiddle, the ‘kamancheh’, with Roozbeh Asadian and Lofi, and as his cousin did, took masterclasses with Kalhor.

Performing several times in the UK, including as part of the BBC Proms season and with the Syrian ‘qanum’ player Maya Youssef, under the Awj Trio collaboration, the cousins are calling this album their first official release. An album in two parts, subdivided into a trio and a quartet of various passages, Melodic Circles is essentially a contemporary interpretation of the atavistic Kurdish ‘Bayāt-e Tork’ and ‘Bayāt-e Esfahān’ cycles. Though following the handed-down prompts of these age old ‘modes’, they imbue their versions with deft improvisation; breathing in the atmosphere and mood of their surroundings and feelings on the day of the recordings to offer something organic and fresh.

‘Circle One’, comprised of three separate chapters, arises from the Persian epoch with a spindled trickle of ancient evocations; cantering and rolling when the rapid tub-thumping percussion joins in, beside the waters of the Fertile Crescent. The opening section, ‘Nostalgia’, alludes musically to another era, mystical and timeless but unmistakably played out in the present. It’s followed by any equally dusty mirage of enchantment and cascading dripping plucked notes on the travelling ‘Journey’; which, by the end of its perusal, turns a trickle into a flood.

The final piece of that trilogy, ‘Delight’, dashes straight in with a speedy, mesmerizing display of blurry percussion; the lute gliding and entrancing until locking into a circular loop, resonating with brass-y echoes and spiraling nuances.

The second ‘circle’, featuring a quartet of pieces, opens with the longing ‘Lonely’. Romantic gestures, ripples and vibrations gather momentum until reaching a crescendo and dissipating, on this dusky earthy track. Picking up on the intensity, ‘Life’ is like an energetic camel trot across mirage shimmered deserts, whilst, reaching tranquil, less galloping, waters ‘Past’ is the musing respite before the frenzied hypnotic circulations of the ‘Mystic Dance’ spin into play.

Caught in the moment, feeding off each other whilst channeling their intensive studies, the cousins perform with dexterous, masterful skill and a sense of freedom. Melodic Circles faithfully keeps the traditions of the Rostami’s native heritage alive in a contemporary setting; a heritage that is seldom celebrated in the West, especially in such trying times, yet proves an intoxicating experience of discovery.



Kumo  ‘Day/Night’  Tapeworm

 

Releasing a myriad of ‘micro-scale’ peregrinations via his revitalized imprint Psychomat and now through the London-based cassette tape label Tapeworm, Jono Podmore once again channels his longest running alter-ego as Kumo for another serialism style trip into the unknown.

Finding a suitable home for his latest experiment with the highly conceptual Tapeworm (a label with an aloof roster of projects from serious thinkers and avant-garde artists alike, including the late Derek Jarman, Stephen O’Malley, Philip Jeck and Can’s one time front-of-house shaman, Damo Suzuki), the professor of ‘popular music practice’ at Cologne’s Hochschule für Musik, sometime Irmin Schmidt foil and guiding light of the Can legacy (the recent Lost Tapes being just one project he helped put together and produce), and founding instigator of the rebellious analogue adventurers Metamono, imbues a set of field recordings with decades of electronic experience.

Lifting off from the concrete of terra firma into alien Kosmische amorphous realms, his Day/Night moiety converts the environmental sounds (from mopeds to barking dogs, the sonorous bass boom of a subwoofer drifting from a car stereo, to city landscape birds squawking and commercial airplanes flying overhead) he recorded from the balcony of his South East London flat into something often mysterious and even at times transient. Both tracks are undulated with Tangerine Dream ambient machinations and oscillations, and ethereal siren trilled Theremin: left to linger, waft and occasionally ascend above the looming hovering clouds.

There are subtle differences between the two aspects of the same day of course; the movements and appearance of nocturnal wildlife and the human inhabitation of Podmore’s estate reverberate on the ‘Night’ recording; inverted owl-like signature sound and orbiting satellites overlap with darker stirrings and the visage shimmers of an unknown presence.

A Kosmische and avant-garde electronic panorama, viewed from a concrete vantage point, Podmore’s efflux styled synthesis convolutes the 360-degree city environment with engineered sounds to create another quality ambient drone and kinetic recording. If you like early Cluster (Kluster even), TD, Orb, even early Kraftwerk, and a lifetime of cerebral techno minimalism then track this tape down. You better be quick though, as it’s limited to only 125 copies!



Moa McKay ‘Illusions Of A Dream’  29th June 2018

Though I know absolutely nothing about – what sounds to my ears like a sassy bubblegum soulstress with millennial pep – the pop-y soul singer Moa McKay, the lilting but deep grooves of the opening track from her summery new EP, wafting from my speakers, immediately caught my attention when I first heard it recently: alluringly intriguing, drawing me.

Though the lingering breezy jazz tones may evoke Frank era Amy Winehouse with a tinge of American R&B, McKay actually hails from Stockholm and resides in Berlin: a city that doesn’t exactly scream soul. Earlier material, from what I can deduce, is more in the mode of Scandi-pop heartbreak; sung in McKay’s native dialect. With a fresh outlook and collaborating with a trio of musicians that includes guitarist Tristan Banks, drummer Gabriele Gabrin and bass player Per Monstad, McKay now expands her vocal range on an EP’s worth of summertime retro soul pop hits.

Sounding as effortless and floaty as that summer breeze she arrives on, this smoky lounge meets urban suite is rich with nice little funk licks and twangs, rolling jazzy blues percussion and a live feel backing. R&B heartache with attitude, she weaves the woes and travails – from first person perspective to looking in from the outside – of relationships in the modern age. She won’t take any crap mind: channeling as she does, the steely women of 1960s soul and turning the “tramp” put-down on its head.

A modern take on the sort of fusion soul and jazz that the Talkin’ Loud label used to pump out in the 90s, but with nods to the original blueprints, McKay and her partners create a brilliant EP of pliable, melodious and sophisticated sun-dappled soul and pop.




Ippu Mitsui  ‘Shift Down EP’  Submarine Broadcasting Company, 6th July 2018

Atypical of EPs from the mysterious Tokyo-based composer of quirky ennui electronica, Ippu Mitsui’s latest transmission, as the title suggests, is a (gear)‘shift down’ from his usual broken-up, bit-y and effects cornucopia signature style of dance music. Choosing to flow and relax on a neon-glowed cruise through a quartet of both nocturnal prowls and sunset beckoning castaways, Mitsui’s kooky visions summon evocations of a Leaf Label soundtracked Drive, or Warp transmogrified Tokyo Drift: a pulse, you could say, perfect for motoring runs across an Akira illustrated cityscape.

Still throwing us curve-balls; bending and morphing, twisting and turning; changing the odd note for example on a bass run; despite throwing us occasionally, our enigmatic producer creates his most peaceful suite yet. From hanging out the back of a Sega games console 16-bit pixelated sports car on the title track, to imagining the Yellow Magic Orchestra pumping out from an 1980s West Coast lowrider stereo on ‘Squeeze 87’, and navigating early Aphex Twin and futurist Baroque on ‘Rotation’, Mitsui melds TR-808 electro and acid Techno with swelling strings to once again soundscape his own imaginations.

Idiosyncratic, sophisticated and plowing his own furrow, this emerging talent remains a well-kept secret on the electronic music scene. Hopefully, translating from his native Japan, and distributed in the last couple of years through independent UK labels and platforms, such as Bearsuit Records and, on this latest release, the Submarine Broadcasting Company, he’ll now reach a much wider audience at last.





LABEL LAUNCH/SINGLE
Words: Dominic Valvona


Jono Podmore & Swantje Lichtenstein - Monolith Cocktail

Jono Podmore  &  Swantje Lichtenstein   ‘Miss Slipper/Lewes’
Released  on  Psychomat,  6th  March  2017

Responsible for a stream of experimental electronic projects, both on the cutting edge of technology and vanguard of a return to the roots of analogue, and a member of the manifesto guided metamono trio, Jono Podmore has cranked-up the generator, punched in new coordinates and blown the dust off the dials to relaunch his influential 90s label, Psychomat.

Renowned for his cerebral collaborations with a number of luminaries from across the electronic music spectrum, but famously for his work with both Can’s Irmin Schmidt (together as the Kumo and Irmin Schmidt duo) and the late Jaki Liebezeit (Cyclopean), Jono’s inaugural label comeback pairs him with the Düsseldorf-based sound writer/performance artist Swantje Lichtenstein.

A conceptual meeting of minds, the duo’s upcoming Michaela Eichwald cover art adorned 7”, which is billed as an actual “work of art” in its own right, features two serialism performance-manipulations recorded at Jono’s on the day of the funeral of his friend, the publisher Felix Hiner, in 2014.

The first of these, Miss Slipper, is of all things, riffing off a piece of writing by Jono’s daughter. A spontaneous freewheeling interpretation of an innocent description of a school art teacher is pushed towards the alien by ring modulations and filter trickery. Obscured and transmogrified into something almost sinister, even daemonic, Swantje’s voice shifts between squelched and metallic strange tongues.

Lingering in the same atmosphere, beyond the stratospheric, the idyllic pastoral East Sussex town of Lewes slips into a parallel dimension of weirdness; the metamono sat-nav tuning into a beacon communal with unknown entities, somewhere yonder in the ether. Based on a set of directions given to the group for a gig in Lewes, this extemporized art-piece glitches, buzzes and chants its amorphous script until it becomes directionless; untethered on wave after wave of tubular ringing, echoed and chromed effects; disappearing into the torn fabrics of space.

Miss Slipper/Lewes is every bit as conceptual and experimental as you’d expect, and lays down the start of, what I hope, will be a fruitful union of art and sound work. We may not have to wait long though for the next installment, as a series of remixes from Pete Hope, Hairy Kipper, Inky Blackness, Bastard Status, Jono in his Kumo guise, and Professor Michael Ball (a colleague of Jono’s and a professor of electronic composition), will be released in the coming weeks and months.





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