WORDS: Dominic Valvona

Credit: Niccolo Berretta

Mai Mai Mai Ft. Vera di Lecce ‘Fimmene Fimmene’
Released through Maple Death Records ahead of the May released album Rimorso

Drawn once more towards the Apulia corner of Italy’s deep south – the jiggered stiletto-like heel of the country’s roughly contoured boot – the Italian experimental electronic and noise artist Mai Mai Mai conjures up another extraordinary vision of gothic ethnological collective toil and ethereal voiced mirages with his brand new single.

Premièred ahead of the ‘colossal’ double-album Rimorso (released 20th May) ‘Fimmene Fimmene’ summons up the spirited protestations of the women labouring in the tobacco fields as part of an extended sonic and vocal psychogeography of Italy’s southern Mediterranean regions. Following in the wake of previous scopes in this area, Mai Mai Mai’s signature blend of southern Italian folklore, industrial drone, proto-techno and punishing miasmic electronica is wiped clean, the heavy sampling and sound manipulations of the past shed with a focus now on the human. And so, as this intoxicating invocation proves, the collaborative door is left wide open to an array of mostly fellow Italian foils, contributors who use both their voices and instruments to transform and investigate Italy’s past and traditions. Step right up the Salento siren priestess Vera di Lecce whose incredible translucent wraith evocations channel not just the traditional but the supernatural and the magical too. A vocal and dance performance member of the lauded ethnic electrifying ensemble Nidi d’Arac turn prolific soloist with a penchant for making magical aggressive synth and exotic percussive potions, and practitioner of the age-old dances of the Apulia, now recasts one of its protest songs as Mai Mai Mai lays down a reverberated pronounced drum beaten march, haunted and scented atmospherics and crystal synthesised shimmers, sparkles.

A two-way mirror between worlds; a communion with troubled souls, ‘Fimmene Fimmene’ is a beautiful hallucination of the mysterious and sorrowful, which you can now experience for yourselves:

The inaugural single from the upcoming double-album is just one piece of a greater work that sees the noted artist morph our understanding of traditions and nostalgia.

An album of deep re-interpretive connective Italian collaborations – with the exceptions of the brilliant maverick Mike Copper, on ‘Mediterranean Gothic’, and the Beirut-born Youmna Saba, on the thematic ‘Nostalgia’ –  Mai Mai Mai revisits a piece by the Puglia polyphony voiced female quartet Faraulla with the Rome-based techno-outsider Cosimo Damiano and percussionist ensemble Ars Ludi, on the track ‘Sind’; invites Nziria to hover over the slow thump chopper pulsating techno serenade ‘Musica Nova’, a loosely based vision of the Musicanova orchestra’s own ‘Pizzica Minore’. The album is bookended by the visceral voice of electro-Arabian-punkster Maria Violenza (the solo project alias of the Rome-based Cristina Cusimano), on the obscure folk transformation, reconfigured as a southern gothic mix of enchanted filtered choir and hypnotic voodoo drumming, ‘Secondo Coro Delle Lavandaie’, and ‘Antiche Memorie’, which features longtime Franco Battiato foil, the percussionist and composer Lino Capra Vaccina

Rimorso promises to be a whole ‘new ritual’ that turns absence into presence; dismantling nostalgia for consummation, framed as an immersion into the ‘temporal disjunction we are experiencing through the essence of (the) human fabric’. You can order that album here.

Mai Mai Mai also has the following dates set-up for a April tour with GNOD:

Apr 6th – GENT @ TREFPUNT
Apr 7th – UTRECHT @ DB’s
Apr 8th – PARIS @ ESPACE B
Apr 9th – NANTES @ LES ATELIERS DE BITCHE
Apr 11th – LYON @ LE SONIC
Apr 12th – ZURICH @ HELSINKI
Apr 13th – GENEVE @ LA CAVE12
Apr 15th – RAVENNA @ BRONSON
Apr 16th – VERONA @ COLORIFICIO KROEN
Apr 17th – NOVA GORICA @ MOSTOVNA
Apr 18th –  LJUBLJANA @ GALA HALA
Apr 19th – WIEN @ CHELSEA
Apr 20th – BRNO @ KABINET MUZ
Apr 21st – PRAHA @ UNDERDOGS
Apr 22nd – BERLIN @ URBAN SPREE
Apr 25th – BRUXELLES @ MAGASIN 4
Apr 26th – BREDA @ MEZZ
Apr 27th – LILLE @ LA MALTERIE

Mai Mai Mai is the nom de plume of Toni Cutrone, occasional foil of GNOD and one of both Italy and the wider EU’s most well known experimental artists. Highly prolific, Toni’s released music through Boring Machines, Yerevan Tapes, Not Not Fun, God Unknown, Instruments Of Discipline, La Tempesta International and now the Maple Death label, and worked with a myriad of artists that includes Lina Capra Vaccina, Luciano Lamanna, go Dugong and Maria Violenza. There’s also been various music scores for documentaries, short movies and a project with the fashion house Gucci.    

Photo Credit: Niccolo Berretta

ROUNDUP
Dominic Valvona





A quick shifty, glance, a perusal of the mounting pile of singles, EPs, mini-LPs, tracks, videos and oddities that threaten to overload our inboxes this month by me, Dominic Valvona.

Featured artists include Bob Destiny, Elefant, John Howard, MAI MAI MAI, Mazeppa and Remington Super 60.


Bob Destiny  ‘Wang Dang/Mahna (Troubles)’
(Pharaway Sounds/Guerssen)  Double A-Side Single/19th February 2020



‘Wang Dang thank you ma’am!’ Another scintillating raucous obscurity from the Spanish Guerssen umbrella of reissue label specialists, the Puerto Rico born, Harlem furnace baptized Bob Destiny’s double A-sider is a blistering souk soul missive from the North African r’n’b back pages. Originally dug up by the Habibi Funk crew a few years back and featured on one of their compilations, ‘Wang Dang’ is a scuzz-y howled hustler that was laid down in Algeria, of all places. Bob headed out there at the tail end of the 60s to teach music at the Algerian National Theater. He continued a singing career whilst living there, and in 1970 released both the ‘Wang Dang’ and more localized percussive and sauntering ‘Mahna (Troubles)’ 45s.

Pharaway Sounds have chosen to select tracks from both singles to make up this blazing reissue 45.

The backstory is as interesting as the fusion of funk. Bob started playing piano as a child (self-taught) and tap danced with the Five Chocolate Drops when he was just six years old. He’d go on to meet and play with Billie Holliday, appear in a film with Shirley Temple, hot-foot it in musicals on Broadway, dance at Mankiewicz’s movie Cleopatra, and sing at the San Remo Festival. All this before he made it across the Atlantic, where he also played in Morocco with Hahmed Maraki and formed bands like The Fingers. A well-travelled man, Bob moved to Spain the 80s where he created a jazz school in Zaragoza and was involved with the famous Jazz en la Margen festival. In the 90s, Bob hopped over the border to France, focusing on composition, gospel, musicals and soundtracks. Sadly, he passed away on March 31, 2016. This then serves as a befitting tribute.



Remington Super 60  ‘New EP’
(Café Superstar Recordings)  EP/29th January 2020





How beautifully melodious is this?! Like a hazy 60s Californian dappled light shining on a velvet morning, the nostalgic lulling Norwegian band of Remington Super 60 have caressingly released a brand New EP. On the circuit for twenty odd years these dreamy drifters of soft lush psychedelia, folk and peaceable troubadour wholesomeness have released several albums, EPs and appeared on numerous compilation albums since their inception in 1998. Set-up by producer and songwriter Christoffer Schou the band has featured a changing lineup that includes Magnus Abelsen, Benedicte Sveinsson and Elisabeth Thorsen, among others.

Released through their own label imprint Cafe Superstar Recordings, and also as a cassette version through the small Slovakian indie label Z-Tapes, this disarming six-song collection evokes dreamy recollections of Fleetwood Mac, Bacharach, Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra, Stereolab, the Velvet Underground, Susan Christie, Chuck and Mary Perrin and the Beach Boys. In other words, a nice gentle wash of softly lulled gossamer pop and undulating synthesized liquid lushness. The most attractive thing about this EP though is that it sounds and feels like an endless dreamy summer; the kind we’re all in desperate need of.


John Howard  ‘It’s Not All Over Yet’
Single/7th February 2020





In a second nee third, even fourth, wind of creativity the enigmatic pianist troubadour John Howard has enjoyed a considerable renaissance in the last decade. Choosing his projects wisely and wholly on artistic and desirable (enjoyable too) merit, Howard has recorded a well-received collaboration with Andy Lewis, Ian Button and Robert Rotifer, under The Night Mail moniker, the cerebral open-ended experimental Across The Door Sill opus, and delivered the first volume in a vivid and travail rich autobiography (part two to follow anytime soon) that not only deals with Howard’s haphazard rise and misfortunes in the music industry but chronicles the misadventures of a gay artist in a far from understanding world. Though he gave up the recording and performing for a good couple of decades to focus on A&R, Howard hasn’t wasted any time in returning to the fold; more prolific than ever. Howard’s last album, and 16th, was released just last year on the You Are The Cosmos label; the beautifully rich romantic balladry and stage show-like Cut The Wire.

Since then there has been the odd congruous set of recordings, including the piano suite Four Piano Pieces. And now, a tender rendition of Daniel McGeever’s fatherly tearjerker It’s Not All Over Yet; a label mate of Howard’s on the You Are The Cosmos label.

Attracted to this steadily building wash of recollection – which when Howard gets going, and on the highest vocal notes, sounds very Friends era Beach Boys – Howard says: ‘I first heard the song on Daniel’s album Cross The Water…I instantly fell in love with the album, especially It’s Not All Over Yet, which resonated with me very much. Daniel wrote it for his father Andrew McGeever, who died just a few days before Daniel recorded it. My own father was poorly then too; he died in the summer of 2018.

The lyrics tell of how Daniel’s dad inspired him and how his influence will remain forever. I grew up listening to my dad playing the piano, as a toddler I’d hear him practicing for his gigs with his jazz band, something he continued to enjoy into his eighties.

It was because of hearing my dad play in our front room in Lancashire in the 1950s that my ambition to become a pianist myself grew. I started taking piano lessons aged seven with a determination to be as good as my dad. I don’t think I ever achieved that – Dad was an amazing jazz pianist admired by his musician friends and anyone who watched him play at the various clubs he performed in from the age of fourteen.

When you listen to the song, you’ll understand how it blew me away the first time I heard it and why it touched me so deeply.’

Today, we’re sharing the video version of this faithful but inimitable cover.

Howard explains the imagery used on it: ‘The video features photos of my dad through the years, including a couple which Neil took during our last visit to Dad in his nursing home near Rochdale. He had advanced Alzheimer’s by then but he absolutely loved seeing pics of his old mates from his jazz band days, telling us the name of each musician and what they were like as people. His fondness for them and those times were still tangible, even in dad’s frail state of health by then. He was 93 when he passed away.’



Mazeppa  ‘The Way In’
Single/29th January 2020





Coming on like a Kabbalah Patti Smith wafting and lingering around an intoxicating incense of Middle Eastern and Byzantium psychedlica, the second single from the Haifa, Israel based Mazeppa is an entrancing hallucination of esoteric spiritualism.

Formed in 2017 for the purpose of putting a psychedelic score to the poetry of the Bohemia-Austrian lyrical poet Rainer Maria Rilke, the quartet of Michal Perez Noy (vocals and guitar), Juicyjew Koren (guitar), Elad Bardes (bass) and Amir Nomiros Noy (drums) have started to incorporate Michal’s own lyrics into the heady astral mix.

‘The Way In’ will be followed in the summer by the group’s debut LP.


Elefant  ‘Ultra Plus Ultra’
Video/Latest track taken from the Bejahung LP





Sludge metal and gallows Krautrock merchants of the Belgium underground Elefant are back. With a contortion of phaser drudge fuzz and industrial post-punk elasticated distress, Wolf Vanwymeersch’s led collective of agitated miscreants once more wrestle with NIN, Swans and the Killing Joke on the group’s latest video track ‘Ultra Plus Ultra’.

Following on from 2018’s dystopian deranging Konark Und Bonark (which made our albums of the year feature), the boiler-suited misfits (think forensic team meet Time Bandits villains) have just released, rather sneakily, their second LP Bejahung; of which this is the second single to emerge. For the most part a continuation of that same disillusionment and basement dwelling creepiness, the latest offering seems to be more roomy, spacious and varied this time around. In short: an alarming twisted work of art-rock and menace.


MAI MAI MAI (Feat. Vocalist Maria Violenza)  ‘’Il Secondo Coro delle Lavandaie’
(La Tempesta)  Single/21st February 2020





Continuing to transmogrify, in part, the ethnographic recordings made by Alan Lomax and Diego Carpitella in the 60s and 70s of Italian southern music, native noise tormentor Mai Mai Mai follows up on the previous dark arts caustic Nel Sud LP with another disturbing vision of a folk obscurity.

Translated as the ‘Second chorus Of The Washerwomen’, the lamentable beauty of Roberto De Simon’s (with the Compagnia di Nuovo Canto Popolare) original is lent a discordant, hypnotizing and gradually more sinister fizzle of ritualistic and primal voodoo pulsations. The real Southern Gothic, ‘Il Secondo Coro delle Lavandaie’ features the voice of Maria Violenza, who can be heard in choral mantra amongst the intoxicating scuzz, whistling and dreamy industrial churns.

The spill from the PR sums it up perfectly: A dark journey into the past of the Italian south, a ‘Mediterranean Hauntology’, this ominous extended single encompasses an ethnic and folkloric tradition in a more contemporary way, conjuring a work in which art, music & theatre intersect.

Ahead of its official release in two weeks time, we’re sharing the video, which I warn you is a menacing cartoonish horror show: The protagonist limbering up with the worst ever Kung-Fu workout before increasingly deranged, stalking and volatile commits bloody murder.

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