A Short Roundup Of Recommended Releases On The Peripheral/Dominic Valvona

Pons ‘Leland (Club Mix)’
Single Premiered on Youtube 28th May 2021

Causing a right furor with their mischievous bombardments and jerked dance debut album last year, Pons are back with a new single and video (directed and edited by the L.A. production porthole Lazy Eye) that filters the band’s whipped up erratic diy version of garage, post-punk and beyond via a sleazy, degenerate drug-fueled night out at the club.

Lyrically following a narrative from the point-of-view of the infamous ‘murderer-in-disguise’ of its title, ‘Leland’ is a strung-out, creeping and brooding Lynchian proposition made all the more agreeable by its coarse electronic treatment: It sounds like the Liars exchanging lines with the Foals, LCD Soundsystem and Swans on the set of Twin Peaks.

Making good on that previous album, Intellect, last year, it’s great to hear the band are back and still developing that sound and scope.

Kety Fusco ‘Ma Gnossienne’
Single Released 28th May 2021

Magical and mysterious the transcendent panoramas and cascading harp notes that emanate from the Italian-Swiss harpist and composer Kety Fusco’s instrument of choice stir up vague hints of the Middle East and beyond on this homage treatment to that famous French progenitor of late 19th century and early 20th century minimalism and repetitive music, Erik Satie.

The experimental, transportive harpist uses the sounds of vinyl scratched on metal strings, objects struck on the soundboard of a pre-sampled classical harp and analogue effects manipulated live to create a sonic visage of the composer’s original ‘Gnossienne N.1’ suite. Renamed ‘Ma Gnossienne’ by Fusco, this reinvention is full of caresses and plucks, reversal effects, searing and heavenly breathless atmospherics.

Fusco has embarked on a unique harp sound research, working with Delta Electric Harps from Salvi Harps, who have taken her on as their official Ambassador. Her exploration of harp and effects technology began successfully with the debut of her album DAZED. Kety Fusco has over 80 concerts throughout Europe, and she is working on the first world’s sound library of non-traditional harp sounds. This latest score uses some of that unconventional experimentation to evocative affect.

Meggie Lennon ‘Night Shift’
(Mothland) Taken from the upcoming Sounds From Your Lips album, released 9th July 2021

Sometimes the artist and their representatives do all the work for you. And for sure the litany of great influences, hinted echoes of does read correct: Donovan’s The Hurdy Gurdy Man and Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs, and the more contemporary Beach House, MGMT, Weyes Blood, Helena Deland and Air’s Moon Safari (though I would add the French duo’s incredible sighed, dream like mirage, The Virgin Suicides as well to that list, plus a touch of Jacco Gardner). The Dears also make sense, the Montreal-based Meggie Lemon having opened for that most brilliant of Canadian institutions.

In short ‘Night Shift’ is a gently unfurled mellowing escape from Lemon, who is set to release her debut album songbook Sounds From Your Lips next month. An incredible song actually, which leads the listener through a reversal portal towards the most sublimely melodious of disarming pop songs. Blissful, this gorgeous rayed dream was inspired by late night cycle rides home from good nights out in the city, and the blinding sun that shined through the studio windows. A melodrama of the exhilarating and joyful set to the most floating and drifted of tunes, ‘Night Shift’ offers a glimpse into what that beautiful upcoming album beholds.

Modern Blonde ‘Candyland’
(Plato’s House) 24th May 2021

Dropping Raymond Chandler into the Matrix, the Salford trio of Modern Blonde conjures up a “mock-conceptual” cyber-noir phantasm on their virtual simulated Candyland soundtrack. A microcosm of all our present worries about freethinking sentience A.I. avatars, drones, reality TV and the corporatization of the Internet, this anything but harmless candy floss coated world is a snapshot of all our futures.

Following, interacting with the album’s central simulated character, Detective Candy of Candyland homicide, listeners are immersed in a dreamwave fantasy of both 80s danceable post-punk synth and more sour, even daemonic, voiced menace. The original blueprint for a trillion recreated micro worlds, this one sees our protagonist navigate a both alluring and dystopian twisted synthesized narrative; pushed on by unforeseen forces and a multitude of interactions.

Supposedly in the mold of a unveiling Hollywood movie, all the tropes of that golden age of American detective fiction are present, transformed and warped in a retro-futuristic new age. It’s an interesting set-up; prescient in a pandemic era in which virtual worlds, dislocation and escapism seem even more desirable. Playfully executed too, despite the depth of topics and often sonorous forebode that borders at times on the esoteric and Gothic. 

You often only hear or catch threads, the odd line of the both manipulated vocals and narration. Sonic wise we’re talking about Vengelis’ futuristic panned cinematic scores meet DAF. But you can hear traces of 80s sci-fi soundtracks and Klaus Schulze on the neon lit introduction, ‘Becoming Candy’; Suicide on the simultaneously heavenly and creepily voiced ‘Too Tough To Die’; Bran Van 3000 lost in a warping enchanted dream state, on the rotating ‘Candyland Theme’; and an increasingly deranged ‘dirty cigarette’ poncing Iggy Pop fronts Swans, on ‘Plague 2’.  In lighter, more burbling electronic pop moments (such as the sampled voices in a haunted nightclub, ‘Totems In The Night’), the Blondes evoke Der Plan and Station 17; and when the vocal affects slip, they sound not unlike a Salford version of Renegade Soundwave.

Arpeggiators remain constant as the mood switches between the unsettling and plain weird (transmogrifying a line out of Joe Dolce ‘Shaddup Your Face’ on the languid bandy ‘NO RESPECT’), the brooding and grand (check out the cathedral size theatrical synth swells of the dungeon finale ‘The Tomb Of Love’). If Lynch had been asked to direct a murder mystery in the Matrix universe, then Candyland is the soundtrack.

Clamb ‘Earth Mother Grapefruit’
4th June 2021

Powered by the symbolic, mystical vibrations of the ‘three’, in the shadows of the atavistic pyramid stargazers, the Massachusetts ‘earth magik peacelords’ Clamb navigate the astral and universal on their debut album, Earth Mother Grapefruit.

Imbued by a cosmology of conceptual space rock, prog, jazz fusion and even alternative funk albums with a similar penchant for otherworldly realms, the trio’s triangular coded fixated opus travels the outer and inner mind for a both mysterious and playful space bound trip: Mystery in the dry-ice vaporous shape of the cosmic evaporations and post-punk menace vision of Klaus Schulze sharing a space craft pod with Floyd, King Crimson and Amon Düül II, on ‘Power Pyramid’, playful wise, on the smoother, keytar like cyber-funking ‘Party Pyramid’.  

This instrumental band has the celestial keys to unlock a treasure trove of influences and sounds; some which prove pretty surprising: One minute it’s the growling alt-rock bass of Archers Of Loaf and the drive of Adam’s Castle, the next, John Carpenter’s The Fog and the alien generator pulses, soundscapes of an early Tangerine Dream. ‘Ascending’ a pantry of lunar veiled and zapped ‘eggs’ and cosmic funk ‘oysters’, currents of Compost, Ozric Tentacles, Out Of Focus, Qüassi and Embryo get channeled into an impressive mind expanding fusion. Imagine a cosmic slop of funk elevating across the moon’s surface in a barge fit for the Nile. Where others maybe jaded or adverse to the idea of progressive jazz and fusion, Clamb absolutely lap it up in droves on an album that takes offerings from Earth and the celestial. Prepare to sup from the grapefruit bowl and be whisked past the eye of Horus and beyond.

Mike Gale ‘Twin Spirit’
4th June 2021

Formerly of Black Neilson, then flying solo under the Co-Pilgrim banner, Mike Gale has been sunning it in the warm glow of the Beach Boys (via the Animal Collective) influence as a solo artist over the last few years. Once more yearning for and reminiscing about past escapes, Gale’s latest lockdown songbook dreamily articulates all our longing wishes to break free of this suffocating, restrictive pandemic epoch.

More or less using only samples (fed up with playing guitar; though the guitar does make an appearance) for once, the wistful, winsome summer holiday troubadour languidly and swimmingly goes with a most drifting and bendy flow on the melting Twin Spirit album.

All those Beach Boy harmonies, exquisite melodies and sometimes beautiful melancholy are present and correct; merged, woven into a palette that includes shades of White Album (and solo) McCartney (on the opening saloon honky tonk piano weather report ‘Don’t Mind The Weather’); the lilted bounce of an Hawaiian shirt bedecked Paul Simon and the tropical bobbing marimba pop of Nick Hayward (both sharing the stage on the African light ‘Awake Awake’ escape); C Duncan (the fluty-synth noted, wavy ‘I’ve Got A Soul For Your Mind’); and Nilsson (on the 70s airport lounge thoroughfare ditty ‘Welcome To Amsterdam’).    

Scratched gramophone woes and spindled South Sea romantic getaways sit alongside Bossa saunter serenade postcards from the Argentine town of San Luis on an album that sounds anything but sampled. Yes there’s plenty of underwater gargled effects, fleeting distant voices, the sound of certain ambiences and even what sounds like a speeded up Grimes on the boomerang halcyon ‘Better’, but it all feels pretty organic and always dreamily scenic. Someone please lift this miasma of Covid soon and let Gale and the rest of us find some relief in the glowing embrace of a summer holiday. Failing that, get this album on your sound system instead. Magic. Pure magic.

Palais Schaumburg ‘S/T’
(Bureau B) 11th June 2021

Lifted out of relative obscurity by the Hamburg label Bureau B (enjoying a renaissance of German New Wave releases at the moment), this incredible jerked and transmogrified art school melting pot album, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month, channels Neue Deutsche Welle, no wave, blue-eyed funk, industrial music and avant-garde kling klang indie into one blast of pop experimentation. From the sounds of it, Palais Schaumburg’s eponymously entitled debut album has arguably influenced a whole generation of post-punk and post-krautrock artists.

The Hamburg Art Academy incubated band’s lineup is perhaps better known for the projects and groups that it spawned, with members joining Einstürzende Neubauten and starting up the iconic Basic Channel imprint.

A link from the krautrock era to the omnivorous and amorphous possibilities of a new decade, Palais Schaumburg ran traces of Can’s E.F.S. series of stiff bowed strings in the attic experiments and a removed ‘Vitamin C’ propulsion throughout the speed-shifting jerk-dance ‘Morgen Wird Der Wind Gefegt’, and seem to appropriate the piano from ‘Turtles Have Short Legs’ for the Altered Images in deconstruction clack and clamber funk, ‘Gute Luft’.

Produced by the Flying Lizards’ David Cunningham with a band that had already lost members and recruited their replacements (a practice that would continue over the mayfly longevity of the band’s fleeting career), the cold war federal chancellery entitled blast hysterically and in cool aloof sneers sounded the start of a new wave movement. Like the European cousins of ESG, James Chance, Devo and a shaky distraught David Byrne, the Palais contorted those no wave signatures, blurts and quickened jerky saxophone hoots and blasts and beats into something distinctively German.

Radical in so many ways, a totem inspiration for what was to come, Palais Schaumburg rightly deserve this reissue spotlight: even it is about the second or third time the label has done so (2012 on Spotify and the label also brought out a deluxe version in 2017). Perhaps sensing it won’t be the most popular of releases though, the red vinyl version is limited to only 500 copies – which I suspect will fly out of the Bureau B offices. I suggest you buy it and own a bit of new wave history, still very much fresh sounding and exciting.

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.

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