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’







BRIAN ‘BORDELLO’ SHEA’S REVIEWS ROUNDUP

SINGLES/TRACKS

Alexander Stordiau ‘Nothings Ever Required’
(Timeless Music Records)

‘Nothings Ever Required’ is a gem of a aural discovery; a moody piece of John Carpenter-esque solitude over five minutes of pure instrumental poetry. The kind of mood piece to soundtrack the passing daylight by watching passing strangers walk past the old coffee house window trying to read the faces, read their thoughts, lost in your memories, and hopes slowly making the coffee last, cusping it in your warms to keep in the warmth, with Alexander Stordiau gently caressing the shifting time of loneliness.

It’s Karma It’s Cool ‘A Gentle Reminder’

‘Gentle Reminder’ is a in fact a gentle reminder that pop music is a wonderful thing, as this tuneful little ditty shows three and a half minuets of perfectly formed guitar pop rock, with a Peter Holsapple guesting on keyboards – that is in fact one of the highlights of the track  – giving this perfectly formed pop rock of a song a slight new wave sense of danger.

Anxiolytics ‘S​{​R​}​[​C​]​O​[​{​T​}​[​R​]​CHED EARTH’

Anxiolytics are an experimental synth duo from North Wales and have an evil but lovingly portrayed glint in their eye I bet, this single being a strange and haunting affair that takes me back to the post punk early 80s of the Passage and Soft Cell and offers something both original and different; a song that has a cold warmness that will smother and intoxicate you with a germ ridden freshness that has not been inhaled since the passing of the great David R Edwards and the wonder that was Datblygu. Once again I am left awaiting the debut album.

Floorbrothers ‘Drive’
(Ikarus Records)

Ahh Mr Floorbrothers,Fade Into You’ by Mazzy Star is one of my favourite tracks as well. So slowing it down and making it into a drug induced waltz, adding new lyrics and making it sound like Mott The Hoople needing a good night’s sleep is a pretty nifty idea and one I stand and applaud. A good single then.

Bigflower ‘Tried To Care’

The first new track from the mighty bigflower in a few months I think, and yes, they have once again supplied a dark piece of dense guitar magic; a track to help soundtrack these dark, dark frightening days and months that lie ahead in the UK; the kind of track we need to be blasted from car radios as we head to work knowing after a week of hard slog we will still not be able to afford to pay our bills and put food on the table. Although this is not an out and out political lambasting of our uncaring and failing government it is a song to capture the intensity and hopelessness of these worrying times.

EP

Rob Clarke And The Woolltones ‘Rubber Chicken B-Sides’
(Aldora Britain Records)

This is an enjoyable little forage into the dim and distant past. Four songs that take the hip swinging beatitude of the sixties, all beat chords and “What’d I Say” riffage songs your nan would have curled her hair to in her youth before going down the ballroom to watch the local beat band. Four songs that are all enjoyable and warm sounding and with the final track, ‘Love And Haught’, being especially splendid, a track worthy of the final days of the wonderful Escorts: close your eyes and you are back in 1966 heaven. A beautiful release and only 50p to download: that is 12 and a half pence a track. Yes this EP does take you back when half a pence was such a thing.

ALBUMS

The Pixies ‘Doggeral’
(BMG) 30th September 2022

I used to love The Pixies back in the day when they first appeared, and to be honest I’ve not really listened to them much since they got back together. I’ve not really listened to them since Indie Cindy, and I think I might have been missing out if this album is anything to go by; although they are obviously missing the divine Kim Deal. But that is all they seem to be missing. They still have quite a loud thing going on (‘Haunted House’), are still masters of distorted surf guitar (‘Vault Of Heaven’), and have not lost their knack for a catchy strange pop tune, (‘Get Stimulated’). The lovely charmingly charming pop beauty that is ‘The Lord Has Come Back Today’ might just be my favourite track on this rather fine enjoyable album. They even have a whistling solo on ‘Pagan Man’, which there is certainly not enough of in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. So, the eighth Pixies album is in fact quite a musical treat.

Keiron Phelan & The Peace Signs ‘Bubblegum Boogie’
(Gare Du Nord) 23rd September 2022

What we have here my lukewarm fluffy bunny fetishists is an album of sophisticated polite pop – and we all need a little sophistication and politeness in our lives. Remember children always say please and thank you afterwards [ooeer missus]. And this album of melody rich pop could be your injection of sophistication for the day.

‘Trojan Pony’ kicks off the album with a fine Harry Nilsson like pop ditty that would not sound out of place on any of his early 70s pop masterpieces. Kieran Phelan is obviously a fan of the seventies laid-back pop as we find a tribute to the lovely gentleman and cult favourite John Howard with ‘Song For John Howard’, a lovely short piano ballad that not just recalls the music of the great man but also Brian Wilson as well, which indeed cannot be a bad thing.

The whole album is awash with gentle laid-back slightly quirky songs that have a layer of sadness and memories, and sometimes, sad memories are the most beautiful. And Bubblegum Boogie is indeed a beautiful little sophisticated bubble gum pop album.

Grave Goods ‘Tursday. Nothing Exists’
(Tulle)  9th September 2022

“Step softly into the new world of the underground” is the opening line from the opening track ‘Come’ from this rather fine post-punk album of clattering guitars and such malarkey. And it’s an invitation I would readily advise all fans of clattering guitars and such malarky to well accept. For they will be treated to seven tracks of aggressive alternative rock post-punk that takes some rather fine lyrics [which I am very taken with] and guitar riffs that put Grave Goods a step up from the usual gallop of the many many other post-punk bands. An album well worth investigation dear readers.

The Legless Crabs ‘And If You Change Your Mind About Rock ‘n’ Roll’
(Metal Postcard Records)

Thank the fuck for the Legless Crabs. After spending over an hour going through my emails to see what delights I could pontificate about and tell you lovely readers all about, I was left bereft. I had listened to loads of power pop with shite lyrics; shoegaze which in itself stands alone as why I have not reviewed it: anything that describes itself as shoegaze is enough to put me off, we all know what shoegaze is, music that reaches for the stars but very rarely manages not to leave the ground. So thank fuck for the rock ‘n’ roll un pc digs at modern life the Legless Crabs on a regular basis release. And If You Change Your Mind About Rock ‘n’ Roll’ is up to their normal high standard.

Guitars that fuzz and buzz and on this occasion form layers of pure confusion that take you back to the golden age of watching loud guitar bands in dingy clubs. ‘Piss Lake’, ‘Anti -Christian Scientists’ and every other track on this album are filled with an anger and disgust at the way modern life is shaping up.

This album is a much more serious and mature sounding album of rock ‘n’ roll. They no longer sound like the slap dash young noise merchants that overdosed on JAMC and the Cramps and Pussy Galore and now sound like they have had to grow up and get jobs. And that has just made them even angrier.

This is an album of darkness like their others, but the others came with a cheeky wink this with just a terrifying blank stare.

Salem Trials  ‘Postcards From The Other Side Of The Sun’
(Metal Postcard Records)

A triple album by the Salem Trials: well it would be a triple LP if it were released on vinyl. There are 29 tracks and each and everyone is filled with the whip snap guitar madness that the Salem Trials deal in.

Songs that echo the world we live in full of dark humour, nostalgia, darkness and T Rex riffs. ‘Black Flash’, which imagine instead of David Bowie guesting on the Marc Bolan Show you had Mark E Smith, and instead of it being in a TV studio it was on a small boat that was slowly sinking below the waves, slowly lapping around Marc and Mark E’s knees; a song of pure and beautiful magic and maybe my fave ever Salem Trials song. Pure brilliance. But there are so many. Andy and Russ are quite incapable of not doing anything that is not at least very good; they have their own sound; they have their own feel; they have their own magic.

The Salem Trials are one offs. They take their influences of post-punk, psych, seventies glam, no wave, indie pop and merge into what can only be described as a unique and rewarding listening experience.

Andrei Rikichi ‘Caged Birds Think Flying Is A Sickness’
(Bearsuit Records)

Apart from Caged Birds Think Flying Is A Sickness being a great album title it is also a fine album; an album that takes electronica, dance and cinematic sculptures to a new and experimental place, a place where white noise and James Bond soundtracks collide to great and unusual effect. ‘What Happened To Whitey Wallace’ sounds like monks playing on a old ZX 90 computer game and ‘Bag, Lyrics, New Prescription’ could be on a soundtrack to an Alfred Hitchcock movie set in a colourful but black and white jazz world.

Yes, indeed once again Bearsuit Records have released an album crammed with original thought-provoking music that is both experimental but also very listenable; an album to soundtrack the spin of a roulette wheel and the shadow-stained wet pavement of a neon signed littered night time street.

ALBUM REVIEW
GRAHAM DOMAIN

Tess Tyler ‘Fractals Vols. 1 & 2’
9th September 2022

Fractals is the wonderful debut album by Bristol based composer Tess Tyler. It works well, both as an artistic statement and also as a shop window for what the composer can do. Having composed already for film and video game soundtracks, the album includes dark sci-fi experimental electronic soundscapes such as ‘Overture’ and ‘Interlude 1’ and also neoclassical pieces that have an expansive cinematic quality used to conjure up a whole range of emotion. Undoubtedly many of the pieces will be used in films, documentaries and adverts and cause the viewer to wonder who has created this incredible music and hence track down the album.

Individually, there are some incredibly exciting tracks, such as ‘Sell the Sky’, which has all the energy and thrill of a Bond film action sequence but with its own individual sound and quirkiness! Most notably, the incredibly propulsive, expressive, explosive drumming that stop, starts and erupts into euphoria! It is so joyful, that it almost has its own transcendent trans-dimensional reality! Existing, as it does, outside of time and space and, only in the moment!

Beginning with processed electronic orchestral strings, ‘Origami Dogs’ is another propulsive, forward- moving, tribal, dark exciting cinematic piece that builds via sequencers and minimalist piano before rhythmically abstract drums and power chord guitars drive it to its climax.

Black disturbed noise begins ‘Not Mine’ before a minimalist piano motif and sequencers combine with sad brass and off-kilter drums to produce a sublime jazz in-flecked late night moonlit masterpiece!

Dark electronic noise gives way to minimalist piano, synth, white noise and backward drums in ‘7ero’ to produce a melodically sad refrain and Japan-like melody.

‘Instinct’ begins with drones of guitar, synth arpeggios and computer babble before a minimalist, expressive piano motif takes over, augmented by plucked strings creating an air of anticipation. The track builds with driving drums and guitar propelling the song to its conclusion.

One of the best tracks on the album is ‘The Nothing Cycle’ which begins with a cyclical, minimal Steve Reich piano and electronically manipulated orchestral noise before evolving into a Mike Oldfield type moody piano refrain with heavy guitar chords. A mad drum and pummelling bass soon kick in and build to a crescendo of noise that suddenly stops to leave just a bass and drum pulse and piano chords before a sequencer adds to the sense of drama and anticipation and rapidly builds momentum to a mad rock drum and tense guitar finale!

The studio album is augmented by a second album of one-off live re-imaginings of five of the pieces by The Spindle Ensemble with their interpretations of Tyler’s graphic score. (A graphic score being a way to represent the music outside of traditional notation, using visual symbols. Each instrument being assigned a different symbol). Thus, we get radically different versions of ‘Sell the Sky’, ‘Origami Dogs’, ‘7ero’, ‘Instinct’ and ‘The Nothing Cycle’. It is an interesting concept and one that reveals a different side to each composition. ‘Sell the Sky’ appears here as decidedly more downbeat, almost gloomy compared to the original studio version. Cello and violin are employed to bring out the melancholy in the music, which is augmented by disturbed orchestral dissonance with piano strings being hit and plucked to maximum effect! Similarly, ‘Origami Dogs’ employs violin, slow strings and piano to convey feelings of sadness, anxiety and loneliness.

‘7ero’ meanwhile, employs a descending marimba motif while a disturbed violin plays a lonely refrain, conveying feelings of intrigue and unease. When the piano comes in the music portrays feelings of alienation and mental imbalance before the marimba and bass play a single note to fade.

Violin overshot with minimal marimba provides the setting and a sense of space on ‘The Nothing Cycle’. The music resonates with a sadness almost verging on despair. The marimba conveys anxiety and resignation with its minimal note runs while a depressed violin conjures up the ghosts of regret.

In its reworked format, ‘Instinct’ is transformed into a beautiful melancholic piece with violin and one note marimba giving way to ascending piano arpeggios and two note double bass creating tension and suspense. Plucked guitar strings and ruminating marimba improvisations combine with violin to create feelings of sadness and regret – a lament for something lost, a missed chance. Beauty in sadness.

A debut album of beauty, versatility, energy and vision. Outstanding!

ALBUM REVIEW
MATT OLIVER

The Difference Machine  ‘Unmasking The Spirit Fakers’
(Full Plate) – Out Now

“Criticise me from a safe place, when you never had the courage to keep up the same pace”

Unmasking the Spirit Fakers sounds righteously, overzealously put through an 80s keep-it-real mouthpiece, though its sourcing from a Harry Houdini essay does complement Chuck D’s pronouncement of ‘no more music by the suckers’ perfectly. Fundamentally it goes for a hip-hop trope old as time itself and still one of 2022’s causes for concern – separating the authentic from the phony.

Their description as a ‘psychedelic hip-hop group from Atlanta’ doesn’t do The Difference Machine much of a service. These underdogs hide in plain sight: though the opening and closing tracks evoke burnt out rock star imagery in the last throes of the limelight (or another Public Enemy reference, ‘Do You Wanna Go Our Way???’), The Difference Machine’s reshaping of long-haired prog rockisms, is more about achieving the optimum volume to get foundations crumbling (first thought of comparison – Flatbush Zombies). For psychedelic, read a vivid shock to the senses, playing out a bad trip, Strawberry Fields becoming killing fields. On one hand you’re prompted to “take a step inside the mind of man with no time to lose” – the reality is when you’re told to “get behind the wheel and drive with no fucking fear”.

Drum welts and gut-punching synths introduce ‘Atlantis’ and producer Doctor Conspiracy, with the bit immediately between the teeth of emcee Day Tripper. Positioning himself in the eye of the storm as smoke bringer #1 (“never thought that black cloud would hover over me”), the prevalent, what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen mentality has evolved from the band’s first albums The Psychedelic Sound of The Difference Machine and The 4th Side of the Eternal Triangle, both of which made more of a jangly, moptop sound delivering Edan-feedbacked zingers. Those faking the spirit behind the peace signs have obviously tipped The Machine over the edge, DT grinding magical mystery tours to a halt (okay, the ghostly melodies of ‘Flat Circles’ appear to put the Ark of the Covenant up for grabs), by spitting with kerbside, high stakes amplification, armed with jagged book smarts, and numbness as an essential power-up. A distrust viewing everything and nothing as real, reaches the conclusion that it’s best to “fuck a half full-half empty, fill the whole cup”.

Four tracks in and DT is playing the last action hero in sweat-stained vest, brushing off chunks of shrapnel. Sure ‘Car Key’ lies on a bed of sitars and flower power, but Day Tripper’s savage stick-up shtick – “this your last chance before these bullets tap dance across your face like scatman” – is not for dressing in tie-dye. Humble enough to reveal “it all came to me one day rapping in the shower” before Denmark Vessey jumps in, DT shows his hustler’s mentality matches the next man on ‘Huckleberry Finn Day’ (“I sacrifice comfort for wonder, I sacrifice slumber for numbers”); and, like all defender of the universe appointments, a sliver of vulnerability is seen seeping under the armour.

Whereas ‘Repeater’, an epic, can’t stop-won’t stop rumble with Sa-Roc guesting (“got a cheat code embedded within me that’s infinite”) arms the charges into combat, the scuzzy ‘It Ain’t’ is where all thoughts tangle into a fiery stream of consciousness, caught wondering whether not giving a fuck is actually the safest option. The Quelle Chris-starring ‘Re Up’ is a rare simmer down, though still with nagging thoughts persisting as to riding the risk-reward seesaw. Perhaps the album’s crystallising moment is when on ‘Pulling Capers’, featuring a fed-up-as-he-gets (which never sounds quite right) Homeboy Sandman, DT nutshells his higher calling -“I ain’t ask to be a rapper, rap asked me with a dagger to my throat”.

After 38 minutes of pressure, the engaging cult of the Machine continues. It’s an interesting dynamic, of DT blazing out on his own with Doctor Conspiracy’s production acting like a Foley stage. Without really sounding like a traditional DJ-MC combo, it’s to Conspiracy’s credit that DT (dare it be said, at times channelling the new king of Glasto) sounds like he’s the figurehead for a whole squad of Max Mad musicians, rather than an MPC twisted inside out. Also marking a slightly more hard-nosed departure for Full Plate (whose entertaining acts Dillon, Batsauce and Paten Locke always do well on these pages), The Difference Machine rock cores with their unrest soundtracking the here and now – the days of the sucker are numbered.

AUTHOR MATT OLIVER: Sometime Clash site contributor, dance, electronic and hip-hop expert Matt has been offering up his wisdom and recommendations on the best rap cuts for the Monolith Cocktail for the last six years. You can find out more about his extensive writing portfolio and professional practice here.

THE PLAYLIST
Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brian Bordello Shea

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

TRACK LIST IN FULL IS:

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



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

PHOTO CREDIT: CECILY ENO

Roger Eno ‘The Turning Year’
(Deustsche Grammophon) 22nd April 2022

Walking down rain sodden streets, the lights from car headlights and shop windows reflected in the wet pavements and puddle-strewn roads. Shops closing early, café’s empty and being cleaned. A sepia world of sadness over-shot with colour, hope, a need, a craving for love and an end to this all-pervading sense of loneliness.

The Turning Year inhabits this world of rain, loneliness, hope, longing, forever searching. Always the sense of arriving too late, shops closing, opportunities missed, soaked to the skin but still looking to the stars – forever chasing the elusive shadow that is love. Glimpsed for a fleeting heartbeat. A dream, of hope. To love is to live. Love is the beginning, the awakening. Happiness and heartache, sadness and ecstasy, purpose and despair, confusion and belief, danger and grace.

The Turning Year is music of beauty, simplicity, sadness with underlying hope. At its best it is melodic or mysterious piano underscored by beautiful string orchestration. It engages the mind, the body, the emotions. It is music to treasure.

Highlights: ‘The Turning Year’, ‘A Place We Once Walked’, ‘On the Horizon’, ‘Low Cloud Dark Skies’.

Dana Gavanski ‘When It Comes’
(Flemish Eye/North America, Full Time Hobby/UK) 29th April 2022

Photo Credit: Clementine Schneidermann

When it Comes is the wonderful second album by Canadian/Serbian singer songwriter Dana Gavanski. It is an album of strange melodic songs that don’t quite make sense in a literal way but imprint themselves on the mind of the listener, stirring emotions, attaching themselves to the psyche and staying there like half-remembered memories of past lives.

The songs exist in dream dimensions where images are thrown up in random succession, touching emotions at an elemental level, like ancestral knowledge or the wonders of the natural world – the untamed ocean, stunning mountain sunsets, summer meadow’s humming with bees and wild flying insects.

The album begins with ‘I Kiss The Night’ a strange intriguing song that engenders feelings of isolation, loneliness: abandonment even. The protagonist just about holding things together, dissecting and controlling her emotions – “I built a fortress in my mind– take apart the thoughts – leave the furthest far behind.” But is her dream lover all in her mind as she imagines “milk white words of love falling on (her) sleepy head” and pictures “the faces that were never there” leading to the sad refrain of “I needed you to help me – but every night… it’s just the moon that I see”.

In ‘Bend Away And Fall’ the singer focuses in on her feelings as they change “bend away and fall” and considers that the love she is now experiencing is “slower, scented, experience altering!” The words are impressionistic, non-specific and primordial, painting emotive colour over metal black memory.

Dana Gavanski possesses a voice that is light, tender but somehow emotionally detached with a tone and phrasing similar to Cate Le Bon. But, while Cate Le Bon writes intelligent absurdist lyrics that cut to the chase, Dana Gavanski’s lyrics are more abstract and non-linear, reflecting feelings that cannot easily be expressed in words.

Perhaps the most commercial song is ‘Letting Go’ a simple song about reaching a point where a person is able to let go of emotions from past relationships and move on: “I thought I saw my solitude end it’s hour of grieving.” The singer unconsciously seeking love again, “it happens every time I find a hole, just to fill it.” She is finally ready emotionally to re-take the plunge, her confidence re-charged she is feeling good once more: ‘The Sun’s so hot, I heat up again”

‘The Day Unfolds‘… begins with a crawling crab of a rhythm walking sideways and sounding not unlike Wire circa Chairs Missing. Again, the words are abstract and open to interpretation with “snow falling bright, shapes in plight”, but may be about losing your own sense of self in a bad relationship…”Control, a bending knife you will shine… I’m losing my way, down the avenue… I found my soul undone… I know fallen one your time will come.”

Meantime, the song ‘Lisa’ reminds me of Weyes Blood but plays like a Scott Walker suburban drama of loneliness, longing, desperation, and unrequited love. The protagonist pleading “Please Sir have you noticed me… I watch you roam the streets a frown sketched on your face, chasing after days that melt behind… crowds form early on, dogs and families and city siren songs, I wait until they’re gone to show my face… Something like this I have never felt… a belly full of tremors… and what I can offer you?”

The album ends with the hymnal ‘Knowing to Trust’, which comes across like Beach House covering Mazzy Star. Again the abstract lyrics breath life and strangeness into the song… “Face on, am I howling too loud, does my worry crowd your view?”

Although I have tried to interpret some of the songs on the album, it is often not the words she sings but the feelings the songs stir. The songs and the album are the musical equivalent of Penda’s Fen, you can’t elicit why it’s great but it leaves an emotive lasting impression.

Dana Gavanski has created a wonderful album, mysterious, beguiling, intriguing, full of wonders to be uncovered with each listen. The music that underpins the songs is sparse, minimal but warm, played on strummed guitar, piano, electric keyboards, synth, organ and drum-machine. Vocally Dana Gavanski falls somewhere in-between Cate Le Bon and Weyes Blood. Creatively, she perhaps falls closer to Nico or Aldous Harding with her oblique, abstract words conjuring up scenarios of emotion by the juxtaposition of images and lyrical ambience.

Key Tracks: ‘I Kiss The Night’, ‘Letting Go’, ‘The Day Unfolds’, ‘Knowing to Trust’.

Ignacio Simon ‘Old Friends’

Old Friends is the beautiful new album by Ignacio Simon (a composer, musician and artist, Spanish but based in England). Seven years in the making, it is the attention to detail and beautiful understatement, that makes this such a compelling listen. The space as important as the notes played.

The album begins with the whispered sigh of a song that is ‘Don’t be Long’. As the song progresses, minimal guitar gives way to silence, cello and a choir of mermaids singing on a distant shore. Sounding like it was arranged by Scott Walker circa Tilt, it is a thing of beauty, hope mixed with sadness.

The following mood piece ‘Victor’ begins with dissonance and single piano chords with ten seconds of silence, repeated, before cello, double bass and more dissonance make their own small marks on the canvas. Just when you think it has ended, mumbles of words come in creating an ambience of regret and longing from a jumble of memory and half remembered dream. More an expression of feeling than a song, the words are oblique and the message non-linear, understood more on a primordial, emotional, unconscious level.

‘Being Here’ follows like a disturbing nightmare with its discordant clangs, ghostly murmurs and sighs, suggesting suspense, dread, a stalking evil, dark rooms of terror, confinement and lunacy!

By way of contrast ‘Old Friends’ sighs in with soft brushed drums, double bass, understated guitar and ripples of orchestra, sounding majestic, like David Sylvian at his most heart breaking. The vocals, like “gentle drones inside our heads”, have echoes of Mark Hollis, Bill Callahan and Rufus Wainwright. This is perhaps the standout track on the album with its minimal soft jazz beauty and uplifting sadness.

The night terror interlude of ‘Being There’ begins with a crescendo stab of orchestral menace and a choir of distant full moon madness – like howling lost souls heard from far, far, away. Soon gone, it is replaced by the serene magic of…

‘The Magician’, a mystic hymn to nature and the continual cycle of life – birth, death, decline and renewal. Minor key piano chords underpin feelings of detachment and isolation as the words seep out … “We won’t touch, we won’t exchange a word…” Echoes of the Pop Group’s ‘The Savage Sea’ can be heard in the abstraction and widescreen sonic wastelands as he sings, “When will the sun come up?” The song fading into raptures of delirium, drowning in a sea of sirens… lost beneath the waves, but overtaken by calm… soon to be “long, long, gone.”

You won’t find a more beautiful record this year, full of uplifting sadness and hope. It is already my album of the year 2022! You can download it or buy the CD version on Bandcamp. Have a listen to this great record, particularly if you like Mark Hollis, Talk Talk, David Sylvian, Scott Walker, and Graham Domain. This wonderful record is deserving of a much wider audience.

Bambara  ‘Love On My Mind’

Bambara hail from Athens, Georgia, but have all the street punk attitude of the dark side of New York, where they now reside. Like one of the street gangs from the film The Warriors they possess a cool menace and visceral charm.

Musically they are a strange mixture of The Birthday Party, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Lou Reed, New Model Army, Swans, The Telescopes and The Modern Lovers. Big guitars, driving bass, machine-like drumming give them an 80’s Goth vibe but with a low-life reality and fighting spirit.

Reid Bateh sounds like a young Nick Cave, full of energy and bite but with a drawling vocal more akin to Lou Reed on speed, cranked really high!

The new six song EP has energy in abundance, great literate songs full of imagery and fire, the shadow of death close by. A band set to burn bright live fast and die in a blaze of glory! See them on tour this spring before they’re gone!

PLAYLIST SPECIAL

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

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

That exhaustive track list in full:::

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



VIDEO SPECIAL/Dominic Valvona

Violet Nox ‘Super Fan Remix Bu J. Bagist’
(Infinity Vine Records) Single 20th October/Video 22nd October 2021

Currently revitalising cosmic spells and futuristic travels from the back catalogue, Boston synth-heavy collective Violet Nox have once more called upon the transformative remix skills of J. Bagist and the video skills of Deb Step to create a new colourful vision. Both disciplines, along with the Peter Halley neo geo version of Kandinsky and 50s abstract futurism artwork by Jeff Bartell, come together to refresh the troupe’s cybernetic and vaporous voiced ‘Super Fan’ track.

Originally gracing last year’s navigation of brave new worlds Future Fast EP (which I reviewed here), the dub-like oscillating ‘Super Fan’ offered sulphur atmospherics, utterances of “sacrifices” and a strange kind of post-punk electronic grinding warp feel that grew coarser and more fearful as it went on. That original recording featured the shifting balance of Dez DeCarlo (on guitars, vocals, sonic effects and synth), Andrew Abrahamson (who not only mastered it but played synths and clocked devices), Alexis Desjardins (synth) and Fen Rotstein (vocals and digital turntables).

J. Bagist tones down the noise and makes the voices more ethereal, whilst introducing a dreamy atmospheric feel of flickers and cosmic slithers and a deep fuzzy depth charge bass. There’s hints of Speedy J and Seefeel now to this synthetic trance traverse. Deb Step’s electronic body movement like video of geometric waves and both overlapping black and white and more colourful TV screen filtered images, is one hell of a trip too. Together, it’s dance music (with a cerebral mind) perfection.

You can catch that video, which launched this afternoon below. You can also visit the futurist troupe’s Bandcamp to order the single and the back catalogue.

ALBUM REVIEW/ DOMINIC VALVONA

Esbe ‘Under Cover’
(New Cat)  17th September 2021

When not in a captivating mood as a Daughter of the Desert, and channeling a former life as an Egyptian deity, it seems that the gifted, hypnotically voiced siren Esbe desires to reinterpret the standards.

After a fare old work rate of five original albums in just under four years, Esbe is ready to leave her own indelible trace on a songbook of classics: a timeline that runs from the 1960s to the age of Gershwin and even further back. Almost as a rites of passage for artists, sharing the songs that have in kind inspired them, Esbe now does likewise on her new album Under Cover.

But what can anyone possibly bring to such old worn songs as ‘Yesterday’, ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘The Sound Of Silence’? The last of those, and the second Paul Simon song from his partnership with Art Garfunkel, does have a particular affinity. Not only is Simon held aloft as the singer’s most respected songwriter but the lyrics of this malady chime with her own Jewish heritage. Esbe transforms it into something approaching the mystical. Accompanied by a synthesis of sampled strings (made by Spitfire Audio and recorded at Sir George Martin’s famous Air Studios in London no less), Vangelis sci-fi vapours and tablas, she wraps the original words around an ambiguous cosmological. Esbe’s rendition of another Simon song, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, which in many artist’s hands turns to insufferable mush and a cloying dirge, sounds more like a tirp-hop vision of Lisa Gerrard in comparison.

Tapping into that traditional training and reimagining songs she would have undoubtedly learnt whilst studying, from the great American songbook Esbe takes on Gershwin and DuBuse Hayward’s languid ‘Summertime’, and the hymnal late 18th century Christian beauty, with words by the English Anglican clergyman-poet John Newton, ‘Amazing Grace’. One becomes a spiritual anthem, taken on by the African-American community, whilst the other, was influenced in turn by that same communities own musical journey and travails. Here, with Esbe’s methodology of approaching each song (pretending she’s never heard the music, only the lyrics), these well known standards float off into a plaintive trembled voiced ether of both swelled and fraught strings and bit-crushed echo, with only the most tenuous of the originals recognized melodies and feel.

Elsewhere Lennon & McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’ is rendered mysterious and wistfully wispy – like the Chromatics on the Twin Peaks set -, whilst ‘Eleanor Rigby’ sounds like its sung by the protagonist’s diaphanous heart yearned ghost. ‘A Taste Of Honey’ travels back in time to sound like a celeste plaintive weep from the 1700s as reimagined by Pentangle.

There are similar envisioned versions of the iconic lipstick-on-the-collar Billie Holiday weepy ‘Don’t Explain’ (handed a misty veil accompaniment of scale-y shaken percussion and dreamy vapours), and a synthesised vision of the old choral ‘Silent Night’ too on this explorative covers songbook. Under Cover succeeds in connecting us to the artist and to what makes them tick; what moves them, what inspires them. Coming at old standards from another angle, more or less discarding the original compositions, timings and rhythms, cadence, Esbe wraps and weaves her often cooed, apparition like hypnotising voice around songs that need reenergising; so common they’ve blended into the background. Esbe’s evocative process of spellbinding reinterpretations prompts the listener to take another look at, and to perhaps find something novel or new, in old recordings. The familiar suddenly becomes worth investigating all over again.

Further Reading:

Esbe ‘Saqqara’

Daughters Of The Desert  ‘Sorrow Soothe’

PLAYLIST SPECIAL/Dominic Valvona/Matt Oliver/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Unapologetic fans of California’s favourite sons, The Beach Boys, this month’s imaginary Monolith Cocktail radio show playlist features a hell of a lot of tracks from the Feel Flows box set, which came out today. Some of which, are choice tracks that have lain dormant for decades.

Joining them is a fine selection of new music from the MC team (that’s me Dominic Valvona, our remote contributor and hip-hop selector Matt Oliver, and the maverick troubadour lo fi rock god turn critic Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea) that includes bloomed pop loveliness from Bloom De Wilde, respectful nods to prog rock icons from Uncommon Nasa, Homeboy Sandman slurping on the dairy, the brand new Fiery Furnaces mellotron bellowed plaint, and some mad dashing mayhem from Girl No. III. Plus plenty of greatness from Pons, SonnyJim, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Brandee Younger, Ephat Mujuru and Liz Cooper. 46 tracks to soundtrack your weekend.

Tracks Listing:.

The Beach Boys  ‘It’s A New Day’
Gabrielle Ornate  ‘Waiting To Be Found’
Bloom De Wilde  ‘Garden Of The Sun (Jstar Remix)’
Ester Poly  ‘Pressés’
Flowertown  ‘The Door The Thief The Light’
SLONK  ‘Erstwhile’
Julia Meijer  ‘Borta Från Allt’
Seaside Witch Coven  ‘A.E.O.’
Liz Cooper  ‘Slice Of Life’
The Beach Boys  ‘It’s About Time – Live 1971’
Brian Jackson, Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad  ‘Duality’
Uncommon Nasa  ‘Vincent Crane’
Tanya Morgan ft. Rob Cave  ‘Tanya In The Sky With Diamonds’
Homeboy Sandman  ‘Cow’s Milk’
Creatures Of Habit  ‘The Devil’s Hands’
Bronx Slang  ‘Clock’s Ticking’
Lore City  ‘Once-Returner’
Your Gaze  ‘Black Afternoon’
Sølyst  ‘Flex’
Ephat Mujuru & The Spirit Of The People  ‘Mudande’
Ballaké Sissoko  ‘Simbo Salaba’
The Beach Boys  ‘4th Of July (2019 Mix)’
Sorrows  ‘Rita’
Lisa Mychols & Super 8  ‘Pet Sounds (Story)’
Makoto Kubota & The Sunset Gang  ‘Bye Bye Baby’
Brandee Younger  ‘Somewhere Different’
Ryuichi Sakamoto  ‘Mountains’
The Beach Boys  ‘Forever (2019 A Cappella Mix)’
The Fiery Furnaces  ‘The Fortune Teller’s Revenge’
Graham Domain  ‘Limbs Of Loneliness’
Corduroy Institute  ‘An Interpretation Of Our Own Story’
YOUNGMAN  ‘GALACTIC LUV’
Celling Demons Ft. Zarahruth  ‘Silver Birch’
Kid Acne Ft. Jaz Kahina and Vandel Savage  ‘Transistors’
The Mouse Outfit & ayiTe  ‘Don’t Stop’
Girl No. III  ‘Wales’Whales’Wails At Weyl’
Pons  ‘JOHNNY PERSUASION (HABITAT 67)’
Sebastian Reynolds  ‘Crows (L’Étranger Remix)’
CMPND  ‘WEAINTPLAYIN’
Lee Scott/Hyroglifics Ft. Black Josh  ‘Sacrificial Goat’
Sonnyjim  ‘Mr Singh’
Sweaty Palms  ‘The Dance’
Weak Signal  ‘Barely A Trace’
Xqui X SEODAH  ‘Timete’
Giacomelli  ‘Phaze II, Pt. 2 (Bonus Track)’
Shreddies  ‘(no body)’

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