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)’

PLAYLIST SPECIAL/DOMINIC VALVONA/MATT OLIVER/BRIAN ‘BORDELLO’ SHEA

Join us for the most eclectic of musical journeys as the Monolith Cocktail team compiles another monthly playlist of new releases and recent reissues we’ve featured on the site, plus tracks we’ve not had time to write about but have been on our radar. That includes epic Buryat anthems from the Steppes, sulky struts, explorative ambient vistas, summer surf wafts, spindled Korean majesty, lolloping bravado, twisted jazz and many of the current choice hip-hop cuts.

STARRING THE FOLLOWING MONOLITH COCKTAIL ANOINTED ARTISTS AND TRACKS:::

Namgar  ‘Green Grass’
Squid  ‘G.S.K.’
Andrew Hung  ‘Brother’
Pons  ‘LELAND (CLUB MIX)’
Heiko Maile  ‘Vega Drive (Tape 13)’
The Early Mornings  ‘Departure From Habit’
Occult Character  ‘(I Think I Wanna Have A) Meltdown’
Edna Frau  ‘Angry Face Man’
Dwi  ‘Freak N Out’
Hectorine  ‘Saltwater’
Meggie Lennon  ‘Night Shift’
Rhona Stevens  ‘Solo’
Seagullmoine  ‘Contrails’
Foreign Age  ‘Apathy By Proxy’
Mike Gale  ‘Awake Awake’
The Beach Boys  ‘Big Sur’
Simon Waldram  ‘Don’t Worry’
Shannon And The Clams  ‘Year Of The Spider’
Paragon Cause  ‘Disconnected’
RULES  ‘Say It Ain’t So’

Violet Nox  ‘Cosmic Bits (J. Bagist Remix)’
Evidence  ‘Talking To The Audience’
DJ JS-1 (Ft. Rahzel, Mr. Cheeks and Craig G)  ‘Open Up The Door’
Tyler The Creator  ‘LUMBERJACK’
Tanya Morgan (Ft. Jack Davey)  ‘A Whole Mood’
Juga-Naut & Jazz T  ‘Marble & Granite’
Skyzoo  ‘I Was Supposed To Be A Trap Rapper’
Sone Institute  ‘Dead Ahead’
Brian Jackson, Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad  ‘Mars Walk’
Jaubi (Ft. Tenderlonious and Latarnik)  ‘Satanic Nafs’
Hassan Wargui  ‘Azmz’
Clamb  ‘Eggs In The Main
stream’
Hailu Mergia and The Walias  ‘Mestriawi Debdabe’
Goodparley  ‘Dissected Frequencies’
Sara Oswald & Feldemelder  ‘Fishes In Histogram Waterfalls’
Marco Woolf  ‘Modus Operandi’
Amaro Freitas  ‘Batucada’
Space Afrika (Ft. Blackhaine)  ‘B£E’
Apathy (Ft. Brevi)  ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’
Masai Bay (Ft. EI-P)  ‘Paper Mache’
Abir Patwary  ‘Avalon’ Petter Eldh (Ft. Richard Spaven)  ‘Goods Yard’
Kid Kin  ‘Under A Cloud Fret’
The Liminanas  ‘Stoker The Smoker’
Night Sky Pulse  ‘Missing’
dal:um  ‘TAL’
Alice Coltrane  ‘Krishna Krishna’
Provincials  ‘Feels Like Falling’

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/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The BordellosBrian ‘Bordello’ Shea has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His most recent releases include the King Of No-Fi album, a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart, and a series of double-A side singles (released so far, ‘Shattered Pop Kiss/Sky Writing’ and ‘Daisy Master Race/Cultural Euthanasia’). He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped-down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

Each week we throw whatever sticks at the inimitable music lover, and he comes up with this…

James Henry ‘Pluck’
29th June 2021

James Henry it seems is a scouser residing in London, and is rather fond of writing and recording fine power pop delight nuggets that recall Squeeze and Jellyfish, Mathew Sweet (with a touch of XTC) about them. And he succeeds in splaying my living room with an aural sun, which warms the very cockles of this pop loving soul. Pluck is an album that has everything one wants in a mature pop album: melodies, catchy guitar riffs, handclaps and harmonies, and well written lyrics, which is always a plus point as I often find albums in this genre are quite often let down by lyrical clichés. But I can happily report that is not the case here.

‘Afterthought’ and ‘Currently Resting’ also bring mid 60s Beatles to mind with some beautifully chiming 12 string guitars; and over the twelve tracks on this album you can hear the mid 60s pop influence gently seeping through. So anyone who has never gotten over the fact that Rockpile never made a second album should seek out this fun filled album of joyous melody.

Simon Waldram  ‘So It Goes’
4th June 2021

If buying an album of sublime modern day psych folk with a touch of indie pop is on your bucket list well I am here to help. For what we have here is an album of well-crafted heartfelt songs of the aforementioned.

The album gently kicks off with the lovingly atmospheric Nick Drake like ‘You’, which is followed by a beautiful melodious ‘I Miss The Sun’, a song worthy of Grant McLennan in the halcyon days of The Go Betweens, which is then followed by a piano ballad, ‘Don’t Worry’. Three tracks in and all beautifully written and performed and different to the one previous, and that is what is so annoying about this album. No not annoying because it’s an album of pure excellence, but for the fact that Simon is not ‘Better Known’ than he is. For songwriters with his talent and heart should be clutched to the music lovers’ collective bosom and cherished. There is no reason at all why this album should not be a huge success: it has radio friendly indie songs – ‘Boats In The Sky’ should be all over the radio -; it’s perfect indie pop – the wonderfully entitled ‘The Wild Wandering Of Wildebeest’, but for the “They don’t give a fuck” chorus that might cut down on radio play for that particular little gem of a track.

Not everyone can record a 8 minute plus song of bewitching guitar jangle without it getting a bit boring but Simon pulls it off with what I think is the centrepiece to the album, ‘Windswept’, which any Red House Painters fans might want to lend an ear to. 

So It Goes is an album that deserves to finally give Simon Waldram the recognition he deserves, as I do not think I have heard a better album this year, and this could well be his 16 Lovers Lane.

Sid Bradley ‘Child Of The Sea’
(Guerssen) 16th June 2021

What we have here my little ragamuffin Annies, is an album of lost and found studio recordings from the American songwriter Sid Bradley, recorded between 1971-79. And what a hugely enjoyable listen it is as well. The opener ‘Child Of The Sea’, is a track of pure hippy funk, with its hep cat hip swaying basstastic riff inducement of enlightenment that has one nostalgic for the days of the Age Of Aquarius, and as the album proceeds down its merry path, one is dragged smilingly to lose itself in psych folk pop of ‘Nothing Is Easy’ – a gem worthy of the Wickerman soundtrack -, or the pop delight of ‘To Be Your Friend’ – imagine the Monkees with Keith Richards standing in for a song or two. An album recommended for all lovers of 60s /70s guitar pop rock indeedy. 

Big Stir Singles ‘The Tenth Wave’
(Big Stir Records) 12th June 2021

This album is such an enjoyable listen. Once again a comp of the weekly download singles, A and B-sides, released by Big Stir Records in the months of October and November of 2020. And each track is a perfectly formed slice of pure pop; each one blessed with a charm that really cannot be praised highly enough. Each track, each band having their own sound own form of magic, from the wonderful take of John Cale’s ‘Paris 1919’ by October Surprise (which I actually prefer to the original) to the prog psych of Whelligan ‘Rabbit Hole’.

There is not a bad track among the twenty-two on the comp and is difficult to pick a favourite, so I will not bother in doing so. But Big Stir records should be congratulated in finding so many wonderful artists and songs to release to such high standards on a weekly basis, and I would recommend any music lover who has not yet had the pleasure to enjoy the ever growing cannon of pop magic released on that label to give this fine compilation a listen and then go back rediscover their other fine releases.

Occult Character ‘Bluzzed’
3rd June 2021

Occult Character has a double album due out soon on Metal Postcard Records, but before that Mr Occult has released this fine 8 track album of short acoustic songs, which act as short accurate snapshots of people and life: like an hour or so sat in the bar people watching.

Occult Character has the rare lyrical talent of picking out the small features about life and its inhabitants and making it both funny and at times heartbreakingly accurate. ‘Super Spreader Yeh!’ is a gem, a wonderful short humorous attack on some people’s attitude to Co-vid: “4000 people die a day but we got to twist the night away”. As I’ve said in past reviews of Occult Character, he is indeed the closest thing the USA has to Woody Guthrie, and is only a matter of time before he is discovered by the likes of Rolling Stone and such major publications.

A Reviews Roundup/Words: Dominic Valvona

Greetings to regular and new readers alike, the first such revue roundup from me in 2021 features another eclectic spread of curious and choice releases.  Albums wise I take a look at the latest Benelux-with-global-reaching-curiosity release from the polygenesis label Sdban Ultra: an Ethiopian, Anatolian, Oriental and Arabian sweeping cosmic odyssey from the Azmari collective. Adroit experimental guitarist and composer Myles Cochran delivers a slow music vision of bluegrass, Americana, soundtrack music and minimalism on his new album, Unsung. Hamburg sonic explorer stalwart Richard Von Der Schulenburg delves into Library Music, with a hint of Bamboo Music and Kosmische, on his debut suite for the label Bureau B; prolific Oxford-based polymath Sebastian Reynolds lets his consciousness unfold on the brilliant electronic EP Nihilism Is Pointless; maverick art-House and electronic music composer Andrew Spackman, under his Sad Man guise, offers another unique Techno-driven album, Music Of Dreams And Panic; and there’s a dark arts of psychedelic and country, doom rock ’n’ roll whisky drenched ruminations from Anaximander Fragment to behold.

On the singles, skits, videos and odd tracks front I’ve included this month the precursor single to the tragic-bound White Ring and their upcoming second album Show Me Heaven, and a blooming lovely single from the Israeli group Mazeppa, entitled ‘Roses’.

Singles/Videos/Tracks.

White Ring  ‘Light Hours Linger/I Need A Way’ (Rocket Girl Records) 

Arriving two years after their bewitching, if challenging (in the very best way), debut album Gate of Grief, the tragic-stricken and tormented White Ring open up their souls on the equally grieving Show Me Heaven opus. In October 2019 while writing this album, founding member Kendra Malia sadly passed away after an on-off struggle with drugs and schizophrenia. She was slated to be involved but didn’t get the opportunity to contribute before her death. Thematically then, Show Me Heaven focuses on the aftermath of that tragedy, though creative foil and White Ring co-founder Bryan Kurkimilis also explains, “This album is about the consequences of darkness.” Kurkimilis is joined in this acceptance and unravelling of loss by Adina Viarengo, who joined the band back in 2017. In the run up to that second longplayer’s release on the 19th February 2021, the Ring’s label, Rocket Girl Records has made available the first two tracks via Bandcamp. First up is the caustic and dissonant, countered by ethereal vapours and wisped veils, drawing in of the diaphanous outer body light beauty ‘Light Hours Linger’: an allurement towards the rocks, lush dreamscape that disarms the plaint and esoteric moodiness. The second, ‘I Need A Way’, is rockier, more coarse and industrial Gothic, a meeting of NIN and Bowie in sludge doom fuzzy lament. This couplet of tracks bows well for that upcoming full-length album next month. Expect a review sometime in the next few weeks.

Mazeppa  ‘Roses’
Out Now

What a really lovely melange of c86/shoegaze 80s period alternative indie pop beauty from the Haifa, Israel band Mazeppa. Featured back in 2020 with their Kabbalah style Patti Smith wafting and lingering around an intoxicating incense of Middle Eastern and Byzantium psychedlica enriched single ‘The Way In’, the quartet now turn to a heady diaphanous gauze of Altered Images via The Breeders and Athens, Georgia 80s scene. Heavenly brooding romanticism has seldom sounded better and lusher: though they always manage to add some grit into that lovely wash. Mazeppa have released the blooming ‘Roses’ in the run-up to a new album (released on the 10th February 2021), which I will review next month. Until then, soak this gem of a single up.

Albums/EPS..

Azmari  ‘Samā’ī’
(Sdban Ultra)  22nd January 2021

From the polygenesis Benelux label Sdban Ultra another eclectic odyssey of African, Arabian and Oriental cosmic-jazz and Afrobeat, with the inaugural full-scale mirage of an album from the Brussel’s hot-housed Azmari collective. Showing off their internationally-open references and inspirations, the sextet of Arthur Ancion (on drums), Basile Bourtembourg (Keyboards, Saaz and Percussion), Jojo Demeijer (Percussion), Niels D’haegeleer (Bass) Mattéo Badet (Saxophone and Kaval) and Ambroose de Schepper (Saxophone and Flute) have chosen a moniker that translate from the ancient and official Ethiopian language of Amharic as “one who praises”. That name also refers to that region’s version of a West African Griot, or European Bard; a singer-musician of song, story and recount, often accompanied by the one-stringed lute-like “Masenqo” and five or six-stringed, bowl-shaped pentatonic scale lyre, the “Krar”. Within this lineup you’ll find a wealth of instruments and scales being intergrated: from the Saaz to Persian Ney flute and Kaval. Though a penchant to the exotic sounds and wonders of the already mentioned Ethiopia and Eritrea dominate throughout their work.

Offering an expansive, entrancing expansion of their live act and debut EP Ekera (released back in 2019), and with numerous travels under their belts, Samā’ī traverses the group’s immersion in Turkish music (especially from the 1960s) and the camel-laden musical accompaniments of Mali’s Tuareg; following these nomadic bluesmen on the semi-annual trade route between the northern Taoudenni salt mines and Timbuktu.

A promising fantasy of epochs and geography (both real and imagined), the album opens with the shimmery and hazy fluty suffused incipient sun rise ‘Zegiyitwali’: a scene of quivering cymbals and mystical horns that evokes our protagonists waking up in the red desert, dusting off the sand from their blankets. It then hits the Kuti trail on the next flight of fantasy, ‘Cosmic Masadani’: an Afrobeat by way of Hailu Mergia Ethio-Jazz and the dub of Transglobal Underground. The first official reference to a real location, ‘Kamilari’, takes Sun-Ra and Orlando Julius on a playful dance through the Minoan ruins of the Cretan Island – though this Byzantine derived name also means “the one who rides a camel”, and there is a kind of clopping coconuts percussive trot to this soul-funk desert, dreamy hypnotism.

It’s take off from the Ethiopian space agency on the lunar crater endorsed Tardis thrashing cosmic Afro-Jazz ‘Kugler’, and a shrouded, clandestine soundtracked vision of Isaac Hayes in the atavistic historical thoroughfare of Anatolian Chalcedon, on the shuttled, breakbeat and sax circling, squawking ‘Kadikoy’. From the mesmeric and dusky to outbursts of psychedelic jazz and Afrobeat, Samā’ī passes through an esoteric Orient, the mystical desert lands and caravan routes of Mali and Arabia, and the Asian banks of Istanbul. Those with a yearning and hunger for the quality of the Budos Band, Antibalas, Okay Temiz and Mulatu Astatke will soak this borderless odyssey up.

Myles Cochran ‘Unsung’
(9 Ball Records)  29th January 2021

Making good on a run of empirical and refined precursor soundtracks in 2020, the placable Kentuckian guitarist, composer, songwriter and producer Myles Cochran follows up with a broadened canvas of Americana traces and bluegrass reification on his Unsung album. On the outskirts of a recognisable Western panorama Cochran applies misty attentive lingering guitar caresses, vibrations and brushes until his country roots are all but washed out, leaving only a vague gesture and sense of place and time. 

Sure, it’s bluegrass…but not quite as we know it. For all the evocations of a Mid-Western homestead and porch, or, a rustic trek across the Appalachians there’s drifts into the semi-classical, the blues, avant-garde, primitive and, even, jazz.

A well-travelled man, some of this effortless embrace of styles is in part down to an absorption of music picked up by Myles as he moved from Kentucky to New York, then, onto the UK – this album was in fact recorded between his new home studio in the UK and one in France. It also helps that he’s quite the prolific collaborator: working for example in recent years with the experimental Celtic and new-folk siren of note, and Monolith Cocktail favourite, Bróna McVittie. Myles brings in the cello maestro Richard Curran and Nashville fiddler Lauren Conklin to add both congruous and stirring layers to his acoustic, electric and steel guitar romanticisms, lingers, mood suites and captured moments of both emerging and fading light, dates and emotions.

Augmented synthesized atmospheres, undulations, strings, a plonking piano and the most minimal of both frame drums and a full brushed, scuffled and shuffling drum kit extend the palette; resulting in a kind of fusion of Ry Coder and Steve Reich. At times there’s a splash, hint of Talk Talk, Droneroom and even Mark Knopfler. And sometimes the pace, rhythm picks up enough to suggest a strange, removed form of boogie-woogie blues grooving.

Myles is a multi-instrumentalist, but it’s his adroit, carefully (even if he’s greatly influenced by improvisation) place bowed, hovering, fanned quivered guitar renderings that describes and sets the mood throughout this alternative rural soundscape.  Most of all Unsung shows Myles’ talent for a lower-case form of amorphous blending; counterbalancing more cutting edge studio techniques with rustic charm and those bluegrass origins. This is an album of slow music that transports the listener to quiet places: a rewarding immersion of gentleness that unfurls its secrets and depth over time.    

Sebastian Reynolds  ‘Nihilism Is Pointless’
(Faith & Industry)  29th January 2021

If you can recall, back in the year zero of the pandemic epoch the Monolith Cocktail premièred yet another cerebral sonic vision from the prolific Oxford-based polymath Sebastian Reynolds: ‘HAL’s Lament’. The second such mood-piece from Reynolds first extended work of 2021, the ironically entitled Nihilism Is Pointless EP, this prowling counterpoint of increasingly obscured 2001: A Space Odyssey referencing and wallowed, vaporous cybernetics is a warning against the unchecked developments in A.I.: a sonic reification of existential angst; the eventual intellectual superiority of machine thinking over humans. HAL is the ultimate totem and example of that fear: A.I. acting increasingly ruthlessly through a logical conclusion of self-preservation and mission success at any cost. So many theories have been woven, but the red-eyed sentinel machine of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s imagination/vision could be said to have overstepped the boundaries: maybe deciding the next evolutionary step in humankind’s transcendence and survival was an artificially intelligent programme/machine; that useless artefact of a body no longer needed, just code. 

Joining an equally mind-expanding exercise of thematic electronically crafted tracks, the lamentable HAL fits alongside a myriad of concerning topics on this new EP. Reynolds consciousness unfolds over a quintet of developed, mindful preoccupations you could say. Finding room to breathe and think in an over-indulged online driven society of distractions and fake news being a main one of those concerns: The Pandora’s box is a hub, and it has been opened. Reynolds navigates, finding a way out through spiritualism and meditation. You can find this coping strategy, an investigation of it, on the EP’s counterbalance of semi-classical and dissonance, ‘Diving Board’: As Reynolds says, “deep breath before taking the plunge.”

As to be expected from a sophisticated palette imbued as much by classical music as it is trance, ambient music and trip-hop, you’ll find a composed set of suites on this expansive EP. The underlying sound of which, on the rest of this EP’s trio of tracks, is a convergence of August Pablo and Amorphous Androgynous dub electronica meets Daniel Lanois, Boards Of Canada and Burial. If you ever wanted to hear what the solar winded chill of ‘The Silent Majority’, marooned out in the starry uncertain expanses of a dismissive woke puritanical hostile banishing committee, sounds like, or, how the plaintive loss of someone held dear might be channelled into a sombre yet beautifully composed elegy (‘Mother’s Day’), then Reynolds latest conscious investigating EP will be a good place to start.  

Richard Von Der Schulenburg  ‘Moods And Dances 2021’
(Bureau B)  29th January 2021

The latest incarnation in a long line of sonic developments for the multifaceted musical explorer Richard Von Der Schulenburg sees the Hamburg scene stalwart venture into Library Music’s golden age: Roughly a point somewhere in the 70s judging by this album’s penchant for Kosmische and early synth productions. More or less a category wide open to include anything from cult composers to brief directed musicians producing incidental, theme music and sonic monikers for commercial enterprises, Library Music also means anything deemed outsider, and is now full of knowing homages, pastiches created by artists in the modern vogue.

Schulenburg since the mid-90s has dallied with the Top Banana Trio and the punkier Soup de Nüll, and also performed organ soirées of Floyd, AC/DC and ABBA songs at one of his many late 90s monthly club nights. He’s also featured in the line-up of Deris Sterne, founded labels and experimented with jazz under the 440Hz Trio ensemble appellation, and in recent years appeared under the abbreviated RVDS initials tag. The latest project is a debut recording of cosmic and worldly analogue and digital traverses and serene imaginings for the Hamburg-based label Bureau B.

During various carefully constructed journeys and geographical evocations, our meditative composer (re)envisions the tropical primitive exotica of Les Baxter, the lush dreamscapes of Ariel Kalma, the synthesized Kosmische sound of Klaus Schulze and Cluster, and more cult kooky space music of Pierre Detour: at least that’s what it sounds like to me. All of which are filtered through the kit that’s often referenced in the album’s titles; the most obvious being the opening ‘Mrs Yamahas Summer Tune’, an oceanic bob through some botanical bamboo music set, accompanied by the tonal washes, synthesized drums and the sort of itchy, brushing tight-delayed percussion found on any number of Yamaha keyboards. A more specific reference is made later on to that company’s ‘DX7’ model, the first successful digital keyboard, and biggest selling. Schulenburg uses that keyboard to waltz in space and curiosity on the plaint romantic Kosmische style ‘DX7’s Broken Hearts’.

It’s the spotting tones of a Farfisa, on the Ethio-Jazz riddle, sand dune contoured and solar-wind blowing ‘Flowers For The Farfisa Sphinx’; a Roland synth’s worth of pre-set effects and oscillations, on the serenade through paradise nocturnal wobbling and warbled ‘Rolands Night Walk’; and the German manufacturer Wersimatic and their CX1 rhythm machine, on the blue Hawaiian dreamy ‘Wersimatic Space Bar’.

Showing perhaps a different collector’s hobby, there’s also a couple of references to analogue cameras: the final model in the Yashica company’s unsuccessful camera series, the ‘Pentamatic’ (‘Caravan Of The Pentamatics’), and the Pentax (‘Dance Of The Space Pentax’); the former, musically speaking, a fantasy traverse of Arabia aboard Cluster’s mother ship, and the latter, dances on a spring board of electronic piano notes towards an Eno imagined South American landscape. Playing in a very sophisticated and extremely knowing way with his sources, inspirations, Schulenburg isn’t so much mischievous as adroit in producing a magical, filmic hologram of escapism. With hints of Library Music, but also a heavy Kosmische presence (Cluster, sky Records, Mythos), touches and shimmery saunters of Ethio-Jazz, and more contemporary peers such as Alex Puddu, Air and Jimi Tenor, this album fits perfectly in the cosmology of Germany’s foremost electronic music label Bureau B. And so rather than a passing fancy, homage or even pastiche, RVDS goes deeper to produce a brilliant sonic mirage of ideas.

Anaximander Fragment  ‘Wagon Drawn Horse’ (Shimmy Disc)

I last heard of Adam G as part of the extraordinary brutalist and discordant Water Fragment sonic project, which pitched Boston noise artist Art Waterman with the New England music scene stalwart on a torrent miasma of concentrated conflict. That album collaboration was, and still is, a challenging caustic barrage of Swans, Coil and Scot Walker imbued mood music.

Under a new, if familiar, moon Adam’s latest cursed-soul expulsion sees the noise and skronk survivor adopting the solo Anaximander Fragment guise for his latest oeuvre. Originally conceived to a Santa Monica backdrop in 2013, Wagon Drawn Horse was meant to be the middle chapter in a trilogy; filed under just one of three different pseudonyms. Unfinished at the time, but now revived, resurrected, this album now crosses over two creative timelines: refreshed, rewritten as it is for an evolving cycle of despair, anguish and political tumult. And of course, the most worrying development of all, the crisis of the last year, Covid-19, can’t help but rear its ugly head. Again, like many records being released in 2020 and the beginning of 2021, there isn’t any recognisable, obvious reference to the pandemic, the lockdowns, but the often-disturbing post-punk, gothic, industrial, noise and psychedelic atmospheres on this record certainly seem to connect and evoke it. I say psychedelic in that list of genres, but what I really mean is Panda Bear detuned and transformed by Einstürzende Neubauten, or, the Red Crayola jamming with The Telescopes; even Rocky Erikson lost in an industrial grinder.

There’s also a conjuncture of those more doom and caustic merging with a vision of alternative vibrato-guitar led country: imagine in this case, Jason Pierce and Charlie Megira sharing a packet of Mogadon. Yes, a country album, even a sleazed rock ‘n’ roll one. A removed one at that, but it’s all there. Though sometimes it feels like Suicide gyrating with The Jesus And Mary Chain, and a Scorpio Rising leathered-up protagonist jukebox jiving in the company of The Fall.

In the despondent, beaten shadow of James Earle Fraser’s End Of The Trail statue, Adam uses both unguarded and a more cryptic lyricism to denounce the effects of colonisation; lament with sinister connotations about a number of muses, “siren(s)”; and riles against apathetic lethargy. That Wagon Drawn Horse title takes on far more damaging meanings when it proves to be the instrument catalyst for the unseemly, even the genocide aspects of the frontier spirit. The final title-track opus curtain-call thrashes and gallops across a devastation of “stolen land” to make a point with grizzled, haunted passages of poetic distress and doom.

A confliction of both assurance and frightening auguries permeate this album. Through a fog of metallic grinding and steel fibre springs, Adam prays and offers a homecoming on the Silver Apples through a chiselling dissonance ‘Metamorphosis’, and pours a gasoline-strong torrid of trauma on the Iggy fronts Velvets ‘Colonised’.   

Almost hypnotised towards the void, yet always pulling away, the Anaximander Fragment demon knows when to throw in a chains-and-leather rock ‘n’ roll hip gyration, and when to ease the industrial tumult. A strong, broody album, Wagon Drawn Horse plays hard with the pioneer myth whilst also brooding and despairing of age-old themes. This somehow makes it an album that chime with current times, drawing from the uncertainty and divisive fragmentation of a pandemic world in freefall.

Sad Man ‘Music Of Dreams And Panic’
(Wormhole World) 29th January 2021

Prolific Techno and potting shed electronic boffin Andrew Spackman has continued to knock out a string of pent-up collections of ennui experiments and sonic collisions during the pandemic. And though nothing on this first burst of energy from the maverick in 2021 makes it obvious, no artist can really avoid the omnipresence, fears, anxiety and uncertainty of Covid-19’s influence and grip. Music Of Dreams And Panic however seems just as much inspired sonically by flights of the imagination and by following improvised pathways: even by just seeing what happens when you take a particular filter, tonal effect to breaking point, or, float, ride on happenstance waves and algorithms. The titles in that regard offer something of a description, inspiration and starting point.

Metal-on-metal, tubular fuel rods and space permeate this album of sophisticated star gate hinge waning and searing mystery. Those often signature colliding beats and breaks are mostly kept in check for something approaching a float, drift in the great expanse. ‘Mugstar’ for example balances moments of Warp Records output and Gescom with 90s Harthouse label Trance on a stellar hyper-driven spectacle in the cosmos: The controlled chaos is still there, with various serial progressions of a sort, throated alien sinister warnings, yet somehow gives way to moments of crystalized serenity. Elsewhere, Spackman (now more or less only running with his Sad Man alter ego) sort of joins together Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Dune on the refraction shinning, whistled high ‘Vin Werski’, and maybe referencing a Heaven 17 meta-inspiration on the static popped percussive, cathedral in the sky, Tangerine Dream turn ‘Seventeen’. Strangest of all, reference wise, is ‘Fra Fra’, which is the colonial name given to a particular number of tribes, concentrated in northern Ghana (also the subject, their funeral songs, of a 2020 Glitterbeat Records album). There’s an odd tweeting of exotic space birds and alien wildlife, but no obvious musical connection.

Still pumping out a transmogrified vision of Techno, Acid, Trip-Hop and Breakbeat, Spackman also crams in some (removed) House Music and Kosmische (a lot of that about lately) too. It seems the despondent guise of Sad Man is producing an ever-expanding range of sonic experimentation. This album in particular seems far less fidgety, though the music is always curiously developing. From garden shed assemblages and synthesized, computerised escapist mind of an art-dance music outsider arrives another unique Techno-driven statement.

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

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

The Monolith Cocktail bow out of the annus horribilis year of the great Covid-19 plague with a seven hour behemoth of a playlist: the ultimate summary, revue of the year in sonic awakenings, wonders, magic and the challenging. Tracks have been picked from our recent ‘choice albums features of 2020’ (Part One: A-E, Part Two: F-N and Part Three: O-Z), plus a smattering of music from those albums we just didn’t have room for but loved: Leron Thomas, Netta Goldhirsch, Les Freres Smith, Sad Man, Ancient Plastix, Your Old Droog, Dream Parade, Deutsche Ashram, the Chicago Underground Quartet and more. Expect to hear everything and anything.

Thanks for all your support during the last taxing year. We’ll see you all in the New Year with a packed schedule of new music – the early indications are it is going to be another great, bustling year of releases. If you do feel like helping us out, keeping is afloat, or just as a thank you, here’s our begging bowl message: 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 Jamboree
Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His most recent releases include The Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, the diatribe ‘Boris Johnson Massacre’ and just in the last couple of months, both The King Of No-Fi album, and a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart. He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics. And just this week, Metal Postcard Records have put out a collection live Bordellos material on Bandcamp.

Each week we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick to see what sticks. In his own idiosyncratic style and turn-of-phrase, pontificating aloud and reviewing with scrutiny an eclectic deluge of releases, here Brian’s latest batch of recommendations.

Singles/Videos/Tracks.

Volcano Victims ‘Canicular Years’

I like this for a number of reasons, the first being they are called the Volcano Victims, what a great name for a band, the second thing I like is that it is a lovely jangly affair full of melody and spring freshness: the kind of song I may hum to myself if the occasion merits it. And also, it has a guitar solo; one that I don’t just ignore and push to the back of my mind [I on the whole hate guitar solos], but one I actively enjoyed and brought a smile to my face. So well done Volcano Victims.

Tori Amos ‘Better Angels’
(Decca Records) Taken from the 4th December released Christmastide EP

Sometimes you need a bit of over the top melodrama from Tori Amos, so why not a bit of over the top Christmas melodrama from Tori Amos. Crashing piano, Brian May like guitar flourishes and Tori emoting about what a bad year 2020 has been, but at least we have made through to Christmas: well some of us have. But this is a lovely dramatic swoosh of a velvet stage curtain of a song; one to drink port while looking out onto the cold dark but still beautiful world in which we live haunted by the memories of the year past.

Jumbo ‘Fluorescence/Mouse’
27th November 2020

This is a fine two track DIY pop single from Jumbo. It reminds me of both the Flaming Lips and Polyphonic Spree in the way their music at times has a cracked wonder and life affirming joy that delights, thrills and wants one to get a gang of friends around and sit in a field playing guitars and drinking bottles of milk stout or other beverages of your choice, and being young and carefree. Once again pop pickers another example of the magic of music.

Mandrake Handshake ‘Gonkulator’
(Nice Swan Records) 20th November 2020

I really love this track, more Jefferson Airplane than The Brian Jones Town Massacre (which is quite unusual these days), this track being more old school psych than the have a guitar peddle will press it and be buggered with the writing a melody malarkey bunch. For this does not just have a melody but a wonderful flute floating throughout the lovely song.

Gillian Stone ‘Bridges’
20th November 2020

‘Bridges’ is a dark and beautiful song; a song of many textures all of them warm in a very cold and brittle kind of way; a song that deals with life memories and all of their unbecoming and becoming raptures, it is the kind of song that one should only share with their closest and to be trusted friend. But that is the beauty of music as all listeners are the artist’s friends and this song deserves many friends as it is a lovely fragile tattered love letter to hope and remembrance of the dark and light in one’s life past and present.

‘Covid Christmas Nightmare’
(Metal Postcard Records)

A dark spooky Christmas lullaby from a unknown unnamed act [even though I think I know who the culprit is], a tinkling keyboard and lyrics concerning facemasks and Covid related issues, poor Santa is hold up at home with Covid-19, but not to worry he has posted the presents to the children’s parents: Let’s hope he has used royal mail and not Hermes. A nice and bewitching track, one to download and add to your Christmas playlist.

Albums..

Sunstack Jones  ‘Golden Repair’
(Mai 68 Records)

Sunstack Jones might well be a band from Liverpool but they’re a band steeped in the sun and melody of the West Coast of California circa 1968-1973. Gentle guitar jangle and fuzz merge with the harmonies of Crosby Stills and Nash, and at times bring to mind The Charlatans/Primal Scream/Stone Roses/The Verve in their more laid-back moments. This is maybe not the most original of albums but not all albums have to be original to be enjoyed, and any fans of the bands just mentioned will no doubt find Golden Repair an enjoyable listening experience.

The Salem Trials ‘Meet The Memory Police’

Oh my lord here we go again. Yes, it is time to review yet another album by the finest guitar band of 2020: The Salem Trials. Meet The Memory Police is the trials 6th album of the year and once again is as excellent and entertaining as their previous five; this one having a strange Rolling Stones vibe about some of the tracks but still retains the strange Salem Trials sound/feel that is totally unique to them.

They have a strange twisted aura of summers gone by, the sound of reliving the glory of last night’s party with cold pizza and leftover wine and awaking in the arms of the girl that used to be. There is a melancholy joy that runs throughout their music and indeed runs throughout this fine album. The Salem Trials are like a magical musical sponge soaking up many influences from the last 50 years of rock ‘n’ roll and when you give it a squeeze music with sleaze, dirt, danger and a dark madness drip ever so slowly, leaving a puddle on the floor for the wayward likeminded souls to splash and strip and writhe and shout and scream. If rock ‘n’ roll is dead this is the soundtrack to the wake: the sound of faded glamour and sordid memories. Once again the work of a truly special band.

See also…

Salem Trials ‘Fear For Whatever Comes Next’  (Here)


Salem Trials ‘Do Something Dangerous’  (Here)

Salem Trials ‘Pictures Of Skin’  (Here)

Album Review/Dominic Valvona

The Awkward Silences ‘ST’
(Blang Records) 27th November 2020

Making a bolshie return with the first album in five years, the annoyed and disgruntled antifolk trailblazers hit their no-wave, post-punk and shambled pop stride with a seriously great record of both offence-taken and offence-given candid rhetoric. Boasting of their rebellious dysfunctional status on the previous Outsider Pop album (which made our choice albums articles that year) of sardonic, peeved white-funk and Daniel Johnston styled resignation, The Awkward Silences make good on a (mostly forced) hiatus to deliver both songs of malcontent and vulnerability – said to be their most personal work yet.

Led once more by de facto helmsman Paul Hawkins – who corrals a band put back by mental health issues, bereavement and other such life complications – the Awkwards rattle the bar with a powered-up seething display of barely-controlled anger. As I said just now, this is a deeply personal affair. Hawkins apart from singing and writing songs and books is a disability campaigner with the Attitude Is Everything charity and newer Beyond The Music initiative (aimed at improving employment opportunities for disabled people in the music industry), and so many of the most poignant broadsides on this album are fueled by those experiences. For example, the Leonard Cohen tangos with the Bad Seeds ‘The Medical Medal’ in some ways reels at the dehumanized way science, especially gene, treat those with “defects” in their DNA code. Here Hawkins rallies against the creeping uncertainties and eugenics of curing and eradicating disabilities: the very disability that shaped and made Hawkins what and who he is: “Scientists fixed my genes for being born this way.”  

There’s a lot of inner turmoil on display; a lot of “feeling fine” but in reality struggling to cope with the overbearing miasma of mental illness and the dark thoughts, overthinking that invades a great many people in these uncertain, pandemic times.  You can hear that on both the disarmingly ironic malaise of both ‘Everything Will Probably Be Fine’ and the following, cracked actor, ‘Pretending To Be Fine’. The first of which features Mary Boe in a sort of daydream mode, channeling Kirsty McCall as she convinces herself that life isn’t a pile of crushed potentials and worn down mundanity – looking for the little wins, such as supermarket bargains. The second of those far-from-fine couplets pushes together PiL and Altered Images for more mental fatigues.

Elsewhere Hawkins finds social interaction etiquette as complicated as ‘Quantum Physics’; fires a clever sneering broadside at that obnoxious and plainly untruthful adage of the “self-made man”, and the misconceptions of what really makes someone working class in the first place, as definitions shift, to a mix of Attila The Stockbroker and Art Brut; and harasses the office dictate of “organized fun” to a backing track of The Auteurs and gospel organ.

The most unusual track however on this entire album is the band’s curtain call, ‘The New World’, which recently also took the finale spot on Blang Records recent anniversary compilation Scratchcard – reviewed last month on the blog. Theme wise taking its cue from The Village People’s ‘Go West’, the Awkwards go for willful optimism in bleak times, taking that old adage that “our best days haven’t happened yet” as they narrate a John Mouse meets The Rakes style bruiser travail about the American settlers. Like a needled David Byrne marauding over a soundtrack of Boots For Dancing, Delta 5, Moonshake, even a lo fi Cars (on the Stiff Records, if it did disco, disgruntled ‘Getting Ready Fro My Life To Begin’), Hawkins and his troupe make a damn fine record; an indictment on the state of dysfunctional Britain. It’s good to have them back and on form; just as unique and rebellious as ever. 

See also:

Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences ‘Outsider Pop’  (Here…)

Blang Records ‘Scratchcard’  (Here..)

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.

Brain ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Reviews Jamboree

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His most recent releases include The Bordellos beautifully despondent pains-of-the-heart and mockery of clique “hipsters” ode to Liverpool, the diatribe ‘Boris Johnson Massacre’ and just in the last couple of months, both The King Of No-Fi album, and a collaborative derangement with the Texas miscreant Occult Character, Heart To Heart. He has also released, under the Idiot Blur Fanboy moniker, a stripped down classic album of resignation and Gallagher brothers’ polemics.

Each week we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick to see what sticks. In his own idiosyncratic style and turn-of-phrase, pontificating aloud and reviewing with scrutiny an eclectic deluge of releases, here Brian’s latest batch of recommendations.

Singles.

The Loved Drones ‘Conspiracy Dance’
(Freaksville Records)

Let’s be honest, this is ace. How can it not be; any track that has you swinging from the imaginary chandelier of your mind and juggling rolled up socks in a devil care way, and trust me this song is liable to evoke both actions voluntary or not. Yes this is a fine single one that brings the heyday of post punk back to your listening device; a song that brings both the combined magic of the Jilted John album and the lyrical dexterity of John Cooper Clark but with a swinging sixties beat. I can only stand back and applaud.

See also…

The Loved Drones ‘Good Luck Universe!’ (here)

Pixies ‘Hear Me Out/Mambo Sun’
16th October 2020

The new pixies single is good. I like it, and to be quite honest that statement surprises me, as I’ve not been a huge fan since their reformation a few years ago. But this has the older elements I loved, but slightly watered down. Saying that, if I heard this on the radio I wouldn’t have guessed it was the Pixies, just another good alt rock American band influenced by the Pixies.

I like the female lead vocals and the twangy guitar. So if I were on jukebox jury I would vote it a hit: but not a patch on their first three albums.

October Surprise ‘Paris 1919/(I Just Can’t See) The Attraction’
(Big Stir Records) 16th October 2020

What we have here is number 100 in the Big Stir Records digital singles releases: And what a gem it is, the A side being a beautiful folk like sway through John Cale’s ‘Paris 1919’, which has me reaching for my hanky and smudging away the happy tears as memories of my preteen days stuck to the transistor radio being swept away by Renaissance and their Northern Lights come flooding back. This cover of 1919 has the same glow of nostalgic rebirth and hope. The B-side, ‘The Attraction’ is equally as special a lovely male/female duet of love gone wrong; strings softly strummed guitars stroked drums and lost seduction.

Johanna Burnheart  ‘Silence Is Golden’
(Ropeadope Records)

Is experimental Jazz-folk a thing? If not this could well be the first example; a beautiful song that starts all shattered cold sheet frustrations and soundscape Nyman style and shifts into a psych-folk chant of crashing drums, and slowly erupts into a jazz frenzy of Samba vocals and percussion. A song of strange emotion and beauty, part lounge-core jazz part Whicker Man folk: a lovely and bewitching track.

Albums..

Netta Goldhirsch ‘Love Doesn’t Exist’
(Wormhole World) 23rd October 2020

If soulful Avant-Garde vocal meanderings with the solitude sparse jazz/dance trip hop be bop, cut up into pieces and folded into star shaped moments of post epileptic solitude is your thing than this album could well be for you. Netta Goldhirsch is indeed a fine singer with a very unusual timbre to her voice and the songs, all short, are like sketches of songs; songs that really do not need to be developed any more as if they where they could well lose what is so magical about them and magical they are.

Fans of late period Scott Walker and Yoko in her more tuneful moments and fans of Julie London and especially fans of Ute Lemper’s Punishing Kiss album will all find something to enjoy on this extremely enjoyable unusual album. Aural art at its best. Another winner from Wormhole World records.

Mylittlebrother  ‘Howl’
(Big Stir Records) 30th October 2020

Mylittlebrother are a band from Cumbria, who for some reason really appeal to me, as their album doesn’t sound like I was expecting. For some reason I was expecting phony American accents and shiny guitars and power pop sensibilities, but instead we are greeted with a very British quirky sounding country tinged album of very subtle well written songs of everyday life more lyrically Jarvis Cocker/Paul Heaton than Don Henly, and musically, 80’s indie guitar pop with some tracks having a country tinge (does anyone remember The Raw Herbs?), and not American sounding at all. So, Howl is an album of very well written mostly guitar-based songs with some lovely melodies especially the lovely ballad ‘The Start’, which you can imagine playing over some rom-com final scene as some badly dressed geek of a man gets the woman in the rain against all odds. An album that could appeal to a large cross section of the public as there really is nothing not to like about it: unless you do not like well written songs of melody and grace.

The Dupont Circles ‘In Search of the Family Gredunza’
(Beautiful Music Records) 30th September 2020

The combination of the majestic jangle of c86 and Beatle boots is and can be a thing of great beauty, especially when it is performed with the vigour and enthusiasm that the near legendary in some circles cult band The Dupont Circles give it. A debut album that has taken 30 years to arrive and now brought to us by the beautiful in name and beautiful in nature and music Beautiful Music records.

The Dupont Circles love a good melody and a witty lyric and a 60s garage rock guitar riff: the track ‘Tick Tock’ wouldn’t sound out of a place on a Rubbles comp; a rather marvellous adventure of a track as would the psych tinged Joe Meek like following instrumental ‘Sputnik’. My Personal favourite track on this album though is the wonderful Television Personalities like ‘53 Bicycles’ – there is also a cover of the TP’S ‘How I Learned To Love The Bomb’. This album is a joyful romp through the magical world of The Dupont Circles; a world where the guitar and Farisa organ is king and the national anthem alternates between “My Generation” and “I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives”. A rather marvellous land I want to move to immediately.

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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