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.

Reviews Column
Dominic Valvona

Regular followers may have picked up that my Tickling Our Fancy roundup is mostly an albums heavy affair, and that I’ve tried to post (quite sporadically) a separate singles, EPs, videos and one-offs style column (the Perusal) in the past. Due to the demand and fact that I’m just knackered keeping up, I’m going to try out a new format of sorts, to include everything in one place. With that in mind, there’s new singles from HighSchool, Sebastian Reynolds, and Escupemetralla. And both a performance excerpt and EP from the Jerusalem sludge rock outfit Andarta.

Albums wise we have the long-player debut from agit-soul-punk ensemble Iklan, epic45 ruminate with a wash of rural House indie and nostalgic gauzy tones on their new album Cropping The Aftermath; a most experimental overlap of Afro-Caribbean and Panamanian jazz from the dynamic Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes union (a side excursion to their part in the Irreversible Entanglements quintet); and John Lane, as the menagerie A Journey Of Giraffes, soundtracks a mindful escape on his latest suite for Somewherecold Records, Sunshine Pilgrim Map. Also, we have Spacelab on a mission to delve through alien soundscapes and mischievous foolery on their new oeuvre Kaleidomission, and Blang Records celebrate fifteen years in the business with another label compilation of maverick antifolk, punk, indie and underpass soul.

Singles.

Escupemetralla ‘I Always Reivindico El Nail Art’
3rd October 2020

You can try to describe and explain the crazy that is the organism, organization, the fiendish underground hub of the disturbing avant-garde and experimental, the makers of sound bites and broadcasts, the damned hub that is Escupemetralla (Spanish we’re assured for “spits shrapnel”) but no one can quite put it like those anonymous miscreants themselves. Just take a gander at this following description for the nail painting muse single ‘I Always Reivindico El Nail Art’.

“Our new track benefits from the wonderful collaboration of the sublime, immeasurable and chiripitifláutica plutonic artist known as Rosalía, muse of surrealism since Salvador Dalí walked her half dressed in Granollers (province of Barcelona) on the back of a giant plastic camel in one of his well-known happenings of the ‘60s. After her glittering appearances in corpore glutinoso at the Latin-Chichimeca Kilogrammy Awards and her yelling participation in some plumbeous works by illustrious rappers, trappers, folk singers and flamenco artists of every moral and amoral nature, our singer blesses us with her archangelic presence in this melodic song by Escupemetralla, with whom she has signed an exclusive contract for the next four or five years.

Ever since Dalí roared that famous mantra, “Booterrflaí, booterrflaí” [that is, “Butterfly, butterfly” as pronounced by a Spaniard not trying to sound British] live on TV, only Rosalía managed to condense so much chestnut-flavored Spanglish into a single sentence: “I always reivindico el nail art” [that is, “I always vindicate nail art”]. With this phrase she revealed to us once and for all the sources from which she draws the inspiration with which she commits her outrages: Fu Manchu, Freddy Kruger and Edward Scissorhands.”

I don’t believe a word of it. But who cares when such disturbing Fangoria nightmarish hallucinatory surrealisms sound this great. A perfect fantasy in time for Halloween.

Sebastian Reynolds ‘Diving Board’
(Faith & Industry) 9th October 2020

In the run-up to next year’s Nihilism is Pointless EP (released 29th January 2021), the highly prolific Oxford-based polymath keyboard player, pianist, producer and label owner Sebastian Reynolds is releasing a number of singles from this evocatively sweeping and sophisticated multi-layering suite during 2020. The first of which is the semi-classical quivery swelled spatial drama with moments of grinded and sparked dissonance ‘Diving Board’.

Following on from his recent The Universe Remembers EP – a philosophical, religious and metaphysical cosmological junction of dystopian literature and Buddhist Eschatology – and the incredibly personal stand-alone single ‘Heartbeat/My Mother Was The Wind’, Reynolds once more sends out the mind-expanding frequencies, channeling, as he puts it, “…the altered states of consciousness experienced through meditation, cold water exposure and prayer, it represents the deep breath before taking the plunge.”

Nihilism is Pointless and the new single are being released via producer Capitol K’s Faith & Industry label, the release platform for Capitol K’s output as well as John Johanna, Blue House, Thomas Nation (all three of which have featured on the MC and made our “choice” albums of the year) and Champagne Dub.

Expect a full review in due course next year.

See also…

Sebastian Reynolds ‘The Universe Remembers’  (here..)

HighSchool ‘New York, Paris And London’
(Dalliance Recordings) 16th October 2020

After making a splash with their debut broody bounced and hazed Joy Division meets The Cure debut single ‘Frosting’, the effortlessly cool Melbourne duo have signed to the UK label Dalliance Recordings for the aloof triple-cities of culture entitled follow-up, New York, Paris And London. Exuberating a kind of bonus-of-youth with states of indolent dependency, the post-punk naval gazers explore the “pendulum that swings between social anxiety and elation” on this languorous new single that bares hints of The Smiths, Strokes and, again, The Cure.

The single was recorded by noted engineer Naomune Anzai (Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Cash Savage and the Last Drinks, The Teskey Brothers) and mastered by Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Total Control) – the Total Control reference there making perfect sense when you listen back to New York, Paris And London. Anyway I think they’re bloody great; and I’m quite excited about what they’ll release next.

See also…

HighSchool ‘Frosting’  (here…)

Andarta ‘Live at Studio Straus (an excerpt)’
‘ST’ EP

More miscellaneous then single/album whatever, I just had to share this incredible dark, grinding, thrashing lumbering concentration of dragging doom from the holy center of the impending Biblical Armageddon, Jerusalem. Andarta, which sort of means memorial statue in Hebrew, is a causal union of friends corralled by local label honcho and drummer Itai Anker. Here I’ve included them in live mode and the link to their most recent EP. The spoils of one of their most recent ritual interactions are expressed as a weaponized vision of morbidly curious early Bad Seeds, Swans and dark metal sludge. 

ALBUMS..

Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes ‘Heritage Of The Invisible II’
(International Anthem) October 23rd 2020

Channeling a combination of Panamanian and Afro-Caribbean heritages, the trumpet and percussionist duo of Aquiles Navarro and Tcheser Holmes come on like an abstract Latin version of the Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell union with their experimental jazz partnership. A side excursion, exploration from the duo’s membership of the burgeoning freewheeling avant-garde quintet Irreversible Entanglements, the Navarro-Holmes combo brings a partnership that began and took root when the two were studying at the New England Conservatory back together for an untethered gyration, contortion of “existential joy”. For this is a sort of escapism from the Irreversible mood of political angst and dissonant freefalling for something approaching improvised “jubilance”. 

Navarro and Holmes feed off their polygenesis upbringings and travails with a sound imbued by the luminaries of the Panama jazz and Latin scenes, the experimental doyens of America’s Mid-West and East Coast, and the Caribbean; all of which sprung or progressed from Africa. Navarro, who’s principle instrument is the trumpet but also proves a deft touch on the upright piano (like a saloon style Oscar Peterson), Moog and Juno synths, was born in Toronto; his family uprooted from their Panama home during the murky Manuel Noriega chapter, the fall out of which saw America invade the Central American canal corridor in the late 80s. He proved a real talent, studying with compatriot trumpeter and Fania All Stars luminary Victor “Vitan” Paz and composer, saxophonist Carlos Garnett. Holmes meanwhile was born into the Pan-African community of Brooklyn; revolving around the spiritual Ausar Auset Society and his family’s Bennu Auser Dance Company. The blossoming energetic drummer, percussionist was encouraged to study by his cultural arts programmer mum and classically trained pianist uncle (and this is where the two crossover) from Panama.  Both future explorers of contemporary jazz would meet in Boston whilst studying, forming a congruous union that holds together an amorphous dynamism of the strung-out and incipient.

Sparring at different intensities, speeds and signatures the duo keep various off-the-grid tangents, visions, together; combining acoustic improvisation with overdubs of synth, vocals, additional instrumentation and recurring snatches of musing conversations. Some of this comes from a guest list that includes the Spanish poet Marcos de la Fuente, pianist Nick Sanders (who plays a Thelonious style jazzy blues mosey on the album’s honky-tonk and Savoy label roll back ‘M.O.N.K (Most Only Never Know)’), Panamanian “mejuranero” (a folkloric five-string chordophone carved from a single block of wood) player Ricardo de León, and the soulful tripping vocalist Brigitte Zozula. A further guest spot arrives in the form of an Autechre-crosses-streams-with-DJ Shadow acid gauzy Techno transformation from the Philly-based composer and electronic artist Madam Data.  A barest semblance of the duo can be heard in a repeating loop to infinity that echoes throughout a wobbly warping dance mix of pulsing futurism.

The rest of this album features profound poetics reverberating in a play-off between Holmes thrashing rolling tight breaks, cymbal splashes, rattles and twills and Navarro’s blurts, spirals, airy ascendancy and short, repeated bursts. The opening meditational reading pitches Gurumanix and Kosmische undertows of slithery acid-synth against “unstructured” Cecil Taylor. And on the “celebration of life” framed optimistic augur of hope and unity, ‘Pueblo’, a lilted Latin Herb Albert teams up with Don Cherry. It’s a constant shifting balance of falling and less chaotic, more rhythmic sparring.

Empirical memories and reverberations of recognizable voice, instrumentation in the most abstracted passages merge with tightened pliable performances. Technically brilliant; pushing at the perimeters without losing the listener, the duo have an exceptional feel and relationship, guiding as they do, each other towards such recondite extremes of experimentation and articulation.

Lending the language of the avant-garde jazz of their heritage, the “invisible” people whose contributions to the form and beyond go largely unnoticed, emerge to inspire this impressive album; a sort of Clouddead of jazz every bit as progressive and interesting as their contributions to the Irreversible project. Whilst that unit’s live tour has been put on hold, a pandemic-imposed reality has concentrated the minds of the duo and given them space to experiment and follow a different path: A really clever one at that.

epic45 ‘Cropping The Aftermath’
(Wayside & Woodland Recordings) 23rd October 2020

From those stuck-in-the-sticks bedroom music dreamers epic45, another expansive gauzy soundtrack of translucent gazing and pastoral electronica dance music with whiffs of nostalgia and ruminations on the, all too quick, passing of time. Yes, Ben Holton, Rob Glover and long-term collaborator James Yates articulate an abstract longing for less dreadful times with a wash of diaphanous atmospherics, radiant House music sparkles, Bloc Party indie breakbeats and trance.

Framed, at least in the promotional email, as a kind of trip back down memory lane, the roots, blossoming of epic45’s inception – a creative escapism from the boredom of life in the middle-of-nowhere – in the 90s starts the ball rolling with reminiscing tones. Musically the lads evoke a redolent soundboard of 808 State, Bowie’s more downbeat moments on Earthling, the softened lingering’s of the Durutti Column guitar, shoegazing and the Aphex Twin. That’s some spread, and one that’s wrapped up in a lush dreamy drift of both the audibly and more hushed whispered, reverberated meanderings and heartened sensibilities of the vocalized sentiments. 

The second project from epic45 in 2020, Cropping The Aftermath continues with the sonic scenic illusions of their We Were Never Here photo book; snapshots and longer gazes from the past, entwined with moods transduced into shimmery mirages and rainstorms. Feeling at times like another summer of love, there’s a real sense of that late 80s club and indie sound so beloved of Madchester: radient-House you could call it. ‘Garage Days’ actually sounds like the band remixing themselves on an acid-soaked glide of oceanic techno, ghostly vocal traces and electronic bobbing toms. Those Bloc Party-esque indie breakbeat drums busily work away (sometimes venturing into d’n’b and even jazz) throughout the album as the washes and gossamer synthesized orbiting shimmers and sweeps waft around in the foreground. There’s a moment when it even all evokes a kind of Ibiza indie mirage; the sort Tim Burgess has been found to swim around in.

In between we have those lingered pastoral sets. As the name obviously suggests, ‘Waking Up In A Field’ is full of chirping morning bird choruses and the dewy sounds of, well, a field, but interspersed with fleeting reversal effects and a synthesized come-down.

The passing of time and the profound acknowledgement of reaching middle age with all its realizations is a right inevitable bastard to wrestle with. But few manage to fit it in such a picturesque soundtrack of gauzy, hazy yearnings. As that old adage goes: don’t grow up, it’s a con (or words to that affect). epic45 have come a long way since those bedroom music making days, yet that early wonder, hunger and camaraderie in hasn’t diminished one bit; the lads pushing the envelope as ever with a flair for producing minor rural electronic yearnings of profound veiled beauty.   

Iklan ‘Album Number 1’
(Soulpunk) 19th October 2020

Despite the attitude and volatility, this assembled cast of pissed-off musical malcontents sounds surprisingly controlled and soulful when chucking a proverbial Molotov into the current incendiary mix of division and pandemic.

Under the collective platform of Iklan, Mercury Prize winning producer and four-decade-plus stalwart of the underground music scene Timothy London, singer-nurse Law Holt and, on backing vocals, 90s one-hit wonders Jacqui and Pauline Cuff (aka the Leith Congregational Choir and before that “Hippychick” hitsters Soho) come together to fire off sonic and verbal broadsides at the current shower. For his part, London brings a sophisticated edgy production of tetchy, piston tapping Trip-Hop, House and both synth-pop and synth-sinister to the mix, whilst Holt brings fire and soul in equal measures; switching from meandrous spiky R&B to rap. Accentuating or punctuating those vocals, the Cuffs offer a suffused chorus that sometimes borders on dark cyber-gospel.

The name of the label for this venture coins the group’s sound well: “soulpunk”. It certainly has the spirit of punk (and post-punk for that matter), and is extremely, despite the rhetoric ad flippant birdfinger “fuck u”, delivered with a soulful wandering pitch.  Despondent as much as incandescent with rage, Iklan come across as a kind of subtle TV On The Radio. Better still, Young Fathers – which isn’t surprising as Law has appeared with the Edinburgh group on a number of occasions and is part of that capital’s much-talked about scene. You could also throw in FKA Twigs, Tamar Kaman (of the Van Allen Belt), Tricky and even a wallowing, more foreboding version of tune-yards to that list. Though the Iklan sound is a mostly ominous one, full of futuristic dystopian warpings and woozy despondency; wrapped up in a subtle deep groove and staggered sound bed of meticulously techy beats, buzzes, sirens and metallic percussion: A record that looms large in the stairwell of a broken estate, yet shakes, dances and thumps with a f-bomb littered fury that proves far more articulate and rhythmic than you’d expect.

Law struts as much as riles in encapsulating her daily life experiences as a young black woman and nurse in the increasingly hostile environment of a pandemic gripped city – there’s even lyrical references to a shooting. It’s antipop in a way; the message delivered in a velvet gauntlet of R&B infused rioting. An album fit for the times we’re living through.

Also see..

Iklan ‘Suffer 2’ Single (here…)

A Journey Of Giraffes ‘Sunshine Pilgrim Map’
(Somewherecold Records) 23rd October 2020

From the very beginning of the Monolith Cocktail a decade ago, the career of the sonic explorer John Lane seems to have tied in with our own development: from the very first Beach Boys lo fi seashell bedroom symphonies of John’s first submission to the blog under the Expo moniker, through to his ever more experimental peregrinations under the menagerie A Journey Of Giraffes, and his most recent blossoming releasing music with the Somewherecold label.

His homage love Haiku to Susumu Yokota Kona album and ambitious atavistic Caucasus purview Armenia probably two of his best ambient oeuvres both arrived with little fanfare in the last year. His fourth, and diaphanous, album for that label is no less impressive: an “archipelago of the mind” evoking sunshine pilgrimage, soundtracked by the tropics and fantastical.  

Drifting across a translucent ocean to a virtual oasis, John lures the listener away from the pandemic suffocation of reality. As castaways in our own thoughts, pilgrims to, perhaps, an as yet unspoiled island, we’re submerged in a gently unfurled soundscape of mystery; an ambient wash of mirror-y love letters to Bamboo music and Sokamoto, metallic industrial scored dramas and weather reports. It’s a microcosm of Japanese referenced sparks of inspiration, profound philosophical island paradise references and contemplation; a world in which idiosyncratic oriental art forms (“Kintsugi”, the art of replacing broken pottery of all things) and fortune cookies crumble into a Bermudan dreamy islet, probed by a Kosmische accompanied submersible dive into the depths of the cerebral.

Pitched between the golden radiance of Laraaji and the more mysterious ghostly soundtracks of Brian Reitzell, there’s also a nod to John’s Brian Wilson influence, with a transformed vision of Pet Sounds acid-tropical tremolo, vibrato and shaking percussion signature on the album’s finale, ‘Asana The Giant’.

Tunneled drones, submerged obscured marine life, oriental chimes, crystallizations, rain patters on metal surfaces, moist droplets, cyclonic vapours, rolling storm clouds, glassy scribbles, insect chatter all converge to form a most subtly mindful safe zone: a hideaway from the real world. How John can continue to be overlooked in the world of ambient and experimental music is beyond me. He seriously deserves recognition, support and above all else, credit. I can only help continuing to spread the word. Get on the Sunshine Pilgrim tour and discover for yourselves.

See also…

Expo ‘She Sells Seashells’ (here…)

A Journey Of Giraffes ‘Sandy Point’ (here…

‘Kona’  (here…

Spacelab ‘Kaleidomission’
(Wormhole Records/HREA-M Recordings) 16th October 2020

A sort of Faust Tapes of out-of-context dialogue samples, fucked-with drum breaks and Kosmische otherworldliness, the new experimental album from Spacelab runs through a thirty-nine spanning track list of fleeting incipient ideas and the strange. Some of which last less time than it takes to pronounce the title. There’s even tracks that seem to exist purely for their visual mirrored effect on Soundcloud: The piques of the reversed then switched back around ‘Goodbye’ creating a nice symmetrical image. 

“The soundtrack to an extra-terrestrial journey from a time unknown”, Kaleidomission runs and also peruses a both thoughtful and more oft-hand exploration of minimalism, ambient and cosmic dreamy space music. Early traces of Popol Vuh (before the heavens parted era), Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Mythos and, well, a Kosmische(olgy) of inter-dimensional travellers can be heard permeating this galaxy quest.  There’s even a title nod to those miscreants of Krautrock and beyond, Faust (‘We Love Faust’) that kind of orbits their sphere of magic box sonic experimentation: Spacelab’s homage features a repeating timeless acoustic guitar motif that echoes against a rising and falling away ambient field of melodious illusions. 

Those titles more or less sum up the intention behind each of these acid tripping film dialogue snatches, majestic floats through the heavens, crystal mirages and more cartoon scores. Some act as a breather, whilst other leaps out of a mystique void. There are also spells of a supernatural kind (an obvious one, ‘Trick The Devil’) to be found in the album’s darker recesses.  

From lunar caves to magic woods, astral gateways and the fatuous, Spacelab prove sonically creative and mischievous in producing a cosmology of investigation worthy of attention. It’s Kosmische music but not quite as we know it.  

Various ‘Scratchcard’
(Blang Records) 16th October 2020

An anti-establishment of malcontents and those without a musical home, the Blang label, as purveyors of the “antifolk” scene, has offered sanctuary and comradeship for cross-generational bands and artists like the psych rock ’n’ roll maverick Tav Falco and cult London troupe David Cronenberg’s Wife.

Fifteen years on from their inaugural heralding release, the 2005 compilation Fruit Machine, Blang celebrate with an anniversary year that includes a takeover of Soho Radio, an “outsider music” documentary bio and compilations.  One of those compilations, Scratchcard, marks the label’s most recent five-year plan, from 2016 to a laborious pandemic 2020.

Not quite the punt ad promise of riches that go with that scratchcard title, this fifteen-track collection offers an amble through the modern austerity shitshow equivalent of a dole queue 80s British underground music scene: a bit of sneering; some snot rock; doses of despondent naval-gazing indie; post-punk dislocation; rebel country attitude; and kitchen sink estate dramas. The sort you’ll find on David Cronenberg’s Wife’s introductory opener ‘Suli’s House’: a wrangling Link Wray guitar led ditty that disarms with its country sway and twang a sorrowful step-by-step guide to shooting up heroin.

Originally an extension of Blang’s infamous monthly nights at the now defunct London Westend spot, The 12 Bar Club, and inspired by the NYC East Village antifolk scene of Moldy Peaches and Jeffrey Lewis (a scene that sprung from the also now defunct Sidewalk Café), the label has become a much cherished and liked platform. That antifolk raison d’etre has since expanded to include anything the Yorkshire hub sees fit to give an airing; anything that is which falls beneath the DIY ascetic, or rather as they call it (in broad Yorkshire accents) “DIT”: “Do it thissen”.

I’ve personally featured quite a few of their roster; though only a handful considering the size of the catalogue (a 100 plus release so far). Many of which feature on this compilation, including the already mentioned DCW with their despondent and sardonic witty rich The Octoberman Sequence in 2018. But there’s also the agit-rabble of Sergeant Buzfuz, whose horrible histories Pope bashing Go To The Devil And Shake Yourself opus made my choice albums of 2012. Here they offer a Parisian staged modern tale of deceit and resignation with the XTC meets Richard Hell in Montparnasse ‘Fill In The Blanks’.

Popping up back in February of this year on the blog, Extradition Order delivered a musical vision of the Oppenheimer story with their American Prometheus album (a definite pick for this year’s choice features). From that impressive mini-opus, the Warrington group is represented by the Tamela Motown channeled Style Council and B52s swooning lament, ‘Baby, What Have You Done For Me Lately?

The Awkward Silences in a different guise appeared on the blog back in 2016 with the brilliant white-funk no wave Outsider Pop album. Here they are closing the collection with a transmogrified Talking Heads (if played by The Futureheads or Bloc Party) blast of narrated self-realization and a poignant tale of death, mourning.

Joining that lot are the Joan Jett attitude stomping and rattling, former Fall members outfit Brix & The Extricated (‘Something To Lose’); an idiosyncratic Casio chiming, pulsing Yoni Wolf like Seth Faergolzia (‘Wait For The Beep’); the do “fuck all” all day bandy Deptford post-punk meeting of a roguish Blockheads, geezer Renegade Soundwave and Dandy Warhols Jack Medley’s Secure Men (‘Taking Care Of Business’); and the Graham Greene reimagined as an end of a seaside holiday midlife crisis, played out by a noir Squeeze and Turtles, Trailer Crash (‘Brighton Rock’).

Other worthy mentions include the all-round cult talent and already mentioned in my opening paragraph, Tav Falco, who gets his drugstore cowboy Sir Douglas Quintet version of the Stax soul-snap ‘Tramp’ (retitled as ‘Tram?’) on the comp: A grizzled, cool fuck you of unrepentant redneck swagger. If the promise of miscreant, social political upstarts making fucked-up country, folk, indie and punk (and even badly-lit underpass soul; courtesy of Milk Kan’s ‘My Baby’s Gone Viral On The Brain’) grabs you, then get a load of this concentration of disgruntled reprobates. Raise a toast, better still buy the bloody CD or download it you tight ungrateful urchins. Here’s to another fifteen years of true musical independence!

See also…

David Cronenberg’s Wife ‘The Octoberman Sequence’ (here…)

Sergeant Buzfuz ‘Go To The Devil And Shake Yourself’ (here…)

Extradition Order ‘American Prometheus’ (here…)

Paul Hawkins And The Awkward Silences ‘Outsider Pop’  (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.

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