Choice Albums of 2019 Part Two: Haq to Pozi


For those that might have missed Part One of this three-parter, I will reiterate:

Because we’ve never seen the point in arguing the toss over numerical orders, or even compiling a list of the best of albums of the year, the Monolith Cocktail’s lighter, less competitive and hierarchical ‘choice albums’ features have always listed all entrants in alphabetical order (since our inception, a decade ago). We also hate separating genres and so everybody in these features, regardless of genre, location, shares the same space.

All the albums in part two were chosen by Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Ginaluigi Marsibilio.

Part One can be found here…

H……..

Haq ‘Evaporator’
(Bearsuit Records)







The new release from the fine Bearsuit Records finds us tumbling down to the spiraling sounds of Haq; 60s spy theme sexiness merges with the avant-garde dreampop of a bewitched Stereolab playing hopscotch with Delia Derbyshire whilst sucking on the feedback of a JAMC lollipop.

The obvious love and understanding of pop music in its many genres and changes throughout the decades are lovingly brought together to make a wash of beautiful tunes. Angel like vocals float over gentle beats, soulful guitars and well constructed rhythms, delicately plucking at the heartstrings. This album really is a beautiful work of aural magic that can and will take you AWAY from the drudgery of everyday life and makes for quite a moving experience: maybe there is a god after all. (Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea)

Full review…


Homeboy Sandman ‘Dusty’
(Mello Music Group)





“Pure skills unfazed by tempo, turning fleeting thoughts into elaborate dissections. Long may the cult of the Sandman continue” – RnV Nov 19




Something that will never be lost to the dusts of time is Homeboy Sandman and that flow that still sounds just past a cipher amongst friends. Mono En Stereo tease out his kooks with production springy in step and managing a melting pot and the bare bones. Actually the continued kooky associations do Homeboy a disservice, as Dusty is Sandman doing what he does best in all his multifaceted greatness, able to pull off sincere and sombre on a sixpence before pulling the rug through sleight of verb (“anybody asks, I was never here/in the lunchroom sitting alone my whole career/wear my pants so you can’t see my underwear”), aiming for personal bests as if the aforementioned cipher is strictly for him. An undisputed battler and hip-hop student, and whose streams of consciousness you won’t find anywhere else (including moulding the mundane into something profound), Homeboy is a good egg who just happens to have the ability to destroy whoever. (Matt Oliver)


Chrissie Hynde & The Valve Bone Orchestra ‘Valve Bone Woe’
(BMG)





I’m probably in a minority, but I feel Chrissie Hynde has been in the past restricted by her proto-rock icon status. Never sounding better, and not entirely a shock, Hynde, linking up with The Valve Bone Orchestra, transduces a collection of standards from stage, film, 60s pop and jazz on, probably, her most mature work yet, Valve Bone Woe.

As showy as it is experimental, this orchestrated album is both romantically brooding and brazen. Dotting brooding and dreamy versions of classics with more spiritual jazz and retro-space age fantasy, Hynde delivers an offbeat jazz snozzled slinky salacious version of Nancy Wilson’s ‘So Glad I Am’, and sends Brian Wilson’s ‘Caroline, No’ drifting off towards the stars, whilst relegating herself to lulling coos on the Charlie Mingus ‘Meditation On A Pair Of Wire Cutters’ – a workout in as much for the ensemble to flex their spirit of peregrination.

Bond like theme visions of Frank Sinatra’s ‘I’m A Fool To Want You’, sit well next to a strung out rendition of ‘Wild Is The Wind’ (made famous by many, but namely Nina Simone and Bowie) on an album that, though beautiful and magical, pushes Hynde to ever dizzying heights of sophistication and experiment. (Dominic Valvona)


Hifiklub & Mike Cooper  ‘Aran Stories’
(Ruptured)





Bringing the ever-evolving Toulon eclectic collective Hifiklub and English polygenesis journeyman Mike Cooper together, the harsh unforgiving coastal terrain and psychogeography of the Isle Of Aran provides a perfect bleak backdrop for an unholy union of conceptual plaint and experimental strung-out visions. Primal, harrowing, steel, waning, craning, expanding and untethered this visceral collaboration hews out an evocative off-kilter post-punk and abstract electronica soundtrack that winds and beats-out of shape tales and traces of the island’s history. The album’s opening lyrics let you know straight away where this is heading: “This year I see a darker side of life”.

The source material for this exploration and therapy is Robert J. Flaherty’s Man Of Aran documentary – his third such documentary feature film after the famous groundbreaking 1922 Nanook of the North and South Seas set Moana – and John Millington Synge’s 1907 The Aran Islands text, which Cooper takes on a more harsh version of Robert Wyatt-like meandering intense wonder.

Dark and ominous, conveying a hardy way of life and travails, this album is a tough but mesmerizing and hauntingly beautiful work of art. (DV)


I………

Ifriqiyya Electrique ‘Laylet el Booree’
(Glitterbeat Records)







Just as electrifying, exotic and barracking as the previous ritualistic post-punk tumult of Rûwâhîne, Ifriqiyya Electrique’s second album, Laylet el Booree, (which translates as the “night of the madness”) features another invigorating surged vortex of rustic percussion, strange computer-generated sounds, static, sparks and two-speed rhythms.

Mirroring the stamping, emotive and sometimes confusing hallowed intensity of the adorcist ritual from the Banga followers of Tozeur that this album’s title references, the collaborative Tunisian-Italian troupe work themselves up into a fervor as they communion with the spirit world. The Electrique integrate different rhythmic changes and timings; seeming to experiment even more this time around; pushing the envelope further without losing that original tumultuous barrage of bombarding drums/percussion and edgy growling grinding industrial guitar sounds. If anything they’ve unleashed the spirits to roam the amorphous sphere of exploration to draw on even more diverse musical inspirations, creating a highly unique invigorating sensory experience in the process. Industrial post-punk ritual leaves the furnace once more to cause an explosive cacophony. (DV)

Full Review


Invisible System ‘Dance To The Full Moon’
(ARC Music)





Taken from the same recording sessions as Dan Harper’s previous album, Bamako Sessions, his latest transportive exploration under the nom de plume of Invisible System once more lends an electrified and synthesized pulse to the spiritual soul of Malian music. Originally put together in a more languorous fashion with a variety of musicians coming and going, jamming in a mattress proofed room in a rented house in the capital, Dance To The Full Moon was created and shaped at the end of a tumultuous and violent period in Mali’s history. That tumult, along with a passion for his adopted country, has been energized as Dan transforms the music of a myriad of Mali’s great and good (a lineup of players that includes Kalifa Koné, Sidi Touré and Sambou Kouyaté) into an attuned and dynamic remix of the Mali soundscape. (DV)

Full review…


J……….

Juga-Naut & Giallo Point ‘Back to the Grill Again’
(Tuff Kong)





“Running through crews like a hot knife through butter, from now only order these cordon bleu beats and rhymes, a gangster gourmet with an all important UK garnish” – RnV Aug 19




Someone who definitely needs to enter the conversation when it comes to naming the UK’s top tier of rhymers, Juga-Naut stays up by showing that show-n-prove and aspirational, ostentatious folly do pay. Given that this follows relatively hot on the heels of 2018’s Bon Vivant, Jugs has officially got both designs for days and commitment to quality control – list toppers others find hard to fathom. Giallo Point, the money man when it comes to Little Italy dramas on the boards, fills his beats with a hydration he usually leaves out on purpose, chaperoning the Nottingham emcee who may shuffle realities – a kind of surrealism that takes logical steps – but fundamentally has the presence to shut down backchatters with granite-set rhymes that calibrates a kind of one inch punch that hasn’t got time for any dramatics. Heavy, no heartburn. (MO)


John Johanna ‘Seven Metal Mountains’
(Faith & Industry)







With afflatus fervor Norfolk-based artist John Johanna transduces the mountain allegories and metaphors as laid down by Noah’s grandfather in the vision-dream-revelatory Book Of Enoch into a gospel-raga-blues and Radio Clash prescient Biblical cosmology. Interrupted from Enoch’s visits to the heavenly realms – where, as Johanna’s Strummer fronts Wah! Heat, Gothic redemption goer ‘Standing At The Gates Of Love’ takes its title from, you will find a no-nonsense angel guarding the Pearly Gates with a flaming sword in hand – the Seven Metal Mountains metallurgy passage is as much an augur as observed proclamation. Used here as a frame for Johanna’s second visionary album of spiritual nutrition in a Godless age for the always brilliant Faith & Industry label, the dour liturgy of Judaic tradition and law inspires a message of forewarning and yearns for less materialistic avarice.

Seven Metal Mountains translates Biblical prophecy marvelously into a vivid eclectic songbook of protestation post-punk, indie, folk, psych and lilting Krautrock. (DV)

Full review…


Junkboy ‘Trains, Trees, Topophilia’







Disarmingly chilled yet full of wistful rumination and contemplation, Junkboy’s Brighton-Seaford-Southend traverse wonders what it would sound like if Brian Wilson was born and bred on the English Riviera instead of Hawthorne, California: The beachcomber vibes of Pet Sounds permeate this quint lush English affair. You can safely add vague notions of Britpop era Octopus, a touch of the Super Furry Animals more folksy psych instrumentals, some early Beta Band, echoes of 90s Chicago post-rock, and on the dreamboat bluegrass lilted-and-silted ‘Sweetheart Of The Estuary’ more than a nod to Roger McGuinn and pals.

The Brothers Hanscomb long awaited new instrumental opus, Trains, Trees, Topophilia is a peaceable musical landscape littered with the ghostly reverb of railways station interchanges, mew-dewed laced green hillsides, tidal ebbs and flows and Cluniac Abbeys. Call it pastoral musical care for the soul; a beautifully conveyed canvas of the imagined and idyllic and a subtle ode to the Southeast cartography and painters, poets, writers that captured it so perfectly. (DV)

Full review…


K………..

Kel Assouf ‘Black Tenere’
(Glitterbeat Records)







Mirroring the borderless Nomadic freewheeling of the Berber ancestral Tuareg people, a loosely atavistic-connected confederacy (to put it into any kind of meaningful context) of diverse tribes that have traditionally roamed Sub-Saharan Africa since time immemorial, Kel Assouf channel a wealth of musical influences both historically and geographically into an electrified reworking of (as vague and over-used a term as it is) desert rock. Headed by charismatic Gibson Flying V slinger front man Anana Ag Haroun, who’s own lineage takes in both the landlocked behemoth Niger and bordering Nigeria, the highly propulsive, cyclonic spiraling trio propel that heritage into the 21st century; thanks in many ways to the futuristic cosmic electronic and bass frequency production of the band’s rising innovative keyboardist/producer Sofyann Ben Youssef.

A stunning rock odyssey that draws its multiple sources together in both defiance and in the spirit of communication – the Kel Tamashek plight, as guardian-custodians of the desert, translated via the poetic heartfelt earthy soulful lyrics of Haroun – Black Tenere stretches the roots of nomadic rock and blues to reflect ever-expanding musical horizons as the global community grows ever-smaller and music becomes more fluid and spreads with ease. Kel Assouf is on another plane entirely, propelling rock music into the future. (DV)

Full review…


Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba ‘Miri’
(Outhere Records)







The courtly sound of the Mali Empire from the 13th century, accompanying the griot tradition of storytelling for an age, the (usually) dried-animal skin wrapped, canoe-shaped ngoni lute has been electrifyingly revitalized in recent years thanks in part to the virtuoso dexterity and energy of one of its leading practitioners, Malian legend, Bassekou Kouyate.

Following up the more electrified 2015 LP, Ba Power (which made our albums of the year feature), with a fifth album of innovative paeans, hymns, protestations and calls for peace, Bassekou takes a more reflective pause for thought on Miri; gazing out across his crisis-ridden homeland, contemplating on how the fragmented landscape and people can be brought back together for the common good. Backed as always by the family band that features his wife, the soulful and beautifully voiced ‘nightingale of the north’, Amy Secko, and his son, Madou Kouyate, on bass ngoni, but also now including his niece Kankou (making a special guest appearance on vocals), the Bamana entitled encapsulation of ‘dream’, or ‘contemplation’, Miri record touches base with Bassekou’s roots.

A visceral picture of a land in crisis, yet one that has hope for a united Mali, Miri is a sublime connective and rallying collection of compelling and thrilling performances and songs (Sacko especially on fine form delivering the most tender and rich vocals throughout); another essential album from the ngoni master. (DV)

Full review…


L…………

Labelle ‘Orchestre Univers’
(Infiné)







Jérémy Labelle is clearly a very talented musician, composer and producer. He casts his net of influence wide to draw upon many musical styles. His synthesis of modal harmonies and tribal rhythms is very reminiscent of the ‘Fourth World’ created by the venerable Jon Hassell. His latest album, Orchestre Univers, was performed by the Orchestre Regional of Réunion Island; conducted by Laurent Goossaert. The ten pieces from the album (three previously published and seven original works) were recorded live over four concerts that took place on the island.

I have read numerous interviews with Labelle who cites identity and anthropology as themes that have inspired him to write music. Orchestre Univers feels more like a celebration, a coming together of musicians and audiences to rejoice at the unique music that has emerged from the island of Réunion. The electronics and compositional complexities offered by Labelle are merely 21st century adaptations to what is an age-old sound. They should not be dismissed. His concept of “Maloya electronics” is truly global and will ensure that the next generation of Réunionese continue to declare, “Nous Maloya lé mondial!” (Andrew C. Kidd)

Full review…


Little Brother ‘May the Lord Watch’
(Foreign Exchange Music)





“Effortless and erudite, LB still have the remedy for when your last nerve has been worked over” – RnV Sep 19



The return of Gang Starr claimed a glut of headlines in 2019, but the reconvening of Little Brother’s Phonte and Big Pooh was no undercard announcement, their first album in nine years instantly restoring goodwill to flagging hip-hop naysayers. Supremely funky, soulful, still getting the maximum mileage out of a running joke-made-critical, cultural commentary, and with the likes of Khrysis, Nottz, Focus and Black Milk upholding 9th Wonder’s gold-fingered role on the boards, all is well with the world once this blooms from speakers. The ease of the pair’s back and forth is no less marvelous as we approach the twenties – masterful, as if they’re just hanging somewhere nondescript, and just ready to go and express themselves – there’s still a lot to be said for their all-seeing chemistry, keeping of the faith and words to the wise, even this deep in the game. May there be mercy upon your soul if you’re not already excited for 2028. (MO)


M…………..

Mazouni ‘Un Dandy En Exil/Algérie-France/1969-1983’
(Born Bad Records)







Our review copy must have been lost in the post or missed the inbox, but this compilation of hits and rarities from the exiled dandy of “Francarabe” (a unique blend of French and Arabic lyrics) Mohamed Mazouni was one of the year’s most enchanting discoveries. Swooning and crooning poignant touching and lamenting songs about exile, love and the travails of being a first-generation Algerian immigrant in France, Mazouni sashays, shakes, belly dances and saunters to the sounds of the Orient on the first ever compilation dedicated in his honour. (DV)


Meursault ‘Crow Hill’
(Common Grounds)







An ambitious literary-enriched album with a loose story and range of perspectives that will unfold further in comic book form and through live performance, Neil Scott Pennycook’s Crow Hill diorama delivers a whirlwind of dark emotions; many of which feel like a punch to the heart.

Announced as a new chapter for Pennycook’s alter ego Meursault, released as the launch album for the new independent Common Grounds label, Crow Hill marks a move into fiction for the Edinburgh artist. An “urban horror” of vignettes, each song on this album represents twelve chapters of plaintive and lamentable grief and broken promises from the imagined town’s inhabitants, set to a constantly beautifully aching soundtrack that either builds and builds towards anthemic crescendo or despairingly gallops towards the flames: in the case of the brutal punishing ‘Jennifer’, a discordant scream of anguish, on what could be a crime of domestic abuse.

An outstanding album full of both heartache and brilliance, this is a vivid, richly and descriptively revealing minor-opus; the first chapter or part of a much grander multimedia universe that crosses songwriting with veiled fiction, illustration and performance. As first stabs go, Pennycook has shown an encouraging erudite skill for writing, which translates well when put to music. (DV)

Full review…


Mr Muthaf*ckin’ eXquire ‘Mr Muthaf*ckin’ eXquire’
(Soulspazm)





“Satisfying your ignorant itch and also reducing dancefloors to bloody smithereens, it’s a surprisingly, satisfyingly well-rounded album where the bite backs up the bark” – RnV May 19




In a sea of clones, drone and cookie cutters, eXquire remains the genuine, genuinely outrageous article, putting up without shutting up and attacking this album with bloodlust right from the off. Leaving clubs to check their insurance policies, Mr MFX is the valve that releases the pressure when people are getting in your way, saturating front rows before levelling out with kerbside rollers, showing that with shock value comes some degree of responsibility. Maybe the real cliché is when you come for the outrage (the outright base ‘I Love Hoes’) and end up staying for him having something to say (admittedly, it’s usually to a deafening, disorientating backdrop). ‘Rumblefish’ expertly get emotions tangled, and the prophetic novella ‘Nothing’s What It Seems’: Short Film’ grows artistically ahead of a closing monologue of self-discovery. Whatever his angle, he’s always on and leaves everything in the booth. (MO)


O……………

Occult Character ‘Chittering Noises’
(Small Bear Records)







Here we have the brand new Occult Character LP. Yes another one. This time an all acoustic guitar affair that once again proves my previous claim correct that Occult is the most important songwriter in the USA today: 13 songs in 15 minutes, strumming through short songs dealing with the subjects of abortion, having the shits, being nice to people, among many others all written and sang in Occults inimitable style.

What I love about Occult Character is the point on accuracy of his lyrics and his talent for finding the bizarreness of everyday living – especially him contemplating and commentating on life in a Trump led America – with a verve and shambolic dark humour all of his own. This album and the sister piece LP to this, The Cult Of Ignorance, released on Metal Postcard Records earlier in the year should be downloaded by all American Schools and stored away and in ten years time played to the students as part of their American History lessons. This is another must have album of 2019 and may come to be seen as one of the most important and influential and considered a cult classic in the years to come. (BBS)


Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou ‘Anou Malane’
(Sahel Sounds)







More a ‘choice album’ of 1995 of course, lifted and reset from the original cassette for the first time, this new reissue of the Tuareg legend and doyen of the desert guitar, Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou, is a worthy addition to any right-minded eclectic music lovers collection.

Addressing the troops as a front-runner in the armed Tuareg rebellion of the 1990s – another phase in the long-running campaign for the desert peoples of Northern Mali and bordering regions to set up an autonomous state of their own -, Oumbadougou’s reputation grew from humble, isolated beginnings; his protestations and balladry spread through a network of cassette tape dubbers.

In exile for his troubles, the desert blues minstrel traveled to Benin to record an official release with the West African producer Nel Oliver – known for his work on a number of seminal boogie and afro-funk records of the period. Oliver lends a sauntering boogie and discotheque production to the earthy soulful magic of Oumbadougou’s signature influence on one of the first ever records to capture the Tuareg guitar style. A seminal and essential bridge between styles, Anou Malane is one of the best records to come out of the troubles and period. Own it now! (DV)


P……………

Park Jiha ‘Philos’
(tak:til)







Following her universally applauded debut album, Communion, Park Jiha has chosen Philos – from Greek, plural: loving, fond of, tending to – as the title for her latest release on Glitterbeat‘s sub-label, tak:til.

It has been described as an “evocation of her love for time, space and sound”. This is certainly evidenced in the multi-instrumental and baleful opener, ‘Arrival’, which consists of simple, metronomic strums and reedy high notes that lace around each other in ominous prismaticism. The piri, a double-reed bamboo flute played by Park, features heavily in this piece, as it does later during the album’s title track.

The album departs from the instrumental during the track, ‘Easy’, which features the breezy and philosophical (or, rather, extrajudicial) spoken word of the Lebanese poet, Dima El Sayed. The upper notes intensify and push the vocals to a dizzying and distorting conclusion.

There is an eloquent passage in the album notes which describes Philos as “[looking] to the future whilst continuing to converse with a rich instrumental language from the past”. This admixture of traditional Korean and Western instrumentation, coupled with compositions that lean towards the ambient and neoclassical, transmute Park’s experiences of a world awash with changing tides, transitory weather and ever-expanding cities into something that is indefinably atemporal. (ACK)

Full review…


Per W/Pawlowski ‘Outsider/Insider’
(Jezus Factory/Starman Records)







Thirteen years after their first collaboration together, two stalwarts of the alternative Belgian music scene once more reunite to produce, what they call, their very own unique White Album curiosity. The intergenerational musical partnership of one-time dEUS guitar-slinger for hire Mauro Pawlowski and maverick legend Kloot Per W proves an experimental – if odd – success in mining both artist’s influences and providence; the results of which, transformed into a playful, often knowing and pastiche, misadventure, are performed with conviction. Behind the often-masked mayhem and classic rock poses lurk serious, sometimes cathartic wise observations.

With the deep sagacious and world-weary voice of Per W leading, Outsider/Insider merges the mixed fortunes of both artists; whether it’s the jangly Traveling Wilburys like power rock pastiche ‘KPW On 45’ and its commentary on the cultural overbearing of America (“American rock star live in my European food!”) or, the iron fire-escape tapping, industrial funk gyrating, seductive if awkward ‘Room!’, Per W adds just enough off-center lyricism and ambivalence to make even the most obvious-sounding straight-A tune take a turn into weirdville.

Off-white to The Beatles stark magnolia gloss, Outsider/Insider is hardly a classic – dysfunctional or otherwise –, but is an amusing, sometimes absurd, and well-crafted alternative art-rock record of some ambition and style. (DV)

Full review…


Pozi ‘PZ1’
(PRAH Recordings)







Jabbed finger punk with a cushioned impact of bowed melodic and even dashes of doomed romanticism, the London band Pozi produce a kind of disarming malcontent anger. Like the results of a merger between Stiff Records and Sub Pop, this nervy troupe prod and waltz to spiky punkish drums, brooding bass, and fractious and waning strings as they cast a resigned eye over the current political climate. If the Sleaford Mods had more grace and ideas, they could have sounded like this. Quite simply: bloody brilliant. (DV)


PART ONE


album of 2019 part one - monolith cocktail


Playlist
Compiled by Dominic Valvona with contributions from Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea, Andrew C. Kidd and Gianluigi Marsibilio.
Graphics by Gianluigi Marsibilio.








Reflecting the Monolith Cocktail’s tastes and favourite choice tracks from the last few months, the Quarterly Revue is a diverse musical journey; an eclectic international playlist of discoveries. This is a space in which you are as likely to find the skewered Gary Wilson meets Brian Wilson stained-glass psychedelic songwriting of the Origami Repetika creative hub as you are the conscious transportive jazz of Horace Tapscott. Brand new tracks appear alongside reissues and recently uncovered nuggets as we move through funk, jazz, hip-hop, post-punk, shoegaze, desert blues, techno, psychedelic, acid rock, space rock, and the most experimental of musical genres.

 

Behold…part three…


Tracklist::

Snapped Ankles  ‘Three Steps To A Development’
DJ Shadow  ‘Rosie’
Kid Acne/Nosaj/Spectacular Diagnostics  ‘Crest Of A Wave’
Gang Starr/J. Cole  ‘Family and Loyalty’
Danny Brown  ‘Best Life’
Bronx Slang  ‘More Grief’
SAULT  ‘Let Me Go’
clipping.  ‘Nothing Is Safe’
Bloke Music  ‘Everything On’
Seaside Witch Coven  ‘Splutter’
Trupa Trupa  ‘Remainder’
Stereo Total  ‘Einfach’
Los Piranas  ‘Palermo’s Grunch’
Baba Zula  ‘Salincak In’
Abdallah Oumbadougou  ‘Thingalene’
Grup Dogus  ‘Namus Belasi’
Taichmania  ‘See Ya at Six or Seven’
Kota Motomura  ‘Cry Baby’
Baby Taylah  ‘Reclaim’
House Of Tapes  ‘Melted Ice’
Camino Willow  ‘Hollywood’
Callum Easter  ‘Only Sun’
Junkboy  ‘Waiting Room’
Elizabeth Everts  ‘Contraband’
Bloom de Wilde  ‘Soul Siren’
Badge Epoque Ensemble  ‘Milk Split on Eternity’
Chrissie Hynde/The Valve Bone Woe Ensemble  ‘Meditation on a Pair of Wire Cutters’
Swan/Koistinen  ‘Diagnosis’
Sirom  ‘Low Probability of a Hug’
Koma Saxo  ‘Fanfarum for Komarun’
Matana Roberts  ‘Raise Yourself Up/Backbone Once More/How Bright They Shine’
Die Achse/Ghostface Killah/Agent Sasco  ‘Baby Osamas’
U-Bahn  ‘Beta Boyz’
Occult Character  ‘Half-Wits and Cultists’
Asbestos Lead Asbestos  ‘Shrimp Asmr’
Repo-Man  ‘Evan The Runt’
Issac Birituro & The Rail Abandon  ‘Kalba’
Nicolas Gaunin  ‘Vava’u’
Mazouni  ‘Daag Dagui’
Mdou Moctar  ‘Wiwasharnine’
Aziza Brahim  ‘Leil’
Resavoir  ‘Resavoir’
Purple Mountains  ‘All My Happiness is Gone’
Babybird  ‘Cave In’
Adam Green  ‘Freeze My Love’
Catgod  ‘Blood’
Frog  ‘RIP to the Empire State Flea Market’
Pozi  ‘Engaged’
Roi  ‘Dormouse Records’
Origami Repetika  ‘Winged Creatures’
Horace Tapscott  ‘Future Sally’s Time’
A Journey Of Giraffes  ‘September 11 1977’
Jodie Lowther  ‘The Cat Collects’
Equinox/Vukovar  ‘Lament’
Kandodo 3  ‘King Vulture’

Reviews Roundup
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea





Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea joined the Monolith Cocktail team in January 2019. The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, 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 project, Roi (with John McCarthy and Dan Shea, of Beauty Stab and Vukovar infamy) debuted recently through Metal Postcard Records.

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.

The Monochrome Set  ‘Fabula Mandax’
(Tapete Records)  27th September 2019


The new LP by The Monochrome Set is a concept album about the female warrior Armande de Pange, a sidekick of Joan Of Arc. It takes all sorts I suppose; whatever floats your boat and other such benign sayings. It really doesn’t make any difference really as long as the songs/tracks are of an enjoyable quality and this LP, I’m pleased to say, is full of enjoyability. It is positively rammed with the stuff.

The usual twangy and hastily strummed guitars are all present and correct as you would expect from the mighty Monochrome Set; spaghetti western melodies float above the spinning strange story of Armande, bringing a party to ones headphones, and making it a most enjoyable listening experience.





The New Art School ‘Mod Kid (Single)’
(Metal Postcard Records) 27th August 2019



Well what a wonderful song; what a wonderful single. I don’t know what I was expecting; maybe sub Secret Affair or the Lambrettas, but no, what we get is a five minute foray into the edgy joy of ripped up teenage yearning with a guitar riff equivalent of a sneaky smoke at the back of the school bike sheds with a quick snifter of your mums stolen gin. A song that makes you wish you were fifteen again so you could show off to your mates about a great new band you have discovered; a track covered in magic normally only normally woven by the mighty Comet Gain. Another winner from Metal Postcard records.





The Pooh Sticks ‘Seven Inch Box’
(Optic Nerve Recordings) 22nd November 2019



The Pooh Sticks are one of the most perfect pop bands from the last 40 years; they released the “Great White Wonder” album for god sake, so how could they not be, and this, a box set of their first singles, captures them at their most immature fun best two minute-blasts of pure pop perfection. This is how The Shangri-Las would have sounded if they’d produced by Pete Shelley rather than Shadow Morton.

It’s the sound of teenage summer pop. It has a song called ‘Life’s A Gas’ and they’re, maybe, the only band that could get away with it – and not being disappointed that it’s not the Marc Bolan classic.

They even released a song that mentions Alan McGee without calling him an arse (which he is obviously).

They have such a pure outlook on pop life they should be sainted. They have ba ba ba choruses they do versions of ‘Knock Three Times’ that does not pale in comparison to the original. They are pure pop for forever people; the sound of buzz saw bubblegum you never ever want to pop. I do like the Pooh Sticks and so should you…if you don’t already.






Lounge Bar Orchestra ‘Washing Lines’
11th September 2019



A tremor of sixties England, the soundtrack of Joe Meek picnicking with the swinging hipsters of yesteryear; open top sport cars speed around the county lanes as the sun shines and the radio plays the latest Sandie Shaw hit wide eyed barefooted and pulling on the heartstrings of boys who should know better. This is the soundtrack to a land I would quite happily live in; a beautiful magical land of cord jackets and mini skirts; a land when shops closed on a Sunday; a land where Ray Davies resides. I could quite happily live inside this song.





The Cult Of Free Love And The Magic Seas ‘Split EP’
28th October 2019



What we have here is a split 12-inch single of excellence. Kicking off we have Welsh electro psych gothic cult The Cult Of Free Love offering up a rather stunning voyage of psychosis want with the sublime ‘Visions’, a song to haunt, flaunt, bewitch, caress the bejesus out of your record player; a modern day ‘Porpoise Song’, a track already a musical highlight in a year when there has been many a fine tune. Track 2 by The Cult Of Free Love is ‘Substance’, a 7 minute plus journey of trance like adventure sounding like the feeding of The Beatles ‘It’s All Too Much’ through a psychedelic trip hammer of dance inspired Acid House; a return to the misty fields of your deepest feelings, late 80s Manchester but without the guns just pure love and emotion: another stunner. Get ready for The Cult Of Free Love to be your new favourite band.

To the other side of the 12 inch we find The Magic Seas kicking off their side with ‘Count In Threes’, a song that once again takes you back to the golden days of guitar pop, a song with the wonderful gift of melody flowing throughout guitars shimmer and shine and lassoing the sun, pulling the warmth into the indie boy and girls hearts: a truly lovely song. The second track by The Magic Seas, ‘Long Winter’, is even better. A hypnotic 12 string dives straight in to gently rattle the insides of your doubts that you are listening to a very special band indeed. Oh if I were only eighteen again, The Magic Seas would be my new favourite band alongside The Cult Of Free Love: I would just have to alternate days. This EP is indeed something special.





Equinox ‘Correction’
(Wormhole) 30th August 2019



The new LP by Equinox carries on from were the last triumph of his debut left off, taking in the darker feelings of the psych. Poetic spoken word utterings of the lovelorn, crestfallen and heartbroken fourteen collaborations with fourteen underground artists that range from the electronica of ‘Driven’ with Reed Hayes to the almost Oasis like ‘Janine’ with the Razorrawks.

An album to wrap around the drunken late nights of the inward looking, the sound of a man who is past the end of his tether; someone who has found love in the second coming of remembrance the first view of the last rainbow of summer, the coiling of the fading leaf of Autumn, a current so deep one cannot do anything else but curl up into the epiphany of a mistake anyone can make but only the lucky few do. This is an album the shamelessly poetic will take to their heart and listen and cherish as there heartbreaks and their mind explodes. An album of pure beauty, to have, to hold and not let go.






Occult Character ‘Cult Of Ignorance’
(Metal Postcard Records) 5th September 2019



In this day and age you need people like Occult Character to tell the world how it is and what just is happening, and this mini LP is, as I have said before about OC, a modern day Woody Guthrie writing modern day electro folk songs describing life in the Trump led America: and this album proves it.

This could be one of the most important albums released this year. It is the sound of the underground raising two fingers to the “Me” generation. If OC were as well known as John Lennon the US government would be trying the damnedest to get him deported. This is the sound of a artist at the end of his tether writing short requiems to the death of the country he loves ‘Police State /Shit Sandwich’ could be the angriest songs you will hear all year. He pulls no punches; dark humour hides the sadness in these short songs the harshness of the beats only goes on to soundtrack the knife-edge world in which we live today. This is a must be heard album by the most important artist in the US underground today.





REVIEWS ROUNDUP
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea




Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea joined the Monolith Cocktail team in January 2019. The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The Bordellos, 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. Each month we send him a deluge of new releases and await to see what sticks.

Lark ‘Blink’
(Wormhole Records) 16th August 2019


An LP of darkness; an LP that emerges from the post-punk sound of the early 80s. Discordant guitars and twisted bass back beautiful songs of lyrical wordy beauty – it is a delight to hear songs with wonderful lyrics instead of them being treated as an afterthought.

At times this reminds me of the recent work of Babybird, a man who ploughs his own path through the music industry and also writes songs with melody darkness and humour. It also brings to mind the Southern Death Cult and Nick Cave, and early New Order.

Originally released in 2014 now available on very ltd cd from the wonderful Wormhole World label, I would snap one up while you still can as this is an album to soundtrack the oncoming Autumn and Winter of our discontent.





Asbestos Lead Asbestos ‘Nature Of Feline’
26th July 2019



When an LP starts with a flurry of “fuck yous” and goes into indie pop strum along, and then goes into more “fuck yous”, I know I’m going to enjoy it. A clamour of glamour and toss pot glitter shillyshally into the mists of swollen lo fi beauty, it reawakens memories of dreaming of the girl you can only dream about whilst listening to Bongwater: the band not water from a bong.

If I wrote for the music blog Get Into This, I might describe this LP as being “boss scran for thought”, as it jumps from chaos to chaotic hipster speak to dirty yearning for the fucked and fuckable. Acoustic guitars drift through electronic distortion to unveil yet another great album for 2019, and when that same album has a song called ‘Motherfucker Won’t You Pass The Marimba’, how can it not be worth investigation.





bigflower ‘The Look Of Love’
4th August 2019 



If a sparkling dark beautiful rendition of one of the most perfect love songs ever written is what you are after then look no further as bigflower, the musical gift that keeps giving, has supplied us yet again with another guitar gem: this time not a self composed number but a rather wonderful version of the Bacharach and David classic, ‘The Look Of Love’. And what a sensual dark version of the original it is too; a track that is crying out to be used in the next Hollywood blockbuster.

Record labels are you deaf or just retarded?!! Another gem.





The Cigarettes ‘You Were So Young’
(Optic Nerve Recordings) 20th September 2019



There nothing quite like the sound of young rebellion. If you are in agreement then this new comp of the classic underrated band from Lincoln, The Cigarettes, is just what you need. It includes their wonderful singles compilation tracks, their legendary John Peel session, plus previously unreleased tracks.

For all lovers of golden age punk this is a must have; The Cigarettes showing that they matched the Buzzcocks and the wonderful Subway Sect on the melody front. In fact, it is a bit of a mystery how they weren’t become better known and received, all the boxes ticked, songs of teenage troubles, life slashing buzz saw guitars, catchy choruses, one string guitar solos, all in all, perfect pop.

Maybe with the release You Were So Young they will finally get their full due and the recognition they deserve as one of the great lost bands of the punk/post-punk era.





Unwavering ‘Freeze,Thaw, Chorus’
16th August 2019



Do you ever challenge yourself to do something you don’t like? It could be opening your eyes in the morning and breathing; it could be cleaning out the cat litter tray or, in this case, listening to an LP that has been sent to you to review that has described itself as shoegaze. For shoegaze is one of those genres that cry out, “I am really uninteresting. I have all the pedals but no songwriting talent. I have ambition and ego but not the talent to match.” So a word to the wise, unless you are one of those unfortunates don’t describe your music as such as you are doing yourself a great disservice especially when your music is a wandering lo fi folk that happens to use the electric guitar a little like a more wayward Red House Painters.

Unwavering dispatch a fine dark melancholy, awash with many layers of guitars with distant slightly reverb vocals at times that remind me what a Stone Roses LP may have sounded like if they had left Mani and Reni at home and where more down for it than up. This is a quite beautiful album; melodies melancholy and a bewitching scenic beauty weave a hypnotic spell. A band/artist I think one should keep an eye out for in the future.






Repo-Man ‘I Can Live With It If You Can, Son’
(Stolen Body Records) 6th September 2019



This is real free form rock n roll. It reminds me of the wonderful Wigan-based band The Volunteers from the late 80s, who brought out a classic mini LP called Bladder Of Life. A wonderful LP by a wonderful band, and like I said, this reminds me a lot of them. Captain Beefheart like madness connects with their inner Fall to unveil a magical projection of psychedelic whimsical John Cooper Clarke poetry. It is indeed a treat to hear a band that attempts to go their own way in their twisted art flow instead of following the old melody of verse/chorus/verse/ chorus/guitar solo/middle 8, have a smoke of trendy class arsehole drugs and point their chins in the right way so the camera can capture the unnatural good looks of yesterday’s poster boys.

I really like Repo-Man, they are fun, they have the quality that they are probably hated by other bands from the same town because they dare to be different and probably could clear a room of punters from any pub they play: like all great bands can at will.

So I would say I Can Live With It I You Can Son is a must have album; an LP of sonic aural dyslexia. A true gem.





Occult Character ‘National Razor’
4th August 2019



Another new song from maybe the finest songwriter in the USA today, the wonderfully eccentric Occult Character; a man who takes both hip-hop and lo fi folk to new extremes; a man who writes beautifully about the madness engulfing America under the Trumpster and the common everyday problems like never being able to find what you want in a full fridge: a true musical maverick.

This new free to download track is Occult wearing his hip-hop hat, a two and a half minute swagger of humor and strangeness and a forerunner to his forthcoming LP on the smarter than the average label Metal Postcard. It’s free, so get downloading.





Rose McDowall & Shawn Pinchbeck ‘Gem’
20th September 2019



The sound of Autumn is upon us. Gem is the stolen sway of a shimmering distant light, a parchment of lost memories kissing the hem of the garment of your long lost loves’ smile. Gem is a beauty of a single recalling the dark sultry eloquence of Paul Giovanni and Magnet’s Wicker Man soundtrack; a truly beautiful and haunting piece of musical wonderment. One of the songs of the year no doubt.





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