PLAYLIST/Dominic Valvona

Let me first wish everyone, new and old readers/followers alike, a happy new year. And thanks for all your continued support in what are the most tumultuous and anxious of times. For my part, with what little comfort I can give, I’ll still bring you all the best, experimental, and diverse sounds during 2022: through reviews, columns, playlists and the like.

The Monolith Cocktail Social is one of two long-running playlist series on the blog. Running in tandem with the Monthly Revue, which represents all the new music both I and the MC team have been listening to and writing about during the month, the Social is a cross-generational, eclectic imaginary radio show, where anything goes: featuring tracks from the last 50 or more years.

It’s also my chance to show off my own tastes, records from my collection, and to both celebrate those albums reaching anniversary milestones and pay tribute to recent artists and figures we’ve lost during that month.

The first playlist, volume #62, of the year features 50th anniversary treats from Archie Shepp (the title-track from his 1972 album Attica Blues), Cymande (the much sampled ‘The Message’ from their self-titled ‘72 special), Paul Simon (‘Armistice Day’ from the self-titled ‘72 album), Aretha Franklin (a beautified cover of ‘The Long And Winding Road’ from the soul deity’s Young, Gifted And Black album), Cluster (‘Für Die Katz’ from the Kosmische travellers ’72 album Cluster II), Neu! (‘Hero’ from the self-titled ’72 album), Popol Vuh (the venerable ‘Kyrie’ taken from the divine stylers ’72 album Hosianna Mantra), and Annette Peacock (a idiosyncratic version of ‘Love Me Tender’ from her ’72 I’m The One album).

There’s also recent(ish) tracks from Fake Fruit, Large Plants, Jeff Parker, Family Portrait dotted amongst goodies from Kaleidoscope, The Gods, Caetano Veloso, Eddie Hodges and Biff Rose: 35 tracks in all.

Listen how you like, but when compiling these playlists I do work out a particular order: a journey for the listener.

Those tracks are full are:

Archie Shepp  ‘Attica Blues’
Kaleidoscope  ‘Chocolate Whale’
Quella Vecchia Locanda  ‘Dialogo’
Muito Kaballa Power Ensemble  ‘Don’t Go Too Far’
100 Proof Aged In Soul  ‘Backtrack’
Fake Fruit  ‘No Mutuals’
Large Plants  ‘La Isla Bonita’
Cymande  ‘The Message’
Innovations  ‘Put A Little Away’
Los Dangers  ‘No Te Quiero Más’
Sophie Knapp & Dungen  ‘Desert Moon’
The Gods  ‘Eight O’clock In The Morning’
Jeff Parker & The New Breed Ft. Ruby Parker  ‘Soul Love’
Paul Simon  ‘Armistice Day’
Hamilton Leithauser & Kevin Morby  ‘Virginia Beach’
Family Portrait Ft. Julian Lynch  ‘What Does It Take’
Aretha Franklin  ‘The Long And Winding Road’
Annette Peacock  ‘Love Me Tender’
Caetano Veloso  ‘Lost In The Paradise’
Parasites Of The Western World  ‘You Must Be Joe King’
Between  ‘Tape’
Steauna De Mare  ‘Ork Style’
Cluster  ‘Für Die Katz’
The Holydrug Couple  ‘Arcatina’
Tibetan Miracle Seeds  ‘Nectarine Dreams’
Gianfranco Plenizio  ‘Afyon’
Slag Boom Van Loon  ‘Poppy Seed’
Neu!  ‘Hero’
Phantom Payn Days  ‘Screen Idol From France’
Branko Mataja  ‘Tamo Daleko’
Popol Vuh  ‘Kyrie’ Eddie Hodges  ‘Shadows And Reflections’
Biff Rose  ‘Take Care of My Brother’
Marina Allen  ‘Sleeper Train’
Female Species  ‘Tale Of My Lost Love’

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.

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’

%d bloggers like this: