Photo Credit: Vapors Of Morphine by Zach Lanoue

Lexagon ‘Feminine Care’
(Ratskin Records) Available Now

A most hypnotic, haunting release of built-up pressures, the release valve for the protestations and stresses of life under the Trump administration, the multidisciplinary artist Lexagon exhales a whole mini-epoch of frustrations on the incredibly atmospheric new album Feminine Care.

Through many ‘incarnations’ Lexagon roams, meanders and drifts across an amorphous soundscape, imbued by the spiritual longing of the black diaspora, the bayou and Deep South. Traces of trip-hop, new soul, the blues, gospel, early U.S. Girls lo fi, Francine Thirteen, Moor Mother, Tricky and, on the heavy breathing confrontation turn internalised soliloquy ‘Sugawata’, the Aphex Twin can be picked out amongst the environmental field recordings of wading through grasslands, bird song and more mysterious spheres. 

With a title that both plays with and confronts the sanitized, compartmentalized named American drugstore aisle put aside for tampons and sanitary products, there’s nothing less at stake then the full gamut of feminine identity and language in an age in which held beliefs and constructs seem to be challenged to the point of destruction. Yet Lexagon’s themes grow even wider, taking in a panoply of events, from climate change to displacement.

Of the air and earth this most sensual, softly heaved gauzy and esoteric communal of veiled self-discovery draws you further and further into Lexagon’s vocalized, narrated and lulled sonic world. Serious when it needs to be, yet before you know it, the apparitional whispers and coos suddenly pay an almost sultry kink-poetic “lovesick ode” to female ejaculation on the finger clicking, sonorous bowl circling ‘Hurricane’: though this ghostly visitation exudes a slightly creepy vibe. 

Lexagon’s voice guides us with scraps of journal entries, quiet diaphanous arias, woes, confessionals and transcendental “om” like spiritualism; winding, or embodying, the floated and wafted musical accompaniment of drifted Omni chord, train track rhythms, pattered and scrunched beats, warped curves and pumped hallucinations. The manifestation concerns of how it feels to be both literally and psychologically poor and without a stake in society; the tidal shifts of emotional insecurity and yearns for comfort; and the mental fatigue, exhaustion of a hostile environment are all channeled in the bewitching magic of this artist’s sensory rites of passage. Soul music from the ether, spiritual jazz vibrations from beyond this realm, Feminine Care is a woozy affair of true evocative brilliance: blues for the 21st century. 

SAD MAN ‘5 Years Of Being SAD’
16th October 2021

The mind boggles at what motivates the humanoid behind the plaintive, despondent SAD MAN moniker. Whatever uppers, downers and madcap tomfoolery fuels Andrew Spackman’s electronic lunacy will remain an enigma.

Initially under the Duchampian chess move appellation of Nimzo Indian, Spackman has maintained various secret identities over the years, though the longest running alter ego, and most prolific, so far remains that SAD MAN guise. After 5 years, 18 albums and nearly 200 original pieces of music, the potting shed boffin-artist, composer and producer rounds up this “epic productive period” with a compilation of highlights and unconscious, untethered, streams of sonic confusion and madness (though Spackman has also celebrated his third anniversary with a similar compilation too).

To make it even more complicated in keeping track of his numerous outputs, Spackman has remixed his own original tracks across a trio of Indigenous Mix albums – some of his best work to date, and the reason that he’s selected four tracks from the most recent volume for this compilation. He’s also started moving into the soundtrack arena, recently collaborating with the Irish storyteller Francis Lowe on the narrative stream ‘Stories From An Island’ album for Cue Dot Records. Talking of soundtracks, a trio of oscillating, reverberating and more obscured breathing looped suites created to soundtrack Dimitri Kirsanoff’s lamented 1920s Menilmontant are featured on this anniversary showcase; proving if anything that it’s hard to pin this electronic and art school maverick down.

There are also selections from this year’s Music Of Dreams And Panic (the polygon space flight of ‘Tonefluffer’, spasmodic Sakamoto vs Autcehre turn Felix da Housecat dancer ‘The Piano Player Rises’, and a “revisited” version of the radiant exotic space birds and alien wildlife quirk, ‘Fra Fra’), The Man From SAD (the techno rotor bladed and magical Aphex Twin-esque ‘The Vulcan’ and moist, fanned phaser effect post-punk electronic dreamy and squiggled chimed ‘Finny Foot’), SOS (the bending mirage and gabbled techy ‘The Green Opal’, off-world Samba rhythmic tetchy break beat fantasy ‘Shark’, and the knocking beat glide inside the head of House Of Tapes ‘Neptune’), and Demo(n)s (the gargled acid burbled ‘The Split’, mechanical circular softened pneumatic prodded ‘Banished’, and floating apparitional percussive old movie ‘Swimming’) albums.   

Featured on the Monolith Cocktail last year, both the trick noise making Daddy Biscuits and, warped vision of d’n’b, techno and more avant-garde, King Of Beasts albums are also well represented on this wild collection. From the former there’s the anything but somnolent  ‘Sleeper’, which runs instead through a bastardize version of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rockit’, 16-bit computer game coin-up prizes and hints of M-Plant Rob Hood and a crystalline dream magic. The rest is a mix of jolted Djax Techno, warped and bashed with shocks hints of Mike Dred, galloping 808s and mischievous Ed Banger electro funk. The latter, sees Spackman going for kicks, eyeing up the grooves on a album of both panel-beater workshop beats and modulated weirdness; an album for lovers of Warp, Leaf, early Jeff Mills.

Overall it’s a both madcap and revelatory tour-de-force of unhinged, madcap and purpose built apparatus electronica, unburdened and creatively free of any particular description (though I’ve tried!). Hopefully the moniker isn’t as sorrowful and depressed as it makes out, as we’d like to know there would be another five years of this extraordinary maverick’s experiments to come. With that in mind, here’s a raised glass to the fifth anniversary celebrations.

Further Reading…

SAD MAN and Francis Lowe ‘Stories From An Island’ (2021)

SAD MAN ‘Daddy Biscuits’  (2020)

SAD MAN ‘King Of Beasts’ (2020)

SAD MAN  ‘S/T’,  ‘CTRL’ (2017)

Nimzo-Indian ‘Nimzo-Indian’  (2014)

Dan Haywood ‘Country Dustbin’
(TakuRoku Records) Was Released on the 1st October 2021

Dan Haywood’s continuous one track rambled album Country Dustbin holds a torch up to illuminate the idiosyncrasies and misery of life at both the fag end of the 20th century and at the dawn of another miserable one. Generation X to Z are invited to throw all that crap and clutter baggage into the contemporary troubadour’s “bottomless pit”, “confessions booth”, and alchemist vessels.

Over a constantly loose jam of roving storyteller rock ‘n’ roll and enervated Leon Russell New Orleans style blues Haywood distils a lifetime and beyond of British poetry (from Ted Hughes to Robert Burton) and despondent prose for over fifty minutes of outsider pub-rollicking lovesick resignation, scoffed observational lyrics, iteration and warmer words of desire.  The couplets and one-liners (far too many good ’ns to mention) continually flow over a forward (if slightly laidback) momentum. Those disheveled sulked encapsulation of life’s foibles, broken promises and dreams style lyrics, when they hit on something worth repeating, sometimes reoccur like some kind of reminder chorus: a rousing point of return.

Imagine Bob Dylan grew up in millennial Dalston, backed by the Alabama dappled organ sounds of Muscle Shoals supping up “California Chardonnay”, or, an Estuary twang Warren Zevon fronted 70s pub rock band, or, Anthony Moore gave Ian Dury a night-off from the Blockheads, and you still won’t come close to getting a handle on this unloaded conscious reckoning. A brave move that won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but this dustbin is a brilliant long jam of social and lovelorn splurging.

King Champion Sounds ‘Between Two Worlds’
(Hive Mind Records)  22nd October 2021

In danger of becoming difficult to keep tabs on, both the astral traveller Ajay Saggar and repeat collaborative offender Oli Heffernan have between them separately instigated the Deutsche Ashram, Bhajan Bhoy, Ivan The Tolerable and Heffernan projects. This year both longtime foils formed a cosmic courier bond with Kohhei Matsuda called University Challenged (reviewed by myself back in January this year). But it is in the guise of that partnership’s longest running venture, the Anglo-Dutch King Champion Sounds, which has now sprung up again: eight years after the loose confederation’s debut in 2013.

Once more with wafted and psychedelic oboe and no wave saxophonist Ditmer Weertman in tow, the KCS branch out with a myriad of guest appearances and an extended cast of voices, musicians to bemoan societal ills, and a lack of gnostic faith whilst unloading a lifetime of baggage.

Between Two Worlds indeed, flights of amorphous astral fantasies drift about with vague reverberations of post-punk, shoegaze, kosmische, krautrock, indie, baggy and the new age.

Throughout this grand expansive work the lingering mysticism of Deutsch Nepal meets with more earthy down ‘n’ dirty denunciations of city life and inequality.

Esoteric, mysterious with leanings of spiritual hanker come up against Tarot like augurs. On the motorik Klaus Dinger pummeled, with a transmogrified take of The Beatles ‘I Feel Fine’ riff, ‘Thou Hurricane’ sees the Mekons’ Sally Timms and Jon Longford with Eleventh Dream Day-trippers Janet Beveridge Bean delivering the “killers invade the citadel” omens in this case. Talking of guest spots, Mia Dai Todd cast a supernatural, almost chilled hint of the Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard, on the crept vapour and windswept ether ‘Remembering Easby Abby’, whilst the Super Fury Animals talk to bone shaker shaman as Augustus Pablo plays hallucinating melodcia album title-track features the former Teenage Fanclub(er) Gerry Love adding dreamy vocals. 

Highlighting just how despondently real is the gap between those whose wealth is measured in the assets they hold and the enviable if soulless lifestyles they lead and the rest of us forsaken, put-upon proles, Glasgow poet Marieke McKenna narrates an episode of “stark contrasts” on the Ash Ra Tempel with acid burbles and bubbles ‘Seasick’. From the outside looking in McKenna experiences life aboard a super yacht as she fathoms how such extreme wealth flourishes in an age of apparent austerity; meeting a similar aged figure with “25 times my mandatory wealth to her name”.  The rest of the album takes excursions to a psychedelic Tex-Mex dreamed border, as reimagined by The Coral (‘I Am A Horse’), an Amon Düül II and Floydian Indian bellowed and wind chime Tibet (‘Libra, Libra, Libra’), and features a young Shaun Ryder fronted no wave, no way, Fall like ramble about a “dirty, shitty, bitty city” (‘City In Wait’).

The resonance of screamed, trilled rituals (Haiti, Africa, who knows?) and amorphous cultures coalesce on an expansive grand astral mini-opus. Climb aboard a most eclectic flight across the gaps between worlds and let this sonic, wrangled protest melt your brain.

Connecting Posts:

University Challenged ‘Oh Temple!’ (2021)

Bhajan Bhoy ‘Bless Bless’ (2020)

Deutsche Ashram  ‘Whisper Om’ (2020)

David Lance Callahan ‘English Primitive I’
(Ting Global Productions) 15th October 2021

From the heady malcontent days of the C86 Wolfhounds to the idiosyncratic 90s Moonshake, David Lance Callahan has always trodden a fairly unique proactive musical pathway. His latest album is no different.

The first of his two English Primitive declared works is a clever suffusion of buzzing and scuzzed West African (especially Mali) electronic guitar, Eastern, Arabesque and Indian delights and esoteric folk music. A “gumbo” in fact of worldly influences are poured into a somehow distinctly British pastoral hell that’s both weirdly timeless and yet very much of the times: If you did get lost the foibles, descriptions of self-obsession and politics soon drag you back into the present.

We start with a sort of plaintive gritted anthem to the Welfare State. A proud but nonetheless worried male and female dual vocal runs through the positives of growing up with free access to a number of institutions – now on the precipice and in the sights of privatization – to a sort of fluty union between The Beautiful South and David Cronenberg’s Wife. Moving on, the more mysterious commune, multicultural scene ‘Goatman’ sounds vocally like Simon Bonney accompanied by Samba Touré on guitar. It also reminded me of a very removed CSN&Y: even a strange corrupted 70s Fleetwood Mac.

A door is opened up to musical fantasies on the gnarled lyrical ‘Foxboy’, with its sloping tablas and resonated drones from India and scuzz guitar from psychedelic Anatolia. On this cross-border funnel there’s hints of Dirt Music and Warren Ellis’ harassed and heightened tsunami of elbowed violin.

Less honeyed odes are made to Callahan’s muse on the shaking and twine ‘She’s The King Of My Life’, but we’re back to “not seeing the signs” romantic inadequacy on the Mdou Moctar joins Bad seeds ‘She Passes Through The Night’.

Callahan really gets to the despondent crux of a relationship chasm on the epic kitchen sink lament ‘One Rainy September’. To an 18th century like classical and folky malady, two perspectives, one the returning soldier with a challenging return to civvy street, and the other, his put-upon unloved and isolated partner, play out on a dislocated tale of modernity: mobile phones and all.

Primitive in name only, beneath the dirt music and stripped pastoral backing this is a very clever, sophisticated album of weird and beguiling Britain; a snapshot trudge of a kingdom sliding into the abyss. 

Angelo Bignamini ‘8 Doublings’
Miguel A. García  ‘Aritie’
(both on the Kirigirisu Recordings label) Available Now

I have a double-bill of abstracted sonic experiments from the Japan-based label Kirigirisu this month. Out on the peripheral of sound art and conceptual methodology/process, Angelo Bignamini and Miguel A. García both obscure concrete objects and apparatus to produce something outside the usual description of ambient soundtrack, filed recordings or atmospheric exploration.

Italian musician, sound artist and label founder (of the “personal” Nausea imprint) Bignamini records various objects, whistles and percussion onto tape on a digital random sequencer. Interested in the relationship between music and failure, especially between sound and deterioration, his 8 Doublings of untitled (just numbered) tracks lead the listener into a minimalistic woodland of scratched and scored tape squiggles, amorphous pattered and tapped wooden quasi-beats and gamelan style garbled runs along skeleton bones. Bleeding in to this alien but just about identifiable world is an environment of hooted birds, insect chatter and foliage. #2 sounds like a looped staccato recording of someone clearing their way through the undergrowth, whilst banging sticks into the ground. Flinches of static, scrunched noises, distant drilled pulsations and mulch appear on a very peculiar, almost primal album of the strange.

Bilbao resident and artist García, who also performs under the Xedh guise (part of numerous group efforts too), brings us one long continuous track that changes over a span of 35 minutes through different built up sections. Based on certain complex textures of an analog origin (namely mixer feedback), which are then digitally manipulated, Aritie is based on insistence and repetition. Or as the accompanying PR notes put it: ‘superimposing sounds that are variations of those already proposed’. The accumulation of which leads to a climatic cyclonic swirl of noise and dissonance: it actually finishes with a long almost horror like high-pitched square wave like whine. Transformed scrapes of concrete and jangled sounds in the first section are replaced to a degree by rattled metal chimes and pans (which sort of beat out some kind of obscure rhythm) and tubular space signals. Chinks of long bell like percussion layer up with charged particles and a squelchy swamp of burbled and bubbling grayness. Another most strange recording that defies any sort of easy categorisation; out on its own in the abstract. Something out of nothing, nothing out of something: you decide.

Vapors Of Morphine  ‘Fear & Fantasy’
(Schnitzel Records)  15th October 2021

It’s hard to keep up with the extensions and offshoots that materialized in the wake of Morphine’s retirement, coming as it did after the band’s front man Mark Sandman’s untimely death in 1999 (suffering a fatal heart attack live on stage). Carrying the torch, though for a longtime leaving past Morphine tunes and unfinished ideas alone, the surviving members in the noughties formed Vapors Of Morphine.

Now though, more than a decade on from conception, the VOM has seen a number of changes with only original Morphine founder and saxophonist Dana Colley remaining. Both Jerome Depruee and Billy Conway’s spirit permeates the new album, with one-side of it named after the former, who decided to drop out of the project. In their places comes the singer and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Lyons and drummer Tom Arrey.

Knowingly reconnecting with Morphine’s final album, The Night, the Vapour’s Fear & Fantasy builds upon the cosmic swamp and psychedelic country vibes of that album whilst branching out with cover versions of Malian blues and dreamy despondency. The southern music influences remain, with echoes of Big Joe Turner, New Orleans blues, boogie and skiffle. ‘Ostrich’ blends all the above with wallowed moonshine and touches of Muscle Shoals Stones and Delaney & Bonnie.

Yet despite the bayou, front porch and Appalachian geography, Colley’s often wafted, drifted and honked baritone sax and the more progressive, psychedelic drums suggest hallucinatory and languorous visions of lunar terrain: like on the meandrous, reverberated knocking dub-country opener ‘Blue Dream’ and curved air bending sci-fi instrumental ‘Phantasos & Probetor’. The band also spread their wings into West Africa with cover versions of songs by Malian legends Ali Farke Touré and Baubacar Traoré. The first takes Touré’s spindled ‘Lasidon’ original along the Mediterranean coastline (could be ancient Anatolia, Greece or modern Turkey) with wheel spokes like guitar and what sounds like a mandolin; the second gives Traoré’s ‘Baba Drame’ a similar excursion swerve but also turns it into a strange country hoedown. 

Those who were fond of the late Sandman’s burr will find the vocals in keeping with that low voiced trajectory. On the very 90s sounding and Eno serenaded ‘Irene’ the vocals sound like a mix of Crime & The City Solution’s Simon Bonney and Mark Lanegan, but like an experimental Michael Hutchence’s on the jazzy-country-blues trip ‘Special Rider’ and like some odd throwback to Steinbeck’s depression era on the Orleans’, via the Cotton Club, ‘Drop Out Mambo’.  

Going full circle, the band pays homage to Sandman’s pre-Morphine incarnation, Treat Her Right, on the slinking and slide guitar double-entendre cheeky camping trip ‘Doreen’. It’s a comical moment of levity, much in keeping with the overall tone and mood of this album. The lyrics can be a tad resigned, moody, and fateful (delivered from a middle-aged perspective), but the music plays around with its key roots whilst floating off into the universe on an acid moonbeam.  Fans of that Morphine legacy will be happy with the results; the connection still there yet moving into new creative streams.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog the Monolith Cocktail. 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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