What’s Out There/Dominic Valvona


Rules ‘Say It Ain’t So/Florence’
(Soliti) 11th June 2021

The Iiti Yli-Harja and Sarra Keppola duo Rules return with their first new music since last year’s eponymous titled debut album. The double a-side single features the new intensified drama ‘Florence’ and their gauzy, child-like crushing cover of Weezer’s ‘Say It Ain’t So’.

Weezer fans can be particularly protective, but fear not, this disarming transformation is a winner: a breath of fresh air even. The duo have managed to turn it into some sort of sweetly pained R&B, drum machine ticking languid ‘party banger’. Overwhelmed by the ‘original’s perfection’, Iiti explains why they chose it in the first place:

“I fervently fell in love with the song, and became such an eager fan of Weezer! In my youth there was severe alcoholism in my family, and that’s why the lyrics got to me, too. I’ve been a teetotaler from an early age. It grew to be a bit of a compulsion for me to make a cover of this song for Rules, and it really was a process where things slipped into place very naturally. There’s a certain feeling in being surrounded by these overpowering waves of drunken surging masses, that I wanted the music to embody. There’s inner strength in the song despite of it, not drowning! On top of this I also wanted to turn the song into a real party banger, that you can’t help but dance to when you hear it! I think it makes an interesting combo, as partying often includes drinking. Our brilliant producer Oskari Halsti produced the song with me into its final form, and I’m really proud of the result! Let’s dance!  Ps. All my love to the dearest Weezer <3”

The video was directed by Pekka Härkönen, who comments:

”Video is a feel good nostalgia trip back to my mid 90s, hanging around in the Savonlinna suburbs. Weezer released their first two albums at the time, and I fell deeply in love with both. When I heard Rules’ brilliant version of Say It Ain’t So, I immediately started seeing flashes of a music video in my head. So I asked Rules and the gang to hang out with me for a summer evening.”

The flip side ‘Florence’ continues to delve into the literary references of their debut album; influenced by the Ian McEwan’s 60s set novella, On Chesil Beach, from 2007.  The duo offer these thoughts on that Euro-pop skulking, Chromatics meet t.A. T.u. slice of synthesized broody electro heartbreak: 

“Florence has gotten married at a young age in the early 1960s. Her fears and expectations for her marriage, new husband, and the unavoidable physicality which repulses her, reach a pinnacle in the claustrophobia of her wedding night. Hoping her husband would instinctively sense her nervous state and be able to read her mind and conform to it, she’s devastated when she finds out he doesn’t. There’s a lot of hidden and reserved tension in the original text, and it was a very enjoyable process to intensify that suspense and create a really dramatic and mysterious song. In Florence the original story of the novel transforms almost into a thriller. There’s this wonderful Eurovision-vibe to the song too, which is always welcomed!”

Violet Nox ‘J. Bagist Remix Of Cosmic Bits’
(Infinity Vine Records) 10th June 2021

A favorite Boston synth explorers Violet Nox have this month handed their downplayed acid burbled, sine wave and light beaming futuristic ‘Cosmic Bits’ track to the remixer J. Bagist; complete an acid wash space-themed video of new visuals from Deb Step. Adding some cyber menace, synth futuristic sinister atmospheres, popcorn and complimentary break beats – imagine Vangelis meets Cabaret Voltaire lifting off – Bagist gives motion and movement to the original.

Those who follow the Monolith Cocktail regularly will know that ‘Cosmic Bits’ featured on the outfit’s 2020 Future Fast quartet of recordings.

The Albums…

Whispering Sons ‘Several Others’
(PIAS) 18th June 2021

Garnering rave reviews by lesser blogs than ours with a big name, the tumultuous, fraught and intense Belgium band Whispering Sons have gained quite the momentum – selling out a recent limited edition single in just half a day.

Although almost three years in the wings, their second album looks set to continue the support and adulations. They receive such glowing criticisms because what they do they do extremely well; moodily counterpointing sinewy post-punk, menacing synthesizers and pummeled toms’ beats with more melodic, leaner qualities. It also helps that the five-piece’s vocalist, Fenne Kuppens, has such a distinct, mesmerizing voice and writes such visceral, often unguarded, lyrics. Kuppens voice can only be described as a merger of Patti Smith and Jello Biafra: the album’s deadened toms beaten opening account actually sounds like The Dead Kennedys.

My esteemed colleague on this blog venture, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea reviewed the Sons debut, Images, sometime ago. He was expecting Joy Division but said it was a welcoming surprise to instead hear a sound more in common with the Gothic: the Sisters Of mercy were his take.  Well, Several Others is closer to Joy Division; though an air of Bauhaus, even the Banshees, can be heard wading in here and there amongst the taut hammered drumming drills, seething undertow and in the case of the synth whipped broody Coil like ‘(I Leave You) Wounded’, both the seedy and bloody.

This is a scored songbook that pitches Kuppens desperate yearned and heavier unblinking violent lyrics against malevolent forces, and the dirty dangerousness of the early Bad Seeds and Swans. Songs such as the closer ‘Surgery’ go all out to mark the listener with razor-like descriptions of bloodied and needled despair and protest. Following a horrified theme of changing one’s self to be anyone but yourself, Kuppens seems riven with venerability: achingly and mournfully singing at one point to the chiming sound of a stark piano, “there has never been a level of self confidence.”

Whispering Sons bring empathy to an intense and punchier dynamic on their second album; a real quality that shines through the miasma of our pandemic encroached hard times. There’s no way this won’t make the end of year lists.  

Black Tempel Pyrämid ‘The Hierophant’
(Submarine Broadcasting Co.) Available Right Now

Tapping into the shrouded mysterious and symbolism of the Tarot, the latest release from those fine connoisseurs of all that is great on the peripherals of experimental music, Submarine Broadcasting Co., is a veiled atmospheric acid-hippie folk, post-punk and kosmische style album from Colorado’s Black Tempel Pyrämid.

Depending on which way you flip it, the album’s titular Hierophant represents the educator and the universal tree of knowledge. Etymology speaking, from the Greek, it means a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy, or, an interpreter of sacred mysterious and arcane principles, who is often illustrated by the image of the Pope in some Tarot decks. Make what you will of the auguries and relevance, metaphors of this esoteric ceremony; steeped as it is in a haze of the Durutti Column and Ash Ra Tempel fanned phaser and sustained scuzz-rippled guitar lingering, tubular bell tolls in the mists and Fritch and Coil like ritual sacrifices. Drifting towards the hypnotising in one way, yet menacing in a warp reversal of Sunn O))) death cultism in another, these Fort William coven acolytes lay down an almost bestial soundtrack of feudal time travelled cosmic mysticism that summons up the spirits and visions of krautrock’s more dream realism and spaced-out in the galaxy trips: the sound of magik hippies mesmerised by their teacher’s sagacious teachings. The Hierophant is a transformative doorway into another world.   

Sara Oswald & Feldermelder ‘Drawn’
(-OUS) 18th June 2021

From the always thoroughly excellent –OUS label an unfurled ambiguous and timeless created collaboration between the explorative cellist Sara Oswald and equally experimental electronic musician Feldermelder.

Serial classical melodies and stirring moods are set adrift whilst subtle flapped, suffused, fuzzed and static crackled electronic affected vapours and movements’ wrap themselves around a constantly developing trio of suites. As the title suggests, this project draws the listener towards both amorphous landscapes and memories, untethered to a particular place or time.  

Oswald’s baroque training and zeal for improvisation plays well; the sound of her cello mostly broadening that instrument’s signature bowed tones and range with resonating wanes and plucks that have more in common with the wafted transformed sounds of Jon Hassell then the familiarity of conventional strings. Even, or so it sounds, the cello’s bodywork acts as a fluttered and spring-y base for pattered rhythms and percussion. There is however some passages of chamber music like notation and some spindled melodies.

On Feldermelder’s part, moody waves of both gravitas and enormity and sparks of friction permeate Drawn’s sonic world of suspense, tip-toed meditations around the fertile perimeters of a volcano and inner mindscaping. The PR spill mentions Mt. Etna as the imaginative landscape for that volcano themed contemplation, but musically we could be anywhere in Eastern Europe or the Balkans: it reminded me of those highly experimental psychogeography soundtracking Slovenes Širom. Feldermelder actually helps create a sleeping giant of nature with his ravine and mountainous shifting and occasional leaps of spewed lave electronic effects.

It seems a creative match made in an endless soundtrack heaven of possibilities; mood music for those who enjoy a transformed version of the classical, chamber and electronic music genres.

Night Sky Pulse ‘These Possible Lives’
(See Blue Audio) 11th June 2021

Joining the burgeoning ambient music provider See Blue Audio, renowned polymath John Sellekaers offers up an atmospheric album of mystery with an episode from the Night Sky Pulse appellation series. The Montreal born, Brussels-based, sonic navigator’s been creating synthesized electronic visions for over thirty years; initially inspired by both those kosmische wayfarers Tangerine Dream and the UK’s own highly influential malcontents Cabaret Voltaire.

In those past decades Sellekaers has so far set up an underground magazine, released an enviable catalogue of material under the Xingu Hill alias, collaborated with a host of electronic artists, composed soundtracks and worked in the mediums of photography and graphic design. Now with that vast experience to draw from, he crafts a both transportive and concentrated work of various shrouded, wispy and more searing unfolded ambient trance movements.   

You can make what you will of the circumstances in which this recorded, in the dying embers of year zero pandemic and the early days of this year. These Possible Lives could be a response to this eclipsed Covid-19 misery. Some suites are more sinister and ghostly than others it must be said. And the album often sounds like there’s an absence, or, at the essence of a spirit, the presence of something distant just out of reach: disappearing.

Elsewhere, a few tracks offer the distilled resonance of something musically South-East Asian, the sound of a mirage shifting kind of Gamelan and Tibetan bowl ringing. There’s also a frame drum, or perhaps a hand drum of some sort, that beats to a slow march in the conjured up synthesized mists, whilst tubes get rhythmically whacked with a paddle and various metallic sounding apparatus chime, tingle and even sparkle over suffused vapour clouds and enervated drones. These Possible Lives is imbued with the distant murmurs of Vangelis (at his most futuristic crane shot best), Ambient Works 2 era Aphex Twin, Andrew Heath, the sound of early Harthouse, and Unlimited Can (free of the acid-rock aspects; just the electronic synths and effects). In all, this album is an adroitly deep and rich soundtrack. The label couldn’t have found a better more immersive record to mark its 20th release milestone with.     

Heiko Maile ‘Demo Tapes 1984-86’
(Bureau B) 25th June 2021

Sorting through his assemblage of old tape cassette recordings, the former Camouflage band member turn feted soundtrack composer Heiko Maile revisits past explorations for a compilation of mid 80s demos.

Insisting this isn’t an exercise in nostalgia, but rather a ‘personal voyage of discovery’ and highlighted chapter from the German musician’s ’trial and error’ past, these can-do attitude sketches, ideas have now been upgraded by modern technology. Preserving as much as just using tech to make them listenable, the new kit cleans up and refreshes a collection of Electro, New Wave Electronica and Kosmische style experiments from a time when sequencers and synths were still in their infancy: even worse in this case, without a memory function and bereft of midi.  Thankfully those recordings sound very much alive and well, helped by a thirty-five year development in technology and production. Despite that modernization they still sound very much of their time; the gap years between the aftermath of Kraftwerk and Electro, but just before the advent of House, Acid and Techno.

There’s a lot of referencing to be found; the redolent echoes of a litany of electronic artists, progenitors. And Maile in the notes readily admits in learning to use the apparatus he tried to imitate various records of their time. This means you could well pick up the imbued hints of early Electro music compilations, Depeche Mode, Klaus Schulze, DAF, Vega, Populare Mechanik, the Yellow Magic Orchestra, Tangerine Dream, Ultravox and even Moroder’s work with Sparks (‘Beat The Clock’ like drums and the feel on the filtered drum machine track ‘Wavy RX’).  

Not owning an iconic Fairlight CMI didn’t stop him from emulating that synth station’s sound, or that of other seriously popular kit. Though often these experiments resemble the soundtracks of some dystopian and sci-fi Commodore 64 games, or something from the early Mute Records catalogue, even an orbital space signal from a post-Faust Gunter Westhoff.

Given a new sheen and revitalised, these 80s throwbacks actually sound pretty good: some tracks even sound very on trend. I’m enjoying this compilation anyway. Not just an archival project but also something different; a case of old tech meets the new.

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 Reviews: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Each week or so we send a mountain of new releases to the self-depreciating maverick patriarch of the dysfunctional cult lo fi BordellosBrian Shea, 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 Proper Ornaments ‘Six Lenins’
(Tapete Records) 5th April 2019

The Proper Ornaments Six Lenins LP is an album of beautifully crafted guitar songs that deal with hope, loss, love and heartache, and John Lennon, a man who would no doubt applaud this LP, for although portrayed as the snidely sarcastic Beatle, we-in-the-know know that was all just a front and he was a big softy at heart, who would have admired the songs that deal with the beauty in sadness, and the sadness in beauty, that run throughout this fine album.

I can imagine Six Lenins being released in the late 80’s on Creation and being overlooked at the time: It has the qualities of a future overlooked classic, much like The Lilac Times Astronauts is or should be. In fact this LP at times brings to mind Ride when they were not in shoe gazing mode or the Spacemen 3 in their poppier moments, especially on the title track, when the beautiful organ makes a very subtle appearance. In fact the organ throughout is rather excellent and does not interfere with the overall sound of the LP but gives it a texture that ups the album a notch from being just another fine guitar record.

Six Lenins really is a beauty, and sounds like a proper ‘album’, not just a collection of songs huddled together in pretense, hoping no one will notice. And for that, if I were religious, I would say ‘Amen’.

Coldharbourstores ‘Vesta’
(Enraptured Records) 1st March 2019

Once again here I sit fingers poised on keyboards ready for the tunes to commence, and yes I am faced once again with the sound of dream pop, but lo and behold this is not your average everyday dream pop but a rarified form of dream pop, a much cooler form of dream pop, so much so it is in fact ice dream pop. In fact it is not dream pop at all but pop that is indeed dreamy; it’s like being caressed by the love child of Bob Stanley and Elizabeth Frazer; it’s like Saint Etienne after graduating from a Swiss finishing school.

Chiming guitars electric piano’s and drumbeats collide in a mass of pop seduction, a celebration of all that is missing from today’s daytime radio stations. But like all good pop music it has a dark undertow, an intelligence; music made by those who know that pop music is the highest form of art.

Quite wonderful.

So Beast ‘Fit Unformal’
(OhDear! Records) 2nd March 2019

I love this LP. It is both strange and beautiful and beautifully strange.

The intro track all sped up and cut up voices mixed with discordant synth and guitar leads into the wonderful ‘Fuzzlight’ – all Arabic piano and twangy guitar with lovely sultry vocals that sound like Haysi Fantayzee having a quiet word with themselves.

It really is nice to hear that bands have not lost the urge to try and make music that is both experimental and sexy; mixing cool Jazz with amusement arcade beats and raps with heavy guitar stabs, at times it reminds me of the wonderful Scott Walker’s later albums – heavy on the percussion with atmospheric sax.

These tracks are actually all over the place genre hopping in the same song; ‘Polar Magnet’ kicks off all Cardiacs’ riffs and then goes all Bjork on us, finishing with the singer coughing – there really is not enough coughing on records.

So Beast really should be applauded for Fit Unformal as it really is an unusual and highly successful stab at making an experimental alternative pop album.

Whispering Sons ‘Image’
5th April 2019

I was not quite expecting this. I was instead expecting a Joy Division and Interpol like noise but was presented with the image of the Sisters Of Mercy and The Mission, which to my ears is no bad thing, for I’m at the age when I lived through the golden era of Goth and enjoyed many Wednesday nights in the 80’s at the legendary Wigan Pier alternative night watching Goths charge eloquently to the dance floor ripping up beer mats and throwing them into the air pretending it was some heavenly like confetti as soon as the opening guitar run of the ‘Temple Of Love’ was aired.

This is rather very good indeed. The more the LP goes on the more I long for dry ice; the more my mind goes back to those carefree 80s days, for this could have easily competed with the many wonderful records of this variety that era produced. Not that I’m saying this is dated, as it is not. It’s actually quite a breath of fresh air to these ears and with the reemergence of Goth there is no reason that this album and the Whispering Sons cannot do very well. I would certainly recommend Image to any old Goths out there and to any of the younger generation wanting to know how it should be done and how it should sound.

Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

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