Siam 2

Another round up of the sublime, awkward, adventurous and diaphanous tunes and albums that have tickled the fancies of the Monolith recently.


In no particular order we play host to: Raf and O, Joker’s Daughter and the Bullfrogs, Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene, The Soft Close-Ups, Tapeheads, John MOuse, Tara, Velour Modular, The Sound of siam Vol 2


Raf and O - Press Shot 3

Raf and O  ‘Time Machine EP’  (Telephone Records)  – Available Now

Mesmerised by their harrowed and extremely strung-out version of the Thin White Duke’s heart-crushingly lamentable ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ last year (picked by me to be included on God Is In The TV’s Ashes To Ashes covers compilation in 2013), the tripped-out hypnotic South East London duo of Raf and O embody the exploratory art school/mime period Bowie. True scions indeed, their sound springs from a conjuncture of Aladdin Sane and The Man Who Fell To Earth, but with an added allure of trip-hop.

With the odd intermission here and there – for the majority of bemused and bewitched critics, a solid thumbs up! – Raf Mantelli and Richard Smith follow up their debut, A Giant In The Snow, with both a preemptive EP of remixes and the H.G. Wells wizened, Time Machine album.

Attracting an impressive trio of sonic cosmonauts, the duo let Jono Podmore (under the guises of Kumo), the performance artist and pioneering drummer combo of Merlin & Chris Hayward and Grace Jones collaborator, Charles Hayward, loose on their eponymous anthem. Four versions of the leading ‘Time Machine’ journey beyond the stratosphere, searing beyond these earthy realms for deep space, as they bleep, warble and reverberate with a underlying sense of ominous: travelling thousands of miles without going anywhere. The titular track is itself kooky, mysterious and breathy mix of a more interesting Sneaker Pimps and the exotic indolent Bex Medard.

As part of the ‘putting some soul and humanity back into electronic music’ Metamono, Podmore bounces the original off passing Sputniks and abandoned relics from the space age as he builds a Clangers find Kubrick’s holy grail monolith techno vibe. Stripped down and rebuilt, Merlin & Hayward’s turn at the controls, plays with Raf’s Bjork-esque whispered utterances, placing them over ratcheted drums, dawdling lost guitar and vapourous static. Going deep into the minimalistic regions of techno, Logan creates a ticking, dark drum break that wouldn’t sound out of place on a DJ Shadow record.

The album, due to drop on 21st April, ripples further with static and ring modulation malaise. From bent out of shape Air meets folkloric avant-noir to ESG and Radiohead’s Hail To The Thief, their upcoming album is certainly heading in a challenging direction. Yet buried in the veils of artistic swooning, are some tender and diaphanous nuances and melodies.

Joker’s Daughter And The Bullfrogs  ‘Hybrid’  Available Now

Centred on the atavistic recall of the diaphanous Helena Costas, under the esoteric nom de plume of the Joker’s Daughter, she conjures up the sort of imaginary arcane and bewitching music that the much beloved 70s folk dreamers, Pentangle and Fairfield Parlour, would have loved – beckoning in the past like a mysterious old friend, Costas’ adoption of the Greek muses bouzouki, is part of a timeline that goes back to the classical era of antiquity.  Pulling in a cast of totem characters from literature – such as the much-troubled insane Bertha Mason from Bronte’s Jane Eyre – Costas’ latest mini-album Hybrid, is a woozy search for identity through a series of bard like pastoral tales.

Performed beatifically with an attentive backing – courtesy of her collaborators The Bullfrogs (Steve Rodgers on Bass and Mark Robson on guitars, filters and backing vocals) – the five tomes and instrumental passages sound like bedfellows of troupes such as Sproatly Smith: languorously floating between Civil War England, the psychedelic and even vaguely, The Raincoats.

Beginning life back in 2003, the Joker’s Daughter project was originally formed with the mash-up maestro turn golden fingered hit maker, Danger Mouse. In the decade since that inception and with a few decent releases including the debut LP The Last Laugh, Costas has moved onto pastures new – well as new as revisionist tales and 1930s covers can be new – with this evocatively lovely suite.

Mikey Georgeson & The Civilized Scene  ‘My Heroine’ Available Now

Coming highly recommended by fellow critic of good standing and musician in his own right, Aug Stone (who happens to be included amongst the rabble on this round up post with his pastel swooning, The Soft Close Ups), the most recent incarnation of artist and raving loon singer/songwriter Mikey Georgeson sees him stepping away from the merriment of disguises to front the Civilized Scene.

Always up for a good lark, and able to summon up some of indie’s best band names, Georgeson’s misspent catalogue of potential but always confined to the perimeters groups, have included (and this is possibly one of the greatest monikers of all time, conjuring up more than could ever actually be physically possible for a band to create) David Devant & His Spirit Wife, Carfax, Mr.Solo (as it says on the tin, his solo pursuit) and Glam Chops (with Eddie Argos).

This most recent of projects was borne in 2012, a collaboration between Georgeson, Rob Jones (of The Voluntary Butler Scheme), Simon Love, Simon Breed, Arec Koundarjian, Nathan Thomas, Iain McCallum and Ben Handysides.

Already amongst our most treasured tracks of 2014, ‘My Heroine’ is an odd paean to the artists muse, veiled as some sort of skit on the allure of addiction. With one of the most bizarre and warmly felt (Georgeson between fronting his comical band, surrounded by jotted doodling’s of the female mind and his delivery to camera, dressed in the comfy middle accountancy uniform of a pringle-like golf jumper, sporting the thinnest spiff moustache this side of a dodgy black marketer on Dads Army) videos we are totally enamored and hooked on its melodic sweetness, and art school japery.

Always willing to do a good turn to others, you can read Aug Stone’s review of the album that spawned this track on the Quietus…

The Soft Close-Ups  ‘City Air’  Available Now

And now from the aforementioned Aug Stone, and his musical partner David Shah, The Soft Close-Ups latest handsomely crafted collection of indie pop, City Air.

Dreaming in Pastel, the tentative paeans and gentle swoons of lament are imbued with the qualities of The Smiths – though sometimes closer in its bended note moodiness and melodic builds to Gene (especially on the featured ‘Awkward Scenes’ and ‘On The Mainland’ songs)– and, even, a more subdued The Associates, though they test the same waters as many a sensitive souled 80s Postcard label and 90s Britpop band.

A rich mix of breezy poetic ‘latch door key kid’ tales (full linear notes and inspiration can be found on the group’s bandcamp and Tumblr pages) and stripped down acoustic numbers, many reworked from previous releases, the City Air is a favourable if often sad atmosphere, beautifully delivered.

Tapeheads  ‘Cirque’

From the French Canadian backwaters, the indulged (namely by us!) bedroom composer of lo-fi odd music sketches, vignettes and passing fancies, Thierry Larose has allowed another fleeting three-minutes of psychedelia to escape his studio.

You could claim that this time he’s actually produced what amounts to an actual recognisable song of sorts: for the most part his aversion to sticking with anything resembling a template or genre means that no melody or riff hangs around long enough to be contemplated.

Crafting then a second-hand Casio WK110 squelching pop paean that crosses Ariel Pink with a kooky Squeeze Larose – under the guises of his Tapeheads moniker – sounds positively upbeat in his French-tongue teen creeps lament.  Another hazy, only just fathomable, nugget from beyond the neo-geo painted calico wall.

And this lot in short…..


John MOuse  ‘I Was A Goalkeeper’   (Impact via Crocfingers)  26th May 2014 – taken from the forthcoming LP

World In Motion’ as covered by a more refined Welsh version of Mark E Smith peppering kitchen sink estate tales of innocence through the metaphor of ‘jumpers for goalposts’. Crumpled up fanzines from painter and decorator level football leagues, it’s another melodrama from John MOuse, but with the added bonus of a Los Campesinos duet partner, Gareth David.

Tara  ‘Stars’  Available Now

Swooning turn to explosive requiem of Shakespeare Sister meets the Howling Bells with antipodean chanteuse in Dublin, Tara. The ambient, almost dry-iced trance like intro soon builds into something grand.

Velour Modular   ‘Esc’  –  The EP is due out on 28th April 2014

Deep evocative suffused electronic veils of lament from Velour Modular’s debut EP, Capsule. A blunted Knife crossed with Cocteau’s fronted Massive Attack, ‘Esc’ oozes a chilled but no less humanistic sophistication.

Angkanang Kunchai  ‘Teoy Salap Pamaa’  (Soundway) Taken from the upcoming album, The Sound Of Siam – Molam & Luk Thung from North-East Thailand 1970 – 1982.

Not that they ever indulge us with any freebies or even the slightest hint of existence, but we do like the Soundway label a lot – well their releases anyway. Following up their strange exploration of old Siam from 2010 – reviewed by the Monolith Cocktail here – they’ve now announced plans for a second volume of equally bemusing Thai backbeat and leftfield weirdness, this time around moving from the dawn of the 70s into the early 80s. Here’s a taster….


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