Time again for our regular polygenesis music revue of albums and singles that happen to have ‘tickled our fancy’. Expect ethnographic Madagascar jazz from a French legend; Bristol shoegaze; trip hop rockabilly noir; concrete beat poetry; jangly psych; and deep techno from Istanbul.
In no particular order, we feature: Jef Gilson, Towns, Poeticat, Patrick Duff, Papernut Cambridge, Picturebox, Ah! Kosmos, Ditto Vienna and Tim Paris.
Jef Gilson ‘Jef Gilson et Malagasy: Malagasy/ Malagasy At Newport-Paris/ Madagascar Now Maintenant ‘Zao/ Colchiques Dans Les Pres/ Les touches Noires/ Bonus 45’ LP (Jazzman Records) Available Now
Continuing to appraise by revitalizing the archives of French jazz polymath, Jef Gilson, the Jazzman label has unearthed another treasure trove of previously overlooked and not so well known material from the venerated composers ethnographic travels. The centerpiece trio of Malagasy and the previously unreleased duo of complementary albums, here restored to their former glory, were the result of Gilson’s interest in the former French colony of Madagascar. Gaining independence from its former European interlopers and slave masters in 1960, the mysterious Island was first visited by the music explorer in 1969. The result of his expedition, and subsequent returns, was a panoptic soundtrack, congruous collected together in three volumes. World jazz at both its’ most adventuress and polygenesis, Gilson adroitly married the Island’s indigenous sounds with his very own signature European styled concrete and spiritual jazz. For the first time ever, assembled all under one highly sort after box, those Malagasy recordings and radio show performances and concerts can now be enjoyed in one uninterrupted flow.
Colonized, molested and claimed by everyone from the Arabs to the Portuguese through the centuries, a haven even, so it’s believed, for a pirate’s utopia, Madagascar certainly has an interesting allure. Though there is no mistaking the western avant-garde swing and melodic horn sectioned rich jazz dynamic that features so heavily in all Gilson’s work (the opening ‘A Tana’ and ‘Avaradoha’ both hold back on the Malagasy vibe, and could be from any Gilson era), the atmosphere is one that seeks to absorb its’ exotic musical tones and moods; a recreation if you like of the Madagascar experience, evoking the tastes, smells and wonder of the Island’s wildlife, fauna, tropics and history. Whether subtle or full on (the esoteric, almost Voodoo incantation whisper-y ‘Veloma Lava’ and Polynesian ominous eponymous opus both go all out native), Gilson and his troupe evoke atavistic tribal rituals, the sea breeze of the Indian Ocean blowing in over the humid terrain, and traverses through the rich lush jungles – the woodwind picking up on the bird calls and shimmering cymbals mirroring the waterfalls.
Live the material is even wilder and looser, with the now almost customary (and closest Gilson has to a theme tune) variant of the Polynesian stony-faced ‘Chant Inca’, an indulgent but still staggering unaccompanied six-minute drum solo (‘Solo Frank’) and the more esoteric series of plaintive ‘unknown’ musings. There’s also a groovier, softened version of ‘Dizzy 48’, which has an almost Cuban feel to it and more of that continental swing.
This lavish affair was specially released for this year’s Record Store Day, with leftover copies sold on the website a week later – both sold out, the online sale in only ten minutes. Vinyl copies may now be scarce, and you may have to be consoled with the extortionate dealers of Discogs and eBay (released at the retail price of around 50 quid, but now fetching anywhere from 100 to 160 quid). However, the label has also brought out for non-vinyl enthusiasts and for those who may have missed out, a reduced CD box set, which should be in greater numbers and more freely available to buy. If you can’t even stomach the price of that, Jazzman is currently streaming the entire catalogue on Spotify. But despite a snub from the label for a review copy – sent a measly stream of only half the LP then directed to Youtube, where within days of its release you could and still can peruse the entire suite – we’d recommend it in any form, a comfortably high class assiduous and multilayer world music spectacular that shouldn’t continue to lay dormant.
Towns ‘Get By’ LP (Howling Owl Records) 2nd June 2014
Stalked by misfortune since their conception in 2011, it has taken Towns more than three-years to finally release the debut album they always threatened. Lauded rather too soon by the NME and their ilk for a series of demos then ceremonially learning that the music industry can be a right cunt, when their booking agent ran off with a grand of their money and the label that originally sank money into a recording session, teaming them up with The Verve and Oasis’s producer Owen Morris, was swallowed up overnight by a major, leaving the deal high and dry.
Still, its here now, and a right merry maelstrom of dirge-y shoegaze and indie rock it is too, released just in time to catch the recent Britpop zeitgeist. Though it also acquires certain melodic floppy gestures and riffs from the across the pond, namely a touch of American collage rock and introspective grunge.
Recorded in Bristol with a gang of like-minded friends and contributors from the bands Velcro Hooks, The Naturals, Scarlett Rascal and Oliver Wilde, this is what you might call a collective effort from the scene.
The Towns cloud their often lush driven, melodious pop songs with sumptuously washed reverb and echo, their guitars ringing out and growling with just enough edge to offset the harmonious waves of languid beauty. Tasty teasers ‘Marbles’ and ‘Heads Off’ get immersed in a halcyon psychedelic moody solution of dirt and scuzz, yet prove meanderingly tuneful and sparkly. And the dreamy ‘Too Tired’ wafts into A Flock of Seagulls and My Bloody Valentine territory without sounding too effete and sulky.
Repeated plays mellow the edges, eroding the wall of cyclonic feedback and fizz, to catch a baggy era groove. Get By is a sterling effort, even if nostalgically dominated by a series of genres that have yet again come back into fashion.
Poeticat ‘Smash The Floor’ EP Available Now
The resigned concrete sink environment of the multi-limbo Poeticat collective is juxtaposed with the serene mountain range of a landscape in which you can both lose yourself and breathe, on the cover of their latest EP. It’s that escape into the great outdoors and claustrophobia that is so vividly, and at times with wry protestations, demonstrated by the groups surely Catherine Martendale beat (up) style Streets poetics.
A sort of showcase and collection point for their last two excursions, Smash The Floor features the video/track ‘3rd Arm’ and nostalgic pronouncement on growing up and being molded in the 80s and 90s, ‘Centre Of The Concrete Square’. Regular visitors to the blog may recall this summary:
‘The rambunctious cross-fertilized music proposition that is Poeticat return with another hallucinogenic escape from the mundanity of just another day spent in the concrete sink of life. Enjoying the increasing – and rightly so – attention that has steadily grown around their experimental residency at the Windmill in Brixton, the surly monologue led group –with members from a cross-section of the arts and locations (the less exotic Basildon to Lisbon) – have previously wowed us with their last video and record, the paean to a misspent but much mourned, before the digital onslaught, childhood, ‘Centre Of the Concrete Square’.
The follow up, ‘3rd Arm’, is no less diverse and liberal in its influences, dragging together kicking and squealing, gnarled hard rock guitar riffs, ghostly vibratos, the post punk yelping of the Slits (and later on as the track builds to a crescendo) the tongue-in-cheek progressive rock opera epic finales of ELP. With the rebellious, sulky spoken word poetics of Catherine Martindale, called forth from a séance backing theatrics of Ziggi Jadovski and a backing band that boosts a global imbued hodgepodge of Latin American, African, and western heavy mental, all played out to a backdrop of installation, multimedia and performance art, Poeticat are a pretty unique proposition.’
Fresh to our ears, there is a further trio of tracks added to the EP’s track list, the first of these is the opening choral swooned from a misty veiled dock and nautically themed metaphor ‘Jetty’. All sea breeze and mysteriously dramatic, it soon turns into The Raincoats meet Slits absconding into the horizon on a stolen yacht post-punk jolly – Martindale’s vocals always bringing anything resembling a plaintive lovelorn balled back down to ‘cynical’ earth. Split into two opposing acts, ‘Rest Reprise’ is brought in with the spectral coos and lolling of Ziggi Jadovski and finishes on a crescendo of wilding, industrial whining guitar and the most evocative, moody and winner of song that most resembles a Diamond Dogs era Bowie dystopian monologue, ‘Kind Words Soft Kill’ is a spoken narration on what sounds like an exchange visit travelogue of innocence and realisation.
Despite the miasma of our times, Poeticat balance the woes with an entertaining backing that feels confident enough to trample all over the musical demarcation lines.
Patrick Duff/ Craig John Davidson ‘Thought Birds/ Mr Manners’ Split 7” Single (Ambedo Records) Available Now
With the heady Britpop days well and truly consigned to where they belong, ex-Strangelove lead singer Patrick Duff has enervated his craft and taken a more thread bare, delicate folk direction. The antithesis of sulking 90s indie rock, Duff’s latter years have been more musically serene, with an emphasis on the gentle and placable.
Taken from the heart-rending, primal pining, Visions Of The Underworld, ‘Thought Birds’ is another one of Duff’s fragile log cabin ballads; plucked and hushed with an atmosphere stark and earnest. Our troubadour works his magic, conveying loneliness and regret from an isolated retreat, with only the bare production essentials – recorded onto tape without either edits of overdubs.
Released for last months record store day as a limited edition split 7”, this tamed bird was joined on the flip side by the congruous Aberdeen musician Craig John Davidson, whose equally delicate ‘Mr. Manners’ is both melodically plaintive and haunting, with a sweet trembling vocal.
You may be lucky enough to still scavenge a copy (limited to only 300 copies, housed in a complimentary fine pen etched cover by artists, Esther Green) but if not than check both of these characters out anyway.
Papernut Cambridge v Picturebox ‘Swaps’ Split 7” (Gard Du Nord Records) Available Now
You wait around long enough for a split single and then two come along in a week; though this lushly produced affair is of the jangly guitar variety. The iconic French station and center of many a reunion, illicit affair and romanticized film and book, the Gard Du Nord lends its name to the label behind this union of lilted psych and new wave, though the sound is a distinctly halcyon US/UK hybrid, devoid of any musical association with the Parisian landmark.
Sharing the bill we have the oddly entitled Papernut Cambridge and Picturebox bands. The project of former Death In Vegas and Thrashing Doves guitarist and underground producer, Ian Button may have already courted your attention for last year’s ‘kitchen-sink-psych-collective’ debut LP, Cambridge Nutflake, which featured both Darren Hayman and Mary Epworth. From that same charming, breezy Papernut Cambridge outlet, we’re introduced to a taster of his new material, the back beat, softly shimmering tambourine ‘When She Said What She Said’. It admirably evokes and chimes with its influences; absorbing The Beatles with a side order of The La’s and various Byrds sound-alikes to capture a hazy induced tale of rejection.
From the contemporary lo-fi Canterbury scene, Robert Halcrow’s Picturebox provide a chance meeting between Squeeze, Soft Boys and Nick Lowe, with the affable jaunty, phasered organ, power pop ditty A Nicer Man’.
The ‘swap’ of the tile signifies the rather quaint and quirky idea of a vocal exchange, with Button and Halcrow taking turns in fronting each other’s songs. It works rather well, the two subtle contrasting voices taking the originals into opposing eras of comfort.
Introduced like perhaps many of you for the first time to the Gard Du Nord label, the Monolith will be keeping tabs on their progress and future releases, which though nostalgic are still fine little pop tunes that at least try to take the original sound somewhere nice and contemporary.
Ah! Kosmos ‘Flesh’ EP Available Now
From the mysterious catacombs and imagined otherworldly terrains of Istanbul, oozes the enlightened cosmic union of analog and electronic Ah! Kosmos; the alter ego for the Turkey capitol based producer Basak Günak, whose debut EP has stealthy made its way to the Monolith Cocktail HQ in in the UK this month.
Echoing and bouncing off the surfaces of some alien subterranean, the nuanced metallic droplets of synth-triggered sounds interact with moody sustained cluttering down-tempo beats and unholy choral voices over the trio of ambient narratives on this three-track showcase.
The atmospheric opening ‘Melting Into Rise’ slithers and scuttles down a darkly lit corridor, escaping from some suspect research facility, as cooing operatic voices (courtesy of Melek Yalçın), tubular melodies and cyclonic breaks produce an ominous soundtrack to the deepest expanse’s of space. ‘II’ however moves forward with less suspense, led instead by caustic dub-step loops and an accompanying repeated meandering guitar, whilst the organic, liquid-y, ‘Anneannemin Koah’si’ builds into a Basic Channel redolent suffused and sophisticated techno beauty.
Günak’s variant of electronic music is definitely veering towards the, much-derided and sneered at but wholly appropriate term, ‘intelligent’, though her performances can up the dance element ante. Look out for the rising talent’s long player debut in September, which will be released via the Japanese AN/AY label.
Vienna Ditto ‘Feeling Good’ Single 2nd June 2014
Straddling Dick Dale’s surf twanged rockabilly and the trip hop noir of Portishead and Lamb, London duo Vienna Ditto produce a inspired 60s Ye-Ye romp. The smoky-eyed, diva in a disreputable Soho nightclub, vocals sound like they’ve had an encounter with the indie pop of the now forgotten Sophie Ellis Baxter apprenticeship serving, The Audience, as the backing track gathers menace, ending up in a squealing glam stomp finale. Not sure which furrow they’re plowing, as they seem to rambunctiously tumble through a helter skelter of 50s, 60s, 70s and 90s influences, all within the space of a few bars. I grant you it’s different, a unashamed crazy pop tune, which won’t suit everyone’s tastes, but at least its unapologetic and unashamed to try.
Tim Paris ‘Rain feat. Coco Solid’ EP (My Favorite Robot Records) Available Now
From the Paris-born, London-based Tim Paris a noir lit symposium on the effects, both metaphorically and scientifically, of rain. Effortlessly cool, Paris matches the sultry, indolent, almost aloof, vocals of Coco Solid, and an android like distorted lecturer, with subtle monochrome minimalistic electronica to produce a seductive, hypnotic requiem. A certain resigned melancholy resonates, as the protagonist takes in the grey backdrops of pollution spewing factories, collapsing buildings, traffic, through an ever-distressing blood dripping eye.
Taken from his debut album Dancers, the ‘Rain’ EP features the original version plus a Pilooski remix, Ivan Smagghe dub edit and Paris’ own Liquid Mix.