Francine Thirteen - Monolith Cocktail

The most polygenesis mix of releases from the world’s of jazz, scuzz, kosmiche, ambient, electronica, frat to garage rock, psych, drone, hip hop, Afrobeat, griot, desert blues, daemonic, transcendental, dengue, prog, doom, Siam, and umpteen thousand other sub or neo faux genres.

Tickling our fancy on this occasion are Francine Thirteen, Keroscene , Marius Neset, Klaus Marten, and Slows Down.

Francine Thirteen   ‘4 Marys And The King’

Mirroring the sagacious Afrofuturist Sun Ra, who convinced us all of his Saturn linage, the sensually adroit artist Francine Thirteen, via her succinct but no less poetic bio, announces that she was beamed down from the planetary womb of Venus to Dallas, Texas. Inhabiting a dual mantle of naturalistic and daemonic mystery, Francine’s sophisticated amalgamation of earthy gospel and otherworldly soul is heavily influenced by “the magic of sacred female archetypes” and the elementals of alchemy themes.

The concept of her upcoming debut 4 Marys And The King, casts a quartet of these archetypal women in a dystopian empire; each variant of the Mary character’s (Mother Mary, Queen Mary, Sister Mary and Lady Mary) song a singular but concomitant episode in the sensory sung and adroitly played story. The tropes of power, hierarchy and the relationship between a state and its citizens, is woven into the richly synthesised and vapourous tunes. Some of the connotations are obvious, Mother Mary the ‘archetypal’ venerated and worshipped icon, repeating her religious and mythical role in this futurist tale, herself an incarnation of centuries old motherhood figures. Over a low grumbling, prowling fog of bass and not much else, Francine’s Nina Simone meets Martina Topley-Bird vocals repeat Mother Mary’s plaintive “dead or alive, he’s always mine” eulogy, as she embodies the unbreakable bond between child and mother that no one can ever escape.

This and its moiety companion, ‘Queen Mary’ are currently doing the rounds until the EP is released in the summer. The second taster, no less pivotal, is a hypnotic flailed beast of trip-hop and hymn like reverence – the thrashed sounds of a swaying, chained mass and beautiful but lamentable vocals evoking the deep southern gospel of the shackled slave-gang – describes the hollow crown solitude of the uneasy Queen; more or less living in servitude and under the fearful whimsy of a Tudor-style king – one of the other main characters in this four-way split tale of woe, is the far more powerful and controlling King’s mistress. Manifested by unsettling shifting percussion, constantly tapping away with unease and an ominous sense of tragedy the sorrowful Queen wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tricky album.

Shaping up to be one of the year’s most mystically interesting releases, Francine Thirteen’s inaugural EP will leave many unnerved and curious, but few would disagree she is an emerging talent. And what a voice! Moving like liquid gold between the spiritually aching and the sexual. We look forward to hearing much more from Francine in the immediate future.

Keroscene   ‘Cotton Candy/ Storm O.K.’   (Dream Machine Records)   Released  2nd  March 2015

Fiddling with Nirvana and psychedelic 80s indie pop whilst Rome burns, the London-based quartet Keroscene, take the dried old bones of Seattle’s once thriving music scene on a stellar-bound trip with their upcoming debut double A-side single. Named after a drunken exchange of opinions between the group’s lead singer, David Troster and a journalist who claimed that there are no more scenes as they all quickly burn out, the portmanteau of “Kerosene” and “Scene” suddenly seemed quite apt.

As a bird-finger salute, the group have voyaged deep into the sort of 80s alternative drone and space rock, beloved by the Horrors, to forge two caustic and thrashed-out laments. The first of these, ‘Cotton Candy’ is a searing contrary sweetener of a grunge-y, jittering guitar anthem, its counterpoint, ‘Storm O.K.’, lifts off from Britpop terra firma into space rocking orbit; the signals and transmissions lost in a vortex of swirling waning guitars and phaser effects.

The self-confessed “multicoloured melancholy” of Keroscene presently curate/host their very own monthly club night residency at their Unit 4 Warehouse. The next date in the calendar, February 25th, will see the band play alongside Brighton’s esoteric beguiling Esben and the Witch.

Marius Neset  ‘Pinball’   (ACT)   Released  30th January 2015

A second appearance in under a year from the award-winning Norwegian jazz saxophonist of mounting repute on the Monolith Cocktail, Marius Neset’s last LP, in collaboration with the equally assured and respected Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Lion (for which he has just received Norway’s most glittering music award, the Spellemannsprisen) was a well-rehearsed tumble through quasi-Gershwin horn skylines and honking fusion. Pretty much lending his talents to any style, Neset is back once again with his long-time associate and fellow compatriot drummer/percussionist, and on this album co-producer, Anton Eger. Back to what he does best, Neset showcases his improvisational and compositional skills, producing what he would argue was his “strongest artistic statement yet”.

Recorded on the tranquil Norwegian island of Giske in the Atlantic sea view studio of Ocean Sound Recordings, Pinball is guided and imbued by the quality of the space it was performed in: a studio where musicians can inhabit the second floor living space and if they wish, escape to the nearby beach for relaxation and inspiration. Comfort and an environment to breathe in at his leisure, Neset encamped on Giske in 2014 with a cohesive backing band, made-up of players from numerous connected projects; including Swedish bassist Petter Eldh, who both Neset and Anger worked with in the People Are Machines band; pianist Ivo Neame (handling not only the piano but eliciting diaphanous runs and trembled phrases from the Hammond B3 organ, CP80 and clavinet) who formerly worked with Anger in the trio Phronesis; and vibraphonist Jim Hart, a musical partner of Neame. With a lineage inspired by such past and present saxophone luminaries as Michael Brecker, Joe Henderson, Chris Potter and Jan Garbarek, the Norwegian virtuoso bridges jazz with the non-western folk music of Hermeto Pascoal, Joe Zawinul and Trilok Gurtu to produce something highly melodious. The off-kilter polyrhythms and avant-garde skipping curveballs still remain as challenging as ever, and the usual cross-pollination of musical styles still amorphously blend with the classical.


Handclapping an introduction, the album’s opening pan-global dual suite, ‘World Song Part 1’, skips, probes and blows hard through an imaginative Don Cherry in Africa landscape. ‘Part 2’ is the comedown; the dusky Notre Dame bell tolls in the distance and snuggled saxophone, twinkly descriptive marimba/vibes playing a noir theme, before ending on a more groovy up-tempo outro. The title track however squawks and surreptitiously breathes through a scuttling avant-garde mix of lighthearted, cartoonish bounces, and the Modern Jazz Quartet; completed with a soaring free flowing flute solo. Staying in the experimental field of exploration, the feline like abstract marriage of clashing cymbals, skipping piano and bowed, stretching double bass, ‘Jaguar’, is in a hurry to scramble through the jungle terrain, whilst it’s Jim Tenor tribal tube banging stripped counterpart ‘Music For Drums and Saxophone’, hides the sax well behind an exotic percussive chant.

Nowhere does it suggest that Neset is a follower or fan of Radiohead, but both the lilting, diaphanous reminiscing ‘Odes Of You’ and cascading ‘Theatre Of Magic’ sound melodically in tune with the Oxford “miserablelists” Kid A/Amnesiac period of jazz keyboard sadness; the latter sailing close to ‘Everything In The Right Places’.

Despite the often nuanced performances and dancing interplay, with rhythms and riffs working on various levels of complexity, the Neset sound can be quite a pleasantly placeable listening experience at times; sweetly melodic and thoughtfully comforting. However working outside the confines of traditional jazz to encompass both naturalistic and worldly concerns, both vigorously and in a free flowing spirit, Pinball apes its title: spring-loaded, flipping and bouncing off the walls. Neset can rest easy on his growing reputation, this latest showcase, released via the notable German jazz label ACT, another creative triumph.

Klaus Marten   ‘Honey’   Released 6th January 2015

Bushwick, Brooklyn’s leading maverick lo fi composer (disclaimer: we have no evidence to prove our claims!) and Monolith Cocktail regular, Klaus Marten is back with another collection of fuzzy, wailing and lingering sustain shaped experiments. Honey, like most of his titles, neither gives an indication nor describes in any obvious manner what you’re about to experience. Instead the ‘Intro’ begins one long-resonating wave of manageable synthesized ambience, accompanied by Marten’s foggy-recorded unruly guitar solos. Like a bastardized low-cost Hendrix mangling a state if the union address, these 60s faded emanations sound improvised; sometimes almost running out of places to go and stuttering as Marten decides where to travel next.

Almost uninterrupted, the continuous underlying soundscapes that are left to amble and languidly lurk in the background, quiver or run impeached as a catalogue of effects, including backward looped tapes and Mogodon trip-y breaks applied to slow down the flow, adding various piques of interest: from the sacrosanct environment of the ‘Black Book’ to shoegaze caustic drone of the title track.

A beacon of light in the lo fi world of subterranean and searching vistas, the stand out – notably the production is louder and brighter in comparison – stirring ‘Underwater Effect’ is a mysterious keyboard soundtrack, and one of the best tracks on the whole LP. What it has to do with aquatic effects is anyone’s guess.

The more you listen the more you notice, and Marten’s almost minimalistic creations can either promise an epiphany or leave a corrosive aftertaste of vapourous bewilderment. We happen to find something in the stirrings and ungainly wild flayed guitar offerings to recommend Honey for the soul.

Slows Down  ‘Slows Down’   Released 11th February 2015

Hazily sublime, enraptured in a vacuous whispery backwash of ether-veiled production, Alexander Hawthorne regales ambitious Baroque chamber pop and Morricone western laments from the comfort of his London-based abode. Under the pseudonym of Slows Down, his self-titled EP – ahead of the upcoming album – is submerged beneath a cloak of dreamy shoegaze resignation and esoteric Middle Eastern drone. Beneath the multiple hypnotic layers, Hawthorne’s vocals remain obscured, untethered and ready to disappear into the shrouded mists he’s created.

The four-track suite opens with the enervated Blix Bargeld era Bad Seeds meets the Durutti Column plaintive journey into “the heart of darkness”, ‘The Blue Easing’. Following in its wake is the liltingly sad pranged and twanged ‘On My Street’, a slowly suffused melancholic number that has lingering touches of Spiritualized – though it eventually builds towards one of those Morricone crescendos that transport the listener to the plains of a celluloid imagined Texas.

The cover of The Walker Brothers ‘In My Room’ reinforces Hawthorne’s penchant for the dramatic, and for the pains of the pure of heart. Originally orchestrated by John Franz into a bombastic chamber pop classic of despair, and sung by Scott Walker with existentialist anguish, Hawthrone’s own take conjures up a chilling, haunted and resonating version with just the faintest traces of a vocal that threatens to evaporate. In a similar mode, the last of this quartet ‘The Way Down Leering’, is another beguiling, mysterious soundtrack that pits Hawthorne’s Velvet Underground and Nico imbued voice with a Theremin warbled apparition and tolling bell backing: pitched somewhere between a tremolo strummed Ian Brown or Jason Pierce fronted version of a spaghetti western.

If these songs were an image it would be a Victorian black and white postcard depicting an séance or an overexposed camera obscure effect. Lost in the veils of another time and space, Hawthorne’s broadcasts seem to emerge from the gloom, neither wholly nostalgic nor modern. A ghostly parallel of head music meets beguiled cinematic soundtracks.

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