NEW MUSIC ROUND UP REVUE



As the general “do not disturb” hangover from the new year sign is replaced by the “business as usual” one, the Monolith Cocktail rolls up its sleeves and knuckles down, perusing so you don’t have to, a fair chunk of the most interesting and quality assured releases from the multitudes of solicited requests. A bumper crop of albums await in this edition of  “tickling our fancy” ; from the squawking, blurted awkward jazz of  Populäre Mechanik to the nuanced percussive and synthesized Kenyan veldt Krautronics of  Schneider Kacirek.

 

The full line up includes: Schneider Kacirek, Populäre Mechanik, The Unthanks, Vincent Peirani, Vision Fortune, Craig Ward & Radbound Mens, Sean Bw Parker & Ettuspadix.




Monolith Cocktail reviews

Schneider Kacirek  ‘Shadows Documents’  (bureau b) Released 19th January 2015.


Translating the ethnography of Kenya music into a modern peregrination of sophisticated synthesized and percussive sounds, the highly articulate sonic explorers Stefan Schneider and Sven Kacirek sail close to the fourth world “possible music” soundscapes of Jon Hassell and Brian Eno on their latest venture, Shadows Documents. Obviously enriched with the ancestral rhythms and drums of their Kenyan source, their nine-track odyssey has a metallic, nighttime kinetic energy of deep brooding German electronica that almost erodes all traces of their tribal inspiration. With a slight twist on previous unembellished field recordings – carried out under the auspices of the Goethe Institute and UNESCO -, the duo have manipulated their documented findings to create a threatening and curious omnipresent atmosphere; an ambient soundtrack to a satellite orbiting state of futuristic inertia.



It won’t come as any surprise to found the indelible Teutonic markings of Klaus Dinger, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Hans-Joachim Irmler and Jaki Liebeziet on this record; all of who apart from Can’s metronome drum titan, Schneider – the founding member of Kriedler and To Rococo Rat – has worked with in some capacity over the years. There is also the direct lineage inclusion of former Afrika 70 band member Niklas Addo Nettey – Fela Kuti’s impressive and much put upon band -, though the Berlin resident (since the early 80s) musician plays a veiled and obscured accompaniment of otherworldly and resonating plank sounds.

Lit up by the autobahn traffic, streaming a interconnected sonic landscape of 808 pre-sets, birdcall vibratos, primal analogue effects, long fuzzy waveforms and the odd plucked out melodic transmission, the album surfs a ever-changing terrain.

Populäre Mechanik   ‘Kollektion 03: Compiled By Holger Hiller’  (bureau b)  26th February 2015


Released by the same label, bureau b, the third of the new kosmiche and krautrock family tree Kollektion series – following on from a Sky Records compilation and Lloyd Cole selection of Roedelius choice tunes – release for the first time on vinyl/CD the sporadic, awkward and disjointed workings of the Teutonic jazz punk free-thinkers Populäre Mechanik. Dreamt-up or rather beaten into existence by the former Ton Steine Scherben instigator Wolfgang Seidel, an early apostle of the legendary Zodiak Free Arts Lab – which sowed the seeds of Krautrock and electronic music in Germany – and sometime musical partner of the notorious club’s founder Conrad Schnitzler, the Mechanik turned their back on the rock scene and instead went underground with a D.I.Y. approach. Recording and editing long uninterrupted jams onto a four-track recording device and than issuing forth their broadcasts on cassette only, Seidel and his comrades made music both quickly and cheaply – except for the one time they received a cultural grant to record in a “proper studio”, which never sat well and was never repeated. Always awkward and opposed to assimilation, shunning the punk and post-punk communities, they never quite fitted in with any scene. Plowing their own distinct amorphous furrow, the group produced a phaser, warbling and at times tubular reverberating effects rich soundscape of dystopian jazz and 80s fusion.



Released by the same label, bureau b, the third of the new kosmiche and krautrock family tree Kollektion series – following on from a Sky Records compilation and Lloyd Cole selection of Roedelius choice tunes – release for the first time on vinyl/CD the sporadic, awkward and disjointed workings of the Teutonic jazz punk free-thinkers Populäre Mechanik. Dreamt-up or rather beaten into existence by the former Ton Steine Scherben instigator Wolfgang Seidel, an early apostle of the legendary Zodiak Free Arts Lab – which sowed the seeds of Krautrock and electronic music in Germany – and sometime musical partner of the notorious club’s founder Conrad Schnitzler, the Mechanik turned their back on the rock scene and instead went underground with a D.I.Y. approach. Recording and editing long uninterrupted jams onto a four-track recording device and than issuing forth their broadcasts on cassette only, Seidel and his comrades made music both quickly and cheaply – except for the one time they received a cultural grant to record in a “proper studio”, which never sat well and was never repeated. Always awkward and opposed to assimilation, shunning the punk and post-punk communities, they never quite fitted in with any scene. Plowing their own distinct amorphous furrow, the group produced a phaser, warbling and at times tubular reverberating effects rich soundscape of dystopian jazz and 80s fusion.

Inspired but also weary of the Zodiak’s “Totally free music. Everyone plays. Anyone plays. Everyone can do it” manifesto, Seidel began on the drums before, due to a lack of space in the studio of his erstwhile music collaborator Schnitzler, moving to transposing rhythms onto synthesisers – for which he was nicknamed “sequenza”. However, pining for his drum kit, Seidel returned to drumming in the late 70s, forming through a small ad a likely gang of musicians, every bit as imbued by the spirit of the times and goofing on Devo and XTC. Those heady days of experimentation are gathered together here by the Palais Schaumburg vocalist Holger Hiller; picked from two original cassette productions, released in the early 80s and featuring a new interview and discussion on the course of rock and pop music over the last 45 years.

Pretty obscure, and easy to have slipped by your consciousness, the ‘kollektion’ is a quite revolutionary sound, mixing not only the genres already mentioned but also adding a disjointed, jerk of reggae and menacing constructivism to the caustic mix. Imagine a disjointed awkward DAF jamming with PiL, the band lumbering in a languid motion between ideas and influences without a care in the world to create a lolloping avant-garde cacophony. Though they wished to move away from the ‘rock’ part of the Krautrock affixed label, they nevertheless have a quality imbued with the augur spirit of Irmin Schmidt, Klaus Dinger, Michael Rother and the Roedelius/Moebius partnership. Intrinsically linked to that lineage, Seidel – of course there at the very start, a comrade of one of the scenes doyens, Conrad Schnitzler – but of their own times, the Mechanik’s thoroughly deserve more than just a footnote in the development of music in Germany, this ‘kollektion’ going someway to defining and establishing their valuable contributions and explorations.




The Unthanks - Monolith Cocktail

The Unthanks  ‘Mount The Air’  (RabbleRouser Music)  9th February 2015.





The earnest and humble Unthanks folk troupe attracts both an abundance of sentimental reverence from admirers and a literal spewing forth of musical influence heavy referenced veneration from critics. From mentions of Gill Evans and Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain to Sandy Denny’s ‘Next Time Around’, or the PR paraphernalia that goes on to describe each and every track in full robust detail, accompanied by a convincing guide for us critics to copy verbatim, noting who they sound like, this band could be rightly described as ambitiously embracing a wide range of influences, even if they are essentially following in the atavistic footsteps of their forbearers. In fact many of the songs on Mount The Air rework traditional laments, ballads and lullabies; adding either extra personal and poignant lines or merging together into long drawn out and sophisticated, paced epics.

Vocally hushed and breathy, the startling subtle but majestic voices – ranging from solo spots to two-part and even three-part harmonies – of the leading ladies Rachel and Becky Unthank, and the fiddle/violinist Niopha Keegan sound like convincing echoes from a hardy, struggling but dignified past; a lineage that can be traced back to the industrial mill towns of the north to civil war England. Beguiling and full of earthy toil, the Northumbria burr and location of this songbook plays on the psychogeography of the group’s hometown and county. Recording in their makeshift studio for the first time, over a two-year period, this latest album is imbued with the roots they’ve set down, the Unthank sisters living next door and bringing up their kids only yards away from where they’ve chosen to record – this is after all a family affair, the extended band growing from an original all-female outfit to a faux-orchestra, including the all-round instrumentalist Adrian McNally who is married to Rachael. A personal tribute if you like, the continued ebbing tidal washes suffused throughout the album are honed from recollections and their group’s life; a poignant enough reminder, ‘For Dad’ is a homage to Keegan’s Irish father who passed away a couple of years ago.

 

Steeped in a certain bewitching vapour of tradition but balanced with the more pressing matters of the contemporary, Mount The Air is a curious songbook that features stirring melodies and enchanting plaintively heart-aching odes from characters pacing the Thomas Hardy hilltops, yet despite the quality on show and beautifully administered musicianship it never quite rises above a whisper. Hints of Robert Wyatt (who is a fan of the band), Pentangle, Portishead (who’s Adrian Utley has worked with the group on a previous project) and rather interestingly, Blonde Redhead (on the LP’s most diaphanous, breathtaking cinematic ‘Flutter’) lock with fabled old wives tales of ‘Magpies’ and folk operas built around the Thomas Coram Foundling Hospital in London and the old dreamy adage of being sent off to a Golden Slumbers sleep. In all this is a superb album in the folk tradition, a little too languorous and procrastinating at times, but beautifully executed and timeless.



Vision Fortune  ‘Country Music’  (ATP Recordings)  9th February 2015.





In a thinly applied smear of clattering percussive minimalism and stripped industrial ambience, the catatonic Vision Fortune enter the mainframe. Never entirely sure of what I’m actually listening to or even how you’d describe their sound, the band use homemade metallic object sounds to produce a toss up of Grumbling Fur, The Normal, and vocally, The Liars.

Drumming with lacrosse sticks or striking a bell they lumber into earshot with ominous tidings of no wave, as they fall into the abyss on the debut LP Country Music. Applying and reapplying textures until the melody and rhythms linger like mere echoes and traces of a conventional song, each off-kilter and methodically worked track finds a natural progression through the haze and incessant clicks and ticks.

Constructing their own atmosphere and soundtrack with the submerged beneath a sun-dappled pool, 808 preset techno and Eno-esque proto-synth new wave of ‘Cleanliness’ and ‘Back Crawl II’, the Vision come up with some very interesting music. Bordering on 80s R’n’B meets raw electro, the instrumental ‘Tita’ slips in a reverent ethereal choir sound wave just to keep us guessing. Whilst ‘Ties And Bounds’ is a softened screeching primal alarm from a Scott Walker-esque scarred factory, and ‘Drunk Ghost’ loiters in a Herzog/Vuh Krautrock nightmare. For the most part, synths and effects are left to run their course, sounding almost inhuman as they hover and arch off into the ether: taken over by the soul in the machine.

It will certainly ‘challenge’ you but will also pique your interest and even prove hauntingly lush in places.




Vincent Peirani - Monolith Cocktail

Vincent Peirani  ‘Living Being’  (ACT)  9th February 2015.

It seems to be an contractual obligation on the part of the German jazz label ACT that everyone on its roster should either be at least a virtuoso with decades of experience and reverence or a rising star, weighed down by plaudits and accolades galore.

With a triumvirate of such prizes and awards already, the genre spanning French accordionist Vincent Peirani has picked up a Prix Django d’Or and ECHO Jazz award, and also been acclaimed as the ‘artist of the year’ by Jazz Magazine France. Perhaps more for his amorphous approach to the accordion and ability to merge the best of experimental European jazz with alternative rock, spiritual soul and blues, Peirani has been celebrated for untethering the classical French instrument from its stereotypic origins as the maudlin or cheery accompaniment to a million humble Parisian scenes. Just as imbued by electronic music as jazz and classical, Peirani explores a “cornucopia” of cultures and ideas, taking the squeeze box into uncharted territories, often facing off or underlying in ambient washes beneath the accompanying soprano and tenor saxophone of Emile Parisien – who has worked on previous projects with Peirani, including the more recent Duo Art series release Belle Époque.

 

His latest adventures in a worldly sound call for a new band; brought together to create an unspecified and amorphous suite of tunes. Once again the core partnership boasts the adroit saxophone talents of Parisien but also includes new recruits, R’n’B and hip-hop musician Julien Herné on the electric bass-guitar, Art Blakey and Elvan Jones fan Yoann Serra on drums, and keyboard player Tony Paeleman who’s worked with a myriad of singers and pop musicians. Not unsurprisingly this group gels together successfully, each member a friend or fellow band member at some point of their conductor, and all originally from his hometown of Nice – but now all based in the French capital -, a congruous spirit flows throughout, so that no matter where the music ends ups they’re all heading in the same direction. What this sounds like is an organic, almost at times ambient, emotive liquidity of free jazz emotions. Neither following a narrative or pattern.




The opening ‘Suite en V’ duo of sparsely deconstructed jazz and twinkled harmonic Fender Rhodes rich exploration begins with a probe into acoustic Aphex Twin territory and gently prods away until climaxing on a blues note in the finale. They make a meal (a tasty three-course one I may add) of Jeff Buckley’s plaintively stirring ‘Dream Brother’ requiem – all trebly discord Rhodes, cracking, tripping off-step drum rhythms and swaddling lamentable accordion – and they grapple with and turn out a sublime, patient to progressively hectic, version of the abstract sound collage ‘Mutinerie’, written by leading European free jazz doyen Michel Portal – the fellow compatriot who’s clarinet/saxophone skills and explorations have featured on a diverse range of recordings and performances, including a Stockhausen cycle in 1969 and on a litany of French films.

Whether it’s navigating moments of Floyd like progressive soul (‘On The Heights’) or flexing a Herbie Hancock – Miles Davies era – diaphanous sparkled jazz funk (‘Air Song #2’, ‘Some Monk’), the group imaginatively play around with all their influences and inspirations to produce, a post-modernist jazz ascetic, unburdened by the set-patterns of solos and ordered performance; a “living being” of sound and musicianship.



Craig Ward & Radboud Mens  ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ (Jezus Factory)  23rd February 2015.

Awkward as usual, the challenging Belgium label and hive of rock and electronica mavericks Jezus Factory Records are to release a limited cassette (with download code) of Craig Ward & his erstwhile latest musical partner, Radboud Mens, quintet of sonic suites The Drive To Taxonomy.

The Argyll-based guitar sculptor and one-time member of Kiss My Jazz, The Frames, The Summer Of Mars, The Love Substitutes, Elton Genocide, iH8 Camera, True Bypass, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen Very saddles up for another ambient picturesque journey, accompanied by sound-installation and electronic music artist Radbound Mens – involved in a similar dizzying number of collaborations and projects that have included Technoise, Hyware, Fitness Landscape and Cloud Ensemble. If Kubrick directed Inner Space, the duo explore a biological terrain, peering down the microscope and giving a musical sound to the organisms that slither, slide, procreate and split below. A minimal, stripped score to the science of Taxonomy, defining characteristics with the use of a manipulated guitar and series of low drones, blips, crystallized shimmer, and fuzz, over an ever-moving bed of organic matter.

Sometimes we are gently guided over the omnipresent subjects, and at other times, piqued and awakened by sharper, more forceful sonic effects from a stirring primordial soup kitchen. Probing the surface and prodding at what lies beneath, a reaction often breaks the lull. But this is a placable experience for the most part, only occasionally entering something discordant or threatening us with some looming ominous chasm. Ward and Radboud compliment each other’s methods, though it is difficult to tell who is producing what sound at anytime. Following on from his last – given the thumbs up from us in 2014 – ambient, psychogeography rich, soundtrack, New Third Lanark, Ward continues to offer some highly interesting atmospherics. This partnership works extremely well, and I hope to hear more in the future.



And Finally….

Sean Bw Parker & Ettuspadix Beautilator  ‘Ninja Lit’





I’d never hear the end of it, so for my penance here is the latest offering from our sometime-contributor and writer/artist of renown, Sean Bw Parker. Managing to convince some poor unsuspecting soul into his miscreant, mischievous plans, Sean has roped in Ettuspadix Beautilator to conjure up a suitable backing track for his Orwellian uttering style observations. A degenerate Yello being heckled by a polite murmuring tirade of well-articulated and thoughtful abuse, ‘Ninja Lit’ arrives out of the blue as the teaser for – yes, I will warn you now – a whole album of similar miscreant nicotine stained, boozy tavern besmirched philosophical candor. Of course all the best statements, rhetoric, ideas and poetry come from the debauched or meager paid artistic suffragettes, struggling in their garrets. And this is no exception. And by that, we mean we approve wholeheartedly.

Words:  Dominic Valvona 




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