Monolith Cocktail

Our regular ‘polygenesis’ mix of ‘tickling our fancy’ reviews includes debut albums from Brighton psych, acid-rock and lo fi mavericks Prince Vaseline and the Dusseldorf neo-Krautrock duo Die Wilde Jagd, plus the new bonkers Theremin avant-garde LP from Italian adventurers OoopopoiooO. We also have the new single from Swedish new wave rockers Dog, Paper, Submarine; the latest EP from Austin psychedelic entranced dreamers Technicolor Hearts; and the upcoming survey of lost British jazz finds from the Jazzman Label, A New Life.

Prince Vaseline - Monolith Cocktail

Prince Vaseline   ‘A Naturally Coloured Pleasure’   (Sunhorse Records)  LP  out on June 2015.

I’ve never quite understood the demarcation lines that mark out a mini-album from an extended EP, but the Brighton based cornucopia that is Prince Vaseline are being quite generous with their “mini” debut LP A Naturally Cloured Pleasure. A showcase that runs to the sort of running time and boasts the sort of track list size you’d expect to see on the average full album, the group have cut the proverbial wheat from the chaff to produce one of the years most pleasantly sophisticated and purposeful psychedelic pop soundtracks. The pedigree is good with this one, the group featuring members from the coastal city’s lo fi, psych dreamers Milk & Biscuits and local institution the Brakes. All these various halcyon synth, acid folk and Wurlitzer fairground circling organ garage rock influences congruously gel together. But the real inspiration behind this album is the synth/baritone vocal partnership of Pulp’s His ‘n’ Hers classic, with occasional gestures made towards the pastoral diaphanous and carefully plucked tones of the Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention.

The album serenely drifts from the Ian Curtis fronting Inspiral Carpets of ‘Hungry Dog’ and ‘Walden Pegasus’, or a Postcard Records’ Velvet Underground on the leading classic pop nugget (featured above) ‘Radio On’, to the John Martyn stroked majesty of the beautifully acoustic ‘China’. There’s even an atmospheric excursion made to a land before, during and after time on the searing instrumental vignette, ‘Dino’s’, adding yet another spoke to the ever rotating Prince Vaseline kaleidoscope wheel. Impressively linking together musical time zones with the both the burgeoning dawns of the late 70s synth and pop scenes in Sheffield with the progressive folk of the earlier Canterbury and Scotland scenes, and breathing in a highly agreeable fumes of the late 80s Manchester and Liverpool alternative garage rock and pop days, they managed to circumnavigate nostalgia for something fresh and amorphous.

Technicolor Hearts   ‘Now We’re Here’   EP out now.

Veiled and rising from a dazed sepia ether of psychedelic pop and trip hop, borne in the renowned bastion of live music, Austin, Texas, the Technicolor Hearts have carved out a particular niche of hypnotizing, opium induced lushness on their latest odyssey, Now We’re Here. With trained-violinist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Naomi Cherie (ex-Agent Ribbons; guest violinist on Camera Obscura 2009 tour) and the equally talented beats maker and musical sparring partner Joseph Salazar (ex-Death is not a Joyride) combining their taste for the suffused majesty of artful electronica and opulent dream state orchestration, the results fall between the most languid (on the Portishead coy to passed-out megaphone raspy doo wop vocal, trip-y affair ‘I Dreamed You Brought Me Flowers’) and the searing synth lushness (the redolent pulsating heart beat pop hit ‘Who You Are’, which makes the usual saccharine and over-used repeated refrain of “shooting star” sound suddenly illuminating and profound). Naomi channels many such redolent sirens and placable whisperers of the genre, including Sarah Blackwood of the successful 90s Britpop electronic popsters Dubstar and Beth Gibbons. Not so much in the vocal department, but musically the duo hint at Beach House on the dry-ice 80s film score that never was ‘Return To Eden’ opus, the EP’s grand finale.

There’s something about the dry Texas air that proves inspiring, or it could just be that it prompts escapism. The Technicolor Hearts have certainly escaped their earthly surroundings to hitch a ride on an illuminated chariot to more sedate, magical worlds.

Dog, Paper, Submarine   ‘Ms. Moonlet’                                    (Small Bear Records)   7” out now.

Launching into their scuzzy punk, bordering on a love-in between The Cars and Weezer, storming ‘Ms. Moonlet’, the Swedish fuzz rockers Dog, Paper, Submarine remind me of a lost Britpop band. Redolent also of the more melodic fringes of the grunge era, and obviously picking up the transmissions from Television et al, the group’s power pop latest sounds like a jolt from the past. Clean though bristling with grime and swagger, this lively number wastes no time with flouncy introductions: the meat and bones succinct production and tampered energy grab you from the very first guitar chugs to even the dawdling shoegaze come-down: a real head-turner.

opopoio front

OoopopoiooO   ‘OoopopoiooO’

(Tremoloa Records)  LP out now.

More a phonetically Dadaist statement than a band name, the bizarre coded cry of OoopopoiooO sets off on a Theremin heavy voyage of lunacy. From adventures in the primordial soup of life to ever stranger ‘loonscapes’ where mooning Italians narrations meet an updated art of noise, the theatrically avant-garde duo of Vincenzo Vasi and fellow compatriot Valeria Sturbia explore the most extreme and most elegantly dreamlike crevices of electronica and trip hop. It will come as no surprise, even in the disturbing, comedic and often hyperactive experimental Italian scene that these two mavericks are producing some of the best and most far out music to emanate from the ‘boot’.

A seasoned traveller so to speak known mostly for his work with Italy’s answer to Tom Waits, Vinicio Capossela, and Faith No More’s Mike Patton, Vasi teams up with the relatively fresh-faced Sturbia for one of the year’s most eye-opening debuts. Highly sophisticated and surprisingly tuneful, songs which start off on one course often veer off into new directions, such as the huffing, paddled percussion and string yearning opera turn Frankie Knuckles Chicago house style ‘How Do You Feel To Be In Love With A Ghost?’ Plucked Dante excursions and Holger Czukay like sonic trickery are rife, the surreal nature – of what is a thematic soundtrack – offering up ever-more interesting sounds and dynamics, though often heavily accompanied by a yearning and adroit classical backing.

Odd in a recommended way, the OoopopoiooO have to be heard to be believed.

Die Wilde Jagd   ‘Die Wilde Jagd’

(Bureau B)  LP out on 25TH May 2015

Meaning business from the outset, the mythical named Die Wilde Jagd duo use German technology at its most adroitly sleek and well oiled to explore a semi-organic and industrial sounding series of spaces. In neon lit pursuit of their Dusseldorf inspirations Neu! and Kraftwerk the city’s future-past echoes are melded with the imbued spirit of DAF, Einsturzende Neubauten and Liaisons Dangereuses to create a kind of Krautrock “hunting music”: the “raucous jeering hunters from the netherworld” of the duo’s moniker in a redolent exploration of a well founded venerated music genre, echoing Herbie Hancock’s Headhunter transduction and appropriation of jazz.

Ralf Beck of the duo has worked with electronic pioneer and one-time member of the Kraftwerk factory Karl Bartos in the past, whilst his musical partner on this metallic sheen  peregrination, Sebastian Lee Philipp, plays in the electro-pop group Noblesse Oblige. For the most part sonically driving those UFO engines over industrial landscapes and firing up rasping synths and sterner modulations, there are more peaceable reflective moments – such as subterranean mournful procession ‘Morgenrot’ – to be found.

Seasoned ‘head’ fans and motorik disciples will find much to admire and lose their self’s in, though much of what is on offer has already been created and shared endless times before, Die Wilde Jagd do it extremely well and with conviction. It’s hardly surprising to see this release on the Hamburg label Bureau B who continue to hold aloft the flag of Krautrock and its inspired bedfellows high, releasing both some of the more interesting contemporary electronic, filed music, avant-garde experiments alongside carefully chosen reissues from Germany’s illustrious, gene-defining past.

Monolith Cocktail

Various Artists   ‘A New Life’

(Jazzman Records)  LP to on 1st June 2015.

The reliable resource for all your spiritual, modal and most esoteric jazz needs, the Jazzman label’s reissue roster continues to dig up previously lain dormant and unloved treasures (though they’re just as reliable with releasing contemporary finds too; three, and soon to be four albums from the mighty Greg Foat Group for starters). Whether it’s through their individual compilations or reverential Spiritual series, the dust is blown off and the music rediscovered; collated from both sides of the Atlantic, and from the furthest reaches of eastern Europe to North Africa, these born-again finds are accorded due-respect and lavished with the most subtle but refined re-mastering, adroit essays and beautifully put together packaging.

Closer to home once more after excursions around the globe, the latest collection surveys a forgotten British independent and youth jazz scene, for the most part only ever available on private pressings. Plucked from obscurity by the Francis Gooding and Duncan Brooker team that also compiled the jubilantly praised, hotfooting, Next Stop Soweto series, A New Life starts with the sophisticated cocktail hour in Soho ‘Sweet Martini’ by Joy, and moves through the abstract-expressionist horns and drum solo showcase of ‘Sixes and Sevens’ by the Nottingham Jazz Orchestra and summons up a spot of Cuban high spirits on Billy Jenkins & The Voice Of God Collective’s bustling exchange ‘High Street/Saturday’; all of this within the first three songs of this thirteen track collection. Mirroring those cosmic, progressive and psychedelic explorations on the other side of the Atlantic, the beautifully chorused but mournfully themed ‘Death Is Near’ by the London Jazz IV could be a lost recording from the late fifties and early sixties spiritual St. Louis or Chicago scene, and both Lori Vambe’s ‘Drumsong (One)’ and Edge’s ‘Danielle and the Holly Tree’ allude to a pan-African influence, whilst Cameo’s piano led psych bulletin ‘Poliphony’ paves the way forward for the 90s acid-jazz explosion.

Other discoveries on offer include Spot The Zebras’ gentle clarinet led dedication to natural history doyen David Attenborough, ‘Living Planet’, and the Walsall Youth Jazz’s swanky San Francisco China Town soundtrack ‘The Dragon’. Informed by the ongoing trends both in the USA and Europe, each track seems to drift further away from its original roots in the UK. And if no one told you, it would be extremely difficult to place these performances geographically or culturally. But then if the grey exterior and drab weather of a Midlands town is all you have to draw inspiration from, then perhaps dreaming of more exotic climes and magical jazz is your only form of escapism. Gooding and Brooker have delivered the goods and found a whole untapped resource of British jazz; the missing link – in some cases, just a joyful abandon – of experimentation during the late 60s, 70s, 80s and on the eve of the 90s.

Words: Dominic Valvona

%d bloggers like this: