It’s the month of May, not that you’d particularly know it, and here we are stroking our chins and pondering where to distribute our generous patronage. For once again, dear reader, ’tis that most hallowed of Fridays whereupon Bandcamp waive their cut, ensuring that more of your fan-dollar goes to the people who need it most: the artists and labels who have kept us, if not exactly sane, then at least relatively lucid during the tribulations of the last 12 months or so. Today then, I implore those you lucky enough to have held down your jobs to think twice before you splurge your wad on yet another Can reissue or a double vinyl of The Fall live at the Neasden Hippodrome in 1983. Take a trip with God is in the TV into the darkest, juiciest recesses of the music skeeeeeeeeeeeeen-ah.
Jamaica!! meets Sly – Celebrating the End Together in the Good Time Swamp
First up this month is a release sent over by Matt Cargill of renowned neo-noise-jazz monsters, Sly and the Family Drone. Consisting of a live performance at the ICA alongside Jamaica!! an experimental, improvised musical collective they’ve been facilitating at The Gate, an arts centre for adults with learning disabilities in Shepherds Bush, it’s available in a couple of strictly limited cassette editions, the most extravagant of which a wooden boxed-set of just 5, handpainted by Kazland, with a collection of zines and badges. All proceeds go to support The Gate.
The music itself is unexpectedly restrained, almost ambient in its formlessness, with a spooky, ritualistic feel. Cargill’s percussion work provides a lumbering, malarial swagger to the proceedings and the first half of the album (which is all you get until the full release in June) slowly builds to a hypnotic frenzy of rasping horns and unidentifiable swirls and blasts of sounds. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
Griffit Vigo – I Am Gqom
Your love affair with South African Gqom music continues with this LP from Griffit Vigo. Unassumingly entitled I am Gqom, the record takes inspiration from Zulu culture and builds on Vigo’s reputation as one of the longest-standing innovators of the scene. Adventurous loops of percussion and vocals create a vortex of acoustic and electronic rhythms that constantly shift, always teetering on the edge of a drama. Serious house on serious earth, as the saying goes – it’s sparse and repetitive but with a heart of gold. Heady stuff which somehow got missed on release back in October, but it’s now available as a rather tempting CD + 7” single, or Limited Edition T-Shirt + CD bundle from GQOM OH! in Durban.
anrimeal – Could Divine, Remembered
Following up on her inclusion in The Leaf Library’s excellent Object 10 compilation, which we looked at last month, it seems that anrimeal, self-styled clodhopper, cherub and leading exponent of bathroom Dada, has put out an album of remixes and alternative versions of music from last year’s splendid LP, Could Divine, interspersed with documentary interludes – whispered confessions, demos and rituals. At time of writing, anrimeal was offering the download as a limited edition bundle with either a handmade scented candle or a one-to-one bedroom music production tutorial. Assuming those are all gone by Bandcamp Friday you could, more boringly, nab it alongside a copy of the vinyl.
The album itself is well worth revisiting – its apparent gentleness belied by an avowed influence of the post-minimalist sculpture of Eva Hesse who fashioned industrial latex and fibreglass into vulnerable-looking, abject forms. Folk rubs up against unpredictable jump-cuts, loops and the occasional startled squeak. Excellent work – restless, inventive and at its best, easily on a par with maverick souls like Julia Holter or Richard Dawson.
Fimber Bravo – Lunar Tredd
Since the late sixties, Fimber Bravo has been proving time and again that you can’t beat a bit of the old Trinidadian steel pan. This new album, featuring collaborations with the likes of Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, Cathy Lucas from Vanishing Twin, Senegalese griot and kora player Kadialy Kouyate and a host of others, explores the full range of an often-overlooked instrument. The ecstatic, Talking Heads vibe of tracks like ‘Coming Home’ is balanced with more reflective fare like ‘Santana’s Daughter’ and ‘Singo’, while the whole second half of the albums veers sharply into the afrofuturist, Sun Ra Arkestra territory alluded to in the title. ‘Lunar Tredd’ itself is a suitably otherworldy preamble to the free-wheeling disco-psych of ‘Tabli Tabli’. Defiant, epochal music from a modern master.
****** NEWS JUST IN ******
It’s always nice to open your inbox and find the PR’s prominently running with one of your quotes. In this case it’s Lost Map Records getting in touch about their new PostMap Club single, which this month is from that doyen of the DIY scene, Emma Kupa of the redoubtable Mammoth Penguins. When we covered her solo LP (available from Fika Recordings) in this column many, many moons ago, I seem to have described her, quite correctly, as a treasure of an artist who should be on your radar. ‘Happy Birthday‘ is a big warm hug of a song about not giving yourself a hard time over your regrets and being grateful for what you you’ve got. It will make you feel good.
Tindersticks – Man Alone (Can’t Stop the Fadin’) Remixes
You will already know that Tindersticks’ 11-minute long epic, ‘Man Alone (Can’t Stop the Fadin’)’, which opens their LP Distractions, is one of your tracks of the year. What you may not be aware of is that City Slang has just put out a couple of rather ace remixes by noted house DJ, Charles Webster. Where the original feels overcome by improvisational drama, Webster’s dubby remixes strip the track back to the song, creating something less fraught and paranoid – if the album version can be read as a soundtrack of hyper-ventilating lockdown disintegration, this feels like it’s on more of an even keel.
Islet – Through the Eyelet
While we’re thinking about the art of the remix it might be a good point to take a look at Islet’s EP of reworkings from their highly acclaimed Eyelet. The tracks here run the gamut: Despicable Zee fashions ‘Treasure’ into something subterranean, all steel pans and cavernous echoes, while Gwenno’s version of ‘Geese’ is pure trance-like pleasure and MounQup turns the deeply affecting ‘Good Grief’ into something even more fierce than it already was. The real star though is Mera Bhai’s take on ‘Radel 10’, which refashions the tabla drum machine from which it takes its name into the hyperspace-flagship of an intergalactic psychedelic empire. Resistance is useless and I for one welcome our newly victorious electro-funk overlords.
Kero Kero Bonito – Civilisation II
A follow up to last year’s EP in which KKB unveiled a fictional parallel universe inspired by ancient technology, wildfires and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Top-quality blissed-out pop with some mind-boggling electronic arrangements suggestive of impenetrable cartoons – like the best cult fantasy it’s a world you want to spend time in and ‘Well Rested’ in particular demonstrates a grasp of epic narrative that puts most of the shit you see on Disney+ to shame.
Pola – Opaque
There’s something very Noire-ish about this sequence of sparse instrumentals from Manchester’s Pola, out now on Soundtracking the Void, the fruit, no doubt, of long nights brooding over cheap scotch in a basement room adorned with fuzzy, indistinct photographs and a fiendish-looking web of red string. Life, it seems to say, is a complicated puzzle. Paddy Roper and Greg Chiche have created some tenebrous and melancholic guitar soundscapes here. Tracks like their 9-minute epic, ‘The Dimming‘, arise out of the most minimal elements – just a faint drone and a few compelling whispers of feedback – while elsewhere there’s a vibe of fleet-footed, Lynchian roguery.
boycalledcrow – Bottletown
Available for pre-order from Cologne’s Strategic Tape Reserve, Bottletown is the new album from Chester’s boycalledcrow. A series of not-quite-ambient instrumentals cast a mischievous eye over a landscape of dream-like, glitchy electronics. There’s a certain level of paranoid kitsch at play in titles like ‘Elf Machine’ or ‘Mushroom’ while the production is satisfyingly over-saturated, as though heard through a fuzzy, psychedelic gloaming. All of which is not surprising when you know that Bottletown is a dilapidated housing estate in the fictional Manchester Jeff Noon depicted in his fondly-regarded, druggy sci-fi novel Vurt.
Breaking the Beats: A Personal Selection of West London Sounds – Various
Arguably this column isn’t really the place to wax lyrical over reissue compilations, but now and then one comes along that deserves a much wider audience. Z Records’ excavation of West London’s so-called Broken Beat scene of the late 90s does some sterling work in bringing you a plethora of forgotten gems of the period. Influenced by Afrobeat and Jazz-Fusion as much by the prevailing fashions in the club music of the day, the tracks gathered by Dave Lee and Will Fox for Breaking the Beats reopen a largely ignored chapter in British musical history. They’ve slimmed down the twenty-two tracks of the original download into a more easily digestible double vinyl, which you can pick up for less than a score (inc p+p).
The term Broken Beat was actually rejected by many of those involved and I’d probably concur – it’s as if the word syncopation didn’t already exist, right? – it’s clear though that the trick is always in the counterpoint between the directness of the vocals and the stuttering, off-kilter percussion. And there’s nothing broken about any of it, not to these ears. Personal highlights include the Squarepusher-esque tactical bass of Domu and Face’s ‘Save It’, the sheer opulence of Agent K’s ‘Hands’ and the urbane sophistication of Afrospace and Bembe Segue’s ‘Blakai’.
Alpha Maid – Chuckle EP
Heavens, this is good. Leisha Thomas, a.k.a. Alpha Maid, has dropped a rather winning slab of discordant noise into our laps here. Doomy indignation at the state of public life in the UK collides with something reminiscent of Sonny and Linda Sharrock’s jazz-grunge experiments of the late 60s and early 70s. ‘Newly Woke and Thought Provoked’ shakes its head in theatrical disbelief, while the effect of the whole is one of relentless instability and trouble. Over it all, Thomas’ voice dominates, so flatly liturgical it could almost be classified as a drone in its own right. Get the download today and/or bookmark the page for a rumoured vinyl release to follow. Essential stuff.
****** NEWS JUST IN ******
Want something for nothing? Recent communications from Rhodri Viney, of Right Hand Left Hand and Ratatosk suggest that he has succumbed to public pressure to rerelease this 2001 Teflon Monkey EP as a pay-what-you-like-if-at-all download. Entitled Farming in Space, it’s a world away from his current musical personae (post-rock behemoth/downbeat bard) and I get the idea he’s slightly bashful about revisiting past glories and won’t thank me for making lots of people listen to it. Sorry, Rhodri – your music belongs to the world now. Anyone with an interest in Welsh indie of the noughties, (you know the drill: SFA, Gorky‘s, Ankst Records, Placid Casual) will enjoy this and those happy few who were there at the time might find a Proustian biscuit or two among the sumptuous repast of demos accompanying the EP.
Espen Lund – ÆTONAL
On ÆTONAL, Norwegian composer Espen Lund plays an electric trumpet into a circle of amplifiers to skull-crunching effect. If you like doom, drone and blizzards of unlistenable feedback this is a release that will tick a lot of boxes for you. It’s not for the faint of heart, but at its core, this is supremely mournful and elegiac music. Imagine Sunn 0)))’s collaboration with the collapsing Thwaites Glacier or Throbbing Gristle’s lost broadway adaptation of Moby Dick and you’re close.
Stella Research Comittee – A Proposed Method for Determining Sanding Fitness
Postage and packing fees being what they are these days, it’s welcome to find a bit of the famous trans-Atlantic special relationship at work. Newcastle’s Cruel Nature Recordings bring us an album from Ohio’s Stella Research Project, a wayward and impulsive deconstruction of the mythos of the rock and roll power-trio. It’s a skronking cacophony held together by the canny interplay between keyboard-basher Tony Squeri and Kevin Hall‘s unexpectedly charismatic vocals and guitar. There’s a tremendous variety of musical textures hidden within this apparently formless template – The album’s climax, ‘River Rd’, has roots deep in Southern Gothic, while ‘Nails’ and ‘Sauerkraut’ are built around the impressive jazz chops of drummer Lauri Reponen.
Oui Ennui – Occupe-toi de tes oignons
Signing off this month with a hat tip to Jonn Wallen, a.k.a Oui Ennui, one of the more quietly indefatigable figures of the pandemic, who has put out a release on every Bandcamp Friday since we started. His work has taken in a protean range of styles and concepts, from psycho-geographic nostalgia to character sketches of the animal imagination and his free-wheeling, confessional liner notes and regular newsletter updates are often miniature works of art in themselves. Wallen is a ceaselessly inventive figure who should be commanding much wider recognition.
April’s track ‘Piggy (demo)’ was a particularly enthralling bit of dirty funk, and this month finds him taking a journey into sound on an itinerary that includes, Shamen-esque dancefloor bangers, ethereal soul, spectral interludes and lashings of Francophilia. The title alludes to a French expression that is usually translated as ‘mind your own business’. My advice? Don’t do that. Go and get right up in Oui Ennui’s business, he’s a bloody diamond. The eight tracks here are presented as a kind of summation and reflection upon the alchemical process he’s undergone in a year of isolation, although it’s very far from being a bleak tale of loneliness and woe – rather an optimistic rounding-off of a sustained period of creativity and resiliance. Be inspired.
And that’s it from me. Apologies to anyone I’ve left out – there was so much great music to cover this month and so little time. Comments, as always, are open if anyone wants to plug their stuff, call out my bullshit or rant incoherently.