Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Sault ‎– Untitled (Rise) (2020)

Genre: Rock, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Forever Living Originals

01.   Strong
02.   Fearless
03.   Rise
04.   I Just Want To Dance
05.   Street Fighter
06.   Son Shine
07.   Rise Intently
08.   The Beginning & The End
09.   Free
10.   You Know It Ain't
11.   Uncomfortable
12.   No Black Violins In London
13.   Scary Times
14.   The Black & Gold
15.   Little Boy
Over the last two years, Sault’s music has arrived out of the blue: no interviews, no photos, no videos, no live appearances, no Wikipedia entry, a perfunctory and entirely non-interactive social media presence. Physical copies of their three previous albums have credited Inflo as producer – otherwise best-known as the producer of Little Simz’ Grey Area and co-writer of Michael Kiwanuka’s Black Man in a White World, each of which won him an Ivor Novello award. Kiwanuka got a guest artist credit on their last album, Untitled (Black Is), released in June. So did Laurette Josiah, the founder of a north London children’s charity, who it turns out is Leona Lewis’s aunt. The only other available fact is that proceeds from the album “will be going to charitable funds”. Speculation about the collective’s other members has neither been confirmed nor denied, nor has anyone claimed responsibility for music that’s thus far been rapturously received on both sides of the Atlantic.

You could decry this approach as counterproductive. Perhaps a higher profile, a modicum of desire to play the game, might have helped turn Wildfires, the exquisite and excoriating standout from Untitled (Black Is), into the hit it deserved to be. Yet Sault seem to use the time they save by not promoting their albums or engaging with the public profitably. Untitled (Rise) is not only their fourth album in 18 months, it’s their second double album in just over 12 weeks. It’s a work rate that would seem remarkable at any point in pop history, but feels positively astonishing today, compounded by the fact that its predecessor gave the impression of having been largely written and recorded in response to the murder of George Floyd, less than a month before it was released. Pop history is littered with swiftly released singles reacting to events in the news – two of them made No 1 during the Covid-19 lockdown – but you struggle to think of an entire album doing so, let alone one as good as Untitled (Black Is).

Its successor matches those high standards. It’s more obviously dancefloor-focused – its influences shifting from house to disco, from the perspiration-soaked post-punk funk of The Beginning & the End to Son Shine’s smooth 80s boogie, without ever sounding like a knowingly retro homage – and the overall mood has turned from sorrow and soothing to empowerment and resistance. There are tracks with names such as Street Fighter and Rise Intently (the latter an interlude based on an army drill chant); lyrics that urge “we are survivors, we are the titans” and “don’t ever stop for nothing”. Even the apprehensive-sounding Scary Times, where electric piano and luscious orchestration is undercut by a weirdly ominous rhythm that appears to be constructed from the echo-drenched sound of a plectrum hitting bass guitar strings, ends on a defiant call: “Don’t let them make you lose yourself.”

Straight away you realise you’re in the presence of something special. The first three songs function as brilliantly constructed dance tracks and keep messing with the listener’s emotions. Strong features beats spiked with explosions of dubby echo, an intricate mesh of Nile Rodgers-ish guitar and a terrific breakdown inspired by Brazilian batucada percussion. You could take its lyrics as straightforward paeans to dancefloor transcendence – “we’re moving forward tonight … we want better tonight” – but, as a later, noticeably more caustic track puts it, you know they ain’t, particularly in the light of what follows. Fearless is supremely funky, but the flurries of disco strings don’t communicate excitement so much as anxiety, the words shifting from defiance to something more troubled: “And it hurts on the inside.”

I Just Want to Dance, meanwhile, really is a paean to dancefloor transcendence, but it never allows you to forget what the song’s protagonist might be attempting to escape: the sound is claustrophobic and clattering, the words demanding “why do my people always die?”. There’s a great, jarring moment where the whole thing skids to a halt – like someone hitting the stop button on a turntable – before grinding back to life, the beat temporarily, disorientatingly out of time.

From its fierce opening salvo to its deceptively mellow conclusion – the sweetness of Little Boy’s piano-led melody, vocal delivery and children’s choir countered by the righteous anger in its lyrics – Untitled (Rise) hardly yields highlights because the quality never wavers: whoever’s involved, it feels like they’ve been galvanised to the top of their game. It manages to be as lyrically unflinching as the music is compelling – not the easiest balance to achieve, as acres of terrible protest songs historically attest. You’d call it the album of the year if its predecessor wasn’t just as good.
Alex Petridis / The Guardian

Sault ‎– Untitled (Black Is) (2020)

Genre: Rock, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Forever Living Originals

01.   Out The Lies
02.   Stop Dem
03.   Hard Life
04.   Don't Shoot Guns Down
05.   Wildfires
06.   X
07.   Sorry Ain't Enough
08.   Black Is
09.   Bow
10.   This Generation
11.   Why We Cry When We Die
12.   Black
13.   Us
14.   Eternal Life
15.   Only Synth In Church
16.   Monsters
17.   June Child
18.   Miracles
19.   Hold Me
20.   Pray Up Stay Up

Producer – Inflo

Stop the clocks. This is the album of the year. This is the zeitgeist.

Who is/are Sault? In this digital age, these times where nothing is private, how have their true identities been kept secret? Last year saw him/her/the band release two albums, 5 and 7, both of which were critically acclaimed. They have followed it up with Untitled (Black Is) and their identities remain a mystery.

We do know that it was produced by enigmatic London producer, Inflo, who has previously collaborated with Michael Kiwanuka (who features on this album) and Little Simz. Beyond that, we don’t know very much at all.

Does it matter? Does it make any difference if we know who is behind this project? When it comes to Untitled (Black Is)…no. It doesn’t matter. Not one jot. What is important is the fact that Sault have produced fifty-six minutes of sheer, unadulterated brilliance, hitting heights that no-one else has in 2020.

Moreover, they have done it by producing an album that speaks to the times like no other. Let’s put the pandemic to one side for a moment and deal with that other horrific open wound on society.

Since the unnecessary and brutal death of George Floyd on May 25th this year, right minded people, black and white, have been fighting back. After centuries of discrimination, Black people (and hopefully all of civil society), are not going to take it anymore.

Untitled (Black Is) is an album that is entirely concerned with putting things right. But unlike artists who have courageously tread this path before, like Public Enemy, this is a call-to-action, not a call-to-arms. It cries out for jaw-jaw, not war-war.

“Put the guns down”, it implores. It takes all of the rage and anger and frustration that has been welling up for generations and channels it more eloquently, constructively and thoughtfully, without diluting the impact, than anything that has come before.

Throughout, the message never wavers. It maintains its stance every step of the way. But it’s critically important to call out that this album is about more than just the words. It is a musical landmark and should be recognised for that just as much as it is as a piece of social commentary.

The music, which is like a rich compendium of the very best of black music through the decades, weaves a wonderful path through a diverse range of sub-genres. Untitled (Black Is) is a veritable melting pot, from the hip-hop of Hard Life through the hot buttered soul of Sorry Ain’t Enough to the afro-beats of Bow, featuring Michael Kiwanuka.

From several short but powerful spoken word pieces, through the Sly Stone like grooves of Black, from the gospel of Eternal Life to the doo-wop/Prince-esque soul ballad (yes, really) of Miracles, this is an album that has it all.

Untitled (Black Is) takes There’s A Riot Goin’ On, fuses it with Innervisions and blends in a chunk of Sign o’ the Times. All with the social commentary of What’s Going On. And I don’t say any of that lightly.

It all begins with what sounds like playground chanting on Out The Lies. The track shifts down a gear dramatically as a mournful piano takes over. A voice speaks and tells us that “Black is safety/Black is Benevolence/Black endures”.

This segues into the psych-soul of Stop Dem. The playground chants return, imploring “Even though we know that you fear us/That ain’t no reason to kill us”. It’s an incendiary opening and the dichotomy between the child-like voices and the brutal reality of the lyrics is quite stunning.

Following Hard Life, we have the chant-based Don’t Shoot Guns Down. “Don’t shoot/I’m innocent”, pleads the vocal, over a sparse percussive beat and an ominous police siren.

The message runs through the entire album, all fifty-six minutes of it. The contradiction we encounter at the beginning keeps returning. On the album’s two solid gold pop bangers – Wildfire and the absolutely delicious Monsters – you will not be able to stop yourself dancing with sheer elation as the beats take hold and force you to move your body. And you realise that you are grooving joyfully whilst the lyrics teach us that “Everyone’s scared to look ‘cause they fear/The monster under the bed”. We conclude that the message isn’t always in your face and at times it can be extremely subtle and wrapped in the most delicious melody.

Something else that it’s important to call out is the fact that the message isn’t always reflective and reactive. On several of the songs, Sault look to the future with incredible optimism. It’s positive, empowering and full of hope. It envisages a future where the world isn’t like this anymore and I found that aspect of the album incredibly inspiring.

It’s little things, like on Hard Life where the vocal sings “Things are gonna change” and “Finally we’ve reached the end” and “Everyday we shine for eternal life” on Eternal Life. Overall, Untitled (Black Is) takes a very sombre and serious issue and makes you believe that if people pay attention to it and act accordingly, the world can be a better place. It leaves you in no doubt that when it comes to equality, we’re in a bad place right now and have been for a long, long time. But it also makes you believe that it can be fixed and it does that without sounding like motherhood and apple pie.

I haven’t heard anything else with such clarity of message, topicality or musical brilliance this year.

In short, this is the zeitgeist. This is the album of the year. Stop the clocks.
Gordon Rutherford / Louther Than War

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Rasputin's Stash ‎– Rasputin's Stash (1971)

Genre: Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Atlantic, Cotillion, Rhino Records

01.   Your Love Is Certified
02.   I'd Like To Know You Better
03.   What's On Your Mind
04.   Take Me On Back
05.   Mr. Cool
06.   You Better Think
07.   Freaks Prayer
08.   Prelude
09.   Dookey Shoe
10.   You Are My Flower
11.   I Want To Say You're Welcome
12.   Epilogue

Reeds – James Whitfield
Bass, Vocals – Bruce Butler
Brass – Wardell Peel
Congas, Percussion – Norval Taylor
Drums, Percussion – Frank Donaldson
Keyboards, Vocals – Paul Coleman, Vincent Willis
Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Vocals – Martin Dumas, Jr.
Strings, Arranged By – Vincent Willis
Horns, Arranged By – Howie Albert, Rasputin's Stash, Ron Albert
Arranged By, Producer – Andy Pappas, Howie Albert, Rasputin's Stash, Ron Albert

Chicago soul brothers Rasputin's Stash didn't hit the big time, but their quality funk deserves to be resurrected and enjoyed by future generations. What the band lacks in imaginative vocal styling, they more than make up for with instrumental prowess. Rasputin's Stash plays with a perfect combination of street-smart grit, professional level chops, and drug-savvy freakiness, rocking a funk that has proven popular with latter-day beat samplers. "Your Love Is Certified" leads off the debut, and it's the strongest cut, undeniable dancefloor bait with countrified slide guitar and a bracing horn arrangement. Keyboardist Vincent Willis wrote the tune and takes lead vocals, delivering silly lyrics like "Hey baby, when you come to me/I don't worry, 'cause it's C.O.D." with conviction, and it should have been a hit. The rest of the LP gets more progressive, surveying territory similar to what fellow travelers Funkadelic were exploring at the time (though without the sheer abandon of that amazing combo). "What's on Your Mind," "You Better Think," and "I Want to Say You're Welcome" are energetic pieces with great ensemble playing, but while quieter numbers like "Take Me Back" and "You Are My Flower" are well built, the lyrics and vocal performances are a bit banal. The tracks with the most personality are a pair of hamhock-funky character studies that drip with greasy charm. After a brief spoken introduction from two jive cats sucking noisily on a joint, "Mr. Cool" slides in slow like the baddest pimp in the pool hall. Our hero brags about making it with "the president's old lady," displays his dark shades and white car, then claims to have been the first man on the moon. The chorus is marked with the declaration, "No jive/Gimme five," followed by an audible slap (later borrowed for the Beck song "High Five"). "Dookey Shoe" is more of the same, except this time the singer is preoccupied with his irresistible appeal to the women, being as he is a "nasty, nasty man" with a "dirty, funky plan in my hand." The camp factor of these tunes has grown over the years, but Rasputin's Stash was clearly out for laughs in the first place. There's a lot for serious funk mavens to play with in these grooves, and afro fetishists will probably want to buy a frame for the cover.
Fred Beldin / AllMusic

Monday, 28 September 2020

Brian Bennett ‎– Rock Dreams / Voyage (1997)

Genre: Electronic, Rock, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: See For Miles Records Ltd.

01.   Rock Dreams (Introduction)
02.   Rock & Roll Dreamer
03.   Banja Booga
04.   Rave On
05.   Milwaukee Massacre
06.   C'mom Everybody
07.   Thunderbolt
08.   Saturday Night Special
09.   The Girls Back Home
10.   Wallop
11.   Farewell To A Friend
12.   Drum Odyssey
13.   Rock Dreams (Finale)
14.   Voyage
15.   Solstice
16.   Chain Reaction
17.   Pendulum Force
18.   Air Quake
19.   Ocean Glide

Guitar (Bass) - Alan Jones
Keyboards - Francis Monkman
Arranger, Composer, Percussion, Performer, Producer - Brian Bennett

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Hiroshi Yoshimura ‎– Wet Land (1993)

Style: New Age
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Eastworld

1.    Wet Land
2.   Singing Stream (Spring Mix)
3.   Heart Land
4.   Ka Wa Mo
5.   Mist
6.   Rain Dance (Rain Mix)
7.   Dawn
8.   Humming Water

Composed By – Hiroshi Yoshimura
Performer – Hiroshi Yoshimura

This is a superb ambient album above par in its genre! You have beautiful environmental soundscapes accompanied by perfectly chosen synth sounds to accompany the zen like ebb and flow of the nature sounds. Ive only owned and listened to his cd Green on the now defunct Sona Gaia label here in the US. It was the ONLY Yoshimura album available on cd and not until the 00's did I realize his catalog was much deeper. This ones a little more developed with some tracks almost having a lite trance like quality with baselines etc but nowhere does it remotely come to dance music its just a bit more hypnotic!
 I hope one day some brave label will re-release his catalog on CD for the rest of the world to rediscover.
 Expansive09 / Discogs

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Attilio Mineo ‎– Man In Space With Sounds (1962)

Genre: Electronic
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Subliminal Sounds, Modern Harmonic

A1.   Welcome To Tomorrow
A2.   Gateway To Heaven
A3.   Soaring Science
A4.   Mile-A-Minute Monorail
A5.   Around The World
A6.   Century 21
B1.   Man In Art
B2.   The Queen City
B3.   Man Sees The Future
B4.   Boeing Spacearium
B5.   Science Of Tomorrow
B6.   Space Age World's Fair
Conductor – Attilio Mineo
Music By, Effects – Thomas J. Valentino, Inc.

Man In Space With Sounds is one of those legendary LPs many have heard about but few have ever actually heard or seen. A rare souvenir of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, this music served as the soundtrack to a ride called the Bubbleator, which transported fair visitors through an overview of the future, a technological utopia where science and space travel promised solutions to all of humanity’s plights. Needless to say, that future never arrived and this music (actually recorded in the early 1950s) still sounds as futuristic today as it must have back then.. The amazing aural and visual content of this endearing package transcend everything. A rare, sought-after gem made accessible at a reasonable price. 
The all-original compositions fall somewhere between nervous Philip Glass and 1950s sci-fi movie music, arranged with string orchestra in a sometimes rhythmic, polyrhythmic, or merely ambient cloud of odd electronic space noises. Despite its intended technological optimism, the music is quite heavy and menacing, and the future ultimately feels pretty scary. Regardless, this recording proves Attilio Mineo to be an unbelievably progressive and underappreciated composer and arranger.

Friday, 25 September 2020

Takashi Kokubo ‎– Oasis Of The Wind II ~ A Story Of Forest And Water (1993)

Style: Ambient, New Age, Field Recording
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Studio Ion

1.   Mori no mezame ("Awakening of the forest")
2.   Natsu no kioku ("Summer memory")
3.   Haruka naru aoi hoshi ("Distant blue star")

Mastered By – Shinichi Kikuchi
Producer, Composed By, Arranged By, Mixed By – Takashi Kokubo

Takashi Kokubo (小久保隆) released ten albums over the course of 1992-93 in what is called the "Ion Series". These ten albums were released in two five-album sub-series, one in 1992 and one in 1993. This album is the first part of the latter sub-series released in 1993, making it the sixth album in the Ion Series.

Da Chick ‎– Conversations With The Beat (2020)

Genre: Electronic, Hip Hop, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Discotexas 

1.   conversations
2.   sente
3.   do your thang
4.   377
5.   mustang
6.   drum rack
7.   watch me go
8.   okay away
9.   less is more

Singer, songwriter and recent producer of her own music on 'conversations with the beat', Da Chick keeps mutating in search of freedom and new ways to express her vision and creativity. " 'conversations with the beat' comes from the need to create music at my rhythm, but also from my curiosity to explore sounds and noises messing around with machines and instruments and evolving with them over time". Always very mindful about her image, videos and performances on stage Da Chick speaks to us not only with melodies and words, but also with colors and visual dreams. From Electro to Disco, from Boogie to Dub, from singing to producing music, Da Chick seems to be just getting started on a long journey through her music and soul. 'conversations with the beat' will be out on Discotexas on February 28th 2020.

Agora podemos confirmar o que já suspeitávamos, Da Chick ergueu-se como uma verdadeira revelação e prova máxima de que com de dedicação e força de vontade conseguimos explorar os limites do nosso talento. E o resultado não poderia ter sido algo mais refrescante do que o que “conversations with the beat” tem para oferecer.

Sucessor do álbum “Chick to Chick” de 2015 (produzido por colegas da Discotexas – Moullinex, Xinobi, Cut Slack e Isac Ace) e do EP “Call Me Foxy” de 2017 (co-produzido pelo produtor francês Saintard), ambos donos de um som funk mais caloroso e explosivo, o novo lançamento de Da Chick opta por seguir um caminho diferente. Os sons mais relaxados e fluídos borbulharam à superfície das sensibilidades da artista, possivelmente como fruto da liberdade que sentiu como produtora e por este ter sido a sua primeira experiência a gravar em casa e não em estúdio.

À primeira vista, “conversations with the beat” parece ser uma conquista de novos sons, mas para ouvidos mais atentos, a atração de Da Chick pela sonoridade aqui apresentada já era palpável e esteve sempre presente, como nas canções ‘Miss Darkness’ e ‘Until Night Is Day’ do seu primeiro álbum. Mas os ritmos abrandaram e as pausas aumentaram como nunca anteriormente, e o detalhe com que Da Chick preenche cada momento do álbum parece o negativo da fotografia que a carreira dela tinha colorido até agora.

A conquista do desconhecido e o abraçar do desconfortável neste projeto conduziram ao amadurecimento de Da Chick como artista, e se estar em conversa com a batida é o presente dela, já ansiamos por um passo ainda mais ambicioso no futuro.  
Inês Pinto / Revista Variações

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Strawberry Switchblade ‎– Strawberry Switchblade (1985)

Style: Synth-pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Korova, WEA Records

A1.   Since Yesterday
A2.   Deep Water
A3.   Another Day
A4.   Little River
A5.   10 James Orr Street
B1.   Let Her Go
B2.   Who Knows What Love Is?
B3.   Go Away
B4.   Secrets
B5.   Who Knows What Love Is? (Reprise)
B6.   Being Cold

Tippy Tappy Drums – Boris Williams
Keyboards – Alan Park, Phil Thornalley
Keyboards, Electronic Drums – David Motion
Lead Vocals, Guitar, Written-By – Rose McDowall
Percussion – Dave Morris
Sequenced By, Keyboards – Garry Hutchins
Trumpet – Bruce Nockles
Vocals, Guitar, Written-By – Jill Bryson
Strings And Woodwinds Arrangements – David Bedford
Producer, Arranged By – David Motion 

Whilst the alternative music scene now appears to be fragmented, lacking definition, detached from any robust ethos and not residing in any zeitgeist zone, music back in the 80s was an exciting and colourful place, saturated in youth culture. It was a post-punk explosion, a new wave of synth-pop, new romantics, gender bending and a distorted celebration, of dark wave goth noise-pop, lost in a world of dream-pop, whilst wistfully shoegazing at the stars.

In the midst of the dry-ice sugar-pop were a band which came out on the back end of the Punk scene, while embracing  the independent spirit of Glasgow. Whilst Glasgow gave us Postcard Records, it also gave us Strawberry Switchblade, whose blend of bittersweet, exotic and ethereal music was very much a hybrid of synth-pop and dark wave goth. Visually stunning, Strawberry Switchblade comprised of Rose McDowall on lead vocals and Jill Bryson on vocals and guitar, and whose bubble-gum giesha goth, polka dots, bows ribbons, flowers and Siren-esque appeal  mirrored their offbeat, idiosyncratic and colourful musical palette.

Harmonic Goddesses, both McDowall and Bryson collectively produced some amazing songs, which delved deep into the goth psyche and conveyed a sensitivity, which was delicate and  jubilant in equal measures. They were a band whose eponymous album, “Strawberry Switchblade”, was an intermix of dizzy, intricate and chaotic synths, which polga jumped and hopscotched  on rainbows, amongst the unicorns and fairies whilst quietly dancing in the rain.

Released in April 1985, the album contained the hit song “Since Yesterday”, which reached number 5 in the UK charts. Along with “Let Her Go” and “Who Knows What Love Is”, Strawberry  Switchblade’s appeal stretched out further afield, proving to be very popular in Japan. In view of this, Strawberry Switchblade released a Japanese edition of the album in 1997, containing B-sides, remixes and previously unreleased songs, which included “Trees and Flowers” and  a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”.

Błoto ‎– Kwiatostan (2020)

Genre: Jazz
Format: Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Astigmatic Records

           Kwiaty Rolne
A01.   Rumianek
A02.   Rzepień
A03.   Mak
A04.   Oset
A05.   Mlecz
           Kwiaty Ogrodowe
B06.   Kaczeńce
B07.   Chryzantema
B08.   Jaśmin
B09.   Chabry
B10.   Hortensja
B11.   Niezapominajka

Bass Guitar, Synthesizer – Wuja HZG
Drums, Percussion, Electronics – Cancer G
Piano, Synthesizer – Latarnik
Saxophones: Tenor, Alto, Sopranino; Electronic Wind Instrument, Percussion – Książę Saxonii

Despite the COVID-19 outbreak disrupting promotional and concert plans of the band Błoto, the three pressings of the debut album ‘Erozje’ have quickly sold out. Instead of leaving fans with old (recorded in 2018) material, the quartet decided to build the momentum and release the second album in 2020, entitled ‘Kwiatostan’ (‘Inflorescence’).

The streets of Warsaw in the first half of 2020 smelled of rain, disinfectant and electrical tension, caused by storms that broke out repeatedly. The black door of the elevator leading to the newly opening Jassmine club was reflected in the puddles. The faces of people passing by were covered with masks, and in street noise, one could hear the soft pulse of bass coming from somewhere below the ground... Two floors below, four musicians known from the EABS group met for the first time since the global pandemic began.

Based on the collective improvisation, they recorded their new material for three days. Despite their previous success, the team did not try to recreate proven patents from ‘Erozje’, but rather treated them as a starting point. We can still hear the influence of the golden era’s hip-hop, but this time the inspiration goes deeper to the connotations with club music (house, juke), and everything, as usual, is based on jazz music. Anthony Mills' unexpected cameo in his rap incarnation as Toni Sauna completes the album entitled ‘Kwiatostan’.

It cannot be ignored that the entire globe at the beginning of the 21st century stinks of smog, tear gas used to break up protests, and the sour sweat of politicians. The earth is eroding not only due to water, wind, sun or gravity, but mainly as a result of human activity. The Błoto quartet communicated these problems on their first album. It turned out that we operate in a world in which the cover of ‘Erosion' quickly turned out to be prophetic. Inflorescence grows on the ruins of a world devastated by erosion - a new system of branching shoots ending with flowers. In 2020, most of the petals, pistils and stamens are surprisingly pale as they are constantly suppressed by the system in which they thrive, preventing flowers their lush colours and right to diversity. Just like police states that keep an eye on society. ‘System’ is a keyword around which Błoto’s second album revolves.

Błoto’s new album - ‘Kwiatostan’ will be released on September 11, 2020, on Astigmatic Records in collaboration with the Jassmine club in Warsaw. The album will be available on a unique vinyl, limited to 600 copies, and on all streaming platforms. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Roy Ayers ‎– Silver Vibrations (1983)

Genre: Electronic, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Uno Melodic Records, BBE

1.   Chicago
2.   Lots Of Love
3.   Keep On Movin'
4.   Silver Vibrations
5.   Smiling With Our Eyes
6.   D.C. City
7.   Good Good Music

Mastered By – Frank Merritt

There is a compelling emotion of goodwill that always weaves itself into the tapestry of whatever genre of music Roy Ayers chooses to create. The LA raised Vibes sovereign, who was bestowed with a set of vibraphone mallets by the foremost master of the instrument Lionel Hampton at age five, has constructed several mini-careers by pushing the edges of jazz forward since the '70s. His forming the group Ubiquity, which literally means the fact of being everywhere, allowed him to pursue all the connections that jazz has to soul, R&B, funk, and disco. Connectivity that later in the '90s would give him proper credit as being the godfather of neo-soul, house, acid-jazz and a canon that provided the building sample blocks for boom bap era, hip-hop.

Silver Vibrations, the heavily sought-after 1983 album by Ayers thought of as his last great focused project in that era which combined equal parts commercial viability and artistic complexity. Commanding upwards of three figures on Discogs, it's finally being reissued on vinyl for the first time by BBE Records. It stands as the truest chronicle, reporting where black music was at in the early Eighties and its trajectory to come.

At the top of the decade, while browsing the landscape of a post-disco America, Ayres switched up his production list into a worksheet of boogie compositions and string-laden grooves. Chicago, the global classic, that not only pre-dates the term ‘house music’ but in turn lays out the structure and foundation the music would grow from, is featured in its extended seven-minute version. With its sample-like loop formation, minor-key chord structure and kick drum. It elongates this slippery funk into something just a bit more than a catchy tune. We get Genre. Silver Vibrations-the sleek r&b dance track showcasing Ayers magical vibe skills-feels like something Dr Dre would sample or a production Dam-Funk would create. ‘DC City’, a kissing cousin of Ubiquity's original recording of The Third Eye, is a mellow summer night type dedication to Chocolate City.

While there are moments on ‘Lots of Love’ and ‘Keep On Movin’ where Ayers refuses to give up the hedonistic Seventies ghost, a HEAVY post-disco effect on this record, with that slippery boogie sound working its way into the zeitgeist, cannot be ignored. This abridged version morphed into new R&B. And Ayers maneuvered through all these musical developments like he was parking a car. Focused on staying relevant to the kids, he created a teaching manual. Thirty years in advance.
John-Paul Shiver / Drowned In Sound

Martyn ‎– Voids (2018)

Style: Dubstep, UK Garage, Drum n Bass
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Ostgut Ton

1.   Voids One
2.   Manchester
3.   Mind Rain
4.   Nya
5.   Why
6.   Try To Love You
7.   Cutting Tone
8.   World Gate
9.   Voids Two

Mastered By – Rob Thomas
Written-By, Producer – M. Deykers

Sometimes life is simply about surviving. From setbacks to tragedies, some days can be just about perseverance and steadfast endurance. For Netherlands-born DJ Martyn, another day in the studio almost ended in tragedy as, while working alone, he suffered a heart attack stemming from a known congenital heart problem. Such a seismic physical shock has, understandably, had a profound psychological effect on him, both in his outlook on life and in his approach to his work.

It probably won't come as a massive surprise, therefore, that Voids is not a lighthearted, bright and breezy listen. Rather it is reflective of an artist who has survived a life-changing trauma and, in doing so, visited the very darkest places a mind can go. It's also a reminder that to survive and indeed, thrive, is to remember what is important in life and to extirpate those wasteful, extraneous aspects that drag us down and hold us back. To cast them aside. Consign them to the void.

Glitchy opener "Voids One" acts like a little taster to what follows as Martyn cuts and splices atmospheric samples and sounds, forming them into a murky, sonic collage which he ties together with a simple melody that draws in the listener. The superb "Manchester" is a fitting tribute to British producer and DJ Marcus Intalex who passed away last year. With a techno meets post-dubstep feel, it's a song brimming with hooks and ideas. From the spoken word sample that directly addresses the passing of Intalex to the fresh, uncluttered production, it's a mesmerizing track that promises to be a staple of the club scene for years to come.

One of the key characteristics of the album is Martyn's ability to layer, intricate, dextrous percussion. On "Mind Rain" huge, dark, almost industrial synth chords are supported by a knotted web of polyrhythmic percussion. The techno meets jungle "Mya" features a taut, propulsive beat that allows Martyn to set swarming synths against each other as if locked in perpetual battle.

The almost tribal rhythms of "Why" give the track a feeling of sustained motion. Coupled with vivid, ambient swirls which are randomly interrupted by shuddering synth chords like a freight train suddenly speeding past. "Try to Love You" hypnotizes with a four-note, low piano motif before graceful piano playing gently shakes you awake. The mournful tone gives the album extra depth.

"Cutting Tone" is an enormous, dancefloor banger that mixes classic house and drum 'n' bass and finds Martyn artfully experimenting with his use of space, sounding, as it does, like it was recorded in an aircraft hanger. The steady work out of "World Gate" is another track made for big spaces. Like a boxer sparring with a punchbag, the beat reverberates through the track with tape loops that flood the senses before gently retreating. The suitably misty, haunting conclusion to the record extends the dark, moody atmospherics of the opening track but this time with added breakbeats.

Naturally, considering what has happened to Martyn there is a melancholy that courses through Voids but this is by no mean a bleak album. While at times the atmosphere is stiflingly claustrophobic, there is always a glimmer of hope, a shaft of light to lift the mood. The intense and emotionally enlightening experience that shaped the making of the album sees Martyn drawing from his own musical history, from garage and post-dubstep to trance and drum n bass to create a gritty, forward facing record. A lasting testament to survival.
Paul Carr / popMATTERS

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Fibrja – Âmago (EP) (2020)

Genre: Electronic
Format: FLAC
Label: Not On Label

1.   Cidadela
2.   Âmago
3.   Terramar
4.   Magdallene

Written, composed, produced, mixed, and mastered by - Fibrja

After releasing two song-based EPs, one about the ephemerality of the human condition and the other concerning political themes, I decided to focus on creating instrumental soundscapes.
My new EP, “âmago” (portuguese for 'core', 'heart', 'essence', 'soul') tells the tale of Magdallene, a fair maiden who lived in Cidadela - a magical place. When war comes upon Cidadela, its inhabitants are forced to flee the ruined city, in search of a distant and utopic island - Terramar.
Fibrja / bandcamp

Comateens ‎– Pictures On A String (1983)

Style: New Wave, Synth-pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Mercury, Virgin Records, Jupiter Records

A1.   Get Off My Case
A2.   The Late Mistake
A3.   Ice Machine
A4.   Comateens
A5.   Pictures On A String
A6.   Garbanzo
B1.   Uptown
B2.   Cinnamon
B3.   Cold Eyes
B4.   Desert Song
B5.   Donna
B6.   Crime Time

Bass, Vocals – Nic North
Guitar, Vocals – Oliver North
Keyboards, Vocals – Lyn Byrd
Mastered By – George Peckham
Producer, Engineer – Norman Mighell

Bohannon ‎– Stop & Go (1973)

Genre: Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Dakar Records, Solid Records

1.   The Stop And Go
2.   Getting To The Other Side
3.   The Pimp Walk
4.   Run It On Down Mr. D.J.
5.   Save Their Souls
6.   Singing A Song For My Mother
7.   It's Time For Peace
8.   Happiness

Bass – Eddie Watkins
Electric Piano – Rod Lumpkins
Guitar – "Wah Wah Watson", Ray Parker
Guitar, Bongos, Spoons – Leroy Emanuel
Organ – Mose Davis
Percussion – Leslie Bass
Electric Violin – Travis Biggs
Vocals – The Haywood Singers
Flute, Tenor Saxophone – Danny Turner (Also Known As Dangerous Dan)
Producer, Arranged By, Conductor, Drums, Percussion, Written-By – Hamilton Bohannon

Hamilton Bohannon's finest record concocts sensuous funk grooves from daring arrangements boasting tripped-out wah-wah guitars, punishing basslines, and massive drum breaks. In short, a sampler's wet dream. While later Bohannon discs would veer too far into the realm of up-tempo disco, Stop and Go favors slower, sexier rhythms. Add in the chorus vocals of the Haywood Sisters on tracks like "Run It on Down, Mr. D.J." and the remarkable "Singing a Song for My Father," and the end result is the kind of uncommonly lush and tactile funk album R. Kelly would skip recess to make.
Jason Ankeny / AllMusic 

Monday, 21 September 2020

The Fall ‎– This Nation's Saving Grace (1985)

Style: Alternative Rock, New Wave
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Beggars Banquet

01.   Mansion
02.   Bombast
03.   Barmy
04.   What You Need
05.   Spoilt Victorian Child
06.   L.A.
07.   Vixen
08.   Couldn't Get Ahead
09.   Gut Of The Quantifier
10.   My New House
11.   Paint Work
12.   I Am Damo Suzuki
13.   To Nk Roachment : Yarbles
14.   Petty Thief Lout
15.   Rollin' Dany
16.   Cruisers Creek

Band, Bass – Stephen Hanley
Band, Drums – Karl Burns
Band, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar, Bass – Simon Rogers
Band, Lead Guitar, Vocals – Brix Smith
Band, Rhythm Guitar – Craig Scanlon
Band, Vocals, Violin, Guitar – Mark E. Smith
Producer – John Leckie, Leckie, M.E.S., Rogers

Mark E. Smith has a reputation for being an irascible drunk, a miserable misanthrope, and a disagreeable bandmate. He’s the only permanent member of The Fall, whose lineup has changed so many times, it’s been a completely different band, several times over. Yet, Smith is The Fall. It’s his songs that drive the band’s albums. It’s his cantankerous and garbled delivery that sets them apart. Musically, however, the band was always traveling in an exciting direction, playing jangly post-punk on early records like Live From the Witch Trials, more recently taking on glam-inspired, yet dirty stompers. Yet the band hit their stride in the mid-80s during a time known as `The Brix Period,’ named for the band’s then-guitarist, and Smith’s wife at the time. During this period, The Fall recorded several of their greatest albums, including The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall, Bend Sinister, and the album that has come to be known as the greatest of their career, This Nation’s Saving Grace.

This Nation’s Saving Grace marks a true high point for the band, mixing confident and strong musicianship with knockout songwriting. While the band had previously mastered the fine art of messy and dissonant post-punk chaos, this line-up had taken it to a more accessible realm, albeit one still arty and strongly independent. After a short instrumental in “Mansion,” the band brashly announces their presence with the explosive “Bombast.” As gruff and as confrontational as ever, Mark E. Smith shouts with venom, “Bastard! Idiot! Feel the wrath of my bombast!” over a loud and thoroughly rocking backing. And more of Smith’s random bursts of genius erupt in “Barmy,” where he declares, “Out of England I dream of its creamery/when I’m here I dwell on Saxony.”

Though by no means straightforward, “Spoilt Victorian Child” is full of rock `n’ roll swagger, propelled by Brix’s awesome riffs and Mark’s sideways delivery, ultimately resulting in him spelling out “E-N-C-Y-C-L-O-pedia.” Yet “LA,” slightly mellower and darker, finds Mark E. Smith showing an incredible amount of vocal restraint on this almost-instrumental track. Musically, it has a dark, synth-propelled groove, making it one of the most accessible tracks on the album, followed by one of the most abrasive—”Gut of the Quantifier,” a glam-inspired stomp with repeated cries of “stick it in the mud/stick it in the gut.” An almost rockabilly swing style drives “My New House,” another rollicking standout.

“Paint Work” is one of the strangest songs on the album, an acoustic track paired with sampled voices, an organ melody, a drum machine and Smith’s indecipherable mumbles. On “I Am Damo Suzuki,” the band pays tribute to Can frontman Damo Suzuki, borrowing melodies from the band and dropping references to their songs in the lyrics, such as “what have you got in that paper bag? Is it vitamin C?” As tributes go, it’s a bizarre one, but a damn good one, making it a true Fall essential. The short, eerie “To NKroachment: Yarbles” closes off the album with a haunting bassline and bizarre layers of effects.

Cassette and CD versions expanded on this eleven-track version of the album, adding the rockabilly, Brix-sung “Vixen” and the melancholy jangler, “Petty Thief (Lout).” And in 1988, three singles released around the time of the album were tacked on to the tracklist: the careening punk rock death-ride “Couldn’t Get Ahead,” the ’50s-ish singalong “Rollin’ Dany,” and the awesome, abrasive rocker “Cruisers Creek.” These five tracks have become so inseparable from the original, that it’s easy to forget that they weren’t originally there. In any case, they’re absolute must-haves.

The Brix period didn’t last all that long, she and Mark eventually getting divorced. And as a result, Mark penned the vicious “Sing, Harpy!” in 1990. It might just be that Mark E. Smith isn’t meant to be a married, domestic man. And I can’t imagine him being one. Rather, he’s the frontman of one of the greatest, most inconsistent, most unpredictable and strangest bands in history. With 25 studio albums, there are several that achieve a greatness similar to that of This Nation’s Saving Grace, but it’s still at the top of the pyramid, displaying the best that the post-punk legends had to offer.
Jeff Terich / TREBLE

EP-4 ‎– Lingua Franca-1 (1983)

Genre: Electronic, Jazz, Rock, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: WRWTFWW, Columbia, Solid Records

1.   Robothood Process
2.   The Frump Jump
3.   Similar
4.   Coconut
5.   E-Power
6.   Talkin' Trash
7.   Broken Bi-Psycle
8.   Tide Gauge

Bass – Ko Sakuma
Drums – Tohru Sanjo
Guitar – Tatsuo Kohki
Keyboards, Tape – Banana 
Voice – Kaoru Sato

WRWTFWW Records is extremely excited to present the official reissue of cult album Lingua Franca-1 (originally released in 1983) by groundbreaking Kyoto band EP-4, available on vinyl housed in heavy 350gsm sleeve and digipack CD.

Straight from the delirious minds of beautiful provocateur Kaoru Sato (who had previously released an album as R.N.A. Organism on legendary Osaka label Vanity Records) and unconventional genius Yuji "Banana" Kawashima, Lingua Franca-1 is a seamless voyage of spellbinding mutant funk grooves, joyful post-punk explorations, synth fantasies, sexy distortions, and fluid cool-no-sweat vocals. Constantly mutating in an almost biological way (similarly to Colored Music’s self-titled album), always mysterious and seductive, sometimes reminiscing of a freaky cross between PiL, Liquid Liquid, Bowie and Yello, EP-4’s debut is hard to label, although "Debonair Wave" could be a legitimate way to describe this Japan’s best-kept-secret of an album.

Defying the rules wasn’t limited to sonic experimentations for band leader Kaoru Sato. To promote Lingua Franca-1, he and his crew plastered gigantic (illegal) billboards all over Shibuya and Harajuku, announcing performances in four different cities on odd hours of the same day (May 21st 1983) - and yes the shows did happen. Other of his notable antics included originally sub-titling the album Death to the Emperor Showa causing a controversy (which led to censorship and a title-change), trying to release two albums on the same day without the concerned labels being aware of the plan or, in the R.N.A. Organism days, fooling Vanity Records into believing the demo he sent them came from a foreign band (it worked). Unique personality, unique music! 
WRWTFWW / bandcamp

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Mulatu Astatke + Black Jesus Experience ‎– To Know Without Knowing (2019)

Genre: Jazz, Funk / Soul, Folk, World, & Country
Fomat: CD, Vinyl
Label: Agogo Records

1.   Mulatu
2.   Ambassa Lemdi
3.   Kulun Mankwaleshi
4.   Living On Stolen Land
5.   To Know Without Knowing
6.   Lijay
7.   Blue Light
8.   Mascaram Setaba
9.   A Chance To Give

Arranged By – Ian Dixon, Peter Harper
Bass – Richard Rose 
Chorus – Addisalem Taye, Corry Harper, Mearge Abate
Congas, Shekere – Olugbade Okunade
Drums – James Davies
Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Ian Dixon
Flute – Dominique Chaseling
Grand Piano – Bob Sedergreen
Guitar – Robbie Belchamber
Guitar, Chorus – Zac Lister
Masinko – Haftu Reda
MC – Elf Transporte, Liam 'Monk' Monkhouse
Shaker, Wood Block – Kahan Harper
Tenor Saxophone – Peter Harper
Vibraphone, Congas, Electric Piano – Mulatu Astatke
Vocals – Enushu Taye, Vida Sunshine
Producer – Ian Dixon, Peter Harper

Mulatu Astatke is undoubtedly the most important and well-known proponent of Ethio-Jazz: a branch of jazz that incorporates elements of traditional Ethiopian music. Not only a great composer, Astatke plays keyboards and a wide range of percussive instruments of which many are unique to Ethiopia. He developed his style of jazz while studying in Britain and America in the 1960s and took his music back with him to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, during a brief period of extraordinary musical creativity in his home country, just before it was mostly suppressed by a series of intolerant governments. Astatke is one of the stars of a landmark series of compilation albums released in the 1990s entitled Éthiopiques, of which there were ultimately 30 volumes, that was the sole means whereby the music of Ethiopia’s golden age first became known to the general public outside of Ethiopia.

The Black Jesus Experience are a truly cosmopolitan group of musicians based in Melbourne: a city that can lay claim to being one of the most vibrant in the world, and certainly the Antipodes, for contemporary jazz. The group’s primary musical influence is Ethio-Jazz, so Mulatu Astatke is their ideal collaborator, but the music has a more extensive range of influences that includes hip-hop and funk. The lead saxophonist and co-founder of the eight-piece band is Peter Harper who was introduced to Ethiopian music by his father, a music teacher for the Ethiopian Navy band in the 1960s. They are most notable for their live performances, which includes a performance at the Glastonbury Festival in 2017. It is a shame for audiences in the UK and elsewhere that they aren’t able to tour their latest album given current circumstances.

To Know Without Knowing is the second studio collaboration of The Black Jesus Experience and Mulatu Astatke and is the culmination of over a decade of having performed together. It is a varied album. Only the song Kulun Mankwaleshi is very much like the type of Ethio-Jazz that can be heard on the Éthiopiques compilations. The vocals on this track comes from Enushu Taye, the band’s co-leader and principal singer who in 1992 was forced to leave Ethiopia where she’d sung for her local community, before eventually emigrating to Melbourne. The vocals on the album are shared with the Zimbabwean/Australian MC, Mr. Monk (Liam Monkhouse), whose style of rap is of the type prevalent across modern-day Africa and whose lyrics emphasise tolerance, consciousness and community.

The first track on the album is Mulatu, a tribute to Astatke without whom there would be no Ethio-Jazz, which rhythm is most prominent in the harmonious horns that lead the first half of the track before Mr. Monk’s rapping provides the lyrics. There is a taste of West Africa on the second track, Ambassa Lemhi, where Taye weaves her voice around the trumpet and sounds almost like the great Oumou Sangare. Taye mostly sings in Amharic except on songs such as Living On Stolen Land where she sings in English.

The mix of international musical influences is generally seamless and unforced throughout the album. The title track, To Know Without Knowing, moves from one style to another, where it features in turn Taye’s Ethiopian vocals, Mr. Monk’s rap and lilting horns and piano. The single Lijay, a paean to motherly love, is underlaid by a lilting African reggae with Taye and Mr. Monk swapping the microphone between them until midway through the song where it settles into a chugging rhythm conducive to a dancing audience. Blue Light begins with Mr. Monk’s rap before becoming perhaps the most conventionally jazz track on the album. The album ends with two tracks, Mascaram Setaba and A Chance To Give, that would be ideal for swaying to at an open air festival on a lazy hot sunny day.

There is much on this album for the enthusiast of Ethio-Jazz to enjoy, but much else for fans of jazz and other forms of global music. To Know Without Knowing and its collaboration between Mulatu Astatke and The Black Jesus Experience are a good fit for Agogo Records, a Hanover-based record label that features danceable music of all styles from around the world.
Graham Spry / London Jazz News