Saturday, 25 September 2021

Anika – Change (2021)

Style: Indie Pop, Dub, Post-Punk, Krautrock
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Sacred Bones Records

Tracklist:
1.   Finger Pies
2.   Critical
3.   Change
4.   Naysayer
5.   Sand Witches
6.   Never Coming Back
7.   Rights
8.   Freedom
9.   Wait For Something

Credits:
Mastered By – James Trevascus
Mixed By, Co-producer – Martin Thulin

Perhaps like a lot of people, I first became aware of Annika Henderson, aka Anika, in 2019 via the Netflix comedy drama, Russian Doll. The distinct tones of the English/German musician shone through on her rather gorgeous cover of Ray Davies’ I Go To Sleep. The song was pulled from Anika’s self-titled debut album, recorded with Portishead’s Geoff Barrow in 2010.

The intervening years have seen Anika collaborate with Tricky and release two albums with her electro-psych outfit, Exploded View. The new LP represents a significant step in Henderson’s musical journey. If the debut album was something of an understated slow-burn, then Change is the full realisation of an underground pop star.

Finger Pies feels fresh, focused and vibrant as it bounces along on an irresistible, dub-inflected groove. Anika calmly yet defiantly chants, “Some may say you are only interested in one thing / That’s to get your own way.” Anika’s distinct personality and nuanced delivery are embedded into every second.

Critical mimics the urgent beats of a heart monitor as it channels its trip-hop influences into a hypnotic slice of future-pop. “I always give my man the last word/ I always give him what he deserves,” sings Anika in dry, sarcastic tones, “but don’t forget that little twist of cyanide in his little gift.” Juxtaposed with the frequently playful instrumentation, Anika’s vocals often bring Velvet’s priestess Nico to mind. The style feels far less troubled, yet it retains the artful cool we so readily associate with the German-born avant-gardist.

The meditative title track reveals the tender, surprisingly optimistic heart at the centre of the LP. The chilled electronic backing and intimate vocal style occupy a similar space to Jenny Hval’s spine-tingling That Battle Is Over. The two artists share a passion for expressing ideas not so readily found in traditional pop. Both are intent on pushing things forwards. The words were written during the recording process, making the lyrics feel immediate and cathartic.

The excellent, semi-industrial clang of Naysayer finds Anika confronting the “novices running the show.” Perhaps unintentionally, it’s a line that can’t help but bring Boris Johnson and his clan of clowns to mind. Anika’s cool veneer momentarily cracks with the insistent declaration, “I don’t want you/ I don’t want you.

Sand Witches is a slower and altogether stranger affair. “I don’t like what you’ve become,” intones Anika over droning electronics and decidedly creepy piano, as well as “I don’t like what you’ve begun to peddle/ The words of the devil.” By this point, the themes of the album are coming through loud and clear: defiance, empowerment and, of course, change.

The album tackles change on numerous levels, from the personal and political to the creeping environmental change that we perhaps don’t even notice happening. Never Coming Back was inspired by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which brought environmental concerns to the public’s attention in 1962.

Rights is a mesmeric bombardment of bubbling synths and fragmented sounds that finds an increasingly possessed Anika wailing, “Fear your power/ Show me power.” Like much of the album, the track’s structure is incredibly loose and free-flowing, everything based around a compulsive groove. Freedom slides in on the back of some superbly atmospheric John Carpenter-style synths and the repeated affirmation, “I’m not being silenced by anyone”.

Then, quite unexpectedly, we get the sound of a battered old acoustic guitar as Wait For Something eases us into the album’s closing moments. The track slowly blooms into a driving Velvets-like anthem: “And be patient for something new… I’m not gonna be your fool, I’m not gonna fall for you/ No, not this time.”

We’re living in strange and ever-changing times, yet for every worrying headline, there’s news of progress, resistance and transformation. Despite its dark, atmospheric soundscapes, it’s this positive outlook that Change encapsulates the most. The fall of Trump, the rise of the Me Too movement and the feeling that, this time, we really won’t get fooled again. The chants and affirmations throughout the album are willing something good to happen.

Ultimately, Change is an album about escaping the past and letting it all out. The culmination of a lifetime’s worth of turmoil, manifested as a subversive rallying cry for positive, lasting and meaningful change.
Andy Brown / LOUDER THAN WAR

Monday, 30 August 2021

VA ‎– Antologia De Música Atípica Portuguesa Vol.1: O Trabalho (2017)

Style: Avantgarde, Experimental
Formtat: Vinyl
Label: Discrepant ‎– CREP 35

Tracklist:
01.   Live Low - Antiplot
02.   Negra Branca - O Espatelar Do Linho
03.   EITR - Cicuta
04.   Luar Domatrix - Bocadinho De Alentjo
05.   Gonzo - Agora Baixou O Sol = Now The Sun Is Down
06.   Tiago Morais Morgado - Laurindinha
07.   Filipe Felizardo - Sede E Morte
08.   Gonzo & Luar Domatrix - Já Lá Gritam No Calvário
09.   Calhau! - Pecunibal
10.   Peter Forest - A Maria Cavaca (Trad. Working Song)

Credits:
Mastered By – Rashad Becker
Artwork – Ruca Bourbon
Layout – Gonçalo F. Cardoso

Gathered together on this new compilation series are Portuguese artists that stretch back into the past with the same inquisition as they press into the future, allured both by the original significance of tradition and the opportunity to reframe it. The theme of the first volume is “o Trabalho” (which translates as “work”), with the sounds here predominantly driven by steam and muscle and persistence: trains horns toot as they trundle through the countryside with cargo in tow, drums mimic the metronomic impact of axes and hammers, work songs liberate minds from the drudge of repetitious labour. These physical gestures are then smeared, serrated and bled into the apparatus of the modern day, with choral winds blistered by distortion (Filipe Felizardo), chants arcing over gentle synthesiser tides (Gonzo) and guttural throat-song set inside bitcrusher crystals (Calhau!). 
Despite the strong spirit of manipulation and collage, the general shape of those recorded historical artefacts are kept largely intact, which means that even the compilation’s most abstract flights maintain a connection with the earth below. On Negra Branca’s “O Espatelar Do Linho”, the present is a comet trail pouring out of antiquity: synthesisers follow the ascent of mass song as it breaks through the ceiling, buoyed by chimes and the patter of mallet percussion, imbuing the jovial rise of voice with the shimmer of the cosmic. Meanwhile, the intertwining vocoder chants of Tiago Morais Morgado – whose low notes blur into gigantic rumbles of synthetic voice, grinding against eachother tectonic plates – maintain a visceral, thoroughly human depth through their fizz of electronic filtering. In retaining the essence of their source material, all of these artists exhibit a fascination with not just the sonic qualities of these sounds, but also the historical narratives that have carried their significance into the present.
ATTN:MAGAZINE

Propellerheads ‎– Decksandrumsandrockandroll (1998)

Style: Breakbeat, Trip Hop, Big Beat
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Wall Of Sound

Tracklist:
01.   Take California
02.   Echo And Bounce
03.   Velvet Pants
04.   Better?
05.   Oh Yeah?
06.   History Repeating
07.   Winning Style
08.   Bang On!
09.   A Number Of Microphones
10.   On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
11.   Bigger?
12.   Cominagetcha
13.   Spybreak!

Credits:
Producer – Propellerheads

Really, the title says it all -- Decksanddrumsandrockandroll is about as close to rock & roll as big-beat techno is going to get. Taking their cue from the Chemical Brothers, the Bath-based duo Propellerheads offer a set of pummeling, ultra-loud beats that may dabble in funk, house, hip-hop, soul, and rap, but which all come out sounding as aggressive as rock. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- at its best, big beat is as invigorating as any other music -- but Propellerheads don't have the finesse, innovation, or style of the Chemical Brothers, the leading proponents of big beat. When they shake the beat up, whether on the wah-wah-drenched "Velvet Pants" or the pair of John Barry/James Bond tributes (a reworking of their cover of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "History Repeating"), it sounds like a tactical move, since they know they can't spend the entire album on thundering dance cuts like "Bang On!" and "Take California." That said, Decksanddrumsandrockandroll remains a strong big beat album, even if it ultimately doesn't reveal anything new, because the duo knows how to craft a hard-hitting, infectious rhythm track. And while that doesn't make them the next Chemical Brothers, it does make them the best in this style since the Chemicals.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine / AllMusic

Monday, 16 August 2021

Sault ‎– Nine (2021)

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

Tracklist:
01.   Haha
02.   London Gangs
03.   Trap Life
04.   Fear
05.   Mike's Story
06.   Bitter Streets
07.   Alcohol
08.   You From London
09.   9
10.   Light's In Your Hands

Sault – a semi-anonymous UK collective – have already made their mark with four extraordinary albums in the space of two years. Releasing their works without much warning, unwilling to talk about their art, they have become a prolific leftfield outfit torching the rules. Nine, their fifth album, is available to buy and stream for 99 days (until 2 October). It’s pretty special too – not least because it’s an album about the experience of growing up in London that thumbs its nose almost entirely at the capital’s rich history of music genres, both black and white.

We are accustomed to hearing these sad, angry, mischievous stories told as the fast 8-bit rhythms of grime or hip-hop. But Nine eschews the sounds synonymous with London; it only hints in passing at dubstep and rave. You really have to pinch yourself at the audacity, too, of a track called Trap Life containing 0% trap beats – the now-dominant strain of hip-hop here as in the US. Rather, Sault turn to warm African-Caribbean sounds, and righteous anger played out as playground chants. A hard-hitting song about London’s gang infrastructure sounds like the Chemical Brothers’ Block Rockin’ Beats.

Sault have always confounded. Nine follows their genre-melting albums of 2019, 5 and 7, and their twin records of 2020, Untitled (Black Is) and Untitled (Rise). The latter two were impassioned outpourings in sync with last year’s international Black Lives Matter protests. All offered up an unexpectedly boxy, retro sound: rolling drums, funk bass and R&B groove, rogue analogue keyboards, and a sampledelic aesthetic. Vocalists Cleo Sol (UK) and Kid Sister (US) were as likely to chant as they were to sing or rap; African and Caribbean inflections were ever-present.

Throughout Nine, Sault double down on this vinyl crate-digger vibe: a rolling break here combined with an unexpected Beatles tilt there. The electronic Afro-funk of ESG or Tom Tom Club still looms high in the mix, as it has on all Sault’s records, but there are songs here – such as the lovely Bitter Streets – that recall, of all things, French chanson.

Their name has always carried with it the cold shiver of the word “assault”, but here they offer their music as a remedy
Nine returns to Sault’s earlier album art: titles formed by matchsticks, and a fire about to be lit. The visuals speak loudly so that the artists involved don’t have to: joining Sol and Kid Sister are UK producer Inflo and a handful of collaborators. Inflo (Dean Josiah) is better known as Michael Kiwanuka’s producer on Kiwanuka, his Mercury-winning album of 2019; Josiah is also involved with Little Simz and Jungle.

Like Adele (19, 21, 25), Sault have a thing for odd numbers. Nine showcases its namesake twice: the title track turns on a delicate retro guitar motif holding aloft Cleo Sol’s cooed vocal. Another “nine” occurs earlier, on Trap Life: “Don’t reach for that nine, nine, nine,” Sol begs, referring to a firearm; the repetition also suggests dialling 999.

An Instagram statement explains that the band’s origins lie in London’s council estates, where resources and options are limited and people can fall into even more harmful situations. The final song, Light’s In Your Hands, talks of kids growing up too fast, traumatised.

The spoken word is paramount here. One of a number of spoken interludes, Mike’s Story bears witness to one Michael Ofo hearing of his father’s murder. 9 finds an unnamed, older contributor explaining how being from a particular area inevitably marked you. If a sense of discomfiture has run through all Sault’s albums – they challenge, seethe and weep, confound expectation, change tack abruptly – there is never a sense of a misstep. As with previous Sault LPs, there is at least one thoroughly mainstream knockout moment: Alcohol is a smooth neo-soul paean to self-medication played out in gentle waltz time.

Just as Michael Kiwanuka featured on Untitled (Black Is), Inflo’s other close associate Little Simz appears here, her old-school flow detailing a life of Oyster cards and being triggered by sirens – Untitled themes given an unmistakable London flavour and dreamy organ keys, jazz horn and a tickle of hi-hat. There’s humour here too: You From London also pokes fun at American attitudes to Britons. (“Like people be going to work on horses and stuff?”)

Where the two Untitleds were aflame with anger as well as pain, Nine returns to trauma – and healing – as its central motif. “The pain is real,” Sault repeat. As on 5’s Add a Little Bit of Sault, the band briefly namecheck themselves. Their name has always carried with it the cold shiver of the word “assault”, but here they offer their music as a remedy. “The Sault will heal the wounds,” croons Sol.
Kitty Empire / The Guardian 

Saturday, 7 August 2021

Synergetic Voice Orchestra ‎– MIOS (1990)

Genre: Electronic, Pop, Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Métron Records ‎

Tracklist:
1.   Zebra
2.   Luna Park
3.   Island Girl
4.   Lullaby for Tristan
5.   Jesus and Muhammad
6.   A Tale
7.   Hari-Hari
8.   Tangram
9.   Life Goes On

Credits:
Sitar – Motoyasu Tatsuno
Vocals – Mami Tanaka, Norico, Samala
Drums – Masahiro Iwamoto
Flute – Shunji Yamamoto
Keyboards – Yumiko Morioka
Koto – Mitsuko Nakabayashi
Percussion – Katsuaki Yoshiguchi
Composed By – Yumiko Morioka
Directed By – Mikio Tajima, Shigeo Ohwa
Producer – Shigeo Ohwa, Yumiko Morioka
Recorded By – Tatsuya Sakamoto

Japanese pianist and composer Yumiko Morioka's revered 1990 album project 'MIOS' gets a timely re-issue next month, with a lovingly remastered vinyl release arriving courtesy of Métron Records.

Recorded in 1989, Morioka assembled a diverse band of street musicians and semi-professional players to form the delightfully diverse Synergetic Voice Orchestra. Inspired by Yumiko’s love of eclectic global music, the newly constructed group drew on influences from India, Ethiopia, Mali, Korea and China to create a stunning album that skilfully managed to merge these seemingly disparate sonic identities with traditional aesthetics from the southern Japanese island, Okinawa.

Following the success of her 'Resonance' album which appeared a few years earlier, Yumiko was ecstatic when she was offered the opportunity to compose an album of “any kind of music she wanted”. The players she united under the SVO banner were formed of artists she either knew personally, or had seen performing in and around Tokyo, and many of them were self-taught and unable to read music. For Yumiko – a classically taught musician – working with players who lacked her formal training presented a unique challenge, but by adopting the synergetic principles of American architect and theorist Buckminster Fuller, she was able to create an open environment where a collective mentality was able to flourish. Nothing was off-limits, and experimentation ruled supreme. The approach embodied the work with vivid energy and an effervescent exploratory feel – which included, among other quirks, percussive parts played on old washing machine parts by a drummer who sold vegetables by day, practising at night in a nearby cemetery so as not to disturb his neighbours!

The singular album is one of Japanese music's hidden treasures. The new edition comes complete with striking artwork produced by Elvis Barlow-Smith and is well worth adding to the collection.

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

António de Sousa Dias ‎– Música Do Filme: Os Abismos Da Meia-Noite (1983)

Style: Soundtrack, Contemporary 
Format: Vinyl
Label: Fotossonoro

Tracklist:
A1.   Coração Já Repousavas... (I)
A2.   Ante-Cântico
A3.   Cântico Dos Lagos De Prata
A4.   Rituália
A5.   Tema Branco
A6.   Coração Já Repousavas... (II)
A7.   A Gruta
A8.   ...& Angústia
B1.   Os Guerreiros Da Meia-Noite
B2.   Coração Já Repousavas... (III)
B3.   Imaginária
B4.   As Fontes Mágicas De Gerénia
B5.   Pesquisa & Fuga
B6.   Coração Já Repousavas... (IV)
B7.   Gloria In Excesis Aquae
B8.   Senhora Partem Tão Tristes
B9.   Coração Já Repousavas... (Reprise)

Credits:
Chorus – Coro De Santo Amaro De Oeiras
Clarinet – Sílvio Pleno
Drums – Luís Desirat
Electric Bass – João Hayère
Guitar – Carlos Vitorino
Keyboards – António De Sousa Dias
Percussion – Luís Desirat
Soprano Saxophone – Jorge Egrejas
Tenor Saxophone – Jorge Egrejas
Trumpet – Virgílio Mendes
Flute – Eduardo Abreu, Jorge Egrejas, Manuel Luís Cochofel
Trombone – Carlos Simões, Ismael Santos, Luís Carvalho
Composed By – António De Sousa Dias

For this weeks 'digging deeper' we've delved into the brilliant world of cinema and soundtracks. Our friends at Carbono Record in Lisbon recently brought to our attention the awesome soundtrack to the controversial cult Portuguese Science Fiction film "Os Abismos da Meia-Noite", directed by António de Macedo in 1983. 

The film has never received a video or DVD release, but can be viewed below  - however sadly there are no subtitles available. "Os Abismos da Meia-Noite" is a trippy magical, low-fi sci-fi adventure, blending parallel worlds, ancient legends and alchemy. Director Antonio Macedo was one of a number of Portuguese filmmakers using sci-fi and fantasy as a critique of modern life, thus was always battling against the Portuguese censorship prevalent at the time. Macedo died in 2017 at the age of 86, with a career as a director spanning over four decades, with his last film ‘O Segredo das Pedras Vivas’ released in 2016. 

Originally, there were only 500 copies of the 1st edition soundtrack pressed, with a gatefold cover. A number of these (unplayed) dead stock LPs where found in a warehouse, 36 years since the film was released! Now thanks to Carbono we have can present this sought-after gem on our website. 

The soundtrack was recorded by Portuguese composer António de Sousa Dias who studied at the Lisbon Conservatory and University of Paris VIII, with an interest in jazz, electronics, musicology and computer programming. De Sousa Dias wrote many scores for cinema and TV alongside working with the theatre groups ColecViva and Opus Sic. He was appointed as a teacher of composition and electro-acoustics at the Escola Superior de Música in Lisbon.  His soundtracks and theatre scores are known to embrace a wide range of generic style but had a heavy lean to dramatic focus.

The official soundtrack for 'Os Abismos Da Meia-Noite’ has a 70’s psychedelia vibe, using elements of lush orchestrations, jazz / funk and easy listening instrumentals, alongside sonic electronics and soundscapes. De Sousa Dias is still composing soundtracks for films, documentaries and TV to this day.

Sunday, 1 August 2021

Ingrid Chavez ‎– May 19, 1992 (1991)

Genre: Electronic, Rock, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Paisley Park, Warner Bros. Records

Tracklist:
01.   Heaven Must Be Near
02.   Hippy Blood
03.   Candle Dance
04.   Elephant Box
05.   Slappy Dappy
06.   Little Mama
07.   Jadestone
08.   Wintersong
09.   Spiritual Storm
10.   Sad Puppet Dance
11.   Whispering Dandelions

Credits:
Composed By – Ingrid Chavez, Levi Seacer Jr., Michael Koppelman, Paisley Park
Producer – Ingrid Chavez, Levi Seacer Jr., Michael Koppelman , Paisley Park

A história começa ainda nos oitentas, em Minneapolis. Nascida no Novo México, crescida na Georgia, Ingrid Chavez chegou a Minneapolis na segunda metade da década. Pagou as contas trabalhando num café, ao mesmo tempo que procurava um caminho na música. Prince escutou-a. Ingrid colaborou no álbum de 1988 Lovessexy, mais tarde no elenco do filme Graffiti Bridge. E pelo caminho um desafio para criarem, juntos, um álbum de poesia. Poemas de Ingrid, lidos pela sua voz, Prince ao lado, ao piano... Gravaram takes, mas o projecto acabou na gaveta. A ideia seria recuperada mais tarde, mas já sem Prince como co-protagonista, a edição do álbum fazendo-se contudo pelo selo da sua Paisley Park Records.
Editado em 1992, May 19, 1992 (a data indicava a passagem de um ano sobre o dia em que fora tirada a fotografia usada na capa) não é contudo o álbum spoken word (com piano) que começara a nascer em estúdio algum tempo antes. É certo que o registo spoken word não abandonou o disco – basta escutar Elephant Box para o (re)descobrir. Mas da ideia inicial de um álbum de poesia, Ingrid Chavez fez nascer um álbum de pop de rara elegância, electrónicas, batidas bem desenhadas e uma contenção quase minimalista nos arranjos fazendo deste um dos mais belos (e hoje espantosamente esquecidos) dos discos de inícios dos noventas. Cruzam-se aqui vários caminhos, do paisagismo delicado dos fundos ao fulgor de genética funk de algumas batidas, a voz sussurrante e doce de Ingrid Chavez conferindo-lhe uma personalidade única. Do alinhamento nasceram três singles – Elephant Box, Hippy Blood e Heaven Must Be Near – mas pouco aconteceu depois...
Ainda em 1992, e depois de colaborar na gravação de I Surrender, com David Sylvian e Ryuichi Sakamoto, casava com o primeiro e tornava-se parceira em alguns dos seus trabalhos seguintes. Projectaram um álbum que ficou na gaveta. Mas em 2010, sem alarido, Ingrid Chavez regressou aos discos, editando A Flutter And Some Words.
sound + vision / Nuno Galopim

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Squid ‎– Bright Green Field (2021)

Style: Post Rock, Post Punk, Krautrock
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Warp Records

Tracklist:
01.   Resolution Square
02.   G.S.K.
03.   Narrator
04.   Boy Racers
05.   Paddling
06.   Documentary Filmmaker
07.   2010
08.   The Flyover
09.   Peel St.
10.   Global Groove
11.   Pamphlets

Credits:
Producer – Daniel Carey

The word “island” is usually synonymous with “paradise”—someplace tropical and warm, skewered by beach umbrellas. We’re less likely to think of Alcatraz. But when English rock band Squid mention a “concrete island” in the first minutes of Bright Green Field, it’s closer to the infamous prison than a Sandals resort. The isle in “G.S.K.” is a dystopian slab ruled by Big Pharma, and the record’s opening scene, as shouted by drummer and vocalist Ollie Judge, confines us to this grim locale: “As the sun sets, on the Glaxo Klein/Well it’s the only way that I can tell the time,” he sings. On this barren rock, the British drug conglomerate is the towering center of daily life—so big, it acts like a sundial. “Island” never sounded so angry or claustrophobic.

Bright Green Field is packed with these moments of compression—lean phrases that steadily inflate into three-dimensional scenes. Driving their expansion are vigorous and detailed arrangements, music that rattles against Judge’s agitated lyrics until it erupts. A sickly undercurrent of strings propels his role as a white-collar drudge on “G.S.K.”; when he embarks on his evening commute, dreaming of the warm dinner that awaits, the music seems to pursue him. The horn section sounds like a fleet of motorbikes trying to run him off of the road.

Squid’s music has always toyed with discomfort. Six years after forming at college in coastal England, Judge, Louis Borlase, Arthur Leadbetter, Laurie Nankivell, and Anton Pearson have pushed that unrest to the point of catharsis. Like Squid’s best singles—last year’s “Sludge,” 2019’s “Houseplants”—the songs on Bright Green Field set out on one course, only to flail in another direction just as you’ve settled in. “Boy Racers” kicks off as a linear groove, its noodling bassline and clipped rhythm guitar among the album’s more pared-back arrangements. Roughly halfway through, the beat drops out, giving way to a bleak, distorted drone. A faint mechanical voice speaks, like Daft Punk with a dead battery: “You’re always small/And there are things that you’ll never know.” It’s unnerving but effective, like the moment in Alien when we discover Ash is really a robot.

Squid approach their music like skilled choreographers; though every move is carefully plotted, the dance maintains the illusion of spontaneity. Each track feels on the verge of some massive release, but all meltdowns are carefully preordained. “Narrator,” the album’s best song, exemplifies the band’s calculated pandemonium. Its opening measures recall early Talking Heads and James Chance: Quick ripples of electric guitar and sharp basslines squiggle on top of a crisp snare beat. But it’s the abandonment of this structure that’s most interesting. At the song’s midpoint, guest vocalist Martha Skye Murphy slowly creeps in, lingering around the edges. As Squid explode into a frenzied coda, Murphy wails her voice raw, shrieking like a slasher-flick victim. It’s the album’s most exhilarating stretch of sound.

Like magpies, Squid stockpile scraps of jazz, funk, krautrock, dub, and punk, uninterested in adopting a single identity. Their genre agnosticism extends to equipment: In addition to drums, bass, and guitar, Bright Green Field’s sense of disorientation is aided by alto saxophone, violin, trumpet, cello, trombone, and rackett—a 16th-century wind instrument also known as the sausage bassoon. (Leadbetter’s father, who specializes in medieval rock and Renaissance instruments, handles sausage bassoon duties on “Boy Racers.”) Even amid all these choices, Squid’s spinouts are orchestrated stunts, never heady jam-band accidents. More than a canonized style, it’s their level of control that sets them apart.

Yet Squid’s characters and the world they inhabit are in constant friction. On “Global Groove,” Judge deadpans about wearing “tight Lycra,” trudging through the day like a weary Zumba instructor. The pace is a narcotized march, nudged along by stabs of guitar and saxophone. The song offers only a few visuals: mindless TV shows, the oppressive titular dance. Is it a wry take on fitness culture, or sheer drudgery? (The two haven’t always been distinct: Treadmills were once instruments of penal discipline.) “Pamphlets” twists another innocuous item into a symbol of suffocating conformity: “Pamphlets through my door/And pamphlets on my floor,” Judge screeches, as though he’s being crushed by the leaflets blasting through his mail slot. Bright Green Field is filled with these imaginative dispatches from capitalist hell, but it’s Squid’s exacting ruckus that exposes their true nature. The field isn’t green with grass, but radioactive sludge.
Madison Bloom / Pitchfork

Thursday, 22 July 2021

DJ Sprinkles ‎– Midtown 120 Blues (2009)

Style: Deep House
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Mule Musiq

Tracklist:
01.   Midtown 120 Intro
02.   Midtown 120 Blues
03.   Ball'r (Madonna-Free Zone)
04.   Brenda's $20 Dilemma
05.   House Music Is Controllable Desire You Can Own
06.   Sisters, I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To
07.   Reverse Rotation
08.   Grand Central, Pt. I (Deep Into The Bowel Of House)
09.   Grand Central, Pt. II (72 Hrs. By Rail From Missouri)
10.   The Occasional Feel-Good

Credits:
Producer, Written-By – T. Thaemlitz

There's a contradiction at the core of Terre Thaemlitz's album as DJ Sprinkles, Midtown 120 Blues, that is difficult to resolve. The album, a treatise on house music, goes lengths to debunk the myth that house music is/was an all-accepting, pan-cultural utopia—that house music is for everyone. She does this, however, while offering up a deep house sound so sumptuous and inviting that it's easy to lose Thaemlitz's socio-political motives: a Trojan horse whose trap-door gets stuck. Midtown 120 Blues is being reissued, in deluxe packaging but with no additional or altered music, after just five years, though the record's scarcity and limited reach justify that decision.

Thaemlitz is best known as an experimental, electro-acoustic composer, and she has released difficult, conceptual works for labels like Mille Plateaux since the mid-90s. (With 2012's Soulnessless, she claimed to have released the longest-ever album, anchored by a 29-hour piano meditation.) In the early '90s, before she was releasing experimental works, Thaemlitz worked as a DJ in the type of midtown clubs that defined Times Square before it was corporatized later in the decade. These formative spaces gave a home to the different strains of house music emanating from New Jersey and New York, a sound more contemplative than that which was coming out of Chicago: slower, jazzier, more reflective. It was music made and then defined by disadvantaged communities: by latinos and blacks and the LGBT community.

Thaemlitz has produced house music under a number of different aliases, but the deconstructivist instincts that dominate her experimental works aren't as dominant here. Midtown 120 Blues travels familiar territory, working through lived-in hi-hat patterns and familiar, calming electric piano chords. It helps the medicine go down easier, sure, but there's not that much medicine. You get the sense that this style is so dear to Thaemlitz that she's less willing to fuck with it, at least on a sonic level. Midtown 120 Blues, at nearly 80 minutes, is almost womb-like in its immersion, though Thaemlitz rejects the idea of the club as a healing, safe space. You don't "lose yourself" in Midtown 120 Blues; it's a reflection on feeling lost.

Thaemlitz began documenting this scene in 1998, shortly after those clubs were elbowed out of downtown, with the Sloppy 42nds 12", her first work under the DJ Sprinkles alias. Midtown 120 Blues again took this baton a decade later, chronicling the turbulence and violation that existed in Thaemlitz's communities; it's an album that seethes, however prettily, as Thaemlitz laces her patient, supple grooves with short speeches.

One poignant segment of "Ball'r (Madonna-Free Zone)" finds her railing against Madonna, whose "decontextualized, reified, corporatized, liberalized, neutralized, asexualized, re-genderized pop reflection" of the vogue scene not only misrepresented the scene's origins but left the queen "who actually taught [Madonna] how to vogue" broke. Thaemlitz is a compelling speaker, and the hurt and anger in her voice is obvious; she's also deft enough to let the preachers, whom she often samples, do the preaching. Midtown 120 Blues feels far more personal than political.

Midtown 120 Blues is a remembrance, but it's also a travelogue, loosely documenting Thaemlitz's move from her childhood home in Missouri and her immersion in midtown's scene. "Grand Central, Pt. II (72 hrs. by Rail from Missouri)" functions largely like the KLF's Chill Out, organizing samples into an ambient collage that holds your attention even as it drifts for eight minutes. Moments like these feel like a salve for Jesse Jackson, who burns through his (sampled) vocal chords on "Sisters, I Don't Know What This World is Coming To" and the nervous, pendulous piano of "House Music Is Controllable Desire You Can Own".

Like punk music, house music was an underground phenomenon that offered an outlet to people who really needed an outlet. And like punk music, its history is romanticized to the point that the ills and misdeeds that still permeated the community are largely ignored. In the mid-'90s Thaemlitz was fired from a prominent DJ gig because she refused to play Gloria Estefan, a frequent request from the johns who would frequent the club; the johns, after all, kept the club open.

Thaemlitz quit, exhibiting the kind of principled stubbornness that has guided her career. This persists: Midtown 120 Blues will not be issued on vinyl, a medium unable to provide an accurate stereo bass response. Still, there's a fondness to Midtown 120 Blues, not least in its closing shuffle, "The Occaional Feel-Good". There is love here, however guarded. At its best, Midtown 120 Blues simultaneously acts as a corrective to house's ahistorical narrative and reminds us just how potent and beautiful New York deep house can be.
Andrew Gaerig / Pitchfork

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Black Midi ‎– Cavalcade (2021)

Style: Experimental, Art Rock, Math Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Rough Trade

Tracklist:
1.   John L
2.   Marlene Dietrich
3.   Chondromalacia Patella
4.   Slow
5.   Diamond Stuff
6.   Dethroned
7.   Hogwash and Balderdash
8.   Ascending Forth

Credits:
John Murphy - Producer
Marta Salogn - Mixing, Producer, Programming

Black Midi have always maintained that they’ll never reach a final form. Though their debut album ‘Schlagenheim’ put them at the vanguard of British guitar music, and NME labelled them the “best band in London” before they’d even released a single, there was never any chance of the band settling into a predictable sound. “If we kept on doing the same stuff, we’d quit the band,” they said in a 2019 interview.

Even with this knowledge, the band’s second album ‘Cavalcade’ is a remarkable left turn. Across the album’s eight songs and 40 minutes, they traverse noise rock, unhinged jazz, ambient folk and beyond. Their claim in a past interview that their music would soon be “unrecognisable” from their initial form suddenly doesn’t seem so ridiculous. A band who defy expectation at every turn, the only predictable thing about Black Midi is that they’ll never stay the same.

Despite sounding lightyears away from traditional guitar music, the band’s original make-up – two guitars, bass, drums and vocals – at least appeared uniform to look at. On ‘Cavalcade’, the band – now a trio for the foreseeable future, with guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin taking time out for mental health reasons – change this up too, adding saxophone, violin and more to the mix, all contributing to the maelstrom of noise they whip up across its length.

They’re also clearly not averse to inviting others into their process. A new ‘golden ticket’ competition launched alongside the release of new single ‘Chondromalacia Patella’ contains a prize of collaborating with the band for a day in the studio (or life-long guestlist to their shows, or for the band to perform at an event of your choosing – they’re nothing if not flexible).

Squalls of violin open the album on ‘John L’, a deranged war cry of a first single. It periodically screeches to a halt before galloping away once again; unpredictability rules on a track that feels like a runaway train. Controlled moments do appear on ‘Cavalcade’ – ‘Diamond Stuff’ is a gorgeously delicate wonderland of soft strings and acoustic guitars, while ‘Marlene Dietrich’, a song about the titular cabaret singer, honours her craft and turns Black Midi into a bar band for a moment, with vocalist Geordie Greep their crooning frontman.

‘Slow’, another highlight, feels plucked from a jam session, where the band rise and fall as one through a skittish introduction that travels through a mystical midsection before coming to a head once again in a jazz-influenced explosion of noise defined by its jubilant saxophone. Then there’s ‘Hogwash and Balderdash’, which screeches to a halt after its introduction of frantic noise rock to float away in its new guise as a country song. Almost as if realising what’s just happened, the band then handbrake turn back into a whirlpool of blackened guitars. If you don’t need a lie down after this one, you’re stronger than us.

Frontman Geordie Greep’s vocals have been a standout feature of Black Midi since the band’s inception, his truly unique yelp pushing them even further away from any comparison to their peers. As with the music on ‘Cavalcade’, he manages to stretch his voice into unchartered territory here. On ‘Dethroned’, he gets close to crooner territory again, adding melody to the dissonance, while half way through ‘John L’, vocal effects make his booming voice sound like a master leading a war chant in The Lord Of The Rings.

Greep’s lyrical content also takes huge strides forward on the new album. Intent on telling theatrical third-person stories, the album tells tales of unhinged cult leaders (‘John L’), “an ancient corpse found in a diamond mine” (‘Diamond Stuff’) and much, much more. The lyrics – when they’re intelligible, at least – add yet another layer of weirdness and unpredictability to music already shaking at its foundations, ready to fall apart. (Greep wasn’t ever really singing platitudes, though – debut single ‘bmbmbm’ spoke of people who “find different ways to suck themselves off”.)

With regards to where Black Midi might go next, ‘Cavalcade’ poses far more questions than it does answers (as did ‘Schlagenheim’). One thing emphatically confirmed, though, is that they’re miles beyond the flash-in-the-pan buzz band some pre-emptively penned them as. Whatever form, sound or shape they might gravitate towards next, it’s certain that they’re here to stay, and their intense fire shows no danger of burning out.

Black Midi will almost definitely never make easily digestible or understandable music – they’re probably as excited and confused about where they’re heading next as we are – but to focus on the finer points and try to make sense of it would be to miss the overall point of the band. Simply going down the rabbit hole with these deeply weird, brilliant musicians will never be less than exhilarating.
Will Richards / NME

Friday, 9 July 2021

José Mauro ‎– A Viagem Das Horas (1976)

Genre: Latin, Folk, World, & Country
Format: Vinyl, CDFLAC
Label:  Far Out Recordings, Tape Car, Quartin

Tracklist:
A1.   A Viagem Das Horas
A2.   Escada De Ferro
A3.   A Oitava Morada
A4.   Variação Sobre Um Antigo Tema
A5.   Morango Encantado
A6.   Luz Lilás
B1.   Rua Dois
B2.   Moenda
B3.   O Cavaleiro De Antonina
B4.   Romanza
B5.   O Ninho

Credits:
Trumpet – Maurilio
Alto Saxophone – Paulo Moura
Bass – Sebastião Marinho
Drums – Wilson Das Neves
Flute – Altamiro Carrilho
Guitar – Geraldo Vesper
Harmonica – Rildo Hora
Organ, Piano, Harpsichord – Don Salvador
Percussion – Juquinha, Mamão
Arranged By, Conductor – Gaya
Composed By, Acoustic Guitar, Viola Nordestina – José Mauro
Producer, Directed By, Strings Conductor, Mixed By – Roberto Quartin

LOST albums create a mystique stoked by rumour, fandom and hype, waiting for the moment to surface and often for the bubble of expectation to burst.

But some records emerge from the past almost unannounced, previously known to the very few and for the rest of us waiting to be found before we knew that they were ever lost. Expert curators Far Out Recordings have consistent form in springing such surprises and here’s another from their meticulous digging through the archives of Brazilian music, A Viagem Das Horas, by singer-songwriter José Mauro.

Far Out have unearthed evidence of Mauro’s uncanny genius before, putting out his haunting 1970 debut Obnoxious several years ago, but to some extent A Viagem Das Horas is even more of a find. Recorded at the same Rio sessions as his first LP for the boundary-pushing Quartin label, the album didn’t appear until six years later with several tracks from Obnoxious as replacements. Speculation has long since circulated about this unsatisfactory end to Mauro’s recording career and the silence that followed. Was he imprisoned by the junta as part of their cultural purge; or worse still, killed in a suspicious road accident?

Thankfully the dogged persistence of the good people at Far Out has paid off. They managed to track down the lost musician still living in Rio, who revealed that he had retreated from high profile pop after A Viagem… to work in the theatre and as a music educator. Sadly, as he poetically observed, his long-term absence from the scene had been down to some harsh realities: ‘”My body pushed me away from music; health became a stumbling block for me.”

Against this back drop, the release of A Viagem Das Horas has added poignancy, carrying emotional baggage that this extraordinary, indefinable music manages to match without flinching. The record may be over 50 years old, but it has a resonance to reach out half a century later. The title track exposes the scale of ambition that pushed Maura and his partner, lyricist Ana Maria Bahania, to make such eclectic soundscapes. Maudlin strings quiver atmospherically around Mauro’s deep baritone, setting up a lushly orchestrated samba and lulling you into the warm familiarity of 70s’ Brazilian pop. But there the convention ends – the rustic rhythms, stripped-to-the-bone bass line and backing vocals that swoop suddenly to those minor keys, shake down any notion of an easy listen. This is unquestionably deep chill music. We’ve embedded the track for you below.

It’s that tension between the orthodox and the avant that vibrates through the whole album and gives it an inner strength. “A Oitiva Morada” drifts from torch song to smooth samba (whoops and all) but gets ruffled by slightly off-kilter, almost gothic harmonies; “Luz Lilas” mixes spiritual chimes with some delightfully basic, low-fi brass to give it a warm, lived-in quality; and as a sign-off “O Ninho” allows urgent percussion and booming brass to take over from its opening choral gravitas.

Elsewhere Mauro and his orchestrator Lindolfo Gaya weave in a bewildering range of influences to support their inspired, elusive music. A late sixties pop-psych haze breezes in with the harpsichord patterns of “Variacao Sobre um Antigo Tema” and the zither/clarinet combo on the melodramatic “O Cavaleiro de Antonina”. To go alongside these flamboyant arrangements, A Viagem… in places takes a more direct, pared down approach drawing on Mauro’s acoustic sensibilities.

“Romanza” connects magically with the madrigal and the medieval, whereas “Rua Dois” revolves around his characteristic, slightly brutal guitar progressions. Those startling open-tuned chords also drive the eerie, experimental “Morango Encantado”, on which Mauro’s vocal, deadpan and almost weary, reaches down to maybe its darkest point.

Without doubt within all the musical exotica of A Viagem Das Horas there is an underlying sense of melancholy matched with a determination to get to the other side. This was music made at a time of extreme cultural oppression in Brazil, in which, as Mauro’s partner Ana Mari Bahiana says, artists found themselves being “part of a generation in transit, searching for another option”.

Maybe that’s why José Mauro’s lost gem of a record makes such an impact listening to it in 2021. It captures where we are, right here, right now.
John Parry / Backseat Mafia

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Rádio Macau ‎– Rádio Macau (1984)

Style: Alternative Rock, Post-Punk, Pop Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: EMI

Tracklist:
1.   Um Dia A Mais
2.   A Noite
3.   Bom Dia Lisboa
4.   Até O Diabo Se Ria
5.   Diabos No Paraíso
6.   No Cenário Habitual
7.   Mais Uma Canção Sobre Edifícios A Arder
8.   É Tão Fácil
9.   No Comboio Descendente

Credits:
Voice – Xana 
Bass – Alexandre
Drums – Ramalho
Guitar – Flak
Producer – Francisco Vasconcelos, Pedro Vasconcelos, Rádio Macau
Synthesizer – L. Filipe Valentim
Written-By – Flak, Pedro Malaquias, Vitinha, Xana
Producer – Francisco Vasconcelos, Pedro Vasconcelos, Rádio Macau 

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Matthew E. White & Lonnie Holley ‎– Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection (2021)

Style: Alternative Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Spacebomb Records

Tracklist:
A1.   This Here Jungle Of Moderness/Composition 14
A2.   Broken Mirror (A Selfie Reflection)/ Composition 9
B1.   I Cried Space Dust/Composition 12
B2.   I’m Not Tripping/Composition 8
B3.   Get Up! Come Walk With Me/Composition 7

Credits:
Vocals – Lonnie Holley
Bass, Percussion – Cameron Ralston
Congas, Percussion, Synth – Giustino Riccio
Drums, Percussion – Pinson Chanselle
Guitar, Arp Sequencer – Alan Parker 
Percussion, Electronic Mica Sonic Drums – Brian Jones 
Synth, Piano, Keyboards – Daniel Clarke, Devonne Harris
Written-By – Lonnie Holley, Matthew E. White
Post Production, Edited By, Overdubbed By – Adrian Olsen, Matthew E. White
Producer – Adrian Olsen, Adrian Olsen, Matthew E. White, Matthew E. White
 
When instinct and serendipity collide it’s imperative to act fast. In those rare moments where something akin to magic presents itself time can feel as though it’s slipping through your fingers like sand in an hourglass. When producer and musician Matthew E. White showed Lonnie Holley a series of demos he’d shelved in 2018, he quickly realised that the Alabama-born artist and performer was the missing piece he needed to transform those sonic sketches into three-dimensional compositions. As White made his way through the instrumentals, Holley searched pages of his notebook for penned thoughts. Led purely by feeling, these lyrics were seamlessly set to arrangements he’d never heard before. Four hours later, Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection was captured. 

The septuagenarian’s ad-lib approach reflected White’s attitude as he prepared to return to the studio following his 2015 LP, Fresh Blood. Wanting to switch up his songwriting style, White assembled an accomplished septet of musicians which he led in sessions of improvisational free-playing. Across Broken Mirror, White’s production echoes aspects of how Danger Mouse and the late Richard Swift (who coincidentally produced Holley’s 2020 release, National Freedom) drew inspiration from the psychedelic fusion of jazz and rock during the 1970s. An alluring spell of celestial keys, drawing inspiration from Miles Davis’ early exploration in electric instrumentation that predated his Bitches Brew eruption, casts a brighter glow on anchoring dub beats. Furthermore, woven throughout the music are a variety of immersive motifs and influences from David Byrne’s propensity for dynamic African-influenced beats on ‘I’m Not Tripping / Composition 8’, which precedes the glorious cascading glockenspiel notes that twinkle amidst the rumbling thunder of ‘Get Up! Walk With Me / Composition 7’. It’s difficult to isolate one particular stand-out movement or song from the record. Everything here is a triumph. 

The immediacy of Broken Mirror’s compositions culminates in a timeless and timely record, and the collaborative partnership between Matthew E. White and Lonnie Holley is a natural one – a case of the right place at the right time leading to the creation of the right songs for this moment.
Zara Hedderman / Loud And Quiet

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Eitetsu Hayashi – Kaze No Shisha (1983)

Style: Experimental, Minimal, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Victor, Studio Mule

Tracklist:
1.   Kin-Ton-Un
2.   Cosmos
3.   Kalavinka
4.   Kaze No Shisha
5.   Bakuon
6.   Seiten

Credits:
Drum, Percussion – 林英哲
Marimba, Bells – 高田みどり
Percussion, Gayageum – 池成子
Voice – ハネムーンズ
Written-By – Eitetsu Hayashi
Producer – Eitetsu Hayashi

Studio Mule present a reissue of Eitetsu Hayashi's Kaze No Shisha, originally released in 1983. Spiritual leaning rhythms come from none other than Eitetsu Hayashi, one of Japan's most renown taiko drummers, a percussive instrument that is deeply rooted in the mythology of Japanese folklore. Kaze No Shisha is a crucial album in his long-spanning career, that started in 1971 when Hayashi joined the famed Ondekoza Group. The so-called "demon drum group" established the taiko drumming to a global audience and intensively toured around the globe between 1975 and 1981. Shortly after, Hayashi and some like-minded spirits formed Kodo, a new drum troupe with Hayashi as the lead drummer. After their first live performances he left the ensemble again in order to launch his solo career, an output first marked by Kaze No Shisha, released in 1983 on the Japanese subsidiary of the US record company Victor. The album's six compositions feature Hayashi on taiko drum and other percussion by famed Japanese composer Midori Takada on marimba, cymbal, and bells, Shuichi Chino on synthesizer, Chi Soungja on the traditional Korean zither gayageum and the Korean janggu drum, as well as the singers Kamur and Tenko, also known as The Honeymoons. The record's A side starts rough and traditional with "Kintonun", a tune in which Hayashi bangs the taiko stormy while charmingly dancing with Chi Soungja's Korean janggu drum performance. A propulsive start that slides into "cosmos" -- a slow glooming melancholic trance-folk-spiritual tranquilizer, featuring Hayashi playing the piano and koto, while Chi Soungja ghostly weeps on his gayageum zither. A perfectly built folk drama, deeply charged with a musical infinity. Its followed by "kalavinka", an industrial leaning composition that lifts off with metal tones and meditative chanting, only to melt into a mesmerizing melodic marimba crescendo, played by Midori Takada. B side opener "Kaze No Shisha" presents a slow growing performance by Hayashi on the Japanese zither koto. His nervous play transforms into a synth drone played by Shuichi Chino, that slowly makes space for Hayashi's tribal taiko drumming that again disappears in another wave of koto string notes. The follow-up "Bakuon" launches with a supersonic transport sound and operatic singing by The Honeymoons, which amalgamate with Hayashi's feverish performance on his main instrument, the taiko. On "Seiten", Hayashi creates a conversation between the taiko and mokugyo, also known as the Buddhist wooden fish. A captivating, experimental album, full of Japanese music mysticism, surprising non-linear shock-waves, repetitive minimal structures, and frenziedly drumming.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Jon Hassell ‎– Fascinoma (1999)

Genre: Electronic, Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Water Lily Acoustic

Tracklist:
01.   Nature Boy
02.   Datura
03.   Caravanesque
04.   Wide Sky
05.   Mevlana Duke
06.   Secretly Happy
07.   Poinciana
08.   Sensuendo
09.   Suite De Caravan
10.   Estaté (Summer)

Credits:
Tambura – Rick Masterson, Rose Okada
Bansuri – Ronu Majumdar 
Electronic Drums – Jamie Muhoberac  
Guitar, Bass Clarinet, Sampler – Rick Cox
Piano – Jacky Terrasson 
Drums – Joachim Cooder
Trumpet, Liner Notes – Jon Hassell
Guitar, Produced By – Ry Cooder

"With this record, I locate myself squarely within that aspect of music which is fundamental and irreducible: the beauty of the sound," states Jon Hassell in the liner notes for Fascinoma. Hassell, of course, has spent his career emphasizing the beauty of sound and how recordings capture that better than any other medium. The difference is, with Fascinoma, he weaves unique interpretations of standards like "Nature Boy" and "Caravan" into his own sonic tapestry. Hassell has intended the album as a tribute to the "musical exotica" he heard as a child "on the radio or in movie scores," and his statement unlocks many doors to his music. Echoes of early exotica and evocative jazz can be heard throughout the album, but Hassell pieces it together in an odd, original fashion. Since the record is so quiet, some listeners may dismiss it as mere mood music. This is a valid point; the album creates its own unique, wide open aural vistas. But listen closer and there's some truly startling interplay and ideas, not only from Hassell but from his supporting musicians (who include Ry Cooder and Jacky Terrasson). At times, the gauzy recording can be a little impenetrable, as can the challenging minimalism of the compositions and arrangements themselves. But if the music intrigues you, it's hard not to get swept up in it.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine / AllMusic

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Neil Ardley ‎– Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows (1976)

Style: Jazz-Funk, Contemporary Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Gull, Line Records

Tracklist:
1.   Prologue
2.   Rainbow 1
3.   Rainbow 2
4.   Rainbow 3
5.   Rainbow 4
6.   Rainbow 5
7.   Rainbow 6
8.   Rainbow 7
9.   Epilogue

Credits:
Bass – Roger Sutton
Conductor, Synthesizer – Neil Ardley
Drums – Roger Sellers
Engineer – Martin Levan
Guitar – Ken Shaw
Percussion, Vibraphone – Trevor Tomkins
Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet – Tony Coe
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Ian Carr
Acoustic Cello, Electric Cello – Paul Buckmaster
Electric Piano, Synthesizer – Dave MacRae, Geoff Castle
Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Barbara Thompson, Bob Bertles
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute, Alto Flute – Brian Smith
Producer – Paul Buckmaster

Neil Ardley (director, synthesiser), Bob Bertles (alt, sop, flt), Paul Buckmaster ( acoustic & electric cello), Ian Carr (tpt ,flh), Geoff Castle (elec' pno, synth), Tony Coe (tnr, clt, bs clt), Dave Macrae (elec' pno, synth), Roger Sellers (drs), Ken Shaw (gtr), Brian Smith (ten, sop, flt, alt flt), Roger Sutton (bs gtr, bs), Barbara Thompson (alt, sop, flt), Trevor Tomkins (perc', vbs), Stan Sulzman (alt, sop, flt) John Taylor ( elc pno).

1) Prologue/Rainbow One ( Soloists, Ian Carr & Brian Smith) 10m 26s, 2) Rainbow Two (Soloists, Dave Macrae & Geoff Castle) 7m 34s 3) Rainbow Three ( Soloist, Paul Buckmaster) 3m 28s 4) Rainbow Four ( Soloist, Barbara Thompson) 6m 15s 5) Rainbow 5 (Soloist, Tony Coe) 4m 25s 6) Rainbow 6 (Soloists, Ken Shaw & Bob Bertles) 7m 39s 7) Epilogue/Rainbow 7 14m 56s.

 Born in 1937, Neil Ardley himself was a man of many talents, and not confined to jazz. Gaining a BSC from Bristol University he went on to write over one hundred books on science and technology, was on the staff of the World Book Enclopedia for a time and wrote children's books for Hamlyn. His total book sales topped ten million, including his three million best seller The Way Things Work. He also found time to sing in a number of choirs and compose choral works. His early jazz life included a spell as pianist with The John Williams Big Band and the study of writing and arranging under Ray Premru and Bill Russo. He became director of the highly acclaimed New Jazz Orchestra and went on to release nine albums as a leader between 1965 and 2001. He passed away on 23rd April 2004 aged 66.

Recorded at The Morgan Studios in London, this album has for many decades been described as one of the very best in jazz recorded by British musicians. It featured at number 22 in the New Musical Express annual chart of top albums of any genre in its year of release. Two years later in 1978 there was a follow up release by the band entitled Harmony Of The Spheres which included vocalist Norma Winstone. Everything about "Kaleidoscope" is well structured but with plenty of space for the soloists to express themselves. This is evident right from the ensemble based prologue with its cosmic like opening guitar passage and growing intensity that eventually morphs into Rainbow One which features a bright and lively solo from Ian Carr before finally finding calmer waters in the closing bars of Brian Smith's soprano.
Quickly switching to a ballad like mode, Rainbow Two suggests a gentle breeze personified in the twin keyboard sounds of Dave Macrae and Geoff Castle with the bass clarinet of Tony Coe riding sonorously across the soundscape. Admired by Miles Davis, when they collaborated for a time, Paul Buckmaster is one of a very small number of musicians with the ability to bring the cello to jazz with any conviction. In the joyful Rainbow Three utilising both the acoustic and electric instruments over a rock like back beat. The pure class of Barbara Thompsons alto and shimmering soprano sound are evident on the fourth rainbow of the sequence, alongside another fine solo from Ian Carr, who seemed to be on top form throughout. There is urgency in the air as Tony Coe holds sway on both the standard and bass clarinets during number five over a drumming master class from Roger Sellers on Rainbow Five which also highlights the leaders fine arranging skills that were evident across the whole set. It's a serene panorama of the skies for the sixth rainbow, with Ken Shaws subdued but magnificent guitar performance painting a vivid musical view, more akin to the whole universe rather than just a single rainbow. This one really draws the listener in and is perhaps the album highlight. The final Rainbow Seven and the Epilogue are presented as one complete track of almost fifteen minutes. There is more of an orchestral feel to this, the soloists only emerging briefly from the ensemble. It really epitomises the word kaleidoscope on its own and could easily stand alone as an example of the most creative jazz writing and arranging of the time. Although things have moved on somewhat in the world of jazz composition for large ensembles, this work is most certainly deserving of its elevated status, forty four years after the original recording date.
Jim Burlong / Jazz Views