Well, another week, more late new releases. Some in from last week, some not in until next week. It’s almost not even worth mentioning anymore, but what else am I going to do, talk about the weather? Anywho… it’s gonna be a beautiful weekend, come down for a dig. Loads of fresh used should be in the bins and several wonderful new arrivals as well.
Oh ya… if you don’t follow us on Instagram, WHY NOT?! And now you know.
…..pick of the week…..
Six Organs of Admittance: Companion Rises (Drag City) LP
Sorry to taunt you, but for some reason, my supplier sent me one copy of this despite my order. BUT it is out this week, and we’ll have more next week, so this one is for that lucky one of you to get here first o grab it, and the rest of you will have to wait until next week. Six Organs is back after 3 years with a new record, new techniques in sound generation, and a new attitude. Companion Rises has a driving force only hinted at with previous releases. Manipulating the rhythmic DNA from songs such as the bass-dominated “Taken by Ascent” (on his last record, Burning the Threshold), BEN CHASNY has grown a new sound creature in his lab that is as welcoming as it is terrifying and as fun to listen to as it provocative and intriguing. Methodologically, Companion Rises sometimes recalls the early-mid low-fi work of Six Organs, with modern techniques swapping digital processes in for the analog ways of the early days, and algorithmic programs creating the rhythms rather than Ben’s overdubbed hand percussion. Also like those early records, Companion Rises has Ben creating all the sounds, doing all the recording and mixing the entire record himself. But do not mistake this as some sort of return to an older sound. One listen and it is obvious that this Six Organs of Admittance release is all in the present. Sonically, Ben’s songs are bursting with ideas, harmonically rich, gorgeously arranged; often presenting two versions at once, overlaying electric and acoustic treatments that interlock like two shards that form a single key. Thematically, many songs on Companion Rises seem to navigate a similar Stellar-Gnosticism that 2012’s Ascent explored, but with a completely different set of stories. Whereas Ascent was locked into a narrative concerning a sentient Jupiter, Companion Rises presents a handful of folk-tales whose topics span in scope from panspermia to specific constellations, all written in a way that eschews new age presentation tropes and embraces the now. With Companion Rises, Ben has created a Sci-Folk record that feels totally in the right place welcoming in the new decade.
File Under: Psych, Folk
Gyedu Blay Ambolley & Zantoda Mark III: Control (Mr. Bongo) LP
Extremely hard-to-find Ghanaian LP from legendary musician Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, originally released in 1980. Tough Highlife, funk and boogie moods with added synthesizer! Ambolley is still actively touring today, keeping these vibes alive – he will be touring Europe throughout 2019. This is the third Gyedu Blay Ambolley LP that we have reissued on Mr Bongo, following on from his seminal ‘Ambolley’ and ‘Simigwa’ recordings.
File Under: Highlife, Funk, Afro-beat
Kollington Ayinla & His Fuji ’78 Organisation: Blessing (Soul Jazz) LP
This is the first in Soul Jazz’s new series of one-off pressings of vinyl-only releases of Afro-funk/Afro-beat exact-replica, super-rare albums that were previously only ever released in Nigeria. The series starts with Kollington Ayinla’s celebrated 1978 album Blessing, a rare lost classic of Nigerian Fuji music, featuring Ayinla’s sharp political lyrics together with his new band Fuji ’78. Blessing blends the heavily percussive style of Fuji music with a stunning array of modern instruments, including synthesizers, Bata drums and guitars, to create one of the most forward-thinking and heavily danceable sounds ever to come out of Nigeria – a highly successful mixture of profound Fuji rhythms and Fela Kuti-style Afrobeat. Ayinla ranks alongside his friend and competitor Ayinde Barrister as the two most important artists to dominate Fuji music from its inception in the ’70s through to the ’90s by which time it had grown to become one of the most popular dance genres in Nigeria. At the start of the ’80s Ayinla started his own record company, Kollington Records, to release his music and remains to this day an extremely prolific artist, having recorded over 50 albums, most of which have never been released outside of Nigeria.
File Under: Nigeria, Afro-beat, Funk
Courtney Barnett: MTV Unplugged Live in Melbourne (Mom+Pop) LP
On October 22nd Courtney Barnett performed a unique and special show at the invitation of MTV Australia in her hometown of Melbourne. The ‘Unplugged’ performance features Barnett as you’ve never heard her before, warm, vulnerable and emotional. Under a garland of lights and a canopy of florals in the outdoor courtyard of Howler, Barnett performed a stirring set of eight songs to an intimate audience including ‘Depreston’, ‘Avant Gardener’ and ‘Sunday Roast’. Joined by her usual band Dave Mudie and Bones Sloane, she also enlisted cellist Lucy Waldron. MTV Australia Unplugged Live in Melbourne will be available physically on February 21. Barnett made the night even more iconic by inviting some of her favorite musicians to collaborate including legendary songwriter Paul Kelly, angelically-voiced New Zealander Marlon Williams and Milk! Records label-mate Evelyn Ida Morris. The performances included covers of Leonard Cohen, Archie Roach and Seeker Lover Keeper as well as a never-before-heard original track from Courtney herself titled ‘Play It On Repeat’.
File Under: Indie Rock
Califone: Echo Mine (Jealous Butcher) LP
Echo Mine is Califone’s score to Robyn Mineko Williams’ dance. The movement and the music started together and grew together, like two clear entities. At times totally intertwined and at other times bouncing off one another, sort of like reflections. But, somehow, always connected and listening. Ben Massarella, Brian Deck and I worked in a way that felt like a return to home; Brian handling the engineering, electronics, drums and overall sound of the piece, Ben adding percussion, feel, essential textures and colors. I felt like my job was to hover over all of it like a moth. Find melody in everything. Leave openings for everyone to work at the top of their creativity. We made our album, Roomsound, in much the same way (almost 20 years ago). Three of us in the studio – Be humans. Play together as much as possible. A good feel beats perfection every time. Add other musicians to add other voices and other colors, to do the things we can’t do.
File Under: Indie Rock, OST
Cindy Lee: What’s Tonight to Eternity (w.25st) LP
For Patrick Flegel, Cindy Lee is more than just a recording music project. It is the culmination of a lifelong exploration of art, the electric guitar, queer identity and gender expression. “Singers like Patsy Cline and The Supremes carried me through the hardest times of my life,” explains Flegel, “and also provided the soundtrack to the best times.” Following the dissolution of Canadian experimental indie band Women, Flegel would delve deeper into songwriting that bends further toward high atmospherics and bracing melodies—a unique space where splendor naturally collides with experimentation. Delivering moments of sheer beauty through somber reflections on longing and loneliness, Cindy Lee is something to hold onto in a world of disorder. What’s Tonight To Eternity, Cindy Lee’s fifth long-form offering, showcases the project’s most entrancing strengths: ethereal snowdrift pop and sly nods toward classic girl-group motifs. Recorded at Flegel’s Realistik Studios in Toronto and featuring younger brother Andrew Flegel on drums, the album travels hand in hand with a spectral guide. Flegel found inspiration for Cindy Lee in the form of Karen Carpenter, drawing on the singer / drummer’s early recordings as well as her look and style. “I found a deep interest and comfort in Karen’s story, which is a cautionary tale about the monstrosity of show business, stardom at a young age and being a misfit looking for connection. The darkness and victimizing tabloid sensationalism she suffered is easily tempered and overwhelmed by her earnest output, her artistry, her tireless work ethic. Something utterly unique and magical takes shape in the negative space, out of exclusion. What I relate to in her has to do with what is hidden, what is unknown.” What’s Tonight To Eternity remains a mix of pop culture indoctrination, pain and suffering, hopes and dreams, fierce confrontations and wide-open confessional blurs. Closing with the song “Heavy Metal” (dedicated to the memory of former Women bandmate Chris Reimer) and adorned by Andrea Lukic’s Journal of Smack artwork, the album continues the bold and rewarding path on which Cindy Lee has embarked.
File Under: Lo-Fi, Psych, Indie Rock, Women
Alabaster DePlume: To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol 1 (International Anthem) LP
Alabaster DePlume is a London-based bandleader, composer, saxophonist, activist and orator. Whilst much of his music contains vocals, this is a collection of instrumentals. The music of To Cy & Lee… contains naturally elegant orchestration wrapped around something visceral and primordial. The music is filled with space, inspired by computer games and Japanese animation, particularly Joe Hisaishi’s soundtrack for Castle In The Sky. The record combines new compositions alongside bygone instrumentals and under-stated lullabies that feel like they’ve been picked from between the cracks of civilization. DePlume purposefully brings together players of different skill levels and backgrounds so they have to interact differently. “I wanted to destroy the idea of correct so we were playing it different ways for fun. We had a very magical time playing the tunes.” This is activism expressed through gorgeous music that breaks down barriers by encouraging that most powerful emotion: connectedness.
File Under: Jazz
Giraffe: Desert Haze (Marionette) LP
Experimental trio Giraffe crystalize time on ‘Desert Haze’, their new LP on Marionette. Giraffe is the musical project of Sascha Demand (guitar), Jürgen Hall (keys), and Charly Schöppner (percussion). Sascha Demand is a composer that comes from a contemporary and improvised musical background, collaborating with the likes of Ensemble Integrales and Vinko Globokar. Jürgen Hall works in electroacoustic experimental projects, theatre and film scores, with releases on Staubgold and Edition Stora. Charly Schöppner is known for his popular music releases such as Boytronic on major production companies in the 1980´s and composes for theatre, dance, and film scores. With only a couple of releases to date on the wonderful Meakusma imprint as well as an EP on Marmo, little is known about Giraffe. After letting go of other artistic projects, the trio now focuses solely on Giraffe by continuously searching for and finding their own unique language. Sascha, Jürgen and Charly have quite diverse musical backgrounds, though morphing into Giraffe they tower into one single composer. Their music is a critical statement, not in a political sense but rather an artistic one. Being mindful about what it means to create and how to position themselves as artists nowadays (without the constant hassle of being en vogue and short-lived trends) shaped their rather rare and stoic artistic stance. It is refreshingly honest to see their expression develop so naturally. On Desert Haze, they’ve created a vibrant and minimalistic tribal sound that feels inspired by the Saharan traditional music of the Tuareg, Jazz, and German psychedelic krautrock. Giraffe themselves also list the radical music of the Viennese School (Schoenberg along with his pupils Berg and Webern) as well as the Köln School with its early electronic experiments as their main influence and inspiration. More precisely the composition process and the organization of musical material within space and time, where a conceptual and intellectual approach melds with an experimental yet expressive sound searching method. Side A focuses on the trios studio work; it is built around tone color and pitch analysis of resonating prepared guitar sounds. Through a unique mixture of free improvisation and a serialism “rule set”, they develop instrumental layers and structures to form their tracks. Side B sees Giraffe playing more freely with a reduced setup – representative of what you may hear when listening to them live. Desert Haze, along with its track-titles, showcases an almost mimetic approach to art. The haptic music grabs the listener not as a passive recipient but as an active resonant body to vibrate through. One can almost feel the Elements, pressure and heat forming a diamond, hypnotic overtones ringing through windy caves, shamanistic rhythms conjuring up mysterious and ancient landscapes – where the constant cycle of sedimentation and erosion reveals structures of fragile beauty – always gentle to the hand’s touch and the mind’s eye.
File Under: Electronic, Experimental, Tribal
Grimes: Miss Anthropocene (Crystal Math) LP
Canadian artist Claire Boucher aka Grimes follows-up 2015’s Art Angels with her highly-anticipated fifth studio album, Miss Anthropocene. An amalgamation of three albums Grimes recorded over the past three years, Miss Anthropocene is based on a neologism commonly used in scientific circles. Misanthropocene refers to both the misanthrope’s loathing of humanity and the Anthropocene era in which our planet is dominated by human activity. The 10-track collection is introduced by the breathy and beat driven “Violence” and atmospheric “So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth” and features guest appearances by 潘PAN and i_o.
File Under: Electronic, Indie Rock
Smokey Haangala: Aunka Ma Kwacha (Séance Centre) LP
There is music that falls right into place, a perfectly articulated expression of a few distinct influences. Then, there is another kind of median music, something more mysterious, the result of time, place, technology, and alchemy. Zambian writer and musician Smokey Haangala’s Aunka Ma Kwacha (The Money is Gone) released in 1976 is an example of this more mystical metallurgy, falling somewhere between psychedelic Zamrock, US folk, Kalindula, and Sundown Beat (music played after dark) from Tongaland. The unique mix of languages on the album (Bemba, Tonga, Lozi, and English) also suggest this complex cultural crossroads. Underlying the whole album is the insistent beat of a simple drum machine, which was totally unheard of in Zambia at the time, and parallels pioneering experiments by Francis Bebey, Sly Stone, and Shuggie Otis, utilizing a technology which would later come to define dance music. Then there’s the album’s original artwork by Peter Kependa, done in style similar to the infamous Jamaican dancehall illustratorWilfred Limonious, interpreting the album’s title and primary theme; the burden of financial inequality. In this sense the album is political, but the theme is extrapolated and explored through its impact on personal life; love, marriage, social status, and diet. The album is full of cautionary tales, folklore and references to magic, aspects of Zambian culture simultaneously mystifying and alluring to outsiders, part of what attracted Western readers to Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola’s hallucinatory Yoruba folktales. After becoming a household name in Zambia for his music, writing, and television appearances, Smokey Haangala died at the age of 38, the very week his book The Black Eye was published, abruptly ending his brilliant and ascending career. We are lucky to have his inimitable work to remember him by, Aunka Ma Kwacha resting comfortably in the pantheon of re-visionary works by Rodriguez, Kissoon Ramasar, TJ Hustler, and William Onyeabor. There will always be some flowers for your grave, Smokey.
File Under: Zambia, Psych
I.A.O.: Phase III (Left Ear) LP
Left Ear Records have put together a collection of recordings taken from the elusive Berlin band I.A.O., spanning their third phase from 1988 to 1995. Phase III commemorates the band’s final line-up of three members; Achim Kohlberger, Ralf Östereich and Carsten Zielske. The sounds on this retrospective vary widely, with threads of melancholic sequences, angular jamming and a focus on electronic soundscapes. The tracks are pinned against a backdrop of political and social unrest in Berlin at the time. Two different cities had become one with the fall of the wall, driving a bubbling subculture attempting to reunite the capital. Seemingly irrelevant to what I.A.O. was producing, these territories dance parallel to one another. In the late 1980’s, Achim Kohlberger of the band and partner Dimitri Hegemann, were orchestrating ‘Atonal Festival’, these days known as Berlin Atonal. Soon after, they set-up of one of the first techno clubs in the world – UFO, today known as Tresor. I.A.O. cites the cast of personalities they would come across in the clubs and pubs as influential in their songwriting, artists, outsiders or the ‘general dropouts.’ However, their works resemble techno music. Phase III’s opening track Gospel IV introduces the band with their patience and restraint, synthesizers work to reveal folding melodies. The downtempo voyage continues with Marshmallow Girls, an insight into the band’s sensitive observations and hazy imagery. All Is Bliss presents a vocal mantra cooperating with nagging bass lines and euphonic percussion. Meanwhile, two instrumentals Love and Twinkle Twinkle Twinkle Little Star both typify and defy timeless dancefloor paradigms. The compilation signs off with Ferns, binding the icy yet bright tones found throughout.
File Under: Electronic, Downtempo
Elvin Jones: Mr. Jones (Blue Note) LP
In honor of Blue Note Records’ 80th Anniversary, the legendary jazz label is launching the Blue Note 80 Vinyl Reissue Series. Distinct from the Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series, this second series curated by Don Was and Cem Kurosman features 180g vinyl LP releases in standard packaging with albums spanning the many eras of the label’s history presented by themes: Blue Note Debuts, Blue Grooves, Great Reid Miles Covers, Blue Note Live, and Blue Note Drummer Leaders. After his six years with the seminal John Coltrane Quartet, the mighty drummer Elvin Jones signed with Blue Note Records in 1968 and made a series of ten fantastic albums including 1972’s Mr. Jones, produced by Francis Wolff and George Butler, and featuring saxophonists Dave Liebman, Steve Grossman, and Pepper Adams, Thad Jones on flugelhorn, pianist Jan Hammer, bassist Gene Perla, and percussionists Carlos “Patato” Valdes, Frank Ippolito, and Albert Duffy. The music delves into expansive post-bop with Latin influences and includes an impassioned version of Tadd Dameron’s gorgeous ballad “Soultrane” in dedication to Coltrane. This Blue Note 80 Vinyl Edition is all-analog, mastered by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes, and pressed on 180g vinyl LP at Optimal.
File Under: Jazz
Peter King: Omo Lewa (Mr. Bongo) LP
Super-funky business from Nigerian-born multi-instrumentalist, Peter King; fuses funk, jazz and highlife vibrations. ‘Omo Lewa’ follows his ‘Miliki Sound’ album, also available on Mr Bongo. Recorded in London, originally released in 1976 by Orbitone, this is one of his finest records.
File Under: Funk, Jazz, Highlife
Benjamin Lew: Bamako Ou Ailleurs (Stroom) 12”
“Benjamin Lew was an enlightened amateur, in the noble and almost Renaissance-like sense of the word: he dabbled with equal grace in photography, writing, visual arts … and worked part-time as a cocktail mixer in a tropical bar which was one of the favourite watering holes of Brussels’ thriving artistic community of the early ‘80s. Tuxedomoon had just moved to Brussels, and Steven Brown was among the many musicians, designers & artists who patronized the bar. Benjamin had a secret passion: he wasn’t a musician, but had acquired a small analog computer, with which he had started creating these strange mysterious little pieces. Benjamin played them to Steven and asked him if he’d agree to record with him. Steven was taken with them and accepted. The Douzième Journée was largely created in the studio by both protagonists, with the help of Gilles Martin and myself, in the spring of ‘82. Listening to his albums (he went on to record four more with Crammed) is like embarking on a dream journey to the Sahara or the Far East. You’d think that some of the pieces feature non-European musicians or samples but: no… this is just Benjamin’s imagination, his synths, and his friends…”
File Under: Electronic, Tribal
Karma Moffett: Sitting Still Within/Sitting Still Without
(Morning Trip) LP
Sound has the ability to heal. This is the primary tenet that has driven Karma Moffett for over 35 years. Pure tones, resonant harmonics, the sounds of the earth. At the dawn of the 80’s, as the burgeoning movement of privately-issued New Age was taking hold, Karma Moffett was a pioneer. Eschewing the use of synthesizers and other increasingly-available electronic technology, Karma crafted his meditative, introspective music using ancient instruments. Primarily utilizing Tibetan Bells, and Singing Bowls, Karma Moffett crafted sounds that led the listener on an inward journey. 1982’s Sitting Still Within/Sitting Still Without is Karma Moffett’s earliest triumph. Combining the aforementioned Tibetan Bowls & Bells along with naturalistic field recordings, Karma’s first album is a testament to the power of minimalism and repetition. An ambient voyage that truly draws the listener inwardst, and outwards, Sitting Still Within/Sitting Still Without is music for healing.
File Under: New Age, Ambient
Luke Sanger: Natsukashii (Ish) LP
Previously issued by Dead Bison under Luke’s Natsukashii moniker as a cassette only release, featured on Bandcamp daily and sold out within a few weeks, this stunning album finally sees the light of day on a proper vinyl release. Here’s what Bandcamp had to say: “Natsukashii’s Driving East is described as an ambient record with a cult following—recorded in the early ‘80s but never officially released until Berlin’s Dead Bison decided to take on the task this year. (This may not be true.) It’s of the same school of ambient/New Age music as ‘80s pioneer Hiroshi Yoshimura, offering spacious, light, melodic compositions that sound like they were made using the same Yamaha synthesizers Yoshimura did. Driving East is a must-listen for anyone interested in Japanese-style ambient, beautifully executing the serene pentatonic melodies and masterful arrangement of space that Japanese composers often particularly excel at. Every track on the release is sublime, but “Wildlife” and the title track both particularly tap into a meditative headspace, with synthesizer scales that feel like waves ebbing away slowly after crashing onto the shore.”
File Under: Electronic, Ambient, New Age
Tame Impala: The Slow Rush (Modular) LP
The highly anticipated The Slow Rush marks Tame Impala’s (Kevin Parker) fourth full-length album overall and first studio effort since 2015’s Grammy-nominated and BRIT Award-winning Currents. Recorded between Los Angeles and Parker’s studio in his hometown of Fremantle, Australia, the twelve tracks were all recorded, produced and mixed by Parker himself. The Slow Rush is Parker’s deep dive into the oceans of time, conjuring the feeling of a lifetime in a lightning bolt, of major milestones whizzing by while you’re looking at your phone, it’s a paean to creation and destruction and the unending cycle of life. Parker told the New York Times that, “A lot of the songs carry this idea of time passing, of seeing your life flash before your eyes, being able to see clearly your life from this point onwards. I’m being swept by this notion of time passing. There’s something really intoxicating about it.” Single “It Might Be Time” is your paranoid shadow snapping at your Achilles heel. It’s the horrifying idea that your mojo’s gone out for a walk and it may not be coming back. It’s second guessing yourself, wondering ‘have I still got it? Did I ever?’ Your paranoid inner observer taunting you in your own denial, telling you to wake up and accept your salad days are over. A dynamic, bombastic burst of pungent prog-pop, “It Might Be Time” pulses on an insistent keyboard groove, punctuated by collisions of overblown drums flaying at the edges, the outward expression of a restless internal funk. A heady psych bomb threatening to implode, “It Might Be Time” is potent Tame Impala 2020. The Slow Rush cover art was created in collaboration with photographer Neil Krug and features a symbol of humanity all but swallowed whole by the surrounding environment, as though in the blink of an eye.
File Under: Indie Rock
Art Taylor: A.T.’s Delight (Blue Note) LP
In honor of Blue Note Records’ 80th Anniversary, the legendary jazz label is launching the Blue Note 80 Vinyl Reissue Series. Distinct from the Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series, this second series curated by Don Was and Cem Kurosman features 180g vinyl LP releases in standard packaging with albums spanning the many eras of the label’s history presented by themes: Blue Note Debuts, Blue Grooves, Great Reid Miles Covers, Blue Note Live, and Blue Note Drummer Leaders. Art Taylor was one of the greatest drummers in modern jazz who propelled the bands of Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Dexter Gordon, and many more. As a leader Taylor only recorded a handful of albums including 1960’s A.T.’s Delight, which is an equally inventive and enchanting set of hard bop that interprets the music of Coltrane, Monk, Davis, and Kenny Dorham with a stellar band featuring trumpeter Dave Burns, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, and Carlos “Patato” Valdes on congas. The unique and varied arrangements and first-class performances throughout pay tribute to the drummer’s exceptional song selection. This Blue Note 80 Vinyl Edition is all-analog, mastered by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes, and pressed on 180g vinyl LP at Optimal.
File Under: Jazz
Jan Van Den Broeke: 11000 Dreams (Stroom) LP
The third release on STROOM is introvert music gold by Jan Van den Broeke, the man behind the eighties diy/lofi wave outfits Absent Music, June11 and The Misz. Van den Broeke, now a renowned architect, self released most of his music on cassettes and CDR’s. Recently some of his stuff was reissued through labels such as EE Tapes or Walhalla Records, but this is his first career spanning compilation, covering over 30 years of music, carefully selected by Nosedrip and Jan himself. Van den Broeke tried to cover the gap between ambient and song, with music assembled in layers, using electronic and acoustic instruments and samples from radio, tv, field recordings, old tapes, movies and so on. As a youngster of his time & place, he was heavily influenced by the output of labels like Les Disques du Crépuscule and Crammed, but the compilation shows an intense research towards a personal sound.
File Under: Electronic, Ambient, Lo-Fi
Vazz: Cloud Over Maroma (Stroom) LP
Cézanne painted Mont Sainte-Victoire many times over and referred to it as his ‘beautiful motif’. I write these notes to you looking out on the Andalucian mountain of Maroma, my own beautiful motif, jutting into the pale blue skies at over 2,000 metres. And like David Byrne before me, who unwittingly left the Scottish town of Dumbarton at the tender age of 2 and ended up in New York, I ask myself ‘How Did I Get Here?’. It all started in Steelopolis in the 1960’s when Ravenscraig fumed and the newly-built ships sailed down the River Clyde, past Dumbarton, out into the Atlantic. The industrial belt of Scotland wasn’t beautiful and it was ugly enough to make you wonder what lay beyond it all. Glasgow was the hub. It was the ‘Dear Green Place’ with its parks and gardens and somehow, with all its squalor and sectarian strife, it flourished and energised and it gave the world The Queen Mary and Lulu. Everything started to unravel in the 1970’s. The steelworks stalled and the shipyards started to sink. But we had punk and in March 1977 I saw my first band at the age of 15 : The Damned were everything a shy, angst-ridden teenager needed and I also managed to get Captain Sensible’s autograph after the gig. Punk perfectly encapsulated the political landscape. The freezing winter of 1978-1979 became known as The Winter of Discontent. Everyone was on strike and everyone was looking for a way out. But if you thought the way out was dying then you were fucked because even the gravediggers were on strike. The way out for this post-punk youth from all of this was music and in 1980 Postcard Records put out Orange Juice’s ‘Falling and Laughing’. The Sound of Young Scotland had arrived and it wasn’t waiting for anyone to say it was okay to go ahead. It was DIY ethics all the way. We were all so young and naive and somehow lacked a sense of propriety. In 1980 I played my first ever gig. My friend had a synthesiser and I had a bass and two drum machines. We wrote half a dozen sombre instrumentals for our setlist. We called ourselves The Athenian Secret for some reason. It didn’t really matter as the gig was at the local Rugby Club and we bombed like a Greek Tragedy. Truth be told, they would rather have had Lulu. She had much more stage presence than a couple of moribund teenagers. The Athenian Secret, Kodak Twist, Eiffel Towers and then The Distance. Bands formed then disbanded a month or two later. The Distance were a five piece band with a real drummer to start with but very soon it was only myself and Anna and we quickly changed our name to Vazz ; a nonsense word that sounded a bit like jazz but was a bit vague and didn’t give too many clues to what the music would sound like. We didn’t know what the music would sound like anyway as we were being influenced by everything from Harry Partch to Chic. For me it was Eno and Byrne’s ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’ that did it. It blew everything else away. It still does. In 1982 we recorded exclusively at The Hellfire Club in Glasgow. It was in a dingy tenement basement with a palpable taste of dampness and decay. It fitted our needs perfectly. We sketched out rough home demos then recorded them very fast in the studio. One of the first tracks we recorded early in 1982 was ‘Cast Reflections’. It set the tone for where we were at musically ; songs that weren’t really songs in the verse / chorus tradition. ‘Lost Time’ was a cacophony of percussion over wah-wah guitar, clarinet and a child’s xylophone. It was about the Impressionists. We’d spent the summer in Paris looking at the Cézanne’s in the Louvre and pretending to be cultured Europeans. ‘Flute Dance’ had an African lilt to it pairing a wood flute over a compressed drumbox. We were all over the place and difficult to pigeon hole. It felt great. The music became more structured over the next couple of years. Tracks became longer and more complex. In 1985 the Glasgow label Cathexis Recordings released ‘Breath’ as a 33 RPM 7” single in an over-sized plastic bag with a set of postcards included. It was a lavish affair and ‘Breath’ clocked in at over six minutes. BBC Radio One legend John Peel played it a couple of times but it didn’t really make any impact. It didn’t help that we rarely played live or promoted the music in any other way. But that’s real Glasgow rain you can hear at the very end piano coda. I got up in the middle of the night and dangled a microphone out of the window to capture it. I had no fear of electrocution then. By 1987 we had run our course : musically, emotionally and geographically. I moved to Edinburgh and Anna moved to London. A capital city correspondence lasted for a couple of years but by 1990 we had lost touch in a world that still relied on letters and landlines. A new decade in new cities and the lure of new people. How easy it is to move into a different slipstream when you’re lost at sea. Edinburgh was beautiful and strange. 45 miles along the M8 motorway, it was like moving from Kansas to Oz. Then there is a vast hiatus. The Glasgow period was most definitively 1982-1987 and the Edinburgh period didn’t really start again until around 2010. Two decades without creating music is a long time and it had been gnawing at me all along the yellow brick road I’d been travelling. With a new vigour and echoes of teenage angst I began again. I decided to call myself Reluctant Participant. It was very apt. It was a love/hate relationship that reached deep into the soul. Delving down into dormant memories of places visited and the atmospheres created by them. Like the ice white shroud that lay over winter in Krakow’s Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz. Photographs didn’t do it justice. It needed a piano. The Edinburgh period on this LP is represented by the four piano pieces ‘Embers’, ‘Kazimierz’, ‘Star Chamber’ and ‘Ritual’, all recorded there between 2014-2016. They’re part of a sequence of around fifty compositions from the same period some of which featured on the previous Vazz LP on STROOM (‘Submerged Vessels And Other Stories’) and on the accompanying twenty track CD on Forced Nostalgia. It was a three year purge recording this piano music. Emotionally intense and technically challenging. I’m glad it’s over. It was the culmination of another chapter of music that remains frozen in time and place. It was time to move on again to pastures new. Constricted by the boundaries of a small island and the madness of Brexit I felt an urge to leave it all behind in 2017 in search of the exotic. The same urge that took fellow Scotsman Robert Louis Stevenson to look for his treasure island. He died in Samoa in 1894. I didn’t feel the urge to go that far and Stevenson is quoted as saying ‘wine is bottled poetry’. Yes, I agree, and the wine is cheap and very fine in Spain. Cheap poetry was what I needed. Bukowski told me to do it. How did I get here? Well, you sell up everything you own and drive into the remote mountains of Andalucia. If you want to start a new chapter in your life you have to turn the page. You have to view the world from a different perspective and very soon you’ll find that the place you came from is just a speck of dust on the horizon and where you are now is the epicentre of the planet. Yes, it’s an optical illusion but it works. So much space and sky. I didn’t believe the world could offer up such a luminous landscape. I curse Steelopolis now for all those grey skies but I love it too because the dust got in my lungs and made this new air so much more rewarding to breathe. In the 8th Century the Moors invaded Spain and built the Alhambra in Granada. They built the Mezquita in Cordoba. Muslim Spain operated on a high cultural plateau that would shame us nowadays. I can only offer up ‘Cloud Over Maroma’, ‘Birdsong For The Birds’ and ‘Mezquita (Part 2)’ to add to these jewels. Maroma was there long before the Moors. The Moors were there long before man landed on the moon half a century ago. Drum machines meant you didn’t have to take Ginger Baker our for a drink. Life takes on sublime logic. In retrospect, everything takes on a new meaning from a different perspective. The past is the future. From Glasgow to Edinburgh to Andalucia. This music is about a small journey, an aural triptych of sounds. This album is dedicated to Ziggy and Fre who rescued Vazz from oblivion, but mostly to my wife, Rebecca, who reminded me twenty years ago that you could live again.
File Under: Electronic, Post Punk
Hozan Yamamoto w/ Sharps & Flats: Beautiful Bamboo-Flute (Mr. Bongo) LP
Seminal Japanese jazz album from 1971. Journeys through jazz fusion, soul and big band moods. Impossible to obtain in its original format these days. Official Mr Bongo reissue. Hozan Yamamoto was recognised as a “living national treasure” by the Japanese government in 2002. This highly sought-after album from the Japanese wood flute player is more upbeat and swinging than some of his other records. The big band he recorded this album with (Sharps & Flats) played a big part in the genesis of the album’s groove. Forming in 1951, they helped to make jazz popular in Japan after World War II. Yamamoto’s flute lines weave over the heavy brass sound and groove, creating an MPS label blending of funky jazz and Japanese vibes. The closest comparison would be Dorothy Ashby’s grooviest albums for Chess / Cadet – substituting Yamamoto’s flute for the harp. Licensed courtesy of Universal Music Group Limited.
File Under: Jazz
Cannonball Adderley: Somethin’ Else (Blue Note) LP
Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works (R&S) LP
Art & Technique: Clima-X (BFE) LP
Bauhaus: In The Flat Field (4AD) LP
Beatles: Revolver (Apple) LP
Big Star: #1 Record (Craft) LP
Black Keys: Brothers (Nonesuch) LP
Art Blakey: Moanin’ (Blue Note) LP
Boy Harsher: Careful (Nude) LP
Tina Brooks: Minor Move (Blue Note) LP
Tina Brooks: True Blue (Blue Note) LP
Kenny Burrell: Introducing (Blue Note) LP
Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane: s/t (OJC) LP
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree (Bad Seeds) LP
Don Cherry: Complete Communion (Blue Note) LP
Childish Gambino: Awaken My Love (Glassnote) LP
Daft Punk: Discovery (EMI) LP
Destroyer: Have We Met (Merge) LP
Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Universal) LP
Brian Eno: Apollo (Astralwerks) LP
Bill Fay: Countless Branches (Dead Oceans) LP
Funkadelic: America Eats Its Young (Westbound) LP
Funkadelic: Free Your Mind (Westbound) LP
Funkadelic: Maggot Brain (Westbound) LP
Funkadelic: Standing on the Verge of Getting It On (Westbound) LP
Godspeed You Black Emperor: Yanqui UXO (Constellation) LP
Grant Green: Born to be Blue (Blue Note) LP
Herbie Hancock: Takin’ Off (Blue Note) LP
Jung Il Jae: Parasite OST (Sacred Bones) LP
JPEGMafia: All My Heroes Are Cornballs (Caroline) LP
Khruangbin: Universe Smiles Upon You (Night Time Stories) LP
Kikagaku Moyo: Forest of Lost Children (Beyond Beyond is Beyond) LP
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: Infest the Rats Nest (ATO) LP
Fela Kuti: Zombie (Knitting Factory) LP
Fela Kuti: Yellow Fever (Knitting Factory) LP
Fela Kuti: Beasts of No Nation (Knitting Factory) LP
Daniel Lopatin: Uncut Gems OST (Warp) LP
Lord Mantis: Universal Death Church (Profound Lore) LP
Madvillain: Madvillainy (Stones Throw) LP
Hank Mobley: No Room For Squares (Blue Note) LP
Hank Mobley: Workout (Blue Note) LP
Jeff Parker: The New Breed (International Anthem) LP
Iggy Pop: The Idiot (Universal) LP
Iggy Pop: Lust for Life (Universal) LP
Popol Vuh: Essential Album Collection (Universal) 6LP Box
Quasimoto: The Unseen (Stones Throw) LP
Max Richter: From Sleep (Deutsche Grammophone) LP
Steve Roach: Quiet Music 1 (Telephone Explosion) LP
Steve Roach: Quiet Music 2 (Telephone Explosion) LP
Steve Roach: Quiet Music 3 (Telephone Explosion) LP
Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil (Blue Note) LP
Wayne Shorter: Night Dreamer (Blue Note) LP
Silver Jews: Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (Drag City) LP
Silver Jews: Bright Flight (Drag City) LP
Hiromasa Suzuki: Primrose (Le Tres Jazz Club) LP
Gabor Szabo: Sorcerer (Impulse) LP
T. Rex: The Slider (Demon) LP
Makoto Terashita: Great Harvest (Le Tres Jazz Club) LP
Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City (XL) LP
Mal Waldron: Free At Last (ECM) LP
War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian) LP
Baby Face Willette: Face to Face (Blue Note) LP
Amy Winehouse: Back to Black (Universal) LP
Amy Winehouse: Frank (Universal) LP
Wrens: Silver (Craft) LP