sat 20/07/2024

theartsdesk on Vinyl 84: Ibibio Sound Machine, Dave Clarke, Eliza Rose, Billy Idol, Bodega, Mui Zyu and more | reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk on Vinyl 84: Ibibio Sound Machine, Dave Clarke, Eliza Rose, Billy Idol, Bodega, Mui Zyu and more

theartsdesk on Vinyl 84: Ibibio Sound Machine, Dave Clarke, Eliza Rose, Billy Idol, Bodega, Mui Zyu and more

The most enormous, expansive record reviews in the known universe

theartsdesk on Vinyl support crew have fun at our review sessions© SHVETS


Ariel Sharratt & Matthias Kom Never Work (BB*Island) + Ella Ronen The Girl With No Skin (BB*Island)

arielTwo offbeat albums from the uncategorisable Hamburg label BB*Island. They are home to the literary indie outfit The Burning Hell. The central figures of that band are Canadian singers Mathias Kom and Ariel Sharratt (assuming the latter is Canadian as Google wouldn't tell me). Together, their second album is a concept affair loaded with brilliant, poignant freak-folk responses to contemporary capitalism, the gig economy and similar. These include the inspiring title track “Never Work”. The album comes with a welcome 12” x 24” NEVER WORK poster, elegant and full of quotable lines (“Your boss is not your friend. Your boss is the sworn enemy of joy”). It has the lyrics on the back. Even when wordily analysing the plot of The Goonies, they discuss financial crises and how we’re forever being screwed by the rich. For some reason that one, “The Rich Stuff”, even made me cry. Not quite sure why but it is lovely. Zurich-based singer Ella Ronen’s fourth album The Girl With No Skin, appears, on the face of it, a more likely album to make you cry. It opens with ella“Truth”, her steely-yet-vulnerable riposte to “a well-known poet and journalist” who sexually assaulted her when she was 16, then goes straight into a great Leonard Cohen tribute “Undercover”. Co-produced by Sharon Van Etten collaborator Sam Cohen, Laughin’ Len is a good reference point for these ten songs which balance gossamer lightness, meaty lyrics and righteous feminism (“Fuck pretty/I’m tired of pretty/Pretty never served me”). The music reflects the same variation between delicacy and rocky material, such as the glam-rock-ish “The Mall”. Comes with lyric inner sleeve. Both albums are outstanding but Ariel Sharratt & Matthias Kom’s is the one I can’t seem to pry off the turntable.


ZA! + Perrate Jolifanti (Lovemonk/El Volcan)

zaTomás Fernández Soto, AKA Perrate, comes from a celebrated Spanish flamenco bloodline while ZA! are an experimental Catalan duo based in Barcelona. They put this album together following a successful concert and, on the press release, Perrate states, “I don’t care what the most radical traditionalist minds may think of this or any other work I do.” This is lucky as it’s difficult to imagine traditionalists of any sort going anywhere near this album. The album is appropriately named after a Dada-ist poem from 1916. Perrate’s quavering voice sits amongst eight different sonic frameworks, which run the gamut from jazz dub to relentless atonal electro-pulsing to scratchy post-punk percussiveness. The only place this might be regarded as flamenco is an avant-garde planet far, far away. John Peel used to sometimes say, when he’d played a particularly off-the-wall record, that he didn’t yet know whether he liked it but that it was doing something different, interesting, and he’d have to see. That’s how I feel about this outing. It’s not immediately loveable but is fascinating, nonetheless. I find myself thinking about it, then coming back to poke again about its tricksy cracks and corners. Comes in info inner sleeve

Dave Clarke Archive One and The Red Series/Deluxe Edition Boxset (BMG/Skint)

clarkeDave Clarke is, arguably, the greatest British techno DJ of all. He has, personally, mellowed with age, but his music, fortunately, has not. To remind us that he’s always been delivering wallopings, he now releases a collection of his key mid-Nineties work, a boxsetted bunch of music that launched him on the world, which has been stuck in label dispute hell for most of the time since. Within it are his three Red 12”s, stark machine hammerings from 1994-95, laced with Detrot-learned touches. They announced him as a European contender, stern Teutonic dancefloor tools, many miles away from watery, low-BPM, don’t-frighten-the-children Insta techno. They are a blueprint for a style that dominated the rest of the decade. They are tasty on a dancefloor, DJ-scratched and mixed, but for straightforward playing, turn to the rest of the set. This consists of Clarke’s 1996 debut album Archive One (a bona fide, if unlikely, Top 40 hit!) wherein Clarke pushed out of techno’s over-policed parameters and dabbled in hip hop and even a hammering take on where house was at the time (“Southside”). It stands as a statement of intent as much as a listening experience. There are also two further records, entitled Red Rare and Red Remixes with reworks by Detroit uber-dons Juan Atkins, Robert Hood and Aux 88, as well as Umek, DJ Rush, and Surgeon... and The Chemical Brothers' monster recreation of “No-One’s Driving”. We will, in the coming weeks, have an interview with Clarke here on theartsdesk. In the meantime, this limited-to-1500 edition box reminds that his staunch sonic and aesthetic vision has been with us for three decades.

Transmission Towers Transmission One (É Soul Cultura) + Ibibio Sound Machine Pull the Rope (Merge) + Various Ghana Special Volume 2 (Soundway)

transThree very different and juicy albums on the Afro spectrum. Luke Una has a long nightworld history, being half of The Unabombers production team and creating Manchester clubbing institutions Electric Chair and Homoelectric. More recently he’s clambered into bed with Mr Bongo Records and given us two É Soul Cultura compilations representing his eclectic-Balearic vision. Now, É Soul Cultura has become his label, again under Mr Bongo’s auspices. Their opening release is by Liverpool duo Transmission Towers, fronted by singing percussionist Eleanor Anorbea Mante. Like Una's comps, it’s a mixture of essential off-piste electronic originality marinated in global roots flavour, and Balearic soul that’s sometimes too wishy-washy for theartsdesk on Vinyl’s tastes (although the psychedelically woozy “Go Slow Heart” is lush). Comes in photo/info inner sleeve. Ibibio Sound ibibioSound Machine are a reliable London unit, live and on record. Their fifth album is hindered by opening by with by far its strongest song, the title cut, a propulsive Sink Ya Teeth-style post-punk electro-funk banger. Once the listener gets past this, enjoyment resurfaces in the way they mingle Eighties-touched electro-soul, effectively sung by stylish frontwoman Eno Williams, and clubbier dancefloor numbers. TARDIS-ing back to (mostly) the Eighties, Soundway Records provide a delightful, uplifting second helping of their ghanadeep-dip into highlife music. Subtitled Electronic Highlife & Afro Sounds in the Diaspora 1980-93, it comes on gatefold triple with a detailed eight-page 12” x 12” booklet with back story by Ghanaian music journalist Sarah Osei. The reference to “electronic” is loose; these are not Afro-electro pop numbers, but some feature synth-work. Given how much of it there is, it's remarkably consistent and enjoyable, although there are outstanding highlughts, such the endless roll of “Ebe Ye Yie Ni”, recorded in London in 1979 by The Godfathers, Pepper, Onion, Gingers & Salt’s engaging attempt at introducing hip hop to their sound on “M.C. Mambo”, and the Afro-funk synth squelchiness of “Anoma Kora” by Starlite. Gorgeous stuff.

Billy Idol Rebel Yell: 40th Anniversary 2LP Deluxe Expanded Edition (Capitol) + Julian Cope World Shut Your Mouth (Proper) + Flowered Up A Life With Brian (London)

idolThree reissues from four decades ago, respectively from 1983, 1984 and 1991. Time has been kind to Billy Idol’s breakout album. He achieved greater commercial success, globally, on later releases but it’s Rebel Yell and the cobbled-together Vital Idol comp that define him for us Brits. This one features “Eyes Without a Face”, “Flesh For Fantasy” and, of course, the title track. At the time, his tacky punk sell-out preposterousness had a heavy whiff to it. Still does but, as so often, decades later, all that’s left is the music, a kitsch concoction of ultra-MTV synth vibes, Steve Stevens’ posturing soft metal guitar and Idol’s theatrical croon-snarl. It’s a contagious blast and the reissue arrives on double in gatefold, the second record containing a bunch of unreleased cuts, demos (the heavy rock demo of “Flesh for Fantasy” is an entirely different song!), and remixes (the “Poolside Remix” of “Eyes Without a Face” is a delicious, almost Balearic nodder”). And, as for “Catch My Fall”, it’s just classic pop copeof the sort one could imagine Elvis singing if he’d lived longer. The other two albums are both old friends in my record collection. World Shut Your Mouth was the first of two albums Julian Cope released in 1984 (the other was Fried, also reissued but not sent to me – hey, Proper Records, go on, go on, send me that!). World Shut Your Mouth is his solo debut. Cope had been braining his bonce with acid and retreated to rural Staffordshire to make it after The Teardrop Explodes, erm, exploded. Despite overly trebly production, the songs to which Cope attaches his romantic head-expanded visions have sturdy legs. It’s a Sixties-meets-Eighties indie jangle but with giant pupils, top pop songs, and my favourite Cope song, “Elegant Chaos”, a lyrically gnomic, head-fried paean to… what, exactly? Possibly maintaining dignity when the world is kicking you down and you’ve responded by getting off your trolley (“In this elegant chaos I stand to one side”). Flowered Up knew a fair bit about being off their trolleys. Their 1991 debut and only album, A Life With Brian, stands as an ebullient snapshot from a golden era when the youth of Britain were swept away on a tidal wave of ecstasy and 808 kick drums. Famously even guitar bands were in on the flowered upaction, including a gang of young geezers from a Kings Cross council estate, Flowered Up. This reissue arrives with a bonus 12” of their greatest work, the 13-minute epic, “Weekender”, a stunningly on-point summation of Nineties clubbing that reframes it as the same impossible ideal which mod dreamer Jimmy strived for in Quadrophenia. It is, quite simply, one of the greatest songs of all, and contains more day-to-day heart-wrench in the way singer Liam Maher defeatedly sings, “Monday’s back… what… can you do” than Radiohead’s entire back catalogue. The 12” is even backed by Andrew Weatherall’s enormous downtempo “Audrey is a Little Bit Partial” rework. The now-wide recognition of “Weekender” should not sideline the album which preceded it, a confident hotch-potch of London colloquial chutzpah, sunshine keyboard riffs, bawdy indie-funk-rock and Italo-house piano, revved and endearing. The only thing that would improve the package would be if it contained their reggae-flavoured final single “Better Life” which I heard them play live but have never seen on vinyl. The set comes on photo/info inner sleeves with a short essay about the band by Robin Turner.

The Pleasure Dome Liminal Space (Hound Gawd!) + Pete Bibby Drama King (Spinning Top) + English Teacher This Could Be Texas (Island) + Bodega Our Brand Could Be Yr Life (Chrysalis)

pleasureIndie guitar music is done, but these four bands still mine the sound successfully, each in a different way. Bristol-based Welsh outfit The Pleasure Dome deliver their new six-track EP under fraught circumstances. The rhythm section walked off since their debut album and lead singer Bobby Spender was evicted from his home. Perhaps it's these travails that give them vim. They veer between punky snappers, lo-fi blues, a raw strummer called “Suicide”, and Art Brut-meets-Artic Monkey-style chat-songs. It’s all done with aplomb and comes on powder blue vinyl in art/lyric inner sleeve. The latest album from Australian singer bibbyPete Bibby opens strongly with the single “Arsehole” (“I am the arsehole it’s plain to see”!), which sounds like Tom Petty having a self-depreciating punky breakdown, but the quality is maintained with “Fun Guy” which is equally self-loathing, ragged guitar attack matching the venom. Nothing else quite matches the sheer immediacy of this duo but Bibby settles to a decent set that balances rocks and slowies, and comes over like mid-Seventies Bob Dylan if he’d been a frustrated indie rocker from Perth. Comes in photo/info inner sleeve. At a guess I’d hazard that Leeds group English Teacher represent Island Records seeking the next englishWet Leg. To be clear, they don’t sound like a Wet Leg rip-off. Not at all. They have a more fluid sound, elements of Squid-ish prog quirk, cut-up poetry, post-punk funk, even jazz, but the tidy, genial English take on kosmische rhythms, smart song structures and calmly wry female vocals from striking afro-haired vocalist Lily Fontaine bear comparison. While they sometimes veer too far into Benjamin Clemetine-meets-post-rock noodle for my taste, it mostly holds up. Comes on transparent vinyl in art/lyric inner sleeve and die-cut outer sleeve with 12” x 12” photo insert. I have it on good authority bodegathat New York outfit Bodega are dynamite in concert. I’ll see them one day and find out for myself. In the meantime, their third album is a tighter, less lo-fi rejig of the sole album by pre-Bodega band, Bodega Bay, with additional songs. Lyrically meta and circular, the band are likely fans of anti-capitalist late 20th century French cultural analysis. Such intellectualism (there are songs about Andrei Tarkovsky and cultural consumerism) doesn’t detract from the musical snap. At its best, their sound runs Talking Heads stylings through the funkier end of New York’s noughties rock revival, the lyrics peppery and percussive. Comes on unbuffed silvery grey vinyl in art inner sleeve with a chunky 20-page samizdat fanzine-esque lyric booklet.

D&V The Nearest Door EP (Crass) + Alternative In Nomine Patri EP (Crass)

d&vTwo more in Crass’s 2 By 2 And Back Again reissue series of 12” EPs from their label. Scottish anarcho-punks Alternative adhered to the Crass anarcho-collective lifestyle and their music is at the fiercer end of that sound. Its raging energy has its place but doesn’t grab me much whereas Sheffield duo D&V are of more interest. D&V stands for “drums and voice” and that’s exactly what this is, Andy Leach on drums and Jeff Ancliffe on vocals. As a result, their sound is original, a kind of roughneck Brit punk take on the proto-rap of The Last Poets, fuelled by propulsive and forward-in-the-mix drum attack. It feels like a seven-song set is based around the opening minute of Crass’s “Banned From the Roxy”, and that’s no bad thing. Both records are cut richly to vinyl and come in reproductions of their classic Crass poster art.

PM Warson Retrace My Steps (FYND) + Eliza Rose Business as Usual (Rosebud)

A couple of singles, no picture sleeves so no pictures. The first one is a dinked 7” by London Rhythm’n’blues dude PM Warson. It’s a retro soul-ish number, mod-ish, sax parps, female backing vocals, muted trumpet, Hammond. It’s done with panache, a yarn about reflecting on last night “when the haze came down and everything was right”, as in, a dream lady appeared. Catchy and sung with verve, it’s also dancefloor-friendly. The Booker T-flavoured instrumental Hammond jazz B-side is no slouch either. DJ-singer Eliza Rose had a chart-topping hit a couple of years ago with “B.O.T.A. (Baddest of Them All)” but hasn’t achieved similar success since. The 10” of "Business as Usual", which she created with garage don MJ Cole, came to me as a white label and deserves attention. It’s cut fat to vinyl, clear and deep, the original song an Amy Winehouse-ish ballad, jadedly dismissing a dirty dawg man over minimalist jazz-funk backing, while the remix is riven with 2-step snap like it was still the era of Artful Dodger, Shanks & Bigfoot et al. Both sides speak of real talent. Would like hear more from her.

Mui Zyu Nothing or Something to Die For (Father Daughter)

myuLast year’s debut album from Eva Liu – Mui Zyu – was interesting, and also had a marvellous title, Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century. The follow-up is in a different league and arrives in excellently eccentric cover art by Sarah “Waffle Burger” Messenger. Liu was raised in Ireland by parents of Hong Kong origin, and now lives in London. Her latest reigns in her oddball stylings and attaches them to sweet songs. It’s bedroom indie synth-pop but filtered through a weird, warped easy listening aesthetic, harking back to when synths first appeared in pop in the late-Sixties as novelty noise makers. The result is retro-futurist, cute, and different, a likeable oddity. My copy’s glow-in-the-dark vinyl unfortunately has a low level hiss. Come with 12” x 12” lyric insert.

Holland-Dozier-Holland ‘Detroit’ 1969-1977 (Proper)

dozierWhen the writing team of Lamont Dozier and Brian and Eddie Holland walked out of Motown in a typical Berry Gordy-induced power struggle over money, the label lost a platinum songwriting team. Gordy wasn’t going to take that lying down and a legal fight ensued that went on for almost a decade. While that was happening the trio were busy with their labels Hot Wax, Invictus and, later, Music Merchant. They never hit their Motown heights of “Heatwave”, “Stop! In the Name of Love”, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and so on but they did pretty darn well for themselves. This four record mini boxset has the story laid out by Stuart Cosgrove, and starts with Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold” and Chairmen of the Board’s “Give Me Just a Little More Time”, a two-pronged announcement of arrival. From thereon the agenda is sassy responses to trampy men, with occasional peace’n’love anthems. In the former category there’s tons of Motown-ish fun to be had on songs such as “Stick Up” by girl group Honey Cone or the stomping “Rip Off” by Laura Lee. Other names include Eloise Dawes, 8th Day, Danny Woods (“Let Me Ride”) and The Politicians (“Free Your Mind”!). By the end, disco is creeping in and Holland-Dozier-Holland are wearing out, but they had a good run. It’s not all gold but, over such a spread of music, a much larger chunk of it is than isn’t.

Homes Counties Exactly As It Seems (Submarine Cat)

homeBuckinghamshire-raised, Bristol-based group Home Counties are young, chipper and full of tunes. Their debut album aligns itself with punk-funk but is more poppy. Which isn’t to say they lack bite. The lyrics are smart and pointy, particularly the stream-of-consciousness “Posthumous Spreadsheets”, with its references to monasteries and revolution over a driving techno-punk synth. Female vocalist Lois Kelly effectively spars with male singer Will Harrison, her buzzy keys motifs a central part of their frothy-but-firm sound. Guitarist Conor Kearney does a decent job on production, bringing out the charm of these songs. One could imagine them larger and shinier but, at this point, bedroom boogie intimacy is part of the appeal. Reference points would include Hot Chip’s “Over and Over”, Kasabian’s first album (without the rocker machismo) and Confidence Man (there’s even a song that pays tribute to the latter duo’s “Break It Bought It”). Comes on vinyl the semi-opaque off-white of, erm, let’s say garlic puree, in art/lyric inner sleeve.

Cyril Cyril La Future La Future Ça Marche Pas (Born Bad/Bongo Joe)

cyrilThe second album by Swiss duo Cyril Cyril, Yallah Mickey Mouse, has never left “the regular listening” pile since it arrived at theartsdesk on Vinyl Mansions in 2020. Now La Future Ça Marche Pas arrives. It’s punkier than its predecessor, harder-sounding. The band consist, with sound internal logic, of two Cyrils; Cyril Yeterian, co-founder of Bongo Joe Records and once a member of Cajun crossover sorts Mama Roisin, and experimental musician Cyril Bondi. Imagine an edgy, sometimes abrasive reinterpretation of Tinariwen-ish North African blues, harsher, moodier, with semi-spoken French vocals flitting about, percussion gluing it all together, occasional psyched out electronic episodes. It’s less funky and gnarlier than what came before. I’m still finding my way round it. Comes with A4 lyric sheet.

Jowee Omicil Spiritual Healing: Bwa Kayiman Freedom Suite (Bash Village) + O. Weirdoes (Speedy Wunderground) + Earth Ball It’s Yours (Upset! The Rhythm)

joweeThree albums that push jazz to its very wildest frontiers. First off, Spiritual Healing: Bwa Kayiman Freedom Suite by Haitian-Canadian jazz maverick Jowee Omicil. Listening to the out-there free jazz freakery on these four sides of plastic, it’s hard to believe this clarinet-sax-flute-player once played at the White House. The album was recorded in a single hour-long take with percussion, bass and keyboards, and is intended as a musical response to the 1791 Saint-Domingue slave revolt, or, in fact, the secret voodoo ceremony that preceded it, during a tropical storm, which lit the fuse for what would eventually become the Haitian Revolution. It’s broken down ostensibly, into 21 “stations”, “each of which represents a ritual step in the ceremony”. Clattering and atonal, scratchy and with a ostrong sense of outsider art primitivism, it’s still a surprisingly palatable listen. Comes in gatefold on double in info/art inner sleeve. O. is the band name of saxophonist Joe Henwood and drummer Tash Keary who have been livening up Brixton in recent times with their messed-up garage-sludge of sounds. Their debut album, rife with wonky effects and a gleeful embrace of noise, is vaguely redolent of Norway’s Shining (whatever happened to them?) but is really out in a field of its own, wilfully making a glorious racket whose saving grace, even when approaching doom metal, is that it’s often earthdanceable. Earth Ball, on the other hand, make O. and Jowee Omicil sound like Jamie Cullum. From Vancouver, they come on like The Butthole Surfers at their most demented having it out with Crass at their most angry, but all in a jazz way, kind of. Skronk-sax, apocalyptic tone music, shrieking and shouting, industrial cacophony, vicious guitar lines, Jeez, it’s some of the most unlistenably exciting catalytic fuck-you music I’ve heard in a while. Comes on grey transparent vinyl in photo inner sleeve.

Emily Barker Fragile as Humans (Everyone Sang)

emilyMy path has mostly not crossed that of Brit-based Australian singer Emily Barker during her 20+ year career. The exception was the beautiful, harmony-rich Americana of the Applewood Road album by the trio of Barker with Amber Rubarth and Amy Speace. They were so good they even dragged me to Glastonbury’s Festival’s Acoustic Tent in 2016, a place I rarely visit. Her latest album, though, speaks to an overflow of talent. She has a delicate, sweet voice which raises up these heartfelt numbers. They would work fine on an acoustic but, instead, she fills them out effectively with a full band. Despite all the instrumentation, it’s mostly affectingly fragile-sounding. The lyrics have a ruminative intelligence, but chatty and approachable, slightly akin to Emmy the Great. It’s a lovely set and she deserves a KT Tunstall-style profile spike. Comes on photo/info inner sleeve.

The Mad Walls Have You Heard the News? (Big Potato) + Scott Laverne Disneyland in Dagenham (Nothing Fancy)

madA couple of very different singer-songwriters who have in common that both take a far from predictable path. Los Angeles songwriter Christopher Mercado has dived deep in the waters of 1960s psychedelia or, perhaps, as much, the strain of it that wandered into the Seventies with participants less euphoric and more cracked. This style is best embodied by the short solo career of Syd Barrett whose spirit hovers near to this rough-hewn but persuasively thrown-together set of reverby strummers, shuffly wonky songs, frayed but more-ish. Comes scottwith 12” x 12” lyric/indie insert. Essex musician Scott Laverne, on the other hand, uses surreal juxtaposition between the everyday and the bizarre in his songs, veering around all over the place – bonkers sing-alongs about eating custard, weird reimaginings of geezer-down the pub anecdotes, nostalgic vignettes, and even the occasional love song in disguise. Sometimes spoken, sometimes sung, he retains hooks, even when surveying the most curious terrain. Comes on lyric inner sleeve.

Various Psyche! British Prog Rock, Folk & Blues 1966-1973 (Dream/Decca) + Various Psyché France Volume 9 (Warner France) + Various The Best of Rare Mod (Acid Jazz)

psycheThree albums that explore different aspects of the 1960s (even on the few tracks that were cut in the 1970s). First off, a photo gatefold double covering a curated selection Decca and sub-label Dream's output as they attempted to negotiate the post-hippy-Beatles landscape. Among the names present are a few that retain a smidgeon of contemporary profile, such as Al Stewart, Small Faces and Canterbury scene noodlers Caravan, but much more common are acts such as Darryl Way’s Wolf, Egg and Crocheted Doughnut Ring, not destined to much trouble the annals of music history. For this writer, most fun is to be had on Sides A and B, when the franceSixties madness is still fresh, post Sgt. Pepper freak-pop, and whacko exercises such as the manic jazz-pop of “Not Foolish, Not Wise” by Keef Hartley Band. Sides C and D, which run from 1970 to 1973, are a tad more self-indulgent, the classical aspirations starting to appear alongside the “clever” cerebral instrumentation. Fortunately this collection stays away from prog’s more heinous excesses. Comes in photo/info inner sleeves. The Psyché France series – at least on Volume 9, the only one I’ve heard – stays well away from prog and, instead, revels in garage and kitsch. For every balladic chanson cliché, iced with a sliver of sitar, there’s the comeback of a frenetic number like Jacques Filh’s ballistic shouty opener “Je Drague au Drug” or the galloping guitar-jam instrumental “Knives, Feathers and Fire” by Electric Max Band. There’s no background info but the music is a hoot. Finally, and staying furthest away from prog, comes a collection gathering the most beloved cuts from Acid Jazz’s self-explanatory The Best of Rare Mod which cherry picks from the six Rare Mod modcompilations the label put out between (I think) 2011 and 2015. Side 1 ranges across snappy-suited amphetamine guitar pop, exemplified by Buckinghamshire outfit The Top Six’s manic assault on The Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m a Man”, while Side 2 contains a bunch of soul and post-Motown grooves, even a rough’n'ready scrambling of Sly & the Family Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song” by The Ossie Layne Show. The inner sleeve contains brief back stories on these long lost bands, from The Fleur de Lys to Tony and Tandy (who contribute a soul duet that, demonstrating the fickleness of pop fame, would have been a big hit, but for the records’ distribution issues).

Sol Sol Almost All Things Considered (Sail Cabin) + Various Blue Note Re:imagined (Blue Note)

solA couple of tasty jazz outings. Sol Sol are a Swedish quartet led by saxophonist Elin Forkelid and guitarist David Stackenäs, both individually successful across Scandinavia in various musical incarnations. They are backed by the rhythm section of Anna Lund on drums and Mauritz Agnas on bass. The six tracks on Almost All Things Considered consist of three "difficult" squawking sax pieces with free jazz attack, and three that are more thoughtful and meditative. The combination is effective and the more awkward stuff doesn’t feel forced and wilful, merely the flipside of the rest. On Blue Note Re:imagined, the venerable jazz label invites a coterie of contemporary jazz-centric artists to interpret their back catalogue. It opens and closes with Blue Note’s deathless millennial jazz-house classic “Rose blueRouge” by St Germain, in a version by Jorja Smith, and the second remixed by Joy Orbison. Both maintain the original’s fusion charms. In between, the material ranges across styles, from Nubiya Garcia’s fluidly mellow and virtuosic take on Joe Henderson’s “A Shade of Jade” to the Afro-electro attack of Melt Yourself Down’s “Caribbean Fire Dance” (also originally by Joe Henderson). Along the way, we also hear from Shabaka (Hutchings, in his new full flute mode), Ishmael Ensemble, Jordan Rakei, Ezra Collective, Emma-Jean Thackray, Blue Lab Beats and others. Another creative highlight is Doncaster producer Skinny Pelembe’s waftingly spaced and complete deconstruction of US pianist’s Andrew Hill’s 1966 cut “Illusion”. An artistically rewarding set that arrives in gatefold double in info inner sleeves.


Rubel As Palavras Vol. 1 & 2 (Mr Bongo): Brazilian musician Rubel Brisolla’s biography is the kind of music industry fairytale that all pop hopefuls dream of. As a student in Austin, Texas, a decade ago, he wrote an album for fun and stuck it on Youtube, then went about his life, moving to Los Angeles and scrabbling unsuccessfully in the foothills of the film industry. Over a couple of years, his Youtube album gathered a significant following, to such a level that he returned home and kickstarted a career which now places him as one of the country’s most imaginative and successful musicians. His latest album is a Grammy-nominated double in gatefold that skits eagerly around his musical heritage, reanimating with modernist production, whether electronic R&B trickery, or simply old-fashioned songwriting from fresh building blocks. It’s a varied adventure which hops about between easy listening lushness, hip hop-brewed beats and tropicalia pop-rock fare. Comes with giant lyric/photo poster.

Oliver Hohlbrugger Nothing’s Changed, Everything is New (Revir): Norwegian singer and actor Oliver Hohlbrugger doesn’t have much of a profile, but then he’s hardly prolific. His latest album, his second, eight years after the first, will surely cause him to be “discovered” soon. This is just the sort of stuff serious music critics dig. Recorded in both Brooklyn and a small village near Stavanger, the album was preceded by single “Velveteen”, a misleading choice of song, a rollicking Velvets-meets-Iggy rocker. The rest of the album has more in common with Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen or Tindersticks, gruff-voiced broken existential ponderings against accomplished orchestrated backdrops. On double in photo gatefold and photo info inner sleeves, it feels big and that if he was British or American we might already have heard of him.

Moonchild Reflections (Tru Thoughts): One of the reasons for being a fan of Brighton’s Tru Thoughts label is to see what’s next. Not all of it’s for me. I’m generally not huge on their penchant for smoochy R&B but every now and then they land one in this zone. Such is the case with the latest EP from Los Angeles trio Moonchild, a set of six acoustic reinterpretations of older songs inspired by a successful Tiny Desk streamed performance. Over a decade into their career, the style really works for them, bringing out the inner jazz of their songs, singer Amber Navran’s airy, whispery vocals sitting neatly within a capacious soundbed, the whole adding up to something new, reminding even of Chet Baker in places.

Donna Blue Into the Realm of Love (Snowstar)

For those who miss the music of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, Donna Blue offer a 21st century indie approximation. They also sometimes sound like Air. Donna Blue is a band, not a person, the Dutch duo of Danique van Kesteren and Bart van Dalen. There was a craze in the late-1990s for old lounge music and exotic easy listening. It fitted well with the rising chill-out boom, as zonked clubbers in their masses needed sounds at home to cuddle them down from elated dancefloor highs. Donna Blue have something of that about them, retro easy refitted, also in full thrall to the John Barry cinematic. Their second album is a fluffy dessert. Comes with 12” x 24” lyric sheet that doubles as a poster with them looking like extras from The Avengers.

Lost Souls of Saturn Reality (Holoverse Research Labs): Apparently the second album from Lost Souls of Saturn comes with “an augmented reality experience” but we needn’t concern ourselves with that here; what we have is a slab of transparent yellow vinyl in art/info inner sleeve. Lost Souls of Saturn is the club-adjacent project of globe-trotting DJ Seth Troxler and New York producer Phil Moffa. Aside from “This Foo”, those looking for floor-bubblers such as Troxler might spin should seek elsewhere. Much of Reality is more like The Orb, oddball vocals samples, Hawkwind-ish synth swirls and underwater dubbing, although there’s also the electro-pop-rock song “Mirage”, featuring Addy Weitzman of Eighties-centric Canadian outfit Footprintz (under the name Adam Ohr) and elegiac closer “Lilac Chaser” featuring US alt-rockers Protomartyr, albeit not in guitar mode.

Savoy Brown Blues Band Shake Down (Decca) + Cedric Burnside Hill Country Love (Provogue): A couple of albums that delve into the blues, one old, one new. Savoy Brown, who were only known as the Savoy Brown Blues Band for their 1967 debut album, Shake Down, went on to a career that lasted until two years ago, albeit the only consistent member for most of it was bandleader Kim Simmons (now passed). They are notable on this album for being one of the only bands in the British blues explosion to feature black members; drummer Leo Mannings and singer Brice Portius. It’s an album of covers that, viewed retrospectively, is a year or two ahead of their peers, looser, moving beyond The Yardbirds towards Led Zep. The rockier tunes have heft but slowies such as a sharp version of Charles Brown’s “Black Night” are their equal. I saw Cedric Burnside once. He’s great live. Recommended. All the women I was with also thought him very hot! The son of RL Burnside, he’s cut enough music of his own by now to prove he has real talent of his own. His latest album was recorded with estimable Americana dude Luther Dickinson in an old post Mississippi office that Burnside was intending to turn into a honkytonk bar. The location has bled into the sound; while electric, funky and swinging, there’s an earthiness to these cuts that persuades. But live is where to catch him.

Alice Russell I Am (Tru Thoughts): Brighton is a weird city. Music can blow up there so it appears to be massive. Then it never properly catches in the wider world. Towards the end of my times living in that city in the first decade of this century, Alice Russell was totemic, the great hope of rising local label Tru Thoughts, a British soul singer with the guts, the gumption and the voice, the south coast’s own Etta James. And now she’s back on Tru Thoughts for the first time in well over a decade, and collaborating with Alex Cowan, AKA TM Juke, with whom she worked all those years ago. I Am is less tinted with retro southern soul, more modern-sounding, a thoughtful outing, laced with the wisdom and loss of age, also not bothered with ramming home any bullish funk. Check the title track for evidence. Comes on double in gatefold.

Nils Økland Band Gjenskin (HUBRO): HUBRO Records can be relied upon to offer material that is not the usual (not even their own usual!). Nils Økland is a sexagenarian hardangerfiddle player from Norway whose idea of folk music swerves away from the strictly traditional. His latest album, also featuring harmonium, sax, vibraphone and double bass, has a base setting of contemplative pieces that offer a rustic ambience, fog-bound Scandinavian landscapes for the ears, but also ranges into much busier fare, from terrifying free jazz to a piece that conjures pagan ceremonials of the Midsommar variety, as well as even his own take on traditional waltzing.

Various Cheech y Chong’s Up in Smoke (Rhino): The 1978 film Up in Smoke is the most famous marijuana comedy of them all, the grandaddy. I haven’t seen it in decades but, listening to the soundtrack album, I laughed aloud at some of the dialogue sections, a catalogue of crass silliness and drug-chaos, albeit the whole project needs to be viewed in the context of its times (“Light it up, let’s get Chinese eyes, man”, for instance, would not fly in 2024!). There’s plenty of music too, some of it by Cheech & Chong, notably the spliff’n’coke fun of the title track, and their acknowledgement that punk had happened, “Rock Fight” (even though it actually sounds like sub-Sweet glam). There’s also funky incidental fare from Yesca, a one-off project for the film by Linda Ronstadt sideman Danny Kortchmar, plus “Low Rider” by War, always a welcome tune. Comes on double with photo gatefold and, of course, it’s on green vinyl.

Various Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy presents Balearic Breakfast Vol: 3 (Heavenly): London-based American DJ-curator and keeper of the Balearic flame Colleen Murphy returns with another four sides of tunes that, she feels, bring Alfredo/Mancuso first principles bang up-to-date. I won’t argue. The selection is mostly solid. My preference focusing on percussive easy sounds with both hazy sun-dapple and groove, such as the West Coast-sounding hippy Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra’s “San Diego (Tour Werks After Hours Mix)” which has a Doobie Brothers-after-a- bong vibe. Other highlights include the wonky, psy-trance pop pulsing of “remix Infinity” by Margate freak-rockers Pigeon (at least, I hope they’re freak rockers, I have no idea, but in my brain they now are) and Andrew Weatherall’s remix of 2009 Primal Scream single “Uptown”. Comes in info inner sleeves with background chattings, the whole package featuring likably unshowy yet precise cartoon-psyche illustration by designer Ardneks.

Pepito y Paquito Las Grabaciones Perdidas de Pepe de Lucía y Paco de Lucía ((BMG): Hendrix and Clappo and all that lot may receive the kudos with rockers but the late Spanish guitarist Paco de Lucía is generally recognised as a solid contender for the greatest guitarist of all time. His oeuvre was flamenco and this double recording, in photo/info gatefold and photo/lyric inner sleeves, reveals a recording made by a family friend when he was 14 in 1959, accompanying his brother Pepe singing at their home in the Algeciras region. Lost for over 50 years, it reappeared in 2022 and is now available for any connoisseur who wishes it. For this flamenco neophyte, it’s a dusty old recording that has a certain lo-fi appeal, but to those who know more, it’s a historic artefact, a bona fide musical genius at the very start of their career,

Girli Matriarchy (Believe) + Eloise Viola Glasshouse (Eloise Viola): London-based half-Aussie singer Girli (Amelia Toomey) has been a building a rep for the last half-decade with alt-pop containing more than a lacing of queer flavour. Her second album, on marbled damson vinyl in photo gatefold, has a die-cut front cover and arrives with a chunky 32-page booklet of lyrics, thoughts and arty photos. The album is diaristic, reflective, but also poppy, with a lyrical commitment to conveying where she feels she sits in her world. She looks like she’d make for an entertaining pop star, given half a chance. Eloise Viola, a London-based singer originally from rural Sussex, fires out an independent debut album of femme-pop on her own label. It’s very much in the Zara Larsson/Anne-Marie/Ellie Goulding mode of shiny chart-pop. She proves on songs such as the bluesey “999” that she has range, a voice and ability, but mostly guns into an energized mainstream. Nowt wrong with this but sharp detail is everything in that world and, while the front cover is fine, the back has the cut-price feel of lo-fi self-published. The music itself is well-produced, and well-cut to vinyl. Comes with a 12” x 12" insert with messages from the singer.

ballisticThe Ballistic Brothers London Hooligan Soul (Acid Jazz): Back in the mid-Nineties The Ballistic Brothers were a kind of club cultural supergroup in waiting, consisting of Rocky & Diesel, Ashley Beedle and David Hill (later of Nuphonic Records). Their debut album reappears on double, first time on vinyl in three decades, deliciously mastered, sounding fat. It is very much a product of its times, grooves rather than songs, warm percussive rollers, mostly, with dips into dub, chill-out, drum & bass, even Latin jazz. Nowadays the kids might say, “But where are the songs, bra’, where are the tunes?” but back then you’d just rhubarb’n’custard, pack the hash, and submerge, for which it’s perfectly suited. Hardly ballistic but enjoyable, nevertheless, and also ahead of its time in applying the MDMA clubbing idiom to other musical areas. Great photo by David Hill on the cover too (pictured), taken at the Poll Tax Riot.

New Regency Orchestra New Regency Orchestra (Mr Bongo): DJ, producer and man-about-London town Lex Blondin was offered the opportunity in 2021 to put together an 18-piece Afro Cuban jazz band for a festival. He did so and here they are, three years later, pepping up a bunch of tunes he chose for them by the likes of Tito Puente (a few of his!), Chico O’Farrill and even pre-Beatles old school Brit jazzer Kenny Graham. As far as a set of such cover versions go, it’s lively and pleasant but would undoubtedly be better in the flesh. Comes in info inner sleeve.

Photek Solaris (Virgin): Before EDM, even before Rudimental, DJ Fresh and the like, dance music’s genre merchants knew to stay in their lane. If you were drum & bass, you were drum & bass. Not so much Rupert Parkes, AKA Photek, who by the Millennium had successfully built a career in drum & bass (as well as moving into soundtrack composition which, based in LA, is what he now does). Solaris, which came out in 2000, sees him dabble in hypno-breakbeat grooves, straight old school Chicago house (featuring Robert Owens on “Mine to Give”), warped downtempo, as well as quick dip into drum & bass (on “Infinity”). The result is his most sonically ear-entertaining album, which now reappears on double.


  • A few Record Store Day releases that arrived too late for coverage in out RSD edition include a 1000-run limited edition vinyl reissue of Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly album, titled for the band’s key player, who also produced it with Stephen Street. On London Records, it’s pleasant enough noodle and ambient funk interspersed with nicked vocal samples. A more widescreen and spacey limited-to-1000 RSD re-release is The Acid Gospel Experience by Scenic on founder member Bruce Licher’s own Independent Project records. Originally out in 2002, flavoured by the Mojave Desert, and featuring a piano appearance by composer Harold Budd, it’s a space-rock stew that ranges from full-on maximalist squiggly head jams to easier going fare that sounds like a kosmische stab at the soundtrack to Wim Wenders’ Paris Texas.
  • The late trumpet player Blue Mitchell’s 1966 album Down With It on Blue Note, with his Quintet, may not have broken contemporary musical boundaries but there’s a still much going on that’s enjoyable. The opening nigh-on-nine-minute gambol around the blues classic “Hi-Heel Sneakers” hits homes, the proudly celebratory “March on Selma” is full of lift and light, showing off pianist Chick Corea, meanwhile closing “Samba de Stacy” puts on its dancing shows and lets the rhythm section lead. In gatefold, in a great pressing, it's a likeable album for jazz-lovers and those just wanting something rife with light and life from another age.
  • Arthur Mello is a 25-year-old dude from the city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil. He is part of a wave of young artists who are reinterpreting the bossa nova sounds of many decades ago. In his case, on his new album, Mirante Emocionais on Wonderfulsound Records, this means filtering them through the prism of wobbly kitsch film music, tropical psyche, twangy guitars and a woozy stonedness. It works well, akin to a caipirinha spiked lightly with powdered hashish, very late at night in a room with low lighting
  • If Labi Siffre had not been such an ill fit for the musical stereotypes of his times, his fame might have been much greater. He broke through in the early 1970s, a British black dude playing Cat Stevens-ish singer-songwriter fare with a smidgeon of Bill Withers-ish soul and pop. His fourth album, 1973’s For the Children now reappears on double in gatefold, sounding crisply fat due to AIR Studios half-speed mastering. It runs the gamut from country flavours on “Children of Children” to the 10cc-meets-Eric Clapton-ish pop of “Someday”. At least of half the songs sound like they could have been Seventies hit singles.
  • The debut album from South African acapella part-song group The Joy has a useful explanatory essay by journo Peter Paphides, about their background, on its inner sleeve. Transgressive Records often support interesting projects and so it is here. Self-titled, the album was recorded in north London in one take. There is mention by Paphides of “communing with ancestral spirits”. Certainly these pieces, while sometimes redolent of doo-wop from the streets of New York in the Forties and Fifties, or in gospel churches long after, is imbued with Zulu vocal traditions (Ladysmith Black Mambazo are an unavoidable reference), but these young men bring their own innate skill sets to it. It’s uplifting stuff, well-recorded, although, for me, a music whose human essence would be many times more engaging in the right live environment.
  • My main reason I’d heard of Spooky Tooth was, for many years, because their drummer, the now late Mike Kellie, was eventually a member of The Only Ones, one of my favourite bands. Now I’m confronted with their 1969 second album, the Jimmy Miller-produced Two on Island Records. There are heavy hints of the prog-to-come but, happily, it doesn’t overwhelm. Instead, the album fuses heavy duty blues-rock cuts such as “Better By You, Better By Me” and the even more impressive “Evil Woman” with oddball attempts at post-White Album pop such as “That Was Only Yesterday”. Comes on gatefold and is worth a dive for connoisseurs of the era.
  • Independent Project Records’ Tracks From the Attic gathers together six sides of songs excavated, as the title suggests, from the attic of David J, him out of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets. They range across the years from 1984 to 2004, and from the enjoyably pithy sniping of “Oh No! Not Another Songwriter” to the knocked-out Sixties campfire vibes of “I Wish Those Spacemen Would Come”, to the hippy optimism of “It’s Gotta be the Angels”. These are demos, the sound of J playing around with ideas, rough’n’ready, acoustic guitar and untampered voice. Given the quantity of it, it’s one for the ultra-fans but, given there are only 850 numbered copies on brown vinyl, that should fit.
  • The music of Swiss-Belgian outfit Meril Wubslin, on their third album, Faire Ça on Bongo Joe Records, is too funereal for theartsdesk on Vinyl’s tastes. It’s a mournful march, downhearted French vocals atop minor guitar, keys and a rhythm section that makes one think of (spoilers alert!) the human trail marching the horizon towards death at the end of The Seventh Seal. It’s atmospheric but gloomy.
  • Celebrated German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans’ full-tilt, immersive left turn into music was a surprise. He’s not a soundscape dabbler, either, as one might expect from escapees from other art forms. He did start that way with his installation-flavoured debut but his latest, Build From Here on Fragile Records, offers a charmingly oddball variety of electro-pop, tinged with that music style’s early-Eighties golden age but lathered in found sounds, which add dimension, and a heavy head-nod to ambient zone-out fare. Likeably different. Comes on art gatefold with art/lyric inner sleeve featuring back-viewed testicles
  • On Tru Thoughts Records website it says of Steven Bamidele that, “In 2011, after discovering James Blake, Modeselekor and the creative potential of electronic music, Steven began to pair his introspective style of song writing with production styles rooted in curiosity and exploration.” It’s a good description of where his debut album Summing Up is at, but these sound origins are also warmed over with a Seventies soul feel, best captured on cuts such as “Dark Sense of Humour” which is both playful and gently funky, also wistfully, poetically reflective of his own Nigerian origins. It’s an album that quietly, intelligently goes about its business, sneaks up on you rather than immediate.
  • Down here may seem a strange place to find The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, who has a new Best Of out on double in gatefold via Columbia. Weird one. Don’t hate it but doesn’t move me. I like the poetic, smalltown escape lyrics, but the accompanying rhythm’n’blues bar music never gels with my pleasure centres. Runs chronologically, hits and big album tunes, from 1973’s “Growin’ Up” (from his debut album) to 2020’s “Letter to You”. By this point, if you dig, you dig. Swerves right past my head.
  • There’s an unexpected area where folk, electronica and what might be termed chamber pop collide. The latter meaning the use of classical instruments in limited form to add elegant timbre to a small ensemble sound. Leeds producer Fin Valance, who goes by the un-Google-able moniker Fine, explores this region on debut album Then, Now, Until on Analog Horizons. Well produced and richly mastered to vinyl, it veers between house-flavoured songwriting and twinkling, shuffly, reverbed downtempo wallowings.
  • The Wedding Present’s 1994 album Watusi marked the beginning of their decline as a commercial force. They’d never exactly been pop star material but, up to that point, there was a sense they might ride higher on the wave of grunge-adjacent music that Nirvana’s success had engendered (to be clear, they weren’t grunge, but their strong lo-fi indie guitar ethic reverberated at the same frequency). It was their last album for a major, Island, and now arrives on double on green and orange plastic, the second disc containing alternate versions and contemporaneous songs such as “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah” B-side “Le Bikini” and shouty punker “Him or Me (What’s It Gonna Be?)”. The Wedding Present were never my bag so all I can say about the main body of the album is it replaces a fierceness they briefly had with something vaguely stoned.
  • If The Wedding Present offer one aspect of what grew out of the C86 indie movement, generated by the NME’s famous cassette, then Camera Obscura offer another. They weren’t on C86, of course, far too young, but a decade later the female-fronted Scottish band began a journey which took in the sweet Velvets-“Sunday Morning” side of Eighties indie. They were more polished than their forebears, musical kindred of Belle and Sebastian, and brought in a tint of country too. Their sixth album, Look to the East, Look to the West, sounds more even American somehow. It’s too perkily nice, cup-of-tea-and-a-chat, for theartsdesk on Vinyl but the songs are intact.
  • And if you’re enjoying this old school indie roll, you might check out Dutch-German indie-pop band The Day who have survived a while despite having an un-Googleable name, Now they give us an un-Googleable album, The Kids Are Alright a phrase that can only bring to mind The Who. The Day are not The Who. They make tuneful, jangle-pop with shoegazey moments, and their new album is on Sinnbus Records.
  • The third album from Irish producer New Jackson – AKA David Kitt – is called Oops… Pop, presumably because, when he heard it, what he’d assumed would be an exercise in electronica is more universally approachable than expected. It is. Released by German label Permanent Vacation, it’s still very much based in a smooth Balearic 4/4 feel, but spiked with synth-pop moments such as the catchy and vaguely New Order-ish “Out of Reach”.
  • German steel drum ensemble Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band are a great idea and, given this is their fourth album, they undoubtedly have a following of sorts. This one is called simply BRSB and arrives on transparent yellow vinyl via Big Crown Records. Boasting a genial jazz-funk, it’s pleasant enough but feels as if it should be faster and more dynamic, as if these tunes could be steroided up to deliver more wallop.
  • The new mini-album from Brummie alt-pop head Rosie Tee is titled for its lead song, Night Creature. It’s a set of six numbers that wonk about jazz-licked psyche-noise abstraction but retain enough rock feel to maintain their essential song-ness. Via Kikimora Records, there’s an originality present here that emulates the jagged tricksiness of prog rock but, more often, plays out in a more interesting manner. Arrives on murky vinyl the colour of mushed olives.
  • Dutch singer Kim Janssen has had his fingers in many musical pies over the years, some based in sounds heard on lifelong global wanderings. His new band (or name), Cape Sleep, however, is very much a chilled pop affair. Titled Video Days on Snowstar Records, their album comes on lyric inner sleeve (and the lyrics are chewy), and consists of sweet-natured pop somewhere between Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department and a dream-pop reimagining of David Byrne.
  • Swedish composer Maria W Horn new project is an interesting proposition. Entitled Panoptikan on XKatedral Records, it was originally an installation which took place in and was themed around the Vita Duvan Prison, an institution that existed between 1856 and 1979 and excelled in isolation as punishment. The background is explained on the inner sleeve. The contents are an often gloomy amalgam of electronic tone music and doom-madrigals, with moments of spacy synth flight.
  • Google Adult Jazz and you will find them referred to as a rock band (or you'll find something eye-watering and entirely unrelated!). In fact, they are an experimental unit who knocked out a couple of bemusingly weird albums around a decade ago, then disappeared. Needless to say their third album and first in yonks, So Sorry So Slow, is not going to give Sabrina Carpenter any sleepless nights. They don’t sound like Radiohead but there’s something in their sheer perversity that recalls that bands Kid A experiments. I generally like oddness but the persistent moroseness of this stop-start stew of plinking, plonking, strings and wailing vocals isn’t for me. Nonetheless, full marks for being full-on difficult. Comes on double in lyric inner sleeve
  • There’s a guy in Madrid called Andrés Téllez who goes by the artist name DELONE. He’s hard to find on the internet so I’ve no idea where Romanticismo Siempre on Lovemonk Records sits in his canon. Might be his first. Might be his 27th (although he looks a bit young for that). It has some lovely bits on, such as the Eno-“An Ending (Ascent)”-like lushness of “Vangelo” but is equally capable of crunchy sci-fi abstractions with gnarly techno flavour. Those after electronica that pushes elegantly about with a dark filmic edge may find things to enjoy.
  • Jalapeno Records are right behind Wolfgang Valbrun, first as lead singer of jazznik outfit ephemerals (small opening letter, their call), and now putting out his debut album Flawed by Design. This writer is one of the few people he knows unable to find the thrill in Michael Kiwanuka’s music. Valbrun’s album has a similar vibe, revelatory and affirming lyrics, but is much more musically connected to old school soul, and has more bounce.
  • Acid Jazz Records go somewhere a bit different from their usual territory on the self-titled debut album Sean Khan presents The Modern Jazz and Folk Ensemble. Khan is a saxophonist and part of the much-touted London jazz revival and here melds his chops with a dive into late-Sixties/early-Seventies folk hippy fare. Recorded and cut to vinyl with richness and depth, it features folkie original Jacqui McShee of Pentangle, and offers up a selection of fairly obvious (but on-point) choices, such as “Solid Air”, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” and “She Moves Through the Fair”, all rejigged as smart jazz. A decent idea carried out effectively.
  • If one intriguing folk-jazz record a month is not enough for you, lo and behold, another arrives in the form of Leeds eight-piece Awen Emsemble, who draw on their Celtic origins for a concept piece about Snowdownian mountain mythology. Entitled Cadair Idris, the name of the mountain in question, it combines studied modal jazz with trad folk edges and song structures that move outside jazz forms altogether. It appears on New Soil Records which leads us neatly to…
  • New Soil Records are very much part of the aforementioned London jazz scene, releasing music by Theon Cross and Tumi Mogorosi, amongst others. They now give us Precipice the second album from one of their banner acts, Ill Considered. Bassist Liran Donin and drummer Emre Ramazanoglu provide a sometimes spooked, usually pared back and skittering soundbed, from which saxophonist Idris Rahman takes flight in all manner of curious directions, from free jazz to more funky interludes. Straightforward it’s not, but in an exploratory way, it entertains beyond pure jazz chin-stroking. Comes in art inner sleeve,
  • Gressholmen by Maridalen doesn’t take us back to folk-jazz exactly but the instrumental sense of isolation on the third album by the Norwegian trio on Jazzland Records definitely has a rustic feel. Recorded in an old church on the island after which the album is named, 10 minutes by boat from Oslo Harbour, the pieces veer between the playful and something more mournful, a muted trumpet often providing the lead “voice”. It feels as if it should be used as incidental music for an eccentric sitcom about a Nordic hillbilly family, a show which isn’t actually very funny yet still keeps viewers gripped. Comes in photo/info inner sleeve.
  • For those who recall Galliano but found them a bit too rock’n’roll (they weren’t), we have a new album from Japan-based Joseph Deenamode, AKA Mo Kolours. It’s called Original Flow on the aptly titled We Release Jazz label and is a double. It consists of Deenamode’s soulfully sung ruminations and hippy-Rasta chat over broken beat-ish, stoned hip hoppity jazzualizations. One for the horizontal jazzer.
  • Over in Edinburgh seven-piece unit Urvanovic defy the obvious on their second album Let’s Not Be Here on Common Grounds Records. They sound like they have classical and folk chops, represented in their instrumentation, but have, instead, hit upon an opulent kind of multi-layered chamber synth pop which is studied and, in places, and, when they don’t overplay their hand, intriguing. Comes with a 12” x 12” lyric insert.
  • Xan Tyler has had a storied, if mostly under-the-radar three decade career in popular music. She’s appeared on various club tunes but, perhaps more representative, and also her highest profile moments, have been as half of the electropop duo Technique on Creation Records. Her latest outing, Holding Up Half the Sky on Last Night From Glasgow, is far away from synthesizers. Instead, assisted by Boo Hewerdine, once of The Bible, it’s a set of well-constructed singer-songwriter fare tinged with folk, Americana, rock and melancholy, laced with a wide range of instrumentation. Its songs are worthy of more attention than it will likely receive, notably “Freaks”. Comes on mottled white vinyl with a 12” x 12” photo/lyric insert.
  • Dutch hip hop duo Pete Philly and Perquisite went their separate ways a decade-and-a-half ago and have kept their solo careers going since. Much of their success was based on their live show, which was funked-up and buzzy, with a full band, their genial zing sustaining a couple of albums. For fans, the good news is that they have not changed much and comeback album Eon, on Unexpected Records, achieves the same kind of bounce and lyrical uplift.
  • Brainstory bring the Californian feel-good to their second album, Sounds Good, which appears courtesy of the same state’s Big Crown Records. The part-sibling trio major in a blissed soul-funk that fans of Stones Throw Records may enjoy. Hazy and laidback, it’s not really suiting me or the dull day outside. “Bit sappy,” as someone passing theartsdesk on Vinyl’s listening quarters just observed. Bet they’ll dig it in Brighton. Maybe I just need a cold beer. Comes with 12” x 12” art/lyric insert.
  • The third album by producer SOULS, AKA David Gledhill, sounds as if it’s popped in from the clubby Nineties for a visit. Entitled Electronic States, a title that doesn’t exactly pop, the gatefold, cover art and inner sleeve are covered in images of Ibiza so let’s assume it’s purposefully engaging with that aesthetic (it even has Robert Owens singing on it!). Some of it has a bangin’ night-on-the-eccies roll while other numbers go for Balearic noodle. Gledhill has embraced his concept to the extent that it comes across like analogue electronic music from an old documentary about ‘avin’ it on the White Island. Comes on bright yellow vinyl.
  • JJGrey & Mofro hail from Florida (JJGrey is the singer, Mofro, the band) but the best of the music on their latest album has a New Orleans rockin’ soul to it. It’s their tenth album, is called Olustee, and arrives via Chicago’s venerable independent Alligator Records. I could do without some of the singer-songwritery slowies, but is better when the band get the brass out and have a funky old time. Bet they're entertaining live. Albeit in a super-American bar band kind of way. Comes in kyric inner sleeve.
  • Most won’t have heard of Michael Head – I hadn’t – but the Liverpudlian musician has had a storied career. If you’ve read this far down theartsdesk on Vinyl, however, you will likely have heard of both The Pale Fountains and Shack – I have – and Head was a key ingredient of both. The Red Elastic Band is his latest venture and their new album, Loophole arrives on Modern Sky UK. In lyric inner sleeve it contains a set of story-songs, perhaps autobiographical, nostalgic, details sketched with occasional sadness, occasional humour, time capsule snapshots delivered in an airy voice with music somewhere between upbeat indie and the less zany side of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Comes in lyric inner sleeve.
  • Those, on the other hand, who do prefer the zany side of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band may wish to take a dip in Warm Ham in a Foreign Home, the first full album in 19 years by New York outfit Double Deüce on BB*Island Records. The band were freak-folk originals two decades back, featuring Moldy Peaches guitarist Toby Goodshank and Angela Carlucci of multiple bands (including Herman Dune). It’s a set of songs cheerfully loaded with wilful silliness, from whacky voices and animal noises to mock hip hop surrealism and offbeat comedy, with a side order of zany satire. Its best moments recall Jeffrey Lewis being goofy but, overall, there’s too much self-conscious kook for theartdesk in Vinyl.
  • I haven’t seen Netflix’s Love at First Sight and doubt I will, but those who have will be familiar with the music of Rochdale singer-songwriter Morgan Harper-Jones which, apparently, makes its presence felt. Her debut album, Up to the Glass on Play It Again Sam, is a mixed affair, mingling pared back, lyrical songs, such as “Swimming Upstream”, with music such as appears during slushy bits on Grey’s Anatomy and the like. Unfortunately, the latter outweighs the former but she’s a wordsmith. Comes on murky sludge-green vinyl with art/lyric inner sleeve.
  • Bristolian pianist George Cooper’s prolific band The Jazz Defenders fire out their latest album Memory in Motion via the Haggis label (of funkin’ outfit The Haggis Horns). The music sounds old-fashioned, somewhere between Dave Brubeck and Cedar Walton, albeit busier, but it is interjected with cuts such as “Rolling on a High” which add a smidgeon of hip hop to the pottage. It’s light but succeeds by being unafraid to play it elegant, classic and catchy.
  • On the world’s oldest extant independent label, Topic, comes the latest from Sheffield folk perennial Martin Simpson, now an older statesman of his chosen genre. Entitled Skydancers, its title song was commissioned by naturalist Chris Packham in honour of the endangered Hen Harrier. Not many albums you can say that about. Combining originals and old songs, it’s folk untrammelled by modernism, stories told and feeling shared, doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
  • The self-titled debut album from Montreal-based House of Gold on Sofa Music is dedicated to the Canadian composer Isaiah Ceccarelli. The latter’s main focus has been chamber music and jazz. This album is song-based but the chamber feel is heavy, delicate vocals amid somnambulant keys and percussion. A folk-ish quietude is present throughout, contemplative, doleful, summoning brain-photos of autumnal evergreens, rain and dusk. Comes in lyric inner sleeve.
  • London-raised and Portugal-based songwriter-producer Nathan Jenkins reaches his fourth album as Bullion. It’s called Affection and is on Ghostly International, featuring guest turns by Carly Rae Jepson and Charlotte Adigéry. He majors in richly produced funk-pop, warm and welcoming, smeared with but not overtaken by a beachside house flavour. Mainly the focus is on easy-going catchy songs that also have a snifter of Miami Vice yacht rock about them.
  • Rising London-based Welsh DJ-producer Elkka breaks out of straightforward clubland categorization with her debut album, Prism of Pleasure on Ninja Tune. Featuring her vocals, it’s a set of often-four-to-the-floor electronic pop representing where she’s at, exploring gender and sexuality, but, as much, a personal overview of LGBT+ love-life in crunchy electronic song form. It’s very now. One could imagine Honey Dijon dropping tunes such as the Tears For Fears-sampling “Make Me”. Comes in gatefold on vinyl that’s a pinky vomit-splurge.
  • Max Vanderwolf has had a successful career as a high-level concert promoter but is now determined to let loose his own music. As an artist he’s known only by his surname. His second album, in lyric inner sleeve on purple vinyl, is The Great Bewilderment on his own Vandersongs label. It’s a set of songs that sit somewhere between David Bowie, The Waterboys and epic, proggy American rock. When he keeps it tight and poppy, his nasal tones leading the charge, it sometimes has a retro hippy-ish appeal.
  • Bad Sounds' Escaping From a Violent Time on Nettwerk is the duo of brothers Callum and Ewan Merrett from Bath with a second album that takes indie potential and runs it through the pop ringer in a manner that brings to mind Empire of the Sun, The Scissor Sisters and the most recent Kaiser Chiefs album. The songs are here, catchy and produced with summery zing, but there’s an overarching cheeriness that’s too saccharine for theartsdesk on Vinyl. Comes in gatefold in lyric inner sleeve
  • Scottish trio LYLO put out a couple of albums a few years back but it’s at least half a decade since we heard from them. Thoughts of Never on El Rancho Records, however, sees them return to the fray, boasting a sound strongly akin to solo Bryan Ferry. Comes with a photo/lyric poster.
  • F.Lux is the band name of Optimo’s Jonnie Wilkes and producer James Savage. They have been around for a while but their debut album now arrives. Entitled Naum Gabo on DFA Records, it’s a menacing murk of hum, fuzz, clatter and post-industrial menace, with occasional moments of 4/4 rhythms redolent of techno (notably “Schinokapsala”). Comes in art/info inner sleeve.

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters