Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Kick Bong 'The Lost Valley' Review

Artist: Kick Bong

Title: The Lost Valley

Label: Cosmicleaf

Released: 20th April

I've always felt Franck Jousselin has followed his own path musically. Even with his earlier releases although there were strong elements of psy-chill and dub he had a slightly different edge as well as playing the percussion, bass, keyboards and synths on his releases. I've said it before and I'll say it again I remember a set he did for Fluid Radio a good number of years back where he played re-mixes of the Cure and Depeche Mode amongst dubby psy-chill. At that point I'd never really come across anyone brave enough to fuse the two. But then he did start his musical career as a member of the French new-wave/pop act Romy et les Gateaux secs.

Although his style isn't to everyone's taste (I've heard a few die-hard psy-chill and psy-dub heads mention it isn't) I feel he's moved away from that sound album by album admittedly jumping back on certain tracks. On this album however I would pigeon-hole it more as a collection of down-tempo chilled electronica and mid-tempo not too dis-similar to nu-disco (and by that I don't mean the cheesy sounding tracks with a house beat or the harder edged acid-chug).

I'd also advise getting past the first few tracks to really appreciate this release. The opener 'Walk my Way' is a melodic piece of chill with some nice strings and chimes followed by 'Clip Clap' a slo-mo nu-disco sounding no with some beautifully melodic synth sounds. The fourth track of the album 'Dancing on the Dust' is an absolute corker that's difficult to pigeon hole there's elements of nu-disco, a driving beat and some excellent psychedelic twists. From this pinnacle the album descends slowly track by track and just when you think you're moving back to old ground with Ludivine Dubos flute in 'The Pursuit' Franck drops a funky riff on the bass re-affirming what a quality album it is.

Reviewed by Woodzee.


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Animat 'Staring Into Space' Review




Staring Into Space




May 2015

Staring into Space is a new collection of tracks from their last two releases. The E.P. 'Zero Blue ' and the album 'Music For An Unstable Planet' came out on the Mareld label in 2014 and included tracks and themes from the Sheffield based duo's acclaimed soundtracks to John Carpenter's 'Dark Star' and Sylvian Comet's 'Belleville Rendezvous'.

The album commences with the Robin Hexstatic mix of 'Horsehead' where atmospheric dreamy synth sounds fuse with deep bass notes and a driving beat. It's a lovely combo and sets the album off in good stead. This is followed by the darker plodding intro and self explanatory vocals of Pioneer Species take of 'Hum Humans Hum' which leans towards 70's space themed discoid funk in places but has a very dub reggae feel overall.

Keenya's atmospheric ambient take of 'Dream Dot TV' has the right mood and pace of a stereotypical space movie. It might not get you dancing but it certainly conjures up the feeling of floating in space. Mechanist's mix of 'Recovery Time' moves up a gear and returns somewhat nearer to Hexstatic's style of fusing dreamy synths with a more driving beat. Although this piece dips more into ambient beat-less breakdowns, when the beats present there's plenty of tribal rim-shots and snares.

Input Junkies manipulation mix of 'Target Practice' is a choppy take that places focus on the drums. It's almost like a drum & bass piece that's never allowed to take off and personally I didn't dig it at all. James Murry restores the calm with a classical feel to his version of 'Elgans Alba' with plenty of cello string and a touch of piano.

MCTHFG brings his blend of 80's sci-fi and dub reggae to 'Outsider Inside' resulting in a mash-up akin to traditional sea-side organ music meets the Mad Professor. While E.R.S. delivers a slo-mo dubbed out funk full of distorted vocal samples, sparse drum rolls and fx with his version of 'Bone Dry'. Midnight JJ completes the release with a dreamy progressive dub of 'Horsehead'.

There's certainly some lovely atmospherics and sounds within this album and I liked a lot of the tracks in their own right. However, I found listening through the album continuously it's a bit too dis-jointed in terms of pace and style. However, that said in this day and age you may not play an album from start to finish and the tracks could well fit into different sets depending on your mood.

Reviewed by Woodzee.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Novalima 'Planetario' Review

Artist: Novalima

Title: Planetario

Label: Wonderwheel 


Released: 16th of June

In Mark Hudson's book 'The Music In My Head' the main character Andrew 'Litch' Litchfield an arrogant world music producer, promoter and publicist states something along the lines of 'A lot of people say they know African music, they probably have 10 or 12 albums in their collections, whereas I really know African music.' I definitely lean towards the former not only in African Music but Latin as well. I've been aware of the big guns Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and the Bueno Vista Social Club for many years. The internet allowed me to explore many other artists old and new and the newer genres generated in the Latin and South American region. However, the bulk of these artists are from Brazil or Cuba and I'm not the greatest at identifying and pigeon holing some of those. So when it comes to Novalima who fuse traditional Afro-Peruvian music (a blend of Peruvian, African and European music itself) with electronica, dub-reggae, hip-hop and other vibes that grab their ears, I recognise sounds from Batucadas, Samba & Salsa which may already be an established part of the Afro-Peruvian music already for all I know. Bearing that in mind I'm going to have a bash at reviewing their latest offering.

The release has been compiled over the last two years, mostly on tour and features plenty of collaborations both locally and internationally. For example in Columbia a recording session was initiated by members of La-33 and included Eka Muñoz (Sidestepper) Pernett & La Mamba Negra adding additional Latin flavours to the mix. The first single to be released from the album is the opening track 'Como Yo' a tribute to Peruvian percussionist and long time band member Mangue Vasquez who passed away in 2014. The track will be released both as a 7” vinyl and digitally on May the 17th.

The tracks certainly blend an alluring and danceable mixture of female and male vocals, African drum rhythms, guitars, pan-pipes, horns and electronica. At times reminiscent in drum style of the Batucadas in 'Beto Kele' for instance or Manu Chao vocally in 'Mi Canto' and 'Copa de Manana' while 'Hoy Dia' fuses Soulful vocals, jazzy piano keys and Latin percussion. However, as much as I enjoyed the vocals and intense drum work throughout the album I struggled to ascertain a clear favourite. Although, the sultry female vocals interwoven with deep breathy almost beatbox-like male counterpart and the general housey bounciness of 'Madretierra' possibly edged it.

I remember the James Taylor Quartet stating they packed out venues with their live shows yet struggled to sell recordings (which surprised me as I enjoyed both) I wouldn't go as far to say this is the case with Novalima (considering they've released music with ESL and Wonderwheel as well as receiving great press in the past from the likes of the Wall Street Journal, Metro & the Guardian). However, I'd imagine they're music is best experienced live and they've graced the stages of the Montreal Jazz Festival, WOMAD & NYC Central Park to name a few.

Reviewed by Woodzee.


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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Another Fine Day 'A Good Place To Be Re-Mixes' Review

Artist: Another Fine Day

Title: A Good Place To Be


Label: Interchill

Released: 10th May

Hot on the heels of his recent album release and for me the tracks selected for the re-mix treatment are slightly puzzling as my personal favourite 'Nature Boy' isn't included. Never-the-less it's a fine album on the whole and a great bunch of talent selected for these versions.

The E.P. commences with two takes of 'Spanish Blues' and first up is Seb Taylor under his ambient-glitch pseudonym Hibernation (where he often leans towards fusing smoky jazz bar vibes with futuresque electronica). Seb utilises all the aspects of the original sending it off in little sequenced loops with added sparkle before the twitchy bass line drops. All in all he's done a sterling job complimenting and adding to the laid back melodic smoky jazz bar flavour of the original perfectly balanced with more ass wiggling sections. This is followed by Greg Hunter (Dubsahara) who in contrast delivers a wonderfully melodic dub which is equally as soothing as the original but leagues apart in his approach. So far the release provides two strong re-mixes suited for different occasions.

The second part of the E.P. is a trio of re-mixes based on 'And Dream of Seals'. In the first instance Tom re-visits the piece with his 'Chaos Theory Mix' where he employs an elongated field recording intro and then toys with the sounds more as well as adding a plodding beat and touches of tribal percussion. Next up is Alucidnation who adds a suitable spoken word diatribe and subtle fx, but manages to maintain the dream like quality of the original. Last but not least is Ishq's take (where if you're familiar with his music it's not as surprising as it may seem) he's actually applied the brakes to what's an already down-tempo affair. Matt focuses on the melodic piano of the piece adding choral voices and flutes, he dives deep into ambience to see the e.p. out in a truly relaxing and meditative fashion.

Reviewed by Woodzee



Monday, 11 May 2015

Adham Shaikh 'Basswalla' Review

Artist: Adham Shaikh

Title: Basswalla

Label: Black Swan 


Released: 26th May

When it comes to global bass Adham is not only a pioneer, but as the title implies he's a basswalla (in other words he's a master of his craft). Although this is his first mostly original material release in the last 5 years he has certainly honed his sound on his re-mixes throughout that period and once again completely satisfied high expectations with the content of this latest release.

The release begins with the title track 'Basswalla' and within 10 seconds of pressing play and for me the blend of eastern flutes and deep bass it's already a winner. The tracks that follow don't disappoint as Adham's 25 years experience of fusing world music with urban electronica blossom into full bloom. Whether it's the low bass, rump shaking Bhangra'esque hip-hop fusion of 'Cultivation' featuring the positive lyrics of Shamik, the haunting gypsy violin, rolling percussion and organ mash-up of the Elders Dance mix of 'Vibe Hunter' or the fusion of flamenco guitar with Armenian dudak (a double reed woodwind instrument not a million miles away from a clarinet) in 'Rumba Dub' it hits the spot.

The album closes with versions of previous tracks. Not wanting to simply re-mix again Adham takes the tracks back to grass roots. In the case of the Deep South mix of 'Crossroads' utilising a performance by Prakesh Sontakke on a mohan veena (a Hawaiian slide guitar modified to include the sympathetic resonance and drones found in Indian music) in it's entirerity and added percussion on the dholak by E Shankar.

It must be hard as an artist to maintain an interest from the fans with each new release. If your style changes some fans may depart and if you stay static others may get bored. For me Adham's at the top of his game and delivers exactly what he labels on the tin. In my opinion his only downfall maybe being saturated in an ever growing market where eventually listeners may begin to look for other styles. 

Reviewed by Woodzee.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Suns of Arqa 'All Is Not Lost, But Where Is It?' Review

Artist: Suns of Arqa

Title: All Is Not Lost, 

But Where Is It?

Label: Liquid Sound 


Released: April 2015

The Suns of Arqa have been producing their blend of Indian classical instrumentation and Rastafarian Niyabinghi drumming under mainstay Michael Wadada and a prolific number of guest artists from around the diaspora since 1979.

This latest offering produced by Youth who has also roped in Raja Ram on flute and the Orb to step behind the mixing desk and add their years of production experience to enhance the release.

The opening track 'Mother Tounge' begins slowly with a mish-mash of chopped up SOA clips and samples which are soon accompanied by a powerful rolling beat providing a whirling dervish of psychedelic dub. This is followed by 'Sadrayama' which for the first couple of minutes is a more laid back affair. However, once the drums kick so does the squelch which works in perfect balance with the sitar sounds.

Bird song and spoken samples are the introduction to 'Erasmus Dub' a laid back piece of dub jam-packed with reverb, samples and scratches. Soft female vocal samples and fx are blended with bamboo flutes and song in 'The Fool Ascends' which although still dub ditches the reggae elements in favour of a more ambient chill feel.

'Discordian Dawn' begins with a cello like intro integrated with sequenced synth's before bamboo flutes and tribal drumming which are dubbed out in appropriate places stream through the main body of the track. There's an elongated piece of poetic dialogue nestled over distorted and dubbed out SOA with 'The Truth Lies Therein' before the vocal song and rolling drums are implemented along with trance like synth's.

The closing track is Youth's Dub mix of 'Pablos Lament' plucked from SOA's last e.p. and for me it's a gem. Traditional reggae vibes and harmonica are fused with SOA vocal hooks and reggae vocal samples in this dub-fest. There's also plenty of twists, turns brakes and turns of speed within the piece to maintain your interest.

If hearing the Suns of Arqa put through the array of fx and reverb and echo chambers of the dub laboratory appeals to you, then you can't really go wrong with the men behind the desk on this release.

Reviewed by Woodzee.