Just over a couple weeks ago, I was asked by Christina Hazboum of Marsm Arts (the company with whom we toured Palestine in July 2019 in a cultural exchange between the UK and Palestine) and the lovely chaps at Rhythm Passport to put a mix together. Christina’s hometown in Palestine, Bethlehem, had already been in lockdown for a couple weeks, and soon the whole world would be in a similar situation.
Those initial days of confinement were the most terrifying it seems, with everyone trying to figure out this unprecedented situation, being confined at home and confronted with the dystopian sight of empty shelves at the supermarkets, checking the news compulsively every 5 minutes…I put this mix together to express the feelings at the time (confusion, chaos, dreams of escaping, hope) while trying to stay tongue in cheek about it.
Here’s the playlist:
1- Rhythm Devils – Cave
2- Curtis Mayfield – (Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go
3- Eugene Mc Daniels – Jagger The Dagger
4- The Floyd Family Singers – That’s A Sign Of The Times
5- Willie Williams – Armagedeon Time
6- Black Uhuru – Apocalypse
7- Pressure Drop – Sound of Time
8- Yellowman – Nobody Moves Nobody Gets Hurt
9- Pete Dunaway – Supermarket
10- Can – Vitamin C
11- Talking Heads – Warning Sign
12- The Police – When The World Is Running Down
13- Jack Jones – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again
14- Joe Tex – Pneumonia
15- Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Straightening Out
16- Bossa Combo – Apocalypse
17- Belle and Sebastian – Get Me Away I’m Dying
18- Johnny Hammond – Tell Me What To Do
19- Parliament – Mothership Connection
20- June Tyson – We Travel The Spaceways_1
21- Marcus Belgrave – Space Odyssey
22- 291out present 291outer space – Cryogenesis
23- Gil Scott-Heron – Must Be Something
24- Dennis Brown – No Man Is An Island
25- Romie Singh – Dancing to Forget
26- Al Hudson – Spread Love
As this situation has now become the new normality, most of us are trying to make the most of it, enjoying taking some time out, rediscovering the music library and exploring the BFI catalogue, trying to be creative, doing lots of stretches, spending less time of social media…well at least that’s the aim 😉
On Saturday 07th of December I was “invited” to participate in a 100 x 100m charity swim event. In an outdoor 50m lido on the southern side of the river (!) on a freezing December morning in London. This begs the immediate questions: what kind of invitation is this??
What kind of friends do I surround myself with??
Well, Mark Sheridan is a “mad keen” (in his own words) ultra marathon swimmer who trains with us weekly at Swim For Tri (you can read his story here, he’s not exactly the regular swimmer you encounter at the public pool). He created the event as a tribute to his budding partner Steve Wand who sadly passed away not long after that following a bike accident. In its 4th year, the event now boasts 40 participants spread in 4 lanes, all aiming to complete the 100 x 100m challenge (as originally set by Mark, Steve and his buddies). It’s a charity event with all proceeds going to Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance Trust.
This is an infamous session I have heard about time and time again over the years from my swimming and ironman circles. A set that will build not only your physical fitness but also, and perhaps most importantly, your mental strength. However I always shied away from it and never really considered it, having never swum further than 5000m in a day. But this time I said yes. It was for a good cause, it would give me some focus to train a bit at this time of the year, and of course I would be able to talk about it to my grand kids for the rest of my life afterwards.
Not willing to look as disheveled as this poor swimmer past the 5K mark, I started training with this event in mind around mid October.
The first week I did 33 x 100m on an interval of 1:40 (15 reps then 1 min rest then 18 more). A random number explained by the fact that when I reached 25 I quickly realised that I couldn’t have done much more so I gave it all until I couldn’t keep up!
On the 2nd week I did 60 (5 x 12) which was almost double!
On the 3rd week I did 72 reps (6 x 12) and even though the last 2 blocks were painful I started to feel confident in the challenge as I was hitting the 100s between 1:26 and 1:29 all the way through. All that on my own in a pool of 1.50m depth. Needless to say how emptied I felt after that session though, a feeling I never experienced before post swimming. I couldn’t do more than 2 pull ups the following morning.
I then went to Japan for 2 weeks where I swam once, for the grand total of 2000m in a typically overheated pool (not an onsen but not far). I came back in mid November with only 3 weeks to train before the event. I managed one long solo swim with 2 weeks to spare: 75 reps (5 x15) on a 1:40 interval, which felt easy until the 55th then suddenly incredibly difficult! But after that I knew I could do it.
(At this point I should add that my main aim at that time was to qualify to the London Marathon by doing a half marathon the week-end before the big swim. I’d ran consistently since the beginning of October, and had started to feel ready for the required 1:15 qualifying time…until disaster stroke 5 days before the race when I realised the stress fracture in my hip had reappeared…story of my life…)
On the morning of the event I did the trek to Charlton Lido (bike + overground + bike), met up with my fellow victims, listened to the briefing (“this is going to be brutal” is what I remember) and got myself ready. A fair chunk of the participants are seasoned marathon swimmers, quite a few have swam the channel solo and/or some other crazy open water feats.
Obviously it was pretty cold out there, not the kind of Tº to make you wanna hang around in speedos for too long on poolside, but I didn’t want to jump in too early too as I knew I would feel even colder in the water…
I did my warm/up on poolside and jumped in 1min from the start. As expected the 22ºC water temp did not make me feel any warmer than the 7ºC outside. I was in the 1:50 lane, meaning we had to do 10 X 10 reps of 100s on a 1:50 interval, each one of us (what with being 10 of us in a lane) taking turns to lead 10 at the front, before resting 1min to allow for changeover and feeding.
I started at the back of the pack with the aim of leading one the last 10s. The first 10 felt easy, the 2nd ones too, the 3rd ones too, and so on. I had experienced that while swimming in triathlon packs before of course, but this was a reminder that the difference between swimming solo/at the front and being dragged along is absolutely massive. I never felt I was putting much effort out there until I took my turn at the front between rep 80 and rep 90. By then I was more than happy to actually be able to push the pace up a bit and FINALLY WARM-UP. I’d spent the first 2 hours shivering, my fingers totally numb and wondering whether I would have to pull out. My core TºC really didn’t want to warm up at all, and every minute of rest made it even worse as I tried to grab a frozen gel or banana from the poolside with my shaky fingers. I seemed to be the only one in this case, as everyone else seemed to be comfortable on that front. One guy in the next (faster) lane even blogged afterwards that he had to train in a heated pool prior to this event in order to ACCLIMATISE TO HOT WATER. Different folks for different strokes really, or, more to the point, different body types. I knew it before and I had it confirmed then: I wouldn’t last very love if I found myself stranded in cold water (that’s below 21ºC for me)!
I won’t lie in saying that I enjoyed the event – I was way too cold for that – but I am glad I did it, went out of my confort zone and saw the end of it, even more so as it was done for a good cause. Many thanks to Mark for talking me into this.
Having never swam more than 5K before signing up for this event I also know now that it is fairly easy to build fitness from a minimal training base (2 or 3 times 30min per week) towards a long distance swim by doing one long session per week, increasing distance every week. Not that the solo training was much enjoyable, but it was damn efficient as the actual 10K on the day felt almost effortless. To be repeated perhaps, in a faster lane and hopefully a warmer pool!
Starting with the party scene, Beauty & the Beat has been the source and inspiration for 2 brand new, Klipschorn based parties, one in Paris called Sweet Apric∞ts, and the 2nd one in Sheffield called Apricot Ballroom Sound System...
(Ah those apricots! Glad to see them back in fashion, half a decade after their first rise to fame having popped up on the title of a track by my mate Gatto Fritto, though he wasn’t praising them so much at the time! (Don’t Eat the Apricots)).
On top of already being able to claim responsibility for a bunch of BATB approved weddings and babies, we can now be proud of those sister parties. Check out also Birthday, the Berlin party hosted by my friend Henrique, which also has 4 Klispschorns and an aesthetic close to the original NYC Loft. I played there in November and it was so beautiful!
Back in London, we were forced to change venues twice last year…and both have now disappeared…Our beloved Stoke Newington hangout Total Refreshment Centre got shut down by the Babylonian powers that be (Hackney council) in May and closed down definitely in October, while The Styx in Tottenham suffered the same fate at the end of the year. Gentrification has proved extremely costly for nightlife once again, even more so in the case of TRC which was not only a party space but also a hub for musicians and artists alike to meet and make things happen. Big up to Alexis Blondin and al for making this happen, and good luck for your further projects, I know you guys are full of ideas. In the meantime long live to the Church of Sound, a space where I witnessed one of the best gigs of the past few years in the form of The Cookers, an all star cast of jazz giants (Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson,…) doing their thing and blowing people’s minds like the legends they are. Shabaka Hutchkins who popped up on stage for an impromptu solo seemed almost overwhelmed next to these cats!
Beauty & the Beat carried on regardless (we must have used more than 10 different venues since we first started back in June 2005) from strength to strength, with monthly sold out parties and even an appearance in xoyo alongside Hunee himself! BATB is still the place where we can confidently try out new ideas, where the sound and crowd are the best, and ‘moments’ happen on a regular basis.
The bi-monthly All Our Friends party with Tim Lawrence has grown organically and has reached its first anniversary in style in January 2019. The combination of an invite only, a 5pm start on a Saturday and possibly the best room acoustics in London have made this a unique party with many a special ‘moment’ already.
Meanwhile the monthly Sarava! nights have kept on rocking in our favourite haunt brilliant corners. Come around 10:30pm and witness the venue transforming in a blink from a hip yet civilised foodie spot to a full on party den fueled by rhum agricole and leftfield and balearic beats.
The BC team has also opened Giant Steps in Hackney Wick, which was everyone’s summer hangout and undoubtedly the scene of the best week-end of the year mid July which saw a party with me opening for Hunee turning into an impromptu b2b lock-in with John Gomez joining in till the early morning, followed by everyone watching France winning the World Cup in the afternoon in the courtyard and continuing the celebrations upstairs with a memorable AOF party (whose beginning was recorded by RA). An absolute dream of a weekend. A few weeks later the GS sound system landed in Houghton for yet another 4 day and night extravaganza and heads up the best party spot in the festival.
On the new music front (in physical form), this was a year where I dug much more old (as in not reissued) records than I bought new ones, and looking at the amount of freshly released music I added onto my discogs account, this is quite a feat! Trips to Paris flea markets, dusty basements in rural France, digging trips in Tokyo or Sapporo with Qpchan and Satoru, DVD shops in Pointe-à-Pitre or to a couple of serious Lisbon record dealers for instance turned out to be all winners in terms of unearthing new discoveries, cheap holy grails and not forgetting some accompanying good stories. The quest for new music is infinite, no matter the size of your collection!
With this in mind, I still managed to accumulate 125+ new releases (the ‘cogs tells me), and play these a lot, in various situations. Here’s what 2018 sounded like in my yard.
I knew of Portuguese experimental ambient artist Nuno Canavarro before from his incredible Plux Cuba LP which was reissued in 2015 by Drag City. Silvia and I and a few others had a DMT like experience while listening to this at home on a morning back from BATB. Just like a DMT trip, the sounds of Plux Cuba are pretty much impossible to describe, and I won’t attempt. Just saying that this guy makes music which sounds so imaginative and uniquely out there that it seems to come from a parallel universe.
This is now followed by the superb reissue of Nuno’s collaboration with fellow Portuguese Carlos Maria Trindade from 1991, a few years later than Nuno’s only solo album. Both were interested in new technologies, free-spirited compositional ideas, and loved improvising while listening to old African and Middle Eastern tapes.Here are examples on their notes and cues during the sessions that led to this album:
“A deserted beach somewhere in Morocco. Sunrise: sea waves carry wreckage to shore”
“Southern European small village. An old woman washes clothes while singing.”
This should be enough to attract everyone with a deep love of unusual yet majestic freeform music. THE release of the year for me, and massive thanks to Barcelona’s Urpa i musell (the label associated with the Discos Paradiso record store) for this musical gift.
Vasco Martins – Universo Da Ilha
Along with Mr Wollogallu this is the record that got played the most in my house last year, generally first thing in the morning. Vasco Martins started the project with 6 poems before turning these into this concept album, Universo Da Ilha, with all tracks bearing that same name. As good as it sounds! A soothing, atmospheric journey but always with a cosmic and experimental edge, this is a unique piece of music and certainly the only album of its kind I know that is hailing from Cabo Verde. What an island! The reissue is also linked to Discos Paradiso somehow, which makes this Barcelona record involved in my top 2 records of the year.
By far the biggest and most played tune of the year, not only at BATB but also AOF, Houghton, Le Sucre, xoyo,… Already a great tune in its original form, this was turned into a huge dance-floor winner by none other than the man Jan Schulte aka Wolf Müller, one of the most talented producer of these past few years and a long time BATB favourite. These drums…the title sums it all.
The flagship tune from the new BATB release and a secret weapon of ours for a good few months before its official release. Cyril met Olly Wood, boss of the Beating Heart Project who released -digitally only- a compilation album dedicated to South Africa of various modern artists sampling and remixing field recordings made by Hugh Tracey in 1950s South Africa. Out of these we picked up 4 of our favourites and had them remastered before putting them out on vinyl for the first time. Given the spontaneous hands in the air reaction from dancers as soon as they hear the first few bars of the track, it would have been a shame not too! Midnight tune at NYE, just saying. The others cuts in this EP are also fantastic – it’s an all round winner.
One of the big news in 2018 was the continued emergence of a new UK jazz “scene”, of which Shabaka Hutchins had led the way these past few years, Nubya Garcia seems to have now come to the limelight. I saw her live at Field Day in the summer and this was the highlight of the festival. Talented young musicians, featuring, amongst others, Joe Armon-Jones (himself a solo artist on his own right – check out his EP Idiom) on keys and Femi Koleoso on drums, playing jazz for the dance-floor. It was only the start of the afternoon and already a proper rave in there, something I hadn’t experienced in jazz since seeing The Five Corners Quintet live in Helsinki in like 2003. So fresh! When We Are goes down a treat in a club situation, as does the (slightly more minimal) K15 remix. With also Ezra Collective, The Comet Is Coming, Korokoro, this scene is what keeps London exciting at the moment.
The We Out Here compilation on Giles Peterson‘s Brownswood label shone even more light on the aforementioned UK jazz scene and featured most of the current movers and shakers carrying the flame of the London jazz tradition. While all the tracks are great, this comp is a must buy for the Korokoro number alone, a slow cosmic afro jazz bliss of a tune which has already gathered 200K+ views on YT (!), a couple of which must have been as a result to its spot as the opener to the 70+1 (-2) psychedelic ambient mix I made for for my mum’s 70. We saw them live recently at the Church Of Song playing some selected Ebo Taylor material and these guys are the real deal! Most of them in their 20s and a full female horn section make this the band to watch in 2019, starting with their new EP hitting the shops very soon. Really looking forward also to the first edition of the We Out Here festival in Cambridgeshire this summer!
Black Merlin – Kosua
I’ve known George Thomson for over a decade, since before his Black Merlin days, and I admit I was taken by surprise by the cinematic excursions and depth of Kosua, his album dedicated to the mystery of Papua New Guinea, the world’s 2nd largest island and one of its most unexplored. An island he visited many times and went deep inside with the local people to create this unique and mainly beatless offering. Thomson recorded the sounds of the Kosua tribe, from their daily lives, ancient dance customs and wildlife and armed with the pads and drones of his beloved analogue machines imagined this lush , at turns beautiful and ominous sub-tropical journey which is absolutely stunning and one of its kind. This needs to be immersed in and be listened as a whole and get lost in.
On the same Island of the Gods label, spearheaded by Daniel Mitchell of Bad Passion and Potato Head fame, hear also the collab between Jonny Nash and Lindsay Todd,Fauna Mapping for another deep and unique experimental ambient album featuring indigenous field recordings, this time from Bali, Indonesia.
V/A – Nouvelle Ambiance – Brazzaville – Kinshasa – Douala – Abidjan (Musical Experiments From Paris)
Nouvelle Ambiance is the label started by respected diggers Hugo Mendez (of Sofrito fame) and Nico Skliris (of Digital Zandoli fame), dedicated to reissue music released by the African diaspora in Paris in the 1980s. With such a started point we know we’re in good hands! I already listed Ivory Coast’ Siassia & Tokobina – Mama Africa as one of my favourite records when they released it last year. On this new comp we are treated with often very rare records, on an all killers no filler basis. This melting pot of artists and musicians at that time in Paris was facilitated by the arrival of the left in power in 1981, which brought freedom of movement, free radios (as in radios libres) and the emergence of a so called “Paris sound”. A fusion of various African rhythms mixed with western productions, and aimed mostly for the club and the dance-floor. Often you find the same session musicians on these records, like members of Kassav for instance. Be it from Ivory Coast (Antoinette Konan – M’acko), Cameroun (the killer makossa track A Muto by Esa), Senegal via Central African Republic (Bhy-Ghao Dombia – Daws), or Congo Brazzaville (Jacques Loubelo – N’Gando), these records all reflect the sound of the Paris scene in the early 80s. You can read more about that scene on this great article written by Hugo Mendez for RBMA. Saving the best for the last, the tip of the top for me might well be Bazombo, this Congo meets Antilles meets reggae number by Bovick & Co. Unmissable compilation.
Talaboman – Dins El Llit (Superpitcher remix)
THE deep house record of the year, and exactly the kind that works perfectly on the Klipschorns: deep, cosmic, psychedelic, textured and hypnotic house music with multiple twists and turns. I wasn’t especially a big fan of the Talaboman album, but Superpitcher, at his best, is the specialist of these epic, shamanic house odysseys (see the “Golden Ravedays’ series on his label Hippie Dance, or especially the classic ‘re-entry’ record that is Pachanga Boys‘ Time). Massive record.
7”s / 10″s / 12”s / EDITS
These are not listed in order of preference, but rather in a way that would make sense if all played back to back in a party situation.
After the success of his Famiglia EP for us in 2017, our man Atemi is back on wax for his first appearance on the Balearic Social label. I’ll let you guess the inspiration for the track…a 15 minutes excursion which takes us from a horizontal position in the heat of the afternoon to the hips warming up and senses awakening while dreaming of a Brazilian holiday. Stunning stuff!
We continue the journey nice and slow with the lovely organic vibes of Leonardi, whom I first heard on his Second Circle release in 2017. On this new EP he pursues his deep shamanic excursions and welcomes us into his cosmic universe. Check out also the experimental ambient bliss that is Apona & Ataraxia.
Staying on an analogue tip, we start grooving already on this cosmic funk bomb coming straight outta Naples. I was given this precious little 7″ by Dario himself aka Mystic Jungle and one half of this Space Garage project. A massive tune and already cult piece of wax.
Good to have Nicolas Chaix aka I:Cube back on top form for this remix of Smith & Mudd balearic chugger. This is mid tempo space disco heaven, with a dreamy, bass-heavy electronic groove in intergalactic chords, delay-laden congas, occasional acid lines and reverb-heavy passages of guitar and electric piano. Sounds like a classic track already.
One of the mainstay of this UK jazz scene, the key wizard Armon-Jones is a fan of Jay Dee and Theo Parrish as much as Charlie Parker or Herbie Hancock. Besides being a member of Ezra Collective and Nubya Garcia‘s live band, JAJ releases also under his own name, but always in a supportive role, never really stepping up to the fore, likening his band to a sound system like Jah Shaka’s, where every member of the crew from the cable man to the DJ is equally important. Theo and Jay Dee’s influences really come out throughout this whole LP, which covers everything from 2-step, broken-beat and house to jazz and dub, the highlight for me being the majestic Tanner’s Tango., which features Garcia on saxophone. A classic yet fresh London sound.
The Pakistani Hindi-jazz outfit, Jaubi previously re-interpreted J Dilla on their debut release for Polish label Astigamtic ‘The Deconstructed Ego“. This time around they created a tabla and sitar reinterpretation of the Nas’ classic ‘NY State of Mind’ to deadly effect. However it’s Al Dobson Jr. who makes a long awaited return and steals the show on the flip, recreating Dj Premier’s head-nodding hip-hop on ‘NY State Of Mind’, which used a sample from Joe Chambers “Mind Rain”, but using Jaubi’s samples this time around! Fresh and heavy! This could have been a classic back in the days of Plastic People’s Balance no doubt.
Not the official single but my favourite track on the 2nd EP from this alternative soul singer, violinist and producer Sudan Archives, LA based but raised in Ohio. Her first EP from last year also on Stones Throw, was already a big fave and on my end-of-the-year charts. Here you can hear her inventive use of the violin on this unique and very personal take on R&B. Strong, Powerful stuff.
“My strings, propagate through space and time Here and there at the same time Handing mitches and basic rhyme Yo ain’t gotta be mad Look deeper, go higher when you climb But stay outta my path Stay outta my flight path”
Altın Gün are on a mission to revive the Turkish sound of the 70s. Think of a mix of Turkish folk, psychedelia, funk and rock. With the excellent Nic Mauskovic on drums (who also releases really cool stuff under his own name on Bongo Joe and Soundway) and a host of Turkish musicians they cover classic songs from their favourite Turkish musicians from the 70’s and also make their own arrangements of Turkish traditionals. Worth also for the cover of Erkin Koray‘s Cemalin on the flip, a track I do play regularly at BATB (like in the recent December closing set of a very lysergic filled party).
Tenor has been a big favourite of mine since almost the beginning, more precisely since 1997 and his LP Intervison. Back then I was already dancing to Outta Space, Sugardaddy and Can’t Stay With You Baby, and more than 20 years later Jimi is following his journey exploring and breaking boundaries in (space) jazz. My Mind Will Travel came out on a 7″ released by the excellent Philophon label, and sounds like everything I like. Afro cosmic space jazz which makes you dance and invites you on a journey. Great record to have/play when you have a few hours ahead of you and various genres/mood to explore. The A side is also a winner!
This works perfectly well after Jimi Tenor’s, especially in a setting like Brilliant Corner. Jazz dance as its best! As mentioned earlier with the Nubya Garcia EP, this whole new generation of UK jazz musicians are really playing with the dance-floor in mind. Their debut mini LP from this super group which includes Nubya Garcia, TJ and Femi Coleoso, and Joe-Armon Jones was mixed by no less than Floating Points and championed by Gilles Peterson. Not bad. Not to be missed live!
Simple but really cool and effective edit/remix of a well known (at least in Brazil) Seu Jorge song (which only came out on CD). Admitedly the record is not very well pressed but when it’s that good and uplifting it doesn’t matter so much anymore. One of the most ‘asked for iD’ tune of the year for me.
We keep on riding to an electro Brazilian groove, going deep with Jountro Moundo‘s remix of Tchori Tchori, a native Brazilian chant which praises a bird called biguá. He reworks the groove with subtlety, extending the chant and adding just the right elements to make it work a treat on the dance-floor. I remember this sounding quite incredible at an absurdly tropical AOF party back in June last year. The original on the flip is also essential and this is the 2nd BIG record of the year for Millos Kaiser‘s Selva Discos label.
Deep house meets gwo ka for one of the big hit of the summer, and the kind of record which seemed to have been made for BATB. Krater is a percussionist and trompetist from Guadeloupe who comes from the gwo-ka scene of the island. He released some influential (and quite rare!) LPs in the 80s, with Zepiss and Gwakasonné, mixing gwoka rhythms with various influences to create some extraordinary tropical jazz creole. You can find the original version on his excellent new album An Ka Sonjé on Heavenly Sweetness, who also released a new album by fellow Guadeloupean ka drummer Roger Raspail. I have a deep love for gwo ka music and its culture, having visited the island countless times in the past 25 years, and even more so after spending some time chatting with Gerard Lockel in his house in Sainte Rose in June last year, and I am so glad for these guys to be back in the news playing fresh new music. Forza Gwada!
We stay in the groove with some classic NYC disco courtesy of 2 of the dons of the scene, Vega of MAW and Milan of Blaze. This sounds like a modern version of Instant Funk and Go Bang, and has all the right ingredients in all the right places. A groove you could stay stuck in for days.
One of my most played track of the year, because of its irresistible groove, and its French lyrics about wanting to dance and romance all night while begging the sun to wait a little longer to start rising…Oh la la! Often played together with Fedia Laguerre – Divizion, an almost unbelievably modern piece of island disco originally released in Haïti in 1985, reissued this year by Atangana Records.
James is a West African music specialist and long time resident of the monthly Black Atlantico night at Le Sucre in Lyon (at which Cyril and I went to play recently). On this, his first EP, he played all the percussion instruments and produced the record, with the help of Bruno Patchworks on bass, Jacob Mafuleni on vocals and Rïad Clad on guitar. The result is a wicked EP feat a killer piece of electronic afro disco (as on the title track) as well as a really cool slice of juju/reggae dub on Juju Chill. This was released by fellow afro electronics masters Alma Negra, and -insider’s tip!- his next release on the excellent On The Corner label is set to do some serious damage too.
Cabo Verde and funanã have been one of my big love in 2018, and so this release which came out at the start of the year was absolutely unmissable. Arp Frique hail from Rotterdam, home of a big Cape Verdean diaspora. On Nos Magia, they created this modern funanā cut which featured the legend Americo Brito (who was featured on THAT Space Echo comp, and whose cult LP “Sintado Na Pracinha” I managed to grab a copy of in Lisbon thanks to Sebastiao of Mar & Sol Records) on vocals. My kind of dance-floor bomb, cosmic, funky and tropical. Well worth checking out also while on the topic of Cabo Verde is Ze Rolando‘s Conjunto Jovens Africanos,whose killer coladera / funana cuts Nhu Djun and Volta Pa Terra from 1984 got reissued on a lovely 7″ by Ostinato Records.
We’re keeping things sweaty and tropical with this modern Ghana meets Cuba number on Philophon, one of the best purveyors of really cool and varied 7″s of tropical leaning, with the likes of Alogte Oho, Idris Ackamoor or (previously listed) Jimi Tenor on their roster. Lee Dodou was the lead singer of George Darko‘s legendary Burger-Highlife hit-band, like on their killer LP Hi Life Time, one my favourite modern highlife album ever. As such Lee Dodou became the number one voice of 80’s Highlife. He disappeared for a while before making a return, backed with the German-Ghanaian band Polyversal Souls, with this song in the classic “concert party” style, as it was played in the glorious 60’s in Ghana. Tried and tested countless times this year and a sure fire party hit!
DJ Sotofett & Maimouna Haugen feat. Gilb’R, Haugen Inna Di Bu & Stiletti-Ana – C’est L’Aventure
Since I started these end-of-the year reviews back in 2013 there hasn’t been a year without Sotofett being part of it, sometimes even more than once, and this year is no exception. Played, mixed and mastered for authentic ’70s feel, this new offering from one of the most consistently exciting producers out there features drum programming by Sotofett and Gilb’r, vocals from Maimouna Haugen, and funky bass vamps by her father, Haugen Inna Di Bu. Highly percussive cosmic dub stepper of the highest order, reminiscing of some of his earlier work on Honest Jon on the Drippin’ For A Tripp (Tripp-A-Dubb-Mix) LP.
We keep on riding a syncopated groove with this awesome afro-beat piece from 15-piece orchestra, The Mabon Dawud Republic. Hungary (!)’s first all-star progressive Afrobeat ensemble started as the Fela Kuti tribute band for the very first Felabration event in Budapest, organised by the band itself and joined by Fela’s original Egypt 80 band member, keyboard player and singer Dele Sosimi. The jamming soon evolved into a project of their own songs. As you can expect, this sounds like classic afro-beat, but modern. The spirit lives on, even from the most unexpected places! This came out on an essential 7″on Budabeats records.
I’ve been a big fan of Kasra V on the basis of his track Fantasy from 2016 alone, which is like a tribute to the golden rave days and sounds absolutely immense when played outdoors at festivals. On this remix of Elles X Violet the Teheran born but London based artist (and NTS host) has kept his distinct rave/breakbeat/drum’n’bass sound, in a softer r but equally deep and trippy way. I enjoyed playing this a lot, also because it’s such a unique record in my arsenal. On a similar breakbeat tip, I also really liked the Tornado Wallace remix of Mildlife‘s The Magnificent Moon.
I played this as the last record of the last BATB party of the year, a party which was one of the most spectacularly out there in recent history. While no doubt hearing this for the first time, people were tripping out in unison to this cosmic chugger of a tune; all but one that is, the bouncer who decided that was enough and stopped the record some 30 sec before its ending. Talk about the devil’s hand…He received the biggest boo in history as a result (and realised a bit too late how stupid he had been) before everyone erupted into the biggest cheer ever. That was a really special moment. Needless to say I played this track again at NYE, and this time no one dared stopping it.
That’s a very cool and underrated track of electronic funk which popped up on a 7″ early in the year. Quite a departure from this monster afro house track from 2015 (which I still play out occasionally). Great club music all the same.
I absolutely love this piece of meditative electronic soul music, which reminds me of the best of Aphex Twin circa Analogue Bubblebath. Perfect to wind down for some 7am action in the magic hours of a party.
I don’t know who is behind this release, but I love a bit of mystery, especially when all the tracks sound so fresh. B2 is my favourite and it turns out I like it even better when played +5 at the wrong speed (33 instead of 45). A really rare occurrence for me. Super cosmic!
As we were listening to this with Silvia recently as the last record before bed and she was having her mind blown away by the track, I was secretly dreaming of having the guts to play this out in a club at full blast, telling her this is what happens when you leave free reins to Kuniyuki! Epic stuff from one of my favourite producers ever (I own 37 of his records – I’ve checked on discogs), and a man I had the honour to share the bill with in Precious Hall, Sapporo in April last year.
Some deep and electronic sounds to finish off the journey, this has got a slightly Tony Allen circa Black Voices feel to the drums, while sounding as meditative as Gaussian Curve for instance. Healing music which makes all the sense in the world once you know that she made this in the wake of her mother’s passing.
These are listed rather randomly, in no order of preference.
291 outer space – Escape From the Arkana Galaxy
A concept album to start with, and it’s a journey in itself, divided into 4 dimensions, telling the “story of the recovery mission from the orbiting station Zeta-Luna, looking for the cargo ship 291out, run by the legendary Captain William Bones, helped by the Admiral Flyme, while they are lost in the mysterious Arkana Galaxy”(phew). Complete with comic book artwork we are deep in Sci Fi territory, with Moroder and proto techno strong influences here. The best cuts for me are the 2 beatless tracks, one a near 17 minute journey The Arkana Glaxy (Beatless) and the last cut, Cryogenesis, a slow, floaty, zero gravity kind of trip.
Jessica Lauren – Almeria
JL has been at the forefront of UK jazz for at least 25 years, playing keyboards with some of the greats and releasing a bunch of albums under her own name. I first got aware of her in 2012 when she released her wicked latin influenced Jessica Lauren Four album, already on Freestyle Records. On Almería she combines multiple styles of jazz and can easily switch from Brazil to Turkey and anywhere in between. whilst retaining a minimalist atmosphere and subtlety. Heavy club grooves (the afro jazz opener Kofi Nomad), mellow latin vibes (Teck Et Bambou), minimal and atmospheric (the majestic Argentina) make this a very refreshing album, and nicely produced too.
Nu Guinea – Nueva Napoli
Apparently Lucio and Massimo (who make Nu Guinea) came to a BATB party last year while I was playing (unaware of their presence) their killer instrumental disco weapon that is Amore. I’d been a fan of them since their World EP from 2015 and their really cool Tony Allen Experiments LP from 2016. With this new album dedicated to their home city Napoli, they have gone on a fully jazz funk fusion mode with a full band set up, and somehow exploded in the limelight in the process. You can hear them paying homage to the city’s favourite sons Pino Daniele (Stann Fore, featuring the duo’s very own vocals) Tony Esposito, and Tullio de Piscopo, who pioneered Naples’ hybrid Afro, jazz and disco sound of the ’70s and ’80s; Ddoje Faccebeing the track that really does it for me, worth the ticket alone.
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids – An Angel Fell
Here’s a fantastic album from Chicago born Ackamoor, who fuses influences like Pharaoh Sanders (both music and appearance – he wears a pharaonic headdress on stage) and Sun Ra (check the cosmic dub beauty that is Land Of Ra) with afrobeat and other African rhythms. Stuff he was already doing in the 70s before a long break and his recent reemergence thanks to labels like Philophon (who published 2 nice little 7″s) and now Strut for this new LP. The big dance-floor cut here is Warrior Dance, while his Soliloquy for Michael Brown, the young black man gunned down by Missouri police in 2014, has no words, Ackamoor’s tenor moving from grief to rage over clattering congas. Deep and inspirational, and a stunning listen from start to finish.
Sign Libra – Closer to the Equator
This is the project of the multi-talented artist and composer Agata Melnikova, originally recorded as the soundtrack for a ballet performance, while being inspired by ‘watching loads of nature documentaries’. Indeed it sounds like a delicate, exotic journey through the tropical rainforest. The good kind of new age that will brighten up any room instantly. Nature’s dancing! Incidentlyhis also makes it 2 Latvian artists on this list (with Ingus Bauškenieks).
Tatu Rönkkö – Sphere
This collection of percussive pieces from Tatu Rönkkö has to be one of the most original new release of the year, and a complete discovery to me. Tatu is regarded by some as one of the most diverse and inventive percussionists working on the contemporary field, having been compared to everyone from Konono No.1 to Photek and Can’s Jaki Liebezeit. It includes self-made instruments from everyday objects, like plastic bottles, metallic bowls and egg cutters! Check out the opener Olio, or the stunning (in all meanings of the word) Tekoäly, the only vocal track on this record, feat Islaja.
Ai Messiah – Sentience & Sapience
This has come out late in the year and I haven’t had time to listen to it that often, but based on just a couple of spins I can feel this modern cosmic new age concept album is bound to soundtrack many a (grey) Sunday chill a la casa. Super cool stuff.
Arp – Zebra
With a large group of collaborators, using “analog synths, double bass, Rhodes, electronic and acoustic drums, flute, vintage harmonizers and tape delay,” Alexis Georgopoulos aka Arp has crafted an impressive album of ethereal psychedelia a la Talk Talk, with nods to Indonesian gamelan, west African drum circles, Japanese gagaku and Californian minimalism. All of this leading to the album’s highlight which in my opinion is Reading A Wave, a dense piece inspired by Alice Coltrane. This had me revisit his previous bands Tussle (dabbling in post-rock) and especially The Alps, with whom he made a kind of woozy, ambient folk music of the psychedelic kind. One time in Spiritland I played The Alps’ Trem Fantasma b2b with Arp’s Nzuku towards the end of the evening and both sounded majestic in there.
Waak Waak Djungi – Waak Waak ga Min Min
A really exciting and original reissue on Micheal Kucyk’’s Efficient Space record label. These are contemporary versions of traditional songs from the indigenous Yolngu people of Northeast Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory, originally released in 1997. The CD was apparently discovered by Andras Fox in the library of a local radio station in Melbourne who then passed it on to the Noise In My Head boss. This is a really special record and a must have for all the balearic heads out there. Deep, moving, gorgeous, majestic, healing…all of that!
Kate NV – Для = For
Kate NV aka Kate Shilonosova comes from Moscow and makes colourful electronica filled with chimes and marimbas. Each track has a three-letter title in both Russian and English. The LP’s first half was recorded in spring, the second in autumn and tracks on both sides are supposed to be symmetrical. That surreal world is even accompanied by a film that gives life to Kate NV’s rich imagination. All in all this is a really personal, original and playful album, where choruses have disappeared and song structures are freeform. Check двa TWO or кто WHO for a glimpse of Kate’s enchanted world.
Eleventeen Eston – At the Water
Basso‘s Growing Bin is one of those labels that always deliver quality releases, and this is no exception. If you remember the stunning ambient album 69 by Wilson Tanner that came out in 2016 (one of my highlights of that year) then you’ll be happy to hear that it was a collab between Andras Fox and John Tanner, aka Eleventeen Eston. And this is really all you need to know. Check out the incredible fusion of electronic and acoustic on 2 d‘Or (Cab Chassis) or the drifting and dreamy ambience of I Float, I Am Free and get lost in sound.
Again, no special order here, just a list that shows how strong the reissue market is these days.
Il Guardiano Del Faro – Oasis
Time Capsule is a reissue project started by Kay Suzuki, who plans to have different curators (including myself) working alongside him to dig that bit further. Our good friend Ryota Opp chose the first release, the 1978 album Oasis from Italian new age visionary Il Guardiano Del Faro. Federico Monti Arduini was an electronic music pioneer in Italy and and one of the country’s first producers to use the Moog synthesiser in the 70s. If psychedelic new age is your thing, don’t miss it! My very own Silvia even went to Milan to interview Federico about the creation of this jewel. Check out the driving Roland rhythm box on Disco Divina or the whole album here. This is an outstanding album, which sounds even better now having been freshly remastered.
Telectu – Belzebu
This came as a recommendation from my good friend and Lisbon institution Mario Valente. This 40min suite of amazing proto Drexciya synths, subaquatic rhythms and alien electronics from Portugal, 1983 is unique in many ways, and a first time reissue on Holuzam – prior to that this was unavailable on any format since the original release, which now trades for triple figures in the 2nd hand market.
According to the duo, the album landed in uncharted territory, the first minimalist recordings released in Portugal. Jorge Lima Barreto, one half of the duo, was very active in the avant-garde and jazz scenes, and his uncompromising attitude and leftist leaning didn’t earn him many friends in the press or industry. During the later half of 1982 and early 1983, together with Vítor Rua, TELECTU embarked on a series of home sessions that resulted in “Belzebu”’s two sides. As featured in the liner notes, the music was carefully noted, all the unorthodox methods written down, all the techniques described and influences assumed (notably the New York avant garde scene JLB had contacted in his travels throughout North and South America).
Dwart – Taipei Disco
Yet another recommendation from Mario V., and an equally unique and far out new discovery for me. Also reissued by Holuzam (what a promising start for this new label!), and although hailing from Portugal, Dwart’s music was actually conceived in China and Macau (then a Portuguese territory) in the early 90s. Apparently Taipei Disco, an incredibly dreamy and kraut sounding slice of electronic disco, was named after the only decent Guangzhou club back then. Based on the emphatic choreography of Taipei Disco’s dancers, Antonio Duarte started to compose a rhythm track while sitting at a table, with headphones, listening to Cantopop in the background. Not that you can hear that much! On the B side, perhaps even more interesting we find Red Mambo (impromptu), a balmier jam with members of legendary Cape Verdean group Os Tubarões, (incidently, a band I discovered in Lisbon last year too after Bastien Selekta Orka of Tabatõ Records turned me into their incredible “Tabanca” LP). As Duarte says, “during the early years of DWART a lot of the inspiration for drum machine rhythms (Roland’s TR series) came from African music, especially from new musical trends that gained full autonomy with Cape Verde’s independence from Portugal, as was the case with funaná”. Cabo Verde and funaná having been a big obsession of mine last year, this reissue came right on point for me!
Soundway needs no introduction as a label that’s been constantly unearthing incredible music from all corners of the globe. The cream of the crop for me this year is this mid tempo afro boogie cut from Ghanaian royalty Pat Thomas. Irresistible groove paired with melancholic yet uplifting vocals, which remind me of one of my all time modern Ghanaian funk track, CST Amankwah‘s Yewo Yiemu. On the A side is also a great modern highlife tune, Jon K‘s Asafo. I guess we can call this one a double A side 🙂
So nice to officially (not PMG!) own this perfect 7″, with not only the cult Arabic synth disco synth of Nisyan on the A side, but also my favourite ever piece of Arabic Balearica (sic) on the B side. The perfect crossover record, and the kind of song(s) I can listen on an endless loop.
Yasuaki Shimizu – (Re)Subliminal
I was lucky to be in Japan when this reissue came out, as this is a costly import otherwise. But a what a cult and amazing leftfield album that is! Recorded in Paris in 1987, Shimizu (whose Kakashi album also got reissued last year and is also a must have) aimed to “capture the spirit of (his) everyday encounters with the people around (him)”. The result is a weird and cosmic mix of western and African influences (Tamare-Tamare) with 80s electronics and more traditional Japanese instrumentals. This new edition includes 5 songs from the original album and additional 2 extended re-edited songs by internationally remarkable DJ/Writer Chee Shimizu (including the incredible Chiko-Chan.
Mkwaju Ensemble – Mkwaju
The renaissance around new age percussionist Midori Takada continued last year with this timely reissue of her percussion based project Mkwaju Ensemble’s Mkwaju and Ki-Motion albums, by the always on point We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want. Gongs, marimbas galore, tom toms, latin percussions, these 2 albums are truly unique and give us a further glimpse into Takada’s free experimentations at that time.
The same WTFWW label also has a sub label, We Release Jazz, which unearthed a pair of fantastic jazz (sic) albums by Sapporo’s Ryo Fukui, Scenery and Mellow Dream. Both got the half speed master treatment and sound insanely good. Modal, bop and cool jazz played with absolute mastery on a high fidelity pressing. Big tip!R
Ingus Bauškenieks – Spoki
Definitely one of the most surprising and refreshing releases of the year for me, as not only I had never heard of Ingus Bauškenieks before, but this also sounds pretty unique. After over a decade spent in a post punk/ new wave band, the man from Riga, Latvia started experimenting on his own, and said he was inspired by the ‘one man orchestra’ ideas of the likes of Jean Michel Jarre or Mike Oldfield. Armed with a bunch of keyboards he produced and released his first solo LP in 1988, Mãjas Dzīve, which translates as ‘Home Life”, or, as he explains in the liner notes, “a sense of fantastic in the domestic”.
The compilation of Bauškenieks’ work starts then in 1988 and compiles tracks from 4 LPs plus a recent one from 2011. This is an eclectic mix of leftfield pop music, balearic and playful melodies with unexpected twists. Some of the best tracks (Pasaulē Ir Tik Daudz Vīriešu Un Sieviešu, Roni) come with his then wife Edīte Bauškenieks on vocals, but this compilation is a real treat from start to end. Massive big up to STROOM on this one, a label which also released last year THAT Keysha track and the majestic ambient album by Jason Kolàr, Modified Perspectives.
One that’d been on my wantlist for years, making this reissue by the ever excellent Dark Entries all the more welcome. The album was recorded in one week between Christmas and NYE 1981. These 2 German brothers recorded their own performances and engineered the mixes, drumming, playing bass, guitars, all kinds of percussion and keyboards, singing and yelling. The contrast between African and German lifestyles, underlined by the early 80s tensions between nuclear warheads and the peace movement can be felt at the very core of this album. It’s an experimental affair, freestyle at its core, in a jazz fusion meets Stockhausen kind a way. Certainly not for the faint hearted (the B side is really a tough listen) but with tracks like the superb opener Vietnam, or the groovy fusion number Treck, it is really a unique album to have in your collection.
Eko Kuango – Eko Kuango
Eko Kuango only released 4 tracks in the form of an EP in 1986, the band recorded one year later a studio album which until now remained totally unreleased. The band fused together jazz and African beats, filled with subtle synth arrangements, and sometimes even an eastern flavour. It was the project of Belgium-based composer, poet and multi-instrumentalist Denis Mpunga (who also appeared on Music From Memory in 2017 for a compilation and a bunch of remixes). Check out the ultra deep afro jazz of Na Mawaso or the afro pop of Kena Samba. Super class album all the way which would been in the very tops of the year had the pressing been a bit louder.
Afro cosmic disco…what more do you need? One of those records that could have been a Loft classic had David Mancuso known about it. Afro disco feat some insane drum breaks and synth action, this is peak time territory for all the cosmic dance-floors out there. Feat Gasper Lawal on percussions and Harry Mosco on production. Big up to Secousse for unearthing this, a label which also reissued a dope zouk 12″ with Jules-Henry Malaki‘s Makiyaj.
Basa Basa – Homowo
From Nigeria to Ghana (and back to Nigeria where this album was produced) for more afro cosmic sounds courtesy of the previously super rare Basa Basa album ‘Homowo‘. The afro cosmic disco monster of African Soul Power is the big track on this, apparently composed on the spot by Themba ‘T-Fire’ Matebes during the recording session, starting with that synthesiser riff. Previously extended by Sofrito on one of their ‘Tropical discotheque’ 12″…but the original version is rawest and much better.
This album however, far from being a one tracker, is super strong all the way, with tracks like the afro cosmic funk Black Light and Konya or Love Love Love all proofs of the genius of Joe and John Akwete, aka the twins aka Basa Basa. Reissue courtesy of Vintage Voudou.
Antonio Sanches – Buli Povo
I am starting to own a good bunch of vintage Cabo Verdean LPs and they all have some amazing tunes on them, but this has to be the best funaná album I know, with back to back dance-floor killers, and a very unique, synth heavy sound to boost. Tracks like Desgraçada and Benção De Gente Grande are insane! Plus this reissue by Analogue Africa (who were the ones to bring back funana to the limelight with their classic Space Eho comp) sounds so good. Loud and detailed! I saw an original copy at the Tabato Records shop in Lisbon, but I doubt it would sound as good.
This is an album with a great story as well. The original funanà, an intoxicating style of dance music based on the gaita (a type of diatonic button accordion) and the ferrinho (an iron bar scraped with another metal object, usually a kitchen knife, to make a percussive instrument), had been almost extinct by the Portuguese colonisers by the time Cabo Verde became an independent nation in 1975. Bulimundo then started to modernise the funanà sound, before Antonio Sanches stepped in and backed by Voz De Cabo Verde created this classic album in one day in Lisbon in 1983. The pairing of the incredible cosmic synth sounds by Toy Viera, who had never played funanà before (!), with the fact that Antonio improvised the lyrics to the album on the day as they were recording it, make this Buli Povo LP unlike any funanà record before or since.
While on a Voz De Cabo Verde tip, I also found in Tabato Records 2 great little 7″ backed by the band, Armindo‘s Djulai and Jovino’s Viva P.A.I. which also contributed to make 2018 a year where the sounds of Cabo Verde became even more of a staple in my sets.
At least 3 absolute Afro holy grails popularised by Hunee got reissued this year, starting with this unbelievable slice of uniquely otherworldly afro disco that is Nan Ye Likan. Unsurprisingly Hot Casa were the ones to put this out, giving that Afrobrasiliero, one half of the label, was the one who started selling this record and made it popular in Europe in the first place. If you remember the very end of my blurb about 2017 on this same blog, I was begging for someone to find me this record….Well I have to say, I’ve played the reissue a few times for sure, that tune is just insane, BUT its sudden availability made it too ubiquitous and already overplayed. One to keep in the sidelines for a bit I feel. The same goes for the killer afro funk of Boncana Maïga‘s Koyma Hondo (also on Hot Casa) and the modern electro highlife monster that is Nana Tuffour‘s Sikyi Medley (reissued by Kalita Records).
Various – Gumba Fire
A massive compilation right there from Soundway, collecting 1980s bubblegum and synth boogie from South Africa, put together by Soundway’s Miles Cleret and DJ Okapi of the excellent Afrosynth Records (who reissued a bunch of fantastic records, including Burning Beat and a compilation of Ntombi Ndaba). Apparently none of these tracks had been reissued or made available digitally before. Given how difficult it can be to source South African records it’s not surprising, and thank God for the reissues! The music featured on the record precedes the Kwaito and house sounds that took over South African dance-floors in the 1990s. “The sound that was forged at that time was often ubiquitously described as bubblegum – usually stripped down and lo-fi with a predominance of synths, keyboards and drum-machines and overlaid with the kind of deeply soulful trademark vocals and harmonies that South African music is famous for.”
There are so many killers on this I can’t mention them all, but if there were only Ashiko‘s Gumba Fire ((Madlakadlaka) or Zasha‘s Arrow Dub, that would be enough reasons to grab this already.
A really cool single here with Acouyaman’s private press 12″ from 1984. Digital reggae goes electro funk with lyrics in creole on the A side and straight electro funk on the flip, this is not quite what you expect from a group hailing from Martinique…but it’s a double winner. 2 great tracks from their rare and only album Funky Kon’ Sa had already popped up on Digital Zandoli (Si Ou Ladje Moin) and Crown Ruler Sound (Funk Around) and confirmed the funk heavy roots of this short lived project.
The label Beau Monde has also reissued a private press from Guadeloupe, Serge Fabriano‘s Digital Caresse, whose deep electronic jam Deshaies had become cult in the past couple of years. Luckily I had found a copy of this for a couple of euros in Pointe À Pitre a couple years back.
We lost the queen of soul in 2018 and it felt like the whole world paid tribute to such a legend, understanding how immensely important Aretha had been, not only for her music, but also for giving a voice to generations of women and black people fighting for equal rights. The crowd reaction to playing out Danny Krivit’s classic edit of Rock Steady just after her passing was absolutely nuts. Be With Records had reissued the heartbreak classic One Step Ahead towards the end of 2017, famously sampled by Mos Def on Miss Fat Booty and now available for the first time on a 7″ format. Essential.
Trio Ternura – A Gira
Everyone would know this Brazilian boogie super jam as it appeared on many a compilation and was sampled/remixed/edited by everyone and anyone, but this is actually the first official reissue of this party classic. Simply a masterpiece and big up Melodies for pressing this nice and loud. On a different tip, the label run by Mafalda/Floating Points also scored another winner with the Frankie Knuckles remix of Womack & Womack’s M.P.B.
The pick of this year’s bunch on the Mr Bongo Brasil45 series, this mid tempo boogie/fusion jam which which originally appeared on Matheus self-titled LP from 1975 (also reissued this year on AOTN) was a big play for me this year. It works pretty much everywhere. Another very welcome 7″ from Mr Bongo that got a few spins from me this year was the classic street funk of Cymande‘s Brothers on the Slide. Love these!
Burnier & Cartier – Burnier & Cartier
The best of the crop of all the Brazilian reissues that came out last year (they were lots of great other ones of course, but mostly of albums I already owned). The record features no less than Arthur Verocai and Luis Bonfa on production/arrangement. Check out the beauty of a song like Mirandolina and that should be enough to turn you onto this 1974 LP that navigates between MPB, soul, jazz, and even some boogie. Superb!
This is not to praise just one record, but the label as a whole. The outlet of Brandon Ocura (ex Invisible City Editions) consistently releases amazing albums of music previously only available on tapes, mostly totally forgotten but always of the highest order. Looking for “captivating sounds to rescue from the folds of time’, the man’s tastes (and collection!) are impeccable. From Michel Banablia to Eblen Macari to MJ Lallo (Aquarius Blue) we are introduced to a whole new world of ambient, new age, experimental cosmic music that filled the house with peace and tranquility as they were played on a loop a la casa. With the added bonus of beautiful sleeves designs courtesy of Alan Briand, I really cannot praise these enough.
Jean-Pierre Boistel, Tony Kenneybrew – Percussions Pour La Danse
This album was a collaboration between North American born jazz & contemporary-dance instructor Tony Kenneybrew and French musician Jean-Pierre Boistel. Recorded in Paris in the late 80s as Boistel was returning from a 6-month trip to West Africa, the music was created for Tony to use when teaching contemporary jazz-dance classes and to accompany live performance, allowing students to “dance slowly, rapidly and change speeds without changing the tempo!”. The results are truly astonishing, sounding bright, colourful and airy, and in the words of our uncle David Sanders “I could listen to this forever”. Absolutely outstanding!
Orquesta De Las Nubes – The Order Of Change
Music From Memory are always on point with whatever they propose, to be trusted before even listening. After reissuing some of Suzo Saiz solo work in 2016 they have now compiled some of the best gems from his cult ambient/new age band Orquesta De Las Nubes. Together with percussionist Pedro Estevan and featuring soprano singer Maria Villa on some of the tracks, they created ethereal pieces of music in the mould of fellow Spaniards Finis Africae, while also sharing the same label, the cult Grabaciones Accidentales. Coming back from Houghton festival this year in a pretty ‘fragile’ state I found a copy of the Manual Del Usuria LP in my record bag, put it on the turntable and was absolutely blown away. Unfortunately this was Aneesh’s record…but I was glad to see MFM step in with this comp. Absolutely essential.
This album had been on my wants list for a few years (think I heard Tako playing this at BC) but never came up at the right price. Luckily it has now been reissued and remastered (the sound is amazing indeed) by the Spanish label Sommor. Widemann was part of French prog rock institution Magma and you can very much hear that throughout this album. If (like me) this doesn’t turn you on, head straight to the last track, Tsunami, which is the jewel you’re after. 2 Minimoogs being played simultaneously, a couple of key mistakes, an inverted drum pattern, and there you go! cosmic masterpiece. All that at the age of 22! A. Benoit I salute you.
Interesting fact #1: this sounds good at +8 too, Baldelli must have loved it!
Interesting fact #2: BW played the keys on Tshala Muana‘s Antidote!
A massive coup for the label STROOM with the release of this sleaziest of end-of-nighters, previously a hidden B-side on an impossible to find 12″ from 1982 South Africa. As sexy and erotic as can be, in a good way.
“We’ve been having a good time…let me have your smile…” Another end-of-the night ‘classic’ from South Africa, at least since this reissue popped up on La Casa Tropical. Got played at Houghton towards the end of the Sunday night in the Giant Steps to rapturous applause. And at BC. And at BATB. Yep it’s that good. For more mid 80s synth heavy South African boogie check also Bayete‘s Blue Monday LP, also reissued on the same label.
I’ll keep it simple this year as the above list is already quite long (!). Every year there are a few records which I get obsessed with and play constantly without getting tired or bored of. Here’s one of them.
In January 2018 I found 2 copies (!) of this holy grail for 3 euros in a basement in my local hometown (hidden amongst lots of 80s pop music and a few other treasures). There was no copy to be found on the cogs at the time so that was a big coup. This track is like a one-off electro meets zouk meets soukous experimentation by the usually very traditional sounding band Les Choc Stars. And it’s a bomb! I had a lot of fun playing it around everywhere for the most part of the year, until John Gomez and Rush Hour reissued it in September…since then it’s been left at home for a rest, waiting for its turn to come back.
Towards the end of 2019 I was invited by the music blog Ransom Note to deliver a mix to add to their series “The Wednesday Alternative”. As always it’s an eclectic affair, which goes from ambient to kraut rock cosmic funk to island disco to upfront gwoka, deep cadence and some more.
You can read the accompanying interview and download the mix here.
1- DJ Sotofett Presents Jesse – Autiomaa (I) (Tribbal)
2- Elles x Violet – A Life Lived In Fear Is Like Half Lived (Kasra V remix)
3- Dazion – Vx Lt
4- Satin Whale – Traum und Wirklichkeit
5- Woz – Compassion
6- Zazou/Bikaye – Soki Akei
7- Sudan Archives – Non For Sale
8- Fredi Michel – Enganami (Broke remix)
9- Oumou Sangare – Kamelemba
10- Emanative – Ominous Shanti
11- Konk – Konk Party
12- Unknown – A Jazz Thing (Uniile)
13- Feso Trombone – Shadow Dance
14- George Darko – Adikanfo (Party mix)
15- Eddy Louiss – Funky Day
16- Canoe – Paris-Antilles
17- Alma Negra – Sedowa
18- Sam Fan Thomas – Neng Makassi
19- Bebe Manga – Essele Mba
20- Mendes – Donna Kinjela
21- Armindo – Djulai
22- Sangazuza – Izaura
23- Eddy Gustave – Ana Caola
24- Magic Connection Music Stars – Rara Magic (Tribulations)
25- Gaoulé Mizik – Folk Gaoulé
26- The Sun Light – De Pou Graisser
27- Ophélia – Nous Bien Heureux
In 2009 I was a youthful and wide-eyed triathlete, landing in Maui for my first experience of the island (and my 2nd xterra ever). I’d flown in with my steel framed Kona Caldera mountain bike and aluminium wheels (must have weighted about 12 kg at least), and within a couple of days was sent out to climb the mighty Haleakala volcano alongside Julie Dibens, Paul Davis, Llewelyn Holmes and a couple of others. Of course the rear wheel exploded halfway up the climb, and -the rear brake being nonoperational- I crashed heavily on the treacherous lava rocks on the way down, rendering swimming in the Pacific for the following couple of weeks with open wounds into an absolute nightmare. Schooling days!
9 years down the line, now a newly-retired-yet-still-part-time triathlete, I still don’t have enough of the island, and so went back to Maui for the 5th time (!). Truth be told, the big aim was the long trip in Kauai afterwards, more precisely the end of the Kalalau trail where Silvia and I lost ourselves to the bowels of Mother Nature back in 2014..
Nevertheless I was hoping for a decent showing on race day. Having ‘qualified’ in Romania in August, that gave me two months to try to recover some decent fitness. In fact I’d started to feel like a cyclist again only just a couple of weeks before departure – prior to that, I could still pretend to be a decent swimmer/runner, but my cycling legs never got back anywhere near their vintage years like xterra Pacific islands 2012 – or even IM Barcelona 2017 for that matter. Perfect timing I thought.
Having done this race twice (DNF in 2011, 18th in 2014), I knew what to expect: tons of climbing, some twisty bits during the first and final miles of the bike, but nothing too technical. At least not when it’s dry. However, as for any mtb course, weather conditions will often have a massive influence on its technicality/ridability.
When we got there on the Wednesday, I only had time for a run and the course was already very slippery, though manageable. Doing the whole loop on the Thursday, I was able to ride about 95% of it, having to push the bike on only 2-3 occasions. But already it was a really thin line between making it and having to unclip and push bike. Any more rain and many of those ‘just abouts’ would become ‘no nos’.
In the meantime, Friday was an off day so we did the road to Hana, the whole loop, anti clockwise. Long and windy but oh so majestic road trip!
I didn’t bring any mud tyres with me. The local bike shops had sold all their stock. In any case those same bike shops (sharks) were charging $95 per hour for labour. So fuck that. It did rain every day though, especially at night. On the Saturday, the day before the race, the lower part of the course was absolutely unridable. Imagine having to climb 25% steeped banked hairpins covered in slippery yet sticky mud. And now try to descend that. Total joke. One of the bike mechanics in Paia told me to spray the tyres and the underneath of my bike with some PAM butter to repel the mud, and to carry a knife with me to cut through the mud if it still managed to accumulate nonetheless and prevent the wheels from turning. So that was my plan B.
D – 1
On race day it wasn’t actually raining. Lono, the Hawaiian rain deity had decided to give us a day of respite I guess; however the damage was done! The surf was up and higher than I’d ever seen before on that part of the coast, and the organisers had decided to implement the “plan B” they mentioned in the race briefing: ditch the unridable first 2 miles of uphill switchbacks in the bushes in favour of hard ground golf cart tracks.
I’d slept quite well (not a good sign) and wasn’t too stressed considering the scale of the task awaiting us on the slopes of the West Maui mountains. I was eager to get going and excited to try out the Kiwami Aquarush sleeved swinskin for the first time in a race (swimskins are banned in Europe). Things triathletes get excited about…During the warm-up swim, I mistimed a (big) wave on my way back to the shore, found myself tumbling 3-4 times and for a moment unaware of where the surface vs the ground were. When I finally found some air and my bearings, I felt somewhat disorientated and realised I had lost my timing ship in the mayhem. 10 min before the start, this wasn’t the ideal situation…Luckily I saw Trey Garman on the shore, and within 5 min Janet Clark (Xterra director) was calling out my name on the beach with a new chip in hand. Quite efficient on that one guys! I was back smiling.
The ensuing swim didn’t feel too difficult in comparison. I mostly led the 2nd big pack around, used the waves a lot more to my advantage (except going back IN for the 2nd lap, which felt like one step forward 2 step backward for a little while. Also diving under a wave and having to stay underwater for 10-15 seconds while already out of breath was borderline scary!). When I reached the shore for the 2nd time and was on my way up to T2, I found myself next to Josiah Middaugh and Melanie McQuaid (both ex Xterra World Champs), exactly like I did back in 2009 for my first time here. Shows that when it comes to swimming, once you reach a certain level, you don’t really improve much, but you don’t lose much either! I’m guessing I could still swim at that pace in 10 years time (what with a few months training obviously).
All smiles with Konstantinos Koumargialis, 30 min from the start.
SWIM START – with my mate Rife Hilgartner
XTERRA MAUI 2018 – SWIM START
XTERRA 2018 SWIM START
XTERRA MAUI 2018 – SWIM
XTERRA MAUI 2018 SWIM EXIT
XTERRA 2018 SWIM EXIT First Lap
XTERRA MAUI 2018 – SWIM EXIT – ONTO T1
Onto T1 then. My Achilles’ been sore for months, even more so right after coming out of the water, so I just cruised to T1, the legs feeling rather good otherwise. I lost my usual 30 seconds on pretty much everyone, and when I jumped on my bike I could see both Lesley Peterson and Brigitta Poor now in front of me. Luckily, as I mentioned earlier the first 2 miles were all uphill and on tarmac, my terrain of predilection!
Great pic by Silvia Gin. INTO THE LIGHT!
By the time we reached the lake, I had overtaken a good dozen riders and was in 20th position overall. Unfortunately this is where we hit the trails and what was bound to happen did happen, though even earlier than I expected: on pretty much the first couple of bends I was already skidding all over the place, unable to get a grip on this Maui mud. I understood right there, 10 min into the bike, that this race was already over for me (for those interested, I had a Nobby Nic as a front tyre, and a Racing Ralph at the rear. These are not mud tyres by any means. Mind you, even with mud tyres, you’d still have to get off the bike a lot on this course in these conditions, even for the most skilled riders. But without, you can’t even try.)
There was a crazy scene on the long uphill stretch that leads to the trademark ridge which marks the summit of this course. A file of riders were following each others, pushing bikes, sliding back, trying to step back on the saddle but inevitably failing to pedal more than a couple meters and falling over again. In some places the gradients were so steep and the mud so slippery that even pushing bike was a nightmare and you could see riders and bikes sliding backwards with a bunch of expletives as the soundtrack. One step forward, 2 steps…once again. Even the cameramen on their powerful motorbikes got stuck on some of these portions. Comical scenes for any outsider watching for sure (I hope everyone following the race on TV had a laugh), but in the heat of it, believe me, it was no fun at all. All the bits that were “just about” ridable 3 days previously were absolutely not today, and there are lots!
Only on the more exposed part of the course was it possible to ride a bit and feel part of a bike race, but as soon as we hit the (mostly man made) twisty loops of the last 5 miles of the lower slopes, it became a joke again. By that time, the wheels were not turning, gears not shifting, cables not moving, brakes not braking…a pleasure.
Somehow though, Silvia managed to hide in the bushes and catch me smiling and ON the bike!
Sometimes I would stop minutes at a time trying to remove manually the deadly mix of mud and cane leaves that forced the bike to a standstill. I must have crashed at least 10 times, including once on camera (see the video at the end of this article), and once into a tree.
Exiting this mess and reaching T2 felt like a deliverance. I had no idea of my position any more (I knew I was far), but was all too glad to finally be able to drop this bike!
Once on 2 feet it felt more like a race, even though there were times were the only way to move forward was to pull yourself from trees and branches and whatever you could grab. The best off road shoes were slipping like on ice, but I’m sure a good old pair of cross country spikes (15mm) would have been a massive advantage on this course – I believe only Bradley Weiss (2nd place finisher and fastest runner on the day by 2 minutes) had the idea/luck to wear some. I must have overtaken a dozen guys or so on that run, without especially trying hard as I wasn’t really in it mentally, but still I felt like I finished on a good note, with even a sprint finish to boot (!).
That would be 39th then. By far the furthest I’ve ever finished, not only in Maui, but in any triathlon! Not that it mattered too much, the most important was to finish, in one piece. What really mattered was…the Kauai holiday afterwards. And that didn’t happen! We flew there the morning after the race. Perfect sunny day in Maui, the best we’d had so far. Less than one hour flight to neighbouring Kauai and it’s pouring down and overcast like crazy. As we collected our hire car, we learned that the road to Haena (not Hana), where the trailhead to the Kalalau trail (the very reason why we came here in the first place) had been closed since April due to heavy flooding, and only opened for residents…Furthermore the weather forecast was heavy rain and flash floods for the next week. Not ideal when our plan was to camp here the whole time…It took us only a couple of hours to decide to switch plans and head off to dry and sunny California instead…Kauai we’ll have to come back!
Badwater Basin, Death Valley…as far from the rain as can be!
Yes yes, as you can see, this is a race report, despite the fact that I officially retired from racing last September, that I have barely trained in the meantime, that…well there were countless good reasons to stop (tired body, better things to do etc), but surely there has to be a ‘come-back’ before calling it quits for real? + more
On a personal level, 2017 will remain as the year I stopped being an elite triathlon racer (my last ever race was completed in September in Barcelona). As a result I found myself with 15 to 20 hours of ‘spare’ time every week, which I can now dedicate to M.U.S.I.C. Expect to see me DJing a lot more in clubs/venues outside of the trusted BEAUTY & THE BEAT and BRILLIANT CORNERS events. Expect more from the label too, which has seen 2 releases this year but will surely take up more of my time in the coming months. Expect also a return of me fiddling around with music softwares, who knows. + more
I recently sat down with the lovely chaps at Infinite Ear for an in depth discussion, a la casa, about a mix I had just recorded, which was centered around the theme of female empowerment.
This was made in reaction to the numerous examples popping up in the news regarding cases of machismo, sexism, men using their power to harass/violate/exploit women, etc. Nothing new, something that’s been going on for ever, but hopefully a topic that is creating a growing awareness thanks to this sudden increase in exposure. + more
While we’re awaiting the 3rd release on BATB Records, we have started Beauty Bits, a sub label dedicated to re-edits/reworks. This will be strictly limited to those special edits that go further than just looping a few bars in the intro/outro, edits that not only reinvent the originals, but also which have been tried and tested on the dance-floor.
To kick off we have released a pair of edits of mine which have been sitting in my hard drive for almost a decade! Big up to Rune Lindbaek and Belle Bete for the early support on Harer Nama, and to Frankie Valentine to whom I gave a wav of What Have We Done? in 2007 or so, and who has since been giving me multiple nudges to put this on wax. Well, here it is, in all its glory, and full mastered by Matt Colton @ Alchemy Mastering! + more
Following on to a Live Resident Advisor appearance earlier this year (note that I wore the same T-shirt!), I was recently invited to appear in a Boiler Room session for the first time, for what was dubbed a ‘psychedelic special’ session where I would play after The Flamingods and before cult Colombian cumbia band The Meridian Brothers.
We all have our own opinions about BR, some praising the exposure it gives to DJs while others (myself included) moan about its objectivisation of the DJ art form where, because of the cameras, a set becomes more a performance than about the music itself. It is indeed hard to stay still and let the music play when there are 3 cameras permanently in your face. However I took this as an opportunity to reach a wider audience and show what a typical (albeit very condensed) Cedric Woo set would sound like. + more