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Posted By: Cedric On: Jan 17th, 2021 In: Blog Music News Comments: 0

SOUNDS OF 2020 – THE WEIRDEST YEAR IN MUSIC

Music is the healing force of the Universe”

 

 

 

 

 This quote taken from Albert Ayler’s spiritual jazz masterpiece perhaps never sounded so accurate as it did in 2020. Most of us searched for solace in music in perhaps even deeper ways than ever. I for one spent even more time than ever consuming music, digging, seeking out, researching, and most importantly, listening. This landmark year proved radically different for everyone, on a global scale and on so many aspects, and this reflected upon our music habits. Many more people opened their ears and minds to ambient, new Age and transcendental music as a mean to healing and escape from the constant assault of toxic world news.

 

 Since I started doing these end-of-the-year retrospectives, the focus has always been much more on singles, 12”s and 7”s, and there were years where I’d even struggle to find 5 (new) albums I’d listened to more than a couple times. Surely there was not enough time to spend on new LPs as opposed to dance music singles, but I also believe that there was much less on offer. What quickly became clear while doing this review is that 2020 saw a radical shift both in the way I listened to music and in what the labels were offering. Never did I buy so many albums in a year, and so few singles. In fact this could well be the first year since I started DJing properly (say 1999) that I bought more LPs than singles (if not it is very close).

 

 A true reflection of a year where parties quickly disappeared and suddenly there was little need for dance music – at least not the club focused kind. As a result it seems that many dance music labels postponed their club related projects, while others labels more focused on artists and full length releases were given more space to develop. If there is one positive thing to keep from this global pandemic it is how we were not only allowed but forced to follow LKJ’s advice: to spend more time for pleasure, more time for contemplation, more time for deep listening!

 

 None of this however was able to compensate for the loss of power usually brought by communal dancing – there was arguably nothing we missed most in 2020. On that very topic here’s an essential blog post by Jeremy Gilbert inspired by Nietzsche’s famous quote “I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance”.

 

“the joy of dancing in groups is an intense expression of the inherently creative capacity of the social relations that always constitute all of our being: what I call the ‘infinite relationality’ of existence. The cosmic dance of matter, the multiplicity of the multitude, the creative power of complex groups: to acknowledge the god who dances is to acknowledge them all.”

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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These observations might very well prove a one off as things slowly move back to “normal” in 2021 (or not), though I do believe that this doomed year will impact our music habits in the long term for the better. Time shall tell, but for now here’s how 2020 sounded like a la casa.

 

 PS: I’ve mostly used YT links for practicality reasons (also because everyone – bar DJ Sprinkles – uses YT), but in a year where Spotify was rightly called out by pretty much everyone as the big evil corporate company that doesn’t care for artists, especially the underground, it is essential to be aware that the only way to support your favourite artists and labels is to purchase the goods (be it downloads or vinyl) via Bandcamp and independent record stores.

 

ღ(¯`◕‿◕´¯) ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ (¯`◕‿◕´¯)ღ

 

BEST ALBUMS

(TOP 3 then in random order)

 

  • Sélène Saint-AiméMare Undarum

 If I had to keep one album from 2020, Mare Undarum would be the one. The double bassist, singer and poet of Martinican heritage has delivered a most original work of art, showing incredible maturity despite her being only 25 years of age (!).

 

 Navigating between contemporary jazz, classical and poetry, Mare Undarum was recorded with Saint-Aimé on double bass, and vocals, Guillaume Latil on cello, Mathias Lévy on violin, Irving Acao on tenor sax, Hermon Mehari on trumpet, and Guadeloupe’s Sonny Troupé on ka and drums.

 

 The music, a unique blend of classical music with Afro American jazz (both Steve Coleman and Ron Carter acted as her mentors) and Afro Caribbean rhythms, displays incredible vocal flexibility (in a made-up tongue) and exudes total freedom on the double bass.

 

 A fantastic album from start to finish, with the highlights being “Mare Undarum Part II” and especially the Heitor Villa-Lobos composition “Valsa – Choro on which she sings and adlibs in a new language. Breathless! I for one haven’t heard anything more original and more beautiful last year. “Feuillée et Beer” with Saint-Aimé duetting with Guillaume Latil isn’t even 2 min long yet is better entire discographies of many artists (see video below).

 

 

 The instrumental piece “Cum Mortuis In Lingua Mortuis“, which features Irving Acao on tenor saxophone on a composition by Modest Mussorgsky closes this faultless album, which will surely becomes a staple in years to come.

 

 Most importantly with such delicate and magnificent music, a lot of effort has been given to the quality of the recording, and the vintage sounding production is spot on. Warm, open and natural, you can clearly see the musicians playing in your living room. The ears of renown producer Antoine Rajon are behind Komos, a label which can be trusted blindly. Check also the reissues of Nakãra’s excellent Nakara Percussions lp and of Cheick Tidiane Seck’s cult Diom Futa, as well as his recent Timbuktu album and their latest bijou Y Pati.

 

  • Cleo SolRose In The Dark

 All of 4 albums released by Sault in the last 2 years (which have trusted the top spots of pretty much everyone’s the end-of-year lists) have somehow manage to elude me, but at least I didn’t miss Rose In The Dark, the definite soul album of 2020. Cleo Sol (who also sings in Sault) has made her own masterpiece, a classic soul album which sounds instantly familiar but whose depth seems to increase with every listen. The state of the art production by Inflo is what strikes you from the very start: sparse, organic and with a lot of space and; it naturally exudes warmth and calmness. So soft! It took me many listens to fully appreciate his nostalgic production of Michael Kiwankua’s Kiwanuka album from 2019, but on Rose In The Dark it was instant.

 

 Cleo Sol’s velvet voice jumps at you from the opening lines of the very Badu meets Raphael Saadiq  Why Don’t You” and it caresses you throughout with hooks and melodies aplenty. Like on Kiwanuka, the tracks smoothly blend into each other, her intimate musings on love, faith and finding strength in moments of darkness showing her equal love for vintage soul jazz  (the title track “Rose in the Dark” ) and 90s neo soul (the beauty “When I’m In Your Arms”). On my personal favourite, the closer Her Light”, she even manages to sound like cross between Minnie Ripperton and Joni Mitchell.

 

Last but not least, this is the best sounding new vinyl I have bought not only in 2020 but for as long as I can remember. Unbelievable sound!! Loud and clear and soft and open and warm and detailed and…what a jewel!!

 

 

  • Gigi MasinCalypso

 Gigi has been a perennial favourite since MFM released a comp of his early work a few years back. His two LPs Wind and The Wind Collector are prized treasures which I regularly revisit whenever I need some peace and healing in my life.

 

 Natural elements and water are an integral part of Gigi’s inspiration, and it’s no surprise to hear that his new offering, Calypso, is a tribute to the Greek island Gavdos, the southernmost point of Europe which also claims to be the island of Ogygia where the goddess Calypso kept Odysseus prisoner in Homer’s Odyssey. Promising premises which translated in a stunning, expansive (nearly 90 minutes) journey that explores the many shades and styles of ambient music: new age, balearic, downbeat, blissful, soothing, evocative, impressionistic…It’s Masin’s most ambitious work to date and, yet again, an absolute masterpiece. This is “music of the gods, goddesses and heroes, subliminally capturing all the celestial beauty, awe, romance and adventure of an epic saga.”

 

 Tracks like “Nefertiti” (reminiscing of Jon Hassell), “Coraline” or “Demons and Diamonds(featuring Ben Vince on saxophone, the only song with a guest musician) are summits of what can only be described as heavenly music; however what this truly deserves is an immersive listen from beginning to end. You shall then find yourself on a near desert island of such stunning beauty that the notion of time dilates into an infinite bliss.

 

  • Shabaka And The Ancestors – We Are Sent Here By History 

 Shabaka Hutchkins’ 2nd album with the South African / transatlantic outfit The Ancestors is also their debut on the legendary Impulse label. Despite their spiritual leaning, the premises of this LP are pretty dark: “a meditation on the fact of our coming extinction as a species. It is a reflection from the ruins, from the burning, a questioning of the steps to be taken in preparation for our transition individually and societally if the end is to be seen as anything but a tragic defeat”. We Are Sent Here by History is a concept album looking back in time from a not-too-distant future, and the fact that it happened to be released at the start of the pandemic made it sound all the more prophetic, like a sonic time capsule narrating the apocalypse that was about to hit us.

 

 From opener “They Who Must Die” through to the final “Teach Me How To Be Vulnerable” this opus has to be listened as a whole to grasp the Ancestors’ vision on how humans should act post apocalypse: “An act of destruction becomes creation (…) music is the seed from which new world must grow”. Despite its ominous tone the music is always hopeful, and the band seems to draw inspiration as much from the spirituality and cosmicality of Pharoah Sanders, John Coltrane and Sun Ra as they are attracted by the dance floor (the rhythm section of Ariel Zomonsky on double bass, Tumi Mogorosito on drums and Gontse Makhene on percussions is especially heavy).

 

 “Behold The Deceiver” (with Shabaka on the clarinet), “You’ve Been Called” and “Teach Me How To Be Vulnerable” (both featuring Thandi Ntuli on keys) are all excellent in their own ways, but the real highlight to me (as well as being the most optimistic track) is the heavily dub influenced, Rastafari praising “’Til The Freedom Comes Home” which has cosmopolitan London written all over it. In one of the rare parties we had in 2020 this sounded extraordinarily fresh and just like Zara McFarlane’s “Roots of Freedom” these are prime examples of how vital and essential Caribbean culture in general and dub in particular are to the UK jazz scene today.

 

Carlos Niño has been a huge favourite of mine since the days of Ammon Contact, The Life Force Trio and especially Build An Ark (a band I’ve been revisiting a lot too last year, especially the Love Part 2 LP), and I’ve always followed his many projects and endeavours. The 2009 cover of Slum Village’s “Fall In Love” he did with violinist and long time collaborator Miguel Atwood-Ferguson is one of the many treasures to be found in his discography. Niño’s world and message is all about love, transcendental love, spiritual love and he’s been forging his own path spreading those love vibrations for the last 2 decades. I last saw him behind an ocean of cymbals and an incredible assortment of percussions of all kinds, woodwinds, wind chimes, gongs and the likes when he shared the stage with Laaraji as part of the Frue festival in Shuzuoka, Japan (Nov. 2019). More hippie than Carlos and Laaraji you cannot find.

 

 Chicago Waves is the recording of a live performance which took place in Chicago in Nov. 2018 where Atwood-Ferguson accompanied Niño on a cosmic New Age and spiritual jazz journey. The suite, divided in 8 parts, abounds with African, Indian and Far eastern influences and was almost entirely improvised. At the conclusion of their set that night, Carlos spontaneously dubbed the piece “Chicago Waves.” It’s all about those vibrations.

 

  • Huw Marc Bennett Tresilian Bay

I knew Huw Benett as the producer of the excellent Susso project (whose LP Keira was a highlight of 2017) and it was no surprise that Tresilian Bay became a bit of a staple at home during the hot and sticky days of the first lockdown. The vibe is tropical, the mood uplifting and softly psychedelic, and the hits are aplenty. “In My Craft”, “Risk of a New Age” and “Not Around” (all featuring Myriam Solomon on vocals) plus “Llew the Lion” and “Afon Colhuw” are all especially nice. The influences are wide and to be found in jazz, Afrobeat, dub and electronica, which give the album a real nice palette.

 

 

 Apparently the concept was born out of a live session at our beloved TRC with Benett on bass alongside fellow musicians from the thriving UK jazz community: Chelsea Carmichael (of Seed Ensemble fame) on sax, Nerija’s Rosie Turton and Shirley Tetteh on trombone and guitar, and Jake Long of Maisha on drums. Sounding modern and vintage at the same time this is full of warmth – a real little treasure.

 

  • Becker & MukaiTime Very Near

(Big tip from my good friend Atemi of Wood Records).

 

While I was somehow unaware of Jean-Gabriel Becker’s pedigree, I knew of Susmu Mukai as the man behind Zongamin, though but the last time I heard of him was for his “Tunnel Music” tune from 2001. The music on Time Very Near is super fresh and hard to categorise (always a good thing), fluctuating between various electronic genres, from trip hop to nu disco to techno, while showing a lot of depth and spontaneity. I have never been an acid house head but if all tracks were as deep and original as “Spice War Part One” and “Stellar Stuff” I certainly would! Can’t wait to play this at 4am somewhere on a big sound system! Other highlights include “Dark Fields Of the Republic(which has just been remixed and stretched out to 18 min of Endless Summer bliss by Dreems as part of a double pack of remixes) and the late night underwater sounds of “More Eyes” but this is a rewarding listen from start to finish, filled with so many ideas and a strong overall acid influence. Tip!

 

  • Double GeographyThe Indoor Gardener 

Another tip from Atemi and another superb discovery. I hadn’t heard of Duncan Thornley before, though a quick research shows that he is one half of Weird Weather who released on both Going Good and Emotional Response – the right kind of credentials. The opener “Yucca” is easily one of the best tracks of the year, a warm late night groove which I’m sure will still be played and relevant in years to come. Deep, hypnotic and groovy, the sound is clean and crisp – my kind of shit. The rest of the album is more suited to the kind of trippy home listening you would call for after indulging in a few drops of some mighty mushroom oil. During a late night private session at home with Silvia I mistakenly played “Dracaena instead of “Yuccaand it turned out to be one of those happy mistakes which add colours to your life. The vibe is balearic, the secret life of plants is revealed (part 2) and the cycle of Nature is flowing.

 

  • Greg Foat

What a year for Greg Foat with the release of not one but two fantastic LPs (well almost three I would argue!). The first one, Linkwood & Greg Foat, the fruits of the collaboration between of 2 of my favourite producers/musicians of recent years is a superb mix of ambient, downtempo, jazz and organic deep house. A perfect match for some late night travelling. Conceived and released by the ever surprising Athens Of the North label, this is flying music of the highest order that goes from balearic (“Es Vedra” and especially “Sa Talaia” which seems to sample Frankie Harris & Maria Marquez’s “Down By The Rio”) to full on cosmic (“Bentley 101”) to what was possibly my favourite deep house track of the year (“Pressure”).

 

 The 2nd LP, Symphonie Pacifique, which sees Foat in a more familiar (jazz) territory (with a huge line up to boot), is even more spectacular and probably the best work to date from the gifted pianist/composer/producer. The composition, production and most importantly the sound are absolutely right on top. Unlike many of the recent UK jazz releases that unfortunately sound quite poor and compressed on vinyl, the vinyl mastering and pressing here is exceptional. One of the best sounding records I bought this year. The fact that it was released as a double LP shows not only the importance given to the sound quality, but it also allows Foat to divide this project in two (the effect isn’t the same with digital files), with the 2nd vinyl being a lot more reflective and introspective (and better imo).

 

There’s a lot to love here, from the vintage Blue Note sound of “Nikinakinu” to the cosmic jazz funk banger that is “Man vs Machine” (with Moses Boyd on drums) to the entirety of side C and D. Majestic (“Mother’s Love”, “Lament For Lamont”), dreamy, new age (“After The Storm”), beatless psychedelic free jazz (“Three Tenors”), this is absolutely stunning, and perfectly matched by the cover artwork based on the work of early 20th century French/Algerian painter Henry Valensi.

 

  • Paradise CinemaParadise Cinema

Jack Wyllie is the saxophonist ex member of the fantastic Portico Quartet (whom, for the story, I first heard busking on the banks the Southbank Centre just before their first self released LP), and Paradise Cinema is his first solo project. Recorded in Dakar in March 2017 with local musicians but with additional production added in 2020, this was definitely one of the most original album and the year.

 

 Jack Wyllie is a musician, composer and electronic producer who draws on influences of jazz, ambient, and the trance-inducing repetition of minimalism. Here percussive Mbalax rhythms are layered with atmospheric textures to create this dreamy, transcendental fusion reminiscencing of Jon Hassell’s 4th world, on “Casamance” and “Paradise Cinema” especially. Other highlights such as “Digital Palm” have a strong cinematic feel, like the dreamed soundtrack of Dakar at night. In fact it sounds exactly like Wyllie’s self described experience of being in a hypnagogic state of aural consciousness: “I had a lot of nights in Dakar, when the music around the city would go on until 6am. I could hear this from my bed at night and it all blended together, in what felt like an early version of the record.”

 

 ‘Paradise Cinema’ is also informed by notions of hauntology – a philosophical concept originating in the work of French philosopher Jacques Derrida – on possible futures that were never realised and how directions taken in the past can haunt the present. And while it contains rhythmic references to Senegal it combines these elements with ambient and minimalist music to produce a sound that sits outside of any tradition – an attitude to music which I fully embrace. The kind of record I would dream of listening from the sweet spot of a pitched dark room surrounded by 4 Klipschorns to get the full paradise cinema effect.

 

 This album was released by Gondwana Records, the label headed by Matthew Halsall who himself released a sublime album at the tail end 2020, Salute to the Sun, on a Don Cherry meets Alice Coltrane tip.

 

  • Christina VantzouMulti Natural

With anxiety levels to the max, the thirst for immersive ambient/new age music has never been so strong, a visceral need to help us ease our minds and soothe our souls. Though not purely meditative (unlike the works of say Laaraji or Brian Eno), the music on Multi Natural is weirdly atmospheric and has the depth and power to do some healing. You need to be fully immersed in Vantzou’s earthy soundscapes in order to really enter her rich tapestry of multi layered field recordings and evocative landcapes. Silvia and I had one such #deeplistening experience in the summer when we both had the time and space to go there. Though mostly serene the trip is always eventful, even verging towards ominous territory at times. The overall experience however is sensorially rich, ultra organic, deeply cinematic and nicely psychedelic.

 

  • Lyra Pramuk – Fountain

Pramuk is a performance artist / vocalist-synthesist who experiments with layered vocals and effects, in a similar way to Cucina Povera. Fountain was created entirely from sampling her voice, which she then used and transformed to create this celestial, multi dimensional self described “futurist folk”.

 

This took me a few listens to be fully converted, but believe me (sic) this is quite spectacular once you’re in. Pramuk plays with the perception of music, rhythms, speech, body, and the relation between technology and humanity. Echoes of Art Of Noise’sMoments In Love” come to mind (”Witness”) as well as Laurie Anderson’s “Superman” (“Gossip”), while she explores a post-human, non-binary understanding of life. Feelings can go from enveloping and comforting (“Tendril”) to occasionally terrifying if you’re just playing Fountain in the background. Yet again this is music than asks for your time and your full attention but you’ll be rewarded with one of the most uplifting and vivifying experience in sound. One that will change and improve with every listen (headphones recommended).

 

  • Anthonius feat. Tidiane SylaItoigawa

Itoigawa is the project of a Spanish producer, Anthonius, who teamed up with two musicians from Guinea Conakry to “revisit their music folklore”. I found very little information on the genesis of this album (not sure where and how this was recorded) but the result sounds like the fusion of Anthonius’ 80s electro pop beats and synths mixed with the organic sounds of Tidiane Camara on percussion and Aboubakar Syla on vocals. Clocking at only 6 tracks it’s a relatively short album but one that I’ve enjoyed playing a lot. 2 tracks are by Anthonius only, but the best are the ones where everyone is involved; “Mara Fanyi” especially being the one that I played the most – a truly addictive and majestic groove. The production is quite minimal and simple but the result is somehow unusual and extremely efficient. I kind of wish that Camara had been giving more space to go wilder on the percussion but I guess the whole idea was to keep everything tight and tidy – and it totally works like that. Looking forward to hear what these guys have in store next.

 

  • Jacques CoursilHostipitality Suite

Martinique’s Jacques Coursil, the brilliant trumpet player, renown linguist and all round intellectual was one of the many artists who left us in 2020. From his late 60s free jazz productions alongside the likes of Sunny Murray, Arthur Jones and Anthony Braxton on the cult BYG label, via a gap of 30+ years spent dedicated to literature and theoretical linguistics, to his come back to music in 2005, Coursil lived the extraordinary life of an all round intellectual and genius artist, excelling in every field. His essay ‘La Fonction Muette du Langage’ remains a reference work in linguistic, the field which would later shape Coursil’s musical output, as Cam Scott explains so well in this excellent tribute. Coursil was able to interrelate between different domains, music and linguistic, translating the spirit of Glissant‘s “tout monde” concept, as can be heard on his two masterpieces albums Minimal Brass and Clameurs, on which Coursil dues first with himself (thanks to overdubbing and circular breathing) then with the texts of Antar, Glissant, Monchoachi and Fanon.

 

 “Hostipitality Suite”, his very last LP which was released posthumously in 2020, is more like a piece of contemporary sound art based around the concept of “hostipitality”. Coursil’s trumpet, and his words borrowed from Derrida, Leninas and Glissant are only accompanied by some extra minimal synth arrangements by Jeff Baillard. It’s a rewarding experience which requires full attention and high fidelity in order to get all the nuances!

 

 Full points also for the object, the liners inside and the superb artworks by Hervé Yamguen. Truly a unique piece of art.

 

  • Dumama + KechouBuffering Juju

This debut album by the duo of South African Dumama (vocals, uhadi and baby synthesiser) and Germano-Algerian Kechou (bass, guitar, synths, drum machine and Xhosa percussions of all kind) was definitely one of the best discovery of the year (thanks Atemi!), one that was played on repeat to accompany the sun rays warming up our souls at the start of the first lockdown. The self described nomadic future folk music, which narrates the spiritual journey of a woman’s release from prison, expertly blends together electronic and acoustic instruments, while also acting effectively as a merger between northern and southern African heritage.

 

 (Of note the appearance (on “Uveni“) of free jazz clarinettist Angel Bat Dawid, whose own album The Oracle was a big highlight of 2019).

 

 Having all tracks linked to each other (no gaps in between) makes the listening experience more akin to a soundscape, one that navigates through electronic music, jazz, and traditional African music while vibrating love and healing energy. After countless listens I don’t have a personal favourite on here, or rather all of them are. Full points.

 

  • Guy Buttery & Kanada NarahariNādī

Although this album came out at the tail end of 2019 I’m including it here as I didn’t discover it until way into 2020, and also because it’s such an essential release. In 2020 I could count on one hand the parties we’ve had, and at 2 of these the man like Pol Valls played “Sonokota” through a wall of Tannoys as the sun was rising around 6am. If heaven was a song, Sonokota would be a strong contender. Absolutely sublime and worth the price of this album alone, even though the rest of it is also very nice. Fusing eastern and western sounds, this project is the meeting of cult South African folk guitarist Guy Buttery with the classically trained Indian sitar player Kanada Narahari. For the story, Buttery initially reached out to Narahari because he was suffering debilitating bouts of fatigue and needed an Aryuvedic doctor. Narahari infused the healing of Indian Classical music into his practice and prescribed Buttery a strict diet of daily ragas. Buttery soon healed and the Nādī project was born soon after. Music is, indeed, the healing force of the Universe.

 

  • UpsammyZoom

This offering from Dutch artist Thessa Torsing sounds like a throwback to the playful spirit of classic IDM, often treading the line between adventurous beats and the beauty of life’s tiniest details. Beats and the beauty, beauty and the beats. Though Thessa’s sound has some obvious roots in ambient this is not exactly an easy listen. There are no straight lines as she loves to throw you off guard.

 

 “It Drips” and “Growing Out of The Plastic Box remind me of early Warp and especially all time favourites Plaid, the masters of electronica, of perky melodies that sometimes goes wonky.

 

 Her world is clearly inspired by nature, from the melting rocks in a block of ice on the cover to the enchanted forest she’s inviting us into. Tracks like “Subsoil” and “Overflowering” both have this subterranean quality of some of early Aphex Twin with rich textures and melodies and an ever present aquatic feel. I can only imagine how magical a long run through Epping forest could be with this album in the earphones – one nice goal for 2021.

 

  • Swen WunderWabi Sabi

 Sweden’s Swen Wunder had done his interpretation of Turkish rock on his previous LP, and on Wabi Sabi his focus is now on Japan, as he mixes traditional Eastern sounds (flute, Wurlitzer electric piano, guzheng) into a sonic canvas of library jazz music. Wabi sabi is the name of the Japanese art of appreciating beauty in a naturally imperfect world; a buddhist philosophy I fully adhere to: perfection in art doesn’t exist (Sun Palace’s “Rude Movements” being a notable exception) as beauty lies in imperfections. Perfection is boring and so Wunder’s aim with this project was to “concentrate on asymmetries” in a retro-futuristic way.

 

Though perhaps not for everyone this should please the aficionados of vintage library recordings, psychedelic breaks and far Eastern jazz-funk psychedelia…but not only. I for one was conquered by the incredibly dynamic and punchy overall sound of this album, with the highlights being “Shinrinyoku”, “Bamboo and Rocks” and its main melody somehow strangely reminiscing of the Balek Band’s “Bayoyo Sou”, and the psych jazz funk beauty that is “Kachōfūgetsu.” Not perfect (!) but rather impressive stuff nonetheless.

 

 

  • Bryce HackfordSafe (Exits)

Spring Theory is a label I was familiar with since their release of the excellent Scented Trip EP by Project Pablo back in 2017, but Safe (Exits) was my first insight into the world of the Brooklyn based producer. This immersive work, which comes in the form of a double lp, is a collage of snippets and reworks of the recordings Hackford did with some of his musician friends during a residency at Margate’s PRAH Foundation. The pace is largely unhurried as it goes from slow mo house to cosmic ambient to flat out horizontal (the closer “Harbor” with its dubbed-out Rhodes set against a backdrop of street noise and the occasional seagull). It’s a heady, freeform trip where time is stretched and dilated (the highlights “Einmal” and “After Sun” clock at 13 and 14 min), in a very psychotropic manner, not unlike someone like Superpitcher. The mood stays mostly contemplative and dreamy, on the warm side but somewhat on the edge of menacing. Indulge in mushroom oil if you need but don’t overdo it 😉 I could imagine this as the soundtrack of a slow drive through an infinite American desert around magic hour, or failing that through the headphones on a solitary countryside walk at dawn.

 

«-(¯`v´¯)-« ♪ »-(¯`v´¯)-»

 

12”s and 7”s 

(TOP 2 then in random order)

 

 

 

Coming out halfway through a year which saw the glimpse of a collective positive change following George Floyd’s racist killing and the rise of the BLM movement awareness across the world, Roots Of Freedom was hands down the defining song of 2020, the one that embraced the zeitgeist.

 

 The song is the highlight of an album where McFarlane, born in London of Jamaican parents, explores themes of Black heritage and history, Black womanhood, and contemporary issues of empire, colonialism, race and identity. Though the album uses a rich palette of electronic beats, with its nods to a vintage Sly & Robbie sound, Roots Of Freedom is the song the most directly indebted to JA dub. A proper sound system tune that is calling for a 7” release.

 

“We hold the roots of freedom, freedom, within our hands

We hold the roots of freedom, freedom, within our hands

We hold the roots of freedom, freedom, within our hands

(…)

In harmony, you will see how we can grow

In time, you will see how we can flow

In harmony, you will see how we can grow

In time, you will see how we can flow

We step onto the stairs of revolution

To reach the start of elevation”

 Hadn’t Roots Of Freedom been so strong…and were it not for the disappointing vinyl pressing, I would have included McFarlane’s LP Songs Of An Unknown Tongue in the best album category. Regardless of the (impressive) quality of the album as a whole, some songs sound unfortunately much too compressed on wax. “Roots of Freedom” fortunately is not one of them.

 

Joaquin Cornejo – “Komorebi feat. Wabi Sabi

Komorebi was only the highlight of a spectacular streak of releases by the brand new Earthly Measures label (born out of the London party of the same name) that showcased newcomers aplenty and some real high quality control. Latin, tropical and dub influences permeate most of these tracks, alongside a healthy dose of psychotropics. Komorebi is an incarnation of all of this and already a modern classic in my book. Deep, warm, psychedelic, with a wide open sound and an insane change of direction just after the halfway mark – this soundtracked many a morning trip in 2020.

Elsewhere on Earthly Tapes vol 1, Janax Pacha’s “Ama-zonadelivers a superb slice of deep, chuggy tropical house music. No surprise that EM decided to dedicate their next 2 releases to both of these artists – the modern tropical dub of  Joaquín Cornejo’s Las Frutas feat. Alex Serra already being a firm favourite. Full respect to everyone involved.

 

Siti Muharam – “Machozi Ya Huba

The label On the Corner has become a very reliable source of fresh discoveries over the past few years, and 2020 was no different. I was especially curious by this release as I don’t think I had heard any music from Zanzibar before, and it didn’t disappoint. The taarab music genre (taarab means “joy by music” in Arabic) which is popular across East Africa is a truly unique and hybrid mix between influences from Egypt, Persia and India and a more African sound. In Zanzibar it was popularised by “the mother of taarab,” Siti Binti Saad, who also established the genre as a mouthpiece for women in East Africa. Now it’s the turn of Siti Muharam to pay tribute to her great grandmother’s legacy, with this modernised, stripped back, percussive update of a taarab. Rooted in tradition and yet in perpetual movement. The whole EP is a beauty but it’s the first track that I revisited again and again – hybrid music in the best sense of the word.

 

 

 

 I only started to be aware of Thackray via her appearance on the 2019 Neue Grafik Ensemble mini LP for TRC (“Dedicated to Marie Paule”), though she’d been around for a few years already most notably playing for Nubya Garcia and Ezra Collective. On this Rain Dance EP she plays not only the trumpet she’s trained for but also the flugel, the trombone, the drums, the bass, synths, Rhodes. And sings too. And produces. And makes beats. On the EP’s highlight, “Movement” she does all of this (for real – check this video for more insight on Emma-Jean multiples talents). “Move your body, move your mind, move your soul” is the motto here and we couldn’t agree more. It’s a banger – too short but a banger still, with (impeccable) influences ranging from Miles Davis to Moodymann to MF Doom, Georgia Anne Muldrow or Nujabes. Very much looking forward to what’s in store for the years/decade to come!

 

Byron The Aquarius – “Space & Time (Jam Session)

 

I’ve been following the Aquarius since his superb “High Life” 12” released on Sound Signature in 2016. The Atlanta based producer and keyboard player has found his sound in a heavily jazz-influenced form of house music, citing keyboard wizards Herbie Hancock and Lonnie Linton Smith as his masters. His new (2nd) LP Ambrosia, which came out on Jeff MillsAxis label is filled with the same organic live feel, a jazz funk induced form of house music featuring most notably veteran Lil John Roberts on drums, Sheldon Ferguson on guitar and Chocolat Costa on bass. Though a nice listen I don’t quite feel that Ambrosia works best as an album but rather as individual tracks that can be played separately. The big one for me is “Space Time (Jam Session)” with its samba feel and effortlessly cool groove – should work a treat on the dance-floor.

 

Ludwig A.F. – “Blissful Lie

Had there been any raving in 2020, “Blissful Lie” would no doubt have been massive thanks to its crossover appeal: an amalgamation of IDM, breakbeat, techno and house influences, with an obvious love for early trance and melodic indulgence. Extra emotional, reminiscing of dreamy ’90s moods a la Aphex Twin circa “Analogue Bubblebath” – a sound that transports you instantly to a muddy field with all your mates. As a bonus the warm ambient nuggets that is “Cloud Walker” is exactly what you’ll be craving for when coming down at sunrise a few hours later.

 

Hidden Spheres – “Ruhani

I remember enjoying Hidden Sphere’s EP By & Bye released on Distant Hawaii in 2017, but that’s pretty much all I’d heard from the Mancunian producer until Breathing Deep, his most recent output. Released on a new label, Oath, it’s got 3 nice tracks, with my favourite being the acid laden (in both lysergic and 808 meanings) jazzy, broken groove that is Ruhani. To some extent this reminds me of Carl Craig’s Desire, in a machine-got-soul kinda way. I obviously haven’t tried it out but I can imagine this sounding big on a proper system.

 

Lord Of The Isles feat. Ellen RentonWhities 029

Scotland’s Lord of the Isles has long been a huge favourite since the Pacific Affinity EP right through Parabolas Of Neon EP which was one of my highlights of 2017. His new release for the cooler than thou Whities started with Ellen Renton’s “Passing“, a poignant poem about climate change which moved him so much he felt compelled to create music around it. The resulting EP is a thing of beauty, an ode to Nature which finds the right balance between spoken word and sound, between drama and beauty. LOTI’s music has always had cinematic qualities, and here probably more than ever, each piece evoking of Scotland’s rough and open spaces, whether with words (“Passing”) or without (“Waiting In Arisaig”), like the dream soundtrack to an imaginary short film.

 

Alpha Steppa feat. Pupajim – “Dear Friend

Dub culture in he UK has always been huge thanks to cult sound systems (Aba Shanti, Shaka, Channel One), but also through the UK dub tradition of bands like Joshua, Zion Train or Alpha & Omega. The producer Alpha Steppa comes directly from that scene, and Raise The Ark, his latest album released in 2020 featured an impressive roster of international guests. On the anthemic Dear Friend it’s Pupajim stepping over the mic, warning us about global warming in pure and conscious vocal dub tradition. Proper sound system music which was released on a 10” dub plate complete with 4 different mixes. Pupajim is part of the mighty Stand High Patrol trio from Nantes for whom Belle Bete and I recorded an exclusive dub influenced mixtape over the summer.

 

“Amour Gris”, the EP’s opener, is a nice jazzy drum’n bass tune, but had there been any parties in 2020 I believe it is “Les Hirondelles de Mai” which would have fired up the dance. A smooth and friendly broken house rhythm, a nice jazz sample and a catchy chorus that rings so true in these oh so uncertain times.

 

“Yes I still have faith in people”

 

 Though written rather prophetically before anyone even knew about covid and its many implications (empty shelves, conspiracists agogo, but also a genuine reborn sense of solidarity), this kind of positivity is just what the dance-floor needs. Saving this one for the first party in 2021!

 

¯`•.,¸¸,.•´ ♪ `•.,¸¸,.•´¯

 

REISSUES

(In Alphabetical Order)

 

  • AdmasSons Of Ethiopia

If you’re going do a reissue do it the Frederiksberg Records way! In terms of overall production (sound, packaging and liner notes) this was the most spectacular release of 2020 (alongside Jacques Coursil’s and Cleo Sol’s). Sons Of Ethiopia originally came out in 1984 in Washington, the sound of Ethiopian exiles having fled the military junta that ruled the country between 1974 and 1987. For a full low down on the historical context surrounding the making of this album, the label founded in New York by Andreas Vingaard has done some serious research (!), and included a lush booklet with insightful and exhaustive liner notes.This fully instrumental album bears influences ranging from funk (“Kalatashew Waga”) to jazz to highlife, samba (“Samba Shegitu”) or reggae (“Wed Enate”), and doesn’t strike instantly as what (we think) we recognise as Ethiopian. With a strong synths/organ/Rhodes combo the overall vibe is a full cosmic fusion of all these elements, the sound reminding me at times of the USAries and much of what can be found on that (fabulous) Personal Space (Electronic Soul 1974-1984) comp released a few years ago.

 

  • African Head ChargeSongs Of Praise

The mighty AHC have always had their own immediately recognisable sound, a heavily spiritual mix of dub, African chants and percussion complete with electronic wizardry. Songs Of Praise, by all accounts their masterpiece was stunningly reissued for the 30th anniversary, in a double LP that includes tracks that previously only came out on cd. Contrary to some previous AHC reissues the sound here is rather spectacular, warm, detailed and punchy, just perfect to enhance the psychedelic and shamanic experience that is Songs Of Praise.

 

 AHC was a joint creative venture between Adrian Sherwood and the percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah, the music constructed of sampled chants and praises (taken from Alan Lomax’s vaults) layered on top of original AHC rhythms: bastardised dub with African & Nyabinghi percussion. The result is a unique and incredible journey through African dub, heavy on the voodoo and spiritually uplifting.

 

 Not a weak track on here, only fire with the mighty “Dervish Chant”, “Gospel Train”, “Ethiopian Praises” and “My God” leading the hypnotic, tribal dance.

 

  • Ahmed Ben Ali – “Subhan

Big find here for Habibi Funk with this instant hit, a killer reggae cut from Lybia. Impossibly contagious! Outside of the incredible Ahmed Fakroun I admit not knowing much at all about the musical output of this country and it was fascinating to read in the liners that not only reggae has some strong rhythmic similarities with the Libyan folk music Zimzamet, but also that Lybian reggae is not a gimmick but a very popular genre in itself. When I think of it in hindsight this makes a lot of sense, as I’m reminded of a killer Arabic reggae cut by the cult Algerian band Abranis (Avehri). Full points to Habibi Funk for unearthing this and looking forward to hear more such discoveries in the future.

 

  • FairouzMaarifti Feek

Fairouz, who recently turned 85, is the Arab world’s most celebrated living voice, whose music I heard pouring from the streets and cafes from Tunis to Ramallah, acting as a trait-d’union between countries and generations. As the proverb goes, “Lebanese people disagree on everything, except Fairouz.” Her song “Li Beirut”, an ode to the city where she was born and still lives, sounded ever so poignant in the aftermath of the terrible explosion which destroyed part of the city in September last year. Previously almost impossible to find on vinyl, this song had become available again thanks to We Want Sounds reissue of the seminal Maarifti Feek album, following on to the no less essential Wahdon the previous year (the album which contains “Baatilak” and “Al Bosta”, my two favourite tracks of hers). Both albums were produced by her son Ziad Rahbani, the genius producer who introduced jazz and funk arrangements to Fairuz repertoire when he took over from his dad Assi Rahbani (Fairouz’s husband and one half of the ‘Rahbani brothers’) as the singer’s musical director and composer. Just listen to the enchanting beauty of “Version 1” and be forever conquered.

 

  • Maalem Mahmoud GaniaAicha (Hive Mind) / The Trance Of Seven Colors (Zehra)  

The Gnawa are the descendants of sub-Saharan African slaves who originally came to Morocco in the 16th Century, which explains their status as spiritual outsiders. The central ritual of the Gnawa is the trance music ceremony, with the purpose of healing or purification of the participants. Those ceremonies can last up to 24 hours, and feature heavily percussive rhythms, repetitive bass lines, handclaps, hypnotic singing and acrobatic dance moves. When the dancing is particularly masterful, it’s a sign that the baraka (spiritual blessing) is circulating and that the Gnawa can harness it.

 

 Mahmoud Gania (whose ancestors came from Mali) was one of gnawa music’s maalem (master) and one of the first to record and commercially release Gnawa ritual songs. These were released exclusively on cassettes until the label Hive Mind started to put some of these out on vinyl for the first time, first with Colours of the Night in 2017 and then Aicha last year. Though these are both excellent, the true gem to seek out is The Trance Of Seven Colors, the album Mahmoud Gania recorded with Pharoah Sanders in 1994 and which was produced by Bill Laswell. It was lovingly reissued by the German label Zehra in 2019 for its 25 year anniversary. The hybrid connections did work some magic, as you can hear on “Boulandi Samawi” and throughout the album, showing once again that movement in music is always the way forward.

 

 Of note the same label Zehra also reissued the cult album Apocalypse Across the Sky by the Berber Sufi trance musicians Master Musicians of Jajouka, of whom Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones, free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman and William S. Burroughs were all big fans of (check “Middle Of The Night”).

 

  • Beverly Glenn-CopelandTransmissions: The Music Of Beverly Glenn-Copeland

Those of us who got introduced to Glenn-Copeland’s otherworldly masterpiece Keyboard Fantasies a few years back via the Seance Centre reissue will certainly need no further persuasion. His music has the kind of transcendental quality that sounds like a gift from the Gods. The very definition of ethereal. Incredibly the selection on this comp spans 5 decades, with tracks recorded between 1970 and 2019 – not that you could tell. I could write an essay about Glenn-Copeland’s heavenly folk and new age incantations, but the best is for everyone to watch the incredibly moving Keyboard Fantasies documentary, before heading straight to the (2019) live version of “Colour Of Anyhow”. No additional words needed.

 

 

“Look into my eye, the country of anywhere. The roads will take you there any time”

Jon HassellVernal Equinox

Jon Hassell’s name came up as reference in quite a few of these 2020 reviews above and below (Gigi Masin, Paradise Cinema, Jacques Coursil), and this should come as no surprise.. As the father of Fourth World, the music genre he invented by mixing jazz, ambient and world music, Hassell’s music has found its way into pretty much every music genre from jazz to pop to balearic, the most significant of all arguably being Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1981 seminal My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. As Eno writes in the liner notes of this new reissue,

“All of us were interested in collage, in making musical particle colliders where we could crash different cultural forms with all their emotional baggage and see what came out of the collisions, what new worlds they suggested.”

Released in 1977 Vernal Equinox must have sounded like nothing else at the time, as is still the case today. This is meditative music of outstanding beauty. Alongside Hassell’s trademark sound of an electronically treated trumpet and a drone tuned to 256Hz (Pandit Pran Nath’s fundamental tone), Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos, and synth player David Rosenboom created the 4th world template which Hasselll would further explore on a number of albums, most notably Fourth World Vol 1: Possible Musics, his 1980 collaboration with Brian Eno. The notions of time and space seem to disappear as Hassell’s trumpet floats through landscapes of electronics, drones and Indian and South American percussion. Hassell, who had studied raga with Pran Nath and played trumpet on the first recording of Terry Riley’s minimalist masterpiece In C, naturally embraced the notions of repetition and perpetual movement in music, as can be heard through the album, and on “Blues Nile” in particular. This bijou reissue, which has been fully remastered from the original master tapes, sounds absolutely gorgeous. Essential release!

 

  • Larry Heard – Sceneries Not Songs, Volume One

Playing “Dolphin Dream” at peak time in the Giant Steps oasis at the 2017 Houghton festival is one of those memories I will treasure for life. Perfect crowd, pure vibes, incredible sound system, timeless house music – just what dreams are made of. I played it off the Young Marco Selectors 002 comp which was nice enough, but with this long awaited reissue we can now  finally all enjoy the experience of owning (and playing!) the real thing.

 

Lovingly spread on a double LP (contrary to the original where all tracks were squeezed on one vinyl) the sound is crisp and pristine. Sceneries Not Songs, Volume One is Larry Heard’s first solo album and the perfect synthesis of ambient, jazz, downbeat, deep electronic textures and of course the deep house sound he was instrumental in creating. Mr Fingers can do everything and better than everyone. Outside of the aforementioned “Dolphin Dreams” look no further than “Midnight Movement to find deep house perfection, and to “Snowcaps” for a summit of chilled and cosmic ambient bliss. If you don’t have this yet, one of the top electronic albums of all times, the crown achievement of arguably the most talented deep house producer ever, then you need it badly. In terms of electronic deepness this is as good as it gets – a timeless beauty and a must have in every discotheque of every music lover.

 

  • Ibrahim Khalil Shihab Quintet feat. MankunkuSpring

On Spring, Shihab’s 1968 debut, the pianist and bandleader paired with one of South Africa’s then superstar, the saxophonist Winston Ngozi aka Mankuku, whose Yakhal’ Inkomo LP had been released a few months earlier and was the top selling black album oat the time (it was reissued by Jazzman a few years ago). Both “Spring” (though a shortened version) and Mankunku Quartet’s “Dedication (To Daddy Trane And Brother Shorter)” were included on the fantastic compilation Next Stop…Soweto vol.3 released on Strut in 2010, but the sound on this new reissue is far superior, despite the lack of original master tapes – thanks to a wonderful audio restoration job by Franck at the Carvery.

 

The session was recorded in Johannesburg in one take (!), at a time when most progressive SA artists had either been forced in exile or been silenced by the apartheid police state. Jazz, however, was huge amongst black artists, and creativity was high. In addition to Mankuku, Shihab’s brother  Philip plays the double bass while Gilbert Matthews (who would later found later Spirits Rejoice) is on the drums.

 

The majestic piece that is “Spring” is the epitome of that freedom sound coming out of Cape Jazz in the late 60s / early 70s, a sound that owes as much to John Coltrane and Art Blakey as it does to the vibrant yet super underground SA jazz scene. More than 50 years on the healing powers of this masterpiece are intact, and in such depressing times this is an essential antidote to uplift our spirits.

 

  • Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi 1985-1997

Artists of Maghrebian heritage have always played a big part in Lyon’s underground culture, Carte De Séjour and Rachid Taha being only the most visible tip of a flurry of artists and (often short lived) acts coming out of the Guillotiere and Croix-Rousse neighbourhoods in the 1980s. The great record stores / labels Bongo Joe and Sofa records (Sofa’s shop front in Lyon being situated in rue d’Algérie, right at the heart of where some of those cross cultural Franco-Maghreban exchanges took place) have compiled and put some of these tracks on vinyl for the first time. The medium of choice at the time was cassette because it was the cheapest way to produce and release music at the time, which explains both the prolific output and the lo fi quality of most of the music selected here.

 

Music made within the context of immigration and displacement is always fresh and unexpected, freed from any form of purism and a reflection of cultural cosmopolitanism. Here traditional pop sounds of the Chaoui, Raï and Staïfi rhythms collide and mesh with the Western aesthetics and technologies of the era. 808 drum machines and (cheap) synths replicating hand claps, accordion lines (Cheb Rabah El Maghnaoui’s “Amayna Alik Anti”) and many of the traditional Algerian instruments are at the heart of all these tracks. Sometimes synthesizers or drums were even added in post production without the artists’ permission, rendering these sounds even more hybrid.

 

 Nourredine Staïfi provides the 2 killer tracks on this comp with “Zine Ezzinet” and especially “Goultili Bye Bye”, the psychedelic fusion of Staïfi rhythms with digital Funk. The latter one had already been reissued on a 12” by Versatile and validated with high acclaims as a late night classic on the BATB dance floor. So modern it stills sounds futuristic 35 years after its original release.

 

  • Mega Wave OrchestraMega Wave Orchestra

Libreville is one of those reissue labels I trust blindly both for their taste and for their care and attention to sound restoration (and packaging!). As with their previous release by Albert Alan Owen, Mega Wave Orchestra was a new entry to me. The project was the brainchild of Geneva’s Christian Oestreicher who conducted seven keyboard players (!) like a multi media electronic big band. Musique concrete, chamber music, jazz, classical, psychedelia, Meredith Monk, early 80s pop even – the music on here has ingredients from all of these and yet is still hard to describe – all the better for it! Lots of really cool tracks on a cosmic and dreamy tip. “Mosquito” with its wordless vocals is quite different from the rest and is truly one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard all year. Worth the price of the album alone.

 

 

“On sent une odeur de sucre. Puis de miel trop brilliant. Du miel soufflé. Comme la morsure de bougie sauvage.”

  • Gratien Midonet / Time Capsule

 I’ve already posted elsewhere about the release of the Midonet comp, a labour of love which kept me sane throughout the first half of 2020. Read a nice review here by the ever reliable Dr Rob. The label Time Capsule has once again gone from strength to strength, with all its releases receiving critical acclaim, the reissue of Endless Waves Vol. One, the cult recording from the 5Rhythms creator Gabrielle Roth being a particular favourite. Lots of exciting projects in the pipeline for 2021 and beyond, stay tuned!

 

  • Miguel NoyaCanciónes Intactas

 This compilation of the early works of Venezuelan electronic-ambient artist Miguel Noya got a lot of plays in 2020 as the soundtrack of many a (cosmic) late night. The name was previously totally unknown to me and pretty much everyone outside of his home country (his solo releases mostly only came out on limited cassette runs), though the exceptional quality of the music on this collection should help recognising Noya as a bona fide master of ambient-electronic soundscapes.

 

 With degrees in Electronic Music and Digital Sound Synthesis from both Berklee College of Music and MIT the pioneering early synthesist added a new branch to the cosmic tree that goes from Tangerine Dream and Eno to Hiroshi Yoshimura to the recently rediscovered Portuguese duo DWART. Cosmic is an adjective I arguably use way too often to describe music and life events in general, but for once, with titles like “Megabrain Focos Part 1” (!) or “Huellas Circulares”, the term is 110% appropriate.

 

These calming, transcendental tracks were all recorded between 1986 and 1989 as a reaction to the oppressing climate created by a corrupt government, hyperinflation and violence in the streets. In the no less suffocating global climate of 2020 the ethereal quality (“Contemplación”)   and distinct naturalism (the mesmerising “Huellas Circulares”) of Noya’s soundscapes resonated once again as the perfect antidote.

 

 In a year deprived of parties most dance music labels have either postponed or delayed their most dance-floor orientated releases, and it is fair to say that  bangers such as the anthemic Makom Ma Bone were few and far between. The ever inspired Kaltita label however has nevertheless chosen to give us this fantastic reissue of this Cameroon Afro disco / funky Makossa bomb from 1981, and no one complained. Well, only that it was too fast for 2020 and that we can’t wait for the first full on party in 2021 to play this one out, loud.

 

These 16 minutes of immersive ambient techno originally released in 2000 by Scottish producer Pub have just been lovingly remastered and reissued on a glorious yellow marbled vinyl. If you don’t have this, believe me you need this in your life. At the crossroads between IDM, ambient and dub techno this is liquid deep, cosmic oceanic territory – think Chain Reaction meets Boards Of Canada in a liquid techno bliss. Bliss out material for sunset AND sunrise.

 

On the B side ‘Fragile Root’ is a new track and almost equally sublime, a downbeat piece of ambient dub techno evoking a cross between Moritz von Oswald of the best of Plaid and AFX circa early 1990s. Essential release.

 

◦•●◉✿ ♪ ✿◉●•◦

 

REWINDS

(No Particular Order)

 

Part of the incredible gospel comp The Time For Peace Is Now released by Luaka Bop, this irresistible tune from 1980 became 40 years later the unofficial anthem of a world ever so lost and desperate for peace and spirituality.

 

The RevolutionariesKunta Kinte

One of the most spectacular feat achieved by the Steve McQueen’s Small Axe bbc series (centred around the trials and tribulations of the West Indian community growing up in the UK) is that it brought tunes like the heavy underground dub stepper “Kunta Kinte” (and the whole culture around it) bang into the mainstream consciousness thanks to an extraordinary extended blues dance scene – realer than real and arguably the best dancing-scene-in-a-movie of all time.

 

As an anthem to the zeitgeist you couldn’t find a better suited song that LKJ’s 1998 classic.

“More time fi leasha

More time fi pleasha

More time fi edificaeshun

More time fi reckreashun

More time fi contemplate

More time fi ruminate

More time

Wi need

More

Time

Gi wi more time”

 Keeping with LKJ, a rewatch of his 1981 Dread Beats an’ Blood documentary about UK police brutality was perfectly timely in the midst of a global rise of the BLM movement.

 

That voice, that groove, those lyrics (a reinterpretation of JJ Cale’s original from Asha’s point of view)…late night soul music at its very best. Reissued by Mr Bongo and a big Silvia Gin classic.

 

  • Kip Hanrahan 

Both the Coup De Tête (1981) and Vertical Currency (1985) LPs were played on rotation in 2020, for no other particular reason than the rediscovery of Hanrahan’s genius melting pot of downtown NYC meets Afro-Cuba. “Sketch From “Two Cubas”” and “Shadow Song (Mario’s In)” are especially impressive, while Silvia rightly pointed out the dance-floor credentials of the life affirming  “Whatever I Want” !

 

This throwback from 1999 and the end my days at Radio Campus Clermont-Ferrand somehow resurfaced 21 years to soundtrack summer 2020. A total rip-off of J.P. Rodgers Jr – “I Enjoy Your Love” which didn’t age one bit.

 

“To the people, the people

To the people, the people

To the people people people

To the people (You’re hot)”

 

One of the most articulate member of the free generation steps on the mic for the first time ever. Can’t think of anything cooler than this. This one goes out to the (music) family.

 

This early masterpiece from Youssou N’Dour was the highlight of an all too rare all night house party in 2020. A driving, hypnotic, cosmic groove which is just impossible to resist.

 

An extraordinary piece of music, the fruits of years of research by Guadeloupe’s Darius Adelaïde and up there in the gwoka moderne pantheon. I was lucky to be granted 2 extended and incredibly insightful discussions with Darius in Paris in 2020, and I’m proud to say this will be part of a comp to be released in the next few months, a collab between Time Capsule and Seance Centre.

 

Outside of 2 BATBs and one AOF at the start of the year, the only proper party I was part of was in Paris in September, in between lockdowns. Dancers were hungry, the vibes was right, and this cosmic gwoka/bele disco monster from Martinique sounded rightly insane. Pure fire.

 

A relentless and totally insane piece of Afro cosmic synths (sic), one which we got to indulge in its full glory during one of those much too elusive 2020 house parties. This psychedelic monster was part of 2000 minutes (so YT tells me) of music I uploaded on the tube in 2020.

 

One of the best discoveries of the year for me, thanks to Jack Rollo’s liner notes for the Mega Wave Orchestra release. Freestyle, the album this song is taken from, is a truly unique take on contemporary jazz, with the trippy Indo jazz of “Just Holding On” being one the most infectious songs of the year, its title and lyrics resonating with pretty much everyone in 2020.

 

 

“Sliding off the wheel of life is rough and it gives you no warning”

When humanity fails you can still count on the haunting bird woman.

 

Posted By: Cedric On: Jan 11th, 2021 In: Blog Music News Comments: 0

Gratien Midonet Compilation on Time Capsule

It is finally here: the project started at the tail end of 2019 has finally become reality with the release of a retrospective of Midonet’s career highlights on double vinyl and in full audiophile glory. Out now on the ever reliable Time Capsule label, you can stream the full track list and get hold of a copy here.

Having tracked down Gratien in Noumea, New Caledonia, we’ve spent the best part of 2020 exchanging long emails as I was enquiring about his mysterious life and career. There was surprisingly very little information to be found anywhere on Midonet before, despite being such an impressive and singular talent, and so it was an honour to be trusted and given the keys to present Midonet to a whole new generation.

Think Creole poetry, tropical folk, cosmic soul, animism beliefs and you’ll be on the right path to understand the universe of one of Martinique’s brightest exports.

The extraordinary depth of his music, lyrics and arrangements keeps on giving with repeated listens – it has this timeless quality that can be applied to only a few select masters. For those curious to know more, find a rather more in-depth little essay in the liner notes below (also downloadable here):

We’ve been discussing the possibility of Gratien reforming a band and performing live in Europe and the Caribbeans next year. This would be a dream come true – stay tuned!

Posted By: Cedric On: Oct 3rd, 2020 In: Blog Music Comments: 0

Roots & Culture – Sounds of Love and Freedom

The recent combination of a lockdown + unusually hot weather has made us dig deep in the crates in search of fresh tropical grooves. Mixes were made, with two of these focusing on roots and culture iterations in all their glorious varieties.

The first mix was an attempt to put together many of the reggae cuts that were recorded in the many Caribbean islands outside of Jamaica. Some of these are to be found almost hidden amongst cadence-lypso (pretty much every record in that genre in Dominique circa 1970s had one or two straight reggae cuts) or cadence tracks , while others come from more traditionnal reggae artists.

While obviously very much faithful to the Jamaican templates, all these tracks also interestingly offer some additional local flaours. The playlist includes tracks from Dominique, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St Lucia…and I even expanded it to Africa with countries like Sao Tome, Comoros or Zimbabwe.

The mix is called Marley Dan Syel and is available here, or to stream below:

PLAYLIST:

Midnight Groovers – Ily Man

Belles Combo – I Man Culture

Liquid Ice – Madraguer

Ophelia – I Man Suffering

Difé – Ki Moun Ou Yé

Exile One – Hit Me With Music

Black Roots – Jah Go Lick Them

Rebirth 7th – Rebirth Special

Midnight Groovers – Dread Man Freedom

Liquid Ice – Soldiers Of Love

Tropic Island – Mle Rudi

Difé – Divini Nou

Ronald Pognon – L’Inité

6th Continent – Missié Caraïb’ Oh ! “Montré ou pa pé liberté…”

Admiral T – Fos A Péyi La

Regis Tareau – Sone Kon L’En

Coco/Fabert – Ban Di Fwam

Erick Cosaque – La Vie Et Les Gens

Patrick St-Eloi – Ay Pwan Van (CW edit)

Erick Cosaque – Wagaka

Erick Cosaque – Oh Laye Soti

Kannida – Rasta La

Bill Thomas – African Music

Azikmen – Won’t You Let

Djumbo – Africa’ Lypso

Tropic Island – Umodja

Thomas Mapfuno – Mugara Ndega

Harare Dread – Original Style + Dub

Pat Thomas – I’m A Fool For You

Sangazuza – Cêbê Sê Sótxi

Black Affairs – Mountain Side.wav

Difé – Marley Dan Syel

Midnight Groovers – Babylon Man

Liquid Ice – Jah Dread

6th Continent – Reggae DOM-TOM

Gratien Midonet – Leve Zié-Ou En Lé

The 2nd mix was recorded b2b with Belle Bete, my partner in crime at Beauty & the Beat, for our friends and roots and culture activists Stand High Patrol. The playlist shows a broad choice of grooves and styles that reflect BATB’s eclectism, while keeping it within the roots and culture boundaries (our boundaries anyway). The mix was first aired on SHP’s YT channel, but following some copyrights issues we have now uploaded it on our soundcloud too.

In the words of Peter Tosh,

Roots music

It’s got a hold on me

It can make you feel so happy

Whenever problems get you down

It has itaficial respiration, mhm hm

Keep your heart functioning sound…so sound

Posted By: Cedric On: Apr 3rd, 2020 In: Blog Music Uncategorized Comments: 0

Sounds of Our Times – Music For Quarantine

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 😉

I will most likely publish a part 2 in the coming weeks to reflect upon the evolving sentiments, music is the healing force of the universe, more than ever.

Posted By: Cedric On: Jan 28th, 2019 In: Blog Music News Uncategorized Comments: 0

2018 – My Year In Music

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.

TOPS OF THE YEAR

Carlos Maria Trindade / Nuno CanavarroMr Wollogallu

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 MartinsUniverso 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.

BarbatuquesBaiana (Wolf Müller Drum Drop)

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.

Boys Ride BikesSomagwaza II

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.

Nubya GarciaWhen We Are

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.

KokorokoAbusey Junction

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 MerlinKosua

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/ANouvelle AmbianceBrazzaville – 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 & TokobinaMama 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 KonanM’acko), Cameroun (the killer makossa track A Muto by Esa), Senegal via Central African Republic (Bhy-Ghao DombiaDaws), or Congo Brazzaville (Jacques LoubeloN’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.

TalabomanDins 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 BoysTime). 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.

Blackbush OrchestraBeauty & the Beat

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!

Giuseppe LeonardiMaga

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.

Space GarageSpace Garage

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.

Smith & Mudd Janet 50 (I:Cube Remix)

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.

Joe Armon-Jones & Maxwell OwinTanner’s Tango (feat Nubya Garcia)

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.

 

JaubiLahore State Of Mind (Al Dobson Jr remix)

The Pakistani Hindi-jazz outfit, Jaubi previously re-interpreted J Dilla on their debut release for Polish label AstigamticThe 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 ChambersMind 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.

Sudan ArchivesNowt For Sale

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”

Marcel VogelIf You Like

Things are getting serious now and there is no escape route. Marcel Vogel goes KDJ style with the help of NYC MC Sensational to ensure the floor sees some proper moves. THE party starter of the year.

 

Altin GünVay Dünya

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).

Jimi TenorMy Mind Will Travel

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!

Ezra CollectiveThe Philosopher

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!

Seu JorgeQuem Não Quer Sou Eu (Adesse version)

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.

Marlui MirandiTchoro Tchori (Joutro Mundo Mix)

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.

Edmony KraterAn Ba Jouk (Olivier Portal Playin’ 4 The Beach remix)

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!

Louie Vega feat Josh MilanGet With The Funk

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.

Pat Kalla & Le Super MojoBallade De Nuit

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 LaguerreDivizion, an almost unbelievably modern piece of island disco originally released in Haïti in 1985, reissued this year by Atangana Records.

James Stewart Cotonou (Club mix)

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.

 

Arp FriqueNos Magia (feat Americo Brito)

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.

Lee Dodou & the Polyversal ShouldBasa Basa

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-AnaC’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.

The Mabon Dawud RepublicWawa Tree

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.

 

Elles X VioletA Life Lived In Fear Is Like A Life Half Lived (Kasra V Remix)

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.

 

TesselaGlisten

A sublime, ravey, yet slightly menacing slow burn of a track, which reminds me somehow of that Acid Arab remix of Mtutado Pintado from 2015. One for the apricot lovers out there.

The Balek Band Superbia

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.

Tom BlipRez

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.

VelocetteAfterimage

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.

Wino D Wino-D

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!

Kazumi WatanabeGaruda (Kuniyuki remix)

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.

Yu SuHighland Way to My Heart

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.

 

LPs

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 LaurenAlmeria

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 GuineaNueva 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 Facce being the track that really does it for me, worth the ticket alone.

Idris Ackamoor & The PyramidsAn 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 LibraCloser 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 RönkköSphere

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 MessiahSentience & 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.

ArpZebra

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 DjungiWaak 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 NVДля = 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.

REISSUES

Again, no special order here, just a list that shows how strong the reissue market is these days.

Il Guardiano Del FaroOasis

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.

TelectuBelzebu

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).

DwartTaipei 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!

Pat ThomasEnye Woa

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 🙂

Ahmed FakrounLa-Ya-Hob

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 EnsembleMkwaju

The renaissance around new age percussionist Midori Takada continued last year with this timely reissue of her percussion based project Mkwaju Ensemble’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 BauškenieksSpoki

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.

Ströer DuoFluchtweg Madagaskar

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 KuangoEko 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.

 

N’Draman-Blintch Cosmic Sounds

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 BasaHomowo

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 SanchesBuli 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.

Mac GregorNan Ye Likan

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).

 

VariousGumba 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.

AcayoumanFunky Reggae / Take You Down

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.

Aretha Franklin One Step Ahead

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 TernuraA 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.

Helio MatheusMais Kriola

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 & CartierBurnier & 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!

Seance Centre

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 KenneybrewPercussions 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 NubesThe 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.

Benoit WidemannTsunami

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!

Keysha Stop It

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.

SatariSmile

“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.

 

OBSESSIONS

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.

Les Choc StarsNakombe Nga

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.


collage by Silvia Gin


Posted By: Cedric On: Jan 10th, 2019 In: Blog Music News Comments: 0

Guest Mix for Ransom Note

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.

 

 

PLAYLIST:

 

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

Posted By: Cedric On: Aug 23rd, 2018 In: Blog News Triathlon X-terra Comments: 0

XTERRA ROMANIA 2018

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

Posted By: Cedric On: Jan 19th, 2018 In: Blog Music Uncategorized Comments: 1

2017 – A Year In Music

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

Posted By: Cedric On: Dec 17th, 2017 In: Blog Music News Comments: 0

New Record Out – Beauty Bits Vol. 1

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

Posted By: Cedric On: Nov 4th, 2017 In: Blog Music Comments: 2

Boiler Room Debut

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