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 Canavarro – Mr 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 Martins – Universo Da Ilha
Along with Mr Wollogallu this is the record that got played the most in my house last year, generally first thing in the morning. Vasco Martins started the project with 6 poems before turning these into this concept album, Universo Da Ilha, with all tracks bearing that same name. As good as it sounds! A soothing, atmospheric journey but always with a cosmic and experimental edge, this is a unique piece of music and certainly the only album of its kind I know that is hailing from Cabo Verde. What an island! The reissue is also linked to Discos Paradiso somehow, which makes this Barcelona record involved in my top 2 records of the year.
Barbatuques – Baiana (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 Bikes – Somagwaza 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 Garcia – When 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.
Kokoroko – Abusey 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 Merlin – Kosua
I’ve known George Thomson for over a decade, since before his Black Merlin days, and I admit I was taken by surprise by the cinematic excursions and depth of Kosua, his album dedicated to the mystery of Papua New Guinea, the world’s 2nd largest island and one of its most unexplored. An island he visited many times and went deep inside with the local people to create this unique and mainly beatless offering. Thomson recorded the sounds of the Kosua tribe, from their daily lives, ancient dance customs and wildlife and armed with the pads and drones of his beloved analogue machines imagined this lush , at turns beautiful and ominous sub-tropical journey which is absolutely stunning and one of its kind. This needs to be immersed in and be listened as a whole and get lost in.
On the same Island of the Gods label, spearheaded by Daniel Mitchell of Bad Passion and Potato Head fame, hear also the collab between Jonny Nash and Lindsay Todd, Fauna Mapping for another deep and unique experimental ambient album featuring indigenous field recordings, this time from Bali, Indonesia.
V/A – Nouvelle Ambiance – Brazzaville – Kinshasa – Douala – Abidjan (Musical Experiments From Paris)
Nouvelle Ambiance is the label started by respected diggers Hugo Mendez (of Sofrito fame) and Nico Skliris (of Digital Zandoli fame), dedicated to reissue music released by the African diaspora in Paris in the 1980s. With such a started point we know we’re in good hands! I already listed Ivory Coast’ Siassia & Tokobina – Mama Africa as one of my favourite records when they released it last year. On this new comp we are treated with often very rare records, on an all killers no filler basis. This melting pot of artists and musicians at that time in Paris was facilitated by the arrival of the left in power in 1981, which brought freedom of movement, free radios (as in radios libres) and the emergence of a so called “Paris sound”. A fusion of various African rhythms mixed with western productions, and aimed mostly for the club and the dance-floor. Often you find the same session musicians on these records, like members of Kassav for instance. Be it from Ivory Coast (Antoinette Konan – M’acko), Cameroun (the killer makossa track A Muto by Esa), Senegal via Central African Republic (Bhy-Ghao Dombia – Daws), or Congo Brazzaville (Jacques Loubelo – N’Gando), these records all reflect the sound of the Paris scene in the early 80s. You can read more about that scene on this great article written by Hugo Mendez for RBMA. Saving the best for the last, the tip of the top for me might well be Bazombo, this Congo meets Antilles meets reggae number by Bovick & Co. Unmissable compilation.
Talaboman – Dins El Llit (Superpitcher remix)
THE deep house record of the year, and exactly the kind that works perfectly on the Klipschorns: deep, cosmic, psychedelic, textured and hypnotic house music with multiple twists and turns. I wasn’t especially a big fan of the Talaboman album, but Superpitcher, at his best, is the specialist of these epic, shamanic house odysseys (see the “Golden Ravedays’ series on his label Hippie Dance, or especially the classic ‘re-entry’ record that is Pachanga Boys‘ Time). Massive record.
7”s / 10″s / 12”s / EDITS
These are not listed in order of preference, but rather in a way that would make sense if all played back to back in a party situation.
Blackbush Orchestra – Beauty & 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 Leonardi – Maga
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 Garage – Space 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 Owin – Tanner’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.
Jaubi – Lahore 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 Astigamtic ‘The Deconstructed Ego“. This time around they created a tabla and sitar reinterpretation of the Nas’ classic ‘NY State of Mind’ to deadly effect. However it’s Al Dobson Jr. who makes a long awaited return and steals the show on the flip, recreating Dj Premier’s head-nodding hip-hop on ‘NY State Of Mind’, which used a sample from Joe Chambers “Mind Rain”, but using Jaubi’s samples this time around! Fresh and heavy! This could have been a classic back in the days of Plastic People’s Balance no doubt.
Sudan Archives – Nowt 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 Vogel – If 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 Gün – Vay 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 Tenor – My 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 Collective – The 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 Jorge – Quem 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 Mirandi – Tchoro 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 Krater – An 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 Milan – Get 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 Mojo – Ballade 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 Laguerre – Divizion, 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 Frique – Nos 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 Should – Basa 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-Ana – C’est L’Aventure
Since I started these end-of-the year reviews back in 2013 there hasn’t been a year without Sotofett being part of it, sometimes even more than once, and this year is no exception. Played, mixed and mastered for authentic ’70s feel, this new offering from one of the most consistently exciting producers out there features drum programming by Sotofett and Gilb’r, vocals from Maimouna Haugen, and funky bass vamps by her father, Haugen Inna Di Bu. Highly percussive cosmic dub stepper of the highest order, reminiscing of some of his earlier work on Honest Jon on the Drippin’ For A Tripp (Tripp-A-Dubb-Mix) LP.
The Mabon Dawud Republic – Wawa 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 Violet – A 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.
Tessela – Glisten
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 Blip – Rez
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.
Velocette – Afterimage
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 Watanabe – Garuda (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 Su – Highland 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.
These are listed rather randomly, in no order of preference.
291 outer space – Escape From the Arkana Galaxy
A concept album to start with, and it’s a journey in itself, divided into 4 dimensions, telling the “story of the recovery mission from the orbiting station Zeta-Luna, looking for the cargo ship 291out, run by the legendary Captain William Bones, helped by the Admiral Flyme, while they are lost in the mysterious Arkana Galaxy”(phew). Complete with comic book artwork we are deep in Sci Fi territory, with Moroder and proto techno strong influences here. The best cuts for me are the 2 beatless tracks, one a near 17 minute journey The Arkana Glaxy (Beatless) and the last cut, Cryogenesis, a slow, floaty, zero gravity kind of trip.
Jessica Lauren – Almeria
JL has been at the forefront of UK jazz for at least 25 years, playing keyboards with some of the greats and releasing a bunch of albums under her own name. I first got aware of her in 2012 when she released her wicked latin influenced Jessica Lauren Four album, already on Freestyle Records. On Almería she combines multiple styles of jazz and can easily switch from Brazil to Turkey and anywhere in between. whilst retaining a minimalist atmosphere and subtlety. Heavy club grooves (the afro jazz opener Kofi Nomad), mellow latin vibes (Teck Et Bambou), minimal and atmospheric (the majestic Argentina) make this a very refreshing album, and nicely produced too.
Nu Guinea – Nueva Napoli
Apparently Lucio and Massimo (who make Nu Guinea) came to a BATB party last year while I was playing (unaware of their presence) their killer instrumental disco weapon that is Amore. I’d been a fan of them since their World EP from 2015 and their really cool Tony Allen Experiments LP from 2016. With this new album dedicated to their home city Napoli, they have gone on a fully jazz funk fusion mode with a full band set up, and somehow exploded in the limelight in the process. You can hear them paying homage to the city’s favourite sons Pino Daniele (Stann Fore, featuring the duo’s very own vocals) Tony Esposito, and Tullio de Piscopo, who pioneered Naples’ hybrid Afro, jazz and disco sound of the ’70s and ’80s; Ddoje Facce being the track that really does it for me, worth the ticket alone.
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids – An Angel Fell
Here’s a fantastic album from Chicago born Ackamoor, who fuses influences like Pharaoh Sanders (both music and appearance – he wears a pharaonic headdress on stage) and Sun Ra (check the cosmic dub beauty that is Land Of Ra) with afrobeat and other African rhythms. Stuff he was already doing in the 70s before a long break and his recent reemergence thanks to labels like Philophon (who published 2 nice little 7″s) and now Strut for this new LP. The big dance-floor cut here is Warrior Dance, while his Soliloquy for Michael Brown, the young black man gunned down by Missouri police in 2014, has no words, Ackamoor’s tenor moving from grief to rage over clattering congas. Deep and inspirational, and a stunning listen from start to finish.
Sign Libra – Closer to the Equator
This is the project of the multi-talented artist and composer Agata Melnikova, originally recorded as the soundtrack for a ballet performance, while being inspired by ‘watching loads of nature documentaries’. Indeed it sounds like a delicate, exotic journey through the tropical rainforest. The good kind of new age that will brighten up any room instantly. Nature’s dancing! Incidentlyhis also makes it 2 Latvian artists on this list (with Ingus Bauškenieks).
Tatu Rönkkö – Sphere
This collection of percussive pieces from Tatu Rönkkö has to be one of the most original new release of the year, and a complete discovery to me. Tatu is regarded by some as one of the most diverse and inventive percussionists working on the contemporary field, having been compared to everyone from Konono No.1 to Photek and Can’s Jaki Liebezeit. It includes self-made instruments from everyday objects, like plastic bottles, metallic bowls and egg cutters! Check out the opener Olio, or the stunning (in all meanings of the word) Tekoäly, the only vocal track on this record, feat Islaja.
Ai Messiah – Sentience & Sapience
This has come out late in the year and I haven’t had time to listen to it that often, but based on just a couple of spins I can feel this modern cosmic new age concept album is bound to soundtrack many a (grey) Sunday chill a la casa. Super cool stuff.
Arp – Zebra
With a large group of collaborators, using “analog synths, double bass, Rhodes, electronic and acoustic drums, flute, vintage harmonizers and tape delay,” Alexis Georgopoulos aka Arp has crafted an impressive album of ethereal psychedelia a la Talk Talk, with nods to Indonesian gamelan, west African drum circles, Japanese gagaku and Californian minimalism. All of this leading to the album’s highlight which in my opinion is Reading A Wave, a dense piece inspired by Alice Coltrane. This had me revisit his previous bands Tussle (dabbling in post-rock) and especially The Alps, with whom he made a kind of woozy, ambient folk music of the psychedelic kind. One time in Spiritland I played The Alps’ Trem Fantasma b2b with Arp’s Nzuku towards the end of the evening and both sounded majestic in there.
Waak Waak Djungi – Waak Waak ga Min Min
A really exciting and original reissue on Micheal Kucyk’’s Efficient Space record label. These are contemporary versions of traditional songs from the indigenous Yolngu people of Northeast Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory, originally released in 1997. The CD was apparently discovered by Andras Fox in the library of a local radio station in Melbourne who then passed it on to the Noise In My Head boss. This is a really special record and a must have for all the balearic heads out there. Deep, moving, gorgeous, majestic, healing…all of that!
Kate NV – Для = For
Kate NV aka Kate Shilonosova comes from Moscow and makes colourful electronica filled with chimes and marimbas. Each track has a three-letter title in both Russian and English. The LP’s first half was recorded in spring, the second in autumn and tracks on both sides are supposed to be symmetrical. That surreal world is even accompanied by a film that gives life to Kate NV’s rich imagination. All in all this is a really personal, original and playful album, where choruses have disappeared and song structures are freeform. Check двa TWO or кто WHO for a glimpse of Kate’s enchanted world.
Eleventeen Eston – At the Water
Basso‘s Growing Bin is one of those labels that always deliver quality releases, and this is no exception. If you remember the stunning ambient album 69 by Wilson Tanner that came out in 2016 (one of my highlights of that year) then you’ll be happy to hear that it was a collab between Andras Fox and John Tanner, aka Eleventeen Eston. And this is really all you need to know. Check out the incredible fusion of electronic and acoustic on 2 d‘Or (Cab Chassis) or the drifting and dreamy ambience of I Float, I Am Free and get lost in sound.
Again, no special order here, just a list that shows how strong the reissue market is these days.
Il Guardiano Del Faro – Oasis
Time Capsule is a reissue project started by Kay Suzuki, who plans to have different curators (including myself) working alongside him to dig that bit further. Our good friend Ryota Opp chose the first release, the 1978 album Oasis from Italian new age visionary Il Guardiano Del Faro. Federico Monti Arduini was an electronic music pioneer in Italy and and one of the country’s first producers to use the Moog synthesiser in the 70s. If psychedelic new age is your thing, don’t miss it! My very own Silvia even went to Milan to interview Federico about the creation of this jewel. Check out the driving Roland rhythm box on Disco Divina or the whole album here. This is an outstanding album, which sounds even better now having been freshly remastered.
Telectu – Belzebu
This came as a recommendation from my good friend and Lisbon institution Mario Valente. This 40min suite of amazing proto Drexciya synths, subaquatic rhythms and alien electronics from Portugal, 1983 is unique in many ways, and a first time reissue on Holuzam – prior to that this was unavailable on any format since the original release, which now trades for triple figures in the 2nd hand market.
According to the duo, the album landed in uncharted territory, the first minimalist recordings released in Portugal. Jorge Lima Barreto, one half of the duo, was very active in the avant-garde and jazz scenes, and his uncompromising attitude and leftist leaning didn’t earn him many friends in the press or industry. During the later half of 1982 and early 1983, together with Vítor Rua, TELECTU embarked on a series of home sessions that resulted in “Belzebu”’s two sides. As featured in the liner notes, the music was carefully noted, all the unorthodox methods written down, all the techniques described and influences assumed (notably the New York avant garde scene JLB had contacted in his travels throughout North and South America).
Dwart – Taipei Disco
Yet another recommendation from Mario V., and an equally unique and far out new discovery for me. Also reissued by Holuzam (what a promising start for this new label!), and although hailing from Portugal, Dwart’s music was actually conceived in China and Macau (then a Portuguese territory) in the early 90s. Apparently Taipei Disco, an incredibly dreamy and kraut sounding slice of electronic disco, was named after the only decent Guangzhou club back then. Based on the emphatic choreography of Taipei Disco’s dancers, Antonio Duarte started to compose a rhythm track while sitting at a table, with headphones, listening to Cantopop in the background. Not that you can hear that much! On the B side, perhaps even more interesting we find Red Mambo (impromptu), a balmier jam with members of legendary Cape Verdean group Os Tubarões, (incidently, a band I discovered in Lisbon last year too after Bastien Selekta Orka of Tabatõ Records turned me into their incredible “Tabanca” LP). As Duarte says, “during the early years of DWART a lot of the inspiration for drum machine rhythms (Roland’s TR series) came from African music, especially from new musical trends that gained full autonomy with Cape Verde’s independence from Portugal, as was the case with funaná”. Cabo Verde and funaná having been a big obsession of mine last year, this reissue came right on point for me!
Pat Thomas – Enye 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 Fakroun – La-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 Ensemble – Mkwaju
The renaissance around new age percussionist Midori Takada continued last year with this timely reissue of her percussion based project Mkwaju Ensemble’s Mkwaju and Ki-Motion albums, by the always on point We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want. Gongs, marimbas galore, tom toms, latin percussions, these 2 albums are truly unique and give us a further glimpse into Takada’s free experimentations at that time.
The same WTFWW label also has a sub label, We Release Jazz, which unearthed a pair of fantastic jazz (sic) albums by Sapporo’s Ryo Fukui, Scenery and Mellow Dream. Both got the half speed master treatment and sound insanely good. Modal, bop and cool jazz played with absolute mastery on a high fidelity pressing. Big tip!R
Ingus Bauškenieks – Spoki
Definitely one of the most surprising and refreshing releases of the year for me, as not only I had never heard of Ingus Bauškenieks before, but this also sounds pretty unique. After over a decade spent in a post punk/ new wave band, the man from Riga, Latvia started experimenting on his own, and said he was inspired by the ‘one man orchestra’ ideas of the likes of Jean Michel Jarre or Mike Oldfield. Armed with a bunch of keyboards he produced and released his first solo LP in 1988, Mãjas Dzīve, which translates as ‘Home Life”, or, as he explains in the liner notes, “a sense of fantastic in the domestic”.
The compilation of Bauškenieks’ work starts then in 1988 and compiles tracks from 4 LPs plus a recent one from 2011. This is an eclectic mix of leftfield pop music, balearic and playful melodies with unexpected twists. Some of the best tracks (Pasaulē Ir Tik Daudz Vīriešu Un Sieviešu, Roni) come with his then wife Edīte Bauškenieks on vocals, but this compilation is a real treat from start to end. Massive big up to STROOM on this one, a label which also released last year THAT Keysha track and the majestic ambient album by Jason Kolàr, Modified Perspectives.
Ströer Duo – Fluchtweg 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 Kuango – Eko Kuango
Eko Kuango only released 4 tracks in the form of an EP in 1986, the band recorded one year later a studio album which until now remained totally unreleased. The band fused together jazz and African beats, filled with subtle synth arrangements, and sometimes even an eastern flavour. It was the project of Belgium-based composer, poet and multi-instrumentalist Denis Mpunga (who also appeared on Music From Memory in 2017 for a compilation and a bunch of remixes). Check out the ultra deep afro jazz of Na Mawaso or the afro pop of Kena Samba. Super class album all the way which would been in the very tops of the year had the pressing been a bit louder.
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 Basa – Homowo
From Nigeria to Ghana (and back to Nigeria where this album was produced) for more afro cosmic sounds courtesy of the previously super rare Basa Basa album ‘Homowo‘. The afro cosmic disco monster of African Soul Power is the big track on this, apparently composed on the spot by Themba ‘T-Fire’ Matebes during the recording session, starting with that synthesiser riff. Previously extended by Sofrito on one of their ‘Tropical discotheque’ 12″…but the original version is rawest and much better.
This album however, far from being a one tracker, is super strong all the way, with tracks like the afro cosmic funk Black Light and Konya or Love Love Love all proofs of the genius of Joe and John Akwete, aka the twins aka Basa Basa. Reissue courtesy of Vintage Voudou.
Antonio Sanches – Buli Povo
I am starting to own a good bunch of vintage Cabo Verdean LPs and they all have some amazing tunes on them, but this has to be the best funaná album I know, with back to back dance-floor killers, and a very unique, synth heavy sound to boost. Tracks like Desgraçada and Benção De Gente Grande are insane! Plus this reissue by Analogue Africa (who were the ones to bring back funana to the limelight with their classic Space Eho comp) sounds so good. Loud and detailed! I saw an original copy at the Tabato Records shop in Lisbon, but I doubt it would sound as good.
This is an album with a great story as well. The original funanà, an intoxicating style of dance music based on the gaita (a type of diatonic button accordion) and the ferrinho (an iron bar scraped with another metal object, usually a kitchen knife, to make a percussive instrument), had been almost extinct by the Portuguese colonisers by the time Cabo Verde became an independent nation in 1975. Bulimundo then started to modernise the funanà sound, before Antonio Sanches stepped in and backed by Voz De Cabo Verde created this classic album in one day in Lisbon in 1983. The pairing of the incredible cosmic synth sounds by Toy Viera, who had never played funanà before (!), with the fact that Antonio improvised the lyrics to the album on the day as they were recording it, make this Buli Povo LP unlike any funanà record before or since.
While on a Voz De Cabo Verde tip, I also found in Tabato Records 2 great little 7″ backed by the band, Armindo‘s Djulai and Jovino’s Viva P.A.I. which also contributed to make 2018 a year where the sounds of Cabo Verde became even more of a staple in my sets.
Mac Gregor – Nan 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).
Various – Gumba Fire
A massive compilation right there from Soundway, collecting 1980s bubblegum and synth boogie from South Africa, put together by Soundway’s Miles Cleret and DJ Okapi of the excellent Afrosynth Records (who reissued a bunch of fantastic records, including Burning Beat and a compilation of Ntombi Ndaba). Apparently none of these tracks had been reissued or made available digitally before. Given how difficult it can be to source South African records it’s not surprising, and thank God for the reissues! The music featured on the record precedes the Kwaito and house sounds that took over South African dance-floors in the 1990s. “The sound that was forged at that time was often ubiquitously described as bubblegum – usually stripped down and lo-fi with a predominance of synths, keyboards and drum-machines and overlaid with the kind of deeply soulful trademark vocals and harmonies that South African music is famous for.”
There are so many killers on this I can’t mention them all, but if there were only Ashiko‘s Gumba Fire ((Madlakadlaka) or Zasha‘s Arrow Dub, that would be enough reasons to grab this already.
Acayouman – Funky 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 Ternura – A Gira
Everyone would know this Brazilian boogie super jam as it appeared on many a compilation and was sampled/remixed/edited by everyone and anyone, but this is actually the first official reissue of this party classic. Simply a masterpiece and big up Melodies for pressing this nice and loud. On a different tip, the label run by Mafalda/Floating Points also scored another winner with the Frankie Knuckles remix of Womack & Womack’s M.P.B.
Helio Matheus – Mais 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 & Cartier – Burnier & Cartier
The best of the crop of all the Brazilian reissues that came out last year (they were lots of great other ones of course, but mostly of albums I already owned). The record features no less than Arthur Verocai and Luis Bonfa on production/arrangement. Check out the beauty of a song like Mirandolina and that should be enough to turn you onto this 1974 LP that navigates between MPB, soul, jazz, and even some boogie. Superb!
This is not to praise just one record, but the label as a whole. The outlet of Brandon Ocura (ex Invisible City Editions) consistently releases amazing albums of music previously only available on tapes, mostly totally forgotten but always of the highest order. Looking for “captivating sounds to rescue from the folds of time’, the man’s tastes (and collection!) are impeccable. From Michel Banablia to Eblen Macari to MJ Lallo (Aquarius Blue) we are introduced to a whole new world of ambient, new age, experimental cosmic music that filled the house with peace and tranquility as they were played on a loop a la casa. With the added bonus of beautiful sleeves designs courtesy of Alan Briand, I really cannot praise these enough.
Jean-Pierre Boistel, Tony Kenneybrew – Percussions Pour La Danse
This album was a collaboration between North American born jazz & contemporary-dance instructor Tony Kenneybrew and French musician Jean-Pierre Boistel. Recorded in Paris in the late 80s as Boistel was returning from a 6-month trip to West Africa, the music was created for Tony to use when teaching contemporary jazz-dance classes and to accompany live performance, allowing students to “dance slowly, rapidly and change speeds without changing the tempo!”. The results are truly astonishing, sounding bright, colourful and airy, and in the words of our uncle David Sanders “I could listen to this forever”. Absolutely outstanding!
Orquesta De Las Nubes – The Order Of Change
Music From Memory are always on point with whatever they propose, to be trusted before even listening. After reissuing some of Suzo Saiz solo work in 2016 they have now compiled some of the best gems from his cult ambient/new age band Orquesta De Las Nubes. Together with percussionist Pedro Estevan and featuring soprano singer Maria Villa on some of the tracks, they created ethereal pieces of music in the mould of fellow Spaniards Finis Africae, while also sharing the same label, the cult Grabaciones Accidentales. Coming back from Houghton festival this year in a pretty ‘fragile’ state I found a copy of the Manual Del Usuria LP in my record bag, put it on the turntable and was absolutely blown away. Unfortunately this was Aneesh’s record…but I was glad to see MFM step in with this comp. Absolutely essential.
Benoit Widemann – Tsunami
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.
Satari – Smile
“We’ve been having a good time…let me have your smile…” Another end-of-the night ‘classic’ from South Africa, at least since this reissue popped up on La Casa Tropical. Got played at Houghton towards the end of the Sunday night in the Giant Steps to rapturous applause. And at BC. And at BATB. Yep it’s that good. For more mid 80s synth heavy South African boogie check also Bayete‘s Blue Monday LP, also reissued on the same label.
I’ll keep it simple this year as the above list is already quite long (!). Every year there are a few records which I get obsessed with and play constantly without getting tired or bored of. Here’s one of them.
Les Choc Stars – Nakombe 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.