Chocolate Milk And Brandy / October 2019

Attempting to recreate the golden yesterdays of Jose Padilla`s White Isle sunsets with the tunes of today… 

penguin cafe handfuls of night

Big news I guess in the world of chocolate milk and brandy drinkers, and Cafe Del Mar aficionados, is the new Penguin Cafe album, Handfuls Of Night, on Erased Tapes. Inspired in part by band leader Arthur Jeffes` trip to the Arctic circle, the record contains four Greenpeace-commissioned compositions. These aimed at raising awareness of the endangered Antarctic, and named after four species of penguin: Adelie, Chinstrap, Emperor, and Gentoo. The music is made on the usual mixture of cleverly picked acoustic guitars, found harmoniums, pianos rippling in Struggle For Pleasure-like patterns, violas, violins scratching busily and and bowed, aching cello. Their rhythmic pointillism ticking like the seconds of a sometimes racing clock set against cinematic strings. On Pythagoras On The Line Again they`re joined by synthetic tones – alarms and alerts that sound like life support systems and warnings beneath the more organic pastoral. But in the main the LP could be pigeon-holed modern classical. Some of the playfulness of PC / PCO`s previous work does seem missing. The fusion of traditional musics, and strange ethnic instruments picked up on journeys around the globe – that made PCO so special – only really resurfaces on At The Top Of They Stood, which for me is the record`s standout. 

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If you’re into the Penguin Cafe, then you also need to check out Bremer / McCoy`s Utopia. I previewed a track last month but the full album should be in shops, care of Luaka Bop, on October 18th. The Danish duo also mixing modern classical with folk, and adding a touch of jazz. Derived from bass and keys, and a little tape delay. The instruments dance around one another in a beatless ballet. Creating introspective, thoughtful, but warm winter songs. Electric piano, cello buzz and upright bass soundtracking the collection of firewood and the lighting of stoves. Breath as a visible vapour on frozen mornings, surrounded by the rich colours of fall. The strings on Tusmorke add a metropolitan edge. The dawn now of steel shuttered shop fronts opening. The scent of coffee and bread, bagels filling empty sidewalks. Free of the din of human bustle, architecture, old and new, permitted to tell their stories, histories, as the record moves dream-like between country, city, country. Like a long shinkansen ride. Thoughts drifting as a changing landscape rushes by. As well as the Penguin Cafe, comparisons can be drawn with the musical output of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, cinematic Morricone tributes, Cafe Del Mar favourites Night Ark and Greg Foat`s The Door Into Summer. 

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Also with jazz at their heart are HNNY and Ben Tankard. HNNY has a 45 out on Hosoi, the vinyl off-shoot of the audiophile bar of the same name, located within Stockholm’s Hotel AtSix (you check an interview with Hosoi founder Victor Sanchez here). Both sides feature head-nodding beats backing Brazilian-influenced boom bap bliss and subtle sax and key interplay. 

Ben Tankard is the subject of a Time Capsule reissue. The collective selecting three tracks from Ben`s 1989 debut, All Keyed Up. MIDI`d up “gospel-jazz”, electronic fusions, that give Wally Badarou a run for his money. 

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Leaning more towards folk, and Americana, are releases by Max Santilli and R. Cole Furlow`s Low Varitey. On #1, Cole Furlow renders twelve guitar-based “new age” healings for FatCat, while Greek imprint Into The Light have collected the Australian Santilli`s recent recordings. These combining gentle drum circle percussion with six-string stylings – inspired by heroes such as Michael Bierylo, Miguel Herrero, Steve Hillage, and Steve Tibbetts. Acoustic atmospheres of bongos, kalimba, and Spanish-edged picking, that sit in contrast with the label`s usual electronic offerings. These are more in-line with ECM, or Windham Hill. Artists such as Stephan Micus, or Mike Hegdes. Some of the tracks are undercut by Vangelis-like drones, and there are moments of Robin Guthrie-esque reverb and delay, but the music is largely unadorned, untreated. Recalling Pat Metheny`s dreams of Mexico and William Orbit riding to Rio. At its most percussive, on the closing Dawn, it`s Keith Le Blanc`s Ending. 

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Full-on folk comes in the form of Antoine Tato Garcia`s El Mundo on KaRu Prod. The debut solo LP from the veteran French flamenco guitarist / vocalist. 

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On the New Age front there`s something new in the shape of Lindstrom`s On A Clear Day I Can See Forever, and old in Aural Medium`s reissue of Vernal Equinox` New Found World. 

Inspired by Robert Wyatt’s fearless lack of compromise, and influenced by classical music, Lindstrom`s LP builds upon improvisations initially commissioned by Norway`s Henie Onstad Kunstenter, and consists of four near ten-minute long one-take recordings. The record is his first using solely analogue kit. Perhaps not surprisingly it moves between Tangerine Dream-esque kosmische and the space-operas of Klaus Schultze. Bottom end growls ground synthesized, twisted, modulated notes, and Moog solar flights. Piano races in relay with electronic arpeggio. Sustained organ swells fuzz and distort. Pretty harpsichord harmonies counter the sound of metal bowing and bending under stress. All of it coming in waves. Rising, then falling in waterfall-like crescendo until its closing fade. 

Vernal Equinox` New Found World was originally released in 1988. It now marks the launch of Linus Booth`s Aural Medium imprint. A musical head working closely with Seance Centre, Linus describes the label`s first missive as reminiscent of Tangerine Dream`s 80s soundtracks (Risky Business and Miracle Mile), and a forerunner to the ambient evolutions of Aphex Twin, Boards Of Canada, and The KLF. 

Privately-pressed, the one sheet confesses that New Found World`s creators, Steve Brenner and Timothy Rempel were unsure how to pitch the record to prospective labels. Going for a new age-angle resulted in its autumnal sunset cover shot. I can understand their confusion. Based on the band name, which I assumed was a nod to Jon Hassell, I was expecting a suite of fourth world explorations, but it isn’t that at all. New Found World has its ambient moments – afro / cosmic excursions into arpeggiated calm.  Tribal toms driving sad synthesized swells. The Tubular Bell chimes of Sunrise could be a computerized Music For 18 Musicians. But half of the tracks are uptempo electro. Rocking proto-techno / trance. Hi-energy Italo-esque – think Hipnosis` Droid or Koto`s Visitors, or John Carpenter-like fore-shadows of Steve Moore`s machined Sci-Fi noirs. The previously unreleased bonus, Motion Of Sound, is a hurtling express of flickering drums. Synths laser-dancing to a b-line that charges along like a beast that won`t be contained. 

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Certainly not new age, but still chilled electronics come from Antonio Prosper, Bullion and Langkilde. Danish guitarist, Langkilde, puts blues-y overdubs to a ponderous machined bass-line and a levee-breaking beat, for Music For Dreams. Bullion’s Heartrunner, lifted from Public Possession`s Chill Pill compilation, has his axe go through wildly tremolo`d gymnastics. The CD also featuring exclusives from names such as Andras, Bell Towers, Obalski, and Tornado Wallace. Ibiza born, bred and based Prosper`s In Waves though is all about the keys. Their metallic voices singing in tribal chiming counterpoint for Chris Coco`s digital imprint. The E.P. containing three synthetic sunset seduction themes. Slow chord progressions set to pitched-down, half-speed drums. Antonio`s piano rolling out, as the tide comes in. The title track distinguished by a sound like a Bagdad Cafe blues harp. 

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Opening the mix, but providing the finale here is Iggy Pop. On his new album, for Caroline International, there`s septuagenarian punk / rock, but I picked it up for the poetry. An extract from Dylan Thomas` Do Not Go Gentle Into That Dark Night. One of Lou Reed`s prophetic 70s pomes, We Are The People. A rumination on America that now seems to apply to the entire modern West. Wars over resources have brought us to this. And Iggy`s own reflections on the advance of age / time, and the disappearance of friends – consigned now to only memory. All recited to reverbed ambient guitarscapes and blue noir horn. The LP`s called Free. Apparently that`s what Iggy wants to be. I always thought he was pretty free – despite the addictions he managed to saddle himself with. Free to get high. Free to clean up and stay straight. Free to state whatever he believes. Free to (mis)behave as he sees fit. Free of the concern of what anyone else thinks. 

This was written and posted in stolen moments following saturday`s typhoon. 

Reference Links

Still no power in Sengataki, but a big thank you to Karuizawa`s Natural Cafeina for letting me plug-in and finish this….

Struggle For Pleasure

Lynch / Badalamenti

Night Ark

Greg Foat

Wally Badarou

Stephan Micus

Mike Hedges


Robin Guthrie

Pat Metheny

William Orbit

Keith Le Blanc

Tangerine Dream

Klaus Schulze

Tubular Bells

Music For 18 Musicians 



Steve Moore

Bagdad Cafe


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