Attempting to recreate the golden yesterdays of Jose Padilla`s White Isle sunsets with the tunes of today.
There`s been a stack of chilled-out, sunset gear released lately, a serene sea of the stuff, and here I am playing catch up. I`m not sure where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing – lost in a parallel universe? – oh yeah, the kids have been off school, that `ll do it. I mentioned in a previous post that there are likely to be 2 or possibly 3, more installments – but pour yourself a cocktail, I’m gonna tackle a few fresh ones, alphabetically…..
Grantie Asher – Black Skin / Ariwa
I assumed this was a reissue, but according to Discogs, it`s new, with no sign of a previous release. A shot of sunshine reggae from the Mad Professor`s Ariwa lab – featuring a full band, and full backing harmonies. Black Skin is a silken, song of pride, with the Prof playfully pushing and phasing the parameters of sound in a few places – just to make sure you know whose at the controls. The 12 features a couple of dubs – the first focused on the gurgling and growling bass-line, the second, putting the emphasis on the increasingly echoed drums.
While I’m on Grantie Asher, I need to also mention Derrick Cross` sweet lovers cover of Luther Vandross` Never Too Much. Digital and very `80s, details around the repress are perhaps deliberately vague, but there seems to be some suggestion of a Mad Professor connection – since all of Derrick’s siblings – Victor, Sandra, Garnett, and Dennis – were / are long-term members of the Ariwa camp / family. You can purchase the repro 45 care of Athens Of The North.
Aura Safari / Hotel Mediterraneo / Hell Yeah!
Italian 5-piece fusionists Aura Safari have 4 tunes signed to Hell Yeah!, 3 of which are mid / down-tempo affairs. A jazz swing to their drums, and a tropical feel to the collective marimba movements. Accompanied by keys and piano serenades – maybe inspired by Larry Heard`s Sceneries Not Songs – electronic bass-lines squelch a la James Mason’s Sweet Power Your Embrace. With repeated listens I keep coming back to Opafire`s Walk Like Rain as a point of musical comparison. Completing the quartet, Slow Divers actually made its debut on label showcase / compilation, Buena Onda, last year. A more uptempo, “militant balearic” steppers, its dubbed out drum rolls and rimshots, are however mellowed by further sublime soloing ivories.
This was / is a Phil Mison tip. To begin with I thought that Mr. Cantoma was pulling my leg – since Donny’s slick City Pop homage is clearly totally tongue-in-cheek. However, when it hits its sax solo, the song transcends parody. Sugary it might be, but its still a very nice slice of Tokyo rooftop infinity poolside paradise. Both the 45 and LP got repressed recently.
Chieko Beauty / Moonlight Lover (Dub) / Spike Bar Joint
More lush, laid-back reggae comes in the form of Chieko Beauty & Frisco`s cover of Moonlight Lover – a tune first recorded by Joya Landis in 1968 for Duke Reid`s Treasure Isle. The dub here is the one – smooth, sophisticated, near beatless, soaked in Hawaiian pedal steel and flickering with flashes of Hammond B3.
D:Ream / Meet Me At Midnight (Justin Robertson`s Temple Of Wonders Remix)
New Labour anthem-providing, former Top-Of-The-Poppers, D:Ream, are poised for a comeback, with an album completed and kept under tight wraps. While the LP might be aimed at a large commercial market, the remixes around the first single, Meet Me At Midnight, are far more than a nod toward the outfit`s roots in early `90s hedonistic London club culture. Hedonistic should be written here, HEDONISTIC. D:Ream were a central part of the circus that revolved around Sean McLusky`s Love Ranch – and its subsequent spin-offs. Love Ranch was a party where leather-clad people of every persuasion, said, “Yes, yes, yes!” – and fought over podium space. All of them wanting to be, believing themselves, pop / rock stars. Pouting, posing, voguing, “vaguing”, trying to out do, and upstage, one another. Mad, mad, chemical excess was the order of the day. Sex in the loos, de rigueur. An interview with D:Ream`s main music man, Al Mackenzie, is well overdue. Dude, does he have some (scary) stories.
The original mix is an epic ballad, setting Peter Cunnah`s vocals against acidic squiggles, Spanish guitar, and arms-in-the-air piano. Dancing to an old school William Orbit-esque beat. Dan Wainwright applies trippy gates, twisting the intro around an electronic snake of a bottom-end – building the keys before fading into roaring traffic and footsteps – and then bouncing back with a bang, electric solo, and the song proper. For a reference point, I was thinking of the mellower mixes of Melodies Of Passion by Andy On The Eve. Peza`s Other Side Mix saturates the track in slo-mo 303. Its minimalism, a dynamic, hypnotic, demonstration of restraint. The winner for me though is Justin Robertson`s Temple Of Wonders Remix. Taking its name from Justin’s monthly Soho Radio show, it could well be a tribute, a dub symphony, that places that piano over a lop-sided Nyahbingi loop, familiar, much loved timbale rattle, and a wapping, Jah Wobble-esque, b-line.
To be perfectly honest, when I was up late the other night, listening to this package and making notes, I did suddenly come over a tad nostalgic, and sad – especially to the tune of Al`s Retroforward Mix, its survivors sangfroid pitched as it is between an Italian scream-up`s older, wiser, reprise and a less pumped take on the prog house that “The Ranch” championed and helped to break. Love Ranch`s little princes / court jesters, The Psychedelic Skinheads, Jason and Reese, and their cohorts, Craig and Derrick, you know I liked those guys, but by the time we hit `92, they seemed like lost boys. I cared about them. Had witnessed their descent into darkness from 1990 on. Whatever the joke was supposed to be, it wasn’t funny anymore. They were living on borrowed baked beans, in danger of becoming basically bums on drugs. Egged on by onlookers, they were a disaster, tragedy, waiting to happen. Tokyo Tony RIP.
Jacob Gurevitsch & Mark Linn / Breathe / Music For Dreams
Music For Dreams have uploaded for your download delectation two tracks from Copenhagen-based, Spanish guitarist, Jacob Gurevitsch. The instrumental, Song For Sol, mixes muted cool blue, Miles Davis-like horn in with Jacob`s intricately picked introspection. The results like a lost Mark Isham score. Breathe is a collaboration with Danish vocalist, Mark Linn. Brushed drums and violin strings lend the project an acoustic pop bossa vibe – summoning both Sting’s Fragile, and Thomas Lang’s Scallywag Jazz. The intro also reminds me of Withnail & I – perfect for a late night walk along Crow Crag.
Winston Neale / Sinnerman / Re:Warm
Cherry-picked from a privately pressed mid-80s gospel LP, Winston Neale`s Sinnerman is certainly spiritual, and kinda calypso. Stripped down to congas, fluttering flute, strummed guitars, and heroic levels of reverb, the track sounds much older than its 1986 issue date. Exuding an eccentric, beatnik, Eden Ahbez-esque vibe, it seems haunted, sorta spooky, truth be told. Licensed by Re:Warm for a righteously remastered 12 release, the OG is joined by a pair of radical reimaginings care of Quiet Village. Where a lone cowbell taps to keep slow trance-inducing time – surrounded by birdsong and rainforest echoes – and serpentine reeds coil around what’s left of Winston’s vocals. The kick gradually surfacing, subliminally, until you’re caught up in a trademark QV inner spaced-out march, willingly surrendering to, dipping more than a toe in its trippy abyss.
George Solar & Chris Coco / Lagrimas De San Lorenzo (Mixes) / Chris Coco
Chris Coco teams up with percussionist George Solar, and guitarist Kamelmat, for Lagrimas De San Lorenzo – whose title translates as “the tears of Saint Lawrence” and refers to the spectacle of annual summer Perseids meteor showers. Phenomena which according to Catholics resemble the said saint weeping, and that others describe as fire raining in the night sky. The OG is chunky and chugging, head-nodding and shuffling toward twilight. Kamelmat`s picking, clipped, cool and breezy. Synths like those shooting stars. Massivan adds acid and ethereal vocals to his “Upcycle” of fidgeting electronic funk. Coyote dub the track all the way out. Looping the guitar, trapping it in echo. Dropping the rhythm to drum circle ritual and handclaps. Replacing the synths with acoustic piano, and then adding a bold, Babylon busting, brass fanfare.
Residentes Balearicos / Postales / Shades Of Sound
Ibiza`s ultra-prolific Residentes Baleáricos, aka Luca Averna and Ale Doretto, have a E.P. – Postales – out on Joe Morris` Shades Of Sound – featuring 2 originals sent on a further spin by Joe, and Camilo Miranda. The latter reworking the bass heavy go-go-not-go-go piano groove of Noche De Verano, while Mr. Morris delivers a couple of contrasting conversions of Soleada`s dancing woodwinds, melodica, and chimes. Speeding them up for his relatively pounding house 4 / 4 driven Halcyon Mix, and then spacing them out on his Twilight take. Rendering the bass a buzzing drone, surrounded by bongos and singing cicadas. The beats reduced to a serene ticking, tapping, proto-drum and bass, `90s IDM skeleton.
Rudy’s Midnight Machine / Crystal Dragonfly / Faze Action Records
Robin Lee returns as Rudy’s Midnight Machine, with a varied 4-tracker on Faze Action Records – demonstrating his multi-instrumental virtuosity. Keys collide in Kasso-like Adriatic / Mediterranean cascades – together with computerized cowbell patterns, conjuring blue skies and beaches. The slapped bass on Dyane is right in step with STR4TA`s brit-funk revival. La Rochelle pays homage to `80s Italian boogie, but also throws around dub-effects that would have made its bright synths a favourite at NYC`s Funhouse. Shy Smile is more laid back, while the downtempo, tribal, Pre De Minuit, mixes West Coast harmonies and cosmic melodies. The title track, Crystal Dragonfly, cuts between bowed cello strings and those of a tradition lute from Robin`s new home, Korea, to create a Cafe del Mar-esque moment.
Scribble / Selected Works 1983-86 / Strangelove
Strangelove have 2 retrospectives currently in shops – one, focused on Swedish drummer Sjunne Ferger, I`ll cover in more detail in a bit, the other collects selected releases – largely 45s – from the `80s catalogue of Australian duo, Scribble. Pulling together 6 tracks of avant – ambient-ish – pop. Wherein siren-like vocals and Echoplex-ed saxophones dance over gently drum-machined voodoo, throwing moody but not melancholy, intellectual, existential, art-y shapes. B4 bucks this trend, sheltering sampled dialogue loops within a synthetic stomp – here edited by local hero, Hysteric. Mother Of Pearl, for me, is the standout – a piano and slapped bass ballad that wouldn’t be out of place on 4AD, This Mortal Coil`s seminal sets of covers. That sax eventually honking away like Roxy Music’s Andy MacKay.
I’ve tried to put all of the above into musical context, segueing them alongside other previously reviewed sonic treasures and wonders from Amanda Whiting, Pauline Anna Strom, Saidera, Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrors, Hillside, and Chris Coco.
Winston Neale – Sinnerman – Re Warm
Amanda Whiting – In A Sentimental Mood – Jazzman
Sade – Pearls (Ambient Mix)
Jacob Gurevitsch & Mark Linn – Breathe – Music For Dreams
Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrors – Shavasana – Time Capsule
Hillside – 1939 Grand Ave. – Claremont 56
Pauline Anna Strom – Equatorial Sunrise – RVNG Itnl.
Rudys Midnight Machine – Crystal Dragonfly – Faze Action Records
Chris Coco – White Sage – Chris Coco
Hillside – Walpole Days (Joe Claussells Spiritual Healing Mix) – Claremont 56
Residentes Balearicos – Soleada (Joe Morris Twilight Remix) – Shades Of Sound
Chieko Beauty – Moonlight Lover Dub – Spike Bar Joint
D Ream – Meet Me At Midnight (Justin Robertsons Temple Of Wonders Remix)
George Solar & Chris Coco – Lagrimas De San Lorenzo (Mixes) – Chris Coco
Donny Benet – Konichiwa – Remote Control
Hillside – Sunday In June – Claremont 56
Saidera – Sinc Ronicidade – Lets Play House
Grantie Asher – Black Skin – Ariwa
Derrick Cross – Never Too Much – Athens Of The North