Paraphrasing the Soul Sonic Force and sorting through today`s releases for tunes that could have graced Alfie & Leo`s Amnesia dance-floor.
Autumn is upon us, and torch songs seem to be in vogue. Check the recent righteous releases from Unloved, Pinky Perzelle, and Lady Blackbird`s expanded deluxe double-LP package. You can now add a.s.o. to this list, a collaboration between singer / songwriter Alia Seror-O’Neill and the super-talented, Lewie “Tornado Wallace” Day. The lyrics have Alia trying to find a way through existential confusion, the disorientation of the modern grind, while Lewie works up a grainy, glitchy ambience, dicing and collaging chords. Groovy bass keys keep growing to an eventual growl, and there are twists of Chris Isaak-like Wicked Game / Twins Peaks tremolo twang hidden in there somewhere. Everything is anchored to a familiar breakbeat – tying the song to a lineage that goes back to melancholy mid-tempo movers such as Fresh 4`s Wishing On Star. The current, teasing, single is limited to just under 3 minutes, but I’ve got a feeling that an extended mix could potentially rival other Bristolian musical landmarks, those made by Tricky, Smith & Mighty, and Massive Attack.
Belfast’s Black Bones break out 4 “alternative” edits for Rimini’s Duca Bianco. The quartet of cuts coming as breath of brittle, brutal, angular punk funk fresh air. New wave guitars clanging, ringing, caught in delay. This reverb-ed rock riffing backing some terrific teutonic disco dancing. A hyperactive cowbell clonk recalling the acts of New York’s edgy Lower Eastside, circa `79, such as Liquid Liquid. Pounding Chicago-esque jack is paired with percussive EBM chant and rattle, on some proper Balearic Beat – banging with a strong Bobby O / Hi-Energy undercurrent. Crashing drum machines bash against fancy fretless bass, and snatches of seedy saxophone. A David Lynch luminary gets chopped up, extended and worked into sneering, lip-curling, echo-washed electro-rockabilly shapes. Collectively it’s the kind of crazy, cosmic, dark-ish, stuff that you might expect to hear on a Cherrystones comp, or mixtape.
In his homeland, Italy, Lucio Dalla was a huge star. His songs loved by all generations. Something, though, that I don’t think is common knowledge, is that Lucio was a prodigy – an acclaimed and accomplished musician, mastering both keys and the clarinet, before he even embarked on his pop career back in 1965, when he was only 22. Writing and recording right up to his passing in 2012, it`s no surprise that his vast body work has given us a fair few Balearic classics, and here comes another one. DJ / producer Guglielmo Bottin first befriended Lucio in 2003, when the pair were involved in a concert at the Fabrica Research Centre, in Treviso, where Bottin was the artist-in-residence. The relationship resulted in the two of them remaking Lucio’s much-loved, Lunedi Cinema – a song from the mid-80s that had been used on Italian national television as the theme to “the Monday movie”. The update has Lucio’s vocal, singing and scatting, set to filtered, phased, fidgeting, jazz-funk. A clipped rhythm guitar providing its nagging hook. Originally released on Bottin’s 2004 album, Love Me Vol. 1, it’s now the focus of a fresh 12 on Archeo, where a 2008 dub of the track is joined by a trio of new mixes. These new versions find fellow countrymen, Leo Mas & Fabrice, sitting in with Signore Bottin. Their Drive-In Mix takes the track back to the `80s. Recreating some authentically retro disco, where the big thumping bass is the only real 21st Century giveaway. Their Dub Mix, however, is frankly unrecognizable – a Weatherall-esque fantasy of fluffy “ambient house” fractals, with a TB-303 blowing bubbles and raspberries. The bonus Minibar take is one minute of 6-string virtuosity. Signposting the song’s fusion roots.
Contra Communem Opinionem, aka Florin Büchel, out of Liechtenstein, is a core member of Zurich’s Phantom Island family. Helping to launch Silum Records, he shares a quartet of techno tunes, all named after Oceanic Zones. Those on the A-side representing lighter, shallower waters, Euphotic, and Disphotic, layers where the Sun’s rays can penetrate, photosynthesis occur, and the majority of aquatic life thrives. The beats of both mix beefed-up `80s pop machine rhythms and freestyle-like electro rattling. Their ricochets softened, tonally transformed by cool jazzy keys. The former also features epic, soaring strings, and is a damn fine, dance-floor-focused slice of future fusion. The B-side takes a deeper dive, down into darker regions. These tracks still referencing classic Detroit techno. The rigid, snapping snares of Aphotic are off-set by waves, rushes, of swirling sound, while the racing, raging, Benthic, is built from grainy granular detail, flickering, fractured dub textures, and rave’s bleeps.
The committed collectors at Edition Hawara continue to dig up nuggets of forgotten Austrian funk, the latest being Chris Duchatschek’s 1983 “unclassic”, San Francisco Nights. The A-side is an “impassioned” piece of plugged-in pop / rock, whose vocal you may or may not be able to handle. Fortunately on the flip there’s the instrumental, which allows you to focus on the slow electro groove. Rocked by UFO sound effects, I’m sure this would have found favour at Daniele Baldelli’s Cosmic Club. Respected fellow countryman, DJ / producer, Mike Burns, did an edit a few years back.
Described by the label, Heavenly Recordings, as “Post-pub, couldn’t get in the club, music” – which I think is brilliant, Eyes Of Others, on this E.P. at least, are what used to be called “indie-dance”. Jargon Jones & Jones, for example is a dreamy, somambulant dub, with sweet melodic synths, gentle lullaby chimes, and a vocal delivery that recalls cool Californian ex-pat, Woolfy. Where carefully placed keyboard chords set the super slow shuffle skanking, and the druggy drift is subjected to walls, sheets, of shoegaze-y sound.
The other standout, Well-Thumbed Letters, sets a slightly sinister, creepy, love song to a bucking bronco electro cow-punk gallop. Its rumbling, sorta rockabilly, riff reminiscent of The Woodentops’ Travelling Man, and It’s Immaterial’s Driving Away From Home road-trip rhythm. Suffice to say that it’s most definitely well Balearic.
This 12’s been a long, long time coming (16 months?), but believe me it was worth the wait. Balearic Brightonian Perry Granville has 2 tunes reworked by a stellar line up. Those that I guess will garner the most of the immediate attention come from big names, Justin Robertson – and his Deadstock 33s – and Sean “Hardway Bros” Johnston – teamed up with Duncan “Monkton” Gray. Both deliver epic, essential, post-punk dub symphonies, that bare the influence of Andrew Weatherall and Jah Wobble. Both leapt out at me as I went to put this article’s accompanying mix together. The lesser known Break Mode and Mr. BC, however, also create, all be it contrasting, anthems. Respectively, turning New Arp4 into an emotive mix of ethereal shoegaze, breakbeats, and acid, and a sleazy Italo stomp.
After releasing several singles on Polish labels, Polena Recordings, and Transatlantyk, Gdansk duo, Jazxing have an incredibly accomplished long-player – Pearls Of The Baltic Sea – out now, on Brighton’s Higher Love. When I first received the files I had to write back, double-checking that they were really originals, and not cheeky edits. That’s how strong the 8 songs are. Drawing on disco, and post-punk funk, Italian house, and early `90s loved-up pop, some of the productions could pass for those of William Orbit, or Malcolm McLaren. There are odd gothic, new wave edges, a little acid, and heavy doses of dub. The pair having learnt their considerable chops coming up playing and performing reggae in local bands.
Paul Woolford, aka Special Request, takes The Maghreban’s collaboration with legendary vocalist Omar Lye-Fook, and sends it rattling through echo and delay. Omar’s vocal still has the track rooted in the Second Summer Of Sound of Bang The Party, and other alumni of West London label, Warriors Dance, such as No Smoke, but Woolford`s filtered and fucked-with production adds significant techno tension. Rendering the heartfelt late `80s homage beatless for the first two and a half minutes, before the kick and piano come crashing in, creating a beefed-up house music anthem. Banging away, a bit like Bruise, but decidedly more Chicago, than Detroit.
I’ve been a big fan of No Zu, ever since first hearing their 2012 LP, Afterlife. I was shocked and saddened to learn of passing of the band’s vocalist, Daphne Campf, in 2021. The group have understandably been on hiatus for a good while, taking stock, but now they’re back performing live shows. To mark this return they’ve also released an E.P. – which features their last recordings with Daphne – promo`d by the single, Liquid Love. No Zu’s trademark “Heat Beat” sound hasn’t changed one iota – they’re still all about congas, cowbells, skronking sax, and `80s electro-boogie synths – but, to my ears at least, the production seems smoother, sleeker, tighter. The piece possessing a serious sense of fun – pitched somewhere between the post-punk funk of Konk, and Modern Romance’s marvelous, much-loved, Larry Levan-endorsed dubs. This’ll perhaps allow No Zu to crossover, out of relative avant obscurity, and gain them the wider audience that they’ve always deserved. That said, there is a big echoed breakdown, that backs an extended piece of beatnik poetry, which makes like Arthur Rimbaud MCing at New York’s Mudd Club.
For their third, forthcoming, Neapolis single, Partenope borrow a big vocal from a treasured Italian pop hit. Effectively remixing the 1983 original, transforming it into a chunky, semi-tribal mid-tempo groove, lit by bright synths. Magic Feet main man, Craig Bratley, delivers a radical remix that reduces the song to just a snatch, a brief flicker, a distant detail caught in a stripped back electro rhythm. It’s sort of got the “freestyle” feel of, say, Mr. & Mrs. Dale’s It’s You, or The Beat Club’s Security. A dark Latin Rascals Danceteria vibe. The b-line gurgling, a little acidic. The synth and echoed piano giving the piece a touch of an introspective air. Then halfway through the 303 gets properly switched on. It’s the kind of cut that The Chemical Brothers, for sure, would have played, at shindigs such as Naked Under Leather, and the original Heavenly Social – Sunday nights, underneath The Albany on Great Portland Street – back when they were still going by the moniker “Dust”.
Quinn Luke’s El Triangulo Records have released a trio of tracks from the singer/songwriter`s archive collected from his collaboration with Alexis Georgopoulos, the artist otherwise know as Arp. Teaming up as Q&A the two put out a 12 with DFA back in 2009. Both of those tracks are now available digitally. According the press notes, one of them, Trap Door was a David Mancuso favourite. Featuring a punk funk b-line, copious cowbell, and sharp shards of angular guitar, it’s cracking recreation of the sound of late `70s / early `80s NYC, that of clubs such as Tier 3, and Hurrah. Midway through, though, clusters of keys transform the tune into something more cosmic, more trance-y.
The other ex-DFA track, Tumbling Cubes, is defined by its dancing bottom-end. Joining the dots between New York disco, “proto” stuff like Visual, and old school Chicago house. Introducing elements of musical stepping stones, such as freestyle and electro along the way.
The previously unreleased ESP, again, is another cut of kosmische disco / house. Brimming with trippy sequences, it’s certainly one for the strobes, but it’s not dark, or (sex) dungeon-like. The synths sending out showers of light, and some tight trap drumming adding real live dynamic to the machined kick. The fat, bulbous, bass buzzing, and the axe whipping up an electric wah-wah wormhole.
This mini-LP has been out for a while, but it’s being repressed, there are copies still for sale, and it needs to be, even belatedly, flagged-up. The debut release from DJ and singer, Stella Zekri, it features 4 originals, a dope dub, and cute, quirky, cover. To generalize, it’s a set of superior, soulful, `80s repro Euro pop. It’s Linda Di Franco, Amii Stewart with Mike Francis, Sade via Viktor Lazlo, all benefiting from some brilliant production, care of Early Sounds associate, Ed Longo. It’s packed full of proper playing – bass, congas, some excellent 6-string action, Rhodes, trombone, trumpet – and, boy, does it show. Stella’s take on the Chic-do-reggae of Carly Simon’s Why is skanking, by its also sorta zouk-y. Swapping Nile Rodger’s guitar for brass and keys. The title track, Detends-Toi, shuffles sexily, with an added splash of Mediterranean sax, and a quality rapped section. Honestly there isn’t a dud on it.
Ultramarine revisit, rework, and dub, a song from their 2019 album, Signals From Space. $10 Heel is a collaboration with the electro-acoustic pioneers` friend, Anna Domino, a comadre from their Les Disques du Crepuscule days. Anna’s lyric is a piece of true beatnik prose, a stream-of-consciousness describing the bustle of a late `70s Times Square, way past “normal” folks` bedtime. The protagonist nursing “cold coffee and one cigarette” while a sax squeals away, the jazzman’s breath chopped into short sharp blasts. Both of them surrounded by a big dub bass-line. A machine claps its hands in 4 / 4 time, as Anna runs down a list of vintage synths. The percussion is propulsive – crashing cymbals, reverb-heavy woodblocks, and the bongos, massive! Tumbling, colliding, caught in cascades of delay. The rhythm bubbling, percolating, and increasingly spaced-out across the 3 fresh mixes.
The Disciples – Some Things – Thank You
Eyes Of Others – Jargon Jones & Jones – Heavenly Recordings
Jazxing – Artifacts – Higher Love Recordings
Pinky Perzelle – No Games (Velvet Season & The Hearts Of Gold Remix) – Perzelle Recordings
Stella – Detends Toi – Cosmic Romance
Perry Granville – Sailing Ships (Hardway Bros Meet Monkton Uptown Dub) – Higher Love Recordings
Partenope – Nella (Craig Bratley Remix) – Neapolis
Two Tribes – Sentiments Of Soho Theatre – 7s Clash
Bottin & Lucio Dalla – Lunedì Cinema (Leo Mas & Fabrice Dub) – Archeo Recordings
No Zu – Liquid Love – Chapter Music
Eyes Of Others – Well-Thumbed Letters – Heavenly Recordings
Two Tribes – Roots Dub – 7s Clash
Q&A – Tumbling Cubes – El Triangulo
Perry Granville – New Arp4 (Justin Robertson Deadstock 33s Mix) – Higher Love Recordings
Black Bones – Keep Dancin` – Duca Bianco
Ultramarine & Anna Domino – $10 Dub – Real Soon
CCO – Euphotic Layer – Silum Records
Black Bones – Coming On Strong – Duca Bianco
Q&A – ESP – El Triangulo
Black Bones – T 2017 – Duca Bianco