I am delighted to present the brand new collaboration between News from Neptune and my great friend and creative compadre Craig Sinclair, best known as vocalist and songwriter with Liverpool band Lovecraft. I have played with Craig before in Cartwheels on Glass but this new release, entitled ‘FIELDS OF INDUSTRY EP’, is quite separate from our previous work together and we’re both very proud of it. Once again Matthew Freeman takes credit for the recording of vocals, mixing and mastering at Fresh Goods Studio.
At the risk of over-simplifying, the music is me, the vocals are Craig and the lyrics are a bit of both of us. Think of it as homemade experimental pop dragged out of the bedroom into the cold light of day. The words explore childhood memories of Widnes, depressed lunch breaks on the Birkenhead waterfront and the utter desolation of the here and now – happy songs for happy times! Anyway, hope you like them – they can be downloaded for a price of your choosing on Bandcamp or streamed for free on both SoundCloud and YouTube.
Thanks to Tristan Bath and his Spool’s Out column over at The Quietus for highlighting the excellent, restlessly inventive recent collection by Portuguese trio Zarabatana (along with guest guitarist Norberto Lobo) on Italian label Tsss Tapes. It combines bracing Afro-jazz rhythms and expansive free improv in a way I can definitely see appealing to fans of Don Cherry, Innercity Ensemble and Supersilent. Here’s the ravishing opener whose title ‘Corno de ganso’ apparently translates as ‘Goose Horn’.
By night, Nederlander Arnold de Boer fronts hyperkinetic art punk live extravaganzas with heroic quartet The Ex. By later that same night, he explores experimental songcraft as Zea. His new collaboration with Oscar Jan Hoogland is profoundly strange and oddly haunting, sharing a deconstructive spirit with The Red Krayola, Captain Beefheart and Volcano the Bear while drawing upon African and Arabic influences (the pair recently toured Ghana and Burkina Faso) with unique, entrancing results – think Flaming Tunes at their most abstract or The Shadow Ring with an ear for Ethiopian jazz. The piano-centric tracks in particular possess a peculiar magic of their own.
‘Puput’ is the pulsating recent second LP from Toulouse trio Cocanha on the French label Pagans (which brought us the choice Super Parquet album late last year) with remarkably prolific Catalan musician Raül Refree – he of great recent collaborations with Richard Youngs and Lee Ranaldo – behind the mixing desk. The music here is a seamless blend of folk music from the Occitanie region and rousing polyphonic chant, at times displaying a notable North and West African influence (especially the women of the Wassoulou sound) in its percussive, insistent energy or perhaps a hint of Eastern European traditions in the yearning, minor-key moments. Occasionally the entrancing repetition brought back surprising memories of Arnold Dreyblatt’s ‘Animal Magnetism’ or even ‘Sung Tongs’-era Animal Collective.
Limpidly lovely chamber folk from the new album by Belgian songwriter Thomas Jean Henri aka Cabane. Vocals are provided by Kate Stables from This Is The Kit and Bonnie Prince Billy, while predictably exquisite string arrangements come from personal hero Sean O’Hagan of The High Llamas/Microdisney. Stereolab’s Andy Ramsay also had a hand in production – his influence, along with O’Hagan’s, is clear in the magical touches of vibraphone, Wurlitzer and other keys.
Dean Roberts is hardly a household name, even in his native New Zealand, but the early ’00s albums ‘And the Black Moths Play the Grand Cinema’ and especially ‘Be Mine Tonight’ have become cult favourites among a certain breed of post rock fan who used late-period Talk Talk as a gateway into experimental music. ‘Not Fire’ is his first song-based solo release in seventeen years but the skeletal, gloomy avant-slowcore retains an emotive, ominous aura. In some ways carrying the torch first lit by fellow Kiwi sonic explorers like This Kind of Punishment, Peter Jefferies and Alastair Galbraith, he is a quietly influential figure who more than merits a reappraisal which this new collection on the Erstwhile label will hopefully bring. A number of guest contributors include Chris Abrahams from Aussie avant-jazzers The Necks on harpsichord and Andrea Belfi on drums.
There are plentiful moments of transfixing wonderment on the new LP for Chicago label International Anthem by Mancunian composer and saxophonist Alabaster DePlume, a gorgeous collection of contemplative instrumentals, some old, some new. Ethiopian jazz and Japanese computer game soundtracks are cited among the key reference points, while a coterie of guests includes Sarathy Korwar, Paddy Steer and Dan Leavers from The Comet Is Coming.
French composer Delphine Dora first crossed my radar when she collaborated with personal favourite Mocke Dépret on the gentle, gossamer 2017 album ‘Le Corps défendant’. She now presents the intricate, densely detailed ‘L’inattingible’ on Three:Four Records which continues the sonic journeys first embarked upon by great Gallic avant-folkies like Brigitte Fontaine and Emmanuelle Parrenin but possesses its own oneiric yet unsettled aura. A cursory G**gl* search suggests that the title translates as ‘the intangible’ – while the music might not present as easy to grasp at first, there is something delightfully difficult to put your finger on about its magic. A wide variety of guests include Fonal Records artist Lau Nau, Sylvia Hallett and Aby Vulliamy from The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden. Here are the bookends by way of introduction…