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.
More excellent South American sounds, this time from the latest LP by Peruvian songwriter Giovanna Núñez aka La Lá. Following up 2017’s ‘Zamba Puta’, she continues to blend folk, jazz and bossa nova with considerable style and grace. My A-level Spanish has mostly deserted me but its not hard to sense that there’s something darker going on lyrically than the polite exterior would initially suggest.
Gorgeous samba folk from the new LP by Brazilian cult hero Índio da Cuíca. It’s atypical in its foregrounding of the eponymous singing ‘monkey drum’, often heard squawking away in the background of carnivalesque classics by the likes of Jorge Ben. Fellow Rio native Paulinho Bicolor of experimental big band Large Unit is the musical director, ensuring that the album transcends its potential novelty status with vivid, rousing arrangements.
Ravishingly wistful, library music-informed explorations from the new LP by The Pattern Forms, a collaboration between Jon Brooks (aka The Advisory Circle in his Ghost Box guise), Eds McFarlane and Gibson from Friendly Fires plus the key new addition of harpist Tom Moth. The ghosts of Dorothy Ashby and Basil Kirchin haunt these tracks – fans of Hampshire and Foat, The High Llamas and Andrew Wasylyk will feel very at home.
Definitely one of my favourite new finds of the year so far, ‘Yamawarau (山笑う)’ is a collaboration on Chicago label Cached Media between four US-based multi-instrumentalists, Chris Jusell, Chaz Prymek, Matthew Sage and Patrick Shiroishi. They’ve hit upon something more than a bit special here, a deft and delicately beautiful blend of ECM-style ambient jazz, chamber folk, modern classical and post rock. A G**gl* search suggests that the title roughly translates as “mountain in springtime when all of the tree buds open at the same time” – the sounds within evoke a vernal awakening with skill and sensitivity. The Japanese influence on the music is palpable – shades of Ichiko Aoba, Tenniscoats and Manami Kakudo, for instance. It’s also sure to please fans of Virginia Astley, late-period Talk Talk, Deux Filles and G.S Schray. Apparently there were autumn and winter-centric releases in previous months – will definitely need to catch up on those – while Sage has also recently put out a similarly immersive tribute to the Great Lakes alongside The Spinnaker Ensemble.
“I’m no ordinary man” admits Lloyd Gabriel on his latest homemade concoction. Following enigmatic offerings like ‘Harry’s Magic Haircut’ and ‘Terry Kicked A Cat (Bats Are Blind)’, this most recent earworm ‘Your Only Friend’ is a disarmingly open love song for a very special someone. Musically it’s as melodically potent as ever, recalling his beloved Magnetic Fields and even early-solo M*rr*ss*y. The ever-dependable Ryan Jones provides a splendid side order of guitar.
‘Dieu Poulet’ (rough translation ‘Chicken God’) is the diverse, free-spirited third offering from French avant jazz collective The Very Big Experimental Toubifri Orchestra. Equally adept at controlled chaos and brooding mystique, they have been compared to earlier Gallic experimentalists like Albert Marcoeur and ZNR, as well as Robert Wyatt and Sun Ra – you could argue that there is also shared ground with contemporary compatriots like Aquaserge and Thomas de Pourquery.
‘Earth Bow’ is a joyous folktronic paean to nature by North Carolina-based musician Sarah Louise, equal parts enraptured and enrapturing, dappled with rays of vivid psychedelia and New Age/ambient splendour (brilliant artwork too!).
In some ways, the new album on Athens Of The North by Warren Hampshire (former guitarist with the Isle Of Wight’s The Bees) sounds exactly as you’d expect – like his recentacclaimedcollaborations with Greg Foat if the jazzier elements were stripped away. That shouldn’t be taken as a slight, as what’s left is a cosy, contemplative collection of chamber folk full of unassuming charm. Lovely music for watching our feathered friends (as the title suggests).
Charmingly askew, jazz and bossa nova-inflected progressive pop from the delightful recent LP by Perfect Angels, a Brussels-based project helmed by Zach Phillips (founder of OSR Tapes) and vocalist Olia Eichenbaum. A few choice covers (The Chiffons, Steve Kuhn, Mariana Ingold and Eduardo Mateo) are nestled in between the effervescent originals. A more rough-and-ready take on the sound can also be heard on Phillips’ offering under the name Fievel Is Glaque from the start of this year.