Legendary Afro-jazz collective Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids have maintained the lofty standard of 2016’s ‘We Be All Africans’ with excellent new album ‘An Angel Fell’ on Strut Records, a vibrant, sonorous collection (beautifully produced by Malcolm Catto of The Heliocentrics) incorporating influences from dub, soul, psychedelic rock and exotica into their spiritual sound.
Domenico Lancellotti’s ‘Serra dos Órgãos’ album from last year has just been given a full international release by Luaka Bop as ‘The Good Is A Big God’ and it’s a subtle, utterly charming update of the beautiful Brazilian sounds which have so enraptured listeners across the globe, be it bossa nova, Tropicália, samba or MPB. ’60s and ’70s influences loom large – think Caetano Veloso (whose son Moreno appears here and has played extensively with Lancellotti), Gal Costa, Milton Nascimento, Lô Borges and Marcos Valle – though the LP feels fresh and timeless rather than stuck in the past. Personal hero Sean O’Hagan of The High Llamas and Microdisney (a well-versed aficionado of such artists) also guests – he’s credited with the sumptuous string arrangements and a vocal spot but I’m convinced he plays bits of keys and guitar here and there too. It’s a truly wonderful album, not to mention a great gateway into the magical music from this part of the world.
Further continental avant-pop excellence, this time courtesy of the recent album on Bongo Joe Records by Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp, a marimba-driven, Switzerland-based troupe led by Vincent Bertholet and featuring Wilf Plum, former drummer with seminal art punks Dog Faced Hermans. Their adventurous sound can be compared favourably at times with the likes of Stereolab, Tortoise and The Ex (with whom Plum has performed in their big-band guise Ex Orkest), also displaying the influence of chamber pop, Afro-jazz, Brazilian rhythms and much more.
Ahead of their anticipated reunion shows in Dublin and London at the start of June, here’s a truly wonderful video of Microdisney’s Cathal Coughlan and Sean O’Hagan playing their 1984 single ‘Dolly’. The magic is clearly still there despite the 30 years since their last live show. Coughlan went on to front acerbic polemicists The Fatima Mansions and release some fantastic solo material, while O’Hagan formed personal favourites The High Llamas, played extensively with Stereolab and became a renowned arranger, providing orchestration for the likes of Super Furry Animals, Saint Etienne and Doves (he was even asked to helm an ill-fated Beach Boys recording project in the 90’s). On this evidence, it’s hard not to wonder what might be if Cathal and Sean were to extend their renewed collaboration beyond the performances at Dublin’s National Concert Hall and London’s Barbican.
Delighted to have The Aleph back! The Quietus have premiered their new ‘Sunspots’ EP, the video for lead track ‘When You’re With Emily’ and a succinct interview with the Liverpool experimental pop duo. Much like the previous work from the Ex-Easter Island Head pair’s side project, it’s easy to get lost in but tricky to pin down stylistically. Long may they continue. PS – excellent guest spot from Stealing Sheep’s Lucy Mercer!
Pray lend an ear to these lovely tracks from the recent album on Alien Transistor by Le Millipede, aka Munich-based composer and trombonist with Alien Ensemble, Mathias Goetz. He cites personal favourites such as Sun Ra, Moondog, Bill Wells and Tenniscoats as inspirations and features members of The Notwist in his live backing band. At times the sound leans towards the indietronic, while at others wistful chamber pop, entrancing minimalism and jazzy exploration come to the fore. It’s an album full of homespun charm and grace as well as just enough ominous ghostliness lurking in the shadows to keep things interesting.
Forward-thinking London jazz collective Sons of Kemet have gone for the jugular on their recent album, the brilliantly-titled ‘Your Queen is a Reptile’. Their ranks include saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings of Melt Yourself Down and The Comet is Coming, tuba player Theon Cross plus Sebastian Rochford of Polar Bear among other prominent talents from the UK scene. Driven by the polyrhythmic attack of twin drummers, their sound is intense and expressive yet nuanced, drawing upon a rich history of afro-jazz alongside dub and nyabinghi reggae rhythms as well as hip hop (not just in the form of bitingly polemical guest spots from MCs – the horns clearly tap into similar influences at times in their breathless fervour).