MELOMANIA rolls the dice for you this week!
and turns up a lucky 7! HAAi, Maga Bo, Ben Marc, Lewsberg, Melissa Weikart, Bezbog and classic Pink Fairies. Don't know them? Oh, you will.
HAAi - Baby, We’re Ascending [LP/CD](Mute)
EDM typically builds up to its “busy” peaks (and then further depends on that drop-off.) London/Australia’s HAAi seems to be most interested in breaking those conventions - yet making largely conventional music. The lows are always crisp and ready to either supply the necessary boom (“Bodies of Water“) or the implied one (“Biggest Mood Ever.”) The opener “Channels” literally bounces a panoply of sounds off the walls. Once HAAi settles into the song “Pigeon Barron,” she leaves you anticipating its impending change for a good while. One can imagine that live the mixture of sizzling hi-hats and that woozy synth loop would make for a masterful build-up. And release. “Baby, We’re Ascending” often leaves you looking for that. She has a lot of ideas in play (the Burial-esque “I’ve Been Thinking A Lot Lately,”) as well as melodies (“Tardigrade.”) However, her sparkling title track is the best indicator of the format of her success. A burner from start to finish - that is HAAi’s real future.
MAGA BO - Amor (É Revolução) [LP](Kaxambu BRA/AMPED)
Mixing impressive South American rhythms with the bleeps and bloops of EDM is no mean feat. (The most stultifying facet of EDM can be THAT straight to the floor 4/4 beat.) However, the fact that Maga Bo puts them right up front and literally surrounds them with a palette of exotic sounds makes this an album that needs more time to be properly consumed. Like taking a trip further down the river than you are supposed to, his chants and samples feel foreign in this atmosphere. The title track beautifully intersperses Reggae and Dub ideas into his textured jam. In addition, it has a true hook like an R&B song from the beautiful Dandara Manoela with one hell of a key change. With the intoxicating Dengue Dengue Dengue on board to remix "Ilu de Oye" it springs to life as a bumpin' track that has the potential to grow on you like kudzu. Maga Bo is definitely on to something with his layered, but never overdone songs that retain their beat and backbone while revealing their seductive, sinuous structure to you.
BEN MARC - Glass Effect [LP](Innovative Leisure/Redeye)
London Jazz multi-instrumentalist/composer does not quite fit into the Jazz renaissance underway there. As the bands are growing bigger, Marc's music is actually growing broader. The insistent beats are there ("Sometimes Slow") and all the EDM-style trimmings, but Marc is more interested in making music that gives you a little of the familiar (*"Jaw Bone") before detouring into a new blend of Post-Rock. "Glass Effect" is as funky as a Thundercat album, but Marc's accented ideas have more in common with recent Radiohead. "This Time Next Year" mines Seventies sounds for a melodic Jazz/Hip-Hop/EDM combination. "Sweet Nineteen" employs both a dynamite synth and guitar sound to sound like a new Sea And Cake style head-nodder. When he brings in the vocalists, Marc's songs always manage to shift around them. The Dub/Grime "Black Clouds" has Joshua Idehen toasting and biting off his syllables like a rapper, but that David Axelrod-ish horn part will really have you coming back. Finally, the R&B ballad (still uptempo, though) with Judi Jackson lets her push her emotion (and high voice) in the beginning before effectively accenting her nuances in the end. "Glass Effect" never settles on the same style twice and shows Marc to be ready for Hip-Hop, Grime, R&B, Post-Rock, EDM, and Jazz.
LEWSBERG - In Your Hands [LP](Lewsberg NED)
The Dutch minimal Pop of Lewsberg dares to revisit both the early Velvet Underground sound (that sublime violin on "The Corner") and the Beat Happening-style return to it during the Nineties. Lewsberg’s songs are largely mood pieces trading melody and Belle & Sebastian-style narration or easy singing. However, there is something tender about how they are learning to use the space of their songs. "In Your Hands" could be a lullaby, while "Dependency" is too gentle to be a rebuke and has enough sting in its repetition of "first she has to go, she has to go away" to hurt. However, it is the genius turn of the two-part closer "All Things" that best shows how Lewsberg's modest sound packs a real punch.
MELISSA WEIKART - Here, There [LP/CD](Northern Spy/Redeye)
French singer/pianist Weikart uses her sometimes lengthy repetitive vocal passages ("Here, There") and conventional piano chords overlayed with 12-tone harmonies and melodies to force to you listen deeper for her elegant song structure. First of all, her Neoclassical piano playing actually lands in a far more emotional place than most overdramatic piano twiddler/singers. "Diamond" is a great example of how well she keeps her pieces moving through slight tempo changes and her off-kilter melody (vocals even apply here.) "Testing" is the closest to a conventional song as she carefully plays like a metered Laura Nyro/Joni Mitchell songstress running through all of her ideas all alone. When she doubles the parts, she dazzles. But "Testing" - like all Weikart's tracks here - leaves her atonal melodies as the ones bouncing in your head.
BEZBOG - Dazhbog [LP](Favela Discos POR)
Minimal albums often deal with a "stretched" sense of melody along with the pattern of single notes dissolving into drones. For Terry Riley (or Acid Mothers Temple) to play the same note at the same intensity for 20+ minutes on paper sounds like a lark. In reality, it is a challenge to maintain that sound and keep it unwavering. David Machado and Dora Vieira seem to envision their 8 songs as a kind of fertility suite. "Ar" is like the sounds of nature turned up to full volume as multitracked saxophones dig into canonical trading of notes that filter into melodies. With two tin whistles on "Ovo," they start to find the atonal points between and develop tension. Before you think "Dahzbog" is about to get pastoral, all their tracks are layered on top of each other to create a fluttering fugue state that melts into cacophony. "Salamandra" introduces percussion for the first time. Its dry funeral drums are looped upon each other as a bed for Middle Eastern experimentation. Here is where Bezbog steps away from that "stretched" sense of melody and goes for what one could call "a manufactured found sound." It would be far easier to understand the general randomness of these loops and their multitracked chorus effect as they go into and out of phase. However, the whole sense of "unwavering" mentioned here is completely challenged by how they literally punch in/out of the wall of sound they created. Its sudden absence through an effects loop creates decay. The way the duo then trade-off single drum hits against it is a marvel. Suddenly, all of their hard work in layering has been reduced to the momentary push of a button whose output resembles a classic Mellotron. In short, there is nothing typical to music or even Avant-Garde music in Bezbog's real sense of invention here. Warning, this one is not for the weak at heart. Machado and Vieira hope to elicit an actual reaction from you as the listener. Their loops (like all loops lately) are part of the construction, but hearing it all coalesce and spring to life from their minimalism is truly hypnotic and inspirational.
PINK FAIRIES - Kings of Oblivion [LP](Future Shock ITA)
British Psychedelia took on so many forms in its heyday that it is a wonder that it actually lasted into the Seventies. As Ladbroke Grove miscreants, Mick Farren and the rest of The Deviants started with an acidic/socially reprehensible bang (“PTOOFF!”) and ended up with a handful of great pieces of songs (“Deviants 3”) that were so large they did not know how to further develop them.
Entering the Seventies, phase two of Farren’s Psychedelic/Biker Rock commenced with the much larger sounding Pink Fairies. Farren however left to concentrate on writing (more on that later,) and fellow Deviant Paul Rudolph took the lead. 1971’s “Never Never Land” is a great Stooges-like reductionist statement (“Do It” - one of the best singles of all time) shot in glorious Technicolor. No longer Psychedelic on purpose, the amphetamine rush of uptempo, pedal-to-the-floor RAWK should have made stars out of them. Driven by the MC5, Jimi Hendrix, and The Beatles, Pink Fairies kept churning out freewheel burning Rock even as the membership changed dramatically (likely its original intent.)
Their gigantic sound (two drummers at times and an ongoing friendship with Hawkwind) was a natural for the free festival circuit - but could get messy in the studio. For album number three, Paul Rudolph actually put together another band outside of the “deactivated” Fairies. So, Fairies Duncan Sanderson and Russell Hunter “reactivated” them with guitarist Larry Wallis.
Wallis’ contribution to Pink Fairies on “Kings” remains undeniable, even if it is not as heavily appreciated and celebrated as the Twink-era Fairies are. With Wallis's mixture of guitar flash and caustic rasp, the driving “City Kids” should have been an anthem for 1973, while the driving post-Glam slam of “Street Urchin” actually looks ahead to how American AOR radio will sound around 1979. Russell Hunter’s drums throughout are brutal and relentless. He drives nearly every track until it feels like it ends in a blaze of total exhaustion (the grandiose sweep of “Where’s The Fun Begin” co-written with Mick Farren.) Sanderson’s bass lines are as melodic as the songs themselves (his work on “Raceway” keeps it from sounding too Allman-esque or jam-derived.) Finally, there is Larry Wallis, fresh here from both Blodwyn Pig and UFO. The nine-minute fireworks of “I Wish I Was A Girl” is his guitar spotlight with numerous solos and flourishes that also sound more American AOR than British Rock.
Reduced down to a trio and playing songs that likely were marketed as Alice Cooper-esque, the best facet of “Kings of Oblivion” is how these three play nearly every moment like they need to send it further over the top. Wallis’ long solos and even the short breakdowns they take feel less like Cream and the Sixties acid-tinged Blues Rock or Boogie. Instead, the orchestration is far more Mod with lots of moving parts (like early Who or Pretty Things.) The locomotive Glam of “Chambermaid” is about as showy as “Kings of Oblivion” gets. Closer (and classic) “Street Urchin” almost resembles a Chilton-esque Big Star song that exploded to take in all of its melodies while never letting up. Its lengthy divebomb ending of guitar fury even predates the showcase that James Honeyman-Scott will offer in “Mystery Achievement” at the end of “Pretenders.” “Kings of Oblivion” is yet another massive statement from Pink Fairies, but this one is unique in how forward-looking it turns out to be. If “Never Never Land” is their grandiose experiment to take everything in that all their players had to offer, “Kings of Oblivion” speaks to how they could even streamline their sound and maintain that epic sweep.
Most say it was four years too early. They were dropped by Polydor and fizzled out. A one-off reunion in 1975 led to a few more tries. Wallis went on to join the first incarnation of Motorhead who even covered “City Kids.” Then as the in-house producer for Stiff Records, he recorded the brilliant solo single “Police Car” in 1977. In 1976, propelled by his career with The Deviants and exhausted with the excesses of Rock N’Roll, Mick Farren wrote a piece for the NME on June 19. 1976 entitled “The Titanic Sails At Dawn.” He wisely surmised that Rock fans, in general, had enough of the lugubrious treatment handed down by so-called “artists” who were either forced to stand in crowds for hours to see their idols - only to leave disenchanted. Their success was creating a separation between their fashionable lives and their fans who attended shows and bought records hoping for an escape - only to be disenchanted. Farren saw the success of the Sixties underground grind to a halt, and offered a prescient warning:
We are only the tip of an iceberg. The iceberg in this case seems to be one of a particularly threatening nature. In fact, it is an iceberg that is drifting uncomfortably close to the dazzlingly lit, wonderfully appointed Titanic that is big-time, rock-pop, tax exile, jet-set show business. Unless someone aboard is prepared to leave the party and go up on the bridge and do something about, at least a slight change, of course, the whole chromium, metalflake Leviathan could go down with all hands.
We will return next week with more! IS there a release you want to share with us?
ARE there comments you wish to register? Simply write and we will do our very best.
Thank you for reading, sharing, listening, and supporting music and criticism that we hope helps enhance the experience.