Other

Linton Kwesi Johnson - LKJ In Dub

ARTIST: LINTON KEWSI JOHNSON

ALBUM: LKJ IN DUB

LABEL (YEAR): ISLAND RECORDS (1980)

FOR FANS OF: MATUMBI, BURNING SPEAR, LEE SCRATCH PERRY  

Words by Ciaran Davis


My auntie and uncle have impeccable music taste and an eclectic record collection. When I was a teenager, trips to visit my cousins would involve late night sessions listening to all sorts of records. From D.A.F to Public Image Ltd., I got into a variety of artists who were trying to do something different. Of all the things I listened to, Linton Kwesi Johnson's album, LKJ In Dub, stands out. LKJ is a poet who was born in Jamaica in 1952 and settled in Brixton in 1963.

I saw him recite poetry in St. George's Church, Sheffield in 2012 as part of a literary festival. His performance was vivid; poems such as 'Sonny's Lettah' still channel a furious, yet controlled anger. In the subsequent questions and answers session, Linton eloquently described the mechanisms behind the London riots and why they will happen again. Yet LKJ in Dub is a departure from the poetry that he is famous for. On this album his famous songs are reworked and the lyrics are often removed. The concept behind the album was in keeping with other dub albums; take songs that are familiar to the listener, ramp up the bass and mix it in the studio.

The most striking thing about the album is the artwork – a stark red background interspersed with bold black font depicting the album's title; your gaze gravitates towards it. The music on the album also emits a raw hypnotic quality. 'Bass Culture' is my favourite – the pulsing bass mixes with LKJ's lyrics to create a woozy atmosphere. In 'Victorious Dub', the bass and drums lurk in the background, creating a slightly frenetic vibe. I keep on returning to this album to get that warm analogue sound; it’s a timeless piece of music, perfect for after-parties.

Quarteto Em Cy - Querelas Do Brasil

ARTIST: QUARTETO EM CY

ALBUM: QUERELAS DO BRASIL

LABEL (YEAR): PHILLIPS (1978)

FOR FANS OF: GAL COSTA, TIM MAIA, TOM ZÉ  

 

Words by Jasper Morvaridi


I picked up Quarteto Em Cy’s Querelas Do Brasil in Eldica Records in Dalston. As soon as I put the needle on the record in the shop I was hooked.

Quartet Em Cy are a girl group who originally formed in 1959. Despite a short break from 1970-72, they’ve released some 38 records over the decades. This one, Querelas Do Brasil, dates from the end of the 70s. It really covers a lot of ground, from bossa nova tracks such as ‘Querelas Do Brasil’ and ‘Love, Love, Love’ to slow jams like ‘Angelica’ and ‘Sapato Velho’. My favourite on the record is without a doubt ‘Salve O Verde’ - a sort of psychedelic funk/soul jam with a heavy groove to it.

Despite my lack of understanding of the Portuguese language, in many ways the melodies and the music do the talking themselves, or rather, they tell the story. It’s this emotion the captures me the most.

In recent years Latin American music has been at the forefront of musical rediscovery, with labels such as Mr. Bongo reissuing LPs and 45s, Gilles Peterson investing in his Sonzeira project and the likes of Floating Points and Motor City Drum Ensemble putting it at the centre of their DJ sets. Where this upsurge has seen many records from the continent rocket in price on Discogs, Querelas Do Brasil is one that you can (and should) pick up for as little as a tenner. It’s well worth a go.


Yasuaki Shimizu - Kakashi

ARTIST: YASUAKI SHIMIZU

ALBUM: KAKASHI

LABEL (YEAR): BETTER DAYS (1982)  

FOR FANS OF:  GOGO PENGUIN, DAWN OF MIDI, TALKING HEADS

 

Words by Lexy Morvaridi


Not often do I discover a record that I then put on repeat four times through after the first listen. 1982’s Kakashi, by experimental saxophonist Yasuaki Shimizu, is one of those albums.

Opening track ‘Suiren’ is a funky no-wave inspired pop song, decorated with infectious lead sax and vocals that are so upbeat if it doesn’t make you smile I can only assume you’re a Death Eater. While on the other end of the record, album-closer ‘Utsukushiki Tennen’ recalls dubby Ethiopian jazz with cryptic Middle Eastern vocals - ending this eclectic record on a high.

The sheer diversity of this record is what makes it so bloody great. We’re taken from dub inspired jazz and electronic percussion to minimalist experimental instrumentals with ominous organs and delicate piano. The manner in which Yasuaki plays sax throughout is both refreshing and strange, often using his instrument percussively and in combination with the synth lines. Trippy breaks and electronic beats make the whole thing sound like it could have been written and released today. 

This is an album that challenges the listener without putting them off by being too out there. Plug in and listen (more than once) to this hidden Japanese gem. 


Bixiga 70 - III

ARTIST: BIXIGA 70

ALBUM: III

LABEL (YEAR): GLITTERBEAT (2015)  

FOR FANS OF: FELA KUTI, NUBIYAN TWIST, TOM ZÉ, ONDATRÓPICA

 

Words by Jasper Morvaridi


III is São Paolo based collective Bixiga 70's third studio album (and my personal favourite).

‘Bixiga’ is the name of band’s birthplace – it’s one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in São Paolo, known for being a melting pot of culture. Fittingly, the band channel their multicultural origins through their music, with influences and sounds from Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean consistent throughout. ‘70’ references Fela Kuti’s legendary Africa ‘70, evidenced by their core, Afrobeat sound. On III, this amalgamation of music and cultural influences is heard throughout. ‘Niran', for example, mixes Cuban blaxploitation riffs with the Malinké drumming from Guinea.

While the band’s tight percussion and lush riffs keep things flowing, it’s the horn section that drives each tune’s danceable rhythm. ‘Di Dancer’ demonstrates the band’s uninterrupted rhythms, while songs such as ‘Ventania’, ‘Lembe’ and ‘7 Pancadas’ all switch up the pace of the record.

Bixiga 70 have been compared to much of the work of Fela Kuti. On III, this is completely justified as the energy of the music shines through.

Now the sun is starting to come out, get yourself dancing down the street to this.


Trampled by Turtles - Palomino

ARTIST: TRAMPLED BY TURTLES

ALBUM: PALOMINO

LABEL (YEAR): BANJODAD RECORDS (2010)  

FOR FANS OF: OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW, BOB DYLAN, THE DEVIL MAKES THREE, DR. RALPH STANLEY

 

Words by Sarah Meadow


Palomino is the fifth album by American bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles, and my favourite album to share with people that are completely unfamiliar with the contemporary bluegrass genre.

The album radiates a certain sadness and loneliness characteristic of a musical style that was born out of life in early Appalachia – life that was often long, difficult and lonely. This feeling of melancholy is more sophisticated and less obvious than that of bluegrass’ more popular cousin, country music. Palomino invokes a certain nostalgia for a world long gone, while remaining relatable with simplistically sad lyrics. This coupling of an old-world sound and relatable lyrics reminds us that modern technology cannot save us from loneliness and heartache. The line "All of us lonely, and it ain’t a sin to want something better than the shape you're in" is as relatable now as it would have been seventy years ago.

The intensity of the lead single and first song on the album, ‘Wait So Long’, is a shock to those only distantly familiar with bluegrass as a genre; the song is fast-paced and full of duelling stringed instruments – a contrast to the sad lyrics about complicated love and a broken down Winnebago in Winnemucca. ‘Bloodshot Eyes’ is completely the opposite in tempo, yet even sadder. While the lyrics in the song are "Lie on the earth, for better or worse, and let it swallow you whole", one could just as easily replace the word ‘it’ with ‘David Simonett’s voice’ because the song, in fact the whole album, has an enveloping quality, like being wrapped in fuzzy blanket, drinking hot tea on a rainy day.

Palomino is wonderful because it shows us the beauty in melancholy. Even the happiest of people can get a strange enjoyment out of allowing themselves to be sad. So go find a gloomy, rainy-streaked window and a mug of steaming tea, turn up the bluegrass and feel all the feels.


The Amazing Snakeheads - Amphetamine Ballads

ARTIST: THE AMAZING SNAKEHEADS

ALBUMAMPHETAMINE BALLADS

LABEL (YEAR): DOMINO RECORDS (2014)  

FOR FANS OF: THE CRAMPS, FAT WHITE FAMILY

Words by Lexy Morvaridi


Sometimes, you hear something that immediately stops you in your tracks and makes you turn around and say, “who the fuck is this?” When I first heard the snarl of Dale Barclay, that is exactly what I said. His guttural, throaty vocals are doused in a whisky-soaked Glaswegian accent and it’s what makes The Amazing Snakeheads’ debut and only record, Amphetamine Ballads, truly stand out.

The slow and tense opener ‘I’m A Vampire’ swings as it builds towards a massive release of distorted guitars, while the vocals slaughter the track relentlessly with lines like “she’s more beautiful than any girl I’ve ever met… and she fucking knows it”. Throughout the record there’s a bluesy, jazzy groove, decorated with wild reverberated saxophone and a decaying sense of despair, driven by the release of angry postulations. The sped up post-punk thump of ‘Here It Comes Again’ falls away into a garage rock riff that, combined together, sounds like nothing else yet familiar all at the same time. Where the record really shines is ‘Everybody Wants To Be Her Baby’, which opens with a sinister and gradually building bassline, while a sax delicately tiptoes around the vocal melody – the whole thing wouldn’t go amiss in Twin Peaks.

If you’re sick of the safe, soft sound that has spread like a disease throughout indie guitar music, then douse yourself in liquor and set yourself alight with this incredible debut. These guys are horrible bastards but that’s what makes them great – not for the fainthearted.


Sonic Youth - Dirty

ARTIST: SONIC YOUTH

ALBUM: DIRTY

LABEL (YEAR): DGC RECORDS (1992)

FOR FANS OF: PIXIES, DINOSAUR JR, HUSKER DU

 

 

 

Words by Alice Ding


Sometimes you buy a record because you're 14 years old and there’s a funny looking, albeit slightly frightening, knitted animal on the front cover. You have never heard of the band Sonic Youth before but it becomes a distinct turning point in your musical education. You still wear the faded black Goo album t-shirt ten years later, have read Kim Gordon’s autobiography and seen Thurston Moore play with his new band (but can’t help feeling like you’re betraying Camp Gordon after reading about Moore’s shortfalls in her book).

Sonic Youth was one of the most prolific bands to come out of the grunge era and played shows for decades after their contemporaries threw in the towel, so to speak. Dirty was released in 1992, a full four years since the band’s influential release Daydream Nation. It still has the same frantic energy as their earlier albums. Produced by Butch Vig, there is minimal polishing and smoothing out of Sonic Youth’s sound on this album unlike the sound on later releases. The distorted guitars and Gordon’s raspy vocals are immediately recognisable. Some songs come in at two and half minutes, but none stretch further than six minutes so there’s a lot packed in to the 59-minute album, which features both Gordon and Moore’s vocals with Lee Ranaldo featuring once on ‘Wish Fulfillment’.

I remember looking at the back of the CD cover and thinking what a bizarre bunch of song names. ‘Orange Rolls, Angel’s Spit’, what on earth could that be about? There are so many themes explored on this album; there’s the political ‘Youth Against Fascism’, ‘Swimsuit Issue’, which refers to a record label employee who sexually harassed women, and ‘Sugar Kane’, which is said to be about Marilyn Monroe, although it could easily be taken as a song about drug addiction. They also pay homage to their friend Joe Cole in the song ‘JC’, who was a roadie for Hole and Black Flag, murdered at the end of 1991 whilst in the company of Henry Rollins.

Some footage of Sonic Youth touring with these songs before the release of the album feature on 1991: The Year Punk Broke which is further recommended viewing for anyone with a love of the early 90s grunge scene.


Gentle Giant - Free Hand

ARTIST: GENTLE GIANT

ALBUMFREE HAND

LABEL (YEAR): CHRYSALIS (1975)  

FOR FANS OF: RUSH, GENESIS, YES

 

 

 

Words by Chris Gaduzo


Apparently Gentle Giant's aim was to "expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of becoming very unpopular". I don't really know how much of that was achieved, but what is for sure is that Gentle Giant left behind a handful of albums that even now are still pretty impressive, if not slightly confusing.

Free Hand is probably their most accessible, and when I say accessible, I mean the one that's easiest to listen to. Sure, songs like 'Just The Same' and 'Free Hand' display Gentle Giant at their most conventional, but even in this form it is still mind boggling. The instrumentation seems so disjointed upon first listen, but like most prog, after a few listens the genius of it really comes across.

Most, if not all members of Gentle Giant were classically trained, and this shows in their affinity for bringing classical arrangements to an already too-eclectic-to-be-viable musical mix. However, this is what makes Gentle Giant so brilliant. Perhaps the best example is 'On Reflection', most of which consists of complex a cappella arrangements, before overlapping guitar and keyboards take over, building on the melody that was being sung earlier.

I wouldn't say Gentle Giant turned progressive rock on its head, but they went further than anyone else in terms of incorporating as much as possible into their music - this is probably why they never got much more than a cult following. However confusing their music might be, Free Hand is the sound of Gentle Giant totally consolidating their sound and producing the most cohesive set of songs they would ever write.