NEW ALBUM REVIEWS: MAY 2018
NEW ALBUM REVIEWS
To listen or purchase a release click the 🔊 or the album’s artwork
BROTHERMARTINO & MIRKO CISILINO meet
HERBIE D. FADERS & MICHAEL BASS
Showcase [Bassplate Records] 🔊
Review by: Paris Pompor
Back in 2009, I was completely besotted with a dub-reggae re-recording of Miles Davis‘ Kind Of Blue. The woozy-boozy meeting of languid jazz and dub FX can be an intoxicating one, as was the case with the aforementioned unearthing of Jeremy Taylor‘s long-lost Jamaican version of Davis’ classic Blue Note LP. It’s also the case on this newie by a bunch of Italians. Producers Herbie D. Faders and Michael Bass don’t so much rerecord a jazz LP, but instead take a bunch of jazz recordings into their echo chamber and apply classic dub delays and studio trickery to turn out something fresh. The 1981 Jeremy Taylor album had a terrific, almost unbelievable backstory to assist its resurfacing after almost 30 years, while this newie called Showcase tells the story in reverse. It traces its inspirations back to the foundations of reggae in Kingston jazz and those who studied at the famous Alpha Boys School in the Caribbean island capital’s South Camp Road where legendary Skatalite skankers Tommy McCook (sax), Johnny “Dizzy” Moore (trumpet) and Don Drummond (trombone) honed their craft.
Our modern day heroes are Brothermartino (flute/sax) and Mirko Cisilino (trumpet/trombone) who created the four original instrumentals reworked here. Of these, the melodic motif found in Tribute To Nambo and Major Dub is the most infectious, somehow managing to be ebullient and melancholic simultaneously. While Herbie D. Faders and Michael Bass rarely get too heavy handed with the FX or heap on enough reflections that re-springing the reverberators might be necessary, the production is top notch, the bottom end fat and the horns smokey, making this a heavenly late-night listening experience. If the name Brothermartino sounds familiar you may have come across his playing for jazzy-hip hop group The Mixtapers on Sonar Kollektiv, or on the Willie Wright Right On For The Darkness 45 reissued by Jazzman, which also featured Wright’s version of the Curtis Mayfield tune cut up on the B-side by DJ Tibb. Available on LP, CD or high-quality download.
▽ ▽ ▽
SONS OF KEMET
Your Queen is a Reptile
Review by: Kimberley Crofts 🔊
The recent turmoil in the UK with the Windrush generation puts into sharp relief the subject matter for the third album from Sons of Kemet. Written partly as a “meditation on the Caribbean diaspora in Britain”, Your Queen is a Reptile questions hereditary birthright, and offers multiple alternatives to the British Crown: each track named after a significant Black woman from history.
“Your queen is not our queen. She does not see us as human”.
The Sons of Kemet line up has changed since their last album. The band leader Shabaka Hutchings (Shabaka & The Ancestors) most notably joined by tuba player Theon Cross. Drummer Tom Skinner remains, and while Seb Rochford plays on the album, he has been replaced in live shows with Eddie Hick and sometimes Moses Boyd. Shabaka recently told Gilles Peterson on Petersen’s BBC6 show that he chooses musicians more for their energy than the instrument they play. This goes some way to explain why Sons of Kemet play with two drummers, and occasionally even four.
The album opens powerfully with an urgent track dedicated to Hutching’s great grandmother, Ada Eastman, who lived till 103 years of age in Barbados. Track two is a slow, swaying groove that feels like a hot afternoon at the Notting Hill Carnival. The vocals of MC Congo Natty clearly set the roots of this album as Caribbean (My Queen Is Mamie Phipps Clark).
As the Sons of Kemet website says, “when we play live, we know what the end result is: everyone in hysteria. But how we get there is anyone’s guess”. Three drummers on third track My Queen is Harriet Tubman is a good clue. If you are not on your feet by now, check your pulse.
Quiet tracks such as My Queen is Nanny of the Maroons are subtle and delicate, giving you time to pause before the next powerhouse tune. This one sounds like it was recorded at 3am and the band didn’t want to wake up the neighbours. A lullaby of sorts.
Throughout the album, Hutching’s saxophone weaves in and out of Theon Cross’ tuba so perfectly, it’s as though they are woven together with golden thread. On the final track My Queen is Doreen Lawrence, the tuba sits just below the surface till it rises menacingly to a crescendo. A reminder of the seriousness of the subject matter.
“I don’t want to take my country back, mate. I want to take my country forward”.
▽ ▽ ▽
NB: The documentary We Out Here: A LDN Story featuring Shabaka Hutchings, Theon Cross, Ezra Collective, Nubya Garcia and other rising British jazz stars, screens at Cake Wines in Sydney on May 24. Read Eastside’s interview with Nubya Garcia who plays the same venue on June 10.
▽ ▽ ▽
Danny Graham [Xerox Music/Xerox Music] 🔊
Review by: James Tsai
There is an original copy of this record going for $450 on Discogs at the moment. And the good news is, if you don’t believe in paying that kind of money for a record you can now pick up a brand new vinyl copy with download for under $30.
Economic gratification aside, let’s talk a little bit about Danny Graham (who I don’t know much about at all. I had to reference heavily from the label’s Bandcamp site) and the music therein. Graham and high school classmate Iva Davies (Icehouse main man) formed a band and released a single back in 1975. That Iva Davies and Afghan single Back to California didn’t manage to make a dent anywhere on any music charts. And we all know years later Iva Davies played the Sydney Opera House, whereas Danny Graham didn’t even register footnote status… until now.
1980 was the year Danny self-released this 16-song, self-titled, off-kilter and slightly schizophrenic ‘outsider’ pop-rock mini masterpiece. The whole album sounds like a strange party mix of Bob Dylan bootleg recordings, early David Bowie, Donovan and even Marc Bolan.
If you love any of the aforementioned names, no doubt you will find plenty to enjoy on this album. The 4-track, not-very-produced, home recording quality also lends to the album’s overall charm. With song titles like Leopard Lady Sally-Marie and Sister Roulette Eyes, you know you’re in for a treat. The longest track Early Morning Heat Wave is USA late-70s West Coast pop remodelled via Sydney’s East Coast, and extremely catchy. Now we can all get to know Danny Graham and his music on our turntables 38 years later. I hope Danny’s second and last album is also in Xerox Music’s reissue pipeline, but of course, that’s another story for another time.
▽ ▽ ▽
Deeper [Il Combo] 🔊
Review by: Paris Pompor
You’ve got to love a duo namechecking Shuggie Otis and Madlib in their bio. Well, I’ve got to anyway. Otis is one of the great underrated cats of psych-soul-blues-funk, while Madlib is… well let’s just agree with almost everyone on planet earth and dub him a genre-bending-genius. The two creatives behind il Combo – producer/vocalist Al Young and production partner Sandro Bonanno – hail from funky hip hop outfit Good Buddha whose ranks once swelled with names like Hammond hotshot Lachlan Doley and producer Jack Prest. They debuted around 2000 with the largely tasty Skillathon before co-writing/recording The Resin Dogs single Take Off.
With almost two decades and a number of other recordings under the bridge in the interim, as you might expect and as the album title suggests, 2018’s Deeper is a more soulful, introspective, downbeat and mature set of tracks. At the heart of il Combo is still a love for cut-up hip hop production techniques, but the knees-up has mellowed, meaning if Deeper was a house party, you can now expect more late night chats around a table over a spliff, rather than pass-outs and sex in the laundry. The first track to arrive from this album on pre-release was the LP’s closing tune, 10,000 Feet and I was pretty much convinced I wanted to hear more. In it, a dusty trio of pinched piano, jazz guitar and bass introduces an old school hip hop beat, before Al Young’s vocals begin their soulful confessions of falling in love. Make no mistake, Young’s fallen deeply too: he’s leaping out of windows and stepping off ledges. After all, 10,000 feet is a long way to sink for someone. Now with the full album out (launching locally at Lazy Bones on June 8) I’m able to rewind to the beginning and enjoy all nine tunes on offer.
I can’t put my finger on the slow soul sample that underpins one of the album’s early standouts, Say Goodbye, but it’s a lot like Isaac Haye‘s Make A Little Love To Me (save for the snippet of female vocal). Staccato cuts of hollow-bodied jazz-guitar and strings carry advice to a friend whose deadshit partner would be best left behind. Whether it’s strictly for the sake of the kids, or the happiness found in the arms of the awaiting advocate, is, like most of life’s dilemmas, not always clear. Another highlight is I Can’t Wait, an impassioned tune, that comes on like the final slow-dance ballad at the prom: outside the moon is up as the luckiest leave two-by-two. Inside however, the glitterball’s sparkling refractions are circling the room of stragglers while some smooth faced harmony-crooners are sharing a mic and declaring an end to unrequited love. Elsewhere there are flying flutes and Latin leanings, Breathless adds some fuzz, and Break Me Down, Full Circle and Tell Me get a little more psyched-out recalling Stones Throw act The Stepkids. Well worth your time to connect with.