Warm gloom is a great way to describe this album. Darkjazz master E.E. Engström makes another appearance on the blog (and we’re honored to showcase his work, by the way), providing a smoky, twangy, slightly muffled and claustrophobic work to pound your bottle of homemade absinthe to. Each release has a gorgeous creepiness to it, so I intend on following his development as an artist.
At home, in the islands of Cabo Verde, there was grog, or grogu, a strong sugarcane moonshine not dissimilar to Colombian aguardiente, copiously consumed at Funaná parties.
In the diaspora, in Europe, there was leite quente (hot milk).
“I can still remember the taste of the first leite quente I drank in Lisbon,” says Antonino Furtado Gomes, Pilon’s drummer and current band leader.
Synthesize the Soul, Ostinato Records’ second compilation, revealed chapter one of the Cabo Verde cultural story in Europe, zooming in on visionaries like Paulino Vieira who made Lisbon the headquarters spearheading the musical revolution taking place within Cape Verdean emigre communities across Europe in the 1980s. Musicians from across the diaspora would eagerly travel to the Portuguese capital to record.
Grupo Pilon represents the second chapter of the Krioulu diaspora story. In smaller pockets, second generation musicians were independently contributing to one of the most lush periods of cultural innovation by immigrants in Europe. In Luxembourg, in 1986, a group of teenagers formed the largely unknown (outside of Cape Verdean circles) but consistently brilliant band named after the blunt instrument used in the islands to pound corn for Cabo Verde’s national dish, cachupa.
With only five members, Pilon combined searing estilo Krioulu drumming and the hybrid ColaZouk style with blissful synth work and rugged guitar licks, creating a stripped-down, addictive sound that masterfully straddled two worlds, a seductive electro-Funaná carnival born from the first few sips of hot milk.
The band drew from the inspiring political changes of the day: the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The right to democracy became a constant theme in Pilon’s songs.
With access to better opportunities than their parents’ generation, Pilon’s roster were part time musicians. Music was not part of their academic upbringing nor a full-time gig. Their rhythm and style were wonderfully imperfect, made out of rawer skills and inexperience. Pilon did not follow the templates established by revered Cabo Verde bands. Keyboard player Emilio Borges played off beat and the band preferred arranging their songs to start from the beat normally heard in the middle of a composition rather than the beginning. These two elements made Pilon’s music simple, unique, and inimitable.
From 1997 to 2015, a lack of concerts and professional musicians proved near fatal. Today, Antonino and what remain of the original quintet are slowly piecing back together the puzzle of their once mighty outfit from an unlikely pocket of Europe. In its heyday in the 90s, Pilon serenaded audiences in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Lisbon, Rotterdam and Frankfurt, securing their reputation as a respected and unifying cultural force.
This LP, drawing from the six most powerful songs from Pilon’s three-album catalog, is the serving of still fresh leite quente to spice the summer and maybe even fuel the next generation of musicians in the Krioulu corners of Europe.
Pilon are back in the studio refining their sound to revive their journey that looked all but lost to the world’s ears two decades ago.
MoonJune Records have established themselves as one of the premier record labels operating in the United States. Promoting jazz, progressive and improvisational music, they work with some of the finest names in these genres in the world.
It seems that La Casa Murada is a recording studio inside a farmhouse based in Catalonia, Spain, where some of the house musicians get recorded. This is where the label’s magic takes place, so this compilation is a great way to sample what the company has to offer.
Musically, Scanner remains in a class by himself. The broad paintbrush of ‘experimental music’ almost covers the scope of his work, yet he could easily fit in electronic music, IDM and most anything else he wants to. This release is a touching tribute to fishermen from East Neuk who perished at sea. From Scanner’s Bandcamp site:
This unique work was created for the Big Project as part of the East Neuk Festival in Fife Scotland in summer 2018. I joined forces with pupils of Waid Academy in Anstruther to create a memorial in sound for men of the East Neuk fishing industry lost at sea. The work draws on the stories of the men out at sea, field recordings and interviews to evoke the men and their lives.
The work was premiered at Waid Academy on 28 June as a live performance but an alternative version was installed at the Scottish Fisheries Museum.
No physical memorial to these men currently exists – something that retired local fisherman, Ronnie Hughes, is campaigning for. You can hear his stories throughout the work. His mission to secure a monument in Pittenweem inspires this piece for which ENF has partnered the Scottish Fisheries Museum and Waid Academy. Listen and immerse yourself in the stories and sounds of the fishing industry.
I was delighted that on 13 May 2019 the Scottish Awards for New Music 2019 awarded Lost at Sea for Community/Education project of the year.
Voice: Ronnie Hughes
Waid Academy students:
Dead Janitor is the alter-ego for Slovak electronic technician Braňo Findrik. Over the past decade, he has steadily produced a series of digital releases leading to his debut Medusa LP for Urbsounds. With an arsenal of pixelated breakbeats and stuttering samples, Dead Janitor presents an adventurous form of polymetric electronica, echoing the complex IDM explorations of the pioneering work of Aphex Twin and Autechre.
Medusa is an apt title for the album that hybridizes digital and analogue technologies into a labyrinthine architecture of sound that prioritizes rhythm over melody. The title was inspired by the beloved camp of Clash Of The Titans but also alludes to the hostility that have become normalized in contemporary politics and culture. Here, Dead Janitor turns samples upside down, subjects the internal clocks to breakneck multiplication and division, atomsmashes electronic sound into it granular parts, and otherwise sets up rhythm to be in conflict with itself.
Tracks such as “Mandatory” that cycle through its 8-bit density of Gameboy bleeps and the title track with its aggressive industrial clamor provide a number of complicated listening experiences that reveal hidden patterns and rhythmic undercurrents over repeated listens.
With its emphasis on displacement and dislocation, Medusa makes for a thrilling if idiosyncratic album in the lineage of Evol, Mark Fell, Russell Haswell, and late-period Autechre.
This gem is from 2010. It boggles my mind that this gorgeous single escaped my grasp for so long, but I suppose I could say that about a host of reissued albums from all over the world. Not, however, from such a great work out of Montreal (though it seems band leader Olivier Alary is originally from Toulouse, France).
From Ensemble’s Bandcamp site:
‘Envies D’Avalanches’ is the first single to be taken from ‘Excerpts’, the stunning record from Montreal resident Olivier Alary, the songwriter/composer behind Ensemble. A middle ground between lush orchestration, absorbing pop, guitar-indie, experimental sonics and beyond, it offers no obvious or straightforward reference points, yet here is an album full of maturity, sophistication and romance, architectured carefully and atemporally. A loose comparison could be made with Kraftwerk’s unconventional, experimental adventures in pop music, or to the larger scale music of Matthew Herbert in its sublime eccentricity, or even to Yann Tiersen’s gentle nods to chanson française, but behind Alary’s musical charms is an overarching, unique personality that interweaves wide-ranging musical cultures and influences.
There is a dark, melancholic tension to ‘Envies D’Avalanches’: full of brushed percussion and swooping noise, eventually building into a densely textured controlled chaos via Alary’s gorgeous French-language vocals and the track’s initial acoustic guitar-fuelled foundations. Collaborator, the award-winning film/theatre composer Johannes Malfatti, can be heard in the thick, heavy piano chords and subtle harpsichord.
‘Envies D’Avalanches’ is backed with a gorgeous, lilting cover of UB40’s ‘Food For Thought’, their Brit-reggae condemnation of bloated western Christmas celebrations during the time of the Ethiopian famine. The track – led by album collaborator Darcy Conrai’s beautiful vocals – reinvents the dub rhythms of the original track as something far closer to the Ensemble school of songcrafting. The textures are deep and full, embraced by almost slow-motion saxophone melodies, spiky strummed zither and unobtrusive percussion, accordion and spectral drones.
A major theme of the full-length ‘Excerpts’ is the confusion of real memories with fictional ones, and this is no different for ‘Envies D’Avalanches’. Represented by traditional musical forms – the waltz and string quartets found elsewhere on the record – as well as experimental recording techniques (such as recording on cassette tape and degrading it with different tools) mixed with contemporary or standardised techniques, Alary’s illustration of a sense of fictional nostalgia can be felt across the album. It is at once enlightening, dizzying, tragic and beautiful.
Far closer to traditional songwriting or to film score composition than to a “studio project”, ‘Excerpts’ was recorded almost entirely using physical, acoustic instruments and objects (i.e. with no software or sampling). It was committed to tape in Montreal (a city, like the record, bilingual) and mixed in upstate New York and Berlin with Malfatti. ‘Food For Thought’ was recorded by Malfatti and Alary in their respective home studios in Berlin and Montreal.
Olivier was among the first artists to send music to FatCat Records at the label’s inception whilst living in London and working under the name ‘Hearing Is Our Concern’. Eventually retitling his project ‘Ensemble’, Olivier’s debut album ‘Sketch Proposals’ was released by Rephlex Records in 2000. By 2006, Ensemble had re-established his ties to FatCat, and, alongside the release of his beautiful self-titled album (featuring collaborations with Lou Barlow and Cat Power), co-written with Bjork on her ‘Medúlla’ album and contributed several remixes to Bjork singles. Olivier has also composed music for several exhibitions at the V&A museum; contributed to an Audio-Video installation by Doug Aitken at the Centre Georges Pompidou and at the MACBA in Barcelona; and received an honorary mention at the Ars Electronica Festival. Since 2007, he has also provided soundtrack for several feature-length films and documentaries, some of which have received prestigious awards and screenings in Europe, the US and China. His film work includes the score for the 2008 film ‘The Last Train Home’, directed by Lixin Fan, which recently received a Sundance screening.