Ten on the Turntable - April '23
Prince once famously sang “Sometimes It Snows In April”. It wasn’t quite that bad, but we ended the month wondering quite when Spring will arrive. It was so wet and windy that I was forced to curtail my short break (decent name for a novel, btw) in the East Neuk of Fife. There’s not much to do in that part of the world when the North Sea blows and the drizzle persists. No matter. There was enough going on musically to bring warmth to our hearts.
So, without further ado, here are the ten albums that have dominated my turntable throughout the last month.
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YUSEF LATEEF - YUSEF LATEEF’S DETROIT - ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Oh wow. Please tell me how this 1969 release could go so unnoticed, relatively speaking, for so long. This is a bona fide classic. We have DJ and broadcaster, Gilles Peterson, to thank for bringing this record back into the public consciousness. Peterson had no hesitation in choosing it for a special Record Store Day reissue on his Arc label.
Determined to differentiate himself from the plethora of hard-bop exponents, Lateef was a pioneer of fusion, introducing oboe, bassoon and flute to his core tenor sax-led sound. The results are revolutionary. Yusef Lateef’s Detroit is the story of a city. His city. It is gritty and authentic and as funky and soulful as anything else on the airwaves in the late sixties/early seventies. It also spawned Lateef’s personal genre - autophysiopsychic.
If you’re not familiar with Yusef Lateef’s Detroit, even after all these years, now is the time to fix that. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
(You can read my review for Louder Than War here)
ALE HOP & LAURA ROBLES: AGUA DULCE
Agua Dulce is the debut album by the Berlin-based Peruvian musicians Alejandra Cárdenas, AKA Ale Hop, and Laura Robles. I’m going to describe it as follows: it is a deconstruction of the traditional rhythms of their homeland. In particular the cajón. No, I didn’t know what it was either.
Robles is the cajón virtuoso. Cárdenas brings electric guitar and electronics. Lots of electronics. What’s remarkable about Agua Dulce is that the end product doesn’t sound anything like you might imagine from that description. It doesn’t sound particularly Latin; nor is it always rhythmic. Instead, this is a collection of (predominantly) electronica that is industrial and dark and also quite mesmerising.
Listen closely and you do get that cajón. However, I did say it was deconstructed. It’s not a record for every occasion or for every mood. But when you want to spend some contemplative time, then this is the perfect soundtrack.
JAMES ALEXANDER BRIGHT MEETS FLYING MOJITO BROS: MIRACLE IN THE MOJAVE
Miracle In The Mojave is an album born out of a dream. The dreamer was James Alexander Bright’s manager, Benjamin Smith. It was tequila-fuelled. At Glastonbury. Following Bright’s successful set at the festival, the pair had taken in Flying Mojito Bros’ DJ set and were blown away. That night, Smith dreamt of a collaboration and Miracle In The Mojave is the result.
Those familiar with Bright’s lush, sun-kissed soul will know what to expect from this collection of remixes (or refritos, as Flying Mojito Bros call them). The tunes, specially selected from both Bright’s albums along with a couple of singles and, delightfully, one new track, remain just as potent. However, they are elevated to another level of danceability by the US duo’s trademark mash up of country funk, New York Latin disco and acid house.
If this record doesn’t get you out of the sofa, nothing will. You can read more of my Louder Than War words on this here.
4. CODA CHROMA: DREAMSELF
How can Kate Lucas, aka Coda Chroma, get to her third album without me knowing about her work. Dreamself is an absolutely sumptuous pop record, one that celebrates that otherworldly void that lies between awake and asleep.
It is, at times, dark and introspective. By contrast, at other times it dazzles brightly with its joyous celebration of pop. There are sweeping strings and waves of electronica, but at the heart of it all is an incredible singer/songwriter and some of the best tunes you will hear this year.
Coda Chroma was described by Tone Deaf as “one of the most innovative and noteworthy musicians in Australia”. It’s difficult to argue otherwise. And if you want quick proof, check out Dreamself’s two highlights: My Garden and Frankenstein.
DANIEL DE BOER: OUT OF SHADOWS
Speaking of gorgeous pop music…
Daniel De Boer is a Dutch bass player, singer and composer and Out Of Shadows is, quite astonishingly, his debut album. Until recently, he has been studying for his Masters in Contemporary Performance from the prestigious Berklee College Of Music’s Valencia Campus. Whilst studying, De Boer composed and recorded Out Of Shadows.
It is a fantastic record, reminiscent of the work of Swedish singer-songwriter Loney Dear, and choc-full of outstanding songwriting that belies the fact that this is his debut. Drawing on a multitude of global influences, Out Of Shadows fully justifies De Boer’s description of his work as World Pop.
YAZ LANCASTER: AMETHYST
My album of the month for March came from Kenyan composer and sound artist, Nyokabi Kariuki. Hot on the heels of that comes this astonishing album from the artist who played violin on Kariuki’s Feeling Body. However, this is no run-of-the-mill violin. Granted, sometimes Lancaster’s instrument does sound relatively conventional. For much of AmethYst, however, they elicit sounds from that grand old instrument that defy belief.
Defying genre, this New York-based violinist, vocalist and steel pannist, veers from rich R&B to white noise avant-garde in one sweep of their violin bow. In my review for Louder Than War, I confidently asserted that you will hear few other albums like AmethYst this year.
Here’s a small observation that should auger incredibly well for the future of music. Dogsbody by New Yorkers Model/Actriz is the fourth debut album in my Ten on the Turntable this month. Big up, the new kids on the block.
I must confess, I had kind of given up on white boys hitting guitars purposefully. Years of indie bands desperately trying to be The Strokes (who weren’t that great in the first place) left me cold to the genre. Then, last year, Black Midi’s Hellfire (yes, I know they aren’t all white) shook me to the core. Now along comes Dogsbody - this year’s model (actriz).
Dogsbody is a revelation. It is faith restoring. It is intense and dangerous and gets the pulses racing like few others can.
SISSOKO/SEGAL/PARISIEN/PEIRANI: LES ÉGARÉS
I must admit that I’m a sucker for a cello. And, because my mother played it, I have a lifelong affinity with the accordion. Therefore, the minute I heard Les Égarés, I was hooked. The innovative cellist is Vincent Segal, whilst the accordion is brought to us courtesy of the brilliant Vincent Peirani. That duo are joined by the Malian maestro of the kora, Ballaké Sissoko. Completing the quartet is the wonderful Émile Parisien, who contributes the most sublime soprano sax.
Les Égarés is a beautiful album; one that I could listen to all night long. The quartet dance and swoop around each other, bringing out the best of them and their instruments. It’s delicate, at times playful, often romantic. Always brilliant.
DELE SOSIMI & THE ESTUARY 21: THE CONFLUENCE
Released on the consistently brilliant Wah Wah 45’s label, The Confluence is a magnificent blend of Afrobeat, soul and jazz. Dele Sosimi should need no introduction. Over the years, since his days of playing keys in the great Fela Kuti’s band, he has established himself as a colossus of the continent. For this latest project, he joins forces with Sam Duckworth, of Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. and a host of other uber-talented musicians. The end result is incredibly enjoyable. It its also super-stackable, its six tracks coming in at just under twenty-one minutes in total.
No matter. Great things can come in small packages and The Confluence is mighty great. There’s also variety, as we are taken on a trip that starts in the heart of Afrobeat, before gliding into a suite of sweet soul/jazz numbers, prior to our return to Afro.
As I said in my review for Louder Than War, “The Confluence is an incredibly enjoyable way to spend twenty-one minutes of your day”.
AND ONE FROM THE ARCHIVES…
MASSIVE ATTACK: MEZZANINE
Massive Attack played one of the three greatest sets that I ever witnessed at a festival. The bulk of their setlist that evening came from the dark, claustrophobic Mezzanine. It shouldn’t have worked. Not really. Mezzanine feels like an album to encase yourself in the darkest of rooms; on the blackest of nights. And it is. But that evening, in July 1999, that music somehow filled an entire hundred acre field in Fife. I have never heard such sound quality, such precision, such clarity. Such darkness amidst the light.
The album, of course, is magnificent. One of that decade’s finest. Yet I hadn’t listened to it for so long. I think I had been put off by all of those trailers for crappy (supposedly gritty) dramas on the BBC. If I hear that bass line for Angel one more time…
This month, Mezzanine celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. All grown up. It seemed like a good time to revisit it. I’m glad I did, because I learned to fall in love with it all over again.
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