WRWTFWW Records announce the worldwide reissue of Midori Takada’s solo album from 1999, Tree of Life, available on vinyl for the first time ever in a new audiophile mix by the Japanese percussionist herself, and in full half-speed-mastered glory. Originally recorded in September 1998 at legendary Ginza (Tokyo) studio Onkio Haus and released on CD only for the Japan market in 1999, Tree of Life is Midori Takada’s best kept secret, a lost gem of minimalism and percussive ambient. The album is separated in two parts, the first one finds Takada exploring her trademark environmental soundscapes with precise mastery of marimba, drums, and bells, notably on the magnificent fan-favorite ”Love Song Of Urfa”. The second half is a collaboration with Chinese virtuoso Erhu player Jiang Jian Hua, allowing Midori Takada to unveil new layers of her artistic mind with a slightly more theatrical approach and a beautiful crystallization of complex simplicity.
Morphine Records is coming up with a massive loader from Slumberland’s self-made instruments sounds, from the bullroarer to sewing machines an d self made organs, combined with legendary Tuvan throat singer Sainkho Namtchylak. “Lightkeeper” was recorded and mixed by Lebanese-Canadian artist Radwan Ghazi Moumneh (Jerusalem In My Heart, Constellation Records) adding his distinct touch to the production of this rollercoaster of sounds. Belgian musician, composer and instrument-maker Jochem Baelus has been unleashing his obscure, hypnotic krautrock embellished with distorted exotica upon us as Slumberland since 2013. After creating his signature battery of sewing machines, projectors and dismantled mechanical objects, Baelus immersed himself into the world of 64 year old voice-artist Sainkho Namtchylak and assembled a new sound sculpture inspired by her colour.
Strut present the first ever compilation of Balka Sound, bringing together their influential 1980s recordings. Hailing from Congo-Brazzaville and led by revered vocalist and ngonfi player, Nkibi “Lusialala” Albert, Balka Sound created their own unique musical world, re imagining traditional Congolese Balka rhythms with electric guitars, electric bass and drums, alongside the traditional 5-string ngonfi.
South Sudan’s undisputed ‘King of Music’, the Juba-via-Melbourne eccentric outsider Gordon Koang, returns with his second full-length of original material since emigrating to Australia, the masterly titled follow-up, Community. Eight tracks recorded in Melbourne with a cast of the city’s finest musical minds, including Zak Olsen, Jesse Williams, David “Daff” Gravolin and Jack Kong, the record draws upon Gordon’s pitch-perfect pop sensibility and compulsion for composing irresistibly catchy melodies. Add to this brew the extensive creditienals of his collaborators, who are known for their work with Trafik Island, ORB, Leah Senior and more, and you have yourself a perfect blend of East African pop and vintage psychedelia that is surely one of the most interesting records of the year, outstripping it’s Australian counterparts both in songwriting, production value and downright good energy.
The Observatory is one of those last few bands that can change and become your life. Stuck in Singapore, the wilful outlier of Southeast Asia, this ever-shifting group stubbornly evolves past its roots, most recently in an more improvisational, instrumental, and noise-adjacent territories in an EP with collaborator Haino Keiji. In “Demon State”, Dharma and Cheryl Ong plus Yuen Chee Wai continue The Observatory’s bold partnerships, this time with electronic musician Koichi Shimizu. Together, they finally reach this long-gestating, total (yet I’m sure temporary), and rhythm-focused, electronic reinvention of The Obs—while briefly nodding to their past. The road is long; “Demon State” is one pit stop in glorious hell. Partly stemming from a casual, improv studio session with Koichi in early 2020, the eight tracks on “Demon State” – their first release on the Midnight Shift label – were formed from a gradual accumulation of sonic layers; they were foraged, recycled, and pieced together remotely also from solo bedroom recordings, a historical sample, nonhuman beats and effects, as well as journals and junk.
Strut present the first box set release to bring together the 1970s recordings of The Pyramids, led by Idris Ackamoor. As students at Antioch College, Ohio, alto saxophonist Idris Ackamoor, flautist Margaux Simmons and bass player Kimathi Asante created three lasting monuments in sound – Lalibela, King of Kings, and Birth / Speed / Merging, a trio of albums produced without any label backing or distribution between 1972 and 1976. Their music is unique among the varied canon of avant-garde and experimental music of 1970s America: high intensity African-styled percussion topped with songs, chants, and horns, laced with African instruments and arranged into long, flowing suites that surge and roll.
WRWTFWW Records and MEG Museum (Geneva) announce a new full length album by celebrated Japanese percussionist Midori Takada (Through The Looking Glass), in collaboration with Buddhist monks belonging to the Samgha group of the Shingon school of Koya-san, led by Reverend Syuukoh Ikawa. “You Who are Leaving to Nirvana” is a majestic work combining a suite of six Buddhist liturgical chants and a musical creation by Midori Takada. After supervising the recording of the Buddhist chants, Midori Takada added her own compositions, with subtle layers of percussion and the melodies of her beloved marimba, giving full life to the sacred texts.
Contrarily to the rest of Tasos Stamou’s experimental discography, the musician’s latest album “Balkan Express” has a more obscure electro-folk approach. It consists of seven pieces, all recorded with seven different vintage electric keyboards from Stamou’s own collection, blended with oriental acoustic solos. Since Stamou grew up in the Balkans in the ‘80s, he wanted to pay homage to the essence of the sound of the era that unintentionally shaped a whole culture. It was when these inexpensive, available-to-all electronic keyboards with synth sounds and drum machines replaced traditional Balkan folk music ensembles. The acoustic instruments solos and melodies of the album were influenced by local traditions and the heritage of the Ottoman music. “Balkan Express” is meant to be a time capsule taking the listener to the folk-wave retro-Balkan subculture.
Finish The Sun, the second offering from Shane Cooper & Mabuta, is a glowing and energetic album, rooted in grooves from all over the African continent. The six-piece outfit draws on influences from Mali, Nigeria, the Sahel, Morocco; and the many sounds that make up their native South Africa. This musical trip seamlessly dances through Afrobeat, maskandi, funk and hip hop, to moments of cinematic beauty. All embedded with subtle hints of 70s psychedelia. The core group of Shane Cooper, Bokani Dyer, Sisonke Xonti, and Robin Fassie invited international guests on drums including: Jamie Peet, Arthur Hnatek, Christopher Cantillo, and more…
In 2020, Sahel Sounds hosted a project called Music from Saharan WhatsApp. This series consisted of ephemeral digital EPs, documenting live performances by some of the most exciting acts in the Sahel playing music, including Nigerién techno, wedding rock, Woodabe guitar, WZN, traditional music, Mandingue music, and more. Responding to an open call from our network of artists, musicians recorded a handful of tracks on their cellphone and sent them over the popular mobile app WhatsApp. Each session was hosted for a month on Bandcamp and sold on a sliding scale, with all profits wired directly to the musicians. After a month, the EP would disappear, replaced by another one. Now, some of the label’s favorite tracks from this series are collected for the first time outside of Bandcamp as the Music from Saharan WhatsApp compilation LP. This LP features tracks by established Sahel Sounds artists such as Etran de L’Aïr, Hama, Alkibar Jr, Amaria Hamadaler (of Les Filles de Illighadad), and artists new to the label like Bounaly and Andal Sukabe.
E&S Brothers’ 1985 album Taduma holds a unique yet overlooked place in the history of South African dance music. When Shadrack Ndlovu and Ernest Segeel teamed up with Dane Stevenson, owner of Blue Tree Studio in downtown Johannesburg, and journeyman producer Taso Stephanou, South Africa’s bubblegum era had just begun, spurred on by the success of Shangaan disco. The relative success of their debut 12” ‘Don’t Bang The Taxi Door’, marketed aggressively at taxi ranks throughout the country, helped put the Blue Tree label on the map and E&S were invited back to record a full album: Taduma, featuring on keyboards Dr Buke, an in-demand session player from Soweto. Rooted in Africa, yet purely electronic, Taduma was a moderate hit, spurred by tracks like ‘Taxi Door’ and ‘Mhane’, its hypnotic refrain ‘Mhane, famba na wena’ meaning ‘Mother, I am going to you’. Other tracks like ‘Mapantsula’ and ‘Be Careful’ place Taduma within the street-savvy ‘pantsula’ style and dance synonymous with consecutive waves of music from disco to kwaito, house and beyond, while ‘Sikele Masike’ repurposes a traditional Shangaan work song. Vocally E & S are closer to rapping than singing, in a combination of English and vernacular – predating other credited pioneers of kwaito in SA like Senyaka and Spokes H. Driving the music instead of vocals are waves of searing synths over rudimentary but explosive drum machine sounds – the word ‘Taduma’ meaning the sound of the drum.
Not much is known about the mysterious pop sensation Vumani or his short musical career. Originally from KwaZulu Natal he made his way to Johannesburg in the mid 80’s to follow his dream of becoming a recording artist. He was able to make that dream come true when talent scouts from Decibel Music came across the charismatic youngster. At the time Decibel was still a small fish trying to make waves and the label believed in Vumani they had found the star they were looking for. Being a label with mostly groups signed to the catalog they needed a Front Man to push into the growing demand for Solo Artists that were dominating the airwaves and catching the hearts of youngsters. In 1896, they released two singles by Vumani, Black Mampatile and Guy Fawkes. Both singles were received well and a few more tracks were later recorded to create the full album Isiqedakoma.
EM Records again shines the spotlight on legendary Thai producer Surin Phaksiri in this second edition of his classic productions from the 1960s-80s. The first edition, released in 2019, focused on his innovative productions in the luk thung* style. This 2022 release features his stellar, glowing molam gems from the 60s-80s, drawn mainly from his golden era in the late 70s and early 80s. Surin Phaksiri is a highly esteemed figure in Thai music, rooted deeply in his native region of Isan in northeast Thailand, a producer with a deep respect for the traditional artistry of his culture, yet always moving forward, looking outward, listening ahead. The molam style of Thai music showcases the voice; indeed, the genre’s name means “expert singer”, and Thailand is blessed with an abundance of experts, singers with amazing control, grace, vitality and finesse.
Strut presents the first compilation of legendary Afghan Ghazal singer Dr. Mohammad Sadiq Fitrat a.k.a. Nashenas, recorded at the Radio Afghanistan Studios and later released on singles by the Royal label in Iran. Nashenas first made his move towards music aged 16 in 1951 when he approached Afghanistan’s national radio station, Radio Kabul, with an idea for a broadcast and, impressed with his language skills, they offered him a permanent job. “I was in close contact with some of the big names in Afghan music like Jalil Zaland,” Nashenas explains. “My father had a gramophone and we listened to other singers like Ustad Qasim Khan and Kundan Lal Saigal.” After unsuccessful initial forays into singing sessions for the station, he honed his skills as a writer, singer and musician, playing the harmonium. Inspired by a movie he had seen at the cinema, Nashenas wrote a new poem and sang on air again after the evening news, using the name ‘Nashenas’ (meaning ‘unknown’) for the first time. Following a wave of positive feedback from the public, he was given a new weekend slot and built his reputation through film song interpretations, famous poems set to music and his own compositions sung in Dari and Pashto. Nashenas would witness turbulent times as Afghanistan found itself caught up in the Cold War and the early ‘90s civil war until it became too dangerous to stay in the country. Through a friend in the U.N., he was able to seek asylum for himself and his family and take up residence in London, continuing to work as a musician and giving concerts globally. Most of Nashenas’ recordings during this period were only made for broadcast, later surfacing on singles through the Royal label in Iran. Life Is A Heavy Burden is compiled from these singles by Chris Menist and Mads Jensen. All tracks are remastered by The Carvery and both formats feature new liner notes including an interview with Nashenas. The album is part of the new United Sounds of Asia series curated by Chris Menist and Maft Sai of Paradise Bangkok.
Dick Essilfie-Bondzie was all ready for his 90th birthday party when the Covid pandemic hit. The legendary producer, businessman and founder of Ghana’s mighty Essiebons label had invited all his family and friends to the event and it was the disappointment at having to postpone. That prompted Analog Africa founder Samy Ben Redjeb to propose a new compilation celebrating his contributions to the world of West African music. Essiebons Special features a selection of obscure workouts from some of the label’s heaviest hitters, including a 12-page booklet. But in the course of digitizing his vast archive of master tapes, Essilfie-Bondzie found a number of Afrobeat and Instrumental masterpieces tracks from the label’s mid-70s golden age that, for one reason or another, had never been released. Those songs are included here for the first time. Sadly Essilfie-Bondzie passed away before the compilation was finished. But his legacy lives on in the extraordinary music that he gave to the world in his lifetime.
Arp Frique’s second album on Colorful World, exploring the globe via a concoction of sounds that takes in disco, synth boogie, funk and the sounds of the Caribbean, West and East Africa. The result is an album that feels potently alive, sonically exploring the globe via a concoction of sounds that takes in disco, synth boogie, funk and the sounds of the Caribbean, West and East Africa. The album radiates the feeling of a lost gem, the kind that a crate digging aficionado may find in some far flung place that ends up with a re-release. Whilst Arp Frique expresses a real fondness for such classic sounds – “honestly I wouldn’t even know how to make modern stuff, I am stuck in the 70-80-90s and I love it there” – a tired exercise in retro nostalgia this isn’t. Instead, the album feels more like a fresh take on sounds that once ignited dance floors across the world.
The first new album from Les Filles de Illighadad in four years At Pioneer Works is the highly anticipated new album by the Tuareg Avant-rock group. Les Filles de Illighadad recorded the album in Brooklyn at the tail end of a two-year-long world tour. At Pioneer Works finds Les Filles at the height of their powers, creating a sound that transcends all known genres. This is a heavy and meditative set of music from one of the world’s most exciting bands.
Outer-national dance discourses, that strive for no country and obey to no flag: when Düsseldorf based producer, Stefan Schwander creates music as Harmonious Thelonious, highly percussive rhythms, dissonances and melodic twists tango chatoyant virtuosic. All eight musical objects collected on “Instrumentals!” document a chapter in Harmonious Thelonious’s work, that left the noisy background drones behind in favor for a signature sound full of echoes of ancient rituals and ecstatic ceremonies. Eight growing outlaw music studies crammed with living, deeply haunting entities. They all came to life in different cities like Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, London or Paris, first published on labels like Asafa, Disk, The Trilogy Tapes, or Versatile. United under one roof, they unfold their magical groove symbolism, notable hypnotic harmony and agitating rhythm archetypes in a total overpowering coalition.
Getatchew Mekurya is probably the most revered veteran of Ethiopian saxophone. A real giant, both physically and musically. Not only is he at the very top level of Ethiopian saxophonists, but he is the ‘inventor’ of an extremely distinctive musical ‘style.’
Alèmayèhu Eshèté is no less than one of the great voices of the heyday of modern Ethiopian music, the swinging sixties which, in this country, went on until the fall of the Emperor Haile Sellassie 1 in 1974. On a par with Tlahoun Gèssèssè, Bzunèsh Bèqèlè or Mahmoud Ahmed, Alèmayèhu is a star at the top level of the constellation that once lit up the wild nights in the capital.