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July 2021- single & track reviews – 2 Lost Souls’ ‘Qanon’; E Rodes’ ‘Isolation’; Pearl & The Oysters’ ‘Soft Science’

7 Jul

Still rabbiting, joke-ranting and stretching his argumental monologues as if they were chewing gum stuck to his fingers, Ian Moss turns his attention to conspiracy theorising with ‘Qanon’.

Not backing them up, of course. His sense of the absurd is far too amiable, far too easily amused to inhabit those angry warrens. Instead, as 2 Lost Souls turn out a growling, churning, tooting synth-funk groove in the P-Funk tradition, Ian capers across the top like the kid’s-party clown version of Mark E. Smith, Manc-rapping sarcastically about shapeshifter lizards, melting ice-caps, Trump, moonshine and doomsday plots. “…’Ere’s armageddon, that’s a fact. / We deal in truth and won’t retract; / but the day, it gets pushed back, / falls off the edge of the earth, that is flat.” 

He sounds like he’s having a laugh, at least; a cackling veteran who hasn’t let age get the better of his critical faculties, or his mither-detector. It’s sometimes a little disappointing – conspiracists seen merely as a deluded flock, worth little more than a dusting of observational comedy and an eye-roll synced with a tongue-wobble, rather than a phenomenon to be taken apart properly; but if light-hearted fun is all we’re going to get, then so be it.

It’s not as if some of the lines aren’t enjoyable in their custard-pie fashion. Maybe we should be content, for the moment, to see some of these idiots off with a bit of screw-you, laugh-at-you dancing while Ian conducts the singing with a bog-brush. “The living Agent Orange is the golden one… / Is all that I believe a con / but your wisdom I can count upon?… / Are you part of that joyless throng, / or are you going to a fancy-dress party?”

It’s arrived a little later than planned, but here’s E Rodes‘ early-July offering. Over the past year, he’s proved himself to be one of the most reliable generators of psychedelic-tinged guitar pop in Britain. ‘Isolation’ continues to build on that. Built around a ravishing fingerpicked guitar part and a decidedly country-ish rhythm as it sprints down the road, it’s sweetly disrupted by pounces of mad panning and exultant sonic smearing. It’s also got one of his most winning melodies so far; beyond the country, there’s also tinges of classic Glaswegian literary indie (Lloyd Cole, Edwyn Collins, Postcard Records) and of Prefab Sprout. 

Musically, it’s delightful enough that you could just enjoy the play of sounds and ignore the lyrics, which would be a pity. Étienne’s worked out a little personal spiritual conundrum, but he wants to express it in Enlightenment terms: maths, geometry and the self. “Raise a finger, point it to the stars, / and the non-Euclidean plane of the night sky / show two lines meet always, not sometimes. / Show your working out, end it with a clear-eyed summation / so one knows it emerged in isolation. / I’ve found myself, I was right there all along, / just round the corner from a certain nowhere. / It has been years and miles / of near-misses and solitary trials in oscillations.” It’s an agile bit of wordery, smuggling its cerebral play across under the guise of tunefulness.

Call me a smartarse, call me effete, but I like it when that happens. I like it even more when that kind of cleverness merges seamlessly with emotion, with humanity; where there’s no awkward edge. That’s what Étienne manages here, skimming like a brinksman round the curb, choosing not to stay in the conundrum. “Just know it emerges in isolation. / We owe it all to chance and isolation, / orphan idioms and isolation. / And though I may have gone too far with isolation, / I’ve reasoned myself out from isolation. / So take me home.” While still keeping up that light-footed groove, the bridge falls deliberately out of time for a few measures, tossing up some turbulence, ripping some wild guitar fragments and pasting them into a swirl: a bit of welcome, manic joy to counter the reasoning. 

If you feel as if you’re being cheated of a carefree summer (whether its by fires, quarantines, or just holes in your wallet), the latest Pearl & The Oysters single might feel like some kind of compensation, possibly also involving a touch of time travel. Luscious and carefree, ‘Soft Science’ is a loving contemporary cop of any number of 1970s quiet storm sprinklings (think Minnie Riperton, Stuff, even the softer Flora Purim end of Return to Forever) and space age pop.

In essence, it’s three minutes of loving tug-of-war and soft banter, dusted with Rhodes pianos, Omnichord and little psychedelic meteorites. Juliette Pearl’s restless summer-baby coaxes a boyfriend (played with gently agreeable charm by Kuo-Hung Tseng from Taiwanese synth-poppers Sunset Rollercoaster) away from his studies and out to the beach. There’s not much more to it than that. Affectionate worrying from her (in both senses of the word), and polite reluctance from him (“I really should work” / “You’ve studied all night long”… / “Love…” / “I told you I can’t.” / “The sun is hot.” / “I don’t want to know.” / “You shouldn’t stay inside.” / “I’m not nearly done”) until he packs it in. (“Well, I guess I could / close my books for now.”)

The rest is drops of sunshine, all of it welcome.

2 Lost Souls: ‘Qanon’
German Shepherd Records (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
7th July 2021

Get/stream it from:
Bandcamp, Spotify

2 Lost Souls online:
Homepage, Bandcamp, Spotify   

 

E Rodes: ‘Isolation’
Don’t Tempt Me Frodddo (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
6th July 2021

Get/stream it from:
Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify

E Rodes online:
Facebook, Bandcamp, Apple Music, YouTube, Instagram, Spotify

Pearl & The Oysters: ‘Soft Science’
Feeltrip Records (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
Released:
7th July 2021

Get/stream it from:
YouTube, Deezer, Spotify, Amazon Music

Pearl & The Oysters online:
Facebook, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Spotify, Instagram, Amazon Music    

March 2021 – single & track reviews – Dope Sagittarius’ ‘Define Love’; Makandi’s ‘Dum Dum’; BassLord’s ‘Elephant Talk’

19 Mar

Dope Sagittarius: 'Define Love'Backed by cloudy saxophone and slow-jam beat, Dope Sagittarius – a.k.a. Luqman Brown and various New York cohorts – are meditating on meaning and commitment. Their previous fistful of punky Afro/electro/funk numbers hasn’t been noted for its love songs; and while ‘Define Love’ might indeed be a love jam, and an unexpected one, it’s also a subtly introverted one, a song of return and re-evaluation, a big change of course. Luqman himself was temporarily felled by a stroke in between recording this and bringing it to the world, and had to spend a year learning how to walk, talk and live again. That might not have anything to do with how the song came about, but it has a heck of lot to do with how we frame it now.

Timing provides a chance to make changes, and plenty about ‘Define Love’ places it as a way of adjusting matters of the heart, of focus. “How to define love? that moment? that flame?” muses Luqman, while making it clear (via plenty of gospel confessional) that defining it in the past was an unmet challenge. “I made many mistakes and done so many wrongs. / I beg you’ll forgive me for my ignorant shortfalls / and now I’m living anew, conscious of what came before. / Girl, I’m coming to you again, trying to stand tall.”) Classic prodigal smoochery aside, this is mostly about righteousness, doing the right thing, being courageous. “It seems I stealed away to safer harbours and safer lands. / Love is treacherous, so dangerous, unfair – / so ride with caution and try to play fair.”


The video revels in sinous jazz chiaruscuro; the song itself simmers delicately but decisively in a deep vat of sophisticated New York black broth, drawing not just on jazz and soul but also on the musculature of the Black Rock Collective and on Afro-American classical (the last via saxophonist Mica Gaugh). It peaks with a pealing, meditative slowhand solo from fusion guitar giant Ronny Drayton, a gift from his last years before lymphoma took him from us in 2020. As with so much black pop, there’s more than just the surface meaning here, and this is coming at us during a time when we’ve all been sorely tested by pandemic and bereavement; by questions about how we conduct our lives, unthinking, unquestioning, maybe unproductive and full of worthless, passive choices. Live and contribute while you can.

Makandi’s ‘Dum Dum’ lives very much for the moment, and its sincerity is of a much more clipped, matter-of-fact kind. Musically, this is deep house with a riffling blue-seas tropicalia tinge; fluttering synth melodies like inquisitive hummingbirds; a relaxed cool-mood/wise-child female vocal.

A flicker of lyric lets us know what’s going on. This is about a no-strings hook-up as natural as an incoming tide; a gentle warning-off; a temporary joining. She comes like a glamorous thief in the night. A hand softly, sensuously scratches your back. You collude without questioning. You gain from it.

Some of the fans tuning in to King Crimson’s 1981 resurrection had their cages thoroughly rattled to hear that the new, leaner version of the former grand English prog giants appeared to have gone urban New York and funky. There always was more than a touch of go-go dancing to ‘Elephant Talk’; its effervescent minimalist cyclings and Adrian Belew’s post-Talking Heads yelp given some more meat and waggle by Tony Levin’s monstrous itchy-rubbery Stick basslines. Forty years later, this BassLord cover (all layered bass guitars bar the drum track and voice) allows a fresh group of people to rediscover ‘Elephant Talk’ without the baggage.

As much YouTube video joker as he is virtuoso, Basslord waggles and glares at us, and lectures us like a neurotic affronted shock jock. Cameos from Ganesh, newscaster and op-ed loudmouths set against swirling squadrons of busily working hands, third eyes, skimpy shorts and a pair of giant tropical hardwood earrings prove that we’re in a different, fruitier and more indulgent world from the clipped post-punk era into which Belew and co. first brought the song; although BassLord’s linking of Belew’s whimsical yap about rhetoric and word babble to the current world of online news fakery, video hucksters and rabid opinionators reminds us of the turbulence and aggression that’s barely even hiding beneath the window-dressing.

Otherwise, it’s pretty true to the original version… and why shouldn’t it be? Those exorbitant multi-stopped bass riffs (simultaneously galumphingly funky and faux-prissy) are ageless and compelling, a grand applecart-kicking romp both then and now. Enjoy.

Dope Sagittarius: ‘Define Love’
Buddhabug Records (no catalogue number)
Download/streaming single
Released: 19th March 2021

Get/stream it from:
Bandcamp, YouTube, Vimeo, Deezer, Apple Music, Spotify Amazon Music

Dope Sagittarius online:
Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Spotify, Instagram, Amazon Music

Makandi: ‘Dum Dum’
Epic Tones Records, ETR276S (no barcode)
download-only single
Released: 19th March 2021

Get/stream it from:
Epic Tones store, Soundcloud, ‎Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Beatport

Makandi online:
Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Beatport

BassLord: ‘Elephant Talk’
self-released (no catalogue number)
video/download single
Released: 19th March 2021

Get/stream it from:
YouTube, Spotify

BassLord online:
Facebook, Soundcloud, YouTube, Spotify, Instagram

 

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