Sounds From The Outer Reaches #5


Francis Bebey – Sanza Tristesse/Psychedelic Sanza 1982 – 1984

Latterly called the ‘Sanza’ but previously known as the Mbira or thumb piano, the instrument which Bebey plays on this new, follow-up archive collection is played in different permutations and across various regions of Africa. Traditionally it was seen as a means of attaining a trance state and thereby communicating with spirits, but its usage seems pretty diverse, depending on the region and period considered.

Of course, interesting modern refashioning of more traditional African modes and instruments has become one of the more invigorating elements of recent archive fortunes, like Awesome Tapes From Africa and their Hailu Mergia release*, Sahel Sounds & Mamman Sani, and even the last entry in Born Bad’s reissues of Bebey; ‘African Electronic Music 1975 – 1982’.

But whereas those works translated traditional African forms and elements using modern technology, Bebey’s contention – at least in this instance – is purely predicated on an assembly which might be considered more organic; polyphonic chimes, rattling and clocking wood, and an anchoring, jazz-like bass-groove. Combined with Bebey’s rich, falsetto-adept quavering, it makes for a soulful, sorrowful kind of dance, one of subtle flourish and beatific sweep.

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(*Featured in some hacks ‘end of the year list’ here)

Pink & Black – Sometimes I Wish

Pink & Black were Michelle Yee-Chong, Andy Cousin and Rob Stroud. From what little I can tell, this project bore only one 12” single after Stroud had left the ranks of goth-archetypes, the Sex Gang Children and before Cousin moved into a similar territory of sound with a slew of other projects. Released on Illuminated Records (the sometime halfway house of Portion Control, 400 Blows, 23 Skidoo, Throbbing Gristle and DAF) and now reissued on Emotional Rescue, it treads unfettered between a ‘Metal Dance’ kind of disco, the more lustrously illumined end of minimal wave pop, and a less familiar form of dark vogue. Almost like an amphetamized Human League, if they’d moved into Italo. The vocals aren’t as facile and forgettable as you’d expect either, deliberating love unrequited; a fairly profound weight of misery within the firm hurtle and shimmering heat of synth.

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Broken English Club – Divinity

For an artwork graced by paparazzi shots of Princess Diana being led out of a series of cars (almost like a premonitory version of Warhol’s Death and Disaster series) the standout from Silent Servant/Broken English Club’s new split EP is appropriately evocative of such imagery, rooted as it is in a markedly brutal character. ‘Divinity’ comes from Oliver Ho (of Raudive fame) who shares the bill with Silent Servant – not exactly an easy act to measure up to. Nevertheless it’s an electrifying, steely forced-march, and a definite contender for the same copious praise and airplay Doug Lee’s ‘Kino-I’ received (another Cititrax release)

Driven by a bruising, barmy harmonic sequence, as if notes are being arbitrarily but obsessively punched into form, it’s formidably filled out with fiery, fizzing effects which also occasionally veer into eerie space-echo. The vocal contributions are at once comically Dalek-like (‘Subject! 1!) and murkily disembodied. Add to that one of the most effectively deployed cowbells (yes, cowbell) you’re likely to hear in contemporary techno, and you have a great, glowering fix of (whisper it) ‘fun’ EBM-inflected shock-and-beat; something that should be inscrutably blared out by all and sundry. for more info.

Amelita Galli-Curci – Crepuscule (Twilight)

Canary Records, a label in its own right, formed out of an association with the Mississippi label, release ‘non-English-language music of the 78rpm-era/early 20th century’, an exotically niche area perhaps, preserved by only a dedicated few with a taste for this kind of thing. Even so after five years and sixteen LP’s, they’ve offered an inlet into their catalogue in the form of a free anniversary giveaway. Of this assortment, Amelita Galli-Curci’s ‘Crepuscule’ makes for the more immediate and affecting pang. The static adds a sad damage and wear to Galli-Curci’s delicate, operatic soar, which is made all the more feather-fine by toy-like, music-box twinkles.

It’s a heartrending lullaby which holds a similar kind of sweetly wounding power to that of Terrence Davies and his masterful uses of music to evoke painful memories in ‘Distant Voices Still Lives’ and ‘The Long Day Closes’. Equally you could easily hear parts of this being considered for sampling in the case of Leyland Kirby’s The Caretaker project, with the static crust accenting the same kind of idea of erosion and debilitation of memory. Galli-Curci, contrary to the obscure artists which usually populate a lot of reissue compilations, was a significantly popular soprano in Italy associated with ‘colorutura’, apparently a highly elaborate style (a-thankyou Wikipedia) Given the usual connotations of opera as ornate and overwrought belting, this instance makes for something refreshingly unostentatious and exquisitely tender. 

Beatrice Dillon – Reeds Dub

Beatrice Dillon has been working in live scores, art installation commissions and all manner of interesting projects for the last couple of years, whilst also contributing to the esteemed mix series of Blowing Up The Workshop. But a sample of one of the more original ideas she’s been involved with comes in the form of Mexican artist Pedro Reyes and his Disarm show at the Lissom Gallery, in which, alongside Charles Hayward (formerly of This Heat) and others, she was asked to ‘write and perform music with instruments made from decommissioned guns’.

With that context in mind its unsurprising the artful precision in sound she attains over the course of ‘Blue Dances’, an EP that’s being released by the UK based label, Where To Now (who have also previously put out Wanda Group) Everything seems crafted in miniature, with every little trace of sound considered; percussion and effects honed into sophisticated intricacy. ‘Reeds Dub’ is the more accessible cut of the lot, and possesses some similarity to the work of Moritz Von Oswald and Vladislav Delay. Yet it seems more prone to deviation, with a breeze of threshing buzz and incongruously plucked strings arising at different junctures within the ticking micro-beat that drives it all. It sounds as if the innards of a machine have been uncovered, and their slightest emanations extracted.

(Excitingly enough, the labels revealed that this is a precursor to a 12” and a full length coming in 2015)