journalistic services

Wau Wau Collectiv, "Mariage" (Sahel Sounds)

Not entirely new, I admit - this splendid album was released in November 2022. However, I've only just discovered it. It's the second from this collection of musicians from Senegal and Sweden. The idea developed organically when Swedish producer Karl Jonas Winqvist (recently involved with the James Yorkston/Nina Persson-LP) ended up in a Senegalese village with a large community of musicians  (and a dance centre) and began to record all sorts of sessions. Thus, we have joyous guitar solos, hip-hop-beats, childrens' singalongs, balafon, kora, synths, flutes - and some fabulously gruff vocals. Sparkling stuff!


One Leg One Eye, "And Take The Black Worm With Me" (Nyahh)

Another belated discovery, this. One Leg One Eye is the solo guise of Ian Lynch, founding member of Dublin's superb experimental folk band Lankum, and this album was released last October. Freed from any outside pressures throughout 2021, Lynch began to explore sounds and song structures that wouldn't fit in with Lankum. Building these massive walls of shimmering, abstract drone from field recordings (in the disused factory where his father once worked, for instance) as well his usual organic instruments and a number of effect pedals, and adding his own more traditional vocals, he has created a deep, dark and mesmerising well of an album.  

Montague Armstrong, "Mini Moods" (Dimple Discs)

Jude Cowan Montague and Matt Armstrong run a gallery in St.Leonards-on-Sea aka nearly-Hastings. Apart from art, they also collect ancient organs of the Hammond sort and other pre-synth elecric music making equipment. Having previously released LPs like "Organ Greats" or "Hammond Hits", this, their Dimple debut, is an EP-sized taster for their next album proper. Using a rainbow of instruments ranging from the conventional (bass, drums, twanging guitars) to the rather more usual (Hammond, for starters), and Jude's vocals, the delightfully excentric results would sit nicely next to Pascal Comelade (with a  hint of Liminanas), Dagmar Krause or Andy Newman. Perhaps not so good with Klaus Wunderlich, though.


Karl Culley, "Stories Save Our Lives" (Loose Wire Records)

Quite a few years ago, Yorkshire-born singer/songwriter Karl Culley followed the call of love to Krakow. For reasons never made quite clear, five years ago he announced his retirement from music. Months later, he thankfully reneged on this threat after the relationship ended and he was diagnosed with OCD.  The subsequent burst of creativity has resulted in this truly gorgeous album. Culley's warm voice and his astonishing guitar-picking are beautifully recorded, and the autobiographical songs are as subtly melodic and lyrically evocative as ever.  

L.T. Leif, "Come Back To Me, But Lightly” (Lost Map) 

Born and raised in Canada, singer/songwriter L.T. Leif spent a few years in Finland before arriving in Glasgow. She has gathered quite a crew of sympathetic musicians around her in the course of her travels, all of whom contribute greatly and subtly to a  beguiling album whose magic begins with constantly surprising arrangements and ends with Leif's quietly expressive voice. The mood mostly hovers in the realms of "chamber folk". "Gentle Moon" and "No Birds" combine shimmering violins with pedal steel, "Pass Back Through" could be the result of a tryst between Suicide and Meg Baird.


Hely, "Plode" (Ronin Rhythm Records)

According to the dictionary, "plode" means "neither implode nor explode".  "While we were working on this record, things got pretty complicated between us," writes pianist Lucca Fries, the only Hely besides drummer Jonas Ruther. "There was a lot of movement, a lot of heated discussions. We are different!" Remarkably, the duo have managed not only to negotiate a path across these turbulences, but also to address the situation musically. Taking as a starting point passages from their previous three albums, they turned the "discussion" into an album that keeps the listener constantly guessing what might happen next, yet never leaves them alone in their uncertainty. Even more remarkably, what might sound "difficult" in a verbal description fizzes with uncomplicated joie de vivre when it hits the stereo.

Spencer Cullum, “Spencer Cullum’s Coin Collection 2” (Full Time Hobby)

Spencer Cullum is a pedal steel guitarist from Romford in East London, of all places, who, having learnt his metier from the incomparable BJ Cole, decamped to Nashville. It turned out that his talents were such that even in the centre of the Country universe they swiftly brought him praise and work with the likes of Kesha, Lambchop and Angel Olsen. His fine solo debut was released in 2020, now comes Vol.  2. Strangely, his own instrumnet of choice plays second fiddle throughout to an orchestra of strings, mandolins, oboes and flutes. The magnificently eccentric, jazz-tinged melange of folk and laid-back parlour music is eeqeually reminiscent of Matthew E. White and Stackridge.

Sparks, "The Girls is Crying in Her Latte" (Island)

This, the brothers Mael's 26th album, is an utter triumph, a joyous celebration of brains, proud eccentricity and killer hooks.  Following on from their FFS collaboration with Franz Ferdinand, Ron (77) and Russell (74) have hit an extraordinary late-career peak. "Hippopotamus" (2017) and "A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip"(2020) were already very good, but "Latte" truly hits the heights. There is not a single filler track in sight, the stylistic range of synth arrangements is amazing, the sheer vitality of the imagination at work with word and sound, astonishing. Not to mention the operatic fervour of Russell's vocal delivery which gives Ron's sardonic reveries about modern life a deliciously disturbing extra layer of meaning.