Mildlife – groovy spacey jazz, funk and disco

Mildlife - PhasePhase is the debut album by Australian quartet, Mildlife released on 23rd February via Research Records.

Mildlife use elements of spacey jazz, funk, psych and disco to produce groovy sunkissed sounds.  Hard to define but easy to listen to, the album constantly expands and refines itself with each track. Space jazz, funk, disco. The songs work well together. The band cite a wide range of influences on their music, from Herbie Hancock to Can, and it shows.

The six track debut album kicks off with the wonderful masterpiece that is ‘The Magnificent Moon’.

Bassist Tom Shanahan comments: “The Magnificent Moon feels like the veteran journeyman to the rest of the album. I’m not sure if that’s because it was written first or because it seems to know what it wants and has a more considered direction. It never really second guesses itself except for maybe just before the outro when he realises he may have journeyed too far and his space suit has a hole in it. But then he just jams some gum in the hole and gets on with it anyway.”

 

Mildlife take the musical canvas, rip the lids off the paint tins, and throw vibrant splashes of colour into kaleidoscopic jams. Old friends, the Australian four-piece bonded over the desire to push musical boundaries, developing tight live shows bolstered by wild improvisation and a debut record that mines jazz, psych and disco for its irresistible groove. A melting pot of musical sensations, Mildlife combine progressive 70s sounds with electronic krautrock, backed by a mixture of rhythmic funk, house, and dream-pop, to create an addictive atmosphere that’s illustrated perfectly by their first single ‘The Magnificent Moon’, out November 3rd via Research Records. The single comes as an introduction to their highly anticipated debut LP ‘Phase’ due out early next year.

Taking cues from artistic pioneers such as Can and Herbie Hancock, creating a Mildlife song is a constant process of teasing and tugging, expanding and refining. But Mildlife are adamantly not a studio band. Between 2014 and 2015 they took a year off playing shows to figure out how they could produce as much of their music live as they possibly could without losing its complexity. “It makes the performance, the composition, more malleable,” says guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Adam Halliwell.

Bassist Tom Shanahan adds “It feels more authentic. The energy can be in the song rather than sitting on top of it. We wanted to leave a lot of room for improvisation.”

Phase is an exceptional debut album from Melbourne-based Mildlife.

James Taylor Quartet perform The Rochester Mass @ Rochester Cathedral

In the 1987 four musicians from Medway began jamming together following the demise of local psych garage groups The Prisoners and The Daggermen. The began playing 1960s theme tunes and Hammond organ cover versions.  The James Taylor Quartet found instant appreciation, capped by a John Peel Session and an acclaimed debut album, Mission Impossible.  The band signed to Polydor and became part of the Acid Jazz scene.

Many years, albums, line-up changes and world tours later, James Taylor returned to his hometown of Rochester  last Friday night, to perform with the 40-strong Rochester Cathedral Choir.

The concert took place in the cathedral itself and was given in two parts. The first set was a performance of The Rochester Mass – a nine part piece – where the Rochester Cathedral Choir, made up of three parts: Boys Choristers, Girls Choristers and the Lay Clerks played with the James Taylor Quartet under the directorship of Scott Farrell, the cathedral’s director of music.

The Rochester Mass
Kyrie
Gloria part 1
Gloria part 2
Agnus Dei a capella duet intro
Agnes Dei Part 1
Flute Cadenza
Agnes Dei Part 2
Sanctus part 1
Sanctus part 2

The performance was truly amazing.  The cathedral acoustics and lavish setting was as perfect as the chemistry between choral music and jazz. The piece was very warmly received and left the audience mesmerised.

Following a short break, the James Taylor Quartet returned to play a set of acid jazz funk that had the majority of the audience dancing in the aisles, turning the church into an all-sigine all-dancing celebratory wedding-style party.  At one point James Taylor sprung from behind his Hammond organ into the audience inviting people to get to their feet, inviting them to hand clap in time with the beat.

The second set included live favourites such as JTQ Theme, Love Will Keep Us Together, and crowd-pleasing cover versions of Booker T & the MG’s Time Is Tight and Green Onions.

The concert was an overwhelming success, as was The Rochester Mass when given its premier at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London earlier this year.  The Rochester Mass is due to be released this Autumn on Cherry Red Records.

Mark Stewart Live @ The Scala, London 28th March 2012

On Wednesday I was fortunate enough to witness a rare live performance from one of the most underrated men in British music.  With his band The Pop Group, Mark Stewart pushed barriers and merged genres as they blasted their post-punk protest garage funk and politically-charged sloganeering into the faces of anyone in their way.  But thirty years later, does Mark Stewart still have something to say?

The Scala Theatre in Kings Cross, north London is a great small venue, and as the lights dimmed and the backing group started, the scene was set for an entrance fit for a king.  Mark Stewart walked onto the stage in a thick overcoat and blowing a whistle.  A towering big man still commanding a stage presence after all these years, he has always been fighting battles from the sidelines with anti-capitalist lyrics and tonight was going to be no exception.

The set started with ‘Nothing Is Sacred’ a free download from 2011 about continuing greed in a year that saw riots spread across England, similar to 30 years ago. The backing group of bass, guitar & drums were solid and the lone female soulful backing vocals worked perfectly with Stewart’s half-spoken half sung chants.  The sound was perfectly mixed by legendary On-U Sound producer and long-time dub collaborator Adrian Sherwood.  What Sherwood brings to the live performance was no better demonstrated on ‘Liberty City’, a track from Mark Stewart + The Maffia’s 1983 debut album Learning to Cope With Cowardice.

The set mainly showcased songs from his latest album, ‘The Politics Of Envy‘ which seamlessly fuses dub, rock and funk with effortless familiarity. ‘Vanity Kills’ is as powerful a protest rock song as anything written by The Pop Group, and for ‘Autonomia’ Stewart was joined on stage by Primal Scream‘s Bobby Gillespie and Andrew Innes to give a powerful rendition of the latest single.  ‘Autonomia’ is a song about Carlo Giuliani, an autonomist protestor killed in the 2001 G8 demonstrations in Genoa.

An amazing dub version of the 1987 Mark Stewart + The Maffia single ‘This Is Stranger Than Love’, a love song based on Eric Satie’s ‘Gymnopédie No. 1’ with Sherwood at the controls was truly sublime.

I’ve read that Mark Stewart is a quiet, gentle giant when not performing, but on stage he wadlles around as if marking his territory.  That said, he seemed relaxed and to be enjoying the occasion as much as the audience.

For the encore Stewart returned to the stage with bass, guitar and drums to rock out in true Anthrax and Slayer style with a bass-throbbing, head-banging rendition of  ‘Hysteria’ from the 1985 album, As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade. But the crowd still wanted more.  Apologising they had no more songs to play, Stewart offered another rendition of ‘Autonomia’ complete with Bobby Gilliespie and Andrew Innes, joking they were ‘not trying to promote the single or anything!’.

In 1979 Mark Stewart was at the forefront of the post-punk political protest.  In 2012 he may be working further from within the shadows but with his best album to date, he still has a voice to be heard, and he still knows how to give a great live performance.

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Listen, Whitey! The Sounds Of Black Power 1967-74, album review

 Listen, Whitey! The Sounds Of Black Power 1967-74
Listen, Whitey! The Sounds Of Black Power 1967-74

The release of  Listen, Whitey! The Sounds Of Black Power 1967-74 coincides with the release of a 200 page coffee table book of words and photos.  The album is a wonderfully great collection of rare and essential late 1960’s- early 1970’s African-American protest songs and recordings from the likes of Gil Scott-Heron, Stokely Carmichael, Elaine Brown and The Last Poets alongside tracks from white protest singer-songwriters including Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Roy Harper.

Over a five year period archivist Pat Thomas befriended key leaders of the seminal Black Power Movement, researched Huey Newton’s archives at Stanford University, spent countless hours and thousands of dollars on eBay, and talked to rank and file Black Panther Party members, uncovering dozens of obscure albums, singles, and tapes.

Along the way, he began to piece together a time period (1967-1974) when revolutionaries were seen as pop culture icons: Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael – and musicians were seen as revolutionaries; Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets, Bob Dylan, John Lennon and others. As a result, Thomas wrote a 70,000-word hardcover book entitled Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power which also includes some 200 full color images of obscure recordings that encompass rock, soul, jazz, comedy, poetry, and even religious sermons blended with Black Nationalism.

Light In The Attic Records presents the companion ‘soundtrack’ to the book, For the time first ever, Black and White artists share space on a definitive anthology of the Black Power era.  A cross-cultural overview that sees Bob Dylan’s out of print 1971 single George Jackson reissued for the first time along with several selections from Motown’s long forgotten ‘Black Forum’ label – Motown’s early 1970’s Black Power militant imprint that has never been documented until now with provocative recordings from SNCC spokesman Stokely Carmichael, outspoken African-American poet Amiri Baraka, and Black Panther Party singer/songwriter Elaine Brown.

Despite their common goal of freedom and respect, many of these activists didn’t necessarily speak for or to each other. Eldridge Cleaver was living in exile in Algiers in 1970 when LSD guru Timothy Leary showed up seeking asylum. Weeks later, Leary was placed under ‘house arrest’ by Cleaver and that moment is presented here. The Last Poets quickly splintered into several factions not long after their debut and several recordings capture that tumultuous period.

Comedian Dick Gregory was as into mocking the establishment as he was trying to make people laugh and his monologue reflects a time when ‘entertainment’ needed to be political to be relevant.

There were regional private press 7″ singles from the likes of the Shahid Quintet, and the Black Panther’s own band The Lumpen. Gene McDanielsOutlaw album has long been a cult favourite, and is represented by a 1970 live version of Silent Majority.

No Black Power anthology would be complete without Gil Scott-Heron featured on a rare 1970’s solo piano take of Winter in America. The international significance of the times is reflected with a live 1969 recording of English folk singer Roy Harper’s I Hate The White Man.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVNSQpaVBBU

Listen, Whitey! The Sounds Of Black Power 1967-74 – tracklisting:

Invitation To Black Power (Parts 1 & 2) – Shahid Quintet
Free Huey – Stokely Carmichael
Silent Majority (Live At Newport) – Eddie Harris & Gene McDaniels
Until We’re Free – Elaine Brown
George Jackson (Acoustic Version) – Bob Dylan
Dem Niggers Ain’t Playing – The Watts Prophets
Woman Of The Ghetto (Live at Montreux) – Marlena Shaw
Black Power – Dick Gregory
I Ain’t Black – Kain
I Hate The White Man – Roy Harper
Winter In America (Solo Version) – Gil Scott-Heron
Tim Leary – Eldridge Cleaver
Angela – John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Free Bobby Now – The Lumpen
Die Nigga!!! – The Original Last Poets
Who Will Survive America – Amiri Baraka

Listen, Whitey, The Sounds of Black Power 1967-1974 is out now on Light In the Attic (CD, 2xLP, & Digital Download)

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Mark Stewart – Nothing is Sacred, free download

Mark Stewart makes an apocalyptic return amidst an increasingly agitated atmosphere and is releasing his latest single,  “Nothing Is Sacred” as a free download.

The track is a damning indictment of greed in a year riddled by riots, revolutions, occupations and increasing collapse of the global financial system. A collaboration with Crass vocalist Eve Libertine, German elector monsters Slope and Dan Catsis from The Pop Group on bass “Nothing Is Sacred” has a howling funk-rock and unyielding political attack evolved from the sessions for Mark Stewart’s forthcoming album, and is the now-deleted AA of his limited 7” cover of the T.Rex classic “Children of the Revolution”.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quJEisSlDBA&feature=youtu.be

Mark Stewart is one of those rare artists that has not only remained steadily prolific over the course of three decades, he continues to inspire with his pioneering sonics, viciously astute social observations and uncompromising manifestos.

Nick Cave, Alec Empire, Bobby Gillespie, Trent Reznor and Tricky amongst many others have cited him as a major influence, as well as a host of current provocateurs like Factory Floor, fellow Bristol producers Kevin Martin (The Bug, King Midas Sound) and Kahn.

His 11th-hour appearance at St. Vincent’s recent London show duetting on his early Pop Group track, “She’s Beyond Good and Evil” elicited a breathless response from critics (“a firefight of vocoder-distorted vocals and funk-rock rhythms” – The Guardian) and St. Vincent herself: “I did not want that song to end ever! It’s crazy to get to play with one of my heroes, I kinda can’t believe it.”

Nothing Is Sacred” by Mark Stewart is available as a free download from www.markstewartmusic.com.

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