Review: Another weighty slab of Ethiopian music history from Mr Bongo... First up is the hugely influential fusionist Mulatu Astatke with the Latin-meets-Afro jam "Assiyo Bellema". Loaded with frenetic guitars and mesmerising drum work from Frank Holder, this was actually recorded during Mulatu's time in London. Flip for an equally influential force in Ethiopian music: Soul Ekos Band affiliate Teshome Meteku with a more traditional local sound, Teshome's yearning insistent vocals wrap around the horns and tight drums like fog around a mountain. Captivating.
Review: Originally pressed (on a limited run) in 2013, LA Latin funk troupe Boogaloo Assassins have reissued these two spellbinding cover versions again due to public demand. Still on a highly limited run, both cuts need to be in your collection: Dawn Penn's "No No No" gets a strict samba switch with lavish percussion and consistent vocal harmonies throughout while Sonny Henry's "Evil Ways" (best known from its Santana cover) gets the dreamy instrumental treatment where the horns and glocks do the narrating over a tight bed of wood blocks, shakers and liquid Rhodes. Killer stuff and Juno is one of the few stores outside of USA which is carrying the 45. Don't Sleep !
Review: Southern Italian sort Giovanni Damico has been in a good run of form of late, as anyone who picked up his recent EP on Lumberjacks in Hell with confirm. This retro-futurist three-track excursion is rather fine, too, with the White Rabbit Recordings founder brilliantly joining the dots between jaunty Afrobeat, rubbery boogie and spacey electrofunk. All three tracks boast classic Afro-funk guitars, with killer A-side "To Fela's People (featuring Villy)" also boasting punchy horns, tactile synth bass and some life-affirming hip-hop rhymes. Over on the flip, "Baba" is a more traditional Afrobeat workout - albeit with the addition of some mind-altering analogue bass and vintage synth flourishes - while "Afro Stomp" is a bouncy, Baldelli-inspired chunk of Afro-cosmic disco.
Review: By now Future Nuggets have surely been established as one of Romania's leading exponents of leftfield electronic oddities, and they don't disappoint on the surprising delights of this new 7" from Renato Din Sala and Ion Din Dorobanai. There's an Eastern lilt to the vocals and melodies on both tracks, but they're framed by some wonderfully quirky synth parts and budget drum machines. "Nu E Injoseala (N-am Carti De Credit)" in particular capitalises on cranky monosynth squelch and organ wails, while "I Love You Viata Mea (Lema)" takes a more energetic approach and works some Rhodes-like sounds into the mix.
Review: Strangelove Music's latest vinyl-only outing dips into the infrequently explored archives of American multi-instrumentalist Frank Harris and collaborator Maria Marquez, a pairing that previously released a couple of sought after "ethno-wave" singles in the late 1980s. "Echoes" gathers together unreleased music made in 1985, presenting it as an unheard album that oozes off-kilter quality from start to finish. Most of the tracks were made using Harris' custom Synclavier synthesizer station, with his humid and breezy new age melodies and dreamy chords working brilliantly with Marquez's folksy, multi-lingual vocals, a variety of world music inspired rhythms and some seriously atmospheric field recordings. It's a formula that guarantees unusual but inspired results from start to finish.
Ruby Andrews - "You Made A Believer (Out Of Me)" (2:39)
Kalyanji Anandji - "Back Ground Music" (2:29)
Jake Wade & The Soul Searchers - "Searching For Soul" (part 1) (2:40)
Hot Butter & Soul - "ABC" (4:43)
Dick Walter - "Spooky Do" (1:33)
Roy Head - "She's About A Mover" (3:13)
Hot City Bump Band - "It's Just Begun" (2:53)
Val Merrall's Orchestra - "The Horse" (3:45)
Frank Pleyer Big Band - "Sally" (3:24)
Art & Ron - "Can't Stop Talkin" (2:55)
Johnny Griffith Inc - "Love Is Just A Word" (3:23)
The Generation Gap - "Family Affair" (2:40)
Tinga Stewart - "The Message" (2:55)
Jerzy Milian Orkiestra - "Gacek" (2:19)
John L Watson - "Rockin' Chair" (with White Mouse) (3:19)
The Alan Tew Orchestra - "Pink Panther" (3:39)
The Rias Orchestra Conducted By Helmuth Brandenburg - "Pru Urebu" (4:55)
Oscar Harris & The Twinkle Stars - "Twinkle Stars Boo Galoo" (live) (3:54)
Review: Magic happens when Mr Thing hits the crates. His ability to unearth recordings you're guaranteed to never have heard before, and join the dots in ways you'd never have thought before, his "Strange Breaks" series is legendary. Long since off-press, to celebrate their 20th anniversary BBE have repressed this seminal 2009 sophomore. From the turbo blues fusion of Roy Head and the speeding Mancini feels of Val Marrall's Orchestra to the more sedate, slinky funk of Johnny Griffith and sunny-side roots of Tinga Stewart, Mr Thing's odyssey remains as inciteful, intriguing and as full of treasure as it did seven years ago.
Review: Some of you may remember Ricardo Vincenzo from his 2015 debut Pororoca Transatlantica, a two-track missive that blended South American production with all the warmth of sun-kissed downtempo electronica. If anything, this belated follow-up for esteemed Finnish label Sahko is even better. Vincenzo begins with the farmyard animal samples, rolling tribal percussion, African chants and rich electronic bass of "Cabras No Elevado Quilombia", before chopping and looping a dusty old tango track on the mid-tempo house pulse of "Onna No Yujo". On the flip you'll find the low-slung, post-dubstep creepiness of "Haru", where exotic vocal samples drift across a sparse but heavy beat pattern, and the aural trip to Morocco that is "Excellent Drom".
Review: Mr Bongo's Brazil 45s series continues its consistently rich vein of form with two more beautifully contrasting - and previously difficult to track down - Brazilian soul jazz fusions from the 70s. Side A is inhabited by one of the era's most interesting individuals. Infamously censored and eventually exiled, Taiguara's chaotic flute, guitar and piano arrangement is a tight weave of melodies, counter melodies and start dynamics. Flip for the classically soul-oriented "Deixa Eu Te Amar" will bright horns, brash drums and a bold vocal from Marisa Rossi. Pow.
Gharbi Sadok & Georges Garzia - "Lala Tibki" (3:00)
Dalton - "Soul Brother" (3:44)
Review: Habibi Funk has subtitled this tasty label compilation "an eclectic selection of music from the Arab world". It's an apt description, because the double vinyl set is little less than a whistle-stop tour of killer cuts from North Africa and the Middle East. Amongst the dirty and driving Morccoan funk (see Fadoul's righteously heavy opener), Arabic rock and roll (the Beatles-in-Timbukto flex of Jalil Bellis), Lebanese disco, Sudanese throw-downs and Algerian floor-burners, you'll find a quintet of previously unreleased tracks discovered during the label's extensive vault-digging explorations around the Arabic world. We can think of few finer introductions to vintage Arabic dance music, to be honest, and would heartily recommend it.