TSK Issue 3 — Reviews of Music & Books
For our third issue we’ve looked at some of the recent releases we enjoyed while putting together the zine. There’s a bit of punk, jazz, and hip hop mixed in with whatever else caught our ears. Then we also reviewed books on the Medway scene, hip hop photography, and how an early American jazz tour brought out the worst in Australia.
checkpoint — gravedigger + on the run
Two really great punk tracks that will leave you wanting a lot more. When it ends suddenly you’ll curse the news Checkpoint still haven’t released their album. Or maybe by the time you read this it’ll be out? In the meantime, have fun jumping around your bedroom to these two as you shout “Gravedigger, gravedigger, WOOO!” It’s great stuff, and the tape quality sounds amazing.
Flora Carbo — Arthur’s Walks
I discovered saxophonist Flora Carbo after hearing the amazing quartet Aura’s self-titled album last year and was really pleased to see this solo album arrive in February. Flora plays alto saxophone, clarinet, guitar, violin, and recorder here, and is accompanied by a handful of other musicians such as Aura’s Helen Svoboda on bass. The album has a very rambling feel to it as it builds up, slows, and stops, taking inspiration from walking as track titles such as Little Jog, Daily Stroll, and Wander acknowledge. Special mention is also due to Ollie Ledi Hanane who created the beautiful artwork.
Jacob Haage & Sarah Assbring — RIPTIDE
The first album by Sarah Assbring (El Perro del Mar) under her real name, this was a commission written for a dance piece performed at the Royal Swedish Opera in 2021. It’s slightly hard to put aside that this is a soundtrack. Rhythms and beats are layered as though building towards something, but as an instrumental album it never quite took off for me. The production and instrumentation is beautiful, and as a soundtrack this would be amazing. But as an album I found it hard to get into.
Jad Atoui & Jawad Nawfal — Reading
Alternating between sparse and layered sounds, these three ambient modular synth tracks make you feel as though you’re with the artists as they jam away the day. Reading 2 was the standout track for this reason, and I had to stop, turn it up loud, and close my eyes, so that I could better appreciate all the sounds tickling my ears. Each track is slightly different in mood, but there’s some great crunchy ambience beating throughout.
Linda Fredriksson — Juniper
We Jazz Records
Sparse jazz album for lovers of sax sounds. The second last track mixes things up, with guitar accompanying a voice humming. At about the midway point the sax returns and things get back to normal, in the sense that it returns to the sonic themes of the rest of the album. But it’s a beautiful change. After five similar songs that draw you in to a very specific world, you’re suddenly left wondering if this is the same album, only for it to return.
Simon Camatta — THIS IS NOT A SOLO RECORD
Percussionist Simon Camatta combines drumming with glitchy guitars and samples on the opening tracks of this fast moving (not a) solo album. The tracks were recorded in different locations so each has a slightly different quality, and I enjoyed hearing the room ambience on the live takes. Some are straight drum solos, while others bring in guitars and keyboards and almost sound like an outtake from something by Dan The Automator and Kool Keith. It’s a bit hip hop, but it’ll keep you guessing where things will lead next.
Shelter — Le Sommeil Vertical
That drum reverb on the first track had me sold and then there’s little rhythms hidden underneath which slowly reveal themselves over the next few minutes. Decidedly downtempo, you could chillout or dance to this depending on your vibe, as the beats and ambience take you on a journey of your choosing. Anyone who has jammed on analogue synths will feel welcome here.
Girlsville: The Story of The Delmonas & Thee Headcoatees
by Saskia Holling
Spinout Publications 278 pages
A fantastic look at The Delmonas and Thee Headcoatees bands. Last year I was listening to the reissue of The Delmonas first EPs and wrote a short article about the band when a friend of theirs found my article and suggested this book. I’m so glad they did.
It opens with short chapters dedicated to each band member of The Delmonas written in first person. Then there are chapters telling everyone’s story which mix in quotes from everyone while the author takes the lead in linking everything together. At the end, each member of Thee Headcoatees has a Q and A interview with the author and talks about what they did after the band with their life and solo careers.
I suppose it’s a bit rough at times, but it works, and this book does a fantastic job of introducing the reader to the Medway scene, with a very detailed account of these two bands and their careers.
The photos are great too, but perhaps the most important thing is how much music gets discussed. It’s crazy how prolific everyone was, and their various side projects all get a mention, hinting at so much more.
At the back you’ll also find discographies of the bands and their side projects, which is always appreciated.
Yo! The early days of Hip Hop 1982–84
by Sophie Bramly
Soul Jazz Books 304 pages
A brilliant book of black and white and coloured photographs from the early days of hip hop in New York. This book features everyone who was there, from Afrika Bambaataa, Beastie Boys, Futura, and Keith Haring. There’s graffiti, DJs, breakdancers, and MCs, mixed in with photos of the streets, clubs, and bedrooms where hip hop was being born.
Some of the work reminded me of Patricia Bates’, who photographed the same scene for David Toop’s Rap Attack book, and it’s a pity she doesn’t get mentioned in the introduction which notes other photographers from this period. No matter.
What sets this book apart from others is a section at the back of a French hip hop tour which featured Bambaataa, Fab Five Freddy, Futura, and B-Side (who we interviewed last issue). These photos, along with Sophie Bramly’s writing, really elevate the book beyond just another collection of black and white pictures from the 80s, as the French side has been rarely seen outside galleries.
Harlem Nights, The Secret History of Australia’s Jazz Age
by Deirdre O’Connell
Melbourne University Press, 424 pages
From the title I assumed this would be about early Australian jazz, something I didn’t know much about. But the book instead follows the Australian tour of American jazz group Sonny Clay’s Colored Idea and the fallout when they come into contact with racist and backwards Australian government officials.
It won’t come as a shock to learn that Australia has a racist history, but this book really lays it out. There are the politicians who want to keep Australia white, musician unions who don’t want foreigners performing at all, easily swayed war veterans who feel forgotten, versus a public who want to embrace modernity and dance freely.
The author doesn’t just follow Sunny Clay, and spends a lot of time writing about the era to give context to what is happening. They also explore the who’s who of this story in great detail. Occasionally there are assumptions to fill the gaps, but for the most part this is based on good research, and the short chapters mean you’re never too far away from the main story.
Photographs are spread throughout the book, and it’s interesting to put a face to so many of the musicians and compare how they were portrayed in the media. Ultimately Sunny Clay and his band are deported, and laws barring foreign musicians from entering Australia are put in place to stop race scandals happening again. As the author explains, this turns Australia into a backwater with little talent, and as ‘Great Britain’ later embraces American jazz artists, Australia finds itself alone until World War Two.
There’s a lot to unpack in here. Although at times I was frustrated more time wasn’t spent on Sunny Clay, by the end I really appreciated how the story bounced around to focus on everyone involved in this story. I’m still none the wiser about early Australian jazz, but perhaps there’s another book for that. •