Review: 213 was something of a supergroup formed in America's west coast soul scene. Powerhouses such as Bill Meyers, Guy Thomas and Neil Stubenhaus were all involved in the making of this album from 1981, which never actually saw the light of day at the time, but is now presented for the first time by Norwegian record label Preservation. It's sentimental material for lazy Sunday mornings, with emotive vocals backed by soaring strings and uplifting chords. There are more reflective moments like "Good Friends" next to swaying singings like "Ohio" and together they add up to a smooth listen.
Review: Emotional Rescue label boss Stuart Leath is particularly excited about this release, and it's not hard to see why. While Spanish singer/songwriter Javier Bergia is not widely known in the UK, his releases - either solo, or as part of the Finas Africae and Arium Musicae groups - are held in high regard by those of a Balearic persuasion. Eclipse is something of a treat, gathering together the best of Bergia's solo work from 1985 to the present day. Featuring Bergia's spoken and sung vocals atop a mix of gentle acoustics, atmospheric strings, delay-laden percussion and subtle global rhythms, Eclipse impresses from start to finish. It should be essential listening for anyone with even the tiniest interest in Balearica.
Review: Given that they're renowned for the blistering, noisy nature of their no-nonsense records, it's a little bit of a surprise to see Scottish punk stalwarts The Skids serving up an acoustic - or at least semi-acoustic - album. For those used to hearing their snarling punk anthems, "Peaceful Times" makes for intriguing and at times arresting listening. Previously raucous classics such as "Fields" and "Animation" are re-cast as jaunty and jangling sing-alongs in the traditional Scottish style, while "Desert Dust" sounds like the sort of campfire sing-along that would be belted out by soldiers on the eve of battle. The same could be said of "A World On Fire", which now sounds like a country and rockabilly-influenced anthem.
Amalouna (feat Noura Mint Seymali, Stephen O'Malley)
Taqkal Tarha (feat Micah Nelson)
Takount (feat Noura Mint Seymali)
Iklam Dglour (feat Warren Ellis & Rodophe Burger)
Kel Tinawen (feat Cass McCombs)
Itous Ohar (feat Cass McCombs)
Mhadjar Yassouf Idjan (feat Warren Ellis)
Wartilla (feat Warren Ellis & Stephen O'Malley)
Review: Malian musicians have a rich history when it comes to turning the world on to organic, mystifying, exotic sounds. A country that - even for Africa - stands out as a hotbed of aural talent, artists hailing from the desert nation never fail to immerse and intoxicate us. Here tracks grow and groove like a hypnotist at work, embracing Western influences, not least psychedelic rock, to produce what might have happened if Jim Morrison went walkabout in the Sahara looking for inspiration. As an album, "Amadjar" is everything that description might make you hope for. Opening on the delicate, spatial guitar plucks of "Tenere Maloulat", you can see the oasis shimmering in the distance through heat vapour. Evocative stuff, from there it only pulls us in deeper into an amalgamation of sounds overflowing with an adventurous atmosphere.