Last month I opened with a quote from Plato, this ancient philosopher, waxing lyrical on the spiritual power of music. An eloquent confirmation of the general consensus here at Jacaranda Records – that life isn’t really worth much cop if you don’t have some banging tunes on the go.
A couple weeks ago we opened up our brand new shop, just around the corner from The Jacaranda, in a roomy ground-floor unit at 40 Seel Street. We’ve decorated the walls and furniture with some of our favourite musical quotes; Chet Atkins, Marilyn Manson, Tom Waits and so on…Plato didn’t make the grade, I’m afraid, but another character of monumental importance to humanity got a few words in:
“If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.” – Billie Holiday
That’s how we feel about it too. What’s the point of opening a new record shop if it’s going to be like all of the other ones? So, naturally, we made a few adjustments. Combining a record store, coffee shop, cocktail bar, and live music venue – all in one gaff – Jacaranda Records “Phase One”, as it’s known, is now open for business. If you haven’t visited yet, I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll keep the details short. All you need to know is that it’s everything you’ve already come to love about Jacaranda Records but on a larger scale. In the words of the Fresh Prince himself, we’ve gone “Big Willie Style”. And why “Phase One”, you ask? Well… if I told you what “Phase Two” is then you might feel light-headed.
Anyways, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. There’s some super cool records out this month and you gotta know about them!
Benin City – All Smoke, No Fire
As always, there’s some amazing stuff coming out of the UK underground scene. Electronic pop trio Benin City drop new LP Last Night, a boisterous, energetic tribute to working-class London nightlife, ranging from the bubbly “Bus”, which charmingly chronicles a drunken ride on the N38, to “All Smoke, No Fire”, a compelling condemnation of inner-city gentrification, particularly the closing-down of legendary nightclubs like Plastic People and Fabric.
Beloved young British jazzers Binker & Moses follow-up last year’s Journey To The Mountain Of Forever with their third collaborative album, entitled Alive In The East?, recorded at Stoke Newington’s hippest watering-hole Total Refreshment Centre and featuring guest appearances from the likes of virtuoso drummer Yussef Dayes and one-to-watch harpist, Tori Handsley. Elsewhere, soul grooves meet Mauritian sega music, hip-hop and dub flavours on Mo Kolours’ third LP Inner Symbols. Mo is a member of the 22a collective alongside future-jazz luminaries such as Tenderlonious and Henry Wu. Not one to sleep on.
Mo Kolours – Right Before My Eyes
Up north, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr presents his third solo album Call The Comet, inspired by the prophetic dystopian sci-fi fantasy of 20th century writers like H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, or George Orwell, as well as the very real, 21st century dystopia of Trump’s America and Tory Britain. “I don’t want those fuckers contaminating my creativity,” insists Marr, affirming that the timely message does not upset the continuum established by his previous solo works, clarifying, “it’s not quite utopian, but it’s imagining a new kind of society.” It’s likely the kind of stuff that gives Nigel Farage’s da (read: Morrissey) nightmares. Engaging, exciting post-rock, full of righteous ass-whoopin’ and raucous riffage.
Speaking of legendary British guitarists called John – Radiohead’s own Jonny Greenwood, fresh from his first Oscar nomination, has put together an exceptional film score to the brutal psychological thriller You Were Never Really Here. The record comes out this June. So you can take your eyes off Joaquin Phoenix’s dead-eyed, hammer-wielding protagonist for a minute and properly appreciate the strange, sad sonic backdrop that Greenwood has created. And hey, while we’re on the subject of soundtracks… Tyler Bates’ score for the movie adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen gets a wonderful re-issue this month on beautiful, opaque yellow vinyl.
Princess Nokia – Your Eyes Are Bleeding
Across the pond, shape-shifting artist Destiny Frasqueri A.K.A. Princess Nokia presents A Girl Cried Red, a strangely addictive collection of emotive pop-punk-via-cloud-rap tracks. “I wanted to write a mixtape that was about falling apart and being a fucking mess,” says Frasqueri, who is renowned and remembered for ruthlessly keeping it real – whether throwing soup over a belligerent racist on the NYC subway, enforcing empowerment amongst her live audiences with a Kathleen Hanna-style “girls to the front” rule, or stepping into the crowd to personally slap an abusive heckler – so you know she’s keeping it real on this one too. Perhaps just in a different direction than you’re used to!
While we’re talking NYC, we’ve gotta give a shout to killer New York jazz outfit, Onyx Collective. June sees the release of Lower East Suite Part Three, the ensemble’s debut album, boasting some lovely tracks that will suit fans of Ezra Collective, Yussef Kamaal, BadBadNotGood, Shabaka Hutchings, Moses Boyd, as well as classic hard-bop Blue Note vibes. Another perfect release for any jazzy soulsters out there is an essential reissue of Virginia beatsmith DJ Harrison’s 2014 LP Stashboxxx, a bumping collection of lo-fi head-nod material which has been quite hard to find since original release.
Californian funk-punks The Red Hot Chili Peppers famously advised that listeners “give it away, now”. But hey, we can’t give it all away now, can we? You’ll have to tune in to Ali Bongo’s excellent Jacaranda Records radio show to find out more, and stop into the new gaff for a taste of the action. Until then… see ya!