Source of Denial is the second LP from Nihiloxica, the Bugandan techno outfit hailing from Kampala, Uganda. It comes after more than three long years since Kaloli, their acclaimed debut on Crammed Discs.
The album points a (middle) finger at the hostile immigration and freedom of movement policies implemented in the UK, as well as across the world. Fueled by their frustrations with this intentionally convoluted system, the group have produced their most cataclysmic effort to date.
Returning to the Nyege Nyege studio in Kampala where the band recorded their early EPs, the band tracked Source of Denial over an intense month of sessions in early 2022. The cover art is emblazoned with an ultra-metallic new logo, echoing the growing presence of metal influences across the tracklisting, while the hi-vis, official-document styling wryly evokes the bureaucratic nightmare at the heart of the project. Tracks like Asidi and Baganga flirt with the dystopian, mechanical patterns and tonalities of djent godfathers Meshuggah, while the gargantuan synth line of the title track summons the spirit of an 8-string guitar, synthesised palm-mutes and all. This is all effortlessly compounded with the molotov cocktail of Bugandan ngoma (drums) and club sounds the group have become revered for. On tracks like Olutobazzi, Postloya and Trip Chug, the drums themselves are reanimated and manipulated more than ever before, further blurring the line between tradition and techno.
The only spoken words we hear throughout the album, outside of studio outtake Preloya, are computer generated. They speak of application processes, character backgrounds, and accountability, blasted through crackled phone speakers. The effect is a Kafkaesque feedback loop: an avalanche of constant call tones, uncanny British accents and rigorous interrogative questioning. The frustrations are a problem the band, a defiantly global outfit, has faced continuously. A whole UK tour was cancelled in 2022, and recently, a UK show had to be performed with only three members due to problems with a certain conglomerate visa agency who “provide services” for the UK, as well as a growing number of countries.
“We wanted to create the sense of being in the endless, bureaucratic hell-hole of attempting to travel to a foreign country that deems itself superior to where you’re from. We’re focussing on the UK as that’s where we’ve had the most trouble, but the problem goes much, much further. In this system if you have a certain passport or have even visited a certain country then you’re an appropriate subject to be interrogated and insulted time and time again just to prove that you’re worthy to enter, and normally this involves proving you have a good enough reason to want to leave again! The arrogance of it is unbearable. This album was a way to express our disdain towards it... What exactly is the source of your denial? Your passport? Your bank balance? Your skin colour? You’ve paid huge sums of money to be thrown from one profit-driven “service centre” to another, each denying responsibility, each limiting your right to freedom of movement as a human being. Despite some other serious humanitarian shortcomings, Uganda accepts some of the highest numbers of refugees in the world. Meanwhile the UK is trying to send them away to Rwanda. That says it all.” - Nihiloxica
In a musical catalogue as rich and diverse as the one built by John Cale, there’s no such thing as an outlier release. All his albums carry an indelible Cale stamp: whether exploring Beach Boys inspired classic songcraft on his early-1970s albums, trading fuzzed out organ riffs with Terry Riley on Church Of Anthrax, essaying modern classical miniatures on The Academy In Peril, through to the confrontational and gritty Sabotage, the art house film soundtracks for Les Disques Du Crépuscule.
The premise of 1989’s Words For The Dying therefore might sound somewhat bizarre, but the results speak for themselves. The album consists mainly of oral work, read or sung by Cale. It was written in 1982 as a response to the Anglo-Argentinian Falklands War, using poems written by fellow Welshman Dylan Thomas. Originally performed live for Dutch television at the Paradiso in Amsterdam in November 1987, with the studio version finally being laid down partly in the pre-Glasnost USSR, utilising the Orchestra of Symphonic and Popular Music of Gostelradio. As well as “The Falklands Suite”, there are also two orchestral interludes, two other solo piano pieces, "Songs Without Words", and finally "The Soul of Carmen Miranda", featuring Cale’s voice and a minimal electronic backing track. The album was recorded in Moscow, New York, London and Suffolk, England, and was produced by Brian Eno.
Eno and Cale had collaborated numerous times before, appearing on each other’s solo records in the 1970s, releasing a live album alongside Nico and Kevin Ayers, and the year after Words For The Dying came out, they released their one and only co-billed album, the much-loved Wrong Way Up. The process of making Words For The Dying was documented in a monochrome fly-on-the-wall film by Rob Nilsson, capturing the sometimes tense process of bringing Cale’s artistic vision to life. Lou Reed selected the album as one of his 'picks of 1989', and in its retrospective review, Fact Magazine described it as "arguably the last great album John Cale recorded".
“Music is a very personal thing. How you deal with your music is very closely linked with how you deal with your life. If you misuse your capacities as a musician, you’re misusing your capacities as a human being and you’re taking humanity in the wrong direction”
- Arthur Russell – 03/17/77 Soho Weekly News
“In outer space you can’t take your drums - you take your mind”
- Arthur Russell
In 1986 Arthur Russell was diagnosed with HIV, that same year he released his career-defining masterpiece ‘World of Echo’, the first and only solo album issued during his lifetime.
Arthur had found his voice and a fresh direction with a set of new, transformative material, unlike anything he or anyone else had previously released. His illness ensured that the artistic growth and sense of exploration encapsulated in ‘World of Echo’ would be tragically curtailed. Within six short years Arthur was gone.
Arthur’s final years were filled with a renewed commitment to creativity and unceasing live and recording work. He regularly performed the ‘World of Echo’ material and incorporated several of its compositions in collaborations with choreographers active in New York’s innovative dance community. Arthur worked closely with Diane Madden, Allison Salzinger, Stephanie Woodard and John Bernd, usually playing his cello and effects boxes off stage as the choreographers’ pieces were performed. In 1993 Arthur posthumously received a prestigious Bessie Composer Award for his work in the dance world.
Picture of Bunny Rabbit’ features nine previously unreleased performances from this era compiled from completed masters culled from two unique test pressings, including one, dated 9/15/85 by Arthur, provided by his mother and sister. A further four tracks were discovered in his tape archive. The track listing includes an exceptional and dramatic solo recording of “In The Light of a Miracle” and the enigmatic title instrumental “Picture of Bunny Rabbit”, written especially for a friends pet rabbit. The bulk of the material was recorded with engineer Eric Liljestrand at Battery Sound Studios, New York, which was located directly opposite the World Trade Center and at Arthur’s apartment studio in the East Village.
Karen y Los Remedios: blending cumbia and existentialism
Behind Karen’s pulsating spectral voice lies vulnerability, contemplation and longing. Chameleon-like foundations explore cumbia in its many forms, crossing the continent with Norteño airs, pitched-down rebajados, psychedelia and even traditional Peruvian music, taking in ballads, Afro-Latin percussion, reggaeton and the more electronic sounds of dream-pop, trip hop and downtempo.
A mystical, motley mixture, the ideal soundscape to fight the voices in your head while you melt on the dancefloor and scare away the ghosts of your past, your body surrendering to the dance.
That’s pretty much Karen y Los Remedios, the project led by Ana Karen G Barajas, an artist and arts and social sciences researcher born in Mexico City and raised in Guanajuato, in the company of Mexico City native Jonathan Muriel (Jiony) and guitarist Guillermo Berbeyer (Z.A.M.P.A.), who after many years on Mexico’s alternative scene decided to get together and bring this existential cumbia project to life.