Etuk Ubong was born and raised in Lagos, but you don’t need me to tell you that; “Black Debtors,” his latest single, is built on a truncated rhythm so thick it feels like Fela Kuti’s “Open and Close” groove folded over on itself four or five times — a rhythmic orientation Ubong knows plenty about as a former sideman for Femi Kuti. But he’s a trumpeter, not a saxophonist, and he loosely stacks his horn section in sharp needlepoints and stitches a line that feels as indebted to midcentury American jazz as it does to mid-70s Nigerian funk.

That’s no accident. On his Tales of Life album and Miracle EP, both of which dropped in May, Ubong carves a crystalline form of Birth of the Cool–era jazz, carefully controlling his playing and taking it just to the border of dissonance without ever actually going over. “Black Debtors” expands in a similar way; even as it grows and his band begins to double back and twist the beat, they never pop into pure ecstasy. Ubong coaxes the song away from the edge with his voice, too, singing with a warm-honey tone that brings to mind Louis Prima, an organ hoovering away in the distance all the while. It’s an effortless synthesis of Ubong’s Nigerian and American influences, and it points toward more thrilling things to come. words / m garner

Etuk Ubong :: Black Debtors


Tonight, my guest is Yosuke Kitazawa, discussing Light In The Attic Records upcoming Japanese reissue series — a series that kicked off last year with the compilation “Even A Tree Can Shed Tears” and picks up next month with a grip of Haruomi Hosono reissues. Also, music from the new Anthology Editions book on the subrosa history of Library Music, entitled Unusual Sounds.

SIRIUS 529: Jean-Michel Bernard – Genérique Stéphane ++ Kikagaku Moyo – Semicircle ++ Fumio Nunoya – Mizu Tamari ++ Yoshiaki Ochi – Ear Dreamin’ ++ Izumi Kobayashi – Coffee Rumba ++ Taeko Ohnuki – Kusuri Wo Takusan ++ Haruomi Hosono – Owari No Kisetsu ++ Gypsy Blood – Sugishi Hi wo Mitsumete ++ Kenji Endo – Curry Rice (single version) ++ Tetsuo Saito – Saredo Watashi No Jinsei ++ Sachiko Kanenobu – Tokini Makasete ++ Minako Yoshida – Rum Wa Osuki? ++ Bread & Butter –  The Last Letter ++ Hiroshi Sato – Say Goodbye ++ Jun Fukamachi – Breathing New Life ++ Joe Hisaishi- Islander ++ Haruomi Hosomo – Orgone Box ++ Yura Yura Teikoku – Ohayo Mada Yaro ++ Shintaro Sakamoto – From The Dead ++ Minami Deutsch – Concrete Ocean ++ Sandro Brugnolini – Globicefalo ++ Paolo Ferrara – Metal ++ Kikagaku Moyo – Green Sugar

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.

Aquarium Drunkard SERGE

Floated this medley of selections from our summer crate over to our friends at Reverberation Radio last week as part of their ongoing guest mix series. Lots of dub. Lots of reverb. Laisse rouler.

Casual Water :: Summer Crate Mixtape


Six days before he died in a car crash in 1977, a review of George Lucas’ new film Star Wars was published by Marc Bolan of T. Rex in his weekly column for Record Mirror. Praising the space opera as a “classic,” he noted, “Now perhaps more people will pay attention to the science fiction field, where so many great poets, writers, and musicians are lurking unsung.”

Jason Heller is not the first writer to take science fiction and its poets and musicians seriously, but you get the sense that Bolan was distinctly forecasting something like Heller’s new book, Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded. In it, the science fiction field — and specifically its impact and influence on the music of the 1970s — gets its due. Focusing on under-recognized connections and moments when the science fiction establishment embraced music, like when the animated Yellow Submarine film and Paul Kanter’s Blows Against the Empire earned Hugo Award nods — the equivalent of Emmys in sci-fi, Heller’s sharp, lyrical, and evocative pages bring the relationship between music and science fiction to life.

Heller, the author of the satirical novel Taft 2012, whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and elsewhere, knows his stuff. Here, he connects Robert A. Heinlein’s Starman Jones to David Bowie’s Major Tom, traces hard SF pioneer Samuel Delany’s early forays into rock criticism for Crawdaddy, examines the “myth science” ethos of Sun Ra, how Michael Moorcock consciousness-expanding literature crossed over into the psychedelic rock of Hawkwind, and explores a dozen more corners of the pop spectrum where the influence of the space program, technological advancements, experimental science fiction novels, and films gave musicians licence to showcase their most propulsive ideas.

Though his original idea for the book was to broadly chart science fiction’s influence on pop music — encompassing everything from Billy Lee Riley’s 1957 rockabilly rave-up “Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll” to Janelle Monáe’s current Do Androids Dream of Electronic Bangers aesthetic — Heller instead chose to focus on the 1970s, a decade that found the tone and character of pop music tilting toward potential sounds of the future.


Last month saw the release of artist and filmmaker David Hollander’s book Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music, via Anthology Editions. A comprehensive must-read for those who relish and celebrate the expansive, often subrosa, world of Library Music, the work takes a deep dive into its varied history. With stunning original art by Robert Beatty, Unusual Sounds features histories and interviews, along with visuals from the field’s most celebrated creators. On the eve of the book’s release, Hollander put together the following hour-long Library mix for Aquarium Drunkard. The author, below . . .

Library Music, or Production Music as it is sometimes called, is music pre-made for budget-conscious film, television, and radio production. It was never commercially released but pressed to LP in small quantities for filmmakers to preview. It was made mostly in Europe, with some of the most legendary libraries coming from the UK, France, Germany, and Italy. This Library mix includes tracks from all over, but focuses on Italian Library from the 70’s, which provided the soundtrack to countless giallo and poliziotteschi films.

Download: Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music (zipped folder)

rosali_ lagniappeSession

Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

Yup, we’re big fans of Rosali Middleman’s new album Trouble Anyway. Cut with an arsenal of who’s who players of the Philadelphia scene, the album soars and burns with the raw emotion of being scorned while falling in and out of love. It’s not surprising Rosali picked three covers by women who have walked similar paths and come out the other side stronger and bolder. Trouble Anyway is out now via Scissor Tail/Spinster Records. The artist in her own words, below . . .

Rosali :: Metal Heart (Cat Power)

There is something about this song that strikes something deep in me. Maybe it’s the way it rides a loose wave with members of The Dirty Three backing Chan or how there isn’t a set A/B section, it just spills over itself with something that can’t be contained. For the cover, I wanted to put a little Crazy Horse vibes on it and make it rock but still keep true to the emotional aspect of the original. This and “One More Dollar” were recorded and mixed by my friend Gerhart Koerner, who also plays drums on this cut.

Rosali :: One More Dollar (Gillian Welch)

I was working in a biology lab the summer after my freshman year of college when I first heard this song and it gave me chills. So I went home and taught myself how to play it that night. The way Gillian runs her phrases and melodies resonate with me so deeply and she’s been a big influence on my songwriting. I wanted to keep the simple and natural quality of the original while adding some harmonies to bring out the hook of the chorus.

sonya-spence_in-the-dark_5Sonya Spence’s “I Love You So” – a slice of downbeat reggae soul from 1978 – comes across so fragile and dreamlike, it feels as if it might drift away at any moment; either taking the listener with it or, like the title of the album it calls home, leaving them in the dark.

Spence hailed from Jamaica and enjoyed a brief impression of success with her cover of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Listen to the way she reinterprets the jaunty melancholy of both Denver and Peter, Paul, and Mary’s recordings, cutting straight to the heartache with soft wailing guitar and the porcelain delicacy of her ethereal vocal touch. Fittingly, she would record the song simply as “Jet Plane.” The leaving was a given.

Sonya Spence :: Jet Plane

While success vanished almost as quickly as it appeared, Spence recorded three original albums all of which were met with commercial failure, sending a pure wonder into obscurity. The first of these records, 1978’s In the Dark, finds desperation, loneliness, and unrequited love lining the grooves with Spence’s velvety mid-tempo range and beautifully restrained arrangements of rocksteady rhythms and quietly sorrowful soul. Perhaps no moment is more potent than on “I Love You So,” its cascading twinkles of piano and minimalistic groove offering Spence her only company in a life lived firmly alone, as she leaves her heart on the floor, pouring with doubt, anguish, and desire. At the two minute and twenty second mark, you can literally hear her trying to catch her breath.