Mariah – Utakata No Hibi LP (Palto Flats)
One of the eagerly awaited reissues of the year from Japanese band Mariah, Utakata No Hibi has been changing hands with record buyers for large sums since its first release in 1983. Listening to the delicate ‘Shisen’ and ‘Shinzo No Tobria, it is easy to see why. As Mariah create evocative and beautiful shimmering electronic soundscapes which combine classical East Asian and Oriental folk idioms and melodies with futuristic synths and drum machines. Like the work of fellow Japanese electronic outfit, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Mariah’s music pointed to the future, but were still careful not to leave the sounds of Japan’s past behind.
Batsumi – Batsumi LP (Matsuli Music)
Specialists in uncovering forgotten jazz records from apartheid-era South Africa, Matsuli Music have repressed Batsumi’s 1974 debut album for a second time, following their first outing in 2011. This is not only one of the landmark South African jazz albums, but one of the best Jazz albums of the 1970s. A spiritual delight, packed full of naturalistic earthy textures, spine-tingling vocal chants and hidden wonders which only reveal themselves after repeated listens.
Doug Hream Blunt – My Name Is Doug Hream Blunt LP (Luaka Bop)
Released on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop, Blunt is the sort of eccentric oddball talent which you would expect the Talking Heads frontman to adore. Like another of Lukaku Pop’s artists, William Onyeabor, Blunt’s music backstory is nearly as interesting as the music itself. In his mid-30s he decided to learn the guitar, get some equally novice players from his music class together, record an album and disappear! As you would expect from such circumstances the album charm lies not in Hream’s musical or lyrical virtuosity, yet on tracks like ‘Fly Guy’, Blunt brings such a goofball charm and charisma to these lo-fi, often amateurish recordings, they are impossible not find enchanting. Hidden genius or lucky chancer, either way Blunt’s album is one hell of a listen.
Rim Kwaku Obeng – Rim Arrives LP (BBE)
A member of one of Ghana’s most popular live outfits – the Uhuru Dance Band – Rim Kwaku Obeng travelled to the US in 1983 to record a solo album at the “best studios in the world”. Like so many wide-eyed artists who travel to the musical promise land, for Obeng the American dream soon turned sour. After nearly half a decade of failure, dashed dreams and misfortune, the Ghanian was left penniless. However, after a chance meeting with Joan Armatrading, who helped Obeng get back on his feet, in 1977 he finally recorded his solo album in San Francisco. A record very much of its time, Rim’s fusion of classic Fela Kuti chants and afrobeat horns with the synthesised disco sounds of New York make for an utterly joyous listen. It may have taken a while, but by 1977 Rim had finally arrived!
Laraaji – Ambient 3 (Day of Radiance) LP (Glitterbeat)
Inspired by a deep spirituality, Edward Larry Gordon, one of the countless musicians trying to make a living in Greenwich Village during the 1970s, traded in his guitar for a Zither, changed his name to Laraaji and began to compose ambient music. While busking on the street, Laraaji caught the ear of Brian Eno, and the former Pink Floyd member went on to produce his 1980 album Ambient 3 – Day of Radiance. Whereas Eno’s ambient work is often characterized by imagery of space and the future, Laraaji’s deeply spiritual, ethereal works recall the more humanistic and new age musings of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians.