Living The Mono Life

I wrote this without knowing what the election result was so I’ve no idea if this morning is one of elation or despair. Despair I expect. Anything else is a bonus.

Some of the teenagers I work with like to say (ironically I think) ‘I didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose me’. East Yorkshire’s Mark Osborne didn’t choose the thug life, he chose the Mono Life. Mono Life’s first album, released back in 2015, was a Bagging Area end of year favourite. A couple of weeks ago he released his second, Sandalphon. I wanted to give it a good listen and live with it rather than type up a hasty review. This means that he’s had to fight for airtime with some recent big hitters who’ve put out new albums in May, Jane Weaver and The Charlatans mainly.

Sandalphon is an album not just a collection of tracks put together, it works as a coherent whole, buzzing with ideas and invention from start to finish. Opening track The Science Of Love And Deception with juddering synths and beats is a powerful statement of intent and from there on he covers the gamut of electronic styles, from acid house to big beat, via Crockett And Tubbs, an 80s style electronic funk. Phantoms rides in on a cool breakbeat and bleeps. Radiate echoes Leftfield’s dub techno. Dusky is low slung and optimistic. Closer The End (Keep Smiling) opens with washes of noise and builds from there, darker and less sunny than much of what’s gone before it. Some piano finds its way in and then the distortion and static returns for the end. Mono Life has one foot in the past for sure, dance music’s back pages are where this comes from, but there’s also an eye looking forwards to an electronic future.

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Monochromatic

Like Acid Ted I am eagerly awaiting the second album from Hull’s MonoLife (titled Sandalphon). Last year’s album, Phrenology, was one of my favourites of 2015, full of ideas and inventive electronic tunes. He’s put a few tasters for the new one on his Soundcloud page. This one is moody with washes of synths and some bleeps riding the drums.

Dusky

This was my view from behind the decks at a friend’s 45th birthday party I played records at on Friday night, decks on the decking with fairy lights and a chandelier in the tree above my head. It was good fun, playing records outdoors for a small but appreciative crowd who wore a hole in the lawn. The man from next door (who went to school with Johnny Marr) asked ‘have you got any Northern?’ Guests had been asked to bring any 45s they might want playing and a man from a few roads away turned up with Underworld’s Rez, which somehow I wasn’t expecting.

This new one from East Yorkshire’s Mono Life is a lovely piece of work and bodes well for the new album he’s working on. Slow, down tempo, pushing all the right buttons and with a feel of those few minutes when the shadows lengthen and the sun slips down.

Mellow

A few weeks ago in July Mark (who runs Cooking Up A Quiet Storm, as series of mixtapes provided by a variety of bloggers) asked for suggestions for a collective effort, a summer mixtape, inspired by the picture above. It dropped, as the young folk say, while I was in France. It is expertly sequenced by Mark and you can get it here.

My suggestion was a song I posted several months ago and remains one of my favourite tunes of the year, Mono Life’s stunning remix of Sunrise by Humberside band Pearl’s Cab Ride, and it occupies the last ten minutes of the mix. Before that you’ll find a bunch of mellow summer sounds including Goldfrapp, Laura Nyro, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Antonio Carlos Jobim. If the sun’s out round your way, dig in.

The campsite we stayed on in the Jura was massively popular with the Dutch. I’d estimate that 80% of the campers (tents, motorhomes) were from the Netherlands. The remainder were Belgian or French with a handful of Brits. There were Dutch kids everywhere, at least half of them wearing football shirts. The parents, most of whom spoke perfect English, would talk to us about football. Football is an international language, a way in to talk to complete strangers in the sun. They love English football- a Belgian chap from Antwerp a few tents up from us wanted to know about how his countrymen Marouanne Fellaini and Adnan Januzai are seen by us Manchester United fans. His neighbour was a Dutchman who wanted our opinion on Louis van Gaal and Robin van Persie. I mentioned to him that as far as I could see the Dutch kids were mainly wearing, in descending order, ┬áthe shirts of Bayern Munich, Barca, Paris St Germain and Ajaz a lowly fourth. He became quite animated. ‘I’m a Feyenoord fan’ he said. ‘These kids only follow Munich because of Arjen Robben. As far as I’m concerned if they wear a Bayern shirt, kick ’em off the campsite. If they wear an Ajax shirt, kick ’em off the campsite’. I don’t think he was joking either. I got the feeling he may have been a fairly rabid Feyenoord fan as a younger man. He explained that in Holland the fans of all the clubs that aren’t Ajax get on quite well- they are united in their mutual loathing of Ajax. Our neighbour for our last two nights was also Dutch. He said the reason they love English football is because ‘it’s not for cissies’. Our players get kicked and get up again, unlike in Spain, Italy and France. For the record English football shirts were few and far between- in amongst all the Bayern, Barca, PSG and Ajax shirts I spotted one Arsenal jersey (worn by a French boy obvs), a Chelsea shirt and, ugh, two Man City jerseys.

Coastal

Warm washes and waves of synth are all over this, appropriately titled Coastal from Hull’s Mono Life, released just under a year ago. Finishes with some piano and the sea. Makes me anticipate a holiday.

Phrenology

Mono Life is responsible for one of my favourite songs of this year so far, his remix of Pearl’s Cab Ride’s Sunrise (posted a month or two back). His album Phrenology is very good too. This song, Remediate, is a joy, full of throbs and pulses and Kraftwerkian keyboards. You can buy Phrenology at Bandcamp, on old fashioned compact disc or as a download.

If you like that, you’ll like this one even more, which is like a massive electronic smile full of buzzes and bleeps.

I’m also partial to this one, The Perfect Kiss, with vocals by Berri- this beatless version has a feel of that lengthy Ashley Beedle remix of The Aloof’s One Night Stand but without all the self-loathing. I can’t recommend Mono Life’s stuff highly enough at the moment.

Room for one more? This track, also posted by Acid Ted last week, was Mono Life’s first recording, a delicious piece of summery piano house. Free to download.

Sunrise

Ctel posted this at Acid Ted last week. I have played it multiple times since. I don’t know how much our readership overlaps so I thought I’d post it here too as it really deserves to reach a wider audience. Pearl’s Cab Ride are a nine piece funk and soul band from Humberside. Mono Life is a musician/producer based in Yorkshire. In this just shy of ten minutes remix Mono Life sends Pearl’s Cab Ride on a trip that takes in a bit of dub, some horns, heavy and wobbly bass, a stretched vocal and the second summer of love. It’s a lovely, sprawling joy ride- that’s not to say that it drifts or lacks focus- it’s all worked out perfectly. It’s like having your hand held while watching the sun come up, like the endorphin rush when being kissed for the first time. Sunrise even makes the Manchester Ship Canal look beautiful and romantic This needs a proper release, preferably on 12″ vinyl.