Ahmed Gallab is Sinkane. The Sudanese-American multi-instrumentalist, who to date has released six genre bending albums of rhythmic poly-global funk, pop and electronica, returned earlier this year with Life & Livin’ It. That record, like much of his discography, roots freely; a borderless aural cross-pollination of soulful pan-African and Jamaican sounds stirred into a bouillabaisse of American pop, rock, r&b and beyond. It’s an intoxicating brew on record and even more so live. Which is worth noting as Gallab also fronts The Atomic Bomb! Band, an ad hoc touring supergroup who play and pay tribute to the music of the late Nigerian Sai Baba of electro-funk, William Onyeabor.

The following is a mix Gallab put together for AD — a ten track composite of the sounds of his childhood, as heard via warbly heirloom cassettes. The artist in his own words, below.

Every Sudanese family has a drawer full of cassettes in their home. Some are original recordings, others dubbed from live shows with a scratchy label written in scribble Arabic. These songs were the soundtrack of our youth and continue to play on in our apartments as young adults. The sounds take us back to hot summer days. Waking up to the sounds and smells of Sudan. Our moms and aunts cooking and gossiping. Our dads and uncles arguing about politics. It’s a reminder of where we come from and how colorful life is.

Sinkane :: A Sudanese Mixtape


Ask the most dedicated followers of British folk rock about the most sought after lost classic of the canon, and you’ll likely hear 1972’s Bright Phoebus: The Songs of Mike and Lal Waterson cited as a holy grail. The work of two siblings, it followed the dissolution of their family band the Watersons. Mike and Lal assembled a massive cast to record the album, including sister Norma Waterson, Ashley Hutchings, much of the lineup of Steeleye Span, Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson and Dave Mattacks of Fairport Convention, and more. But it was released to little fanfare. Due to a manufacturing error, only 1,000 copies ever found their way into the hands of folk fans, many of whom were confused by the band’s peculiar mix of avant-garde, country, folk, and psychedelia, and bewildered by the disillusioned and wounded lyrical sensibility.

But dedicated listeners kept Bright Phoebus alive, passing the album along around as a bootleg. It gained high profile fans like Stephen Malkmus, Billy Bragg, Arcade Fire, and Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley. Though the Lal and Mike both passed away (in 1998 and 2011, respectively) the album continued to grow in esteem. Recently, it was finally reissued by Domino Records, with great great taken to enhance its fidelity and expand its context (the new edition features demos and longform notes by scholar Pete Paphides).

One of the album’s most vocal admirers is M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger. It’s one of Taylor’s favorites, and it’s not hard to hear a similar play between the elements of light and shadow in the songs of his forthcoming album, Hallelujah Anyhow, due out September 22 via Merge Records. AD spoke to Taylor at his hotel room outside of Portland, Oregon, where he was prepping for a set at Pickathon. Below, his thoughts on the haunting longevity of Bright Phoebus.

Mike and Lal Waterson :: Scarecrow”

M.C. Taylor: I got quite into British folk music in the early 2000s through a friend of mine named Michael Talbot who, he was younger than me, but he just had an encyclopedic knowledge, particularly of British folk music. I really liked the Watersons…you gotta be in it totally…you gotta have a dedication [to listen]…you’ve got to wanna be there at that place. That music speaks to me, their particular voices, there was something about them that I really felt compelling.

There was something that felt timeless about it, it was sort of biblical in that way. Then of course…I heard about Bright Phoebus, probably in 2005, I would say. I tracked a copy down. I actually have an original Topic pressing. I didn’t realize until really recently that only 1,000 copies of that record actually made it out, because there were manufacturing issues and stuff with that record. I found a copy back then and there’s something about that record that sort of put it in the same space that all of my favorite records exist in, which is that I didn’t get it on first listen — or even the first 10 listens — but there was something that compelled me to keep going back to it.


The vinyl reissue front just got a little funkier. Next month Tidal Waves Music presents Manu Dibango’s Electric Africa. Recorded in Paris in 1985, the project was produced by Bill Laswell and filled out by American heavyweights Herbie Hancock, Bernie Worrell and Nicky Skopelitis, along with Senegalese drummer Aiyb Dieng and synth-guru Waliou Jacques Badarou. Look for it September 22, worldwide. Until then, “L’Arbre A Palabres”.

Manu Dibango :: L’Arbre A Palabres


Earlier this year, the fine folks at Superior Viaduct reissued renegade composer Arnold Dreyblatt’s 1986 LP Propellers In Love, a work of intonated minimalism performed with his Orchestra of Excited Strings. Seeing William Tyler perform with Megafaun last weekend at Pickathon put me in a Dreyblatt mood — the band’s 2013 collaboration with the renowned minimalist, Appalachian Excitation, serves as a reminder of the trio’s brilliance. Like that record, the titular “Propellers In Love” hums with a taut, electrical energy. The Wire‘s Mark Smith called Dreyblatt “the most rock & roll of all the composers to emerge from New York’s downtown scene in the 1970s.” “Propellers In Love” buzzes as one of his most treasured and propulsive anthems. words/j woodbury

Arnold Dreyblatt & the Orchestra of Excited Strings :: Propellers In Love


Drums. Synths. Space. In 1977, four years following the dissolution of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jan Hammer teamed with percussionist David Earle Johnson for Time Is Free – the first of a pair of collaborative albums. Having carved out his own solo career beginning with 1975’s The First Seven Days (on which Johnson guests), the tête-à-tête found on Time Is Free finds the two artists displaying what would soon become the model for the Jan Hammer Group’s Melodies and beyond.

David Earle Johnson / Jan Hammer :: Juice Harp


The Paisley Underground is the kind of scene that makes for a good verbal secret handshake. While its myriad branches snaked into the mainstream eventually thanks to Mazzy Star, the band that most transcended its range was The Dream Syndicate. While their 1982 debut full length The Days of Wine and Roses seems to owe its debt to the noisier end of psychedelia, the subsequent three albums took off across a range of American and European rock traditions. It had seemed like 1988’s Ghost Stories was going to be the final word, but now, 29 years later, comes How Did I Find Myself Here?, due out September 18th. Founding member and vocalist Steve Wynn sat down with Aquarium Drunkard to discuss the band’s reformation, the new album, the LP’s Aquarium Drunkard connection, and why hearing Kendra Smith’s vocal track was like Christmas morning.

Aquarium Drunkard: I found an interview you did back in 2013 with Slicing Up Eyeballs – back when the Dream Syndicate reunion, reformation or whatever you want to call it first happened. You said that your goal for making a new record was that you always thought there should’ve been an album between The Days of Wine and Roses and Medicine Show and that you wanted to try and tap into how the band was evolving during that period. Was that an idea that stayed with you during the making of this album? Did that end up coming true to some extent?

Steve Wynn: No, but that was a definite, solid idea I had back then because I always wished there had been a record between the two. Just because those records are so different and the progression from The Days of Wine and Roses to Medicine Show was actually pretty logical, if you lived it in real time like we did. For a lot of people, they didn’t see all the steps in between. So I thought about that for a long time, and when we reformed the band and people would ask about a new record, that was kind of in the back of my mind.

But in the years since – like you said, that was 4 years ago – this particular lineup really evolved from show to show, tour to tour. We did about 50 shows before making the record. It is the Dream Syndicate, very much in the spirit and history of the Dream Syndicate. It’s got me and Dennis [Duck; drummer] who were there from the start, and Mark [Walton; bass] who almost goes back to the start and Jason [Victor; guitar] who is probably the leading living scholar on the Dream Syndicate in some ways [laughs], who really understands what we’re all about, knows our music and keeps us on the straight and narrow about who we were. It’s a reunion, but it’s the Dream Syndicate. But as time went on, I realized this is just a really good incarnation, tradition-bearing version of the Dream Syndicate, so the motivation changed to where I really just wanted to document this band.

I sort of feel after awhile when we’d tour and talk to people about the band, people would ask ‘let me get this straight, who are the original members and where did this person come from’ and those are all reasonable questions. I’m the kind of person who reads Aquarium Drunkard and likes archival material and cares about the history of music and the details. But also this is the band right now. Every time we’d play a show, people would leave saying this is a really good band. That became the motivation for making a record – just to be able to say, this is who we are right now and we think you’re going to dig it. On top of that, I wanted to keep playing shows and touring, but didn’t want to be confined by being a nostalgia act and only playing old songs. All that was kind of in the back of my mind, more than that original and very real but forgotten concept. [laughs] We’ll do that one next time.


Beyond Soft Machine. Cut in August of 1984 via Rough Trade, “Yolanda” was originally released via the ever-evolving English musician Robert Wyatt’s four track ep, Work In Progress. One of two Spanish language tracks, the ep is also notable for Wyatt’s re-working of Peter Gabriel’s 1980 anti-apartheid protest song, “Biko”.

Robert Wyatt :: Yolanda