= April 2018 =  
Anthroprophh
Retep Folo
The Switching Yard
Gleb Kolyadin
Trappist Afterland
 Sendelica
Gnod
Weirdshire
 Dodson & Fogg
 Left Outsides
 GJ Baker
 DCW Briggs
 Cody Noon
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   

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ANTHROPROPHH – OMEGAVILLE
(LP/CD on Rocket Recordings)

Anthroprophh have provided satisfyingly loud and enthralling heavy psych entertainment on a number of previous recordings for labels of distinction such as Rocket Recordings and Cardinal Fuzz to name but two. The trio of Paul Allen, Gareth Turner and Jesse Webb have well and truly raised the bar as well as the roof with this ambitious, diverse, fat free double album which like one of my old favourites Hüsker Dü’s ‘Zen Arcade’ takes the listener on a white knuckle ride packed with crunching power and fertile imagination without a real pause for breath.
The album launches with a roar on the bone crunching ‘2029’, a short, supercharged riot of guitars and vocals and the energy doesn’t let up with the next track ‘Dead Inside’ where the incendiary guitar and ‘punky’ crooning vocals once again ignite the song. ‘Housing Act 1980’ follows and opens with a tumble of words and tricksy prog-metal riffing in an urgent King Crimson crossed with Motorhead style before settling into a heavy psychedelic guitar storm nodding in the direction of High Rise and other great purveyors of the art. Thankfully the Housing Act itself isn’t included as a lyric book!

‘Oakmoll’ keeps the fuzzy intensity going but we get something approaching a hummable chorus and the aforementioned crooning vocals ride a great little melody until the middle of the song takes us into an absolute storm of guitars and drums easily hitting 11 on the growling skronk scale. ‘Sod’ follows and is more metallic in structure with an edge of space rock at the start but which, after a short interlude, takes off on a great squally guitar solo adventure built on a great drum and bass foundation. ‘Death Salad’ as well as being a great title brings a change of feel with less emphasis on power, speed and heavy riffs and the introduction of some psychedelic light and shade. ‘’Why Are You Smiling?’ has a slower heavy riff with a more menacing atmosphere created by the vocals and guitar solo not unlike some of the work of Dave Cloud to my ears. ‘I’ then unexpectedly brings a riff with a strong Beefheart feel to proceedings before it slowly morphs into something much heavier and spacier where the vocals and guitars scream out on top of a punishing repetitive beat over more than eight minutes - a stunning track.  

‘Maschine’ is lighter and less dense with a rhythm and feel that brings a touch of new wave/art rock sound and a breathy vocal and flute riding the riff until a lengthy blissed out ambience takes us to the song’s close. ‘Human Beast’ opens with an insistent tribal style drum rhythm which for the first part of the track is sparsely flavoured with whirring and hissing ambience until a snarling guitar solo breaks out from nowhere soon joined by an organ to help whip up an intense and satisfying noise.

Finally we have two lengthy epics to end on. ‘OMEGAVILLE/THOTHB’ extends to over fourteen minutes and features a spoken word lyric over a slowly evolving riff with various shades of musical colour. There is a touch of The Fall in the basic structure of the words and music but I actually got a big hit of Pere Ubu in the extended vocal and the improvised landscape painted around the core words and riff. It’s a great track mixing peaks of glorious guitar noise with interesting tangents to the music as the track evolves and explores on its journey.

Outside of certain classic ‘prog’ and free jazz albums there are few places to find tracks almost twenty one minutes long but we end here with ‘Journey out of OMEGAVILLE and into the…….’. It’s an experimental piece which is essentially a long sound collage taking in a whole musical world of influences ranging from Kosmische to Can, Pere Ubu (again), free jazz, field recordings and psychedelia with a loose structure held together by drums and vocals, but only just. It’s certainly a brave way to finish a record and for me it works well having enough variety and structure to keep the listener engaged.

This record may well be one of my records of the year and is inventive, strange, powerful and exciting in equal measure. It’s a record of two halves and the better for it by bringing enough diversity and interest over the length of a well filled double album and guiding the listener slowly but surely towards the stranger zones of the record through more familiar desire lines of guitar ecstasy. Pay a visit to Omegaville yourself, you won’t be disappointed.
(Francis Comyn)

 

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RETEP FOLO  – GALACTIC SOUNDS 
(Vinyl/ DL  700 x red numbered vinyl copies with download code www.claypipemusic.co.uk  )

Retep Folo is the latest project /recording from Peter Olof Fransson of the sixties inspired psychedelically minded group ‘The Owl Report’.  In 2016 he released a very limited lathe cut entitled ‘Music For Cats’.

For this project he has created an album influenced by his love as a young boy of other worlds and of the stars and galaxies twinkling in the firmament, which is exactly what this record sets out to achieve.  Here we have sixteen, two minute instrumental tracks recorded on a vintage Farfisa organ with a touch of bass guitar, Glockenspiel and the percussive sounds of an Elgam Carousel analogue rhythm box.  This is a record that’s pretty hard to write about but very easy to listen to. Inspired in the main, by 1970’s Library music and old Czech cartoon soundtracks, as a boy Peter used to love playing with old radios and the sounds you could create in between stations by moving up and down the dials.

Peter created these little space age vignettes with the specific aim of creating head phone music that you could just close your eyes and drift off to and it works. I have also listened to it whilst having the Blue Planet on the TV with the sound down and it really works in this setting too, I find outer space and sub aqua both quite alluring and am also fascinated by both.  A few years ago I also owned a Farfisa organ, which I used mainly for amplification of my acoustic guitar; plugging it straight into the input located on the back, into the rotating Leslie speaker of the organ.  I am instantly transported to those times and recognise the sound immediately as they are a very distinctive instrument, particularly the percussive sounds from the rhythm box with its extra men function, also the sound of the bass from the foot pedals, this record really is the sound of a Farfisa organ and could almost be used as a demonstration disc. 

Each of the songs is prefixed by the word Galactic, so we have Galactic Pulse, Moon, Flare etc, to pick out individual tracks is fairly academic; the whole thing should really be listened to as a whole and listened to in this way flows pretty well.  Lasting for little over half an hour it manages to cram quite a few little earworms in none the less.  This is a bit of a departure for the label whose releases so far have all been quite site specific and all based on the Terra Firma.  Drop the needle and be transported on an intergalactic journey and if we ever start taking those vacations to the moon then I expect this could well be the soundtrack to such a trip.

(Andrew Young)

 

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THE SWITCHING YARD – YET AGAIN
(LP/CD on Cardinal Fuzz Records)

The ever reliable Cardinal Fuzz have unleashed another monster here courtesy of Saskatoon’s rather wonderful The Switching Yard.

Ignition for this beast of a record comes in the form of the short but sweet eleven seconds of opening track ‘Space Fuckin’ which leads into ‘Champagne Action’, perhaps the least likely dinner party or wedding reception music you are ever likely to hear. It has a crunching heavy riff and pounding beat with a big spacey guitar solo fighting its way through in the middle section. ‘Hard Luck’ raises the tempo a little and has a great Stooges feel, magnetic melody and a big shout along chorus. ‘Behind the Gates’ builds a slower, hypnotic groove, full of atmosphere and which takes it’s time growing in power and intensity slowly but satisfyingly. The guitar sounds are lovely with spacey soloing and a warm fuzzy riff continuously washing in tides over the groove.  At more than nine minutes this fine track doesn’t outstay its welcome for one second. ‘Space Fuckin’ II’ is a short clanging dub style interlude which sounds like it was recorded inside a cement mixer. It’s followed by ‘Hank Its Midnight’ which has a roaring metallic rumble of a riff full of energy and melody. Feet will surely tap and heads nod vigorously to this gem of a song. ‘Class Act’ is nearly nine minutes of dense, heavy and intense riffing where everything intertwines with the riff as the central attraction and nothing distracts from it. It sucks you in and keeps you there very happily indeed.

The record closes with ‘Burnt Wick’ which at nearly eight minutes long is another squalling epic with a memorable riff that is both intense and exhilarating. The song journeys into space and the molten core of the earth in equal measure bringing to mind the light and shade of Mogwai and the heavy insistence of classic Black Sabbath which works very well for my ears indeed.

This record is an end to end pleasure and should be played nice and loud. Champagne is optional, resistance is futile.
(Francis Comyn)

 

 

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GLEB KOLYADIN – S/T
(CD/LP/Digital DL on kscopemusic.com)
 
Gleb Kolyadin is the first solo release from the gifted pianist from iamthemorning.  The musical genius hails from Saint Petersburg, the chilly Russian kind, not the sun-drenched Floridian kind.  Kolyadin blends prog, jazz and classical, combining excellent composition with warp speed playing on the grand piano.  After enjoying the iamthemorning albums, I wondered when the mega-talented Kolyadin was going to release an album of his own.  And here it is.

He composed and recorded his piano tracks in Russia, and received support externally from a stellar cast of musicians.  Given the unenviable task of keeping up with Kolyadin (and passing with flying colors) include Gavin Harrison on drums, Nick Beggs on bass, Theo Travis on flute and saxophones, and Vlad Avy on guitars.  There are guest appearances by Mick Moss and Steve Hogarth on vocals, and Jordan Rudess on synths.

The album ranges from solo piano pieces from Kolyadin, both slow and dizzyingly fast, to ensemble pieces showcasing the talents of his contributors.  Although it is Gleb’s album and his compositions, he is a gracious host, and cedes the floor regularly to add tone and colors.

Leading off, “Insight” is a wonderful sampler, almost an overture, of the goodies to come.  Gleb starts it off with his trademark fast, time signature-shifting piano, leading to a dramatic synth solo, some sax from Theo Travis, a guitar solo by Vlad Avy, and the ensemble brings it to a thundering close.  Second song “Astral Architecture” slows things down.  The piece is full of warmth, with vocals by Mick Moss, and tasteful orchestral touches.

“White Dawn” is a relatively short piano mood piece, which at times sounds like the young Kolyadin practicing his lessons.  The piece segues seamlessly into the explosive album highlight “Kaleidoscope,” another tour de force.  Beginning with what seems like a continuation of the previous track White Dawn, only sped up, the song takes on a life of its own, with Gleb’s virtuoso playing, then some wordless vocals from Tatiana Dubovaya.  Kolyadin creates suspense with a number of unexpected turns, each one more elevated than the last, as the other players give Kolyadin’s beleaguered keys, hammers and pedals a short rest.  There’s some dazzling flute by Theo Travis, followed by thrilling synths, with the ensemble joining towards the end, all brought to a crescendo halt.

“Eidolon” is a short solo piano work, sad, but with an underlying rhythmic tension, that unexpectedly nearly comes full stop, then becomes even more moody and vanishes into an atmospheric synthesizer mist.  I love it.  Another quick segue to “Into the Void,” a song full of mystery; it almost sounds to me like it could’ve been in a Harry Potter movie soundtrack.

An abrupt transition takes us into the jazzy “The Room,” full of urgency, beginning with just Kolyadin on piano with his rhythm section of Gavin Harrison and Nick Beggs.  Enter Theo Travis’s flute, followed by some down time with just Kolyadin, then the group returns hurtling away.  A synth solo by Kolyadin leads to Travis putting down his flute to pick up his saxophone, and pretty soon everyone’s pounding away to another dramatic finish.

“Confluence,” the album’s longest track at 10:24, begins with quiet spoken words by Steve Hogarth over, or rather off to the side of, Kolyadin’s tempered piano.  The piece builds and builds from there, as bass and drums join, followed by a second piano and vibes.  After an atmospheric transition, a rhythmic interlude follows as Kolyadin mixes piano with an uncredited harp and synths.  Rather than go for another ensemble build-up and crash down, Kolyadin maintains the quiet but tense pace throughout the remainder of the song.  Confluence is about restraint, not bombast.

“Constellation/The Bell” returns us to quiet piano, in which one can picture Kolyadin sitting in for Chopin in a Paris salon playing a nocturne, until female vocals take it away to another place.  “Echo/Sigh/Strand,” while a short piece, packs a punch.  Beginning with some highly caffeinated playing by Kolyadin, the piece launches sky high into synth-driven prog space.

“Storyteller” opens with another mysterious sounding passage, including spoken word narration from Lewis Carroll’s “Dreamland,” over both acoustic and electric piano.  The piece features some scorching synth shredding (is that a thing?  OK now it is) from Jordan Rudess.  Boring it is not.

The album concludes with “The Best of Days,” with vocals by Steve Hogarth.  I’ll be honest - nothing against the exalted H, but I preferred the instrumental tracks on the album.

Gleb Kolyadin’s virtuosity on this debut should come as no surprise to anyone who’s heard his work in iamthemorning.  The album is stunningly inventive and chock full of peerless musicianship.

(Mark Feingold)

 


 

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TRAPPIST AFTERLAND  -  SE(V11)EN 
(LP on Sunstone Records www.sunstonerecords.co.uk )

Australian band Trappist Afterland , currently in the UK for a short tour, release their seventh album on the Sunstone record label.

On this album the sound is fleshed out with a few guests, we have Anthony Cornish who adds Mellotron, harmonium, violin and bass.  Stephen Holmes who plays an e-bowed krajappi on ‘Forest Mass’.   Anthony Petrucci plays synth and backing vocals on ‘This Clock, Tick Tock’.  Adam Casey plays Jew harp on ‘Elm And Bracken’.  Plus Kitchen Cynic’s Alan Davidson spoken word on ‘Song For Sundog’.

The presentation of this album is a joy to behold, the cover has a barefooted Shepherdess watching over her flock of sheep adorned in a full length costume of a hare and the back cover has Adam holding a lovely looking 12 stringed Lute, looking for all the world like a Bleeker street beatnik.  Adam on this outing plays guitars, mandolin, oud, flute, dulcitar, cymbols, bells, bohdran, tanpura, whir-stick, darbuka, bass and a Dan Bau monochord.  Whereas the previous albums have dealt mainly in the religious imagery of scriptures, stigmatisms, psalms and gnostic verses, this one adds a whole heap of woodland imagery, heavily informed by knots, roots, branches, trees, forests etc, creating a sort of woodland concept album, really. 

The album begins with ‘The Blood In The Wood’, a pensive opener thick with percussion, eastern drones and the mossy mass of mellotron, it tells of the seed within us all, the seed of truth.  ‘1 + 1 = 3’, another ‘tron infused song, with added flute and mandolin, a rootless tree that will never produce any fruit, a very gentle song redolent with light percussion and impassioned backing vocals.  ‘Knot In The Wood’, we return to the blood in the wood, an acoustic reverie of a tune, instruments curling off like wood shavings, twisting away, matter and spirit.  ‘Burning Bushes’, is tremendous, all backwards instrumentation and very deliberate acoustic lines, more ‘tron adding layers to this very progressive questing folk song, reeking of ritual, washed in the blood.  ‘Elm And Bracken’ could well be my favourite on the album, it tells of the changing seasons, very melodic with all sorts of bizarre instrumentation, it’s infused with a lightness that belies the subject matter;  that of ritual burials and of bodies turning to dust.

Side two begins with ‘Song For Sundog’, another eastern sounding, drone accompanied song, a pretty eulogy about all the rambles and trails taken with Adam’s beloved Sundog who raises a pint in his honour and fondly remembers rabbits chased, it includes a spoken word segment featuring Alan Davidson.  ‘Stickboy’, an acoustic reverie, mellotron splashes tootle in the choruses, guitars are strummed in a chordal fashion, a fairly straightforward song, with Crimsonesque tones.  ‘Trace Your Root’, is thick with eastern tropes, languid and soporific, it speaks of the bitter withered fruits of darkness, the seeds of desire, a drowsy gem of a tune. ‘ Forest Mass’,  follows and a queasiness takes hold, like an exposed nerve, rootless and dense, this cyclical song tells of altars in the forest and comes with a little distortion.  Album closer ‘This Clock, Tick Tock’, introduces some squiggly synth lines, essentially a song of time and the working man, all wrapped up in a pretty and fairly short acoustic tune.

There are a few copies of this initial press remaining at the label and with some tickets remaining for a few of the shows it’s a good time to be investing in the music of this quite singular band.
(Andrew Young)

 

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SENDELICA – MY HOUSE IS MADE OF ANGEL HAIR
(LP/CD/DL from https://sendelica.bandcamp.com/)

There’s probably no such thing as a typical Sendelica release. The West Wales based veterans are after all a shapeshifting entity of multi personalities and ever evolving/revolving membership based around a solid core. Essentially an instrumental space rock band of the more tuneful variety that lean more towards cerebral ambience than cranial attrition they also revel in throwing kaleidoscopic curve balls, not least a drone clone format and even – gasp – the occasional foray into vocalisation. The human voice, we ask you. Where will this weirdness end?

My House Is Made Of Angel Hair is a fine example of the latter foray, to the point in fact where instrumental tracks are something of an endangered species. The presence of three covers might also raise an eye brow or two in what may well be a tip of the titfer to running mates Fruits de Mer, this year celebrating 10 years and who specialise in allowing their roster free-reign when it comes to interpreting classics and more obscure treasures of yesteryear.

Let’s cut across to the action then. Staple band members Pete Bingham (guitar, also Voyage of Hallucinatory Travellers), Glenda Pascado (bass, Surf Messengers and alumna of 80s free festival stalwarts the Tibetan Ukrainian Mountain Troupe) and reeds man Lee Relf have enlisted an impressive cast of guest musicians meaning the overall effect is of a remix album

‘Sunburst Screamer’ is really anything but. A delicate, almost imperceptible opening gambit fizzing with waveringly dissonant, almost can’t be bothered, samples and textures. It’s beautifully understated, almost soporific, and one of a brace of mixes with Marc Swordfish of Astralasia’s dabs all over them, the other being the pleasingly fluvial and tantalisingly trippy ‘Thanks For The Fish’. In contrast, the title track is an altogether funkier little space trucker – Gong at the disco. This first vocal track, courtesy of Karen Langley’s throaty contralto also features occasional member (and principal mix master here) Colin Consterdine on drum programming and electronics and adding a discernible festi-trance vibe to the point that you can practically smell canvas and damp grass. Venerable uncle Nik Turner tootles up on ‘This Is The Day’ along with Molara Awen (Zion Train) who trills pleasantly enough in what must pass as the most mainstream track Sendelica have put their name to in a while - a folk-lite, semi acoustic rumination only marginally overlong nudging eight minutes. Hard to imagine from this reading think that Don Van Vliet had a hand in penning this one, but c’est la vie, say the old folks apparently.

Awen returns on – wait for it – ‘Evil Woman’. Relax it’s not the ELO song. Dammit there’s such a thing as going too far, you know. Nope, this one is Wagnerian, if only in the sense that it’s the old Wagner-Wiegand number off Black Sabbath’s debut album. Here it’s given a very different treatment, a hammy horror for those who think the Rocky Horror Show plays is it a bit safe. A stalking menace that sounds less lumpen perhaps than Ozzy and boys but less conducive to a singalong after a few inhibition loosening sherberts.

60s primal psych gets a look in thanks to ‘Hard Coming Love’ (originally by United States of America) and is one of two tracks featuring the strained rasp of Wally Stagg,  a name no doubt familiar to pilgrims as the DJ at the Sardonicus festivals hosted by Bingham and Fruits de Mer each year in Cardigan. The arrangement is a cut and shunt of frat party freaksploitation freak out and sub-Santana Latin groove, Pete’s expansive guitar lines underpinned by Pescado’s catchy bass riffs. Stagg’s other contribution, ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ (no not that one, either) is a hoot. A down and dirty blues rocker built on a Peter Gunn-style motif it belongs in some dark and desolate corner of 70s Portobello Road and sounds like the Rudolph/Twink era Pink Fairies stumbling away from Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout. They even manage to enlist the services of two drummers for added authenticity.

Angel Hair represents Sendelica at their most playful, varied and imaginative. A celebration of life as we knew it. Hippies? You wonder at what point this strange, esoteric cult might catch on.
(Ian Fraser)

 

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GNOD – CHAPEL PERILOUS
(LP/CD/DL from Rocket Recordings
https://rocketrecordings.bandcamp.com/)

Of all the bands crudely lumped under the New Psych banner this past decade, Gnod are perhaps the most divisive. Their brand of post-industrial brutalism hasn’t been to everyone’s tastes while their single-minded approach and what has always seemed like a tough to the point of impenetrable outer shell often leaves the impression (mistaken as it turns out) that they are paid-up members of the awkward squad. That perception is as often as not reinforced in the minds of anyone turning up to what they hope is going to be a live onslaught only for the band to be hunched over a tangle of wires and metal armed with soldering irons (ok maybe not quite but you get the picture) and churning out amorphous squelches of noise. It seems you either go wherever the ride takes you or you jump off a moving train.

Ah but the Terrascope has a particular soft-spot for the erstwhile Islington Mill collective to the point of having put them on in Cardiff last year – our Election Night Special on an unforgiving evening of stair-rod rain last June – while last year’s Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine didn’t just foresee growing social discontent and pre-empt that hung parliament election but delivered their most focussed and accessible collection since Chaudelande, since when they’ve been steadily skewering hearts and minds and steadily building their fan base

Enter Chapel Perilous a reference to a metaphorical state where the individual cannot be certain whether they have been exposed to supernatural forces or simply tricked by their own imagination. The album is based around two bookends of unbridled, unabashed intensity and which took shape during the band’s mammoth 2017 tour promoting Just Say No… The first of these, ‘Donovan’s Daughter’, starts by riffing on a single (dis) chord building to a pounding orgy of pulverisation. Not for the first time do Jesse Webb’s drums add value, his little intricacies detracting not one jot from the beat while giving us much more than four to the floor, while Neil Francis’s vocals imbued with a John Lennon quality. Sonically the usual influences are present – an ignoble savage comprising Wire, PiL, Hawkwind without the wind machine, and a troupe of infernal panel beaters on piece work. All those devils are here and they inhabit ‘Donovan’s Daughter’, quite possibly the most accomplished and satisfying 15 minutes that Gnod have ever put together.

There follows a series of abstractions as we wind up to the pulsating finale of ‘Uncle Frank Says Turn It Down’. ’Europa’ represents a sideways lurch into parallel, more experimental, Gnod territory. Ominous sounding single bass plunks and sawing squalls of glissando punctuated by a heavily accented narrative. The overall feel is of a hallucinogenic cold war radio broadcast. Equally unsettling is ‘Voice From Nowhere’ which is like being stalked by a bunch of orcs (nurse, my meds, now). The third of this indeterminately gooey but nevertheless interesting midsection is ‘A Body’ and another dark recess in which to huddle up in your old trenchcoat. Bleak house, man, in which dread is most definitely at the controls. This is unchartered territory. White land at the black heart of god knows what and where.

And so to the finale and that other tour honed behemoth. Teeth jarring feedback ushers in ‘Uncle Frank…’ a rancorous, bloody minded and bludgeon orgy of the “may contain soundscapes that some listeners find disturbing” variety. Metal for muthas indeed. Gnod trade on repetition and it seems that business has never been better. None of which is likely to impress those of you whose idea of “psych” is primary colours in pastoral shades or chaps in monocles and striped blazers singing jolly ditties about Auntie’s sweet shoppe. Or if jack-knife signature changes of post-grad mathematical complexity is your thing you might also want to look away now. If, however, you like your thrill and spills loud and as well as downright dangerous then this way please for the white knuckle ride. Oh and bring your own ear plugs.
(Ian Fraser)  

 
 

B'EE (IN GOWAN RING), DAVID COLOHAN, SPROATLY SMITH
LIVE AT WEIRDSHIRE, HEREFORD 04/04/18

Organised by members of local folk-rock legends Sproatly Smith, Weirdshire is a five day festival celebrating the stranger side of folk music bringing together musicians from across the globe.

All the way from America, In Gowan Ring, as a duo, set the mood, playing gently acoustic tunes that evoked a more innocent and spiritual time, blended voices and sweet melodies allowing the listener to drift downstream in bliss. With a respectful and quiet audience the songs were allowed to shine softly, the music accompanied by some interesting stories of pent shaped shafts of moonlight, parks full of trees and Jesus emerging from his cave.

Beginning with some beat poetry that formed a personal manifesto, David Colohan immediately engaged the audience by ignoring the bank of electronic devices he had brought along, choosing instead to sing alone, his beautiful voice filling the space, mixing tradition with modern sensibilities and intimacy. Halfway through he invited members of the audience to join him for some improvised singing, the choir including members of In Gowan Ring, Sproatly Smith and a Kitchen Cynic, the sound a joyful interpretation of the rolling hills around Herefordshire, a glorious drone that rose and fell, the performers adding touches of rhythm to the drones, creating a wondrous piece that will never be repeated. After this, the singers remained and David finally ignited the electronics, echoed drones layered over the voices, with a flautist adding some soaring details to the music, the sound elevating the room before finally drifting into the night.

I have seen Sproatly Smith several times now and each time they seem to have become tighter and more in tune with each other so I was really looking forward to their performance and they did not disappoint, their blend of psychedelic folk-rock the perfect end to the evening. Mixing traditional tunes with their own compositions, the band were energised from the start, the rhythmic attack of drummer, percussionist, double bass and electric bass, laying a foundation for the dancing melodies of guitar and violin, the whole glorious mix topped of with twin female vocals creating a wall of sound that you could get easily lost in especially when the band dive into a cavern of improvised noise, structure lost for a while in pure sound before pulling it all back together perfectly. Over far too soon, the audience loved every minute and you could feel the energy in the room afterwards.

With three performances that suited each other, this was an evening that transported you to another place, time of no significance, and everybody smiling, I am so looking forward to the next night’s performances.

MOONGAZING HARE, THE KITCHEN CYNICS, TRAPPIST AFTERLAND
LIVE AT WEIRDSHIRE, HEREFORD, 5/4/18.

Whereas the previous night concert seemed to be a joyous celebration of modern folk and its extended family, this evening's performers drifted towards the more personal and intimate, songs and stories that took us into the void, filled with melancholy and touching on death and madness.

     Perhaps slightly nervous when he began, Moongazing Hare slowly found his voice, his deep tones and slightly distorted guitar embellished by flute and shruti box courtesy of David Colohan, the songs creeping under the skin slowly and beautifully. Strangely it was some tuning problems that seemed to raise the bar, the slightly out of tune guitar adding a sweet dissonance to the music, complementing the lyrics perfectly, the rest of the set completed with strong vocals and haunting memorable tunes that took a while to finally fade from my mind.

    Next up we welcomed an old Terrascope friend as Alan Davidson took to the stage singing his bitter sweet songs, personal and connected to the area he lives in, each one a delightful time capsule augmented by echoed guitar and fine storytelling between tunes. During the song “Richard In Bedlam” (a song about madness and murder) battery failure caused yet more complications before Alan rallied for his final piece a magnificent Psychedelic rendition of “Jock the Sheep” loops of sound and electronics creating a wall of hazy noise that was a joy to listen to, the whole set over too soon.

    There seems to be quite a buzz around Trappist Afterand at the moment and it is easy to see why, their blend of drones, delicate yet repetitive guitar lines and powerful vocals is simply magical, the music transporting you to a different place, each song naturally following on from the last, the band having their own unique sound. Again tuning problems slowed the set down but the audience chipped in with a couple of jokes, one in German and the room was united again as a family enjoying an intimate evening of music far away from the mainstream.

    In a world of corporate madness it was very refreshing to attend an event without barriers, the musicians supporting each other, mingling with audience, everyone there for the love of good honest music played with love and for the music itself. Long may it continue. (Simon Lewis)

 

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DODSON AND FOGG - AWAKE
(Wisdom Twins)

The “ultra limited pretentious special edition” of Chris Wade’s latest release (itself a limited edition CD) comes with a book of the same name, featuring art, lyrics, and a short story, so this is essentially its soundtrack. More on that in a moment. The multi-talented Wade wrote, played, and produced the album, which opens with the instrumental title track, a dreamy, introspective affair with forlorn piano motifs not unlike the more ruminative efforts of Robert Smith. It sets the stage for developing Wade’s remit of exploring the differentiation between the sleeping and awaking states of consciousness. ‘I Swear I Am Awake’ pursues the dichotomy – how do we know if we are awake or dreaming?

‘In The City’ contemplates loneliness within the sphere of consciousness. “In the city/No one noticed me”. Is it because I am simply dreaming about a stroll through town and, therefore, don’t really exist “in the city” or am I really invisible to everyone as they scamper to and fro? Identity – false and real – is at the center of ‘We All Wear A Mask’. Do we hide our true selves behind masks in order to project the person we want others to see? Or do we lack confidence in ourselves to show others who we really are, thus inventing a “stranger” to define us? Anyone who’s ever used an alias in social media can identify with this philosophical conundrum!

Dreams and “reality” are also at the heart of the rocker, ‘Girl of My Dreams’ (not the Bram Tchaikovsky classic), a fuzzy slice of dirtyass rock and roll that ponders whether that girl you can’t get out of your mind (“She’s the girl who roams through my mind”) exists inside your head or really is the answer to all your romantic prayers. Wade seems unsure of the answer, as he wails “Sometimes I swear that she cannot be real”.

Now about that short story. The book ends with the tale of a ‘Journey Through The Night’. Wade intended the album to end with an actor reading it, accompanied by music. Hence the closing, 15-minute epic “title” track. Rightly concluding the song could stand on its own, he dropped the narration approach and suggests you may want to read the story as you listen to its “soundtrack”. As an award-winning filmmaker, Wade knows how to create atmospheric and emotionally-charged “scenes”, and the music does indeed work best as an underscore to the story. But as with the best of soundtracks, it can also stand on its own as an episodic suite of musical styles: hard rock, glam, proggy organ runs, pastoral folk, solos evincing hints of David Gilmore, Neil Young, Nick Saloman, or Jeff Kelly, each taking up a point in the story that ultimately leads to…. Well, that’s what the “ultra limited pretentious special edition” is for!
(Jeff Penczak)

 

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THE LEFT OUTSIDES – ALL THAT REMAINS
(LP from Cardinal Fuzz http://cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com/ and Feeding Tube http://feedingtuberecords.com/)

Honestly? We’ve probably run out of superlatives with which to shower on wife/husband duo Alison Cotton (viola and voice) and Mark Nicholas (guitar and vocals) – see reviews passim. Such is the siren-like allure of this their fifth album (their second on Cardinal Fuzz and which gets a US release courtesy of old ‘Scope mate Byron Coley’s Feeding Tube imprint), though, that we just can’t resist trying to do it something approaching justice without, hopefully, resorting to too many tired clichés of our own making.

On initial exposure, ‘The Unbroken Circle’ apparently ticks a raft of folkie boxes – the title, Alison’s doleful, oak aged viola redolent of ‘Crazy Man Michael’ and a lyrical reference to “Seasons They Change” are all present and correct. Only now the drums and a brisk almost Latin cadence give it a lift and levity not so much heard on last year’s darkly delicious There Is A Place. The protagonists harmonise beautifully and the result is ear friendly folk rock with pop awareness that evokes bright autumn days skipping over leafy forest floors. Or in my case stumbling and cursing over hidden tree roots.

‘Naming Shadows Was Your Existence’ has you leaning into the speaker to make sure it’s working. Rest assured it does and quite perfectly so. It’s the woozy twilight world balladry in which The Left Outsides excel. While Alison serenades, Mark reels off power chords. Now there’s a musical marriage for you. Mark’s turn next and I’ve said it before that he is not dissimilar in tone and delivery to Gruff Rhys. ‘Down By The Waterside’ also has the hallmark of a Super Furry Animal arrangement. It’s a drowsy delight and a serious contender for the next quarterly playlist. ‘Clothed In Ivy, Obscured In Dust’ may sound like it belongs on a Stone Breath album but it pays never to judge a hook by its title. This one’s spritely indeed, bobbing up on its toes with a disarmingly lovely psych pop chorus bringing to mind Dandy Warhol, yes, but also Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox’s pre-Eurythmics outfit The Tourists. Dammit I’d hop around the study if it were big enough to swing a hat, although the thought of quite what the Cardinal’s usual congregation will make of it brings a wry smile to these old cracked lips.

The funereal waltz of ‘All That I Danced With Are Gone’ exudes the sort of exquisite decay that we’ve come to love and to wait for with fetid breath. A simple enough and nagging familiar refrain that is both timeless and strange. Loss and despair? I’ll brood to that. ‘The Yellow Paper’ also nods at faded grandeur and another tantalising hint of SFA in the chorus (‘If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You’ if I’m not too mistaken). Ah yes, the title track. Now we’re talking. This one’s been around for a while (there’s a lovely clip on You Tube from a few years back of the duo camped out in Epping Forest knocking out a purely acoustic version called ‘One More For The Road’). The addition of reverb and light percussion renders this a classic that straddles languid turn of the 70s West Coast rock and Dingly Dell as viewed through a psilocybin prism. Utterly absorbing if not requisite. It’s then left to Mark for the last word ‘Take Me Home Again’ a fitting epilogue in both style and substance.

A little less dark and insular than you might imagine, All That Remains draws from a range of styles and influenced without compromising the root number. It has a foot in the past and gives a nod to the present, while the Left Outsides have their eye firmly fixed to the future. Nothing here outstays its welcome. Long may it, and they, run.
(Ian Fraser)

Terrascope will shortly announce what may, for now, be the last of our live music promotions and which will feature The Left Outsides together with Trembling Bells. Keep your eyes peeled on these pages and stay tuned to social media for more details.

 

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GAVIN JOHN BAKER – NIGHT IN THE OPEN
DAVID CW BRIGGS – THE HOMEMADE WORLD
(CD/DL from Folk Archive Records https://gavinjohnbaker.bandcamp.com/ and   https://davidcwbriggs.bandcamp.com/)

Blow us down if it wasn’t as long ago as last August that we were pleased to review the well-received musical coupling of Gavin John Baker and David CW Briggs. Now the prodigious pair are back, separately this time, albeit both releases come courtesy of David’s Folk Archive Records imprint

Norway-based Baker is something of a genre hopper with a musical pedigree that embraces loud rock, primitive drone and solo acoustic guitar. Here he turns a deft hand to some very fine guitar based pop that while it is instantly contagious manages to retain enough quirkiness to keep things interesting. These are well crafted melodies that  times sound like Tom Robinson interpreting Stephen Malkmus, such as on ‘Summer Layabout’ and the noteworthy ‘The Lights Go On’, whereas ‘Steady From The Wreck’ makes for a passable reworking of ‘Harvest Moon’. It’s heart-warming to hear the Syd-shuffle of ‘Gigolo Aunt’ alive and pulsing on ‘Eggcup’ as well.

Baker is on occasions lyrically engaging too, such as on ‘Clay Man’, the rather odd tale of the man who makes a clay friend only to be rejected in favour of a clay wife and for them to move next door. However it is the songs wot does it, guv, epitomised by ‘Night Spent In The Open’ with its backward tapes, strong propulsion and catchy hook. Similarly striking playlist contenders include ‘Traitor’s Gate’, a stripped back and slowed down folky dirge, naked and raw, and ‘Hiding Under The Leaves’ which skips along harmoniously in a manner reminiscent of undervalued Scouse combo Professor Yaffle and topped off with some rather nifty guitar runs for good measure.

The rest of it, too, is a country mile upwind of being shabby, with old mate Briggs also putting in a couple of guest appearances on electric guitar. Gavin’s next project is rumoured to be a grunge/noise affair featuring nine-year old son Albert on drums. Time to change buses pretty sharpish, then.

David CW Briggs is a self-styled purveyor of what he terms loner folk, bedroom psych and outsider blues, so don’t expect to see him doing handstands on the dancefloor any time soon. It’s also a perfectly apt handle on which to hang his umpteenth release The Homemade World.

Whichever style he’s inhabiting, it’s clear that David owes a big musical debt to Syd Barrett. Yet while the Madcap’s dabs are all over much of this, the execution is Post-Barrett Floyd as if David Gilmour is interpreting imagined Syd Barrett compositions armed only with an acoustic guitar a tape recorder and some beer. ‘Yet Never Will Reveal’, ‘The Attendant’ and ‘The Has-Been’ are all fine cases in point while the stomping ‘Orderly Row’ (with bird song) is a more raucous, next level ‘Two Of A Kind’. There are also weird not to mention welcome echoes of Briggs’ alter ego, Hills Have Riffs in the panoramic drone of ‘Arctic Aladdin’ and the backwoods hallucinogenic strains of ‘Don’t You Ever’ (in fact the latter could easily have nodded off and fallen on the cutting room floor during the Drood’s Jehovah Kill sessions). On ‘The Homemade World’ David takes on the role of Robyn Hitchcock’s introverted little brother, mumbling a bit to himself and probably glad he doesn’t get to wear the polka dot shirt. Then in what seems like the blink of an eye we reach journey’s end and the semblance of a knee lift with the relatively jaunty and aptly titled ‘Don’t You See It’s Already Gone’. And it has. Twenty minutes, eight songs. Not quite Ramones but strikingly brief none-the-less and yet he’s packed so much into so little time that it would seem ungrateful to bemoan the lack of filler. An almost perfectly poised mini-album, in fact, although I wouldn’t sniff at the Killing Joke-style box set version.
(Ian Fraser)

 

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CODY NOON – DOUBLE DARK
(DL/Cassette from Doubledotdash https://codynoon.bandcamp.com)

Comprising just Suzy Antoniw on bass and Mothertruckers’ guitarist Charlie Butler (plus a drum machine) Cody Noon meld sometimes innocuous melodies with quiet menace and soaring instrumental heft into quiet/loud sonic vistas.
Stripped to the core but packing subtle intricacies, Butler’s neat little guitar runs can sound almost playful while Antoniw’s bass insinuates more than it rocks before it all turns on a sixpence. Careful how you approach because this one bites. ‘Concept Thinking’ for instance has a narcotic, almost soporific quality, but just as your attention wanders it kicks in – most of all your head – affecting a doom metal Dead Sea Apes fighting stance into the bargain. ‘Lady Crystal Nightshade’ even borders on insouciance before Riffzilla steps on the distortion pedal and off we go again. You know it’s a coming but it’s still a jolt to the shredded nervous system when it does.

So by now you’re probably thinking Mogwai or Explosions In The Sky, but this sounds more feral, less polished and formulaic. It’s done more by cave paintings than by numbers. The centrepiece ‘Participation’ is the lengthiest track here and also represents a distillation of sound and structure - brittle guitar melodies, a bass that mumbles as it rumbles and a cavernous tapping like something corrosive and toxic dripping from an underground pipe somewhere downwind of Chernobyl. There is the inexorable loud bit, which in this case is a bit of an unwanted distraction, before hitting a long landing strip and a heavily accentuated drone fade. The darker it gets the more you get to luxuriate, and ‘Lego Coffin’ is about as it good as it gets, a case of when you’re too whacked to wade just wallow. It also has the good sense to avoid the “loud” bit.

Double Dark may not be ground breaking in respect of the genre but does provide an object lesson that, in committing fewer bodies to the ruck, the results are sometimes so much more rewarding. Minor plus est, as they probably say up on Caversham Heights if not down in the drone zones of Reading.

(Ian Fraser)