= August 2017 =  
The Green Ray
John McBain
Cavalier Song
Baker & Briggs
V/A Sardonicus comp.
The Carousels
Kontiki Lake
Cotton Wolf


(LP from Debacle Records)

Simon Lewis delegated the task of reviewing this one to me, informing me it was “right up my street”. He knows me far, far too well. So far up my street is this in fact that it might as well be in through my own front door, feet up, sat in my favourite armchair with a pint of beer in hand.

I freely confess to having never heard this duo from New Jersey, USA before, which just goes to show I really ought to take note of what the team here writes given that Simon already raved about their debut cassette release in our Rumbles columns earlier this year, describing it as “a folk/psych-rock guitar duo featuring Jesse Sheppard on twelve-string acoustic and Drew Gardner on electric guitar. Over five long pieces the album is a mix of folk guitar and space rock soloing that reminds of the Dead or Quicksilver, primitive American styles mixing with the sounds of Kraut Rock, touches of Jazz and more experimental passages … late night music to ease your mind and leave you with visions of beauty and stillness.”

None of which is very far off the mark. These guys really do cook up a magnificent cacophony. The album opens with the title track, an American primitive freight train driven by the ghost of Jack Rose heading off into a sun-soaked desert of repetitive patterns while an electric guitarist (I like to think it could be Ben Chasny) is sat out back in the caboose picking out the landmarks in acid-etched filigrees. Gradually throughout the side the roles are reversed, until on the magnificent ‘Sugar Hill Raga’ the electric guitar drowns the acoustic with scorched shredding redolent of a train full of explosives rolling off a trestle bridge.

Simon sat watching my reaction with a knowing smile the first time we played it through. It was obvious from the first minute that I loved it, but what I couldn’t put my finger on was what it reminded me of. There’s obviously hints of Pelt, the early 90s outfit featuring Mike Gangloff and Jack Rose which was inspired by traditional American music, Indian raga, and artists as diverse as the Dead C and John Fahey; it further transpires that Sheppard in fact is the same filmmaker who crafted a performance documentary featuring Jack Rose, "The Things That We Used To Do" which came out on Strange Attractors Audio House in 2010, so there’s a connection there too.

After coming up with names as diverse as Om circa. ‘Conference of the Birds’ and Lamp of the Universe circa. ‘Earth, Spirit and Sky’ though, it finally dawned on me what this reminded me of. And in a good way, too.

If you’ve ever kicked back and enjoyed either of acoustic guitarist Mick Wills’ two albums for Woronzow, particularly ‘Fern Hill’ which features the signature Nick ‘Bevis Frond’ Saloman lead guitar, you’ll get the vibe I picked up from this album. Fabulous stuff and I for one can’t wait to hear more.

(Phil McMullen)



(CD from Reckless Records – ReckCD107)

Finally, it’s among us – the long overdue release from The Green Ray.  It will be hard to approach the contents without a degree of justifiable sentiment.  This is the first release of new material since a series of personnel changes.  Firstly, there has been the sad passing of Ken Whaley in 2013 – a far from easy act to follow.  Simon Haspeck departed the ranks too post Ken.  All of which brought to the fore the revamped combo of Simon Whaley, Richard Treece, Jeff Gibbs and Martin James Gee.  For the uninitiated, Jeff took on the bass duties while Ken was coping with his illness and Martin bolstered the team having become well-known to regular Raysters from Mouthful Of Grass sets and some tasty acoustic support slots at the Cricket Club.  Matters had a final twist with Richard Treece’s untimely passing just over 2 years ago.

So, this is the final appearance of one of THE most gifted British guitar players of both his generation and genre, a hero to us all, not least here at the Terrascope. However, this belated release is here to be judged on its own merits rather than any maudlin sentiment for what has been lost.

Proceedings open up with the lengthy “Planes Crashing Into Birds” – a gentle flowing tempo with some great guitar work spread amongst the players. Listen keenly and you will find some delightful runs behind the main theme. The track gathers momentum with yet more sparkling guitar play.  “State Of Grace” follows and it is, during these early listens, the standout track with some great lyrics and melody.  More mellowness as “Halfway” arrives with its acoustic intro with yet more beautiful playing and arranging.  Matters move back into more lengthy territory allowing the players to stretch and flex with “Strange Bargains” – as it moves towards its conclusion the players cut loose and Richard delivers some real fire.

A great laid-back vibe heralds “On Our Way To The Sun” which conveniently seques into a clever little acoustic strum and pick of “Rays Of Light”.  The pastoral tranquillity receives a jolt as the rockiest number, “Silent River Ride”, opens up with all guitars blazing. Drums and bass seem to enjoy their respective moments of being in the driving seat.

As for the closing (and Title Track) “Half Sentences” it’s so poignant a moment to hear Richard speaking in his own inimitable style recalling a moment he fell asleep on stage at The Speakeasy in the company of “happening people” at the time.  A touching finale – all we’re left missing is the trademark smile of thanks and the wave of the peace sign – may your post mortal home be filled with the light and love you gave and left us with.

Mention needs to be made as regards the artwork from the hand and mind of John Hurford – whether intentional or otherwise, it would not have been out of place adorning a Help Yourself release back in the day.

Let’s forget about Richard and Ken being irreplaceable – that’s a given as they say.  What we do have, and should treasure accordingly, is a great little disc and a combo still plying its trade to those who encounter their live forays.  There is enough on offer here to please existing devotees and the lure of what may happen along next.  As an End Of Term Report the overriding comment would be “Keep Up The Good Work” – we await Further Adventures as and when they are ripe to be harvested.  In the meantime, it is to be hoped that this release finds ample punters and support in sufficient numbers to keep the legacy of Ken and Richard burning.  Not only for us “elder groovers” but, for the musically inquisitive who missed the vibe first time round.  Here’s to the continuing existence of The Green Ray, with Simon (now on guitars), Martin, Jeff and Mark Cullum (drums).

(Richard Gould)

(postscript - There is also a limited edition vinyl format coming out on Sugarbush Records - no details on their website as yet however)




(LP/DL from God Unknown Records )

Honestly? I didn’t know what to expect from this, but I honestly didn’t expect this.

McBain is renowned for his work with Monster Magnet and, among the nouveau Psych fraternity, for his two-speed mash up with Kandodo (three quarters of The Heads), last year. [Plus of course he is revered in Terrascopic circles for his revered psych. band the Wellwater Conspiracy, featured in issue 19 of the magazine and on sundry compilations of ours…] With such stoner-heavy friends you’d be forgiven for thinking that Accidental Soundtracks was all going to be a load of amped up nonsense. This though is a different kettle of chips entirely. Early doors and it’s not overly promising. The first track proper, ‘The Alpha Particle’ is … how can I put this? Motorik. Yes, more bloody motorik, and which a decade or more ago would have been ok, except now the World and it’s dog is doing M. Ok, I’ll level with you It’s actually more than ok and it gets better with each subsequent hit, but hey kids, I’m craving new kicks these days. C’mon, show us what you got in yer bag McBain.

Well after the fluffy bloops and bleeps of ‘Lower California’ things click into place indelibly on ‘Captions and Credits’ which is sheer bliss for anyone who loves Ashra’s New Age Of Earth and who, like me, are in thrall to Simon House’s mellotron wash cycles and sonic vistas during his original tour of duty with Hawkwind (never bettered). The cosmic ‘Accidental Soundtrack’ is like the Dead at their most deliciously noodlesome by which point it’s clear that Crunchy McRiff has mislaid his guest pass. It’s a conclusion you’re bound to reach way before the track ‘No Guitars’ well and truly gives the game away.

Any blind tasting would conclude that the chugging ‘First Earth Battalion’ is the bit of The Wall that Waters and co were remiss enough to let get away. It’s a treat and two-thirds, to be sure. It’s also one that’s immediately complemented by the four minute minimalist flotation of ‘Focal Point’, a flightless ‘Albatross’ which makes the old synapses positively crackle with positive energy and is matched only by the glacial and quite beautiful ‘Ecliptic Plane’ which brings us softly to land.

So no, not what was expected at all which makes this all the more finger lickin’ delicious. Post review and this has spent three times on rotation, non-stop. You can’t give much higher praise than that. That goes for the bloody motorik, too.
(Ian Fraser)




(LP/Digital from God Unknown Records )

In early 2016 Cavalier Song released Blezard, an album whose clever, post-minimalist abstractions would prove to have enduring appeal for this writer, bagging a slot in the personal Best of Year roster.

A Deep Well is their much anticipated follow-up, also on God Unknown Records, one of those seemingly charmed labels beloved of Terrascope who you suspect could release nothing but triple albums of nose blowing and they would all sound exceptional [I already have that album - fabulous stuff - Ed.]. Well this one’s not to be sniffed at either while further kudos are due for not being content simply to release Blezard: The Sequel.

Yet there are elements of this that feel familiar. The cerebral math rock is as inventive and off-kilter as ever it was while the introduction of more spoken word vocal suggests that Mark E Smith, imbued with the poetic quality of Ted Hughes fronting a nimble, more portable version of King Crimson. Lead track ‘Adams Apple’ is a good an example of this, the slightly wheezy, flat vowel delivery contrasting well with the dextrous and in no small way dramatic instrumentation. There’s also a dank and slightly twisted bucolic mood present, best exemplified on ‘Shields’ and where we are well and truly into the Dark Britannica territory of Cold Stream Records.

A more acerbic note is struck on the bile-spitting ‘Heathen’ a graphic aural depiction of a dark eyed, and luxuriantly bearded zealot crackling fire and brimstone while summarily resurrecting Gallon Drunk and the Birthday Party in one fell swoop. It’s the closest Cavalier Song get to aping label boss Jason Stoll’s Sex Swing (Jason also graced Mugstar and Bonnacons Of Doom). The impression of Ian McMillan intoning into his cups (alright so he’s the other side of the Pennines but I implore you to suspend your disbelief) is no more felt than on ‘Eborakon Pt 1’ with repeat guitar motif, the tightness of which unravels from its moorings to float loose. ‘St Christopher’ bears a close family resemblance to childhood favourite the theme of ‘Tales of the Riverbank’ and is possessed of that wonderful hypnotic feel that works so well with watery themes (‘Yacht Dance’ by XTC springs to mind, too). It all wraps up with ‘Eborakon II’, rhythmic, shamanistic and so wonderfully repetitive you risk a strain injury just by listening to it.

Well at the risk of depressing anyone who’s only just got used to getting the year right on their forms and letters, we’re now closer to next Christmas than to last. With that in mind it’s going to take some strong releases in the next few months to deny A Deep Well its place on the end of year play list (I mean who needs a Mercury Prize for goodness sake)?
(Ian Fraser)




(CD from Reverb Worship )

The more assiduous among the readership may have come across the name David Briggs, whose works under his own name and that of Hills Have Riffs have appeared on several labels, the names of which peel like the sound of yuletide bells to our ears (Reverb Worship, Fruits De Mer and Coldspring to name but a few).

Here he joins forces with Gavin Baker, formerly of Jet Johnson and currently with Norwegian rockers Sightseers to produce a somewhat more amplified collection of campfire tunes. From the opening ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ (no, not that one) there’s an airy and frequently West Coast feel in terms of much of what’s on offer. This contrasts with much of the Briggs oeuvre, which has the dank, dirge-like allure of Dark Folk.

‘Stung By A Bee’ is breezy, indie-pop which could be from a lost Evan Dando hook up with J Mascis (the vocals possess some of the latter’s cracked vocal quality) on which the duo are also augmented vocally by Baker’s former Jet Johnson bandmate Caroline Nesbo. It’s a little belter, although ‘Journey To The End Of The Night’ is even better as the psychedelic cowboy twin guitars and lush melodies succeed in catapulting California circa 1970 into the present day in a way in which the likes of Jonathan Wilson might pay heed to.

In fact there’s so much to wax fulsomely about. A deliciously zonked triptych - ‘As I Ever Wanted’, ‘Have You Decided Who I Am To Be’ and ‘Crosby’ (a couple of nods towards he of the angelic voice we suspect) mean that at least five out the first six cuts are bang on the money. The second half starts off pretty well too, the wheeze of ‘Sea Legs’ could easily be a shanty take on the theme from M.A.S.H. as interpreted by Julian Cope. The harmonica and slide heavy ‘Howl Of Rage’ embodies the endearing ramshackle quality that pokes through occasionally, partly due to the competent enough if slightly ragged and understated drums. If that sounds like damning with faint praise then bear in mind that percussive duties are performed by Gavin’s son Albert. Albert is eight years of age. It’s no bad thing as it helps reinforce the idea that you’ve somehow stumbled into an early Neil Young/Crazy Horse recording session after one helluva night. As we head home via the folksy ‘Lose Me In The Forest’ (a bit of oak aged ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ wafts in) the Barrett-lie ‘Secret Santa’ and ‘Headphone Drone’ which shifts incrementally from Floyd-style rumination to a psychedelic firestorm in which the band members let loose and which gives Arthur his finest moment here. Watch the name.

While there’s an immediate and appealing quality to A Meal For Two it takes a couple of listens for its peculiar beauty to well and truly permeate the senses. Chances are it’s destined to fall under the radar of most best-of lists simply because it is unlikely to receive the profile it so deserves. Well we’re thankful to have made its acquaintance and, personally at least, this will be one to cherish for some time to come.

(Ian Fraser)




(free to festival goers CD from Fruits De Mer Records )

What’s this, you’re probably wondering. Do your eyes deceive you? Vinyl only label Fruits de Mer in CD-only release shock-horror!

It can only mean it’s that time of year again when the good Fruits put together their abundant goodie-bag on the occasion of the label-endorsed annual trek to Cardigan, West Wales. Spawned by Crabstock, for the past three years the three-day event on the first weekend of August, organised by Pete Bingham of Sendelica (who feature her) has been given sequential numbering of the post 12th Dream of Dr Sardonicus (who must have access to some pretty powerful cheese if not something else to have all them visions). Mind you’ll need to have a soft spot for saunas and recreational claustrophobia to really appreciate the joys of the Cellar Bar (never fear if not, the Mantle Brewery beers are on hand to make it all more bearable).

There are in fact two festival CDs compiled by label boss Keith Jones this year as part of a much larger bumper giveaway, one of which includes an international roster of acts who won’t be playing but have either done the business or else taken the label’s fancy in recent times (it also features a track by The Green Ray, which of course no longer feature Ken Whaley or Richard Treece, more is the pity). All intriguing stuff and much of it is rather fine. However it is the other one that we bring to people’s attention here and which is bound to whet the appetite of those headed westwards soon as it features the acts who at the time of writing are down to play.

The wafting sitar ram of Chariots’ ‘Vimana’ and the endearing eccentricity of Babal’s ‘Land Of Mirrors’ perfectly some up the sort of enchanted time warp in which Fruits de Mer exits. In fact had Keith been the 13th time warp you’d wonder how they’d get a series out of travelling back and forwards between 1967 and 1975. Still on this evidence it would be fun trying. Italy’s Red Sun are bound to be one of the festival highlights, jammers par-excellence. This one though has a distinct whiff of turn of the 90s (see Keith, you can do it), more Flowered Up than the Mondays but a foot tapper of a groove nonetheless.

Festival headliners this year is/are Bevis Frond, who’s ‘Nautilus (Demo)’ is quintessentially Nick – surely one of the more distinctive voices and songwriters around and this year celebrating 30 years of Frond music. Other worthies who feature here and “on the day” include Deviant Amps (a rumbling ‘I Feel Fine’), who lived up to their name last year by getting the Pizza Tipi stage closed down on account of too much loudness (only fitting they be allowed back this year), the always dependable, rawk solid Fred Laird’s Earthling Society and – of course – festival hosts, Sendelica, whose ‘Ripples Of The Megalith’ mixes ambient drone and organic, pastoral psychedelia with pleasing consequences. For the festi vibe, though, look no further than The Spookers’ ‘Gabba Haze For The Nuke’. Theirs is a name that’s new to these ears but their sound is reminiscent in part of the trance-like Optic Eye from the early 90s – damn it this modernity gets everywhere.

Whatever your poison then 15th Dream is unlikely to disappoint. Let’s just hope for fine weather. And air conditioning.

(Ian Fraser)

(The 15th Dream of Dr Sardonicus took place between 4th and 6th August at The Cellar Bar, Cardigan, Ceredigion)




(LPs from Sugarbush Records )

‘Sail Me Home St Clair’ is the second album from the Scottish band The Carousels whose first album ‘Love Changes Like The Seasons’ remains the biggest selling album on Sugarbush records to date.

‘Josephine’ begins with a short guitar/dobro piece, before a warm gentle west coast acoustic reverie fades in, it’s like we’ve just dropped into the middle of a studio session. A violin leads off the seasons changing lament ‘Lord Speed My Hurricane’, a cool Californian Workingman’s Dead meets CSNY style vibe is apparent on this tune. ‘Silvio’, eases in with some keening pedal steel guitar, this one wouldn’t be out of place on an early Pure Prairie League album with gorgeous harmonies throughout.

‘Wishing Well’ throws some Byrdsian shapes, all jazzy 12 string and slinky lead guitar, underpinned by delicate, busy percussion and more of those lovely harmony vocals whilst ‘Lake Eloise’ takes us effortlessly back to the mid-sixties, a pretty confection of 12 string and pedal steel decorating it nicely. Bathed in golden sunlight hues, with dust motes hanging in the heat haze, plenty of ringing, chiming guitars. ‘Little Darlin’’ the final song on this opening side, again has some pretty playing, of particular note is the lovely violin played by Amy Steele, a touch of orchestration lends this tune a slight baroque feeling.

‘By Your Side’ the first song on side the second, is a lilting, harp infused, mid paced acoustic rocker with shades of Dylan in the writing. ‘New Morning’ has 12 string guitar and organ and is pretty close to the Byrds oeuvre with a nice wonky organ solo appearing in the middle creating some pure mid-sixties Californian cool. Next up is my favourite ‘Here In Time’, a peach of a song, slightly pastoral, homespun and easy, replete with frailing arpeggio banjo, fiddle, mandolin and fine sympathetic playing throughout.

‘Like A Loaded Gun’ is loose and has a slightly ramshackle feel, nice harmonies (replete with sha la la’s), very acoustic in flavour and ruminates on ageing with the final track ‘Man Out Of Me’ showing us some prog moves, an epic in feel with widescreen questing vocals, I like this very much. As it progresses, it even throws in some backwards guitars, controlled feedback and mega phone action. A very strong record from a band I’ll be looking out for in the future.

Next up a re-release of the debut album by Kontiki Suite. An album, which slipped out quietly a few years ago, selling out very quickly.

Side: A begins with ‘Down By The Lake’ a lone acoustic guitar yields to lap steel and a full band is ushered in, on a tale of fun by the town lake. Swelling organ (!) and a cool bass pattern, dreamy harmonies put us firmly in Laurel Canyon, odd considering the band hail from the Lake District!

‘See You In The Morning (Elwood’s Theme)’ wouldn’t be too out of place on the debut album by Moby Grape, it’s that good with some nice flat picked acoustic guitar towards the end. ‘Hollywood’ has the protagonist packing his bags, and heading out to California, to mix with the beautiful people of Hollywood and be part of the LA scene with keening lap steel guitar and organ being the most prominent instruments.

‘In My Head’ ups the ante with searing fuzz guitar and moves us back from the seventies to the sixties, a really good up tempo rocking song, again with some lovely harmonies whilst ‘Part Of You’ is a pretty perfect country rock song, cool vibes and a terrific walking rhythm section. With guitars as cool as country water. ‘Open Up & Smile’ is a short acoustic country rock tune reminiscent of ‘Winding Wheel ‘by Ryan Adams, the side rounded out by ‘She Gets High’ with the Kontiki’s coming on like the Illinois Speed Press with some fine bluesy lead guitar throughout.

Over on Side: B ‘Watching Over Me’ twists and turns through Laurel Canyon country, with a distinct Byrds vibe and ‘Autumn Fields’ sounds a lot like the early Grand Drive records, mixed up with a bit of the Pernice Bros, wheezing Mellotron and bell like guitars peeling off the melodies, segueing into ‘Music Man’ a slice of English pastoral orchestrated rock, accompanied with harmonica and strings, ‘‘everybody loves the music man, everybody wants to shake his hand’.

‘Magic Carpet Ride’ (chosen as a 12’ single when the album was initially released), ends this record, with the band members given free rein to rock out. The longest track on the record, again wrapped in a Mellotron fog, a touch of wah wah shoring up the middle section. Leaving esper trails as we ride on out to the sound of ringing guitars, before ending in a feedback squall.

This record deserves to be heard and I do think that it was overlooked upon its initial release, with a few reviewers kind of dismissing it as ‘nice’. It is nice, but only in as much as it is has no rough edges, but in the grooves there is plenty to admire. (Andrew Young)



(LP from Bubblewrap Collective )

Electronic music has a long and varied history from the early pioneers, the sequence driven late seventies and through to the explosion of electronic dance music, ambience, experimentation and beyond. On this album, Cotton Wolf seem to have created a collection of music that climbs above classification, music that is timeless and beautiful, yet thoroughly modern and produced with clarity and vision.

Opening with “Glosh”, chords and sequences are soon joined by a buzzing bass that pulses through the tune as the chords float above, echoed sounds adding atmosphere and interest. On “Avalon” there is an early nineties feel in its construction reminding me of Ultramarine with its mix of beats and ambience.

Featuring the voice of Alys Williams, “Liliwiau” is gorgeous, the voice drifting above a sweet swirl of electronics that leads you to the chill-out room, just sit back and sink into the sound. Filled with classic sequences, the title track adds a modern twist with the bass heavy rhythms and production, yet seems more ambient than EDM, especially as the beats fade out in the middle only to re-appear with intensity soon after. To end side one, “Vessels” is a far too short slice of electronic bliss, a gentle ripple of sound that could easily be stretched much further than the 67 seconds it is allotted, Tangerine Dream would have made a whole side out of it.

With stop start rhythms and plenty of energy, “Ultra Five” kicks off side two with style, the track getting your head nodding as it grooves along, adding sunshine to this cloudy day and compelling me to turn the volume up. Featuring Lois Rogers, “Future Never” is a delightful down-tempo track, a rumbling bass adding counterpoint to sweet echoed vocals, whilst “Cage of Light” is definitely gonna make you move, although in a relaxed and mellow fashion, the bass line decorated by all manner of tones and textures each adding something to the tune.

To round off the collection, “While Night Grows” is an ebb and flow of sequences, chords and textures that is like resting by the sea on a summers eve, the sounds of waves, gulls and other people creating a sonic landscape that you can get lost in.

One aspect of this album that I really love is that it sounds different every time it is played, sometimes feeling relaxed, sometimes more energetic and dance orientated, whichever mood is revealed it always sounds mighty fine to my ears and that is the important thing. (Simon Lewis)