= August 2020 =  
 Alison Cotton
 Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan
 The Lost Stoned Pandas
 Sendelica
 Kanaan
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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ALISON COTTON – ONLY DARKNESS NOW

(Cassette/DL on Bloxham Tapes)

Fans of Alison Cotton’s music will already be very happy this year with a number of releases documenting some wonderful recent studio and live performances and reissued classic material from The Left Outsides and The Eighteenth Day of May. This outstanding new cassette release brings together previously released pieces and new material in an intoxicating and memorable album length collection.

Alison has developed a sparse yet rich sound that uses minimal instrumentation based primarily around viola, harmonium, omnichord, small percussion, piano and voice in beautifully spacious arrangements that create transportative and addictive soundscapes which, depending on your listening mood and setting, are perfect for those relaxed, reflective or melancholic moments but also when you want to immerse yourself in a simply gorgeous meditative and indeed happy deeper listening place. The music takes in elements of modern composition, early music, devotional chant, folk melodies, Celtic ambience and subtle improvisation and to my ears treads a path between the sparse melancholy of Laura Cannell, the lush, elegiac ambience of the Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil at their most otherworldly and the achingly beautiful sounds of holy minimalism.

The opening piece ‘Behind the Spiderweb Gate’ extends to a little over 20 minutes and dates back to a previous release on the Longform Editions label. The piece is inspired by an imposing Gothic house with mysterious black spider web shaped gates chanced upon during a visit to France and is an interpretation in three broad parts of the walk to the house up a secluded woodland path, arrival at the mysterious house itself and its sinister, mysterious atmosphere and finally entering its grounds. It is a haunting, lyrical and indeed cinematic piece with a monochrome beauty which evokes exactly that sense of wonder and menace with the lonesome viola centred melody, and harmonium, minimal percussion and piano with occasional almost dissonant strings providing subtle melodic twists and colours and describing the action so to speak. Following this epic opening, a short piece ‘In Solitude I Will Fade Away’ has a title reminiscent of folk balladry or an early music lament and indeed it has a strong folk melody for multi tracked vocals which would be a beautiful acapella piece in its own right but here is accompanied by subtle strings which accentuate and complement the vocal well. ‘How My Heart Bled In Bleeding Heart Yard’ floats on hypnotic drones accompanied by a sparse viola melody with wisps of wordless vocals which at times has the lyricism of a melancholic string quartet and the sad beauty of an early music lamentation. Another short piece ‘The Hill Was Hollow’ is introduced with a faint percussive heartbeat over which another achingly gorgeous viola melody floats in the air and it sets the scene perfectly for the finale of ‘Shirt of Lace’ which in tone and feel mirrors the opening piece wonderfully well and provides therefore a sense of journey. ‘Shirt of Lace was recently released on a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ limited edition lathe cut release and is an interpretation rather than cover of an obscure composition by Dorothy Carter released in the mid 1970’s. I was privileged to see Alison perform this in a jaw dropping performance in Todmorden last year (recorded by Terrascope Covert Mobile Recording Services aka yours truly and subsequently released on Sensory Leakage Records) and it’s a treat to finally see this appear in recorded ‘studio’ form. It’s a captivating vocal performance almost hymnal and Cathedral-esque  in feel and with nothing but a simple drone and viola accompaniment it somehow manages to  create a widescreen spacious beauty dripping with atmosphere. It’s an absolutely sublime end to this beautiful release.

Despite the Dylanesque darkness of the album title this is not a gloomy record and is a masterclass in superior mood enhancing music. Alison has built firmly on the musical palette, atmospheres and textures of her first album release ‘All Is Quiet At The Ancient Theatre’ and the more recent mini album released on Clay Pipe Music, ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’ to create a wonderful minimalism that is capable of creating the most lyrical and cinematic of soundscapes and inventive compositions and arrangements that bring together a number of musical worlds in a refreshing and ,most importantly, hugely entertaining way.  By the time you read this I imagine the cassette release will be either sold out or in perilously short supply but do not despair as the good folks at Cardinal Fuzz Records will be putting out a lovingly packaged vinyl version later in the year, as indeed they did with the debut recording. I for one can think of no finer thing deserving of a vinyl issue and so if you can’t get the cassette do not miss the chance to pick up this exceptional release on vinyl in due course.

(Francis Comyn)



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MARY LATTIMORE MAC McCAUGHAN - AVL>

(LP/Digital on New Rain Records)

LA-based harpist Mary Lattimore has been quite busy as of late.  In 2020 alone, she’s released the singles “Cake,” “We Wave From Our Boats,” “Dreaming of the Kelly Pool” (with Paul Sukeena, part of the Mexican Summer/Looking Glass singles series), “A Unicorn Catches a Falling Star in Heaven” (27 minutes, that), plus she plans to release the album Silver Ladders on 9 October, produced by Slowdive’s Neil Halstead.  In between all of that, we have this little beauty of a live album, AVL, with Mac McCaughan on synthesisers.>

 

Lattimore likes to collaborate – wise for a harpist – and has worked in the past with the likes of Meg Baird, Jeff Zeigler, Jarvis Cocker, Thurston Moore, and Kurt Vile.  AVL came about as Lattimore and McCaughan were touring last year to promote another live album, 2019’s New Rain Duets.  AVL contains nothing from that album, being all improvised material.


Aside from a slightly distant sound, as if recorded from the back of the theater, you’d almost never know AVL is recorded live (in Asheville, North Carolina), as there’s scarcely a cough heard from the audience, besides a surprising “whoo!” out of nowhere in the middle of “Skinny Dip Falls,” well into the deep zone of the LP.  AVL is gorgeous. Although there are seven tracks, they all flow together seamlessly without break, and if you’re like me, you’re liable to not even notice you’ve advanced from Track 1 (Battle Park) to Track 5 (Bridal Veil Falls) or whatever.  Mary Lattimore is the more famous name on the cover, but truthfully, this is more McCaughan’s record.  His synth work, with Lattimore’s plucky accentuation, is akin to what I’ve always thought in this caveman mind as “planetarium music.”  Perfect for stargazing under a beautiful, warm, summer night sky.  Might even catch comet NEOWISE if you’re lucky (don’t worry if you don’t – it’ll be back in another 6,766 years)


With McCaughan laying out the heavens for all to see, Lattimore’s harp provides the stars’ twinkling lights.  I get just one chance to call Mary’s playing ethereal without being repetitive, so here goes.  Mary Lattimore spreads her lovely, ethereal harp over the top of McCaughan’s wide, celestial sonic meanderings, the sprinkles on top of a very luscious cupcake.


What you, the listener, get is 33 minutes of sumptuous, unadulterated peace.  AVL – the acronym is never explained - is sure to put you in your happy place.  By the time “All Souls” wraps up the set, you’ll be relaxed, cozily refreshed and sated.  Mac McCaughan earns a PhD in inducing more head-to-toe relaxation than a candle-lit bubble bath, and Mary Lattimore adorns the proceedings with magical harp droplets.  Ahhhhh.

 (Mark Feingold)

 
 


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THE LOST STONED PANDAS – PANDADEMIC

(LP on FRG Records)

Last year we saw a flurry of new material from The Lost Stoned Pandas, a new side project which emerged from the bustling cottage industry housed at Sendelica World Headquarters in their Cardigan, West Wales hideaway. The project was born of a conversation between Pete Bingham from Sendelica and writer/musician Kris Needs and with special guests a plenty some fine new and largely experimental music came out on an EP and full length album release, bursting with ideas  that covered a lot of musical ground from the expected space rock, folk rock and kosmische touchstones to hallucinogenic collages of voices, environmental sounds and ambient dance music. It was a playful and hugely enjoyable experiment setting out a number of directions that future releases could pursue. It’s been a while and the world has changed dramatically since last year but the slightly slimmed down Lost Stoned Pandas are back with a mini album of two tracks called ‘Pandademic’ (or should that be ‘Pun-dademic’?).

The first track is ‘The Great Lockdown of 2020 (The Orb’s Freedom Over Fear Mix)’ which has an upbeat electronic motorik dance beat with a touch of Kraftwerk in its feel but also perhaps the more dance informed ambience that Tangerine Dream embraced around the time of the ‘Exit’ album. Little jazzy wisps of sax, distant drones and electronic sounds peak through the clinical beat to soften the almost robotic rhythmic sound. Following this and in a completely different style is ‘Lazy Anyday Afternoon (Pandas Munchies Mix)’ which features gentle acoustic guitar and soaring yet minimal electric guitar to create a beautiful laid back pastoral krautrock imbued psychedelia with a haunting and serene repeating melody.  Side two comprises an alternative version of the opening track, ‘The Great Lockdown of 2020 (Consterdine’s Dr Benway’s Cure Mix)’ which is very different from The Orb’s treatment and focusses much more on a kosmische informed ambience rather than beats. Field recordings of birdsong and environmental sound provide a setting for the minimal washes of drone, buzzing and soaring space rock guitars and electronic beeps and pulses which are reminiscent of Popol Vuh in Aguirre mode and also Phaedra era Tangerine Dream. The tempo does eventually raise as things gradually morph into a throbbing almost industrial psychedelic dance soundscape but the beats are nothing like as dominant as The Orb’s version and they give the track a euphoric feel that would get festival feet tapping very nicely indeed, giving Faithless and other such purveyors of blissful beats a run for their money.

This is an enjoyable take on the Panda sound where the summer festival sounds of dance are given The Lost Stoned Panda treatment and with some success. For fans of the Lost Stoned Pandas this mini album will see the dancing shoes dusted down and some socially distanced shapes thrown. The laid back joy of Lazy Anyday Afternoon was a real treat for these ears and maybe deserves a setting less starkly in contrast to its noisier neighbours. It would be good to see some of the other angles from their earlier work taken and developed through future releases. I see from a quick glance at the internet that the collective name for Pandas can be an embarrassment, a bamboo or a cupboard of Pandas. Well we certainly have an embarrassment of riches in The Lost Stoned Pandas project and let’s hope they aren’t locked away in a cupboard anytime soon.

(Francis Comyn)

 

 

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SENDELICA – THE COMPLEAT CROMLECH CHRONICLES (CD on Fruits de Mer Records)

Here at Terrascope we’ve been enjoying the prolific releases of Sendelica and their various side projects for some years now but perhaps the centrepiece of their musical endeavours to date has been the Cromlech Chronicles series which since 2015 has resulted in four excellent individual vinyl volumes and a number of related releases including live and remixed versions of various songs. Sendelica working with Fruits de Mer Records have now brought the Cromlech Chronicles to compact disc in the shape of a 6CD box set which inexpensively brings together the original vinyl releases along with a wealth of bonus material including demos, alternate takes and outtakes and live material. Sensible pricing means this is a great starting point for the Sendelica newcomer and also a handy definitive collection for existing disciples.

It would take a long review to delve into each album in any detail but the Terrascope back pages contain some wise and insightful reviews of the original vinyl releases from a number of its ever humble contributors and I will direct the curious to delve in for a riveting read. But right here right now and in a nutshell the Cromlech Chronicles has been a journey of discovery and indeed collaboration for Sendelica where each volume has evolved and expanded their sound (often with the help of special guests) and what we now get to see and hear in this box set is the sheer range of their ambition, willingness to experiment and to take their journey in new directions whilst keeping a cohesive body of work that sits well together under the Cromlech Chronicles heading. The debut volume features the side long vinyl epic ‘The Cromlech Suite’ a now well established live favourite where space rock and cosmic boogie meets flying teapots and stops at all points in between as well as shorter numbers where the trademark sax/guitar interplay is given its full head nodding licence and calmer more ambient textural sounds are allowed room to breathe. The second volume (my personal favourite) is more meditative and at times pastoral and exploratory, consisting of two side long pieces encompassing more textural, Celtic and even jazz tinged kosmische and a strong cinematic quality. The two tracks ‘Ripples of the Megaliths’ and ‘Even Though My Mouth Is Silent’ have to my ears influenced some of Sendelica’s more recent side projects quite profoundly. The third volume once more returns to the realms of scorching psych prog with tracks such as ‘Slow Burner’ and the heady Hawkwind tinged ‘The Lost City of Cardiza’ but it retains some of the more experimental and pastoral ambience of the previous volume in the environmental sounds of ‘Teifi Marshes’ and jazz influences are on show in lengthy space rocker ‘’Star Flower Blossom’. The fourth and final volume (subtitled ‘The Door Into Summer’) once again has diversity at the core of its lengthy tracks such as ‘Lightstar’ and ‘Saturnalia’ where high flying space rock and the more languid exploratory jams of West Coast late sixties psychedelic rock come together wonderfully well.

The extra material in the box set includes well chosen live tracks from sets at Lucid Dreams, Wurzburg and Glastonbury Psyche Festival highlighting what a fine and dynamic band Sendelica are on stage. The sax and guitar interplay is often thrilling and the powerful peaks and quieter moments of the studio recordings thankfully don’t get lost in a live setting. Excellent recordings of ‘The Cromlech Suite’ and ‘Lightstar’ amongst others will make you miss live music all the more bitterly. There are also demo recordings which have their own charm, in particular a lovely home demo of ‘Teifi Marshes’ and the spooky filmic tones of ‘Theme From An Imaginary Victorian Ghost Hunter’. Aborted tracks, alternate versions and outtakes also find a welcome home here. The delicate, jangly and jaunty groove of Cromlech IV outtake ‘Paper Petunias’ and the aborted track (from Cromlech II) ‘Carpet Ride’ with its serene kosmische beauty richly deserve a public outing and this box set is the perfect way to provide it.

This box set is a great example of a well put together compendium of music that tells a story, gives the collector and curious newcomer equal value and doesn’t break the bank. If you are new to Sendelica, dive in and enjoy a journey through the music of one of the UK’s finest progressive psych rock bands and you won’t be disappointed. If you are already a fan well what are you waiting for and I guess you haven’t waited at all to order a copy.

(Francis Comyn)

 
 

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KANAAN – DOUBLE SUN

(LP/CD/Digital on El Paraiso Records)

 

Kanaan is the Norwegian instrumental psychedelic rock trio gracing us with their third album Double Sun.  It’s their second release of the year, following the all-improvised ‘Odense Sessions’ with Causa Sui guitar virtuoso and El Paraiso co-jefe Jonas Munk.  Having reviewed Odense Sessions earlier in the year, I had every intention of passing on Double Sun, ‘cause there are lots more fish in the sea.  But you see, a double sun has a whole lot of gravitational pull, and this one hauled me in because – and I’m going to use a technical term here – it’s SOOOOO damn good.

 

Double Sun is quite different than Odense Sessions, and is more in the methodical, structured style of their 2018 rookie album ‘Windborne.’  Kanaan has improved with each album in its so far brief existence.  Featuring Ask Vatn Strøm on electric and acoustic guitars, Eskild Myrvoll on bass, synths, electric and acoustic guitars, and Ingvald André Vassbø on drums, percussion, and organ, they combine instrumental chops, a flair for melody, and light and shade for an ever-appealing combo.  Kanaan doesn’t invent anything new in the genre, but they sure are masterful in what’s comfortable, tried and true.

 

Kanaan loves a good buildup, both individually in their songs and as the album goes along.  Most of the songs start small and gradually expand to epic proportion.  Opener “Worlds Together” is the briefest track on the record, and is a small introduction.  It serves a roughly similar purpose to The Dark Side of the Moon’s “Breathe,” and even borrows a bit from its melody, even if the arrangement is all fuzzed out instead of the gliding pedal steel of the former.

 

The song gives way to the towering (pun intended) “Mountain.”  Vassbø’s pounding drums introduce Strøm’s distorted guitar melody.  The song careens through its twelve minutes between darkness and light, from heavy guitar rock to Hawkwind space trip, eventually merging the two.  Nearing the peak of the “Mountain” it’s an all-out attack, and Strøm’s screaming guitar takes no prisoners.

 

“Öresund” once again starts comparatively light, sort of fidgeting about awaiting the starting gun.  But once freed from its shackles, it veers into a groove-laden synth and guitar-driven prog and space rock epic.  Strøm shreds deliciously with a Leslied guitar, bolstered by synthy atmospherics.

 

“Worlds Apart” fades in mid-jam, with all three Kanaanites in a full frenzy.  What it lacks in length it makes up in sheer intensity, as they never let up their foot from the gas pedal.

 

This leads to the two-part finale and title track.  Kanaan are great showmen and they clearly leave the best for last.  Bjørn Klakegg joins on lead guitar for a majestic one-two punch suite.  “Double Sun Pt. 1” yet again starts out small and briefly marks time.  Then comes the inevitable build-up, while retaining its slow tempo, to an unyielding display of power and force.  “Double Sun Pt. 2” takes over with one mighty fine slice of astral motorik groove.  By now, I shouldn’t have to mention the light touch in the beginning, growing from a sprout into a monster.  Drummer Vassbø and bassist Myrvoll really shine on this one, with Strøm and Klakegg at first toying with us on guitars, and ultimately vanquishing us in a merciless onslaught.  You’ll be left panting and won’t want it to end.

 

On Double Sun, Kanaan make each track better than the last, and there’s no fat on the bone.  This is good old eight-ball in the corner pocket guitar-driven psych, turbo-boosted.  They’re still a young band, with a lot of superb music ahead of them.  What a hoot it would be to see them live.  Someday.  These guys have it down.

 

 (Mark Feingold)