THE OSCILLATION – FROM TOMORROW
(CD, LP and Download
Those lucky so-and-sos who were able to attend the Liverpool Festival of Psychedelia in September will have been treated to a bounty of aurally compelling pleasure, none less so than London three piece the Oscillation, who have once again hit mother lode courtesy of this their third full length release.
Dark and brooding almost to a fault, titles such as “Corridor” (Parts 1 and 2), “Descent” and “No Way To Go” suggest a pervasive claustrophobia and disquiet and so it proves. The first of these cuts would also imply a big debt to the usual suspects – Loop, Jesus and Mary Chain, Spaceman 3, y’know, the boys. In fact it takes me back to when Spiritualised were considered (and indeed were for a brief time) exciting and cutting-edge. It really is a barnstormer and one can easily forgive the slight derivation. In fact there’s no chance whatsoever of your scribe writing this lot off as a pile of remoulds. No, not only is this track straight out of the drawer for which you need the high stool to reach but the rest of the set shimmers, drones and occasionally rock with aplomb. Where there’s dark there’s light, well according the Gospel of Fraser anyway
After the incendiary opener, “Corridor Part 2” throttles things back –ominous, nocturnal guitar notes piercing a dopey dub beat. You can almost feel the cold sweat breaking out on the back of the hands. “Descent”, with its scary, rumbling bass lines, organ and panel beat percussion sets the controls for a black old sun, like an immediate post-Barrett Floyd masquerading as house band of the black mass. It’s spectral and trance inducing grooves reek of debauched abandon and a feeling that this wasn’t just any old kool-aid you scooped out of that there barrel. Even further down the spiral staircase and “No Place To Go” with its cloying and despairing airs showcases the band’s 1968-meets-1986 influence perfectly.
Unusually, perhaps, the title track offers some light relief although even here we find ourselves drenched in reverb albeit of a more dayglow hue. Those of you drawn to the dark side should fear not, though. “All You Want” is the voodoo re-mix of Joy Division, while “Dreams Burn Down” (you get the idea by now) is a beautifully narcotic/narcoleptic downer, guitars detuning and melting before your very ears. The jerky, angular mover “Chrome Cat” gives way to the typically spooky and ambitious “Out of Touch” and the final sinister but delicious touches on an album that is at least on a par with accomplished predecessor “Veils” and half a street ahead of most of the opposition.
Unreservedly recommended and a late contender for album of the year. (Ian Fraser)
CRYSTALLIZED - 15 YEARS OF ROCKET RECORDINGS
(CD from rocketrecordings.com)
Not for the faint hearted, to set foot the world of Rocket Recordings requires a willingness to explore realms of challenging and often quite threatening music. While you can listen to some bands and see immediately that despite the bombast, their tongues are firmly planted in their cheeks, with many of Rocket’s artists – and I take Sheffield’s Blood Sport purely as an example without meaning to pick on them – you get the impression that like the Edgar Broughton Band back in the day, they actually fucking mean it, man.
Within every challenge lies a reward however, and as so often the key to unl
ocking it is to take your time. And ‘Crystallized’, a compilation celebration15 years of Rocket Recordings, rewards time invested in spades. Sensibly to my mind the label has used the opportunity of celebrating 15 years in the business to look forward rather than backwards, so don’t turn up looking for obscure Heads B-sides or magazine inserts from long ago. Well, OK maybe just the one: Rollbars was a short-lived 2001 project which featured a Head or two. Primarily though, the label mixes up established Rocket favourites with some newer and lesser known bands, my favourite of which are Italy’s Lay Llamas with their looping Kraut-groove ‘African Spacecraft’. It’s down to some very familiar names to followers of the Terrascope to wrap up the parcel and deliver a package filled with goodies though: Teeth of the Sea go off-piste with a fabulous opening blast of controlled noise, the mighty Gnod blow our minds with some looped psychedelic clubbage, Anthroprophh, which features Paul Allen from The Heads, backed up with fellow Bristolian’s The Big Naturals; and (my favourite of all) Sweden’s Hills blow away the cobwebs with a near perfect slice of fuzz-laden psych rock chanting that builds and builds to a guitar solo that’ll melt your hi-fi. Fabulous stuff. (Phil McMullen)
VIBRAVOID – COLOUR YOUR MIND EP
VESPERO – ‘CAREFUL WITH THE AXE, EUGENE’ C/W ‘ONE OF THESE DAYS
VARIOUS ARTISTS - SHRUNKEN HEAD MUSIC, 2X7” EP
VARIOUS ARTISTS – THE FRUITS DE MER 2014 ANNUAL EP
VARIOUS ARTISTS – THE REGAL CRABOMOPHONE ANNUAL FOR 2014 EP
(All 7” singles available on Fruits de Mer)
The self-professed “world's smallest vinyl-only psych/prog/acid folk/krautrock/spacerock record label” (well, that covers all the bases, doesn’t it!) have delivered an embarrassment of riches this time around with an album’s worth of limited edition singles and EPs on the ever-popular coloured vinyl, sure to be gobbled up like Tic Tacs in time for the holidays. Toss in a few gatefold sleeves and double-sided posters, and this could be your one-stop shopping resource for the record collector on your shopping list.
From the top, we check in on what Record Collector described as “a hairy bunch of psychedelic motherfuckers from Dusseldorf”, Germany’s leading psychedelic rockers, Vibravoid. The title track of their 3-track EP is a lysergic-drenched, organ grinder of a tune from Australia’s legendary Tyrnaround, full of Barrettesque whimsy, backwards guitars, phased drumming, swirling organ, and dreamy vocals. Stop! Take a ticket and board the bus for the ride of your life. How do we follow this? Why, with a Michel Polnareff cover, of course, sung in the original French. One of my personal music heroes, Lawrence of Belgravia (aka Hayward, from Felt, Denim, Go-Kart Mozart) loves this guy, so naturally I’m curious. If ‘La Poupee Qui Fait Non’ is an example of his best efforts, then I’m hooked. Who says the French can’t rock? This slab of ’66 psychedelia is full of all the essential accoutrements, from swirling guitars, phasing, and a lovely little melody. The title translates roughly as ‘The Doll That Says No’ and while I don’t understand the lyrics, the title alone is sending guilty shivers down my spine. We wrap up our first offering with the Human Expresion’s ‘Optical Sound’, full of bubbling, echoed electronics, screaming fuzz guitars, and a touch of wah-wah for good measure. The lyrics reflect the singer’s experiences on a bad trip and the music is a perfect match. So far, we’re off to a ripping good start.
There’s more (instrumental) Floydian worship afoot up next from Russia’s leading prog/psych export, Vespero, with a note-perfect rendition of that somnambulist nightmare, ‘Careful With That Axe, Eugene’, full of the requisite spacey effects, serpentining keyboards and explosive guitar pyrotechnics. They got the psychotic screaming down as well. Don’t play this alone at night! Flip the mother over and it’s the opening track from Meddle, ‘One of These Days’, interestingly another track about homicidal maniacs “cutting you into little pieces”. This one adds a bit of a 21st century twist with snaking guitar lines, throbbing bass, and antiseptic, Georgio Moroder-ish keyboard runs that add a proggy sheen to the proceedings. Perhaps a little too “clean” for purists, but like Sally Field and Irish Spring soap, I like it, too.
About 18 months ago, FdM released the wonderful (and essential) krautrock tribute compilation, Head Music, featuring updated interpretations of ‘70s kraut classics, including our beloved Bevis Frond’s vibrant rendition of Electric Sandwich’s ‘China’. The label received so many contributions, there was ample room for this sequel of sorts, the 4-track, double 7” “shrunken Head Music” EP. Three of the previous contributors return, including Frobisher Neck, who offers a Mellotron-only flight through Brainticket’s ‘To Another Universe’ that’s as spacey, regal, and triumphant as expected. Stephen Bradbury returns in his Black Tempest guise for a condensed but still vital run through Tangerine Dream’s ‘Rubycon Part 1’, which bubble ‘n’ squeaks its way into our cranium like white on rice. It’s all rather amphetamine-fueled, like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Running Man chasing Dustin Hoffman’s Marathon Man through the streets of a bleak, dark, wet, and clandestine Berlin back alley.
Vespero make a return visit (see above) to this month’s batch of ace 7”s with a typically frightening, almost industrialised space walk through the battered machinery and flotsam and jetsam of einsturzende neubauten collapsing all around Faust’s metal machine musique concrete, ‘J’ai Mal aux Dents’. It feels a little disjointed and out of place amidst the mellow space walk over on Side 1, but as a wake-up call to headnodders everywhere, it beats a couple of cups of espresso on an empty stomach. Jay Tausig wraps up this krautfest with Gong’s mysterious ‘The Glorious Om Riff’, one of their more accessible tracks and a fine way to check for lint in your bellybutton whilst contemplating the meaning of the universe. Bitchin’ Steve Hillage-inspired guitar work, too!
The eagerly-anticipated Fruits de Mer annuals have always presented an eclectic hodgepodge of material and next year’s(!) EP is no exception. The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies offer two hang-ten renditions of a couple of groovy TV themes: a bubbling mass of Ventures-meets Shadows via Joe Meek spacecapades (‘The Joe 90 Theme’ and a barely-recognizeable, and, frankly a little too rushed ‘Lost In Space’). Astralasia step up to the plate with a galloping trek through ‘Johnny Remember Me’ that’s much more ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ than the Bronski Beat rendition from way back when. (Marc Swordfish from the band also came up with a nifty little reggaefied version, ‘Johnny In Dub’ that would do Lee “Scratch” Perry proud.
Finally, we have ‘I Remember’, the self-confessed “oddest track ever released on Fruits de Mer” (which is saying something!), a previously unreleased (recorded in 1964) swinging Hawaiian soiree by The Raiders, featuring a young Trevor Midgley, who would grow up to release the very first single (and second album) on John Peel’s Dandelion Records in 1969 and whose unreleased masterpiece from 1975 (Twelve Strings To The Beau) finally saw the light of day earlier this year.
Finally, and not to be outdone, Fruit de Mer’s kid sister label Regal Crabomophone drops its 2014 annual featuring the dreamy baroque psych of Mark McDowell’s ‘Girls of Belvoir’, an eerie tale of witchcraft and murder at the bespoke castle in Leicestershire. Shades of Nick Nicely to be sure, but ever so loverly, with gentle flutes elbowing their way up alongside McDonnell’s fuzzy wah-wahs. Upon flippage, we’re greeted by Finland’s one-man psych band Octopus Syng and ‘Listen With The Moths’, a syncopated slice of Floydian whimsy that floats rather unsettlingly between solo Syd and Waters’ Ummagumma side. A perfect end to a marvelous adventure through the musical mind of Keith Jones and his cohorts at one of our favourite imprints.