= February 2012 =  
White Hills
John Barleycorn - V/A
Aspel Orchid
C Joynes
Mark Fry & The A Lords
Songs of the Green Pheasant
The Amazing
Donovan Quinn
Damon Moon
The Woodbine & Ivy Band
Stone Breath
The Chasms


(CD from Roadburn Records www.burningworldrecords.com )

Curious things, live albums. They were huge back in the day, when bands would frequently release one as the follow-up to their “difficult third”, or else as contractual filler or simply a means of marking time pending the next release following recreationally-enforced periods of inactivity. Some, like Neil Young or the Grateful Dead, positively thrived on them (and in the case of the latter were invariably superior to what they could manage in the studio).

You don’t see so many of them now though. Perhaps that’s not entirely a bad thing either as the live experience so often has a habit of not translating too well onto disc. For every “Live at Leeds”  or “Weld” there were always a host of “Eagles Live”, sorry affairs so heavily overdubbed as to be little more than alternative studio versions of the real thing and completely devoid of any magic that the occasion may have held, or rough affairs that cruelly betray a band’s frailties outside of a controlled studio environment. I know people who would think nothing of travelling huge distances to see three or four gigs a week but who would not, as a matter of principle, buy a live album.

Time, then, to take a sacrament by way of that aural equivalent of the proverbial curate’s egg. Sonically speaking, will this turn out to be Orange Sunshine or the shitty brown stuff of Woodstock infamy (ah yes, another case in point, while we’re on the subject of live albums...)?

Anyhow...by way of introduction...

White Hills are one of the best bands around right now, there’s probably none better in fact, and live they are a colossal force to be reckoned with. Anyone catching their set at Supersonic last October could not but thrill to their mix of loud, primal, turbo charged psychedelia, like an intergalactic snarl. Their live set at Roadburn Festival, Tilburg, Netherlands (for which the tickets sell faster than the speed of light), was captured by the festival organisers and at least part of it has been given this welcome release. Mainstays Ego Sensation (bass) and Dave W (guitar and vocals) are joined by the most regular of their recent drummer associates, the excellent Lee Hinshaw, and on synths by Shazzula,  who helped flesh out the basic template to such effect on the last album “H-p1”. The five cuts spanning just over 41 minutes here are the pummelling “Three Quarters” from 2010’s exceptional, eponymously-titled album [a big favourite with Mr McMullen of this parish...]; “Radiate”, the killer opening from “Heads On Fire” (2009); a hypnotically insistent “Under Skin Or By Name” from 2007’s self-released “Glitter Glamour Atrocity” and two servings - “The Condition of Nothing” and the title track - from 2011’s “H-p1”.

Now you’re probably thinking this is all very well, but is it actually any good?

Make no mistake, this is deep joy.

Sound wise the first thing that strikes you is the need to crank the volume up a bit. Not an auspicious start, then, but once you’ve fiddled with that dial, anywhere between five and ten notches should do, you realise it doesn’t lack guts. Sit back - or thrash around if you prefer - and be amazed. White Hills is an instrumental band, primarily. You don’t really listen to them for vocal and lyrical content, so it is no surprise that Dave W’s vocals are mostly something from which to project the band’s stunning onslaught, of which Dave’s guitar playing is probably the most notable and pyrotechnic feature. The range of noise he wrings from his stomp box suggests a mischievous elf gleefully trying to stamp out tiny fires on the stage in front of him. If on the other hand the vocals occasionally seem a bit perfunctory and back in the mix, then the same cannot be said of the powerhouse rhythm section of Ego – it’s amazing how many diminutive looking women become prominent bass player, in the same way that the man with the largest fingers in a folk band usually seems to play mandolin - and the incredible, incendiary Lee Hinshaw. They don’t just hold it all together they propel the sound into another dimension.  The tracks bear more than reasonable comparison with the originals and it is gratifying to hear the occasional vocal whoop, not to mention the odd bum note and fractional miscue, that marks this down as a live and reassuringly fallible experience, raw in stick and pick. Stand-out tracks are, if push comes to shove,”H-p1” which like the studio version confirms WH as heirs apparent to Hawkwind but with added swagger, a certain insolence and even a bit of additional vocal bite, while that hoary bong rattler “Under Skin Or By Name” and the righteous freakout of “Radiate”, on which Ego lends a loud hand in the voice department are also worthy of special mention. Shucks it’s a shame not to name check the other two as well. Let’s just say it’s all pretty damned mind-melting and well worth parting with twelve quid or so of your hard or ill-gotten money for.

Whether or not you think this redeems the live album will depend on what you think of that medium in the first place, but it sure as hell kicked out the jams between these four walls and two ears. As an in-concert document it’s a stonkingly fine souvenir and the nearest most of us are ever likely to get to the insanely oversubscribed Roadburn. However, UK and European fans can catch them in the flesh when they tour in March, aided and abetted at various venues in the UK by a stellar cast of fellow cosmic travellers such as Pontiak, Mugstar, Teeth Of The Sea and Thought Forms. Does it really get much better than that? Do yourselves a massive favour and make the effort to go along. Trust me, you’ll not regret it. (Ian Fraser )



JOHN BARLEYCORN REBORN, REBIRTH – VARIOUS (CD from www.coldspring.co.uk)

Back in 2007, Cold Spring records, in conjunction with the sadly defunct Woven Wheat label, released “John Barleycorn Reborn, Dark Britannica”, a collection of modern folk artists, most with a dark/pagan/wyrd feel to them, the compilation serving as the UK equivalent of the Hand/eye compilation that came out in 2002 on Dark Holler and which collected together a similar collection of US Artists. See our original feature here.

    With Woven Wheat serving as a hub for the growing folk community, the project proved so popular that it was over subscribed and those tracks that did not make the final album were released as MP3 downloads. Now Cold Spring has collected those tracks together, cleaned them up and done them justice, creating a second volume of enticing and varied tunes which is as high in quality as the original collection.

     Opening with the perfect vocals of Magpiety, the suitably earthy lyrics of “The Rolling of the Stones” immediately set the tone, with the dancing flute and acoustic magic of The Story adding to the mystery as you are drawn into the collection.

   One of my favourite songs on the collection is “Wood” from Telling the Bees, the tale of wood becoming music  through the making of an instrument, seemingly summing up the whole ambience of the set, whilst Charlotte Greig and Johan Asherton , remind us that traditional folk was filled with drones on the gently rolling “The Bold Fisherman”, a similar drone backing also present on tracks by Steve Tyler and The Wendigo, the latter walking a more experimental path,one that is  also trodden by Far Black Furlong, whose “The East Room V” is a dream-laden and evocative track that drifts slowly by. Equally beautiful and also nostalgic, The Owl Service open the gates of bliss on the wonderful “Wake the Vaulted Echo”, complete with samples from 60's films, whilst Sedayne evoke magic and ritual on the haunting experiment that is “Corvus Monedula”.

   With the set mixing experimental, drone, acoustic rambling and traditional songs, the first disc is a heady collection of nineteen tracks none of which disappoint, with Jamie Reid and The Big Eyes Family Players standing out for me.

      Recorded in the church at Kilpeck, Herefordshire “Improvisation at Kilpeck June 2007” is the sound of Sean Breadin (Sundog) playing a Siberian Khomus (Jews Harp) whilst walking around the church, the sounds of footsteps and creaking doors intrinsic to the piece. With chiming bells and drones, “Ca the Horse, Me Marra” is a traditional Tyneside mining song, wonderfully sung by Clive Powell, the traditional theme continuing with “Jack in the Green”sung by Mac Henderson, the lyrics reminding us of the themes of  life, death and rebirth that are so prevalent in folk music. Taking this traditional sound and then twisting into new shapes using electronics, drone and field recording, Cunnan take us back to an altered state on “Seven Sleepers, Seven Sorrows” , he sound of a hallucinogenic forest walk filled with wonder.

     Over 14 tracks, disc two never lets the quality drop with songs by Orchis, Mary Jane  and Venereum Arvum standing out for me, although you will no doubt have your own favourites, the album ending with the lilting electronics of Sunshine Coding , proving that folk is a broad church and worshippers should start here for enlightenment and some damn fine music. (Simon Lewis)



(CD  from aspel_orchid@hotmail.com)

A couple of weeks ago, the covers band I drum for played an open mike night, sharing the bill with a The Forsdons a droney Americana band and a gothic-folk singer called Aspel Orchid. A good time was had by all, and we even had the crowd singing “Video Killed the Radio Star”. However, the most original and interesting music of the evening was supplied by Aspel Orchid whose delightful acoustic songs had a strange lyrical bent and plenty of charm. So impressed was I,  that I purchased her album, which came in a beautiful hand-drawn cover, hoping that she had managed to capture her songs on tape with the same emotion that came from her live renditions. Thankfully I was not to be disappointed.

     Opening with a chatter of electronics, “Untitled #1”, the first song is “Parasite”, a delightful acoustic melody, blending with a fragile yet confident voice, the occasional stuttering rhythm adding to the ragged charm of the song, the lyrics hinting at something darker than the music. Equally beautiful “Baby Birds” is also fragile and vaguely unsettling, the words painting pictures that creat ghosts in your mind.

    After the surreal spoken poem “Falling”, the jaunty tune of “self-Defence” belies it's lyrical content, whilst “She's Refracted, She Says”, sounds like it could have been written in 1972 only to be discovered later as a long lost classic. One of the highlights of the live set was “Bone and Claws” a song about owl cannibalism, (if it rains for too long, owls cannot hunt and turn to eating their young) and the studio version is even better, with added minimal percussion and backing vocals enhancing the tensions in the tune.

   As we move through the collection, it becomes apparent that there is a definite style at work, the songs sounding undoubtedly the work of one person, the confidence that was demonstrated live running through the songs, creating a very pleasing set that bears up to repeated listening. With the scraping of violin and the creaking of a clarinet, Lavender Dreams” takes us into more experimental pastures, a brief delight followed by “Sea Life” and the wonderful “Eft's Song”, (an Eft being a baby Newt if I remember correctly), a sweet tune that is actually about the Alien films, before the album finishes with more electronics as “Untitled #2” leads us out.

   It is always a pleasure to discover good music in unexpected places and this album is an early treasure in 2012. (Simon Lewis)



(CD and vinyl from Bo’Weavil Recordings
www.boweavilrecordings.com )

English acoustic guitarist C Joynes showcases a myriad of styles from country, folk, blues to classical to great effect on this super little outing which is, unfortunately for those of you not quick enough off the mark, limited to 500 CD copies and 350 on vinyl. The fact that Joynes even genre-hops within songs might suggest a lack of focus and a bit of a mess, whereas in fact the playfulness and subtle experimentation makes for a most engaging listening experience.

Although Joynes’ heavy thumb-led finger picking guitar, reminiscent at times in its percussiveness of Richard Thompson or even Martin Carthy (whose arrangement of the traditional “Georgie” is given an imaginative and dextrous outing here) is of course the dominant feature, he is ably abetted by the Marsh Arabs, who flesh out the sound wonderfully and elevate what might otherwise have been a competent enough but less remarkable workout to something which truly gladdens the senses. “Crows on the Sandpile No 1”, for example is a trebly ragtime blues with perhaps a hint of reverb which in itself lends it a slightly chilling air, which is further enhanced by some sparse yet on-the-money 1960s sounding “suspense organ” that gives the impression it’s just wafted in from sessions for “Electric Music for the Mind and Body”. “Joseph and The Sea of Corn”, by contrast, is based around some quirky banjo, eerie whistles and a steady, underpinning base that all sounds pure American Gothic and yet somehow also manages to evoke the African savannah, while on “Pollard The Limes” Joynes comes across as a Nick Drake of the first Elizabethan era on what is possibly the finest 2 minutes 50 seconds of a truly impressive three quarters of an hour or so.

Sometimes delicate, occasionally discordant, wonderfully diverse and ineffably delightful, “Congo” makes an early claim for acoustic album of the year (slightly oddball category). (Ian Fraser)



(CD from Second Language
www.secondlanguagerecordings.com )

Best known for his 1971 cult classic, “Dreaming With Alice”, this is Mark Fry’s second comeback release following the release of “Shooting the Moon” in 2008.

Sung in Fry’s innocuous though winning tenor, these almost impossibly pleasant tunes are all joint collaborations with The A. Lords, aka Mike Tanner (known to some of you, no doubt, as Plinth) and Nick Palmer. Their instrumental skill and sympathetic arrangements bring such a gorgeous, mouth watering depth to these compositions, rendering them suggestive of lazy, hazy summer days and warm, calm evenings.
For the most part this is very good indeed. Evoking a more simple and gentle era, “I Lived In Trees” comprises nine beautiful, somnambulant tracks, full of lyrics about swimming in moonlit seas and drinking damson wine on chalky downs, and which betray, perhaps, a yearning for some lost idyll and the innocence of childhood. In fact “Behold The Nereids Under The Green Sea” and “Chalky Downs” are two of the most immediately appealing cuts on the album – the latter could actually be an outtake from the “Wicker Man” soundtrack, a more angelic and laid back cousin to “Corn Rigs” - while “All Day Long” is, simply, heartbreakingly, beautiful. Best of all, though, is the all-too-short “Ruin of Stone” with its typical acoustic guitar, delicate melodies and pastoral, sympathetic chamber arrangements.

40 years after “Dreaming With Alice”, Fry may well have delivered the follow-up many have been waiting for. Dreamlike, and meandering, this one is for lotus eaters and sweet dreamers everywhere. (Ian Fraser)



(CD from Rusted Rail www.rustedrail.com )

Duncan Sumpner is a thirty-something teacher from Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK who records under the banner of Songs of Green Pheasant. His first outing since 2007, evoking West Coast, dreampop/folk harmonies, bound to draw comparisons with the likes of Fleet Foxes and Midlake. Arguably Sumpner’s exquisite harmonies are as strong – stronger perhaps – than either and have a more instant appeal. Time will tell if this is also an enduring one. “Teen Wolf” is a catchy, euphoric yet laid back mini-classic which transports one back to 1970s West Coast of USA. “Self Portrait With A Dog”, which continues the canine theme, is an eerie mantra, while “Deaf Sarah” is lazy, hazy, soft rock of the old school – all rather delicate and quite superb. It is also notable for a key feature of “Soft Wounds” namely the use of brass as a lead instrument. This is further exemplified on “For People”, an instrumental which is probably closest in melody and structure to the aforementioned Fleet Foxes. In fact the brass lends “Soft Wounds” a genuinely transatlantic sound, evoking both the Canyon and the colliery. “Flesheaters” is, along with the opening “Teen Wolf”, probably the strongest composition and arrangement, again redolent of post-psychedelic, laid-back, cocaine cowboys of yesteryear but with a focus and charm that is quite transcendental and cleansing. 

“Soft Wounds” is a beautiful and accomplished album made for sunny days and warm evenings outdoors. In fact it’s almost too much of a good thing, a bit like a chilled holiday where there is nothing to do but lie on the beach day after day. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, it’s just that you occasionally yearn for an energetic romp over some rocks or anything that will shake you out of your blissful lethargy. It may be, though, that in his own small way at least, Yorkshire’s Sumpner can do for the West Coast revival what Jonathan Wilson did last year and Fleet Foxes before that.

Lie back, relax, and ride the vapour trail.

Note to art lovers: The CD is housed in a hand-assembled and had stamped recycled card sleeve featuring artwork by Duncan Sumpner (Ian Fraser)



(CD / LP from Subliminal Sounds (Subliminal Sounds)

From the opening notes of the title track of this Swedish supergoup’s sophomore [second] release, featuring members of Dungen, you know immediately that they still haven’t put their CSNY albums into storage. The languid, dreamy jamming transports us back to Laurel Canyon in the 70s, while other tracks echo the laidback singer/songwriter elements so popular at the time. ‘Flashpoint’ scores with its earthy flute embellishments and jazzy arrangements that recall Tim Buckley, while ‘International Hair’ and ‘When The Colours Change’ update the address book with elegant flourishes of Red House Painters topped with rolling piano lines that flow like that river in ‘Easy Rider.’

Exquisite harmonies and intricate-yet-mellow solos guitar abound, but there’s no grandstanding to get in the way of the tunes. And it’s the songs that are at the heart of this album – each finely crafted to stand alone (five of the eight tracks top six minutes), yet perfectly suited to the overall breezy psychedelic ambience of the whole. There’re also strands of America, Nick Drake, Al Stewart, and the solo work of Young, Crosby-Nash, and Mark Kozelek (‘Dogs’ is particularly memorable) wafting from within that all add up to one of the year’s earliest treats (although the album has been floating around – pun intended – since October). (Jeff Penczak)



(CD, LP, DOWNLOAD www.northern-spy.com)
(CD http://www.adairparkrecordings.com/)

The Name Donovan Quinn should be well known to readers of the Terrascope for his work with Verdure (PT issue 34), The Skygreen Leopards and The Thirteen Month; his songs treading the line between experimental and melodic to great effect. His dad was also a member of Country Weather, a hard working San Francisco band who were featured in issue 34 of the Ptolemaic Terrascope, as well as having three tracks on Pot 34. Bloody good they are, too.

Anyway, let's move on to this latest addition to his catalogue, a ten track collection that soars with wonderful songs and a sense of adventure, the familiar becoming new once again.

Opening with the brief snippet of “I wanna Be Your Dogstar”, Mr Quinn manages to surprise immediately, turning 43 seconds into a complete song, before the beautiful country sheen of “Laughing City” hooks us in, imagine country played by The Church and you are halfway there, a gorgeous song indeed.

Sounding more lo-fi and twisted, “Night Shift” is a Sonic Youth influenced tune that moves from acoustic guitar to overdriven fury, calling to mind Spacemen Three with it's repetition and decay. After this the languid bass and general ambience of “My Wife” is a gentle relief, a truly beautiful song, the vocals sounding perfectly controlled, gliding over the understated music with polished ease. To round off side one (the tracklist is split into two halves on the CD), the simple, yet devastating, “Shadow on the Stone” showcases a songwriter on the top of his game with not a note or word wasted. The same precision and emotion can also be found on “Dying City”, another perfect tune, whilst “We Called Her Slow Snow” is a sweet acoustic romp that fits perfectly where it is placed.

As the second half of the album continues, the late-night drunken feel becomes more pronounced, with both “The States” and “In the Bag” having a stumbling,woozy character, whilst the final track “Love in an Evil World” is a floating meditation that slows down the speed of the Earth, ending an album that is bathed in perfection.

Moving from a well known musician to someone I had never heard of, Damon Moon and the Whispering Drifters tread similar ground to Mr Quinn, displaying a mature songwriting and an ear for dynamics, things that can be found on the title track of this, their second album, an explosion of guitar chords dying into a dusty pile of embers, slow and creepy, the tune picking up pace as the drums come in, dancing with a host of drifting notes.

With the songs tumbling into each other, there is a lo-fi cinematic feel to the collection, with “Further On” sounding like the theme tune to a weird spaghetti western, whilst “Restless Roads End” documents that moment in the film when there is a tense calm, just before all hell breaks loose.

After the short rusty drone of “Robert Pirsigs Blues”, the acoustic guitar/voice of the “The Fool” is filled with emotion, thanks to the cracked and broken voice that suits the song perfectly, the same feeling evoked on the equally wonderful “Ten Sleeps, WY”, although this one contains much more instrumentation and a country twang.

Finally we come to the final track, “We make our own Traditions”, seven minutes of bliss to these ears, arranged and played with grace and emotion,the whole band uniting to fulfil a singular vision. (Simon Lewis)



(CD from Folk Police Recordings www.folkpolicerecordings.com )

Named after a line in that redoubtable if overworked old folk standard “Spencer The Rover” (featured here), Woodbine and Ivy is a Manchester based collective of folk musicians who might otherwise be described as the Folk Police Recordings house band. Their self-titled release is a collection of traditional narrative tunes, each one features a different guest singer, again some of whom will be known to those of you familiar with the label’s roster.

I don’t really care if I never hear “Spencer the Rover” again, even when sung as beautifully as Fay Hield manages to do here. Much more interesting is “Alison Gross” (Steeleye fans wave or even waive your copies of Parcel of Rogues at this point), arranged as a menacing shuffle and played to dramatic effect, and on which the ever reliable Rapunzel and Sedayne have a wail of time railing against ye ugly witch.

A pleasantly languid “Twa’ Corbies”, is followed in short order by a beautifully loping and sensual “Gently Johnny” (to which the Woodbine and Ivy chorus lend an almost spiritual feel as if they’ve just stepped out of the cast of Godspell), Olivia Chaney’s take on “Poor Murdered Woman” and “Under the Leaves”, a plainsong that gives a bit of space for much-heralded chanteuse Elle Osborne to show that she can hold down a tune without resorting to that unique if somewhat contrived vibrato she’s managed to cultivate as her trademark.

Just as you’re beginning to think that there may be some gender bias at work in the vocal department, Jim Causley fronts up a wonderful, toe-tapping “Out With My Gun In The Morning”. “Derry Gaol” and “The Green Wedding”(Jackie Oates and Nancy Wallace respectively) maintain the high standard, but “the WI” save the best to last with an absolutely corking “The Roaming Journeyman”, belted out with gusto by James Reynard over a backdrop of oscillators twittering away like some  psychedelic aviary and during which the chorus gets a chance to raise the roof - truly brilliant.

The Woodbine and Ivy Band have given us an original and imaginative take on some familiar and lesser known material to which they lend fresh legs and no little atmosphere. Having different singers to help interpret these arrangements is also inspired and without exception works well. My reservations about “Spencer” (the song, not Nigel the label master and about who, this may well be a tribute) and for that matter “Poor Murdered Woman” notwithstanding this is such a hugely enjoyable listen. Following last year’s masterful “Oak Ash and Thorn” collaboration, Folk Police Records have come up with another smashing concept, then, and one that is sure to cement its reputation and hopefully win over a few more converts. (Ian Fraser)



(CD from Hand/Eye www.darkhollerarts.com)

In stark contrast to the trad. fare of Woodbine and Ivy, the latest neo-pagan, esoteric offering from Stone Breath, is about as “out there” as it gets before you stumble into Dark Folk territory and Places You Really Ought Not To Go.

It’s typical stuff really. It plinks, it plucks it whistles and it chimes, both pleasantly and forebodingly enough to please the fan base, often with a strong Balkan or Near Eastern feel and sung/chanted by a couple of leading, not to say revered, female vocalists (Brooke Elizabeth and Carin Wagner Stone) and, of course, main man and former Ptolemaic Terrascope illustrator Timothy Renner, aka timeMOTHeye, in his trademark low baritone drone.

UK fans of a certain age will remember a children’s TV programme entitled Bagpuss where a regular feature was Madeleine the rag doll and Gabriel the frog belting out some ditty or other. Imagine, then, if they’d recorded another version of Bagpuss and put it out sometime between Tales Of The Unexpected and the Epilogue and you get a fair idea of what this sounds like. Songs with titles such as “Beautiful and Terrible”, “The Sky’s Red Tongue” and “The Coming Fires” find  timeMOTHeye’s monotone rumble and one or other of the women either summoning something up or calling something down, an invocation to I don’t really  know what. For the most part it is entertainment enough for us old freak folk aficionados if a little lacking in breadth and variation. It is also, in the main, utterly unmemorable, I defy anyone to hum these tunes on the way to pick up a newspaper, but then that nebulous air of mystery is all part of Stone Breath’s appeal, part folk, part old testament misery guts, part weird cult/occult, and all in all a unique and oddly pleasurable listening experience.

All hail the lunatic fringe, then, and long may it continue to confound and captivate. (Ian Fraser)



(CD from Command to Destroy Records

Every now and again something comes along which is truly special - as anyone who’s read the Terrascope for any length of time will know - and this, dear reader, is one of those moments you’ve been waiting for. The Chasms' ‘Alchemical Postcards’ is quite simply THE most extraordinarily glorious, visceral, life-affirming cacophonies of screeching guitar noise I’ve heard in many a long year - amongst the finest of it’s type in fact since Terrastock 3 in 1999, when an unassuming duo called Air Traffic Controllers took the stage and proceeded to demolish the place. For those who don’t know - and I wouldn’t blame you, given that only half a dozen paying customers bothered turning up to the UK’s only Terrastock festival to date - Air Traffic Controllers was a collaboration between guitarist Gerard Cosloy (founder of Matador records), and an extraordinary London-based drummer named Jon Steele, who I confess to having completely lost track of subsequently. I know he was at one time in a band called State River Widening, but whatever happened to him after that? He was easily one of the finest drummers I ever witnessed. Anyway, I digress. Back to the Chasms, whose musical vision likewise veers like a wonky windscreen wiper between industrial noise, ambient sounds, interstellar drone, guitar squall and loose, slowly evolving improvisations.

We last met Mike Seed only a month or two ago when we reviewed a split he did with Stone Breath and Language of Light. He has a fabulous voice, a genuinely powerful and original vocal delivery, and this coupled with his innate sense of melody is I think what sets Chasms apart, as it’s not too often a dissonant noise band have a fellow at the helm with a song in his heart and poetry in his soul. Sometimes it’s less poetry than Northern Occult Nutter™, as heard on the opening number ‘Occult Soul Review’; but even that works somehow, and serves to lend the music an unsettling and not entirely misplaced air.

‘Circus Beach Incident’ for example is just exquisite. Seed relates in his own unique style a haunting story, a personal recollection if you will, over a dissonant thrum of reverberating guitar and Troggs drums (his own description, don’t blame me!), and gradually layer upon layer of sound is built up until finally the song - and as it happens the album, for this is the final track - dissolves in a squeal of tortured feedback. I love it.

‘Ghosts to Starboard’ closes with what sounds like the soundtrack to a 50s sci-fi monster epic, while ‘The Midnight Boat’ is marginally my favourite cut of all. It’s a mixed sonic bag that is at one and the same time raw, gorgeous, loud, dreamy, dissonant and mystical, with Seed’s fabulous voice carrying an unforgettable melody up, over and across a screeching guitar squall - Richard the guitarist lists an impressive, not to say daunting, array of effects pedals on the inner sleeve, the better to warp our minds with, and I have a sneaking suspicion that he uses every damn one of them on this song.

The Chasms are a three piece band:- Richard Quirk - Baritone Guitar, Mike Seed - Drums / Vocals and Simon Pott - Bass Guitar. They record in an isolated barn on the Isle of Man. I should imagine there’s a fair number of extremely disturbed sheep thereabouts. The lads are heading back to the barn soon to record some more and I for one can’t wait to hear the results. Meanwhile, there’s some live dates to look out for - watch out for them! (Phil McMullen)