= February 2021 =  
 
 Cary Grace
 Eyeless in Gaza
 Joss Cope
 Diana Collier
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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CARY GRACE - LADY OF TURQUOISE 

www.carygrace.com  Door 13 2xCD

A few albums into her recording career Cary, a lover of all things synth, cats and the furry freak brothers, has marshalled a crack troupe of regular musicians to call upon when it comes time to join her live and in recording in the studio. For this record it’s John Garden, Graham Clark, Andy Budge, David Payne, Steffe Sharpstrings, Victoria Reyes, Ian East, Steve Everitt and Andy Bole with Cary herself playing: synth, acoustic and eclectic guitar, vocals, organ plus a multitude of other keyboard devices. We have reviewed most of her releases to date and I’ve been looking forward to hearing this one and again it doesn’t disappoint.

Things kick off with “Khepera At Dawn”, a drifting, languid, opening instrumental song, full of great synth sounds and Steffe’s probing electric guitar. “Letterbox”, ups the pace a little bit; being more of a traditional rock song, plenty of wah wah guitar from John filling in all the spaces. “Without A Trace”, has a strong melody and a nice string arrangement, it features some beautiful piano from Victoria and some tasteful fluid lead guitar passages. Next up “Into Dust”, this song sees treated vocals, it’s a psychedelically tune with martial drums, dubby bass and churchy organ, ostensibly about life/death, ashes to ashes.

Then we have a brief synth interlude before we enter the realm of the spoken word “Afterglow”, an excellent synth rock epic and continuing the sequence of each song getting slightly longer and more progressive in nature, this one being just over six minutes, favourite line “Having drinks with Baphomet at the end of the world”. “Film Noir”, is indeed a noir with saxophone, dripping with an icy cool. The first disc ends with the sublime twelve minutes of “Costume Jewellery”, an arabesque melody played by Graham on electric violin maps out the melody, slightly reminiscent of Kaleidoscope but with a ton more electric guitar and synth, excellent stuff.

The second discs opens with “Moonflowers (fade to black)”, a slow burner of a song that showcases John’s atmospheric electric guitar, reminding me of David Gilmour’s style of playing mixed with a little Hillage. Then comes “Sacrifice”, a wonderful sly sardonic rock tune taken at a steady pace, featuring some terrific barely controlled electric guitar, great drifting organ and synth and a cooking rhythm section. “Memory”, slows things right down with a dreamy ballad it has a memorable melody before changing gear halfway through, before again winding down. “Castle Of Dreams”, brings a change of pace, a funky fuzzy wah wah piece of progressive psychedelia, eleven minutes of drifting, dreamy bliss. “The Land Of Two Fields” takes us out into the garden with a short instrumental piece on which the synth is highlighted to nice effect. This brings us to “Lady Of Turquoise” the final song and title track  of this excellent double album, it has some amazing synth playing throughout, with plenty of bleeps and squiggles being both expansive yet contained and it motors along very nicely indeed, concluding with a couple of minutes of pure synth. Great album, highly recommended.

(Andrew Young)

 
 

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 EYELESS IN GAZA – INK HORN/ONE STAR

(CD on A-Scale)

This May marks 40 years since Martyn Bates and Peter Becker released the “Kodak Ghosts Run Amok” 7” EP, their opening salvo as Eyeless in Gaza. The duo have come a long way since these three stark, synth-heavy, antiseptic, Teutonic soundscapes trickled out to compete with the likes of Kraftwerk, OMD, The Normal, Human League, Gary Numan, et. al. Over the past four decades, their vocal emotional intensity has never wavered, nor has their interest in forging new avenues of electronic expression. But they’ve progresses beyond short synth blasts to incorporate myriad percussion instruments, guitars, ukuleles, glockenspiels, echo boxes, melodicas, keyboards, etc. all of which find their way into surprising places on their latest effort.

     Martyn’s whispered, measured lyrical utterances at first seem in stark contrast to Peter’s eerie percussives and aural manipulations on opener ‘Silvered Song’. But soon you realise that the apparent dichotomy actually works in tandem to create a hesitant opening salvo that puts the listener on his/her toes, not sure when that second show is going to drop. The kinetic, herky-jerky ‘Mirror’ slowly reveals a Dorian Grey public that always requires familiarity in their musical meals, never open to try new directions or chart unfamiliar musical territories. Perhaps a tad autobiographical, Bates sings “I’ll sing yr stolen music to an indifferent world.” (Despite over two-dozen releases and several Indie hits, EiG has always been a cult proposition.)

      ‘The Two Thorns’ is a tender ballad verging into lullaby territory, with quiet horns, ukuleles, and melodica backing another exquisite Bates vocal. The duo’s early material was often lumped into the post-punk basket, and certainly there are difficult listening experiences along the way as they exorcised musical demons while exploring new and exciting ways to present their dark, melancholic oeuvre without copying or repeating past efforts. ‘Comedown’ may be one of their darkest lyrics in recent years, with references to paralytic silences and dead things walking among the living, so fans of those Gothic, darkwave references that trickled into previous reviews will have a lot to sink their teeth into.

     ‘Vostock’ is one of the album’s more accessible tracks: a radio-friendly melody, lilting, cheery  Bates vocal, and traditional guitar/glock/drumbox instrumentation that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Eurythmics or Depeche Mode album, ca. Black Celebration. I also like the amoebic Enoesque atmospherics of ‘Song of The River’, the childlike simplicity of the acoustic ballad ‘Radiance’, and the title track that explains just what that “one star” is and how it has manifest itself into their creative energies that have mesmerised, antagonised, and shook our musical foundations for the past 40 years. Happy anniversary gents!

(Jeff Penczak)

 

 


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JOSS COPE - INDEFINITE PARTICLES
(CD/DL
from www.garedunordrecords.com )

Following on from his last album “Unrequited Lullabies” from a couple of years ago Joss is back, with an album recorded pretty much live in a studio in Helsinki. The band consists of Joss: vocals, mellotron, lyrics. Veli-Pekanbaru Oinonen: Lead guitar. Esa Lehtopuro: Bass. Ville Samuel: drums. Simon Dye: organ. Duncan Maitland: piano, moog, harpsichord and backing vocals.

The music ranges from the skewed pop XTC, The Kinks and Robyn Hitchcock, so very English then. He is the younger brother of the arch-druid himself Julian and with this radio friendly release proves himself to be quite a fine songwriter.

After the opening salvo of title track “Indefinite Particles” and “From a Great Height” it’s clear that this record is full of clever knowing pop hooks, nowhere is this more clearly defined than “Healed”, which comes on like The Loving Spoonful before, well Teardrop Explodes really. “Who Are You Trying To Kid” reminds me a little in vocal delivery of Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy and is definitely something that would appeal to fans of literate pop. “She’s Going to Change The World”, comes on like the Who’s organ intro to “Won’t Get Fooled Again” mixed with a soupcon of White album era Beatles.

“Lifeboat Service” is terrific, a delicate piano melody, walking bass and light percussion accompany an arch pop tune of the first order, and as catchy as goosegrass, with added organ and backwards guitar motif. “Radium Came” brings up the tempo a little and rocks a little harder. “Hit The Wall” is where I detect a bit of the Soft Boys brand of punkish pop, it also has a couple of biting, concise guitar solos ala Kimberley Rew. “True Nature” is a gem, sprightly and melodic, it moves along nicely, a little mellotron and sparkling guitar, and for me my favourite track on the album. “Mad King Ludwig”, is a bit of a throwaway song, pastiching 50’s doo wop vocal and rock’n’ roll.  “Hill” the final track is altogether darker, with shades of Richard Hawley, it’s a bittersweet song full of disappointment.

So a really nice, quirky, but accessible album, with enough twists and turns to keep the listener interested.

(Andrew Young)

 
 

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DIANA COLLIER – ODE TO RIDDLEY WALKER
(LP/CD from
www.rifmountain.com)

In the event that anyone out there is in need of an introduction then meet Diana Collier, doyen of the Leigh Folk Festival and curator of the inestimably worthy (and downright wonderful) compilation ‘A Place To Dwell’ in aid of Southend YMCA and which Terracope was pleased to cover back in June 2018. She was also a member of The Owl Service and Greanvine, names that may be familiar to the reader given that both have received the occasional and affirmative mention hereabouts.

‘Ode’ is Collier’s second solo outing, following 2015’s All Mortals Rest. However whereas that earlier effort was a brave though disarming collection of unaccompanied vocal renditions of traditional songs, her follow up features largely self-penned compositions imbued with a delicateness bordering at times on the gossamer light, given more corporeal form by the tasteful contribution of several former band mates.

The first thing you’ll notice is that voice, more vulnerable sounding than before yet it’s a fragility underpinned by resilience. A pure voice in the way that folkies laud Shirley Collins, untutored, strikingly effective and gently dignified. ‘Ode To Riddley Walker’ puts this into sharp relief, egged on for the most part by a beautifully sparse, almost threadbare accompaniment delivered at nod-out cadence. It’s essentially just Diana and her guitar, fleshed out in the closing stanzas with bowed banjo and synth courtesy of former Owls Dom Cooper and Jason Steel to form an ominous drone which carries a by now wordless vocal, growing stronger and more portentous.

‘Balm’ waltzes late-era ISB style, at once innocent sounding and eerie, like an imaginary soundtrack to a folk horror short movie that never quite made it to distribution. It’s at this juncture that Emma Reed’s sonorous clarinet first makes its presence felt, as a dewy dawn breaks over a particularly esoteric episode of Pogle’s Wood. A delightful duet with the always listenable Nancy Wallace, who also supplies concertina, follows on the affecting, minor chord ‘Simeon Llewelyn’, at which juncture Collier’s voice sounds emotionally stretched to its limit.

‘The Bonny Hind’ is an odd one out in more than one sense. A child ballad and one of only two traditional numbers here it’s also arguably what Diana does best, offering up a confident rendition of acapella folk. The exquisite ‘Margin’ again trades on the bare essentials of guitar and vocal with just understated percussion from Mark Offord for company. It’s another highly evocative and quite magical offering, timeless yet with the feeling of being locked in a twilight world of Laura Ashley smocks and strange roll ups some point around the move to decimalisation.

What sounds for all the world like an echoing piano in a deserted church hall introduces us to ‘Friends’, the most accessible entry point here for anyone in need of initiation and which might well be a Meg Baird outtake for all I know (except I think I know it isn’t). Clarinet makes a welcome return on ‘Village’ a wistful and ghostly paean to a real or imaginary lost settlement before another take on a traditional number ‘On Christmas Day It Happens So’ ushers in a spectral slide into the supernatural

Remember the old Monty Python sketch Woody and Tinny Words? Well it’s uncanny how this works just as well with music. If we are choosing camps then Ode To Riddley Walker is most well and truly rooted in the arboreal jungle - an organic, oak aged fashioning of bucolic wonder that is at once becalming and uplifting. Wondrous stories indeed, and – for now - as near as dammit essential.

(Ian Fraser)