= JANUARY 2011 =  
Sharron Kraus
The Moles
Electric Wizard
In Search of Hawkwind
The Keys
Bardo Pond
Dirty Water comp


Drenched in magic and mystery, the latest album from Sharron Kraus is a wander through the landscape of dark-folk, old woodlands and sacred spaces intertwined into ten tales of love and madness.

    Setting the scene is the haunting “Nothing”, funeral percussion and soft notes combining together to soak the song in a sadness that is gentle as English rain, the lyrics containing a glint of resolve within them, adding counterpoint to the downbeat atmosphere. As on previous albums, it is the voice that shines brightest, unique and beautiful, there is no doubting whose album you are listening to, the sound drawing you into a different world, somewhere between waking and dreams.

    Perhaps more traditionally Folk in its outlook, “Two Brothers”, is a dark tale of choosing that is beautifully arranged and performed, the sparse percussion adding atmosphere to the song, reminding me of a more sinister version of Pentangle. Using just voice and a steadily beating drum “Heaviness of Heart” is a truly beautiful piece that resonates with truth, a song that stops you in your tracks with its majesty, the words seeping into your soul whilst the melodies soothe you. Equally atmospheric and beautiful are  “Evergreen Sisters” and “Once”, both songs wonderfully realised with drifting melodies and perfect instrumentation that will soothe and intrigue in equal measure.

     I have been listening to this album for a couple of months now and one of its most noticeable features is that it seems to change with every listen. Songs that seemed simple reveal new complexities, whilst the more challenging pieces suddenly offer melodies that were hard to hear. This is particularly true of the title track, six minutes of surprise and delight, each listen opening up the richness within, revealing a new sound, a new interpretation.

     Filled with tension, “Teacher” is another highlight, the melodies soaring above the beat, whilst the delightful “Rejoice in Love” seems designed to lighten the tension with its sunny riff and lighter tone. I recently saw Sharron perform live and this song was introduced as “an attempt at a pop song” and it is certainly one of her most immediately hummable songs, raising a smile every time.

   Finally, the wonderful “Traveller Between the Worlds” closes the album beautifully, the song as captivating as a slow moving river, mystical and purifying, just lie back and let the magic happen. Dedicated to Tony Dale, this is Sharron's most accomplished and satisfying album to date, those familiar should not hesitate and if you are new to her work this is a fine place to start. (Simon Lewis)



 (See Monkey Do Monkey)

Ashton must’ve been swallowed up in some musical time warp, because these Bristol garage punkers revive the original excitement of 1976/7 London with a ferocious set of abrasive rockers that wear all the right influences on their snot-encrusted sleeves. slash across The title track fondly recalls minimalist grunters, Wire, as fronted by Howard DeVoto, The Rotten One’s whining snarl stampedes through ‘Magnet’s ‘Round The Sun’, and ‘Ginger Tom’ is a series of horrific images pasted on to grating guitars, spiralling downward into a cesspool of filth and decay. Ooh, that was fun.

It’s not all razor blades and gobbies, though. ‘Stuck Like Glue’ is a bouncy little pop tune, ‘It’s Snowing Again’ (complete with radio-style announcements) is awash in echo and cotton-mouthed vocals and might’ve elbowed its way comfortably onto some oblique otherworldly remake of The Who Sell Out.

‘The Combined Forces Of An Atom’ drags ‘Astronomy Domine’ kicking and screaming into the 21st century, ‘Fuller’s Dram’ is post-industrial metal that’ll have Trent Reznor shitting his smalls, and ‘Neptune’s Beard’ and ‘Brain Garden’ are swirling hazes of phased vocals, shuffling drumbeats, and shimmering guitars that suggests The Walrus and The Eggman ran off with Lucifer Sam in a Soft Machine headed for the heart of the sun. I was also prompted to dig out my old Rustic Goodway records after experiencing the Barrett-namechecked ‘Frontiers of Astronome.’ [sic]

With enough ideas for three albums, The Moles have tossed the kitchen sink at the wall and leave it to you, dear listener, to salvage the wreckage. Punk…psych…metal…, it’s in there. Just dive in with the same reckless abandon that went into assembling the carnage at hand and have a damn good time. (Jeff Penczak)




 (See Monkey Do Monkey)

Delicious Welsh pop psych with hints of Donovan, The Kinks and old Terrascope faves Dipsomaniacs and the Flyte Reaction. Frontman Carwyn Ellis has worked with Oasis and Shane MacGowan, but he reserves his tender side for these floating folky excursions, which suggest his record collection has lots of David Crosby (the whistful rumination, 'Autumnal’), Welsh folk hero Meic Stevens (the dreamy ‘Pan Ddaw’r Nos’ [‘When The Night Comes’] and ‘Mynydd Hud’ [‘Magic Mountain], both sung in his native tongue]), and Beck (the no-fi toe tapper, ‘Apocalypse Blues’).

Yet there’s still room to break out the drums and start pounding the 88’s on the hop, skip along, jump merriment of ‘Candy Street’ (which I swear he copped off some private, unreleased reel of Ray Davies’ outtakes). Toss in a spooky crawl through dark, back alleys, ‘Out Of Line’ and a lovely little two-part instrumental ditty (‘Royal Victoria Arcade’) and you’ve got one promising debut that you’ll be returning to often throughout the next few months. (Jeff Penczak)

(Coming as he does from across the Big Pond Jeff might not be expected to realise this, but I rather suspect that just as The Moles album is named 'Ashton' after Ashton Gate in Bristol, the Colorama album on the same label is named after the village of Box just over the border into Wiltshire. This continues a long and proud tradition of naming albums after West Country place names, beginning with the Bonzo Dog band's 'Keynsham' and continuing of course through to Portishead....-Ed.)




It’s now 10 years since the release of the legendary “Dopethrone” since when Dorset bong-jockeys, Electric Wizard have released three albums that have consolidated its reputation as one of the heaviest doom merchants on the planet rather than enhanced it.  Several personnel changes in the meantime means that guitarist/vocalist Justin Osborn is now the only original member and it is testimony to his perseverance that seventh album “Black Masses” not only holds together but is confident enough to move away from the tried and tested formula of sludge slow stoner rock of which “Dopethrone” – which can in fact be a quite nauseous listening experience particularly when attempted in one listen – was and remains the acme. Released as near as damn it to Halloween 2010, this is probably their most accomplished album since their early high watermark. “Black Mass” kicks off proceedings with a black-hearted riff that gets your immediate attention and unleashes a maelstrom of dirt n’ dirge (for example “The Nightchild”) heavy psychedelia (“Venus in Furs”) and the two choice cuts from the carcass, the Sabbath-like “Satyr IX” and the menacing “Scorpio Curse”. It all ends after pretty much an hour of unrelenting amp abuse with the impressively layered and atmospheric instrumental “Crypt of Drugula” (I suspect that Royal Variety Show slot will still have to wait awhile) after all of which you feel as if something malign has crept into your ear and are compelled to keep tapping the side of your head to dislodge it. Best of luck with that one! There are a couple of minor quibbles – eight tracks spanning an hour expose the Wizards’ limitations at times and not all of the numbers are up to the extended task. Also the heavy analogue mix is notable for burying the bottom end so much so that the bass and drums are almost drowned in the murk. This may of course have been done deliberately as a means of heightening the atmosphere and it does lend a certain crushing weight to the listening experience, or it may suggest that the producer shared in the recreational activities of his charges.  

I’m not sure how this one will sit with those purists who think the world began and ended with “Dopethrone” but for a mere dilettante such as I, “Black Masses” despite its occasional faults represents a most welcome return to fray. Let us hope that they can build on the momentum and, oh yes, how about a few more gigs in Blighty this year? (Ian Fraser)



(Critical Mass)

I usually avoid tribute albums as you would someone with a clipboard trying to make eye contact with you on the High Street. Rarely do other artists’ interpretations do justice to the original and, as those freebie CDs they give away with in the music press illustrate, they are at best hit and miss affairs. Curiosity got the better of me when presented with “In Search of Hawkwind”, though, firstly because Hawkwind are heroes of mine and this had an interesting and appealing track list (no “Silver Machine” thankfully) and also because the various artistes were so mouth wateringly familiar through the virtual pages of Terrascope, and not the usual husband and wife banjo players you’ve never wanted to hear of playing sanitised or else not so special interpretations of songs that deserve better.

First up are Kinski with a faithful and energetic take on “Master of the Universe”, pitched closer to the chug of the original “In Search of Space” rendition than the manic overdrive from the live “Space Ritual”. The mighty, mighty Mugstar chip in with the first of two contributions, a typically insistent “Born to Go” which even outkicks the Hawks before Magoo’s rather charming take on “Space is Deep” takes the foot off the peddle a notch. The slight drop in pace only serves to heighten the effect of Bardo Pond’s bludgeoning take n “Lord of Light”, a slowed down stoner-thon that is one of the undoubted highlights of what is already shaping up to be every bit as promising a collection as one would have hoped. Mudhoney recorded their take on “Urban Guerilla” as far back as 2002 and their anarchic yet thoughtful rendition is that rarest of things a cover that is every bit as good as a fine original.

Then things start getting weird – really they do. The mere mention of the words Acid Mothers Temple should be sufficient on which to rest one’s case. Their mission here is to deconstruct and then re-energise the mighty “Brainstorm” and it’s everything you could have hoped for – the Hawks’ most anthemic freak-out well and truly spiked by one of their acolytes. Moon Duo provide an imaginative and lysergic take on that most atypical song from the Hawkwind canon, “Hurry on Sundown”. The fact that they could be covering “My Old Man’s A Dustman” for all I know or care (it sounds just like every other Wooden Shjips song) is neither here nor there. The wonderful White Hills wade in with a bass heavy, scuzzball version of “Be Yourself” that crackles and fizzes in a universe full of static before Mugstar bring us to crash landing on Star Base Earth with a sublime take on “Paradox” from “Hall of Mountain Grill” (the most recent of the originals sourced for this album). 

This is a fine collection that not only does justice to Hawkwind and their legacy but will do no harm at all to the bands who have done such a great job here and will have hopefully brought the ‘Wind and themselves to a new and wider audience as a result. First rate, and then some! (Ian Fraser) [Phil adds: this is one of the best tribute albums, let alone Hawkwind tribute albums, I've heard since the 1995 'Assassins of Silence' 2LP comp featuring F/i, Temple of Bon Matin, ST37 - and the Mike Gunn so memorably covering 'Master of the Universe']




     Hailing from Wales, The Keys’ first Mini-LP, is a glorious psych-pop romp that benefits from a bright production and lots of volume. Clocking in at scarcely 26 minutes, the album is more of an EP than an LP, but every minute counts, the band writing songs that are tight and concise when required, yet loose and swirling as needed.

     Kicking off with the magnificent 60's garage-psych sound of the title track, fans of The Strawberry Alarm Clock will find themselves singing “Incense and Peppermints” whilst grooving around the living room, grinning a manic paisley smile, retro as hell, but filled with sunshine. After this wonderful introduction, “Chemistry”, switches to the UK for a slice of psych-pop happiness, tinged with that melancholic feel that all the best tunes have, reminding me of The Beatles in a distantly melodic kind of way, although they may be jamming with later-period Super Furry Animals at the time.

    More aggressive, “People meet People” has that Pretty Things snarl, whilst “Valley Son” mellows thing out again (after the noisy intro) in waltz time, time for some fancy footwork around the parlour.

     After 26 seconds of backwardness, titled “lo and Behold”, there comes the finest moment of the disc, as the magnificent strains of “I Am the Breeze” blows in, a pulsing rhythm and ringing guitar pushing the song along, shades of Badgeman to be heard in the guitar riffery. 

    To be fair, there's nothing ground-breaking to be found on this disc, what does shine through however, is the sheer enjoyment, the sound of a band playing the music they love regardless of fashion or financial rewards, although I'm sure that would be much appreciated. As it is this is a good time waiting to be heard and that is often enough, music without pretension or a hidden message.

    With a perfumed cloud of sound “Eyes of the World” opens in blissful manner before turning into a rocker, the guitars nice and dirty, adding weight to the the sing-a-long chorus, whilst final track “O Lord” has a Spacemen 3 groove with quality to spare, getting your feet tapping and your heart a-glowing.

      Released in June, this is another in the series, “Albums that Should Have Been Reviewed Ages Ago”, so if you have some Christmas money left and fancy a whirl around the lounge, give this a go. Glorious in every way. (Simon Lewis)



(http://www.firerecords.com )

The sheer epic beauty of this 8th (I think) and first self-titled studio album from Bardo Pond is almost Biblical in proportions, and the potential for devastation just as utterly overwhelming as Moses waving his sea-parting, bush-burning stick around his head like a Fender Jaguar at the end of a concert.

The record launches itself into your cranium innocently enough, with a gentle back-porch rocker entitled ‘Just Once’ led by Isobel’s hauntingly enchanting voice. ‘Don’t Know About You’ is the first sign that this is going to be an extraordinary album though, even measured by Bardo Pond’s own extraordinary standards. The guitar solo that kicks in part way through sounds fresh, incisive, and yet so gnarled that it could almost be an ancient subterranean tree dredged from the deep, shining and dripping with timeless majesty. I can’t even begin to imagine what an effect this must be having on audiences right now, as I’m sure the song must be a centrepiece of their live set, with every promise of becoming a standard-bearer. It’s an early high point of a series of highs that threaten to engulf you completely.

The psychedelic juggernaut that is ‘Cracker Wrist’ over on Side C (for those of you bathing yourselves in the glory of vinyl for the full-on sonic effect)

iquickly settles itself into a percussive groove overlaid with an absolutely gorgeous fuzzed feedback guitar tone that simply drills its way into your mind until the first climax mid-way through the love-in, when Isobel’s voice kicks in and the rest of the band follow suit. It’s interesting to note that although guest Jeremiah Misfeldt’s Farfisa doesn’t exactly leap out of the mix, that the two numbers he appears on are the absolute stand-outs for me – ‘Cracker Wrist’ being one, and ‘Sleeping’ which takes up all of Side B being the other.

Remember when you’d slip a newly purchased LP out of its cover on the bus home, longing like a hungry lover for the moment you could drop it into your spindle and watch the styles inching its way along its length? You’d know – well I would anyway – that if any one track by a revered band covered the whole side of a new album you’d be in for something truly special, something to save and savour at your leisure after the initial adrenalin rush has passed. ‘Sleeping’ is a case in point, a sprawling hydra-headed monster of controlled guitar reaming and psychedelic apocalypse which had a similar effect on me to the very first time I heard the Airplane’s ‘Shizoforest Love Suite’ on ‘After bathing at Baxters’. It really is that good. The whole album really is that special. The love affair continues unabated. (Phil McMullen).




(2xCD plus 76-page book [2xLP condensed version also available] on Year Zero)

Punk rock, that last bastion of 70s defiance, seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. With most of the forerunners either dead or having sense enough not to ponce around on stage in embarrassing attempts to recreate former glories, you just don’t hear much about a musical, political, and social style that occupied much of my own personal coming of age nigh on 35 years ago. Perhaps it’s something to do with the dreadful state of musical affairs as we begin the second decade of the 21st century, but I just don’t hear the kids getting worked into a frenzy over anything these days. That rebellious spirit seems to have been sucked out of them, perhaps a bit of our own doing as our generation of helicopter parents overcompensates for our own disappointments by giving our offspring everything they ask for.

For me, punk rock came along at just the right time – still in university, I finally snagged my first paying job and had some discretionary income. Growing bored with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Boston, Genesis, Yes, and the burgeoning singer/songwriter movement (great for pulling birds, but did anyone ever listen to this trip intentionally?), new sounds were echoing out of New York’s Bowery – a short walk from my university – and some sweaty, adrenaline-fuelled nights at a dive called CBGBs were opening my eyes and ears to a lifestyle that attracted impressionable young yobbos like myself like a frat boy to a kegger. Before long, albums – yes, ALBUMS by artists with names like Ramones, Television, Damned, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, and Clash were being devoured nightly, all leading to a Siddhartha-like journey to uncover similar artists that the music press hadn’t quite discovered.

The fact that many of the artists were no more than a few years older than me – and many were, indeed, my own age, only seemed to enhance the experience – as if a bunch of me mates decided to buy some cheapo instruments and cobble a chance to get up on stage at the local watering hole … hey, that’s what most of these guys were doing. But now we’re all in our 50s (or better) and, oh, where are the dreams of our youth? Well, Kris Needs shared a similar life-changing experience and got down in the trenches with the artists, as editor of Zigzag, one of the seminal ‘zines to champion this new noise. His reviews and interviews with all the major players was one of my lifelines to what was happening, separating the real deal from the posers. So, rather than regurgitating the same music that Rhino rather definitively addressed a few year back with their No Thanks box set, Needs steps back a few years to assemble some of punk’s seminal forefathers to demonstrate that “punk as a musical form first ignited around 1956 with rock ‘n’ roll. The class of ’76 simply sped it up and changed the words.”

Admitting that each of the 33 tracks (23 on the vinyl edition] he’s assembled is here “because they carry a special memory or have played a part in my life and I think some hair-bristling track deserves to be heard and highlighted…. In purely selfish terms, I love them all.” His mini-book posing as liner notes recount his introduction to the scene at the Friars club in Aylesbury, where he drew the flyers and first met the inimitable Pete Frame, founding editor of the aforementioned Zigzag and a veritable institution here at Terrascope Towers. Each track he’s selected recalls a cherished memory, from The Standells’ opening salvo that gives this 2xCD set its title – the first song his band (the Aylesbury Bucks) ever played live – to his favourite track on The Seeds’ epochal debut (‘Evil Hoodoo’) to a bunch of rowdy bikers posing as a rock and roll band (The Deviants and The Pink Fairies), Needs has created a Punk Rock version of Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets that serves as both a musical history lesson and a damn fine collection of some of the finest, and occasionally most overlooked music of the pre-punk era.

Almost every one of these artists has been name checked, interviewed, and/or reviewed in Terrascope over the years and I dare suggest that we might not have existed were it not for the opportunity to shout from the mountaintops about the glories that are The Flaming Groovies (‘Teenage Head’), The Monks (‘I Hate You’), MC5 (‘Rocket Reducer No. 62’), The Stooges (‘Do You Want My Love’)… and that’s just the first disk!

Disk two doesn’t relent on the sonic assault, with selections from Dr. Feelgood, The Saints, and Rocket From The Tombs stalking alongside more experimental excursions into the avant garde from Red Krayola and seminal krautrockers, Can. One could argue that the second disk is a bit New York-centric, but there’s no denying the influence that the New York Dolls, Silver Apples, The Last Poets, The Dictators and Suicide had on punk. (And while one may cry “foul” that the Velvet Underground is missing, I’m sure it’s more down to legal bullshit than oversight, which Needs readily admits prevented him from including Funkadelic or The Fugs.) Toss in seminal Glammies The Hollywood Brats, themselves surely influenced by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and you’ve got a compilation that leaves no turn unstoned when it comes to tracking down how punk emerged from the ashes of its own musical history. And Needs cleverly (perhaps intentionally?) wraps up his collection with the only “punk” track in the lot, The Saints ‘I’m Stranded’, the title track from what is arguably the first non-US “punk rock” album (released the day before The Damned’s Stiff debut).

Now you may be saying, “Hey, I could’ve put something like this together and, in fact, already have most of these tracks in my collection. Why do I, pardon the pun, need them again?” Well, obviously the set may not be for you, but let’s face it, not everyone has the time to go digging around their dusty basement to pull out these albums and, to Need’ credit, there are a number of obscurities that you probably don’t have (come on, are you gonna sit there and tell me you’ve got Jook, Zolar X, The Up, Death, Third World War, and Culture in your collection?) Besides, Needs’ C.V. more than qualifies him to share his record collection with you and his liners form a 76-page mini book on their own that was as much fun to read as the music was to listen to. Unlike most compilations’ liners, written by some record label hack who researched the bands (most of which he’d probably never heard of) on the internet, Needs was there in the trenches and personally know most of the artists he’s included. So you get an amazing “You Are There” perspective to what it was like to encounter these bands live. I particularly enjoyed his recollections of his first Mott The Hoople gig and subsequent fly-on-the-wall reportage of the debauchery surrounding the recording of Brain Capers, whose ‘The Moon Upstairs’ (wherein, Hunter suggests, “You can hear the Sex Pistols loud and clear”) is included here. I, for one, was glad to relive my own experiences upon first hearing these songs and the overall approach to the project – that musical styles are cyclical and categories like “punk” are merely journalistic shorthand to pigeonhole artists into a neat package for mass consumption. And breaking down those walls is what “punk” was all about. As Needs notes, “You could go back to the first blues recordings in 1914 to find those of limited resources striving to have their say….” Well, here’re 33 artists that did it their way and my life wouldn’t be the same without them. (Jeff Penczak)