= January 2012 =  
Windy and Carl
Deke Leonard
Koolaid (Global Tyrrany)
Bunny & the Electric Horsemen


(CD / LP on Kranky)

Lie back amongst the grass on a warm summer’s day and watch the cauliflower clouds bump, dance and move together, merge into one and gradually fill the sky with cream. Windy and Carl would be, are, and always will be the ideal soundtrack to such exquisite, blissed idling, their beautifully imaginative guitar-based dronescapes providing an intoxicating backdrop to any perfect daydream.

The world however has a habit of imposing itself on such idylls, and the venerable and venerated Michigan couple’s most recent album until now, Songs for the Broken Hearted (2008), explored some unsettling and at times downright disturbing emotions, particularly for the faithful of the Terrascope community who look up to them rather as you might a favourite aunt and uncle: a little bit crazy and unpredictable but secretly admired, much revered and absolutely loved.

The mood on We Will Always Be - the first release from the duo since 2008 - is altogether brighter and, there’s no getting away from the word, more blissful. Begun as a solo record by Carl, the sound throughout is if anything more open, as if the clouds had parted, and there’s even a rare outing for Windy Weber’s vocals, both on the opening aubade ‘For Rosa’ (Rosa being Windy’s pet-name for Carl) and, rather endearingly, on ‘Nature of Memory’ where her distinctive and adorable laugh can be heard.

As Windy herself says, “the album has some vocal passages that often in any relationship are never actually spoken. It has some very experimental elements - strange vocal effects, maybe a little borrowing from English noise pioneers; and it has a great deal of Carl's phenomenal guitar playing.”

You can say that again. Highlights are undoubtedly the mountainous guitar ranges of ‘Looking Glass’, the opening (following the brief serenade) ‘Remember’ – most reminiscent perhaps of the classic sound that’s come to be associated with the duo – and above all, the extraordinary ‘Fainting in the Presence of the Lord’, which is every bit as majestic, awe-inspiring and unstoppable as an avalanche of guitar drones piling one on top of another. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this track.

I’ll leave the epitaph to Windy. “It was a joy for me to be on this record, to be able to make a new record with the man I love. To have found, that even after the darkest of times, we are still in love, we are still incapable of living without each other, we are still 2 halves of the same being.”

“We Will Always Be” – a fitting title, and a great, great album. (Phil McMullen)



(2xCD + DVD from Esoteric Recordings www.cherryred.co.uk)

Ah yes, I remember it well, or as the Man Band and your scribe’s fellow countryman, that overly emotional and unfunny old rugby tart Max Boyce might have said, “I was there”. Well, very nearly as in fact I attended the second of two nights, arranged as they say, due to popular demand. I do remember taking time out just days before my final exams, making the trip down from Nottingham University with my mate Simon, both of us huge Man fans after the event, that event being Man’s dissolution in 1976 before either of us had the chance to see them live. This was going to be too good to miss, surely?

As it happens, I also recall wondering whether it was actually worth the effort, having been left with a nagging sense of anti-climax which this highly commendable and, frankly, overdue release of the entire first night’s concert emphatically dispels whilst also giving a massive clue as to the cause of my then youthful consternation. There are no, I repeat, no extended jams or lengthy improvisations around a theme. Whereas I was expecting them to take up where they’d left off in 1976, this 1983 vintage – comprising the nucleus, some would say the dream team, of Micky Jones, Martin Ace and Deke Leonard plus John “Pugwash” Weathers on tubs (Terry Williams being otherwise engaged with the multi-platinum Dire Straits at the time) - were probably the tightest and most focussed of any incarnation of the famously shapeshifting Man Band to date. In fact every bit how you’d wished Rockpile had sounded (another Welsh – and Terry Williams - connection, folks).

Set-wise, every album is represented from “2 oz...” (a punchy Spunk Rock trimmed of all excess fat to around 7 minutes) through to their then last studio album “The Welsh Connection”, plus a few new numbers which would never see the light of day (Man were destined not to release a studio album during the 1980s). Leonard’s straightforward rock n roll and earthier subject matter sits comfortably and naturally alongside Jones’ more intricate and quirky compositions and which are given more urgency here by the faster and tauter arrangements. I’ve always been a huge fan of Williams’ hyperactive, machine gun snare delivery but Weathers’ less fussy, insistent drumming suits the new style of delivery down to the ground. Jones and Leonard share most of the vocal duties between them and manage to do so impressively enough while their guitar interplay is as seamless and as tasty as it had ever been. Martin Ace, though, makes for a pretty decent “third man” and is on particularly good form, on his own composition “Even Visionaries Go Blind”, one of those new numbers that unfortunately got away. He later assumes Will Youatt’s vocal duties on “Back Into The Future” – a surprise inclusion and a brave choice when considering the complicated keyboard motifs that were so evident on the original track and indeed the classic album that bore its name. They just about get away with it, too. It’s not often that you will see a band taking risks in their first gig for 7 years, but in addition to “Back Into The Future”, “Kerosene” from the very fine “Rhinos, Whinos and Lunatics” also receives its first ever airing and would go on to become a staple of live performances in years to come as, buoyed by their reception here and at the Reading Festival  later that summer, Man decided to make their reunion a permanent one. Some things never change, though, and the set reaches a storming conclusion with those perennial old standards “Many Are Called But Few Get Up” and, of course “Bananas”. You all know the words, all together now...

The DVD which forms part of this box set is a visual representation of the full set with additional on stage banter. There’s a typical Leonard quip about Martin Ace’s less than sartorial choice of stage apparel for example, and his admission of “chaos” on stage, which betrays a nervousness at the fact this was not just the band’s first gig for many a moon but that it was also being recorded and filmed. Indeed the band is visually tense at the start but loosen up noticeably as they realise that they have Spunk Rock well and truly nailed. Micky and the boys hardly have a stage presence to rival Mick and the boys let alone the likes of Lady Gaga, but as a testament to what in respect was a fine night of musical entertainment it will do nicely thank you very much.

And there we have it. The die-hards among you (and I know Mr. McMullen counts himself amongst them) may still lament the absence of the 9- hour jamathons but as a live document coming after such a long hiatus during which musical empires had risen and fallen this sure as hell takes some beating. It was certainly as good as Man got during their reincarnation which, frustratingly, saw them fail to capitalise on the momentum of the Marquee and Reading Festival gigs. Their inability to release any new material for the next nine years was probably a major factor here, which is a shame as they consistently outshone most of the other old bands who returned to impolite society in increasing numbers during the 1980s and 90s.  Ironically this period was also notable for Man, of all bands, managing to hold down a stable line-up. 

Micky Jones and influential founder member Clive “Clint Space” John are unfortunately no longer with us and the baton has passed to a new generation of musicians, including Jones’ son George, to keep the Man flag flying. Sadly, Man fell off my radar a long time ago, but this set is a welcome reminder of just how good they were back in the day and is a worthy enough companion to the impressive – and in one or two cases indispensable - clutch of albums they released during the early to mid 1970s. (Ian Fraser)



(Book published by Northdown Publishing - website)

Not to be confused with the 1992 Man-band album of the same name, ‘The Twang Dynasty’ is Man guitarist Deke Leonard’s latest book, a departure from the first two (Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics – again, also an album title – and Maybe I Should Have Stayed in Bed) in that it’s not autobiographical. Except, it largely is. The thing is, Roger ‘Deke’ Leonard’s personal trajectory through 50 years of British rock music, from his earliest experiences in monochrome late fifties Llanelli to some of the world’s largest concert halls in the seventies and beyond, is such that all of his writing is invariably quite liberally punctuated with personal anecdote; and for this book, dedicated to guitars and guitarists, that means getting to actually meet the Greats. Deke tells a great story for example of how Hendrix once came to watch him (Deke) play, in 1967 when he was with Lucifer and the Corncrackers; although unfortunately the reverse was never to come to fruition. There’s also tales of meetings with Clapton, Beck and Rory Gallagher. There’s even a near miss with Frank Zappa. And depending on how you define great, there’s essays and anecdotes on many of the guitarists closest to the heart of Terrascope readers as well: Steve Miller, Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band (there’s a fabulous story on page 251 or thereabouts of the time Help Yourself and Captain Beefheart crossed paths…), Larry Wallis, Tony McPhee. The list goes on. There’s also learned and witty essays – Deke is not only a diligent researcher but an utterly brilliant and endlessly entertaining writer – on the development of the electric guitar, and on numerous blues luminaries, such as of course the legendary Robert Johnson, the story behind which Leonard does a remarkable job of picking apart; and the rock ‘n’ roll trailblazers - the piece on Johnny Kidd & the Pirates is particularly recommended for instance.

For me though the twin centrepieces of the book, without either of which it would be merely interesting and by the inclusion of both it’s rendered utterly indispensible, are the tributes and obituaries for two of the greatest guitarists who ever lived, both of whom happened to be friends and at various times band-mates of Roger ‘Deke’ Leonard: Micky Jones and John Cipollina. I won’t diminish how utterly compelling, moving, poignant and downright brilliant each of the articles that Deke writes is by quoting from them, as tempting as it is; suffice it to say, you NEED to read these for yourself. And I dare you not to shed a tear as you reach the end of Micky’s days.

If there’s one thing missing from the book it’s an index: I’d have dearly loved to have been able to cross check who gets mentioned and where (for instance, Buddy Guy is namehecked frequently, although there’s not a chapter dedicated to him as such), but that’s hardly Deke’s fault. All Deke set out to do was to write about the guitar players he loves and why he loves them: and he does that absolutely sublimely. A great book. And I say that as one of the world’s biggest Randy California fans, and he doesn’t even get a mention (mutter, mumble…) (Phil McMullen)



(LP / CD from Agitated Records)

I’m probably completely alone in this, but I can hear echoes of the Man band in their pomp (say circa. Greasy Truckers at the Roundhouse in ’72) in this sprawling cacophony of feral feedback, tortured keyboards and drugged, mumbled words set against a jam based around a pulsing, insistent beat, especially two minutes or so into ‘Intercity Firm’. Indeed, it’d be no surprise at all to hear the set closing with an air-raid siren’s wail, although the mysterious Koolaid fall short of that, and instead mix some truly dark samples and avant-pop cut-ups with elements of the MC5, Hawkwind, Deviants, Loop and a primal howl that wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on a Heads record.

Cloaked in intentional mystery, although it’s safe to say that it's not exactly novices behind this and that one or two of the more astute Terrascope readers could probably take a fair stab at who’s behind it once they’d attuned themselves to what’s going on behind the wall of noise, Koolaid are a British collective who change their name to suit the colour of the cloth they’re wearing: on Agitated Records’ jaw-droppingly fine LP compilation ‘I’m So Convoluted’ for example, which also features exclusive tracks from Mugstar, The Heads, Big Naturals and Carlton Melton [who also has a split LP with Bardo Pond out on the same label, as if any further confirmation of Agitated Records’ greatness were needed], the collective refers to itself as Koolaid (Alien Ballroom) and performs a crunchy, noisy version of Daft Punk’s ‘Da Funk’ - and sound nothing like they do on the album.

As for the Global Tyranny record itself, well it comes housed in a wrap around eye-popping psychedelic poster sleeve, features 4 tracks of which the aforementioned ‘Intercity Firm’ is marginally my favourite, although the looping guitar demolition part way through ‘Ritual #3’ comes a close second, is limited to 500 copies and comes with a bonus free CD version…. which has an entirely different mix to the LP.

Yes, you read that correctly: the CD is different to the LP. And there’s no download code whatsoever. Although there are apparently some cassette only mixtapes floating around, which in a funny kind of way only endears me even more to this band. (Phil McMullen)



(CD from Sulatron Records www.sulatron.com and limited edition vinyl from Anazitisi Records www.anazitisirecords.com)  

Here’s a slightly belated airing, then, for this stunning and imaginative release from the self-styled “Europe’s number one psychedelic and acid rock band”. On this showing (their fifth long player, released in May of 2011) who am I to demur?

German outfit Vibravoid serve up unselfconscious and unashamed full-on psychedelic madness in a way that no contemporary UK or even American band would be able to pull off without coming across as a bit of a studied and irreverent lampoon. These guys, throw backs though they may be, are serious exponents of an exotic and esoteric art that may be deeply unfashionable as far as the mainstream is concerned but which is bound to win them a number of fans here on Planet Terrascope.  It’s not pyrotechnically heavy in the Hendrix sense, or the cosmic rambling of early Grateful Dead. Vibravoid are too weird and sophisticated to be lumped in with the garage psych brigade and whilst Indie Psych might be a more appropriate label to hang, this too does scant justice to some well crafted and catchy yet reassuringly mind altering material.  

Drenched in reverb and garnished with some nifty Syd-like guitar runs, “See Feel” launches us into the time-warped stratosphere with some killer hook lines. Imagine if you will the Byrds fused with turn of the 90s Ride or Stone Roses. The 12 minute “What You Want” is a magnificently colourful splash of “Rollercoaster”, “Lucifer Sam” and Black Rebel Motor Cycle-style JMC onto a vast swirling canvas and the result is a masterpiece of retro-modern sonic art. “Do It All Right” is all woozy sitar effects and Theramin laced with laconic semi-drone vocals, while the gloriously intense 9minute “You Keep On Falling” is essentially Hawkwind’s “You Shouldn’t Do That” overdubbed with Spacemen 3 and Loop. By this stage Vibravoid could have spent the rest of the album blowing their noses and they could have done no wrong, but thankfully there is plenty left in the goody bag.

After the brief instrumental interlude that is “Lost Intensity” – featuring a delicious bass and a wonderfully lysergic sounding guitar –is the tour de force. “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” – yes, that one - is 22 minutes and 42 seconds of sheer and unadulterated psychedelic heaven. Mason’s Polynesian drumming, Wright’s creepy organ, it’s all here except perhaps the slightly menacing  half whispered vocal, but unless you happen to me a major Pink Floyd you’ll  not be in too much of a hurry to hear the original once you’ve experienced this. Scary sirens screech as the rhythm builds and then falls away into to an ominous, spectral dream soundtrack, before returning to the central theme and that classic bass riff (and those sirens). Oh, and in case you’re concerned that 23 or so minutes may be gilding the lily a bit, don’t fret. It’s pulled off with such aplomb that hardly a second of it is wasted.

Made to be played in basement clubs with a capacity of no more than 300 and a low ceiling, Minddrugs is essential listening for anyone who either have fond recollections of the UFO Club in 1967, who were there but need to be reminded of their misspent youth or those who spend half their lives wishing they had been there. For all you good people the doors of the Tardis are now open. Now where did I put those old oil slides?  (Ian Fraser)



(CD/Vinyl from Southern Lord Records www.southernlord.com )

After an early career high-watermark during which they were true pioneers of experimental drone/doom music, Earth’s trajectory has, to these ears at least, been plummeting in exactly that direction.  Diminishing returns both live (their ATP performance in support of Portishead back in 2007 was woeful almost to the point of asking for a discount on the entrance fee) and on disc meant that eye-catching album titles had become scant consolation for what was becoming desultory and unimaginative music. In short, they were at risk of giving drone/slowcore a bad name.

All of which means that “Angels of Darkness Demon of Light II” is something of a make or break album for me. Recorded in the same two week session as AODDOL I but destined to be released 12 months apart, this latest offering consists of five instrumental workouts each bearing the same name as the tracks on volume 1. Eschewing the dense stoner drone that so inspired Sunn 0))) (so prompting Steven O’Malley’s quip that the Sun revolves around the Earth) and while never remotely in danger of breaking into a canter, there is, I’m pleased to report, a subtle and hypnotic charm in Dylan Carlson and co’s simple, stripped down, anaesthetised Americana.

“Sigil of Brass 2” showcases the soporific interplay between Carlson’s guitar and Lori Goldston’s scraping cello, the guitar notes slowly and subtly shifting and shimmering throughout. You think it’s finished then it barely lumbers back in for a brief reprise. It’s practically impossible to deconstruct this any further – this is minimalism with a debilitating bout of ME – and yet while this seems so effortless it ought to insult musical sensibilities it has such an undeniable and disarming charm to it.

“His Teeth Did Brightly Shine 2” is a pearl, featuring laid-back Eastern style phrasings that make you want to believe that it is some long lost outtake from “After Bathing At Baxter’s” or “Electric Music For The Mind And Body”. It is beautiful and beguiling. It’s also quite subtle, for behind the dominant guitar motifs there is a suggestion of so much going on although it takes a fair bit of concentration to work out what, exactly, and no sooner than you penetrate beyond the guitar then your drawn back to it again.

It’s at this point that drums are introduced to ostensibly give proceedings some grounding. However don’t get carried away with any ideas that this is in any way related to four-to-the-floor tub thumping. “Waltz (A Multiplicity of Doors) 2”and “The Corascene Dog 2” features deceptively perfunctory, funereal percussion which, if anything, serves to accentuate the space between the notes, but then as all good drummers will tell you, less is more. Here Goldston’ cello is very much to the fore and the effect is very much like Dirty Three in wind-down mode. The trouble is that, running back-to-back there is always a danger that these two compositions will become a little tedious. Thankfully, some tasteful guitar work from Carlson and some delicate changes to nuance during “Corascene” help retain the interest.

The highlight of this album, though, is “The Rakehell 2” which is the closest Earth get to being rhythmic, as opposed to slowly metronomic. Now we are getting somewhere...albeit still unhurriedly. Nicely slow-burning, subtly textured, “The Rakehell 2” shows Carlson to be a guitarist of understated distinction who possesses a nice melodic touch. Aurally, it’s akin to being staked out in the desert waiting for the vultures to pick your bones with only a supply of industrial strength hash oil for company.

Whilst Earth still sound like a film score in progress or a band marking time while waiting for the last bus home, they can at least on record claim some redemption in these eyes. You might say that the Earth moved more than just a little bit. I still can’t see me standing through a full live set, though. (Ian Fraser)


(CD from Bearsuit Records Bearsuit)

One of the more experimental listening experiences I’ve had in a long while, Fall Apart in My Backyard is at once challenging, playful, frustrating, and a lot of fun. As the title suggests, it’s mostly electronic, but with liberal elements of glitch, Kraftwerkian krautrock, and toytronics (a la Experimental Audio Research’s Data Rape which was composed and played on a collection of “Speak & Spell” toys from the ‘70s). In other words, they could just as easily have been called the Eclectic Horsemen! Disembodied voices chant, cheer, rage, and otherwise obfuscate, as if someone tried to restore an old tape recording after most of the tape had disintegrated. In fact, this would be a wonderful soundtrack to an old Stan Brakhage film – it has that disjointed vibe that suggests something is happening, but we don’t know what it is, do we Mr. Bunny?

‘Banjo Williamson,’ (after Robin?) in no way encroaches into Incredible String Band territory; in fact, it sounds like a loop of an old DeWolfe library recording for some groovy swinging ‘60’s flick. ‘Chikyu Wa Mawaru’ combines English and Japanese voices in a blender and presses the “Puree” button, while ‘Tivoli’ is a haunting, outer space blip on the way to the heart of the sun. Floyd fans take note, but I think fans of our old friends from Terrastock, Pop-Off Tuesday will also dig it. Another 90 degree turn lands us in the midst of the ambient floater ‘Singing Ringing Tree’, which begins like something Tange thunked up whilst lying in a vat of meringue, and then breaks into a collection of glitchy grins and Rosemary’s Baby-styled freaky voices for something that shouldn’t be experienced alone in the dark without appropriate accoutrements. And just when you’re ready to stroke another chinhair and wonder what the hell you’ve just heard, along comes the gorgeous pop elegance of ‘Pomorski’, which sounds like a bunch of public school kids floating in a bubble across the universe.

So if soundtrack music accompanied by alien soundscapes populated by multilingual utterances is your bag, this could be one of your more exciting purchases of the new year.
(Jeff Penczak)