= January 2018 =  
Sleepy Sun
Sendelica
Pugwash
Blitzen Trapper
Richard Warren
Dean McPhee
Stupid Cosmonaut
Skull Defekts
Plastic Crimewave Syndicate
Dave Tomlin
Zong
Mugstar
Ehse Records
Uffe Lorenzen
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

SLEEPY SUN – PRIVATE TALES
(LP/CD/DL on dinealonerecords.com)

Private Tales is the fifth album from the San Francisco quartet Sleepy Sun.  The sound is 70s Rock updated for the present.  It shows an evolution and maturation as the band continues to grow and adapt to circumstances, such as vocalist Bret Constantino’s relocation to Texas.  While the band started out playing more sludgy, stoner riff-a-ramas that were quite endearing, it has gradually honed its sound to well-crafted and produced songs.  I liken the situation somewhat to The Black Angels (who Sleepy Sun have toured with), who earlier in 2017 transformed their own style, which was excellent but growing somewhat repetitive, and made a quantum leap in songwriting, arranging and production with “Death Song.”  Sleepy Sun’s transformation isn’t quite as dramatic, but their growing attention to songcraft and sound production clearly shows.  Credit is also due to engineer/producer Colin Stewart.

Starting slowly, with the droney “Prodigal Vampire,” the album quickly shifts into gear with the sprightly “Seaquest.”  The catchiest song on the album, Seaquest has a great chorus and a slick closing guitar solo by Evan Reiss.  Things turn darker from there with “When the Morning Comes,” a slow-burner about waking up from a nightmare and gathering oneself together again.  The song eventually explodes in a David Gilmour-style eruption before uneasily settling back down.  It segues into another dark slow-burner, “It’s Up to You.”  Starting out all Grand Guignol with the Phantom at the helm of the church pipe organ and harmonies reminiscent of CSN’s “Cathedral,” the song once more erupts in a dramatic Floydian solo courtesy of Matt Holliman.  But Sleepy Sun is more than a Floyd appreciation society.

“Crave” is another highlight, tale of ending a relationship of dependency.  It’s a guitar orgy that dips between light and shade very effectively, with lots of nice effects, like burbling percussion, church bells and rippling synths.  “The Keys” feels unlike any other track on the album.  Initially almost an updated doo-wop melody with harmonizing guitars, the lyrics tell vocalist Constantino’s unusual personal tale of a cherished piano coming between he and his wife after moving from California to Texas.

“Demon Baby” is another favorite.  I could re-imagine this up-tempo cut as a Byrds song if you throw in some 12-string Rickenbacker jangle, that is before a stirring wall-of-sound middle eight laden with phasing vocal harmonies kicks in.  “The Plea” is a quick, lovely acoustic piece that says a lot in a small space.  It moves straight into closer, “Reconcile.”  The song again features surround-sound reverb-drenched harmonies, and is a suitable number to round out the record.  Keep an eye on Sleepy Sun.

(Mark Feingold)

 

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SENDELICA – CROMLECH CHRONICLES II
(LP on Fruits de Mer Records)

I’ve become a big fan of Sendelica in recent years as a connoisseur brand of Space Rock both live in the sweaty confines of the Cellar Bar in Cardigan amongst other places and also on a fine array of records ranging in style from Hawkwind-esque sonic adventures to expansive electronic, kosmische influenced soundscapes.

The first record to bear the name ‘Cromlech Chronicles’ came out last year and was recorded at a studio near to an ancient burial site in West Wales which gave the record its name ( a ‘cromlech’ being an ancient megalithic monument) . The record was a recognisably Sendelican take on Space Rock with extended instrumental workouts touching on Pink Floyd and Hawkwind but also the MC5 and jazzy grooves finding their way into the heady mix. This record ‘II’ was recorded at the same studio in the summer of 2016 and is very definitely an alternative dish on offer at the Sendelicatessen with two lengthy, meditative pieces of music, played primarily on an array of acoustic instruments.

The first piece ‘Ripples of The Megaliths’ is quiet, minimal yet complex and totally lovely. There is a definite Celtic tinged melody threading its way through the piece largely played on cello but there are also hints of far eastern sounds and a raga like drone coming through at times. It creates an air of mystery and imagination no doubt influenced by the setting for the recording, which could be a superior soundtrack to a Highland based drama. There are lovely waves of minimal sound with an ambience that is meditative and soothing but also at times brooding and haunting. Occasional bursts of saxophone, minimal percussion, vocal chants and chiming guitar weave into this soundscape and both punctuate and elevate the underlying minimal soundscape to subtly alter mood and sound and keep the listener locked into and lost in this dream world. This is perhaps the sound of a Celtic Popol Vuh playing folk inspired kosmische but there are also lovely nods to the instrumental side of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ in the way that the electronic undertones and saxophone work together.

The second and final piece ‘Even Though My Mouth Is Silent’ once again begins with a strong Celtic feel through the cello creating a haunting melody over the electronic soundscape and minimal percussion at its core. Here however there is a much more distinct ‘cosmic choral’ feel to the electronic waves rather like the aforementioned Popol Vuh and also perhaps ‘Phaedra’ era Tangerine Dream. The sense of an ancient Celtic landscape is perhaps much stronger here with greater drama and brooding in the music. The saxophone once again weaves its way through the piece and is evocative, dreamy and occasionally jazzy in a good ECM kind of way. In the latter part of the track the cello takes on a slightly jazzier sound and the percussion, whilst remaining gentle and understated, becomes more prominent. There is a growing far eastern feel to the melody as the piece progresses but also to my ears a sense of King Crimson in their ‘Discipline’ era albeit subtle (‘Sheltering Sky’ came to mind). After a brief chanted vocal the piece fades away to its conclusion.

This is a beautiful record full of space, elegance and a fine new direction for Sendelica to follow when the mood takes them. It’s a relatively short record but could be the perfect soundtrack to lost and ancient landscapes and films about them which haven’t yet been made. Somebody should rectify that pretty soon.

(Francis Comyn)

 


PUGWASH - SILVERLAKE
(LP/CD from www.lonjinx.com )

Pugwash have eight albums under their belts so far, and this one differs from the rest because Thomas Walsh, (the singer and songwriter for the band) has teamed up with ex Jellyfish man Jason Falkner, and sidelined the other guys in the band for this outing. Jason has had an interesting career so far, (I have a couple of his solo albums, plus a few Jellyfish records) he has played with some big names like Paul McCartney, Beck and Eric Matthews, but crucially cites Swindon’s finest XTC as an influence, which brings us neatly to Pugwash, a band also heavily influenced by the Swindon lads.

This album is pure pop music, eleven pristine, three minute songs, bursting with catchy hook infested melodies. Here I sit in the depths of winter, I press play and ‘The Perfect Summer’ announces itself through the speakers like a balm. Aah it’s lovely, an easy, loping tune, that is soufflé light. Now the next track ‘What Are You Like’ is just as summery in sound, but the lyrics this time are bittersweet, introducing another kind of blue. ‘Why Do I’ follows and is the closest in sound this record gets to XTC and is indeed close with regards to vocal style and delivery. Bouncy, angular and infectious, Solo Donald Fagan also springs to mind, could be my favourite.

‘Better Than Nothing At All’ is a lovely pensive ballad, slightly faded ‘What Did You Do’ bounces along, catchy as a catchy thing, decorated with an ‘Any Colour You Like’ guitar figure towards its conclusion. ‘Sunshine True’ is a pretty, orchestrated pop song, wistful and charming. The ‘Needles And Pins’ ish/ Byrds sounding ‘Everyone Knows That You’re Mine’ picks up the pace a bit and is a great song. ‘Make It Yourself’ announces its arrival, as a mid- paced rock song, complete, with some excellent slide guitar, nice bass and keyboards too. ‘Such A Shame’ is a soft lament, which incorporates a playful yet deliberately wonky guitar solo. ‘Easier Done Than Said’ is another favourite, this one reminding me a bit of the song ‘Sleeping Gas’ by the Teardrop Explodes. Final song ‘Autarch’ ends the album on a high, literally, being a tale of drug use and of addiction. Sweeping strings, plus a super little guitar solo. It provides us with a sad ending to a highly accessible record.

(Andrew Young)

 

BLITZEN TRAPPER-WILD AND RECKLESS  
(LP/CD from www.lojinx.com  )

Portland, Oregon’s Blitzen Trapper are Purveyors of top quality rock music, with a country/ folk vibe, that some call Americana. They have released quite a few albums so far, at least 15 and may well have hit a purple patch with this latest.

‘Rebel’ the first song on the album is a fine opener, a Johnny and June Carter Cash referencing song.  It tells of a square peg in a round hole, the eternal misfit, full of great imagery of finally settling on dealing that ‘ol cocaine as a career choice, after trying out various jobs in law enforcement and driving trucks.  Title track ‘Wild And Reckless’ rockets along a fair pace, I’m reminded of Tom Petty.  It rocks in all the right places, has some nice synth along with the obligatory guitar solo.  ‘Forever Pt 1’ adds a bit of atmosphere and piano with some gospel tinged ooh’s and aaah’s.  ‘Joanna’ presents us with a harrowing tale, it tells of a thirteen year old girl, getting her revenge on a rapist, by shooting and killing him, performed solo with acoustic guitar, another fine murder ballad to add to the collection.

‘No Man’s Land’ references Trans Am’s, has wonderful succinct guitar solos, and rocks and drifts along in a most amiable way, coming on bit a like a southern Bruce Springsteen.  ‘Stolen Hearts’ moves us a bit towards Dylan and the Band, it has some nice girly vocals, a cool slide guitar solo too. ‘Dance With Me’ did not really appeal, a bit lumpen heartland rock.  ‘Love Live On’ has a full band sound with piano, organ and guitar prominent.  ‘When I’m Dying’ is slinky and loosey gooosey, it percolates along at a nice pace, some fine fuzzed guitar squeezed into the proceedings. 
‘Baby Won’t You Turn Me On’ has a lazy southern feeling, with suitable imagery, like scarecrows and storms, of twisting up another fat one.  This one’s a lot more acoustic in nature, organ and dobro, with electric piano.  ‘ Forever Pt2’ more atmosphere, synths and found sounds, a bit of molten fuzz guitar, with plenty of piano, (this along with its earlier entitled piece link the album together, lending it a feeling of being a concept album).  Final song ‘Wind Don’t Always Blow’ echoes all that’s been before.
(Andrew Young)

 

RICHARD WARREN – DISENTANGLED  
(LP from Hudson Records )

The fourth solo album by Richard sees him trying to wrestle with the art of simplicity, and offers us a succinct album that deals in the master craft of song writing. Ten little vignettes, delivered in a style that is very much the same one as pursued by Nick Lowe, who I am most reminded of, as this album plays.

Opener ‘Only Always’ a chant accompanied by spy-film guitar, atmospherics and a cooking little rhythm section, spectral and practically instrumental, shards of guitar notes peeling away into the ether.  ‘Last Breath’  here we are introduced to his voice which is very much like Nick Lowe or even Howe Gelb, a noirish fable of dreams.  ‘Simplify’ continues with the dark confessional tone as if delivered by a down at heel hack, outside looking in. ‘Silvertown’ ancient drum machine, eighties orchid lounge vistas, guitar a la seventeen seconds, accompanied by someone playing a jazzmaster nova accented motif, purely instrumental.  ‘No Way Back’ gets me to thinking of Richard Hawley, with its laidback charm.

 ‘Safekeeping’ another confessional, that would not be to out of place on a Ry Cooder album, a cry in your beer type weeper, that gets me feeling pretty sad.  It’s decorated with minimal percussion and spacious slide guitar. ‘Disentangled’ takes us to the steamy swamplands, an instrumental which gently rocks out, plenty of fine slide guitar. ‘Mystery Land’ adds some distortion and atmospherics, but it plods. ‘The Deepest Well’ a cracked barroom tale for the wee small hours, coloured by sympathetic electric guitar. ‘Withered Tree’ an instrumental to finish off the album, has martial drums, honky tonk piano, heavily amped guitars and plays out like some kind of warped house band in some flyblown cantina way out west.
(Andrew Young)

 

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DEAN MCPHEE – FOUR STONES
(LP on Hood Faire Records)

Dean McPhee has a way with a guitar which is hard to describe easily. I’ve enjoyed seeing him perform numerous times and his recordings to date have shown a growing depth of character, individuality and refinement which would grace any collection. Rather than try to compare him stylistically to particular players I prefer to call it ‘South Pennine guitar soli’ which is a perfect accompaniment to and reflection of the desolate, lonely, mysterious and yet romantic hills and moors around West Yorkshire and goes some way to describing Dean’s fine playing and compositions.

‘Four Stones’ is another step forward for Dean and in its five tracks explores a range of musical influences and styles. ‘The Blood of St John’ is a wonderful start to the record with lots of atmosphere and space. In some respects it reminds me of the long introduction to ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ in the way that a beautiful and sparse passage of solo guitar weaves itself through an underlying ambient backdrop. There are also lovely occasional nods to Malian guitar and desert blues.

‘The Devil’s Knell’ has a strong kosmische feel with warm, simmering waves of guitar. I was also put in mind of Bill Nelson’s more ambient solo work of recent years especially where sparse but elegant and stately picked notes float over this backdrop creating a hypnotic and lovely sound. ‘Rule of Threes’ is perhaps the song most rooted in traditional folk style melodies and is followed by ‘Dance Macabre’ where a gorgeously soft slide guitar sound soars above a repeating underlying melody.  

The title track is an extended piece of more than fourteen minutes which to these ears creates a strong ‘Celtic’ atmosphere at times, not just from the guitar but from the subtle percussive heartbeat to the song. It has a sense of drama and I can imagine this piece of music accompanying a road trip through mysterious wide open landscapes and big skies in Ireland or Scotland or perhaps just as satisfying as the soundtrack to a daydream in the South Pennine moors.

This is a well crafted series of songs and soundscapes from Dean and a great addition to an already impressive body of work that is well worth exploring.
(Francis Comyn)

 
 

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STUPID COSMONAUT – DIGITALIS (LP/DL from www.dronerockrecords.com)

Hailing from that rich seam of psychedelic inventiveness that is the North West of England, the band formed by core duo Sam Read and Steve McNamara in 2016 turn out their second vinyl release for Drone Rock Records, a label that’s fast joining the likes of Cardinal Fuzz and God Unknown as one that just doesn’t seem able to swing and miss.

Not that there is much swinging or indeed rock in evidence here. Plenty of ambient head-messing, mind, which is all well and good in our sweet little world. The fluvial and floating opener ‘Field Trip’ (quite!) puts one immediately in mind of Astralasia or the more cerebral and sedate school of kosmiche. It also sets the theme for Digitalis around which weaves a series of intriguing and at times intricate variations of light and shade. ‘Offline’ for example is much edgier fare, supplemented with popping percussive blips which add some succulent meat to an already nourishing bone marrow (vegetarian and vegan imagery also available on request) while ‘Rephlex” showcases the Cosmonauts’ ready proclivities towards more expansive deep space exploration.

‘Post Human’ reaches further into an unfathomable cosmic void, sounding for all the otherworld like a wordless Depeche Mode doing a pretty reasonable take on one of King Crimson’s early and more prog-worthy workouts. The title track will thrill those who yearn for a little heavy industry to ground their seas of sound, topped off with delightful little arpeggio sprinkles to garnish a dense but flavoursome fruit cake (look, blame Christmas). ‘Sadness and Euphoria’ is exactly that, an achingly beautiful, melancholic front-piece building gradually to something altogether more nimble, upbeat and optimistic while still keeping its feet planted on terra-darkwave.

Repeated listens reveal manifold layers to explore and in which to immerse yourselves. Overall, the effect must be akin to being in a chill out room/aural drunk tank at a doom metal festival. Do such things exist? Then point the way.

(Ian Fraser)



 

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SKULL DEFEKTS – S/T (LP/CD from http://www.thrilljockey.com)

Something dark and satanic for you to mill around, while taking just a minute to remember the fallen. For this, we are told, is to be the last Skull Defekts, release. A revelation when first experienced by your scribe at Supersonic in 2011 this is a band who deserve to be up there near the top of that list when the roll-call is read for great Swedish bands (of which we know there to be many).

And the good news is that despite - or maybe because of - the absence this time of Daniel “Lungfish” Higgs’ on vocals (his role here confined to the album’s artwork) the band seems to have been inspired to scale a creative peak, the result of which is their most appealing collection of compositions.

Molten, cybernetic and dystopian, ‘A Brief History of Rhythm’ goes straight for the jungle-ar. Imagine the next Terminator being scored by the production team for Disappearing World if you will. ‘Clean Mind’, too, cuts to a chase you know you’re not going to win, welding no-wave and math rock with an 80s Cult vibe while ‘The Dance’ throws playful sounding Afro rhythms at a toxic concoction of revamped Bauhaus and Einstürzende Neubaten. Three, four, hit the floor. Thud.

Maybe not the best time to blood a new member just as you are about to call it a day but a warm welcome anyway to Mariam Wallentin, whose vocal contributions in particular add a delicious and defining new twist to the already considerable sonic palette. At one point on the outstanding and oh-so powerful ‘Slow Storm’ the spoken word delivery morphs into a kind of space whisper. Fleetingly you have a sense of a black clad and possibly black-hearted Gilli Smyth cooing over molten Magma, hard wired to a death star. The lustre has long since left the Glitter Band and ‘Powdered Faces’ is what may be left. A pounding, post-innocence hulk of a song with primitive beats, long, single chords and another sterling, centre-stage performance from Wallentin.

Even what, on first listen, seem more lumpen and linear (‘All Thoughts Thought’) still seems imbued with a fresh sense of purpose and urgency. ‘A Message From The Skull Defekts’ is a massive statement on which Wallentin plus long-term core members Joachim Nordwall, Henrik Rylander and Daniel Fagge Fagerström hit warp factor several and career into a hellishly rapturous abandon before what seems destined as the last ever Skull Defekts offering, the ironically titled ‘The Beauty of Creation’. It reeks of inexorable finality, packed with loads of dramatic descending chords and what sounds like Syd Barrett fronting Joy Division. Then it is curtains (black ones, inevitably).

If you’re going to go out then you may as well do so on your shield having made your defining statement. It’s always best to bow out when you are still at the top of your game. Only time will tell if they make it stick. Meanwhile as valedictions go, this will do perfectly.

(Ian Fraser)


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PLASTIC CRIMEWAVE SYNDICATE – THUNDERBOLT OF FLAMING WISDOM
(LP on Cardinal Fuzz Records)

Plastic Crimewave Syndicate have come onto my radar this past year or so with an almighty bang. Having greatly enjoyed a previous self titled set released on Swordfish Records, I had high hopes for this record and what a stunning set it is.

The regular trio of Plastic Crimewave (Steve Krakow), Cosmic Jru and Jose Bernal are joined on this outing by some inspired guests with Bil Vermette on synths, Whitney Johnson playing viola and in particular Bruce Lamont whose sax playing is a major feature of the record. Together they cook up an awesome spacey, pysch rock stew heartily flavoured with free jazz improv, acid rock and post punk ingredients.

Starting proceedings in overdrive, and why not?, we have ‘Ghost Of Dread Reaction’, a raucous opener with free sax squalls and incendiary guitar spitting out a speaker splitting acid rock riff. An echoey vocal not unlike Mark E. Smith would sing if fronting the MC5 or The Stooges floats over the top of this maelstrom. It’s a thrilling track and one of the most eye popping opening tracks I’ve heard for some time.

‘Future To The Ancients’ follows and wisely does not try to compete in the noise department. What we have instead is a stroke of genius taking us back to kosmische influenced post punk times around the turn of the 1980s with mournful guitar, moaning synths, a throbbing bass and drum patterns worthy of Joy Division and Public Image Limited in their Metal Box era for the first half of the song. As the track builds up momentum in its middle section, swirls of synths, screaming and ghostly vocals with a hard hitting yet jazzier shuffle to the drumming take over with a soaring guitar solo bringing a touch of Hawkwind to the party before winding back down to a fade. I’m also reminded of Pere Ubu in the overall air of mystery, desolation and otherworldliness in the song which is a very good thing. One of the finest tracks I’ve heard in a while in my humble opinion.

‘Wasted All the Time’ is the album’s ‘pop’ song and perhaps it stands out in style and feel from the rest of the record albeit not in a bad way. With its big singalong chorus and guitar riff it sounds like the collaboration between The Stooges, Butthole Surfers and REM which unfortunately never happened.

Next up we have ‘Vast Beyond’, a muscular Space Rock gem. After a brief harmonica trill and setting out a ‘One Of These Days’ style memorable bassline the track moves along courtesy of an insistent rhythm and guitar riff with that wonderful bassline and an occasional snippet of harmonica coming up for air every now and then . Once again the saxophone plays a big part in the sound bringing a late 1970’s new wave touch rather than the jazzier skronk of earlier tracks. A satisfyingly head nodding and foot tapping slice of organised mayhem.

The finale is another massive high point of this remarkable record in the eleven minutes and more of ‘No Place’. Its dirge like start with deep almost screaming but not quite spoken horror movie incantations (at times not unlike Nick Cave at his more unleashed) leads us into a swelling and swirling heavy psych rock where the saxophone once more stands out in the drama punching away at the front and threading through the whole track with some great soloing over the howling cacophony below. This stunning piece of music keeps building in intensity and more than once sounds like it’s about to fall apart into chaos before it takes another instrumental change in direction all within a solid groove. We are taken on a wild ride through punk, prog, free jazz and improvisation, kosmische, and psych through its twists and turns. A final free skronking outburst where the band sound like they are falling downstairs heralds a return to the ominous dirge bringing this astonishing track to a close. Acid Mothers Temple would be proud of this creation.

A short album at a little over thirty minutes but it packs so much interest and sheer joy into that time. Unconditionally recommended for your listening pleasure.
(Francis Comyn)

 



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DAVE TOMLIN - TALES FROM THE EMBASSY: COMMUNIQUES FROM THE GUILD OF TRANSCULTURAL STUDIES 1976-1991
(Strange Attractor Press, pbk, 2017, ISBN: 9781907222566)

Whilst there have been some excellent recent tomes chronicling the rise and fall of the 1960s UK counter culture, few have concentrated on the nuts and bolts reality of its constituents, putting often-espoused alternative philosophies into reality, and walking them like they talked them. Jill Drower’s wonderful account of the Exploding Galaxy commune and its activities in North London found voice in her 99 Balls Pond Road book and now comes an equally worthy addition, Dave Tomlin’s Tales from the Embassy.

As the Samuel Pepys of the Underground, Barry Miles so perceptively puts it in his intro to this heavyweight edition (nigh on 500 pages), ‘The ideas we discussed in the Sixties were not just ideals; many people actually put them into practice. These tales are the best account I’ve read of trying to live that life’.

Dave Tomlin was there at the beginning as the counter culture took seed in London in the early mid 60s and will be known to some as a musician who founded both the Giant Sun Trolley (a free form outfit that would play the graveyard shift at the UFO Club) and its successor the more widely known and recorded Third Ear Band. One night in 1976, Dave and a bunch of squatters entered the Cambodian Embassy on the periphery of Regent’s Park – it was an opulent residence that had been vacated in the wake of the Khmer Rouge’s revolution a couple of years before. Over the next 15 years Tomlin and a motley crew of chums would occupy this building and in the process of doing battle with the likes of the local council, utility companies and Foreign & Commonwealth Office, lived out a successful experiment in social living and also created a vehicle for alternative music and other art forms in the shape of the Guild of Transcultural Studies.  

Split roughly into two halves, the first follows Tomlin and friends (all given thinly fictionalised names – Tomlin the narrator is Jubal Smith and so on) as they take up home in this unusual abode and intermingle with both straight and hip society, treading a thin line between organised living with rules and a more anarchic freewheeling approach (check out how they deal with the disruptive Buddhist fascists, The Three Psykos for instance). More well-known figures like John Hopkins (Scipio Hawkins) and poet Harry Fainlight (Harry Flame) flit in and out of the story at various points too. Having formally established the commune, its ideals and activities (recounted in the form of numerous sub-chapters which read rather like diary entries), Tomlin also delves into his pre-Embassy days with priceless accounts of the early Notting Hill/Ladbroke Grove scene (including the Free School) and Soho beat/jazz days. It’s staggering to read just how much the Guild contributed to London culture of the 80s – all manner of jazz, classical and world musicians passed though its portals including the legendary Master Musicians of Joujouka, whilst all kinds of other events took place including a short-lived series of talks on subjects as diverse as hair, Guy Fawkes and Shakespeare entitled Nuts in May!

The second half of the book chronicles another key aspect of the longhair lifestyle – travel and the open road. Firstly, we join Dave and a bunch of hippie gypsies led by real life Count, Sir Mark Palmer and an assortment of caravans and horses as they travel the highways and byways of South West England meeting real-life traveller folk, belligerent town people and all manner of crazies including the Chelsea set down for a weekend roughing it. It’s a lovely gentle sometimes hilarious interlude

The second account is of Tomlin’s bonkers 1966 trek out to the Island of Fernando Po in Equatorial Guinea by turns quite alarming then side-splittingly funny as our hero runs out of money, loses his girlfriend and has to learn the ropes of the sailor life in order to make it back to his beloved West London. In doing so, Tomlin proves himself a hugely resourceful man!

Finally, he ties up everything up with a gripping account of how as the squatters’ occupancy meets its final test at the Royal Court of Justice in the Strand on St Crispin’s Day at the hands of an unforgiving government department.

The book’s structure and Tomlin’s writing style may take a little time to adjust to but after a while the pages are turning themselves as you get more and more immersed in an incredible parallel world, that sadly no longer exists. This is heady stuff indeed and worth investigating.

(Nigel Cross)

 

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ZONG – ZONG
( LP on Cardinal Fuzz or Download from bandcamp )

Zong are a new three-piece outfit from Brisbane, Australia, consisting of Henry Bennett on drums, Michael Grinstead on Bass and Zac Anderson on guitar. This is their debut album consisting of a pressing of 500, of which 300 are destined for Europe and 200 for Australia. The wonderful cover artwork gives a promise of what is to come in this album.

The music is deep, dark, moody, intense rock with a definite trace of psyche running through its veins.

The album throws us straight into the mood with ‘Cosmic Embryo’ starting out with rhythmic primal beats before evolving into a spiralling guitar and drum driven power flight; ‘Arcane Sand’ brings a complete change of mood with a deep, mystical, Middle Eastern feel to it; in ‘Giant Floating Head’ the influences of Black Sabbath and Hendrix are most noticeable bringing a deliciously dark, doom laden edge to the slow powerful drums; ‘Return of the Alien King’ is a slab of improvisational genius with soaring guitar riffs gently building as the track picks up pace. The false ending two thirds of the way through, which moves the track into a completely different zone is a lovely touch and beautifully executed.

This is an album of finely honed stoner rock with more than a hint of doom, think Black Sabbath, jamming with Hendrix, brought bang up to date by the addition of a large dose of modern stoner from the likes of Carlton Melton, Earthless & Electric Moon, and you won’t be far off.

(Steve Judd)

 

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MUGSTAR – COLLAPSAR
(2 x LP Evil Hoodoo www.evilhoodoo.bigcartel.com)

There are many out there who owe a lot to this band – musicians, labels, venues and smart-arse writers among them. Indeed the list of credits on this collection of singles and rarities, spanning a decade and half, highlights just how massive their footprint has been. We at Terrascope love them, of that there is no secret.
Showcasing the not inconsiderable talents of core members Steve Ashton, Neil Murphy, Peter Smyth and Jason Stoll – the latter two are currently taking time out of the band - and strikingly packaged, Collapsar is often the sound of a band finding its feet and just occasionally bumping into the furniture. Much of the material featured here is gloriously primal and pulsating route 1 psych, full of tribal tub thumping, squalls of guitar noise and murky, deep sonar bass straight out of the Church of Hawkwind. In fact one of the many debts we owe to Mugstar is In Search Of Hawkwind album, their curated album of Hawks covers, some as good as the originals, on which they enlisted the likes of Acid Mothers Temple, Bardo Pond and White Hills. Their other obvious influence – a heavy one in whatever context you define it – is Black Sabbath. “Quelle surprise”, you might say, because doesn’t everyone these days. Well, yeah, except the influences here are less of the sludgy, stoner template and more of some of the dark, witchy material lurking beneath the surface of some of those early Sabs albums.

As befits a mostly instrumental band, Mugstar have never been short of good song titles. ‘My Babyskull Has Not Yet Flowered’, ‘Man With SuperSight’ and the punning and now poignant ‘DikSik’ are guaranteed to draw in the curious. The first salvos are high adrenalin fun, packed with moshes aplenty but just as you think it may all be getting a little linear and telegraphed, out of nowhere comes the deliciously dark and dystopian cybernetic nightmare of ‘Blue Shift’. Essentially six minutes of eerie, thrilling experimental noise collage, if the light hasn’t already come on then prepare to be blinded. By contrast ‘Technical Knowledge As A Weapon’, an alternative recording to the one which featured on the …Sun…Broken album, chucks in some Jon Lord organ. Now the main reason why Deep Purple, in many respects the more accomplished, varied and best of all the proto-Metal bands are sometimes scoffed at, is Jon Lord’s organ. Me? I’ve been drinking for years to forget it. Now I have to drink some more.

Not until the third side do we get our first real taste of vocal and then we get in spades. An indecipherable anguished yelp from Peter Smyth on ‘Flavin Hot Rod’ evokes the most psychotic surf/garage punk rock band that never lived. His desperate but compelling vocal punctuating ZZ Top’s ‘I Got The Six’ also contains notes of The Birthday Party and Gallon Drunk. He then crawls further up the walls of the panic walls, sounding like Mark E Smith on a greedy-guts diet of the brown acid on the Peel session track ‘Object’, which also brings to mind Hey Colossus circa Happy Birthday. This, as they say, is the kit.

The biggest curve ball here, though, is a take on ‘Tam Lin’, Smyth’s flattish delivery an early portent of this 2016 solo acoustic album. Full marks not only for trying but pulling it off. Listening to the original again it’s obvious that it begs for the folk-metal treatment, that combination of melody and hobbled beats with variation of light and shade. So there’s nothing not to like here folks, and purists be damned. A melodic almost west coast opener to side 4, ‘Mascon’ succumbs to the band’s time honoured abrasiveness leaving it in corrosive shreds. Steve Ashton’s propulsive drumming drives the strange affair that is ‘Flotation Tank’ with its slowed down talkie vocal and we round off magnificently with ‘Bardo Head Finder’ recorded as part of the Axis session but sounding like it could have been a prototype of ‘Flemish Weave’ from 2016’s exceptional Magnetic Seasons, featuring some epic riffing underscored by Stoll’s trademark Rickenbacker bass and highlighting Murphy’s flowing yet fiery guitar lines.

Being around for almost 20 years makes Liverpool’s Fab Four (well I can’t think of another one, can you) the daddies of a UK psych scene that has burgeoned in the years since just a few of us thought we were the only ones left ploughing not terribly straight furrows. We should therefore be content for them to rest on their laurels and take whatever course their currently fluid line-up takes them. But then at the end of the day we are insatiably hungry for more.

Now feed us again.
(Ian Fraser)

 

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MAX EILBACHER/ALEX MOSKOS/DUNCAN MOORE - SEF III
MUDBOY - NIGHT EYES
LIZ DURETTE - FOUR IMPROVISATIONS ON ELECTRIC PIANO
SCROLL DOWNERS - HOT WINTER
KATT HERNANDEZ - SO(U)LENSKIN(NER
(LPs from Ehse Records )
 
Always interesting, always original and very often challenging, Ehse Records have been releasing fine music for many years and this latest batch continues that tradition, five albums that insist on being heard with open ears.

    First up, “Sef III” features spoken word, synths and tape manipulation creating a collection that rides that strange place between wake and sleep, the weird, surreal monologues, cloaked, undermined and enhanced by the sounds around them. Take, for instance, “I'm Sitting in a Room”, a strange tale of clowns, gas, and transformation, the words slowly lost in a cloud of abstract sounds and alien melodies, the text offering uneasy visions that are re-enforced by the music.

    On the shorter, instrumental “Interlude” , the sounds are given full rein to swarm through your head like an old book of photographs discovered in an old attic that you have never been in before. After these two pieces, “Cut-Up Music” is a bit of a departure being as described on the label, sounding like a host of hip hop albums falling down the stairs before encountering some old beat poet with a pair of scissors and too much whiskey. Jolly fine it is too and much fun can be had trying to recognise the samples, the ever changing nature of the piece ensuring plenty of listening pleasure.

     Over on side two, the fun continues with “Bad Sesh at the Cafe”, the vocals setting the scene before we are taken into someone else's dreams courtesy of the sounds of the sea and more tape manipulation, the sounds alien and industrial, soft and swirling, the track always evolving and engaging. Finally, “Running Up the Score” follows the now familiar template, the words taking centre stage, a radio play for the sleepless, streams of consciousness that hook you in, ending a collection that reveals different layers every time.

    Taking as its inspiration “A Nightmare On Elm Street” and utilising a huge pipe organ converted into an electro-acoustic instrument, “Night Eyes”, the latest offering from Mudboy is not for the faint-hearted, a dark shimmering work that creeps and crawls across your brain, almost inaudible voices writhing with the Gothic ambience of the music, minimalist chords and melodies creating flickering candle flames in your mind. Somewhere towards the middle of the music (end of side 1, beginning of side 2) the music becomes much darker, more intense plunging the listener close to their worse nightmares, trapped under a shroud of pulsing sound and wailing souls, the intensity building to an almost overwhelming crescendo, before mercifully fading,

  Housed in a silkscreen cover, with burnt out eyes and complete with poster and monograph on the nature of sound in dreams, this package is a work of art that will be treasured for years to come, especially at Halloween, when you can frighten the trick or treaters right out of their comfort zone.

   Easing our frazzled brains and shredded nerves, Liz Durette explores the textures and tones of the Rhodes Piano on her latest album, the music soothing and beautifully light. Mixing shades of Jazz, Classical, folk motifs and the occasional moment of dissonance, the four improvised pieces are a delight to the ears, the three tracks on side one seemingly melting into each other to create a shimmering musical backdrop to your life, softly spoken and very uplifting. Over on side two, there is only one long piece which treads the same sonic path as the previous side, a slow walk through sun-lit forest, waving meadow of evening beach watching the sunset. Never overbearing or too demanding, this album will delight your senses when you need some time out from the cares of the world.

   Treading a line between stoner, noisy psych and shoegaze, the music of Scroll Downers is a sleazy, off yer face ride that deserves plenty of volume.  Starting your album with feedback is always a winner in my book and “Two Clowns” doesn't disappoint as it slowly accelerates away with distorted guitar and the fine vocals of Lexie “Mountain” Macchi, although the following “Shake Off The Rays” takes thing into another level, a glorious wall of noise that makes me happy, a heady mix of Sonic Youth and Patti Smith, the same blend found on the slower haze of “Hendiatricola”, a psychedelic and dense track that trips out beatifully before “I Want To believe” brings you back to earth with a grungey bite of punk energy.

   Over on side two, the same recipe reaps the same rewards, four more tracks of noise, melody and creativity with “Find The Stone” being a personal favourite with its distorted riff and dirty demeanour, the whole thing brought to a close by “Hot Winter” introduced some of the dirtiest guitar noise I have heard for some while, thicker than treacle and just as sweet, the track barely holding together as it stumbles through a swamp towards its own oblivion, excellent stuff that makes you want to play the whole thing again and again.

     Finally on Ehse Records, Katt Hernadez beguiles and intrigues with a series of acoustic violin improvisations ranging from dancing notes that scuttle across the room through to droning scrapes and squeals that are sometimes a challenge to listen to, especially on “II”, the piece that closes side one. Throughout it is amazing to hear the range of sounds created on a single acoustic instrument, the stuttering scratches on “III” adding extra texture, whilst “IV” taps into folk music being much more familiar to the ears, the short and delicate stutters of “V” leading you out into silence as the album finally fades. Maybe not something that is going to get played very often but well worth hearing for those into abstraction, experimentation and adventures in sound.

   So, five very different albums that give your ears and brain an excellent musical workout, all beautifully packaged and sounding mighty fine. (Simon Lewis)

 

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UFFE LORENZEN – GALMANDSVAERK
(LP from www.badafro.dk )

When it comes to popular music in general, and rock in particular, English is the undisputed lingua franca. Other languages are available of course but some fare better than others. Take French, for instance. An expressive and quite beautiful language, it’s too messy for the strict idioms and meters of most beat music. German on the other hand may be less immediately attractive on the ear but the harder consonants and more staccato delivery lend themselves to all manner of noise, from opera to techno to heavy rock.

Thankfully in this respect the Danes are close neighbours and not-too distant cousins of the Germans. The spellcheck bothering album title means “act of madness” in Danish which thankfully doesn’t reflect Uffe Lorenzen’s decision to jettison his Baby Woodrose brand or sing in his native tongue. A brave move perhaps in terms of international profile – English speaking journos have been known to be sniffy towards Welsh language cross-over acts after all. In Denmark though the guy is a legend (there’s a recent documentary about him) and one would therefore assume him to be on pretty safe ground at home.

Here, Lorenzen has eschewed the more traditional but invariably thrilling psych rock approach of Baby Woodrose for something altogether more laid back and organic sounding, with acoustic guitars providing the root instrumentation around which all the all the old folk hippy paraphernalia is arranged – flute, sitar, table, hurdy gurdy, jaw harp, and the occasional intimation of twittering synth.

‘Dansker’ (Dane) sounds like early 1970s Alan Stivell missing in action during the mushroom season, it’s a quite fetching and affirming composition, with Lorenzen’s more strident vocal delivery balancing out the rather blissful sounding accompaniment. ‘Rimets Tyranni’ is jauntier and more upbeat, but still guaranteed to bring a wistful smile to the chops of those who may well yearn for a simpler, more innocent and indeed analogue age. For as well as going a little easier on the amplification there is little or no sign of arid, digital airbrushing.The occasional urge to stretch out is indulged, such as the introduction of electric guitar on ‘Ridset Plade’, although here the result is more Pulp than Pink Fairies. However this works best when it jettisons all the accoutrements of electricity, as on the stripped down pairing of guitar/vocal and flute with the merest hint of percussive tapping on ‘Flippertos’ for example. Occasionally there is synthesis of both. The eastern drenched ‘På Kanten Af Verden’ (‘On The Edge Of The World’, if you want to know) by contrast could almost be two songs as the languid Revolver style sitar melodies yield to something much more frantic and exhilarating in the final third. 

‘Sang Om Merværdi’ kicks off the second side with a riff heavily reliant on Love’s ‘A House Is Not A Motel’ and in fact you can imagine Arthur Lee all over this. The upfront presence of jaw harp works surprisingly well too (imagine Tommy Hall forgetting his jug one night “but it’s ok guys, I’ve got this”). After the shimmer and gleam that befits a song entitled ‘Ny By’ (New City) comes one of the true highlights of the album, the gorgeous ‘Min Skygge’, just guitar, voice, violin and an overwhelming tendency to sing the chorus of ‘Space Oddity’. And so it goes, another couple of semi-acoustic workouts (the first of which, with mellotron and squally guitar, could have graced some of Julian Cope’s post-major label output) while the closing ‘Blues For Havet’ is an outstandingly tasty stew of laid back west coast with more than a taster of the Indian subcontinent in the seasoning.

Altogether satisfying on the ears and who cares if most of us don’t understand a word of it. That’s our problem not his.
(Ian Fraser)