= January 2021 =  
 Dead Sea Apes / Adam Stone / Black Tempest
 Shit & Shine
The fellowship of Hallucinatory Voyagers
 I Go To Sleep comp
 Big Scenic Nowhere
 Dean McPhee
 Songs of the Green Pheasant


(LP from Cardinal Fuzz
Cardinal Fuzz — Home (bigcartel.com) and Feeding Tube Records https://feedingtuberecords.com )

Together with arthritis, forgetfulness and growing irascibility (house!), it’s a sure sign of advancing years when it seems like only yesterday that Manchester(ish)’s Dead Sea Apes and Godalming’s Black Tempest (Stephen Bradbury) released their stunningly good The Sun Behind The Sun collaboration. In truth, it’s been seven long years, since when both contributed to our Paper Leaves compilation and played one or other Woolf Music shindig, in what surely qualifies them as Terrascopic nobility - the marquises of the marquees. Seven long years? Time to scratch that itch, then..

Dataland reprises the partnership, courtesy of a Covid curfew-enforced exchange of internet files. Sonar bleeps supply the outriders to the metronomic ambient synths and precision drumming of ‘Lost Hours’ – the word ‘Kosmische’ springs to mind and lodges there – with third member of the triumvirate and regular DSA contributor Adam Stone intoning like an inconsolably depressed John Cooper Clarke, his dystopian observations leaden with boredom and couched in flat earth, deadpan delivery. This, already, is a cybernetic and really quite bleak take on DSA soundscapes, with Steve Bradbury’s synths contributing a jagged, more rhythmic edge than the mainly ambient washes that were his hallmark of The Sun Behind The Sun.

 ‘Time To Eat Again’ simultaneously swaggers and staggers through a slough of despond, powered by a gloriously dirty chug that would push Massive Attack’s ‘Angel’ to a split decision and be considered unlucky if it didn’t receive the nod. A dub-scarred ‘Shop Soiled’ offers a tantalisingly fleeting reminder of Brett Savage’s guitar lines from DSA’s early ‘Soy Dios’ period, with Stone again plumbing the depths of disconsolation, yet conveying more animated frustration in what, under normal conditions, might just be discernible as a chorus. The title track tackles the mindlessly repetitive official data harvesting, in which many of us have been gladly complicit in our browsing habits and social media activities, in a post-modern take on Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ and it’s finally left to the sublimely sinister and totally topical ‘Empty Street’ to re-write the Book of Revelations and deliver the most unremittingly bleak eight or so minutes imaginable; a jaw-dropping, nerve shredding, top-notch soundtrack to these end of days.

While it would have been understandable, indeed forgivable if, in the circumstances, they’d just dusted off and buffed up The Sun Behind The Sun this is a very different and altogether more dangerous beast indeed. Bradbury’s synths aside, it’s Stone’s lyrical and narrative contribution, together with a more metallic and focused Dead Sea Apes that makes Dataland seem less of an improvised cosmic jam and more like men on a message. This, then, is 2020; the sound of the streets, maybe even The Streets, in lockdown, a Kraftwerk for the Just Eat generation, when even the all-night garage has been forced to shut up shop. There’s a theory, to which I heartily subscribe, that if you’re susceptible to low mood then getting keel-hauled by melancholy music is a damn site more effective in bringing you out the other end than forced jollity, in which case this could be the vaccine you’ve been waiting for. Miserabilism rarely sounded so compelling or indeed so good. Happy daze.

(Ian Fraser)     




(LP from Rocket Recordings Paisiel (bandcamp.com))

Drumming sensation João Pais Filipe has already helped serve up one of your scribe’s favourite releases of this otherwise Annus Horriblis, namely Faca de Fogo with the (al)mighty Gnod (Terrascope Reviews for July 2020), and which currently occupies a place up in the nosebleeds on this year’s personal Best of the Worst of Years list. Well he’s in danger of pulling it off again on the strength of this latest corker, this time with saxophonist Julius Gabriel as Paisiel; elements of their respective names making up the band title and which also means something about a guardian angel – goodness knows we’re in need of one these days.

Unconscious Death Wishes comprises one long, eponymous piece punctuated by the irksome requirement for minimal manual labour that involves “flipping over” (I’ve tried training the cats, honest). We’re eased in gently courtesy of an emerging drone and a hymnal organ redolent of Cirrus Minor-mode Floyd or Atomic Rooster’s intro to ‘Severn Lonely Streets’, to the accompaniment of far-off, soaring bird calls. Just as you are aligning your spiritual focus, jungle fever gradually kicks in; the sound of distant drumming creeping ever closer to front-of-mix; the bird calls now identifiably human if somewhat lupine in quality. Hereafter, Filipe’s inspired percussion lays down a breathtaking beat-fuelled foundation for Gabriel’s expressive blowing, which although centred on a mostly limited range of scales, is delivered energetically and eloquently. The results are hypnotic, hyper-intense, voodoo ceremony meets Rio carnival, fired by frantic, arm-sapping, locked-in rhythms and which ends, as it began, with a drone albeit one more abrasive and emotionally raw this time. Exhausting and exhilarating, and what a long, strange trip it’s been, as they might have said once.

(Ian Fraser)



(LP from Rocket Recordings Shit and Shine (bandcamp.com))

Listening to the prodigious and prolific Craig Clouse’s twisted brand of uneasy listening often feels like you’re sitting on the razor’s edge seat of a particularly uncomfortable racing bike with dodgy brakes and pointing down a sharp screed slope. His latest Rocket release (they and Riot Season appear to have shared custody of the Texan’s UK output) Malibu Liquor Store is akin to one of those American road trip documentaries voiced by the likes of Rich Hall, but one that’s available only on subscription (the price being your soul) via the murky recesses of the dark web. Speak fiend and enter.

Clouse’s creative utilisation of stumbling rhythms and devilishly twisted electronic noise and samples proves that, with imagination and skilful application, it is possible to keep reinventing yourself within some fairly limited parameters without sounding forced or repetitive. Accordingly, each of these eight cuts has an identity of its own, starting with the title track which is a free jazz and dubstep cocktail take on krautrock. ‘Rat Snake’ is a mutant horror; a slithering and skittering shamanistic desert blues, while the frenetic, electronic leaps and lurches of ‘Sheriff of Yates Hill’ takes Grid’s ‘Swamp Thing’ to the next umpteen levels of weirdness, complete with warped cavalry bugle calls. Nurse! My Beta Blockers, now!

The shuffling, sinister ‘Cream Tea’ takes the trip intensity down just a notch whereas the truncated, tumbling Tropicana of ‘Chervette’, if not quite the real (Van) McCoy, still manages to do the hustle, kind of. An elongated ‘Hillbilly Moonshine’ scratches the itch for four-to-the-floor motorik, but, even so, it’s not long before it too starts tripping over its feet as the ‘shroom ‘shine takes hold and the dancing gets messier. Entering the final quartile, the comparatively fleeting ‘Devil’s Backbone’ feels like the soundtrack to a carpet bombing, while ‘Barbara and Woodrow’ sounds for all the world in these times of post-apocalyptic rehearsal as a virally mutated mash-up of Zappa’s ‘Watermelon in Easter Hay’ and an instrumental out-take of ‘Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up’.  It also brings us back down into the room following a genuinely disturbing psychedelic listening experience. A wiser person might think twice about partaking of this stuff again, but then you know that old adage about there being no fool like an old one, so I’m going in again.

If you’ll excuse the use of some old Norman French, this is pretty fucked up, which also more or less sums up what I did when I neglected to reserve my vinyl copy. Shucks!

(Ian Fraser)






(LP/CD/Digital on Karisma Records)


Not long ago I saw on social media that there was an affection out there for some of the classic Yes LPs within our community.  Coincidentally, I’d just heard this new release from the Norwegian band Wobbler.  Wobbler’s been around since the late nineties and Dwellers of the Deep is their fifth album.  Their fans would tell you they reached prog Valhalla with their last album, 2017’s ‘From Silence to Somewhere,’ and had a towering bar to reach for this new one.  I’ll let you be the judge, but I’m thoroughly sold.


From the off, Wobbler’s similarities to ‘The Yes Album – Fragile – Close to the Edge’ period Yes are uncanny.  OK, I’ll throw in ‘Relayer,’ too.  They’re anchored by keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøisle’s Hammond, Mellotron and Moog artillery and Kristian Karl Hultgren’s bass playing, which bears an incredible likeness to Master Squire’s hurtling freight train.  Singer/guitarist Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo (my next child, grandchild or pet, whichever comes first, will bear this name) can sound at times very much like Jon Anderson, and other times not.


The four songs on Dwellers of the Deep are all extended journeys of the mind and ears.  Naturally it’s a concept album, with the theme of the internal workings, shades and conflicts of the mind.  The nearly 14-minute leadoff track “By the Banks” is full of precision playing, dizzying shifting time signatures and instrumental virtuosity.  Led by Frøisle’s serious Hammond mastery, it’s a tour de force.  But then, they all are.


“Five Rooms” is my favorite, and features lovely Mellotron and vocals, plenty of key and tempo changes, as well as some of Frøisle’s gnarliest keyboard acrobatics leading a high-speed chase somewhere.  That the rest of the band can keep up is a credit to their extreme tightness and professionalism.


By this time, over 22 minutes in, guitarists Marius Halleland and Prestmo have been noticeably low-key.  That all changes with the brief-by-comparison and beautiful ballad “Naiad Dreams.”  Featuring classical acoustic guitars, Mellotron, and plaintive melody and harmony vocals, for once it reminds me more of Steve Hackett and Genesis, and it’s all good.


This all sets the stage for the 19-minute epic “Merry Macabre.”  Here, Wobbler pulls out every magic trick in their considerable collection.  It’s all here, drama, pathos, attack, and adventure.  Guitarists Halleland and Prestmo are now fully charged and out front of the ensemble.  And keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøisle, heretofore sticking mostly to organ and Mellotron, hauls out the big guns and adds piano and an explosive plethora of synthesizer colors.


It's always a judgement call what to think when an artist is as close to a beloved canon as Wobbler is to Yes.  I say don’t overthink it and enjoy it for what it is.  Wobbler are obviously all highly skilled writers and musicians, and one heck of a tight outfit.  They give a fresh bite of a delicious fruit.  Dwellers of the Deep should give all a warm feeling and a highly enjoyable ride, as well as a new catalogue to explore if you’re unfamiliar.


(Mark Feingold)




Despite the challenges of isolation, lockdowns, travel restrictions and many other obstacles planted firmly in the way of the normal creative process of making and recording music, Sendelica and their collaborators embraced the wizardry of the internet with gusto during 2020 and delivered a series of fine releases in the guise of newer projects, The Isolated Psychedelicists, The Lost Stoned Pandas and the now well established, The Fellowship of Hallucinatory Voyagers (well it must be hallucinatory as actual voyages have been severely restricted since March 2020). ‘The Fellowship’ has grown into something much more than a Sendelica side project and has its own personality and sense of musical adventure as demonstrated through some fine live and studio releases to date.

‘The Imaginary Gallery’ is the result of a collaboration with painter Rhiannon Jones who was initially given some pieces of music for her to paint an interpretation of what she heard and indeed imagined. The deed was repaid with some additional oil paintings for which a musical interpretation was sought. The result is brought together in this fine record, which comes with a booklet of the paintings so you can immerse yourself in the music and images or indeed use them to inspire your own flights of the imagination (hallucinatory or otherwise).

There are eleven pieces, mostly under five minutes in length and as such we are moving away from the long form explorations that we’ve come to expect from the Fellowship. Things get underway with ‘The Swynol Doorway’ where over a dense undergrowth of environmental sound and field recording, a gentle guitar melody and delicate electronics glide and shimmer serenely and rather beautifully. ‘Dancing With Waves’ is essentially a guitar soli outing with a few subtle embellishments and it conjures up a real whiff of the sea air in its spacious, reflective tone. ‘The Last Road Home’ bounces with echo from simply strummed guitar and minimalist melodies with a gentle warp and dissonance in its slightly off kilter timing and overlays. It has a fragile, melancholic feel that is intensified by sparse strings and electronics adding colour albeit subtle shades of grey. ‘Excalibur’ is more brooding and sets a darker feel through the sparse Kosmische imbued guitar where layers of melody weave, repeat and echo to create a spacious and yet complex soundworld that could easily be extended into a longer form piece. ‘Mushroom Lake’ matches more spacey guitar styles with birdsong that produces a kind of pastoral kosmische with a darker, suspenseful edge that has a very cinematic quality and ‘Martian Twilight’ continues this filmic feel with its insistent acoustic riff and snatches of soloing all wrapped up in an electronic drone. ‘The High Heeled Enchanted Path’ is short, subdued and elegant before in ‘Brood Sea’ we get our first clatter of drums in a gently progressive rocker that raises the tempo and actually brings to mind the lighter side of Rush jamming with Gordon Giltrap in its feel and sound. Lovely wave sounds colour ‘ The Moon and the Mermaid’ which returns to a more laid back and reflective sound before a darker feel once again emerges in ‘Before the Storm’ where more a more dramatic and dense space rock theme spells out the violence of impending weather in its jagged riff and soaring solo notes. Finishing the record is ‘What Planet Are We On?’, a question many of us may have asked over the past 9 months or so on a daily basis. Here the fellowship treat us to a fractured riff and a satisfyingly noisy squall of guitar soloing from which they make their exit.

This record is a further welcome step along the fellowship’s hallucinatory highway. It’s a very visual sound with strong themes such as the elements and the sea and hints of Americana, Kosmische and the soundscapes of Harold Budd or Bill Nelson help to create quite a canvas. Where a bigger, space rock or prog based sound comes through it feels like the right time and the right place and it doesn’t outstay its welcome or upset the balance of the record. This may be the best journey you can have without getting fined so pack your hallucinatory bags and go do it folks.

 (Francis Comyn)





VARIOUS ARTISTS – I GO TO SLEEP (LP/CD on Morning Brake Records. Contact BigDaveTrending@gmail.com for details and orders)

Now here’s a novel idea, or at least a record that comes in part from a book and the social media conversations around it. ‘I Go To Sleep’ written by Ray Davies is one of the canon of great songs that cement his reputation as one of the major songwriters to emerge from the sixties. Its gorgeous melancholy has provided inspiration for many covers over the years, most notably perhaps the hit version by The Pretenders but also myriad other takes from Peggy Lee to Zero 7 and many other brave souls. When Andy Bracken during the process of writing his novel ‘The Cut’ asked a question about a song that resonated with people and perhaps could inspire obsessive record collecting many responses were received. One in particular however stood out which suggested this song for its individual loveliness but also the poignant circumstances of personal family tragedy and loss that motivated the suggestion.

This is Andy’s first foray into making records through his Morning Brake imprint but many readers will be aware of Andy’s previous involvement in the early days of Fruits de Mer Records. So as a result we now have this extended play lathe cut record with five very different covers of ‘I Go To Sleep’ for the listener to compare, contrast and most importantly enjoy.

The opening track goes to The Lounge Bar Orchestra with an arrangement based on easy listening and exotica with a touch of psychedelic pop sensibility, filmic elegance and thankfully more than enough inventive instrumental touches and flourishes in the arrangement to be firmly on the side of Esquivel rather than kitsch. Sarah Birch takes a relaxed approach to the song that embraces its melancholy but adds warmth in the brass arrangement and gentle jazz infused waltz stylings whilst also maintaining a general feel of smart sixties pop. I was reminded of the way that The Unthanks have interpreted some songs here which is a good thing. The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies take the drama and energy up a notch or three on their take with gothic psych pop energy from the sixties and the early eighties in abundance and an almost Phil Spector and the Banshees feel which also had me thinking ‘Is Vic There?’ Schizo Fun Addict create a decadent and luxurious yet melancholy dream pop elegance on their version with a rich, atmospheric sound that sways and swoons and dives deep into 4AD loveliness. The final version is delivered by The Lost Stoned Pandas who ramp up the psych and space rock heaviness and it does indeed travel the spaceways a little but always comes back home to the melody and never loses sight of the song structure.

This is an interesting and entertaining idea with a varied and imaginative collection of cover versions. Five is probably enough for one record but they are well chosen, well delivered and well worth your attention. If you were ever minded to obsessively collect a song this is a pretty good place to start and possibly stop but don’t blame me if it leads to an empty wallet and many restless hours on Discogs.

(Francis Comyn)




(LP/CD/Digital on Heavy Psych Sounds Records)


Desert Rock/Stoner band Big Scenic Nowhere is still relatively new, having been formed in 2019 by Bob Balch of Fu Manchu (guitar, bass) and Gary Arce of Yawning Man (guitar).  But in their so far short existence, they’ve been mighty busy, having already released the EP ‘Dying on the Mountain’ in 2019 and LP ‘Vision Beyond Horizon’ in January 2020, before this terrific 23-minute EP.


For Lavender Blues, as in the previous releases, Balch and Arce have surrounded themselves with some ace players, including Tony Reed (Mos Generator; vocals, bass, guitar, synths); Bill Stinson (Yawning Man; drums); Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth; synths, piano); Daniel Mongrain (Voivod; guitar); and Chris Goss (Masters of Reality; guitar).  That’s a lot of guitarists, and it shows.


To say Big Scenic Nowhere excels at setting a desert/stoner vibe would be a massive understatement.  The 13-minute title track – by far the highlight of the EP - settles into a groove positively dripping with atmosphere, and all those guitars and synths resonate amongst the sand and cactus.  The guitars sizzle – these guys are super musicians – while the keys fill in a sound scape that’s more like a desert sunset full of deepening colors than a noon-day blaze.  The song takes its time and works its magic and you won’t want it to stop, even at 13 minutes.  And in case you were wondering but I’m sure you weren’t, it bears no relation whatsoever to the 17th century English folk song and nursery rhyme “Lavender’s Blue (Dilly Dilly),” which was recorded many times and was a hit for Burl Ives back in 1948.  Just wanted to clear that one up.


Second track “Blink of an Eye” is more in a classic rock style.  The riffology rings out true, and Tony Reed was born to be a rock and roll singer.  There are some great, compact guitar and synth solos to round out the song.


Closer “Labyrinths Fade” again embraces classic rock, fusing it with Big Scenic Nowhere’s desert vibe.  It’s a stretched-out cruiser, all tricked out with some seriously pro shredding.  I wish I could tell you who the axe man was and give credit where credit’s due, amongst all those superb guitarists, but unfortunately I can’t.  Tony Reed again kills it on vocals.


Even though it’s been a busy year-plus for Big Scenic Nowhere, with one album and two EPs, I still hope they’re planning another full LP sometime soon.  And although Lavender Blues is an EP following up an album (Vision Beyond Horizon), it’s better than the LP, IMHO.  This band’s on the move upwards.  They can space-groove, they can jam, they can write good songs, and they can bring in some real heavy hitters to help, all with consummate professionalism.  Finally, a shout-out’s in order to Max Loeffler for his excellent cover artwork.


(Mark Feingold)



DEAN McPHEE – WITCH’S LADDER (LP/CD on Hood Faire Records/Cargo Records)

The South Pennines and indeed the North of England are blessed with a rich culture and history that’s ingrained in its dramatic and mystery filled landscapes and towns and villages but also in a wealth of stories, poetry and music that tell the tales of people and places from distant yesteryears and the here and now. Now I may have mentioned this before but it is worth repeating and it’s also worth saying before going any further that Dean McPhee is a skilful and passionate storyteller writing and performing music inspired by folklore, mysticism and the landscapes in the ever fascinating north.

‘Witch’s Ladder is the much anticipated follow up to 2018’s wonderful ‘Four Stones’ and sees Dean once more deliver a solo recording accompanied here by his trusty Telecaster, valve amplifier and various effects without using overdubs. Echo and reverb are used cleverly and create a small hours or twilight feel where all is quiet and you can give the music and the images it conjures up your full attention. Dean’s work has been compared to the likes of Loren Connors, Dylan Carson and Popol Vuh but as I’ve noted in pervious reviews of Dean’s work there is a strong grounding in folk traditions from the UK and beyond underpinning the spacious exploratory ambience and Kosmische textures that envelope the listener. The striking album artwork is a 1933 painting by spiritual abstract artist Agnes Pelton entitled ‘The Primal Wing’ and before a note is played it sets the scene for a musical journey that is both personal and shrouded in mystery and imagination.

The opening piece ‘The Alchemist’ has an accompanying video of a misty lonesome walk at Bolton Woods Quarry affording dramatic views over Bradford. It’s an inspired pairing (check it out on YouTube) and the music and visuals go perfectly together. Fragments of old melancholic folk melodies emerge from a wintery sonic mist. It’s brooding but not dark with subtle melodic shades of grey wrapped up in the big coat of the guitar and warming effects to take away the chill. ‘The Alder Tree’ follows with a gentle underlying sway like an empty swing in the breeze and an atmospheric and sparse slide guitar melody that has a touch of cosmic Hank Marvin loveliness adding a little Spring colour. Haunting and ethereal picked guitar and subtle washes of effects slowly and gently cradle the piece creating deeper textures and giving it a Kosmische sheen. ‘Red Lebanese’ may or may not be a reference to a relaxation product of choice and indeed it is much more of a textural soundscape to lose yourself in with waves of reverberating, pulsing, rippling and slowly shifting drones and lingering e bow notes weaving a hypnotic tapestry of icy and delicate beauty. ‘Eskdale Path’ is another spacious melodic travelogue cloaked in elegant desolation and indeed splendid isolation. The layers of guitar textures, e bow and picked melodic wanderings create a mixture of feelings from contemplation to exhilaration through cleverly placed splashes of colour and subtle drones that perfectly complement each other and convey a filmic quality. The title track and longest piece is spellbinding, if you’ll forgive the virtual pun. The track is essentially in three parts with the opening section spacious, fragile and melodic with gently dramatic and ascending peaks of soloing guitar that once again draw on older melodies and sounds taking them to a new place. The middle section is more intense and structured with a fuller and more complex brew of guitar sounds and effects on top of a repeating melodic loop before returning to a more airy and open conclusion featuring slide guitar that adds a trace of country blues and eastern melody in the ambient mix. It’s an elegant, emotional, yearning sound and a memorable finale to a very fine record.

For those familiar with Dean’s previous work (and if you aren’t you should be) there are many familiar and comforting touchstones here. The sound is however subtly and noticeably evolving, perhaps a result of Dean’s growing confidence in his sound and solo approach to recording. This is a beautiful and evocative record rich in imagery and with a compositional intelligence that impressively squeezes a wealth of emotion, colour and texture from the simple tools of a Telecaster, valve amplifier and various effects pedals to give the listener a valuable gallery of sound paintings to get lost in whatever the time of day or year. A highly recommended start to your new year.

(Francis Comyn)




(CD/DL Music | Rusted Rail (bandcamp.com) )

Sounding like a well-rehearsed band playing joyously together this project is, in fact, the work of Duncan Sumpner, a Stockport based musician with an ear for melody, the delicious tunes wrapped in hazy washes that lift them lightly to drift amongst the landscape like soft, beguiling clouds.

    Right from the off “Garden Hook” reels you in bringing a feel of nostalgia and longing through its slowly revolving chords and strings, hints of percussion and drone giving the song a ritual feel that is fuzzy and warm. Following a similar path, “The Wormwood Star Falls” has some glorious vocals that flutter above the strummed guitar before drums and distortion take the song ever higher sounding like BJH if they were a Dream Pop band. Suitably psychedelic the tune is a standout for me setting the tone for that which follows.

    With a slightly fuzzy centre that wraps around you like a favourite cardigan, “Sisters of the District” is just beautiful, whilst “Northbound Trains” has the air of Simon and Garfunkel about it, sweet harmonies and an innocent charm that is easy to enjoy and lasts long in the memory.

   Light and airy, “Hello” is a fabulous pop tune that is happy and filled with sweetness, a tune that will put a skip in your step and a smile on your face, much needed in these difficult times, the following “I” taking the listener down a more sombre path, a slow and droning tune that reminds me of Gorkys Zygotic Mynci, with its awkward, in a good way, harmonies.

    Over ten songs the quality of the tunes never diminishes, the whole album flowing beautifully together, imagine drifting down a river as the sun sets just watching the scenery glide by, all this personified by “In Very Truth” the opening of which reminds me of Kevin Ayers before it sets of down a long rambling path, the journey far more important than the destination, the hypnotic riff and birdsong allowing your mind to drift where it will, timeless and delightful at every turn.

   Finally we arrive at “Redundancy”, an Eno-esque piano calming that rambling mind giving us time for re-entry before a final sudden ending.

  As with all the best music this album takes a while to settle needing a few listens before all the layers are revealed, never less than enchanting, a journey worth taking.

(Simon Lewis)