= July 2018 =  
John Renbourn
Spafford
 Sharron Kraus
 Nicole Skeltys
 Papernut Cambridge
 The Billy Shinbone Show
 Negro
 Icarus Peel's Acid Reign
 Brother JT
 Fuchsia
 Sendelica
 Marisa Anderson
 The Pink Moon
 Alison Cotton
 Prana Crafter
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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JOHN RENBOURN – LIVE IN KYOTO 1978
(LP/CD on Drag City Records)

I was lucky enough to see John Renbourn play in Pentangle reunion shows and both solo and in duet (including notably with the rather wonderful Johnny Dickinson). The common theme for me was not only the amazing technical virtuosity on display which was made to look effortless but the simple joy of playing evident in a man passionate about the music, happy to entertain an audience.

This is a very welcome archive release of a solo show in Japan hosted in an intimate coffee house venue which was recorded by a private collector and made available for release posthumously. We should give thanks for the presence of someone with a tape recorder that night as the recording quality is very good and the show itself highlights all aspects of Renbourn’s particular genius and diverse musical touchstones. There is a generous selection of songs and instrumentals which cover all expected bases including traditional folk, country blues but also jazz, ragtime, Appalachian and Renaissance lute music. It’s also a set that from John’s audience banter appears to include early favourites and influences not played for many years – I can only say, what a lucky audience to catch such a wonderful Memory Lane show that the performer clearly enjoyed every bit as much as they did!

‘Candyman’ is an excellent opener to warm up the audience and from the word go Renbourn’s gentle, relaxed singing style and wonderful fingerpicking are a joy to listen to. Never a ‘classic’ folk singer, Renbourn had a voice which was somehow right for the job and helped him to personalise many a song and imbue his own character into the delivery which more often than not worked out very well. A jaw dropping version of the Davy Graham instrumental standard ‘Anji’ follows and then we get a beautiful version of an old blues, ‘I Know My Babe’ with another guitar masterclass rolling along underneath a slightly more folk than blues vocal. A more excited vocal delivery enlivens Furry Lewis’s ‘Kokomo Blues’ and an intense and technically brilliant ‘The Cuckoo’ is another early highlight in the set. ‘Banks Of The Sweet Primroses’ and ‘John Barleycorn’ are folk staples given due respect but also energy from Renbourn’s distinctive and elegant playing which like Martin Carthy’s can transform a song. Mid set we get a fairly dizzying array of guitar styles with ‘Peacock Rag’ reinventing an old fiddle tune to provide much toe tapping and listening pleasure followed by a stately ‘The Earle Of Salisbury’, a short and  beautiful classical guitar tune. Jazzier chops are on display with ‘Transfusion’ by Charles Lloyd which swings wonderfully.

The final section of the set starts with a medley of traditional instrumental tunes ‘Lamentation For Owen Roe O’Neill/The Orphan/The English Dance’ which moves from a courtly  interpretation of a harp composition through more energetic dance tunes that get the audience clapping and stomping along very happily indeed. The encore of Sixteenth Century lute tunes ‘Gypsy Dance/Jew’s Dance’ includes some engaging and funny audience banter about the composer but there’s nothing funny about the beautiful and technically dazzling tunes that round things off to roaring applause.

If you are a John Renbourn fan this is an essential purchase but if you are new to his music I would also strongly recommend the record as an excellent example of his live prowess showing not just outstanding technical abilities but a much missed, warm and engaging performer who delighted in bringing a big musical world to a small stage.
(Francis Comyn)

 

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SPAFFORD – FOR AMUSEMENT ONLY
(CD/MP3/LP on Spafford)
 
Prescott, Arizona’s Spafford has been around for ten years, and yet they’re still talked about as an up-and-coming band.  With their new release For Amusement Only, I’d say they’re here.  Spafford seamlessly jumps genres between rock, funk, jazz, prog, reggae, and pop, although rock is more the hub they start with and come back to and the others are the spokes.  A veritable touring machine, ten years on the road has made Spafford one hell of a tight band, highlighted by guitarist Brian Moss’s superb playing.  Co-founder/bass player/vocalist Jordan Fairless mind-melds with drummer Cameron Laforest to create an airtight rhythm section, while keyboardist Andrew “Red” Johnson adds color and tone and a nice counter to Moss’s axe work.

Your loyal correspondent saw Spafford at this year’s Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee, and they whipped the crowd into a hootin’ and hollerin’ rip-snortin’ frenzy with their shape-shifting styles and tempos, incredible but not show-offy musicianship, and Brian Moss’s red-hot solos.  More on him in a moment.

For Amusement Only was produced in reverse fashion.  Spafford road-tested the songs for at least a year, performing and perfecting some of them over 100 times in the process, and then put them down in the studio.  There’s plenty of amusement to be had here.  What I love about For Amusement Only is that all the songs leave the listener in an upbeat, feel-good mood, even the ones with darker lyrical subject matter, like a fine drink of Kombucha, or whatever your favorite tonic, probiotic or otherwise.  They’re all just so positive sounding.  It’s almost as if there isn’t a minor chord on the album.  It’s hard to listen to the record without beaming a smile.

Going through some of the highlights, after two fine conventional songs “Leave the Light On” and “Ain’t That Wrong,” we go into the instrumental “It’s a Bunch.”  “Bunch” starts off in typical Spafford fashion in a keyboard and bass-infused funky groove.  But with these guys you’re never far away from a stupendous Brian Moss guitar solo, and he delivers, before returning to the main theme.

Moss is a wonderful guitarist.  His solos are melodic and tightly constructed little triumphs.  There’s no noodling about here, not a wasted note.  Moss plays a lot of solos on the record, but they never overstay their welcome.  He gets in and gets out, and then it’s back to the band, all for one and one for all.  I’ll admit, during the small handful of songs on the album that don’t feature a Moss solo, I find myself itching for a fix of some of that good stuff.  As you would expect, on stage Moss is more unleashed, his solos longer, more muscular, and have more attack and distortion.  But still they have the same type melodicism, intelligence and tight construction you hear on the record.

“Mind’s Unchained” is my favorite track on the album.  Again, it starts with a funky groove, with lyrics by Spafford’s former lighting director and co-lyricist Chuck Johnson.  After a couple of verses and your mind unchained, let the solos begin!  Moss alternates between a heavy and a light touch, as Red Johnson touts a gentle electric piano backing.  Moss’s solo builds and builds, and it’s exhilarating climbing that mountain with him and the band.

“Simon and Lilly” packs a lot into a short time.  Spafford’s songcraft may get lost in the strong musicianship, but it is no less a feature of what they do right.  Jordan Fairless sings appealing vocals, and Brian Moss and Red Johnson join him for some nice three-part harmonies.  Moss adds yet another terrific embedded solo.

“All In” is perhaps the most versatile song on the album.  It combines a standard song with many musical styles, sub-melodies, tempos and solos, including wonderful interplay between Johnson on piano and Moss’s guitar work.  It’s a big slice of joyful pie.

“The Postman” is (mostly) instrumental, starting quietly, then shifting tempos and building.  Johnson plays a proggy synthesizer solo, and before long Moss jumps in with his guitar into the prog pond, bringing the rest of the band with him.  It’s incredible how Spafford supports each other during solos; they’re also a great backing band.  In typical fashion, they segue seamlessly into funk, then rock.  Johnson and Moss both shine on this track – over and over.

“Slip and Squander” is another great track, with insightful lyrics by Chuck Johnson.  Starting as a piano-based song with vocals by Red Johnson, Moss then adds a Steely Dan-esque solo.  Following another segue in tempo, Fairless and Johnson lay down a solid bass and piano groove.  Moss plays another solo, this time one that continuously builds until it hits all the pleasure centers of the brain.  Spafford’s reverence for melody, both in the song construction and the solos, is tremendous.

Closer “Todd’s Tots” is another mostly instrumental trip, playfully weaving in and out of rock, prog, and jazz sections with all the band joining in the fun.

If you enjoy inventive, eclectic music played by experts, check out Spafford.  And do by all means seek them out live, where they’re really in their element.

(Mark Feingold)

 
 
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SHARRON KRAUS – JOY’S REFLECTION IS SORROW
(LP from Sunstone CD from Nightshade )

New material from Terrascope favourite Sharron is always welcome in our Dingley Dell. Timed to coincide with Midsummer (so forgive the writer’s tardiness) you might be forgiven for thinking that this bumper crop of sweet seasonal fruitfulness is the perfectly pastoral soundtrack our lazy, hazy vibe during this pinch yourself summer of summers. However this is a bounty infused with a wistful melancholy: songs of life and death but with a hand lightly on the tiller instead of it bearing down heavily on the harrow,

‘My Danger’ shimmers into life out of a heat haze, light percussion coaxing a gentle rhythmic wave on which Kraus seems to float gently before taking dignified flight. ‘Figs and Flowers (Oh, Sweet Dawn) is one of the most hopeful moments on the album, suffused with a lightness before ‘The Man Who Says Goodbye’ and channels the pain of bereavement (Sharron’s Dad passed away a couple of years back). It’s an unashamedly mid-70s cross-over, with hints of Fleetwood Mac circa Rumours or perhaps an alternative universe where Meg Baird meets Al Stewart. The title track is another cathartic coming to terms with loss, a swirling sweep of baroque-style waltz (if that wasn’t a clear contradiction) kept firmly the right side of mawkish thanks to some deft and timely minor-key changes.

That was the sunny side of the old straight track

Welcome to ‘Sorrow’s Arrow’. Darkly soporific, with Kraus’ maudlin acoustic guitar, it’s ominous, droning synth and the nearest thing here to wyrd folk. All’s well in this twilight world, one in which I’d gladly tarry awhile. Equally gorgeous in its somewhat troubled dream state is ‘Secrets’ with iridescent reverb and Barrett style slide sweeps courtesy of Nick Jonah Davies. ‘When Darkness Falls’ sounds almost jaunty and carefree by comparison and yet paints the bleakest of lyrical canvases, an almost hopeless acceptance of darkness and death, before the final stanzas reveal a pale light of dawn, the faint singing of birds and just a faint glimmer of hope. Emotionally not a good place to be, perhaps, and yet it’s often the case that you have to touch the bottom in order to come back stronger. And so Krauss appears to face ‘Death and I’ head on, the voice harder, more defiant, and even then there’s the disarming melody and sweet yet steely pastoral arrangement, reminiscent of Shelagh MacDonald and Mellow Candle.

Aided by a goodly supporting cast, including multi-instrumentalist Jenny Bliss Bennett and Nancy Wallace on backing vocals Joy’s Reflection Is Sorrow flows like journey upon a becalmed river, even if that body of water sometimes resembles the mythical Styx. Drink deep of this and you will be fulfilled.

Ian Fraser



 

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NICOLE SKELTYS – DEAL WITH YOUR DISENCHANTMENT
(DL from Bandcamp )

The Global Village is truly a wonderful thing while we can still happily indulge and indeed enjoy an Australian living in the UK and singing songs that might loosely (ok make that lazily) be termed Americana.

The prolific Nicole Skeltys may already be familiar to some of you as a member of, among others, Dust and Jilted Brides and as an artist who has embraced folk rock, electronica and psychedelia. Deal With Your Disenchantment is her 12th full length release and which has taken four years to realise. Let’s hear it as well, then, for crowdfunding and give yourselves a big hand everyone who lent a hand. Billed as a “21st century woman’s response to late 60s/early 70s Dylan”, that should explain the pastiche cover then, not to mention the rambling subterranean homesick blues – part homage and part tongue-in-cheek, you sense - nature of much of what’s on offer.

It all kicks off perfectly to these ears with the anguished wail of harmonica on ‘She Never Quite Believed You’, the gob harp perhaps a surrogate for Kooper’s organ for what amounts to a gentler, self-penned ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ cut with something Kevin Ayres might have knocked out between bottles of wine. It’s slightly overlong (much like the song it half-mimics) but sets the scene for engaging and rather more intelligible narratives than what we were used to from Bobness (if the questions was frequently “what is the artist trying to tell us”? The answer hereabout was invariably “dunno and don’t care”). The hoedown “God Kills Someone Every Day” is a hoot, and lyrically astute to boot, with some exquisitely elaborate trilling in the backing vocal department that brings to mind Marcella Detroit, whereas the honky-tonk ‘Old Enough To Be Your Mother’ would work well irrespective of gender (subject to switch of parental reference), a funny and touching tale of too many gap years between partners and the foresight to realise this ain’t gonna work for too much longer.

That harmonica referred to earlier punctuates quite a few cuts, including the superior ‘Tattered Skirt Girl’, co-penned with band member Robin Hemmings (bass and, yes, harmonica), while time and again Skeltys proves to be both a gifted songwriter and a keen observer. ‘Mr Television Man’ is skilfully arranged and falls only marginally short of the gold standard while there’s a brave attempt at updating ‘Desolation Row’ in which is referenced the Tin Pan Alley banality of Adele and Ed Sheeran. Her voice, too, is pleasant enough if lacking the character that might otherwise elevate what for the most part are very decent songs to another level.

Our promo copy arrived accompanied by an A4 sized songbook complete with lyrics and chords for us to learn and sing. News that the McMullen-Fraser Comb, Paper and Ukulele Aggravation is unlikely to follow suit, at least in the foreseeable future, will no doubt be met with huge relief by a grateful Terrascope nation.

Ian Fraser

 

 

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PAPERNUT CAMBRIDGE  - OUTSTAIRS INSTAIRS
LP www.garddenord.com

Ian Button has corralled another bunch of like minded musicians for this latest endeavour, over 15 listed.  This time there is a touch more emphasis on the ol’ piano, but really its pretty much business as usual.  I am staggered at the consistent quality of Ian’s songs; his pen is certainly being kept busy.  The first song on the album is a case in point.  “Buckmaster Fullerene”, a self deprecating song that has a chorus that could be from some classic long forgotten 70’s children’s show, it’s very catchy but also quite clever, after he mentions that he is a scientist we are treated to a very brief snatch of dub ala ‘The Scientist’ and this album is chock full of knowing winks that are just like that.

“Crying”, introduces some skronking sax. “House Of Pink Icing”, barrelhouse piano, whistling and birdsong, before long Ian’s inviting us to take tea, where there will be marshmallow cushions and flower petal tea, in a house overlooking the chalk hills, looking onto the railway that runs out to the distant sea.

Other highlights for me are the light bossa nova “Tulips In A Top Hat”.  The questing “How To Love Someone”, which has Ian asking for tips about giving yourself completely and of the mystery of lasting relationships.  “Angelo Aggy”, is ostensibly about passing by the Battersea dog’s home and feeling sorry for one of the little fella’s inside.  Before long he’s making a few minor repairs around the home prior to adopting the aforementioned canine friend that tugged at his heart strings so. “Mr Shimshiner”, is a humorous, tin whistle and ukulele accompanied, tongue twister of a tune, in the finest ‘Peter picked a peck of pickled pepper style’.  The record ends with “New Forever”, Indian tropes give way to a strident pop rock song, it finds Ian singing his heart out to a fine slide guitar, another piano tune that has a cool ending, reintroducing album opener and hero “Buckminster Fullerene”.
(Andrew Young)

 

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THE BILLY SHINBONE SHOW - S/T
(CD on Tiny Dog www.tinydog.co.uk  )

I’ve only had it for a day, and already it’s like an old friend, he writes the songs, sings them, plays nearly all of the instruments and has also co produced it too. Billy used to be in Flipron, a band dear to my heart, they made a few albums, but like so many before them never achieved their worth.
This record features, guitars, accordion, mandolin, banjo, plus electric bass and drums played by a couple of guests, Micky Van Dango, drums and Tom Granville, bass on a couple of songs, plus Ida Karolina Nordgard, bass on one. “Mostly Cloudy, Occasionally Sunny”, is a lovely opener, catchy, it has some drifting accordion, fat baritone guitar notes, whistling and rides out to a frailing banjo. “If You Think You’ll Get Away With It”, adds sitar and harmonica. “High Trapeze”, tells of an ugly duckling becoming a swan. “Tempation’s Got The Good Stuff”, hambone skiffle, with jazzy banjo and a cool rockabilly sensibility. “Hoard Of Hope & Plunder”, questions the point, of keeping all this junk that’s just rotting and decaying out in the garden. This one has a kind of African field holler feel to it.

Next comes “Day Of The Dangerous”, this has a lovely acid folk vibe going on, it could well be my favourite so far. “A Bunch Of Flowers”, recounts a nightmarish dream of hospitals and cemeteries, luckily it’s quite short and jazzy. “Old Brown Shed”, brings us right back up, guitars ring, mandolins chime, a few lapsteel slides, lickety split, “Another Bunch Of Flowers”, is essentially more dreaming only this time daydreaming, a bitter sweet song of flowers, offered as remorse, decorated with lightly droning sitar and mandolin. Album closer on this short sweet album is “Thanks But No Thanks, Baby”, Steptoe and sons springs to mind, drunk, but not drunk enough to beg, if it’s all the same to you!  Anger and vitriol, being expressed through some very controlled feedback, Jesse has made a cracking little album.
(Andrew Young)

 

 

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NEGRO - CLASS MEDIA
(LP  www.threadrecordings.com )

Thread recordings have just released an instrumental album by Spanish guitar player Negro of Valencia. There has been a steady rise over the last few years in the number of guitar players worshipping at the shrines of Basho and Fahey. Modern guys like William Tyler or Rich Osborne,etc.  The players that I am most reminded of on this record are guys like Michael Chapman and Ryley Walker.  This record is unusual in that it takes the usual acoustic 12 string template of the American primitives, but renders them on an electric guitar.

It’s full of shimmering arpeggios that are just so visual; he doesn’t really stick to one style or sound and keeps things interesting. I find that some of these solo guitar albums can be a little dry, but Negro ushers in some new sonic sounds, with plenty of ambient, drifting, rolling, expansive songs, where curlicues of notes hang, like dust motes caught in a shaft of light, informed by plenty of ringing open strings, punctuated by harmonics from time to time.

The record really works best when listened to as a whole, however I will dwell on a couple “Porcelana Folk”, is very inventive, building to an epic climax. “Balada Del Nino Muerto”, a very pretty cyclical guitar tune. I also really like “Benicarlo Tuareg”, a shimmering song that just makes you think of endless rolling vistas and dry dusty deserts.  The record ends with an epic twelve minute long song called “Velocidad De Perdida”, a song which sees him reaching for the firmament, there are some really interesting and unsettling sounds being coaxed out of his instrument during the middle part of the song. (Andrew Young)

 

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ICARUS PEEL'S ACID REIGN - THE WINDOW OUTSIDE OF YOUR HEAD
(Mega Dodo www.mega-dodo.com  )

For this album lead guitar player, singer and songwriter Icarus gets to grips with the classic rock three piece sound as practitioned by the like of Cream, Taste and The Groundhogs. He lets rip with some very tasty lead guitar all over the shop accompanied throughout by maximum throb bassist Andy Budge and very musical drummer Brian Rushbrooke. Plenty of good stuff exploding from the speakers from the spangled wah wah riffage of “Moonlight Moonlight”, to the splendiferous album centre piece “Marley’s Chains”, an homage to Mr Hendrix with “Gazing Up At Jimi”.  “Let’s Get It Together”, is a psych/folk tabla infused delight. “Way Out West”, rocks like a demon and has some very tasty solo’s. “Eyes Of Insomnia”, introduces some reggae vibes and is quite summery, until they then decide to head of into maximum rifferama, some nice keyboards on this song too. The record ends with the terrific “The Sun Will Leave You Cold”.  I saw the band last month live, they were very good; this record captures their oeuvre very well. (Andrew Young)

 

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BROTHER JT – TORNADO JUICE
(LP/CD/DL from http://www.thrilljockey.com)

There’s a clip of John Terlezky aka Bother JT interviewing Nik Turner on Cable TV that is great fun to watch whenever you’ve had a little too much of what you fancy, as has John, most evidently. All too easy, possibly, to dismiss him as something of a loon or worse. Don’t be fooled. Last time he came to our notice was on the superbly named Boogietude of Servitude, a smorgasbord of craziness mixed with some genuine pearls of brilliance which must be – what? – 5 years ago at least, since when he’s landed on both feet with none other than Thrill Jockey, for whom this is his second album. This guy is good.

Truth be told, Tornado Juice (that’s L.S.D to you and me), isn’t as eccentric as you might have expected or perhaps hoped. Fear not though for it is a feast of psych blasted power pop. Tastefully ragged rather than unhinged, the baker’s dozen of prime cuts stay true to proper song structure and a melodic cadence that tilts towards Lemonheads and Dinosaur Jr – opening gambits ‘T.M.I’ and ‘Ponin’’ to name but two, easily hold their own in that sort of company (albeit less crunching than Mascis and co). The latter also references kettle chips. I don’t recall another song that does that. Simple pleasures, man. Tempting to paint a big welcome to Slackerville sign, except that when he’s on it, Brother JT’s work ethic is pretty darned Protestant

The episodic scuzziness can’t hide Terlezky’s not inconsiderable guitar skills and, on tracks like ‘Mississippi Something’ (cheeky ‘Something In The Air’-style descending scales) some neatly crafted AOR that suggest he’s been gulping down the spirit of Tom Petty like flies. ‘Manifest Boogie’ meanwhile is an eye shaker that will appeal to metal heads while still summoning the spirit of the Elevators – of whom John is a big fan - and garages past. And still the hooks keep on coming, culminating in the acoustic ‘Oh Me Oh My’, a low key finale perhaps but when suffused with lines  “I’ve got the snakes on the brain and a pain in the déjà vu” then the lock can be in the skirting board so far as I’m concerned. No room for stinkers here, no sir, just good dirty fun. More please, and get over here soon, dammit.
Ian Fraser

 

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FUCHSIA -S/T
(2 LP +DVD)
SENDELICA - CROMLECH CHRONICLES 111
(3x10” EP on Fruits de Mer )

Fuchsia’s album arrived in 1971 on the Pegasus label, a subsidiary of B & C records, and has been somewhat of a holy grail for me. Back in the old pre internet days if you wanted to find a long deleted album you had to put in the leg work, trawling around record fairs and second hand record shops; this is something I did, but not once did I find a copy!  I was looking out for it because of the name of the band, taking as it does it’s name from a girl who features in Mervyn Peake’s epic Gormanghast fantasy novel, ‘Lady Fuchsia Groan’. It is one of my favourite books. There were also a couple of other bands named after characters in this book, Titus Groan and the private press sole album by Steerpike.

This was to be the only album Fuchsia made - the band broke up and Tony Durant emigrated shortly afterwards to Australia. One day in 2003 a spot of Googling revealed to him that the album was now highly desirable and changing hands for huge sums, it had a new life. The album has been re-released a few times since but this will be the definitive version, coming as it does with a whole extra album of early demos and more, including the 15 minute demo tape which secured them a record deal. This version is a double and it also includes a DVD, a poster plus a 24 page A4 magazine.

The music on the record is mainly orchestrated progressive folk rock, not a full orchestra but a string section, violins and cello, there are also no electric guitar solos or crashing drums.

“Gone With The Mouse”, introduces the album and also Tony’s very English voice and distinctive arpeggio guitar style, it also has some nice female vocals an interesting arrangement some superb contrapuntal drumming plus a beautiful string section, I would be surprised if the Love album “Forever Changes” had not been on Tony’s turntable in the run up to making this album, along with some Blossom Toes and Giles, Giles And Fripp. “A Tiny Book”,  is a nine minute gem, a song to the moon, enigmatic, again it is very well arranged with some sweeping strings.  “Another Nail”, arrives with some weird woozy sounds, before we are treated to a fine song in distinct parts, the vocals arriving halfway through, this one’s about the sun. “Shoes and Ships”, more celestial occurrences, this time it’s rainbows, clouds, and the changing seasons, another beautiful string arrangement. “The Nothing Song”, the longest track on the album, again over nine minutes, whimsical in a Lewis Carroll way, it’s a mysterious track that goes through plenty of changes, again very English; bowler hats , Viennese waltzes, and getting up late. Spindly guitar, trap drums, cello and bubbling bass. “Me And My Kite”, is my favourite, informed by a kind of daydreaming Billy Liar sensibility, why get a job, I’m happy just flying my Kite, alright. The record ends with “Just Anyone”, a progressive folk rocker, with a bit of slide guitar, dazed and wandering, days spent wondering. 

The second disc starts with a couple of new recordings of old songs, “Somnambulist”, and “Rocks And Books”. Then it’s a fifteen minute demo, taken from an acetate that was cut to hawk around a few record labels prior to being signed by Pegasus, the first outing of “Ragtime Brahms”, an original demo. 

In 2013 Tony put together a new version of the band and recorded an album called Fuchsia 11 entitled “From Psychedelia....To A Distant Place, on the Sound Practices label, which is equally hard to find. The next song on this 2LP is an acoustic version of “Fuchsia Song”, a pretty song that appears on Fuchsia 11. “The Band”, (Me And My Kites version), with Tony on lead vocals, taken from a 2014 single by the Swedish band that took its name from said song. It ends with “The Waves”, a demo version of a song, also from Fuchsia 11.

Also out on Fruits de Mer is the concluding record in the Sendelica “Cromlech Chronicles” trilogy  available on 3 x 10“ coloured vinyl with 3D cover and 3D glasses.

The Sendelica line up of Pete Bingham, Glenda Pescado, Lee Relfe and Neil Charlie Spragg, has been beefed up for this outing to include keyboardist Roger Morgan and The Luck Of Eden Hall’s leader Gregory Curvey on drums. Sendelica could well be the world’s most prolific band of late (Grateful Dead excepted) and heaven help the poor old completist!

Opening track “BS”, is a very muscular start to the record, powerful drumming and jazz nuances, which then bleeds into “Slow Burner”, nearly 13 minutes of searing psych prog. This could well be Pete Bingham’s finest moment, whichever planet we were hurtling towards seems to have been reached, as we taxi in, all the instruments fall away to leave three minutes of spacey synth.  Things really slow down for a while on the drifting “12 Shades Revisited”, another lengthy work out and again over the 10 minute mark.  “Teifi Marshes”, begins with a recording of the dawn chorus, before another progressive jazz rock instrumental appears, lots of sax, keyboards and what appears to be 12 string acoustic guitar, as it fades away we are left with the unmistakable call of a chiffchaff.  “Star Flower Blossom”, is the longest track on the album being almost 15 minutes long, it’s a drifting space rocker with jazz moves, dominated by saxophone, with Pete Bingham taking a back seat. The final track is “The Lost City of Cardiza”, a tour de force, Hawkwind spring to mind on this one, full of Eastern tropes, an ‘A’ grade space rock song that spins giddily out of control towards the songs climax. (Andrew Young)

 

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MARISA ANDERSON – CLOUD CORNER
(LP/CD on Thrill Jockey Records)

Portland based Marisa Anderson has quietly been making a name for herself as a very distinctive and innovative guitarist and composer for more than ten years, marrying folk, blues and country traditions with gentle psychedelia, minimalism, drone and other influences to create her own rather wonderful soundworld. It has resulted in a catalogue rich with deep dives into the well of American traditional music and original songs taking this heritage to a new level. On Cloud Corner, her first for Thrill Jockey, the basic foundation of American roots music is extended to embrace a more adventurous musical menu, most notably a distinct Malian desert blues twist on some songs. The record is entirely instrumental with a feel of a journey through the seasons and evocative landscapes and in that sense it reminds me of recent albums by William Tyler and Dean McPhee who excel in constructing such wonderful soundtracks and atmospheres.

The record starts with the lovely ‘Pulse’, a springy and almost jaunty opening track which is followed by the hypnotic ‘Slow Ascent’ a much more psychedelic flurry of notes and chimes with a desert beauty and a hint of mystery or even darkness in a rolling and tumbling tune. ‘Angel’s Rest’ is very spare and at times dissonant with a melancholy feel reminiscent of John Fahey in his later years. The tempo increases on the title track which is perhaps the nearest on the album to the accepted ‘guitar soli’ style of fingerpicking with repeated themes and slowly shifting melodies. ‘Sanctuary’ has a country folk strummed melody which on one hand seems to be crying out for a great lyric but it works just fine as an instrumental of some beauty. On ‘Sun Song’ we touch on an ‘American Primitive’ theme but with the starkly plucked almost Latin American notes bringing a twist of the drama of Fado or Flamenco mixed with the spookiness of the old weird America and a touch of spaghetti western. ‘Lament’ is exactly that, a sad, lonesome and hugely atmospheric tune with space, beauty, mystery and regret dripping from its wide open desert vistas. On the surface this song has that very skeletal ‘Paris Texas’ sound but a close listen will bring rewards as the delicate, shimmering almost Satie-esque undercurrents draw you beneath the slide guitar. ‘Sant Feliu de Guixols’ again changes the atmosphere with a more upbeat feel not unlike the opening ‘Pulse’. ‘Surfacing’ signals the return of a more brooding yet beautiful desert blues atmosphere and the final track ‘Lift’ brings a more overt use of repetition and texture in its washes of gently brushed, ringing and decaying chords over a minimal plucked melody which is quite beautiful.

This is a record without lyrics but it is extremely lyrical and expressive bringing celebration, mystery and contemplation together in a well programmed record that is beautifully played and arranged. As a soundtrack to an imaginary film, a journey or just a night where you can put the headphones on and listen without distraction, this is a wonderful record that will take you to another, extremely satisfying place.
(Francis Comyn)

 

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THE PINK MOON - S/T
(EP  https://crispingloverrecords.com/ )

Merging a retro sixties vibe with the raw energy of the Eighties Garage Scene, Trondheim based The Pink Moon are yer basic four piece rock 'n' roll band, with occasional keyboard help, the music driving, danceable and groovy as fuck.

   Straight off the bat, “Flight Time” opens things in fine style, a clean guitar riff underpinned with fuzz, a rocking rhythm section, sing a long bits and a joyful presence that makes it good to be alive, even it appears to be 1968 again. Even better, “White Sands” is an adrenalin rush of energy, a head – nodding riff making you smile as it powers across the room, a farfisa organ coating the tune with a sweet lysergic paint job, you have to get up and dance for a bit and you can't really sit down again as “Heart Condition” adds a punk/new wave sound to proceedings, fat, snotty and best heard way too loud, a modern sounding lead guitar keeping things contemporary for the moment.

    Flipping the record over we are plunged back into the sixties as “One of the Boys” gets the Freakbeat groove going , you can almost see the go-go dancers in the background and I can bet your foot is tapping. Fans of the The Who are encouraged to tune in to “Make It Up”, a tune that sounds like Pete and the lads in the late sixties, pent up aggression and Psych Pop grappling for control resulting in a glorious nugget of sounds that is fresh and utterly brilliant.

  Ending a far too short EP, “Marathon Man” ensures that quality remains high, a nod to the eighties Psych scene (think The Aardvarks of Dukes Of...)  that shines and sparkles closing six perfect summer tunes with class.

    Featuring amongst its members the revered Terrascope/Terrastock veteran Øyvind Holm, this is a collection that will become loved - can we have some more, please? (Simon Lewis)
 

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ALISON COTTON – ALL IS QUIET AT THE ANCIENT THEATRE
(Cassette/DL from Bloxham Tapes )

Except it isn’t all quiet, not really, not entirely. Peer amid the gloom and you’ll hopefully make out a solitary figure, darkly clad and standing motionless centre stage but for the cradling and bowing of a viola and the occasional rustling of chimes.

Welcome to Alison Cotton’s debut release. The more assiduous reader will no doubt recognise Alison as one half of the renowned The Left Outsides, who have graced many a Terrascope stage (most recently at London’s Café Oto with Trembling Bells) and as a member of Trimdon Grange Explosion as well as an accomplished collaborator with similarly left-field inclined artists.
Despite what you may have heard or read, this is not quite an instrumental album - Alison’s mostly wordless, at times multi-tracked vocal works as another instrument to complement the layered viola, recorder and tinkling, tumbling, percussion. And it’s all about the drone, folks. The title tracks, with its see-sawing of viola sounding like ships timbers of wise and ancient oak and the ethereal siren voice capture wisps and echoes of The Left Outsides’ There Is A Place but is perhaps closer in essence to Cotton’s self-titled duet release with Michael Tanner a couple of years back. ‘The Last Sense To Leave Us’ was the title of the Pauline Oliveros tribute to which Alisoncontributed this very piece (like everything here it is improvised, which let’s face it is a spontaneous form of composition so let’s hope the performer receives her dues). I hope you’ll know that I mean this as a complement when I say that the eerie drone, beseeching strings and ghostly moans would make the perfect soundtrack to a séance or, failing that a stoned midnight stumble around Highgate Cemetery (except you can’t do that anymore).

The intriguingly titled ’36 Dramatic Situations’ is just perceptibly lighter in tone with a more discernible melody while ‘The Bells of St Agnes’ is a relentlessly bleak evocation of a funereal Clannad, one which a rare narrative outing cannot much leaven, no matter how beautifully it’s sung. Thankfully so, as it’s a dark classic in the making and one that’s faintly reminiscent of ‘Young Girl Cut Down In Her Prime’ from Terrascope’s Paper Leaves LP from 2016. The instrumental‘A Tragedy In The Tithe Barn’ supplies the happy ending and earns the title of mournful lament of the month. Perhaps any month.

While very much Alison’s creation, All Is Quiet… bears testimony to The Left Outsides’ self-billing as purveyors of atmospheric, hypnotic songs, echoing Nico's icy European folk, pastoral psychedelia and chilly English fields at dawn. You could definitely hang a “folk” label on it were you minded to do so and yes this is chilling without being glacial. Oddly it is psychedelic in that it both excites and confuses the senses. Of course as that label seems to be applied to pretty much everything and everyone these days (Black Sabbath, I ask you) then this has to be a shoe-in for inclusion in Psychedelic Tommy Hall of Fame.

Make no mistake this is a work of great depth and passion and one which reveals more of its irresistibly melancholic charm with each successive listen. From those chilly fields at dawn to the blasted heaths of existence and all points above and below ground this engulfs you like a creeping vine. Thankfully I’m still hopelessly lost in the dense and tangled thicket of sound and likely to be for quite a while. Rustle among yourselves.

(Ian Fraser)

The first run of 50 cassette tapes sold out within a day of its release on 15th July. A second edition pro-dubbed cassette release in Maltese cross-style box will be available from Bloxham Tapes from 10th August.

 

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PRANA CRAFTER – ENTER THE STREAM
(LP/CD on Cardinal Fuzz Records and Sunrise Ocean Bender Records)

The ever wonderful Cardinal Fuzz and Sunrise Ocean Bender labels have once again delivered the goods with this wonderful offering from Prana Crafter, the results of the rather excellent labours of William Sol.

It’s a record that is superbly programmed taking a wandering and rewarding path to visit Americana, acid folk, and imaginative, evocative instrumental Kosmische soundscapes which taken together produce a magical listening experience.

The title track brings a warm summer night glow with its easy groove, mellow vocal and lovely melody and where touches of Simon and Garfunkel, Nick Drake and indeed Mazzy Star enrich a beautiful hazy song. The instrumental ‘Moon Through Fern Lattice’ as well as having a lovely evocative title, changes the atmosphere of the record with soaring Kosmische guitar rising above a swirling mixture of melody and dissonance in perfect harmony – a mysterious, brooding and transporting piece of music. ‘Mycorhizzal Brainstorm’ follows and sets down a lovely, simple guitar melody from which lonesome and outer space bound soloing and growling chords take the music into a psychedelic wonderland with a touch of Pink Floyd at their most searching and Ash Ra Tempel enriching the recipe. ‘The Spell’ again flirts with the starker side of Americana and electric Neil Young in a waltz like song with power, delicacy and a great melody. ‘Old North Wind’ also has a lovely feel of Neil Young in the title, guitar playing and general groove of the song. ‘Kozmic Eko’ is another masterclass in atmospheric instrumental music where drones, buzzes and high flying guitar create a widescreen hypnotic and dramatic mood piece in a mere three and a half minutes. ‘Pillow Moss Absorption’ is simply beautiful with a repeating guitar figure over which shimmering textures and wonderfully woven layers of sounds produce a delicate and dreamy soundworld that is cinematic, immersive and just plain stunning. There are strong hints of Tangerine Dream but imbued with an acid folk quality that really elevates this track to a whole new level. Concluding this memorable record is ‘At The Dawn’, a fine laidback number which again has that rootsy Americana feel but with the distinct personality of this record shining through.

I’ve played this record several times now and each spin has made me fall in love with it a little bit more each time. ‘Enter The Stream’ is the result of a true craftsman at work. It wears its influences very well indeed and uses them to create something stunning, memorable and addictive. One of the releases of the year so far and I urge you to indulge.
(Francis Comyn)