= July 2019 =  
 
Sugarfoot
Bedouine
 Rose City Band
 Dead Sea Apes
Electric Moon / Terminal Cheesecake
 Fruits de Mer Various
 Papernut Cambridge
 the Soft Cavalry
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




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SUGARFOOT - IN THE CLEARING

(LP on Crispin Glover Records)

In the pages of the Ptolemaic Terrascope between the years of 1997 and 2003 or so, Øyvind Holm and his band the Dipsomaniacs could do no wrong. They appeared at our festivals and their final and arguably finest album, ‘Praying Winter’, was released on our feature editor’s record label, Camera Obscura. The extraordinarily gifted singer/songwriter Øyvind subsequently hooked up with guitarist and backing vocalist Hogne Galåen to form Deleted Waveform Gatherings, a band that picked up the groovy psychedelic power-pop popsicle from where Cotton Mather and the Posies dropped it and released four rather fine albums (‘Ghost, She Said’ being a personal favourite) during the years 2006 to 2011.

What happened next is something I have yet to get to the bottom of, but in 2012 Hogne Galåen and Øyvind Holm assembled an entirely new band around themselves, Sugarfoot. Intriguingly, the new band also featured bassist Bent Sæther from Motorpsycho, also veterans of a Terrastock festival or two. It’s a small old world, although I still wouldn’t want to have to paint it.

I honestly haven’t a clue how Sugarfoot flew under our radar for so long, but seven long years later having just immersed myself in their fifth(!) album ‘In the Clearing’ (Crispin Glover Records), you can rest assured I’ve been doing my best to make up for lost ground over the past week or two.

The band are simply drenched in the paisley underground, with a serving of country-rawk on the side. ‘Leave the Lights’, the B-side of their gloriously madly packaged ‘Snakes and Ladders’ 45, sports a 70s sounding pedal-steel throughout, and the song is quite simply a masterpiece.

‘In the Clearing’ itself sounds on first listening to be a dramatic progression on what’s gone before. This album is to the rest of their discography was what Deleted Waveform Gatherings to the Dipsomaniacs; you didn’t even know you needed a change, and yet when it happens you wonder why it took so long. ‘Clearing’ is more self-assured, features an exceptionally strong suite of songs and is more lushly produced; but it’s identifiably a step in the right direction for Sugarfoot for all that.

Talking of progressive, opening song ‘Changing Time’ could almost be an outtake from the first Yes album (when they were still interesting), with cleverly crafted melody changes, keyboards and organs bleeding in and out of the mix and the vocals pitched up towards the top of the range. ‘Cotton Candy Clouds’ is a nod back to prime-time Sugarfoot, with that pedal-steel guitar piercing the gloaming like a lighthouse; ‘Original Sin’ over on the B side draws even more water from the well of what’s gone before, and is possibly my favourite track on the entire album. ‘In The Clearing’ meanwhile is a steam-driven rollercoaster ride through space and time, at one point passing through the late 1970s when keyboards briefly got funky (file under the Neutrons)

The light-hearted ‘Ladybug Fly’ is another strong personal favourite, a song which has every Øyvind Holm hallmark known to mankind stamped right through it like a stick of seaside rock. Over on the flipside, ‘Pretty Miss Darkness’ is in a similar vein to this little gem. The real stand-out of the B side though, and no doubt the one which will garner the most attention, is the opening ‘The House on the Hill’ which lyrically comes across as prime space-time Paul Kantner and Grace Slick (back when they were worrying about the perceived lack of a future here in Earth for their new-borns), and musically sounds like a Motorpsycho outtake, with engines revving to a crescendo. Which is no bad thing in itself.

Included in the vinyl package is a 7" with two extra tracks, ‘Another Tinfoil Morning’ (themed around the laughable world of the conspiracy theorist) and  the glorious ‘Valentine’, which wears the band’s XTC badges on the lapels of its melodies like skinheads wear Doc Martens; it’s undoubtedly no coincidence that artist Andrew Swainson, who is/was responsible for some of XTC’s most fondly remembered record covers (including the brilliant ‘Homegrown’) was engaged by Crispin Glover Records to design the art for this collection.

And if that’s not recommendation enough, I don’t know what is.

(Phil McMullen)

 

 

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BEDOUINE – BIRD SONGS OF A KILLJOY

(LP/CD/DL on Spacebomb Records)

 

Bird Songs of a Killjoy is the second album from LA-based Azniv Korkejian, better known (and pronounced) as Bedouine.  She took a long path to get to this point:  Born in Aleppo, Syria, to Armenian parents, she spent much of her adolescence in Saudi Arabia.  From there, her family moved to the US, with stops in Boston, Kentucky and Texas before settling in California.  The name Bedouine is quite apt for such a nomad. Korkejian studied sound design and plied her artisan trade in the film industry before embarking on her music career.  Which is ironic because she works with producer Gus Seyffert on analogue tape and her music is more organic than electronic.

 

Bird Songs of a Killjoy is a lush work of baroque folk where once Bedouine’s pulled you into her world you don’t want to leave.  The music recalls at once the lovely laid-back melodicism of Laurel Canyon, the Fading Yellow series and the quaint, melancholy sounds of Nick Drake, with arranger Trey Pollard’s work quite comparable to Robert Kirby’s timeless string arrangements for Drake’s albums.  Bedouine has a gentle, deadpan vocal delivery reminiscent of Astrud Gilberto, but a little warmer – in fact, she studied Gilberto in developing her style.

 

After a soft count-in from Bedouine, opener “Under the Night” introduces some of the album’s themes of wanderlust, nature, and being enclosed, either voluntarily or involuntarily, in a place or a situation and sometimes wanting to escape.  A pretty acoustic guitar intro begins “Sunshine Sometimes.”  The song espouses the charm of spending a quiet night in with one you love.  The song has a false ending; the lovely instrumental coda sounds like something by composer Erik Satie, and segues without break into the Michel Legrand-like love song “When You’re Gone.”

 

“One More Time” continues the themes of birds, enclosures and feeling entrapped, with lyrics like “I’m on an island with no one else around,” and “Am I to you, some sort of chain/Are you a bird?  Am I your cage?”  “Dizzy” is a pleasant surprise, a jazzy piece with a lot going on.  The string arrangement expands to a dreamlike, exotic instrumental section full of atmospheric effects and an almost Mahavishnu-like jazz fusion feel.  And yes, the whole thing’s very dizzy.  It’s one of my favorites on the album.

 

“Bird” is one of the record’s most gorgeous melodies - which is really saying something - and the string arrangement almost brings one to tears, it’s that beautiful.  The album’s themes continue, with lyrics like “And bird, if I held you too tight, if you were warm through the night, I will let go.”  “Bird Gone Wild” is autobiographical and personal, recounting her feelings upon first crossing the Atlantic, and references the tragic war in her native Syria.  And of course, it has trapped bird imagery, of “beating ‘round a cage like a bird gone wild.”

 

“Echo Park” is a loving ode to the part of LA where Bedouine lives (as do many other artists).  The far-too-brief instrumental “Reprise” is that of the earlier track “When You’re Gone,” and is Trey Pollard’s orchestral arrangement in all its restrained, warm sunset glory.  “Reprise” segues into closer “Tall Man,” a simple tale of a brief encounter.

 

“Bird Songs of a Killjoy” is an album that will be cherished for many years.  Bedouine’s simple, beautiful melodies, the lush but not overdone arrangements, and the recurring bird themes all combine to a warm listening experience and a sense of pleasure that lingers long after the last note.  Producer Gus Seyffert and arranger Trey Pollard deserve applause for helping craft such a wonderful album as well.

 

 (Mark Feingold)

 
 

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ROSE CITY BAND – ROSE CITY BAND

(LP from Jean Sandwich Records)

This is a new one on me, and very pleased I was too to make its acquaintance as it belongs completely at home nestled down into one of my all-time favourite niches, “the hazy sonic landscape of private press country and psych records alongside artists like Relatively Clean Rivers, Kenny Knight, and countless other explorers of the pastoral underground” as someone or another once wrote. Mix into that a rhythmic core of groovy riffs cloaked in mind-bending swaths of colourful synths not unlike a laid-back Nudity (who originated not that far north of Oregon’s Rose City Band in the overall scheme of things, up in Olympia, Washington State) or in places sounding even like the much revered, hereabouts anyway, Wooden Shjips – which on reflection is hardly surprising given that the Shjips’ own Ripley Johnson produced and recorded this self-titled debut album. In Saint Ripley’s own words,  "The band was aiming to capture a timeless, natural sound, not quite of the present, past, or future, but phasing in between the consciousness of now and the stoned dream-state of the eternal. Sort of a back porch jam just as the shrooms are starting to kick in. Handmade and human, but also cosmic and transcendental.”

Amen to all that. You need to hear the second side of this album at the very least as it’s consistently brilliant, building to a gentle sonic crescendo of sorts with some utterly gorgeous guitar curlicues on “Fear Song’ before the band get all Scandinavian on us with the ringing, chiming and echoing ‘Fog of Love’. A keeper, for sure. (Phil McMullen)

 

 

 

DEAD SEA APES – THE FREE TERRITORY

(LP/CD on Cardinal Fuzz Records)

Once again Dead Sea Apes have teamed up with the consistently impressive Cardinal Fuzz Records bringing to our grateful ears a double album of delights very different to the last record ‘Warheads’ recorded with singer Adam Stone. The New Wave edginess of ‘Warheads’ has been replaced on ‘The Free Territory’ by a return to long instrumental pieces and over its four sides, this record travels the spaceways, navigating a range of musical moods and atmospheres very satisfyingly indeed.

‘The Dispossessed’ opens the record and is a big and brooding 11 minutes or so of slow lingering chords drenching the track in a dense, doom laden tension. An almost funereal drum beat provides the heartbeat over which occasional waves of feedback and subtly shifting dynamics keep the grainy black and white drama high without feeling the need to burst into extended soloing or raising the tempo at the finale. This is an exercise in skilful use of dynamics where everyone knows that the brake pedal is just as important as the guitar pedal. ‘Falling Moon’ is again close to 11 minutes long but in contrast has a spacey ambience where swirling drones and synths shimmer, glow and fade in a meditative spectral style. It’s a gorgeous piece of ambient sound that finds its space and stays there quite happily radiating pleasure to the listening ears. ‘The Recognition’ is the shortest track on the record at a mere eight and a half minutes and carries on the theme of spacey ambience and minimal drones but with the gradual introduction of  restrained percussion and sparsely strummed chords it takes on a strong minimalist ‘post rock’ feel which is very cinematic in feel. ‘Diaspora’ once again takes us over the 10 minute mark and introduces a slow building raga like guitar melody with a more prominent psych feel embellished further by the colours provided by drums and percussion. Slowly but surely the repetitive guitar figures start to growl and squeal and the drums raise the temperature, breaking out into, as it were, freer, heavy psych territory whilst not losing the core raga feel. 

‘The Free Territory’ itself is a full side of this record stretching to twenty minutes. For the first half of the track a gently simmering, brooding atmosphere is once more created through drones, delicate repeating and echoing guitar notes and subtle percussive colours which slowly develops momentum with the introduction of new layers of sound and texture such as organ and more prominent washes of cymbals. It once again has a very strong minimalist ‘post rock’ feel creating an enveloping and somewhat intoxicating sound that is both captivating and hypnotic. The second half of the track creates a wall of noise where all of the elements of the first half are whipped up into a thrilling storm of distorted, cacophonous and dramatic melody before slowly calming the elements once again to a hushed fade out. It’s a stunning piece of music that delivers beauty and a steps towards the edge of abandon in equal measure.

After such a show stopping twenty minutes ‘Sub Rosa’ wisely calms things down with a sparse, chamber music feel to its minimal repeating melody, subtle percussion and general sound palette. It’s a gentle sound that is a little bit mysterious and full of internal sounds and themes that draw the listener into a relaxed but attentive listening space, in many ways like Robert Fripp soundscapes or some of Eno’s quasi classical pieces. To conclude ‘Stateless’ is a lengthy, but again captivating drone based piece that shimmers, flickers, pulses and on occasion growls its way to the end of the record. It is perhaps more glacial and cold in feel to previous tracks but nonetheless a fitting finale.

Dead Sea Apes take us on a very different and in many ways unexpected journey through sound on this wonderful record. They plot a course that takes in flavours of heavy psych, Kosmische,  the improvised freeform excursions of The Velvet Underground, the slightly unsettling calm and hushed beauty of late period Talk Talk and minimal yet cinematic post rock landscapes with skill, imagination and style. This record may have been recorded in Ancoats, Stalybridge, and Stockport but the sounds created transport the listener to places a world away. This is mood music of the very best kind and I highly recommend that you lend it your ears.

(Francis Comyn)

 
   

ELECTRIC MOON/TERMINAL CHEESECAKE – IN SEARCH OF HIGHS VOLUME 3

(LP on Riot Season Records)

This record, the third volume of Riot Season’s ongoing ‘In Search Of Highs’ series, brings together the many talents of Electric Moon and Terminal Cheesecake and as with previous pairings the combination, albeit perhaps risky on paper, works very well indeed.

Germany’s Electric Moon have been producing quality space rock since 2009 and their contribution to this record is ‘Beacon Light Hereafter’, an epic, almost 22 minute track that is a wonderful addition to their already impressive body of work. It begins with a simple Floyd like melody but very soon achieves escape velocity and becomes a space rock beast that incorporates many changes in mood and tempo during its trip. A choppy riff establishes which is soon enveloped in a swirling, often scalding guitar and drums space rocker. It gradually ups the noise and energy to serious head nodding and hair shaking proportions before a calmer, once again Floyd-ish middle section with lovely spacey guitar soloing and a hazier, dreamier feel takes over briefly. This peaceful moment doesn’t last too long however and very soon the guitars and drums return the music once more to its imperious space rock riff laden roar which is equal amounts melody and maelstrom. It’s a thrilling ride and if you are looking for highs, step right in here and you’ve got them by the truckload.

Terminal Cheesecake from London have been around for many years and have seen several line ups carry the torch forward with some fine releases. They contribute two shorter tracks to this release albeit neither of them are ‘short’ pieces. The tracks have a rougher, demo like quality to the sound but are certainly none the worse for that. ‘Fake Loop’ begins with echoing spoken word over fuzzy, distorted guitar, sound treatments and feedback which is spacey in its own way but it has a grittier, garage edge that is almost ‘space punk’. It builds up a slightly chaotic but always gripping jam like atmosphere which sounds in part loose and improvised but nonetheless creates an intense swirl of sounds around the dramatic and increasingly distant vocal in the mix. ‘Song For John Part 2’ starts and indeed continues through to the end with a heavily distorted and monumental wall of sheet metal riffing where raw sounding drums and cymbals are hammered hard in a relentless fight to be heard in a battle of sounds. Brief waves of guitar soloing and the occasional burst of distant voice somehow manage to break through what seems like an impenetrable haze of noise. It’s a very different beast to the previous piece and has more structure through its onslaught of driving rhythm and repetition which at times reminds me of the type of dynamic intensity that Swans can whip up from these basic but wholesome ingredients. The raw, demo like nature of the sound only serves to intensify the drama created and indeed may just pin the unsuspecting listener to the wall, quite happily I might add.  

This record is certainly one of contrasts but it holds together very well and celebrates the differences between the bands and the recordings in fine style. I would in fact say it’s definitely a case of opposites attract than ‘Chalk and Cheesecake’ so to speak (ahem!). Highly recommended.

(Francis Comyn)

 

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FRUITS DE MER – VARIOUS

www.fruitsdemerrecords.com

The latest batch of recordings from Fruits de Mer will be released at the end of this month and what a cracking bunch they are, we’ll start with an excellent 7” from Jack Ellister. The two songs couldn’t be more different. Side A is a beautiful, melodic piano and vocal cover version of Roy Harper’s best known song ‘When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease’ this is backed with the riff heavy Black Sabbath song ‘Supernaut’, which stays fairly close to the original.

Next is the concluding part of Sendelica’s sprawling Cromlech Cronicles set of recordings. This time it’s ‘Cromlech Cronicles IV’. Three labyrinthine songs make up this concluding three sided double album (the fourth side being UV printed). ‘Lightstar’, the first song begins slowly; a soft questing sax is joined by bass, drums and keys before Pete Bingham arrives on guitar. He does have a very self contained style of playing, no hurry; just allowing the songs to grow and build. This song has a central motif which the players return to a few times during its twenty minute duration.

‘Saturnalia’ starts slowly, before a motorik drum pattern emerges, the guitar chimes throughout and all the players are given time to probe the songs melody, and at twenty three minutes in length it manages not to outstay its welcome, it fades out with some cool synth, billowing about before ushering in the final track. ‘Nine Miles High- Lightstar Reprise’, a demented Dalek appears, heavy crunching riffage and sultry sax lay out the songs tune, it’s another twenty three minute song, which builds and decays nicely before galloping over the finish line.

London Underground ‘Space Edition’.  A new discovery for Fruits de Mer, London Underground’s debut for the label is due to be released on double LP soon. Label owner Keith discovered the band upon hearing their cover version of Queen St Gang by the band Arzachel. Which he absolutely adored, and seeing what else the band had recorded stumbled across their latest album ‘Four’ which he immediately loved, in its entirety, although there was a problem! It had already recently been self released by the band. Keith being determined to bring them to the attention of his club members set about reissuing that album, along with tracks from their three previous albums, (none of which had previously made their way on to vinyl).

The band have evolved since their inception to become an instrumental only outfit; a couple of the songs on the bonus LP do have vocals. If you like an organ or three, you will be in hog heaven, as the band certainly features keyboards as lead instrument throughout all the songs. I can see why Keith loved ‘Four’ so much as it is certainly a perfect fit for the label. The rhythm section is very tight, twisting and turning as one. Think of the Hammond heavy bands and artists of the late sixties/ early seventies, bands like Atomic Rooster, Georgie Fame, ELP and Egg. The bonus disc is just as good as the main event and features tunes by Arthur Brown, Brian Auger and Jethro Tull. It is an excellent album and will no doubt sell out quickly, being as it is, limited to only 350 purple vinyl copies.

Next up is a special limited 12” coloured vinyl by a collaboration of three bands, Sendelica, Secret Knowledge and the Orb. ‘Windmill’ is presented in four different versions.  Consterdine’s Floyd Mix, Chocolate Orb’s Dubbed Mix, Consterdine’s Original Mix and Chocolate Orb’s Chilled Mix. The recording came about following the passing of Kris Need’s wife Helen Donlon. Pete got together a group of players to record one of Helen’s favourite Secret Knowledge songs, which she named Windmill. (Secret Knowledge consisted of Kris Needs and singer Wonder Schneider). Utilizing recordings of Helen’s speech given at the world’s foremost psychedelic drugs convention in Ibiza, he roped in Alex Paterson along with his Orb colleague Paul Conboy, who duly conjured up two blissful ‘Chocolate Orb pieces. It’s a rare combination of poignant vocals and sympathetic playing, producing a wonderful and highly desirable 12” single.

The sorely missed Soft Hearted Scientists have recently reconvened for a 7” single; they’ve also recorded a few more songs for future release. ‘Please Read Me’ is their distinctive take on the old Bee Gees song from 1967. It’s very sixties but somehow it manages to end up sounding like The Soft Hearted Scientists. If you had told me that this was by the Bee Gees I doubt that I would have believed you!  The b side is an excellent new song entitled ‘Moths Mistook Us For The Moon’, a gentle pastoral tune of quiet beauty, think Syd Barrett accompanied by Vernon Elliott, terrific.  

(Andrew Young)

 
 

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PAPERNUT CAMBRIDGE – NUTLETS 11 (1978 -2001)

Gard Du Nord Double LP/CD www.garddunordrecords.co.uk

London’s finest Papernut Cambridge return with their second set of cover versions, this time dipping into the punk songs of Adam Ant, John Lydon and Siouxsie and the Banshees, along with later songs by Suede and Daft Punk. Most of the songs are from the late seventies and early eighties, and it is good to hear modern takes on these songs, songs which arguably sound dated due to the production of the era.  Again, much like the first volume, the songs all end up sounding like Papernut Cambridge songs.  Kicking off with the Psychedelic Furs song ‘We Love You’ from 1978 and ending in the new millennium with Daft Punk’s Digital Love.

The album has also introduced me to some songs that I am unfamiliar with like ‘Did You See Her’ by Pink Military for example, enlivened by Jack Hayter’s Stylophone and Monotron.  Along the way we are introduced to a fine version of Public Image’s ‘Public Image’. Echo and the Bunnymen’s ‘Stars Are Stars’, which rings out clear and true. Also we have a Throbbing Gristle song ‘United’ which I’d not heard before; although I’m quite sure that their version did not have Viola and Pedal Steel on it!  A great version of The Only Ones ‘Deadly Nightshade’ ends side two.

Joseph K’s ‘Chance Meeting’ is quickly followed by Orange Juice’s ‘In A Nutshell’ (of course) and takes us right back into the classic Postcard sound. Primal Scream’s Velocity Girl moves us on a few years and is shown due deference. ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ originally by New Order sees Darren Hayman playing synth and gallops along nicely.  They do a great version of Big Audio Dynamite’s ‘Medicine Show’ with synth bass by Picturebox’s Robert Halcrow, plus a lively version of Siouxsie Sue’s ‘The Killing Jar’ which is an unexpected delight. ‘Metal Mickey’ by Suede is delivered faithfully and shows just what a fine song it is. The album ends with the classic Daft Punk song ‘Digital Love’. This is yet another great addition to their growing catalogue of must have albums.

(Andrew Young)

 
 

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THE SOFT CAVALRY – THE SOFT CAVALRY

(LP/CD/DL on Bella Union Records)

 

This debut is by the husband-and-wife team of Steve Clarke and Rachel Goswell, she of Slowdive fame.  While many will doubtless be drawn by Goswell, The Soft Cavalry is primarily Clarke’s work, writing, playing and singing.  Formerly a jobbing musician and tour manager, he credits Goswell (they met in 2014 and married in 2018) with giving him the inspiration and motivation to create and finish the album as a late bloomer.  Rachel contributes background vocals on most of the tracks, and sings lead on “Passerby,” but her guidance and positive influence behind the scenes should not be underestimated.

 

The Soft Cavalry isn’t Slowdive’s shoegaze, but the 12 songs have a dreamlike quality full of atmospherics.  I hesitate to use the term dream pop – it’s deeper than that, but in the same neck of the woods.  Clarke’s writing is highly melodic and crisp, with many of the lyrics of the self-encouragement variety.  His voice reminds me slightly of Jonathan Wilson.

 

It’s not a perfect album.  At 56 minutes, it could use some trimming; the songs “Bulletproof,” with its poppy electronic beats, and “Careless Sun,” with its vocoder or Autotune effects, will have you verifying your Skip button is well-oiled and fully functioning.

 

However, despite the early misfires, the album actually gets better and better as it moves along, with most of the second half nearly flawless.  “Only in Dreams” features, well, dreamy, flute and harmonies, shimmering with hazy atmosphere.  Starting with “Spiders,” the rest of the album flows with a “can you top this” song lineup.  “Spiders” is an eerie track which contains one long, sensational crescendo of a finale.  “The Light That Shines on Everyone,” one of those messages of encouragement, has a pretty melody with lovely string and keyboard synths.  “Home,” another dreamy, ethereal track, “Mountains,” another lovely melody with a self-help theme, and big finish “The Ever Turning Wheel” all transition to huge, synth-driven, extended widescreen cinematic climaxes.

 

You know the saying that you have your whole life to make your first album?  Well, here’s that first album from The Soft Cavalry, and the years that Steve Clarke put into it do show, along with Rachel Goswell’s important contributions.  A solid beginning.

 

 (Mark Feingold)