= July 2020 =  
 Øyvind Holm
 Gilroy Mere
 The Clientele
 Vinyl Williams
 Autotelia
 Diogo Strausz
 Noveller
 Theodor Bastard
 Band of Rain
 Jasmine Dreame Wagner
 Cubs
 Pefkin
 Anthroprophh
 Gnod and Joao Pais
 Kooba Tercu
 J. Zunz
 Och
 Waterless Hills
 Adra
 Wolfgang Muthspiel
 
 
   

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ØYVIND HOLM – AFTER THE BEES

(LP on Crispin Glover Records)

It’s no secret that Norwegian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Øyvind Holm has been a bit of a hero hereabouts ever since he debuted with his band Dipsomaniacs back in 1997.  Steeped in the psychedelic pop underground, his songs are invariably melodic and often annoyingly catchy - you find yourself humming them for weeks afterwards at the most inopportune of moments!  Nowadays leading one of the finest cosmic Americana acts on the planet, Sugarfoot, ‘After the Bees’ is Øyvind’s second solo album, and just like the first (2003’s ‘The Vanishing Act’) it’s a successful attempt on his part to escape the confines of a band and channel his inner Lee, Crosby, Lennon & McCartney. Although hopefully unlike the first it won’t turn into a full-time project of its own (the live band that Øyvind put together to play some shows to support his solo debut in 2003, which included Hogne Galåen from Trondheim’s Kulta Beats, eventually became Deleted Waveform Gatherings; and Sugarfoot themselves were subsequently formed by Øyvind and Hogne as a side-project between DWG albums - so there’s a history of Øyvind’s solo albums marking a major turning point…)

The songs on offer here are though all recognisably by the same masterful hand, and several are positively outstanding - not least the brilliant title track itself. ‘Gut Feeling’ could easily be an outtake from the high-water mark of the Dipsomaniacs, ‘Praying Winter’; the closing ‘A.M.’ simply oozes 70s psychedelia, and the poppy ‘Masterplan’ features some gloriously high-flying guest vocals from Ida Jenshus - who can also be heard on ‘Others Never Stood a Chance which is the A-side of a 45 that’s included with the vinyl (though for my money Øyvind’s ‘Her Words’ on the B-side is the pick of the pair). Plus since the album is on Crispin Glover Records, for whom nothing is too much trouble, there’s a CD of the album enclosed as well. A CD which rather beguilingly does NOT include the two extra songs on the 7” that comes with the record. I spoke to Øyvind recently about the quality of the releases that Torgeir at Crispin Glover Records has consistently produced, and he agreed: “It’s wonderful to be on a label that values the artwork side of it all this much. More often than not it turns out quite expensive, but over the years it has become a trademark for his label. Being a record collector myself, I know that a good artwork adds to the album experience. A thumbnail on Spotify doesn’t quite have the same effect…”

Indeed, it doesn’t. Do yourself a favour and track down a copy of this while you can - Crispin Glover Records is fast becoming one of those labels that people pre-order everything on release just because their reputation is rightly so revered. And this is definitely one of the high points…

(Phil McMullen)

 
 

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GILROY MERE – ADLESTROP

www.Claypipemusic.co.uk

Following on from his widely acclaimed album about Green Line buses, Oliver Cherer (Gilroy Mere) tackles another form of travel, this time it is defunct railway lines, all the stations victims of Dr. Beeching’s drastic cuts in the sixties. This was hinted at with by a flexi disc released earlier in the year, ‘Over The tracks’.

 It begins with a nature based poem by Edward Thomas ( ‘Adlestrop’) accompanied by birdsong. The music then kicks in with ‘The Age Of The Train’, which bubbles merrily along, gaining momentum, the basic tune is lightly motorik and does indeed somehow sound like the very definition of a train’s journey, like being in at the front of as it travels along, instruments drop in at various points combining to create a very pleasing piece. The title track ‘Adlestrop’, follows this, a dreamy melodic tune with hints of trumpet, a ghostly memory from when steam trains arrived there. Oliver actually recorded an album entitled ‘Ghost Stations’ in his Dollboy guise a few years back, for the small boutique label Second Language, this album was about the abandoned tube stations which are part of the London Underground system. ‘Bethesda In the Rain’, well let’s face it, it always seems to be raining in Wales, this one is more piano based, with light percussion and analogue keyboards.

‘End Of The Line (Alderburgh)’, follows, replete with sparrows chirping and waves crashing, it’s a short piece of music, full with strange unnameable instruments. ‘Just A River’, is more traditionally song based, sung by Oliver, with light percussion, acoustic guitars, and more analogue keyboards, a lilting tune, heavy with nostalgia, “an empty space with wild flowers, butterflies and bees”. More birdsong twittering in the background, maybe a few licks of banjo, but it also possesses an unnerving quality, of being alone in the wilderness, but shot through with something just out of reach. My own local abandoned railway line is up next ‘The Cranleigh Line’, a ghostly little song with accordion flourishes. The line was closed, like the rest, because at the time not enough people used it, although now it would be full, just like the lines still in operation.

‘Torver & Coppermines’, generates an uneasy, queasy feeling, lightly choral, accompanied by more very well recorded birdsong, a real feature of the album. ‘Christ’s Hospital’, has a bleak deep midwinter vibe to it and twinkles away like some wayward musical box and has some mournful trumpet, lending it a jazzy noirish quality. ’Black Dog Halt’, is simply beautiful, I have no idea how many instruments Oliver owns, but I am hard placed to name any of these, but they do combine to create a pleasing piece of music. ‘Ravenscar’, follows it, and the heaven’s open, it is an impossibly beautiful piece of music, with our old friend the Jenny wren singing its heart out throughout most of its duration. During my lockdown walks, the birdsong that I heard the most was from this plucky little fella, our most common bird. The album ends with ‘Star Crossing’, a watery tune of no small beauty. Another superb album from Clay Pipe. 600 hand numbered red vinyl copies, comes with cut out model by Gary Willis. (there will also be a short run of 150 cassettes, sans cut-out).

(Andrew Young)

 

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THE CLIENTELE – CLOSER

(single on Merge Records)

 

It may be only a single, and a cover at that, but with the state of the world today, I’ll take any new release by The Clientele as a cause for joy and celebration.

 

“Closer” was written by Mick Head and originally appeared on Shack’s 2006 album ‘The Corner of Miles and Gil.’  But the boys transform the beautiful song into truly a Clientele work.  Alasdair’s voice is in fine fettle.  Mark and James are steady as ever behind him.  The arrangement - classy, autumnal and melancholy - has their signature all over it.  Although it has their classic canter, the song takes a brief, unexpected rock diversion, which is straight out of the original.

 

All proceeds for the song will go to Black Lives Matter via Bandcamp.

 

 (Mark Feingold)

 
 


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VINYL WILLIAMS - AZURE

(LP/CD/Cassette/Digital on Requiem Pour Un Twister Records)

 

You need only listen to a little bit of Vinyl Williams’ LP Azure to reckon not necessarily who created it, but rather from where it came.  Responses of Southern California and the clouds would be equally suitable.  Vinyl Williams is the outfit led by musician and visual artist Lionel Williams.  He also happens to be the grandson of film composer John Williams (Star Wars, E.T., etc.).  Azure is like a warm breeze; light, full of air, and you will happily float away with its currents.

 

Azure is a multi-colored melodic psychedelic pop candy store with eleven tracks/confections bursting with flavors.  Williams’ whispery vocals come drenched with reverb.  The songs are mega-dreamlike, layered and billowy, as Williams hereby conducts a master class in atmospheric sound construction, laden with guitars, synths and effects.  That doesn’t mean the songs are formless and oozing.  Rather, they’re built on catchy melodies, with often snappy rhythms, amid diaphanous vocals and swirling, floating wads of pastel-shaded cotton.  Songs frequently change-up tempos mid-track, sometimes even approaching prog-like complexity, like a hot air balloon picking up a new draft to carry it away in a vague direction.  With titles like “Magicland,” “Heaven,” and “Sunny Moon,” you get the picture where the soul of Azure lies.  Instrumental closer “Earth Observatory” has multiple curves in store, including a false ending and a spacy finale.

 

Vinyl Williams reminds me closest of their fellow Angeleno Morgan Delt (for whom Williams has created music videos).  But listeners will pick up bits and bobs of Tame Impala, Stereolab, The Free Design, and Amorphous Androgynous.  There is also a distinct undercurrent of Tropicalia in the song construction, chord changes and guitar playing.

 

Lionel Williams also created the stunning, vibrant cover art work, in which he combined over 25 paintings by different artists into the album collage.

 

Azure is feather-light, plush sunshiny psych, though not without depth and impressive artistry.  Bring a pair of shades.

 

 (Mark Feingold)

 


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AUTOTELIA – 1
(LP/CD/DL from Rocket Recordings)

At some point listening to this, I managed to relocate my third eye. I can’t remember where I’d mislaid it or when I last saw it, I only know that I was beginning to miss it more and more especially as we take the first tentative steps out of the great quarantine of 2020.

Still, I don’t suppose any of that matters to Demian Castellanos and Tom Relleen who comprise Autotelia (which the helpful one sheet explains is something to do with the pursuit of purpose or curiosity – no, me neither) or for that matter those “terrible twins” Chris and Johnny Rocket for whom this welcome release is number 193. Castellanos and Relleen also collaborate as part of The Oscillation, while Tom forms one half of the artily experimental Tomaga, which is what this latest venture most closely resembles in its form and conceptual approach. It’s a project that has been nudging along for a while now - there’s a live clip from 2018 on You Tube for instance - and mines the more interesting, darker seams of experimental kosmische (don’t you just hate the term Krautrock?).

‘First Flight’ hits you with wave upon WAV of tightly layered intense synth textures, eschewing insane, nay inane, BPMs or indeed anything too strenuously toe-tapping and all the better for it. Elsewhere the more percussive ‘Red Bloom’ and ‘Future Island Of The Gods’ brood and percolate, all the while Castellanos’ guitar buried in a thicket of electronics so as to constitute a second synth. However, ‘Thinking Makes It So’ introduces more discernibly melodic guitar refrains which at first sound stuck on repeat but are soon revealed to be nicely nuanced and subtly varied, adopting an air of menace from half way as the ambience yields to ever more enveloping drone, the chords becoming denser and the wall of noise closes in on you. Best of all, ‘Storm at Tucanae’ is plain mesmeric, the wash of synths and Castellanos’ twanging single notes conjuring up not so much a storm as a gentle, cathartic rinse. All’s swell in the world, then, after all. Avoid if you crave songs, seek out if you enjoy having your synapses sonically stroked (not to mention stoked). No words. Really there are no words.

(Ian Fraser)





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DIOGO STRAUSZ – PAUSA (SINGLE)

(Bandcamp)

 

Diogo Strausz is a Brazilian producer, now based in Paris.  He wrote the instrumental “Pausa” in response to the lockdowns caused by the Coronavirus.  He intended it to be recorded individually by musicians in isolation in their homes and he assembled the finished product in Paris.  We have now become accustomed to musicians both playing live and recording in isolation, and if we’re being honest, recording in disparate locales was going on well before the pandemic.  But this project took on a life of its own and we’re talking a small orchestra’s worth of musicians in France, Brazil and the US, some of them overdubbing several parts.

 

The charming four-minute piece reminds me slightly of George Gershwin.  The rhapsodic work (see what I did there) is performed by piano and orchestra, and, written in Paris after all, is unabashedly romantic and delightful.

 

But the project doesn’t end there.  Filmmaker Jacob Perlmutter created a stunning video for Pausa that utilizes breathtaking drone footage from cinematographers around the world of the mostly empty streets and parks in places like Mumbai, San Francisco, Milan, Athens, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Berlin, Tel Aviv, Sydney, London, and São Paulo, among others.

 

The resulting work reminds me of walking into a TV store and seeing the banks of big screens on the walls, playing some prerecorded travel footage intended to show off their 4K High Definition TVs.  Only you realize quickly the scenes are mostly devoid of people and cars.  The combined effect of the video and the song is both spectacularly beautiful and heartbreaking.

 

Do yourself a favour.  Check out the video (in as large a screen as you can manage), and throw a couple of shekels in Diogo Strausz’s account.  It might be the best spent four minutes of your day.

 

 (Mark Feingold)

 
 

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NOVELLER - ARROW

(LP/CD/Digital on Ba Da Bing! Records)

 

We’ve seen the evolution of guitar music advance so far that sometimes it doesn’t bear the faintest resemblance to the output of a guitar, that is, of our perception of one.  That’s the sonic territory of Sarah Lipstate, aka Noveller, the prolific artist, and her tenth album Arrow.  Listening to the eight dense instrumental tracks unfold – because that’s what they do, they slowly unfold and reveal themselves to you – one can’t help but stop every few moments and reflect, “wait, that’s all done on a guitar?”  And I recommend you do just that, for it just boggles my mind.

 

Lipstate has bounced around from Louisiana to Austin to Brooklyn to her new home in Los Angeles, with Arrow being her first record since relocating there.  Along the way she’s picked up a wealth of admirers and collaborators, most recently Iggy Pop, with whom she’s toured and recorded.  But Arrow sounds more Brian or Roger Eno than Iggy.  This is far more than ambient or wallpaper music.  It’s a wonder of creativity.

 

Noveller brings along an artillery of processors, loops and effects boxes to transform her guitar sound to – well, you name it, she can do it.  Mind you, her songs aren’t merely one long repetitive parlor trick.  The lady’s got serious compositional chops.  The songs on Arrow are cinematic, often brooding, expansive works full of depth and soul.  This is music that sets your imagination churning.  The album is sequenced with only very short pauses between tracks, and flows smoothly as an all-encompassing work.

 

Opener “Rune” draws the curtain on a Phantom of the Opera playing in the middle of a volcano in hell.  “Effektology” is all full of textures and tactile sensations. “Zeaxanthin,” the album’s longest and most remarkable track, alternates between pistons pumping amid some colossal machine, expansive glacial ice, Mellotronesque washes, and ethereal angelic themes in its almost nine minute journey.

 

“Pattern Recognition” opens by reminding us this is a guitar, with, um, a repeating pattern, and one of the few that really sounds like a guitar.  But that is soon overtaken by a dark sense of expanding dread and foreboding, itself replaced by shafts of light pouring through the clouds, sounding again like Mellotron.  (Think about that for a moment, a guitar emulating a Mellotron.)

 

“Canyons,” the track most obviously reflective of Lipstate exploring her new LA home turf, is all spiky and throbbing, at once suggesting both the three-dimensional aspect of nature’s canyons in her front yard, and the urban canyons in her back yard.  “Pre-fabled” is the most majestic song on the album, one of the few offering pleasure and comfort.  It sparkles like sunlight shimmering and bouncing off the ocean, with the swell and dips of the waves, before disappearing into a corkscrew of processed sound.

 

“Thorns” returns to gloom and doom, like descending into a dark, giant prehistoric cave.  You don’t know what’s down there, and you probably don’t want to know.  Closer “Remainder” starts with the most overtly “conventional” sounding guitar sound on the album, almost as a before closing reminder of its origins.  The song is a cinematic tale of mystery and wonder, like the spaceship descending to the unexplored planet.

 

Noveller’s Arrow is full of widescreen imaginative sound explorations for guitar.  It also makes for grand listening in the expanse of nature in the great outdoors.  Definitely worth checking out.

 

 (Mark Feingold)



THEODOR BASTARD - VOLCH'YA YAGODA

Hailing from the Russian Federation, Theodor Bastard have for some years been making culturally infused progressive rock of a very high standard. I reviewed their outstanding albums "Oikumene" and "Vetvi" in earlier Rumbles, and now there is a new album to add to those and to others from this superb band. The lyrics are sung in Russian, but I've found that makes no difference to my enjoyment of this band. So, it's a case of… "Privet!"

This collection of new tracks opens with a gorgeous flute and drone instrumental, setting the listener up for the song-based delights to come. 'Shumi' is progressive rock of the best kind - melodious, superbly sung by Yana Veva and played by Fedor Svolotch and the rest of the band. I was reminded of that fine group Paatos when I heard this. 'Skejgored' is similarly terrific, with an anthemic riff running through it, and much by way of production details. The band uses a wide variety of unusual instruments, and this track is no exception; lots of percussion in the mix. 'Urzala' is strangely compelling, with its weird sampled voices and Russian-styled backing vocals - a terrific track. Yana Veva channels more of her own cultural background in the vocal here. 'Les' opens with rippling ukulele and a soft vocal before sampled and played percussion enters the mix, then more by way of synths, flute and other voices - very atmospheric, and the melody is as strong as all the previous ones. This is a standout track. 'Kamen, Sneg, Metal' also opens with the sound of the ukulele before a melancholic lyric unfurls.

The second half of the album opens with another particularly strong song, 'Secrety.' Perfectly produced and played, it leads into a run of three eerie progressive tracks, all of them evoking epic landscapes and times: 'Requiem' with its bells, 'Pozhato' with its glitchy sampled percussion, and 'Volchok,' all deeply reverberated vocals and moaning Russian winds, gorgeous synth solos decorating the mix, and a sampled duduk. The album closes with 'Obereg,' which via keening vocals and mesmeric drones manages to wrap up the collection perfectly.

Housed in the band's usual glorious packaging - this time based around moody photographs of trees - this is progressive rock of the finest variety, and shows a band unafraid to move on, whilst keeping the standard of composition and musicianship extremely high. The CD version is available in a limited edition of 500. Whether you get the CD or the download, don't miss this one!

(Steve Palmer)



BAND OF RAIN - PETRICHOR

Chris Gill's Band Of Rain have released five terrific albums since 2004, exploring a guitar-based progressive/gothic rock sound. On this excellent new album, Chris has put together a five member line-up, including bassist Jon Camp from the exceptional '70s band Renaissance.Chris has a twisting, winding style of layering guitar parts that makes his music immediately recognisable, here augmented by Camp's twanging bass and the almost operatic vocals of Matthew Corry. All very promising, then.

'Daughter of the Moor' is the opening cut, a song that rolls by in fine progressive style, augmented half way through by various solos. The sound is great, Camp's spiralling bass contrasting nicely with the background riffing. Emotive vocals and changes in mood make this a really good opener. 'The Craft' is similar in tone, with a soaring guitar taking the lead. Heavier guitars come in for the chorus; nice production.'Larkspur' is a much more synth based track, here resting on Robert Webb's bouncing keyboards, with which falsetto/vocal styled singing works well.'Merlin' begins quiet, but soon arpeggiated guitars and a slow, solemn drum beat pick the track up, augmented by some beautiful fretless bass from Jon Camp- great playing on this cut.

The second half of the album begins with 'Tupelo,' a composition by Chris and Jon alone: heavy feel, big thrumming bass, and lots of Chris' trademark wheeling, intertwined guitars. The instrumental arrangement on this track is particularly good. 'Witchfinder' opens with the spooky sounds of the Halfway House Male Voice Choir, before Matthew Corry returns with an emotive vocal. The twelve minute title track closes the album, beginning with rain (petrichor is the smell of a the ground after rainfall - a favourite of your editor!) and delicate synths, which after a while merge into guitars, keyboards and bass, then reverberated vocals, all of which play variations on a six note riff. The main section of the song takes various moods and tones, with a lovely synth solo half way through. Closing bass and vocal parts bring the tone back to the rain of the beginning, then a delicate coda where vocals and backwards guitars intertwine. Great stuff!

Fans of this fine band will love the new album. It's already picked up a lot of great review coverage, and rightly so. This one is for lovers of progressive rock, who will no doubt enjoy it. (Steve Palmer)



 



 

JASMINE DREAME WAGNER - SWITCHBLADE MOON

CUBS - FROZEN WATERFALL

PEFKIN - DEBRIS

Whilst the Terrascopic preference will always be for physical product, especially vinyl (man, do we love our vinyl), it seems to me that we need to recognise and respect the many advantages of digital music both for the listener and the musician. For a start it is perfect for the DIY musician as it is easy and cheap to release your art to the world, the format is very eco-friendly using few resources and the listener can access music released anywhere in the world with a click of a button. On the downside it is easy for releases to get lost in the tsunami of new releases, which is where this review comes in, letting you know about three excellent collections that are completely or predominately digital in nature.

    First up is a lovely four track EP from Jasmine Dreame Wagner, an artist I first heard of in 2006 when I reviewed “Vineland” released under the name Cabinet Of Curiosities, an album I still play. 14 years later the music is more sophisticated and sparkles from the speakers yet the sense of discovery and that thin veil of surrealism remains.

    Opening in moody splendour, the title track is a delightful piano led tune that drifts like smoke, drawing you in with siren-like vocals and melodic sweetness. Around the halfway mark drums add some muscle to the tune the song rising upwards reminding me of Kate Bush meeting The Cocteau Twins, at least in its atmospheric intent. Similar in style, “All The King's Horses” uses Jasmine's poetic skills to paint pictures and tell stories, the words again drawing you in, the music adding to the narrative in a sympathetic way, melodies dancing throughout.

   Adding a soundtrack element to proceedings, “White Noise” is a choral piece with fabulous soaring vocals, a prowling cello and a sense of the epic all ending is a ripple of electronics which leads us nicely into “Powder Keg”, a short instrumental that is wonderfully constructed and ends far far too soon, seemingly before it even got into its stride, leaving this listener craving more, which could be the plan I suppose. With bright, clear production, this EP shows an artist at the top of their creative game, let's hope for a full album soon. This EP is also available as both a regular and a deluxe vinyl package.

   Consisting  of  Cecilia Danell, Aaron Hurley, James Rider, Scott McLaughlin and Keith Wallace, Cubs create a brand of shimmering, psychedelic folk music that is deeply engaging and immersive, the music revealing different elements each time you play the album, with different songs and moments becoming more/less dominant as the album flows from the speakers.

   Opening with a flurry of electronics and a desire to live in the woods, “Bramble Ramble” catches hold like a heady perfume on a summers evening, a sweet as honeysuckle, inviting you into the album perfectly. Once committed, the rumbling squall of “Thunder Calling” quickly becomes a melodic tune that reminds me of The Lilac Time or maybe Gorkys, the softness cloaked in a quiet drone that adds an air of tension.

    With some lovely guitar playing and delightful vocals, “The Heat That Lies” is a personal favourite, one of those musical moments when you have to stop what you are doing (writing a review obviously) to just listen, bliss, the magic continuing as “Moonshine Sunshine” mixes Banjo, Korg MS-20 and birdsong into a dreamy slice of drone that spirals slowly like a leaf dropping into a crystal pool, the ripples remaining even as the song fades.

   Sticking with the drones the title track has some wonderful vocals, chiming bells and a slow motion feel as if digging into the earth itself, that particular spell broken as “The Beaten Path Through The high Grass” makes its presence known with spoken word , a sparkling mandolin and a creeping sense of unease as a fuzzy bass adds menace to the ghostly whole, a spooky melodica completing the picture with a repeated melody right at the end.

   Ending the album in style, “Aunt Myrtle” features the whole band, blending everything that has gone before creating the perfect Cubs song, great playing, narrative, an air of discovery and melodies so sweet they coat your very soul.

   Actually lasting just over 30 minutes, this album seems timeless so easy is it to get lost in its charms an experience to be repeated often.

    Definitely working at the outer edge of the Terrascope nation, Pefkin (Gayle Brogan) create music that is droning, experimental, emotional and very imaginative, a personal journey in sound that is much better when listened to intently, without distraction, the music becoming alive in real time. Some of you may remember her spellbinding set at Woolf Music last year. Comprising tracks previously found on other compilations 2000 – 2018, and one unreleased one, this collection is well worth hearing the title track sounding like My Cat Is An Alien jamming with  a space whispering Gilli Smythe, whilst “Very Badpipes” is an echo infested walk into an alien landscape the sky a strange shade of purple whilst your three headed companion keeps all of his eyes peeled for those famed mushrooms. At 14 minutes, “Sunblinded Vision by a Silver Sea” has plenty of time to build the atmospheric tension, beginning as a twinkling splash of light it slowly transforms into a writhing drone, so slowly that the change is hard to hear, it just is.

   With a more traditional song based approach, “North Sea Lights, Winter Nights” is a welcome dash of melody albeit with a drone creeping underneath, whilst both “Peek Out Poke” and “Extinct Birds” shatter the notion of melody the former a rattle and shake of noise and repetition whilst the latter is a field recording grooving with a pict.

    As this collection moves on the pieces become more stretched the drones more distant as if being played on a faraway star until finally, “Frozen Warnings” takes you deep into space, leaving you floating free in an infinite universe. As a Terrascope reader I am sure you are well aware of Pefkin and this is a fine collection that should be added to your Pefkin collection.

   For roughly the same price as a round of drinks, these three albums are all worth investigating, just head on to Bandcamp and type in Jasmine Dreame Wagner, Rusted Rail and/or pefkin for instant sonic enlightenment. (Simon Lewis)









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ANTHROPROPHH – TOILET CIRCUIT EP
GNOD & João Pais Filipe – FACA DE FOGO

KOOBA TERCU – PROTO TEKNO

J. ZUNZ – HIBISCUS

OCH – II

(all Rocket Recordings)

It’s time for this month’s quick fire round, so fingers on buzzers and Fraser’s on stun.

Time will tell if Anthroprophh will be spared the bother of having to return to play the Toilet Circuit depending on how things “pan” out post pestilence/pre-second wave. In the meantime this short sharp jolt to the senses will do nicely. After twenty or so seconds of tentative pogoing to the opening salvos of ‘Six Six Sigma’ a chastened scribe gladly collapses into the cold and sinewy embrace of garage psychsploitation. ‘Too Old’ (me too, guys, me too) comes packed with squally guitars steeped in a fittingly squalid mix, its snotty credentials given further authority by Paul Allen’s vocals, under used in The Heads but which sound satisfyingly snide and occasionally desperate here, complementing the lyrical content. The gloriously cacophonous, everything and the kitchen sink title track even comes with a Robert Wyatt-sings-Beach Boys-do-Do-Wop segment title namecheck. Three tracks and that’s that. It’s grubby, visceral, exciting, and intent on throat punching home the point that modern life is indeed rubbish. Thankfully this is anything but.

It’s always with eager anticipation that a new Gnod release is received in our rural(ish) fastness. Part of the thrill is wondering which version of the now scattered “Manchester” collective is going to show up, the ear splitting brutalist faction or the soldering iron and sequencer experimentalists. The fact that Faca de Fogo (or Fire Knife to thee and me – each of the four titles is elemental in this regard) is another “Gnod is my co-pilot” collaboration would suggest the latter. Joao Pais Filipe is a rhythm devil extraordinaire so you’d expect at some stage to find yourself exclaiming “the drums, the drums” at the propulsive polyrhythmic percussion. What might wrong-foot the dear listener is the opening woodwind section suggesting that we were in for a session of pre-Industrial Noise and which, up to a point, is very much the case, veering between the surprisingly tender (‘Faca De Terra’) and the muscular trance of ‘Faco De Ar’ but without so much of the malice for which Gnod are renowned and revered. The title track introduces vocals by which time we’re now on bleaker street folks but still more or less in the blacksmith forge rather than the dark satanic mill. Completing the collection, ‘Faca De Agua’ moves a little further out there - the propulsive, insistent drumming indelibly stamping an afro-rhythm on all the bleeps, moans and trouser rips of Gnod knows what. It’s a malarial highlight from a band that continues to confound and delight in equal measure balancing neatly their rockist and cybernetic inclinations. As we’ve come to learn, no two Gnod albums are the same and that’s the way (aha, aha) we likes it ‘round ‘ere. Or to put it another way, they’ve gone and done it again.

Hailing from Greece (Rocket’s international credentials are second to none) it’s no surprise on listening to the opening salvos of Proto Tekno that Kooba Tercu have “form” with the avowedly un-acoustic Hominid Sounds label or that they share band members with the likes of Casual Nun, both of whom may already be familiar to The Readership. What is no less welcome is the variation on offer. There are noisy souped-up rockers (‘Benzoberry’), old school strut ‘n swagger (‘Cemento Mori’), kling-klang techno (‘Filter Feeder’) and Gnod-like panel beat repetition with menaces (‘Qasar’) and that’s only the half of it. The first half in fact. Matters reach high point, though, on the intensely insistent and shamanic ‘Fair Game’ and math pop-meets-Can style ‘Puppy Pile’. It took just two listens before I fell for it.

J. Zunz is Lorena Quintanilla (one half of hugely accomplished Mexican duo Lorelle and the Absolute) and Hibiscus is an absolute delight. Cyclical synth patterns and sickly ambience, shot through with a cosmic bleakness, garnished with a dollop of deconstructed shoegaze and plenty of narcotic sensuality. From the gloriously queasy, breathy ‘Y’ there is an artful inventiveness that owes something of a debt (consciously or otherwise) to the proto-electronica of Laurie Anderson. ‘Four Women and Darkness’ evokes the ‘In Madrid’ stylings of fellow Rocketeer Jospehin Ohrn while the agonisingly euphoric ‘Jupiter’ packs a palpable pleasure and pain counter stimulus, while the strength of ‘Overtime’ lies in its sheer simplicity. It’s all so atmospheric that it should come with a warning of nosebleeds. Comparisons with Nico’s post Chelsea Girls output are inevitable although more accurately this is a couple of generations down the line of evolutionary succession, while also serving as a cybernetic sibling for Cate Le Bon and the even more esoteric Eartheater. Destined to be one of the most important releases of this year, how I miss not seeing her – or for that matter anyone else – at Supersonic Festival this year. Essential, or as near as damn it is to swearing.

No, Och isn’t a lazy stereotypical speech bubble from a Boys’ Own wartime comic strip featuring someone inevitably referred to as “Jock” but your latest neo-psychedelic favourites from Sweden and means ‘And’ (as in Trad Gras Och Stener). II features eight compositions (the titles of which have my spellchecker grumbling like a rotten appendix) and which may owe as much to the time-honoured practice of “let’s kick off and see where we go with this, shall we” as it does the scribbling of tadpoles on wires. It means you don’t quite know what to expect from the enigmatic trio (publicity shots depict them with woolly hats pulled over their faces like a thrift-store Goat). These are sonic joy rides that recollect Popol Vuh and Harmonia (Deutcher Korp) and Heldon (Légion française) as well as vintage home grown influences. Quality wise there’s nothing much to choose between the tracks, except that the rhythmic ‘Åkksa’ hits a particularly sweet spot as does the invigorating ‘Den Samm Bor I Tarim’ which in its final stanzas sounds like Pink Floyd circa ‘Careful With That Axe Eugene’ scoring some community singing on the football terraces (remember those?). ‘Nu94’ meanwhile is the near-perfect ‘Autobahn’ for the digital space age. A workout for the mind that you can do within the safety of your home (ok, so most accidents happen in the home). Go heed the small rodent and feed your head.

(Ian Fraser)





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WATERLESS HILLS – PLAGUE ROAD

(Self released on cassette/DL and available through Bandcamp)

Terrascope Online readers might remember my enthusiastic review of the debut release by Waterless Hills, ‘The Great Mountain’ earlier this year on Cardinal Fuzz Records. The album, which resulted from a one day improvised session in Manchester, was a raw yet diverse release, rich in musical imagery and imagination that perfectly suited the inspiration for the session, the travel writings of Freya Stark from the 1930’s. Perhaps fittingly Waterless Hills have followed up with this self-released cassette documenting their first ever tour with pieces from dates in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. As such it provides their own personal musical travelogue telling the story of a tour which just about managed to happen (in March of this year) before the national lockdown that put paid to indoor live music in small venues for who knows how long.

Once again the quartet of C. Joynes, Dan Bridgwood-Hill, Andrew Cheetham and Gavin Clarke display a fine musical understanding and some wonderful playing. There is powerful playing but also subtlety showing that all those years on the local improvisation scene have certainly taught them how to listen, respond, support and allow space for each other. The result is a dynamic and captivating audio document that takes the raw materials of ‘The Great Mountain’, takes it into the live setting and back again to your living room without any loss of enjoyment.

Whilst there are new pieces, much of the material presented is based on pieces included on ‘The Great Mountain’ albeit they are extended, interrogated and explored a little further through live interpretation. ‘Insect’ starts proceedings and is a thrilling desert blues inspired track, riding the momentum of rolling drums and cymbals with a soaring guitar melody that is raw and yet lyrical and indeed hypnotic. ‘Untidy’ is an extended, more spacious post rock work out where violin and guitars intertwine and create more of an obviously improvised piece, exploring textures and colours of instrumental sound that are tinged with Americana and even (in the violin and bursts of exploratory percussion) hints of earlier King Crimson. ‘Garden into Walantar’ gets the feet tapping with an extended left field country/rockabilly shuffle where drums, violin and guitars work up a jaunty yet slightly off kilter melody and rhythm that gathers energy and pace as it goes. ‘Horns’ begins with atmospheric, shimmering percussion and violin that evolves into a deeper, more intense and almost ‘Necks’ like piece where the drama slowly unfolds providing a real showcase for the violin which floats above the rumbling minimalism beneath with some beautiful melodic invention. ‘Law’ continues the theme of more textural and spacious playing where minimal eastern and surf themed guitar melodies and rolling drums complement without overpowering the violin which once again soars above with great majesty. ‘Empty House’ is quite wistful, mysterious and dark as the title might suggest taking a slow shuffle and sparse melody and slowly intensifying the sound to raise the dramatic tension. Finally ‘Waverley’ is another desert tinged, shuffling beat driven thing where the beat and melody slowly loosen up and with it the heat turns up a notch or two.

As with their previous release Waterless Hills bring a lot of influences to the table and in terms of eclecticism and feel there are perhaps shades of Sir Richard Bishop and Rangda but Waterless Hills have their own unique recipe for sure. This release documents a wonderful live band in action, perhaps their natural home where improvising and developing themes in the moment can make the difference between a simply good gig and a memorable one. You should catch them live whenever and wherever that might next be possible but in the meantime pick up a copy of this release on limited edition cassette or download to bring a little country dancing, mystery and imagination into your daily lives.

(Francis Comyn)





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ADRA – SIX PRINCIPLES OF EREWYREHVE

(Cassette/DL on Borley Rectory Records)

Andy Abbott’s last outing under the Andrew DR Abbott moniker was the wonderful ‘Dead In Chellow Dean’, one of my favourite records of 2019 and reviewed in these very pages. Here Andy shares some of his ideas and work completed during lockdown and reduces his full title to a simple set of initials as he releases a home recorded set of soundscapes highlighting the possibilities of different instruments on each track. They are spontaneous and unedited compositions using minimal equipment, primarily acoustic instruments, tape delays and loop pedals to create what are described as ‘meditations’ or musings that may lead to unlocking other sound worlds.

There are six ‘untitled’ pieces each focusing on a different instrument and its treatment albeit each piece is given a simple description by its instrument and a specific theme. The first piece ‘Mbira/Work’ is a beautiful short chiming composition which naturally exudes an African feel but also a lovely pianistic musical box quality that is dreamy and transporting. In stark contrast ‘Harmonica/Technology’ is a lengthy drone piece where lonely and fogbound siren calls overlap with buzzing and shimmering electronic waves to create a stark and mysterious, cosmic industrial noisescape albeit with subtle effects and melodies running through. There’s an almost glacial kosmische raga like feel to the music as it evolves and incorporates more tonal variation and flourishes. It’s very hypnotic and engaging indeed. ‘Split-Tin Guitar/Art’ is another lengthy piece at over eight minutes and has a modern ‘minimal’ composition feel that would to these ears equally suit a cello. It uses a gradually unfolding almost gamelan like melody and slowly shifting and overlapping repetition to great effect which also has a wonderful touch of Robert Fripp in Discipline era King Crimson or ‘crafty guitar’ mode. ‘Singing Bowl/Knowledge’ once more passes the ten minute mark. It is a piece of two halves opening with an intense ceremonial style rhythm played with a harsh, industrial percussive quality over which a series of sparse singing bowl ringing tones eventually bring some light. The second half of the piece becomes less rhythmic and more focused on electronic treatment and as such is more kosmische and spectral in nature. It’s an interesting experiment in light and shade. ‘Ocarina/Economy’ has the sound of mysterious and lost cultures in its spacious, minimal, part primitive/part medieval/part otherworldly sounds and it’s a beautiful place to be. To finish we have ‘Acoustic Baritone Guitar/Love’ and it’s a gorgeous, upbeat Americana drenched guitar tune that provides a perfect finale to a fascinating journey of sound and imagination.

Going back to the theme of this release i.e. meditations that may lead to unlocking other sound worlds I would happily conclude that it does precisely that. Given the limitations of home recordings and minimal use of instrumentation there is a wonderful array of sounds and ideas in play here and it’s a very engaging listen. This release is in advance of the next full album release by Andy Abbott and based on his meditations as included here, that is a record I am very much looking forward to. Meanwhile this release is available as a very attractive cassette package and you could do a lot worse than enter the mind of Andy Abbott briefly via that route.

 (Francis Comyn)





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WOLFGANG MUTHSPIEL – ANGULAR BLUES

(LP/CD/Digital on ECM Records)

 

Austrian jazz guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel has been making music since the 80s, with a discography well in excess of 40 albums, many on his own label Material Records, and others in recent years on ECM.  From a career spanning many band formats including duos, trios, quartets and quintets, on Angular Blues he revisits the trio, with Americans, drummer and long-time collaborator Brian Blade (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea) and double bassist Scott Colley (Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, John Scofield) replacing frequent Muthspiel bass partner Larry Grenadier.

 

The album was recorded in Japan in a single day in August 2018, following the group’s three night, six show run at Tokyo’s Cotton Club, and mixed by producer and ECM label founder Manfred Eicher.  The mood is laid back, understated, melodic, upbeat and unflashy.

 

Muthspiel plays nylon acoustic guitar on the first three tracks.  Opener “Wondering” is introduced by drummer Blade, with the melody beautifully rolled out not by Muthspiel, but by Colley on bass.  Muthspiel makes a slightly surprising delayed entrance, his playing lyrical and fluid.  Muthspiel and Colley trade solos in a piece that nicely sets up the rest of the album – easy does it, smooth and comfortable.

 

On the title track Muthspiel cites influences of Chick Corea and Thelonious Monk - interesting as there’s not a piano in sight - but I can hear both references.  The song is full of jagged, jabbing, off-kilter lines that never let you find your bearings.  But the precision and mind reading in the interplay between the musicians is undeniable.  The solemn, elegiac and pensive “Hüttengriffe” is so lyrical I thought it was a classical standard, but no, it’s a Muthspiel original.  One could easily picture it played twice as fast, with an equal amount of intensity and pathos.

 

With “Camino,” and for the remainder of the album, Muthspiel switches to electric guitar.  The trio stretches out a bit more, but the song makes use of space the way Muthspiel intended for the entire album, saying “with this trio, it’s about playing with space:  leaving it, creating it, filling it.”  “Ride” is exactly as the title implies, a lively, too-short, bebop flight plan up and down the fretboard.  Drummer Brian Blade plays a short solo as well, which is a welcome departure, as his playing throughout most of the album is intentionally low-key, very less-is-more.

 

The Cole Porter standard “Everything I Love” is one of two tracks on the album not written by Muthspiel, the second being “I’ll Remember April,” which Muthspiel first heard on a Frank Sinatra album.  Both songs are given fine treatments, with relaxed, tasteful and appealing voicings throughout.

 

The album’s two most interesting tracks are the related “Kanon in 6/8,” followed immediately by “Solo Kanon in 5/4.”  The former is lengthier, with the band in full swing.  The interplay between all three musicians has drama and attack, with Muthspiel’s guitar work stellar.  But the album wouldn’t be able to earn its ECM merit badge without some degree of experimentation and invention, and those take the form of Muthspiel’s use of a delay effect on his guitar.  While it’s used sparingly yet excitingly on “Kanon in 6/8,” Muthspiel takes full flight with the delay or looping in “Solo Kanon in 5/4.”  While looping has sort of taken over the world in recent years, I haven’t heard it much in a jazz setting, and in Muthspiel’s sure hands it’s a natural fit.  It has the effect in “Solo Kanon in 5/4” of reminding me of a classical fugue by another composer from that neck of the woods, that Bach fellow.  (“Performing a fugue with a looping pedal?  Och, it’s heresy!” – J.S. Bach, 2020).

 

Angular Blues is subtly played, enjoyable sound for acoustic and electric guitar jazz trio.  Restrained and elegant, with Wolfgang Muthspiel, Scott Colley and Brian Blade, you’re in the hands of seasoned pros who make every musical phrase count.  Recommended.

 

 (Mark Feingold)