= June 2017 =  
Peter Lewis
Avital Raz
Grandpas Ghost
Hey Colossus
The Cult of Dom Keller
Rural Colours comp.


(LP from Shagrat )

I imagine that most Terrascope readers will be familiar with the name Peter Lewis as a long-time member of Moby Grape, that sublime West Coast sixties band whose debut album is one of the finest from the era, the tune “Sitting By The Window”, written by Mr Lewis, one of my favourite songs.

   Whilst not exactly prolific, Peter, has continued to play/write songs although it has taken until now to finally release his second solo album, a wonderful collection of country tinged tunes that are warm personal and often wryly humorous, a trait very evident on “To The Hearse”, a slow country groove that will have you chuckling out loud.

    Opening the album, “Be With Me” re-assures you, a delightful twang and a rich yet occasionally fragile voice drawing you in to the song, the opening salvo continued by the mellow rock of “Courage”, a gentle call to arms with chiming guitar, a fine groove and a lovely solo.

    Evoking spirits from those hazy sixties days, “Last Chance” gets thing rocking sounding as if it is channelled directly from San Francisco, excellent guitar work and plenty of energy to be found within its softly lysergic heart. To end side one, “Valley Music Festival” tells a sorry tale of a trip to see Neil Young and the consequences of taking a photo, all told with good humour and a certain cynical eye.

    Co-written with Skip Spence, “Sailing” is an enchanting song the rises above its simplicity to become one of the best tunes on the collection, the vocals adding plenty of emotion to the song, the guitars soaring during the middle eight.  Rocking out again, “The Survivor” fair flies past, In a good way, to be replaced with the title track, a good old blues/country hoe-down that does not take itself to seriously, was influenced by Jack Kerouac and is great for a quick boogie around the kitchen.

    Harking back to those mellow sixties sounds again, “When” has a lovely sonic sheen that takes off into your dreams, the guitars coiling around each other beautifully to create a shimmering bird that soars above, the album brought to a close by “These Blues” which pretty much does what it says on the tin, a country blues that leads you out merrily.

   It may be 50 years since the Grape’s first album but if you look closely you can see a silver thread that binds that collection to this one, a reflective and rather wonderful collection that sounds just about perfect in this evening sunshine with a gin and tonic by my side. As ever with Shagrat, the album  is beautifully packaged with detailed sleeve notes and excellent production values, just go buy one. (Simon Lewis)




CD/DL from avitalraz.com

Born in Jerusalem, living in the UK and teaching Indian music is a heady array of influences that all come through on the latest album by Avital Raz, the songs distinguished by a lyrical bent that is wry, truthful and amusing, the twelve tracks flowing delightfully together to create a rather fine album that improves with each listen.

    Opening track “TV” has a country feel with a great vocal performance, dealing with loneliness and the joys of the television, the song itself taking on the atmosphere of a TV theme in the middle. Darker in texture, “Bored Lord” has droning strings underneath it, the lyrics seemingly deeply personal whilst the playing keeps the tension high.

  Across the collection the music ranges from folk to country to blues and you can hear snatches of Stone Breath, Tom Waits and Loretta Lynn amongst the grooves especially the latter on the cynical and excellent “Male Order Bride”, whilst “The Damn Flood” is a spiritual song for the modern world, wyrd and wonderful, the arrangement and tension perfectly executed to create on of the best tunes on the album.

    Exposing her middle Eastern roots, “Isabel ST Revisited” sounds like the US Kaleidoscope in its introduction, whilst the title track is a melancholic folk song with a powerful vocal performance, the lyrics again personal and beautifully composed.

   Having played this album several times I have discovered that one of its joys is the fact that a different song becomes your favourite each time with “My Lover Is Cold” floating to the top this time, a darkly humorous tale with the musical atmosphere matching the lyrics making you smile and wince in equal measure.

   Perhaps saving the best until last, although this is a movable feast, “Yossi's Song” is just beautiful, showcasing Avital's vocal prowess and wrapped in sadness, whilst the final tune “Sorry About The Pills” has the hopeless feel of a Townes Van Zandt tune, short and very potent, closing the collection with style and substance. (Simon Lewis)



LP on Transduction

To be fair, I had never heard of Grandpas Ghost until this fine slab of vinyl fell through my door so it was a surprise to discover that they have been around since 1995, in various incarnations, with principal songwriter Ben Hanna at the helm along side long time musical partner Bill Emerson. Peddling a lysergic brand of americana, this double album re-defines the word sprawling, a long strange trip that takes you places you have never been before whilst, at the same time, sounding reassuringly familiar.

    To kick things off, “Learning How To Love You” is a lo-fi crawl into psychedelic weirdness almost Beefheartian in its sound and intent, a woozy stagger into the woods, bottle in hand, guitars creeping and crawling all over the song leaving you completely unprepared for the Neil Young/Crazy Horse blast of distortion that is “Carnage Queen”, a squall of seventies stoner rock that hits the sweet spot, as does “Nellie Loves Me” that follows after, sounding like Dinosaur Jr in its fuzzed up glory.  To end side one, “Dandelions In My Mind” sounds like America after drinking a bottle of wine, a sweet acoustic tune that is loose and very groovy as it stumbles down the pavement.

    Over on side two things get stranger on the half spoken/half sung “A Little Bit of Abuse” the voice punctuated by an angry guitar filled with emotion, the side dominated by “I Am A Specimen” a tune that mixes Radiohead and Sonic Youth and needs to be turned way up for full effect.

  With six short songs on it, side three showcases all facets of the band from the gentle weirdness of “City Of Piss”, complete with banjo and lyrical beauty, to the glorious punk noise of “Underground With the Dogs” a song that would be completely at home on “Rust Never Sleeps”, Whilst “The Most Beautiful Bird In The World” is sweet and lovely in an Iron and Wine Kinda way, ending the side perfectly.

    To end, the final side gets into the heart of the trip, as “Over My Head” shimmers and melts around you, a slow cloud of music that flickers like a heathaze on a deserted highway, that mood maintained by “Blues For Sparklehorse” shades of the Grateful Dead to be found in its atmosphere, the whole album brought to a close with the ten minute epic “Confusion Of Tongues” another slow burning slice of wonder, a tune you can dissolve into with ease.

   The more I play this album the more I like it, yes there is an obvious debt to Neil Young, but this collection rises easily above its influences to stand proudly as a future classic, I can't believe that it has taken me this long to catch up with such a fine band. (Simon Lewis)



(LP/CD from Rocket Recordings

With 2015’s Black And Gold and Radio Static High Hey Colossus seemed intent on putting clear water between them and their noisier more atonal past. On this, their ninth release (and third for Rocket) they row back a bit down river albeit charting a different course as befits their shapeshifting proclivities.

In many ways it’s actually their most melodic release, as evidenced early doors by the nimble guitar runs of ‘Honest To God’. However these are delivered under worryingly dark sonic storm clouds as, they take aim both musically and lyrically at to the solar plexus of the current toxic political climate.  ‘Back In The Room’ might just be an acknowledgement of this at least partial return to the brutalism of yore, with a ferocious three guitar attack and unremitting drumming over which Paul Sykes spits out words like Nick Cave possessed. And who’s this adding to the maelstrom of cacophony if not venerable Nik Turner on sax, something usually guaranteed to gladden the heart of this ol’ hippie.

Ever imagine what XTC could have sounded like had they been brought up on a diet of heavy metal? No, me neither, but there are frequent hints throughout not least on the catchy-as-mumps ‘Experts Toll’ which might be the closest that Partridge and co never got to the mosh pit, whereas in fact the darkly pastoral sounding ‘Potions’, unrelenting in its mournfulness, nods towards early Jethro Tull on downers. Indeedthe idea of Ian Anderson nodding out at the mic as he falls off one leg makes me chuckle. Mirthlessly, of course.

‘Englishman’ is the most distinctive thing here thanks to an infectious, unrelenting boogie and could be destined for fair bit of airplay if the schedulers can stomach couplets like ‘Up the middle of the skittish isles, Collecting stories for a new witch trial’, which encapsulates the nervousness and nastiness of these populist times. There may well be many political songs in this year of General Election - one that could see the increasing polarisation between Brexiteers and Remainers, the young and the old. They are unlikely to come much better than this.

A seemingly innocuous sounding melody underscoring Sykes’ belligerent baritone on ‘In A Collision’ is suddenly propelled in the choruses and bridge by the full force of a band firing on all their six cylinders. It’s the acme of Hey Colossus 2017, whereby you feel that you’re being kissed and head-butted at the same time. Oh yes and there is a title track with which to bring it all to earth with an appropriately menacing thud -‘sharpen the Guillotine let’s go to work’. Happy days.

Barbed, defiant, confident sounding and quite possibly – no, let’s make that probably - a career best.
(Ian Fraser)



(2 x LP from Cardinal Fuzz)

I have this recurring mental picture of a live TCODK event. It always involves, dank, dark cellars with low ceilings and something indeterminate either sliding down or crawling up the walls. On this evidence such an image doesn’t seem so wide of the mark as to trouble the corner flag.

Spanning their three studio albums, Paradiso is Melting emphasises TCODK’s debt to the 80s batcave psychedelia. Indeed at times here it’s hard to imagine them not decked out in black and sporting two-feet of lacquered hair in all directions. When it works it’s pretty much everything you could realistically wish for within the claustrophobic confines of the genre. ‘Behind All Evil Is A Black Hole’, from their Fuzz Club split with The Myrrors, lumbers out of the abyss and comes on like a seriously messed up Dandy Warhols. Here, and on tracks like ‘Eyes’ and the stunningly good ‘Astrum Argenteum’ they exude a fine blend of decadent decay, the pivotal feature being Ryan Delgaudio’s anguished, soaring guitar, anchored by a thudding rhythm section and supplemented by mixed down keyboards which only occasionally manage to come up for foetid air.

Elsewhere there’s plenty of effort and no little malevolent intent but not all of it manages to hit its target, sometimes falling into an uncomfortable no-man’s land between Bauhaus and early Horrors albeit significantly amped up versions of both. ‘Nothing Left To Stay’ has some of the appealing camp grandeur of The Damned circa The Black Album, which is perfectly ok by me, although it loses its way a bit in the midsection before rallying to redemption. It’s left to a couple old standards, the scuzzy acid blues of ‘Swamp Heron’ and the wonderful ‘Worlds’ - the latter’s peerless, pile-driven shoegaze gilded with an absurdly catchy guitar hook is a delight at 10 minutes, with not a second wasted - to draw the dark veil across what is an intensely intriguing and intermittently inspired outing. Except I’m not sure they actually get out that much.
(Ian Fraser)



(CD-R from https://hibernate.bandcamp.com)

What’s the difference between hearing and listening? Pauline knew.        

The late Pauline Oliveros is one of modern music's most important figures, her five decades of work so wide-reaching without most people having even heard of her. She was a founding member of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the '60s, and devised a musical concept called Deep Listening, which stemmed from a trip into a giant underground cistern with a 45-second reverb. Those echoes led to an exploration and pursuit of a heightened state of awareness in sound. Oliveros' ideas have inspired not just musicians to think about the link that listening builds between us and our surroundings. While she is heralded by experimental musicians and drone heads alike, Oliveros is equally acclaimed for devising instruments for disabled people and teaching students with no formal music training to improvise together.

Enter left field, Rural Colours, a collection of familiar and less accustomed names who make a damned good fist of conveying not just the craft of Pauline Oliveros but in also illustrating how her ideas and music have permeated much of what we love listening to here at Terrascope and are delighted to feature among our virtual pages.

Indeed it falls to Terrascopic stalwart Alison Cotton to grace us with the lead off, title track, a skilful and evocative viola and vocal drone that demands listening and not just cursory hearing and which pretty much sets the template. So, too, Anne Garner’s Sartre-style piano musings and evocative cooing on ‘Brink’, zero beats per minutes and none the worse for it.
Brona McVittie’s contribution is the more unconventionally experimental ‘You Are My Sister’, full of gentle, stuttering blips, an electro theme which UBS’ David Colohon expands on avec gusto, his ‘321 Divisadero Street’ (the address that hosted the revolutionary music space in its heyday) a mini master class in the home-cooked art of wee-boing. Either of these or indeed much else here could very easily grace the next edition of Wire Tapper. The pulsating, sonorous ‘The Homebody’ by Isnaj Dui, meanwhile, is the kind of sound that Whales might choose to listen to when they feel the need to relax, supplemented by a gentle beat and wafts of woodwind which permeate the second half.

It’s always with some anticipation that we await what Michael Tanner has to offer. ‘After Lear: For Hurdy Gurdy and Bowed Dulcimer’ tells you pretty much what you can expect aurally and, at quarter of an hour, is a bona fide ‘piece’. Hmmm, perhaps the oft-mooted editor/staff comb and paper/ukulele mash-up needs to be put on further hold while we fine tune a few ideas. Here’s a subtly shimmering composition of barely perceptible shifts and shades making it the sonic equivalent of a particularly fiendish spot-the-difference picture.

There’s something of the Dead Can Dance in Neotropic’s ‘O’, a mystical and masterful dark choral effort and a high watermark among a collection where the river is already dangerously approaching full flood. It eventually bursts its banks on The Hardy Tree’s mesmerising and bewitchingly playful ‘Signs Of Spring’, by which time I’m listening with my eyes closed to stop them from crossing.

Pauline Oliveros knew the distinction between merely hearing something and actually listening and this very thoughtful, immaculately conceived and played collection goes a long, long way to doing justice to her genius. Quite exemplary.
(Ian Fraser)



(CD / LP from bureau b records)

At a time when one might be forgiven for pondering one’s own mortality as more and more of the musicians to whom we grew up listening are cashing in their corporeal chips it’s heartening to know that some grizzled veterans are not only still going but going at it hard. While one or two of their contemporaries – no names, no pack drill – are pale to the point of embarrassingly poor imitations of their former selves, Faust – or more correctly faUSt, featuring original movers, shakers and god knows what else, Jean- Hervé Peron and Zappi Diermaier, and not to be confused with Joachim Irmler’s occasional version of Faust – are still, as one man once put it, kicking against the pricks.

The left-hand bookend is the 17 minute title track and it begins, inauspiciously you might think, with a French poem, translated into Polish. Come to Dada indeed. Sounding a lot like Kuro in places courtesy of Ysanne Spevak’s droning viola, it begins life as a slowly growing eco-meditation accompanied by exquisitely eerie strains of classical singing. The reverie is abruptly interrupted by Zappi’s marshal drumming, reaching its zenith as it locks into an unrelenting indy/industrial hybrid groove with Peron’s frantic almost suffocated exhalations underpinning the central theme that our air is being poisoned. Take that message home, boys and girls.

The beautiful, balmy but uncharacteristically brief ‘Birds of Texas’ exemplifies the geometric, tribal rhythmic patterns that underpin this album and which elsewhere will hint at shamanic intensity, while ‘La Poulie’ evokes the discordant swamp jazz-blues of Beefheart circa Clear Spot, again catapulted into a more conventional and upbeat rock idiom by Zappi from whom the rest of the band seem to take their cue. Follow the marching beat, then. ‘Chlorophyll’s’ Polynesian shuffle lays down a repetitive template from which flows a stream of consciousness, multi-lingual interplay between an excitable Peron and the excellent Barbara Manning, a skronking sax striking a decidedly acrimonious note as we approach the coda.

Things ratchet up a further gear courtesy of the frenetic expressionism of “Lights Flicker”, Manning’s impatient and at times desperate spoken narrative, suggestive of a female Bill Burroughs in the throes of withdrawal. It’s exhilarating stuff, like a methamphetamine soundtrack to an especially chilling Chandleresque thriller. ‘Fish’ then serves as the opposite bookend to ‘Fresh Air’, an environmentalist’s paean to the ocean, a powerful yet more restrained and ruminative affair than the opener and one that exudes quiet defiance at how we pollute our seas, be it the tonnes of plastic or through “the corpses of our refugees”). A quite majestic sweep of a song and a fitting end to a surprisingly strong and rewarding set that’s indicative of a band who, almost half a century on are still pushing open doors and beating fresh paths. You can’t ask for any more.
(Ian Fraser)



(LP from Morc tapes )

As well as recording in the duo Electroscope, with John Cavanagh who appears on this album and as one half of Barret's Dottled Beauty with Alan Davidson (who also appears on this album), experimental artist Gayle Brogan releases predominately solo albums under the name Pefkin. Taking as its inspiration Gayle's love of all things ornithological, the five tracks are named after types of birds, the title itself reference to the swarms of Starlings that are sadly a vanishing sight these days, the music conjuring up the movement and denseness of these displays.

Building slowly with voice, bowed bass and droning strings, “Redshanks” has the feel of rainfall moving in across an estuary, a lonesome Clarinet adding a soft wistfulness to the music, the words almost lost to the wind, the whole piece allowing the listener to drift away across magical landscapes.

Keeping the same atmosphere, “Phalaropes” ( a type of wader with lobed toes) is enhanced by subtle electronics supplied by John Cavanagh, the music again reflective and flecked with clarinet, a slowly rolling drone that is beautiful and rewarding, the sound rippling outwards before dissolving into memory.
Opening side two, “Jackdaws” has a more prominent electronic drone and a hazy psychedelic overtone, the distorted vocals offering a darker meaning to the sounds, wrapping themselves around the bleak words to chilling effect creating a disturbing piece of droning ambience that creeps and coils around you, the addition of a slow electronic pulse only heightening the tension created by the lyrics, “Jackdaws souls never leave their bodies, they ooze all their black ungodliness into their molecules, and wait”, written by Charlie Gracie.

Less dark, but cloaked in melancholy, “Swallows” is built on a slowly repeating bass line that is filled with sadness, the slow nature of the track allowing you to become completely lost in its haze, especially when clouds of electronics and chaos (courtesy of Jazzhandstemazepamman) hang like gossamer threads from the core of the tune, entwining with the vocal line delightfully.
With creaking piano and distant voice, “Starlings” is stripped back and sparse, something that only adds to its wonder, Gayle's voice finally surfacing to the top of the music, its wistful timbre perfectly matching the piano notes that fall around it, ending an album that is blessed with mystery and a sombre majesty. (Simon Lewis)