= June 2019 =  
 
 The band whose Name is a Symbol / Shooting Guns
 Anton Barbeau
 C Joynes
 The Watchers
 Spiral Wave Nomads
 Hibushibire
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   


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THE BAND WHOSE NAME IS A SYMBOL/SHOOTING GUNS – IN SEARCH OF HIGHS VOLUME 2

(LP on Riot Season Records)

The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol (TBWNIAS) and Shooting Guns may be well over a day’s drive apart through the vast spaces of Canada in real life but thankfully due to the joys of vinyl we get two of Canada’s very best heavy psych bands sharing this new split release on Riot Season, showcasing a fine and diverse array of sonic adventures.

So let’s get into the music on offer and first up we have TBWNIAS, who for some time now have charted an interesting route between heavy psych, drone and improvised jams over a series of impressive recent releases. We get two lengthy pieces starting with ‘Misanthropic Pathways’ which has a very raw, generally murky and very definitely live sound. Driven by heavy pounding drums, the band with fine dining precision boils up a swirling soup of cymbals, riffs, and drones that teases the listener with short diversions, changes of tempo and snatches of melody but then takes everything back into the swirl and orchestrated psych mayhem. It’s a fine trip that whilst dipping a toe in dark, often swampy lands, never loses its way and ultimately serves up an intoxicating improvised treat.

‘Poverty Of The Dervish’ is similarly around the ten minute mark and instantly establishes a hazy feel of the east over a steady and strong beat. Hypnotic eastern tinged melodies happily intertwine with psychedelic guitar flourishes and heavy but still in a sense subtle riffs which establishes a wonderful mood piece that explores texture, intensity and colour rather than seek to reach a squally peak of ecstatic noise. Two sides of TBWNIAS improvisation that complement each other very well indeed.

Moving onto the flipside and we have Shooting Guns who follow their incredibly atmospheric ‘Nosferatu’ soundtrack with a collection of shorter songs displaying a breadth of styles and imagination . ‘New Levitation’ establishes a dramatic and sparse Hawkwind style riff which breaks out into a freer, heavier space rocking groove as the track progresses that will please all cosmic dancers out there. ‘Snow Drift’ is slower, moodier and indeed stonier with a touch of Sabbath in the insistent menace of the riff that does indeed invoke bleak landscapes before a complete change of direction in ‘Sports Drink’ which is a rap, sports commentary mash up over electronic sounds and beats that eventually gets swallowed up by a squall of electronic noise, guitars and drums. It shouldn’t work but somehow it does. ‘Chill Out Tent’ finishes the side with an atmospheric guitar melody, laid back beat and organ and guitar textures which inhabit the territory between Pink Floyd and early Tindersticks. It sounds like a closing piece in the very best of ways and is testament to how well planned out this very diverse side of music is.

To almost paraphrase a football commentator, this is very definitely a record of two halves with the lengthier improvisations of TBWNIAS and shorter tracks from Shooting Guns working very well as contrasting approaches to make a very cohesive and highly recommended record.

(Francis Comyn)



 

 

 

ANTON BARBEAU – BERLINER GROTESK

Pink Hedgehog Records/BeeHive Records www.pinkhedgehog.com  CD/DL

The prolific Californian born but Berlin resident Anton follows up his superb Natural Causes album of last year with a new album of self penned songs (excluding Love Me Do). It has a quite bonkers cover of Anton sitting on his piano stool, wearing a blue blanket, a welder’s helmet and holding a broom.

Travel has certainly informed his recent albums and his love of words means that his songs often contain some odd choices, this latest album being no exception. The opening song ‘Berliner Grotesk’ sees Anton playing a waltz in a Brecht/Weill style. The song is also quite catchy, celebrates insects and nature, but is really a love song with soaring chorus. Anton does his best Dick Van Dyke impression with ‘I Been To Bromley’. Here he hangs out with the Frond and spies the Queen in her brown Bentley in Bromley. The album features Anton utilizing his keyboards a lot more; in fact he plays most of the instruments himself. ‘Love Me Do’ the old Beatles tune follows and is rendered in a cod reggae style complete with Waspish keyboard fills.

‘Down Weird Dog’ is next with Anton’s play on words of the favourite Yoga position “downward dog”, it is a short sparse tune with some fine wordplay. This down weird dog is not backwards about coming forward and utilizing his leg for relief. ‘The Gruff Exterminator’ is about the secrets of a cross dressing man, mentions Hot Rats and features Julia VBH on backing vocals. ‘Baby Can You’ is a short piano led worry wart of a song. It concerns some sort of home grown plant and blackbirds baked in a pie. ‘Horns’ is frankly weird, a song about gluing horns to the head of a girl, simple piano, a sly three note nod to Hey Jude, more birds now arrive in the form of sparrows at the door, a pile of feathers and a beak.

‘Not The World’s Most Wave-Formed Man’ the title being probably a misheard “well informed man” another song in waltz time with a pretty keyboard solo. ‘Disaster On Sandwich Island’ is a short piano based song about ecology. ‘don’tforgettogetyourfingerwet’ rocks a bit harder, and is both melodic and inventive; it’s enlivened by a wonky keyboard solo. The album ends with ‘Boxcat Blues’ a simple piano led song, it’s very English, with its mentions of cups of tea, it’s all held together with Elmer’s glue. So, another fine album by Anton who has certainly hit a purple patch and is on a roll right now.

(Andrew Young)

 
 

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 C  JOYNES & THE FURLONG BRAY – THE BORAMETZ TREE 

Thread Recordings LP  www.threadrecordings.com

C Joynes is a Cambridge-based finger style guitarist, who for this release is joined by TheDead Rat Orchestra, Cam Deas and Nick Jonah Davis. The title is named after a semi mythological plant. This is his ninth album and is very much an instrumental world music album. ‘Triennale’ provides a sprightly opening song, all sorts of unusual acoustic instruments create a rich tapestry, it’s melodic and introduces us to the very distinctive percussive sounds which permeate every song on this album, we get drones, fiddles, electric arpeggio guitar,anchored by bass and crunchy percussion. ‘Tango Wire’ is short piece which sounds like all the members are playing a different song but actually coalesces into one. ‘Sang Kancil’ is very African in nature, thumb piano and percussive notes. A slippy fiddle provides the melody along with resophonic guitar. For some reason I’m also reminded of Mongolian music, even more so on the following ‘The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary’. The name is taken from a legendary zoophyte of Central Asia, once believed to grow sheep as its fruit!  It weaves and melds into a rich tapestry.

‘Hamasien Wedding Song’ sounds like an out of control charabanc full of cuckoo clocks! It moves and develops along to a wheezy tune with distinct African guitar lines. ‘Librarie Du Maghreb’ is also informed by Moorish Africa, deep percussion,fiddle lines and guitar weave their magic; taking me on a journey to another time and place. ‘Gottem Ni Gottem’ is a very short, pretty violin and banjo led song, slow and melodic and placed well in the album, slowing things down before the penultimate song ‘Jacket Shines’ arrives. This is the longest song on the album and is not unlike the middle passage of some old Kaleidoscope (USA) song, ethnic and middle eastern sounding, it develops into a distinctive song with long banjo passages, at one point I thought we were going to segue into Orange Blossom Special. This travelogue of an album ends with ‘Mali Sajyo’ incorporating much of what has gone before and this time featuring a 12 string guitar, in an American primitive style.

(Andrew Young)

 

 


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 THE WATCHERS – A YEAR IN THE COUNTRY 

A Year In The Country Records  www.ayearinthecountry.co.uk

A year in the country continue to release their sumptuous CD’s, they nearly always feature two editions Dusk and Dawn, both using archival giclée pigment inks and are often accompanied by badges and stickers etc.

For this latest release, Britain’s ancient trees are the subject for the various artists to getto grips with, hence the title. ‘In A Clearing’ by Grey Frequency is the first song, crows caw, song birds sing, a drowsy soporific tune develops on synths, as you lean back on the trunk of an old oak tree, close your eyes and drift off. ‘A Thousand Autumns’ by Field Lines Cartographer celebrates an ancient oak, its cyclical shedding of thousands of leaves providing nutrients for next year’s leaves. The twinkling synth sounds like the falling leaves in the shafts of Autumnal sunlight. ‘The Brave Old Oak’ sees Widow’s Weeds joined by Kitchen Cynic Alan Davidson narrate a tale of an oak tree, located deep in the Dalkeith Oakwood. Woodwind and synths join in to create a lovely folk song.

Depatterning arrive with Oak/Dair celebrating the close bonds of both the English oak and the Irish oak which although similar are in fact separate species but with indistinguishable DNA. This one is a little bit more unsettling and ghostly with drones and feedback. There is always room fora song on each album by curators A Year In The Country who here deliver a song entitled ‘Radicle Ether’. It is a view of us humans as seen by these slow growing Ents.  Informed as it is by billowing synth and a distant tolling church bell.  Phonofiction are up next with ‘Xylem Flow’ informed by field recordings made in Highgate, Epping and out into the fens, it celebrates the root system which sucks up nutrients and also communicate with other trees.

Pulselovers are next with ‘Circles Within Circles’ a gentle motorik beat is manipulated and passed through various delays and reverberations. It also features some guitar from John Alexander of Floodlights. Herefordshire minstrels Sproatly Smith arrive with ‘Watching You’ another song from the point of view of these ancient trees, bird song, female voice, synth and acoustic guitar.Tracing the journey from acorn to mighty hollowed oak, a bucolic folk tune, both drowsy and soporific.

Vic Mars is next with ‘The Test Of Time’ this song takes as its inspiration from the great Eardisley oak tree, one of the oldest in Britain. A purely electronic piece of music which is both cathartic and gentle in nature, it’s stately and develops into a bucolic pastoral piece. ‘The Trees That Watch The Stones’ by The Heartwood Institute is informed by Long Meg and her Daughters, one of the largest stone circles in Britain, this song is a little unsettling and slightly queasy in nature, another purely electronic piece of music. The album ends with ‘The Winter Dream Of Novel’s Oak’ by Howlround. Made from field recordings at the site of an ancient oak, it is short and fairly menacing in tone, apparently it is about an ancient oak tree in Tilford, which is just up the road from me, a tree I am unfamiliar with, yet it is in my home county! I know where I’m headed this weekend. This could be the label’s finest release yet.

(Andrew Young)

 

 
 

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 SPIRAL WAVE NOMADS – S/T 

 

Twin Lakes records/Feeding Tubes 275 vinyl copies. www.twinlakesrecords.com

Following on from last year’s excellent More Klementines self titled album comes another project from Michael Kiefer. This time he has teamed up with guitarist Eric Hardiman (Burnt Hills, Century Plants, etc) for a set of improvised guitar and drum songs. The opening track ‘Blue Dream’ sets out their stall with a fine instrumental (as are the rest of the tunes), often recalling Rangda. The lengthy ‘Wabi Sabi’ introduces droning sitar into the mix, it’s slow to coalesce, all tumbling drums and skyward bound guitar, but when it does it creates a nice eastern sounding piece, allowing both members to probe and feed off each other, this is just on the right side of Jam band fare. ‘Vanishing Edges’ the last track onside one works well after that onslaught and slows down proceedings, heavily treated double tracked guitar runs and exploratory drums, are anchored by deep bass.

‘Elysium’ kicks off side two in fine style, the two players working together to create a loose piece with more tumbling drums and guitar notes curling off like firefly trails in the night, sympathetically feeding off each other. ‘Floating On A Distant Haze’ seems to have a little more in the way of a structure, a psychedelic rock song with big drums and spiralling guitar notes peeling off into the ether, a song to get lost in, tight yet exploratory.  The album ends with ‘Patterns of Forgotten Flight’ sees both players working telepathically together, on a song imbued with graceful guitar, elegant rolling drum patterns and bass.  This unhurried approach, allows much light and space in between the notes, making for impressive stuff indeed.

(Andrew Young)

 

 

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HIBUSHIBIRE – TURN ON, TUNE IN, FREAK OUT!

(LP/Cassette on Riot Season Records)

Hibushibire are one of the most interesting heavy psych rock groups coming out of Japan right now. Yes they are (very) loud and electrifying in concert but they are not simply about ramping up the guitar theatrics and noise as they also display great musicianship and fizz with energy and invention especially on record. This, the band’s second recorded outing after 2017’s debut ‘Freak Out Orgasm!’ continues their impressive start and whilst there are inevitable comparisons with Acid Mothers Temple (Makoto Kawabata has produced both albums) , Blue Cheer and perhaps others less immediately obvious such as The Groundhogs, they have once again stamped their own personality in a crowded market.

‘Ecstasy Highwaystar’ kicks things off literally with a scorching energetic spacey belter that has a raw garage punk edge, but a clear Hendrix undertone to the guitar riff and soloing albeit at breakneck speed and a vocal that sounds like it is coming from the bottom of a working cement mixer. ‘Blow! Blow!Blow!’ is as urgent as the exclamation marks suggest. Over its almost 10 minutes length we start and finish with a heavy psych blues riff over which we get the distant cement mixer vocals and an energetic workout on drums but in the middle section the pace drops to allow some wonderfully atmospheric guitar soloing (again with a Hendrix feel at times albeit often taken to considerable extremes but also the heavier, extended blues rock workouts of The Groundhogs come to mind which is no bad thing at all to these ears) and allowing everyone to catch their breath briefly. Next up and completing Side One is ‘Overdose, Pussycat! More! More!’ which despite being another feast of exclamation marks and a great title provides another incendiary guitar, bass, drums workout that touches on being unhinged space rock but barely manages to keep control by its fingertips. It’s a stunning end to a thrilling first side which fades into a short soundscape that can only be described as soft porn exotica (I bet you don’t see that description very often).

Side Two is where the magic lies in the 17 minute epic ‘Rollercoaster Of The Universe’, showing a very different side to the band. Rather than an assault of speed and power the true quality of the musicians and their writing abilities comes to the fore with great use of texture, sound colours and dynamics and much more control over the sonic landscape created. We get gear shifts of course and intense, almost ecstatic guitar playing but the diversity in styles from an almost Hillage like cosmic prog to jazz rock intricacies, minimalist repetition and an almost ‘Yes’ like melodic sense to something in the heavy psych terrain of Acid Mothers Temple is pretty special. It combines raw and refined wonderfully well and through intelligent use of structure and dynamics makes 17 minutes fly by without a single glance at the watch. The concluding minutes are a masterpiece of how to end a record where an intense and ecstatic space rock finale that may just be about to demolish your house suddenly fades into the lovely minimal shimmering melody that started the song – just stunning and for me one of the most memorable pieces of music I’ve heard so far this year.  

A wonderful record then which captures the exhilaration of their live performance but also shows a band evolving and exploring new musical territory to great effect. Catch Hibushibire live if you can but don’t forget your earplugs if you do. In the meantime, pick this record up for your many moods and a big smile.

(Francis Comyn)