= March 2018 =  
Greta van Fleet
 Jack Hayter
 Green Seagull
 Trembling Bells
 Cath and Phil Tyler
 TC & I

 Alasdair Roberts, Amble Skuse & David McGuinness

 Goldfish comp.
 Green Pajamas
 Left Outsides


(CD/Digital on Lava Records/Republic Records)
If you haven’t heard this band yet, we might as well get one thing out on the table now, because you’re going to notice it right away:  These guys sound like Led Zeppelin.  And not just a little.  The twenty-ish Michiganders (average age, not number of band members) consist of brothers Josh Kiszka (vocals), Jake Kiszka (guitar), Sam Kiszka (bass, keyboards), and Danny Wagner (drums).  From the Fires is a double EP incorporating previous EP Black Smoke Rising, plus four new songs.

These fellows are causing quite a stir, buoyed by the Zeppelin comparisons.  A lot of people are pulling for them to make it, and they certainly have some chops.  In addition to their love of Zeppelin, while other kids their age are listening to hip-hop and EDM, they’ve been studying and playing Cream, B.B. King, Albert King, Bad Company, Freddie King and Buddy Guy, as if the past forty years haven’t happened at all.

From the opening guitar riff of “Safari Song” and the high-pitched wail that seems to have been beamed in straight from Headley Grange, the listener does a double-take.  What is this, an outtake I haven’t heard yet?  No, it’s Greta Van Fleet!  Indeed, Josh Kiszka seems to have Robert Plant to a T, right down to the Mam-ma Mam-mas.  And brother Jake does some runs more than reminiscent of Mr Page.

The comparisons don’t end there.  With “Flower Power,” we get mandolin, a very familiar drum sound, a Hammond C-3, and a song telling us that thank you, their time is gonna come.

We’ve been here before, haven’t we?  Right to this very point.  Young bucks channeling Zeppelin, creating a buzz.  We could all rattle off a few bands.  It makes you wonder why, when we say a band echoes others of the past, say Sabs or The Byrds, it’s usually meant as a compliment and an enticement; if you like that band, you’ll like this one, too.  But when you say someone sounds like Led Zeppelin, there’s a pause, as if they’re tempting fate flying so close to the sun, like the fellow on the Swan Song label (who actually isn’t Icarus, but stick with me).  For my money, I can’t see anyone getting there until someone sequences Jimmy Page’s genome, and even then probably not.  Of course, we don’t want a new band to just copy the old band.  We want them to take the qualities we find so appealing, and then apply their own talents and sensibilities into a new, fresh sound.  Greta Van Fleet will inevitably reach the turning point and have to show more of their hand, but From the Fires is fun.

Two of the newer tracks on From the Fires are covers of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” and Fairport’s “Meet On The Ledge.”  The songs continue the positive themes found in their other lyrics.

“Highway Tune” is their earliest composition on From the Fires, and the Zeppelin comparisons continue to fly, with Jake Kiszka’s guitar playing uncannily Pagey and Josh’s ‘Ohhhhhhhhh’s are -  well, you get the picture.

The final two tracks, “Talk On the Street” and “Black Smoke Rising” do seem to diverge from the Zeppelin sound into something different (although you can hear Lynyrd Skynrd, Heart and other influences).

The band has written the songs for a true Long Player, due sometime this year.  Greta Van Fleet thus far have accomplished what they set out to do; they’ve gotten our attention, they’ve made us smile.  Whether they’ll be a Rutles of Zoso, or morph their sound into a confident style all their own remains to be seen. Best of luck, lads.

(Mark Feingold)


(CD from Gare Du Nord Records  www.garedunord.com  )

The Gare Du Nord label has been putting out some great records of late, and here is yet another.  It has been a few years since Jack’s last solo album ‘Practical Wireless’.  Jack first came to my attention through his pedal and lap-steel playing as a member of Hefner.  Before that he formed a band called Spongefinger, before joining The Woodcraft Folk.  Subsequently playing steel, guitar and fiddle on albums for numerous artists such as Mark Fry, Ralegh Long and Oliver Cherer.  He is also an active member of the prolific London group Papernut Cambridge.  With this record he has fashioned a fine folk album, and produced an early contender for record of the year.  Abbey Wood is a loose concept album, which was fashioned while he was living in a long abandoned children’s home called Abbey wood, in London.  A large sprawling run down building that had four kitchens and six bathrooms, none of which were in working order. 

Album opener ‘The Mulberry Tree’, is a finely spun yarn, accompanied by guitar and whirly tube, imbued with some fine lines such as “Dark green leaves and bloody fruit, to stain your shirt in Abbey wood”.  ‘Fanny On The Hill’, is next, a drunkard’s tale, to a bed of twinkling music box and plucked fiddle, It tells of highwayman and liquid dinners, fleeing from the law, to the hoots of owls and barking dogs, before a ghostly glimmering steel appears, decorated by the ethereal vocals of Riz Mazlen, (who also adds her vocals to three more of these songs).  ‘Arandora Star’, is a tale that is unfamiliar to me, a tragic tale of a ship bombed off the coast of Ireland, whilst making speed for Canada. It tells of Churchill rounding up some 800 German and Italian prisoners of war, loading them onto the Arandora Star at the Birkenhead docks.  A shanty type tune, accompanied by guitar, melodica and plangent steel.  ‘I Am John’s Care Home’, a ghostly tale, from the perspective of the care home, it has loads of slippery steel and clattering percussion.  It recalls time to kill in a rundown care home, and of playing board games, about alchemy and of ”Turning shit into gold and sand into light bulbs”.   ‘But I don’t Know About Frankie’, a tragic spoken word tale of a man who died out in the cold, trying to get into a substation, frozen solid only moments from safety. 

‘At Crossness Pumping Station’, features chromatic harmonica, fiddle and acoustic guitar, it’s a visceral song, soaked in bodily excretions, of “shit and piss and blood”.  ‘Bigger Than the Storm’, features the beautiful voice of Suzanne Rhattigan, cool steel licks, rising organ swells and sympathetic drums played by his Papernut Cambridge pal Ian Button.  ‘Teasemaid’, is a brief jazzy song, which features old time fiddle and ukulele.  ‘I Sent My Love To Bendigo’, an affecting tale of a traveller Walter, whose horse was taken from him and after a fruitless search for it hung himself on xmas eve out of spite, It has some terrific steel licks and a bunch of weird Instruments like saw and whirly tubes, played here by Dollboy colleague by Oliver Cherer.  ‘Mrs Mainwaring’, is a humorous judgemental song about her upstairs, an imploring war time lullaby, with discordant electric guitar, fiddle and synth.  ‘The Stranger Fair’, tells of the wall of death, of sitting ducks, waltzers and coconut shies, the tunnel of love; to plenty of lovely drifting steel.  Album closer is pretty much a reprise of ‘Arandora Star’, translated and read here in Italian by Sylvie De, in which we can hear the workings of the ship.  The album is one of the most memorable that I’ve heard in a while, a modern day folk classic.   (Andrew Young)



(CD/LP on Megadodo Records )

The two singles that the band released last year and their attendant b-sides are included on this debut album along with ten more new songs.  I have been looking forward to this album as I really enjoyed those singles and it doesn’t disappoint.  It is an album rooted in the psych pop of the sixties, plenty of swirling organ, concise guitar parts, drums and bass.  Green Seagull consist of Paul Nelson, from New Electric Ride and Paul Milne, of Hidden Masters along with Sarah Gonputh, Keyboards and vocals plus Elian Dalmasso, on drums and vocals.  They put together this album throughout 2017.  Standout tracks are the second single and album opener ‘Not Like You And Me’, and the debut single ‘Scarlet’,the baroque toytown psyche of ‘Remember The Time’, and  ‘( I Used To Dream In) Black And White’, all 12 string jangle, harmonious and slightly reminiscent of The Moodies.    ‘What Happened To The Girls?’, introduces a bit of fuzz guitar, ending in mad organ spinning off into the cosmos.  I can’t help getting up for a little boogie as soon as ‘They Just Don’t Know’ begins; I defy you not to feel the urge too.  

Side two starts with ‘I Live And I Let Live’ it comes on a bit like an English Byrds, plenty of 12 string jangle pop.  ‘After All This Time’, slows things down a bit with a dreamy wistful song of lost love.  ‘Shrubbery Road’, goes through plenty of changes in its three minutes, it is a descending paean to a magical house, just come in out of the rain and have some tea.  ‘Unseen Eyes’ a moody little accessible pop psych confection with a lovely organ solo.  ‘Scraggly Old Tramp’, is a winner.  It poses the question of who is the happier, he who has everything or he who has nothing?  A propulsive slab of psych rock, with big fat chords and peels of organ.  ‘Lay My Head’, sung by Sarah is angular and has more of a prog structure.   Album closer ‘Girls Are Coming Into Town’, a swirling psych tune that’s tight as a gnats arse.  Green Seagull have made a harmony rich, new psych classic, with shades of The Left Banke.   (Andrew Young)



(CD/LP on Tin Angel Records )

Trembling Bells’ music and lyricism have always seemed to yearn for a time before algorithm, clickbait, and mass programming made us all what we aren’t today. Having shed the pressure of “folk rock’s” next big thing they have matured, grown confident and in the process amassed a formidable recorded catalogue and have developed into must-see live draw.

They’ve also achieved it without resorting to cliché. The subject matter is less jolly ploughman more dark night of the soul, while their embrace of rock idioms in myriad forms, jazz and classical leanings means that they are porous to influence and not some adjunct of a heritage industry in which Merrie England (and in Trembling Bells’ case Bonnie Scotland) is preserved in a syrupy and bittersweet aspic. They are a band clearly comfortable – or at least happily uncomfortable – in their own skin as this quite possibly career best will attest.

Picking the bones out of this their 7th studio album then and a short and breezy prelude gives way to a ‘Knocking On The Coffin’, a heady turn (of the 1970s) in which the rumbling drums, pedal effects and harmonics hang like creepers from ancient oaks. This is pastoral and potent acid rock straight out of the witchwood topped off by some lovely swoon vocals in the coda. ‘My Father Was A Collapsing Star’ has been part of the live set for a couple of years featuring Alex Neilson’s consumptive delivery (imagine Paolo Nutini sired by Mike Heron) which stands in roughly hewn contrast to Lavinia Blackwall’s polished diamond of operatic opulence. It’s typical of his idiosyncratic yet often endearing and catchy song writing. Descending bassline and discordant modal structure whipped into a galloping pace provides the gothic blueprint for ‘Death Knocked At My Door’. It also highlights an occasional tendency for the incredibly versatile Blackwall to affect Siouxie Sioux phrasings yet managing to sound cask aged in the folk tradition while there’s enough space for rock-god guitar and god-knows what else – it reveals more each listen. Truly masterful, although there’s better yet to come on the album’s keystone, ‘Christ Enters Govan’. It’s the acme of the Bells sound, beautifully sung, powerfully delivered and lavished over an intricate but deft multi-instrumental arrangement speeding up as if the brake cables had been cut, coming to rest in an escape lane coda of peeling church bells.

Flipping the download code face down to side 2 then and if ‘Death…’ is their “goth” moment then ‘The Prophet’ is where they hitch a ride on the “we’re all Sabbath now” planet caravan. It also appears there have been sightings of the ‘Devil In Dungeness’ – hell, Kent ain’t (such) a bad place to be. Here, our heroes camp it up, atop an introductory tango rhythm with Blackwall in her pomp, surging and swooping, with the band playing a blinder, whipping is in all directions leaving us if not like dervishes then giddy kids bumping into the wall. “I was drunk at the wheel of a runaway machine” intones Neilson introducing “This Is How The World Will End” one of the more traditional offering here, if a typically skewed and lyrically dark and complex example of his song craft, with dream sequence of theme-park Americana thrown in for good measure.

Into the final couple of furlongs and if you catch yourselves mumbling “this’ll be the single, I expect” during ’I’m Coming’ then award yourselves a double helping of what you fancy. It’s less intricate, more uncluttered and therefore leaves enough room for radio airplay. The open spaces also make for a freshness that belies the bleak despair and rank remorse of the lyrics, like chickens coming home to rot. What is it with penny whistles and watery themes? It’s used to such good effect on ’Rebecca Dressed As A  Waterfall’ as it was by fellow Caledonian precursors Incredible String Band on ‘The Water Song’, the lyrics to which I still know by rote several decades after they were first embedded in my sub-conscious. There’s a feeling of being washed clean while being gently massaged by soft synth twitters and jangling guitar. Of course it becomes darker and more tangled as it stumbles among tumbling drums through the thicket. Face it, you’d be disappointed otherwise. Wouldn’t you?
(Ian Fraser )



(LP from Thread Recordings http://www.threadrecordings.com/ CD from Ferric Mordant) 

Hard to believe this is only the third album from Anglo-American folk duo Cath (ex-Cordelia’s Dad) and Phil Tyler and their first in eight years. We hope this apparent reticence on their part has nothing to do with the fact that Terrascope covered that one, too. If memory serves it was a positive review, after all (a trek back through the archive reveals that Rumbles August 2010 does indeed bear this out).

Good traditional folk music tends to invoke the Law of Trigger’s Broom. Words are changed down the years and a variety of tunes (sometimes self-penned) employed by way of successive interpretation. Yet the song remains the same. The Ox and The Ax is no exception, though Trad.Arr it remains. It is proficient yet at the same time isn’t showy, giving a perhaps misleading impression of attainability to aspiring players and club performers.

While the Appalachian numbers ‘Rainbow Mist’ and ‘Talk About Suffering’ stand up well in their own right - Cath’s voice occasionally straining and cracking, adding to the authenticity and no-frills packaging - it’s the ones from this side of the Big Pond that appeal most to these old lugs. From opener ‘The Two Sisters’, it’s also evident that the underlying strength of Cath and Phil is in the instrumentation. Phil’s guitar work in particular is proficient, melodic and capable of stirring the imagination. Me? I have been trying to puzzle out what he’s doing on ‘King Henry’, one of a clutch of go-to cuts and augmented by drum and brass. It’s their own music set to a riddle rhyme that has its roots in god knows when and manages to sound at once as old as hills and fresh as daisies. ‘Lady Dysie’ too can lay claim to playing top card – a timeless Carthy-esque number dealing with politics, power and bawdy romping (nothing much has changed there then). You know it isn’t going to end well. These tales never do. More importantly it introduces to the mix everyone’s favourite musical “marmite”, the banjo. Luckily your reviewer has a big soft spot for the instrument and is pleased as punch that it resurfaces on the charmingly understated ‘Wallington’. Jaunty and jaundiced, ‘Song Of The Lower Classes’ is a song of protest or perhaps rueful resignation. You can well imagine Leon Rosselson and Dick Gaughan making a more than decent fist of this one. Although a very different tune to the song called ‘Kingdom’ that Robert Wyatt covered on the Ultramarine album United Kingdom the words are clearly kissing cousins.

All very gratifying then, and while it just won’t do for someone who plays with two left hands in boxing gloves to advise anyone on how they should approach their future musical output can we suggest they don’t leave it so long next time?
(Ian Fraser)


(CD available through Burning Shed)

XTC remain for me at the absolute peak of quirky, intelligent and sophisticated pop and without doubt qualify for the award of ‘National Treasures’. In fact were they to erect a statue of the boys I might actually consider volunteering to clean it each day with a toothbrush if required in recognition of the joy their albums and singles have given me over the years (well OK on reflection maybe I wouldn’t actually commit to a daily trip to Swindon with a toothbrush but you get the drift…).

Whilst we’ve been spoilt in recent years by musical treats from Andy Partridge and the excellent XTC reissue programme, little or nothing has been heard of the wonderful vocal and songwriting talents of Colin Moulding and the inventive drumming of Terry Chambers, a signature sound on the classic records of old. The release of ‘Great Aspirations’ although only an EP is nonetheless a welcome remedy to that situation and cause for celebration.

The first thing to say is that although short, this EP is bursting with musical ideas and tangents which include the expected nod to the XTC sound and rhythm but also visits many other reference points. It’s almost like a drawing board prototype of a full length record with tantalising options for developing their ideas still to be fleshed out.

‘Scatter Me’ starts off with a piano melody that sounds like prime Elton John before the XTC ‘pop chops’ kick in with a tune that could happily sit with classic singles of yesteryear. However this is not just playing it safe as an XTC song in disguise to meet expectations. The piano and ghostly sax could almost be a mash up of an upbeat Peter Gabriel playing with Supertramp from the ‘Breakfast in America’ era all on top of a classic XTC beat. It’s an infectious song that would happily blare out from car radios, shops and bedrooms in a perfect world.

Next up is ‘Greatness (The Aspiration Song)’ – part sung and part spoken vocals with a simple but memorable guitar melody and a hint of XTC’s ‘King for a Day’ in the feel of the song. There is a richness to the song through the warm background vocals and synths giving the song a lovely pop rock sheen but holding onto that slight touch of left field wit in the vocal, lyrics and arrangement to keep it from becoming smooth ear balm.

‘Kenny’ has quite a rocky vibe from the word go drawing from high quality 80’s and 90’s guitar pop as much as XTC’s new wave roots. Again the quirky lyrics come through, at times as a kind of Ian Dury-esque semi spoken poetry rap. A beautiful horn melody underpins the latter part of the song and slowly becomes the lone sound to the fade out. As XTC might have possibly said sometime in the past this is indeed pop of the highest order and again it marries the catchy and the quirky beautifully.

Finally ‘Comrades in Pop’ which is at first listen at odds with the rest of the EP. A tinkling piano starts and finishes the song within which is sandwiched a strange synth and tom-tom driven march with ‘Parklife’ style spoken word lyrics over the top. It’s an odd lyric which is basically a morality tale about being in a band and the perils you might face. It sounds almost demo like when compared to the more crafted tracks which go before it and I can see it dividing opinion. I find it a fascinating idea however which actually deserves to be on the EP. There are hints of The Divine Comedy in how the track is structured and if you take the stance that this is, hopefully, a tentative step towards more recordings, there is an idea here which could be developed and refined into something very good indeed.

This is a sometimes strange, often wonderful and never less than intriguing recording and an extremely welcome return to the front line for Colin and Terry. Let’s hope they are making plans for more music to follow.

(Francis Comyn)


(LP from

I honestly didn’t know what to think when first becoming aware there was a band called Gnob doing the rounds. Either it was likely to be a none too grown-up play on Gnod or, worse, a tribute act in the mould of By Jovi, Stoned Roses or, yes, the Guiseley Brothers (ask yer uncle Fran about that one).

Hast come to this, already, psych lovers? Then all is lost, all is lost. Then the crossword geek in me kicked into life – what if it were an anagram of the word Bong which I’m reliably informed by meticulous desk-top research is some smoking device for some peculiar form of ready rubbed tobacco.

And so it proves to be. So no Gnob jokes then, thankfully, but more than enough over-powered shenanigans to satisfy the most demanding stoner and assuage the massed acolytes of amplification. With a backroom team comprising the invariably unerring Drone Rock Records and the mighty John McBain behind the mastering desk you know this is one debut album that is bound to fly.

There’s a touch of the exotic as well as Gnob pack plenty of Eastern (not just East London) promise to leaven the crunching riffs and what would otherwise be an overwhelmingly tinnitus-inducing blood sacrifice and one in which I’d have lost interest by half time.  Old school opener, track the titular, leaves you in no doubt as to where this is all headed. It’s all very dramatic and over the top in a way that evokes Comets On Fire colliding headlong with Deep Purple, flared trousers and denim jackets with patches on the back. The rest mixes the esoteric and earthbound in varying intoxicating quantities. There’s the Zep holler of ‘Freedom Forty Five’ while. ‘The Offering’ is like necking high octane jet fuel without even the remote presence of a safety net or responsible adult – a ridiculous cocktail of noise and dynamism in which McBain as much as the band comes into his own.

Just as it risks getting a little wearing and bogged down in its own gravitational pull it wriggles loose in the final couple of stanzas - ‘Genie In The Raggini’ and ‘Snake Charmer’ proving there is, potentially, much more to Gnob than hoary old ear(th) shattering bludgeoning, albeit the latter can’t resist building to an insane climax.

Judging from the rave reviews of their appearance at the recent Drone Rock Records showcase (Carlton Melton, Psychic Lemon and Stereocilia providing impressive company) this manages to encapsulate a lot of Gnob’s impressive on stage presence. I’m not sure how often I’ll be tempted to return to the download within the bourgeois “comfort” of my veal crate home office but wouldn’t hesitate about grabbing the chance of catching them in the wild.
(Ian Fraser)



(LP/CD/DL from Drag City)

Twelve months since Terrascope was honoured to host the Alasdair Roberts Trio at London’s Café Oto, one of our favourite troubadours is back fronting a new triumvirate and a very different sound to that which graced the exquisite Pangs album last time around.

The first thing to mention is the absence of guitar, the usual Roberts weapon of choice, replaced here by David McGuinness’ pianos. Not just any old pianos mind you but vintage instruments that evoke dusty recesses and which befit the eight brand spanking new centuries old Scots ballads even if they may not be everyone’s obvious idea of accompaniment. The third musical component here is Amble Skuse, whose sympathetic synthetic manipulations are a gentle reminder that - by my waistcoat and breeches - we are of the 21st century and which adds an intriguing and unexpected guile to the traditional fare.

Relieved of his usual instrumental duties he may be, but Roberts’ voice exudes as ever a plaintive weariness which if not conventionally pretty is as effective as it is endearing in its vulnerability. You can’t help but root for someone who sounds like they are constantly battling such adversity. The melodious curtain raiser ‘Dun Broon Bride’ belies the malodorous “red wedding” theme – never invite a rejected suitor to your wedding is our tip for the day. Rarely has a double murder been played out to such sweet accompaniment. But I’m telling you the plot. And so it goes, each tale as harrowing as the last to the extent that even the scriptwriters of Eastenders or Welsh misery-guts cop drama Hinterland might balk at taking up the rights. Yet there’s no escaping the magnetic pull of these three seemingly disparate elements with McGuinness’s inventive playing something of a sonorous revelation to these old ears.

Catchy singalong ‘The Fair Flower of Northumberland’ has been part of the set list for a while and recounts the tale of a young noblewoman pilloried for laying with the ancient enemy (out damned Scot) only for us to find out that she’s something of a pea out of the old pod. It’s an islet of levity in comparison with much of the rest and boy how we ought to enjoy revelling in the intrigue, duplicity and sticky ends. Meanwhile ‘Johnnie O’ The Brine’ is a bit of a gallop, a dramatic and atypically up-tempo number from the Roberts canon, a murderous hunting “accident” waiting to happen. It’s also one of the album highlights (predictable plea for Soundcloud uploading please, Alasdair/Drag, in time for our next playlist).

All the ingredients come together on the ten minute ‘Clerk Colven’, a funereal, repetitive and somewhat spooky piece of sinister seduction involving infidelity and a mermaid with a fatal kiss (the usual salutary tale for those of you tempted to rove with more than your eye). Roberts’ tenor truly comes into its own in the fateful and ethereal coda. Oh and while we are at it, you will be treated to the best version of ‘Long A-Growing’ you are likely to hear, a wistful yet beautiful take that breathes fresh life into an old staple, the sublime interplay between piano, voice and pipe ensuring that we end on a high. Except that might be a contradiction in terms in this case.

Organic, deep rooted and deliciously oak aged, yet interpretively inventive, What Now is an experience to be savoured slowly and oft, each listen peeling away further layers to reveal new depth and meaning, lyrically and musically. As good an entry point as any for listeners wishing to explore Scottish folk music in the narrative tradition. Well I’m off to explore it again and I’m damned if I won’t be having a couple of drams to help me find my way.

(Ian Fraser)




3 x Vinyl LP set www.fruitsdemerrecords.com

The Fruits de Mer record label started in 2008, with the premise of producing limited coloured vinyl 7” singles.  Releasing versions of classic yet obscure songs, covered by modern day artists.  These cover version singles came into being solely due to the hassles that soon became apparent to label owners Keith Jones and Andy Bracken of licensing the originals.  The first single was a cover of “Theme One” by Schizo Fun Addict, a song that is represented here by Tor Peders.  This special label is one of my favourites and should be classified as a National Treasure.  It has since grown to include sub labels such as Regal Crabmophone and Strange Fish, along the way releasing some cracking and highly sought after recordings, which have escalated in price over the years, with one recent release fetching over £250 earlier this year.  They have also recently been called the world’s most collectable record label.  Here some of those long deleted 7” singles have been pressed up again in the form of a triple album and being Fruits de Mer it is also accompanied by a bonus 7”.

Side one begins with the aforementioned Tor Peders and their excellent version of “Theme One”.  “Venus In Furs” by Sendelica follows, a band who could almost be classified as the house band, it’s a lovely version that deserves to be heard, however it is fairly untypical of their usual stuff.  The one that first hooked me by the label way back in 2008 was Us and Them’s beguiling cover of “Willows Song” the come hither classic taken from the soundtrack of The Wicker Man, Brett’s voice, along with the cloaking mellotron strings elevate it to essential.  Barcelona’s Stay deliver a fairly straight up version of “2,000 Light years From Home”.  Tír na nO̒g show their lack of morals with ‘I Pick Up Birds At Funerals’. The Chemistry Set rev up proceedings with a shimmering psych cover of “Kiss Me, Vibrate And Smile”.  Hills Have Riffs take us down to the watery depths with “Down By The River”, White Sails steady the waters with an acoustic instrumental “Fluff”.  “Caterpillar Song” by Soft Hearted Scientists is an epic 9 minutes long and uses them all wisely; ending with a lovely compressed guitar solo and synth fade out. Germany’s Vibravoid deliver an excellent “Eye Shaking King”. The hypnotic and trippy “Here She Comes Now”, by Claudio Cataldi follows.  King Penguin’s cover of the classic Gene Clarke tune “She Don’t Care About Time”, is just wonderful all ringing guitars and electric harpsichords, a real gem.  Portugal’s Beautiful Junkyards are on great form with the hushed beauty that is “From The Morning”.  “Hilly Fields” was a true one off when it appeared in the eighties and here is given a very strange makeover by its writer nick nicely with “Hilly Fields (The Mourning)”.

Blue Zeta Puppies come up with a fine version of Bernie Leadon’s “Journey Of The Sorcerer”, keeping fairly true to the original but ditching the banjo. One of the most out there bands on the label have been Cranium Pie who here deliver a straightforward version of the Beatles song “Baby You’re A Rich Man”.  Crystal Jacqueline’s version of “Cousin Jane” is lovely as is Mark McDowell’s “Girls Of Belvoir” which is just delightful.  One of label owner Keith’s favourite bands are The Pretty Things and they keep up the quality level of this essential release with a fine version of “Helter Skelter”.  The Honey Pot come over all Mr Pugh with the excellent phased strings of “Dr Crippen’s Waiting Room”, all tootling mellotron and lovely lead guitar.  Another band who have recorded a few times for the label are Finland’s Permanent Clear Light, they appear here with “Wherewithal”, a Beatleesque song that is a real grower, with a lovely guitar sound and parping ‘tron.  Frobisher Neck come up with another keyboard dominated instrumental called “Isi”, imbued with light percussion and fine mellotron.  A real earworm of a tune from the talented one man band that is Poland’s Kris Gietowski, who here gets to grips with the Egg classic “I Will Be Absorbed”, again another keyboard dominated instrumental which also shows off his skilful drumming.  Jack Ellister ups the psych quotient with “Man With The Biochopper”, a song he throws the kitchen sink at, trippy and mad as a box of frogsSidewalk Society take us on “Strange Roads”, the Action’s song, all blistering lewd guitar and clattering drums, nice.  Astralasia arrive with the spoken word epic “The Desert” plenty of raw harp, searing lead guitar, hammered dulcimer, swirling synths and a loping dub inflected rhythm. John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”, is the penultimate track, reinterpreted here by Superfjord, reinvented as a spoken word space rock track.  The record ends with another of Keith’s favourite bands the Small Faces, their classic “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake”, is given the Fruits de Mer treatment by Schizo Fun Addict closing out the circle they started with FDM’s very first 7”.  The bonus 7” has Saturn’s Ambush breathing new life into the old TV classic theme tune “White Horses”, replete with deliberately wonky guitar solo.  Plus Johnny Vines proggy “Waterfall (Jane)”, taken from the long sold out, must have, double album Head Music. This triple album will also no doubt sell out fast and will, I feel, top those end of year lists. 

Released at the same time as this triple album, is a 7”EP by Permanent Clear Light, which has three songs that are not covers but are new and original.  “Maurice”, a heavy dense track of keyboards, drum, bass and with a section of Morse code thrown in, it also includes a little of Theremin too. “One In Five”, is a track that is about mental illness, again keyboard rich with plenty of ‘tron.  The final song “This Smiling Man”, is terrific, it’s about inventor Robert Oppenheimer who as we all know created a monster, an invention whose reverberations are still being felt around the world at the moment, with Little Rocket Man and the Idiot President.

The label are going to be celebrating their 10th birthday with a special gig at The King Arthur pub in Glastonbury in May, at which all sorts of items are being pressed up for sale, including 160 copies of a solo album by Cranium Pie’s keyboard twiddler Rob Appleton called Vertical Tide, whose solo project is the excellently named Moonweevil.  He has come up with a sprawling affair, dominated and bookended by two huge 19 minute tracks that take in prog, library music and even a bit of dub reggae.  There is also going to be a split 5” lathe cut single available by The Honey Pot and Icarus Peel’s - Acid Reign, this will be
in an edition of 80 copies and will be presented in a tin.  It has two very short tracks, about all you can fit on a 5” single, they are “Shining Diamonds” a song about meeting friends and acquaintances at various FDM gigs through the years and also “Half Space” which is a short frenetic bongo infused song with plenty of searing guitar. There will also be a 90 copy run of a new Tír na ng 7” lathe cut single, which pairs a Sweeney’s Men track called “Hall Of Mirrors”, cited as their only psychedelic outing. This is paired with a tune that takes its words from a song written in 1926 by Hope Mirrlees called “Columbine”.  It’s a story in which some youngsters dance around, trance like, after ingesting some strange fruit.

(Andrew Young)



(CD on Green Monkey)

So I’m sat here on St. Patrick’s Day, celebrating the wearing (and hearing) of the Green (Pajamas), snuggled up with a Bushmills and a CroMagnon Black Irish. For this, the final installment in the 15-year saga cobbled under the “Northern Gothic” umbrella is perhaps their most intimate, darkest, and personal album in an illustrious career about to enter its fifth decade! The twelve selections follow a roughhewn roadmap “inspired by childhood”, from guitarist Laura Weller’s early years in the titular neighbourhood section of Bellevue, Washington to main Pajama, Jeff Kelly’s own holidays to Lost Lake outside Shelton, Washington, the westernmost city on the Puget Sound, which also borders the band’s hometown of Seattle. Geography and weather play a part in many of these songs, from lakes and woods holding mysterious secrets, to taverns that witness revenge murders and waves that pull accidental suicides “out to the moon” to keyboardist Eric Lichter’s tale of the  tsunami that claimed ‘The Rosebergs’.

The album is also populated by mysterious women whose stories become indelibly-etched in the head and heart, and it is through them that we realise these tales reflect legends that Weller and Kelly may remember hearing as children, not necessarily events that happened TO them. Kelly sings of Katie River Blue, the “Indian girl [who] went missing” and the titular ‘Lisa Lou’ who “haunts my heart”; the ex-wife, ‘Paulina’, who left him for another man who eventually meets the wrong end of “Kelly”’s revengeful gun. Then there’s the tribute to the Native Indian activist, Zitkala-Sa (Lakota for ‘Red Bird’); the one who got away, ‘Ana (All The Way Down)’, and the strange ‘Monica [Who] Talks To Angels’, but might “be on to something”! Anabella, the “Madonna of the Lake” is a witch who is survived by nothing but her turquoise crown and black bridal gown, but even those are buried in the grown under seven candles as the “dawn starts to hiss”. And we’ll probably need a few extra showers to wash off the bodily fluids and basement floor soot courtesy ‘Amy’ [whose] Gonna Take You Down’.

Weller’s ‘Long Black Shadow’ reveals a rare bluesy, Pajamas swagger, as does the creeping, stalking ‘Paulina’, while ‘Ana (All The Way Down)’ is a sexy, sinewy F-Beat wah-wah stomp that leaves our protagonist “Full of whiskey, full of sin”, begging to “die for a little while”. ‘The Shepard Well’ reminds me of the old Lorne Green tale of ‘Ringo’, recounting the tale of a mysterious stranger who came to town to break the spell of the ominous, eerie gate to hell that ultimately swallows another man. This is the stuff of legend that Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone made career-defining Westerns out of 50 years ago. It also feels like an orphan from the old Green Pajamas Country days, and immediately ranks in the upper echelon of the Pajamas’ illustrious discography, soon to top about 50 releases, including solo and related material (cf., Goblin Market).

Kelly’s blazing guitar sizzles throughout, from tasty fills through spotlight-coveting solos, but trademark catchy pop sensibilities have not been completely abandoned, witness the punchy ‘No Way Outta This’ with Eric Lichter’s barrelhouse piano fills. Weller’s title track wraps everything up in a gloomy, internecine plea with regretful, suicidal overtones. I told you it was their darkest effort yet!

And now, as I empty my glass and tap the final ash off my stogie, I think it’s time to retire to the room down the hall and succumb to the charms of Morpheus and Hypnos.
(Jeff Penczak)



The Left Outsides – The Shape of Things to Come
(LP from Feeding Tube and Cardinal Fuzz )  

It’s with a glad heart that we announce this welcome re-issue of this 2009 collection (which was given its first vinyl release in 2015) from Terrascope faves The Left Outsides.

Those of you with long memories and unerring taste may recall that Alison Cotton and Mark Nicholas were part of Eighteenth Day of May, who had the distinction of featuring on Rob da Bank’s now iconic “Folk Off” collection of new folk and psychedelia from both sides of the Big Pond, before forming the unit now under consideration. They’ve played the Terrascope Tea Party, Woolf Music Festival, at the Terrascope 25th Anniversary bash with Bevis Frond in 2015 and are about to head out on tour with Robyn Hitchcock. We also can’t wait to announce another special performance by them under the Terrascope banner, but that is going to have to keep for now.

The follow-up to their accomplished 2008 debut And Colours in Between, The Shape of Things To Come is crammed with Alison and Mark’s trademark atmospheric, gentle psych/folk and the odd jolly pop rocker thrown in for good measure. The songs are invariably strong and the arrangements intelligent and sympathetic, which all add up to a glut of sweeping melodies and haunting refrains. In Cotton and Nicholas’ case this is a marriage in more than one sense, the sum of the parts creating a full and satisfying whole and while it may be tempting to brand all this as “quintessentially English” this overlooks the varied and complex components of the Left Outsides sound.

Latino strains usher in “The Third Light” and thus Nicholas’ smoky and faintly nasal vocals which places him closer to Gruff Rhys than Nick Drake, while his twanging hollow-body guitar intertwines with Alison’s viola. Cotton’s clear, captivating voice comes to the fore on cuts of such gorgeousness as “To Where Your Footsteps Led” and “Fallen By The Wayside”.  Yet the absolute highlight has to be “Ring Out The Bells”, on which Mark’s resigned vocal is led around on a slow waltz, about which Alison’s viola weaves its spell (although the dreamy yet dramatic title track runs it close). It’s all quite dark yet playful; home-spun, yet worldly and well- travelled, part acid folk with hints of portentous balladry and filmic imagery as viewed through a gypsy campfire. In other words, all thoroughly delightful.

The Left Outsides are riding something of a wave following the acclaimed There Is A Place (see Reviews July 2017) and as a result of their on-going collaboration with Cardinal Fuzz. Rejoice, as an album of new material is also in the offing. By diversifying into lightly dusted folky psychedelia, Cardinal Fuzz have shown the courage of their convictions in deviating from script. In so doing they’ve earned even more brownie points hereabouts (no, we didn’t think that was possible either). We dare say you’ll be reading all about that one here, soon.

(Ian Fraser)