= May 2011 =  
Temple Music
Trembling Bells
Stonefield Tramp
The Method
Piccadilly Sunshine
Tangle Edge
Akron / Family
Outshine Family
Cath & Phil Tyler
Harps & Dora Bleu
Portable Shrines
Old Californio
Sproatley Smith
Forbidden Planet

CD/LP from JAGJAGUWAR www.jagjaguwar.com)

Wherein we witness the culmination of NYC’s finest avant-psychedelicists’ “Thank Your Parents” trilogy, following on from the three part tribal ur-skronk of “Preteen Weaponry”, and the wondrous triple album of dubstep/space metal/krautrock/drone/what have you, that was “Rated O”.

Three-part albums, triple albums, trilogies – good things evidently come threefold from the Good Battlestar Oneida – but what, you might ask, can they come up with this time? Well this has to be one of the loudest and most intense works never to feature a drummer, at least not one I can hear in the mix. So where on earth is Kid Millions, psychedelic hardcore’s own Animal? And do we miss him? Well yes, for one thing he might have brought some light relief to proceedings.

Let me explain...

“Pre-Human” could be the intros to “Echoes” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” as interpreted by a toxic mutation of Kraftwerk. It is a roughly hewn stratospheric, experimental droneathon of the first order. Of the four tracks it is also the most mellow and least demanding. Well of course, you’re waiting for the trademark drums and motorik beats. And you’ll wait in vain, pilgrim, for this is riff forsaken territory to be sure.

 “Horizons” is next up and is a more urgent and raucous (if not rawk us) affair. Helicopter blade-like synths hint at extreme noise terror, while single guitar notes and heavily distorted, tremolo turned up to 11 drone-voice batter the defences slowly but surely. It’s as if Hawkwind had sacked their rhythm section back in 1972 and just left the synthesizers/audio generators to get on with it, with the doors of the Roundhouse or somewhere all locked and bolted from the outside.

 “Gray Area” begins with silence, blessed silence. Then, with a jump, (ab)normal service is quickly, no that should be slowly, resumed. The minimal guitar shred is louder and more resolute now. The synths sound like they might...or should... conk out any time now. No respite though...It’s a noise that gets in your head –you crave more...or possibly less, or maybe both. Turn the volume up a couple more notches and hit the dimmer button. Now how does it feel? More to the point, how do YOU feel? Jumpy, petrified even? Join the club.

Ah yes, the title track. It’s quieter, more meditative, still edgy, Yes, the machines, those contraption, they’re still there you know. Thought you could hide in the darkest corner? No, there’s nothing doing I’m afraid, it’s like they sense you and are seeking you out, sniffing, feeling, like they know you’re there. They’re insistent, relentless, and then slowly they pass.

Then silence...

Absolute II is unnerving, genuinely terrifying, music for the interrogation room. Yet somehow this is such a good noise and would work equally well as a soundtrack or in a live environment, as a stand-alone entity or as the end game playing out in a powerful and often thrilling trilogy. It’s just that I need a long walk, clear my head. Then I’m coming back for more.

(Ian Fraser)




(CD from Silken Tofu www.silkentofu.org and AntiClock Records www.anticlock.net)

And so, then, to one of the most extravagantly named releases currently doing the rounds (on a par, methinks, with Mogwai’s “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will”). Temple Music is a long-established offshoot of dark folk band Orchis and based around Steve Robinson (bass) and Alan Trench, whose impeccable pedigree includes association with Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound.

This kind of gives you a clue as to what all this is about. If not then four tracks that play as one and rejoice in titles such as “There Is No Light And I Cannot Get Out”, “Your Children Are Our Future”, “House In The Snow” and “Death Soon Come” should help the penny to plop noiselessly into the River Styx. This is minimalist psychedelic drone at its chilling and ominous best, an unsettling yet at the same time exquisite collection of ambient textures that thoughtfully combine acoustic and electronic instruments, field recordings and drones with spoken word vocals courtesy of two women named as Lisa and Tracy (which in the context of this recording is a bit like finding out that Dracula’s first name was Dennis). There’s not much more to say except that if you enjoy being frightened and are prone to spending time in dark rooms reading Arthur Machen by candlelight then this is probably for you. Or to put it another way, it takes up where Book of Shadows leaves off, so pretty much essential, in other words.

You’ve been warned. (Ian Fraser)



(Honest Jon’s Records)

Straight out of the gate, Trembling Bells’ third effort hits you right between the eyes with the anthemic clarion call, ‘Just As The Rainbow’, and it’s clear this time out they’re reaching for greater heights than previous efforts. For goodness sake, this could’ve been something off a long lost U2 record, complete with Bono’s self-important posturing and fans swaying arms akimbo with lighters outstretched. Luckily, Lavinia Blackwell is blessed with one of the purest voices on the New Folk scene, so self control is the order of the day. The quartet continue their upbeat, highkicking onslaught with the ferocious-paced ‘All My Favourite Mistakes,” which almost sounds like Camper Van Beethoven at a rodeo hoedown!

                  Mike Hastings’ guitar is firmly planted in Fuzzville this time around as well, which adds an extra bite to the tracks, although they still retain their American roots-rock ambience. Hell, let’s just say this release has more balls than earlier efforts – something that may have fans and Brit folk purists scratching their heads, but I like the progression into a louder, livelier rock arena. Rousing singalongs like ‘To See You Again’ will stick in the cranium for days, the cacophonous jam session that ends ‘Otley Rock Oracle’ is downright Zappaesque, and the stately brass band that strolls in the room ahead of ‘Goathland’ introduces one of the most magisterial pieces of folk music you’ll hear all year. And the tears-in-your-beer, self-pity party ‘New Year’s Eve’s The Loneliness Night of The Year’ ends the album in a rainy day reflective mood that allows time to marvel at the preceding 45 minutes. Brilliant all around! (Jeff Penczak)



(CD from www.aztecmusic.net)

     For several years now Aztec have been re-releasing excellent Australian/New Zealand Rock music from the sixties and seventies, this album maintains the quality, containing some wonderful sounds, as well as being housed in a great cover with a detailed booklet and featuring bonus material.

   Formed in 1970, after band members had been playing together in a variety of bands beforehand, Ticket were a Auckland based four-piece whose music was both heavy and melodic, reminding me of a cross between the Edgar Broughton Band and Early Uriah Heep. Opening track “Awake” kicks things off brilliantly, rumbling drums and confident vocals giving way to a rolling bass and some fluid guitar, the song full of energy as the band get into gear immediately. Following on, “Highway to Love” has a slightly mellower, funky feel, with some wonderful lead breaks taking centre-stage, before the equally accomplished “Dream Chant” rolls in with a throbbing bass and some great vocals that explain the Heep comparison, the band able to stretch the song out to 30 minutes live, helped by a steady steam of mind-altering chemicals, brought in by American servicemen, who were not subject to customs searches, a great song even with a straight mind, and one of the albums highlights.

    As with most heavy bands of the time Hendrix was an influence, nowhere more so than on “Broken Wings”, a fine song the has Jimi's hallmarks all over it, although this is not to distract from an excellent track with some great guitar work courtesy of Eddie Hansen. Also released as a single “Country High”, could be about the joys of the countryside, or maybe about being high in nature, whichever it is a great tune that reminds me of Man, never a bad thing in my opinion. With a more straight forward seventies hard-rock sound, “Reign Away” is a song that deserves to be turned up for full affect, the mix just about perfect, which is a credit to the skills of Frank Douglas, the producer who had helped build the studio in the first place, including a DIY echo plate, his intimate knowledge of the equipment, coupled with a honed and well rehearsed band meaning the whole album was completed in three days ! (someone should play it to Def Leppard).

    Originally the final track on the album, “Angel on my Mind”, has a beautiful melody running through it, some exquisite guitar the icing on a perfectly baked sonic cake, comleting an almost flawless seventies rock LP. Of course, this being an Aztec release, there are four bonus tracks, both sides of two singles, with the bluesy “Stoned Condition” living up to its name, the radio Programmers also ignoring it due to its title. On the B-side, “Then You'll Fly” turns out to be a gentle rock ballad that is pretty enough, but not essential, whilst their last single “Mr Music” Takes the Funk feel a bit further, maybe too far, although it is enjoyable enough. Finally, “Them Changes”, ends things on a high, a nice rocking tune that could have graced the album itself.
   All in all, an excellent album that deserves greater recognition, as it stands up well to comparison with more established LP's from the genre/era, thumbs up to Aztec (again) for the great job they have done. (Simon Lewis)



 (Riverman – CD; Guerssen – LP)

These Korean and Spanish reissue labels have unearthed some real treasures in the last few years – mostly private presses so obscure even the collectors don’t know about them! Stonefield Tramp were an Oxford quintet named after the town (Stonesfield) where the studio in which they recorded their debut was located. Terry Friend met Rob van Spyk in 1964 whilst both were members of the All Arms Junior Leaders Regiment stationed in Tonfanau in North Wales. After the service, they reunited in Letchworth and began writing and recording songs. In Easter 1974, joined by Brian Balster, they recorded their debut album in four hours for the princely sum of £16. Follow The Sun was privately released and released on Acorn Records as by R.J. Van Spyk and Friends. Five months later they recorded a follow-up with friends Dave Lloyd and Chris Sutoris, although Friend says he only contributed lyrics and was not involved in the recordings. They rechristened themselves Stonefield Tramp and released the album privately on their own Tramp imprint.

The album is a pleasant collection of politicised, Dylanesque folk, with van Spyk’s quivering vocals recalling Barry McGuire’s gruff bark. There is a homegrown, almost amateurish quality to the proceedings, which occasionally sound like demos, as if the tracks were all recorded live and the first take was a keeper. But that imbues the songs with an intimacy that would otherwise have been lost in a big studio on a major label’s budget. The album’s centrepiece is the powerful 10-minute anti-war sentiment, ‘Bitter World’, which castigates politicians for sending young men off “to take their brother’s life”. There’s a hallucinatory, Buckleyesque quality to van Spyk’s improvisational vocal exhortations, with Lloyd’s crisp guitar soloing serpentining throughout, although you’ll have to judge for yourself whether there’s any weight to the suggestion that the bassist was woefully out of tune. Regardless, this would’ve gone down wonders at a Terrastock gathering.
‘Oh Mothers Tell Your Children’ continues the band’s anti-war stance and is even more vitriolic than ‘Bitter World’, while ‘Jaded Jane’ (about Ms. Fonda?) completes the trilogy of peacenik tunes that suggests the band were listening to a lot of Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Rapp, and other similar minded folkies. Friend’s lyrical venom also targets the government responsible for the reprehensible conditions that envelop our heroes in ‘Social State Blues’ and force them to spend their days in drudgery working for the man in the ‘Factory.’ However, the album ends on a more positive note with ‘Doing Things Naturally’, a tender ballad that invites comparisons with Dr. Strangely Strange, while inviting listeners to “Take things nice and easy/Smile and turn the other cheek”. An insert allows you to sing along (although you may need a magnifying glass to decipher the handwritten lyrics) and you may just find yourself transported back to the mid-70s, singer-songwriter folk scene when politics filled young men’s hearts and minds more than silly love songs. There’s a naïve wholesomeness and honesty to the recordings – the band certainly were serious in their attempts to attract a wider audience, and while it’s not the long lost British Folk masterpiece some have suggested, it’s certainly worth a listen now that you don’t have to shell out £400 for the original vinyl!

Note: Terry Friend continues to write and record and has released over a dozen albums in the ensuing decades, including several with assistance from his old Stonefield Tramp mate, Brian Balster. He has an excellent website here, where you can buy the CD and check out current photos of the old Tramps!
(Jeff Penczak)



(See Monkey Do Monkey)

Welsh phenomena The Method follow up an impressive single with a righteous collection of snarly punk, infectious R&B, and Northern soul that’s one of the most exciting debut releases I’ve experienced all year. Vocalist Richie Hayes at times veers from spittle-drooling Billy Idol yelps to eerie, Jim Morrison-channelled-through-Ian Astbury warbling (could ‘The Gatekeeper & I’ be a long lost Cult B-side?), while the band successfully switch musical hats from ‘60s surf twang to ‘80s anthemic dancefloor crashers with razor-sharp guitar shredding for good measure.

Putting a 21st century spin on familiar 80s riffage is nothing to scoff at and The Method are amongst the best at their craft. So while you may hear vestiges of your old Teardrop Explodes, Generation X, and Cult records, there’re unusual touches like the Band I Heard In Tijuana brass backing on ‘The Fool’, the stalking, dank, back alley terror of ‘Feed A Line’, and which illustrate there’s much more than mere fanatical copycat stylings at work here. Toss in a happy feet request party dancefloor stomper like the psychotic, organ-driven, B-52’s-on-acid scorcher ‘We Don’t Know!’ and mix with equal parts of the booty-shaking, wobbly-kneed ‘Gurner’s March’ and there’s evidence that this could also be one of the most exciting live attractions to attack your town this year. Be on the lookout! (Jeff Penczak)



(Past & Present)

Past & Present sure are milking their success with this series of “British Pop Psych and Other Flavours”. The fifth volume tackles 20 more power pop trippers from 1966-69. Things are off to a dreamy start with the sitar-drenched ‘Temple of Gold’, a ’68 B-side from Japanese/British conglomeration Samurai, whose Tetsu Yamauchi later replaced Andy Fraser in Free! The songwriting team of Ken Lewis, Russ Alquist, and John Carter need no introduction to Terrascopers (their classic ‘Let’s Go To San Francisco’ under the Flowerpot Men pseudonym is a personal fave), but The Running Jumping Standing Still Band has got to be one of their zaniest concoctions – luckily 1969’s ‘Ayeo’ has all the expected hooks and is a singalong winner. The Laurels’ ‘Sunshine Thursday’ is another dreamy slice of harmony pop, and The Nocturnes’ obscure ‘Look At Me’ features some groovy fuzz soloing to recommend it.

If there are any Harmony Grass fans out there (come on, hands raised!), you might be interested in checking out their previous incarnation as the pleasant pop harmonisers Tony Rivers and The Castaways, whose 1968 Polydor B-side, ‘Pantomime’ is quite an elaborate arrangement and deserved a better fate than the dustbins to which it was unfortunately relegated.

Unfortunately, the barrel seems to be running dry and by this fifth volume too many of the tracks are pretty forgettable fluff that deservedly disappeared on initial release, even if most of them were major label efforts for the likes of Fontana, Columbia, Philips, Liberty, and RCA. Still, any compilation that revives the careers of the marvellous (but regretfully unsuccessful) supergroup Sweet Thursday (featuring the not inconsiderable talents of Jon Mark and Nicky Hopkins) deserves some attention. ‘Gilbert Street’ is one of my favourite tracks of all time, but their mysteriously demented ‘Cobwebs’ gets an airing here and will hopefully encourage the uninitiated to seek out their self-titled 1969 album on Tetragrammaton. A few other tunes are worthy of a few spins, including the swirling, soft psychedelia of ‘Airport People’ from the little-known Roulettes, whose membership included ace songwriter Russ Ballard on his way to joining Argent with fellow Rouletter Rob Henrit; the upbeat ‘Dream With Me’ from the awkwardly-named Sounds Bob Rogers (featuring the sublime vocals of Jill Graham); and the return of songwriters John Carter and Russ Alquist via Toyshop’s cover of their old Flowerpot Men chestnut ‘Say Goodbye To Yesterday’, which wouldn’t have been out of place alongside the Gibb brothers more elaborate efforts on Odessa. (Jeff Penczak)




With a history that now spans 30 years, starting with their then new album being offered as a subscription bonus with the equally new Ptolemaic Terrascope magazine, it was a pleasure to find some new releases available from the excellent Tangle Edge, the Norwegian trio still out there and making music. Of course, “new releases” is a relative term, as “Kathamkaram” was recorded in 2008 and “dropouts” is a re-release of an early cassette that originally saw the light in 1983. Whenever they were recorded, it has been a pleasure to re-acquainted my ears with the band, the music proving as fresh and vital as when I first heard them on their “In Search of a New Dawn” LP, way back in '87.

   Containing three long pieces, “Kathamkaram” is housed in a gorgeous gatefold sleeve and features original members Ronald Nygard, Hasse Horrigmoe, and new (2002) drummer  Tom Steinberg, who has played with the band before as a guest/occasional member.

   Taking up the entire of side one, “Dance of the Cantharides” is a stunning showcase of the bands talents, with the guitar playing of Nygard shining out, sounding like Garcia at his finest, the sympathetic contributions of the other two musicians adding to a psychedelic West-Coast feel, the whole piece taking you on a journey through your mind, free-flowing and smiling. This emphasise on feel, rather than complexity, has changed the band textures in a subtle way, allowing the listener easier access into the music without sacrificing their overall sound or vision.

     Moving on to side two, musical complexity returns with “Xerxes Apposition” sounding like King Crimson, a dark and moody opening ensuring the listener is awake, the guitar again dominating proceedings with authority and purpose, a growling bass ensuring the song does not lose its initial energy. Another rolling bass line is present on “Glass Dryad”, the jazzy feel of the opening moments adding a lightness to the LP, some excellent percussion putting a spring in your step as the band turn on the charm again, that West-Coast Vibe present once more with the guitar soaring into heaven with ease.

     Perhaps more accessible than earlier work, this would an excellent place to start for those who wish to explore the band, more than that though, this is a damn fine album, a worthy addition to an impressive body of work.

    Recorded in '82-'83, “Dropouts” collects together 23 tracks of the bands early work, ranging from short snippets to extended workouts, the music blending elements of Psych, Prog, Electronics, Jazz and Experimentation as the band hone their own sound. Never less than interesting, there are moments when the band suddenly come together in perfection, full of energy and precision, the musicians always willing to take the unexpected route, ensuring the music does not become boring or predictable.

   An obvious highlight is “Escapement for the Twangy-Man” a fifteen minute piece, that floats majestically, with the beautiful opening section really hitting the spot. Elsewhere “Slow Essence” has some electronic experimentation built in, whilst “Resistance...Resonance” rocks thing up a-while. Letting the guitar wail, the experimentation of “Angoraphobia” yields more sonic delights for the curious, the track recorded live.

    On disc two, the same mix of sounds can be found, with the perfectly named “Banana-Raincoat in the Chickengarden” worth the price of entry by itself, although every track has something to offer, be it the shimmer of “Floating Arts, Crawling Flutes”, the ritual feel electronics of “Deep-Swimming Hog”, or the sublime brilliance of “Subjective Evaluation”, 17 minutes of wonder that is both experimental and deeply psychedelic. However you slice it, this re-release is essential fare for those with keen ears who want to discover the early brilliance of Tangle Edge. (Simon Lewis)



(CD FROM PLANCHA/ART UNION www.artuniongroup.co.jp)

One of the most striking impressions of this debut album by Lori Scacco and Eva Puyela is the inappropriateness of their chosen collective name. The duo’s sound is almost impossibly calming, based around simple, almost minimalist accompaniment (mostly guitar but also some tinkling chimes and other light percussion) and breathy harmonies to which have been added lyrics courtesy of New York poet Ann Stephenson. The key impression, though, is just how damned gorgeous and timeless it is.

The opening number, “Wolves and Bells” works like a charm, anyone familiar with and enamoured of Jane Weaver’s recent opus, “Fallen By Watch Bird” and particularly the track “Turning In Circles” will not fail to be impressed by it. A beautiful and beguiling melody (see, I’m already in hook, line and sinker) it sets the standard for a sensual, almost soporific three quarters of an hour or so, during which you have no option but to let the lush, languidness wash over you. Other notable highlights include “Sweet Cup” and the wordless harmonies and sparklingly sparse guitar accompaniment of “The Forest Year”, the dreamy narcosis of “The Shipbuilder” and “Ceremony” and the off one out, the eerie-sounding, chime-driven “Para Lole”.

If anything this striking debut is, to paraphrase Itchycoo Park, almost too beautiful – and certainly all thoughts of industriousness go out the window when listening to metaphysical music of this quality. If there were such a thing as a chill out lounge in Dark or Acid Folk clubs then this would be its soundtrack.

Now can someone please snap their fingers so I can get back in the room? (Ian Fraser)



(CD/2XLP/Digital from Dead Oceans www.deadoceans.com)
(Blackmaps www.blackmaps.org)

I have to admit to being very wary whenever I see the words “Family” or “Collective” applied to any group of musicians.  Invariably this points to a faux-democracy that becomes an excuse for an egalitarian fug and the result is what you might expect would be produced by a representative committee. In short it begs for someone to grab proceedings by the scruff of the neck and give it shape and direction.

So it was with a little trepidation that I approached these two offerings. Akron/Family is/are highly touted on the strength of a string of well-received albums released pretty much annually since 2005. Whether or not you’ll like this one depends on how fond you are of Flaming Lips and the Beach Boys. It certainly is bouncy and perky, and, in a manner of speaking quite psychedelic. One might add that it is intelligent, well played and mostly enjoyable. That it is also different to pigeon hole is both its strength and weakness, in as much as its one fault seems to be that it is an album (a band?) in need of an identity. That could just be me though, as successive listens reveal hidden textures, if not depths, a bit like that old Kesey bus with the layers of paint peeling off to gradually reveal more and more of what lies beneath
Given that the album was written in a cabin built into the side of an active Japanese volcano it is unsurprising that certain (cod?) Japanese influences permeate proceedings. The “A AAA O A WAY” cosmic chant segues neatly into the jaunty pop of “So It Goes” on which their lead singer sounds uncannily like Ray Davies circa 1970. “Fuji I (Global Dub)”, on the other hand, builds into a riff-laden shout-along which takes it from the slopes of Mount Meakan to somewhere on the way to Wounded Knee in a couple of short and furious minutes.

Overall it took a few listens but I think I got there (although I still have the impression it’s a bit too clever by half in places). Even so, you can’t help thinking that “The Cosmic Birth...” is an easier work to admire than it is to love.

Outshine Family, meantime, are a collective based on the vision of one Matthew Liam Nicholson (ex-Function Ensemble), a native of Melbourne Australia and who, like so many before him, has chosen to base himself in London UK. “Galeria...” is an organic, quite transcendental collection of songs, playfully redolent of summer and often bordering on the blissful. Electronics merge with orchestration and more conventional band instrumentation (oh, and a harmonium to help give it that slightly quirky touch) to give a strangely pleasurable listening experience whereby Vaughan Williams and Eric Satie join hands with and give big playful group man-hugs to  an unplugged Dandy Warhols and a wistful Neil Young whilst stoking the acid-campfire. Thankfully the mix of styles and collaborative impulses rarely compromise the melody or structure. Styles (and highlights) range from the folk/pop of ”Alone With Your Tattoos” and “Stars Wept Upon Us”, the pastoral electro-classicism of “Flying Ear” and the title track, the sugary (not saccharine) West Coast harmonies of “Seven Tongues Tasting The World” to the mysterious “A Carol For The Speechless and Heartbroken” which sounds like Gymnopedies given the Boards of Canada treatment and  “Silly Bird”, which wouldn’t sound out of place on that War Paint album that everyone was raving about a few months back. Eclectic, certainly, but it somehow hangs together beautifully.

So then here are two albums that to a greater or lesser extent redeem the concept of collectivist musical ensembles and both are worthy of exploration. In this transatlantic edition of Family Fortunes, however, while the more striking and daring Akron/Family are bound to get the plaudits, it is the less extrovert but no less interesting Outshine Family who to my mind have served up the more pleasing entertainment on this occasion.
(Ian Fraser)



(vinyl release from MIE Music www.miemusic.co.uk)

First released in CD format by No-Fi Records, Cath and Phil Tyler’s “Dumb Supper” receives a belated and very welcome vinyl release courtesy of MIE Music of Manchester.

Peddling a refreshingly simple yet effective hybrid of Americana and English Folk (think: Gillian Welch meets Martin Carthy), it’s unsurprising, then, to learn that Cath and Phil are in fact an Anglo-American couple (as Cath Oss she was a member of Cordelia’s Dad and the couple’s alt-credentials are further bolstered through association with Six Organs of Admittance).  They are now based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the North East of England.

Whether it is the percussive guitar on the repetitive motifs of “Wether’s Skin”, the similarly paced but more knockabout “The Devil Song”, unaccompanied harmonies such as “Queen Sally”, the eerie monotone of “Death of Queen Jane” or Phil’s impeccable banjo driven “Fisherman’s Girl” or “Yellowhammer”, here is a cornucopia of tunes to delight in. While vocal duties are often shared, it is Cath who takes the lead and it is the “purity” of her voice, closer to the Ann Briggs/Shirley Collins school than the more emotive and overwrought divas of dirge, that is one of the album’s defining hallmarks.

Here, is a collection of 13 traditional tunes reinterpreted in fine transatlantic style for a contemporary audience (some tunes and words have been adapted) spanning 47 minutes, which actually seem longer but in a positive and timeless way which means this far from outstays its welcome. It is raw and invigorating in its sobriety and sombreness and in many ways harkens back to a “golden age” of folk revivalism.

Sparse yet powerful and often mesmeric, “Dumb Supper” is an organic and earthy soup sourced of rootsy stock, with none of the affectations of the wyrder-than–thou set. It’s not acid, it’s not alt, and it’s not avant, and it’s none the worse for it. This is unreservedly recommended. (Ian Fraser)



(CD www.centreofwood.com)
This beguiling and quite wonderful album, is a collaboration between Dorothy Geller (Dora Bleu) Vocals, acoustic Guitar and multi instrumentalist Salvatore Borrelli (Harps of...) who plays Bouzouki, Dulcimer, Tampura and Celtic Harp, as well as a host of other stringed instruments, the resulting mix a free-flowing and mysterious sounding affair, a long slow trip downstream, drifting through unknown forests and alien landscapes.

     Right from the off, “Falling Axa” beckons you in, the beautiful voice swathed in a cloth of swirling, writhing notes, the intertwining sounds creating a new whole that is has a haunting middle section that sounds like rain dripping from trees. On “There is no Ease” time is slowed down, the music breathing quietly, leaving spaces for the words to conjure magic, sounding like a lost child on the edge of panic as the tension slowly climbs. Gentler in texture, “She Comes To Me to Kiss My Lips in the Great War” is soft and filled with longing, sounding not unlike Larkin Grimm if she had been a seventies folk artist only just discovered.

     Using an array of instruments gives the music different nuances and textures as the musicians weave their spells, but the fact there are only acoustic instruments, a voice and minimal percussion, allows a thread to run through the collection, the music almost timeless in its simple elegance, the arrangements always perfectly geared toward the song.

   With a tinge of Nick Drake in its playing, “Back Rooms” is another wistful piece, whilst the excellent “Bonfires and Family Tree” takes all that is good about this album and magnifies it, creating the finest track on the disc, filled with droning strings, delicate notes and sublime vocals.

    Finally, “According to the Press, There are no Women Detainees” ends the album, ten minutes of sadness made sound, the hint of a dark undercurrent permeating the music making for some uneasy listening, especially as the lyric begin to seep into your consciousness.

Highly recommended, this album is a small gem that deserves wider exposure. (Simon Lewis)



DOUBLE LP (www.portableshrines.com)

Curated by Aubrey Nehring and Darlene Nordyke, co-founders of the Portable Shrines Collective, an organisation dedicated to promoting Experimental/psych/garage music in Seattle and the surrounding area, organising gigs and hosting the Escalator Fest (they must be busy!!), this sprawling double album collects together some of the finest bands currently working the Northwest offering an eclectic and often excellent overview of the scene.

    Opening in ritualistic fashion, Geist and the Sacred Ensemble use percussion, vocals and a Nepalese Aerophone on the psychedelic mystical swirl that is “Circles”, the perfect way to open a portal and let the listener in. Once suitably acclimatised , Plankton Wat rev up the rocket engines on the Hawkind inspired “Astro Fields”, a good thing as it is early seventies Hawks they are inspired by, the track full of energy and heaviness and blessed with enough effects to satisfy the most hardened chemical astronaut.

     Keeping us up in space, Tiny Lights add an eastern tinge and some fine sax to the mix on “Shasta”, the piece offering some fine deep space explorations in sound before Diminished Men slow down time on the drone/experimental/psych of “Oblong Trance” a deeply hypnotic piece of work is constantly shifting in texture. To end side A, To Get Her Together offer “Gotta Make Your Hands Work”, a guitar/vocals and drums combination drenched in reverb, adding a pleasing home-spun feel to the collection, simple and effective, with some nice psych touches as well.

     Opening with a low rumble of sound, “Clock” is built around a solid claustrophobic bass line, as AFCGT worm their way into your minds, the guitar threatening to spill into feedback at any moment, the track increasing in intensity by the second. Following on, Midday Veil do the psych-rock thing on the wonderful and free-flowing “Child of God”, reminding me of German band Frumpy which is no bad thing, the track containing some great guitar sounds.

     After the refreshing breeze, Brother Raven take us into the woods with the experimental soundscape “Beast”, a rattling drone, full of percussion and vibrancy, strangely relaxing in its oddness. About as subtle as an acid bomb, Eternal Tapestry round of the side with the heavy riffery of “Chrome Forest”, another track that owes a debt of gratitude to early Hawkwind, but equals this influence with ease, turn this fucker up and just enjoy.

     So far so good, and side C shows no sign of slowing down with Prince Rama using looped samples, chanting and electronics to create the sparkling “I am Not Invincible”, the piece crackling with lysergic electricity. On “Ban A Chu”, the rather wonderfully named Master Musicians of Bukkake sound like Beefheart run through a sunshine pop blender, brass and strangeness vying with melody and obtuse riffs for top billing, brilliant stuff providing further evidence of the diversity and quality to be found in this musical scene.

    Awash with shimmer and elegance, “Mudra” is filled with eastern promise, vocals, Tamboura and Sitar providing all you need as Janina Angel Bath drifts into your life as gentle as a cloud. Nowhere near as gentle, Blood Red dancers wave the garage psych flag with impressive style, sounding like the Doors meeting the Seeds on the pounding rocker “The Lamb”, a personal favourite on the compilation. Finally for side C, This Blinding Light take us to fuzz heaven with the garage workout “Soul On Fire”, managing that garage trick of being weird, heavy and damn catchy, all at the same time, nice work.

    Well, it has been a marathon listen but highly enjoyable and my hopes are high for side D as Night Beats keep that garage flag flying on the short but lovely R'n'B stomp that is “Thorns”, the song featuring some perfectly demented vocals, as it should. Taking first place in the longest song category, Purple Rhinestone Eagle mix seventies heavy rock with psych brush-strokes to create the killer track “Burn It Down”, the band going for the Sabbath influenced jugular and succeeding admirably, loud proud and brilliant.

    Cascading out of the speakers “-^- (Revised)”, is a beautifully uplifting drone that definitely resides in the experimental quarter, the track featuring organic and electronic instruments, although it is hard to tell which is which as A Story of Rats weave their sonic magic over six glorious minutes.

    To end it all Kinski, undoubtedly the best known of the bands here, offer the sublime “Whatever Happened to Madelaine Stowe”, a beautifully paced tune laced with atmosphere and controlled emotion, the perfect full-stop to a smorgasbord of sonic goodies.

      Limited to only 1000 copies, this lovingly compiled vinyl artefact is housed in a sleeve designed by the collective, the graphics matching the music, the whole thing proving that there is a place in the world for music that steps across boundaries and does what it damn well wants. Show some support and check it out. (Simon Lewis)



(CD from www.oldcalifornio.com )

It’s pretty well documented that I’m a huge fan of those early 1970s British “big sky” bands, a loose collective of like-minded groups determined to get it together in the country and live the counter culture ideal. Some may say that that’s a lifestyle I’ve never quite grown out of myself; and in some ways that would be a difficult argument to counter, as it were.

Anyway, inspired by the likes of the Byrds, the Burritos and the Buffalo Springfield, they played a kind of Anglicised down-home psychedelic country rock which as it turned out, provided the ideal backdrop for the all the outdoor gatherings that were springing up across the UK in 1970/71. My own personal favourites were Help Yourself, Gypsy, Bronco, Cochise and Byzantium, but others provided vital soundtracks to my life as well, LPs which I could never bear to part with to this day: Matthews Southern Comfort, Quiver, Terry Reid, the early Brinsley Schwarz and later Mighty Baby; Greasy Bear, Global Village Truckin’ Co and Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers. The scene was lent an air of authentication courtesy of a handful of expatriate American combos too - Daddy Longlegs, Gospel Oak and Formerly Fat Harry chief amongst them. By early 1973 it was all over: as Nigel Cross mentioned in his review of the Daddy Longlegs reissue a while back, “booze and public houses had replaced the bucolic retreats and home grown weed as many of the bands effortlessly switched track to become the backbone of the Pub Rock movement”.

For that reason alone, country-rock records that drift across the Terrascopic searchlight often tend to end up tethered to my desk, however temporarily, even though as a genre it’s not something we generally tend to cover. And of those, a small minority send a spark of recognition into the night-sky of my mind like tiny fireworks, taking me straight back to when I’d lie in the long grass during that seemingly endless summer of ’71 listening to the sounds that made me [insert verb of your choice here].

To describe Californian based Old Californio as a “country rock” outfit is of course to do them a grave dis-service, as they are patently a whole lot more than that: in turn dynamic, raw, tight, cohesive and rocking as well as occasionally laid-back, ‘Sundrunk Angels’ includes more hooks throughout its ten fine songs than a fisherman’s basket. I was reminded while listening to them of The Posies, the Loud Family, and with their curly guitar licks and superfine harmonies especially 90’s outfit The Grays. Perhaps the most obvious point of reference though (again from a similar era) would be The Schramms, who were likewise particularly good songwriters and had definite country folk-rock leanings, helped in no small part by a distinctive lap-steel player – a role performed in Old Californio by recent addition to the line-up, Woody Aplanalp.

Woody’s guitar work throughout is for me one of the real high-points of ‘Sundrunk Angels’. The five-minute long ‘A Cool Place in the Light’ is an obvious stand-out, both lyrically and in terms of the rather gorgeous guitar solo towards the end that builds against the keyboard backdrop; while the absolute high-point of the album and, I’d imagine, a real show-stopper at their gigs is the utterly brilliant ‘Just a Matter of Time’ – again it has to be said largely due to Aplanalp’s inspired fretwork.

Elsewhere ‘Better Yet’ is distinctively Byrdsian and beautifully done at that; ‘Allon Camerado’ is a complex showcase of gorgeous instrumentation; ‘Jewels and the Dross’ sounds a little like Thin White Rope (who at one time shared a drummer with The Loud family I do believe, so that’s probably just the mirror of my mind playing tricks on me…)

Long-time Old Californio drummer (this is their third album) and vocalist Justin Smith kindly sent me a little note mentioning that they’re going to be touring here in the UK early in 2012, which is something I shall definitely keep an eye open for. I humbly suggest that you do too. (Phil McMullen)






In the 1990's, the mantle of "pagan-inspired, floaty, folky, alternative music" was held by that mighty group of road-protesting troubadours The Space Goats. Since the end of that decade when they fell apart no band has appeared with anything like the beauty and spirit shown by them. Until now. That band is Sproatly Smith.

Based in Hereford and featuring a wide variety of acoustic instruments, a few synths and a clear-voiced female vocalist, Sproatly Smith have released their new album "Pixieled," and to my ears it's the finest album of its kind I've heard in years. A mixture of pagan influences, folk/acoustica settings and all-round good soundcraft, the album boasts the kind of tunefulness, folky nostalgia and, well, magic that listeners these days get far too little of. Opening with 'Flowers Made Of Winter,' a kind of strumming drone of guitars, tinkling percussion and, somewhere deep in the mix, a whooshing bass synth, the music suddenly veers into flute and birdsong in quite lovely manner; and it's this joyful instrumentation, amongst other qualities, that marks out the album as something special. 'Spring Strathspey' showcases the gorgeous voice of the band's female singer, as a folky melody supported by glockenspiel, slide guitar and synth wafts out of the speakers. There are echoes here too of Pink Floyd circa the late 'sixties when they were doing classics like 'Cirrus Minor.'

The title track matches Floydesque bucolica with a rural-voiced gentleman relating tales of men and horses pixie-led, that is, wandering around a misty field being chased by pixies. 'The Magpie's Nest' returns the listener to the album's folk vibe, with voices and magpie cries entering the mix, then our lady vocalist singing another lovely song. There's psychedelia here too, as an array of Indian instruments lurk in the background. 'Afon Gwy' opens with water sounds before heading off into another voice/acoustic guitar cut, evoking the atmosphere of the land and again supported by subtle Indian instruments and later a mournful violin.

'Sabrina Fair' matches clear female vocals with acoustic guitars, violin and mallet instruments tinkling in delightful manner, while 'Hormsea Cove' is an impressionistic, trippy track of sound effects and instruments. 'The Ballad Of Tam Lin' opens with a dramatic gong before veering off into a multiply-voiced folk cut with a killer melody, while 'White Leafed Oak,' through its weird mix of sound effects, voices and instruments, is haunting, with the appearance of zither-type instruments reminding me again of classic period Space Goats.

'A Leaf Must Fall' is a particularly lovely psych-folk number with choral voices, 'sixties styled guitar and organ, while album closers 'Samhain Dance' and 'Old Year's Wake' are both mysterious cuts, trippy and bucolic in equal measure, the former sounding as if it was recorded at some open-air Herefordshire spring fair. All in all, "Pixieled" is quite the most enchanting album I've heard in a long while. While not perfect - some of the spoken-word voices are a little jarring, some too loud in the mix - this is a superb work that I recommend highly, and the band, to my ears, are a major discovery.

"The Yew And The Hare," marking the debut of the Sproatly Smith sound, follows a similar template, in places reminding the listener of psych-folk groovers Circulus. On 'Seedling' a synthi-heartbeat gives way to birdsong and gentle acoustica, creating that mixture of melody, sound and magic so characteristic of this band. 'The Time I've Lost In Wooing' features psychedelically effected vocals on a well-crafted tune, 'Pretty Saro' is a folky little cut, while 'Leafing' matches strange vocals with trippy instrumentation and those subtle hints of psychedelia that make the listener think back to Floydian times. 'The Unquiet Grave' is suitably haunting, featuring beautiful violin playing, while 'Get You A Garden' brings in another of the band's "strange voices," this time talking about gardens. 'Wreath The Bowl' features the band's female vocalist singing a mystical folk cut, whose setting of harmony vocals, guitars, violin and flutes encapsulates the magic of the band: blissful. 'Gently Johnny' returns the listener to the male vocalist, again psychedelically effected, while 'The Farrier's Fling' is a quirky little cut evoking the natural landscape, and quite possibly an old pagan ritual... 'Harvest Home' matches narration with gentle voices and backwards sounds, while 'Catch The Leaves' is another of the band's haunting yet tuneful songs. 'I Shall Leave You There' closes the album by beginning trippy and weird then fading into multiply-voiced harmony vocals and evocative sound effects.

Sproatly Smith have captured a sound that is at once quintessentially British, yet psychedelic also, immersed in nature, tuneful and evocative of Britain's folk tradition. The band's Christmas album will be released at the end of the year, while their fourth album is currently being written. If you like Circulus, loved Pink Floyd's bucolic wonders, or if you remember The Space Goats, check out this amazing band. (Steve Palmer)



(LP  from www.poppydisc.com)

      Released in 1956, with a plot based loosely on “The Tempest”, the Sci-Fi film “Forbidden Planet” has become a classic of the genre. Beautifully filmed, with a fine cast and excellent effects, the film also contains a decent storyline that keeps the viewer engrossed in the action. Added to this mix is one of the earliest electronic scores for films of any genre, the sounds painstakingly put together by Louis and Bebe Barron, using patent circuitry and lots of patience. Within the film the results are stunning, the score enhancing the atmospheres and emotions of the action with complete precision, adding to the brilliance of the film without overpowering the rest of the components.

    So, the big question is, what does it sound like without the visuals, does it stand alone as a piece of work, or is it lost without he supporting storyline?

    Opening with the “Overture”, the first thing that becomes apparent is the skill of the sound manipulation, the incredible array of tones and sounds found on this one short piece (and the rest of the album) is a testament to many hours of toil and experimentation, the track sounding incredibly current, at least in the realms of some of the more exotic recording we receive here at the Terrascope. Moving on, “tracks such as “Once Around Altair” or “Graveyard” are electronic minimalism of the highest order, the problem , I guess, is that all the tracks are so short that they are gone before they have really started, meaning the soundtrack has to be viewed as one piece, giving it a slightly jumpy quality as the mood shift around. This is not  actually a criticism, as this unpredictability actually adds to the listening pleasure, it just makes it all slightly random.

   There are, of course, a few longer pieces, with “Love at the Swimming Pool”, having a gorgeous watery feel, giving the track a delightful ambience that befits the title, whilst “Krell Shuttle Ride and Power Plant” is a excellent accelerating piece of sound that is both powerful and controlled. Equally fine is “Battle with the Invisible Monster” another powerful track although, there is a sound in there that sounds like the “Iron Chicken” from the kids TV series “The Clangers”, although to be fair, people of a certain age and geographical persuasion will have already heard echoes of this and other Kids programmes during the rest of the album. Again, this is not a criticism, it just made me smile.

  At the end of the day, this is an excellent release that has both historical and musical importance, fans of electronic music will love it for what it is, film buffs may love it for what it represents, either way, it will look good in your collection. (Simon Lewis)