= May 2015 =  
Repo Man
Thirty Pounds of Bone
the Trapped Mice
Jukon Speakers
Amanda Votta
Optical Sounds
Blue Lily Commission
Deke Leonard
Book of Shadows


(Lava Thief)

Hats off and then some to Lava Thief for unleashing this shockingly good debut album onto a no-doubt unsuspecting but hopefully grateful world.

Bristol combo Repo Man serves up a high octane and uncompromisingly acerbic row in the style of Gallon Drunk and the Birthday Party, with definite nods towards 70s/80sEast Coast US art-rock movement. Singer Bojak practically spits venom and, while his half spoken polemic can sometimes seem a tad predictable and same-pace across nine tracks it’s a mighty powerful,  pivot for the trebly, angular and edgy instrumentation. “View the Overheads” is the powerful opening statement bringing to mind Mission of Burma and 80s Sonic Youth at their finest while the outstanding “Bed and Breakfast Contortionist” introduces a sax skronk and a Don Van Vliet-abstract poetic styling. Definitely more like the Magic Band than the Magic Band these days and considerably more fulfilling to boot. The cod-skank of “Run James” ratchets up the menace factor and is propelled by some great, glass-shard guitar courtesy of Liam McConaghy – talk about a short-sharp-shock - while trebly reverb guitar is also the order of the day on the comparatively muted but considerably edgy “Let’s See The Sun Set With Fatigue”.

However it’s the visceral, shit and blood, sweet cacophony of “Wretch” “Static Excess Strobe Effect” (a cousin of the opening “View The Overheads” (with added violin, scraped and scratched of course) the excellent “No Stabs” and “Oldham” (a distillation of practically everything that’s gone before) which seem to echo around your head for hours afterwards. And that’s a good thing boys and girls.

Despite first appearances this is a very intelligent little (i.e. short) album. Bojak is clearly a lyricist/writer of no little talent and sometimes it like listening to an audio book with a suitably scored accompaniment. Scratch the service and it’s clear that the music too is a more complex than might first meets the ear and exceedingly well played by a tight band that can deceive you into thinking they are slackers. Ha! Fooled ya (or at least me at any rate).

If this album is one of the best debuts you are going to hear for a while I bet they are a doozy live so try and catch ‘em if you can. Oh, and buy this.

Ian Fraser



Both (http://www.armellodie.com/news/)

Continuing his Sea shanty infused folk musings, Johny Lamb's latest album is one that deals with the familiar themes of love, betrayal, revenge, blood, hope, forgiveness and (of course) Death. You may be forgiven for thin king that these themes have become as worn as a wind swept gravestone yet within the music of Thirty Pounds of Bone they remain fresh and vibrant, his lyrical observations given life by his songwriting and his cracked and broken voice, that seems to be hanging on for dear life, adding emotion to every word sung.

   Opening regally, “The Glass of an Iris” rolls in like a sudden mist slowly changing your view, drawing you inwards as brass and banjo mingle delicately, the droning music the perfect foil for lyrics that involve clay pushed into eyelids. With a slightly more pop feel “Ribbon” has an explosive and dramatic chorus that lifts it high, whilst “Two Birds in Brine” is a more traditional affair, acoustic instruments creating one of those rolling riffs that creep under the skin, Johny's voice soft and aching.

   Employing electronic rhythms, “Before I'm Done” has the feel of a chilly autumn afternoon the background drones creating an unsettling sonic landscape. Staying true to it's folk roots, “Your Walk” has Banjo and sea shanty drone the mixture creating one of the finest songs in the collection, whilst “Pasganger, On The Wagon” is a woozy waltz that shimmers and shines due to some great guitar textures and lyrics that catch your attention.

   To end the album “I'll Go Too” commences as a sweet lullaby / lament before it raises the tension and the drama with sonic precision the abrupt ending catching the listener by surprise.

  At 33 minutes this album is the perfect length for a whisky soaked late night listen an album to get lost in.

    Inspired by the inscriptions on Roman memorial stones, “Sacred to the Shades” is an eleven song collection from Trapped Mice the music treading a similar path to Thirty Pounds of Bone and with a vocalist, Ian Tilling, who sounds incredibly close to Johnny Lamb in his delivery, an almost cracked and broken sound that breathes emotion and brings the songs to life.

  Wrapped in some haunting violin playing “The French Lieutenants Woman” is an early highlight, the tune lovingly crafted, mixing folk melodies with some enchanting West-Coast guitar to create a gorgeous tune that makes you aware of just how good this band is. On “Slave Girl Song” the band re-visit history, a lament for somebody long since passed away, the lyrics creating waves of sadness that are matched by the playing and arrangement.

   As the album moves forward the listener is drawn into the stories within, each one perfectly formed and performed with “ The Trial” reminding me of Nick Cave in its lyrical delivery, whilst “Essex Wedding” is anything but the celebration the title suggests, not the perfect day but a beautiful song that I had to play again the violin adding emotion that falls like confetti into the room.

    Following on “Old Patrons” has the air of a once busy old wood panelled room that is now abandoned as time moves on, the short drone the perfect introduction to “The Space Race”, a slow nostalgic tune with a funerary rhythm and a surf guitar that mourns for oceans long gone.

   Finally, “Shades Pt 2” has some great sixties inspired guitar and another fine vocal performance, the whole band working together for the benefit of the song, as they do throughout.

   So similar are these two albums that they could be one sprawling double album the kind where you have to play all four sides whenever you dig it out, as it is they are worth discovering whatever format you choose. (Simon Lewis)



(CD from Garageland Records

Formed back in 1968 this is the Swedish rockers’ sixth full release since reconstituting some thirty years ago. With band member names like Istanbul Slim and Cosmic Charlie (not, you’d guess, names on their birth certificates) this has to be good. Well they don’t disappoint – “Suspicion” is a breezy, tight little rocker which does wonders for the posture, you just have to sit up and take notice. “Citation Marks” with its Peter Gunn/White Wedding bass-line, the snotty NYD strut of “Grass is Greener”, the Tex Mex desert groove of “Harbour Day” and the riotous “Middle Age Depression” -  they all just keep coming and all delivered in Cosmic Charlie’s thin drawl, which suits the band’s hooks-a-plenty (double suburban) garage rock down to the concrete floor.

Cut from similar cloth to the Hives but very much their own beast, The Jukon Speakers offer up few frills and are none the worse for that. They also give the impression of a band that doesn’t have to try too hard, like a quartet of old midfield generals, but still deliver the goods with an energetic sound that belies their collective age and girth. Old Guys Rule, right? Not ‘alf.

(Ian Fraser)



(Ltd Edition CD from Reverb Worship www.reverbworship.com)

Firstly may I offer my profound apologies to Amanda, Reverb Worship and everyone else involved in this release? Your reviewer has had one of those “hmm, I wonder what’s in this old envelope I’ve had lying around for the past couple of months” revelations. Oops, and then some!

Right, without further ado let us delve into a deliciously dark and mysterious world and “Enter the Drone Zone”.

Amanda Votta (The Floating World); Grey Malkin (The Hare and the Hound) and Neddal Ayad (The Desolation Singers and Great Attractor) are something of micro-niche dark/ethereal folk super group that is bound to delight acolytes of Book of Shadows and Stone Breath, whose Timothy Renner (an old mate of the ‘Scope) contributes backing vocals on one track.

If you saw the words “Black Doom” on a tin of paint you wouldn’t expect pastel shades and that’s exactly the case here. A hypnotic melody drowned in a tsunami of droning guitars. By contrast the acoustic minimalism of “This Is How They’ll Find You” is disarming in its simplicity – it’s a love story sung to a ghost by the way – before “The Shepherdess And The Witch” plunges us deeper into the dark and doomy realm. It’s a fairly intricate piece for all that and requires a good listen. The stand out cut though is in fact the marginally lighter of the lot – “Dream At Daybreak” would constitute something of a deceitful outrider were it to be released as a single but would get my nod for inclusion on the next playlist.

It gets stranger from here-on in.  “Moonflowers” is eerie, moody and at times quite overwhelming while the rhythmic and pulsating beats and vocals of “I Am The Moon” build ominously over what seems longer than two and a half minutes. And so to the finale. “Feathers And Godbones”, picks up where “Black Doom” and “Moonflowers” left off but someone’s now cranked the amps up. This is cloying, oppressive and unsettling in spades. Yes it really is that good.  

Right, I’m off to atone for my careless and slothful oversight by sitting in a darkened room listening to this on repeat, with only a quantity of strong black ale to help me through. Hopefully I’ll be out by next month.

(Ian Fraser)



CD (from http://opticalsoundsfanzine.bigcartel.com)

Founded by “The Cardinal”, Dave Cambridge and now under the stewardship of Dead Sea Apes’ Brett Savage, Optical Sounds continues to go from strength to strength. Now in its 8th issue, OS taps into the new/neo-psychedelic movement as though it were on a drip with a bewildering number of features and interviews each issue. Boy are these guys connected.

Most of the copy tends to be of yer standard “call and response” interview variety, often by regular contributors but also – and significantly – the occasional guest scribe such as Rocket Recordings supremo Chris Reeder found here interviewing Charlie and Deej from Terrascope “house band” Thought Forms. Otherwise this issue features the concluding part of a mammoth Bob Calvert retrospective by Richard Blandford, interviews with the likes of The Cosmic Dead and Hey Colossus, a generous reviews section (and not just featuring Cardinal Fuzz releases) and review of the Gnodrowsky collaboration twixt film maker Alejandro Jodorowsky and Gnod.

The overall feel is of an extended family – as well as Brett and Dave, contributors include Kevin McFadin (Sunrise Ocean Bender), the aforementioned Chris Rocket and that fine chap Stephen Bradbury, aka Black Tempest, who also supplies a free five-track CD with this issue. Entitled “Darkness Unfolding” it’s something of a concept perhaps reflecting Steve’s philosophy, one heavily steeped in Yoga and eastern mysticism. A genuine solo effort (Bradbury plays synths, guitar bass and batteur) it’s rather denser and darker in mood than might have been expected (although Steve has been known to wrong foot us with straight takes on Spirit tracks before now, so expect the unexpected, eh?). It’s also a remarkable prelude to the first of a pair of Black Tempest albums due to be released this year. I can’t wait, really I can’t.

Wait a minute. An extended family of music nuts periodically putting out an effusively written magazine about the music and artists they love for little or no personal gain and releasing freebie CDs? Remind you of someone else does it? Now let me think…

Glad to see the flame burning bright. Now everyone go buy one.

(Ian Fraser)



(CD from Cherry Red http://www.cherryred.co.uk

What looked on paper to be the most distantly related of Manbands, “Re-animated Memories” was always going to be one to approach with a modicum of trepidation. With Micky Jones sadly no longer with us and Deke Leonard having long since taken his leave of the group, custodianship of past glories now fall to on-off bassist Martin Ace (although to be fair a constant since the great reformation of 1983) and sometimes keyboard player Phil Ryan, who run the current band from their respective homes in Northern Germany and Denmark. The rest of the line-up is augmented by Ace’s son Joss on bass – he also makes a major contribution to song-writing, James Beck on guitar and Rene Robrahn on drums. Great to see old compadre BJ Cole guesting too. He’s the man who cornered the UK pedal steel playing market back in the 70s and no monopolies commission has ever managed to prise him from his stool.

“The Ballad of Billy Lee” is an odd choice of opener; a laid-back and meandering country number voiced by Ace senior’s not unpleasant baritone which isn’t without its moments but has a tendency to meander a bit. The impression is of a fleshed-out Handsome Family.

In fact there’s very little here overall that you might associate with a trademark Man sound, not surprisingly perhaps given that they are now shorn of their main songwriters. This could be seen as a brave and positive step but then it’s hard to imagine what audience there might be for a Manband that sounds so little like that band. True there are glimmers. For a band always associated with the guitar interplay of Jones and Leonard the Ryan eras, and particularly his work on “Be Good To Yourself at Least Once a Day” and “Back Into the Future” ranks with some of their best work. Phil gets a couple of compositional nods – “In Time” – the intro to which immediately puts you in mind of his wonderful Neutrons outfit and features some trademarks hooks and tasteful playing. However like so many compositions on the album it gets mired in a saggy mattress of airbrushed AOR. “Nothing Fails Like Success” is a rhythm and blues that chugs along in similar fashion to old standards “Life on The Road” and “Romaine”. It’s decent enough if somewhat unexceptional. Sandwiched in between these two is “Ordinary Man” co-written with Phil Ryan’s old bandleader and Cream lyricist Pete Brown. Again well enough crafted but lacks the guts and a decent vocal to elevate it to anything particularly noteworthy.

The rest are a collection of pleasant enough country-tinged semi-rockers penned and voiced by one or other of the Aces and which seems to be the course on which Man are resolutely set..

Listening to “Reanimated Memories” it’s tempting to think of an old relative of whom you have fond if increasingly distant memories and who is much changed with age. You’re glad they are still going but you’re no longer awfully inclined to visit them all that frequently. As with such a family member we need to cherish memories of the good times while making allowance for dotage and frailty.

(Ian Fraser)



(CD/LP from Thrill Jockey http://thrilljockey.com)

Fronted by Sig Wilson (Holy Sons, Scout Niblett) and based in Brooklyn NYC, Dommengang is a new three-piece combo specialising in fuzzed out blues rock with what sounds like a cussed streak of improvisation. The opening title track reveals shimmering, reverb to the max guitar which ushers in foot to the floor, erm, boogie and full on, flailing no nonsense rawk. “Hats off to Magic”, meanwhile conjures up visions of Seasick Steve jamming with MC5 whereas “Wild In The Street Blues” burns slowly and atmospherically – drone shuffle anyone? “Extra Slim Boogie” is another drawling, slightly tripped out version of yer blues featuring some smouldering guitar work whereas “Burning Off The Years” is a busy and quite lively instrumental workout. Indeed much of this debut album relies on instrumentation and only occasionally do vocals trouble the mix.

The verdict? Well it’s OK, but the overall feeling is of a band jamming in the studio with the tape running. That can work well enough but only if the material is strong enough and the playing/arrangements sufficiently inspired, something which Dommengang almost manage without quite managing to nail it. As a range finder it comes pretty damn close though.

(Ian Fraser)



(DL from http://bit.ly/1G8WnOz )

 Steve palmer is a busy and productive man, as well as writing for The Terrascope he also releases music under the name Mooch, collaborates with other musicians and has time for an ethnic/space music project called Blue Lily Commission. This is his 10th album under this name and is a completely acoustic affair apart from some reverb and echo. Fulfilling a long held ambition the album also features every acoustic instrument Steve owns, 118 in all, including various flutes, harps, percussion, xylophone, bamboo saxophone, a twirly thing, banana gong and a wooden pig scraper.

  Anyway all that would be pointless unless the music matched the scale of the ambition and it certainly does, the music containing many moods and atmospheres, the playing inventive and the whole thing flowing beautifully like a meandering stream through a summer meadow, the perfect day drifting into a sweet musical twilight that leaves you refreshed and smiling.

    Opening track “Indogroove” is a magnificent beast, a soft eastern drone expanding into a mellow groove complete with rattling percussion and slide guitar (slide something anyway), with a middle section that reminds me of the more atmospheric moments of the Vangelis album “Earth”, the flute adding intense beauty to the moment, the whole 13 minutes welcoming you into the album with warm anticipation. On “Different Cities” a nagging percussive groove holds sway, the flute reminding me of Bloomdido Bad De Grass as it drift above, you find yourself lost in an ancient bazaar, a feeling that remains for most of the album, the hypnotic rhythms keeping you locked in to the music.

    As the album unfolds, there is plenty of variation yet the tunes remain in the same sonic landscape creating a set of pieces it is easy to get lost in with “Buzzy” having a definite lysergic cloak that reminds of the soundtrack to “Altered States” (a very strange film worth seeking out), whilst “Kite Splat” seems to blend traditional folk with something much stranger, a slightly unsettling piece that could be on the    “Wicker Man” soundtrack had it had been set in Morocco.

    With a modern classical feel “afrotubes” adds another ambience with its repetition, whilst “Gyptian” is a slice of acoustic Kraut Rock weirdness that time shift about the room with a gentle swagger.

   Quite possibly leaving the best to last, the final trio of tunes sound like they are parts of the same suite, with “Deeper Land” setting the scene, its lazy rhythms getting your head nodding, sounding like an acoustic Can, before “Himalaya” takes you deeper into the mystery, the flute (no idea which one) spinning gossamer melodies over a deep drone billowing out a cloud of early seventies vibes with a definite Gong influence. Finally, “Inside the Temple” allows you to stop travelling and rest by a trickling fountain, a meditation in sound that is wholly fulfilling.

    As well as being beautifully composed, played and arranged the whole album has a production that brings the entire album alive, the tracks crackling with an energy that is almost spiritual as it manifests in the room. Hats of to Steve, an album to be really pleased with that sounds refreshingly different from anything else that has arrived here lately. E-Mail Steve for a CD-R copy (dekray@yahoo.com ) (Simon Lewis).





(CDs from Esoteric Records www.cherryred.co.uk)

Cherry Red and its subsidiaries continue their good work in reminding us of times past with the welcome reissue of Deke Leonard’s two solo offerings released in 1973 and 1974 whilst between stints in the Man-band.

Iceberg was and remains the stronger of the two sets, featuring as it does the exemplary “Razorblades and Rattlesnakes”, which garnered plenty of airplay in the States and was the song that’s Quicksilver legend John Cipollina picked up on and which eventually led to his involvement in Man’s 1975 tour after Leonard had re-joined. The album also boasts a couple of other outstanding cuts – “A Hard Way to Live” and “7171-551” which Deke took with him back to Man and which became staples of their live set. His has never been a pretty voice but his urgent, at times almost strangulated tones always suited the more primal, rock ‘n roll element of the Man sound and that’s pretty much the case here.

Follow-up album Kamikaze was written and recorded during short breaks from incessant touring. It certainly has its moments. “Jay Hawk Special” is a bar room belter with fine guitar interplay, Leonard and Breeze’s guitar interplay and propelled by some machine gun drumming courtesy of Help Yourself’s Dave Charles while “Taking The Easy Way Out” would be reworked and end up on Man’s “Rhinos Whinos and Lunatics”. “Broken Glass and Lime Juice”; “April the Third” and “In Search of Sarah and Twenty Six Horses” all boast some neat hooks and some typical Leonard guitar licks (the latter isn’t too far removed in lineage from the likes of Man’s “Romaine” and is an enjoyable romp). Sometimes though these aren’t enough to carry a whole song through to four minute duration. As on Iceberg there are a few bonus tracks the most noteworthy of which is an early version of “California Silks and Satins” another transferee to the Rhinos album (co-written by another Helps mate, Malcolm Morley).

As is so often the case if you put the best bits of two albums together you’d have one helluva listen. With detailed liner notes penned by Leonard’s publisher Michael Heatley (who quotes the man quite extensively and in typically witty and erudite Deke style), though, both albums are nicely packaged and I must say it’s been a joy and a privilege to listen to them after what seems like half a lifetime (hell it has been half a lifetime).

(Ian Fraser)



(Ltd Edition CD FROM Reverb Worship www.reverbworship.com)

What’s more to be said about Texan drone collective Book Of Shadows that hasn’t already been covered in these pages? This, their zillionth release, is much as you’d expect but then like the Fall, Wedding Present and similar band of such hyper-proliferation the reassuring thing about Carlton and Sharon Crutcher and co is that while the territory remains basically familiar, they nail it time and again. Never mind the width, feel the quality.

The mostly improvised set kicks off with a real intent with “The Dark Sea of Awareness” and, without even a hint of foreplay we’re straight into BoS at their superlative, scary soundtrack best. Having pared things back a fair bit for her recent solo album (see Reviews December 2014) Sharon reverts to her ululations and wordless contortions to which she gives full vent here. Actually the album as a whole is BoS at their most spectral and intimidating and I love it, of course I do. There are a couple of Aaron Bennack compositions, “Stopping The World” and “North Door”, which are no less ethereal and moving but more measured and structured as one might expect of compositional as opposed to spontaneous pieces. It’s on tracks like “The Principles of Stalking” though (look you know what to expect with a title live THAT) where the band chills and thrills most with Sharon sounding like a possessed woman while the electronics crackle and fizz in the background.  Just don’t step on the bare live wires out there in the dark. Scary? Undoubtedly. Fun? Well in a bizarre way yes. Does it for me every time.

(Ian Fraser)