= May 2017 =  
Elephant House
Karen Zanes
Dead Sea Apes
Charlie Ulyatt
Il Riso Degli Stolti
Golden Braid
Colour Haze



(LPs from Adaadat )

Inspired by Mongolian Coaxing Rituals used to encourage a mother Camel to accept a calf, “Pony Ride” is mixture of Eastern Textures, drifting synths, vocals and percussion created by Chinese musician Shenggy Shen and Greek born Christos Fanaras, both established artistes in their own right.

     Seemingly inventive the genre Psych-Exotica, “Camel Mom” is a writhing slice of lysergic drone with a sixties Easy Listening vibe running through it by way of the percussive elements. Sounding not unlike Can covering Herb Alpert, the track is a masterpiece of flowing, mind expanding music that shimmers with delight and hooks you right in and takes up half of the opening side.

    Keeping that lounge vibe and mixing it with Vangelis style electronics, “Desert Hole” is another excellent track that is vibrant and laced with a melancholic atmosphere, reminding me of the soundtrack to the first Conan movie for some reason. After the brief electronic cave exploration of “OK”, the side is completed by “Dead Sand” a hazy piece of seventies electronics that is rhythmic and utterly charming in its own quiet way.
    Opening side two in a reflective mood, “Pearl” bubbles gently, soft wordless vocals hovering over a slowly moving stream of  drones the occasionally burst forth into spouts of feedback before receding again. Mixing a traditional Chinese folk melody with the poetry of Su Shi ((Prelude to the Water Melody) “Shuidiao Getou” keeps the relaxed mood of its predecessor, subtle percussion and woozy electronic washes creating tension amongst the beauty. Ensuring the mood remains until the end “Pearl” has the feel of music created in the seventies, Tim Blake, Vangelis, Michael Hoenig etc, steering clear of the epic and often chaotic nature of the German sounds, instead concentrating on a pastoral melancholy, music to dream to, the track a fitting way to end a delightful album that remains fresh and modern in its approach whilst sounding timeless in its execution.

   Recorded ten years ago, “White” also features Shenggy Shen, this time collaborating with Zhang Shouwang, both artist involved with the Beijing noise/punk scene, the album overseen by Blixa Bargeld and recorded in Berlin. As you can imagine this is a much noisier affair, that really kicks off with “Space Delay” a rising swarm of synths, distorted guitars and general noise that suddenly releases the tension in a cloud of electronic noise before building all over again, the phrase “Andoverandoverandover” repeated throughout until it all fades into a whisper.  With more than a hint of the type of repetition favoured by Reich or Glass, “Spring House” is the noise band version, Sampled strings whirling overhead like minimalist helicopters, subtle changes moving the piece forward slowly and with elegance. Based on Electronic rhythms that pound and grind, “Conch Crunch” repeats the title continuously whilst distorted guitar and sequenced sounds drive in and out between the beats, best played very fucking loud. After the blink and miss it movement of “Beijing Beer”, basically the sound of a beer being opened, “Build A Link” ends side one in a more melodic fashion, shades of Laurie Anderson to be found in its spoken word, electronic pulse repetition, another texture to be savoured on an album of many textures and surprises.

    Over on side two, “Train Song” continues the metallic pulse and spoken word of “Build A Link” , albeit with a stranger sheen, with the rest of the album moving between the styles with ease, quiet drifting passages mixed with noise and dissonace, the album brought to a close by “Bai” almost a pop song in the musical world of White.

   Originally sold as a CD or in Digital format, this is its first vinyl release and comes highly recommended. (Simon Lewis)



(CD from bandcamp )

With dual vocals, bright instrumentation and a melodic streak running through its centre, the music of Wolverton is easy on the ear yet complex and intelligent enough to slowly become one of your favourite albums, a collection of old and trusted friend willing to pick up the conversation any time you drop by.

    On this latest album, the songwriters are on top of their game influenced by folk, psych, pop, jazz and beyond yet retaining a sonic framework that ties every tune together wonderfully, each song perfectly formed and a delight for the ears.

    Sounding like a mix of Van Morrison and The Green Pajamas, “Paprika Rose” is a summery sheen of melody with a soft groove that sways like a morning meadow bathed in sunlight, the piano leading the dance beautifully. On “Pirouette” a sixties organ blends with some vaudeville vocals/piano, whilst the title track itself is filled with delightful harmonies reminding me of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, a gently psychedelic song that floats by.

   As I live on the Welsh borders and often camp on the coast of Wales, it was strange yet comforting to hear Pembrokeshire, Wales mentioned in “Coastline” a slightly surreal song that is one of my favourites on the album, more gentle psych with an slight tinge of lounge mixed in, the mellow feeling continued on “Fresh Mint”, piano and guitar dancing together across the opening before a jaunty tune gets you swaying gently in your chair, smiling to yourself.

    Over 14 songs the listener is fully engaged with the album, each song having its own identity and character, the sound of Julian Cope drifting through “Radial Array” whilst “My Name Is Time” reminds me of Jefferson Airplane in relaxed mode, a sweet West Coast vibe found in the music and lyrics. These influences though are just that, the band has their own identity, they cannot sound any other way, this is Wolverton, beautiful, great conversationalist and the perfect date for a summer afternoon, the short and delightful “Clou” a final kiss on the doorstep, until next time at least. (Simon Lewis) 



(2LP from Fruits de Mer Records)

Spawned as an offshoot of the Magic Mushroom Band at around the time free festivals were giving way to raves and acid house (not to mention their more psychedelic derivatives), Marc ‘Swordfish’ Hunt and co have been there or thereabouts for the better part of thirty years, sailing ambient techno waters of varying hues and current. Sometimes they’ve appeared to be riding the eternal wave – usually at festivals - at other times years go by without you seeming to notice that they are there.
Well take note of them for now. Astralasia are still very much around and Oceania has to be their best effort for some considerable time (well at the very least since the last one). ‘Alooland’ is a synapse tickler of superlative quality that has the aural effect of consuming exotic substances in a tropical location without, frankly, the need to experience either. ‘Ghosts In Between’ is hardly less heady, presenting as it does a Gymnopedies-like variation on the theme of Manzarek’s Riders On The Storm’ runs. ‘Tangerine Skies’ is the band’s ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ moment but in all together more profound and satisfying groove, while the ECM styled Euro-Jazz stylings of ‘North Star’  features Stevie B on mellifluous sax. Over on the second disc (that’s Side 3 to you, or CD 2 for us reviewing sorts) ‘Astral Voyager’ gets up on its toes to kick things off apace System 7 style, before settling back into a loping, lotus-eating pace with ‘Ishdan’.

The defining statement though has to be the side-long ‘Time and Tide Eternal’, literally oceanic in its vastness although should you by now be tempted to don white robes and strike reclining poses with crystals or some such daftness, then a word to the wise, this one’s a little more challenging and unsettling. Full marks to Phoebe Thompson for supplying the beguiling flute, which, accompanied by a tapping percussive backing and some babbling disorientation, sounds not dissimilar on occasions from that album Nik Turner recorded in the Great Pyramid some years ago (goodness that was some years ago). While we’re at it with the plaudits it would be a disservice, too, not to mention Peter Pracownik who peppers all four sides with some lush harmonics and fluid Steve Hillage-influenced runs. Literally music to these ears.

And there we have it. With Oceania their creators have plucked from the deep a transcendental, psychotropic pearl, near-perfect at 3a.m. or 3p.m. Timeless and strange indeed. Now immerse yourselves.
Ian Fraser



CD/DL (https://karenzanes.bandcamp.com )

Released last year this delicate and cinematic collection of songs has a delightful shimmering haze that cloaks it in wonder blending Folk and Psychedelia with touches of drone and experimentation, the eight tracks on offer sequenced perfectly to offer a soft summery trip for the senses.

    Opening with a sweet acoustic strum, “Shade In Laramie” is a lovely instrumental, with drone and loops running through it, the soundtrack to one of those films of flowers slowly unfolding, that same feeling to be found on “Friends are Golden” only this time Karen's voice adds another dimension, painting pictures with words as the song drifts along.

    With a drone at its heart, the title track has a more melancholic feel, the minimal guitar adding the emotion as it flickers through the soundscape, each layer of sound there for a reason. More experimental in nature, “Drowning” utilises wooden percussion to add an eerie dimension to the drones, other percussion rattling and tumbling behind creating atmosphere and tension, this tension broken by the sound of birdsong as “Ghosting” takes over, simply a wonderful song with a shining golden heart.

    After the brief sonic shimmer of “Trudie, (Shade Reprise)”, the spoken work confessional of “Out There” highlights the cinematic feel, shades of Beat culture and free jazz to be found in the grooves, the lightness of the music tempered by a subtle darkness in the lyrics. To end, the importance of drone to the album is explored in “A# Drone”, the writhing drone flecked with notes to create an organic soundscape that takes on a life of its own and could easily be doubled in length such is its wonder, leaving the listener relaxed and content.

    Seemingly slipping through the review pile, this beautiful, haunting EP is now sold out as a physical entity, however it is still available in digital form and is well worth investigation. (Simon Lewis)


(LP from Cardinal Fuzz (UK) and Sky Lantern Records (US))

Where do you go when you’ve gone so far?

Phil’s now legendary review of their instant classic debut EP, Soy Dios, was for us the beginning of an enduring love affair with Dead Sea Apes. Indeed they were one of the acts we made a bee-line for to be part of our Paper Leaves LP for which they supplied the outstanding ‘Universal Translator’ a forerunner of ‘Universal Interrogator’ which appeared on their last album Spectral Domain. While the latter proved to be the band’s most intense and thrilling album to date though, you had the sense that, after several top-notch releases, they were destined to diminishing returns unless they adopted something radically new in terms of their approach.

Here’s their answer, a towers of dub extravaganza. From the elastic bass and echo saturated snare of ‘The Map Is Not The Territory’ it’s clear that we are in hitherto uncharted lands. In fact you could be experiencing the heavy intensity one of those old 70s sound systems with the eerie strains of Pablo Moses wafting over the top. A looming darkness is ever present though, a cloying vibration that, aurally at least, owes less to skank than skunk. If you’d said that this was a product of the late ‘90s Bristol scene then I might just have believed you.

And yet this still manages to sound unmistakably DSA, that cinemascopic expanse and feeling of suspenseful drama never loosens its grip. It’s not so much the construct that has changed but the delivery and presentation. The considerable weight given to Nick Harris’ bass lines also calls to mind Jah Wobble-era PiL and much of his solo work while for much of the album, like on ‘Pale Anxieties’ – just one track on where there lurks vocals and even decipherable lyrics, pilgrim - while the expansive guitar of Brett Savage seems content to play a more complementary role this time, smothered in a reverberating haze of scrambled static. It’s almost as if whatever grime got in the mix of Gnod’s Infinity Machines has seeped in here as well. Well drinking out of dirty glasses never did me much harm (discuss). Full marks to drummer Chris Hardman (who, let it not be forgotten, worked on the aforementioned Paper Leaves) for his mixing and mastering here.

Where do you go when you’ve gone so far? Well as it used to say on the front of The Bus, you go further. D(r)ead at the controls. The love affair, if anything, just got stronger.
(Ian Fraser)



(CD/DL/CASS from Bandcamp )

Another in the series “albums I should have reviewed some time ago”, this collection of improvised solo guitar tunes was inspired by the words of Leonard Cohen, each piece using a line of poetry as a title, the music reflective and emotional, quietly weaving its magic, the silence as important as the sound.
     Humming softly, “Her Words Were Few and Small” is a delightful opening salvo, the quiet drone of the music perfectly reflecting the title, notes fluttering through carried by a warm breeze that heralds summer.
    So delicate is the music that I discovered that four tracks had floated across the room, bound together by their intimacy with “I was Dressed By The Wind” shimmering with a timeless beauty that is captivating.
    Bringing a melodic touch to the fore, “Ghostly Shapes In The Depths” sounds like the B-Side to an obscure single from Galaxie 500 and with a little imagination you can almost hear whispered vocal lines intertwined with the music, the same quality found on “He Was Not A Child Now”, although there are moments of dissonance to be found the track, adding tension to the music.
      Today has been the warmest day of the year and, as the sun fades bringing a chill to the air, this may be the perfect soundtrack for this very moment, timeless, cloaked in wonder and hauntingly beautiful. (Simon Lewis)



(CDs from psychupmelodies )

    Sistra are an Italian progressive rock band whose album "Bearing" was released in 2011, but which has been re-released on the Psych Up Melodies label. The music is strongly reminiscent of Soft Machine, with a ton of different time signatures and some groovy, fuzzy organ whirling in all directions, along with a number of guitar solos. This would be jazz-progressive-rock, I think. The band is a three-piece, with Gaia Vittozzi on vocals, Fabrizio Di Vicino on bass, drums and guitar, and Salvatore Pisano on the aforementioned organ. Several guest musicians add to this bitch's brew, including a Fender Rhodes player. Opener 'Paralelli' has many twists and turns, as does the even more organ dominated 'Una Pedina,' which has a particularly growly bass. 'Onde' opens with Hillagesque guitar before heading off into what can only be described as a psychedelic Gong-fest. 'Le Parole' involves more jazz time signatures, as does 'Ziqqurath' which could probably pass for an homage to 1971. The title track uses much the same timbres and textures but has more of a National Health vibe to it. The longest track on the album is 'Psiche,' in which the drums batter and the Italian language vocals float over the top - the track deconstructs half way through, then re-emerges unscathed. 'Oblivion' opens with some beautiful fingerpicked guitar before some (male) vocals come in, backed up by a choir of Gaia - this is probably my fave track. The last track reworks earlier jazz/prog themes, with plenty of frenetic bass and a Wakemanesque Moog solo thrown in. One for jazz-proggers, who will love it, especially if they happen to be fluent in Italian.

    Also from Italy, and also re-released on Psych Up Melodies, are Il Riso Degli Stolti, whose album "Ventiquattro Fotogrammi Al Secondo" is in the home language, but which uses a far wider range of styles, instruments and textures than the former work. This is more like musical theatre style progressive rock, with double bass and violin adding unusual textures. The band appears to be formed around a nucleus of four musicians, with Antonello De Simone on vocals and guitars. I think he is one of the main two men behind the band, with pianist Angelo Beneduce also involved, but as all the CD notes as well as the vocals are in Italian it's impossible for me to be sure. The opener swings and dances nicely enough, with the title track again having a musical theatre flavour - brass parps and violins swoon. 'Nel Mio Piccolo Risveglio' also has a high brass content, while 'Sofia' (presumably a woman's name) is suitably romantic in tone. 'Ruggine' is also a slow-burner, this time with some Elton-esque piano chords in the background, alongside a double bass and drums played with brushes; this has a "last dance" sound to it, not least because it's in waltztime. 'Luna Turca' has some gorgeous cello merging into a string quartet; ravishing sounds. The last track has a very curious elegiac sound, with tight EQing giving it an "old radio" vibe. Lacking any skills in the Italian language I've no idea what this work is about, but it certainly sounds good. (Steve Palmer)



(LP from BlueSanct )
(LP from Red Frost Industries )

Coming from a quiet place, almost lost to the world, where art is more important than commerce, these two albums are a lesson in how release intimate, emotional music in such times as these, perhaps when it is most needed, the art of the musician working seamlessly with the art that encloses it, each a reflection of the other.

    There has been a close bond between Mkl Anderson (Drekka) and Annelies Monsere for many years, the pair collaborating on each others work frequently. On this release music from Monsere's “Marit” album has been re-examined by Anderson both before and after it was released resulting in six enticing, nostalgic pieces that are cloaked in emotion that sometimes tears your very skin and soul, with opening track “Like Yesterday” having the power to stop you dead, a ghostly drone washed by piano notes that fall from a forgotten place in heaven, strings drifting through the music adding an extra layer of longing and regret, perhaps, the whole one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard, although its sadness is hard to bear.

     On “Common Ground” the drone moves without ripples, timeless and unwavering, subtle changes in texture and dynamics caused by other instruments that the drone moves between, each sound placed with precision, the delicate voice of Annelies heard as a whisper above the noise, crackling and slow motion pulse marking the slowness of time.  Lighter in feel, “I Will Lock You” finds voice and piano dancing softly together, the music almost lost in its delicate ballet, the remnants of a song fluttering on the branch of an ancient tree, some solidity returned to on “7” a deeper tune that creaks across the landscape calling you home with a slight sense of foreboding.
   Purely the sound of a lone cello “Like Yesterday (Cello Return)” is brief and lovely, the side and the album ended after only 21 minutes by “Have You Heard” an even briefer track that is a brief farewell that you soon lose sight of in the wilderness.

   Over on side two there is a screen print of the original hand written notes, something that only adds to the intimate and personal nature of the release, one that will long be a favourite of mine.

    Looking for a way to add less control to his creative process, Mike Adams, the man behind Golden Braid, invited several of his friends to record five minutes of sound onto cassette, he then created loops from these tapes and mixed them live several times until realising the version on this release.

    Basically a long experimental drone, the music ebbs and flows wonderfully, revealing texture and sounds that harmonise, clash and move on, the whole much more than the sum of its parts, the music alive with possibility and purpose.

     Sounding great at any volume, quietly for a true ambient experience, loud for an immersive voyage, the album has an added charm by playing from the middle out on side two, the music running backwards as well, maybe not it is slightly hard to tell. Either way this is a fine release that will definitely get more airtime. (Simon Lewis)



LP/CD from Elektrohasch

 “The buds burst and life awakens”, states the press release for “In Her Garden”, the new concept album by Colour Haze. An ode to the strength and fertility of women, I believe. Which is all well and good, but perhaps after eleven albums, this intriguing stoner psychedelic band from Germany should choose a colour that truly reflects their sound. After listening intently to this material, I’d suggest Blue, Purple or Black (ok, the latter is not a real colour, but it works in context, as you will see).

  The cd opens with a Krishna - like groove played on triangle and shaker, before guitarist, Stefan Koglek, unleashes a feedback drenched hook, reminiscent of ex-Blue Cheer, Randy Holden’s masterpiece, Population II, (“Blue” Haze?), before evolving into a Led Zeppelinesque stone monster of a track, “Black Lily”. Ably backed by the solid drumming of Manfred Merwald and Philipp Rasthofer on bass, the almost indiscernible yet frantic vocals plant the seed for the rest of this conceptual lp. The minimalist figure which introduces “Magnolia” reminds me of Terry Riley, and although the playing is interesting, the song doesn’t really go anywhere, whereas the next track, “Arbores”, just starts rocking and never stops. A great headbanger. Monster drumming by Merwarld, too.

  “SDG1”, (Sustainable Development Goals, I assume), consists of some badly played brass instruments, I’m afraid…unless they were meant to be some kind of out of tune sackbuts, which were poor sounding Renaissance instruments to begin with.

  The beginning of “Lavatera” would have you believe that you can relax for a minute. But, look out…guitarist, Koglek pulls out all the stops on what sounds like Neil Young’s favourite Les Paul guitar, Old Black, (“Black” Haze, anybody?), for this stoner classic.

  The next track, “Islands” has a similar introduction to the Blue Cheer song, “Piece of Mind”, (another Randy Holden influence, I would propose), with the backward recording leading to a familiar sounding Hendrix lick, (“Purple” Haze?). We still are the third stone from the sun, aren’t we? The band does a great tribute to The Experience on this cut, whether intentional or not.

  Once again, we have a “SDG II”, this time sounding more like Steve Reich, (without the phasing). Filler, I’m afraid. “Labyrinth” opens with a cool Middle Eastern sounding lick, and then from nowhere the drums and bass blow the roof off the joint. It just rocks! Special kudos to drummer, Merwald who is, once again, a certifiable monster on this cut. “Lotus”… the plant has religious connections to Egyptians, Buddhists, and Hinduism. But, what this minimalist track has to do with those connections, I’m not sure. It evolves from a simple guitar theme to a (slightly out of tune) Phillip Glass style string ensemble with vocalist, sounding like an outtake from Mike Oldfield’s Tubular bells. Cool, I guess, if you’re into that kind of thing.

  Koglek drifts into a nice guitar/sitar groove for “SDG III”. A pleasant and understated melody dances throughout. “Skydancer” begins with another groovy Eastern guitar lick and evolves into a Cream - like track, complete with a Jack Bruce inspired vocal. The cd closes with an interesting prog-rocker, “Skydance”, which incorporates the whole Colour Haze musical spectrum within one tune. Minimalistic licks and intricate drumming are interspersed with tasty keyboard lines and extended, shoe gazing guitar solos. And once again, Merwald is just killing it on the drums. (It’s unfortunate that the guitar is mixed so hot on most of the cuts, since it would be nice to hear more of the superbly played backing instruments).

  All in all, the best tracks on this Colour (Black, Purple or Blue) Haze album may be among the best tracks the band has ever recorded. Highly recommended!
(Rick Skol)