= May 2018 =  
The Lee Riders
In the Labyrinth
Anton Barbeau
Us and Them
Flowers Must Die
Many Rooms
Bonnacons of Doom
Wand
Drinks
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Home

THE LEE RIDERS – THE LEE RIDERS
(CD reissue from the good people at Soft Cloud, High on the Pygtrack and Shagrat Records)

Given my well-known predilection for early 70s releases on the Liberty/United Artists label - the ‘All Good Clean Fun’ 2LP sampler primarily served as both education and enlightenment for a teenage yours truly, and like many first loves the effects have lingered to this day - and for British-based bands who owed at least a passing nod of acquaintance with CSNY and The Band: Bronco, Gypsy, Home, Cochise, Quiver and Unicorn chief amongst those with one-word names, and Gospel Oak, Help Yourself, Brinsley Schwarz, Grease Band, Daddy Longlegs and Hokus Poke amongst those with two (we’ll leave off mentioning three worders Coast Road Drive, four-worded Shape of the Rain and beyond that even, The Dog That Bit People for another day….) it’s small wonder that the Lee Riders retain a place in my heart and in my collection.

Originally a self-titled LP released on the classic brown-on-cream United Artists label in 1972, the Lee Riders were an American band who for whatever reason (usually draft related) relocated at around the turn of the decade to the UK to gig and record: the aforementioned Gospel Oak and Daddy Longlegs were two more, along with Eggs over Easy and Formerly Fat Harry. Settling down-home in rural Berkshire, they were joined by drummer Roy O’Temro and (for the recording sessions) by pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole, both ex-Cochise – which is what, I must confess, first caused me to buy this record sometime in the mid-70s when I found an affordable second-hand copy. I have no idea who Alfie, the previous owner, was, but I can only assume Ali had jilted him since despite all the kisses on the back cover, he saw fit to part with the gift not long after it was released. His loss was my gain, and I’ve loved the record ever since.

The material features that glorious funky country-blues sound that bands of this era nailed so effectively. The opening ‘Phenomenological Blues’ showcases singer/songwriter Robert Lee to great effect, and was probably a favourite of their live set at the time. ‘The Moment’ features some tasty West-Coast styled guitar licks from Matt Presby; ‘Living with My Uncle Sam’ and ‘Squabblin’ Blues’ over on the B side are more or less straight blues numbers with, again, some outstanding electric guitar work.

To be brutally honest it’s not an album which is ever going to be hailed as a masterpiece, but it’s definitely a long-overlooked gem which has been crying out for a digital reissue, and with Colin Hill assisting with archival information, Nigel Cross contributing insightful sleeve notes, and an interview with one of the sole surviving previous members of the band, bassist Mike Reilly, included in the sleeve notes, there’s a strong sense that at long last justice has been done, and it’s a welcome opportunity for a deserving much wider audience to hear it at long last.

(Phil McMullen)

 

Home

IN THE LABYRINTH – SAMAS ANTARAL
( CD on Transubstans Records )

In the late 1990s and onwards Swedish world music/progressive outfit In The Labyrinth released three albums of marvellous music, founded in the main on the playing and writing of Peter Lindahl. The Garden Of Mysteries, Walking On Clouds and Dryad walked a fine line between prog and world music, but rooted in the imagination of Lindahl all three albums conjured up marvellous sonic imaginings: lyrical, sophisticated, exotic. Much later, in 2011, a compilation showing the breadth and depth of Lindahl’s music was released on the eastward-looking Trail Records (One Trail To Heaven), but since then nothing has been heard from the Swedish multi-instrumentalist – until now. Transubstans Records have released a brand new disk, Samas Antaral, which consists of seventy minutes of intricate, beautifully played and recorded songs. As before, the artwork is special too, created by Lindahl himself.

Although most of the songs here were recorded in the early 1990s (as with The Garden of Mysteries), some tracks date from twenty years earlier, while some sections were added more recently. Samas Antaral is in fact a concept album, a saga written by Stefan Ottman and Mikael Gejel in the 1980s and published in a magazine called Drömskrinet – hints of magic and fantasy abound. The music reflects the atmosphere of this story, and in twenty separate sections follows the saga.

The music opens with light synths and a shakuhachi sample before heading off into traditional ITL territory – exotic keyboards, beautiful instrumentation and a sensation of exploring new lands. There are hints here of such artists as Phil Thornton. The title track brings in a narration (from the imaginary saga mentioned above) before a loping, strident rhythm begins, and heavier synth instrumentation. As ever, it’s all beautifully played and produced – Lindahl has excellent ears. The Raven Prince is more of an eastern sounding trip, while Jambekko is a vibrant waltztime folk piece, again beautifully played on the ethnic instruments that Lindahl uses to such good effect. This piece is a little like the ‘folk’ pieces in the films Time Bandits and Dark Crystal – evocative, quirky.

Later in the album Return Of The Hermit is a beautiful guitar-based piece, with a lovely melody and descending chord sequence. This piece, along with many others, show one of Lindahl’s particular skills, that of orchestration. Elk Warriors is a flute and synth-based interlude before, later still, one of the longer cuts arrives, Samirala, whose woozy melody, taken up by a choir then transferred to other instruments, is a real beauty. The South American instrumentation makes it especially gorgeous – definitely an album highlight. Gates Of Cornat is an acoustic tune with thrumming harpsichord in the background and a Celtic hint in the playing. Three short closing tracks all merge narration, keyboards, melody and sonic beauty – a fitting end to a marvellous journey

Fans of In The Labyrinth will no doubt love this album, which shows off all the many skills of Peter Lindahl. The orchestration and production is of a particularly high quality, while the melodies all float marvellously along on superb playing. A real stunner of an album, in fact, which all fans of progressive music should check out, even if they’re not fans of the world music influences.
 (Steve Palmer)

 

Home

ANTON BARBEAU - NATURAL CAUSES
(CD/DL on Gard Du Nord records )

The prolific Anton Barbeau returns with a new album on the Gard Du Nord record label called Natural Causes, the follow up to his excellent Magic Act record from a couple of years ago. Bringing along some heavyweight friends like Nick Saloman and Ade Shaw from The Bevis Frond and former Soft Boy bass player Andy Metcalfe, along with a whole host of friends . The Sacramento, California native Ant has been based in Berlin for the last few years and releases this record jointly with the Northern California record label Beehive.

This is a very playful record which was recorded at various studios in Berlin, Cambridge, Berkeley and Sacramento. For reference think Robyn Hitchcock, Syd Barrett and The Beatles at their most psychedelic. Instrumentation includes Mellotron, 12 string guitar, Micromoog, fuzzed bass, flute, violin, guitar bass and drums. The female vocals on a few of the songs are by Lorna Morris.

First track proper is “Magazine Street” a strident Byrdsian 12 string jangler, swiftly followed by the playful and gently humorous “It’s The Coffee That Makes The Man Go Mad” in which Ant recommends using magic mushrooms or marijuana or even ‘The Book Of Mormon’ which he his sure will be better for you than coffee, which the captains of Industry would have you imbibe, A terrific track and for me along with “Summer Of Gold” the standouts on the album. I have tried all, except the Book Of Mormon, which for me is just a step to far!

“Disambiguation ” is very catchy and a clear statement of intent from someone with a mind as mad as a box of frogs. The keyboard dominated “Secretion Of The Wafer” sounds a lot like something that English eccentric Robyn Hitchcock would come up with. “Magic Sandwiches” with lovely Mellotron choral washes, is a very digestible song, crunchy and infused with a big dollop of lead guitar. The gorgeous languid “Summer Of Gold” is particularly excellent and features our Nick on lead guitar to great effect, a big beautiful ballad, some great rhyming couplets, more choral ‘tron filling in all the spaces. “Just Passing By” another strident 12 string led song , invested with some great fuzzy lead guitar breaks and clattering drums.

“Neck Pillow” again quite Hitchcockian, is another 12 string delight, short, ethereal and loose. I have no idea what “Creepy Tray” is about, with its mentions of poison snakes, steep hills and hunchback girls, but I like it. “Mumble Something” has more terrific wordplay, searing lead guitar breaks, jangly 12 string, if in doubt just mumble something. The record ends with “Down Around The Radio” which if there are any hip disc jockeys out there paying attention, would be snapped up for radio play forthwith, a questing song that pins down the very essence of commerciality, round and round we go. I know where my dial will be tuned, for me this is his finest record so far. (Andrew Young)

 

Home

US AND THEM – ON SHIPLESS OCEAN
LP/CD on Mega Dodo

The wonderful Swedish folk rock duo returns with their second full length album. After a few releases for the Fruits de Mer label they have been picked up by Mega Dodo for this beautiful album. Britt’s voice is like a honeyed Eartha Kitt and works to great effect throughout this album. I have nearly all of their previous releases and have followed their career since first hearing them on the Fruits De Mer 7”EP Summerisle, featuring four Wicker Man Songs being instantly hooked on their particular brand of hushed folk.

This new record builds upon their last full length one entitled “Summer Green And Autumn Brown which was released in 2015. The record kicks off with “The Trees And The Sky Above” a delicate filigree of a folk song with strong violin lines and stately appeggio electric guitar. “From The Corner Of My Eye” is an achingly beautiful organ led ballad, that reminds me of Vashti Bunyan at her most elegiac. “A New Life” moves along at a slow pace, the instruments framing Britt’s exquisite vocals, a crepuscular ballad with nothing hurried, its glacial beauty slowly revealed and enhanced by light touches of electronica.

Kevin Ayres “Lady Rachel” slots right into this folktronica setting, synth washes and twinkles, gently strummed electric guitar, accompanied in places by very slight skittering beats and spoken word passages. Here it is rendered almost unrecognisable from the original. “Changes And Choices” continues the icy folktronica sound, lushly arranged, lifted by Mellotron, Britt’s soft vocals framed by woodwind and various percussive sounds.

“People Like Us” is a pastoral musing upon the seasons, a delicate dreamy song that has a soporific effect, a soothing lullaby. “Time” builds slowly, the palette of instruments used to fine effect, creating an eerie softly intoned whirring song of rare beauty. “Extract From The 17th Of November” sees organ, electronica and percussion fusing together on a short instrumental. “Tail” rounds out the album, slowly building to a climax with choral washes. Instruments are gradually introduced, starting with acoustic guitar, adding Mellotron, violin, ebowed electric guitar and light percussion. An awakening and also like Lady Rachel over ten minutes long, a languid narcotic fugue which ends this beguiling album on a high. (Andrew Young)

 

Home

FLOWERS MUST DIE - Där Blommor Dör
(LP/DL from https://flowersmustdie.bandcamp.com/)

A random search of the archives here at Terrascope Towers confirms that we have championed Flowers Must Die since pretty much day one – a quick dig around unearthing an effusive review by a P McMullen of their self-titled second outing back in September 2011. It has proved to be an enduring appeal, latterly manifested in our delight in showcasing them at Shacklewell Arms in London on the eve of last year’s release of Kompost, analbum which confirmed their status as Sweden’s foremost exponents of danceable psychedelia. Goat be blowed!

This self-released album is their fifth full blown and is a rather different bottle of chips from its predecessor. Gone are the dance grooves, for one thing The opening track in fact hits a bit of take-off turbulence, sounding like Comets On Fire in a war of atonal attrition with a dentist drill. As it progresses it reveals something of a melodic structure and even a peculiar charm but seems to be more a tilt in the direction of Gnod than a cosmic Earth Wind and Fire.

Having got that out of their system things settle down to a more sedate and markedly pastoral pace. This is a very organic, one senses spiritual, work, epitomised early on by the violin led Gömma, a drone underscored by a coaxing rhythm and restrained lead guitar and overlaid by Lisa Ekelund’s vocal. ‘Oroa Dig Inte’ is the one we want for the next playlist. It’s a swirling cloud of blissfulness that comes over like a less heavy duty Bardo Pond and which older listeners might fondly imagine to be the bridge between Camembert Electrique and the Radio Gnome Trilogy. It segues gracefully into ‘Oro’ on which Ekelund’s violin intertwines with tastefully executed wah-wah guitars and the pitter-patter percussion to take the form of something vaguely eastern sounding. Or it could be a latter-day manifestation of the ancient Swedish folk revival as promulgated by the likes of Träd, Gräs & Stenar back in the day. Or they could just be pissing about in the studio, it really doesn’t matter at all when the outcome is as good as this. I could listen to it all day.

And so it goes, as Nick Lowe once sang (and you thought we couldn’t work a Basher reference into a review of Swedish psychedelia, eh?). ‘Träd, Gräs & Hö’ is one for the lotus eaters, an endless summer’s day of big skies and blue sunshine with just a hint of Sally Free And Easy in the instrumental refrain – that violin again nagging eerily in among the briar of guitars, keys and percussion. The side-long title track is an epic in the prog tradition, demanding patience and concentration on a sea of calm, while unfaltering bass pluck anchor Rickard Daun’s keyboard washes. As a polar opposite to the abrasive opener it cannot be more pronounced. This is your soundtrack as you are gently lowered into the flotation tank, with just a hint of jarring discord to disturb the reverie as it becomes more industrial in the coda. Ekelund’s evocative cooing and some spectral trumpet lends ‘Dööm’ an unnerving quality and one which builds into a stalking menace thanks to the insistent bass and House Of Usher organ noise. Concluding cut ‘Ejefjallajökull’ (no point relying on the spellchecker I can tell you) is a bonkers piece of wild ‘n witchy woodland abandon that will appeal to anyone who delights in the esoteric charms of Comus and the Third Ear Band before the skies darken, all hell breaks loose and hordes of sprites and goblins start going at it like knives. Hmmm, I thought that tea had something of an odd aftertaste.

Here endeth the lesson, except to add there is a bonus track, a collage of synth-based bleeps, squelches and off-beats that one suspects has Mr Daun’s dabs all over them and which gives release to the harsher, more dystopian musical urges of the subconscious. Is it the ying or the yang? I can never remember. This, and indeed the rest Där Blommor Dör are ample evidence of a band on top of its game that continues to quest and which refuses to let the Gräs grow under its feet. We’re not about to disband the appreciation society just yet.
(Ian Fraser)

 

Home

MANY ROOMS – THERE IS A PRESENCE HERE
(LP/Cassette/Digital on Other People Records)
 
“What if I die and nothing happens? /Will my soul decay with me? /Will you meet me upon a mountain/Will you be buried with me?”

What a way to start an album.  The song is the opener “Nonbeing” from Many Rooms debut There Is A Presence Here.  Many Rooms is the project of Houston singer-songwriter Brianna Hunt.  The album recalls the “just trying to hold it together” nature of Alexander “Skip” Spence’s Oar, the soul-baring of John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band, and the direct, intimate vocals of Vashti Bunyan, with a slight touch of Mazzy Star.

The songs on There Is A Presence Here are melancholy, dark and cathartic, and contain themes of profound depression, questioning one’s faith, lack of self-confidence, nightmares, ghosts, madness, and death.  The songs weave in and out of conventional song structure.  Sometimes, there are verses and choruses, but they can break down into formless passages and fragments.

The instrumentation is usually simple, with guitar or piano, brought to life with atmospheric textures.  The depressing subject matter alone might not be compelling if not for the fact that the sound is loaded with character and style, texture and yes, a presence.  Hunt’s vocals – oh, those vocals – can sound like whispers over the phone, or can be so direct and intimate you almost feel you’re under the covers together, while she confides her innermost thoughts and feelings to you in diary form.  The sometimes little girlish vocals are delicate and fragile, and pull you in.

Nonbeing segues into the charismatic “Which is to Say, Everything.”  The songs touches on the recurring nightmare and death themes, with lyrics “But when my dark is darkest/And death sounds somewhat sweet/There the voice is loudest/And it pulls me out of sleep.”  The song has a drifting feel, commensurate with the dream-laden words, and the soundscape swells and flows.  The vocals are in slow motion – the whole album is, really.

“Dear Heart” is like John Lennon Plastic Ono Band’s “Hold On John,” a song of self-encouragement, as Hunt sings of “Courage, dear heart.”  In “Hollow Body,” she struggles with her faith in God and herself, singing “My brittle bones they can’t contain/The weight of when we speak your name/But in spite of everything/I curse you with the breath you gave me/Hollow body.”

“Danielle” is for me, the album’s most immediate and fascinating song.  Hunt returns to the nightmare imagery, begging her mother for help, intoning “And when the scary things come out/To wave their arms and scream and shout/She tells me ‘don’t be frightened, dear’/And shows me how to disappear/Mother, I’d like to think/When I weep, you weep/Does he haunt you like he haunts me/Every night when you fall asleep?” Her vocals are positively chilling, as the atmosphere grows and curls around you.

“The Nothing” finds Hunt questioning God still deeper, repeating “Oh God, do you look into all those scars, do you look into the darkest places of the heart?”  In the title track “There is a Presence Here,” she sings “…I’m due to break any day/You won’t be satisfied/Until my body dies/Along with yours in the grave.”  And later, “Caress this evil heart/Rip all my seams apart/Grow from the earth a new day.”  The song’s atmosphere builds from an ominous piano to a surrounding swirl, as Hunt sings simultaneous counterpoint vocals, like a somber, melancholy “Scarborough Fair/Canticle.”  There is a presence here, indeed.

On “This Place is Haunted,” Hunt sings “I see a ghost/I see it everywhere I go/I feel your hand leaving traces on my skin/And everywhere I go, it follows.”  Again, the song trails and drifts along in an eerie diaphanous mist of layered vocals and effects.

The album’s coda, “When I Find You in the Flowers,” is similar to the “My Mummy’s Dead” moment from John Lennon Plastic Ono Band.  Like My Mummy’s Dead, the song is fleeting, seems deceptively like a throwaway at first, and sounds as if it were recorded in a lonely room on a portable tape recorder.  But the lyrics of “When I Find You in the Flowers” are nearly inaudible – the title is actually a line from the earlier “Which is to Say, Everything,” and is devastating enough.  When Hunt stops singing, the tape recorder continues to run quietly in the background.  Those 32 harrowing seconds of near silence to close the album, with just some quiet rustling of objects, are chilling to the bone, as the listener is left to helplessly ponder what is going on in that room…

(Mark Feingold)

 

Home

BONNACONS OF DOOM – S/T
(LP/DL from Rocket Recordings https://rocketrecordings.bandcamp.com/)

Decked out in black robes and masked by what look suspiciously like stock pot lids with the handles removed, Liverpool-based shadowy so-and-sos Bonnacons of Doom make for an imposing and ritualistic spectacle. Theirs is a shifting membership based around a mysterious core, which includes polymath Jason Stoll who can list the God Unknown label, Sex Swing and formerly Mugstar among his impressive CV. Theirs has been a slow march to centre stage, as, other than a couple of singles on God Unknown, this is their much anticipated, some might venture long overdue debut.

It’s the presence of Kate Smith that helps make them such an exceptional band. Her diminutive but expressive stage presence provides a focal point for the band’s Hammer House of Horror persona. She also packs a considerable vocal punch. Witness opening salvo ‘Solus’ (the titles are all one word and all hint at esoteric sacrament). There aren’t too many albums of this ilk that commence with unaccompanied ululation. It commands your attention and holds it, vice-like. Now depending on where and on what you stand you’ll be either dismayed or downright relieved that Kate doesn’t give full vent to her inner Yoko. Instead an execution drum beat pierces the ether and the vocal yelps relent to more soothing crooning until the trap door spring opens and all hell spews forth, a pulverising invocation around which Smith vocally bobs, weaves and contorts.

‘Argentus’ is more soothing, relatively speaking, almost carefree in places, albeit with its share of power chords and a brooding air punctuated by Smithsonian shrieks that send a tingle up this old knotted spine. A couple of instrumental tracks set us up for ‘Plantae’ something of a theme tune for the band and one that’ll be familiar to anyone who has thrilled to see them live. ‘Industria’ does what’s riveted onto the tin. It’s restrained but not refined, possessed as it is of a corrosive quality. Who knows what drips from those walls in that subterranean crypt as, the unseen set to work with the unspeakable on the unsuspecting, probing mercilessly and without anaesthetic. Scary stuff. Meanwhile, ‘Rhitzome’ is the most Sex Swing-like thing here - a brutal abrasion that’s tribal, pugnacious and packs an intent to harm. Turn away now before it’s too…

Ah yes, ‘Plantae’ that live staple and showstopper. Built around a neat guitar run it builds into a magnificent exhortation. It’s also the track on which Kate comes into her own (warning: may contain real words). It’s the primal cream atop a darkly rich and oozing cake. The veal crate Home Office (nothing to do with Amber Rudd, she wouldn’t fit in here literally or metaphorically) isn’t conducive to a bend-from-the-waste, vaguely rhythmic head butting action – not without hitting the screen anyway – but you can’t blame a man for trying.

Well good things come to those who wait, and this shows yet again that Rocket know a damn fine thing when they hear it. Now do yourselves a massive favour and go and see these dark knights of the soul live. You might not be the same coming out as you were when you went in but a risk worth taking we reckon.
(Ian Fraser)

Click here to see our feature interview with the Bonnacons

 

Home

WAND – PERFUME
(Vinyl/CD/Digital from Drag City Records http://www.dragcity.com/)

OK so it’s time to get hung up on semantics. What constitutes an EP, LP or indeed a mini-LP and at the end of the day does it matter? San Francisco’s Wand seem to specialise in that netherworld of 30 minute releases, which even now we are returned to the era of the 45 minute maximum 12” format (vinyl stubbornly refuses to yield to “progress”)* seems a little light. EP on the other hand conjures memories of picture sleeve 7” singles with more than the regulation one song each A and B side, so while mini-LP may seem like the musical format equivalent of brunch, that’s what it is.

Well I don’t know about you but I feel a lot better for that.

Wand are imbued with a Frisco sound arguably as distinctive if not yet as well-known as what emanated from out of the sea fog and fault-line during those heady and over- chronicled mid to late 1960s. The master-planner is “Mayor” John Dwyer of (Thee) Oh Sees a man of such prolific output and influence, you can hear him all over Ty Segall and to an extent Wand. Hmmm, perhaps a little less on this in fact than some of their earlier releases. ‘Perfume’ is a frenetic opener, spirited indie-pop lightly dusted with psychedelic sprinkles. Built around a strong melody and riff it sets a blistering pace – a 7 minute mosh and pogo that cries out for a “gentleman’s sit down” about mid-way through. By contrast and although it still canters along ‘Town Meeting’ is more cerebral and experimental, a clever clogs math rocker of rhythmic and vocal complexity, with Cory Hanson duelling with Sofia Arreguin in the old larynx department. Attention all you prog fans and afficionados of the more adventurous Canterbury noodlers – this might well appeal.

‘The Gift’ has the pleasantness and accessibility that are both hallmarks of “the single”, a little lightweight perhaps but again underscored by decent melody and an inventive flair that resists strict structural convention. ‘Pure Romance’ jingles and jangles and again showcases Cory Hanson’s pleasing if not particularly strong or characterful tenor. Like so much here it seems to pack two or more songs into one (so you see, you get value for your scant half hour after all) and has a sunshine energy guaranteed to remedy any Vitamin D deficiency. The scuzzy lo-fi freak out of ‘Train Whistle’ segues into showstopper (in both senses of the word) ‘I Will Keep You Up’ a sliver of loveliness with an acoustic backdrop overlaid with shimmering guitar that possesses such a timeless quality it could have been written and recorded at any time since the White Album. A pity that when the guitar eventually cuts loose it’s strangled by an abrupt fade. Half hour, that’s all you get, remember.

Perfume doesn’t have the immediate appeal of 2014’s Ganglian Reef, perhaps, but all told a varied, interesting and enjoyable team effort that leaves you looking forward to the next Wand release. Knowing them we won’t have too long to wait.
(Ian Fraser)

* For the record, as it were, 'An Hour With The Ramsey Lewis Trio,' a jazz LP from 1959, runs to 65 minutes in total. Phil.

 

Home

DRINKS – HIPPO LITE
(Drag City Records http://www.dragcity.com/)

Meet your new favourite odd couple. Hell no, not the McMullen-Fraser Comb/Paper/Ukelele Aggravation, although admittedly they’re pretty strange too. No, we’re talking here about the Hollywood hook-up of transplanted Carmarthenshire chanteuse and queen of kookiness Cate Le Bon and White Fence’s Tim Presley, one of the more interesting song writers to have been popped from the psychedelic re-mould of 21st century Californ-i-a.

It comes to something when on first hearing ‘Blue From The Dark’ your initial reaction is that Hawaiian music interpreted by Richard Dawson sounds a lot more conventionally wired and easier on ear and synapse than much of what graced their debut  Hermits On Holiday from a couple of years back. It’s actually rather charming, a lot of which has to be down to the typewriter as well as the lilting melody and male/female vocal interplay. A strange choice of field recording, granted, but hey Cate and Tim are prone to unconventional choices and there are plenty of those dotted throughout They also bring to mind Madeline the Rag Doll and Gabriel the Frog from Bagpuss. Listen this all interpretive so welcome to my world.

There are kooky, episodic little interludes that evoke the aforementioned Dawson’s Peasant Songs and some forgotten corner of Rawlinson’s End. Le Bon’s at her best on ‘Real Outside’, a clever little carousel of a song as playful in its lyrical inventiveness as in its sonically nimble and dextrous construction and punctuated by a precise, ping-pong bass. A mischievous instrumental, ‘In The Night Kitchen’ is suggestive of the illicit midnight munchies with the camp fire freshly doused and one which you imagine Kevin Ayers interrupting at any point, while the outstanding Gorky-like duet ‘Greasing Up’ has the sweet scent of home (at least for Cate) and more than whiff of mid-70s Eno about the place.

Just when you think it’s all rather more coherent and less polarising than Hermits on Holiday, they serve up ‘Ducks’, showing that resistance to being quirkier-than-thou was ultimately futile. A slapstick dissonance of such absurdness you expect them to break into the ‘Ying Tong Song’ at any moment, backed by the McMullen-Fraser Comb, Paper, Uke Aggravation. Shudder, them again. “Patrician, what’s on your mind?” they holler and yelp. What indeed. From here on in it becomes more ramshackle and less disciplined which isn’t altogether disappointing and there’s a certain undeniable if errant appeal to it. Quick find me an urchin to affectionately cuff, the scamp. Presley hits peak form on the closing ‘You Could Be Better’, another wind-up merry-go-round of a song that seems disarmingly simple in its subtle intricacy, the scraping strings, nagging piano motif and tip-tap percussion melding mesmerizingly into a hypnotic swoon. We’re back on track, folks although don’t expect the points to work the way you expect them to.
(Ian Fraser)