=  NOVEMBER 2006 =

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Written by:  
Simon Lewis (Editor) Magic Carpathians

 Steve Pescott

The Twilights

Jeff Penczak

Kitchen Cynics

Tony Dale

Steffen Basho Junghans

Erica Rucker

Eggs over Easy

Jim Skinner

International Sad Hits
  Kahvas Jute
  Soft Machine
  Agitated Radio Pilot

Farzad Golpeyagani

  Eyeless in Gaza
  Martyn Bates
  Black Rat
  Christian Kiefer
  Wolf Eyes
  Black Sun Ensemble
  Primordial Undermind
  David Rosenbloom




Featuring a host of instruments, field recordings and the mysterious sounds of the Badoog Generator, this is a dense and majestic album that is both soothing and unsettling as it throws force-fields of sound around the room.


    Opening with the extended drone/noise of “Lechistan’s Electric Chair”, the album quickly stakes it’s claim, the instruments swirling around each in a storm of electronic passion, each sound complementing and resonating with each other to produce a wonderfully rich whole, before the tension is finally released with a delicate downward spiral of notes. Next up, “Music Store” is a conversation about sirens overlaid with chattering percussion and guitar, producing a hypnotic eastern feel. The sound of naturally exhaled co2 bubbling from the ground is a captivating way to start “Radio Lechistan”, the soothing ambience is quickly broken however, as harsh industrial noises interrupt, turning the piece into the sound of a building site in hell. This noise continues unabated for another ten minutes until the bubbling gas returns to save our ears. A laid-back banjo takes centre stage for “Larry’s Place”, field recording adding atmosphere to the piece, as you find yourself listening to other peoples conversations underneath the music. Finally “Conversations At The Edge Of The World” is a psychedelic shadow, with echoed voices and electronics giving the piece the feel of a half-remembered dream, and is a fine way to end this diverse and excellent album. (Simon Lewis)






     This deluxe reissue on the Australian Aztec imprint includes a 24-page booklet chock full of rare photos, gig announcements, contemporary (mid-60s) clippings from the Australian music press, an extensive historical evaluation of the Adelaide quintet’s career by famed Australian rock scribe Ian McFarlane (author of the bible for Australian music, ‘The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop’) and, perhaps most important for collectors and completists, both the stereo and mono mixes of what McFarlane hails as “Australia’s greatest pop psych album.” While some could understandably campaign for The Bee Gees ‘First,’ there’s no denying the impressive talent and amazing variety of music wrapped up in these dozen pop tunes full of wah-wah guitar effects and phased vocals fed through Leslie cabinets. The album oozes the typical psychedelic trappings of the day and showcases guitarist Terry Britten’s masterful ear for a catchy melody. The opening (title) track hits all the right pop psych buttons, with harpsichord fills, a brass band mid-section, and speeded up Munchkin vocals all vying for attention. ‘What A Silly Thing To Do’ is lovely, lightweight Hollies-like schoolboy whimsy, with a middle eight verse that predates and suggests a similar chord progression on The Beatles’ ‘Hello Goodbye’ from later in the year.


The McCartneyesque “Bessemae” finds the band venturing into sunshine pop, but also demonstrates their exquisite harmonies. The melancholic ‘Mr. Nice’ recalls the contemporary orch-pop of Curt Boettcher, while the phased vocals and concise guitar and piano embellishments make ‘Blue Roundabout’ a brilliant companion to such similar sounding contemporary pop psych masterpieces as July’s ‘My Clown’ and The Hollies’ ‘Dear Eloise,’ while Britten’s sitar-driven ‘Devendra sounds like the aftermath of a head-on collision between ‘Within You Without You’ and Traffic’s ‘A Hole in My Shoe.’ Finally, drummer Laurie Pryor provides one of two non-Britten-penned tracks, ‘The Cocky Song,’ which is a silly country hoedown that stands as the band’s ‘Auntie Grizelda’ and (just barely) works as comic relief, with one of its lyrics clearly aimed as a knowing wink in the direction of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking:’ “This cocky is made for talking and that’s just what he won’t do.”


The differences between the mono and stereo mixes are similar to the sonic differences between a CD and LP, namely, the mono mixes maintain an analog warmth with a deeper bottom end, but the jangly, almost tinny digitalised stereo mix is admittedly crisper, but nevertheless a bit antiseptic. Having said that, I will suggest that the mono mix loses much of the impact of the myriad effects used throughout the tracks, particularly the brass section on the title track and some of the phased vocals on numerous tracks sound quite muffled, like someone was sitting on your speakers while you were listening to the album.


The band would breakup a mere six months after the album’s release, although they would release 5 non-LP sides across three singles through the end of 1968. They would have made excellent bonus tracks to complete the band’s psychedelic phase, particularly as Aztec’s stated intent is to include bonus tracks with their reissues (where available), so perhaps they have a singles compilation slated for a future release? Another tragic loss in the digital world is the amazing 3-D foldout album cover that graced the original Columbia release.


Following the band’s demise, vocalist Glenn Sharrock achieved fame and fortune fronting the Little River Band and was instrumental in arranging some of the interviews (including his and Britten’s) that appear in Debbie Kruger’s 2005 book, ‘Songwriters Speak’ [working title: ‘Australian Songwriters On Songwriting.’]  The Manchester-born Britten released a solo single (‘2000 Weeks’ c/w ‘Bargain Day’ – Columbia) in 1969 before returning to the UK in the 70s (where he lives to this day in Richmond, Surrey). He has played on sessions for The New Seekers and in Cliff Richards’ backing band, and continued his charming melodic ways, penning hits for Cliff Richard (‘Devil Woman’) and Tina Turner (‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ and the Grammy and Golden Globe nominated ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’), as well as Olivia Newton-John, Meat Loaf and Bonnie Raitt.


So if you’re a fan of mid-60s psychedelia by the likes of The Hollies, July, Kaleidoscope, or The Open Mind, be sure to add this to your collection. I’d also like to see some of our contemporary pop psych bands like The Green Pajamas, Dipsomaniacs, Lucky Bishops, Outrageous Cherry, et. al. take a crack at covering some of these tracks on a future release. (Jeff Penczak)





Alan Davidson reckons this is one of his best albums, and whilst I find it difficult to see faults in any of his music, I have to agree with him as the album has a consistency and flow to it that makes it a magical listening experience. Long time fans of the band will know what to expect, a blend of pastoral tunes, wonderful guitar playing, introspective and playful lyrics, as well as the odd cover or two.

    A high standard is set right from the off with the beautiful “Wrote It Down” weaving its cobweb magic around you. “Little Miss Feverfew” is a psychedelic nursery rhyme, with some fluid guitar work highlighting the bitter tale of lost innocence. A favourite topic is returned to for “Richard In Bedlam”, all about Victorian artist Richard Dadd, the song benefiting from some exquisite recorder/flute playing. Opening with some dreamlike guitar playing the cover of “The Breaking Up Scene” (Honeybus) is a rich tapestry of sonic delight with some delightful solo playing throughout. A truly psychedelic atmosphere is conjured up on “withershins” a darkly brooding song, and one of the albums highlights. A much sunnier ambience is created on “Dreaming Still” a celebration of friendship and love that will make you smile. Written for Syd Barrett and originally recorded by Kevin Ayers “Oh Wot A Dream” is given a hazy electronic veneer, with varispeed vocals and all manner of effects creating a classic cover version.
Final two songs “’Til We Are Dust” and “count Your Blessings” ensure that the highest standards are maintained until the very end, the former a bittersweet ballad of unrequited love, whilst the latter is a whispering psychedelic muse on life, complete with missing clarinet solo as explained by Alan.

    Seeing as Alan is proposing to record a song a day in 2007 (to be obtained by subscription only) this could be his last album for a while. I suggest you buy one right now, it really could be his finest album yet.
(Simon Lewis)





     German acoustic steel guitar virtuoso Junghans returns with his fifteenth album, consisting of a half dozen 6- and 12-string solo instrumentals. Opening with the epic, 22-minute, side-long title track, Junghans says the album is about that transitional time in late summer when special light, colours, and scents become “part of the grand theatre of nature… It’s the time of painters….” These sketches act as his soundtrack for this “wide screen film.” They also serve as the perfect accompaniment to a leisurely Sunday drive along a sinewy, riverside country road with the cool, flowing water reflecting the flickering sunlight as it carries softly-falling golden leaves to unknown destinations. This is outdoors music that is meant to be experienced in the midst of nature, not huddled inside headphones in the privacy of your listening room. So let your mind wander back to those crisp morning pumpkin rides in the country, where Mom and Dad packed you and your siblings into the family station wagon with the promise of “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” awaiting us as we marvelled at nature’s colourful panorama of greens and golds and reds so vibrant as they danced across our windscreen. I can recall stopping at the side of the road to rush into an open field and catch the leaves as they fell like snowflakes onto our cherubic red faces, or raking them up in the back and front yard to pile up curbside to be used as cushions as we jumped and frolicked amidst the three- and four-foot high compost heaps that smelled of earth trickling through our sinuses as the knees and seats of our pants became soggy with the early morning dew.


     ‘In The Secret Garden’ is furtive… tentative… bashful even, as Junghans tiptoes up and down his 6-string, before switching to his Lakewood M18 12-string for ‘Woodland Orchestra,’ another nature walk, with segments that occasionally reminded me of Neil Young’s own ode to earth’s natural beauty, ‘Harvest Moon.’ Junghans is more reflective, however, with random notes and non-linear chord structures that perhaps simulate his overwhelming shock and awe at the random structures in nature, as tree limbs reach for the sky and amazing hues, like multi-coloured broccoli florets sprout along the skyline. It’s the perfect segue into ‘Sky Dreamer’s Gold’ as setting suns explode into cumulous clouds – magnets for our heavenly thoughts of wonder and tranquility.


     ‘Azure No. 3’ continues our mind’s aimless flight through the sky. Like a kite on a string, our thoughts may be grounded on earth, but once they reach into the wild azure yonder, they are at the mercy of the four winds. As befits our reckless mind/kite, darting hither and yon, ‘Azure…’ is Junghans’ busiest song, as contrapuntal notes drag us in myriad directions, eventually dropping out, as if our kite had lost its updraft and plummeted mercilessly earthward. Finally, the 12-string ‘Northern Winds’ draws our attention once again heavenward as the veil of the summer’s heat and stench is lifted, revealing a cool, crisp autumnal blanket for us to wrap our thoughts and lives within, until winter’s chill forces us to grip the edges of our cloaks a little tighter, not quite ready to abandon the womb of our (and nature’s) rebirth. A must for any collection, particularly for fans of Junghans, his mentor, Robbie Basho, John Fahey and contemporary artists such as Glenn Jones, Jack Rose and Harris Newman, who mastered the album in his Montreal studio. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD from Hux Records,  PO Box 12647,  London SE18 8ZF (note new address!) www.huxrecords.com )


The name of Eggs over Easy is one that should evoke certain dewy-eyed reminiscences amongst a smattering of the British rock 'n' roll fraternity. Back in 1970, this American east coast combo valiantly attempted to lead us away from the burgeoning hobbit prog scene and the heads-down, no-nonsense, mindless boogie, and in response to this twin threat, they singlehandedly kickstarted the grassroots phenomenon that became "pub rock". Without this band, there would be no Kilburns, no Plummet Airlines and no punk rock - now there's a thought to chew on.


    Their blend of country-fried r'n'b (Robbie Robertson fronting Roy Estrada-era Little Feat?) gained a lot of attention in Greenwich Village and they eventually signed to a wing of Cannon Films. Chas Chandler (a friend of the label's boss Peter Kauff) gave them the opportunity to go to London with studio time / gigs on offer. In 1971, after the Cannon deal fizzled, this trio of multi-instrumentalists - Jack O'Hara, Austin De Lone and Brien (no typo) Hopkins, augumented by ex-Animals drummer John Steele - opened up a residency at the Tally Ho in London's Kentish Town, and, in time, as with the U.S., built up an enthusiastic fan-base, which included the Brinsleys, Ducks Deluxe and Bees Make Honey. After a tour of Inde Coope pubs plus supporting John Mayall, the band returned home (sans Steele) and slogged up and down the States with support slots that were either a mite incongruous (Edgar Winter) or simply perverse (Yes). They then signed to A&M and consequently 'Good 'n' Cheap' came into being. This was produced by the sorely missed Link Wray at a studio run by his brother Vernon, their amazing hundred song repertoire condensed to a mere eleven numbers.


    Judging by the surefootedness of their musicianship and many "lightbulb over the head" moments, it's a real shame that the album couldn't have been stretched to accommodate another couple of sides of vinyl. I guess Alpert and Moss adhered to the unwritten law that said "Thou shalt not give a newly signed band the luxury of a gatefolded double LP". Shame.


    'Party Party' open and is a cracking example of backbone-slipping funque which soon shows itself to be an excellent pointer as to what to look out for in subsequent numbers: "lodge in the head" brain melodies, idiosyncratic storylines and that peculiar "tight but loose" feel that a lot of stateside bands possessed at that time. 'Arkansas' is another good 'un: a gentle country-styled ballad that resembles a scaled down Hearts & Flowers. 'Henry Morgan', written by Brien, is easily my favourite cut. This should really have been accorded single status, though clocking in at 4:37 might've made it a bit too long for DJ playlists. Regardless - this tale of that famous cutlass-wielding pirate of yore has a chorus that'll stick to you like a burr. Sounding like Jimmy McCracklin's 'The Walk' loosely interpreted by The Band, it paints him as quite an affable character, but we all realise that ol' Henry would slice and dice this new influx of Hollywood swashbucklers as soon as look at 'em - have at ye!... Johnny Depp!! Coming very close in terms of regular visits to the deck (no pun intended) is 'Song Is Born Of Riff And Tongue', a very Pearlman/Meltzeresque title now I come to think of it. It's the only track solely written by an outside source, namely Robert Fraker, and the rather poignant melody and lyrical delicacy ("We can build a song the birds will try to recreate, among ourselves") brings to mind a landlocked/plaid shirt wearing take on the 'Pet Sounds' oeuvre. Other highlights - there are many, believe me - are 'The Factory', a blue-collared kitchen sink drama with a fine piano and guitar trade off, 'Running Down To Memphis' which could so easily have been a reconditioned version of some old rural folk holler and the closer 'Night Flight' which possesses some mightily assertive tub-thumping by their fourth drummer (out of five), Bill Franz. Is their slipping grip on sticksmen a template for the troubles that Spinal Tap encountered, I wonder?


    Since its initial release, reissue action has been fairly spotty. A vinyl copy was issued in 1986 through Edsel and years later E.O.E. were given the "good 'n expensive" treatment by Universal Records of Japan, but the Hux edition has added four extra cuts: the smokey, afterhours '111 Avenue C' and 'Across From me' come from the cutting room floor (pre A&M). 'Bar In My Car' is a very non-PC but funny do drink and drive choogler that crept out as a very limited run single, while 'Scene Of The Crime' is taken from a 1980/1 session. You can also spoon in some excellent Nigel Cross sleevenotes, eggy recollections from Loudon Wainwright, complete song lyrics and a couple of hand-drawn posters. Perfect. (Steve Pescott)




(CD from www.20-20-20.com )


For bands touring the less frequented zones of foreign climes, one of the major benefits must surely be the opportunity to investigate and boost artists whose names only ever become recognised in their homeland. The songwriting duo of Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang (see Terrascopes passim) have done just that whilst on tour in parts of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia. They’ve chosen to highlight the sensitive artistry of the obscure, to western ears, Turkish bard Fikret Kizilok, the fantastic Kim Doo Soo from Korea, and to add further entries to the discographies of the better-known Kazuki Tomokawa and Kan Makami, two Japanese loner folk luminaries who have both recorded for PSF in the past few years. All four sing in their native “Altaic” language, which comprises the Turkic, Mongolian and Manchu-Tungus groups (although certain sources question the inclusion of Japanese and Korean!), and all share a song dynamic that comes heavily wrapped in melancholy’s deepest shade of blue, as is evidenced by the album title.


    Beginning with Kan Mikami, then: his career began with inking a deal with Columbia in the early seventies. He soon became the darling of student firebrands everywhere with his rough-hewn songs boiling over with foul-mouthed, anti-boojwah sentiment. Here I get impressions of a more wired-up/oriental counterpart to Jacques Brel, probably serving up bile ballads the equal of something like “I swear on the wet head of my first case of gonorrhoea, it is its ugly voice that I forever fear” (taken from Brel’s ‘Next’ – also covered by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band on their LP of the same name).


    Other major label releases followed but by the latter part of the eighties, his star was in the descendant with no label interest and a dwindling fan-base. PSF eventually took him under their wing and, a good decade and a half later, he has racked up twelve solo albums, not forgetting of course the two staggering ‘…Heisei’ albums with Haino and Motoharu. His selections here, using only solo guitar and blistered throat croon, are at their most powerful with the wrung-out emotional pain of ‘Scarlet Rug’ and the cheerless ‘Never Before’. Regretfully I don’t own a great deal of Makami vinyl, but I do have a copy of the amazing ‘Bachi’ CD (on Turtles Dream) and it’s certainly as vital as that. I hope that’s helped.


    After numerous dead-end jobs, fellow countryman Kazuki Tomokawa started to record a few years after Mikami but mirrored his friend’s crooked career path by disappearing after releasing a string of major label albums. He did though gain a new audience through PSF in the mid-Nineties. His songs here reveal a pronounced fracture between melodic frailty and spasmodic nervous energy. The aptly-named ‘Storm in the Middle of the Night’ is the undoubted high spot which manages to suck you into its world with “just” a pummelled acoustic and spittle-flecked vocals, although ‘My Boy’, a piano and string-laden ballad of the utmost poignancy, shades it painfully close.


    Onto the “great unknowns” now. Istanbul-born Fikret Kizilok began playing in sixties pop bands before a journey to Anatolia (in Asia Minor, near the Black Sea) had a profound effect on him and a drastic rethink led him to embrace his country’s rich folk traditions. In 1977 Fikret released his first LP but like Mikami’s debut, it met with a ban by the powers-that-be. Because of this he quit (can you see a pattern emerging here?), but returned to music eight years later. A purple patch yielded a slew of well-received, spiky, politically charged albums. As Fikret tragically died in 2001, these numbers serve as an epitaph to a shining talent that surely should have received as much western interest, via reissues, as, say, 3 Hur-El or Mogollar. Fleshed out with a small combo of dumbek, cello, flute and viola, ‘Without Noticing’ and ‘Just As Long’ suggest what might have occurred if Robert Kirby (now really slumming it with the Magic Numbers) had received the green light to arrange certain sections of Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’.


    Kim Doo Soo, a graduate of Korea University, first performed as a folk singer in Seoul nightclubs and, in time, a debut LP was released – which was banned by the authorities (groan). Two more albums followed, but then Kim simply disappeared for a decade! He returned with ‘Free Spirit’ which contained a revamped version of ‘Bohemian’. Its dolorous orchestration and strange native harmonica interjections set the trend in defying you to look away or even breathe while its special form of magic is woven. The ancient strands sewn into the exotic loping blues of ‘Sweet Briar’, the desolate imagery (“dried up rivers” and “stumbling along nameless roads” in ‘Mountain’ and the haunting ‘Wild Flower’ are unearthly glimpses into a dimension only visible to humankind once every century. WHAT a discovery!


    Quite simply put, this is my ‘Album of the Year’ and possibly the next one too. Who knows what delights Damon & Naomi will bring to the west for the next projected volume: it’s one that’s anticipated by yours truly VERY eagerly indeed. (Steve Pescott)




(CD on Silber Records)


    Arizonan band Lycia have always been interesting to try and pin down; at times issuing pure ambient sonography, at other times arid post punk and increasingly trading in gothic electronica not far removed from the work of Coil. The impressive Silber imprint was initially inspired by Lycia, approving of the band's evolving aesthetic and uncompromising DIY approach to their art. They've apparently always aspired to put out Lycia records, and now they have that wish granted, being host to a re-release program that will issue all five Lycia studio albums remastered (and in the case of this release – re-imagined) by frontman Mike VanPortfleet.

    'The Burning Circle and Then Dust' is the second in the Silber reissue program, following on from 'Estrella' in 2005. The original 1995 double disc found the band at a crossroads between post-punk/sombre ambience and night-winged song-craft. It also marks the first collaborations between VanPortfleet and new Lycia members David Galas and Tara Vanflower (now also heard in collaboration with Timothy Renner in the wondrous Black Happy Day project). One of the really intriguing aspects of this reissue is that the original double disc has now been pared down to a single one with the removal of staggering eight tracks. I can't think of too many times when objectivity and the editorial insight have trumped ego in the reissue process, but this is one such case. During the initial sessions for 'The Burning Circle and Then Dust' far more material than was needed was recorded, with the intent that the surplus be used as compilation tracks. However, when the opportunity to release a double CD presented itself, all tracks were included, whether they were stylistically congruent or not. This release - perhaps controversially for some fans – restores the release back to Mike VanPortfleet original vision. Some – not many – tracks from the 1995 second disc are included, and some tracks have extended introductions removed, making for a grand and cohesive flow to the new version.

    The reissue opens spectacularly with 'A Presence in the Woods': thunderous drums, majestic waves of guitar and keyboards and VanPortlfeet's whispered vocals. The vocal mixing is particularly interesting – they are subsumed to the overall flow and yet have a deal of clarity I don't remember from the original. Here and on other tracks, they stay just on the right side of overly melodramatic. Mid-tempo drum thunder, bottom-end warmth and sepulchral vocals also characterise the narcotic 'Wandering Soul' which instrumentally recalls Joy Division, but vocally has the gravitational pull of sleep, or death, to the weary. And so it goes through the album – instrumentally, Slowdive and the Cocteau Twins are recalled, sometimes My Bloody Valentine as well, and vocally it's all ghost whispers and it's a style you'll probably know already whether you have an affinity with or not. (The series of instrumentals titled 'The Dust Settles' (Pts 1, 2 and 3) strikingly quite beautiful is well as providing a break from the monochromatic vocal treatments if one is needed.) Throughout, the listener is treated with chords that rise and fall like ocean swells, guitar figures climbing giant staircases and an 80s approach to recording drums and keyboards that is defiantly atavistic and very refreshing (hey, that's what drums sounds like!) And every now and then there is a track like 'Pray' than brings you to your knees with its gorgeously melodic distillation of all the best vibrations from 4AD's back catalogue. I would have liked to see a bonus disc included containing the cut tracks and some of original versions that got shortened, but that is a minor quibble in the face of this towering work. (Tony Dale)




(CD on Aztec Records, http://www.aztecmusic.net)


    As far as Australian progressive blue-rock touchstones go, they don't come any better, and – well – more stoned than Kahvas Jute's only album, 'Wide Open' (Infinity Records 1971) available previously only in original form (to rich collectors), as iffy bootlegs on various European labels (Little Wing of Refugees and the opportunistic Akarma among the offenders) or on a badly mastered official reissue on the Festival label in 1993. Now for the first time since release this great record can be enjoyed in a version supervised by band front man Dennis Wilson. In fact, the sonics here are probably an improvement on the original record, having more oomph and a warmer sound than the LP.

   1971 in Australia was a cusp year for Australian musicians, with flower-power giving way to harder progressive rock, in many cases bands taking the progressive blues coming out of the UK and USA as a reference point. Guitarist and vocalist Dennis Wilson and bassist Bob Daisley (one of God's bass players, who went on to international career with Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Moore, Uriah Heep, Chicken Shack and many others) had cut their teeth in the Cream and Hendrix influenced Mecca. They teamed up with ex-Tamam Shud members Dannie Davidson (drums) and 16 year old guitar wunderkind Tim Gaze to form Kahvas Jute (Kahvas a variant of kavvas – apparently Turkish police, and Jute fairly obviously from the hemp-related plant).

    At its heart, 'Wide Open' is about social and artistic freedom. This is evident from the gloriously structured melody and twin guitar gestalt of 'Free'. Instead of the more clichéd route of trading licks, Wilson and Gaze were technically skilled to the extent that genuine twin guitar parts could be composed and played, both live and in the studio. Daisley's fat Jack Bruce influenced basslines can now be heard at the correct Richter scale reading, and they are perfectly complemented by Davidson's expansive drumming, forming a rhythm section that rolls like thunder. With Wilson's Clapton-esque vocal, 'Odyssey' scratches their Cream itch nicely, but with the added dimension of complex solos played in perfect unison. 'Up There' is one of two Gaze compositions, and he makes the most of it with complex and jazzy structures that hark back to Tamam Shud. 'She's So Hard to Shake' is full-tilt hard rock, but with oblique chord changes taking it out of the ordinary, as well as some totally gone bass from Daisley giving it enough propulsion to easily reach escape velocity. 'Vikings' dials things back to a ballad which traverses the road from delicate acoustic work to fine electric soloing, but it seems a little dated now. Probably a case of it being too close to its influences. Davidson contributes the surprisingly great 'Steps of Time' - it's a fine slice of Australian progressive folk-rock and not just a token drummer's contribution. The more you play the album, the more this track becomes a favourite. Gaze's 'Twenty Three' is typically classy, and Daisley's elegant 'Ascend' forms a fine on-ramp to the album's blazing apotheosis, the 10 minute 'Parade of Fools' on which all the guitar stops are pulled out for a full band workout that is clearly born of the live Jute experience but is nonetheless a fine document even in this constrained studio version. 


    There are five bonus tracks from a blazing reunion gig live at Sydney's Basement club in 2005 that is now available in full as a DVD/CD set. Suffice to say that the band has lost none of its potency, and you are back in the day if you close you eyes. A cover of Cream's 'Politician' joins key tracks from the album 'She's So Hard to Shake', 'Ascend/Ascension' and 'Parade of Fools'. New compositions are saved for the subsequent DVD release (and they're every bit as good as the tracks on 'Wide Open').  As always from Aztec, nothing is spared on the packaging and liner notes.     (Tony Dale)




(CD from Cuneiform Records www.cuneiformrecords.com )


It seems that I've barely had the time to draw breath since September's 'Rumbles', which found me giving a glowing report on the 'Grides' CD, another instalment in Cuneiform's retrieval of Soft Machine material once thought lost forever. Now we see the label delving further back to 'The Summer of Luhrve' with this 'Middle Earth' CD. During that time, the Softs had issued their debut single 'Love Makes Sweet Music' on Polydor and, after psychedelicizing hordes of the French avant-garde, lost the services of guitarist/vocalist Daevid Allen due to visa irregularities. Now reduced to a trio, Ayers, Ratledge and Wyatt played a number of gigs in Britain, Holland and also enjoyed a return trip to France at the 'Biennale des Jeunes Artistes' festival in Paris.


    'Middle Earth Masters' captures the glories of this incarnation at this legendary club in Covent Garden on the 16th April 1967, and also includes two tracks from a relocated 'Earth' at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm in May 1968, one "unknown" and a closing bit of whimsy that isn't listed at all. These tapes have quite an interesting origin. Over ten years ago Michael King, music historian and author, was invited to trawl through the tape library of Bob Woolford (of Woolford Mobile recordings). This resulted in the discovery of four reels of the Softs at Middle Earth! On closer listening, these were rubber-stamped as complete write-offs for remastering and shelved in favour of the 'Spaced' collection (Rune 90). A decade later saw Michael revisiting these tapes and, after a lot of time spent working with new sound enhancing gadgetry, managing to make the material shine out of a thirty-nine year fug. Only three tracks were found to be totally beyond help; on these, Robert's voice and that of a malfunctioning dalek were too close for comfort. 'Middle Earth Masters' captures the band waving goodbye to a good percentage of their soul/pop-based numbers and instead, like Syd's Floyd, setting off for parts unknown. The first three numbers are all Ayers-penned, 'We Know What You mean' and the sparse 'Clarence in Wonderland' are as disarming as versions later found on Whole World set-lists, while 'Bossa Nova Express' is brief and languid in equal parts and is, I believe, a track that failed to see further action in any Canterbury related discography. After this initial charmingly-played lull comes the storm! After a bluesy scat passage from everyone's favourite singing drummer, the intensity in 'Hope for Happiness' rises to bursting point with the first of Ratledge's electrical power surges. WWII bomber drone and creaking oak doors are evinced during this thirteen minute organ deconstruction. I've never heard this band so reckless and wild! Who would've thought it of nice, middle-class university boys? The Sun Ra flavoured 'Disorganization' takes the pressure off somewhat but the motorik, super-repetitive 'We Did It Again' finds Mr Ratledge letting rip and crying havoc once again with an ür-drone of ear-melting intensity. I have a sneaking suspicion that Monsieur Gavreau's experiments in sound cannon weaponry were being reappraised right here totally unknown to the hip London populace. 'I should've Known', written by Hugh Hopper, has a keyboard figure that is also found on 'Hope...'. I spent ages pacing the floor trying to place it - eventually the penny dropped. It was a passage (albeit blurred) from Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' or, if you like, the first motif on Roger McGuinn's solo on 'Eight Miles High'. There's also a very sinister 'Why Are We Sleeping' with more keyboard torture and an uncredited 'We Did It Again' with just Robert and Kevin giving the finger to a certain section of a Midlands campus. "We did it again at Birmingham, all the students said get off the stage. Give us Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, give us almost anybody but the fuckin' Soft Machine with all their noises..." Quite obviously a classic example of pearls before swine.


    As with every Softs release on Cuneiform, I always think that'll be the last one; after all, this surely can't go on forever? But here we are at lucky number seven where you can drink in the sixties counter/cultural atmosphere whilst being serenaded by Mike Ratledge at his most maniacal. 'Rune 235' - a release that is indepsensible for real prog and Softs fans alike. (Steve Pescott)




(CD-R on Deserted Village Records)


    Dave Colohan (United Bible Studies, Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree, Holt and nearly every other band on Deserted Village by my reckoning) follows up the achingly beautiful and highly personal 'Your Turn to Go It Alone' (on Rusted Rail reviewed here) with an altogether more low-key and haunted affair: 'The Days and Hills Grown Old'. There are no detailed notes available this time around, so it's a little unclear who is collaborating with Dave on this one, though clearly there is collaboration, most strikingly in the vocal department. So we'll just use the catch-all Dave Colohan and friends to describe the personnel involved. If 'Your Turn to Go It Alone' was Dave throwing open the attic windows to let the breeze blow through and out taking with it the detritus - good and bad – of past relationships, 'The Days and Hills Grown Old' returns to core United Bible Studies of landscape, mist and psychic mapping. 'Saints Island' opens with dread subsonics (unless there's an earth leakage in my system somewhere – always a possibility) and spare, Mazzacane Connors influenced acoustic guitar (with some notes played I swear were not intended). Just as your brain is wrapped around the thing it finishes. Good thing that – so many tracks these days outstay their welcome. More skeletal guitar characterises 'How You'll Fall', on which a female vocalist friend joins Dave for a sombre duet akin to the track 'A Melbourne Nocturne' on the nut-crunchingly great Holt CD. 'Floodplains' is a delicate unaccompanied folk piece with Dave-friend again on femvox. I'm pretty sure it's the lass from Magickal Folk, and the track definitely has the flavour of that project. When she sings "I've taken almost human form" you'll have the irresistible desire to look back over your shoulder to see if anyone is there. There might just be. The finest track on the release is probably the celestial 'The Liminal Hills', where processed and unprocessed Colohan vocals fuck with your peace of mind in exemplary neo-folk fashion - out on the perimeter there are jars full of fireflies strung along the wire, radiating their last life signs. Somewhat different to everything else on the release, 'And if I Remained in the Outermost Sea' is a 20 minute live improvisation based around the work of the same name by W. G. Sebald. It's a typical UBS live piece along the lines of the ragaesque 'Airs of Sun and Stone' CD-R, and according to Dave's blog was recorded supporting Sunroof, and took advantage of the presence of Matthew Bower and Michael Flower to supplement Dave and Friends. In any case it is propelled along nicely by some ragged percussion and contemplative flute passages for some transcendental shenanigans. Finishing up, the title track returns to some spare, muscular steel-string guitar and more vaporous femvox, recalling Vashti Bunyan towards its conclusion.   (Tony Dale)




(CD Self-released, distribution Clear Spot)


    It's not often that I get to review a CD from Iran (ok then, never) so some background might be in order. Farzad Golpayegani was born in Teheran May 1979, son of the late Behzad Golpayegani (a noted painter and graphic designer). Farzad completed graduate studies in music and graphic arts (his fine paintings are used on the CD cover), and developed an interest in guitar in the mid-1990s. After some initial tuition, he started on a personal journey of improvisational discovery, pulling together various strands of influences to develop his own sound. This is his second album (duh), the first one being available in Iran only. Imagine if you will a virtually new species of psychedelia based on a 7-strng guitar style that sounds like a cross between the Mahavishnu Orchestra's John McLaughlin and the Black Sun Ensemble's Jesus Acedo, underpin it with Eastern tunings on acoustic instruments and apply those elements to Persian, Classical and Heavy Metal forms to bake your own metal-fusion head music and you'd be getting close. What has helped him immensely is that all instrumentation on 'Two', apart from cello on two tracks, is played by Farzad, and use of computer recording, mixing and mastering technology has set him free and allowed him to home-brew the whole shebang (important in a country that would probably brand these results the work of an infidel).
    The first track '9' (they are helpfully given numbers that relate to some kind of master compositional list) starts out with a traditional middle-Eastern workout on acoustic instruments and you can almost taste the sense of place evoked. But a few minutes down the road Farzad's electric lead kicks in and you'll be muttering "Holy Sheite" as you pick yourself up off the floor. It's genuinely face-melting stuff from the far end of the progressive rock halls of gratuitous guitar pyrotechnics fame: part of you wants to laugh at the unmitigated gall and part of you wants to bow down in worship. What works particularly well here and on other tracks is the dialectic between Eastern instruments/tunings and Western acid rock and metal riffs and leads. The second track '30' is a spectacularly over-the-top example of this. '21' and '31' engage in trade in typewriteresque speed metal and delirious flights of soloing including some sounds I don't think I've ever heard from guitar before. It's an exercise fuelled by pure adrenaline and those susceptible to panic attacks are warned to stay clear. The extended '20' is unapologetically bombastic classical-progressive rock, but carries the listener with it on a tide of pure self-belief and gloriously melodic multi-tracked guitar bliss. And so it goes. Final tracks play with Easternisms, found vocal transmissions and irradiated metallic riffs to the point that one feels like one is at some shortwave epicentre where early Metallica intersects with Iranian state radio. The whole thing comes off like a summit on how to combine fundamentalisms in ways that erase fundamentalism itself.   (Tony Dale)



EYELESS IN GAZA – ‘PLAGUE OF YEARS’ (CD on Sub Rosa 149-151 avenue Ducpétiaux 1060 Bruxelles, Belgium)


     Named after their collection of lyrics published by Stride in 2000 (and originally an obscure B-side on their 1981 ‘Invisibility’ 7” EP), the latest EiG compilation is housed in an elaborate quadrifold digipak and presents about as complete a career retrospective as can be shoehorned into a single disk. This one focuses primarily on their early years, with nearly half the 22 tracks emanating from 1980-82. Marty Bates and Peter Becker began their post-punk career together back in 1980 and released numerous singles, EPs, albums and cassettes before dissolving in 1987. Around 1993, the pair started working together again, releasing several more albums before once again heading off to concentrate on solo careers and other collaborations. With selections ranging  from 1980’s ‘John of Patmos’ (from their ‘Photographs As Memories’ debut LP) through last year’s ‘Mixed Choir’, an ominous, piano-driven stalker with stabbing guitars, this may be the first EiG compilation that also features their oft-overlooked instrumental compositions. Bates’ chanting and Becker’s pump organ on the near liturgical instrumental “Mock Sun” (from 1994’s limited edition “Saw You In Reminding Pictures”) opens the set, which does suffer from the frustrating lack of instrumental credits, important info for newcomers like myself, particularly in light of the myriad instruments the pair have incorporated into their music over the decades. Second, and perhaps more egregious is the sequencing of the set is not chronological, robbing both fans and newcomers the opportunity to trace the band’s development.


     But those missteps aside, this is a perfect starting point for newbies to discover this unfairly neglected band. From 1981’s ‘Caught in Flux,’ we get Bates’ vein-popping emotional outbursts on ‘Every Which Way,’ which, along with ‘Drumming the Beating Heart’’s ‘One By One’ illustrated how much their early work sounded like contemporaries, Orchestral Manoeuvers in The Dark. But EiG’s work is darker and lacked OMD’s melodic pop sheen, which probably cost them the latter’s commercial success. Perhaps it was also down to the minimalist deconstruction of a song down to its barest essentials that failed to click with audiences, as on 1981’s ‘Fever Pitch and Bite’ (from the compilation of previously unreleased, early 80’s tracks, ‘Orange Ice & Wax Crayons’).


     The duo’s playful side is represented by the music box tinklings of the oft-recorded (and renamed, as ‘Street Lamps ‘n Snow,’ ‘November’ and ‘Silver & Dark’) ‘Before December.’ There’s an almost religious, Dead Can Dance aura to ‘History Book’ (from the 1995 ‘Streets I Ran’ EP), while the insane, syncopated, Beefheartian sax blasts on the aforementioned ‘John of Patmos’ – with Bates’ anguished wailing vocals and its cacophonous video arcade backing all adding up to one of the most disturbed tracks in their catalogue. Their appears to be a distinct Public Image Limited influence on the band here – imagine Coltrane-meets-PIL, produced by Zappa!


     There is also a number of tracks that illustrate how far ahead of their time the lads were. For example, the case could be made that current flavour of the month, Anthony & The Johnsons’ modus operandi could be traced back to ‘The Lovely Wanton’ (off 2001’s ‘Song of the Beautiful Wanton’), with Bates’ dramatic lyric reading coming over like a cross between Boy George and Anthony Newley. And then there’s the haunting, avant electronics and effects of 1984’s three-part improvisation, bookending instrumentals ‘To Steven’ and ‘To Elizabeth S.’ around ‘Sun-Like-Gold’ (from the Sub Rosa ‘Myths. Instructions. 1.’ EP) that may have been an early signpost to today’s more avant garde wyrdfolkers, Stone Breath, In Gowan Ring, Kemialliset Ystävät, et. al. Folk fans will also enjoy the elaborate flute trimmings of the latter piece, a spooky, atmospheric soundtrack that is best not listened to alone in the dark


     The a capella rendition of the traditional Irish tune ‘She Moves Thru The Fair’ (from 1985’s ‘Back From The Rains’) anticipates Bates more recent solo work and surely deserved to be on one of 4AD’s This Mortal Coil compilations (I’m thinking ‘Filigree & Shadow’). It’s a heartfelt reading that falls just this side of parody, although occasionally it did come across like one of those pre-game manglings of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ by (insert favorite pin-up-cum-singer).  But overall, this is a welcome overview of a band who’ve been living on the fringes of modern psych/folk for over 20 years. (Jeff Penczak)   



MARTYN BATES – ‘YOUR JEWLED FOOTSTEPS’ (CD from Sub Rosa 149-151 avenue Ducpétiaux 1060 Bruxelles, Belgium)


     Sub Rosa’s companion release to the above-reviewed Eyeless in Gaza compilation, this retrospective from the EiG vocalist covers essentially the same quarter century (1982-2006, with an excerpt from ‘Dissonance,’ by his 1979 pre-EiG project, Migraine Inducers, an apt description, indeed). It runs the gamut of emotions through Bates’ back catalogue, from over-emoting Paul Humphries (OMD) soundalike to mature, introspective warbler who was never afraid to wear his soul on his sleeve (or cozily wrapped around his tonsils). Featuring similar folk/psych accompaniment to EiG (such as the flute and harmonium backing on ‘Shorepoem’ (from 1994’s ‘Mystery Seas (Letters Written #2’)), there is more of a medieval, archaic feel to Bates’ solo material. The tracks also display an armload of traditionally non-pop instruments, such as the banjo backing on ‘I Can’t Look For You’ (from 1996’s critically acclaimed ‘Imagination Feels Like Poison,’ a fan favorite that ‘s represented by three tracks) and the church pump-organ(?) on ‘Letters Written’’s ‘Mirrored In Me.’


     Still, it’s Bates’ distinctive vocals that will make or break the collection, whether sounding like sounding like some smartass (Marty himself?) was making flippy-floppy with the tape machine during the recording session, resulting in a warbled, distorted vocal (‘Cut Like Sunset’ from his 1982 ‘Letters Written’ 10” debut), or something that a post-Culture Club Boy George might have included on a solo album (the poppy ‘First and Last February’ from 1989’s ‘Letters To A Scattered Family’) or numerous instances where you can close your eyes and swear your listening to Alfie Moyet (Yaz) or Andy Bell (Erasure) fronting a chamber ensemble. Yes, Bates possesses one of those voices (like Family’s Roger Chapman, Tom Waits, Don Van Vliet or even Dylan) that you’ll either love or hate. But if you’re tempted to shy away from these recordings, pause for a moment and reflect upon the emotion, the oblique delivery and those wonderfully creative, somber arrangements and I guarantee that, given half a chance, it’s not an album that you will soon forget.


     One aspect that Bates retained from his EiG days was the use of evocative instrumentals, and several are included here (my favorite being ‘Imagination…’’s lovely ‘The God on The Tree). ‘Morning Singing’ (from 1982’s ‘Letters Written’) is a carnival-like synth sensation with those wonderful vocals waxing poetic (more about that in a moment) about a long-lost love returning in a dream and his collaboration with Alan Trench as Twelve Thousand Days yielded last year’s ‘At the Landgate,’ from which we hear ‘Once Loved,’ a whispered, reverential rendition of the traditional Irish tale, a prime example of wyrdfolk at its finest. And speaking of…, the set concludes with an excerpt from last year’s ‘Leitmotif’ EP, his elaborate contribution to Timothy Renner’s ‘Folklore of the Moon’ subscription series, which includes excerpts from and references to Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’ and Francis Child’s ‘The English and Scottish Popular Ballads’ set to haunting, often antagonistic and dissonant electronic backing. [You can read my complete review of ‘Leitmotif’ here.  On a side note, I personally would have selected his magnificent, heart-stopping a capella contribution to Renner’s wyrdfolk compilation, ‘Hand/Eye,’ ‘Seven Yellow Gypsies.’ Renner has also reissued several of Bates’ solo albums through his Hand/Eye imprint.-JP]


     Another element of Bates’ work that sets him apart from your typical pop chanteuse is his ability to put both his own (‘Mystery Seas’’ ‘Shorepoem’) and others’ (Joyce, Keats, Yeats, Rilke) poetry to music. Selections from his two albums dedicated to Joyce’s Chamber Music are included, as well as his collaboration with poet Anne Clark (whose debut album he contributed to) on the poetry of Rainer Rilke (the haunting ‘The Garden of Olives,’ a wordless-vocals hymn that’s as calm and reflective as a stroll through a serene English garden – from 1998’s ‘Just After Sunset’). A final collaboration, with Max Eastley, gave us ‘Songs of Transformation’ which provides the unreleased ‘Cherry Tree Carol,’ another theatrical spiritual piece recorded back in 1997. (Bates’ website says the album should be forthcoming from the Italian imprint, Musica Maxima Magnetica.)


     Bates has a singular vision that he’s stuck with throughout his career, at the expense of commercial success, but always retaining his artistic integrity. He is truly adept at setting disparate forms of the written word to music, be it the more typical lyric, the aforementioned poetry, murder ballads (three volumes, released separately and as a boxed set – the lengthy ‘The Cruel Mother’ from 1996’s ‘Murder Ballads (Passages)’ is included here) or “letters” (included herein are selections from both ‘Letters’ volumes, as well as ‘Letters To A Scattered Family’), even if his voice does occasionally sound like Scott Walker having a bad throat day. Bates has created some of the most haunting, challenging, some might say frustrating, but definitely emotional body of work of any artist born of the post-punk milieu. Just listen to his soul saunter up his vocal pipes and drift off his tongue on ‘Of That So Sweet Imprisonment’ (from 1996’s ‘Chamber Music II’) and tell me you can’t feel the claustrophobic iron bars of four walls closing in on you! (Jeff Penczak)




Like a languid day beside a tranquil sapphire ocean, this album will calm and relax you, filling your day with cascading strings, drifting piano and melodies flecked with joy and hope. Throughout the eighteen tracks there is a glorious stillness to be found, even when the drums turn the album into a shoegazing masterpiece, the guitars throwing lazy shapes (and the occasional shadow) across the tunes.

    Opening track “I Can Almost See You” is as beautiful as anything you have heard this year, the sound of the sun quietly rising, whilst the title track adds vocals and the aforementioned drums to the equation, upping the volume but not the mood. On “When The Sky Pours Down Like A Fountain” the drone is slowed down until it has the transparency of a heat haze, the notes lost to the wave of sound.

    Mainly the work of Mark Byrd and Andrew Thompson (with Christine Glass Byrd- angelic vocals, Matt Slocum-Cello) the whole album maintains a consistent sense of space, each piece echoing and enhancing what has gone before, allowing the listener to lose themselves in the shimmering melodies, although the lyrics seem to hint at regret and longing, as does the sound of “God Send Us A Signal” the title summed up by the music.

    At seventy five minutes, this is an album that is best appreciated when heard in its entirety, although it can be neatly summarised by listening to “Floating Away In Every Direction”, the title speaks volumes and the music perfectly matches the sentiments, but don’t take my word for it, go and get your own copy and be transported. (Simon Lewis).



BLACK RAT - TELLING TALES  (www.wovenwheatwhispers.co.uk)


     Hailing from Leicestershire, Black Rat are here to prove that Folk-rock is a relevant and vibrant musical form, dragging it away from the early seventies nostalgia circuit and giving it a good kick up the arse.


     Full of passionate playing, fine rock sensibilities and songs about death, lost love and betrayal, this album is a wonderful collection of folk tunes given the rock treatment and sounding like Jethro Tull meets Steeleye Span.


    Opening with the sprightly Romp of “The Scouring Song”, the album immediately displays its vibrancy with some excellent flute work from Liz Hextall, whilst the guitars chug ominously in the background, a mandolin adding sweetness to the mix. That same mandolin is tinged with sadness a it opens “The Maul And The Pear Tree” a delicious tale of murder, with the vocals of Steve Hamilton giving the song a gritty edge as John English (the perfect folk name) growls with an angry guitar. On “England City” the band rock out at a frantic pace, whilst “Black Annis Bower” could be folk-metal until it hard opening is softened by the sweet singing of the flute.


      A more Traditional ambience is conjured up on the instrumental “My Familiar Name Is”, a song split into three parts (a hornpipe, air and reel) allowing the musicians a chance to stretch themselves, the whole thing held together by the bass and drums of Tony Haggis and Rich Cox respectively. After this rousing piece, “Grey Daylight” offers stark contrast with its emotional tale of a man condemned to die, the vocals tugging at the heartstrings, whilst the simple accompaniment really enhances the song power.


      Featuring some exquisite and complex playing, “The Elder Tree” is a tale of fairy enchantment, the lady lost for one hundred years in the dance of woodland folk, the band really going to town as the instruments glide and soar together creating a classic piece of music and almost inventing folk-prog (I said almost). Following straight on “My Love She’s But a Lassie” is Captain Pugwash for headbangers, although it pales in comparison with album closer “Richard Turpin” another guitar driven folk frenzy with a great solo, that is far more rock than folk, yet retains its traditional English feel.  Perhaps it is this fact that gives the album its freshness, a new twist on an old form, allowing the music to transcend labels and sound fresh exciting and relevant. (Simon Lewis)





     Coil was formed in 1984 from the ashes of Throbbing Gristle (Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson) and Psychic TV (Christopherson and Jhonn Balance) and spent much of their early years creating an impressive body of work that combined industrial, goth, classical, jazz and Middle Eastern elements. They composed soundtracks for films by Derek Jarman and Clive Barker (ultimately releasing ‘The Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser’ after Barker chose not to include their work in his film), immersed themselves in London’s Ecstasy scene, and, particular Balance, falling deeper in love with the occult and alchemy (and the bottle). Sadly, in an alcoholic stupour, Balance lost his balance (no pun intended) and fell to his death at home exactly two years ago this week. Due to unprecedented demand, Christopherson, who shortly thereafter packed up and moved to Bangkok, decided to make their back catalogue available for download through his Threshold House website.


     While Coil’s work can be hard to categorise (perhaps the reason for both their, albeit prolific, anonymity and extremely dedicated fan base), with labels such as “occult electronica,” “gay-goth,” “post-industrial,” and “blip folk” bandied about with reckless abandon, but this album (and it’s sequel released the following year and reviewed separately below), originally recorded in a Victorian mansion in western England in 1997 after they relocated from the hectic London scene has been hailed as their definitive work. All the aforementioned elements are here, but perhaps it’s the soundtrack work that is most reflected within the six lengthy tracks. It’s easy to see why Barker would commission a soundtrack from them (although why it was refused is another story). ‘Dark 1’ is an electronic, spacewarp… a glitchy, gothic mindfuck of sci-fi and horror soundtracks filled with frequent spoken word excerpts from Balance as on ‘Are You Shivering?,’ the opening track. These are harrowing, ominous, mostly electronic (courtesy Sleazy and sometime Julian Cope collaborator and Queen Elizabeth and Spiritualized keyboardist, Thighpaulsandra) soundscapes that could be perfectly suited for a marathon ‘Blair Witch’ viewing, or a spooky Halloween evening or some alone time with the lights out and your mind swelling with the enveloping electronic impulses emanating from the trio (with assistance from Drew McDowall, whose then-wife Rose – of Strawberry Switchblade fame contributes vocals to Vol. 2).


     The swirling ping-ponging bleeps of ‘Red Birds Will Fly Out of the East and Destroy Paris in a Night’ perfectly emulates the sound of fluttering wings. I can imagine a sky immersed with cawing, shrieking birds, like a scene from Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ as scored by post-modern synthesists Depeche Mode or electronic krautrockers, Tangerine Dream. The lonely sound of a far-off piano in an empty room propels ‘Red Queen’ along under Balance’s narrative and shuffling drums and the sound of impending doom creeping up behind you. It’s all quite frightening, like some jazzy Satanic ritual.


      A bowel-rattling, droning hum opens ‘Broccoli,’ a tasty, but rather misunderstood and much-maligned vegetable known primarily for its gaseous tendencies to induce bilabial fricatives. Sleazy’s vocals about eating the titular veggie immediately recalls Pink Floyd’s similar encouragement about meat and pudding in ‘Another Brick In The Wall.’ A ghostly presence coos in the background, while a crackly, scratchy Geiger counter distracts us in the background – like trying to hear the quiet bits on an old King Crimson record. The glitchy pops and crackles tapdance across ‘Strange Birds,’ as if our friends are tapping out Morse code pleas for help. The finale, ‘The Dreamer Is Still Asleep’ is a straightforward little sleepwalking pop song that has taken on increased significance since it was chosen to accompany the candle-lighting segment of Balance’s funeral service at Memorial Woodlands in Bristol.


    Not everything works – the songs tend to go on a bit too long (the shortest track is 7½ minutes, with several exceeding 11) and some of Balance’s lyrical excursions are a bit dull and unintelligible, but overall it’s a rather creepy experience that would be greatly enhanced and perhaps better appreciated if the title is taken to heart.



The second half of Eine Coil Nacht Music opens in a wind tunnel and ‘Something’ is definitely out there, baring its fangs and biding its time. Shrill, ear-piercing, electronic effects, like wind chimes or trickling waterfalls pave the way for occasional sax bursts and more Bernard Hermannesque sound effects on ‘Tiny Golden Books,’ as Coil continues their gothic, sci-fi opus. Balance’s disembodied, distorted vocals call out from the depths of despair as a repetitive, Steve Reichian minimalist keyboard drone overtakes us. It’s midway between a Cluster head crash and another Tangerine Dream soundtrack. A Hawkwindish robotic voice spouts instructions and recedes back into the swirling electronics.


     ‘Ether’ stalks its way around hidden alleyways and down foggy streets, dripping with gothic angst, as a lonely piano battles a broken toy keyboard and assorted distorted electronics, and Balance slowly and deliberately relates his tale in a creepy, horror film voice that’d have Boris Korloff shitting his pants. Listen to how he repeats the closing lyric, “I’m going upstairs now to turn my mind off…” in an increasingly slower and slower vibrattoed, heavily treated voice, like HAL being disconnected in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’


     Electrified confusion and gurgling synths pingpong their way across the landscape on ‘Paranoid Inlay,’ with Balance opting for a psychotic, Peter Lorre cackle. It’s certainly unsettling, and the syncopated electronic treatments lead up to the theremin-ish finale fading into the fog. Balance turns the mic over to Rose McDowall for ‘An Emergency,’ and the soft female voice relieves some of the unbearable tension and paranoia of the last half hour, but there’s cold comfort from this respite – like suggesting Siouxsie is a calming affect after spending half an hour listening to Nina Hagen howling at you. ‘Where Are You?’ should be required listening on every Halloween evening, with Balance’s dramatic, somewhat theatrical recital offset by McDowall’s butterfly-flickering, ephemeral, phased, wordless vocals adding a ghostly presence over a glitchy, crackling backing and warped three-note piano riff breaking down right in front of us. It’s a gothic version of “The Gift” with similar results… “I’ll wrap my last kiss in a bandage….”


     Finally, ‘Batwings (A Limnal Hymn)’ swirls its way down the eternal tunnel into the lower subdivisions of Balance’s soul – electronic reproductions of fluttering bat wings “keep the darkness sealed within.” A premature burial? Poe’s dreaded nightmare made real? Balance’s final sleep? Sleazy selected the final segment (where Jhonn “is singing all the parts – in a language only he knows”) to close Balance’s funeral service. If any piece of music ever captured the sound of a soul’s migration to a higher astral plane, this would surely be it, a fitting triumphal sendoff to a tortured soul. The song (and album) fades into the moonlight, as Jhonn repeats the closing verse, “We’ll see another day….” (Sigh) (Jeff Penczak)





     A concept album about a dead Russian leader may not be at the top of your wish list, but the always intriguing Australian imprint has never been one to follow the flavour-of-the-week trends; instead waiting for just the right combination of songwriting and musicianship to come along and perhaps offer up the next big thing…instead of rehashing the last big thing. This is their 75th release, so they must be doing something right to attract the more discerning listener of adventurous music, from the ambient drone of the late Jason DiEmilio’s Azusa Plane (the label’s second release way back in 1997) to the experimental pop of the Olivia Tremor Control’s side project, Black Swan Network, through the psychedelic pop of Phineas Gage, The Green Pajamas and Dipsomaniacs to the neo-prog/pop meanderings of Lucky Bishops or the sun-drenched, desert psychedelia of Black Sun Ensemble (whose fifth CamOb release has just hit the street).           Closer in spirit to the ambient work of DiEmilio, Kiefer offers perhaps the perfect soundtrack to a History Channel expose on the great Russian family. A cold, late night, mid-winter vibe casts an icy pall over these ten tracks like a howling wind whistling across a frozen tundra.


     Your mind may flash back to images of ‘Doctor Zhivago,’ Eisenstein, and Tarkovsky, but this is no sugar-coated Maurice Jarre love fest – this is metallic, razor-sharp, blood-on-the-snow, aural dribblings, offering up potentially menacing encounters around every bend. Camera Obscura enthusiasts may find early comparisons to early releases from Welsh experimentalist Dafydd Roberts (Our Glassie Azoth, Alphane Moon), Love and Death, Rake, or Gentle Tasaday, while the mournful, lonesome guitar-in-the-woods sounds of tracks like ‘Koptyaki Road, Night’ bring Dunlavy and Ink Puddle Compound to mind. Kiefer receives first-rate support from Kristina Forester’s omnipresent cello, which is one of the album’s highlights, opening ’15 Degrees’ on a tentative note, with Chip Conrad’s dirgey drums suggesting a funeral march shuffling through the vast Russian plains.


     Kiefer’s song titles are also helpful here, as they provide musical sign posts like the old scene cards inserted into silent films, with titles like ‘Yurovsky’s Lament’ and ‘On Suffering Grief’ directing your emotional reactions as much as the tender, forlorn music itself. Even the perfectly titled ‘Kalmykov (Poppies)’ prepares you for Mimi Parker’s ominous, wordless vocals, which actually induce a “kalm”ing effect, despite the minimalist haunting-yet-lovely electronic backing and string-plucked flourishes, like an angelic harp hovering over our hero. Think, perhaps, of a Gothic Cocteau Twins or a more subdued Lycia.


     Elsewhere, the work of In Gowan Ring, 6 Organs of Admittance, or the label’s own Stone Breath and Lifesmyth and other assorted wyrdfolkies raced through my mind upon hearing the plucked and strummed guitars on a keyboard (harmonium?) platform of ‘On Suffering Grief,’ while the syncopated guitar and drum duet weaving around Forester’s swooning cello of ‘July 21: Ipatiev Returns Home’ will certainly not lose favour amongst the Godspeed! You Black Emperor camp. While the subject matter invites images of vast wastelands of frozen tundras, the music is surprisingly warm and actually struck me as a perfect soundtrack to a nostalgic evening in an armchair by the fireplace re-reading Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening.’ Kiefer’s use of Norman Dubie’s poem, ‘The Czar’s Last Christmas Letter: A Barn in The Urals’ as his liner notes also left me reeling with remorse, imagining myself stumbling upon an old, abandoned barn on some snowy, late evening trek through the woods near my home. Fans of Finnish avant folkies Avarus and Kemialliset Ysätvät or the Norwegian folk pranksters Origami Republik will also find a kindred spirit in Kiefer and company’s deliberately paced compositions that are amongst the most visual, soundtrack-inspiring music I’ve heard in a long time.


     Of course, this may be too oblique or minimalist for some listeners, but I don’t think that’s why Camera Obscura released it. It’s different, unique, challenging and ultimately rewarding…just like the majority of releases on one of our favourite independent labels. (Jeff Penczak)




 (www.subpop.com)                                                                                               Remove yourself from what you know as music and the process of art. Remember only the concept of formation.. Wolf Eyes second Sub Pop release Human Animal is formation.  It is primal, minimal and raw.  It is the transition from amoeba to wars, peace and demise.  It is all of those things and the space in between. 


To begin Human Animal is to begin life.  The sounds seem rudimentary and industrial, the first strike of rock to make a simple tool. It is clear that even these sounds are carefully controlled and orchestrated to take its listener on a tour of the sublime.


After Burned Mind it would have been easy for the members of this outfit to rely on "bash your brains' assaultive noise to wake up its listeners.  Instead the band went for the opposite. This release is the creation of the brain and the noise is not an assault but essential.  Every sound is delivered with intent.  It truly gives birth.


My "other" likened it to Throbbing Gristle's Heathen Earth and he was correct in his assertion. Human Animal is an addendum to the earlier work..  As Heathen Earth was the formation of the organic, life giving Earth, Wolf Eyes takes the concept and adds its two cents by creating man.  It is a wonderful homage to Heathen Earth while not being Heathen Earth.  It is more than a reference and just as intellectually complex.  Human Animal shows the scope of Wolf Eyes capabilities.  (Erica Rucker)




Burnley VIC 3121 Australia)


Maestro Jesus Angel del Paz (aka Acedo, aka Prince Master Blaster, aka Jodie Cosmo) and his band of eclectic (Arizona) desert-dwellers celebrate their 20th anniversary with a return to Camera Obscura for the fifth time (making them the label’s most prolific act) with this, the dozenth album in their illustrious, occasionally stormy and always intriguing career. Once again, Acedo is joined by Eric Johnson on bass and Brian Maloney on sax and it’s a tight-knit unit that works well together and follow each other’s leads on these predominantly instrumental jams. (The band never recovered from the loss of vocalist Odin Helgison and has, for the most part, wisely eschewed vocals ever since.) Acedo’s nimble-fingered prowess was never in doubt, but here he seems to be particularly comfortable, his solos flowing with the power and conviction of the mighty Mississip’. Although there are a few jaw-dropping moments to shock and awe the air-guitar crowd, Acedo reins himself in to avoid flamboyant, ostentatious overindulgence and the band stay with him every step of the way.


     The rough and tumble ‘Parfedia’s Nest’ explores a more garagey direction than the band have in the past, with new drummer Ernie Mendoza ferocious skin pounding a particular highlight. I believe this is also the first album in the band’s repertoire that finds Acedo sitting out a few compositions, most notably Maloney’s ‘The Mercurial Incense of Melquiades’ and Johnson’s ‘Long Days Journey Into Tonight.’ Maloney equips himself well on belzuki and sitar on his composition, an Eastern-flavoured gem, which also finds former drummer Otto Terrorrist returning to manhandle the drum kit with reckless abandon. Maloney then returns to his sexy, swaggering sax for Johnson’s droopy-eyed blues, another nice change of pace not readily apparent on recent releases.


     This is also a more flat-out, balls-to-the-wall rawk album for the Ensemble, with tight, concise head rattlers like ‘Scarlet Woman’ and the Blue Oyster Cult-ish ‘King of the Locust.’ Acedo returns with a softer approach, like vultures circling a tasty carcass on the desert floor on ‘Baphomet’s Curse,’ which also boasts a pretty coda reminiscent of vintage (e.g., ‘Lambent Flame’-era) BSE played in front of a crackling fire that segues into Johnson’s solo piece, ‘Audio Valencia,’ which continues the glitchy, scratchy record sound effects and samples over a swarming sandstorm of sitars, flutes and bells. ‘St. Cecilia’ then kicks in with mega-watt riffage and heavy metal thunder lifted straight off an AC/DC album. So, yes, indeed, BSE is back – leaner, meaner and rocking louder than ever. For the most part, gone are the meditative, hallucinatory ragas, replaced with big fat, crunchy riffs, the prototypical Acedo blistering guitar solos, wonderful fills from Maloney’s sax, Johnson’s steady, melodic baselines and Mendoza’s wall-rattling drums that combine to transport you back in time to your head banging, 70’s, metal-loving’ youth. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD from Cuneiform Rune 234 www.cuneiformrecords.com )


It’s hard to write about ZePTO, the third and latest release from continental prog-rockers NeBeLNeST, without commenting on the immediate impression that the album is heavily influenced by a previous generation of musicians. When the first tracks exploded from my player I had to check that, in fact, I was listening to the correct CD because I was sure that I had accidentally inserted an unreleased album from mid-70s era King Crimson or the like.


    This is not a criticism, but a compliment. The sheer quality of the blistering performances and faultless production of the album, quite simply, show that NeBeLNeST are artists of great vision and talent who can be considered in the same context as Fripp, Belew etc. – they are that good.


    Although my initial impression was of the similarity in style to other groups further settled listening showed the flexibility and divergence of the band. They don’t simply make a musical nod to their predecessors, they adventurously challenge their approach and take the music in their own direction (in fact, a direct comparison to Red et al. revealed vast musical differences and highlighted exactly how far the band have developed their own style. They may have derived some of their sound from others but imitators they are not).


    The album’s first track, Pillars of Birth, is a strong opener, demonstrating the power of each performer and their contribution to the NeBeLNeST sound. The rhythm foundations of drum and bass put in strong, almost oppressive, individual performances, and allow guitar and keyboard free range to explore the melody faultlessly and this gives the piece unusual depth. It is here and not in the tunes themselves that the band show their link to the past – the shrill guitar, mellotron, bouncing bass and wild drums give the tunes a sound from another time without compromising the originality of the album.


    The CD moves to Manjuns and The Old Ones, upbeat numbers with similar sonic richness, before moving to The Things in the Walls and Fabric of Reality, the shortest and most avant-garde offerings of the album. By this point, any idea of mistaken identity has been long banished and the band are well settled into their own style and mood and taking the listener along with them on their musical journeying.


    Tracks 7 and 8 (De Thriumpho Naturae and Do What Thou Wilt) return to the manic discordance of the opening tracks but, as the longest on the album, they have more time to explore musical tangents and work well to demonstrate the faultless interactions of the members of the band as they move from simple harmonic tunes to eerie doominess.


    The album ends with Station 9, which feels oddly out of place in the context of the album. This is probably because its sound seems more derived from the 1980s, largely built from looped synths overlaid with heavy rhythmic drumming but this does not detract from the quality of the track, it just seems an unusual choice to complete this excellent album.


    Overall? If you enjoy your rock discordant and angular, you’ll love this. Even if your taste is more eclectic there’s plenty here to interest the listener and hold the attention. Most of all, if you like technically complicated music played faultlessly well then give your ears a treat and get hold of a copy of ZePTO – you won’t be disappointed. (Jim Skinner)



Primordial Undermind – Loss of Affect

(SAAH044 CD Only www.strange-attractors.com)


From the outset, Loss of Affect establishes itself as a work that should not so much be listened to but experienced. It takes both confidence and skill to experiment successfully with musical structure but Primordial Undermind have done so and created a work that is truly compelling.


    Intercessor, the first track, defines the character of the album, easing itself into the consciousness with a rich mixture of ebbing drones and minimal percussion. To open in such a manner is brave but works because it fits so well into the composition of the whole, and it is this forethought that gives the album its quality.


    This patience is carried to the next track, Breathe Deep, a haunting solo guitar piece that eases the tempo forward just a fraction, and it is this movement by increment that defines the album and demonstrates the vision of the artists. 3rd Class Sissy further ratchets the tension, bringing depth by slowly unleashing all the performers into the first combined theme of the work, but you get a sense that the band are purposely holding something back, that they’re striving to achieve a particular emotional atmosphere. This precision of thought illuminates throughout the album and shows not just musical ability but that hard-to-define ingredient of creativity – taste.


    The album continues in same vein throughout, moving from more traditional pieces like Driftglass and Tremens (with wild saxophones, flutes and madly distorted guitars) through the more oscillator and percussion drawn pieces (In Violation, Pertussis) until climaxing with, perhaps, the most conventional track of the piece, Blinding Stars.


    It would be simple to say that the album is understated, and not wholly accurate. The performances seem simple but really are concise and controlled, and this comes from the precise vision of the artists. Each instrument dovetails into the production beautifully and the ease in which the sound shifts around them gives the album a synergy that is greater than the sum of its parts. Whether in moments of avant-garde minimalism or themed overdrive, the economy of Primordial Underground’s performance simply underlines how much they have achieved with this work.


    By its nature, this, the third album from the band, may not suit every listener’s ear. There are no direct comparisons for the unique sound of the end product and the only way that I can crudely describe the whole experience is to say imagine, loosely, elements of Kraan combined with the more heady tracks from Hawkwind’s eponymous first album (also recorded live in the studio with no overdubs) and you’ll get some idea of how the album is structured and of its character.


    Personally, my only criticism is that at a touch under 47 minutes I would like to have heard a little more of the excellent, energetic chord-driven sounds that the band so ably demonstrate they are capable of within the album, but this is more a reflection of my listening tastes rather than their collective vision.


    Eric Arn (driving force behind the band and former guitarist of Crystallized Movements) recently relocated from Texas to Austria and Loss of Affect was the last recording of the band in this incarnation. Whilst it seems a shame that such a talented line-up may never perform regularly together again, the album stands as a testament to their skills. Thoroughly recommended. (Jim Skinner)

(no image available)



(CD from EM Records, 5-11-37-503 Yamasaka, Higashisumiyoshi-ku, Osaka 546-0033, Japan www.emrecords.net )



Over the years I must admit to getting my neck in a knot over the name of David Rosenbloom. I thought that after fronting Chinese Puzzle (LP on Rebus Records, 1980), and being part of Glenn Branca’s guitar militia, his later career was spent in the rareified atmosphere of fully-blown avante garde composition. Nope! That branch of activity comes from another David Rosenbloom, a composer/conductor/suthor and an ex-professor of music at Mills College. He studied with Lejaren Hiller, Jack McKenzie and John Garvey and also co-designed (with Donald Buchla) a computer keyboard whatnot called The Touché. What was I thinking of?!


    ‘Brainwave Music’ initially appeared as an LP on the obscure A.R.C. label out of Canada in 1976 and documents his research into the interaction between brain and machine. The opening track ‘Portable Gold and Philosophers’ Stones’ (Music from Brains in Four), was recorded live at London’s Roundhouse in the post-psychedelic year of 1972. As I understand it (circuit diagrams are not my strongpoint) this number utilises the brainwaves of Pat/Alan Strange and Marilyn/Frank McCarty which are fed into a series of modifiers and filters and then controlled by a customized synthesiser. At the inset this harmonium-like drone shows little fluctuation until the fifteenth minute when the sound breaks open into a splurge of ‘classic’ analogue chirrups and swirls. Its somewhat dry execution (not such a bad thing…) dodges comparisons with what was happening in West Germany at the time (the Tangs, Kraftwerk) and instead has more in common with Mother Mallard or Tonto’s Expanding Head Band on a less than eventful day. ‘Chilean Drought’ from 1974, uses a brace of Rosenbloom’s piano repetitions, in which four reverbed/doctored voices recount in dislocated phrases a little-known but terrible tragedy in the annals of South American history. Their detachment calling to mind the closing parts of Faust’s debut album. With a 1971 datestamp, ‘Piano Etude 1’ (Alpha) is the album’s earliest written piece and takes on the trappings of a Charlemagne Palestine blow-out – a ‘blood on the keys’ special with severe note blur. High energy music with not one electric guitar in sight. EM Records have chosen to augment this CD with ‘Four Lines’ (Two High) from 2001 which, according to the sleevenotes, is a more instrumentally daunting version of ‘Two Lines’ previously played by the Rosenbloom/Anthony Braxton pairing. Libby Van Cleeve (oboe) and Rosenbloom (violin) hack through the rigours of an impossibly complex score – the resulting and positively encouraged imperfections being an integral part of the score. The electronics that eventually consume the duo are some of the wildest squick/bibble ‘n’ squack (pardon the feeble onomatopoeia) I’ve encountered in a looooong while. The ‘trad’ instrumentation harks back to ‘Macbeth’-era Third Ear Band while the plastic sound barrage suggests a mad scramble between Hawkwind’s Dikmik, Simply Saucer’s Ping Romany and a glam-time Eno. I get the same feeling off this as I did when, as a teenager, I discovered the joys of Radio Three’s ‘Music in Our Time’ series. Ouch.


    While at no time would it have been thought that Rosenbloom’s set-up had a claim to futureworld’s home entertainment market (a space age version of the Victorian family and drawing room piano scenario), it’s still surprising that this concept was not taken further. Nevertheless in this age of mouse-driven sounds, ‘Brainwave Music’ is far from being a museum piece under glass and would easily garner interest with anyone into the outer edges of electronic freakery – but remember: make sure your head is screwed on securely for that closing number. (Steve Pescott)