= November 2014 =  
Green Pajamas
Phil Greenberg
Kimberley Rew
the Garment District
Soft Hearted Scientists
Various - Fruits de Mer
Joseph Airport
Mater Dronic
Heat Leisure
Ian Abrahams
Michael Daniel
Andy Wade
Donovan's Brain


(CD on Green Monkey)

Thirty Halloweens ago, Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross recorded eight lo-fi, garage-inflected tracks in Kelly’s bedroom and drummer Karl Wilhelm’s basement and gave ten C-30 cassettes to friends, acquaintances and strangers who begged for a copy. It was their unofficial follow-up to Summer of Lust and sank just as quickly as its predecessor. Three tracks were revived and/or re-recorded for subsequent albums (the original ‘Murder of Crows’ heard here is much softer that the wailing revisit on Book of Hours, ‘Gothic Funk’ was redone for the Indian Winter compilation, and the now-you-see/hear-it-no-you-don’t ‘Stephanie Barber’ once again pops up in its original version); the others feature Ross and Kelly on their recently purchased cheesy Casios, Kelly trying his hand (and arm) on an inexpensive cello he taught himself to play during the recording sessions, and other Green Pajamas trivia such as Karl’s brother Larry’s guitar work on ‘Murder of Crows’ and ‘Last Days of Autumn’ and future Pajama guitarist Steve Lawrence’s sister Julie banging the drumkit on the eerie, psychedelic title track! It’s all lo-fi innocence with a lot of energy and as Joe points out in his detailed liners, “a time of low stress, high creativity, and lots of fun”. Head Monkey Tom Dyer once again does his magic mastering to reduce as much of the original tape hiss and perform a little EQ nips and tucks here and there to make it as enjoyable a listen as its historical importance warrants. Besides, some of the tracks are damn fine rockers, like the punchy opener ‘Dancing In The Jailhouse’ which has a touch of Gene Vincent about it that alone warrants this treasure trove of obscurities.

            But, wait, that’s not all! If you buy now you’ll also enjoy not three, not eight, not even ten, but a disc-straddling 13 bonus tracks, contemporaneously recorded and only now seeing the light of day after spending three decades in the bottom of Kelly’s sock drawer. Technically, three of them were previously available, but only on the hopelessly obscure lime green EP that came with GOAR magazine #8 in 1993 (Kelly’s garage pop ‘Thinking Only Of You (Lust Don’t Last)’ and Ross’ mopey pitifest, ‘All I Want To Do’, both of which can best be described as lo-fi pop in the Guided by Voices mould) and their contribution to the Lee Jackson tribute compilation a few years back (the melancholic, clavichord-driven ‘In The Sky’). The remainder were recorded between June ’84 and February ’85, the latter track being the original version of a personal longtime favourite ‘Walking In The Rain’, which would lose Kelly’s Casio-driven spark in favour of a much more upbeat, jingle-jangle Byrdsian polish when re-recorded for Ghosts of Love, their final pre-Terrastock/Camera Obscura release. (Completists can also find a third version on Green Monkey’s Complete Book of HoTrawling through the bevy of bonus tracks we find that Kim was not the first waitress Kelly took a liking to as related by Ross’ liners. ‘Johnna Johnna’ was a waitress at an Olympia café that inspired Jeff to pen the baroque madrigal that bears her name; ‘Nearly Winter’ revisits that same medieval vibe, complete with Kelly’s clavichord backing, and ‘Only A Fool’ sounds like a continuation of the same song – both seem better suited for one of Kelly’s solo albums, which may explain their absence from subsequent Pajamas albums. Elsewhere, the original version of ‘I’ve Got A Crush On You’ seems more melancholic and yearning than its remake for Narcotic Kisses 15 years later. Knowing the secret behind the object of Jeff’s affections (Joe spills the beans in his notes) adds a tinge of sorrow to an already heartbreaking tale.










[pictured: Phil McMullen's original cassette version from 1984]

So you’ll find a number of original versions of songs later reworked for official release that shed a light on the Pajamas early creative juices, but also suggest that Kelly & Co. have probably buried more gems in the bottom of the drawer than many artists have foisted (officially) on an unsuspecting public. Sure, some of these are rough cuts that barely rise above demo quality as evidenced by their subsequent revisits for official releases. But the Beatle and Byrds fascinations are apparent early in their career. It’s a fascinating microscopic peek into the nuts and bolts of where they began and how, even thirty years ago in their basements and bedrooms, they were laying the groundwork for one of the most impressive careers in rock and roll.

(Jeff Penczak)




Phil Greenberg was an American guitarist who played folk, jazz and bluegrass in the coffee shops of Berkeley before he got a call from friends Bruce Barthol, who had just quit the Fish, and Gary Peterson inviting him over to London to form a group. Deciding this was too good an opportunity to miss Phil packed his stuff into storage and flew over the three friends naming the band Fat Harry and beginning the search for a drummer that could handle the time signatures they envisaged in their music. Whilst this search was happening Noel Redding formed a band called Fat mattress and it was decided a name change was required, this proved a difficult task and eventually they settled on Formerly Fat Harry, the perfect solution as well as finding a fine drummer in the shape of Laurie Allan.
Managed by Peter Jenner and Andrew King of Blackhill Agencies the band existed from '69 to early '72 before musical direction issues forced them to split. During this time they played major festivals Hyde Park, Bath and Glastonbury, supported Fleetwood Mac and played many gigs with Edgar Broughton and Michael Chapman as well as releasing a self-titled album in 1971.

Whilst in the UK Phil got hold of an early reel to reel that allowed overdubbing and this collection contains some of the songs recorded on that machine as well as one track recorded live at the Jabberwocky folk club in Berkeley.
To begin “Lost Love” is a sweet tune with a jazzy groove and some lovely harmonies, the music harking back to the Everly Brothers in its celebration of the melody. Reminding me of Mac McCloud, “They're All The Same” has a more West-Coast feel, The lyric about the lost and lonely in London echoing the famous song by Ralph McTell causing Phil to shelve the song as he knew Ralph and didn't want people to think he had copied the idea.
Influenced by Robbie Basho, who Phil knew from his days at the Jabberwocky, “Fresh Snow, Clear Skies” is a beautiful instrumental that showcases Phil's obvious prowess on the guitar, the notes creating the same feel as the title, crisp and fresh to the ear. Indeed, throughout this collection the guitar playing is wonderful not only in itsself but in the way it weaves itself between the vocals both complimenting each other creating other melodies in your head. Moving back to the sweet style of the first track “Young Mother” deals with single mothers, the lyrics at odds with the gorgeous guitar playing that surrounds them.
Over on side two things continue in the same high-class way with the beautiful ballad “The Spinning Wheel” proving to one of the album's highlights, the perfect blend of atmosphere and melody, whilst “Late Nights” has some great lead guitar that adds oodles of character to its smoky, bluesy charms. To end we are transported back in time as Phil Greenberg performs at the Jabberwocky his version of the traditional “Golden Apples of the Sun” both delicate and powerful, the audience respectfully quiet during the performance and generous with their applause after.
Housed in a gatefold sleeve with extensive notes, this release sings quality and commitment at you, support a worthwhile label and get some quality music into the bargain.

Perhaps best known for writing “Walking on Sunshine”, Kimberley is probably more fondly remembered in Terrascopic circles for his involvement with The Soft Boys. On this weighty slice of wax however he comes across like a funky Alex Harvey, the wah pedal working overtime on the A-Side getting into a seventies groove that sounds best at high volume and probably needs to be longer to really get under your skin, in the nicest possible way. On the flip, “Bloody old England” is an affectionate moan about English Life in a pub rock style. Fans of Chas and Dave may well enjoy it as I did. As a fan of the 7” it is important to keep the format alive as where else will artist put out such songs as this, nice work. (Simon Lewis)



(LP/CD from http://ehserecords.com/ehse027/)

Warm and fluid in its construction, this album seamlessly blends rhythm with experimental flourishes, sweet lines of melody and a grandeur that allows the music to float across the room with charm and grace. Created by John Jones (Dope Body) the music has a timeless quality and needs to be heard as one long piece rather than as separate tracks.
Immersed in hypnotic rhythm and sounding like you are standing next to a railway crossing whilst the Kosmiche Express rolls by “Mediums” is a great start, a lively and engaging piece that displays everything that is good about this album. With a more conventional feel, “Calibur” is almost a Pop song with ringing guitar and drums to the fore, sounding like mid seventies Eno in its production and ambience. At its end the song dissolves into a brief flurry of Reich inspired strings before the droning chimes of “Bounty Sweat” take over, suddenly you will swear you are listening to a weird cover of “Dark Star” as some of the sweetest West-Coast guitar you have heard for a long time come snaking in, all too short in appearance, the whole album could have sounded like this for me, there must be some longer outtakes somewhere. Anyway, to make up for this “Reaching” has some energetic drumming and clouds of electronics, giving the impression you are attending a barn dance on the dark side of the moon, the guitar calling out the moves as you get your groove on. To end side one the album's experimental nature takes over as several small furry animals make an entrance pick up some percussion and synths and have a jam, bloody good it sounds too.
Over on side two (LP) or next (CD), “Porsh” begins with a thunder storm before revealing itself as a delicate and beautiful track that glistens with melody whilst wrapping itself in strangeness, the track all to quickly morphing into the Can-like trance of “Dream of Pennies” for a longer kraut workout. Indeed the rest of the side consists of smaller tracks that blend together with “Binje” adding some flute whilst “Plaza Entrance” slows thing down for some deep space drone explorations and “Your Highness” Spaces us out with some dub infused musings that sound wonderful to these ears reminding me of early Suns Of Arqa. Removing the beats, “Industry Portal” concentrates on the psychedelic, a spaced out droning soundscape that is the most unsettling thing on the collection getting harsher as its moves forward until it finally rumbles to a halt leaving time for “Corner Prophet” the sound of the Kosmiche Express returning to pick everyone up and get them home for tea, happy after an excellent day out (of their mind).
Having been sent both the vinyl and CD versions of this album I can say that the vinyl is warmer but the CD possesses a brightness that really lets the music shine out, both sound excellent though, go get one. (Simon Lewis)



(LP/DL http://thegarmentdistrictmusic.com/music/)

Aided and abetted by friend and family, including some fine vocals from her cousin Lucy Blehar, musician Jennifer Baron (The Ladybug Transistor) has created an enchanting collection of tracks that mix the sweetness of sixties French Pop, the ambience of Stereolab and some warm and engaging electronics blending them all in to a thoroughly enjoyable whole.

Opening with a Motown sounding drum beat, “Secondhand Sunburn” reveals itself as a delightful pop tune, great vocals and a shimmering guitar to be found within whilst “Jonquil Place” is an organ led instrumental that has definite sixties groove running through it, the same minimalist structure to be found on the similar sounding “Weird Birds and Strange Days” both tracks moving at a leisurely pace that suits them just fine.

With an opening section that has more than a hint of Eno about it, “Bell Book and Candle” suddenly morphs into a more conventional tune that is composed beautifully with a full band giving the song plenty of width and a bright feel. To round of side one, “Cavendish on Whist” is a spooky instrumental that seems on the edge of collapse, this uncertainty only adding to its woozy charms.

Sounding like an outtake from the “Chariots of Fire” soundtrack, only slowed down a bit, “Miraculous Metal” has a retro eighties sheen, a primitive drum beat and floating/bubbling synths blending together to create one of my favourite pieces on the album as is the following “Soon We See Green” with its charming melodic structure and sing-a-long chorus.

Throughout this collection the pace is languid, more lazy Sunday than manic Monday no more so than on “Song For Remy Charlip” another slice of sweet melody that has an air of nostalgia about it, summer turning to autumn in its grooves. Quite possibly the sprightliest track is “June's End” which starts as if about to break into a jog before a soft melody decides that looking at the view would be a better move, these two ideas interchanging throughout the tune creating a track of tension and inventiveness that you can almost dance to. To end, “Velvie Woolvine” has a writhing central melody that creeps under the skin, organ and percussion adding other textures as the track draws you in sounding like the soundtrack to a weird Eastern European cartoon just add your own visuals.

On first listen this album can seem too basic but more listens reveal more layers until you realise there is plenty going on at which point it is hard to get the thing off the turntable something my wife knows only too well. (Simon Lewis)



SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS – THE SLOW CYCLONE (http://www.softheartedscientists.com)

What a month it’s been for ambitious light-psych song-cycle projects what with the Circulatory System’s mesmerising Mosaics Within Mosaics and now this, their sixth album, from Cardiff’s inner space collective Soft Hearted Scientists.

A four part concept ranging from 18 second snippets to the longest track of 5:08, The Slow Cyclone serves up 24 songs crammed into 56 minutes. Fairground music played on a church organ (“Flying Horses”) sits snugly alongside the infectious playground-psych ofe “You There Standing In The Shadows”, funky (fun key) in a disarmingly simple electro style. Gorgeous acoustic strains of “Drifting Away” (the aforementioned long ‘un) and its eccentric signatures is one of many tracks which nod towards fellow Welsh pranksters Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci while at the time there is the underlying sense of listening to a lost collection of Syd Barrett songs retrieved from some parallel universe. References to Newgale Sands and Nash Point provide clear geographical reference points (know ‘em well, boys) and with lyrical subjects as diverse as Basil Rathbone and Alexander the Great (in their case in the space of the same song, (“The Ups and the Downs”) and exterminating Nazis on the road to Stalingrad (“Dark Departments”) the words are almost as diverting as the music. Ah yes, back to the music. “Away” evokes a blissful, motorik-free remix of Primal Scream’s “Autobhan 66” and blows me away with its almost implausible beauty. It gets my vote as the best thing here until, of course, the next track comes along. Super little instrumentals fusing the old, the new and the yet to be (the title track being a fine example) are thoroughly exquisite while the spellbinding pastoral trippiness of “Cobra Clouds” and “Where Have All The People Gone” brings to mind early Beta Band but better. Finally, “Before I Was Born” reprises those lazy, bucolic Floydian foot-off-the –peddle numbers like Cirrus Minor or Granchester Meadows and paints a perfect end to a nigh on faultless musical canvas.

Throughout “The Slow Cyclone”, the homely, “bedroom feel” is underlined by the inclusion of count-ins, the occasional cough and all manner of endearing little blemishes which enhance rather than detract from the listening experience. Dreamlike and completely loveable with an almost embarrassing abundance of great hooks and melodies this is another “must-have” I’m afraid, so treat yourselves to an early Christmas present or drop a heavy hint to a loved one. It’s definitely one to while away the long winter months with.

(Ian Fraser)




So, another month, another batch of releases on the ever reliable Fruit De Mer, this time offering a couple of EP's and a various collection which is something just that bit different, as we shall see.
To begin, “Coltrane” sees Finnish group Superfjord tackling “A Love Supreme”, quite possibly Mr Coltrane's best known work and one that, at first glance, would seem quite difficult for a psychedelic rock band o really conquer. Thankfully the band go for an interpretation rather than a slavish copy turning into a hypnotic slab of space rock with a simple bass riff holding it all together whilst the guitarist goes walkabout in the stars before slowing things down for a spacier spoken word section., the chanted title creeping inside your head all the way to the end of the piece. Excellent stuff indeed and perfectly partnered by Earthling Society and their version of Alice Coltrane's “Journey in Satchidananda”, the band sticking to the free flowing spaciness of the original creating a cloud of blissful noise that is easy to get lost in. So far so good, two rather excellent pieces creating fifteen very enjoyable minutes. So here's the problem, the release also comprises a “Bonus” CD that contains an extra 70 minutes of music including, live versions, re-mixes and new material. As a reviewer it is annoying that I can only actually write about a small percentage of what is on offer although I am sure it is up to the standard of everything else that the label releases.

Anyway, moving on, The Chemistry Set have been around for years and have always produced interesting music with this three-track EP proving no exception with the title track being a fine slice of commercial psych with a soaring chorus and a moody atmosphere, the track ending with some excellent guitar work as it slowly fades. Getting heavier “A Cure For The Inflicted” has some great wah guitar and plenty of energy, the band sounding like Cream to these ears but without the excess. To finish the EP the band cover “Love Or Confusion”, always a risky move covering a Hendrix song but they get away with it by slowing the track down and giving it an Eastern feel complete with Sitar and percussion making the tune their own to a large extent. So, three fine tunes for fans of modern Psych Pop, nice work.

Never lacking in ambition, the latest compilation from Fruit De Mer also seems their craziest idea so far. Having discovered that it is far too expensive to get those postcard/record things made any more (the original idea), this amazing boxset now comprises of ten flexi-discs, ten postcards, designed by Mick Dillingham, a poster and a CD containing variations of the tunes on the flexis. All this housed in a clam shell box, bonkers or what. Of course, as always, it is the music that matters and in this case they have hit the nail squarely on its head with ten quality bands providing some of the finest covers I have heard for a long time. Guaranteed to blow the cobwebs from your mind The Luck of Eden Hall take “Psychotic reaction” by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake giving the tune a new lease of life and ensuring you reach for the volume button and a quick shot of something dangerous. Not to be out done The Loons get right in there on “Celestial Empire” (Dragonfly) the track full of energy and some sterling guitar work that shines out. Featuring Fred Laird (Earthling Society) on guitar The Crawlin' Hex define classic psychedelia with their version of “I'm A Living Sickness” slow and moody it crawls from the speakers and entwines you with its dubious charms. Something of a garage fest, at least to begin with, this compilation continues to delight as The Thanes take “L.S.D” (The pretty Things) and trip the fuck out, perfectly balancing the R'n'B with the Eastern styled madness, whilst The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies (me neither) step into their “Time machine” (Satori) and choose a Mid-Western garage over Woodstock, the spoken section an unexpected joy.

To be fair after that opening salvo my brain was feeling a bit addled, in a good way, but there is no rest for the wicked as The Past Tense get their groove on giving “Soul Fiction” (The Hippies) and almost funky edge, the track basically one long guitar workout with plenty of phasing giving it an unstable atmosphere especially as it slows down at the end. The Sorrows were always one of those bands that should be better known than they are,something that Schizo Fun Addict would probably agree with as they take on “Take A Heart” giving it a playful and very trippy sheen with a bright production that lets the tune tumble from the speakers.

Taking things in a more Pop-Psych direction but with some heavy hitting guitar intertwined, Crystal Jaqueline rocks it out a bit on “You Just Gotta Know My Mind” originally written by Donovan for Dana Gillespie, the tune the perfect bridge from the psych into the electronic weirdness that is Astralasia's version of “Brainticket” complete with bubbling organ, electronic backing and samples all the while keeping that sixties groove very much alive, the compilation suddenly miles away from “Psychotic Reaction” yet still flowing beautifully.

To end things Icarus Peel leads us out with “The Avengers Theme” the tune loaded with plenty of heavy guitar work to ensure your brains are properly scrambled.

Probably best heard with a few beers and decent volume levels this is an excellent compilation that will stand the test of time to become on of the labels finest moments. I just wonder how they are going to top it next year. (Simon Lewis)



(LP/DL from http://tinyurl.com/pb9sost )

Released on the Rockathon label, with songs chosen and sequenced by Robert Pollard and artwork by the same gentleman, it comes as no surprise to find that this album contains a host of short songs that have a definite nod in the direction of Guided By Voices. Having said that it is refreshing to find that the band do not play on that fact in their press release(in this case a brief hand written note on a sales slip) allowing the listener/reviewer to judge them purely on the music, something on which they score highly.

Opening quietly with some rising strings, “We Have Achieved Croosting altitude” adds some shoegazy guitar before the altogether gnarlier “It's Never Too Early (To Have Your Mind Blown)” takes over, distorted guitar and vocals driving the song along like a sixties inspired Butthole Surfers especially when the solo arrives and makes a lot of noise. For contrast “Eyebrow Brackets” is a simple strummed acoustic and obscure lyrics (all of which are printed on the inner sleeve), the song giving way, in turn, to “Love His Craft” one of those off-kilter indie tunes so beloved in the nineties, think Pavement, Dinosaur Jr etc, but much shorter. These first few songs demonstrate the depth of ambition on the album, the band happy to hop through musical genres at will leaving them much more chaotic in their wake. This is the album's strength, the almost narrative way it moves forward never becoming boring or predictable the lyrics suitable obscure without seeming arty or pointless as can be heard on the garage crunch of “Evilove” that transforms into the gentle tones of “Head Gods” without a pause. Elsewhere on side one much happiness can be found on the acoustic lyrical silliness of “Robins Are The Nerds Of Birds” or “Joe's Got Ants In His Pants” the lyrics basically saying “These shots won't drink themselves, get up” which makes me smile every time I hear it. At just over three minutes “When The Great Animator Runs Out Of Ink” is the longest song on an album that contains 25 songs, the tune musing on Walt Disney and his cryogenic head, all set to some sweet melodic music that has an aching quality and gets weirder as it advances, the sweetness getting lost in the noise of disintegration, the side ending with some suitable airport announcements.

Over on side 2, the music remains dream-like and non linear with opener “Heavy Petting Zoo” being a lo-fi instrumental that ensures the listener does not wake up just yet. Elsewhere “Feeding the Monster” is filled with guitar energy, “(You Might Be) A Mystical Shaman” sounds unfinished, but isn't and “Throwing Up Flowers” has a great riff that could go on much longer.

I think, by now, you will have probably got the picture, an album that is enthralling, beguiling and sometimes confusing, offering the listener a different reality for a while, all you have to do is commit some time to actually listen as this is an album that doesn't really work as background sound rather needing centre stage to display its ample charms. (Simon Lewis)



(LP/MP3/LP + bonus CD from Thrill Jockey http://www.thrilljockey.com)

Something of a Thrill Jockey supergroup featuring members of Pontiak (favourites hereabouts), Beach House and Guardian Alien, Heat Leisure is a mini-album of two tracks – the eponymous III/IV (I/II took the form of a short film with 7” single, incidentally) - which also benefits greatly from a guest appearance by Ken Babbs. Now students of 60s US counter-culture and fans of Thom Wolfe will recognise Babbs as Ken Kesey’s right-hand man in the Merry Pranksters. His potent beat monologue on “III” begins by echoing those far-off times – the opening couplet “Jesus loves me this I know, for the voices tell me so” bastardises the old children’s hymn before launching into a discourse on the first psychedelic movement, proceeding to make observations on contemporary issues such as over-population, mass consumption/pollution, corporate greed, personal debt, ageing and other trials and tribulations of everyday life. All the time, shamanistic electronic noises crackle and fizz in the background gathering momentum until Babbs’ narrative abates and the music powers in. Insistent beat and cranked up amps have the hallmark of Pontiak with Alexandra Drewchin’s disembodied vocals washing over the top. “IV”, meanwhile, begins life as an exquisitely eerie, electronic drone, not dissimilar to Book of Shadows, before the BPMs build into something resembling psychedelic drum and bass vocalised by a tripped out Alvin and the Chipmunks, ebbing and flowing between frenetic sound collage and something more dreamy and melodic though still mesmeric and pretty magnificent.

I love this and I want to hear more. However you get the feeling that, should it continue, the Heat Leisure collective will already have changed shape and moved on. Stay tuned for what I sincerely hope will be a next instalment, folks.

(Ian Fraser)



Gonzo Multimedia book  (http://tuq.in/MK7 )

Music author Ian Abrahams, formerly exploring space rock and counter-culture territory (Hawkwind, Free Festivals in Britain), now turns his attention to former ‘Big Music’ creator and all-round musical traveller Mike Scott, in a fascinating and comprehensive overview of this gifted artist. Originally published in 2008, this new updated version of the book adds much to the story of Mike Scott’s early days.

Ian Abrahams is well placed to venture again into rock biography, being a journalist veteran of Shindig, Record Collector and R2 magazines, as well as being an author. The tale of Mike Scott is one of music business good luck, bad luck, accidental meetings, many partings, and a long and winding road of musical ventures, from the early days of Another Pretty Face all the way through to Scott’s spiritual ventures, and the inevitable raggle-taggle solo career post-Waterboys (which, confusingly, included the Waterboys).

Brought up an only child in a family environment that allowed him to do pretty much what he pleased (a trait continuing through his career as a musician, a point well made by the author), Mike Scott was one of those people who, instead of playing at music, threw himself into it so that he could hardly fail. There were elements of fortune, of course: meeting long-time collaborator Anthony Thistlethwaite for instance, which gave Scott the impetus to create the early Waterboys albums, including the era-defining This Is The Sea. Meeting fiddle player Steve Wickham was a life-changing event. The choice of record company was fortuitous. But through this tale of success Ian Abrahams weaves a different tale, via the well chosen and comprehensive words of friends, colleagues and others: Karl Wallinger (himself a remarkable musician – Scott’s equal, undoubtedly), Roddy Lorimer (“trumpet for hire”) and Colin Blakey, and many more.

Through these insights Scott emerges as a self-reliant, occasionally anti-social, confused and confusing man, a man who refused to do Top Of The Pops but who went on to court fans and publicity, as in the end all musicians must. The sense is very much of a man on a quest – via music. Scott’s spiritual ventures are also well documented in the book, not least his reliance on the people and environment of the Findhorn Foundation. The latter years of the solo career, with all its genre twists and turns, is well handled by the author, through his own readable prose and through the contributions of those who know him, including such luminaries as Ian McNabb.

In summary: a particularly well assembled biography of a fascinating musician. No fan of Mike Scott or the Waterboys, of ‘eighties music, or of the many strands of Celtic music will want to miss this entertaining book. Definitely recommended. (Steve Palmer)



(2 x CD self released available through Mail Order at http://www.shinybeast.nl/)

Never judge a book by its cover. Well it seems the same maxim could apply to album covers, too. Would this be ambient/dance/space rock maybe? Erm, not exactly, it is in fact a double CD of impressive scope and execution and featuring the jaw dropping axe skills of one Jose Carlos Sisto and limited to 300 copies. It owes a huge debt to classic rock shot through with melody and subtlety, which isn’t to say there isn’t an abundance of molten fretwork – far from it. Aw, let’s get on with it...

Tasteful if overly long acoustic opener “Alma, Espacio Y Tiempo” with its bright guitar, lush strings and distinctly pastoral atmosphere, is largely atypical of what follows on the first disc of approaching 80 minutes. There is enough fret melting to spoil even the greediest fans of guitar rock and there’s fun aplenty to be had in spotting myriad influences and reference points. “Cometas Brillantes” for instance begins life with a choppy King Crimson (Belew-era) intro before building into a rawkish dust blower, while “A Camara Lenta” takes its lead from a chugging bump and grind riff with an edgily atmospheric Farfisa playing over the top. In the midst of it all there are some nicely crafted tunes as well (“Hipnoguinol” and the rockier but melodic “Electroadagio”, one of my favourites here) and even within some of the more in-your-face-compositions there are moments of tasteful restraint. However what will most likely attract attention are the wig-outs, such as “Circulos Zen” (which takes me back to my formative (musical) years in the early 1970s without actually sounding corny, derivative or particularly dated), “Cosmographias” which is one of the most psychedelic offerings without sacrificing any of Sisto’s cut-the-crap raw guitar energy and “Versos Magicos” which has a hint of some of those multiple guitar army Southern Rock bands of yore as well as something much, much meaner. Even here though, Sisco knows how to chuck in a more ear-friendly mid-section.

And that, my friends, is disc 1. Another protracted even gentler (and rather gorgeous) opener, “A Traves Del Sol”, prefaces the second slab and continues in a similarly dreamy and rather languid vein on “Muy Suavements”. It’s at this point the penny begins to drop. This is definitely a game of two halves. If disc 1 was the primal and unashamed homage to 70s rock then this is Sisco etc (largely) unplugged. “Cancion Del Alacran”, “Conjuro Electrico”, “Sutra Diamante” provide a delicious main course the latter in particular showcasing Sisco’s dextrousness on the old lacquered plank and thoughtful, light-psych arrangements. More curious still is “Shakti’s Delirium” with its eastern percussion and raga phrasings, while “Lunas Del Sur” is a delightful sliver of ambient electronica with more eastern steeped guitar (imagine an outtake from Gong’s “You” sessions) only slightly let down by some interspersed crescendos although the final quarter of this 10-minute plus cut is more reminiscent of disc 1 and pretty uplifting.

So there we have it, plenty to marvel at over the course of two CD albums (and we can expect a triple vinyl package) during which the quality undulates remarkably little. It’s an enjoyable voyage of discovery tempered by the fact that my Spanish is so poor that I am unable to comment on the lyrical quality of 2000 Leguas which I am sure is every bit as intriguing as so much of its musical content. To recap though, it’s a limited edition, I’m late with the review, so head to Shiny Beast/Clear Spot in the event that you wish to explore further.

(Ian Fraser)


(no cover image provided)


(CD from http://tuq.in/anp

Complex music! A wide range of instruments, including synthesizers! Unusual time signatures! Long tracks that would fit on to one side of a vinyl record! An attitude to music where soundscapes paint mental pictures as much as the music itself does!

If these are not your thing, look away now, for you may be thinking Progressive Rock, and not everyone has an attitude relaxed enough to cope with that. But if you do look away you’d be missing some terrific music.

Solo artist Michael Daniel has recorded under the name Hashtronaut (lengthy synth excursions with a hint of Klaus Schulze), and is also part of the synth group Pollard, Daniel & Booth, alongside retro-wizard of the keys Brendan Pollard (himself an outstanding proponent of what could be called electronic progressive music) and synth maestro Phil Booth. But the name on the Henglers Circus album is defiantly Michael Daniel, since this is a solo work where the artist plays all the instruments except the drums.

The CD clocks in at around an hour and comprises four long pieces. Opener On The Way To Henglers begins with a choppy guitar chord before the Ricky-sounding bass, organ and drums burst in. Lots of energy and a nice linking riff here. After a while there’s synth solos and a slowing of the tempo, with guitar arpeggios and a mournful organ coming in; the synth sound has an early ‘70s Moog quality to it. Later parts go into complex time signatures, with swirling organ and guitar parts, before a return to the opening riff.

Within The All is the longest track on the album, opening with a great Hammond organ before chunky drums and thrumming Ricky-sounding bass enter. There’s a triplet synth riff over all this, then fluid guitars – a great energetic beginning. This track is the most Yes-sounding of the four. There’s also a great ‘jazz inclusion’ in the centre of this piece that comes out of the blue, but works so well.

Cloud Mapping is my favourite track. A mournful slide guitar echoes over a recorded rainstorm and a backing of fingerpicked acoustica; gentle, relaxing, and beautifully played and recorded. The second half of the track returns to high energy prog with unusual time signatures; 5/4, 5/4, 5/4, ¾ if my counting is correct! Massive synths swirl over the dramatic bass and drums – high drama.

The final cut is the title track, and it’s another superb piece. A strings mellotron opens the track up before a loping, quite funky riff on synth and bass comes in; then more mellotron, following the riff and flow of the piece. Really well put together, this, with some nice chord changes. Sometimes the organ flutters away on its own, sometimes it’s the full band effect. Again, more hints of Yes because of the instrumentation, but the track undoubtedly does have its own vibe. Some fine guitar soloing too.

In a nutshell – you like Progressive Rock? You appreciate a craftsman at work, able to play many instruments to create engaging, involving pieces of music with enough depth and complexity to stand many listens? You like instrumental music? Then what are you waiting for? (Steve Palmer)



(Vinyl and Ltd Edition CD from Cardinal Fuzz http://cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com/)

These extra-terrestrial Transmissions present a selection of instrumental ruminations from Oakland’s finest (I’ve no idea what Volumes I and II are like or whether they are or ever were available). It may to some appear a bit noodlesome but these studio jams offer a lighter touch than some of the band’s more outré oeuvre which makes for a nice mellow listen with the right blend of psychedelic awareness and deftness of light and shade. There probably isn’t much to choose between the four cuts in terms of quality or for that matter noteworthiness but “Murder Dubbs” is reminiscent of prime-era DJ Shadow’s more loping and thoughtful excursions while “Hook for an Eye” has something of a Baroque (and berserk) flavour. Best by a short head is “Impossible Windows/Caballero” (at 12 minutes the longest and kindest cut of all) which evokes the acid-drenched meanderings of those other great Oaklanders, Country Joe and the Fish on a collision course with the likes of Tangerine Dream.

Something of a between album filler, then, which does not aspire to classic status but is nonetheless a perfectly satisfactory way to spend half an hour and a bit. Stay tuned for further Lumerian transmissions – keep watching them skies.

(Ian Fraser)


( www.recordshopx.com/artist/superfjord/)

This is the debut album from Finnish band Superfjord, featuring Jussi Ristikaarto (Kevin) who, as well as writing, producing, recording and mastering the album also, plays guitars, electronics and vocals. Also featured are Ilari Kivelä - drums, synthesizers, Artturi Taira - Saxaphone, Janne Lastumäki - drums and Ville Särmä - vocals.

This is a band that defies easy pigeonholing, but primarily we are listening to mellow ambient psyche with strong elements of jazz and some tripped out guitar work thrown in for good measure.

The CD is packed in a tri-fold digipak adorned with some excellent artwork.

The album consists of seven tracks. Starting with "The Great Vehicle" which is a gentle melodic ambient track with a catchy beat and superb synth playing, which gradually builds into  some very jazzy Turneresque saxophone, elsewhere, "A Love Supreme" needs little introduction this version  brought right up to date by way of a truly psychedelic edge with spoken word and potent guitar solos. Beautifully composed "I Play with Flowers and Their Fragrance Clings to My Clothes" is a wonderful acoustic track of gentle folky guitar, birdsongs and drones with a Grantchester meadows feel to it; whilst "Mai Huli'oe I Kokua O Ke Kai" is a very tasty upbeat track with tight percussion and lively keyboards with a jazzy psyche edge and some lovely use of the stereo soundstage; "The Chandrasekhar Limit" is a delightful drone infused, hypnotic ambient track with mellow percussion and  "La Locura / Tonttumauste" is a gorgeously powerful tripped out psyche track that has the strange dial turned up full To end, "I Seem to Have Forgotten What We Were Talking About" rounds the album off nicely with just over nine minutes of mellow enchantment consisting of gentle guitar drum and keyboards.

This is a deeply enjoyable album with haunting tracks that just have to be played again and again; this review has taken me ages to write because I keep getting lost in the music and forgetting to write about it. (Steve Judd)



(Self-released CD on Little Honest Studios)

Andy is the brother of Dodson and Fogg’s Chris Wade and one half of their brotherly collaboration Rexford Bedlo. Pushing Senses finds him mucking about on his own with intriguing results. Andy’s songs are a little rougher around the edges than Dodson’s, edging closer to a Paul Weller solo sound. But that’s not to say there aren’t a few navel gazers in the lot like the briefly elegant ‘Something More.’ Guitar work is crisp throughout, with the odd solo filling in the bits between the bits quite nicely. And the fact that Wade creates all the sounds himself is a testament to his adroit multi-instrumental skills.

            Like his brother, Andy has a gift for a clever lyric and catchy melody, so these songs go down as smooth and easy as a 25-year old single malt. ‘Home Is Where You Are’ is a heartfelt plea with an emotional vocal that suggests a possible Springsteen influence (and has a neat little solo as well), while ‘Falling For You’ evinces a countrified Americana streak (with a crusty rock and roll exterior) that should go down equally well with fans of The Band, Help Yourself, and the Brinsleys.

            The odd instrumental flourishes (like backwards and wah-wah guitars) add another dimension to the songs that pinpoint Wade’s arranging skills and suggest he’s fully aware that the songs can live and breathe a bit if he just adds a few studio embellishments. Good on ya.

            ‘Take My Hand’ is another country rocker with a jealous streak and ‘Something Beautiful’ is even better with a snazzy solo, headnodding melody and jingle jangle guitar line that will weld its way into your brain like an earwig on a mission. This deserves to be a 6Music staple in the months to come. I also wept throughout the folky acoustic ballads ‘Take Me Away’ and ‘Outta My Head’ that illustrate there’s a tender side hiding under all that rocking exterior. They also balance the release, adding an emotional element to the wild-eyed bursts of rawk energy.

            I must say that these little “mess abouts” are almost fully baked, some more than others, but there’s stuff on the radio today that’s nowhere near as fully accomplished as what Wade’s assembled here and you owe it to yourself to take an hour to welcome it into your life. (Jeff Penczak)



(CD on Career Records)

What was originally intended to be the Brain’s debut album, splintered into a thousand pieces across a bunch of subsequent albums, stray compilations, cassette-only releases, etc. It was a bunch of semi-related tracks that shared a common theme and may have ended up a psych-rock opera. Now you can be the judge of just what the hell these songs have been doing all these years gathering dust on God’s Little Earache out on a ranch somewhere in the back hills of Big Sky country somewhere near Bozeman, Montana. Head Brain Ron Sanchez shares his somewhat foggy recollection of what happened in his also somewhat enigmatic liners that tell the fractured fairy tale of what once was and now is both the debut album and, 20 years later, the latest “new” release from Montana’s finest purveyors of psychedelic pop. If it worked for Brian Wilson’s Smile, it sure as shittin’s gonna work for Da Brain. So there’s a little spit here, a little wacky tabacky juice there, and a little anachronistic polish over there to glue it all together and we now have 16 tunes to contemplate (plus four “Other Love Songs”), some you know and some you hardly ever heard of, as someone once sang a long time ago when the Earth was green. But that’s another story.

            So sit back and ponder the galaxy in which Pollyanna makes several disillusioned appearances (some so short as to not even merit a track listing), “Perky Pat” roams the countryside of your own brain (small “b”) trying to remember where you heard it before across the Brain (uppercase “B”)’s extensive discography, ‘Cary Grant’ dances with ‘Holly Green’ to get into the Christmas spirit, and the ‘Beautiful Enigma’ that is ‘Shambaholic’ finally receives its two-decades-in-the-making release…along with assorted other love songs. The Beatlesque opener announces that the ‘Dandelions Are Back’ and we’re headed down ‘Highway 94’ which you may or not know terminates about two hours east of God’s Little Ear Ache in Billings. What happens along I-94 is enthusiastically explained, with a guest appearance from the voice of god to keep things on the straight and narrow.

            Leave it to Sanchez to capture that Eureka! moment in song and call it ‘Hit Me In The Face.’ His Eureka! moment occurred at a Woggles concert (Garage Shock), so go figure. It is a pretty damn fine, Camper Van Beethoven-ish pile of drunken slop, but what else do you expect at a Woggles concert! ‘Make A Noise Quietly’ was déjà vu all over again for me, as I’m sure I was familiar with this Eno-esque slice of dreamy psychedelia before and Sanchez reminds us that it (and five others) found their way onto 1997’s Carelessly Restored Art. It also borrows the chord progression from the ambient closer ‘Row Out’.

            ‘Heavy Water’ is, well, pretty heavy in a Neil Pye sort of way, and if you don’t know Neil (or get the punny name reference), you will also miss all the referential bits in between the bits here and your life will be a little more shambaholic for it. ‘Kew Observatory’ visits little Alice in her wonderland of faded dreams and lost memories, and ‘Sleep Deep’ suggests this might all be a nightmare (or dream), a suggestion emphasized by the strangulated confession that ‘Everything I Know Is Wrong.’ Or maybe not. The fun thing about enigmas wrapped in conundrums inside mysteries is that the “key” is open to your own interpretation, so it can mean any damn thing you want…or nothing at all.

            The title track starts out like the Star Trek Theme and I was waiting for Shat Man to put in a guest appearance, but when it takes 20 years to release an album, budgetary concerns prohibit bringing in the heavy hitters – besides, some of this sounds like there were quite a number of heavy hits taking place already.

            The four “Other Love Songs” include the omnipresent and still mysterious instrumental, ‘Perky Pat’ (bonus points for anyone getting the sci-fi connection without visiting the Encyclopaedia Google), and three tracks from the 1991 Butterfly Wheel cassette, ‘a cautionary sci-fi mini-opera called ’50,000,000 Years Before My Time’ (I do love these guys’ record collections!), Jim Kehoe’s bubbly, ‘Cary Grant’ tribute, complete with slight ska overtones, and the proggy, mellotron-bathed ‘Beautiful Enigma’. It may have taken 20 years, but I’m glad to finally have a semblance of what Shambaholic was supposed to be in one compact disc. Now I’ve got to dig out my Alan Bown records and figure this thing out!

(Jeff Penczak)