= November 2016 =  
Thought Forms
Bridget St John
Buck Curran
Black Bombaim & Peter Brotzmann
Sex Swing
United Bible Studies
Eyeless in Gaza
Josefin Öhrn



You might think that effusively praising an artist’s most mature release to date smacks of a back-handed complement easily interpreted as a vaguely concealed admonition for an overly lacquered softening of style and content.

You might want to think again.

Thought Forms, my how you’ve grown. For one thing they are now a four-piece, with producer Jim Barr (Portishead and Get The Blessing) assuming bass duties, allowing Charlie Romijn to move to second guitar while still handling the female side of the vocal equation. That’s not all. On this, their eagerly anticipated follow up to 2013’s splendid Ghost Mountain they have negotiated the difficult evolutionary process of refreshing and refining their sound without compromising their sharpness. Or to put it another way, they’ve well and truly nailed it.

The enigmatic and lushly atmospheric kick-starter ‘Forget My Name’ is something of a fist in a velvet glove, an insinuating “folk rocker” that hints of early Fairport shot through almost half a century of time and space and selectively bred with Dave Heumann’s Arbouretum. It’s a sign of well-placed confidence that they’ve disdained attention grabbing aural pyrotechnics in favour of such a brooding though melodic opening statement. Their credentials as a Terrascope house band are underlined in the title of the denser, more portentous sounding “Woolf Music”, a name shared with the Terrascope bash a few years back and which Charlie co-organised with Phil. Here, although Deej Dhariwal’s guitar makes its presence felt it never quite slips its moorings. It’s a show of admirable restraint that only serves to heighten the air of nagging menace. 

There are times when they still evoke the dormant spirit of Sonic Youth such as ‘The Bridge’ and ‘Missouri’, which contrast neatly with the cerebral, multi layered experimentalism of ‘Aeaea’. This bears the indelible hallmarks of Barr’s influence as does ‘Inland’, whereon the band are drawn into the dark realms of Portishead dystopia. ‘By The Stars’, conversely, has Radio 6 playlist stamped all over it - you can just hear Lammo and the rest coo as their cue this one up.

The disarming reverie of ‘Drawn’ (“sitting in the autumn sun, watching you come undone”) is a creation for which I have a very, very large soft spot indeed. In fact it could be the best song Thurston Moore has yet to write. However it’s the simultaneously languid and spine-tingling ‘The Lake’ that gets the nod and the rosette. It was a tough call though, I can tell you.

Songs About Drowning comes as close to a perfect ten as can be bestowed on any release that hasn’t stood a test of time or without making allowance for even the faintest prospect of improvement. On this showing it’s hard to see how they, or anyone else, are going to better this any time soon. Bets may now be off for album of the year.

(Ian Fraser)



(7” from Shagrat Records)

We last featured “The English Rose of British Folk Rock” back in 1995, although a few lucky souls may also recall having had the privilege of seeing her play live during February 2006 at the Terrastock festival in Providence, Rhode Island. Bridget St John turned 70 on 4th October and to mark the occasion Shagrat Records have released a really very special 45rpm 7” single.

It’s limited to 500 copies, comes pressed on reassuringly heavy vinyl, and in line with several other recent Shagrat releases is housed in some remarkable artwork by the inimitable John Hurford.

The two songs featured here are the evergreen ‘Ask Me No Questions’, the title track of her debut album for John Peel’s Dandelion label in 1969 (a version of which also featured on Shagrat’s previous Bridget St John release, the ‘First Cut’ EP from 1995) and the highlight for me - a stunning version of Michael Chapman’s ‘Rabbit Hills’, originally recorded by him for Fully Qualified Survivor in 1970.

‘Ask Me No Questions’ is undoubtedly the song which will get the record the attention it deserves, however. In 1975 Bridget was approached by Mike Oldfield to contribute vocals to his third album, Ommadawn, whereupon she headed out to his home studio near Hergest Ridge, and, after recording her contribution to the album, she and Mike worked on a special version of her signature tune with Oldfield contributing all manner of trademark moods and atmospheres behind her guitar and vocals. Luckily, Bridget kept a cassette of the results and following some work on improving the quality by Tony Poole, it’s available now for us all to enjoy.

Cost: £5.50 plus £3.50 (UK), £5.75 (Europe), £8.50 (USA & rest of world) from Shagrat Records

(Phil McMullen)



LP/CD/DL from Bandcamp

With a striking, minimalist cover that beautifully reflects the music within, the debut album from Buck Curran, one half of the excellent Arborea, is a gentle and reflective collection that flows like the rivers that inspired its creation.

     Opening with “Wayfaring Stranger (reprise)”, a re-working of the title track from their 2006 album, the track is a sweet instrumental that is beautifully played pulling you gently into the soundscapes that follow. Featuring the voice of Shanti Curran, “New Moontide” is a reminder of just how good the two voices sound together, weaving a magic that creeps like autumn mist around the instruments and tune, possibly my favourite song on the album.

     With a droning mixture of acoustic and electric guitars, “Sea of Polaris” takes us deeper down the rabbit hole, the music undulating through the room sounding even better through some headphones in a darkened room, the mood maintained on the excellent “Seven Gardens to Your Shore” a tune with a strong seventies acid-folk feel, fans of Trees or Nick Drake may well enjoy this tune.

     Whilst there is an old hippy-folk feel to this album the quality of the music and performance render the collection timeless and rewarding, with the longer tracks such as “River Unto Sea” taking repeated listens to fully appreciate, the majesty of the music waiting to be discovered as you dive gladly into the music.

     When you see the title “Bad Moon Rising” you begin to sing to sing the CCR tune in your head, although I found it unlikely to be that tune as it seemed to be way of the radar of the rest of the music. Well, I am glad to say I was wrong as Buck turns the rock classic into a sweet and gentle piece that floats wonderfully in a sparkling pool of soft melody creating on of the best covers I have heard for quite some time.

    The last twenty minutes of this album are taken up with just two tracks, the six minute “Andromeda” and the thirteen minute title track, the former a rising E-bow drone, the just fucking shimmers with wonder before dying like a sun lost behind a desert peak, the latter an awesome slice of music that features vocals and harmonium from Shanti and all manner of magic from Buck, the voices soaring over a droning backing that has slowly evolving melodies weaved throughout it creating a haunting and devotional piece that stops time, just for a bit.

     Fans of Arborea, Espers, 70's folk or good music in general should definitely check this one out. (Simon Lewis)



(CD from http://shhpuma.com/)

You can get chucked out of places for using the F word, but let’s here is for “fusion” folks, the genre that dare not speak its name in impolite company.

It’s a much maligned word, and with some justification it must be said, as it tends to denote ‘70s excess and the sight and sound of over-achieving musos disappearing up their own rear ends. This, though is special.

Faced with what to do next a lot of bands (and dare I say our beloved psych fraternity can be just as guilty as charged at times) either go louder and longer or else ease back to cruise control somewhere around what we old ‘uns used to know as the “difficult third album”, with the attendant risks of either losing all sense of proportion or finesse or else turning into something akin to Coldplay.

Cleverly Portugal’s Black Bombaim have teamed up with versatile free jazz titan Peter Brotzmann to provide a new twist on louder and longer. In essence it’s a five-part skronkfest par excellence that is most certainly for the constitutionally stout.
Quite what the Psych Massive will make of Brotzmann’s no holds barred opening salvo on ‘BB and PB Part. 1” I don’t know. Talk about lack of foreplay there, fella. It makes for a caustic statement of intent and its one that the band clearly relish as they underscore ever more intense gasket-blowing rasps. Pounding bass and some snappy drumming leads us off into ‘Part 2’ before the guitar and sax post some exhilarating improvisation, redolent of Bitches Brew on speed (allegedly) or perhaps a Mahavishnu/Hawkwind mash-up from 1972. 

‘Part 3’ and it’s time for tribal ‘War Pigs’, presaging what sounds initially like an anguished vocal but is in fact Brotzmann wringing yet more unearthly noise from his poor instrument. It eventually locks into one almighty ominous groove with some of the tribal riffs suggestive of masked Swedes, Goat. ‘Part 4’ borders on overload as the band punches fast and furiously, Dr Sax straining manfully to be heard over what surely what must redefine the meaning of power trio.

Which leaves us with ‘Pt. 5’ and an uproarious finale in which the stops are pulled out until they well and truly shriek, not that you can hear them above this glorious racket mind as it reaches its cataclysmic zenith and the culmination of something quite stunning and oddly cathartic.

(Ian Fraser)



(LP/CD/TAPE from The Quietus Phonographic Corporation)

Word on the street is that one should never judge a book, or a record, by its cover. There is, though, an exception to every rule. What you see on this particular lurid and unsettling outer sheath is entirely indicative of what is about to assail you within.
Snapped-up by The Quietus Phonographic Corporation on the evidence of a single live appearance, this provocatively named sextet (!) - googling them was an education, believe you me - is an unlikely anti-super group comprising members of Part Chimp, Dethscalator, Dead Neanderthals, Earth  and Mugstar (represented by the always affable Jason Stoll who also heads up the so-far impeccable God Unknown Records). Various members are reputed to have survived plane crashes, lightning strikes and a winning chess/boxing confrontation with a gentleman known as The Finnish Hammer, which could all of course be a load of old phooey or else indicates an eventful if charmed existence. Or perhaps something more Faustian. I’m going for the latter.

You may have had a glimpse into the weird and unsettling world of Sex Swing courtesy of the industrial skronk of ‘Night-Time Worker’, their uncompromising God Unknown split single with Stoll’s fellow Liverpudlians Clinic. Well it’s here and it pretty much sets the template for the rest of the album although believe me there’s nothing pretty about it. Tracks like ‘A Natural Satellite’ soundtrack the despairing drudge of dark satanic mills located in some forsaken penal colony on Alpha Nebula (or someplace else near Warrington) or else a cyber-Mengele conducting live human experiments. Yes, this is how it’s going to sound when the AI have taken over. Hear ‘Grace Jones’? That’s them chasing you, unrelentingly and without an ounce of compassion as they close in on you, the shrieking sax straining over a melee of percussion, synths, guitars and singer Dan Chandler’s funereal intonations.

‘Karnak’, in fairness, packs riffs aplenty and Chandler sounds like John Lydon leading a grotesque parody of a big band in the throes of some severe electric shock therapy. They’ll get those bodies twitching by hook or by cook. Cue ‘The Murder of Maria Martens’. What, Shirley Collins and The Albion Band from No Roses you’re probablyasking as you stroke your beards and reach for your pewter tankards (ladies that goes for you, too)? Well yes, you have to really strain to make it out, such is the imaginative and thoroughly radical reinterpretation of ye olde “Trad. Arr” classic, but it’s definitely it. With the much feted Shirley receiving a fair bit of coverage of late it would be interesting to know what she makes of it. Considering her Current 93 association it shouldn’t surprise anyone if it were already on constant rotation down there in Lewes.

So the only track thus far not mentioned is ‘Murder Witness’. It’s trench coat music for people who think that Joy Division were far too inclined to parade their eternally optimistic, sunny side up demeanour. That all you really need to know by now.

With influences as diverse as Motorhead, Suicide, industrial noise, free jazz and, yes, Shirley Collins, this is music intent on flaying your musical sensibilities to metaphorically bloody shreds. It’s claustrophobic and nightmarish, one long, squalid, visceral howl and the aural equivalent of what it must be like to be drenched in all manner of other people’s bodily fluids. It is however pure excitement and utterly compelling. Really.

All I need now is get used to sleeping with the lights off again. Oh and to stop whimpering for no apparent reason.

Yes, word on the street is that one should never judge a book, or a record, by its cover.

Clearly the street don’t know shit.

(Ian Fraser)



( CDr from Dark Holler )

Recorded live at the Bohemian National Home, Detroit 2008, and on the road out of Dolla, County Tipperary 2009, this album manages to catch the very soul of a live performance by the loose collective known as United Bible Studies. Having had my mind levitated by them on two separate Terrascopic occasions, especially at Woolf Music, I can testify to the power and intensity of the live experience and this recording comes damn close to that especially in a darkened room at volume.

   Split into a three part title track, part one opens with audience sounds and samples that begin to disorientate the listener, that very moment that you fall into a dream state, before there is a quiet lull as a lone voice sings a traditional folk ballad, that  voice slowly consumed by electronic trickery and drones that seem to drip from the very ether, psychedelic and unsettling, the piece becoming a long travelling, experimental drone that is thick as fog yet sparkles with an inner luminosity.

    Opening with harsh flourishes of noise and voices, sampled, real and quite possibly imagined, part two is ghostly and mischievous, a radio play for the damned that suddenly reveals a gentle core with sweet piano and rattling percussion, soft drones and a musical sunrise that bursts with light.

    Bringing back the song, part three has a simple tune interspersed with noise, voice and radio comedy madness, as if someone is cut and pasting the band before your ears, creative and wonderfully bonkers. As the piece moves on the surreal atmosphere takes full hold, like a wyrd-folk Buttholes jamming with Timothy Leary in an abandoned church, the primitive, ritualistic drumming and voices creating evels of tension and intensity that are rarely heard in music today. For the last few minutes the music takes on gentler textures, voices and instruments creating harmonies and drones that drift and caress, soothe the madness that has gone before, offering hope through abandonment, a Phillip Glass soundtrack for outsiders and holy fools. (Simon Lewis)



(CD from Ambivalent Scale)

After nearly half a century performing together, Martyn Bates and Peter Becker must seem like a married couple – finishing each other’s sentences, telepathically sensing where their individual muse is leading them and effortlessly hopping on and enjoying the ride. With an extensive catalogue of well over two-dozen releases, they still sound as fresh and invigorating as that ground breaking EP, “Kodak Ghosts Run Amok” that started everything way back in 1980. Looking back to those early releases, the duo suggest their latest is a “distant cousin” to 1982’s classic Pale Hands I Loved So Well. But this is another century, and technological advances have enabled them to use their studio almost as an additional instrument, layering sounds, playing with various improvisational techniques, and offering, perhaps, a third pair of ears and hands to the proceedings.
     Yet at its heart is the combination of Bates’ breathy, almost theatrical vocal styling (a little Antony Hegarty, a tad Andy McCluskey) and intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics, revealing numerous layers of meaning and intent as each verse trickles off his soothing, emotional delivery, and Becker’s inquisitive bass lines, harmonic tape manipulations, and various percussive effects. While tracks like ‘Solar Logic’ may initially sound like a simple love ballad, further listening reveals intricate harmonic vocal interweaving, funky, almost African percussives, and the perfect placement of bells and tape manipulations that demonstrate how much the studio has been welcomed in to add lustre to their creative juices.
     ‘Tamarisk’ envelops the listener in swirling effects and percussive embellishments that wouldn’t be out of place on a Peter Gabriel album, while ‘New Take/Notkar’ offers a harsher splash of ice water in the face, evolving out of an almost industrial percussive backbeat and syncopated guitars that push the listener towards Faust or Nine Inch Nails gut crunchers. But never ones to fall into a rut, the following ‘Longing Song’ is an uplifting, lilting lover’s plea that rises from the ashes of desolation “To bring the morning alive...to be amazed/n you’ll be mine....”
     The duo occasionally include improvisational instrumentals in their albums, and the cinematic, provocative and evocative ‘Wind, Sand, Sea & Stars’ pretty much covers the gamut of the external universe – a breakneck journey through land, sea and sky, while ‘Unborn’ traverses the inner universe, wallowing, swallowing mouthfuls of life-giving amniotic fluids on the 9-month journey into a cold, shattering life that no one asked for or had any choice in bringing to fruition.
     But before we get too deep, let’s enjoy the sprinkling, sparkling, shimmering flourishes of duelling ukuleles, thumb pianos and glockenspiel on the celestial ‘Juniper’, and the soft, reflective instrumental closer ‘Long Gon Pa’, full of meticulous slide and acoustic guitar and Becker’s fascinating, dreamy devices and tape loops. An imaginative, emotional, headswirling buzz to wrap up another fascinating release from the always reliable duo, who never fail to excite us while eliciting nuances of emotional responses that are all-too-rare in this cookie-cutter, commercial world of Voices, Idols, and other nameless, brainless distractions.

(Jeff Penczak)



(LP/CD from Rocket Recordings

Picture the scene if you will. Three men at Liverpool Psych Fest on the Saturday evening discussing “what makes a Rocket band”. The fact that not one us could quite put a finger on it despite relative sobriety was quite instructive especially when considering that the two gentlemen with whom I was in conversation were responsible for the very same label and their diverse and burgeoning international roster. Typical of that bloody-minded pair that they can’t even categorise their own bands. I mean what chance does that leave for us lazy pigeon-holing scribes intent on an easy life?
If you were to pick a typical Rocket act, though, it probably wouldn’t be Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation. Aside from a certain aesthetic appeal which, despite their myriad other qualities, most of the other Rocketeers could never be accused of possessing, Josefin comes closest to being the most commercial prospect the label has had since, well, ever.
Early indications that this is going to be something of a treat are evident on “Sister Green Eyes” a sultry sliver of near eastern exotica, all cloying and stifling in its velvet embrace. Ah, but the best is not only yet to come, in fact it follows hot on its heels. Deliciously hypnotic, the segue pairing of ‘In Madrid’ and ‘Rainbow Lollipop’ is a compelling slice of sensuous and intense electro-psychedelia that invokes the spirit of Donna Summer fronting Death in Vegas as remixed by the Chemical Brothers.
The Velvet/PiL pop of ‘Looking For You’ with its repeat refrain and two chord thrashing is hard on the bunions (look, you try pogoing for four minutes without aid of stimulants or corn plasters and see how you like it). Whereas the lush ‘Sexy Boy’ groove of ‘Rushing Through My Mind’ does their prospective mainstream credentials no harm either, it’s ‘Circular Motions’ which throws the cure ball that stops you in your tracks. It’s a brief, hallucinatory scrambling of the senses, like United Bible Studies on too much psilocybin, and on which Josefin is joined on indistinct vocals by Lay Llamas’ Nicola Guinta way out there is cosmic left field.
The most agreeable Californian-inspired dream pop of ‘Where I’m Going’ and the precise and highly proficient ‘Imagine You’ (single material one suspects) round off a thoroughly rewarding 43 minutes or so by which time the delightful damage to the synapses has already been done.
(Ian Fraser )