= October 2019 =  
 Toby Hay
 Alison Cotton
 Anunnaki
 Sally Barry
 Joost Dijkema
 Vinny Peculiar
 Various Artists
 Glenn Phillips
 Papir
 Electric Funeral
 Pink Moon
 the Chemistry Set
 Astral TV
Donovan' Brain / Fraudband
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   



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TOBY HAY - NEW MUSIC FOR THE 12 STRING GUITAR

(The State51 Conspiracy Ltd)

Toby Hay has a deceptively breezy yet unhurried approach to his guitar playing which somehow evokes a sense of travel, of locations that are felt rather than seen. It's rather like being bewitched by clouds viewed from a train window - one moment you make sense of what's in front of you, and the next your senses are overtaken by the unvisited and yet strangely familiar sounds of a station platform. I'm a huge fan of his work, both solo (this is his third album) and in collaboration with another Woolf Music veteran and fellow nimble- fingered young guitar-slinger, Jim Ghedi; so it goes without saying that 'New Music' is pretty much essential listening.

And yet, it's much more than that. One could sense the anticipation in his voice as Tony explained to me last summer that he was privileged enough to be having a guitar built specifically for him by the legendary Roger Bucknall of Fylde Guitars. I won't pretend to understand the technicalities, but it was being set up to play in unique tunings, and the resulting album was to be recorded live, with no editing or overdubs.

The results are quite simply extraordinary - music, played and heard in its very purest form. The stand-out numbers for me are the opening 'Morning Song' (sadly not the same as that by the Green Ray, featuring arguably my favourite electric guitarist, the late Richard

Treece), the haunting ’The Summer the Sky Cried for Rain’ which evokes images of Sandy Bull, and 'The Bird and the Waterfall', improvised after an early morning walk around the grounds at Real World Studios, located in Box, Wiltshire, just a handful of miles away from where I sit and write. Genius.

(Phil McMullen)

 
 

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ALISON COTTON – THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME

(LP on Clay Pipe Music Records)

Alison Cotton has been quietly amassing a formidable body of work over a number of years that spans inventive folk rock, pastoral psychedelia and acid folk with an experimental edge in The Eighteenth Day of May, The Trimdon Grange Explosion and currently The Left Outsides, a duo with husband Mark Nicholas.  Since 2018 we’ve also been treated to a new side of Alison’s work, as a solo artist and her debut album in this respect ‘All Is Quiet At The Ancient Theatre’ was one of last years undisputed highlights – a record of haunting and occasionally elemental beauty. Seeing Alison perform solo at this years ‘Woolf II’ festival in the atmospheric setting of Cleeve House was one of those memorable pairings of music and setting that will live long in the memory.

‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’ is a 10” record released by the reliably excellent Clay Pipe Music, surely a perfect home for such well crafted music with its attention to detail for the whole package, lovingly wrapped in Frances Castle’s wonderful artwork. The record was born in a commission from BBC6 Music’s Gideon Coe where Alison was tasked with creating the soundtrack to a Muriel Spark ghost story that shares its name with this release. The story revolves around a woman working in a London office, her first job after recovering from serious illness, and her conviction on leaving the office one evening that she has left something important at the office but she cannot work out what it is. Whilst my descriptive skills in ghost story terms might not convey the psychology, mystery, tension and suspense of the story (I’m certainly no M.R. James), Alison’s mournful and indeed at times eerie viola melody and subtle use of other instruments, voice and effects certainly evokes all of those things very successfully indeed. It has a sparse beauty as a piece of music that on its own terms tempts the imagination into strange, dark and lonely places and whilst it displays her classical training and impressive compositional know-how it also shows an acute ear and sensibility for using music to convey a story through sound images without the need for words. Echoes of Thomas Tallis and Gavin Bryars are woven together with gothic, Celtic and European traditional folk influences and electronic tones and textures to create something very special with or without a spoken narrative.

The second piece of music is again inspired by a Muriel Spark ghost story called ‘The House of the Famous Poet’ set in the Blitz and wartime London. Within the story, the surreal notion of an ‘Abstract Funeral’ captured Alison’s imagination and inspired the composition. Once again the music revolves around the mournful tone of the viola, floating over a gentle electronic dronescape that evokes the melancholy and loneliness of grief and loss but without sounding doom laden and ritualistic. There is a strong Celtic feel to the viola melody that is made all the more achingly beautiful by the use of layered almost mediaeval vocals creating a hypnotic polyphony and swelling waves of cymbals which add a wilder, more windswept drama to the piece. Close your eyes and a solemn slow motion funeral march to an ancient chapel on a windswept cliff appears before you.

I’ve played this music many times since receiving it and each time it reveals a little bit more of itself – the fine detail in its textures, colours and construction, the different moods and images evoked depending when you listen and how you feel at the time. It’s a short record, barely 25 minutes over its two tracks but packs an awful lot into that time. As a soundtrack it’s remarkable but more than that, it is music for the imagination of the very best kind and for all of your contemplative moments, I recommend it most highly.

(Francis Comyn)

 

 

ANUNNAKI – IMMANENTIZE THE ESCHATON

(LP on Cardinal Fuzz Records)

Anunnaki hail from British Columbia and bring a superior brand of occult psychedelia flavoured with doom laden riffs and fizzing electronica into your living rooms courtesy of Cardinal Fuzz records who must by now be the premier advocate of Canadian psychedelic rock by some margin. The duo of Dave Read from Moths & Locusts and Arlen Thompson (Wolf Parade) have released material periodically over the years and have one previous full length album to their name that came out in 2017. It’s hard to believe that a duo can whip up such a storm of metallic noise, super intense often elemental atmosphere and modular mayhem but let’s be thankful that they do.

‘Immanentize The Eschaton’, a phrase with political and theological applications and meaning, is certainly a deep, dark trip and refers to a post Armageddon state of trying to bring about the final ‘heaven-like’ end of times on earth - so we can be clear that this is not a record destined for family parties and relaxation. The record is one of extreme light and shade and certainly strives for what could be termed a celestial chaos. However whilst it is often incredibly heavy and occasionally brutal  it also has a calm, even serene aspect that is prominent in many parts of its journey and it’s this tension or contrast that actually makes the record such a rewarding and gripping listen.

We have three tracks starting with ‘Rise’ where long and high flying synthesized tones set the scene before a choppy guitar gradually emerges to herald a blizzard of distortion and waves of super heavy metallic riffing that gather pace and power over a distant yet powerful beat and cymbal crashes. It’s an incredibly intense opener and certainly grabs the attention over its 7 minutes before it fades to a simple drone. ‘Procession’ gives us almost 15 minutes drenched in atmosphere that takes in loneliness, brooding mystery and stormy chaotic violence. Spacey synths and echoing sparsely played guitar initially evoke a kind of celestial spaghetti western before taking a lengthy trip through a spooky dreamscape full of mystery and tension that quietly adds rhythm and an eastern tinged vibe before the by now hypnotic, repetitive riffing gets meatier, wraps itself in a chorus of howling post-rock noise with some scorching, touching on ecstatic, space rock guitar fighting its way through before winding down to silence.

‘Demiurge’ at more than 21 minutes is almost like a suite with distinct movements in the way it navigates the listener on another epic voyage for the ears and imagination. Once again starting out with a strong spacey, kosmische sound that pulses and generates waves of ambience, frequencies gently buzz and throb, and an otherworldly ambience is established before the peace is shattered by hard hitting drums and slow pulverising metallic riffs and screams that slow down to  virtual stasis before a short, chaotic and certainly more urgent heavy psych fuelled break changes the pace and mood, providing a bridge to the final section where spacious picked guitar notes are augmented by drones, and free form tones that reference early electronic composition before returning to a simple brooding repetitive drone to the end of this fine record. It’s a high risk strategy where such diverse musical styles are brought together in one long piece but here it is done very skilfully indeed and the result is an end to end thrill to listen to.

This is a record of real extremes and a wonderful use of dynamics and textures to create moods and atmopsheres befitting the theme of the album. It mixes the celestial and the very definitely earthbound very intelligently and at times I imagined a Keiji Haino fronted Swans or Mogwai sounding like this which is a good thing indeed. A fine soundtrack for post Armageddon life but don’t wait that long to enjoy this fine record and delve into its pleasures today.

(Francis Comyn)

 
 

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SALLY BARRY – RENDITIONS

(CD on Green Monkey)

While they may stem from a punk, noise and metal background, former Honeymoon Killers’ drummer Barry and guitarists Mark Brunke and Ruth Davidson (who doubles on cello embellishment) bring a calm elegance to these nearly two dozen tracks, which Brunke originally composed between 20 and 35 years ago. ‘Sunbleached’ suits rainy day navelgazing, with Barry’s measured vocals weaving languorous smoke rings around Davidson’s cello melodies (did I mention they’re also classical music dropouts?) But tracks like ‘Come In Electronica’, ‘Loving My Disease’, ‘Wasted Time’, ‘Love Bit Her Nest’, and ‘Erin’ serve to exorcise Brunke’s personal demons, including his mother’s heroin overdose in 1997. Punk’s anger and angst return to the surface, feeding Brunke’s tales of “love, loss, marriages, divorces, birth, physical and mental disease, and real and spiritual death… everything that’s happened in the intervening 20 years”, including the dissolution of his relationship with Barry.

     The stripped-down bedsit vibe of ‘Ley Lines’, ‘Saturnine Mine’, et. al. border on No Depression, no-fi home recordings (particularly ‘Requiem and Famine’), but that’s another part of the album’s alluring charm. Brunke’s lyrical ruminations are easily identifiable by anyone’s who suffered tragic loss, loneliness, and emptiness. The horrible spate of recent suicides (musical and otherwise) attest to something going wrong with how people are reacting to society’s ills. Barry & Co. sadly remind us that things haven’t improved much over the last three decades, but this cathartic experience may help you get through rough times the way it seems to have successfully helped them navigate life’s unexpected digressions. While 22 tracks of relentlessly gloomy introspective soul searching wears thin and occasionally veers into a monotonous drone of self-pity, music has been known to sooth the savage breast, and we can all use a comforting voice of “been there, done that” recognition to deal with our own demons.

(Jeff Penczak)

 

 

 

JOOST DIJKEMA – TIME THIEF

Twin Dimension Records LP/CD/digital  www.joostdijkema.com 

Dutch finger-picking guitarist Joost puts out his second solo album following on from 2016’s Sacred Revelations, both sport artwork by Sir Plastic Crimewave’s Steven Krakow and Sara Gosett. There has also been a joint album with Bert Hadders full of songs about murder, trains, girls and strikes.

Opening with twin instrumentals ‘We Came Across Pt111’ and ‘Plastic Seawater’ Joost's prowess on the 12 string is immediately apparent, he also adds flute, bass and percussion. Then comes the title track ‘Time Thief’ where we get to hear his vocals, which on this one are half spoken half sung reminding me of a point somewhere between English guitarist John Smith and the gruffness of say Malcolm Holcombe. Joost has immersed himself in the school of Takoma and also in the singer songwriter discipline of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, revealing an old soul in a young body, his style also takes in modern exponents of acoustic guitar wizardry like Ryley Walker and William Tyler.

The title track is a perceptive rumination on times passing. With lines like “he’s a robber I believe” on which he is joined on vocals by Finnish musician Heta Salkolahti, who also plays superb fiddle on a few of the tracks. ‘Spring Fever’ adds drums and banjo. Heta’s deep earthy fiddle tones combining well with Joost’s banjo, it certainly has a spring in its step. ‘Edge Of The City’ features some excellent harmonics and fairly fly’s by, again it’s a song informed by change. Side one ends with ‘Legacy Of An Old Skeleton Car’, this song sees Joost pick up his electric guitar, to great effect, a widescreen tune full of fat open notes and clusters of fine finger picking.

Side two starts with ‘Strange Replacements’ a downbeat rumination again on times swift passing, it’s the most straightforward arrangement on the record, Joost sings and plays guitar, drums and bass he is joined on keys and 2nd vocal by Heta. ‘Dalla Montagne Alla Pianura’, shows the playful side of the school of American primitive guitarists and shows his mastery of the style reflecting the hours and hours of practice one needs in this field. ‘Elite’s Last Journey’ is a pretty straight forward folk rock song introduced by some intricate playing and lovely harmonics. ‘To Make Us Believe Once Again’, a beautiful dreamer’s elegy, well placed on the record, it provides a reassuring anchor before the final song on this very strong album. ‘Galangal Tea’ another widescreen instrumental on which he plays 12 string , he is joined by lap steel guitarist John Hekkert who also throws in a few effects, the star of the show though goes to Joost's excellent guitar work across the album. Highly recommended, now I've got to get that debut!

(Andrew Young)

  VINNY PECULIAR – WHILE YOU STILL CAN

LP/CD/ DL Shadrack and Duxbury  www.vinnypeculiar.com

This is the eighth album by Midlands based singer songwriter Vinny (aka Alan Wilkes). On previous albums he has been joined by various members of The Fall, Oasis, The Smiths and Aztec Camera, but don’t let that put you off, he is one of the most insightful songwriters out there. For this new album he has unleashed his inner rock star (well nearly). The record is informed by a whole host of characters from the political world, from TV and from the arts in general. It is an extremely good album full of memorable songs, mainly in a fairly straightforward rock style. I have always rated Simon Rivers from the Bitter Springs as one of the finest lyricists this country has produced and on a number of these songs I’m reminded of him, both in the singing and the songs.

The album starts with the stark, barely there, keening tones of ‘Vote For Me’ a plea to his constituents. The crunchy ‘Pop Music For Ugly People’ arrives with a bang, a big rocker with treated vocals. “This is the church, this is the steeple, open the door, it’s just pop music for ugly people” ‘Diane Abbott Takes A Selfie’, is an insightful song about the need for self promotion through the usual of social media. ‘Culture Vulture’ rocks like a bastard, straight out the traps, a lovely descending riff, with a chorus of “Screw You”. ‘Ministry Of Fate’ takes us back to the eighties, mainly because of the programmed drum machine, and synths, “the truth is out there, don’t you know”. 

‘Art and Poverty’, is terrific, I’m reminded a little of Art Brut, it is also very funny indeed.‘Question Time’, is my personal favourite on the album, a jangly pop song, full of excellent rhyming couplets, like “seen at a festival, drunk in a bar, deep in the green fields, covered with glitter stars”. ‘Scarecrows’, is a little funkier, with some nice cooing female vocals, the song deals in government corruption, lies and redaction. ‘Man Out Of Time’, is a terrific glam rock song with a slew of slide guitar, which starts in 1972 and ends in 1976. The songmentions Top of the Pops, Spiders From Mars, Noggin The Nog, The Singing Ringing Tree and Donny and Marie, amongst others, get your kicks from 1976. The album ends with the louche ‘Let Them Take Drugs’, ostensibly because all the time they are out of their heads, they are no threat. It has the killer line“let them oscillate wildly”. Let them eat chips, let them go soft, let them breakdown, let them take drugs. The chorus of “Let their addiction control their lives, feed their obsession, ignore the supplier, let them take drugs, let them take drugs” is very catchy. Stay free, stay really free, we can build ourselves a new society; indeed wasted people carry no threat.  An excellent album that could well be his best yet. Vote for Vinny.

(Andrew Young)

 
 

FRUITS DE MER – VARIOUS SINGLES    

www.fruitsdemerrecords.com

Crystal Jacqueline and The Honey Pot are up first with a coloured, double 7” vinyl. They are somewhat of the FdM house band and here the label goes back to its roots with a bunch of cover songs.

First up is their version of the Traffic classic ‘Mr Fantasy’, all echoed vocals and Mellotron. This is followed by the old King Crimson classic ‘I Talk To The Wind’, which singer Jacqueline does an excellent job with, its informed more by Judy Dyble’s vocal than by the Greg Lake version, which will be more familiar to readers, due to it being on the Court Of The Crimson King album. ‘Sun Goes Down’, by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. This was originally a b side of a 45 which Beaky from said group says “we went quite psychedelic with it but the Honey Pot have gone a bit further with, indeed it got me thinking I must have had some kind of mushroom”. Rare Bird’s almost hit single ‘Sympathy’ gets a cool cover, it sticks fairly close to the original being mainly acapella, joined later by lashings of organ, drums, bass and a wicked guitar solo from Icarus Peel. This double single stretches to almost 30 minutes and ends with ‘Dreams’ a track from the Deram recording artists Tonton Macoute and running to almost eight minutes, they do a great version with male and female vocals, cloaked with more mossy Mellotron and searing electric guitar.

The Past Tense go all out with a 7” single which is accompanied by a free albums worth of songs included in the package, upon which they cover amongst others, Love, The Moving Sidewalks, Rupert’s People, Wild Flowers, The Glass Family and David Clayton Thomas. Authentic 60’smod/garage/psych sounds being the order of the day. Most of the songs are unfamiliar to me so I’ve learnt a lot from their selection. They do a great job on the songs that I have heard though, plenty of organ, guitar drum and bass with some fine harmonies chucked in.

For the last of these batch of singles we hear from sixties duo Chad And Jeremy who deliver an acoustic version of their song Rest In Peace from their excellent album Cabbages And Kings. “Here lies Fred, he’s better off dead”. What is it with FdM and memorial songs; first we had Tir Na Nog with We Pick Up Birds At Funerals, now we have Rest In Peace. The very first release by FdM was by Schizo Fun Addict and they now return with their terrific cover of the Mamas And Papas classic ‘Dedicated To The One I Love’, on which they are joined by singer IIlona V. Hanford Flyover are a new name to me but I really enjoyed their version of Neon Pearl’s ‘Just Another Day’ I’ve only just discovered this overlooked gem from Neon Pearl in the last few months, if you ever see a copy pick it up, anyway they do a fine job, dreamy vocals with some drifting Mellotron. The last song goes to Sweden’s duo Us And Them, who get to grips with the Neil Young classic ‘What Did You Do To My Life’, stripping it right back in their inimitable way but sticking with the laser guided melody. Artwork for this single is by the great West Country artist John Hurford. So, here’s another batch of highly desirable singles from a label bearing down fast on its 100th release.

(Andrew Young)

 


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Glenn Phillips - Echoes: The Hampton Grease Band, My Life, My Music and How I Stopped Having Panic Attacks

(book, published by Snowstar Publishing)

Like many others of a similar vintage I suspect, I discovered Glenn Phillips’ music through his extraordinary 1975 instrumental album ‘Lost at Sea’, which was released here in England on the then embryonic Virgin Records label, and promoted with all the vim and vigour that we’ve since come to expect from Mr. Branson. Drawn in by the startling cover art and woo’d by the complex sleeve notes on the reverse, the moment I got it home and dropped the needle I discovered for myself the fiery, frenetic guitar playing which has become Phillips’ trademark - not for nothing did Lowell George of Little Feat call him “the most amazing guitarist I’ve ever heard.”

 

Even before then I’d heard whispers about the Hampton Grease Band: their sole 1971 double album ‘Music to Eat’ was allegedly one of the worst-selling albums in the history of Columbia Records, and either despite that or because of it was also a bit of a Holy Grail amongst long-hairs of my acquaintance, particularly those who dug extended guitar jams. Never a particularly valuable collector’s item, it was nevertheless next to impossible to find, here in the rural shire counties at least, and reading in the sleeve-notes of the aforementioned ‘Lost at Sea’ that Phillips had been a founding member only made me redouble my efforts to find a copy. I seem to recall I scored mine a few years later in the then newly opened Zippo Records shop in London SW4, but my memory may well be playing tricks after all this time. Needless to say, it instantly became and remains a firm favourite, and I would never have imagined then that being able to interview former members and feature the album extensively in a fanzine that I was later privileged to edit would indirectly lead to it being reissued by Sony in 1996; and apparently very well received it was, too.

 

Since ‘Lost at Sea’ Glenn Phillips has gone on to release more than a dozen solo albums - ‘Scratched by the Rabbit’ is a personal favourite, for whatever that’s worth - although none as starkly expressive as that initial 1975 release, an album produced following the death of his father who committed suicide on his 50th birthday. Phillips was just 23 at the time.

 

‘Echoes: The Hampton Grease Band, My Life, My Music and How I Stopped Having Panic Attacks’ [Snowstar Publishing] is a vivid and eminently readable memoir which works on several levels at once. Musicially, there is of course all the fascinating insight you’d expect regarding the history of a band as revered and original as the Hampton Grease Band; and along the way there are woven into the narrative stories concerning Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Lowell George and Mike Oldfield (amongst many, many others, including quite a few punk and new wave luminaries), as their lives and that of Glenn Phillips briefly interjected. Then there’s Glenn’s life, his friends (of which there are many, for Glenn is one of the most likeable people imaginable) and his family - including Katie, his wife of 35 years and counting.

 

All of which leaves the perhaps to some surprising addition of the panic attacks which afflicted much of Glenn Phillips’ adult life - debilitating attacks brought about not by stage-fright, but by medical procedures. Even the suggestion of something as simple as giving a blood sample could prompt a seizure. Glenn: “When I initially wrote those panic attack stories that take place earlier in the book, I had no idea what was going on. It was as if I had written a mystery novel, but I hadn’t solved the mystery. Throughout my life, I had wondered why I freaked out about going to the doctor. I remember going into hospital [to have wisdom teeth extracted] when I was 18 and having no anxiety at all. A few years after that my father killed himself and that’s when I had the first panic attack. From the time my father killed himself and I made ‘Lost at Sea,’ to the time when that record was re-issued and I did the ‘Lost at Sea’ reunion show, 40 years had passed - and that’s how long it took me to figure out what was going on. It was there in front of my face, and I didn’t see it. Anxiety is rarely about what you think it’s about.”

 

Speaking as one who has fought his own depressive daemons, there’s not been enough of this kind of honesty, or at least not in the biographies I’ve read - and if it helps even a handful of people who suffer from similar disorders then the publishers can consider this a job very well done.

 

And if that’s not enough, the book comes with a new album of solo recordings entitled, rather brilliantly, ‘The Dark Parade’ and a DVD of a live ‘Lost at Sea’ 40th-anniversary show recorded in 2015. Needless to say, I can’t recommend this highly enough.

 

(Phil McMullen)





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PAPIR - VI

(LP/CD/DL on Stickman Records)

 

Papir’s fine sixth album has been out since May and we haven’t reviewed it yet – can’t have that, now, can we?  The Danish trio - Nicklas Sorensen (guitar), Christian Becher (bass), and Christoffer Brochmann (drums) released their second album on Stickman Records, following all previous releases back to their beginnings in 2010 on El Paraiso Records.  I’ve always held Papir’s guitar-driven instrumental psych close to their former label mates and fellow countrymen Causa Sui; whereas Causa Sui tends to be more striking and dynamic, Papir uses a little more finesse and build-up, though you arrive at a similar, happy destination.

 

Stickman Records calls the album “a compact blend of composed audible voyages,” and we can roll with that description.  “Compact,” I suppose, refers to the album’s four tracks coming in at a crisp 39 minutes, with each track averaging roughly 10 minutes, compared to the previous Papir V clocking in at a mammoth 94 minutes’ heft.

 

Never particularly known for their imaginative album or song titles – trust me, the music MORE than makes up for it – we have VI.I, VI.II, VI.III, and mustn’t forget the palindromic VI.IV.  VI.I is a bass-driven affair, with Christian’s foundation-building start, followed by Nicklas establishing a basic melody line on guitar.  This gradually leads to some fantastic drumming by Christoffer, and finally Nicklas goes full-tilt on guitar.  Papir is all about the build-up.  We’re off to a good start.

 

Christian again sets everything up on VI.II with his bass, and Nicklas plays some very melodic high-register guitar.  Some atmospheric keyboards add an extra dimension to the sound.  Gradually, Nicklas turns things up, and shifts his guitar from a clean tone to add more and more distortion and wah-wah.  The synths get heavier, the tempo starts getting more complex, Christoffer crashes the cymbals, and we start lapping on the shores of prog.

 

What I like about the album is that not only do the four tracks individually build in intensity and complexity, but the record as a whole does, too, as we find on Side Two.  The flip goes much more psychedelic and the sound grows thicker, denser, and more adventurous.  VI.III begins with spacy synth, and after a couple of minutes, just when you’re expecting William Shatner to intone “Space – the final frontier,” the band all kick in, led again by the rhythm of Christian’s stage-setting bass and Christoffer’s engaging drumming.  Nicklas’s guitar is teasing at first, but after all this is Papir, and after a Steve Hackett-like section, expands and blossoms into full band heavyosity, before space synthing into the cosmos.

 

VI.IV doesn’t mess around, and Christian starts things off yet again, this time with a fast-burning bass riff.  After a brief warm-up around his riff, Nicklas bolts straight out of the gate with a long and loud, funky psychedelic pedal and effects-driven wig-out, with Christoffer shadowing him pace-for-pace with his propulsive drumming.  The piece goes heavy-light-heavy-heavier.  The atmospherics ramp up adding extra thickness and color, and the band keep up the intensity for the duration of its 11 minutes.  If VI.IV doesn’t get your blood pumping, nothing will.

 

Papir VI is just what the doctor ordered for anyone with seasonal doldrums or any doldrums for that matter.  After six albums in nine years, the virtuosic trio has it down.  This is expansive guitar psych, with bass and drums to rival any band.  (It’s great workout music too, just sayin’.)  Papir knows how to create a musical frame, then build sound and rhythm around it like windows, walls, doorways and pieces of artwork throughout the walls and gardens.  Rock solid.

 

 (Mark Feingold)





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ELECTRIC FUNERAL - THE WILD PERFORMANCE

(2LP/CD/DL from Guerssen)

Formed in Switzerland in the late sixties Electric Funeral were a heavy guitar based band who never managed to record any studio material at the time. This is a damn shame as their Sabbath sounding tunes hit the spot for those of us who like that kind of thing. What remains is this collection of demos and live recordings all with a definite lo-fi feel although this is not necessarily a bad thing given the nature of the music.

   Serving a suitable introduction “People” is two and a half minutes of distorted guitar over a basic headbanging riff, the guitar of Alain Christinaz dancing all over the place with evil intent; the song is far too short. Sounding like a long-lost Sabbath demo “War Funeral Song” offers a riffs and quieter passages all with that distorted guitar and plenty of energy, the song building into a frantic boogie with some great guitar work.

   Sounding like a heavier Deep Purple “Black Pages” is another fine tune whilst “Rock Ba Rock” has a moody, swirling intro that pulls you in an extended solo setting the scene before thing get heavier again. Possibly the best thing on the collection, a live version of “To Be One” is seven minutes of glorious noise, an addictive riff getting your head moving as the band strap in for the ride, Sabbath meets Hawkwind in an acid strewn cavern.

    Those of you who lived through the NWOBHM, will certainly see some similarities between that movement and the primitive riffing of “Fly Away” which could be a lost gem from 1979, whilst “My Destiny”, recorded in 1973, is a nine minute epic with the band in hyperactive mode as they attack the song with ferocity and manic energy, even the slower passages seemingly straining at the leash.

   Primitive, muddy and ragged around the edges it may be (it is) but given volume and some kind of altered state, beer will be fine, this is a collection of proto metal that deserves to be heard. (Simon Lewis)





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THE PINK MOON - LET THE DEVIL TAKE TOMORROW

( LP from Crispin Glover Records)

Featuring members of Sugarfoot, Thrush, Angora Static and the excellently named Tremelo Wankers, The Pink Moon tread a retro musical path that is cloaked in R'n'B, Freakbeat, just dropped my first acid trip and the occasional lava lamp, the music loud, brash and surprisingly fresh meaning it has a timeless quality about it as all good music should have.

    Kicking off with the sprightly “Ball and Chain”, you are immediately invited to start groovin' as the band deliver some soulful garage vibes, organ to the fore and plenty of invention to be found within. On “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” Dylan/The Band are given an enthusiastic nod, complete with authentic sixties jangle and I can hear the lovely Cara singing away in the kitchen. With a more eighties garage vibe “Bloodline” will keep you moving with its stomp-ability and some fine guitar moves, whilst “Heartbreaker” sees the band stretch out just a bit, a delightful vocal/guitar intro leading into another soulful groove displaying a well harnessed heaviness that only increases the tension, the tune enjoying a sweet lysergic atmosphere as it moves forward. To end side one, “Rag Out” sounds like The Stairs with its R'n'B fuzz laden glory, yep your feet are stiill grooving as you go to flip the disc.

    With the fun continuing on side two, “Last Mistake” has a Monomen feel to its riffing, “Temptation” is both primitive and magnificent deserving  volume and a quick shot of something dangerous whilst “Where You Gonna Go” (The Unrelated Segments) proves the band know how to pick a cover as they rage through the tune all guns blazing whilst you reach for another shot and the volume knob.

    Slightly worse for wear “Parrotpunk” gets you moving again another garage stomper with hints of The Who running through it before “C'mon” ends it all, plenty of energy left to leave you grinning happily, must be time for another shot and maybe we could turn the lava lamp on.

   As well as sounding fab, this album looks fantastic, red vinyl, a thick plastic sleeve with the band logo on, a stylish pop-art style photo on the cover and a lime green interior, garage class from start to finish, both retro and ultra modern, go get one. (Simon Lewis)





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CHEMISTRY SET – THE INCOMPLETE FABULOUS STINKING

2xCD on Green Monkey

Great Scott(s), it’s Chemistry Set! Not THE Chemistry Set, the prolific John Peel-championed cult neo-psych British quartet. In fact, these Pacific Northwesterners only released an EP and single in their brief mid-‘80s lifetime. No, if this Chemistry Set is remembered at all, it’s for ‘Underground’, their stonking contribution to the infamous Sub Pop 200 compilation in 1988. But if you’re a follower of all things Terrascopic, then you’ll recognize the great Scotts (guitarist Sutherland and drummer Vanderpool) as members of Terrastock performers Donovan’s Brain and The Green Pajamas, respectively, although Sutherland joined the Brain after their Terrastock 5 performance in Seattle. But back in the mid-‘80s, they were smack (pun intended) dab in the middle of the Seattle grunge explosion and released an eponymous 6-track mini LP (often referred to as “Purple Record” after its cover art) and a follow-up single, mysteriously titled “Fabulous Stinking”, the titular source of this “incomplete” compilation of both releases, plus demos, rehearsals, and additional previously unreleased material.

     The “Purple Record” was as out of place in Grungeville U.S.A. as anything fellow Seattleites (and future Terrastockers) The Green Pajamas were releasing at the time (Book of Hours, November, Ghosts Of Love). But the two were mining similar territory and their overlooked material featured excellent jangly guitar pop with earworm melodies that retain their charm 30 years on. If the kids scooping up those R.E.M. albums (Life’s Rich Pageant, Document, Green) had an opportunity to hear these recordings, things may have been much different for the band. (Although the Scotts’ careers didn’t turn out all that bad!)

     Opener ‘Fields’ is an immediate heart-warmer full of backwards, phased guitars, double-timed drum pounding and immediately accessible melodies and vocals. ‘Beneath The Plow’ is even better, with a friendly vocal, ascending melody, excellent solos from Sutherland and fellow guitarist Tom Ewers, and tight performance that could’ve been a hit if record labels and MTV weren’t falling all over themselves to discover and sign the next big [grungy] thing. A terrible case of right place, wrong influences.

     ‘Hall of Mirrors’ is another grabber with Vanderpool a veritable automaton on the drumkit, and the ballads ‘Blind Caroline’ and the gruesome ‘Kill The Sleepers’ change the pace towards dreamy psychedelia. The speedy, about-faced adrenalin rush of the slacker-baiting ‘Underground’ from the Sub Pop comp ventures into Mudhoney territory (anther Terrastock vet) and is commonly cited as one of the set’s best tracks, but the label failed to capitalize and sign the band, another nail in the heart that ushered in their ultimate dissolution the following year.

     But not before the “Fabulous Stinking” single (Fatbald, 1989) took one last stab at the limelight with an “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” vibe that finds the band building on their Sub Pop exposure with the sloppy, no-hold-barred rip snorting, fist pumping rollercoaster ride of ‘Look Over Your Shoulder’ and the bar band brawn of ‘Failure’. Not a jingly-jangly guitar in sight. Disc one ends with three previously unreleased cuts. ‘Grasshopper’ is typical new wave bravado with screaming guitars and white-hot solos; the remaining pair were recorded for a single release that never happened, as the band dissolved when guitarist Bill Campbell left to form Flop. ‘5 Fingers’ is certainly worthy of your ears, with its raucous guitar interplay and furious skinpounding; ‘Grime’ is an equally fun listen for those who don’t think that angry grunge verging on hardcore is a dirty word.

     Disc two features rehearsals, demos and alternate takes (most filled with appropriate band patter) that show a band finding its sound in a comfortable rehearsal and/or basement setting (the power poppy ‘Good Christian’ was actually recorded in bassist Bryan Learned’s basement). Quality is as expected for 30-year old cassettes and rehearsal recordings. An alternate mix of the EP weeper ‘Blind Caroline’ spearheads a promising collection of ultimately abandoned songs, showcasing the delicate jangly guitars that featured early in the band’s first phase. Highlights that should have been explored further include the “good when you’re stoned” circular riff of ‘Snake In The Garden’, the dreamy ‘In My Eye’ and ‘Daisy Jane’, and the jangly ‘Exo Skeletons’. All told, an excellent artefact from “the other Seattle sound of the ‘80s”.

(Jeff Penczak)





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ASTRAL TV – TRAVELLING THE CIRCUITS

(LP/Digital on El Paraiso Records)

 

Astral TV hails from Copenhagen and is comprised of Rasmus Rasmussen from Aerosol and Causa Sui, and Keith Canisius.  The two have released their second LP, after 2017’s Chrystal Shores.  It’s an all-instrumental electronic affair whose 14 tracks are perfect for stargazing or exploring either inner or outer space.  Between them, Rasmussen and Canisius have a veritable stockpile of vintage analog and digital synths and effects toys, and the results reflect this blend of old and new electronic sounds.  The record was culled from many long nights of jamming with the tape – okay, the ones and zeros – rolling, whittling the massive results down to as many as 60 tracks, and again to the final 14, adding new layers, and refining and rendering them ship shape.

 

What you get is a very pleasurable collection of electronic sound collages.  There are both brief tracks that entice you for something more, and medium size tracks full of the limitless sonic possibilities that Bob Moog and all those who came after him gifted us.  The pieces are never dull, full of blinking rhythms and appealing melodies that weave in and out endlessly with their myriad sound oscillations.  You can hear traces of practitioners of the cosmic art such as Tangerine Dream, Radiophonic Workshop, Suzanne Ciani and Jonn Serrie (if you’re unfamiliar with him but like space music, run, don’t walk).

 

To mention a couple, pieces such as “Oumuamua” dazzle, glitter and sparkle.  Named for the first detected interstellar interloper, was there ever both a discovery and a name so tailor-made for a piece of space music?  Now that we have a second detected object, comet 2I/Borisov, you can bet the race is on for artists to claim Borisov for their next magnum opus.  The album’s longest track, “Different Dreams,” is probably the most fully-realized work.  Intricate, diaphanous, drifting and ethereal – all these things describe “Different Dreams.”  Both “Oumuamua” and “Different Dreams” introduce floating electric guitar to the electronic tossed salad, and elevate them further into the dreamscape.

 

Despite the lack of any kind of song structure, I found myself returning again and again to “Travelling the Circuits.”  Repeated listenings certainly lead to more discovery and pleasure.  And the Danish word for “circuits” can also mean “orbits” – perfect.  This is an album to slow down with and enjoy, look up, look out, look in, and exhale.

 

 (Mark Feingold)






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DONOVAN’S BRAIN / FRAUDBAND – BURNT TREES IN THE SNOW

(LP from Career/Kasumuen)

Split albums are an odd egg, occasionally issued to showcase a comeback or to introduce a new act to fans familiar with the established veterans. This is neither. Donovan’s Brain are familiar to everyone here at Terrascope Towers from their brilliant performance at Terrastock 5 in Seattle, as well as their extensive back catalogue (this is their eleventh album). Fraudband are an Australian guitar and drums instrumental duo who play punky surf with fuzz tones set to “Stun”! They also have a tangential Terrastock connection: they’re based in Melbourne (home of the late Tony Dale who released many Terrastock artists’ albums on his Camera Obscura label), and their previous release was also a split LP, this time pairing up with Terrastock veterans, The Bevis Frond!

     Donovan’s Brain’s side features five tracks of their celebrated amalgam of psychedelic, freakbeat, and paisley pop with jangly melodies occasionally morphing into extended West Coast guitar freakouts. The current eight-member lineup features five guitarists, including Career label brain trust Ron Sanchez and Deniz Tek (ex-Radio Birdman, another Oz connection!), ex-Chemistry Set member Scott Sutherland (see our review of their recently reissued compilation The Incomplete Fabulous Stinking here), and the prolific Seattle power pop duo, The Windbreakers’ singer/songwriter Bobby Sutliff. Most of the lineup, including skinpounding dynamo Ric Parnell of Spinal Tap and Atomic Rooster fame appear throughout last year’s 3xCD compilation Convolutions Of The Brain, from which three outtakes are also available as download-only bonus tracks.

     Sutherland’s jingle-jangle paisley pop ‘Kelp Whip’ starts things off with a perky earwig, supplemented by Sanchez’s keyboard solo that’s quite reminiscent of The Neutrons’ ‘Dance Of The Psychedelic Lounge Lizards’ and that other Donovan’s ‘Neutron’ (everything seems so interconnected around here!). Sanchez’s keyboard flourishes also bubble throughout his ‘Gandy Dancer’, with its unusual time signatures and syncopated melodies that recall Beefheart’s Magic Band in full throttle. Guitarist Ken Hughes contributes his beautiful ‘Hear Me’, recalling the West Coast guitar soundscapes of Quicksilver Messenger Service, KAK, and H.P. Lovecraft, as well as British practitioners Man and Help Yourself, whose ranks included the late Richard Treece and Ken Whaley, who also previously recorded with the Brain. In fact, one of Treece’s final performances with the Brain is included in the bonus downloads. The ferocious, guitars-whaling ‘Flash Containment’ goes out in a blaze of string-bending glory.

     In addition to another rendition of the perennial favourite ‘Tad’s New Cymbal Stand’ (with an older line-up not featured on the present album), the bonus downloads include a couple of cinematic cues, the best of which is the smorgasbord of faint vocals, cocktail gurgles, and melancholic whistles and piano that permeate the De Wolfe library music-styled ‘Thinking of Neutrons Film Mix’. This might serve as background for a sci-fi film or hairpin cruise around the Riviera’s Grand Corniche. But knowing the band of musicologists at work here, it’s probably a reference to the aforementioned Man-spinoff project The Neutrons!

     Fraudband’s side kicks off with the sounds of Lalo Schifrin’s ‘Mission: Impossible Theme’ ringing in your ears throughout ‘You Never Said’ and is reprised via ‘Let You Away’, which may be an extension of the same track under a separate title? Like Dick Dale in a power bender, ‘Better Loosen Up’ shreds fingers and eardrums in its atomic assault on the senses, while the epic seven-minute closer ‘Making Things Better By Making Them Worse’ is a roller coaster wave of tsunamic wah-wah fuzz. It’s all a bit similar-sounding to my ears, but surf instro aficionados may enjoy it. Their download bonus cuts feature three live tracks of tropical thunder for fuzz heads everywhere.

(Jeff Penczak)