= September 2014 =  
White Hills
Asteroid #4
A Harp and A Monkey
Kitchen Cynics
Three Dimensional Tanx
Red Plastic Buddah
Trans Am
Dodson and Fogg
Circulatory System
Stone Breath
Crystal Jaqueline
Frank Flight


(LP/CD from Thrill Jockey www.thrilljockey.com)

OK I freely admit I’m biased. White Hills could release a triple album of them blowing their noses and I’d be hard pressed to say anything bad about it. Add to this the fact that Glitter Glamour Atrocity is a reissue of a blink and miss it self-release from 2009 when the Hills were at their most psychedelically intense and please don’t expect objectivity.

Caught on the cusp between the onslaught of the outstanding “Heads on Fire” and the more experimental studio work that has graced later releases, GGA is most notable for “Under Skin or By Name” which appears in the Jim Jarmusch film Only Lovers Left Alive (and also on the incendiary “Live at Roadburn 2011” album). It arrives straight after brief intro “Air Waves” (which features Terrence McKenna type spoken word delivery) and is notable for the White Hills trademark of energetic drumming, courtesy of Bob Bellomo, who propels the driving guitar and bass of mainstays Dave W (guitar/male vocals) and Ego Sensation (bass/female vocals). Yes, it’s probably the strongest cut on the album but lest you turn away at this point dear reader I would urge you to give due consideration to the rest of this criminally neglected little gem...

...which goes a bit like this...

The tribal opening of “Spirit of Exile” settles into something more gentle and melodic if a might repetitive, which gives it a motorik-lite edge without quite realising its full potential. “Distance” seeps lazily as if trying to clamber out of a flotation tank following a long slumber and “Somewhere Along the Way” continues the chill out vibe featuring Dave’s acoustic (wow) guitar as main instrument plucked gently in some beautiful cosmic void although towards the end there is the ominous sound of marching. That’s two languid instrumentals on the spin, then. Whatever next, you ask? Well, remember that ominous marching? It leads headlong into more typical fuzzed out fare on “Long Serve Remember”, which sounds like Hawkwind’s more primal, bad-assed, black sheep cousins. Again don’t expect too many different chord sequences or clever time signatures, White Hills trade on the concept of “less is more” and when they are in this mode it isn’t particularly subtle - glorious, certainly, but not subtle. A spoken word interlude featuring George W Bush justifying the invasion of Iraq, over which a muezzin-style lament sounds (social conscience peppers the band’s releases) punctuates proceedings before it all returns to the central motif courtesy of some eyes-out playing and Dave’s blistering lead. Penultimate penning, “Passage”, is one for the drone fans (welcome on board by the way, folks) – a distant horn guiding the sonic starship through a starless void before the title track signals a stupendous full-tilt freefall burn-up. Comets on fire indeed!

Not as complete as “Heads on Fire” or the later “Hp-1”, perhaps, but still pretty damned essential should you be a fan of White Hills. Overlooked on its original release, given re-mastering and the weight of Thrill Jockey’s support and distribution I sincerely hope this finds a wider audience on this occasion. Another band headed for the Liverpool Psych Fest this month (i.e. September) (other UK and European dates are available) and who ought not to be missed. (Ian Fraser)



(LP/CD/DL from Tonehenge Recordings http://bit.ly/1pGvbhh

There must be something in the water in the fine city of Bristol that engenders a laid back attitude among local bands towards releasing new material or for that matter stepping out in public. Massive Attack were infamous for adherence to the old adage of if a thing’s worth doing then it’s worth doing slowly, while everyone’s favourite “not metal, not quite stoner and not garage either” troupe the Heads could, as their motto, adopt their own song title “could be, doesn’t matter” such is their casual indifference to any sort of structured activity. Well this month’s edition in our occasional series “Are They Still Going?” (to which the answer appears to be “er, yeah, apparently”) features this instrumental three-piece centred on brothers George and Thomas Elgie on their – wait for it - third album in a 15 year career.

“Misama” lumbers out of the block in a familiar and strangely comforting sub-Iron Man guise, all brontosaurus beats and cranium crunching riffs before a change of pace heralds a seat of the pants onslaught where heads risk becoming dislodged from shoulders such must be the ferocity of the nodding. Those who by now must be thrilling at the joy of entering stoner heaven won’t be unduly disappointed by “Calumet Alter”’s deep rumble and another clear indebtedness to Black Sabbath although “Another Day Gone” hints at, I wouldn’t quite say proggie pretensions, but perhaps a more technical and dextrously ambitious approach that defies anyone who might want to stick an almighty slab of rock scrawled with the word Neanderthal around their collective neck. The lengthy “Mount Gonga” kicks off side two and is everything that fans might hope for, a distillation of the band’s more primal urges with more fluid phrasings while “Tungsten Gold” (no it’s not a brand of lager) is redolent of Kyuss and early QOTSA (the latter’s “Mexico” springs immediately to mind) and this is where the penny drops. Listening to Gonga is very much like one’s appreciation of Homme and crew, much to admire certainly but perhaps more difficult to love. By the time we get to the show stopper, “Solar Maximum”, you yearn for something a bit different, vocals maybe or something funkier or even more ambient. No? Oh well, we’ll have to make do with a very decent quiet/loud face off between some mellower moments and meaty workouts in what is probably, punch for punch, the most satisfying thing here (“Miasma” might just edge a draw on the judges’ scorecards). However the overall effect is like listening to a more muscular, steroid enhanced Ozrics of which I like the idea but which could if not careful become a might tedious over the duration of 45 minutes. I’m certainly glad Gonga are still going but perhaps the policy of small measures at irregular intervals is the best medicine in the circumstances. Maybe up the dose just a little though, lads.

(Ian Fraser)



(CD/LP/DD from Bad Vibrations Recordings www.badvibrations.co.uk

Listening to this eighth album release from North California (via Philadelphia) five-piece Asteroid # 4 I am reminded of a particularly lavish all-you-can eat buffet. The selection is generous and eclectic to the point of perplexing, which will may appeal to those with voracious appetite and broad taste but may be harder to digest for others who may prefer not to mix their proteins/carbs, surf/turf or whatever. You want cosmic cowboy rock? They got it. Or how about Hawkwind-mould space boogie, they can nail that too, not to mention psych pop, shoegaze and pastoral instrumentals. The result is a thumbnail tour of most things psychedelic which reveals an ambitiously broad canvas and myriad reference points.

Now I’m all for versatility and there is nothing at all wrong with how these mostly strong compositions are executed, in fact this is an enjoyable listening experience pretty much end to end. The problem with this kind of Heinz 57 approach is that the band isn’t able to nail its own sound. There is also tendency to wear its influences a little too obviously. Take those Hawkwind-style numbers. “Bhuma Vinana” (not a chef’s special at your local Indian restaurant) is a doppelganger for Master of the Universe right up to the chorus which all of a sudden morphs into a classic sounding 1967 psych/pop single and back again, while the driving beat and twittering flute on “Back of Your Mind” is another affectionate tribute to classic era Hawks. The spacey country rock numbers are no less redolent of some vintage numbers you can’t quite put your finger on – “The River” is how CSN might have sounded had they teamed up with Gene Clark instead of Neil Young, whereas the wonderful “The Windmill of the Autumn Sky” is driving me absolutely mad as it is so infuriatingly familiar (The Sadies? A reworking of an earlier Asteroid number? I dunno). Of the rest, then the pastel-shaded shoegaze/dream pop of “Ghost of Dos Erras” is quite enchanting – it could be an outtake from an early Julian Cope album for instance - as is “Yoba” the charming acoustic instrumental which closes the album. Marginal favourite though is the West Coast cowboy “Hopeless Free Climber”, faintly stoned sounding with heavenly harmonies.

A likeable mongrel, this latest Asteroid release offers a handy introduction to newcomers while fans are unlikely to find much to fault. Not quite as accomplished perhaps as 2011’s “Hail to the Clear Figurines” but a couple more listens could well change my mind on that score. (Ian Fraser)



(CD from MoonrakerUK www.harpandamonkey.com)

On what our US friends would call their "sophomore" release, Manchester’s electro-folk trio Harp and Monkey continue where they left off on their 2011 debut with a curious and rather charming mix of oddball, well observed, humane narratives and inventive and occasionally surreal arrangements whilst maintaining enough mainstream appeal for the likes of Mike Harding and the Folk on 2 brigade to enthuse over.

Imaginative cover versions of little known traditional songs dealing with their native North West of England nestle between original songs dealing with subject matter as diverse as the Spanish Civil war and the right to roam, care in the community and mediaeval pilgrims. Truth to tell it is these slightly haunting, melodic originals, delivered in a pronounced Lancastrian accent, which truly hit the spot. “Walking in the Footsteps of Giants” is an account of the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932 and the call to arms whereby thousands of workers went off to fight Franco’s fascists. “Dear Daughter” and “The Pilgrims’ Cross” are the two other cuts most deserving of mention, wistful sounding works of beauty which can only cement the band’s reputation as an inspired acts that has the right blend of the organic and the technological. A tonic for a genre that occasionally veers towards the bland and insipid, more power to them, I say. (Ian Fraser)




(all on CDr from Les Enfants Du Paradiddle

Not one but three new offerings from Terrascopic totems Kitchen Cynics/Matricarians, the role of the good Dr Venn in this case played by the venerable Alan Davison. For those in need of introduction Mr Davison, a school teacher by day, is a prodigious composer of the most beautiful and more than occasionally off-kilter music which might loosely be described as “folk” if indeed a single label could do justice do to such an ethereal and eclectic mix of sound that veers from children’s nonsense songs to the perplexingly avant garde (Theremins and thumb pianos, anyone?). Which of course it can’t, for you see, Davison takes the folk/traditional/singer songwriter templates and recasts them in a manner which suggests aural hypermobility and almost indecent inventiveness.

Our Photographs, the most straightforward of these releases, is essentially a Davison solo outing. Lucky listeners may already be familiar with some of the material which seeped out on a few early copies of the Cynics’ “Ferndancers” album in 2013 before being removed from subsequent pressings in readiness for a separate release which never materialised. Many of these songs have been recorded anew and the best of ‘em include “Francis Masson, Botanist” and playlist shoe-in, the deliciously creepy “Jack Longshanks”. This is magical and discorporate music which transports the listener to where he or she chooses to go. Then there’s the languid, shimmering title track for starters, with its bass heavy guitar and synapse tinkling keys. “Requiem for Liam” suggests a path which the ISB might (make that should) have taken had they not taken the wrong turn down Scientology Street. On and on it goes, “Make of me your Mask”, the petrol can guitar sound of “Seven Seconds”, in fact the first half a dozen or more numbers here are faultless. Indeed with more editorial will-power this I would have been extolling this as a must-have classic. However over the course of 17 tracks over 70-plus minutes (all three albums are of similar duration) the tour de force-field inevitably slips ever so slightly on occasion. I’ll settle for almost perfect, then, which is about as good as any of us has the right to expect.

Matricarians is Davison’s more abstract, experimental project, which is not to say that his trademark delicate and wistful folk-tones aren’t present, but are treated with and sometimes submerged within layers of electronic dirges and music box tinkling. All very interesting indeed and, if you go through the right doorway, it’s very agreeable. The magical dreamscape can sporadically turn a bit anxious as occasionally indulgent plink-plonk can jar the nerves just a wee bit and which suggests that After the Dancing may, at least for the uninitiated, turn out to be a more acquired listen than the other two offerings here. However patience and perseverance will out, as they say, and there is more than enough in the Matricarians armoury to thrill the more curious and exploratory among you not to mention Alan’s staunchly loyal fan base which will lap this up like dehydrated cats in a creamery. Over 18 tracks there are too many works of note to go into excruciating detail about but particularly honourable mention go to instrumental “Snow Melts the Ericht”, the deceptively playful sounding “Things the Waves Would Bring” (about a shipwreck) and a lengthy and gorgeous live rendition of “Flies”, featuring theremin player and thumb pianist and the opening verse of Sonic Youth’s “Disconnection Notice”, which somehow fits like a glove. How’s that for eclecticism? And I’ve not even mentioned the cosmic version of “Miss Polly Had a Dolly” (CBeebies, step to this). So that’s what happened to Dik Mik’s audio generator, then...

So, then, to the third of our Davison releases, that of Venus on a Buckie (which I think may be a reference to an item of jewellery and not a goddess in thrall of the corrosive charms of Buckfast Tonic) and the intriguingly named Drone Trio. Now you’d have thought Simon would have kept this for himself, but I, for one, am glad he didn’t for if push came to shove I’d have to say this was the best of the lot. Flanked by Mike Blair and Richard Milne, this is about the most exquisite KC set imaginable. I don’t profess to have encyclopaedic knowledge of Davison’s zillion or so album releases but from what I have heard this is the one that does it for me. Spacey, wraith-like like ballads and instrumentals are packed with more atmosphere than most planets of the solar system (that we know of) as exemplified by the likes of “Gossip John” “On The Happy Bus”, with its infectious guitar run and the bewitching title track (both studio and live versions) on which spectral backing coils its way around Davison’s Aberdonian phrasings. By thunder even the Theremin, a curious beast and one which in – or rather near – the wrong hands can sound no more musically convincing than a stylophone or one or other of the Clangers with a respiratory illness, seems to complement nay enhance the ambience on occasion.

A peerless collection of songs, field recording and found sounds this is far more melodic and varied than the Drone ticket might suggest. But then as we good Terrascopeans know only too well, drone may (or may not) be synonymous with a certain repetition but need not equate to tedium -anything but, in fact, if this chip from the old muthalode is anything to go by.

The only metaphorical blot on a truly wondrous Woolf Music weekend in August 2013 was Davison’s absence. Can we hope for a next time? Until then long may the cottage industry thrive and prosper. (Ian Fraser)



(CD/DL from http://bit.ly/1pIANco )
(LP/CD from www.gethip.com)
(LP/CD/DL from http://bit.ly/Ybs1bE )

I guess to the average person any definition of Psychedelia would be rooted in the sixties forever linked with dancing hippies, lava lamps and interesting smoking choices, the music mixing swirling organ and effected guitars singing songs that mix melody with a sudden urge to take off into space. Indeed this is probably the first Psych most people heard and loved, even if you are actually too young to have been there at the time, so the music is tinged with nostalgia and a rose-tinted view of events. However, there have always been bands that have strived to keep the sound alive, carrying the sacred torch to new generations, using the original blueprint to create new and equally impressive variations on a much loved theme.

    Three Dimensional Tanx are a new name for me, hailing from Lancaster UK, and proving themselves well versed in the mysteries of Psychedelia, the music ranging from short catchy pieces to longer and much spacier affairs, all of it played with energy and style. Opening track, “I Am Go” brings to mind the groovy party scene in that sixties youth movie in your mind, all farfisa organ, wah guitar and a driving beat a great and energetic start, especially as it is followed by a cloud of Eastern percussion and drone that finally turns into the mellow groove of “Caterpillar”, a slow moving haze of spacey Psych that is hypnotic and very relaxing. On the excellently named “Loose Id Syd” , the energy returns, another groovy slice of freakbeat happiness, that mood also to be found on “Here Come The Flies” although this is a more Lysergic take on the subject and strongly reminds of UK festival band Webcore, for some reason. Incorporating some of that lazy stoned groove beloved of the Madchester scene, “Hermaphrodite's Child” gets your head nodding, whilst “King Of The Country” has a heavier feel reminding me of Badgeman, the song having plenty of attitude hidden amongst its grooves. Weirder still is “Backwards Telescope”, some strange effects giving way to a tune that seems to be on the edge of a major freakout throughout, the song the perfect introduction to “Clark's Momentum”, an eight minute piece that finally lets the band stretch out, hints of Can and Floyd to be found, the music swirling like smoke across the room, the tune slowly building as it moves onwards maintaining the tension in the same way that Spacemen Three managed before finally dissolving on a planet far from home.

    As debut albums go this one is a corker, well worth a listen and I bet they sound amazing live.

    Bipolaroid have been out there for many years now, their Syd influenced brand of Psychedelia always worth investigating, something that has not changed on this latest collection, although the songs are lessons in minimalist psych, 16 songs with most being under two and a half minutes in length.

   As the album starts with the excellent “Get Off My Fence” it is good to now that all the classic Bipolaroid trademarks are in place, the distinctive vocals of main man Ben Glover, that jangly guitar and just enough effects to give the tune a lysergic coating without becoming overloaded and losing the melody. On “Tonight We Paint the Town Our Favourite Colour” the Syd influence shines clear and this is no bad thing seemingly a natural thing rather than a cynical move, the song an early highlight that would sit happily on any sixties psych compilation. In fact, this is an extremely strong selection of tunes, maybe the addition of drummer King Louie Bankston has added some extra zip and added fresh enthusiasm, with both “Where's the Spring” and “Love You Not” benefiting from an excellent rhythm section that propels the songs along with glee. At 28 seconds, “Mark Twang” is gone before you realise it is there, a brief flurry of drums bridging the gap between it and the much longer, by comparison, “Efflorescent Adolescent” another excellent tune with plenty of groove and a fine ending. Further on in the band catch a bus to garageland with the mighty fine Psychedelic fuzz of  “Ave, Quixote”, three minutes of perfection in sound that almost falls apart in the middle but hangs on in there for a rousing finale.

   With a nod to the festive season, “Merry Xmas” could become your favourite festive tune, sounding not unlike The Stones around 1968, with suitably cynical lyrics and an excellent arrangement. To end the album, “Wolfmother” has a catchy sing-along bit and lyrics that are more gruesome than the catchy tune suggest making you smile and then suddenly ending without any warning. I really like Bipolaroid and this could be their finest moment, a collection without a weak point that never gets dull or repetitive.

  To round of this Psych trio, The Red Plastic Buddha delight and suprise on their latest disc, a collection that continues their trademark swirling guitar led Psych, with plenty of melody, great lyrics and a definite identity of their own. Take for instance “She's An Alien”, a track that sounds like a cross between The Church and The Electric Prunes with plenty of excellent guitar work and lyrics worth listening to. On “Little White Pills” there is a Door-ish air to the opening keyboard flourishes, whilst the riff nods to Joy Division, although the song moves in a different direction to that bands work. After two noisy opening tracks, “Being Human” is a slower acoustic number with a whispering flute floating in the background, the whole piece having an air of quiet desperation, a kinda cosmic sadness adding to the beauty of the song.

  Taking us back to a more classic Psych sound, “Go” is one of the albums strongest songs taking us back to those carefree sixties summer days, a barefoot tune that likes to feel the wind in its hair especially during its rousing chorus. Adding some strangeness to the mix “Staring Into The Void” is a sound collage/drone that serves as a great introduction to a lovely cover of  “A House Is Not A Motel” which keeps the feel of the original and is highly enjoyable.

  Another highlight is the heavy lysergic groove of “Trip Inside This House” complete with a groovy organ solo and guitar bliss thrown it. Taking us out on a limb again “Jupiter Gas” is another droning soundscape that suddenly explodes into the garage pop of “Cosmonaut” a tune bursting with energy that needs plenty of volume and may induce dancing. To end the album “Stuck On Zero” returns to that classic sound writhing guitar lines snaking through the track as they sing of returning from the dead, the lyrics having a vein of humour running through them, the song and the album ending with a crashing chord that seems the perfect way to finish an excellent album.

   So, Psychedelia is alive and well in its traditional form, not only that it remains a creative and vibrant musical force that continues to grow continually re-inventing itself in a blaze of paisley glory, turn on tune in and have a good time. (Simon Lewis)



(CD/DD/LP from Thrill Jockey www.thrilljockey.com)

Unsurprisingly given the title this is the band’s 10th album, on which Phil Manley, Nathan Means and Sebastian Thomson serve up an eclectic helping of industrial noise, doom metal, speed metal and electro-pop. It’s a curious mess to be sure and one which tends to work better the heavier the sound and least well on some of the funny techno pieces, the best of which nudge into Kraftwerk territory but lack the gravitas of the more ominous and meaty cuts. “Anthropocene” is the opening gambit, half a minute or so of delicious ambient synths before fuzzed out guitar riffs and pounding drums kick in, while the short, sharp, thrash of “Backlash” (Slayer take note) and the sinister “Megastorm” are also representative of the denser-sounding material. By contrast “Insufficiently Breathless” – ironically enough - provides a gentle breath of fresh air and a placid landing. Probably their best in some time but a bit hot and cold all the same. Check out Phil Manley’s “Life Coach” album from a couple of years back which exemplifies the band’s more ambient credentials and is a more consistent listen. (Ian Fraser)



(Wisdom Twins Records wisdomtwinsbooks)

Incredibly this is the fifth album in two years from Chris Wade’s project named after the fictional lawyers in Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. Even more remarkable is that despite the prolific rate of new material the quality suffers not one jot. If anything Wade’s songcraft is becoming stronger and more mature. Another notable feature of D and F releases is the choice of collaborators and After The Fall is no exception. In addition to more established guests such as alt-folk sirens Celia Humphris and Allison O’Donnell – both of whom lend sympathetic if somewhat understated vocal assistance – Wade has secured the services of Dylan’s “witchy woman” Scarlet Rivera on the jaunty opener “You’re An Ireland” (imagine Nick Drake arranged and sung by George Harrison).

Dodson and Fogg’ music is the sound of summer, light and melodic without ever remotely sounding twee. That’s not say it can’t bite when the mood takes, for example on “Lord Away” where an Electric Warrior chug morphs into Sabbath- style jig out (think Children of the Grave for instance). Even here Wade contrives to make it all sound quite laid-back almost pastoral. Partly this is due to his vocal delivery which tends towards the languid. Musically there’s nothing bloated or wasteful about this at all. Wade’s Latin inflected guitar breaks are crisp and compact, occasionally enhanced by some fluid sitar playing by Ricky Romain. It’s all good, then, but check out in particular “Here in the Night”, “Bring Me Back”, “Must Be Going Crazy” and the title cut, gentle creatures all, full of warmth and organic craftsmanship and perfectly illustrative or what is a delight from beginning to end. (Ian Fraser)



CIRCULATORY SYSTEM – MOSAICS WITHIN MOSAICS (CD / Vinyl / Download from Cloud Recordings

How they must have been punching the air at Terrascope Towers when this one came through [still are, actually! - P.]. Elephant Six Collective, Olivia Tremors Control and Jeff Mangum associate W Cullen Hart returns with another generous helping of anglophile psychedelic pop and experimentation aided and abetted by ex-Olivia Derek Almstead and sundry other long standing collaborators including the aforementioned Mr Mangum, who whacks skins and plays something called woolensack balloon on a couple of tracks. 31 compositions over what, on vinyl, is a double album – some tracks are so short as to be little more than vignettes or tantalising snapshots – means that it is similar in concept to OTC’s classic Dusk at Cubist Castle while a more recent touchpoint might be Broadcast’s collaboration with the Focus Group a few years back (although Mosaic is more melodic and less of a sound collage).

From the fairground oompah of opener “Physical Mirage/Visible Magic” this is a contemporary cross between Revolver era Beatles and Pretty Things in SF Sorrow guise with some exquisite electronics and smoky woodland notes thrown in for very good measure, often courtesy of some gorgeous wordless passages, particularly “Acoustic Other” and “Air Organ Instrumental” (alternatively known as “Mosaic 1” and “Mosaic 5” respectively). Hart’s vocals have a fragility and charm that lend perfectly to the artfully crafted pop/psych numbers, such as the Fab-esque “If You Think About It Now” and “Neon Light”, one of several of cuts featuring John Fernandes, whose violin and woodwind peppers the album to fine effect. “It’s Love” introduces Heather McIntosh’s cello which provides an organic underscore to yet another beautiful piece of writing and Hart’s wispy delivery, while the likes of “Tiny Planes on Canvas” and “When You’re Small” demonstrate perfectly the almost effortless way in which the Circs seem to be able to toss out retro-psych classics as if shelling peas.

Aurally this is like being let loose on the dressing up box and is an experience which ought to provide endless stimulation for the imagination. It would be interesting to see Hart and co adopt a more conventional approach to form and composition, with fewer but longer cuts and see how they measure up. However that might detract from the almost magical appeal of Circulatory System, which would be no good at all. As you were, then.

(Ian Fraser)



(CD from http://bit.ly/1r9K797 )

Always treading their own path Stone Breath is a spiritual journey not only for founder member Timothy Renner and those musicians that travel with him but also for those who listen, the music and lyrics painting their own pictures opening doors and revealing paths once hidden.

   On this collection, the music is split into two parts, six brand new songs featuring just Timothy and Prydwyn, a duo that is an integral part of Stone breath, and a collection of earlier songs, some of which have appeared on other releases, that feature other musicians that have worked within the Stone breath circle.

    As a huge fan of the band it would have been difficult for me not to have liked this collection but the brightness and vitality of the new songs still left me surprised, the six new tunes humming with life.

  Opening with a salvo of sweet notes “The Dead Keep This” sets the scene, a hymn to the memories of the dead and the secrets they now know, the two voices joining together to weave a deep magic over the listener, flutes and stringed instruments creating musical alchemy as they intertwine. Charting a personal journey, “the Winding Way” talks of the individual path, following the hum mentioned in the title of the album and the sleeve notes, that mystical calling that we all hear in different ways.

  Featuring some great playing and a delicious atmosphere, “Always All One, All Ways Alone” is an album highlight, the track that seems to best convey the spirit of the collection although the following track “Brother Blood Sister Moon” comes close to achieving the same task, Hell, each of the first six tracks is magnificent, a cohesive half dozen that is amongst the finest moments of the band's career. To end the first half of the collection the short beauty of “At The Well”offers a cleansing to refresh us  before we tackle the bonus material.

    To begin there is a trio of short songs from the bands later period with droning strings and a nod to Donovan to be found in “Song to the Folding Leaves”, whilst “Just Like A River” offers comfort and nourishment amidst a delightful melody and arrangement and “Starlight Sight” is a vision song of great beauty that reminds me of the music of Crow Tongue.

  Stretching to eight and a half minutes “The Famous Flower of Serving Men” is a traditional tune given the Stone Breath treatment, rattling banjos and whispered melodies creating the perfect foil for the lyrics, traditional yet timeless folk music that bears repeated listens. Even longer “Love In The Devil's Tongue” allows the musicians to really shine, the complex playing and elegant feel given even more shine by the vocals of Sarada, the whole tune a definite high spot. To end, “Dark Veils Part” first appeared on the “For Lee In Space” (http://bit.ly/1wpQrt4 ) compilation and is a fitting way to end a mesmerising collection that no fan of Stone breath (or great music) should miss out on. (Simon Lewis)



(CD from http://bit.ly/1p1z1xX )

As well as being a solo artist Crystal Jacqueline is a member of The Honey Pot, providing vocals and keyboards for that outfit.. This her first solo album was released in October 2013 by Mega Dodo. The production and orchestration on the recording are provided by her partner and fellow Honey Pot member, Icarus Peel.

The album is available in either yellow vinyl in a gatefold sleeve or as a CD, both having the same wonderful psychedelic artwork on the cover. The music on the album consists of short folky, psychedelic pop tracks with elements of prog.

The album starts with 'Sun Arise' which introduces us to the powerful vocals of Crystal, to which is added a riff reminiscent of spirit in the sky, this passing resemblance is quickly swept away as the track builds and develops; 'A Fairy Tale' is a cover of the 1969 track by Second Hand; 'Play With Fire' by the Rolling stones eases down the tempo of the album with a moodier sound; this tempo is continued with the rather excellent 'Dream I'; and further enhanced by 'Who Do You Love?', whilst 'Alice' brings the psychedelic back to the fore, Lewis Carroll would be proud. Crystal's vocals are used superbly in the powerfully minimalist cover of the Troggs 'Cousin Jane'; 'Fly A Kite' is a deeply enjoyable track that takes the listener back to the psyche side of things; 'By The Way' uses acoustic instrumentation, giving the song a rather folk feel to it; as does the next track 'I Break'. Next up is 'Light Is Love' raising the tempo and plunging the listener straight back into the psychedelic; taking us nicely to the album's final track a cover of Gordon Lightfoot's gentle pop song 'Sundown'.

All in all this is a superb album with a range of styles that shows us how good both Crystal's vocals  and her musical versatility are. (Steve Judd)



(CD from http://www.alien8.co.uk/)

Xoo have been very quiet on the release front, so it is with some heightened level of anticipation that I approach their first release since 2009. And what an interesting release it is, Xoo unashamedly flag it up as a concept album, a brave move in a time when concept album is a term used by some with a level of scorn.

This is a download only release including some nice artwork, so there is little to say about the packaging, so let's get straight to the music. The first track 'Spirit of Opportunity' gives an insight into what we have in store musically with some wonderful percussion and synth, along with landing dialogue; 'ReGenesis' tells us about the plans to landscape the planet, whilst next track gives the 'Sales Pitch' from Novascape developers. Next up 'Docking Control' is the pre fight check before the music really kicks in for the powerful and rocky 'Space Trucker's Lament'. Following the delightful mellowness of “Lost”,  the pace is pushed up a few notches by ”Frozen!” before “Adepts of North Polar Mars” chils us back out being  a beautifully atmospheric ambient track, the mood again changed by the Hawkind sounding “Blues for a Red Planet”. As the trip continues, “A Word from the Martian Tourist Board” tells us to have a nice red day; “Des(s)ert of Glass” is an excellent atmospheric interlude  whilst the peace is shattered by the announcement from the '”Cafe Elysium”.  As we reach the finale the news is not good on “Radio Free Mars”; but at least the republic has a decent anthem in the '”Battle Hymn of the New Martian Republic”, Finally there is nothing left to do other than declare a “State of Emergency”.

This is a deeply enjoyable space rock album; at times mellow and chilled, at others heavy and rocky, all shot through with snippets of humour. Comparisons to Hawkwind are inevitable but this is no imitation, Xoo stand in their own right and show themselves to be able to put together a damn fine album. 

The concept album is alive and well and living on Mars. (Steve Judd)



(CD from http://www.mychoonz.co.uk/ )

Nukli are likely to be very familiar to regulars of the free festival and Club dog scene. Starting out as Psi in 1980, evolving in to Psi nukli and eventually becoming Nukli  before taking time out in the nineties to work on Hex Projekta before reforming and hitting the festival scene again as Nukli.

The current line up is Peter Out (drums and samples), Kev Hegan (lead guitar, Keyboards and vocals) and Mark Huxley (Bass). Each of these band members are extremely talented musicians in their own right, frequently standing in for other musicians or joining bands for impromptu jamming sessions. Together they are a force to be reckoned with, creating a tight, controlled and at the same time wild soaring sound, they seem to take up and build on what each other are doing in an almost telepathic way.

The music is trippy, psychedelic, space rock with strong elements of jamming incorporated into the songs. The instruments are used to provide spectacular guitar work including glissando lead and bass guitar, in fact Mark Huxley is one of the few people that I have seen who can really do stunning Glissando work on a bass guitar. Peter's drumming is spot on, with every beat in exactly the right place.   

The album is a recording of their set at the Cosmic Puffin festival in 2013 and is typical of their live performances, the CD comes in a gatefold with a photo of the band.

After the introduction by Kosmik Ken, the music commences, with “Mind over matter” giving a good idea of what is to come, taut percussion, soaring guitars and superb vocals; this is followed by ; “Stabbin and rollin” a slightly more mellow instrumental track with excellent guitar work whilst “Fridge D'or” is a deep trippy slice of floating aural delight. Moving on, “There is another way” is an excellent piece of smooth laid back psychedelic musicianship with some superb glissando guitar, “Time machine” is another powerful track with some excellent guitar work that has the added bonus of some lively flute playing and brings us to the final track of the album “Live, life, love” which takes the listener on a twelve minute jazzy jam of soaring guitar work and magnificent percussion before plonking you, all too soon, back down to earth.  

This CD is a recording of an outstanding performance by a band well worth hearing. If you enjoy the music of Here and now, Magic mushroom band, Ozrics, Webcore, Mandragora or Oroonies there is a high likelihood that you will get a great deal of pleasure from this album. (Steve Judd)



(CD from http://bit.ly/1pjBwLh)

For the last 20 years The Frank Flight Band have lived their lives in the spirit of the sixties counter-culture, facing audience indifference music biz hassle, sacked members, alcohol abuse and all manner of adventures both good and bad. During this time they have managed to record three albums and completely slip under most peoples radar, including mine, until a copy of their third album fell through the door.  As you might expect the music is rooted in the sixties with an educated guess placing somewhere between 1968 and 1971, that period where whimsy gave way to something harder and at times more cynical, songs getting longer and genres being pushed aside in favour of experimentation. On “The Ballad Of Alice Grey”, the albums opening cut, there is a definite hint of  The Greatest Show on Earth or Family, the track having plenty of melody, changes and an excellent guitar solo sounding like something from the Harvest label. With a great guitar riff and a jaunty rhythm, “Dark Waters” continues the Harvest vibe, another tune with plenty of variation and great playing, the whole band locked into the groove, the distinctive vocals of Andy Wrigley giving the band an identity of their own.

   Containing just seven songs ranging in length from five to twenty minutes, there is plenty of room within the grooves for the band to stretch out, the songs allowed to grow and evolve without hurry, the dynamics changing as they progress, each one giving a final flourish by the excellent guitar work of Frank Flight himself, although every member of the band adds something to the tunes.

    Adding a West-Coast feel to proceedings the title track flows like a river on a sunny day, a mellow groove that really works the guitar work again adding sparkle as the band lock into a lazy riff for a strange spoken word section that forces you to listen.

   Offering plenty of variety throughout he band still manage to maintain a unified feel to this album with the Floydian “Sinaloa” showing the gentler side to the band, whilst the final track “Cat” is an epic slice of Prog/Psych/Rock that ebbs and flows magnificently highlighting all that is good about the band, great playing, variation, melody and excellent for the ears. You can listen to this album on soundcloud so check them out and transport yourself back in time, it is worth the journey. (Simon Lewis)