= September 2016 =  
The Amazing
Quietened Bunker comp.
Blue Lily Commission
Cheese Finger Brown
Paul Martin
Octopus Syng
the Gotobeds

(LP from Partisan Records)

For some time now, I've been thinking that Sweden's The Amazing can do no wrong. Their latest offering, 2016's Ambulance, serves to throw another long onto that fire. It kicks off the title track with a lone, ominous bass note from bass player Alexis Benson, paired with very solid drumming, a weaving yet subtle guitar line, followed by a lovely piano melody and then the beautiful soaring yet restrained vocals of band leader Christoffer Gunrup begin and by then you know that you've started a wonderful journey. Halfway through the track I'm hearing some nice mellotron, which adds yet another dimension to this already complex sound. The track concludes in under four and a half minutes (relatively short for this band) and whether it was intentional or not, it cleverly pulls you in with a fantastic opening track, leaving you wanting more.

"Divide" brings no disappointment to the table, sounding very different from the title track, yet maintaining that distinctive and much-loved "sound" that truly is unique to this band. Reine Fiske's always excellent playing seems a bit understated here - and that's truly meant as a compliment. Those familiar with the man know of his ability to set the fretboard on fire. He seems to be delivering some great leads here while almost holding back, not unlike a painter drawing a perfectly straight line free-hand.

The big surprise for me is "Blair Drager", which sounds nothing like anything else that I've ever heard from The Amazing. When I first heard it, I almost thought it was starting off with a drum machine - but no, that is just the band's jazz drummer Moussa Fadera keeping time better than a Swiss watch. A truly mysterious track, filled with huge, reverb swells of guitar reminiscent of an Angelo Badalamenti score. Indeed, I can so easily picture this track fitting in perfectly as the soundtrack to a David Lynch film. This is one of the many great things about this band: once you think you have them all figured out, their creativity steps in and places the listener firmly in check.

"Tracks" begins with a slower pace, and the interweaving guitars build off one another as the song gains momentum and would have even worked nicely as an instrumental piece, but it is made all the better by Gunrup's sweet, hushed vocals. I don't know if it is pure coincidence, deliberately intentional, or perhaps a subconscious effort, but this collection of tracks just seems to be paced and ordered as though it were tailor-made for good ole vinyl. Eight tracks total; four on each side, and "Tracks" seems like a perfect way to close out side one, a little bit shy of seven minutes, but never too long - it slowly builds into a subtle intensity which really shows just how well these five band members manage to integrate so well do deliver such a unique sound.

Continuing with my vinyl theory, "Floating" launches side two, almost like the sun rising on a new day. There's a certain sadness in Gunrup's voice that is outlined with optimism. There are some lovely swirling keyboards in the background here, along with breezy harmony vocals, all punctuated by some fine guitar playing. This is a fine example of one of the things that The Amazing do so well: some really complex songs are so often well-disguised at first listen. Indeed, I've found that the secret to really enjoying this record is quite simple: repeated listens. It carries that dead giveaway hallmark which is true of so many exceptional records: it gets better with each listen.

The longest track on the LP, "Through City Lights" is another slow burner, and as integral as the electric guitar playing is to the band's sound, it would be a mistake not to mention the role that the acoustic playing contributes to the dense texture within. If I'm not mistaken, it is typically Fredrik Swahn who typically contributes the acoustic guitar pieces (as well as keyboards).

Speaking of acoustic playing, "Moments Like These" seamlessly blends some very impressive classical guitar playing. Unless there are overdubs, which I highly doubt, I believe that I am hearing all three guitarists here: Fiske, Gunrup, and Swahn each display their skill. Each of the five members in this band are truly talented, but what really impresses me is how well they play together.

The record closes with "Perfect Day For Shrimp", which practically wins me over with the title alone, but we are again treated to some fine acoustic guitar. I cannot always quite make out all of Gunrup's lyrics and I, for one, am just as glad that there is no lyric sheet enclosed; there is a charming element of mystery in not knowing everything that he is singing, though "seems to glimmer, seems to shine" really is a perfect written companion for the music here. At the risk of perhaps revealing a spoiler, this track seems to conclude just so naturally and beautifully, but right as it appears to be fading out, we are greeted with a surprise second movement containing yet more pleasant acoustic playing crowned with layered vocals.

For my money, this is one of the best releases of 2016 -- which is impressive, as there are indeed many strong contenders. (seconded! - Phil)

More info: http://www.theamazing.se/

(Kent Whirlow)



CD from A Year in the Country

The fourth in the “Audiological Transmissions series this compilation takes as its inspiration the cold war instillations that are scattered around the country, once seen as shelters for the privileged, now just silent and empty.

    Opening with a Tangerine Dream like pulse and the ticking of a clock, “Lower Level Clock Room” is a wonderful slice of electronics deftly handled by Keith Seatman, the music writhing across the room with plenty of vitality and a slightly sinister feel. Equally atmospheric the drifting drones of “Drakelow Tunnels” is music for ghosts. Created by Grey Frequency the track is stark and beautiful, you can almost see the figures that endlessly walk the abandoned corridors, lost souls frozen in time.

   From here on in the music oscillates between these two styles, with the melodic drones of “The Filters Gone/The Last Man Plays The last Piano” revealing a perfect sense of balance from A Year In The Country, whilst “Aggregates II” by Panabrite clicks and rattles like some kind of Ambient Dance for the dead.

    Over the course of the album, the sounds blend beautifully together,  each seemingly tied to the next by a sense of loneliness and abandonment, creating a very melancholic collection that is very engaging with every artist playing their part in the mystery. To end it all, David Colohan takes the listener on a magical ride as “Waiting for the Blazing Sky” unfolds around you, a soft melodic slice of electronics that seems to float without form or purpose, summing up the cold war relics that inspired this excellent compilation. (Simon Lewis)


(Download from Bandcamp)

Constantly creating music, Steve Palmer is back again, this time under the Blue Lily Commission moniker, with this album containing a whole host of ethnic instruments to confuse the ears. With the album, written, played, produced, recorded and mastered by Steve, this is truly a solo album and one that sparkles with a unique charm, each piece flowing into the next creating a collection that washes beautifully over you, taking on a relaxing journey into your imagination.

   Opening with droning horns/pipes/flutes, “Orphic” is a sweetly pastoral introduction, slowing down time before the lengthier “Orchestral Stones” introduces some percussion and stringed instruments, sounding like a lost track by early Vangelis, particularly his “Earth” album.

    Clocking in at over eleven minutes, “Snow” has plenty of room for expansion, the track building from glacial splendour into a fast running beast, with a frenetic rhythm  and more exotic stringed instruments, a highly charged piece of instrumental psych that has plenty  to explore. With the feel of an ancient ritual, “Phoenicia” conjures up visions of fire dances and feasting, whilst “Otherwordly” is a slow moving track that heralds in the morning sun, quite possibly as it rises over a blue ocean.

   To end the album, “Phon” is another swirl with mystical intent, a delightful drone that includes the sound of a Hulusi (a free reed wind instrument from China. It is held vertically and has three bamboo pipes which pass through a gourd wind chest; the center pipe has finger holes and the outer two are typically drone pipes ),  recorded in Bryn Celi Ddu, an ancient burial mound, the track sounding as old as the hills around it. (Simon Lewis)



Humu Records, Humu 006

I first met Cheese Finger Brown around the burgeoning underground music scene of Kuopio, Finland in ’02. I remember hiking through deep snow with him to see Pentti Dassum’s band, Deep Turtle who’d done a Peel Session in ’94, at a place where the local rockabillies often hung out to drink and fight. Sat on tractor seat stools incorporating a huge shiny stopper between your legs like a chrome pair of budgie smugglers... and although fists started to fly that night, we enjoyed one of that great bands’ last ever gigs. CFB’s Polished Nob Productions was subsequently born and eventually Who That in The Kitchen in ’09 – a set of home-recordings few got to hear.

Now his record has been ‘officially’ released – with additions and subtractions from the original album – CFB finds himself teamed up with Pentti Dassum whose experience as a producer with many of Finland’s alt/underground artists ranges from punk through sonic jazz to noise and god-knows–what else. If that guy’s one of the producers (along with Sampsa Väätäinen) you’re in good hands... and if all P.D. does to the masters is to fettle around with the levels a bit, you know you’ve got a good record in the first place.

Low-Down People, with excellent graphics by Brown himself, sometime influenced by Viz and Gorillaz; illustrations of the man and his imaginary crack band of busted-out musicians, is Basement Tapes in feel and approach. There’s the noise of now, crackling jack-plugs, chair-leg percussion – his kid Emile singing along and a host of sounds you can’t quite trace – all in there as part of the atmosphere of the record and the place it was recorded. Often sinister and brooding, it remains self-aware and full of a dark to nicotine-brown humour...

"I can't play in a band because I hate performing with shit in my pants, so I play all the instruments myself, entertaining the couch after midnight. I usually hate the solo-instrumentalist records and would have rather recorded with a drummer and bass player... I never have to make compromises, though. No rehearsals. Don't have to play somebody else's idea for a song over and over until it works - or sucks! I just bin it if it doesn't work from the get-go. When I think I can play on it I press record. Most important is I always use first take if possible, even if there are some mistakes on it or it's not good on the tape, the feeling in that first take is always best. Also the fact I play some instruments really badly - like fiddle, percussion and bass for example - it gives it that Brownie feel."

Music-wise you could say it’s Hooker or Burnside on pot. Okay. But CFB’s his own man and what he’s singing about is what’s happening in the Browniverse – in all our lives, more or less. It’s raw, brittle, apprehensive yet strongly alone – and often hilarious. Nashville Funk? You Know It You Bought It is sometimes a fave. Other times it’s Old Hash Brown or Doctor Jesus, but all of it remains with me as a convincing artistic statement in the tradition of the maverick. It’s a tribute to Jaakko Ryynänen at Humu Records for being the first guy to finally get this great stuff out there.

Know it, buy it... it’s Brown.

(Jack Ohms)



CD/LP from Guerssen )

What we have here are two obscure gems that have either only ever seen bootleg releases, in the case of Crystalauger, or in the case of Paul Martin only ever been released as a limited press 30 years after being recorded.

    Featuring four young Americans living in Singapore, “Terranaut”, recorded in 1975,  is a ramshackle joy of an album mixing Garage Psych and some Prog/Space flourishes with an almost DIY new wave feel, melody blended with stranger passages, piano and some heavy guitar moments. Take, for instance, the title track that begins with some delicate piano work and some Steve Harley like vocals, then introduces some proto seventies heavy guitar, the track building beautifully and containing a naïve charm that makes it extremely appealing. With a simple bass line and griff, “Cosmic Journey” has some suitably rough and ready guitar work as well as a drum passage that borders on shambolic but survives the test and ends at the right time.

    Throughout the album there is a mellow groove, the band obviously enjoying themselves something very apparent on the psychedelic beginning of “You've Got To Rap” and the funky vibe of “Uppachit Creek”. Elsewhere, “Pam's Song” has a hazy beauty about it, whilst the suitably named “Goodbye” with a subtle piano flourish, the perfect antidote for the much heavier “Number 4” that preceded it reminding me of Stray with its blend of heavy guitar and sweet melody. 

    Not at all polished ot technical, this is an album that is easy to enjoy, the whole thing overflowing with a joy in the music being played.

    Originally recorded in 1966-'67, “It Happened” combines tracks from two singles, demos and acetates that Paul Martin produced in that period. Opening with his first single and title track, the song reveals itself to be a fine piece of sixties Psych-Pop with jangly guitar, strong vocals and a great production begging the question why was it not a hit at least regionally. Sounding equally as good as bands such as The Standells, Chocolate Watch Band, etc, both “It's a Long Time 'Til the End” and “Echo” are excellent tunes with the latter having a gloriously fuzzed up guitar riff that would grace any Rubbles style compilation.

     As we move on the tunes show plenty of variation, taking in Baroque Pop, some Folk influences, Garage and Psych, the whole collection sounding fresh and alive, with “You Don't Seem To Understand” sounding like the Monkees, “What Good Is Your Love” adding some strings and stumbling into sixties Pop acts such as The Walker Brothers, whilst “You Were There” has a primitive garage surf feel to it, a moody number that catches the ear.

    Rounding of this impressive collection, “The Fairy Princess” is a dreamy cloud of gentle Psychedelia that sounds like it was recorded by a UK group, whilst the previously unreleased “Children” moves back to sixties Pop with horns included, the lyrics revealing a protest song coated in sugar.

    Over 18 tracks Paul Martin is revealed as a fine songwriter who should have gone further, maybe the variation found in these tunes was his downfall, but it makes for one hell of a romp through the sixties, almost essential. (simon Lewis)



LP from Mega-Dodo
Here's some more brain-food from the Mega Dodo label, with psych-scenesters Octopus Syng and their penchant for psychedelic and sixties influences, all merged, moulded and massed in their own inimitable way…

    On the new album "Hollow Ghost/Rochelle Salt" the trip opens with a soundscape of floaty, then balearic proportions, as Spanish guitars vie with reverbed ambience in 'Carbon Dust And Latin Romances 1927'… after which it's the first song proper, 'Woman,' which opens in vaguely '68 style, as relaxed vocals float over the gorgeous backing; and the chorus has a tune, which is always a good thing.

     'Echoes From Past Centuries' sounds as though it was channelled from the American west coast some time in '66 or '67, beautifully done it has to be said, albeit less of a tune than the preceding cut. Some superb Hammond-stroking however. 'Surrealistic Room' echoes West Coast '67 in track title, vibe and sound, but this is an album highlight I think, with a niggling melody and some super massed guitar work, not to mention great backing vocals. I must admit, I did think of very early Porcupine Tree with this one…

    'Lady Florette' slows things down a little, but the reverb is still deep and the tambourines still clink, and there's some nice Piper tape effects roiling in the background. 'Melancholy Of Delight' opens with a great organ sound and some downward leading chords, before a suitably sorrowful vocal hoves into earshot. Another album highlight this; beautifully put together, and most evocative of "Saucerful Of Secrets." 'Belle And Ville' is probably my favourite track on the album: a strong tune, crazy lyrics and a woozy backing that bends around the vocal in a most psychedelic way…

    'Unknown Actress' returns the listener to the garage sound, with a fast tempo and thunking drums, with the organ again a vital part of the instrumentation. An instrumental middle section brings in female vocals to great effect. 'Today's Portrait' is slow and strange, while 'Walking In The Pale Light' is more of a jaunt through heavily reverbed sonic textures, with a vocal that tip-toes around the gloomy drums and funereal organ. Album closer 'Reverberating Garden Number 7' is trippy and medium slow, with Syd's guitar glissing away in the background; an anthemic chorus riff closes the piece to great effect.

    Good music then from a '60s-leaning band; there are good songs, and the whole album is really well produced. Certainly one to consider for retro-lovers. (Steve Palmer)




One doesn’t have to drink too much, when listening to The Gotobeds, but it helps. The band sounds like there’s a party next door, and although you’re invited, you decided to ‘go to bed’ instead. Forget it! You either have to join the party or phone the police. I’d join the party.
  Sounding more like a drunker Clash, (if that’s possible), these post punkers from Pittsburgh seem to raid the liqueur cabinet of your mind, with tunes of, well…blood, sugar, secs (?) and traffic, I guess.
  That’s not to suggest that the Gotobeds, (their sophomore lp here for the first time on the legendary Sub Pop label), don’t have anything to say. To the contrary. From the opening cut of “Too Math Too Much”, the band rails against today’s insipid popular music. “Commercial bands, make songs for commercial use, phony fuckers and their fucking bands”. Tough words, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s about time that a band stepped up and said something about the flaccid state of pop music, these days. And later, addressing the issue of sexism in the media, the band screams, “Fuck Rolling Stone, that trash rag that supports a predator like R. Kelly, when did indie culture accept that shit? It must’ve been when we were downloading the new Taylor Swift.” Well said!
  The Gotobeds, alternately channelling The Replacements, Pavement, and maybe little bit of Gang of Four, play their songs with a vicious conviction uncommon to the popular airwaves these days. “Brash Not Rash” and “Bodies”, for instance are great double guitar feedback monsters not heard on the charts since, oh, maybe never! “Why’d You” is even better. Besides having a guitar hook that wouldn’t be out of place on a ‘Best of Replacements’ lp, it has the added dimension of a Robert Pollard-like tune…with a Sex Pistols kick! If people could actually choose what they’d like to listen to and the ‘Pop Charts’ weren’t run by big record company gangsters who choose the tunes for you, this would be a hit song.
  On the subject of music videos, check out their video of  “Cold Gold" when you have a chance. It’s a hilarious parody on the genre.  
  The other songs on the lp, from the frantic, “Manifest”, to the sublime and understated, “Red Alphabet” (do I detect a Troggs influence here?), are reflections of what the future of pop music could, and should be. Highly recommended! (Rick Skol)