"The Ice Cream Social" by Joe Treewater is a collection of twelve songs in singer-songwriter style, opening with the fragile and reflective title track, which evokes the experience of an annual carnival in the San Diego area. The tune is strong and the simple mix effective - a good opening. 'Take The Type A Train' is an upbeat cut using distorted vocals and a quirky mix to average effect, but 'Before During After' is better, with its Elton piano chords and harmonised vocals. 'Spring Cleaning' is similar in tone with a distinctly West Coast vibe and a hint of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, 'Hermanatica' is a Latin-infused track, while 'Monkey' is about evolution and religion, which mixed with a good tune makes for an album highlight. 'Detective' is a bit of a filler, but 'Keep Me Strong' with its waltztime beat and great instrumentation raises the game again, as does 'Birthday Boy,' which at less than two minutes is over too soon. The album closes with 'Goodbye Dragon,' also in 3/4 time, with quirky lyrics and a 'summer sunset' vibe - very nice. There are a couple of duds on this collection, but the rest of the songs are good, with some very good. A nice album indeed.
Lidwine on her EP "No Monkey" makes a Björkesque ambient collection, opening with the funereal 'The Coast,' where the similarity of Lidwine's voice to the Icelandic One is noticeable. 'Duet For Ghosts' adds a harp to the spooky mix, above which Lidwine's voice trips and soars. The atmosphere is one of eerie reflection, with nothing more than voice and harp in the mix, an atmosphere continued on 'Back & Forth' and the title track, before the simple keyboard returns and the harp vanishes on 'In The Half Light.' Intriguing songs and the 'less is more' arrangement make this a strong offering, although there is perhaps too much 'less' in the middle.
"It's Only Make Believe" by The Humans aims to channel the feel and soundscapes of the 'sixties, which the band does successfully and with some skill. Opening with the swirling, grooving 'Communication Overload' the band's stall is set: West Coast vocals, 'sixties instrumentation, warbling Hammond, hints of India. All good stuff, and the song is strong, which makes all the difference (pastiche and homage are not the same thing). 'Escape The Day' isn't so strong, but 'Dark Is Spring' is another goodie, with some nice keyboards lurking in the mix. This band have no drummer - percussion is provided by Indian hand drums and tambourine, which adds a really atmospheric vibe to the proceedings. 'It's All A Blur' is a homage to the Stone Roses in tune and tone, while 'Hypnotise' has a similarly Liverpudlia/Madchester thing going on. 'Timeless Melody' is a cover of a La's classic and more than hints at some of the back story of this band - a good cover version though. 'Home' and 'Green Eyed' are self-penned, before an interesting version of the Stone Roses' 'Elephant Stone,' which is another very good cover. The album concludes with 'Hit,' which unfortunately won't be, but which is a great ending to the album. It's tempting to think that this album was made to appeal to retro-heads and 'sixties types, but actually I don't think it was. There's a wider spread to the influences and an individual sound, rooted in the hand drums and the various keyboards used. A really intriguing album.
From NYC comes Lapland, aka Josh Mease, who on his self-titled album shows an assured grasp of songwriting, opening with two excellent cuts, 'Unwise' and 'Overboard,' which through uncluttered arrangements and subtle harmony vocals pack a powerful punch. Hints of 10cc and Pugwash abound on the next pair of tracks, which change the mood slightly, while on 'Memory' the heavily reverbed vocals and almost ambient underpinning evoke recent dream-pop albums from the States. 'Where Did It Go?' is another strong song returning to the Puwash/Duncan Maitland soundscape whilst retaining its own identity. 'Fountains' is a cute little instrumental in waltztime sounding like a half-dreamed holiday to Hawaiian climes, while 'Metal Lungs' and 'Soldier' have less than cute lyrical themes, with the latter a particularly strong cut. The album closes with 'La La La,' which is either clever or silly (I can't work out which). The mood and sound is fairly constant over this album, but with excellent songs and a running time of 36 minutes the work is just about right. Engaging and enjoyable, with much depth.
A twenty minute epic opens the new album from The Curator, whose "Sometime Soon" I liked in 2011, although it was a bit of a curate's egg (no pun intended). On the new album "Inside The Whale" the mood is similarly diverse and progressive, and the musicians are essentially the same as before, though this time producer and main man of the project Alistair Murphy has brought the Ely Sinfonia to the proceedings. Mood shifts and changes in instrumentation propel the piece forward, but lacking a melodic core and with not entirely satisfactory vocals the track is a bit too adventurous for its own good. The orchestral sections however are good, recalling the heyday of Renaissance. 'Snakes And Ladders' is one of four shorter tracks on "Side 2" (the album is imagined as a 'seventies vinyl record, amusingly and cleverly echoed in the booklet artwork) with some superb guitar playing; with Diana Hare's vocals this is a far better cut. 'The Warmth On My Pillow' is a short acoustic song with another beautiful instrumental arrangement. 'Courtiers' is easily the strongest song on the album, melodically and overall, while 'First One Home' concludes the album in reflective style, with more orchestration and wistful lyrics. Again, as with Murphy's first album, I find myself liking much about this work, not least its ambition, but struggling rather with the lack of tuneful focus and the sometimes awkward vocals. So, again, a curate's egg.
Next up from Glastonbury, Somerset, are Flipron, whose vocalist sounds like a cross between David Bowie and Chris Difford (in a good way - the man has vocal confidence). On the band's fourth album "Firework Shoes" they are aided by Damned legend Rat Scabies and also by Specials vocalist Neville Staples. The band aim for a 'psychedelic honky-tonk' sound, which certainly covers the territory inhabited by the opening trio of cuts. 'Big Fat Blackberries' however has more of the feel of a mid-'seventies pub sing-a-long - a successful one, for sure - while 'The King Of All Our Crimes' is a kind of music-hall noir piece with a terrific vocal and a classic chorus. It's the darkest dreams of The Kinks and Chas'N'Dave merged into one. 'The Comet Returns' features Neville Staples and harks back to those wonderful few years where 2 Tone could do no wrong - great cut, this one. 'Rose Petal Blues' piles foetid images upon one another in pop-noir style, while 'Low Life Seeking Elevation' has a great glam feel to it, and is an album highlight. The album closes with 'The Lost Mountain Lake,' which is another pub sing-a-long in classic Flipron style. The fans are going to love it, and oodles of radio play shouldn't be too far off.
Demons Of Ruby Mae on their "Heliacal EP" present a quartet of starkly emotive songs based around the soaring voice of their lead vocalist - either Jonny Gavin or Adam Rowley, the two musicians who, having done time with their previous band The Chairmen, decided to go it alone as a duo. With the addition of a drummer the new band was formed. The four songs here are stripped back and powerful, with some harmony vocals added, notably on the second track 'You Got It Wrong,' which for me is the EP highlight. 'Hope Is' follows the template of the first two cuts, while 'Volcanic Mouth' is uptempo and a little more positive musically. A strong offering.
"Now We Travel Broken," the second album by American folk-noir outfit The Minstrels, opens with a fantastic cut, 'Away From,' which mixes hypnotic vocals courtesy Lauren Bohrer, subtle instrumentation and simultaneously pounding and rippling drums and percussion to superb effect - a blinder of an opener. The title track is spookier and slower, with Jeff Curtin taking the vocals; another very strong song, with a hint of Mercury Rev-esque musical saw in the background. 'You Saw Me Going Under' is slower still and darker, and sounds like it would have a home with the bands on Little Red Rabbit Records. 'Christina' features guest bassist Robert Grenier, and the musical saw again, this time taking a lead role. 'Through The Silence' has dual vocals and some subtle synth, while 'A Gift' features an impassioned vocal, underpinned by near anthemic (yet restrained) instrumentation - an album highlight, this. 'Unpardonable' is a subtle waltztime ditty with some lovely accordion in the background, 'Keep Falling' retains the accordion but makes an attempt at finding romance, while 'Never Arrive' is Curtin, saw and an acoustic guitar. The album closes with an almost-instrumental, whose fingerpicked guitar and synth riff remain in the memory. A very good album indeed with much to recommended it, and never less than enjoyable.
On "Derring Do" by Dodson And Fogg a litany of folk tropes is expounded; and by a notable cast, including Chris Wade (the songwriter and main man of the combo), Celia Humphris (formerly of Trees), and even guest spots from Hawkwind flute and sax maestro Nik Turner and ex-Mellow Candle chanteuse Alison O'Donnell. The album proper begins after a charming little introduction with 'Flying High,' which marries a good tune with sparse instrumentation - lovely. 'The Leaves They Fall' is again fragile and acoustic, 'Can't Hold Me Down' ramps up the boogie and electric factors, not entirely successfully it must be said, before the flute and trumpet-haunted acoustica of 'What Goes Around.' 'Too Bright' has a great guitar riff and some almost-Mariachi trumpet stabs from Colin Jones. The gorgeous 'Dreams Of You And Me' is the album highlight, followed by the rather dark 'Like It Was Yesterday' and the softly cynical 'I Have You.' 'The World Goes By' has the faintest hint of Syd but is a good song in its own right, while the title track is a classic flute and bongos psych-folk romp. The album closes with 'Why Not Take Your Time?' which sounds a little out of place (synths and drum machine). Some variation in quality marrs an otherwise engaging release.
Classically informed pop is never an easy genre to make a go of, but "Are We Chameleons?" by Home By Hovercraft makes a decent attempt. The project of husband and wife team Seth and Shawn Magill, supported by three other band members, the mood is anthemic, the sounds rich, the palette varied. 'Rocket' opens with dramatic vocals, pounding piano and drums, and is a much better cut than the turgid opening track. Yes, the vocals are an acquired taste (Brian Ferry's vibrato without Ferry's richness of tone), but the sincerity can't be doubted. 'In Hand' is a stop-start stomper, and 'Talk' does similarly. On 'Out Of My Head With It' the jerky rhythms are swapped for rolling piano and pattering drums, making an easier listen; and there's a distinct tune here too. 'Modernized' is subtly reflective and 'Zoo Lion' a return to the stomping soundworld that this band espouse. 'Relief' again marries piano with a dramatic vocal. The album closes with 'Blessed Highway,' with another high-octane vocal. I suspect this album will go down much better in America than in Britain.
Gray Young's "Bonfire" is an album of fast and furious tracks with the vocals buried deep in the mix, so that they become tone and timbre rather than conveyors of lyrics. The band's guitar sound echoes The Skids, and is multi-tracked to fine effect. Opener 'Canopy Reflected' packs a punch; not bad for a trio. 'Firekit' pits a spiky riff against more thrumming bass and clattering drums, with the cymbals swishing all over the place - great stuff, with lots of energy, and, again, more than a hint of The Skids. 'Strange Comfort' has slightly clearer vocals, but again they're used as an instrument. 'Quiet Gift' is an almost ambient interlude designed to give the listener a breathing space, before 'Reincarnation Breeze' and 'Into The Tall,' where the melodic component is increased a little and the band hold back from their full-on sound. 'Hidden Leaves' has a hint of Rush, and maybe a hint of Neal Peart in that title, for a pounding sprint of a song that leaves the listener breathless at the end. 'Dead Air' is a little slower but no less powerful that the cuts preceding it, while album closer 'Wanderlust Opposite Bonfire' again channels Stuart Adamson into a rollicking track. Loads of energy, interesting and varied arrangements and a sense of style make this a notable release.
The purpose of Alec K. Redfearn And The Eyesores is to bring visionary Americana to the world, and this they have been doing for ten years. 'Sister Death' is the band's seventh album and betrays musical experience, wit and wisdom, which in the music business is a rare thing. The loping rhythm and psychedelic accordion work of album opener 'Fire Shuffle' sets out the group's direction: hypnotic tracks, lots of varied instrumentation, propulsive rhythms and mesmeric vocals of various types and moods. All great stuff. 'Unawake' is more of a traditional song founded in Orion Rigel Dommisse's fanciful vocals, though supported by Mr Redfearn. 'The 7 And 6' is similar in tone but much slower, while 'Longreach' makes the most of unusual instruments, synths and Orion Rigel's voice. 'Amplifier Hum' is the sound of a band warming up in the middle of their record, while 'Black Ice' is another of the faux-Arabian Americana cuts that this band do so well. 'Exhumed' marries softly plucked Spanish guitar with Orion Rigel's high-register, floating voice to make another terrific track, while 'Hashishin' is overtly ethnic and another fine piece. There's a certain joy to these tracks, which, underpinned by good musicianship, makes these pieces a delight to listen to. 'Wings Of The Magpie' sounds like a festival chant from the Cheapsuit O'Roonies (a band that Mr Redfearn has surely encountered), while 'In The Morning' is quiet and reflective, bringing the proceedings to a conclusion. A good album that I enjoyed, not least the subtle ethnic elements.
Also on Cuneiform Records are Janel And Anthony, whose "Where Is Home" is a vibrant mash-up of virtuoso cello parts (including some amazing solo runs) from Janel Leppin and guitar carousing from maestro Anthony Pirog, who also is something of a virtuoso. With the addition of analogue synths and electronics, and featuring a selection of pre-made loops, the stage it set for some terrific exploratory instrumental pieces, not least the dramatic opening cut 'Big Sur,' which leaps everywhere at once as it surges out of the speakers. Elsewhere the mood is avante-garde ('The Clearing,' 'Where Will We Go'), jazz-inflected ('Mustang Song,' 'Leaving The Woods,' 'A Viennesian Life' with its hints of Pat Metheney), bucolic and melodic ('Lily In The Garden,' 'Cross The Williamsburg Bridge' with soft vocals adding to the mix), and slightly menacing ('Broome's Orchard'). I was reminded of the work of Ralph Towner when listening over to these tracks. An excellent album whose variety, musicianship and vivacity makes it recommended.
Those of you who remember the festival days of the 'nineties will no doubt recall one of the finest bands of that era Kangaroo Moon - and if you do, and if as I did you enjoyed their brand of Celtic jigging, psychedelicking and general rabble-rousing, you may enjoy the third Flutatious album "333," which travels in a Mark Robson direction with some panache. Filled with guitar solos, Celtic inspired riffs, and of course flutes a-plenty, lots of violin, and a scattering of other instruments (notably a fine Irish whistle on 'Road To Skye'), this is pure nostalgia for the days of the festi. 'Horny' is funky, 'What's In The Tea' adds some trippiness to the mix, while the almost eleven minute closing cut adds everything to the mix. Great sounds, playing and vibe.
The Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere are a collective of musicians collaborating on a vast expanse of orchestral, instrumental and electronic music. The objective of this ensemble is to "propose an alternative reality, and preferably one in which all notions of common sense have been completely eradicated." This the band did between 2010 and 2012 while recording their self-titled work. The opening track of the album matches synths, lengthy notes held on orchestral instruments and an arsenal of voices and sounds deep in the mix to create an atmospheric opening. The next track does similarly, creating over fifteen minutes a striking piece of music - atmospheric, nostalgic (for Krautrock and the very early days of the Berlin scene amongst others) and engaging. There are hints of the early Tangerine Dream albums in some of the sections. 'The Opposition Effect' is more of a Kraut cut, with its insistent drums and wailing sax - the addition of the 30-strong Juxta Voices adds to the massive sound world. 'When Thin Clouds Scud Across A Bright Moon' is similar in tone, but with more of a Floyd feel (chorus especially) and analogue synths pulsing away in the background - a fine piece of music. 'Anti-Crepuscular Rays' is more ambient, with lots of floating textures and electronic sounds bouncing around the mix. 'Duty Music' evokes jazz rock hell, 'Star Procession' is trippy and electronically suffused, while closing cut 'Coherent Backscattering' is a Hammond enlivened return to the sounds of 1969 or thereabouts. The disk as a whole demands attention, and is something to be discovered and rediscovered over and over again. A notable achievement. And that's only one album! Disk two begins with 'An Open Vista Is Revealed,' which opens with spooky voices and orchestral effects, before the electronic spikiness and pounding avant-garde drums of 'He Died Before I Could Get My Revenge,' which is perhaps a tad too long; a minor complaint. 'The Umbral Length Of Shadows' channels the 'sixties work of Terry Riley through a Krautrock filter to great effect, while 'Rainforest Tension' is another orchestral whimsy, this time with luscious strings and flutes riding the electronic effects. 'Nimbus' is almost twenty minutes long, starting small and strange before bringing in drums, more Riley-esque keyboards and an arsenal of instrumental effects - also bass and drums in various styles and locations. It's a sort of massive Floyd meets Hawkwind meets Zappa jam. The concluding cut is merely trippy and weird. Nobody whole loves interesting, experimental, courageous, strange, lyrical music - the Big Listen that the five people at the heart of this project hoped for - will want to miss out on this one. Highly recommended.
"Serpentine" by Julie Tippetts & Martin Archer is a collection of thirteen songs matching Tippett's freeform/jazz vocals with Archer's soundworlds, here aided by jazz supremo Pete Fairclough and Gary Houghton of noted Tangs-botherers Radio Massacre International. The result is like entering worlds of found musics, underpinned by inventive percussion, jazz, rock and synth elements, with Tippett's vocals weaving amidst the sonic undergrowth. The results vary however. Many of the songs evoke, describe or otherwise illustrate animals - crocodile, scarab, scorpion, snake. 'Crocodile (Snare Song)' is an example of the more successful cuts, as is the thrilling 'Felt So (Crocodile Tears)'. Others ('Squamata Dance', 'Refuge') are perhaps less successful. In general, I found the rhythmically strong or uptempo tracks to be better, not least the wonderfully Transglobal Underground closing cut 'Snake Bite,' a piece Count Dubulah would be proud of.
Next up, some words from the fearless Steve Pescott, who as ever (bless his cotton socks) will lead you through some of the more, uh, diverse corners of the Terrascopic world…
Starting off in seventies Germany, naturally the musical riches that issued forth from the West German side are now like trusted old friends, whose regular visits are now beginning to wear out the carpets and the comfy armchairs...At the very same time, or thereabouts, though, there was a fairly bustling prog scene over the wall in the Eastern sector. Unfortunately, names like Stern Combo Meissen, Bayon, Electra, Uve Schikora Gruppe and City are still just that really - poor distro did it for 'em I guess. Combine that with very little info; zine/book-wise, even the "Scented Gardens of the Mind" prog bible gave East Germany the golden heave-ho in favour of entries concerning Bulgaria and Greenland (!). So...it was good to see that Acme Records (www.acmerecords.co.uk) have reactivated (in vinyl form) PANTA RHEI'sself-titled album from 1973 and what a stone corker it is too. Truth be told, I dawdled over nabbing a cheap copy of this for quite a while. But I eventually succumbed and I'm glad I did. A ninepiece with a four man horn section with occasional three-line vocals, "Alles Fliesst..." is the standout cut and most representational of all things rheisian. Sinewy fuzz bass lines, archetypally cool keyboard soloing, the assured vocalese of Veronika Fischer (think Inga Rumpf: I.D. Company/Frumpy) and those punchy/forceful stabs of air displacement. The latter facet dodging the buttondown B.S. & T (or even C.T.A.) styles and instead straying more closely to the U.K.'s Galliard or Locomotive....One very small niggle though, as I'm monolingual, it would've been a major boon to have had the sleevenotes translated.
Still with Germany...Achim Friederich, Manuel Schaub and Matthias Weigand consitute the latest incarnation of END OF SILENCE; a distant splinter group of noisecore unit Seven Minutes of Nausea. After a Rip van Winkelesque slumber of some duration, (it's been years!) they re-emerge with the "Auditorium" c.d. on the "Hearts & Crossbones" imprint (www.hcbrecords.com). Recorded at the Institute for Musicology at Geissen, Germany, the three part suite "Frequentia Resona" starts by ramping up the tension (or the patience) threshold with the sound of a cymbal being slowly struck over a four minute stretch. A slow uncoiling of stinging feedback is then eventually and ruthlessly steamrollered by a showcase for minimalist guitar blare. Part Two's machine whirr and super-magnified background hum acts as a restrained buffer for the explosive noise finale, where drill skree collides with a pyrotechnic display that's confined to within a very confined space indeed. "Auditorium" is a perfect grafting of two distinct Germanic eras in which the dark pulsations of prime Kluster merge with names like (early) Der Plan, P16 D4 and Monoton. Also on "Hearts & Crossbones"..."A Collection of Hair" (dcd) is the second volume of retrospective/now unavailable sonic ephemera from DAVE PHILLIPS, ex of the legendary Fear of God and Schimpfluch Group activist. This follow up to "A Call of Curses" (Blossoming Noise Records), is an overstuffed suitcase, two and a half hours thick compilation of bizarro sound manipulations ans brain shriek from an acoustic master adept. If you have dipped a toe or two into D.P.'s back catalogue (the "?" c.d. (on H & C), being a particularly good example...), that will NOT in any way, shape or form, prepare you for this.... the album mentioned had some notable dynamics and breathing space(s), but "Hair" will just roll right over you (with spikes on). There's strictly no let up really. For sheer unrelenting ugliness, particular attention is inevvitably drawn to the retchings and bilious outpourings of "Wight Rong" and "Erratum" which captures the sound of the body's gag reflex going into overdrive. "I Question my Reality" meanwhile, is a horrific x-film for the ears and finds the screams of the tortured amid a slew of evil, taunting subhuman gibberings....shiver. And let's not forget that rare beast (and I'm not referring to "Devil Disease" - a homage to the Tasmanian Devil...) a Rudimentary Peni cover (!) in "Drinking Song from the Tomb". Makes perfect sense as one of D.P.'s more recent projects rejoices in the name of Dead Peni......Truly this IS the living end....woe unto ye... etc etc.
Meanwhile back to reproworld, the hellishly rare and now almost mythical album by seventies British progsters SINDELFINGEN used to a "bids only" item back when it was commonplace for a number of mail order lists to plop regularly through the letter box. (imagine that!). "'Odgipig" was one of "those" discs, like the Complex elpees, that were issued in a '99 only' limited run - thereby avoiding coughing up for the dreaded (pre V.A.T.) 'Purchase Tax'. Wading through the humorous/self-deprecating sleeve notes from band leader Richard Manktelow (gtr/vocals) on this Anazitisi Records vinyl reissue, this Kentish quartet were heavily aware/influenced by big guns such as the crimsos (good...) and early Yes and Genesis (blech...). Their occasionally tricksy arrangements (of a non-bombastic shade), pastoral folk acoustic pluckery and oblique lyrics appear to hint at more than just a touch of the forelock to the 'Canterbury Sound' (Hatfields, Gilgamesh, Caravan). Well, this is the right county after all! The sleeve blurb doesn't namedrop Uncles Richard, Robert and chums - but that certain feel does seem to be fairly ingrained in tracks like the great "3 Ladies". A charming jazzy waltz which is fast becoming a fixture and fitting on the old record deck at Emsworth towers. Extra points go to Roger Wood's pixiephone dexterity and usage of the dauntingly named "Warwortfunger" - a heavily doctored stylophone set up that would have Rolf Harris pulling out his feathers in shock at such a deflowering of his pet instrument. Caveat emptor here though...- even the repros are wallet-thinningly expensive. I picked up a cheaper copy in the February sales...so shopping around is the best option here. Also on the Greek Anazitisi imprint (and still in the same price range unfortunately...) is an l.p. of disparate recordings from the late sixties by THE BATCH. "Wait 'til Tomorrow" showcases eleven tracks from a very west coast sounding Minnesotan outfit who flickered in and out of existence from 1968 to 1971 and had their roots in The Shambles (one 7'' on Atco) and The Puddle (one shelved single on Sire) The edition has been remastered from a twp-trackk mastertape and at times, the sound quality can veer towards the muddy or the tinny - but the quality of the numbers such as "Freddy Coolchick", the garagey "Untangle your Mind" and the middle eastern-tinged "Drifter" still shines through. A worthy excavation for sure.
After a steady dribble of mp3s (do they REALLY count??), singles and cassettes from AMFJ (a.k.a. Iclander Adalsteinn Jorundsson), comes the "Baen" c.d. on Falk Records (www.amfj.falkworld.net). And believe me, when it comes to cleansing the palate, there's nothing quite like a hefty slab of industrial nouveau to do the job. Such as "Baen", gentle reader. The oil drum poundings and foam-flecked, native tongue (?) blatherings found at the core of "Mammon" and "Retoria" transport the mind back to the industrial golden age that swept through europe and parts of the U.S. during the early eighties, when autopsy//Mansonic graphics were almost de rigeur. These battering ram aesthetics seem to reference Test Dept., SPK and TG but.... I doubt if the strict schemnatics employed by that threesome would ever contemplate using the looped creche-sourced (?) gurgles of "Utburour Umskiptingur" and using traces of d-e-e-p US sixties soul singer O.V. Wright as sample fodder...which is nice.
The name of DIRK SERRIES should be a familiar one to some out there, as the somewhat shadowy figure/prime mover designate behind those ambient stalwarts Vidna Obmana and the sombre guitarscaping of Fear Falls Burning. The "Microphonics XXI/XXV c.d. on Tonefloat Records is the very latest instalment of his low-key/measured guitar explorations and follows on from a ser(r)ies of fairly limited vinyl releases over the last few years. "21.25" is comprised of four movements for 6 string, in which minimalist actions expand into maximalist faux-orchestral soundswells. Parts 1,3 and 4 are built on singular, struck notes and their resultant overtones, which are then occasionally underpinned by contrails of sustain set on 'the infinite'. Part 2 is the masterstroke however,, employing Durutti Column lyricism (circa the still beautiful debut l.p.) that's laid in a soft bed of affecting atmospherics last beamed in from Fripp & Eno's "Evening Star". (www.tonefloat.com)
And, in closing, we take a swandive into the sonics of despair with FUNERARY CALL. Active since the mid-nineties with releases on the Malignant, Fossil Dungeon, Fall of Nature labels a.o., this is the (almost) solo concern of Vancouver resident and doom ambient orchestrator Harlow MacFarlane. His latest c.d. "Fragments from the Aethyr" (on Crucial Blast Records), is unfortunately the first time I've ever encountered his work and expecting the ever so obvious (sludge moves/monster gurgle/Iommi retreads...), I've been more than pleasantly surprised.... The three lengthy pieces on offer ("Libation", "Fragments" and "Transference from the Void") appear to take on a very european train of thought, due in no small way, to Shaun Hache's mournful guitar lines and the demented neo-classical bow and skreek of violinist Lashan Orendorff. For me, I can see distant strains of "Dog's Blood Rising"/"Nature Unveiled" era Current 93 in Harlow's demoniac vocal scoring and, in the school of catgut violation; Ole Henrik Moe's "Ciaccona"/"3 Persephone Perceptions" c.d. Sticking my neck out a little further, I wonder if he's ever encountered French prog mystics William Sheller and Igor Wakhetvich?
Another challenging release from the consistently fascinating Crucial Blast imprint. If this has sparked your interest (and it should), I'd suggest Einahre, Korperschwache and The Human Quena Ork for further intrigue. (Crucial Blast Records, www.crucialblast.net - P.O. Box 364, Hagerstown, MD 21741-0364, U.S.A.)
Thanks for those Steve, much appreciated. Right my turn to carry the baton as I round off this edition of Rumbles.
Continuing their excellent “Collision/Detection” series, LDWR/Front and follow release “V8” which features the talents of Isnaj Dui (Katie English), a trained flautist, who adds electronics and homemade dulcimers to the mix creating glacial drones and flickering soundscapes that are beautifully constructed. After the slow, graceful beauty of “North”, “South” is a more fractured affair, distortion added to the piece, whilst “East” is a drifting haze of ambience that is simply gorgeous, the piece hovering with gentle grace. To finish, “West” is the creaking of ancient woodland. The scuttling of insects under the bark, a six-minute piece that has a quiet metallic pulse under its skin, ending a very fine collection that maintains quality throughout.
Presented as a soundtrack to the film “Death Beat” (1982), “V9” features four electronic pieces from Sone Institute, the tracks featuring chattering rhythms and unexpected twists. Opening track “Death Beat” (Main Title Sequence), has definite 80's vibe a pulsing synth and icy chords flowing underneath, whilst “Unguarded Circle of Flesh” adds extra layers including an electronic drum pattern and creepy synth lines. Adding a funky groove “Flesh Dance” is playful and inventive, the track put together with precision, whilst the final track “Death Beat” (end title sequence) is a variation on the opener, completing a lovely slice of eighties electronic music. (www.frontandfollow.com)
Displaying two sides of the same coin, the music of Rick Senley is released under two names with I Am a Man with a St Tropez Tan, dealing with the more chaotic and confusing moments in our life. The latest album “Just a Ghost” illustrates this chaos, but mixing song snippets, samples, loops, disembodied voices, and all manner of weirdness, running it all through an industrial blender and then cutting it into ten tracks. The joy of it all is that it really works. Throughout the sounds are playful, disturbing, confusing, delicate, destructive and ear-catching (sometimes at the same time), meaning the listener is rarely still, instead remaining engaged and curious as the album advances. It is hard to choose individual tracks to highlight, but the minimalist wonder of “Tea For Me” is a lovely thing with a definite stirring of Philip Glass to be found within, whilst “Does Anyone Know What's Going On” has an eerie vibe and random vocal samples that add to the confusion.
So, flip the coin and you find Music For Voyeurs, whose latest offering “The Long Sleep” deals with introspection, stillness, the slow spiral into despair and tiny flickers of hope. Using the same style as the St Tropez album, (loops, cut-ups, etc) the results are very different, the eleven songs have a much gentler, pastoral feel, the music alive with melody, the samples less harsh or confusing. As before the album is best heard in one sitting making it difficult to pick individual pieces, however, the melodic sadness of “September” is beautiful to the ear, whilst “Tonight Will Be My Birthday” contains everything that is good about the album, a drifting ambience sliced up with a gated snare, melodies flickering around the pulse, the whole thing oozing sadness and melancholy.
Working together, these two albums are definitely a pair and definitely worth checking out. (http://iamamanwithasttropeztan.co.uk/about-rick.html , http://www.musicforvoyeurs.co.uk/listen.htm )
Opening with an atmospheric post-rock groove, “In the Marrow” is a collection of soaring shoegaze mixed with noisy riffs, bristling with power and controlled perfectly by Dead Confederate. After the slow-burning salvo of “Slow Poisons”, the band rock out with “Vacations”, a garage tune that reminds me of The Purrs, the track containing some suitably gnarly lead work. Elsewhere the distorted title track walks into Neil Young territory, the song straining at the leash, full of tension and beauty, whilst,to finish, “Winter Waters” is a haunting tale of sadness and regret, the emotions beautifully realised by the music, leaving the listener wanting more. (http://www.deadconfederate.com/index.php)
Taking a box of sweet melody and then blending it in a pot of textured noise means that the songs on “Emerald Cures Chic Ills” the latest from The History of Colour TV, have a sonic identity all their own, the tunes difficult to focus on as they sway from one to the other, sounds suddenly ending, waves of distortion engulfing the pretty melody that was engaging your ears a moment before. All this is shown to perfection on “Suddenlines”, a song that starts as some beautiful dream-pop, before it starts to judder and falter, noise swarming over like a cloud of wasps, who then leave, the pattern repeating in a very disorientating manner. Elsewhere, “1-800-badnite” has a heavy bass line running through it, contrasting with the string that float overhead, whilst “Mend” begins with two minutes of furious industrial noise before emerging as another dreamy tune, the noise remaining in the background as washes of textural distortion. Original and interesting, go have a listen. (http://www.thehistoryofcolourtv.com/)
Okay, after all that noise it is time to chill out in the company of Vintage Cucumber, whose “Tagesgestirn & Nachtgestirn” EP contains three wonderful pieces of mellow, psychedelic space music, a sweetly played guitar tripping over minimal drumming and clouds of synths, the whole thing having a patchouli-soaked seventies vibe that is perfectly executed. With “Sonnenmond” weighing in at 18 minutes, there is no reason for creator Johannes Schulz to hurry, the piece merely hovering in a cloud of bliss, relaxing the mind by the light of a single candle, the listener staring at the ceiling and smiling. At 10 minutes, the tune has almost stopped, only a few synth chords remaining, re-defining the word mellow and echoing the early work of Tangerine Dream. Over the next two tracks the sound remains the same, as it should, meaning the whole disc flows gently, allowing the listener to dissolve with happiness.
From the same artist comes “Jup's Chillout Lounge Style” a collection of ten tracks that contain that mellow vibe, mixing hypnotic electronics with spacier guitar passages and whispered melodies that warm the soul. With the whole album working beautifully together, the lack of distorted noise or sudden changes of pace makes a welcome relief, allowing you to sink into the music without the risk of being suddenly startled, (something occurs a lot in the world of a Terrascope reviewer), meaning this is the perfect late-night sound-scape for mellow hippies everywhere. Also recommended is “Mc Goyl Style” another fine collection in the same vein with the fifteen minute “Grau Schimmert es Mir Hervor” being an absolute highlight. (http://vintagecucumber.bandcamp.com/)
As we reach the final furlong of this particular Rumble we stumble across We Are Oceans whose self-titled cassette release has four post-rock instrumental tracks that are dominated by two guitars that coil around each other, given plenty of freedom by the solid rhythms of bass and drums. This freedom, along with plenty of inventiveness, gives the band music a delightful melodic quality with opener “Roots Grow Done” showing a wonderful melodic heart, restraint and taste, the guitar playing shining out throughout. Even when the band gets louder, the melody still dances above, a shown on “Step” a more complex piece that reminds me of Television, whilst “Mmmyellow” does that soft/loud thing with style, the band solid and powerful without forgetting the melody or dynamics of the song. Finally, “Leaves Like Stained Glass” rounds thing off, a mellow psychedelic opening giving way to a heavier riff , the two styles then drifting in and out the piece, maintaining the bands style and quality. Good stuff indeed that deserves volume and time to listen. (http://weareoceansband.bandcamp.com/)
Next up is ‘The Echoing Green’ by Technicolor Poets, from Malmö in Sweden. This is I believe their second album. The stand-out cut is ‘Azure Maclise’ which is a heavy prog-rock tour-de-force reminiscent of N.S.U. or T2; ‘Deldar’ is a three-minute sitar workout which dissolves into a narcotic cloud of incense, while ‘Solipsistic Wedding’ (which I’d imagine could be their live set closer) features a driving drum beat and slightly histrionic vocals, shades of the mighty Out of Focus. ‘Broomstick-Angel’ suffers somewhat to my mind from lapsing into a festie-reggae beat, which drags the album back towards the ordinary; bands have been nailing their freakbeat credentials to the mast in this manner like soiled underpants on a tent-pole for well over 30 years now. At their best though – and there’s several examples on this album – the Technicolor Poets are gifted instrumentalists and imaginative miners of some of the finer psychedelic seams from past ages. http://www.motljud.com/
And to close, a new beginning – the Spaceheads are back! Their ‘Sun Radar’ EP finds Andy Diagram and Richard Harrison back in the loop, as it were, after a decade or so of doing sensible grown-up things. It’s pointless me trying to re-write the liner notes to describe their unique sound, so I’ll paraphrase instead: Andy Diagram creates live trumpet loops that can be edited on the fly, bass lines are created using pitch-shift pedals and harmonizers with wah-wah distortion, while Richard Harrison plays drums topped off with wobbly metal sheets. Got that? Good. Now mix in a ton of free jazz, an effervescence of Blaxpolitation, and a nod or two in the direction of Burt Bacharach, and you’ll have some idea of their sound. I’m still blown away, quite frankly, by their performance on Stage 2 (which was a cavernous darkened room inside a film studio complex beside the ocean) at Terrastock San Francisco back in 1998. Embrace the new! It’s every bit as grand as the past. http://spaceheads.co.uk/sunradar-ep/
Thanks as ever to everyone who contributed music or words, we love you all.
Terrascopic Rumbles for April was brought to you by Simon Lewis, Steve Pescott, and Steve Palmer, not necessarily in that order. Phil McMullen wrote some filler here and there, too. Artwork, layout & direction by Phil - © Terrascope Online, 2013