n this, probably the last "Rumbles" before the new year, it is time to dive into the small pile of vinyl that has collected over recent months. As usual it is always a pleasure to get some plastic through the door. Thanks to everyone who sent some; cheers.
Opening precedings this time are Out Like Lambs, whose album "Not so Winter Waltz", is a heady blend of folk, jazz flourishes and drifting mellowness, the album flowing together beautifully. On "Bred to Bug", the mumbled lyrics are washed over by gently lapping notes, creating a rich ambience similar in texture to John Martyn or van Morrison, whilst "Dead Embers" gets the pulse racing with some strident soloing. To end side one, "Downstream" looks inwards, softly losing itself in a hazy arrangement that is perfectly judged. the rich variety of instruments, adding spice to the palate, a rich and satisfying brew that has a lively ending that catches the listener by suprise. With all the music written by Michael Lucio Sternbach and lyrics by Rachel Ade, the band could be looked on as a duo, albeit one augmented by a talented crew other musicians, numbering 13 on this album, each contributing to a wonderful whole, as found on "Some Chickens" , a long wistful tune that slides gracefully under your skin with apparent ease. To close, "Two Speeds" is simply gorgeous, a timeless piece of music, that slowly builds in tension, filled with snaking violin the instruments fading into an acapella chorus refrain that echoes long after the voices are silent. (www.outlikelambs.com)
Also using folk as a stepping stone "Eastern Landscapes" by Marco Panella, moves of into more abstract territories, the landscape haunted by primitive guitar and gently flowing melodies. Glistening beautifully, "Carry you Home" opens the album in eloquent style, Marco showing a lightness of touch that makes the notes shimmer across the room. Thing become, harsher on "Joey", The electric guitar sawing in the background, whilst The deep vocals spin careful words across the tune. With a lovely swing to it "Foolish Gifts" has a summertime heart, the lightness of touch once more in evidence, whilst a chattering drumbeat keeps things moving. Flipping over, side two opens with Electric Interlude, an instrumental that displays the inventiveness of the playing, two guitars intertwined like lovers dancing, slow and languid yet fully awake and commited to each others world. Highlight of the side is an original and haunting version of "Wildwood Flower", the music opening doors into more peaceful realms, gently caressing you before "M" closes the album by interpreting a poem by Montgomery Hare, the words sung by his grand-daughter Anna Bario, who also contributes Cello to the record. (www.augerdownrecords.com)
Moving on, three discs from Walking Bird Records, the albums having a visual style that is very appealling, binding them together as the work of one label. First up is a collection of (mainly) covers from The Only Stars, the record opening with a beautiful version of “The Only Stars” (Kendra Smith) featuring a wonderful vocal performance from Emilie Flierl, as well as sympathetic playing from all concerned, including some lovely understated banjo work. On “Reno Nevada” (Richard Farina), hypnotic percussion and a psych guitar line, set up a groove that gives the song a spooky downbeat feel, the musicians obviously listening to each other for the sake of the song. A change of pace is suddenly thrust upon the listener with the arrival of “That's Why You Need Us”, one of two Bevis songs, the driving guitar and female vocals giving the song a lo-fi, indie feel that works suprisingly well. Taking a time machine back to really early Deep Purple, a cover of “The Night Wind Softly Blows” retains its sixties psych-pop feel, suiting the bands style perfectly, whilst the second Bevis cover “She Had You”, has a slow-burning quality the also fits the bands persona. On Side Two, covers of “Collage” (The James Gang), “Come Undone” (Thalia Zedek) and “Angels and Animals” (It's a Beautiful Day), maintain the quality, whilst the only original “The Tail” proves the band can write as well, swirling violins and backward effect, adding a strange ambience to the piece, itself an integral part to an excellent colection of tunes. Also on the label is “Blackwood” a rather fine collection from Emilie and the Imitations , all songs written by Emilie Flierl and featuring musicians from The Only Stars, fresh from their adventures in the land of cover versions. Unsuprisingly the album contains a similar sonic feel, with opener “Torn” setting out their stall, full of lively guitar, imaginative arrangements and sympathetic musicians treating the songs with respect. With an almost pop feel “Alice Blue” contains some excellent guitar work from Vic Conrad, whilst “DaisyChains” has a smoky late-night ambience, the piano really hitting all the right notes, the piece making you want to curl up around a crackling fire. Side Two begins with “He's Going to Kill Me” a brooding song with a Danielle Dax feel, the rather cheery chorus/sung refrain at odds with the lyrical content, the song writhing to the sound of some excellent distorted guitar noise. After the gentle violin-led haze of “Sister” the album ends with the indie-jangle of “Gerard”, a bitter-sweet love song that is beautifully realised. Recorded when they were thirteen, the garage pop noise of Dandelion is a thing of joy on their five track self-titled EP. Opening with the crunchy “Quiet One”, the trio of teenage girls, turn everything up, have a blast then add some sweet melody to the mix. All you have to do is open the windows and move that dial upwards as “That Sucks”, “25/7”, “I hate School” and “Liverpool Kiss” make the world a happier place, with the final song being sweet perfection, the Ramones meeting early Bangles at the gates of heaven. (www.walkingbirdrecords.com.au)
With a melodic, vibe and the sounds of Husker Du and Sonic Youth leaking from its grooves, “Imaginary Songs and Aluminum Hits” is a rather excellent eleven-song collection from Kid Icarus. Hooking you in immeadiately with the driving “Dig Architecture”, the songs keep you entertained throughout, distorted guitar and feet-friendly bass lines, matching wonderfully, especially on the perfectly formed “Figure A”, whilst side one closes with the slow beauty of “Encased”, another sonic gem. Over on side two, thing get more experimental, with the drone electronics of “Who's Blues” creating a dense atmosphere of sadness, that is blown away by the pulsing rock of “In My Windowed Life”, a song to blow away the cobwebs. Posiibly the centrepiece to the disc, the wonderfully crafted “Victory Smokes, Victory Gin”, gives Neil Young a run for his money in the distorted guitar, plaintive vocals stakes, the track ebbing and flowing with dynamic precision. To end,”PA Year Zero” quietens thing down, gentle acoustic guitar and chimes leading you out with a wistful smile.(www.summerstepsrecords.com)
Next up, an oh-so beautiful slab of vinyl in the shape of a split album from Sparkle In Grey / Tex la Homa entitled “Whale Heart, Whale heart”. Hailing from Italy, Sparkle in Grey, offer two long tracks on their side, both demonstrating their expermental nature whilst they never lose sight of melody and emotion. On “These Nightmares are Ending”, the early ghostly scrapes and rattles are slowly replaced by dreaming violin and drifting fragments of melody, the result a truly beautiful and hypnotic piece of music. Moving on, “Linnocence du Sommeil” is a languid walk through dappled woodland, a gentle wave of sound carried aloft by a charmed violin that soars, whilst chiming guitar, soft bass and a childs voice add to the mystery. Contributing four pieces, Tex La Homa, A.K.A Matt Shaw, continues the blissful mood with “Dorchester Sunrise” a beautiful, expansive drone, the sound of inner peace allowing you room to breathe; the track preceded by the shorter gentle experimentation of “Becoming”. Allowing the pieces to flow together means the listener loses track of time, the organic percussion of “To Home” changing the timbre of the music if not the ambience, the piece equally meditative in its quiet construction. Finally a strummed guitar ushers in “Born on a Friday”, the sweet vocal melody, slowly bringing the listener back to the real world, deeply refreshed and smiling(www.blackfading.com)
Finally, on the vinyl side of thing, a magnificent slice of head-fucking space rock in the form of a 12” two track from Psychic TV/PTV3. Side one Contains the 14 minute “Alien Brain” which opens in a hail of electronics, with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge announcing he has an “Alien Brain, Be What You Want To Be” before a storming bassline takes hold of your synapses, dragging you for a trip around the cosmos, strap in and enjoy the ride cos it's a good one. People who think Hawkwind should have given up in 1975 are gonnna love this. Having recovered your senses, the listener should turn over the pink/white vinyl (beautiful!) and discover an amazing cover of “Maggot Brain”, a soft piano introducing the song before Jeff “Bunsen” Berner (groan) does a fine job on guitar, Mr P-Orridge adding some lyrical thoughts as the track progresses, creating a cover that is suitably different to be rewarding, whilst at the same time remaining instantly recognisable. (www.vanitycaserecordings.com).
Actually, there is some more vinyl to review, it is just the promos are CD shaped and i got confused. Recently released on Fruit De mer records are three 7” singles worthy of your attention. First up, welsh space-rock combo Sendelica turn “Venus in Furs” into a folk-rock song circa 1972, strangely this works really well, the band remaining true to to the songs roots whilst adding a new sheen. In a weird synchronicity, the band also cover “Maggot Brain”, with Pete Bingham doing a fine job on the guitar with a faithful version that is a fitting tribute. Avaliable on the single “A Nice Pear”. On the same label, a rather fine idea to get some modern psych bands to cover some instrumental songs by Eddie Cochran, mainly because label boss Andy bracken really loves 'em, which seems a good a reason as any. So, with the basic premise to make them “sound like they were recorded in 1969” Head South By Weaving got to work on “Rain” and, boy, have they done a good job, the beginning of the song remaining faithful to the original before it drifts slowly off into reverb-drenched heaven, Acoustic guitar motifs drowning in effects, the tension building as the band get hypnotic with just a small part of the riff, nice work indeed. Tackling “Shotgun Wedding Theme”, Vibravoid” seem to take 1967 as their starting point, creating a track worthy of those much loved Rubbles albums released by Bam Caruso, very trippy and psychedelic, man. Finally, Baking Research Station, take on “Jam Sand-witch” (originally, a halloween novelty record) turning into something that sounds like lounge on acid, a jazzy groove being distorted by rising synths and other weirdness. Excellent throughout, this could turn out to be my favourite Fruit De Mer release. Finally from the label, their take on the christmas annual we all enjoyed as kids, complete with free gifts, as they present The 2011 annual featuring four covers by four modern bands. First up Stay, from Spain, have a go at “Tomorrow Never Knows”, giving it a rocking edge which works fine, although this is such a well known classic, no-one is ever going to do it complete justice. That said, this version would be praised widely if it was a band original, as they have definitely nailed their take on the song. Next up, Finland's Permanent Clear Light, offer a lovely soft-psych version of “Wherewithal” originally recorded by Clifford T Ward, nice work indeed, with a lovely arrangement. Hailiong from Wales, Zeuk, take on Hammill, their version of “Visions” awash with delicate strings and a wonderful vocal performance. To round thing of Hi-Fiction Science cover “Fleance”, originally to be found on the Macbeth soundtrack by the Third ear band. Here another beautiful vocal performance, this time by Maria Charles, lifts the song into the realms of future folk-rock rarity, rounding of a well-rounded and varied collection (www.fruitdemerrecords.com)
Moving swiftly on, there is a lot to get through after all, we begin our trawl through the CD's with some fine releases from the excellent Morc Records, a label always worth investigating. First up, a haunting two track single from Dawn Smithson and Aaron Martin (Jessamin, Sunno) , now working under the name Winter's Day. Here the snowdrifts are curled with beauty, some excellent string arrangements bringing out the ghostly elements in Dawn's crystalline voice, the softly picked guitar lines fluttering like snowflakes at dusk. Both “Tethered and Rootbound” and “Pepperbox” are exquisite pieces of music, reminding us that folk is an ever growing and changing field of music, the genre seemingly very vibrant at creative at the moment. More experimental in its timbres, “On the Beach”, the latest album from Edgar Wappenhalter, is a highly charged collection of drones that rolls like a fog across your brain. Opening track “The Sudden and Late emergence of San Pedro” is a wholly experimental piece, tape loops and reverb used to great effect, whilst second number “Missing Heights” is an acoustic based song , the drone and reverb relegated to the backing track. These two tracks set the tone for the album, which fluctuates between the two syles in a thoughtful and cohesive manner, making for a fine listening experience, with “Revelatory Pathways to a Place of Rebirth” being a particular favourite. Finally on Morc, and long overdue for review, a re-release of “Collected Works Volume 1” by Drekka Originally recorded in 1996 and released as two cassettes “Grieve” and Windowframe/Hermitage ”, the music experimental and distant, mixing sound recordings, drones , hypnotic repeated riffs and melodies. Like some outsider take on early Kraut-rock, the music moves from Aphex style electronic ambience to acoustic wyrd-folk, adding the soundtrack to your favourite dark sci-fi film for good measure. Amazingly, it works superbly, the overall feel relaxing yet alert, like dreaming that you are awake, yet everything is out of reach. Covering two discs, there is plenty to get involved with, each play revealing something different in the recording, highly recommended. (www.morctapes.com)
For those wishing to wake up completely, can i suggest Finnish band Fun, who have spent the last ten years playing rock 'n' roll with passion and volume a-plenty. On their latest offering “New 13”, the band re-invent those riffs we love, the sound of Mudhoney meeting the Stooges meeting the Monomen, meeting the Boredoms meeting Rocket from the Tombs meeting...... i think you get the picture. However you slice it, this is music to leap about to, beer in one hand, tequila in the other, with songs like “Ufo or Die”, “Hit the Joy” and “Here Comes the Ugly Man” pushing my buttons at least, nice work. (www.noisecorewalze.com)
Also nice and noisy are Black Science, whose latest offering “Cosmodemonic and Beyond”, sounds like a freakin' heavy version of Hawkwind playing stoner-rock on a faraway star, especially on opening track “The Universe Personified”, which needs some serious volume for best effect.. With samples and Keyboards sprinkled over the songs, there is also a lightness amongst the noise, with “Theta 8”, slowly building over six glorious minutes, twinkling and chiming around a solid rythym section and some excellent guitar work. Fans of space rock will find much to enjoy here, go have a listen. (www.myspace.com/darkmatterindustries)
Featuring the talents of Reg Bloor (guitars) and Libby fab (Drums), The Paranoid Critical Revolution play discordant, complicated and noisy instrumentals, generally quickly and laden with feedback. Released on Glenn Branca's label Systems Neutralisers, the album is a relentless wall of sound, that you need to be in the mood for. (www.theparanoidcriticalrevolution.com)
Fronted by Kan, Vocalist for japanese band The Asbestos, MONEYI$GOD, take the intensity and passion of that band and slow it down, producing thick slabs of sounds, de-tuned and fucked-up to within an inch of their lives. With a tribal heart and a nod to Killing Joke, “Cancer” grinds into being, the monolithic riffing countered with some speedy lead guitar shoved through a mean wah-pedal. Thing get a bit faster on “Murasaki”, which is almost happy in its demeanour, something of a red herring as “Black Rainbow”, kicks in with an evil ska rythym and a thick bass-line creating a very disorientating sound, whilst both “Waltz” and “Hate Song”, do the noise-thing, the bass holding things together again. Ending it all is the Monkey Was Dubbed Re-mix of “Black Rainbow”, the song dissected, reverbed then lobbed in a blender, all to excellent effect. (www.hbcrecords.com)
It is a rare occurence to receive parcels from Iran, but it happens and i'm glad, especially when the music is as inventive and creative as the tracks to be found on “Iconophobic”, the latest album from Salim Ghazi Saeedi. Working in the Prog/experimental arena, the album contains 13 tracks, all of which are beatifully constructed, shades of Zappa, Crimson and Ian Carr, cropping up along the way. With its middle eastern sheen, “And My Heart Aches...” is a haunting piece that is composed with style, whilst the electronic pulse of “Transcend Ecstasy with Ecstasy” relies more on feel than technique, although it is still arranged with great skill. Unusually for this type of music, nearly every track is under 4 minutes in length, meaning there is a great deal of variation in the sounds and textures contained within the excellent disc. (www.salimworld.com)
Talking of inventive, the songs of Sleeping in the Aviary are just that, as well as being melodic and sometimes difficult, as one listen to their album “Great Vacation” will testify. After the happy jangle rush of “Y.M.C.A. (No, Not That One)” , the sweet love-song “Weightlessly In Love” will have you smiling, the song gazing into your eyes without any embarrassment. Opening with a burst of energetic noise, “Maria's Ghost” is a tale of S and M gone wrong (possibly) “she forgot the safety word, now she's dead”, the song taking on a jazz groove as it progresses. More black humour can be found on the final track, “The Very Next day I Died”, which closes an fine album that could well be Rumbles Grower of the month, as every time i hear it i am liking it more. (www.scienceofsound.com)
Under the, not unreasonable banner, Dollboy meets Sone Institute, the two artists swapped ideas and imaginings to creat a short, sweet and hazy collection of fragmentary instrumentals, that have a gentle autumnal flavour, a glimpse of golden sunshine now almost forgotten in this winter season. Opening with “Sunshine”, the seven tracks drift into each other, soft electronics flowing and merging with acoustic instruments and field recordings to produce a wonderful collection that is relaxing and beautiful, in a mellow timeless way. Released as “The Sum and the Difference”, this could be the ideal retreat from the christmas stress. (www.frontandfollow.com)
Released under the name G for Gnome, “Storm Clouds gather” is a intense three song collection from Richard Haswell, who also works under the name Rhubarb. Commencing with a heavy drone, that will have the neighbours banging on the wall, “I See Them Coming Over the Mountain” slowly becomes lighter in texture, melodies beginning to whisper out of the speakers as the piece slowly fades. With a slow chiming pulse “Europe 80” is a hypnotic electronic piece, albeit a brief one, as it ends after only 2minutes 21 seconds, its place being taken by “This is Where I'm At”, another monolithic revolving drone that draws comparison with Tangerine Dream jamming with My Cat Is An Alien. Stretching over ten minutes, the track hardly varies, allowing time for the listener to get lost inside its floatation tank energies. (www.richardhaswell.co.uk)
Writing classic pop/rock music, Birds and Batteries do so with such style that they draw you effortlessly into their world. Possibly not Terrascopic in its purest sense, there is a sense of adventure and experimentation that runs under the 9 songs on “Panorama”, their latest album, lifting the tunes above the ordinary, allowing the hooks to shine without becoming mundane. Consider “A Million People”, which has the sheen of Steely Dan, and the groove of an early seventies West-Coast outfit, Just add sunshine to complete the picture. This ear for detail is abundant in both production and songwriting, giving the album a cohesive feel, the laid-back vibe adding to the charm. Maybe not an album i will play a lot, but when the weather is warm and i am feeling lazy, this could well hit the spot. (www.velvetbluemusic.com)
With a psych-pop tinge, the songs of Siglo 21, have an easy charm that washes over the ears making your mouth smile. Songs such as opener “Interesting Features” beguile without claiming to break new ground or dabble in experimentation, whilst the rather splendid “Museum” plays with the pop genre, mixing droning strings and surreal lyrics into the formula. By the time you get to the lively dance groove of “She's the One” (great lyrics), you will feel all is right with the world, and often that is all you need from an album called “Residents of Temporary Homes”. (www.myspace.com/siglo21band)
On their debut four-track EP “This Happening”, Is/Is display a talent for drifting sweet vocal lines over a sea of fuzz guitar, the resulting sound reminiscent of Mazzy Star remixed by Husker Du. On “Pretty Girl”, the reverbed vocals are almost drowning under the weight of the bass guitar, the song definitely benefitting from being turned up way too fuckin' loud as the band let rip with style. Afterwards, listeners are brought back to reality with the more gentle, almost shoegaze, washes of “Death Treat”, before finally succumbing to the power of “Eating Hourglasses” which rounds off the disc perfectly, the fuzz haze still present and correct. (www.guiltriddenpop.com)
Finally from me a varied collection of sounds from the excellent Fantastic Voyage label, who re-issue some great and obscure stuff, which, whilst not always being Terrascopic, is always worthy of a mention at least, if only because the label does it's work with quality and a love of the music, at the top of its agenda. First up, Bluebeard, whose sole 1971 self-titled album was only released in Italy, the band itself a studio project, roping musicians as and when required. Containing 9 tracks, the disc kicks off with the funky rock of “Sly Willy” which was released as a single and is probably their best known song. Excellent it is too, with a fine groove and sing-a-long chorus. Next up, the baroque pop of “Baby I Need You”, is another perfect example of the era, beautifully arranged with some great vocals, whilst “Too Many People” is a heavier psych-pop rocker with a driving beat, that pushes the song along at a frantic pace, some rocking guitar work adding to the fun. Elsewhere, “God Save the World”, has the feel of Kaleidoscope (U.S.) in its eastern haze, whilst the wonderfully titled “Goofin' Is Good Fun”, has a stoned seventies stomp, think Mungo Jerry or John Kongos. Elsewhere, there are mellow acoustic grooves (“Country Man”), heavy rock moments (“Butter Queen”), the album closing with the organ dominated “Losing You”, another great tune, closing a most satisfying disc for anyone who enjoys seventies pop/rock with a taste for adventure.
One the same label, fans of early blues will delighted with “Let Me Tell You About the Blues, Nashville”, a comprehensive 3 CD collection, which does just what it says on the tin. Compiled by Neil Slaven, the compilation features tracks from Cecil Gant, Sherman Williams, Christine Kittrell, Earl Gaines and Tommy McGhee, amongst a host of artists, the sounds ranging from jazz-tinged, to country-soaked variations of the blues. With the quality bar set high, this set is easy on the ear, a late-night treat for the lazily inclined, good with bourbon and an old dog.. Fans of gospel, or even the merely curious, should check out “Gospel, Celebreties and Celestial Lights”, a doiuble CD collection that mixes well-known names with rarities and unreleased tracks; full on celebrations with slower ballads. I confess to not knowing anything about gospel but i thoroughly enjoyed this set, especially as the winter solstice is upon us, far better than the vacuous christmas music you hear everywhere in december. Talking of christmas, another way of avoiding the usual crap they serve up as christmas fare is to open a bottle and slip “Mark Lamarr's Rhythm and Blues Christmas” into your player. Filled with 25 festive treats, you can lie back or gently boogie to the delights of “Hey Santa Claus” - The Moonglows, “White Christmas” - The Ravens, “Empty Stocking Blues” - Floyd Dixon, or any of the other fine songs included, each a tiny xmas gem which will add a sparkle to your family christmas.
Ok that's it for me, over to Steve, for a final word in 2010, merry christmas to you all (Simon)
The last time we Rumbled together I reviewed "Proxima" by Black Tempest, a.k.a. Stephen Bradbury, which took the best bits of Berlin School music and reworked it into an analogue delight. "Ex Proxima" is the follow up release, and although a little different in sound palette it counts again as an excellent album. The opening twenty five minute epic 'Invisible Moon' begins with analogue whooshes and choir mellotron before settling into a sequenced groove echoing those classic Tangerine Dream albums from the mid-'seventies. Soon however a new theme and feel emerges, vocals and synths, propelling the work into a different orbit; then it's back to the mellotrons and Phaedra-style sequences. Later a jazz insert projects itself, somewhat incongruously it must be said, before an Edgar Froese style flute mellotron closing sequence. 'Wind On Ice' is another Berlin style track, then the album closes with 'Biodivinity,' the best track on the album - a beautifully composed Berlin style piece. The jazz insert jars somewhat, but that is the only down-side to another great album.
"Ghost Surveillance" by Chicago based instrumental post-rock outfit Algernon comprises ten tracks of guitars-bass-drums-and-vibes music. Recorded over just two days to capture a live feel and "room sound," the tracks are mostly uptempo jazz-rock workouts with very little jazz and a lot of rock. Opener 'The Briefing' rocks out, then 'Broken Lady' - which reminded me of Jean-Luc Ponty's 'eighties work - takes weird time signatures and plays with them to great effect. 'Honey Trap' and 'Timekiller' match ferocious guitar parts and drumming with lighter textures, while the lengthy 'Debrief And Defect' opens with metal thrashing before spiralling off into lighter vibes-tinged textures. Amazing drumming underpins 'Objective Compromised,' while album closer 'The L Pill' briefly captures an almost romantic synth/vibes mood. Some music in this genre suffers from a lack of solos and other extensions, and this criticism could be levelled here, but Algernon's textural variety and the often amazing drumming raises the album above the average. For fans of Tortoise and Frank Zappa.
Radio Massacre International are a band I've struggled with over the years. On the surface they should be for me - stalwarts of the British electronic music scene, albums and gigs a-plenty and a whole stack of synths - but something about their music has all too often jarred with me. That is, until the release of the superb "Rain Falls In Grey," their tribute to Syd Barrett and all things psychedelic. Their third release for Cuneiform Records, "Time And Motion," is a double album of electronic space music with a new member, Martin Archer, on reeds and electronics, adding to the long-established trio. On the first disk sequences thrum and patter, electronics whoosh, and there is electric guitar too, and while Martin Archer's contribution certainly tips the balance on some tracks, for instance the lovely 'Chronos,' elsewhere on the first disk it doesn't quite work. The second disk I much preferred. The compositions hang together better, there is less noodling and more music, and better guitar. Steve Dinsdale's percussion on opener 'Maybe A Last Look At Joe's House' underpins the track perfectly, and the tempo is just right. 'Fission Ships Pt. 2' is a quiet, dreamy twenty four minute float through interstellar space, then 'Nine:Four:One' takes us into a kind of alternate early 'seventies headspace - also wonderful. Album closer '30 Years (Slight Return)' pits Archer's expressive reeds against Tangerine Dream styled sequences and subtle synths. Disk two far outstrips the first disk in sound, ambition and musicality, and will be well received by RMI fans.
"All Fours" by American quartet Swamp Baby is that strange thing an album of first-take songs, many of them approached by the band with little or no preparation. Placing bluesy acoustic guitars with violin, bass, simple drums and subtle backing synths (played by producer Frank Moscowitz) the album is slow, hazy and sun-dappled. Openers 'Economy' and 'Seeing Stars' set the mood, before the more overtly blues/country 'New Year's Eve,' which illustrates the band's working method well, and is the highlight of the album. 'Maine' is light verging on fragile, while 'Faust' rises and falls in unexpected places, and features a lovely keyboard part at the end. 'Sin Pan Alley' is mysteriously melancholic, while album closer 'Red Skies' brings it all together in a kind of Neil Young-esque waltztime cut. The album as a whole hangs together really well, perhaps because of its semi-improvised, first-take ethos, and stands as an intriguing addition to the canon of "slow and dreamy."
"Synthetic Biology," the fifth album of multi-style electronic cut-up music by Rubber Band Banjo, opens with loping rhythms, evocative saxophone and sonic synths before moving into freakier territory. The music is reminiscent of Harvey Bainbridge's solo work, Anubian Lights and some others of the Strange Trips scene, for example 'Chase Scene Through DNA Wormholes' where even the track title recalls Bainbridge. The tracks are all fairly short and so don't outstay their welcome. Album highlights include 'Terraforming Planet DIY Bio,' which has a great rippling rhythm and clever synths, while 'Self-Assembling Virus Spaceship' is a kind of mutated ambient jazz stroll - my favourite cut. Album closer 'Human Engineered Pathogen' is a ten minute Orb-esque romp through synth themes and samples. A different kind of listen...
Stunning black-and-white packaging greets the listener of "Mares' Tails" by Cavil, which comprises twelve melancholy songs performed to the accompaniment of acoustic guitar, light percussion or piano. Openers 'Terese' and 'These Things' set the downbeat mood, while further tracks play with personal lyrical themes. The lack of emotional variety in Gareth Cavill's singing style does wear on occasion, but classic English whimsicality ('When I Think Of You') and an outbreak of melody ('Pennine Town,' the album highlight) save the work. Those enamoured of mournful singer-songwriter styles will find enough here to get them through those long, wet Sunday afternoons.
"Transmission Hue" by American multi-media artist Nickolas Mohanna goes to show that electronic music still has places it can explore. The five tracks on this album cover mesmeric sequence/synth/sample territory, and will be enthusiastically received by modern EM fans. (If they aren't I'll eat my Mac.) Opener 'Dialogues' begins with shimmering synths, before sequences and drones well up from the sonic melting pot, creating an enthralling cut. 'Gishiki' relies more on sounds and effects as it evolves slowly from noise to music - superb. The brief 'Thin Ice' offers tinkling sounds and rattling samples, before 'Of Lethe' emerges with its wobbly synths and phased textures; later a rustling electronic rhythm emerges, and deep bass tones, creating an atmospheric track. The ten minute closer 'Configurations In Placing Sky' begins with mysterious samples and urban textures, before a sustained, droning chord and ocean wave sounds fill the audio spectrum. A terrific album that sustains repeated listening. Recommended.
If Scandinavian spacerock is your thing then you'll want to check out "For Sardines Space Is No Problem" by The Movements on the ever-reliable Sulatron Records. Opening with a kind of psychedelic dirge for organ, bass and drums, the album then moves on to more traditional Hawkwind-styled spacerock, here done in enthusiastic fashion. The guitar playing is suitably insane and the rest of the band are in fine form, while the synth-pinned closing section is a great conclusion. 'In The Footsteps Of Gagarin' opens with trippy vocals and effects before moving into a progressive, almost 'seventies sounding cut featuring effect-laden vocals and whispering organ. 'Trapped On Earth' is more pastoral echoing bands such as Dungen, while 'Go Now My Friend' matches harmonised vocals and slide guitar, before weirder, heavier elements intrude; great production on this cut. Album closers 'Ministers Of Space' and 'The Grasp Of The King's Hand Is Not Enough' match Hawkwind styles with progressive elements, with the flute and synth infested former cut being the album highlight. Space cadets shouldn't miss this one.
Enumclaw, aka Pennsylvania resident Norman Fetter, releases the EP "Painted Valley Of The Mineral Monks," an electronic work of five brief but hypnotic tracks that in places recall Terry Riley. Opening track 'Stratospheric' is minimal, played on one or maybe two keyboards, before 'Old Strobes' continues the low-key, enigmatic mood, again with chiming high-treble timbres but augmented with subtle percussion. 'Tusalava' matches a subtle, rippling sequence with slowly evolving synth tones, while the droning chords of 'Sedimentary' underpin scratchy synths to great effect; the ending pits whooshing synths against a solo echoed organ. 'Dire Diamonds' closes the work with more bubbling sequences and Riley-esque organs. A most intriguing EP, and recommended for EM fans.
Returning now to the more traditional band format rock and the new album "Doldrums" by Recife, who have been around for seven years now and released a number of albums. The style is indie rock, the musical ethic follows the classic quiet/loud/quiet structure, the moods vary, and the instrumentation is augmented by banjo, glocks and saxophone. Album highlights include the perky 'Paper Man' and the melancholic 'Break Out Of Their Reach.'
Still in American rock territory, "C-L-A-W-S" by Gospel Claws is the debut album by this Arizona based combo whose thunking soul sound has been attracting fan and media interest over the pond. Opener 'Walk Me Down' goes hell-for-leather but with a proper tune, while 'Summer Nights Lakeside' has a hint of that classic Band Of Horses debut 'Everything All The Time.' Comparisons with Fleet Foxes are stretching it, but this is a band with something different. 'Stars In My Heart' showcases the undoubted vocal talent of Joel Marquard, while soul stomper 'Avenues' delights and enthuses in equal measure, even though there's a hint of early U2 in the mix. 'Need For Speed' hints at the Animal Collective sound, while 'Householder' has a distinctly retro feel. Album closer 'Whispers & Talking' matches a shuffling beat with a less reverbed vocal for a slightly more modern sound. This could be the start of something special.
The Migrant is Danish muso-traveller Bjarke Bendtsen, whose plaintive yet emotive voice and original song arrangements create a marvellous mixture of bucolica and singer-songwriter moods on his debut release "Travels In Lowland." Opener 'The Organ Grinder' has a strong melody and an instantly likeable vocal style that moves and narrates at the same time, while 'Nothing But Clues' features a similarly strong melody and a euphoric, almost anthemic style - superb. 'In The Sun' is a catchy waltztime stomper, while track 4 is all in Danish but folk-rocks like a good 'un, with yet another great tune. 'Beans' amuses with silly lyrics, daft arrangement and violin-infused sound, while 'Lullabye' is the soft, quiet one where still waters run deep. The tuneful title track catches the listener with glockenspiel and whistling, while 'Don't Turn Tidal Wave' again features a memorable melody and beautiful chords, not to mention its dreamy arrangement. 'Back To You' matches melancholic musing with ethereal backing vocals, while lyric-free album closer 'You Think You Know' takes a while to get going but returns us to anthemic territory. This is without doubt the start of something special. Outstanding, and highly recommended.
"Let's Go On And On With HAM1" by HAM1 is the unlikely-sounding title for this collection of thirteen brief American cuts, some of which - 'Franklin' for example - have a mariachi sound, while others rock 'n' roll, or just do their quirky thing. Highlights include the preposterous 'Ghost Loop' which sounds as if it was channeled from 1962, and the slow-burn, albeit affecting 'Two Feathers,' while 'Chief Broom' is clearly the single on the album even though it's an instrumental - a fact that goes to show you can't judge a song by its cover. Meanwhile, 'Escape Hatch' is simply bonkers. This may be fare too quirky for some, but the band's enthusiasm and clever audio homages should overcome the doubts.
"Rojo" by David Wells is a truly beautiful album of drones and chords that evolve over extended periods of time. Split into 'One' at eighteen minutes and 'Two' at twenty, this is perfect "last thing at night" listening with the lights off and a joss stick burning. Drone/minimal music can be much of a muchness, but this is gorgeous: hints of the Indian tanpura, slowly shimmering chords, wisps of synth in the background (at the two minute mark on 'Two' - blink and you'll miss it)... I loved it. Recommended for ambient fans.
"Daas" by Machinefabriek inhabits similar territory to the aforementioned "Rojo" but broadens the sonic palette to include synths and instruments, and a wider array of drones. The title track opens the album and features an occasional string instrument or synth. Like Vidna Obmana, the tracks here rise and fade slowly: true ambience. 'Flotter' is much longer, weighing in at nineteen minutes, and it keeps to the formula of slow change and droning chords, while 'Onkruid' is minimal and heavily reverberated, featuring birdsong and cello - very spooky, and it works well. The twenty minute 'Koploop' features cello again and violin, and of all the tracks has the best balance of drones and movment; and of timbres. The bass-heavy 'Grom' closes the album as it opened. Good listening, and definitely one for fans of Vidna Obmana.
In March this year I reviewed the reissue of Blonde On Blonde's "Rebirth." The lead singer of that band, Dave Thomas, got in touch with Terrascope to offer his solo album "Coldharbour" for review; and here it is now. Opening with Paul Anka's 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore,' the rest of the album bar one track is all composed by Dave Thomas. Generally the songs here would fit into the folk rock bracket, with a dash of easy listening thrown in. 'Don't Make Me Cry' features a solid production and some tasty acoustic guitar playing, while the lovely 'Cornwall' (a county I know well) is one of the album highlights with a great vocal performance, accentuating the Celtic element to this album. A lounge feel pervades 'The Little Things,' while 'Magic Carpet Ride' sounds startlingly like an early Sting solo track (no bad thing because in the mid 'eighties his music was good). The title track comes half way through the album and has another smooth and emotive vocal. 'Here Comes The Rain' is a bit of a limp 'eighties-fest, but 'I Have Waited' is better and 'Poor Boy' struts its stuff well. 'Magnolia' has a pretty tune, while 'Lately' has a world-weary air that complements the instrumentation. Album closer 'Foxdown' is a bluesy slow burner. It would be a shame if this album got pigeonholed as easy listening (which it does veer into on occasion) because there's certainly more here than meets the ear.
The seven track EP "Lady Of The Wild Things" by Magdalena Solis comprises uncategorisable but enthralling pagan rock (? possibly) by two young ladies - or so it would seem from the cover. EP opener 'March Hare' startles and captivates, while the glockenspiel-haunted 'Count Your Blessings' is trippily weird. 'The Pigs Monastery' features bizarre samples, crows and narration, a real horror soundtrack, before entering freaky metal territory. 'Jinxed' is synthily scary, while 'Pink Sock Parade' is a masterful audio nightmare that for some reason reminded me of Kate Bush's 'The Ninth Wave.' 'Temple Prostitutes' channels some kind of ancient bestial aura to create another stunning track, while the concluding 'Zero Point Energy' is some kind of gothic space trip. Unique and utterly compelling: one third Hammer Horror, one third The Wicker Man, one third I don't know what, I did know I was going to dig this the moment I saw the artwork. More please.
d_rradio are exponents of IDM electronica whose new album "Parts" now comes the way of the Terrascopic reader. Nineteen very short tracks sequenced into an organic whole comprise this release, opening quiet and subtle before moving through other quiet and subtle moods in Eno-esque style. Often the feel is of an electronically augmented symphony orchestra, notably in the central section of the album. Elsewhere pianos drift in and out of the audio landscape, synths breathe and drone, moods arrive, live for a few moments then move on. In places lovely, in places haunting, always atmospheric, this is an accomplished release that will delight many in the EM and ambient communities, and comes recommended.
The late, great Jack Rose needs no introduction to Terrascope readers. In 2009, shortly before he died, he created with Glenn Jones a one-off event in a Brooklyn loft, which here comes as a DVD entitled "The Things That We Used To Do: Solos And Duets." Comprising a large number of solo pieces and duets, with live bonuses and a half hour interview, this DVD is a perfect epitaph to the man; and of course to the talent and works of Glenn Jones. Both players utilise the steel string guitars for which they are famous, but branch out into twelve string and banjo in Jones' case, and lap steel in Rose's case. The quiet intimacy of the filming - so much better without an audience - lends much to the music, and makes for compelling viewing. No Jack Rose fan is going to want to miss this. The duets are particularly enthralling; alas there are only two.
And so, dear reader, we return to the 'sixties. The Ember Records back catalogue has recently been re-released in some quantity by those forward thinking people at Fantastic Voyage, and here I'm going to journey through a number of their archive releases.
"Say When: Ember Sixties Pop Vol. 1 (1960-1961)" includes material from The Dale Sisters, Grant Tracy & The Sunsets, and the Sunsets themselves. The sound quality is excellent - tracks are in most cases remastered from the original tapes. Most amazing to my ears are the two tracks from Ray Ellington, whose tremendous voice enhanced so many episodes of the Goon Show; the tracks here are 'Jump Over' and 'The Madison,' both pure gold. "Two Timing Baby: Ember Sixties Pop Vol. 2 (1961-1962)" opens with a Buddy Holly-a-like classic from Carter, Lewis & The Southerners, then goes on through more gold from Grant Tracy, the Dale Sisters, Johnny Carson (Johnny Carson?!), peaking with two gloopily orchestrated classics from Sandra Gale, 'Hello Heartbreak' and 'If She's Right For You,' which have to be the über-nostalgic cuts on this collection. (Gale was also a part of the Ray Ellington Quartet, and even joined Ember at the same time as he did.) Advancing now to the beat years we have "Done Me Wrong: Ember Sixties Beat Vol. 2 (1965-1966)" and much jingly jangly E/A/B bluesy pop from the likes of The Washington DCs, Grant Tracy again, and chart-botherers Chad And Jeremy, whose tracks here shine out with their multi-voiced harmonised vocals. Another stand-out is the proto-hippy "Well... All Right" by The People, which, bizarrely, fuses Buddy Holly with a West Coast organ sound. "After Tonight: Ember Sixties Beat Vol. 3 (1966-1967)" is an altogether different proposition however, and illustrates just how much changed during those few magical years in the later mid 'sixties. Already the American influence is spreading through British beat music, with outstanding tracks by the likes of The Clockwork Oranges, The Bats, The People (who would in time record with Jimi Hendrix), and Paul's Troubles, who come over like a British equivalent of The Cowsills.
The wonderful "Looking Towards The Sky: Progressive, Psychedelic & Folk Rock From The Ember Vaults" casts its aim high and exceeds its ambition. There are glorious tracks here from 9.30 Fly, The Dorians, a real rarity from Blue Beard which never got beyond a test pressing, Blonde On Blonde, and much more. Reeking of its era, this is a great collection. One of the tracks on this aforementioned collection is by Milt Matthews Inc., whose sole album for Ember "For The People" is now re-released by Fantastic Voyage. This heavy soul classic from 1971 features fuzzed guitar (think 'When Will There Be A Harvest For The World'), soaring orchestration and Milt himself, whose Redding-esque vocals grace the album. Great drumming from Tommy Byrd underpins every track (his snare cuts through all the way), with highlights including the opener, a remarkably good cover of the Beatles' 'Hard Day's Night,' and the smoocher 'That's The Way I Feel,' whose vocal performance is terrific. The highlight of highlights though is 'Disaster Area,' which simply has the lot.
And so to the 'seventies. "Sweet Surrender: Ember Pop (1970 - 1978)" shows the decade wasn't all bad, with great cuts from Linda Thorson, Blue Beard (the incongruously gritty 'Country Man') and even Denny Doherty, whose 'Simone' and 'Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling' do rather stand out from the other tracks. Meanwhile Robin's 'Back On Watership Down' is jaw-droppingly weird, coming across like Leo Sayer meeting Mike Batt - by no means a bad song, but what the hell...? This though is a collection whose eclecticism raises it from merely treading water. And finally in this stirring of the embers, let's enter the lounge with "Happy Hour In The Ember Lounge," a collection of jazzy easy listening tracks for those essential evening parties with cocktails and colourful furniture. They're all here: Annie Ross (what a voice) and Lita Roza (ditto, but even more so), jazz from Ken Moule, The London Jazz Quartet and from The Tony Kinsey Quarter, whose closing track evokes so well drunken revellers leaving 'sixties pads late at night. Nice. Really nice.
Rumbles for November was brought to you by Simon Lewis and Steve Palmer. Artwork, layout & direction by Phil McMullen - copyright Terrascope Online, December 2010