To end, “Ode To Parallel” seems to sum up all that has gone before, another exquisite tune that floats through your brain in a delightful way leaving the listener relaxed and content. Housed in a faux-fur cover complete with lyric sheet and download code this album is well worth picking up. (https://danewaters.bandcamp.com/)
Containing six slices of experimental drone and electronics “Mogollon Rim” is the latest release from Hunted Creatures. Opening track “Whisper Bullets” sounds like a cloud of space dust heading your way, a crackly drone that threatens to engulf you before “Interlude” adds some rhythm/notes to proceedings, a gentle step towards “Hallway” a track that is much fuller containing electronic percussion and a violin that weaves its way through the outburst of noise that fade in and out of the piece. Possibly my favourite piece on the album “Dream Snake” is a spacey affair, an Eastern motif that is flung out towards the stars, with some definite influences from kraut rock electronics its repetitive nature one of its strengths. After the brief melodic charms of “Human Dust” a warm and happy tune, we are led out by the title track a delicate and atmospheric drone with veins of electronics running through it, the piece almost dissolving as it moves through the room. With excellent cover artwork from Robert Beatty, this is a well-crafted and thoroughly entertaining collection this is recommended. (https://huntedcreatures.bandcamp.com/)
Next up a handful of 7”singles that have landed here in the last few months, including a couple from Career Records. Pressed on lovely red vinyl is a magnificent split single with The Nomads playing “No Cops, Haul Ass” a noisy garage instrumental penned by Ron Sanchez (Donovans Brain) who adds his own guitar noise to the track, whilst on the other side Donovan's Brain themselves keep up the energy levels on the psych-rock “bread Man Burning” complete with some great guitar work from Deniz Tek and “Snow in Miami” another garagey instrumental that makes a lot of noise, good stuff all round. Talking of Deniz Tek his single is pressed on purple vinyl with “Crossroads” being a slice of bluesy seventies rock that deserves plenty of volume, whilst the other side is a cover of “Oh Well” that was recorded live in the studio and has a raw feel and plenty of attitude to boot. (http://www.careerrecords.com/)
Finally for the singles another split release this time featuring Allysen Callery and Ryan Lee Crosby and released on Jellyfant Records. Sweet and haunting “The End is a sad tune sung beautifully by Allysen her voice shining out over a minimalist backing filled with emotion and truly captivating. With some sparkling guitar work and a West-Coast feel “Frozen Warnings” sounds like a lost late sixties classic,shades of Tim Buckley to be heard in the strong voice Ryan Lee Crosby, the song seemingly transporting you back to simpler times. Two excellent songs that compliment each other and make for a fine single. (http://jellyfant.wordpress.com/)
Ok, onto the CD's, including a couple of releases from the always excellent Front and Follow label. With the first edition also containing a bonus disc of rare material, there is a wealth of music to explore on “Loor” a rather fine collection of electronic/acoustic soundscapes from Kemper Norton. Right from the off we are drawn into a new world as “Howlsed” pulls us in, a ever rising drone that comes in waves, pulsating forward with grand intent. On “Ostiaz” a traditionally sung folk song is enhanced and sometimes engulfed by electronic backing creating a slightly disorientating feel that suits the lyrical themes. Beautiful and haunting “Cravenvale Round” slows thing down with chanted vocals and soft electronics creating a ghostly image in your brain, whilst “War-Barth” contains chiming strings and softly spoken drones through which lyrics writhe and crawl. As the album progresses all these elements ebb and flow with mesmeric effect creating a collection that is absorbing and varied yet maintains its identity throughout. Moving onto the bonus disc the listener is treated to 12 tracks from the archives with the four tracks from the “To Mahina” being the pick of the bunch for me, floating drone and electronics that take you into a different world. However every track is worth hearing the same variations in sound to be heard, traditional folk mixing with experimentation in a way that is beautifully crafted original and gets better each time it is played.
Also avaliable on Front and Follow is “The Black Mist EP” from Pye Corner Audio featuring a long version of the title track that first appeared on the “Outer Church” compilation, a new track and a re-mix of “Black Mist” by Old Apparatus. Energetic from the start, “Black Mist” sounds like a mixture of sequenced Tangerine Dream and the Dr Who theme, a pulsing electronic roller coaster that storms out of the speakers with glee, racing around the room whilst you hang onto your hat grinning with sheer joy. Slower but equally enticing “Bulk Erase” has droning chord and slow-burning rhythms at its core, a space-funk bass line adding warmth to the tune. To end Old Apparatus de-construct “Black Mist” into a creepy shadow of itself complete with hallucinatory vocal samples and creaking electronics the track dissolved into a vessel of electronic drones and washes the original energy fighting to reach the surface creating a delicious tension that really works. Available as limited edition vinyl and download this should definitely be heard. (http://www.frontandfollow.com/)
Having been unable to find a label to release their music Saison De Rouille decided to release “Deroutes Sans Fin” their second album using crowdfunding and a network of small labels. Singing in French the band seem to straddle several genres, shades of Goth, Industrial, doomy Metal and even Prog to be found in their music. One thing that can be said is that it is noisy and intense with the title track itself being filled with distortion and despair, a sonic avalanche threatens to crush you under its weight. On “Le Carnaval”, there is a heavy guitar riff that holds the tune together, reminding me of early grunge or maybe the first album by The Honolulu Mountain Daffodils. Throughout the album rarely lets up creating a cloying, claustrophobic atmosphere that is intense and sometimes overwhelming Definitely not easy listening and you have to be in the mood, but if you are this is an exhilarating ride especially with the volume way too fucking loud. (https://saisonderouille.bandcamp.com/album/deroutes-sans-fin-2014)
Next a trio of recent (and not so recent) releases from Morc Records, a label that always delivers. With the A-side featuring “Low Red Room” one long droning track Karina ESP have plenty of time to explore their subtle soundscapes, crackles and pops entwined with slowly floating guitar drones that drift into the ether creating a dream-like state that corrodes time, the track hovering in the air like a great mystical bird. On the other side are three more conventional pieces, delicate guitar melded into treated vocals, the dream state still invoked, reminding me of Galaxie 500 in slow motion. Adding some percussion final track “Distant Light” is a thing of beauty, the spoken vocals barely audible pulling you into the song's melancholy atmosphere.
Collecting together, EP tracks, a live recording and some pieces from compilations “Foxfur and Rarebits” is a wonderful collection that highlights just how good pioneering wyrd folk band The Iditarod really were. Opening with “Feel the Breath of the Woods Upon Your Heart Part One” you are immediately pulled into a strange hallucinating world, voices, percussion and guitar swirling together creating a vortex of sound that builds in tension with a stuttering electric guitar writhing at its centre. Elswhere”Sparrow” is a haunting folk tune lost on a foggy highway, whilst “Where the Cold Wind Blows” begins as a bleak re-working of that Leadbelly tune before morphing into something slightly warmer, musically at least, with a sweet flute adding beauty to the stringed instruments that weave magic into the tune. Taking the song and making it their own, The band's version of “Julia Dream” is another highlight a droning cello adding depth to the arrangement. To end, we get part two of the opening song, this part feeling sparser with a clarinet (possibly) adding a different timbre to the piece although the electric guitar defintely makes its presence felt throughout.
Finally on Morc, Pefkin take us into the heart of the mystery on “Inner Circle, Outer Circle” a colllection of four shimmering pieces that mix drones, voice and experimental passages into a glorious whole. Highlighting the wonderful voice of creator Gayle Brogan, “Later I Walked Into the Woods” is delicate and haunting each note and sound lovingly crafted for maximum effect. This lysergic atmosphere continues throughout the album with “The Place Thereof Knoweth it no more” featuring echoed spoken word and sweetly vibrating drone, whilst “Sigils and Premonitions” has a more melodic heart, a guitar picking out a gentle flow of soft notes. Saving the best for last, “Isn't Good to be Lost in the Woods” has sixties inspired organ threaded through it and drifts into Kraut territory with intense guitar and beautiful melodies sounding like a long lost early Floyd track completing an enthralling album in style. All albums on vinyl and download. (http://www.morctapes.com/the-iditarod.html)
After that intense listen it may be time for the Neil Young meets Tom Petty sounds of Handsome Jack, whose latest release “Do What Comes Naturally” is a fine collection of Rock and Roll that is earthy, rootsy, bluesy and made for a good time. With dirty guitar, a heady backbeat and some excellent vocals “Echoes” kicks thing off perfectly, sounding great after a few beers and plenty of volume. Sounding like an outtake from Tom Petty's “Mojo” album, “Creepin'” ensures the volume remains high, whilst “Between The Lines” is a good time stomp with a funky soul. As you proceed there are touches of The Stones to be found, sleazy guitars and lazy rhythms creating a smoky atmosphere, the band sounding like they are having fun throughout. For sure, there is nothing new here but when rock and roll sounds this good why change anything. (http://www.alive-records.com/artist/handsome-jack/)
Following a tradition of classic British songwriting alive with humour, the kitchen sink, melancholy, self-destruction and occasional bitterness, there are hints of The Kinks,Blur, Ian Dury, Madness and even The Arctic Monkeys to be found in the songs of David Woodcock whose debut self-titled album is a joy from start to finish, choc-a-bloc with strong melodies and engaging lyrics, his Essex accent adding to its authenticity. Opening track “Same Things” has a pub rock/two tone backbeat with sharp lyrics and plenty of energy, whilst the piano of “Open Secrets” harkens back to the original pub rock of the early/mid seventies. With pithy lyrics and a fine groove “Splinters” is an early highlight that catches the ear, whilst the topical tune “Beggars Can't Be Choosers” deals with benefits, people who should think a bit more and Jeremy Kyle, all with some style and a dirty guitar here and there, brilliant. To round the whole thing off “I Forgot To Miss You” is the Southend -On-Sea version of Tom Waits, all sleazy and drunken fuelled with cheap booze and desperation for a good time. So, 12 songs that are entertaining, wonderfully written and have something to say, what more could you want. (http://www.davidwoodcockmusic.com/)
a\k,m (the cat wrote that bit).
Moving on, Elijah Ocean Is a singer/songwriter who offers a seventies, West-Coast musical view, his beautifully constructed songs awash with a lilting Country influence that perfectly suits his voice. With some wonderful harmonies from Sarah Durning, “Ride It Out” is a gorgeous opening song that is mellow and reflective summing up the album's mood immediately, whilst the soft tones of “Savannah Rose” offer a more Country feel with harmonica and steel guitar to be found within. Throughout this eight song collection there is a warm human quality that gives the tunes an authentic feel, the delightful arrangements ensuring they shine out with their own charm. (www.elijahocean.com)
Punk Rock and Beer has always seemed to be a good combination to me and The Destructors seem to agree as their latest offering “Dolor Goggles” offers 14 songs about drinking/beer and the consequences, all with their trade-mark punk guitar assault and lots of attitude. To be fair if you like that brand of Seventies U.K. Punk then this is for you, one listen to “Punk Rock Piss Up” or “This is England” will have you jumping up and down a bit with a big smile and a cold one, if that is not for you then you better move on. Also on offer is the minute long track “Who The Fuck Is John Barleycorn” where the band express their wariness about covering a folk classic, followed by their three chord thrash through that very song, a travesty or highly amusing depending on your point of view and alcohol levels, made me laugh anyway. (https://www.facebook.com/Destructors.UK)
Mixing electronics, vocal samples, bass guitar and plenty of invention “get Up Get Up” is the latest offering from I Am The Man With The St Tropez Tan, the album a giddying affair that is cut-up and quite manic in places. After the opening assault of “Scared To Wake Up”, a funky guitar line introduces “Go On Rick Say Testing” a shorter piece that serves as an introduction to the bubbling chaos of “Oh” a dense cloud of noise that dissolves into a clambering of notes and a horse. Further in “Something Happy” is sweet and melodic whilst the closing track “Auf Berlin” is an electronic delight, the piece(and the album) mixed to wonderful effect creating an album that is playful, energetic and varied. Created by Rick Senley, the man also has time to create an alter-ego in the shape of Music For Voyeurs whose latest album “The Curtains Are Opening” has a darker tone mixing distorted riffs with piano and trumpet, the electronics less prominent than in the other project. Opening salvo “I've Given Up On Everything” has a droning background flavour that is almost claustrophobic especially when mixed with looped vocal samples towards the end. Sweetened with melancholy “Save Me” uses dusty piano and faraway trumpet to create a heady atmosphere that is topped by a sampled preacher creating a track that will stick in your brain. Beautifully composed, “Tablets” adds electronic percussion to the piano, as well as a harmonica, the track leading into the guitar jangle of “The Spirit of Calming Horses” a tune with a lighter almost jaunty feel. Throughout the album there is an assured touch, the songs feeling personal to the musician, creating a connection through its fragility.
Available as a limited 7” single, I'll Call Your Bluff” / “You've Done Me Wrong” are two raw R'n'B/Garage tunes from Danish combo The Youth, with the A-side managing that perfect blend of jangle, fuzz and attitude and the flip having a great early Pretty Things feel that gets your feet moving. Good stuff indeed. (http://staterecs.com/)
Also on 7” comes the snotty punk noise of The Suburban Homes, whose self-titled EP features three fuzzed up slices of attitude that mix The Stooges with The Subhumans, all of them rattling past at high speed and needing volume for maximum effect. Pick of the bunch is the title track but they are all good in a pogo 'round the living room kinda way. (https://marketsquarerecordings.bandcamp.com/)
Released on 12” vinyl (but all we got was a CD, as with the two releases above) “Evil Doings of an Evil Kind” is a four-track collection of fuzzed up psych garage from Stockholm based band The Janitors. Opening track “Greed” blends Spacemen 3 with The Fuzztones to create a dark moody sound that is hypnotic and droning, whilst “Black Wheels” sounds more authentically sixties while reminding me of The cramps. With the ghost of Rocky Erickson haunting “Here They Come” and The Monomen seemingly helping out on “There Will Be Blood” this is a collection that breaks no new barriers but is a mighty fine way to pass some quality time, four strong songs that will blast away the cobwebs and get you reaching for your chosen stimulant. (http://badafro.dk/)
Keeping the guitar theme going “Feel The Noise” is an album packed with Power-Pop goodness from Paul Collins. Opening track “Feel The Noise” is a powerful statement of intent, a rallying cry for rock and roll that strays into new wave/punk territory and gets your attention. Elsewhere, “Baby I Want You” is a rougher sounding Tom Petty, “I Need My Rock 'n' Roll” is the sound of The cars in their early days and “With A girl Like You” is a sixties sounding pop gem complete with some great guitar and hooks. Obviously not a ground breaking collection but highly enjoyable all the same. As with the Handsome Jack reviewed earlier when music is this good why re-invent the wheel. Perfect for a sing-a-long car journey or a family party. (http://www.alive-records.com/)
Also featuring some great songwriting, a good variety of sounds and great production “Static Noise” is something of a grower from Brian Lopez, a talented musician with an ear for melody. Opening with a haze of synth “Mercury In Retrograde” soon turns into a dark simmering tune that has shades of Radiohead about it, yet remains melodic and slightly lysergic. On “Wrong or Right” there is a sweet pop sound, chiming guitar and a lovely vocal performance that is reminiscent of Jeff Buckley, something that is more apparent on the title track, a beautiful song that matches piano and voice perfectly. Elsewhere, Rod Argent's “She's Not There” is given the once over becoming a psych-pop tune once again, this version retaining a freshness and displaying what a great tune it really is. To round things off, “Goodnight” is a gentle song that is the perfect epitaph for this collection of quality tunes. (http://funzalorecords.com/)
With Hints of Lou Reed, Neil Young and The Pixies mixed into their sound, Sean O'Brien and His Dirty Hands make a glorious racket on “Risk Profile” a collection of 12 fine tunes that, for the most part, rock out of the speakers with plenty of energy and interesting guitar riffs that make the song angular and unpredictable although they follow a familiar blueprint. Opening track “Rehabilitated, (I Want You)” is a great start, punching its way into your brain, the band tight but loose as they are on “Final Say” a song with a melodic REM feel to it. Not quite as lyrically incisive, “”I Can't Say No” is, however, a tune the Velvets would have been proud of, whilst “The Addict Demands” is a smoky late night groove with jazz piano and a downbeat feel. Cloaked in some electronic percussion, “The Sugar Will Do You In” adds more variation to the sounds of the album, the whole thing closed by “Blind Advantage” a slice of Americana complete with piano and steel guitar. This is an album that takes a few listens to get into, the sounds rich and dense forcing the listener to dig a little deeper, and, therefore, more rewarding once the digging is done. (http://www.seanobmusic.com/)
Describing their sound as Meditative mood music, Moonsicles play just that on their latest album “Creeper”. Opening track “Slow Owl” is a languid crawl down a lazy river, repetitive guitar notes and droning synths creating plenty of atmosphere and a very relaxed feel, something that “Coyote Pretzel” does little to dispel, although there is a more Shoegazy ambience to the track and a nagging guitar motif that reminds me of “Horizons” the short guitar piece on side two of “Foxtrot”, although that is where the similarity to the prog Genesis ends (except that I like both bands). Drifting into more synth based sounds, “Crystal Spy” becomes a slice of Floydian bliss, whilst “Trembling Grub” has a slowly undulating bass at its core, a beautiful track that takes you into deep space. Over six tracks the mood remains drifting and spacey, the collection a richly rewarding trip, one for a darkened room and quiet contemplation. (http://moonsicl.es/)
Right, time to hand over to Steve Palmer for some more musical musings. Hit it, Steve.
Heed The Thunder are a Herefordshire based folk ensemble who have been going for about five years. Based in a local commune, they have played fairs, gatherings and parties in that time, assembling a fine collection of songs in the process, set on to two albums. Their third album "Cokaigne" is a superb selection of melodious folk/singer-songwriter tracks, beautifully sung and recorded. Opening with the entrancing 'Blackest Night,' which is as lovely a tune as you could wish to hear, the album rambles on in fine style through a selection of songs based around dual male/female vocals, string double bass and fingerpicked acoustic guitar. There are changes in mood - 'Basilisk' brings in King Crimson-esque brass, while 'Drink Up & Go' has the listener attending to the banjo of Kate Gathercole. This very enjoyable album would be enjoyed by fans of Corncrow, while links to local folk-psychedelicists Sproatly Smith aren't unexpected. Comparisons to Bert Jansch and Jacqui McShee are justified; this is an excellent album.
Prog synth man Leon Alvarado releases his third solo album "2014: Music From An Expanded Universe" with the help of various King Crimson and Peter Gabriel band luminaries. 'Irreverence Part 1' is a wash of dark synths, before the drum and Chapman stick rock of 'The 2014 Microcosm' arrives, which matches sequences with a loping, jazzy rhythm; a hint of Gabriel's 90's work in the sound here. 'Blood Like Red' features a striking synth sound, played with real skill, while 'Irreverence Part 2' is a companion piece to the opening cut. The work finishes with the bonus track, a short live piece with thudding drums and majestic synths. Short but sweet.
I liked 2012's "13 Difficult Lessons" by Scottish quirky pop band Dancing Mice, and here they are for a new album "Quiz Culture" - their third. As before, the mood is poppy, slightly ramshackle (in the best way) and full of charm. Synth-pop opener 'Eleanor' begins the album with its heart-warming lyrics and keyboard riffs. 'The Backroom Boys' achieves a nice balance of guitars and synths, while 'Red Star' is a weirdly woozy shuffling number. 'Heaven And Hell' pits a thrumming piano with dark and slightly doomy lyrics for another quite trippy song, while 'North Star' (a favourite on this album for me) mixes plangent saxophone with Spanish style guitars; cleverly done! 'Hide And Seek' is another album highlight, I think, with its flanged guitars underpinning effected vocals. Album closer 'Helen And Paris' mixes Greek myth with the ordinary stuff of 2014 life - which is the theme of the album. There is quirkiness, style and originality a-plenty here.
"Left For Dead" by Sun Zoom Spark matches the poetry inspirations of John Galuska with the psych-rock of the band's guitarist Eric Johnson. Originally recorded in 2001, a series of overdubs was later added, creating the final work, which inhabits instrumental rock territory, enlivened by subtle synths and other trippy additions. The opening couple of tracks are standard rock fare (albeit nicely played and mixed) but the album really takes off with the jazz-inflected bass and synth 'Left For Life' - an album highlight for sure. This album was inspired by shamanic psychedelics, recorded initially in one night, and then - as the title implies - left alone. Ressurrected, it sounds great - hints of Chickencage Experience, and others. The seventeen minute title track is undoubtedly the heart of the album, with lots of synth inclusions, guitar solos, and much more. Definitely one for space cadets.
Also on SlowBurn Records is the self-titled first album by Cobracalia, an offshoot of Eric Johnson's Black Sun Ensemble. This album merges world music influences with lots of jam-based psychedelia and trippiness for an excellent sound - definitely another one for space travellers. Album opener 'Dandyloin' hints at the earlier Ozric Tentacles sound, with lots of psych percussion and fuzzed-out guitar. Excellent synths too. 'Fistful Of Flowers' brings in vocals, while the wonderful 'Arabic Satori' is a terrific fusion of guitars and minor-scale jamming. Very nice indeed. 'Queen Of The Night' stands out for its chiming guitars and the liquid violin of Jillian LaCroix-Martin, a cut that inevitably reminds the listener of the music of ex-Hawk Simon House. Album closer 'Gas Giant' is a dubby cut also enlivened by violins, and to my ears is by far the best track. Overall, this is an enjoyable piece of work, and certainly one space cadets will want to check out.
The Special Pillow (great name!) are American jangly psych poppers, with a good line in catchy songs and retro sounds. On their fourth album "Infinite Regression" they present the listener with sixteen uplifting, lightly psych-flavoured vignettes, opening with the sitar-supported 'To No Avail,' which immediately sets out the band's stall: short songs, lots of backing vocals, concise and clever. The lyrical concerns are varied - some serious, some whimsical. Rickenbacker-sounding guitars and violin overlay the tuneful 'In Retrograde,' while 'Third Of July' has one of those irresistible chord sequences that puts a smile on your face. The title track is more rock than preceding fare, with the strings of Kate Gentile (violin, viola) adding to the mix. Album highlight! - and great backing vocals. Elsewhere there is much to enjoy - hints of The Byrds on 'Staring At The Screen' (a call out to our over-technological world), more electric sitars on 'Coming Soon,' while 'Airlocked And Earthbound' reminded me of REM. Overall - good stuff, with the blend of retro and modern particulary well managed.
John Bassett of Kingbathmat and various solo albums is the man behind metal-heavy outfit Arcade Messiah, who on their debut album offer up a series of guitar-heavy instrumentals of bleak, noisy and dystopian nature. The progressive quotient is high: big riffs, chiming additions, and lots of chugga chugga hands-on-the-guitar-strings metal thrumming. One thinks of sludge metal, doom metal, and so on. One for those who enjoy heaviosities.
Freeze Puppy is the nom de plume of composer Tom O. C. Wilson, who on his new album "The Night Attendant" creates a nice, original concept - a night attendant falls asleep in a gallery and his dreams reflect the paintings around him. The tracks are all short - sometimes very short - and have hooks, quirkiness and unusual instrumentation in spades. There are hints of Gorkys Zygotic Mynci in the weirdly wonderful vocals and classical instrumentation of 'Jocelyn,' also on the backing vocals of 'Living In The Movies,' which is as charming as you could wish for (hints of the Beach Boys in the arrangement, I feel). The "tune quotient" continues to remain high as the album continues: 'Katama Bay,' 'Emily & Joseph' (hints of The High Llamas in that one), 'From Memory'. There are a few false notes - maybe the ill-advised synth pop of 'The Same Parts' - but this is a charming, engaging album that's a delight to listen to. Tom Wilson presented this album as his MA in Composition at the University of Southampton - I hope they gave it a high grade.
I was never a massive fan of ELP back in the day, though I did very much like "Tarkus" and "Brain Salad Surgery," both of which to my ears remain fine albums. On "An Intimate Evening With Keith Emerson & Greg Lake" the mighty duo present a kind of greatest hits collection. It reminds me just how great some of those songs were - 'Bitches Crystal,' the Crimso classic 'I Talk To The Wind,' 'Take A Pebble' and of course 'Lucky Man.' The entire run of 'Tarkus' is wonderful, even stripped down, as it is here. I really enjoyed this album, presenting as it does the musical depths of these two musicians beneath the flash and pomp of ELP, which so often obscured rather than highlighted. And Greg Lake's voice is in fine form - he always was a terrific vocalist. Definitely recommended for all proggers.
The American record company Trail Records have a fantastic back catalogue and an envied reputation as purveyors of high quality, often ethnic-influenced space rock, synth and psych rock, and their new collection "Space Travel 2007-2014" is no exception to this. Included in this outstanding collection are cuts by Siddhartha, Ole Lukkoye, Sky Cries Mary, In The Labyrinth and Barrett Elmore - all reviewed by me in the pages of Terrascope Online - plus new music (to me) from The Narcotic Daffodils, with the closing cut from Polska Radio One 'Shangri-La' a particularly good discovery, with its dramatic drum riff, deep bass and its heavily delayed, drugged-out psych vocals - fantastic track. This compilation should be essential listening for all those travelling in astral or psychedelic zones. Therefore, recommended.
Maston is psychedelic recording artist Frank Maston, who has been lucky enough to play at the Liverpool Psych Festival and also accompany Jacco Gardner ("the European Syd Barrett") in the studio and out on tour. "Opal Collection" is a compilation of earlier tracks from the man's back catalogue, most of which appeared only on cassette, or not at all. The opener presents the listener with a voice weirdly placed between Elizabeth Frazer of Cocteau Twins and DeVries (yes, I know...) but the effect is certainly pleasing, if a little disconcerting. 'Gold Leaf' and 'Over The Falls' are heavily reverbed songs, interleaved with an instrumental. The guitar playing on the latter song is very nice, and overall the mood is retro without being too-obviously retro. Nice chord changes too. 'Well' is another pleasant instrumental, while the cinematic 'Pearl Diver' sounds like it was directly channelled from 1969. 'Potemkin' matches a rockabilly guitar sound with more heavily reverbed vocals, while the closing cuts, 'Wish' and 'Engrams' also have a cinematic feel, thanks in part to the shimmering, Leslie-effected guitars. Overall - good sounds, great atmospheres, and engaging listening.
"There's No Underground" by Papernut Cambridge also finds retro atmospheres for inspiration, opening with the amazingly dense and thrilling 'The Ghost Of Something Small,' which pits a Motown beat with a great song, and which fades far too soon! The title track is similarly dense, with lyrics concerning natural life (with sound effects) in modern environments, while 'Accident's Children' is lighter, much lighter, with hints of Mott The Hoople in the vocal. Perhaps it's time to break out the bubblegum. 'Umbrella Man' is also a light and breezy affair, with a lazy styled vocal. 'The Long Shadows Of Lee' is an album highlight - lots of reverb, delightful slide guitar, and a kind of hazy English feel. 'When She Said What She Said' returns to big drums, and has a Liverpool vibe - The Las, The Coral - while 'Nutflake Social' is a real hark back to the 70s, complete with glam drums and flute riffs. Great! 'Winter Sunset's Gone' takes vocal reverb to its logical conclusion, while album closer 'Rock N Roll Sunday Afternoon City Lights' is a barnstorming track again infused with the vibe of the '70s. A great album with lots to discover, and enough variety to sustain very enjoyable listening.
"Inspired by Syd Barrett's artwork..." is a phrase to concern some reviewers. Syd is such a mighty figure that it could be argued he has been too inspirational in recent years. Or is that just me being cynical? Anyway, Garden Music Project is a work authored by synaesthetic artist Adriana Rubio, assisted by lead singer and guitarist Alexander Ditzend, and inspired by the art of the former Roger Barrett. A trio of other musicians complete the (rock format) band. Opening with a couple of bright, uptempo songs, the feel is vaguely retro, with plenty of Hammond organ and Rhodes in the mix. 'Isolation' is the most obviously Barrett-esque of the opening cuts, but there is no intention to copy the early Floyd sound, which would be impossible anyway, given Barrett's considerable melodic gifts. The latter four tracks are the most compelling on the album, and appear to form a particular strand of the work - 'Coliseum' with its eerie vocals, ethnic percussion and floating keyboards actually evokes 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene,' which seems to miss the point of the work a little, 'Tour Bus,' vulnerable and calm, 'Bridge' is superbly played with a great guitar part, and 'Self Portrait," which piles on the English references and is more pastiche than anything. A curious project, and certainly interesting, but, perhaps, difficult to get a handle on. As an album without any Syd Barrett references it would certainly work, which is not exactly to say it doesn't work with those references...
Dive Index is an American collaborative project with sound man and producer Will Thomas at its heart, here presenting their third album "Lost In The Pressure." Featuring emotive vocals, much cello play and also synth loops and textures, the overall vibe is quite mellow, with an effective, though often minimal, mix of synths and played instruments. Album opener 'Rewind Your Patience' floats a story-telling vocal over a bed of cellos and synths in pleasant style; an unfortunate resemblance in the vocals to those of Bono is not too distracting. 'Counting Umbrellas' has a similar vibe to what has gone before, but takes the tempo down and changes to Simone White's whispery vocals. 'Be Cold With' me is terrific - strange, atonal backing vocals and a strong tune, with anthemic, yet minimal synths floating around. Yes, it is a little "Coldplay" in places, which obviously is not good, but it's only a passing likeness thankfully. 'Pattern Pieces' is fey and wintry with Simone White again on vocal duties, while 'No Stab Wounds' sounds like Boards Of Canada merged with Isaiah Gage's vocals - a good mix. The cellos on the closing track work really well. Listening to this album is like floating over the debris of life, but, last thing at night, it is affecting.
My Education/Theta Naught Sound Mass create big psychedelic textures on their album, with an instrument and player list to daunt: guitars, e-bow, synths and vibraphone, trumpet, percussion and cellos. Quite a lot, then, but does the music match this ambition? Opener 'Salty Tassels' floats haunting sounds over a slow, loping rhythm, with the bass to the fore - very nice sound with lots of drama. That drama increases as the track works up into a drum-frenzied climax. Great! 'Spiritual Docking' goes similarly, opening with chiming guitars before the track heads off into heavier territory. 'Meanwhile, Approximately 20 Miles Outside Of Chico' opens trippy before rocketing away. Some nice Urs Amman-style artwork makes this album a notable package, and it is a space cadet's dream; really good music. Recommended!
Very colourful artwork; band name Mothership; album name "Guru Freakout"; first track clocking in at thirty one minutes; I can see where we are going here! And indeed, the territory is fuzzy spacerock territory with nods to all the classic artists of the genre. There is much to enjoy here: great screaming solos with tons of feedback, very high quality playing and recording, and some tasty Moog synth work. The drums of Mani Neumeier are particularly fine, anchoring the band and decorating the jammed music all at the same time. Great freakout listening for astral journeyists!
Memory Drawings album "There Is No Perfect Place" is a collection of alt-folk tracks with many unusual instruments in the mix, including some beautiful hammered dulcimer (an instrument I've always loved the sound of). The tracks blur the divide between chamber - even classical - music and folk and rock music, presenting a series of elegant, and superbly recorded pieces. The majority of the cuts are instrumental, weaving many instruments together in a fashion sometimes resembling American band Slow Six. All are recorded with a clarity and precision that adds much to the listening experience. The first couple of hundred copies come with a bonus CD of remixes, and it has to be said, sometimes these bonus discs are a disappointment, an afterthought, but in this case the remixes are at least as good as the originals. The use of cello in particular is wonderful. Outstanding remixes also come from William Ryan Fritch (gloriously cosmic), and Jonathan Lees & Katie English (drone plus). This is a really striking release, with a lot of marvellous music. Highly recommended.
Five years ago I reviewed the debut offering by The Telluric Currents, aka Philly-based troubadour Dan Kelly, which presented the listener with various folky, acoustic based entertainments. "Heliopolis" presents fourteen tracks in roughly the same oeuvre, with the opening 'Hesperides' and 'Charmin' Betsy' taking Americana by the scruff of the neck. 'The Sidling Sea' features some great guitar fingerpicking, while 'Twixt The Parapets' is a longer song with double bass added; this track uses rivers as a feature, as do a couple of the other tracks. 'Last Bottle' is a collaborative affair, with bass, drums and piano entering the mix, and this is a really nice track, with a rolling 'lazy Sunday afternoon' feel to it. The trio of closing tracks are mellower, with more lovely fingerpicked guitar, especially on 'Walk Down To The River.' An album for quiet, relaxing summer days.
Garfield's Birthday will be well known to regular readers of the Terrascope: good songs, always. On the new album "You Are Here" Simon Felton, brother Shane and Alan Strawbridge on the drums whack out a clutch of pop rock songs opening with the catchy 'Magic Bike,' with its effects, harmony vocals and strong tune; great opener. 'Fancy Dress' takes hints of retro songwriting (as did the opener) but remains a modern sounding cut; a hint of the Kinks perhaps, and those '60s ba-ba-ba backing vocals. Another good one. 'Carpet Ride' has a hint of glam '70s infused into its mix, while 'It's Your Lucky Day' sounds like a summer fair sing-a-long, with its 1-2, 1-2 beat; more good harmony vocals make this another good one. 'Oxford' is slower and acoustic, 'Radio' bemoans the tedium of (some) radio via a bit of a New Wave vibe, while album closers 'Sunday Best' and 'Water (It Looks Like Rain)' return to the pop/rock template. This is a notably well recorded, tuneful and engaging album from a band of much talent.
A large and famous cast of fans support the new release "Last Man On Earth" by soul/jazz funksters Big Boss Man, including Craig Charles, Gideon Coe, Tom Ravenscroft, Cerys Matthews and Huey Morgan. The music is dance-tastic, Hammond-infused groovy jazz rock with shed-loads of attitude. Vocals appear on some tracks - 'Painted Rainbow' and the title track, while Al Greener takes the vocals on 'Changing Faces,' which takes a classic psych sound and heads off to the West Coast - the album highlight for me. 'Shot Down' is the other highlight - BIG drums and a wall of organs, over which a snarly vocal rides. Classic! Certainly one for retro-heads.
"Demos Old And New" by Badfinger legend Joey Molland collects seventeen recordings from as far back as 1972, through the '80s and the '90s. Each track is pretty short, with lots of blues ('Borderline,' 'Cadillac Blues'), while 'Clouds Of Love' has a bit of a punky vibe. 'Panning Gold' from 1982 seems to plumb electro depths, but it's the '70s material that stands up best: 'What You're Doin',' 'Miss Understood.' This album is pretty sought after, so it is another welcome re-release from Gonzo.
A couple of years ago I reviewed "Giants Hide Among Us" by Reanimation (a.k.a. Michael Shanahan), which was promising, though with variable vocals. I'm pleased to say that the vocals are good on the new album "Under The Last Tree On Earth," which again pits heavy guitars with hypnotic bass grooves and tough drumming - all instruments played by the multi-instrumental main man. Extra percussion on this dark ride come courtesy sandpaper, drain pipe, aluminium cans, but also more "real" instruments, including the Indian mridangam. There is an impressive ambition to these pieces, which take atmosphere (sometimes generated by sound recordings) and put them with various styles of music. 'Abigail's Ashes Came Home Today' is particularly effective; also 'The Space Between Words,' which uses weird synth samples and some excellent percussion; hints perhaps of Porcupine Tree in the downbeat world depicted: isolation, fear, regret. 'Growing With The Growing Light' opens with flamboyant piano and guitar before heading off into pop/rock territory for a more "traditional" songwriting structure. Good track, this, with great supporting synths. Album closer 'She Never Sleeps' has a terrific chord sequence and lovely haunting instrumentation for a fitting conclusion. This is a definite step forward from the debut Reanimation album; bravo!
Last year I reviewed the outstanding debut album by The Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere, which took experimental, strange, yet always intriguing and welcoming music to its highly recommended conclusion. This year a new album appears, as before with a string of talented guests, including EM drummer Steve Dinsdale, the Juxtavoices (20-person choir), the La Garotte String Quartet and The Divine Winds. The music was created over a much shorter period than that of the debut album, with the body of the music pieced together in the studio afterwards; edited and prepared with main man Martin Archer at the heart. This does not sound like improvised music, however. It has a strong centre - kraut, minimal (Steve Reich, Terry Riley) and more, much more, from which its cleverly realised tentacles emerged. It's never less than a terrific listen. Highlights are many, but I will just mention the marvellously deranged 'Noctilucent' (Johann Johannsson meets Sun Arqa) and disc one's ultimate cut 'Across The Atmospheric Eddies,' both of which manage to take avant garde, often electronic tropes and sculpt them into entities of weight and import, with the latter very happy to zoom away into stratospheric ambience circa 1972, and Planet Gong. Recommended, of course!
The stripped-down format of guitar, bass and drums (with dual male/female vocals) works very well for New York psych act Sky Picnic, whose new album “Her Dawn Wardrobe” takes the retro sound into some interesting corners. Opening with the trio format and a high-guitar quotient, ‘Upon Further Reflection’ takes the best bits of The Soundcarriers into Holy River Family Band territory. ‘June Sunshine’ does similarly, with some tasty wah-guitar courtesy Chris Sherman. The seven minute ‘I See You Saw’ steps away from the introductory template however with some great, early Yes-style guitar vamps and chiming additions – very '60s/'70s, with delicate keyboards underneath. Love this one. ‘Lady Of The Moon’ is slow and reflective, with Leah Cinnamon’s backing vocals an essential addition, while ‘Ode To…’ is a brief vignette in melancholic bucolica. Side 2 (this album is available as an LP and a CD) opens with ‘Where The Memories Stirred (Lady Juniper)’ wherein Leah and Chris’ vocals intertwine in a spooky melody; a strings mellotron adds a thrilling aspect, thrumming beneath more excellent wah-guitar. ‘Most Of A Box Of Winter’ is an instrumental, and a mighty fine one – a little like Temples without the big reverb – while the title track returns the listener to the melancholic, acoustic mood. ‘Earl Grey’ is an eight minute monster of a track, with definite nods to the early King Crimson albums, in melodicism, use of the mellotron, and via the dramatic music, which uses vocals and instruments superbly. The whimsical ‘English Breakfast’ (guitars duelling, sonically) closes the album. This is a really fine piece of work, engaging and never less than enjoyable .
Well that wraps up 2014, been a pretty good year for music judging by the amount we have managed to squeeze into the Rumbles column. Thanks to everyone who contributed, artists, labels, writers and readers, have a great Christmas and may all you gifts be musical ones. Simon.
Terrascopic Rumbles for December was brought to you by Simon Lewis and Steve Palmer. Artwork, layout & direction by Phil McMullen - © Terrascope Online, MMXIV
Bonus points if you spotted that was Byron Coley up there on the cover of 'Take It'! The mystery band featred in other pictures are either Help Yourself or close relations thereof.