The five track EP "Breathing In Essence" by Amber Spyglass is a kind of progressive gothic rock made by Boston duo Kelly Godshall and John DeGregorio. Opening with the powerful, violin-haunted 'Harmonic Tide,' the stage is set for keening vocals, pounding drum machine and a dark instrumental backing of bass and synths. This soundscape continues on 'Unfortunate One,' but the seven minute 'On The Wire' is lighter, and more world music infused, with some beautifully judged synths and instruments - the EP highlight, not least that gorgeous mellotron. 'Violent Silence' is a soft, acoustic based ballad, while the concluding track 'Like Lost Lovers' is a kind of prog-folk, and very good too; lots of atmosphere here. Three further EPs are promised by the band's record company, and I'm certain fans of progressive music (Mostly Autumn, Paatos et al) would enjoy this one. Nice!
As recommended by our very own Phil McMullen, who is a considerable fan of hers, Dane Waters haunts that conceptual space between Björk, Woodpecker Wooliams and Ruby Throat: fey, spooky vocals, mysterious instrumental backings and impenetrable lyrics. 'Moving' sets the weird scene of the eleven short tracks on the album "Dark Waters," with a high-pitched vocal and gothic synths, leading on to 'Push,' which does similarly, but in a sparser and more effective style. 'Key' matches harmonised vocals with a piano and light synth touches, but 'Winter' comes across more like early Kate Bush - an album highlight this, with nicely arranged vocals. 'Blue' takes fey and mysterious to its logical conclusion, very well it has to be said - great cimbalom-based backing - while 'Inoperable' completely changes the mood with drum machine, bass and some nice zither 'n' synth samples; another album highlight, with backing vocals from guest Jon Fejes. 'Rappelle' is synth based, 'Teeth Of A Bear' is an avante garde miscellany, 'Unfinished' doesn't live up to its name, and 'Dream Again' has a particularly sweet vocal. Album closer 'Agelessness' pits harmonised, multi-tracked vocals with a really strange backing, to great effect. Phil’s right: Sometimes you know an artist has that special ingredient - "it" - and, through all the weirdness, Dane Waters certainly has "it." Subsequent listens prove "Dark Waters" to be a work of considerable merit, that sustains aural investigation. Recommended not just for fans of the above mentioned artistes.
"An Eagle To Saturn" by The Leg is a twenty nine minute album comprising ten songs, all of them a kind of unhinged folk-punk. The title track says goodbye to the Eurostar in emphatic fashion, 'Twitching Stick' recalls The Damned - always a good thing - with some mental instrumental breaks on cello. Banjos emerge on 'Bake Yourself Silly,' while 'Witch On The Speaker' comes across like Orange Juice on speed, albeit with shouty vocals and masses of attitude. 'Sad As A Dead Monkey' at four minutes is a lengthy Leg cut, and entirely unlike the rest - a cello piece with occasional "mad vocal" additions. 'The Birds Are Falling' also opens with cello, but structures itself as a song, albeit with more distorto-vocals, 'Freda Bolt' is a punk thrasher that again reminds of '77 material, while 'God Don't Like It' returns to banjo picking and a tune, as does 'Jingle Bells In The Summertime,' which is mad as a mad badger, though compelling all the way through. Album closer '?' rocks and sways in anthemic style. Mad, bad, and never less than entertaining, this is what Sham 69 might have sounded like had they run off with a small part of an orchestra.
The Furious Seasons from America present eleven tracks of pop-folk on their new one "My Analogue Face," which opens with a terrific little tune, 'Let's Sweep Together,' immediately recalling modern greats such as Duncan Maitland, Fan Modine, Dark Ocean Colours, etc. This is a standout opener, written by the band's main songwriter David Steinhart, who clearly knows what he's doing. 'On The Wire' is slower and cosier, but 'History Repeats Again' is another cracker that initially recalls the glory days of Paul Simon, although the vocal style is again reminiscent of Maitland. 'Annabelle' is an acoustic ballad with electric inserts, while 'We Go Down' is another pop classic that comes across like a folksy Squeeze. 'A Few Miles Back' does likewise with a subtle Dylan-esque Hammond thrumming in the background, while 'Keys And Watch' reminded me of some of Tom Petty's work, and perhaps Karl Wallinger's band World Party too. Another album highlight. 'Hey Jon' matches a loping beat with a lamenting lyric, while 'All The Way Through' has the most affecting vocal on the album, and a nice violin accompaniment from Ray Chang. 'Run' is a country-infused slow-burner with more violin, while album closer 'Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels)' is a bit of an oddity in comparison with the rest of the album, perhaps because it is a cover version. Overall, this is a good album exhibiting songwriting craft and musicality, although repeated listens show that a few of the songs are rather pop/rock-by-numbers. Still recommended, though.
If straight-down-the line American rawk 'n' roll floats your paddlesteamer then you could do a lot worse than check out "Whispering Pines" by Whispering Pines, which recalls the heyday of The Allman Brothers and Stephen Stills without copying them. This album takes no prisoners and delivers high quality Southern rock. 'Move On' and 'Come & Play' show the band's chops, with some nifty harmonica and a rhythm section tighter than a bunch of ship's rivets. Vocalisy Amy Blaschke adds to the mix in fine style, and there's some great guitar playing, notably on 'Purest Dreams' and the album highlight 'Wolfmoon,' which nails this band's sound to perfection. Album closers 'Fine Time' and 'Broken Spoke' do boogie and Neil Young-esque balladry (echoes of "Harvest Moon") in great style. Entertaining to a high degree.
Apollolaan Records are purveyors of fine eccentrica, and "Street Wondering Memory Recall" by Cheer (one Alec Cheer) is no exception. Four cuts explore sound recordings, opening with the title track, which adds plangent acoustic guitar to the synth-enlivened mix, creating an atmosphere at once drowsy and occasionally startling (the sound recordings are never "explained" by the music). "Shuffleboard Into Brooklyn Heights" is essentially the same sound except with different natural recordings, while 'Summer Brainwash' does likewise. The eleven minute 'Inertia Through Chaos' concludes proceedings with more synths and less recordings. A compelling atmosphere is built up by this album, especially on the excellent last track, although in places the recordings detract from the music.
Last year I reviewed "Spitting Pearls" by Leeds-based Post War Glamour Girls ("aggression and subtlety all in one"), with the band now presenting a four track EP entitled "Tragic House; He Had Such A Lovely House," which opens with the same kind of intense melodrama offered on the debut work. The four tracks here make up a song-cycle, with the second cut, 'Today I Am A Man,' the outstanding song of the work, full of relentless energy and furious vocals. 'Tremor' is by comparison restrained, though no less edgy, while 'She Will Always Be My Anchor' matches menacing vocals with female backing vocals to terrific effect. Though the band recorded this EP in difficult conditions (cold, borrowed equipment, bleak warehouse) the overall effect is startling.
PAS are a quartet of exploratory musicians whose aim is to make musical collages from a wide variety of sources: instruments, found sounds, natural recordings. The music is amorphous, ever-changing, occasionally offputting, sometimes glorious. As the band themselves admit, the music here is more by way of soundscape than song, and this is certainly true of the opening three cuts. 'Volker Goes To Spain' however achieves a notable impact through its choice of synth sounds and natural recordings - dark and eerie in the extreme - while 'Vacationing Beat' brings crickets to an otherworldly drone and some very glitchy beats. I also liked 'Sonic Sleighride Through Coalmines' which is perhaps the track on the album that most conjures up definite mental images; a kind of gothic railway ride underground. 'The Dramatic Exit' concludes events with piano, synths and mysterious background sounds. As with all music like this, the key question is, has the band achieved an original sound through its constituent parts? PAS certainly have, and there are more hits than misses on this menagerie of electro-acoustic trips.
"Music For Non-Idiots" by Super-Idiots is an intriguing mix of songs from a Finnish trio who attempt to deliver to the listener a whole new Sound-o-verse, here encapsulated on seven instrumental cuts. Opener 'The Party' sounds like a supremely chilled Zappa, with its melodies taken by electric guitar, underpinned by drums and double bass - a kind of nouveau petit jazz. 'Time Has No Mercy' is even better, with its subtle changes in mood and direction; a lovely track, and beautifully played. Samples and avante-wizardry add to the jazzy mix on 'Divine Fools' to create a Ponty-esque nightmare that goes nuts at the end in hilarious style, while 'Chicago' is another jazzy cut that thrills and relaxes in equal measure; particularly good drumming on this one. 'Amazing Things Will Happen' is a bit of a mish-mash, though not without its charms, while 'Phantom (Part 1 & 2)' ramps up the rock credentials to make a superb, almost proggy cut. The album closes with the light, almost ambient 'Mattress Room,' closing proceedings in tranquil measure. I really liked the album; it is audacious, progressive in the true sense of the word, played with verve and always enjoyable. Jazzers will like it a lot.
Lastwind are the current musical incarnation of Paul Hayles and band, whose musical life has intertwined with Hawkwind, amongst many other groups. On Hayles' new album "Return Of A Sonic Assassin" a number of space rock tracks are collected, opening with the title track, which merges synths, samples, guitars, bass and drums to great effect. 'Winds Of Times' is much more rocky, with snarling guitars and a classic Hawk-style chord progression - Hayles' vocals are also quite snarly. 'King Arthur' ramps up the metal but slows down the tempo, while the vocals are a strange but effective hybrid of real vocals and vocodered. 'Day Trippers' is lighter in tone with some groovy wah-guitars freaking out, panned wide left and right. Great bass too. 'Autoroute' has a bit of a retro 'seventies vibe, not least the churning guitars; the cut ends with a fingers-everywhere-at-once solo, then a jazzy synth solo. 'When' matches Hayles' earthy vocals with a kind of stereo-hopping Steve Hillage guitar 'n' synth vibe - this wouldn't be too out of place on a Gong album - while on 'Slots' Hayles makes full use of his natural accent to produce a weird little tale of fruit machines, all set to a crunching metal soundtrack. On 'Monster Trucks' the guitars crunch even more and there are further insane guitar solos. The mood radically changes for 'Who Dat Man,' though the rock vibe remains high, 'Which Way When' is a half sung, half spoken tale of darkness, with more excellent bass, while 'She's A Girl' reminds me a little of Jane's Addiction - high energy cut, this one. The closing track 'Wreckers' returns the listener to the spacey soundscapes of the opening track, with much heavily-effected guitar treatments and oscillating synths. A must for anyone into high energy space-fuelled rock, with nods to Hawkwind and others on the space rock circuit.
The "Nebulous Amphibians EP" by Nebulous Amphibians is very much - very much - in the vein of recent recordings by Ozric Tentacles; "The Floor's Too Far Away," for instance. Opening with an uptempo rocker, 'Ethernet Fry-Up,' the mood is psychedelic and swathed in acid synths, overlaid with guitars and guitar solos. The project of two musicians separated by the Atlantic - Jon Drukman and David Sanderson - it follows the Ozric template with slavish precision on the first track, though 'Supernebula' has a different vibe running through it for the first half, before returning to a "Jurassic Shift" style sequencer work-out. 'Arza Lint' recalls some of the uptempo cuts from "Waterfall Cities" - and there's a brief and rather nice guitar and bass synth piece. The EP closes with 'Binarium,' which echoes some of Ed Wynne's earlier work, though again with the recent Ozric bass sound. Spacerockers who like Ozric Tentacles and want to hear more music in exactly the same style will enjoy this EP.
Quiet Loner is the nom de plume of Matt Hill, whose second album "Spectrology" made waves in the music world, not least at Terrascope. On his third album, "Greedy Magicians," eleven protest songs in folk/singer-songwriter mode are presented, dealing with the various issues and problems that beset Coalition-led Britain. Opening with 'Days Of Surveillance,' the mood is prepared: protest-imbued lyrics, acoustic instruments, with Hill's voice prominent. Rather than record in a music studio Hill chose to record the album live in one evening before an audience of a hundred people, making the work more spontaneous, more like a 'happening.' This certainly improves the ambience of the album, which includes as backing instrumentalists members of other bands on the Little Red Rabbit roster, Samson & Delilah and Last Harbour. 'Discontented Winter' is a slower cut with nice backing vocals, and shows Hill's skill at writing lyrics. 'The Captain's Diseased' unravells a tale in waltztime of the state of Britain's Eton-founded leadership, while the title track is just Hill and his guitar, protesting about bankers and their ilk. 'Unmarked Grave' covers anti-war territory and is personal to Hill, inspired by letters he discovered sent to his great-grandmother from the Somme. The album's closing cut 'Don't Despair' is perhaps the most positive on the album, which leads to my only negative point, which is that, for the all good motives and attitude - all of which I support - a protest album without a little light is something of a dark entity. There is good in Britain, despite the infantile greed of bankers, the juvenilia printed in our papers, the mob-rule of the sports terrace and the toffs who claim to offer leadership. There is, for instance, good music, which Matt Hill is ironically an example of. With that caveat, I'd say this is a good album and a good listen.
Hammock are a band who have offered a special style of reverb-drenched ambience - more recently with the addition of lyrics and more created by members of The Church - to create two very enjoyable albums. Their new work "Departure Songs" is a double CD that follows much of the template set by the band's last EP, "Asleep In The Downlight." Opening with the reverb and cello-haunted 'Cold Front,' the tone and style of the work come across as a kind of anthemic ambience, superbly arranged and mixed. It's a kind of advanced shoegaze, informed by Eno, The Church and others. 'Ten Thousand Years Won't Save Your Life' brings in thumping drums, soaring guitars and more vocals so bathed in reverb they're incomprehensible without the lyric sheet; the string section works well too, making this track, and the one that follows, anthemic and emotive. 'Artificial Paradises' features Keith Kenniff and has a different vibe; more melancholy and an instrumental, with guitars and bass high in the mix. 'Tonight We Burn Like Stars That Never Die' veers perilously close to Coldplay territory; too close perhaps, as does 'Words You Said... I'll Never Forget You Now,' in the latter's case musically and lyrically. The second disc is much more in traditional Hammock mode, with only two tracks having sung lyrics. I preferred this disk; 'Dark Circles' (lovely slide guitar), 'We Could Die Chasing This Feeling' and the drum-propelled 'Leaving The House Where We Grew Up' are the highlights. Overall, two disks of quite similar sounding music is perhaps an extension too far, but fans of this band, of whom I am one, will much enjoy the album.
If a Spanish band sounding like The Charlatans set to a Madchester beat and sound is your cup of sangria, then "The Fourth Dimension" by Stay will float your boat for sure. Recorded in Liverpool and sung in English, the tone of lead vocalist Jordi Bel's voice is similar enough to Tim Burgess to make this an enjoyable prospect, at least for nostalgia buffs. Opening with the excellent and jaunty 'The Change Is Coming,' the band then rattle through 'Yellow Rainbows' (echoes of La Fleur Fatale) before the slower and more acoustic 'Everything.' 'You Got Me Going' again mixes The Charlatans and La Fleur Fatale, while the last track on side 1 (this album is available as vinyl and CD) 'In The Rain' has a bit of an Anton Barbeau feel to it - effected vocals and clattering drums. 'All I Know' reminded me of The Cast - strong melody and great 'sixties styled arrangement - though 'Time Machine' is more obviously retro. 'Take Me Away' brings in fuzz-wah guitars and more Hammond organ, while 'Gone With The Sun' is gentler, though no less anjoyable. Closing track 'I Don't See Myself' uses that lovely '70s Farfisa sound while channelling various 'sixties bands above a welter of drums and bass. These songs stay in the head and repay further listens. A great album that will be enjoyed by those looking for a modern retro sound.
"Spiritual Revolution" by Italian combo Sailor Free is a progressive, varied, cohesive and enjoyable concept album that merges prog tropes (swirling strings mellotron, unusual time signatures, good musicianship, sudden changes in mood and tempo) with lyrics apparently inspired by Tolkien's The Silmarillion. With that description it could have been awful, but actually it hangs together well, although the aforementioned prog tropes are the usual ones. The opening track covers ambient, rock and flute-augmented rock-lite territory, before the vocals come in on 'A New World' - and they are good vocals, with a strong melody and confident delivery; main man David Petrosino sounds a little like Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt. 'The Run' opens with narration before going into drum-propelled territory, while 'Betray' is very heavy, with a lurching beat. 'The Curse' begins slow and doomy before entering mellotron-soaked metal territory; more powerful drums on this cut. The title track lopes in slightly retro style, but does it well, with many twists and turns on the way, and some great choral backing vocals. 'The Entropia' comes over as a Hammong-augmented Rush circa 1979 (no bad thing of couse), while 'Faithless' is much heavier, with the focus on the guitars. The concluding trio of cuts return the listener to lighter, more synth-enlivened listening, notably the final track 'A Great Hope' - and the guitar solo here is great too. One for fans of metal-prog bands such as Porcupine Tree, Opeth, etc.
Glowpeople are psychedelic post-ambient trippers, who on their album "Things..." sound a little like Lunar Dunes and Quarkspace cross-fertilising The Orb. And they recorded this album in my home country of Shropshire, which, given the rural nature of Shropshire, is a bit of a surprise... Opener 'Things Went Wrong' finds drums and bass underpinning synth textures and samples of a semi-improvised nature. 'Everywhere' is a dubby, slower version of the same sound, with much interplay of whoosing synths and delayed guitar improv. Nice, as it happens, although so far the tracks have one idea and one sound, and there is no development. 'Metaphorical' brings in trumpet and more synths, as does the modern-sounding 'Resound In H Flat,' with its upront bass playing and mixed samples; a bit of a Gong vibe here. 'Crepuscular' is another dubby jam featuring more trumpet, while 'With You Without' is perhaps the most Ozrics-sounding of the cuts, recalling that band in their late 'eighties, festival-fuelled prime. 'The Saddest Flower In The Vase' returns the listener to the band's more uptempo sound. The few cuts where there is chordal development are stronger than the rest. Interesting music, good synths and trumpet, and general happy vibes make this an enjoyable release that fans of Quarkspace, Ozric Tentacles et al will want to check out.
Thanks for those words Steve, much appreciated. Back now to your rain-drenched humble scribe...
Right then, moving swiftly on, there is a lot to get through, Ciro Hurtado, is a Peruvian Guitarist who mixes traditional tunes with the influence of Blues and Rock and Roll that he heard whilst growing up. On his album “Los Angeles Blues” he blends the styles into an original brew, creating an album that is as warm and hazy as a summer evening on a rooftop, watching the haze of sunset approaching. Beautifully played throughout, the almost classical guitar style is awash with melody and invention with highlights including the gorgeous folksy title track, the short and gentle “Irlandes”, and the album closer “Bordon Triste” which is delicate, emotional and perfectly played. (www.cirohurtado.com)
Using a selection of found objects and an acoustic guitar, David Birchall has created an intriguing and listen-able improvisation on his latest album “Acoustic Textures”. Containing seven tracks, the album serves up a wide range of moods as an apple, windscreen wiper, plectrum and a twig are employed to great effect with “Signs of Hope on our Archipelago”, the album opener, setting the standard scraping and rattling into your ears with a preciseness and deftness of touch that ensures the sounds are never wasted. As the tracks bleed into each other, more chapters than individual pieces, it is hard to distinguish them, but the magnificent springiness of “City Smells” will make you chuckle, whilst the delicate shimmer of at the beginning of “Another Apocalyptic Vision at Breakfast” soon turns into a darker and intense drone, bringing the album to a conclusion that is far from the playful middle section. A fine piece of improv that flows wonderfully.
Also featuring David Birchall (Guitar), as well as Olie Brice (Bass) and Phillip Marke (Percussion), “Spitting Feathers” is an energetic free improv collection that finds the players in harmony with each other snatches of melody peeking out from behind shards of noise, scrapes, rattles and clunks, the moments of silence vital punctuation within the pieces. Over seven tracks the musicians prove themselves to be inventive and alive to the possibilities presented by the other players with “Wall of Horns” and the more percussion led “Fine Words, Butter No Parsnips” proving wholly satisfying to these ears, whilst opener “”Sat There Like Piffy on a Rockbun” has moments the sound like The Clangers on a large dose of LSD, or maybe that's just me! (http://davidmbirchall.wordpress.com/)
Released in conjunction with the Sonic Circuits Festival 2012, “District of Noise Vol. 5” is a twenty track compilation documenting experimental music from the Washington DC area. Opening with the cello, field recordings of Amptext, whose “A Likely Story” is a slow drone that snakes across your vision, the compilation is a varied beast with BLK W/Bear offering a dense slice of throb, Colla Parti getting laid back and sleazy with some great playing, Fast forty creating confusion with loops and echoes, Jeff Carey running electronic fingers across blackboards, Slutwalk adding some electronic rhythms getting the head nodding, Safe pulling you down to the bottom of a stormy sea deep within your dreamscape and Tagcloud inducing levitation albeit with eyes closed. To be fair, I could have chosen to mention any of the artiste on the disc as there in no let up of quality at any point, these were just the ones that wormed their way into my brain first, the whole collection should be a worthwhile and essential part of your collection too. (http://districtofnoise.org/#/) (http://dc-soniccircuits.org/shop/)
Featuring both BLK?Bear and Tag Cloud, the latest instalment of the excellent “Collision/Detection” series features four experimental and reasonably noisy tracks with a dark ambience and a general air on menace, all of which can be found on “We Buried the Hatchet in Bromine Chambers”, the splendid opening salvo. Like awakening from sleep to discover you have become strapped to a table in a huge, dimly lit cavern, “I'm Not in Yr Love” is a monstrous vision of impending doom, whilst “”Watch Me Pull a Toolbox Outta Yr Chest” offers little rspite although a sense of rhythm at least gives you something to hold onto, just. Finally, “A Man With His Back to the Wall, Baring his Fists...Another Man Fending Him Off with a Chair” is a drone of lighter shades although the final section contains menace in the dark pulse and silence. Yet another great release in an almost perfect series. (www.frontandfollow.com)
Taking that sense of menace and running with it to the gates of Hades Funerary Call prove themselves master of black ambience, their three-track album “Fragments from the Aethyr” re-defining the word unsettling, a haunting and, at times, brutal attack on the senses. Opening track “Libation” is like being trapped in a huge metal container while objects are scrapped, banged and vibrated across the outside, the feeling that you are not alone in their becoming greater as the minutes tick by. On “Fragments” the ambience continues, but this time with a detached weightless aura, as if the metal box has been dropped down a dark well, you have no idea when you will hit the bottom, the tension increasing over eighteen glorious minutes, creating a piece that is both dark and beautiful, fragile yet solid enough to make you look behind you. Finally “Transference From the Void” opens with a deep, dream-like drone, the sound of your soul slowly drowning in molasses, this sinking feeling remaining until the end, the light flickering and then... (http://www.crucialblast.net/)
Equally creepy, but in a more microcosmic, creatures scuttling across the forest floor kinda way, Dublin based To Blacken The Pages (Paul McAree) sound mighty impressive on “Bogland” a collection of experimental pieces that rattle , echo and drone with precision and atmosphere. Opening track “Sodium Haze” allows into their world, slow guitar and high end creepiness blending together, setting the scene for the ghost story tension of “Bad Heart”, vocals and guitar combining in primitive harmony, therapy for a fragile heart. Elsewhere, megalomaniac, is like watching a huge alien creature rise up from the ocean floor, whilst final track “Echo Sense” has a more peaceful demeanour, gently bringing us back from the edge of time without out too much trauma from the re-entry. (http://www.toblackenthepages.com/)
Hailing from Sweden, Spiders are a heavy rock band with garage leanings and a bluesy heart, sounding as if they were around in 1971 and making a glorious racket. On “Flash Point” their latest release, the band rock with amphetamine precision through nine fine tracks, with “Weekend Nights” getting you in the party mood immediately, meaty riffing and tough female vocals from Ann-Sofie Hoyles , whilst the guitar sound on “Hang Man” is perfectly sleazy and eager to please. Backed with a solid rhythm section, the band keep thing simple, concentrating on rocking hard and succeeding, a great album for a friday night and lots of beer, turn the fucker up and enjoy. (http://www.crusherrecords.com/)
Also hard and heavy, but in a more stoner rock vein, come a trio of releases from the ever reliable Small Stone Records. First up Skanska Mord mix more traditional metal sounds with the power of bands such as Kyuss or Monster Magnet, the resulting blend containing plenty of melody and riffing as well as shed-loads of guitar. Highlights include opener “Dark Caves of our Mind”, the riff heavy “Lords of Space and Time” and the slightly mellower sounds of “Laggasen” which has some lovely and inventive guitar work running through its stoned groove. Treading similar ground Lord Fowl sound mighty impressive on their latest album “Moon Queen”, with the whole band sounding tight and energetic giving the tunes a vitality that bursts out of the speakers. Solid throughout stand-out tracks, for me at least, include the title track, the raw rush of “Split” and “Streets of Evermore” as well as future stoner classic “Hollow Horn”. Just turn this up and rock out with a beer or three. To finish this trio of noisy guitar riffery Wo Fat, attempt to blow your speakers on “The Black Code” an album filled with deep and nasty riffing that owes a good deal to Sabbath whilst treading a much more fuzzed out path of its own. Opening track “Lost Highway” says it all really, loud, aggressive and fucking excellent, it will get your head nodding. Equally as good is the highly inventive title track, the riffs wandering all over the place wearing large black boots and an evil grin, stomping into your brain and mashing your synapses. Adding some space-rock to the menu, “The Shard of Lens” heads into deep space the tune slowly morphing into something much heavier, the transition so smooth you don't really notice it happening. Finally the ten minute “Sleep of the Black Lotus” scrambles the rest of your cells, opening with a wall of fuzz and pretty much staying there for the duration, Sounding like Hawkwind in their early seventies form but without the electronic coating. (www.smallstone.com)
Coming across like an early seventies, slightly-fried, band of freaks, the rather excellent Wet Dirt sound suitably messed up on their album “Self Sabotage, The Early Years” with the stoned groove of “Bad Choices” setting out their stall with the chorus “Bad choices, made some bad choices, gonna make some more”. Add to this fine guitar playing, a solid rhythm section,and an ear for melody, and you have a perfect opening song and statement. Moving on, “The Chill Out Man” is weird and creepy, nonsensical word play, and a crawling guitar line creating a strange atmosphere, the song sounding like something Zappa could have created. As the album progresses the band get weirder, louder, more interesting by turns with “Hot Pink” managing all three at once. Elsewhere, “Invalids” is post-punk noise, angular guitar and an individual vocal delivery adding to the tension of the lyrics reminding me of Pere Ubu, whilst “Of Felt” is a song about the tactile pleasures of felt, as it should be. If you are searching for something different, energetic, angry and weird then this should hit the spot, a minor classic. (www.inyrdisk.com)
Reaching deep inside of your soul, the music of Godze Omay and Atay Ilgun is both primitive and beautiful, ancient rhythms spiralling with melody and texture to create a heady brew that is as golden as sunshine. On their album “The Hogweed and the Aderyn”, the often simple folk melodies are embellished with flute, bells, percussion and drifting vocals to create something very powerful, a life affirming sound that flows from the source of an ancient river hidden deep within the forest. Over six tracks the intensity remains intact with “Le Gout De L'Infini” and the haunting “Chasing Nightingales” working particularly well to these ears. Fans of Deep Water Acre, Popol Vuh or Arborea should dive right in. (http://www.woundedwolfpress.co.uk/)
Equally as intense, the raw and emotional music of Rainstick Cowbell is no stranger to the Rumbles column. On “Damage Control Damage”, the latest disc it is good to know that all of the musical elements remain in place, the anguish and anger of the lyrics matched by a vocal performance that comes from the heart, the musical arrangements easily up to the task of conveying those emotions. Opening track “The Tyranny of Poverty” pulls no punches, the unique voice creating a track with real outsider status, up there on the dark side with Syd or Skip. Telling a brutal tale “All of You Will Betray Me Tonight” is another tour-de-force, with some fine guitar/vocal interplay, whilst the title track is the sound of anger unbridled. By the time the disc is over you are kinda drained but also ready for anything,highly recommended for the curious and adventurous amongst you. (http://rainstickcowbell.com/)
Full of experimental drone, ambience and psychedelia the music of John 3:16 is no easy listening trip, the sounds taking you down dark corridors and into uncharted waters. On their album “Visions of the Hereafter” the band take biblical themes of Heaven and Hell, the music shifting between the two, sometimes soaring into light, sometimes plummeting into chaos, often walking between the two. Never less than excellent, highlights include the heavy guitar psych of “Throne of God”, the drifting shoegaze ambience of “Ascent of the blessed” and the powerful “Through Fire and Through Water”, the album's excellent production ensuring that the music is alive and vibrant creating a collection that needs to be heard loud. (http://alrealon.co.uk/)
On the same label and somehow overlooked here (it was released in March 2012) is a split 12” featuring a side each from Fluid/John 3:16. Over three tracks Fluid prove themselves masters of ambience and drone, their experiments in sound reaping great reward especially on “Forewarning” where a electronic pulse adds to the vitality of the track. Over on the other side John 3:16 go for some guitar driven droneon the excellent “God is Light” the song dissolving into a shimmering wave of noise before “Towards the Red Sea” leads us home more electronic pulses lighting the way through a sea of drone and meditation.
Those seeking simpler musical fruits, could do worse than check out the country-tinged Americana of Jim Clements, whose “The Road to Anhedonia” contains some beautiful songs, with finely crafted lyrics that tell tales of love and loss. Within the grooves there are taces of Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and Neil Young, but these are mere references and Jim has a warm rich honest voice of his own, something that gives the songs a charm all their own. Strong throughout the voice sounds even better when harmonising with Jenn Bojm on songs such as the lovely “Rings”, the rest off the band also adding their mark on the tunes. An album that could become a fireside favourite with the reflective “The Fox in the Garden” being a track I had to play twice. (http://www.jimclementsmusic.com/)
Containing some wonderful and evocative guitar playing, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, the latest album from 17f, I a gorgeous collection that uses flutes, bells and the aforementioned guitar to create delicate songs and soundscapes that are relaxing to the ear, drifting across the room like a long-forgotten perfume. On “In Praise of Shadows” the flute and guitar float over subtle percussion phrases in perfect harmony, whilst on “A Second Chance” James Yorkston adds spoken word to a droning piece awash with Harmonica and flute, the song followed by “Pusan” a beautiful song filled with ache and regret. Basically the work of Frederic Merk, this is a collection that deserves some time, allowing the listener to explore the depth of the tunes within. (http://17fmusic.bandcamp.com/)
Hailing from Brazil, Liz Christine, creates soundtracks for your dreams on her album “Sweet Mellow Cat”, a collection drawn from the last few years of recording. Opening track “Girl's Band” is soft cloud of sound, a delicate drone with a repeated piano motif that becomes very hypnotic, the piece bleeding into “Dinah” a more percussion led track with vocal samples adding a surreal edge. Mixed beautifully, every track reveals new sounds and textures whilst retaining an overall cohesiveness, that serves the album well, with the ghostly drone of “Rain”, the creepy sound collage of “Or Ten Pills at Three O'Clock” and the playfulness of “C Caterina” working particularly well. Working together as one complete album, this is a disc you can put on and let wash over you, the sounds within throwing you a new suprise every time. (http://www.flau.jp/top.html)
With a strange Beach Boys meet Elephant Six vibe, Yusuf Azak creates music that is melodic yet otherwordly, perfectly accessible yet somehow cloaked in his own personal mythology. On “Go Native”, his second album the songs pull you in gently and it is easy to succumb to their charms, with the piano led “Smile” an early highlight. Elsewhere, “American Eyes” uses acoustic guitar to create a tapestry of sound behind the unique vocal delivery, whilst “Immunity or Rescue” uses a keyboard drone as its backdrop, the song having a psychedelic sheen woven around it. Interesting stuff throughout and worth listening closely to. (http://songbytoadrecords.com/)
Channelling the spirit of “Discipline” era King Crimson, some noisy maths rock, a small helping of Killing Joke and loads of manic energy, Dead Days Beyond Help are just the job after a hard day at the void machine, their precise and frenetic compositions blowing away the debris and cleansing the mind. At various points in the album the addition of violins, cellos and trumpet, give the album an extra dimension, weaving more sonic textures around the guitar and drums of Alex Ward and Gem Doulton. “The Game Face” is the second album from the band and is a fine piece of work with the title track and “Gripy Dimwit” being personal favourites. (https://sites.google.com/site/alexwardmusician/dead-days-beyond-help)
With a Soul/Blues influence and sounding in places like, Tom Waits, Nick Cave or Possibly Bob Dylan, “Double EP” is a wonderful collection of songs from the pen of Kail Baxley, which may or may not be Terrascopic, I just can't decide. What I can tell you is that there is not a duff song on the disc, the songs have their own groove and are warm, melodic and original with enough interesting touches to maintain interest throughout. Definitely checking for those who enjoy a good song, I seem to be playing this collection a lot at the moment. (http://www.kailbaxley.com/KaiL_Baxley/Home.html)
To round of the CD portion of Rumbles the next two installments of the “Collision/Detection series. First up volume 6 on which Kemper Norton brings us some drone infested folk strangeness, his intimate vocals coiled around electronic backing creating a haunted landscape as disorientating as a thick fog on a lonely moor. Over four tracks the mood never lightens, drawing the listener in to a secret place of imagination and half-remembered tales.. On Volume 7 The Doomed Birds of Providence present four soundtracks to films, or scenes from films, including a “safety at sea” documentary and the last remaining fragments of Australia's first feature film “The Story of the Kelly Gang” (1906). Featuring wyrd and woozy sea-shanty folk, droning strings and slow melodies, the music is slow and mesmerising allowing the listener to drift off, creating their own images that flickr like silent film on the back of their eyelids. (www.frontandfollow.com)
Over the last couple of years, the Terrascope has received a number of cassettes from various people. Unfortunately, nobody has had a tape player to actually listen to them any longer so they have remained un-reviewed. Thanks to Ebay, this situation has now been rectified so I will mention a couple of real gems now and then present an overview of the rest of the music in the next edition of Rumbles.
First up, the space-rock magnificence of Marshmallow Overcoat, whose “Gunfighters” album features heavy guitar riffs, bubbling electronics and some excellent songwriting, the whole thing flowing beautifully with “Gravestones” and “Shall WE Gather at the River” being particularly strong cuts. (http://summerstepsrecords.com/)
Formed in 1992, Thee Gnostics were a Canadian garage/psych band who released several cassettes and were known for their full on live shows. Collecting together tracks from all their releases and some live stuff, “Archival” is a double cassette release that will blow your mind, uncoil your inner hippy and generally float you on the ceiling in a haze of smoke and cosmic happiness. Filled with long electronic workouts, short sharp garage snarls and everything in between, this is a classic collection that comes complete with a do-it -yourself booklet that tells the story of the band and has a suitably demented artistic style to boot, the fact that one member of the band went on to form the near perfect Saffron Sect is merely the icing on a very psychedelic cake, for me at least. Get one, Get one , Get one. (http://www.discogs.com/Thee-Gnostics-Archival/release/3008043)
Ok, that's it for this Rumble, time to concentrate on reviewing the vinyl that has come our way, thanks to everyone for your patience, keep smiling and let your freak flag fly. (Simon Lewis)
Terrascopic Rumbles for January was brought to you by Simon Lewis and Steve Palmer (not necessarily in that order). Artwork, layout & direction by Phil McMullen - © Terrascope Online, 2013