= July 2 0 1 1 =

reetings and welcome to another, slightly delayed, edition of Rumbles, filled with strange sounds and tiny sparkling jewels that have been unearthed for your pleasure. First up, Steve Palmer leads us in gently with Bolmongani which is the nom de plume of Ryan Pritts, better known as the drummer of the mighty Paik. Here he (Ryan, not Steve) plays all the instruments, and sings too. "Tangier" is a jog through seven songs, opening with the sprightly '(It's Always) Summer Somewhere,' which mashes real instruments with swirling synths and backwards sounds to nice effect. The goodtime singalong 'Plumage' follows, then 'Brownian Motion Producer,' which is freaky and has more backwards guitars and a bit of an ethnic vibe, as does the subsequent 'Page 13' with its distorto-vocals.

The title track mixes hints of very early Floyd with honking synths and a chugging feel, while 'Straight 8' features the best vocal performance on the EP, which close with the manic 'Black Sands.' Quirky without being annoying, and overall a rather good listen. Well produced, too. (www.myspace.com/bolmongani)

And so to a second Ryan, this time Ryan Driver, an American singer-songwriter in a country style, whose album "Who's Breathing" takes ten cuts of ordinary life and sets them to softly strumming guitar and pedal steel. Waltztime opener 'Dead End Street' sets the conversational style, emphasising Driver's versatile and emotive voice, while on 'Am I Still Too Late' there's a hint of Paul Simon in the intonation of the voice, though nothing of Simon's melodies. 'Everything Must Spin' matches frenetic fingerpicked guitar and real drums with more stylised vocals, 'Blue Skies Don't Care' sets a downbeat lyric against melancholic clarinet and understated drums, while 'Don't Want To Leave You Without You' goes all jazzy and high tech, not entirely successfully. The best cut on the album is the closer, 'On A Beautiful Night Like Tomorrow,' a slow stroll through sad times. One for fans of the confessional singer-songwriter.

Shipbuilding Co. is the work of Michael James Partington, who on his album "Radios And Flying Birds" records solo, but who live is supported by a full band. The thirteen short songs have a Byrds feel mixed with more recent indie tropes; the styles vary and the lyrical concerns are mostly taken from Partington's travels in Asia (the album was recorded in Taiwan). 'Shanghai Maglev Train' pits lo-tech synths with a woozily sung vocal, but here, as on many of the songs, the multi-tracking and harmonising gives a retro vibe. 'Easter Island Song' features the vocals of Partington's wife, while the album highlight 'Made Out Of Diamonds' sounds like an escaped track from some 'eighties timewarp. 'We'll Sort Out The Day' is sweetly menacing, while 'Four Dirty Shoes' collapses a range of styles into a mad five minutes, with a hint of Mercury Rev in the vocal style and instrumentation. The title track closes the album in melancholic style. A curious mix of songs and styles for sure, but more often engaging than not.

Mancunian record label Front & Follow have a number of bands on their roster, one of whom being The Doomed Bird Of Providence, whose album "Will Ever Pray" tells tales based on one of my favourite books, Robert Hughes' "The Fatal Shore," an account of the colonisation of Australia in the eighteenth century. The style is slow, lyrically grim, doomy and minimal - though inventive - in terms of instrumentation, with a distinctly folk feel to most of the tracks. The opening four cuts tell various tales, then it's the five-part 'The Massacre,' which relates an infamous massacre aboard the good ship The Sea Horse, using material gleaned from an original broadsheet. Fans of Last Harbour and The Sons Of Noel And Adrian would definitely like this macabre, haunting album, which has much to recommend it, not least its originality.

On "Glass Prayer," Religious To Damn - essentially American/Afghan chanteuse Zohra Atash - proffer ten high intensity rock tracks with a psychedelic sheen. Opener 'To Love The Machine' begins dark and deadly, setting the RTD trademark style of smouldering building to dramatic end. 'Drifter' sounds like a cross between The Cure and REM, while the title track is a tribal cut recalling some of Kate Bush's mid-period work; an album highlight. 'Sunset' is softer and more beguiling, while 'Let The Fires Burn' more of a slow burner. 'Serpent Song' again evokes some of Kate Bush's work, while the closing cut has the most obviously psychedelic vibe, and amazing vocals. Original, unusual, and good, though a lack of variety in tone and mood marks it down just a little.

And now for something completely different. A.E. Paterra is the drummer of noted sequencer/noodlehead duo Zombi, whose three albums go down well in Tangerine Dream loving circles. (Quite how Paterra's one-sheet manages not to mention TD is beyond me.) Here, the sticks-man emerges as Majeure, with a debut album consisting of three long tracks and three remixes, one by Zombi-mate Steve Moore. The sound of opener 'The Dresden Codex' recalls Zombi instantly, with strong drumming, pattering sequences and a string synth straight out of the TD how-to book of the late 'seventies. Hypnotic stuff, and particularly good on a long car journey. 'Teleforce' is shorter, with more complex sequencing, while 'Timespan' has a hint of Vangelis in the sequences, and more of that cosmic string synth. The Steve Moore remix of 'Timespan' is doomy and bouncy, while Justin K. Broadrick's remix of 'Teleforce' is a bizarre snapshot of Paterra's track through a psychedelic window, perhaps with a hint of Joy Division in the pad timbres. Black Strobe's remix of 'The Dresden Files' meanwhile is a gorgeous electro-hop, and is the best remix by far. All in all, very like Zombi, but that's no bad thing.

Alan J. Bound is a German musician clearly influenced by Harvey Bainbridge and Hawkwind, amongst other spacerockers - he's played Hawkfest twice. And he's put a picture of Stonehenge on the front cover of his third album and called it "Cosmology," so we know what territory we are in. Indeed the music is spacerock, though made unusual by the presence of none other than Can legend Jaki Liebezeit on the drums. So... extended guitar solos float over krautrock drums, synths are minimal but present, and there are a few chord changes. It does the job. The vocals are half sung, half spoken in Bainbridge style, giving a hint in places of noted Teutonic proggers Eloy. One for trad spaceheads.

Ian Holloway of Quiet World moves to Welsh label Phonospheric for his latest release "Passing Through Occasionally," a single extended piece of 37 minutes. Beginning with low, droning synths and sound effects, the piece slowly develops, building in volume, changing timbre, adding subtle effects and layers, all in minimal style. Half way through the additional sounds begin to increase, then later fade away as a new chord/drone emerges, develops, then fades away. Minimal ambience that's perfect for that last-thing-at-night moment.
Also on Phonospheric is Adrian Shenton, whose 2008 album "The Measuring Of Moments" I much enjoyed. His new work "Slowtime" consists of six tracks mostly around the seven to nine minute mark. Opener 'Reverie' features an extended chord repeating with drifting synths layered on top, followed by crystalline tones. 'Possessed By Mountains' is more of a sonic soundscape - rumblings, white noise - while 'Abstraction' repeats the soundworld of the first track. 'Standstill' again uses a minimal chord/timbre mix but adds subtle birdsong for a naturalistic effect. The title track is the most minimal of the six, while the album closes with 'Rivery,' which, as its title suggests, is similar to the opener, but this time with water sounds rippling underneath. Another very fine album for late night mental wanderings, and certainly up to the Shenton's high standard.

A trio of works now from the always reliable, always intriguing Sonic Oyster Records, beginning with "In Search Of The Shadow Walker" by Susan Matthews, an EP which matches brief, almost impressionistic piano, synth and keyboard pieces with subtle sound effects and snippets of natural sound. The mood is dreamlike and evanescent. Short tracks and plenty of variety make for an absorbing listen. The Liverpudlian Clutter make electronic music on "Live At The Bombed Out Church," six tracks of atmospheric, often doomy electronica, the first four of which are live. Opening with '9th April 1811,' which reminded me a lot of side one of Tangerine Dream's "Zeit," the album moves on through a collection of intriguing synth and sample pieces (all from the Soundonation project), the highlights of which are the evocative '5 May 1941' and closing cut 'Temporary Bells,' which matches extended synths with chiming sounds. Built essentially on loops, this is a very good release - recommended. Similar, and yet different to the above pair of works is "Soliloquy Sun" by Soliloquy Sun, a suite of five unnamed, lengthy cuts, all of them light and minimal, where the concept of minimal is taken to the extreme; a lot of the audio environment here verges on silence, as with some of Vidna Obmana's work. The fourth and fifth tracks increase the sonic content a little and extend even further, with piano clusters and deeply reverberated saxophone. An interesting listen.

El Obo is the nom de plume of Jesse Coppenbarger, here offering the listener his debut solo release "Oxford Basement Collection." Created to make a home for his quieter, more reflective pieces, the album wends slowly and subtley through a number of singer-songwriter styles. Opening with 'W8 Off My Mind' - quiet and folky - then progressing through mostly acoustic moods, the album captures various snapshots in time, illuminated by Coppenbarger's emotive voice. Highlights include the drifting waltztime 'The Ordinary Woman' and 'Vrgn Evl,' the album's single, which comes across as an almost retro-styled pop song. A little anodyne in places but not without its charm.

"Ride Across The Sun" by Troy Lindsey & Kristen McCamey is a ten-track collection of Americana songs reflecting the wandering spirit and life of Lindsey, the songwriter (McCamey is his daughter). Acoustic guitars, slide guitar, pattering drums and subtle keyboards underpin various narratives. While Lindsey's voice is rather an acquired taste, the highlights of the album - 'Just Another Day' and the poignant 'The Wolves' - make the album something a little different, with McCamey adding a valuable contribution.

The Jigsaw Seen are established and well known American art-pop pranksters whose new album "Banana Foster" features a number of advantageously connected guests, including two of Brian Wilson's dogs. The eleven tracks here are ambitious, often highly orchestrated mini-symphonies, opening with 'Bertha Brilliance' and 'David Hart's Name Of Song' which set out the band's stall nicely. 'Melancholy Morning,' an album highlight, sounds distinctly 'sixties, while 'Choreography Killed The Cat' (reminiscent of The Rollo Treadway in sound and vocal style) is also a retro-popper. 'Where The Action Isn't' rocks out, while 'Cave Canem' is a quiet little waltztime cut. 'Crazy Legs' is another low-key cut based on a piano riff, while album closer 'Jubilee' matches Rhodes piano with evocative lyrics and an anthemic closing section. Variety and overall tone make this an impressive work.

"Oracle XIV Gateway" is a five track EP by The Higher Craft, a band composed of Craig Twining of legendary UK psych-rockers The Magic Mushroom Band (who I well remember seeing live in their 'eighties heyday) and Christina Poupoutsi of Ebonillumini. Opening cut 'Gateway' rocks psychedelically into the listener's ears, as does - even more so - the Hawkwindesque 'Oracle.' 'Cinema Sky' is a trippier offering, and calmer too, with acoustic guitars picking up the mix. 'Inner Realm' stop/starts through evocative guitar textures and synths with an 'eighties Goth hint, then 'Legends Of Time' closes the EP in fine style, with some particularly good guitars. Poupoutsi's vocals recall in places Bridget Wishart's work with Osiris The Rebirth and Mooch. An entertaining and enjoyable release which acts as a taster for the band's forthcoming album.

From the En T-T record label come two singles and a full length album from Tal Weiss. "Afar Alone" comprises the cut (first single) and a drum-augmented remix, while the title track (second single) also has a drum version backing it. Both display Weiss' soft and lyrical voice with some unusual instrumentation. The album, "Motion Drawing," comprises ten brief songs, miniatures almost, opening with 'Afar Alone.' Throughout, the instrumentation is idiosyncratic and minimal - double bass, harp, flute, vibes. Weiss' voice rarely rises above an almost childlike, soft vocalisation, which does suit the material and mood well but which on occasion dips into torpor. Album highlights 'Unsleeping Night' and 'Him & I' hang in the air like transitory sonic dreams. Original and unusual, but I hope this artist is not a one trick pony.

A Dancing Beggar is youthful UK musician James Simmons, whose second album "Follow The Dark As If It Were Light" comprises seven drifting cuts created from heavily treated loops of piano and guitar, merged with natural recordings. Opener 'Creeping Into Dusk' is minimal ambience, while 'Empty Boats' adds distant, multi-tracked vocals to the mix. 'Stars Bring Us Closer' - the album's highlight - features piano samples and an evocative chord sequence, while 'There Is Hope Here' continues in similar vein. A droning organ chord underpins the soft notes and keyboard bass of album closer 'Here Come The Wolves,' while a hint of percussion and more vocals provide a satisfying conclusion. Pretty good, and one perhaps for fans of Sigur Ros.

The self-titled EP by American band Parlours contains five catchy songs, opening with 'I Think I'll Call You Mine,' which encapsulates pop nous and matches it with attractive instrumentation and arrangements. 'So Still' showcases singer Dana Halferty's crystal-clear voice, adding indie-synth lines to the mix, while 'I Dream Of Chicago' has a more folky feel, with its rippling acoustic guitars and understated violin. 'I Don't Mind' is acoustic and peaceful again, while 'What's Your Name' closes the EP with a catchy chorus and an uptempo rhythm. An accomplished, engaging release, which improves on additional listens and suggests a band worth watching.

All Tiny Creatures hail from Wisconsin USA and create a hybrid of krauty, instrumental music with vocals - a novel addition to the ATC sound palette for their new album "Harbors." Opening with the upbeat, sunny 'Holography' the album then veers into 'An Iris,' 'Cargo Maps' and 'Valves Or Hatches,' which show the diverse range of the band's influences and bring a number of vocal styles to the mix. All the tracks have a sunny, optimistic feel to them, with later highlights including the outstanding 'Aviation Class,' the slowly mesmeric 'Reservoirs' and album closer 'Plankton,' which has a band-in-a-room feel and which closes the album perfectly. A highly recommended release. Those who enjoyed Slow Six's album of last year would certainly like this one.

"Doug Shipton Presents Dedicated Swallower Of Fashion" is a mix CDR of nineteen rare psychedelic cuts presented by the aforementioned Doug Shipton. Residing in London but something of a global traveller, Shipton has collected a number of great tracks for this work, including obscure, fuzzed-out and simply bizarre acts from Europe, Malaysia, South America and India. A trippily good time is guarenteed for all.

Bunky Moon are American instrumental rockers whose new one "Schtuff We Like" combines the best of 'seventies groovy rock, modern tones and solid musicianship. Mixing blues with metal, soul with classic rock, the album meanders pleasantly enough through a number of self-penned tracks, but also some rather curious cover versions: Dave Gilmour's 'Fat Old Sun,' Zappa's 'King Kong,' Bowie's 'Space Oddity' and even Paul McCartney's 'Maybe I'm Amazed.' This, presumably, is the schtuff they like. The original material isn't quite as good, but it's not bad. An album for unreconstructed rockers, who will find its in its soundscape - particularly the classy drumming - much to enjoy.

A couple of years ago I reviewed the last Sugarplum Fairies album, to find a melange of sultry vocals (Natalia Imbruglia meets Nico), sparse instrumentation and subtle textures. The new album "The Images We Get" presents more of the same, though this time with a little more melody and a little less shoegaze. 'Plastic Sky' is an album highlight - it could be a single - while the ballad that is the title track meanders melancholically. 'Jump The Gun' has a folky vibe, 'Hurricane' a hint of Americana very nicely done, while the other album highlight 'One Trick Pony' matches a strong tune with brass and splashy drumming. Great cut, this one. Album closer '96 Dreams' ends the album with more melancholy, dual vocals and a French hint of accordian. Another good album from these well-connected LA residents.

"Enter Castle Perilous" by Factory Star features ex-Fall man Martin Bramah, whose project this is. Recorded live with never more than one overdub, the album captures well the live feel of the band, with its obvious British indie roots and direction. Variously raw, nervous, dramatic and menacing, the lyrics are grim in places, elsewhere dark. 'Away Dull Care' has a more obvious Fall influence than other tracks here, but that doesn't disadvantage it. Elsewhere, 'Black Comic Book' is almost threatening, while 'The Fall Of Great Britain' is a warning from Bramah with deliberately ambiguous lyrics. Concluding, 'Arise Europa!' is a three minute cut that lurches spikily through Bramah's more melodic side. Fine indie shoutings from an undoubted talent.

David Creese is an Australian musician with a few bands in his past (The Dumb Earth, Mysteries, Lizard Train) who now presents his debut solo album "When You Were A Man," which rambles rather melancholically through twelve slow, mournful cuts. The mood doesn't rise, making this a bit of a grim, if not difficult listen in places. The title track tells a tale of sorrow and fate ("a brother on borrowed wings") to a piano, violin and mandolin accompaniment; elsewhere the instrumentation is essentially voice and acoustic guitar. If you've imagined Thom Yorke doing an acoustic solo album, check this out.

Metal Mother is the creation of Californian vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tara Tati, whose debut album "Bonfire Diaries" is a weird and wonderful rampage through a semi-tribal, semi electronic, almost primal musical landscape. The vocals are intense, multi-layered and superbly done, while the arrangements are dramatic, featuring cello and trumpet among the more traditional instruments. All the tracks have a luminous, emotive feel, with 'Snake' (the opening cut), 'In The Bones,' 'Post Weekend' and the involving 'W' all particularly good. The final two tracks 'Willow' and 'Billy Cruz' have an almost English feel to them, evoking some of the work of the Cocteau Twins, with 'Willow' perhaps the finest track on the album. My only complaint of this original and compelling work is that the overall mood of the album doesn't vary quite enough during its fifty minute duration. All in all - strange, lovely and alluring. And recommended! I'm sure fans of Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Creatures and Cocteau Twins would enjoy it.

"The Spark" by Chop Chop (essentially vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Catherine Cavanagh aided by friends) is a trip into space via some listener-friendly electro-pop songs. The album tells the tale of a young girl who is kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a shapeshifter of devilish intent. After being turned into a cyborg, our heroine meets a royal space dude, falls in love, then returns to Earth to save everybody. The songs are quirky, variously upbeat, lyrical and reflective, with sparse instrumentation that allows Cavanagh's pure, occasionally breathy voice to shine through. 'Escape' has an 'eighties feel, while the funny and affecting 'Above The Earth' is more of a faux-folk ramble, with a great chorus. It's different, certainly, and if you like well-honed, well recorded and engaging quirkiness with an SF lilt this is definitely for you.

Matt Leonard Price presents the listener with his third solo album on the Riverhead label, "Sleeping Pill Mannequin," which merges retro-styled progginess and melodic singer-songwritery to good effect. Opening cut 'Things Could Be Worse' battles Rhodes piano against Hammond organ above a marching beat, with a strong tune, while the title track drifts bucolically in shuffling waltzime. There's a hint of Damien Albarn in Price's soft voice, well displayed on album highlight 'Do You Know Who You Are?' while 'Different Ophelia' is a brief piano-founded lament. 'Rain Will Fall And Rivers Overflow' again features emotive piano playing and a keening vocal - another album highlight. The lengthier 'Rat Catcher' is more progressive, while album closer 'Wand'ring Around In A Daze' is the briefest hint of Price's more humourous side. Fans of The Curator (reviewed last time) would enjoy this engaging trip through the artist's musical landscape.

And so we return to space for our final two works. Gagarin is the nom de plume of noted sonic sculptor Graham Dowdall, whose name has been associated with many fine musicians and bands. While his new album "Biophilia" does not specifically deal with space, it is founded in our modern world, notably how isolating urban environments merge with or bounce off natural settings. The tracks are all beautifully arranged and produced: drifting ambience and glitchy beats ('3KA-3' and 'Third Rail'), evoking, amongst others, the widescreen vision of FSOL, the cool electronica of Biosphere and some of Autechre's less demanding work. 'Last Child In The Woods' shows off Dowdall's sonic skills, 'Chalybeate' is more of an electro-song, while album closer 'Dopplar' recalls some of the recent work of Boards Of Canada, notably their classic 'Music Has The Right To Children.' Fine music indeed, and consistent throughout the album.

At the tail end of 2008 I reviewed the outstanding "Celestina" by 17 Pygmies, which told the story of doomed astronaut love in the environs of a giant gas nebula in the constellation Cassiopeia. The band had built a reputation in their native America for pop exploration, but the 2008 release was a new direction for them. And so to part two of this ambitious work, "CII: Second Son," which I was thrilled to see in this collection of disks received from our esteemed reviews editor. As before, the tracks don't have individual names, rather are numbered from 'Celestina XII' to 'Celestina XXII' (the earlier album ended at 'Celestina XI'), and as before the tracks begin simple and build into often anthemic, haunting tracks. This time the story is of black hole travel, artificial bodies, mystery and stasis, with the vocals - occasional but welcome - taken essentially by Meg Maryatt, though others in the band partake also. I loved the album, and lament that I'll have to wait two or more years for the final installment of the trilogy. The 17 Pygmies sound is unique and recommended. Art rock never sounded so good...

    Thanks for those Steve. Now we hand over to Ian Fraser for some more musical rambling around the obscure corners of the Terrascope; you never know what you might find.

“Done So Wrong” is the second album from Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes – their debut “Bad Blood/Winter”, really a compilation of their two EPs for Trip in Time, was reviewed in these very pages back in March 2010. Like its predecessor, the vocal phrasing owe more than a little to the late Jim Morrison although musically it sounds a lot like what the Lizard King fronting something a heavy blues outfit. In places it sounds like Black Sabbath – on “Heavy Heart” and the title track, for instance, which eventually crawls out of a space rock intro like some malign psychedelic slug. Elsewhere the addition of female backing vocals lends an air of Sleepy Suns, even Black Mountain (“Clouded” and “Overboard”) whilst musical eclecticism is assured by “Sundrop” which is about as close to Stone Roses and Ride as you’re likely to hear out of 21st century Baltimore and the closing acoustic guitar and harmonica of “Leave It All Behind” which pitches the listener somewhere into Side 5 of Neil Young’s “Decade” compilation. Thoroughly modern it isn’t. Thoroughly decent it is, even if Will Kelly’s Jim-tones do occasionally get in the way.

Another bunch of retro blues rockers are Berlin’s Coogan’s Bluff (it’s not clear if they are named after the film or The Heads now near-iconic 7-inch of the mid 90s). “Magic Bubbles” references pretty much everything that was good about 1970s influenced rawk (and the occasional but mostly forgivable not so good). Openers “Hang ‘Em High” and “Marshall Law” blow the dust off the valves in no uncertain fashion – all good fun but you feel an album’s worth of this might just fall foul of the so-what factor. Here’s where they start getting clever – the untitled third track and the title track introduce respectively a little light jazz and motorik cool jazz into the pot which helps to break things up nicely. You can have great fun spotting the influence –  “Boogie” is great...er... boogie that sounds like it’s going to break into Wishbone Ash’s “Blowing Free” at any moment but retains a life and identity of its own, “What’s The Deal” is thrash/punk, “Miami Beach” is slightly off the boil mark II Deep Purple (even down to the “gimmee your love tonight” lyric), while “Ready For Love/After Lights” is Free’s “Fire and Water” (or is it something by Bad Co, or perhaps one of those anthemic southern rock slow burners) reinterpreted. Well it all took me back anyway. The rest clips along energetically and pleasingly enough. You could do a lot worse than book this lot for your party - I think they’d go down a hoot.

More astute regular readers, or perhaps those with an encyclopaedic memory, may recall 5-Track’s “Backatcha ,Pod People!!” (Rumbles April 2010) - from which “He’s Not Dead (He’s Just in Texas) is still on my best of 2010 iPod compilation I should point out. Anyway, the man’s back, this time with a group of likeminded individuals (you mean there’s four of them?) known collectively as Zoomsquad. “Recursions in Quasi-Reality” features 10 instrumental tracks recorded in Seattle as far back as 2007 but recently remixed for release. All would appear to be improvised material based around a general theme, which is not to say that it sounds haphazard or in any way devoid of merit. Au contraire, this is in the fine tradition of psychedelic jam bands everywhere (I was occasionally reminded of Ozric Tentacles and English hippie/punk hybrids Here and Now on occasion, but without the twiddly bits or any of the cod-reggae). Beefheart/Pebbles style titles such as “Zebra Ice Cream Station” and “Pickaxe In The Diamond Mine” give you a bit of a flavour of where this lot are at, and I must say this was right up my street. And if a good old rough- hewn psychedelic snarl played at dust bothering volume is your cup of mushroom tea then I’d check out....
...and click the link to the appropriately named Zoomsquad..

Our other featured offering courtesy of Cosmic Primitive this month is a single featuring one track credited to Tommy Santa Klaws (no, really) entitled “Light On” and one by Amanda Jo Williams (“Late Bloomer”). Amanda Jo wrote Tommy’s song, Tommy and Donna Jo wrote Amanda’s song, all three play on both songs, together with Mr Cottage Industry hi’self, our old friend 5-Track. It’s all very simple, really, as are these quirky yet charming (mainly) acoustic ballads showcasing a twisted backwoods sensibility.

It seems that barely an edition of Rumbles goes by these days without us featuring at least one offering by prolific Texan drone-monsters Book of Shadows. Regulars will need no introduction to Carlton and Sharon Crutcher and co and for the most part both “Cosmic Sovereignty” and “Chichen Itza” yield comfortingly few surprises. It’s the usual mix of improvised and compositional pieces, mostly drenched in atmospheric drone but occasionally taking a more corporeal form courtesy of a fleeting semblance of beat and rhythm and particularly on Chichen Itza which features Carlton’s brother Joel on guitar. All of this writhes and wreaths its way around Sharon’s ethereal cooing and ululating and which sounds alternately beguiling and bereft. What is new (to my ears at least) is that on the outstanding “Witch Poem” (from “Cosmic Sovereignty”), Carlton takes the vocal lead courtesy of spoken word delivery, whilst the highlight for me on “Chichen Itza” is the downright petrifying “A Chaindrive Section”, but then both CDs are so choc-full of such ritualistically righteous wonderment as to render choosing highlights a rather meaningless exercise. To these ears at least they seem to sound better and better with practically every new release and, nudging 80 minutes apiece, you sure as hell get your money’s worth.

We hear that Carlton Crutcher’s other band, Future Blondes, recently supported PTV 3 at the recent annual Austin, Texas extravaganza, South by Southwest. If nothing else it would have kept him out of the studio for a day or two, although what’s the betting he had the gig taped for a possible future release? Well if so then he certainly knows where to find us...

We have a slew of instrumental offerings to cogitate over this month. The first and arguably best of the bunch and which keeps us with one foot firmly planted in the Drone Zone, is “Vloed”, a collection of live recordings from 2006/08 by Rutger Zuydervelt under the name Machinefabriek. The result are four lengthy ambient cuts that build, layer upon layer into something meditative, moving and majestic. Not recommended for those who like their deviation more than repetition, but as a slight variation on a definite, brooding theme then this is worthy of exploration.

Acorn Falling is another essentially solo project, in this case by Lars Kivig from Denmark’s My Beloved, but which also features guest performances, notably by Thomas Wydler, better known for his Nick Cave associations. Less sparse than Zuydervelt’s offering, the technophilia of “Cabinet of Curiosities” is fleshed out with strings and horns to dramatic and often ominous effect. Decent soundtrack material, then, that should appeal to the experimentally-inclined amongst you.

We stick with the Danish connection with post-rockers The Seven Mile Journey and their six-track offering “Notes For The Synthesis” released back in March of this year. This is a very wintery soundscape, a melancholy, even gloomy sonic palate invigorated by more theatrical and portentous complexions, but definitely one for slate grey skies with the rain or snow falling relentlessly on cold ground. The soundtrack to the British summer, possibly?

The final offering in this vocal-free selection of mini-reviews (ok, so there’s the occasionally mumbled back-of-the-mix whispered word) comes courtesy of London-based quartet Kontakte and their second full-length release “We Move Through Negative Spaces”. Each track builds into a stirring climax, often showcasing a crescendo of guitars and urgent riffing around a melodic and slightly dark central motif. It works well enough, except that just occasionally the guitar crescendos can give the impression of plodding predictability rather than soaring spontaneity, and the rhythmic hiss and pitter-patter of some infernal laptop can grate after a while. In fact it tends to work best when it goes a little easier on the six-stringed bombast and the pretence of rhythm and give freer rein to the often gorgeous melodies and intelligent arrangement of strings. Enjoyable.

The promo copy of Boston’s Eksi Ekso’s second album, “Brown Sark Red Lion” features favourable press promising fragments of Bowie, Eno and Peter Gabriel all of which is evident as is Robert Palmer, particularly on the opening number “Kills Of The Flood Tide”. All told this features a big 80s style production, prominent percussion, strong emotions and a very mature, crafted, radio-friendly sound. It may be a bit heavy on the old airbrush for my tastes but it’s easy to understand its appeal and is perfectly fine within its own field. 

In fact the afore-reviewed Eksi Ekso are featured in all their Palmer pomp on The Mylene Sheath “2011 Label Sampler” and it must be said sound pretty incongruous alongside some heavy, gothic sounding company, the most impressive being the doom and gloom of Lavinia, the pounding, guitar shredding Caspian, and the dark and weighty menace of Angel Eyes (marred only slightly by the cookie monster vocals). It’s not all quite so intense or as thrilling, but if the purpose of a label sampler is to entice you into further exploration of its roster then this one should serve its purpose.

Here’s a curiosity. “Crazies Hill” is the fourth and final album by Berkshire’s The Marilyn Decade. An acoustic and mostly instrumental outing of guitars and fiddle, the thirteen tracks feature main man Richard Conway-Jones, who also engineered and produced, Michael Beard and Michael O’Connor, and sundry guests including Amelia McClosky who sings the only vocal track, “Nothing In This Life Is Easy”. The pastoral noodling is undemanding and very charming, the sepia-like appeal accentuated by the sense that this was recorded from down the other end of a long corridor on a 4-track wrapped in a sock. Within the context of this neat little offering that’s meant to be a complement by the way.

Moving Stateside again, (Eric) Baylies Band offer up “A Chorus of Indignation”, a collection of mostly short, sharp and often very noisy acid punk which took me wistfully back to the free festivals of the late 1970s/early 1980s and that time of hippie/punk mutation – the Here and Now/Omega Tribe-style hybrid shot through with Fugs-style sensibility that this evokes is exactly the sort of stuff that I recall stumbling around to at 3 a.m. at Stonehenge back in the day. Rough as the proverbial ten bears and destined for a special place on the John Peel Show were the great man still with us, you sense (or at least hope) that despite the toxic, urban feel and squat polemic they had a lot of fun putting this together. Nice one, Eric.

Terrascopic Rumbles for July was brought to you by Simon Lewis, Steve Palmer and Ian Fraser. Artwork, layout & direction by Phil McMullen - © Terrascope Online, 2011