Opening with the pastoral prog of “Morning Comes”, you are soon ushered into a rich soundscape, the music rippling across the room and washing the room in soft light, a gentle and fragile tune that is followed by the excellent “”Remembrances” another folk inspired tune that reminds me of the Kitchen Cynics, at least in the guitar motif, the addition of synths and the vocal delivery taking the tune back to the early seventies. Featuring a more psychedelic/space sound, “Terrestre” is a shimmering piece with a dancing flute and some heavier chords running through it, the guitar work sympathetic to the track, as it is throughout. To end the collection the title track begins with droning synth chords and slowly falling piano notes, creating a sweet ambience, over which the guitar takes flight, creating a truly gorgeous track that resonates within long after the album is over. (http://www.rockit.it/thechildofacreek/album/the-earth-cries-blood/22409)
Playful, inventive and definitely inhabiting a world all their own, “Distractions” is a collaboration between musician John Nagle and producer Nahneen Kula, the end result being a collection of quirky pop songs, a deep friendship and the creation of bunfish and floating shrimps. Over 14 songs there is a brightness of production and a sweetness of song that occasionally masks the more serious nature of the lyrics, with “Umbrella”, a song about the death of a close relative on a beautiful day, being the tune that brought them together. Never less than engaging, highlights include the twisted pop of “Breathe”, delightful sounds to be found on “Blank Space” and the emotional ride of “Umbrella”. However, wherever you look there is much to be found, the whole set playing together as one complete album. (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/johnnagle2)
Raw and emotional, Zack Kouns sounds like an angry man on his latest release “The Deacon Family Tree”, seemingly the story of an Appalachian family as they implode. Imagine Tom Waits as a drunken mountain man playing the songs of his family and you may be close, or maybe Captain Beefheart lost in a forest, whichever there is an original outsider voice running through this disc, home-made voodoo and a sense of collapse never far away, making for a powerful and intense listening experience laced with expletives and vitriol. Featuring mainly acoustic instruments and percussion, each song seems to be a variation of the last, making for a cohesive collection, although it is never an easy ride, best approached with a jug of moonshine and a rocking chair. (http://www.zackkouns.com/main.htm)
Next up some delightful Psych-Pop to ease your soul and make you smile as Icarus Peel offers you an aural toke with “Sing!!”, an eleven song collection that is never less than enjoyable. To kick things off, the title track is an uplifting tune that gets you in the mood before “Cheltenham Street” takes a leap off the pavement and heads for the clouds, a swirling, lively track with fuzz and flowers a-plenty, all cloaked in a velvet jacket originally bought in 1967 and still cherished as such. Straying into the gentle woods visited by UK Kaleidoscope, “I Just Want to Sleep” is a lovely thing indeed, as it the lilting “Susan Smiles / Golden Leaves” although this time there is a more West-Coast feel to the song.
At the centre of this album is “The Brother Block Suite”, a fourteen minute track split into three parts, the whole taking all that is good about UK Psych and distilling it into its purest form, never over complicating the process and ensuring there are effects all over the place. In an age where technology means that anyone can over-produce their music, it is refreshing to hear sounds that remain close to the period they are trying to encapsulate, never too slick or compressed, the music also living up to its promise.
As the man behind The Honey Pot and the Green Question Mark, Icarus Peel has produced an amazing body of work and this collection stands proudly alongside those albums, go check out his work and be transported, cheaper than a time-machine, and just as much fun. (http://www.icaruspeel.com/)
Ok, now time for the almost regular Stoner Rock section, this time led by Isaak, an Italian band whose latest album “The Longer the Beard The harder the Sound” features 12 blasts of primitive noise, sounding like The Bags meeting Kyuss in a sleazy club, the whole thing bristling with energy and intensity. Straight away “Haywire” signals their intent, a nasty fuzzed guitar dominating proceedings as the rhythm section nails everything to the floor allowing the vocals to roar over the top, tight but loose as all good stoner should be. Adding to the fun are two cover versions, a heavy as fuck version of “Fearless” (Floyd) which works surprisingly well and a basic cover of “Wrathchild” (Maiden), which doesn't quite work, losing the energy of the original. That aside this is a fine collection that will annoy the neighbours and get granny's feet tapping along.(www.smallstone.com)
Moving on, SGT. SUNSHINE continue the fuzz drenched happiness on “III” , a collection of Sabbath, Monster Magnet inspired tunes that have lots of original touches and a nice dirty production, just add volume and alcohol for a real good time. Highlights include the wah-ridden “Golden Dawn” which stomps out of the speakers, the slow/heavy beauty of “Beneath the Song”, and the excellent riffing of “Solar Butterfly”, to be fair though, they all sound great together. (www.elektrohasch.de)
On the same label comes a split CD featuring The Machine/Sungrazer, who both contribute three tracks to the disc. First up, The Machine will scare the fuck out of small children and animals as “Awe” growls out of the speakers and threatens to implode your brain, a dense wall of ultra-heavy riffing complete with wah driven solos that reek with the spirit of early Blue Cheer and attitude to match. Next up, “Not Only” repeats the trick but at a quicker pace, The Misfits fighting Sabbath in an empty car lot, before “Slipface” eases the intensity, just a bit, yet still sounds nasty rounding off three very tasty tracks. So, how does Sungrazer follow that, by doing roughly the same thing it seems, with “Dopo” being a bass heavy track that tries to rip your face off whilst simultaneously taking you into space, a classic stoner rock trick that always works. On “Yo La Tengo” a bit of subtlety appears, the mood slightly mellower with some great guitar work grooving through a piece that increases in heaviness as it continues. To end “Flow Through a Good Story” is another fine riff fest with a warmer heart, making you want to dance or, at least, throw yourself around the room a bit.
Finally on the same label comes Carpet whose “Elysian Fields” album is a magical collection of psychedelic/prog tunes that float beautifully over candy colour mountains, rippling keys and guitar swirling over bass/drum grooves with an almost Glass-like feel, music for journeys and relaxation. All this is summed up in the beautiful title track, opening the album and inviting the listener in before the heavier “Nearly Four” takes over, injecting some energy into the proceedings before “Man Changing the Atoms” takes us back to 1973 again, a wonderful atmosphere running through the piece, shades of early Camel, Steel Mill and seventies Miles Davis to be found amongst the grooves. Constantly shifting and changing there is never a dull moment to be had and by the time you get to the excellently named “For the Love of Bokeh” you will no doubt be smiling with happiness. That grin will only be wider after the final track has ended, 13 minutes of prog brilliance that is inventive , playful and filled with joy, as is the whole album.
Over the last few months Steve Palmer has reviewed a huge amount of releases for the Terrascope, Something we are eternally grateful for, thanks mate. Here's some more...
On the EP "See The Forest, See The Trees" by Kazyak six songs of alternative folk, somewhat in the style of The Lumineers with nods to Bon Iver hove into view, opening with the delightful 'Pieces Of My Map,' sung with conviction and beautifully played. 'To The Manner Born' is slower and softer, while 'Tar Baby' is sung in a strange falsetto and is perhaps the least successful track on the album. 'Rabbiting Fox' is a slowly building nearly-folk cut with banjo accompaniment, before a choral section emerges from the mix, really nicely. 'Pitch Thick' (the EP has many references to the famous Brer Rabbit tales by J.C. Harris) is an odd little sample/sound cut-up, while the closing track 'Disposition' returns Kazyak to full band mode, and another very good song. This is a refreshing listen - good songs beautifully produced, that many in the alt.folk field will enjoy.
The debut album by Johnny Powell "The Difficulties Of Johnny Powell And The Big Sad Face Of Infinity" takes the singer-songwriter genre, hints of folk and rock, and mixes them into a quiet, lonesome stew. Opening with the mournful 'A Predictable Folk Song With An Unpredictable Purpose,' the stage is set: minimal accompaniment (acoustic guitar and light found sounds), eerie vocals and a mood of melancholy. 'A Fat Little Finger With Nowhere To Point' is slightly more uptempo and has some nice slide guitar accompaniment, adding to the rippling clawhammer; the vocals veer between melodramatic (lots of vibrato) and simply quiet. 'A Supernatural Carnival Of Demons' affects similarly, this time with the addition of drums and distorted vocals, while 'I'm So Sick' returns the listener to singer-songwriter territory. 'Many Nervous Voices' sounds very fragile but has some effective backing vocals and more subtle guitar; nice mix, too. 'We Stayed Out All Night' has the quietest, most fragile vocals on the album, balanced by multi-tracked "stern" vocals for an interesting effect, 'It's Playtime!' does similarly, while album closer 'An Objective' is a vignette of found sounds. The tracks individually seem light, even too light, but the overall effect is more than the sum of its parts.
Take Acre make improvised music using drums, bass and various types of guitar; on their new album "Cut From A Cloud" four longish tracks take the listener on an improv post-rock journey. Each track was recorded during basement rehearsal sessions, and while this could be seen as lesser material (who'd want to listen to rehearsals?) the music has been prepared well enough to make an interesting trip. The sound echoes Pink Floyd crossing the boundary between '69 and '70, but with hints of jazz and more along the way. Dual guitars seem oppositional, but they complement one another well. The outstanding track is 'Harlem Renaissance Festival,' where the full band sound, emotive guitar solos and oodles of rolling bass make a tasty jam. 'There Is No Eurasia' is also good, with its bowed guitar and pattering, Mason-esque drums. An intriguing listen.
"Unprotected" by Greek psych-proggers No Man's Land is a wonderful album, at once retro, Ozricky, futuristic, jazzy and Mediterranean. Guitars meet brass meet massive delay units meet flutes meet more... The band have their roots in the 'eighties, and released a couple of albums then, but after an almost twenty year hiatus returned to the Athens scene to make more groovy psych music. Opening cut 'Moribundo Part 2' matches Hillagesque guitars with trumpet, spitty drums and solid bass - superb. The thirteen minute 'Flame' again has the trumpet, but also great vocals in 'sixties Scandinavian style (think Barrett Elmore, Deleted Waveform Gatherings, etc) and loads of floating flute - another great track, which manages to be both a song and a jam. 'A Brave Face' is rougher, tougher and louder than anything that so far has appeared, but the pattering drums and brass once again carry the track, alongside more excellent vocals. 'Permian Vacation' sounds like an alternate-world Jethro Tull, with some particularly tasty guitar work, while closing cut 'Unprotected In The World' is another jazz-inflected track with lots of guitar, and more. A beautiful book-style CD package completes a striking release. I loved this - bravo!
Drazy Hoops is a New York singer/songwriter whose bluesy rock touches on country, in the way these albums so often do, but also visits more interesting territory over the space of fourteen short tracks - rock, indie, blues. The opener is pretty forgettable, but 'I Ain't Never Pressed To Bother' is tougher and richer, with a good vocal and a tight mix. 'Golden Hours' is a cover of the Brian Eno song, here given a gentle acoustic treatment, which, with the addition of subtle female vocals, comes across nicely. Another cover is 'Whip It,' this time of a track by Devo, which in Mr Hoops' version is a weird little almost-indie track; idiosyncratic, but not annoyingly so. 'Sick Enough' is undoubtedly the album highlight - a memorable tune, vocal and production. 'And If You Don't Succeed...' ups the rock chops and tempo, with another idiosyncratic vocal somewhere between singing and speaking. 'Baby Jesus' sounds like the sort of psych Anton Barbeau comes up with, while 'Fly Little Bird' is another good track with a strong melody and a low-key, almost spoken vocal. The album closes with the soft and melancholy 'Oh How It's Good To Be Home.' Variety, tuneage, and the sense that you never know where this artist is going to go make for an involving listen. There are a few duds, but on balance much more good stuff.
The idea that a narrative can be constructed from the perspectives of victim and offender has been done before, but it is rich picking grounds, as electro-poppers Eksi Ekso have found on their new album "Archfiend." Detailing the life of notorious American H.H. Holmes, the album uses 'eighties pop tropes, modern sounds (drum'n'bass rhythms on second track 'Glass Damsels') and bass guitar and drums on tracks that, like all the others on the album, had to be "playable" - if not, the parts were not acceptable. Interesting concept for electro-poppers... The vocals are sometimes difficult to make out, but the production, despite the emphasis on economy of instrumentation, is good, sometimes striking. 'The Raging Brigade' matches a bouncy house-style piano with thumping drums, while 'Blood Rivals' is dramatic verging on melodramatic, with BIG vocals and a busy accompaniment. 'Hover And Linger' brings in a nice guitar grumbling beneath a tight waltztime rhythm, while 'Writhe' is more fluid in tone. The album floats off into the morally ambiguous distance with the best cut on the album, 'Heiresses,' all smooth grooves and moodiness. Curious and tasteful in equal measure.
The Grenadines hail from Oregan USA and are another of the ever-increasing number of husband and wife duos currently in vogue. This pair however do something a little different on their self-titled album: strong, brief songs, simultaneously dreamy and possessed of attitude, this latter provided by the excellent vocals. Opener 'Shake' has a verse and a chorus and over 2:51 does very well. A single, maybe? Sounds like it to me. 'Fire Cracker' heads straight for the riff and another great vocal, this time accompanied by subtle synth work. 'Counting Backwards' is a bit of a miss (pointlessly distorted vocals and a dull electro-arrangement) but 'Down' returns to guitar, bass and drums, and another good cut. 'Warmer' sounds like Noosha Fox grooving over a 'seventies rock band - great track - while 'Reservation' is even rockier, touching metal. 'Not Much' belies its title, while 'Carousel' is a rather nice dream-out composed of swoonsome vocals and a floating synth/guitar background. 'Umbrellas' does similarly, though with the return of the band, while album closer 'Colourblind' pits acoustic guitars with simple drums and a less reverb-drenched vocals. I liked the attitude of this band, I liked their decision to maximise the tracks at about three minutes each, and I liked the dual male/female vocals. Good stuff.
Katie Rose's "Empty Cup" comes in a package that looks like it might hold a slim, albeit unusually large circular chocolate, but in fact it contains twelve tracks of modern folk, decorated with subtle synth work and modern electro arrangements, a style the artist herself calls 'folk-mantra.' Opener 'Molly Bawn' is a traditional song accompanied by doom-laden keyboards and a minimal oscillating percussion track that goes up and down the frequency spectrum but which, like the keyboards, never outperforms the vocal. 'Water Is Wide' continues similarly, with a superb vocal, while 'Quiet Silent' brings in tribal percussion to add to the synthesized percussion - an intriguing mix. 'Brigg Fair' opens with rolling piano and birdsong for a very different feel, not least as it features John Burden, Katie Rose's father. 'Willow Cup' features some more powerful vocals, while the title track again matches a piano with more traditional vocals, here multi-tracked, and an acoustic guitar. 'Oshun' is a lovely track about the Nigerian sea goddess - a quiet, reflective performance. The two lengthy closing tracks reduce the 'modern' sound to a minimum whilst using unusual instruments (eg Tibetan singing bowl) and both are beautifully sung. It doesn't always work, notably at the beginning of the album, but those, like me, who enjoyed the extra disk on Eliza Carthy's groundbreaking "Red Rice" album will certainly be interested in this release.
From the Bay area of west-coast America come a new trio, White Sails, whose debut album "White Sails" covers retro territory, but only tangentially - the songs here are more like rocked-up singer songwriter material. Opening with the chiming guitars and almost Madchester vocals of 'The Turning Of The Tide,' the sound is a kind of mash-up of obviously retro (Hammond) with fuzzy guitars and languid vocals. A good opener. 'Dare To Shine' is similarly rock-languid, with some nice slide guitar and a good chorus, while 'Slipping Away' ups the acoustic/Americana elements for another nice track. 'All Of My Days' is one of the stronger tracks on the album, with definite single potential, while 'Departed' is more of a dirge, albeit quite indie. 'Sunday Afternoon,' 'Just One Wish' and album closer 'Seaside' are all okay songs, but by now there is perhaps a little too much familiarity with the band's basic sound. This is not a bad album by any means, but it's comparative lack of moods and variety make it a little samey. If you liked the chutzpah of The Perishers and the mellow groove of The Humans, you'd like this.
The collected tracks of Thanaton (volumes one and two) cover 2000-2007 and comprise a kind of part ambient, part noise, part shamanic thump-thump electronic music experience, which is specifically designed to be listened to under the influence of psilocybin or similar. Alas I was unable to listen to and then review these two albums in said mental condition, which means all I can do is use words to describe a sonic experience meant to externalise the sounds heard by the mind's ear of the creator (name unknown - Mr DMI?). So, here goes with my list: sampler, cut-up, random, meaningless, curious, bassy, wibbedy wibbedy, zpoing, fnurg, cheeky, Mr Cheeky, shaman, dance, dansette, Terence, machine-elves, whack! zap! kerpow! aural, sonic, oral, sound, hissy, choir... well, you get the idea of that.
As well as Terrastock San Francisco veterans and long-time Terrascope readers, fans of Mancunian tunesmiths and indie-pop titans James - one of my fave bands ever - will recognise the name Andy Diagram, and here he is on a four track single by resuscitated live loopers Spaceheads, playing the trumpet, as he is wont to do. Back with drummer Richard Harrison the duo have made four tracks - curiously, all almost exactly the same length - into an EP entitled "Sun Radar," opening with the space groove of the title track, which mutates funky riffs into a 'nineties-sounding dance cut. 'Atomic Clock' sounds like a half-remembered nightmare experienced by Jon Hassell, and features some particularly groovy percussion, while 'Miles To Go' motors propulsively into the retro future with a nice delay-enhanced trumpet solo. 'North Of The Border' is the ambient come-down after the rave. Great stuff, with the late 'eighites/early 'nineties vibe bringing on the good times. Sorted!
Either a long EP or a short album (32 minutes), "Sun Songs" by Preston Lovinggood opens quiet, reflective and eerie before heading off into an emotively sung uptempo number. Lovinggood's voice sounds a lot like that of De Vries, whose "Death To God" made such an impact a few years back. The songs are all short and precise, like 'Papa's In The Movies,' matching more metronomic acoustic guitar strumming with dreamier electric inserts and simple but effective drums. 'Somewhere Along The Way' is more of a stomper with less of a tune, but album highlight 'Little Gods' is very nice indeed. 'Further' is slow, and features female vocals, to good effect. 'Terminator' has a great chugging rhythm and another good vocal, 'Helicopter' takes the riff of Siouxie & The Banshees 'Hong Kong Garden' (probably by accident, to be fair) into a soft acoustic number, 'Shipwrecked' is mournful and so quiet it's almost not there (sad lyrics, so it does work), while album closer 'Sun Songs' is a little more uptempo. The strength of this album is Lovinggood's voice, which, when the material is strong, is a force to be reckoned with.
City Of Salt are a trio comprising oud player Omar Dewachi, guitarist Sam Shalabi and clarinetist Paed Conca, who on their album "Towers Open Fire" offer up nine tracks of quiet, minimalist, ambient music, improvised in a session lasting just one day in August 2012. The music is a kind of stream of consciousness document, decorated by the oud and the clarinet, while the guitar goes off on more Western tangents, often supporting the tracks with drones, screeches, single notes and elements of feedback. Second and subsequent listens show this album to be an intricate tapestry of little vignettes stitched into a whole, to great effect. The electric guitar conjures up a multitude of tones and sounds, counterpointing the more stable oud and clarinet, and over the space of the whole album this offers great listening. Rather good, and ideal for that last-thing-in-the-evening moment.
Nightmare Air on their album "High In The Lasers" make uptempo indie-rock fronted by a sweet-voiced female vocalist. There is attitude a-plenty here, and some good songs, not least the bangin' opener 'Escape.' 'Icy Daggers' continues the theme with a few added samples and spacey effects before '18 Days,' which is slower and maybe echoes the 'eighties British sound in the guitar part - hints of The Cure, I think. 'Brightest Diamond' pits a galloping drum sound against more guitar thrashes and bass thrums, this time with a male vocalist - a less successful combo, it has to be said. The seven and a half minute 'Sun Behind The Rocks' brings in some nice Who-esque oscillating synths, and is a great track on its own merit. 'Silver Light' matches a raw guitar sound with more hints of The Cure and other good 'eighties rock bands, while album closer 'Wolf In The Wood' does likewise. There is a lot to like here and a lot to enjoy (except the cover, which is horrible and in no way describes or enhances the music). Sheer bravado overcomes the slight lack of variety across the course of the album. Good stuff, veering between powerful and anthemic.
"Northern Automatic Music" by American band Panda Riot also channels the British 'eighties, especially bands like Cocteau Twins. Saccharine female vocals keen over echoed guitars and drum machines. It's not terribly original, but it ain't bad, as evinced by the opening cut 'Amanda In The Clouds.' 'In The Forest Some Kind Of Night Fills Your Head' brings a pounding, loping beat to a good tune and vocal, 'Serious Radical Girls' ramps up the fuzz factor, while the title track is an album highlight, with a nice vocal and a stompy Madchester beat. 'Mtwn Glass' is the most obviously Cocteau/Elisabeth Fraser cut, and alas not terribly successful - neither poise nor grace - but the mental 'Black Pyramids' is much better; snarling guitars, crashing drum machine and another good vocal, less reverbed this time, so the lyrics are almost understandable. 'Someday, Someone Will Wake You From This Nightmare' is very well produced - another highlight - with fine guitars, while 'Encrypted Wilderness' is a soft, Rhodes-fuelled instrumental dreamscape - lovely. The album concludes with 'Camden Line,' which again channels the British 'eighties. If you don't mind the perhaps too-obvious influences and are willing to give the band a go, this is a worthy album, though one does wonder where they'll go next.
Lotte Kestner, vocalist with Trespassers William whose "The Natural Order Of Things" I reviewed in 2009, has a new solo album out called "The Bluebird Of Happiness," which opens with a delicate delight, 'String,' giving Kestner's fey voice lots of space to share her melancholy. The arrangement compliments the song perfectly. 'Wrestler' is also lovely; a beautiful melody and a subtle arrangement. The title track is gossamer-light in tone, while 'Pairs' is an album highlight, setting Kestner's voice over a plangent piano. 'Halo' (the Beyonce track!) is here stripped down to reverb-less vocal and one guitar, before the reverb hits and a keyboard comes in. A rather intriguing cover version. 'Sweetheart' covers relationship territory (as does most of the album - the lyrics appear to be about one person in particular, though that is a guess) and is another standout cut. I also liked 'When It's Time' and penultimate track 'Cliff,' which marries weird lyrics with a soft vocal and a harp, or a harp-synth. Album closer 'Little Things' adds mournful backing vocals to the melancholy mix. "Put on your headphones," the booklet urges, and, yes, this is headphone music for sad times.
Swedish group Moustad, formed five years ago, make a kind of modern folk music, enlivened by a few modern elements but mostly founded on acoustic instruments, with drums appearing on some tracks. The vocals are sung mostly in English. The opener 'Sendero' is doomy yet folky, but 'Skugga' sounds like something Peter Gabriel might have made when he was creating music for the film "The Last Temptation Of Christ." A 'sixties style organ opens 'Galactic,' which, when the vocals come in, reminded me of the breakthrough Animal Collective album "Merriweather Post Pavillion." 'July' continues this impression, with the addition of stringed instuments for a slightly baroque feel. 'Otlib' has more of a jazzy feel, with an almost summery tune and vibe. 'Ivory' continues the Animal Collective sound, but Ayeyarwaddy sounds more melancholy and folky, while 'Stems' is a charming strings-enlivened piece with a strong tune at its heart. Album closer 'Goudaloupe' is a kind of funky, almost reggae cut with full band and drums underneath. Experimental folk-pop? Assuredly.
The self-titled EP by Small Multiples comprises five tracks of pop-noise made on synths and electronic percussion. The band are a duo, made up of NYC mates Eli Friedmann and Craig Hartley, and the opening track is sparkly synth-pop with anthemic vocals and lots going on in the mix. 'Makeup' is thumping drum'n'bass influenced, yet with soaring vocals over the top, and some slinky synths - a nice combination. 'Side By Side' is much more gentle with an almost English feel, while 'Sitting High' is almost a show-tune, with its breathy, mournful vocals and structured, yet light electro-backing. This is the EP highlight I think - very well put together, and engaging. EP closer 'Star Eyes' is darker and denser, with a distinct element of heavy metal at the end. Fans of electro-pop will enjoy this classy outing.
"Get Up" by Wiretree is an album of ten catchy songs from this US band. The title track is the opener, and it's a good one - great tune, played with verve. Good vocals too, and it clocks in at under three minutes, so it's got "single" written all over it. 'Marching Band' has a bit of a Kinks feel to it, but is by no means a copy - just good music with a feelgood vibe. 'Out Of My Mind' opens like a Police track from the 'eighties before heading off into pop territory again, this time underpinned by punchy, shuffling drums. Another really good one. 'Easychair' is a waltztime reverie before the next song, 'So Bold,' which has more of a rock vibe, maybe from the 'nineties this time (the band used multiple producers so that the sound was varied across the album). 'Doctor' matches a nice strummed guitar with a doomy piano, before a tale of medical friends emerges - another good cut, with the strings mellotron adding a retro edge. 'Take Us Away,' 'To The Moon' and 'In The City' continue the pop-rock feel with class and surety, before the album closer 'When You Were Young,' which is rather more melancholy than what has gone before. If you like bands such as The Perishers and Stay, then this is for you. Very good indeed.
The latest album by 17 Pygmies (as ever, placed in beautiful handmade housing) "Isabel" is rather more of an acoustic or even rock work than the mournful electro-hymns of the previous three "Celestina" outings. There is also a roster of six special guests augmenting the four-piece band, including strings players and a surbahar player. A sad violin and assorted keyboards and guitars open the album, before a second track brings in soft percussion and other elements. It's much more progressive than earlier albums, which is refreshing. Isabel III (the tracks are all named and numbered, as before) has more of a haunted feel, with the violin and strings particularly lovely. Vocals appear later. Tracks four to six continue the mournful symphonic prog feel, successfully, before Isabel VII, which is more of an uptempo almost psych-folk cut - another album highlight. Isabel VIII has an oriental feel, track nine brings in Indian influences and vocals - also with considerable success - before the "Celestina"-recalling next two tracks. The closing cut, 'Kyrie,' is a lovely little piece in 3/4 time with acoustic guitar and harmonised vocals. This is a move away from earlier sounds for this band, but overall it's a real delight, and a great work, which grows in the mind during later listens. I think this could be my favourite 17 Pygmies album so far.
Crock Oss is a side-project of Spaceship musician Mark Williams, who will be familiar to regular readers of Terrascope. The album "One More Time For Stupid" comes across as a sort of slowed down Hawkwind riffola, with heavily fuzzed guitars, synths and long tracks where things happen, but slowly, as the shamanic loops are built up. The opening track reminded me of the Whitezone album released in the 'nineties on the shortlived EBS label. 'Eunice Huthart' does similarly, as does 'Moore's Winter Marathon,' though with this latter track there is more musical structure as the track progresses. 'Furthest Terminal From Check-In' is an ambient/synth cut in the style of some of Harvey Bainbridge's earlier works, while 'Warm Fairy Liquid' has some rave-styled sequences and acid synths, giving it a bit of a 'nineties festival feel. The closing cut sounds more like Astralasia than Hawkwind, and is I think the best track on the album.
"Lost Out At Sea" by The Greek Theatre comprises a 40-something Swedish duo, who create beautiful, multi-vocalled music with hints of the US West Coast, bands such as Love and UK folk outfits, and more. Opener 'Even You Will Find A Home My Son' breathlessly travels various pop roads, not least the Love road, to create an engaging and unique song. 'August Streets' is another beautifully written, played and recorded song, with more hints of Love, and those lap-steel guitars swaying in the background. Irresistible. 'You And Your Brother' matches stormy sound effects with heavily reverbed vocals for another fine cut, while 'Frozen Highway' brings in fuzzed guitars, Rhodes and Hammond organ for a more obviously retro sound. And it's another excellent song - these guys can write. The quieter 'Was It A Dream?' has a gorgeous jazz sax floating through it, while 'Overprotection Doesn't Work' is brash and stompy. 'Mountains Meet Ocean Sand' returns the listener to US West Coast sounds, with distinct hints of the garage bands of the late 'sixties, especially, I think, The Strawberry Alarm Clock. 'Close In My Arms' swings by, before the plangent piano and heartfelt Brian Wilson style vocals of 'Hold On,' which is another great track. 'Sail Away' returns to the Love feel, then the closing cut 'Stupid Constapleton' tears the place up in loud, crashing and entirely unexpected style. This is a terrific album, into which much musicality, ingenuity and skill has been placed. Recommended.
If haunting, profound Americana with indeterminate rock and folk leanings is your bag then "Ribbon Vine," the fifth album by Ora Cogan, may be for you. Recorded in Spain with a four piece band, the nine tracks have drama a-plenty, and all are beautifully played and immediately engaging. Cogan's voice, reverbed quite a lot in places, elsewhere more intimate, seems to inhabit these doomy arrangements, not least on the opening cut 'Black Swells.' 'Waterbound' has less reverb and more fingerpicked acoustic guitars, while the mesmerising 'Katie Cruel' is more of an emotional outburst than a song - quite a cut, from quite a voice. 'Everyday' is Americana-rock, 'I Wish My Baby Was Born' similarly, though quieter, while 'The Way' is another of the tracks on this album that seems to have been emoted rather than sung. 'Vine Ribbons' is a short guitar instrumental before the ethereal glide of 'Golden Veins,' which, augmented with cellos and drums, is another dramatic track sung in Cogan's unique style. The closing song 'Summer Wine' is soft and gentle, and a lovely conclusion. There is real depth to this marvellous album. Folk and Americana purists may find it not to their taste, but Cogan is one of those unique artists who should be heard by a wider audience. I really liked it.
Lunarians create a mixed music taking equally from psychedelia, electronica and rock. Their new album "Lost Light Receiver" (the band's debut) opens with a brief, otherworldly electronic piece, before the electro-rock of 'Pink Metal,' which pits vocal lines with a solid drum beat and various electronic squiggles in the background. Simon Baker's voice has hints of Ian Curtis, while Laura Peglar is more of a floating female counterpart. It's a good combination. On 'The Sweetening' Peglar is the main vocalist, with Baker taking vocal duties on 'Scene In Pieces.' There's a doomy 'nineties feel to these cuts, though with hints of the previous decade. 'Everyone We Know Is Queer' matches hints of drum'n'bass with a light pop song, while 'Realis' is a little darker. 'Mind Maze' is one of the best tracks on this album - good mix of guitars and synths, and a good hypnotic vibe - while album closer 'Hide From The Sun' would look and sound great in a festival tent (the band are from Bristol, and are a fixture on the local live scene). One for those who prefer the dance tent to be inhabited by bands rather than DJs.
"Electric City" by Memoryy (aka LA resident Shaun Hettinger) is a five track EP inhabiting the space between indie pop and synth rock - hints of what we were doing in Britain during the 'eighties, but other influences too, notably that of Africa in the instrumentation and vibe. Opener 'Someone Not You' brings anthemic vocals, drum machine and synth sequences to a bouncy little number - bits of Yazoo in there I suspect - while 'Nostalgia' is more of a stomper, though again with the heavily synthed-up arrangement. The vocals are confident, though quite heavily effected. The title track is the best cut on the EP, with great sounds and a strong song. 'Don't Give Up' has a bit of a glam feel about it (though with acid fried synths here and there) while the closing cut does similarly. A striking work, with very well produced synths - fans of the various UK electro-pop bands of the 'eighties should enjoy this release.
"Twelve Strings To The Beau" by Beau marks the appearance of a long forgotten album, never before released - though John Peel's Dandelion label did release Beau's first two albums to considerable success in the early 'seventies. As Beau himself relates for the release of this album, he was asked by the band Tractor to use their new recording studio to create some songs - which he did. And here they are now, recorded over two days in February 1975. Opening cut 'Love Is' is just the man and his guitar (as are all the tracks here), singing gently and wonderfully. 'The Roses Of Eyam' sounds more like a trad folk tune - another fine vocal. 'Miss Alice Preece' is a dark tale of infant-snatching, while 'Cartoon' is a softer song, while 'The Commodore' is a classic folk style tale concerning oceans, men and power. 'Bristol Museum' is an alternate World War 2 tale, while 'The Wine Was Sweeter Then' does have a bit of a French feel to it (perhaps the melody, perhaps the singing style). 'Why Do You Laugh?' is a lengthy reminiscence over events in Britain in 1974, with many fine images (those were indeed grim times), 'Shanty Town' concerns shipbuilding strikes, a common theme amongst folk musicians it would seem, while album closer 'Goodbye' is both terrific musically and a fascinating reverie on the nature of inspiration. There will no doubt be quite a fanfare over the release after 38 years of this album, and quite rightly so.
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Indo-influenced, multi-voiced instrumental music your thing? Then try "Those Who Came Before..." by Die Geister Beschwören, essentially multi-instrumentalist Oryan Peterson-Jones, with two guests on this very interesting album. Oryan plays guitars, sitar, synths, percussion and a host of ethnic instruments, so this is a varied brew indeed. Opening with the briefest of sitar and voice cuts, the first track proper fuses electric guitars with percussion and synths to make a trippy cut. 'Redbird 1: Krvavy Krk' is softer and tripper, with acoustic guitars duelling with synths and sundry sound effects. This and the flutes of the following cut reminded me a lot of my own early albums with Mooch - quite a surreal experience. Sitars and electric guitars return to the fore for 'Ars Notoria' (hints of Saddar Bazaar here), while 'Imprague 2: The Hunter's Moon' is a kind of Afro-noise journey through underworld regions. 'Donner Pass...' is a particularly nice, and rather too short track, as is the following '... Angel's Rest' - some lovely ambient textures and moods here. The final track 'Casa Cometa' is by far the longest on the album, merging softly plucked guitars, birdsong, synths, sounds, voices and more into a very fine track. This is an excellent album that fans of world music and electronica should enjoy.
"Ankle" by The False Beards is "old time English psych folk blues world twangery" done by two stalwarts of the folk/blues scene, Ben Mandelson of 3Mustaphas 3, Magazine, Bill Bragg's band and more, and Ian Anderson (no, not that Ian Anderson) of Hot Vultures and Tiger Moth. Opening with the light and venturesome 'The Sky,' the stage is set - relaxed, confident vocals, superb guitar playing, and a lightness of touch sometimes missing from music like this. 'Oscar's' is an album highlight - bluesy, witty and beautifully done - while 'Jarabi/Friend Is A Four Letter Word' is a charming little 'instrumental' with vocals at the end. 'The False Bride' brings in guest vocalist Katie Rose, with Pete Judge playing a mighty fine trumpet (hints of Jon Hassell, I thought). 'Paint It, Black' is another witty good-time stomper, while 'Lord Allenwater' returns Katie Rose to vocals, on a trad folk classic. The album closes with 'The Panic Is On,' clawhammer picking, duel vocals and all. A great ending to a high spirited album.
As one, like many Terrascope readers, who loves the atmosphere and sonic adventurousness of the mid and late 'sixties, I greet the appearance of new psychedelia and psych-pop in particular with excitement. With Mooch a few years ago I made three albums of retro homage to the period, but none of them evoked one particular artist, the intention being to recall and elaborate on the sound world and the attitudes of the late 'sixties. I do though struggle with artists and bands who restrict their adulation to one artist or band, which is why I recoil in horror from tribute acts. So I'm still not sure whether the debut album by Jacco Gardner "Cabinet Of Curiosities" is a tribute, a pastiche or an homage. The album opens with 'Clear The Air,' which features superbly arranged strings mellotron and more, to create a classic "spirit of '67" atmosphere. Gardner's voice in the verses sounds more like Rick Wright than anybody, apart from himself of course, but the chorus is full-on Syd vocals with a replica chord sequence from "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn." 'The One Eyed King' is quieter, with Gardner "drifting down a river with no end" accompanied by acoustic guitar and subtle orchestration - beautifully done, especially the keyboards. 'Puppets Dangling' has another good chorus with rippling harpsichord and funky bass - I liked the backing vocals too. 'Where Will You Go' features some lovely faux-'sixties tape and sound effects (a particularly good retro job on this track), while 'Watching The Moon' is another Syd-evoking cut - perhaps the most so of all twelve tracks here. The album's instrumental title track closes a notional vinyl side one with sound effects and more strings mellotron. 'The Riddle' merges Monkees/Beach Boys bouncing keyboards with mellotron and more, creating one of my favourite tracks, and an album highlight - this one seems to veer towards the west coast of America via the Abbey Road studio. 'Lullaby' opens with a wonderful guitar figure before the album's best vocal and melody hoves into view - great track, this one, with some lovely "tape effects" in the background. I think this is the best cut on the whole work. 'Help Me Out' offers more by way of wobbly and flanged tape effects, while 'Summer's Game' is a nice pastoral piece, with more lovely acoustic guitar. 'Chameleon' does similarly, while album closer 'The Ballad Of Little Jane' features perfectly arranged keyboards and another very Syd vocal - tone, timbre and lyrics. I liked this album a lot, but the overall tenor, in particular the comparative lack of sonic variety offered once the mood and specific period of the album is set, made me feel uneasy. Where does homage end and unhealthy adulation begin? The album evokes that wonderful period in the mid and late 'sixties when it seemed anything was possible, but it does so through a rather restricted lens. The enjoyment is there for this listener, and doubtless it will be there for thousands of others, but for me it is tinged with unease at how and why in this case Syd Barrett is reborn. Another oddity is that, despite having heard the album quite a few times now, I can only recall in my own mind one of the tracks' tunes ('Lullaby'). So, for me, this one is a mixed blessing.
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