elcome to the September 2015 edition of Ptolemaic Rumbles, and just for a change Ian Fraser's going to start us off with a look at some recent singles released on the estimable Fruits de Mer label, many of them recorded by old friends and familiar faces.
Keith Jones’ idiosyncratic Fruits de Mer label runs the cheeky strapline “it’s as if the last 40 years never happened”. As if to ram home the point the latest slew of releases from the 7” single specialists press into action some of their big front-loading muskets of today with their quirky takes on yesterday.
Nick Nicely – 49 Cigars
Once described as “the greatest pop star that never was” few would demur at the suggestion that Nicely’s “Hilly Fields (1892)” was one of the great psych singles of the last, er, 40 years and one which Fruits de Mer were good enough to dust off a few years back. “49 Cigars” was the flipside and receives a release in its own right. A masterful slice of Revolver-era Fabs it hits the bull’s (magic) eye although the jokey vocals in the chorus sounds uncomfortably like one of those self-style whackoid Radio 2 jocks (Evans, Wright, see me in my office). Packaged with a live rendition of the main track plus a remixed “Belinda” as well as the ozone rich “Lobster Dodds” from last year’s “Space Of A Second”, it’s nigh on impossible to find anything not to like, so why bother trying?
Vibravoid – Stepping Stone
Masters of the retro freakout, Dusseldorf’s finest show they can play it short and tight by taking on “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” (think Monkees, Pistols and a host of garage psych/punk tyros). They make a pretty good stab of it while keeping fairly true to the original. Traffic’s “Hole In My Shoe” is perhaps a less obvious and more ambitious choice of cover and is something of a treat again without straying too far from the original template, wind and sitars included but with additional vocals courtesy of one Viola Road). Finally the Vibes get a chance to stretch out a bit with a remix of their lysergic-sounding take on HP Lovecraft’s “The White Ship” at which they throw if not the kitchen sink then surely the mixing desk to magnificent and mesmerising effect.
Tir Na Nog – Ricochet
Heady new offering from Sonny Condell and Leo O’Kelly from a forthcoming album (their first in over 40 years – yes that number again) and just under 5 minutes of all that’s best in whatever prefix you want to stick in front of folk. Actually it would work just as well as an acoustic workout for a stoner rock combo. Backing this fine, fine effort is a previously unreleased live version of the eponymous track from their self-titled first album from way back in 1971. Yes, let’s do the timewarp and let’s effing well rejoice while we do so. Five star material without the slightest doubt.
Magic Bus – Seven Wonders/Eight Miles High
Let’s hear it for “Severn Wonders”, a prime example of the beautiful, melodic and – cliché alert - “quintessentially English” sounds of Canterbury (via Devon), by which we mean Caravan and their ilk as opposed to Operation Stack, supplemented by CSN vocal harmonies in the bridge. The organ sound is an absolute ringer for David Sinclair’s work from “The Land of Grey and Pink” and while there probably isn’t much of a market on the over-burgeoning and best avoided tribute act circuit for a Caravanette, few here will complain about this affectionate and authentic sounding homage. “Eight Miles High” – yes, the very same – is also Anglicised for home consumption and while it seems a little understated by comparison with the original a more faithful copy would more than likely have proved less rewarding. To think I missed them at the recent 13th Dream and I can’t think why (Food fair? Beer? Stupidity? All of the above? Delete as appropriate).
Friends of the Fish 3 – The Cats Never Sleeps and The Insektlife Cycle (Sweden meets The Philippines)
In the interests of international detente (or maybe It’s A Knockout) Sweden and, unusually The Philippines, feature on this latest in the Friends of… series usually produced to coincide with special events, in this case the recent 13th Dream of Dr Sardonicus festival. Both bands are new to Fruits de Mer, The Cats offer up a wonderfully languid AOR instrumental, “Soma” that might not sound out of place on a Pink Floyd solo album or maybe Sendelica in more reflective mood. As far as The Insektlife Cycle are concerned then it’s great to hear a band from off what would normally be considered the beaten track. Generically similar to the previous track “Sungaze” possesses more of a driving beat and is another radio friendly track suited an undemanding hour of the day and a moderately discerning listener. Does the job.
Friends of the Fish 4 - Me and My Kites and Soft Hearted Scientists (Sweden meets Wales)
The second of our two 13th Dream international face-offs then. “War” by Me And My Kites skips along in a folksy vain, the core of which could pass for a theme to some Follyfoot-style TV programme from the early 70s if it weren’t for some quite interesting and fairly intricate instrumentation and an expanded midsection. Prime-time friendly Pentangle or mainstream Mellow Candle perhaps? Well yes and no. The band is named after a track by Fuscia from 1971 so perhaps the reference points need to start there. Pleasant on the ear and that’s what really matters.
Soft Hearted Scientists by contrast graft a bit of Dick Dale shimmer on top of “Can’t Explain” by The Who on “Surfarella”, an unreleased find from 2007 and provides for a pretty decent flip side and, in time honoured Softs fashion, something of a curiosity.
Thanks, Ian. A quick word before we move on
about a release from another familiar face to regular Terrascope readers, Doddson and Fogg whose self-titled debut has seen a reissue. Originally released in 2012 on CD and download, this lovely pastoral album has now been given a vinyl release, something that perfectly suits it mellow acid folk sound. Our original review can be found here and I still stand by those words.
Terrascopic Rumbles for September 2015 was brought to you by Simon Lewis and Ian Fraser.
Artwork, layout & direction by Phil McMullen - © Terrascope Online, 2015