= December 2022=  
 Jens
Quicksilver Messenger Service
 Moving Statues
 Edena Gardens
 Anton Barbeau
 Martyn Bates
 Sammal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 JENS - BE AS GOOD TO OTHERS AS THEY ARE NOT TO YOU

(LP from High On The Pyg Track)

Sweden’s Jens Unosson is one of the few artists with their own pedestal at the entrance to the mythical Terrascope Towers. Head synth and keyboardist in the mighty Spacious Mind, who we first featured nearly 30 years ago now and have worshipped at the feet of ever since, his occasional solo albums have revealed him to be an unerringly poetic country-folk composer of hushed psychedelic melodies which occasionally explode into torrents of sound like a sown-swollen mountain stream.

Jens’ first solo album ‘Standing in the Trees I Get Lifted by the Leaves’ was released in 2002,  primarily accompanied by guitarist Arne Jonasson from the Holy River Family Band, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Cauldron. The follow-up in 2006 If You’ve Seen Me Lately, Please Tell Me Where I’ve Been, saw Niklas Viklund as the lead guitarist (Niklas was also in the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, and has also played in the Spacious Mind since 2000)

Jens started writing songs for the third album ten years ago “on an out of tune piano in front of a crackling fire in the derelict farm-house I call my home” but kept putting off actually recording them - until now. Enter Colin Hill and his excellent High on the Pyg Track label - a marriage made in heaven! Once again Arne Jonasson is involved: the material was recorded at Arne’s place, with Jens singing, playing keyboards and percussion, and Arne playing “a multitude of strings, and better percussion”. Arne’s guitar playing on this album is, I have to say, absolutely stunning. It reminds me throughout of Barry Melton; there’s also touches of Richard Treece in places too. The opening number ‘Horse Blues’ opens with a Grateful Dead-like slow dance and a gorgeous guitar filigree, and is followed by ‘Sweet Home Blues (Redneck Dumbfuck Blues) which is one of two songs accompanied by the Head Country Hoedowners - the other is ‘Green Was the Day (Bottom Of The Well)’ on side 2 - both of which are closest in feel to Spacious Mind numbers, notable for soaring keyboard/guitar crescendos (indeed that guitar at the end of ‘Green Was the Day’ is an absolute toe-curler!)

‘Linnet Blues’ on Side 2 is probably the go-to track if you wanted to tell your friends what this album’s all about: the perfect coming-together of Jens’ evocative vocals and almost Love-like song construction and Arne’s gorgeously understated, never overblown guitar playing. The two stand-out tracks for me however have to be the slow-burning ‘Owl Fox Sings’ on Side 1 which features some of Arne’s most Melton-like playing, and the very similarly paced title track, ‘Be As Good To Others As They Are Not To You’, which opens side 2. Astounding stuff indeed, with Jens’ fragile, melancholic and almost hushed vocals dealing with the death of his father providing a poetic backdrop to Arne’s carefully picked trills.

The icing on the cake though have to be the photographs that adorn the LP insert featuring Jens going about his everyday life on the homestead; the livestock, the produce, the scenery. It’s like immersing yourself for 40 minutes or so in his vision of a communal farm peopled by underground drop-outs playing music to the trees. If there’s a place in the barn for a printing press, sign me up!

(Phil McMullen)

 

QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE - LIVE AT THE CAROUSEL BALLROOM, SAN FRANCISCO, 4TH APRIL 1968

(Floating World 2-CD set)

QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE!

Don’t get me started! Any excuse to extol the brilliance of the 1968 formation of this beloved group!

There’s been tons of official and unofficial live material put out over the years but this set from spring 1968 is one of the best I’ve heard from this era, certainly not far behind the wonderful Maiden of the Cancer Moon double vinyl LP that Psycho put out back in the 80s.

‘68 was Quicksilver’s golden age. Founder member Jim Murray had left, their eponymous debut record was in the shops, and the band had coalesced into a formidable quartet centred around the twin lead guitar work of John Cipollina and Gary Duncan. This performance from Easter Sunday sees the band super tight and on fire. Perhaps that tour of the Pacific Northwest in January/February with Garcia and co., ‘The Quick and the Dead’ had given them that extra boost, they needed. In earlier times they were known as stay-at-home Quicksilver rarely venturing outside the ballrooms of that city by the bay.      

Taped at the Carousel by acid guru and sound man, Owsley Stanley III, this is an inspired performance, the band alongside Big Brother playing a benefit gig for the Haight Ashbury Clinic. Opening with ‘Backdoor Man’ – an outtake from that debut album – Gary Duncan milks this for every last drop of its lasciviousness – Dylan recently namechecked ‘them British bad boys, the Rolling Stones’ on ‘I Contain Multitudes’ but those English rockers are mere fops compared to these Marin County knaves. Bill Graham once introduced them as ‘some of the baddest people in the world’ and this version of the old Willie Dixon-penned, Howlin’ Wolf blues holler hints at the machismo which would in part eventually tear the band apart. Duncan’s growl leaves you in no doubt as to ‘why the little girls understand’. Incidentally QMS’s sexual mores are luridly explored in Shelley Duncan’s kiss and tell tome, My husband the Rock Star, a very insightful dissection of QMS in the 60s and 70s. and well worth getting hold of.

In comparison, ‘Light Your Window’ takes the temperature down a notch allowing bassist, David Freiberg’s angelic lead vocal to gracefully soar above the band. Paul Kantner once told me that after Balin and Slick, he considered David the best singer in the Bay Area and listening to this, you can see why! What’s especially unique here is the band bringing on pal, Steve Schuster to play flute with them – hardcore fans will of course recognize his name as Steve co-wrote the stunning tribute to Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’, ‘Acapulco Gold and Silver’ another choice cut on that first LP, whilst his sax playing beefed up ‘Pride of Man’ on that self-same record.

How can anyone resist those big booming bass notes that herald the arrival of ‘Who do You Love’, the Bo Diddley tune which they took to epic lengths on their sophomore set, Happy Trails. This version never reaches the stature of the live one which takes up the whole of the first side of that second LP, but it ain’t to be sniffed at. Whilst Duncan’s guitar break falls short of his era-defining solo on Trails, that doesn’t mean that he and Cipo don’t get into some fascinating six-string wrangling here, and Gary’s playing here reveals just how much he was listening to Miles and Coltrane at this juncture of QMS’s development. Interesting to note, too, that Rick Griffin, who designed the band’s fearsome, astrologically-based logo went on to create a full cartoon strip based on the song in his Man from Utopia comic book.

‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave’ was a staple of live sets back then, though it never surfaced on any of their studio releases, instead appearing as one of two Quicksilver cuts that graced the soundtrack LP to the film, Revolution. The rendition here is a cracker, especially toothsome are the vocals and JC’s explosive ending. You’re gonna want to ride old Cherokee up the St John’s River, one more time – no wonder The Village Voice once described the band’s sound as like ‘a mental movie of the Old West’.

‘Walking Blues’ is just what it says on the can and if it doesn’t take wing to the hallucinatory heights, the band attained at their best, it is a good reminder of their roots. After all, these young guns were always big on Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and Son House, the song’s composer. And this hard rocking work-out struts its stuff in Quicksilver’s own inimitable way

Finally, we have ‘The Fool’. The sleeve notes wrongly attribute Freiberg’s account of penning to this epic to the aforementioned ‘Light Your Windows’. He wrote ‘The Fool’ after coming down from an acid trip – you don’t need me to tell you that it is one of Quicksilver’s greatest moments and contains the legendary Cipollina guitar ‘growl’, vividly described in Deke Leonard’s Rhino, Winos & Lunatics. This live version takes on a psychedelic shimmer only hinted at by the version on Quicksilver Messenger Service – truly breath-taking – the interplay between Gary and JC is just jaw-dropping and Freiberg’s vocal hits those high notes with which he struggled a bit in the studio. Phew! True sons of the god, Mercury indeed!

Disc 2 is taken up by the just one track, ‘Silver and Gold’. Entitled ‘Jam’ on the original tape box, this is something of a misnomer as it bears no resemblance to the aforementioned instrumental that closed side 1 of their inaugural work. It’s a fast-flowing bluesy shuffle and plenty of that extemporisation that QMS made their name with. Greg Elmore never usually gets much of a namecheck but his drumming here is superb and swings with the same rhythmic excitement as his counterpart in the Dead, Billy Kreutzmann. Shame that there are no credits for the other musos who they were jamming with as there is an organist, harmonica player and vocalist – flautist Schuster gets a further look in, too.

It’s a drag that Floating World have failed to package and annotate this release with the care it cries out for. It can’t even get the title correct. This live set was made on the 14th April not the 4th – Easter Sunday as John C reminds us at one point. And although the band was still to enter my teenage psyche, I turned 15 on that very date [Our editor, young Mr. McMullen, on the other hand, turned 10 in 1968 and that WAS on the 4th April!] Poor usage of stills and images, too – the flyer for the event took me five minutes to unearth on the Net but they didn’t bother to include it. Photos are poor or wrong: the front cover shot was used to stunning effect on that aforementioned Psycho release and the inside first page of the booklet sports a snap of the Shady Grove line up with Nicky Hopkins. The notes are OK as an intro to QMS but fail to inform on the CDs’ actual contents. And for fuck’s sake spell John’s name correctly – one p and two ls. After all it is original fans at which this is aimed….

I love this but would suggest if that if you are new to Quicksilver and want to know why we hold them in such high esteem, then go straight for Happy Trails, or that first album or the Maiden set. Meanwhile Disc 1 will bring a huge smile to the faces of long-time devotees.

What a band they were!

(Nigel Cross)






MOVING STATUES - TOWN AND COUNTRY EP / WONDERS WILL NEVER CEASE EP / YOU LOOK LIKE YOU'VE SEEN A GHOST

(Downloads from Rusted Rail )

Moving Statues is a collaboration between Rusted Rail artists Brian Kelly (so Cow) and Keith Wallace (Loner Deluxe). Beginning in 2019, the project involved the exchange of files and e-mails plus a host of instruments both electronic and acoustic meaning the sonic palette is both wide and engaging throughout the project.

     Kicking off with the ‘Town and Country EP’, we find the duo sounding like a playful Super Furry Animals with a Joy Division bass line as ‘Broken Headphones’ throbs from the speakers with energy, the soundscape driven by a melodic vocal line and slowly shifting variations to the rhythm. Changing gear, ‘Harmonic Hills’ is a delightful piece of stuttering electronics and sweet guitar, a mellow track that sways gently like a summer meadow.  Sounding like a bizarre lo-fi trance track run through a psychedelic blender, ‘Plum Jam’ uses a drum machine to create a solid base for other sounds to stagger and dance above, slightly disorientating, highly enjoyable. To end the EP, ‘the Wreck of the PT280’ is a ambient piece that has a woozy feel in places, drifting electronica that offers yet another side to an EP that is diverse yet cohesive, a good trick if you can do it.

     Continuing the fun the ‘Wonders Will Never Cease EP’ opens with ‘New Year's Eve on Mirror Lake’ a sweet Indie tune that reminds me of Pavement, the music displaying a great dynamic flow and washes of noise. As we proceed, ‘Square Castle Smoke’ has some gorgeous rising chords, swirling electronics and an insistent electro beat, whilst ‘Blackberry Jam’ is a dark and distorted piece of sound, rumbling bass suffocating the beats before a guitar joins in striving to add melody to the mix, the tune suddenly becoming sweeter and filled with light, reminding me of early Gorky's, which is never a bad thing. To add a finishing touch, ‘Run Out’ gets the Motorik heart beating, a nod to Kraftwerk swathed in a cloak of Indie goodness ending another fine EP that mirrors the previous and remains highly entertaining.

   As luck would have it, ‘Run Out’ the final track on the above EP also opens ‘You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost’  the full length album album from Moving Statues, the collection containing six new tracks plus six remixed versions of songs from the two EP's. The first new song ‘Sad Dog in the Rain’ is rather fabulous, a wistful piece that has some fabulous vocals and a sweet melancholic backing track, One of those tunes that forces you to just listen. Maintaining the quality, ‘Wooden Sleepers’ is a wonderful instrumental that has a Canterbury vibe both gentle and pastoral, a happy tune that will make you smile.

    Concentrating on the new tunes, ‘Cards’ displays some wonderful guitar playing and an ear for melody, acoustic notes quietly drifting across the room whilst a sympathetic synths adds texture and even more melody, just beautiful. Changing the soundscape again, ‘Moving Statues Go Raven’ is a slice of moody Psych, a well-chosen sample ushering stuttering percussion, ominous bass and petulant synth lines, the tension high with anticipation until a rumbling sequence and rising guitar change the dynamics again, although the tension remains throughout.  Using a more familiar song structure, ‘Time Signatures’ has a slightly unsettling ambience, especially towards the end, whilst the final new song, ‘Hold Your Horses’ has a sweet rolling feel, guitar and vocals combining to create a warm  and rather beautiful tune that drifts wonderfully.

     In a very satisfying way we end as we began as ‘Broken Headphones’ completes the album, still sounding mighty fine and rounding off a fresh and original set of tunes that should find a wider audience than they probably will. The album will be released early December, EP's available now, go have a listen.

(Simon Lewis)

 
   

EDENA GARDENS – EDENA GARDENS

(LP on El Paraiso Records)

 

Mighty El Paraiso has done it again.  Another record, another piece of brilliance.  The foundation of the label out of Denmark is built on three pillars: the unmatchable band Causa Sui; a small stable of like electric psychedelic bands; and endless fascinating combinations from the collective of those musicians - such as this new one, Edena Gardens.

 

The band is Papir guitarist Nicklas Sørensen, Causa Sui drummer Jakob Skøtt (also El Paraiso label co-head cheese and album cover artist), and all-around multi-instrumentalist Martin Rude.  Rude and Skøtt are usually somewhere in the center of many of these El Paraiso collaborations.

 

Like a lot of these projects, Edena Gardens manages to create a musical identity all its own, no matter how long or short the aggregation stays together.  Edena Gardens the album is, like virtually all El Paraiso records, instrumental electric psychedelia.  But this flavor has a very laid back, gently stoned 2 AM vibe.  Its brilliance lies in its…chilliance.  You can tell so by the sense that in many of the tracks, drummer Skøtt seems to have to work hard to play slow enough.

 

To be honest, I’m not fond of opening track “Æther.”  There’s not enough going on musically and at 10 minutes, it’s too long. But from there, you have in the remaining six tracks and 35 minutes an instant classic.  The heart of the album are tracks two through five, starting with “Sliding Under.”  Nicklas Sørensen’s electric guitar work is psychedelic heaven.  He creates such expansive multi-colored tones with delay, reverb and chorus effects.  On “The Canopy,” Rude’s electronic effects decorate Sørensen’s spacious guitar, creating a mesmerizing feeling, just the right mellow touch for getting lost watching that late night crackling campfire.

 

“Hidebound” is the album’s centerpiece, both as the released single and the middle of the running order.  The combination of Sørensen’s slowburning guitar and shimmering Mellotron swells is absolute perfection.  Halfway through, Sørensen adds wah-wah on top, which is almost unfair in its result of pushing you over the edge of bliss.  It’s one of the most magnificent psychedelic tracks of the year.

 

“Now Here Nowhere” builds on a descending bass riff.  Somewhere between Band of Gypsies and Tangerine Dream, Sørensen and Rude send you on a gentle ride soaring through outer space.  Closer “An t-eilean Dubh” seems like an unofficial instrumental homage to Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.”  It’s a slightly different vibe than most of the rest of the album, but it doesn’t matter, this is terrific stuff.

 

This year’s been a bumper crop for El Paraiso.  The earlier Jaiyede Sessions Vol. 1 by London Odense Ensemble and now Edena Gardens are both classic contributions to one of the classic catalogues in psychedelic music.

 

(Mark Feingold)



   

ANTON BARBEAU - DRONES OF THE PROPHET

(Available on Bandcamp)

Something new from an artist always willing to shred the envelope and venture into unknown territory - sort of running it up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes. In this case, we enthusiastically salute Ant for this excursion into ambient, krautrockin’ instrumentals. Heck, even the cover appears to be upside down! Head music from a musical head case, several tracks previously appeared on a couple of Fruits De Mer’s “Head” albums (Head Rush, Head In The Clouds), so you know what you’re in for, although Barbeau originally intended the set to be packaged thusly.

     With his trusty Sequential Prophet 6 to the fore, we begin with the percolating pop of ‘Sunrise, Pt. 7’. Perhaps a little Kraftwerk-meets-Giorgio Moroder, it would make a cool soundtrack appearance someday. As for the title, one can only imagine that the musicologist in Barbeau was recalling ‘Sunrise #7’ an obscure beauty from psychedelic Texas curios Green who released a couple of albums on Atco in the 1969 and 1971. Or, it could just be your trusty reviewer showing off!

     ‘Berlin School Of Doubt’ finds Bowie hunkered down in his Berlin bunker with Eno twiddling the knobs and fiddling around with spacey Tangerine Dream-ish floaters - a celestial journey to another universe far, far away…and far, far out! A true headphone experience to “achieve total heaviosity” to quote Woody Allen (from Annie Hall).

     The centrepeice (and one of the new offerings) is the expansive mind explosion of ‘Gorge Drone’ whose 16 minutes cover half the album. All the signposts are here - Terry Riley (Anton’s wife owns one of the Prophet synths that Riley used on Songs For The Ten Voices Of The Two Prophets - perhaps another source of the album’s title?), the Beatles (imagine ‘A Day In The Life’’s final chord extended for 16 minutes!), Eno’s ambient music, and Riley and LaMonte Young’s Theatre Of Eternal Music. Once you start to settle into the harmonics of the piece, you’ll no doubt start to “hear” imaginary music - sounds that your brain THINKS it is hearing, but are actual sonic brain farts (thanks George Carlin!) that have enveloped your sensory receptors. Time delays in registering the sounds also contribute to their hallucinatory affect. It’s like swimming in marshmallows or body surfing through a giant meringue pie. Perhaps even a return to the womb and the comfort of floating in warm amniotic fluid?

     The somewhat anti-climactic, but no less interesting 60-second synth soufflé ‘Darker Gold Sequence’ suggests Barbeau had visuals in his mind as he was composing / performing, but we’ll just have to go with the flow and create our own internal music video. Another track that sounds tailor made for that imaginary soundtrack - or perhaps it will pop up in a real film someday.

     ‘Whimper Flutes Of Tragic Beauty’ is the perfect description for the dreamy closer - mourning flutes flutter like singing bowls conversing with bird-like evening songs echoing across the room.

Jeff Penczak

 
   

KODAX STROPHES / MARTYN BATES - SUMMER, CAT’S CRADLE

(CD/Digital available from A-Scale)

Martyn’s third release from his Kodax Strophes project is an exercise in “unashamedly low-fi industrial-psychedelic soundscaping” full of found sounds, improvisational left-turns into free association and dream time explorations. Like last year’s Post-War Baby, Summer, Cat’s Cradle explores the experiential space between inner and outer worlds in an age of COVID and other activities that separate us from each other, intentionally or not. “Know thyself” is another takeaway: how can we understand each other if we don’t completely know who WE are? How can we use our inherent abilities to understand problems in the world and find solutions within.

     ‘Freedom Reel’ reaches back to childhood puzzle play and spinning toys with industrial sounds of construction sites and rebuilding, a time of dancing the “freedom reel” of joy and innocence and simpler times with no troubles to distract from endless play and self-entertainment. A cacophony of metallic deconstruction, found sounds, and myriad vocal inflections tries but cannot interrupt the dreams/memories of “everything’s all right in my world.” ‘Willow Wand’ explores those after-party conversations where you dissect all the conversations, furtive nods, innuendos, offhand jokes and puzzling asides to get at the truths hidden behind the smiling faces, backslapping, and in-jokes that may reveal more about you than you know. What are they trying to tell me? Do they know something I don’t? Is there more to my outward appearance than I want to portray? Bates’ syncopated rhythms and curt lyrical phrasing accompanied by a harsh dissonant backing adds a deeper element of unease to the proceedings.

     ‘Spikes/Inner World Of Science’ borders on paranoiac uncertainty: echoed, monstrous voices chase Bates as he runs frantically “in & out & in & out the song I run” till the song overcomes him - perhaps taking over and writing itself…finishing the story? An eerie treatise of writer’s block as the song and it’s author struggle for control of the final product. ‘Seven Glass Marbles, Origami’ finds our hero sequestered in a small room of comforting candlelight, succumbing to sleepy thoughts as dreams take over in a form of automatic writing, or more specifically automatic painting: it’s dawn, the walls are writing and without a thought, I am born - the picture’s drawn.

     ‘Sunset Gun & I Want To Run’ evokes more dualities of running from the world instead of facing it head on: “I’m waiting to run/I’m not their world - I’m running to the back of THIS world.” Again exploring the spaces between the inner and outer world of experience: which am I more comfortable in? Many songs have multiple titles such as the tender acoustic daydream ‘In Child’s Time/Cumulo Nimbus’ full of soft birdsong and cloud-gazing relaxing diversions.

     ‘Hilversum’ is another experience in external diversions - short bursts of lyrics describing sounds of clanging steel, crackling radios, visionary voices like ghosts singing in the distance. I was reminded of the cave scene at the end of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers - a beautiful noise in the distance that must be coming from “normal” human beings - no one could approximate such loveliness. There is life in THIS world, beauty is a reality, not a dream that I must escape into in order to enjoy my life.

     There’s a hint of Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine in ‘How Will You Know When Tomorrow Comes’ not least from the lyric “My jewels are the stars & the moon beside.” It’s summer, and I’ll take you and make you dance and show you my love… perhaps a reflection on a love from years (life times?) gone by? Summer is a recurring lyrical theme - several songs take place in the summer, the season is part of the album title, and the closing (title) track announces “sumer is a-coming in & I hear it in the drumming of the sun.” A child’s game of cat’s cradle flashes through our memories, but we’ve grown up and now it’s a time for interwoven hands “closed and safe in it all.” Perhaps we’ve unravelled the mystery of what separates the inner and outer worlds?

(Jeff Penczak)

 
   

SAMMAL – AIKA LAULAA

(LP, CD, DL on Svart Records)

 

Real live reviewer here, not the AI marvel ChatGPT (though maybe it could write better reviews, who knows?)

 

The never-ending font of great Scandinavian rock, psych and prog music lays another gift at our feet from Finnish band Sammal.  They formed in 2004 and this is their fourth album, in which they’ve downsized from five members to three after losing their bass and keyboard players.  According to founding member and guitarist Jura Salmi, they’ve replicated the keyboard sound with an effects pedal for his guitar, though this is mainly a guitar-driven record.

 

The terms prog and psych get bandied about for Sammal, but along that continuum what I hear is closer to dead center rock, albeit rock with some terrific instrumental flights of fancy built in, and a bit of psych and prog around the edges.  The songs on the album are sung – and Aika Laulaa translates to “Time to Sing” in Finnish – in either Finnish, Swedish, or English, depending on what the band members felt would best fit the mood of the song.  Like Dungen, without translations we English speakers won’t know what they’re singing most of the time, but we can certainly get a feel for the emotions and vibe of the song.  And please don’t ask me which songs are in Swedish vs Finnish; you’ll just have to ask Sammal.

 

These folks play a very enjoyable, accessible brand of rock, on the slightly harder side.  They write strong melodies and are excellent players.  Their sound is built primarily around Jura Salmi’s guitar work and Jan-Erik Kiviniemi’s vocals.  Salmi has a selection of cracking guitar tones that are both vintage sounding and edgy.

 

Opener “På Knivan” is so catchy it’s almost powerpop, but not quite.  Another highlight is (almost) title track “On Aika Laulaa,” a rich multi-section rock opus with traces of prog.  Some of the best playing – and listening - is on instrumental track “ƛ.”  On bluesy hard rocking finale “Katse vuotaa” the band shows they excel at playing both slow/quieter and fast/louder, while Salmi gets to play guitar hero.

 

Sammal plays some fine prog-tinged guitar rock, with enough variation thrown in to always keep things interesting.

 

Happy Holidays.

 

(Mark Feingold)