CAFÉ KAPUT MARITIME: THEMES & TEXTURES

(LP from Clay Pipe Music)

Clay Pipe has featured quite a few times in Terrascope since its inception in 2010 and with good reason too. It is a unique label based in East London and run by Frances Castle, an illustrator and musician herself, whose Hardy Tree albums are well worth tracking down, she imbues each of the releases with a strong design ethic, creating individual artwork for each of the releases, which are mainly instrumental in nature.

When this latest one arrived under the Cafe Kaput moniker I thought that she had discovered yet another great new artist, but on further inspection it seems that Café Kaput is by Cate (formerly Jon) Brooks, whose previous releases for the label like ‘Shapwick’ and ‘How To Get To Spring’ are firm favourites.

The Clay Pipe label is currently receiving the praise they quite rightly deserve, with recent articles in The Wire and Shindig magazines. Each of the releases virtually sells out on pre orders alone with this one scheduled for release towards the end of this month.

Maritime: Themes & Textures forgoes all of the usual tropes that one would normally associate with an album about sailing, there are no crashing waves or crying seagulls, however it does emphasise the inky vastness and depth of the ocean, as well as that unsettling feeling of a strong undercurrent and the extreme changeability in large bodies of water. Using a palette of keyboards, percussive instruments (such as glockenspiel) and guitars, it is a quite lovely album.

We get the feeling of being alone in a little craft with ‘Tugboat’, subtle electronic glitches always just under the surface of a hopeful, bright melody. ‘Mid December’ is another gem, being both unsettling and calm at the same time. The opening song of ‘Waves and Knots’ starts off with a slow, stately melody which opens out as it progresses with a drifting lap steel and choral embellishments. ‘Easterly Four or Five’ is full of portent and suggests a hidden danger, emphasising changeability and infinite channels.

Stillness is invoked on ‘A Surface Like Glass’ and a simple melody corrupted with ‘Light Vessel Automatic’ as it progresses. The longest track on this 44 minute suite of songs is the title track ‘Maritime’, which bubbles along brightly on a sea of electronics and delicate hammered percussion towards its conclusion. This is a clever record being both calm and unsettling at the same time, optimism tempered by reality and always movement. I shall certainly be vying for one of the 700 yellow vinyl copies on release day.

(Andrew Young)

     
   
= February 2022 =  
 
Agusa
Cyrillic Typewriter
Mouth Painter
Rostro Del Sol
Cafe Kaput
the Lancashire Hustlers
Agustín Pereyra Lucena
Tangerine Dream book







 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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AGUSA – EN ANNAN VÄRLD

(bandcamp)

 

There’ve been a lot of great bands and albums of late hearkening back to the heyday of 70s prog – many of them coming from Scandinavia - but I consider this one, from Sweden’s Agusa, one of the finest of the recent crop.  Agusa was formed in 2013, and this is their first studio album since their 2017 self-titled release.

 

Composed of two long-form instrumental tracks, En Annan Värld (Another World) contains most of the positive attributes of prog, and little to none of the elements that turn some listeners off.  It’s highly accessible, very melodic, full of standout musicianship, and features plenty of twists and turns.  While some draw comparisons with fellow Swedes Änglagård and English progsters such as Camel (and loads of others), I’ll throw in UK act (but based in Germany) Nektar, too.

 

Most of the fireworks emanate from guitarist Mikael Ödesjö, newly arrived keyboard player Roman Andrén, and flautist Jenny Puertas.  Each is a master of their instrument.  The two side-long pieces, “Sagobrus” and “Uppenbarelser,” tend to take a small handful of musical themes and repeat them many times, with different variations and instrumentation, and offramps to myriad side journeys.  This has the effect of centering you within the latticework of the compositions and lets you appreciate the melodic and instrumental alterations and ornamentations.

 

The two tracks come from very similar sonic territory, but I slightly prefer “Uppenbarelser” (Revelations).  Starting with ethereal harp, then a short martial drum beat, the main theme emerges from Jenny Puertas’ flute.  This passage will carry much of the 21-minute piece, weaving its way in and out.  It’s so simple, yet elegant.  Andrén’s keyboards (Hammond and synths) color in a brace of passages along the way.  In a way, it reminds me of one massively extended version of the flute and Mellotron break in the Moodies’ “Legend of a Mind,” minus the woozy bending quality of the strings.  It takes lots of dips and detours along the way where Ödesjö gets to shine on guitar(s), alternating with Andrén’s atmospheric keys.  Ödesjö contributes a lovely flamenco guitar section about three quarters of the way through, which Puertas and Andrén enhance, and then Ödesjö switches to some harmonized electric guitars which build and build.  The baton is then passed back to Puertas, who repeats the central flute theme and modifies it into a skyward ray of hope.  Acoustic guitar and Mellotron compliment this final section, concluding the journey and the album on a peaceful note.  The ending also reminds me just a wee bit of the mellow conclusion of Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas.”

 

En Annan Värld is an engaging, amiable visitor to your home and your ears.  Agusa plays tuneful, uplifting prog for which you can drop in for the hors d’oeuvres and wind up staying for every course, plus dessert and after-dinner Cognac, making new friends in the process.

 

(Mark Feingold)

 



 

THE CYRILLIC TYPEWRITER - BUZZ 

(LP/DL from Jaz Records )

Jason Zumpano AKA The Cyrillic Typewriter has been releasing rather beautiful albums since 2011, each a delightful slice of ambience that follows on from the last creating a sonic pathway that is a joy to explore. On “Buzz” this trend continues, the music following on from “2020's “Permanent Colours” almost seamlessly, yet given a different sonic palette through the involvement of Paul Rigby on Pedal Steel, the sound of the instrument adding warmth and emotion to the tunes.

     Beginning with a tranquil grace that immediately relaxes you, “Jumping Off a Wall” is like watching a dandelion seed float past on a summers afternoon so gentle is its ambience, the pedal steel adding a soft heat haze to the music, time seems to slow down.

    This ambience continues with “Saloon Door” although this time the pedal steel takes centre stage, washes of sound and melody flickering over  sweetly repetitive bass reminding me of the more mellow, less sample based, parts of “Chill Out” the ambient masterpiece created by The KLF and still much loved around here.

    After this magnificent performance, the pedal steel drifts back into the distance again as “The Italian, The Englishman” and “Tell All The Poets” slip away in a warm coating of sound, both track so gentle that it is easy to melt away as you listen, the music incredibly sweet and inviting without ever becoming annoyingly New Age or undistinguished.

     With a harsher, metallic vibe, “Stiff Cuts” is slightly more unsettling, a sudden breeze snaking through the orchard disturbing your dreams whilst “A Flashy Baritone” brings you back to Earth with wonderfully welcoming bass tones and a slowly undulating organ droning underneath. This welcoming warmth remains on “Crazy Cathedral”, the piece tied together with another great organ sound before “Always With Second Thoughts” rounds of a rather lovely final trio of tunes that are sonically different from the opening trio although the change happens so subtly over the course of the album that it takes a while to realise.

    In these difficult times this album offers a calming retreat that allows you to be surrounded by sound, forget your troubles and just be for a while, that can only be  good thing. (Simon Lewis)



MOUTH PAINTER – TROPICALE MOON

(LP/Cassette/Digital on Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube/Arrowhawk Records)

 

Barry Walker Jr. is a busy man.  His guitar and pedal steel work is in heavy demand with the likes of North Americans, Jeffrey Silverstein, and Hearts of Oak, all high-quality acts, in addition to helming this exceptional Portland trio.  He’s joined by Valerie Osterberg on flute and vocals, and Jason Willmon on bass.  They make a heady brew of mostly cosmic country, but with brief sojourns outside the genre, such as exotica, spacy instrumentals and coiling rattlesnake Latin-tinged Southwest desert fare.

 

Both Walker and Osterberg sing, and have ordinary, but very appealing voices.  I like the tracks Walker sings.  I like the tracks Osterberg sings.  And I really like it when they sing together, as in “Lossless” and “Yesterday Said.”

 

They’re at their best in laid back songs blending acid folk and cosmic country in a mellow, gently stoned vibe, such as “A Yardin’ I Once Went” and “Chesler Park.”  Their sound reminds me at times of the San Francisco band It’s a Beautiful Day, if one were to trade the violin for flute and pedal steel.  On Tropicale Moon, they sing about such diverse subjects as gardening, science fiction tales, sea and space voyages, and ghost stories, with lyrics brimming with unbridled, vivid imagery.

 

The album concludes with the powerful “Richard of Augite,” a folk-rock piece not a million miles from that of Fairports or Steeleye Span.  It appears the LP may be sold out, but it’s still available on cassette or digitally.  Gardening is so heavily ingrained in Walker’s, and especially Osterberg’s DNA, that you can order the cassette version of Tropicale Moon with a ‘Yardin’ Blend’ of wildflower seeds, including zinnias, cosmos, poppies and sweet alyssum.  However, they caution that orders outside the US may not shippable, depending on agricultural import customs.

 

Seeds or not, Mouth Painter is definitely worth diving into, and I strongly recommend giving them a listen.

 

(Mark Feingold)



ROSTRO DEL SOL – BLUE STORM

(LSDR Records)

In 2021 we gave enthusiastic thumbs way, way up on the self-titled debut from Rostro Del Sol, the young, hard rocking and progging band from Mexico.  While we wait patiently for album Numero Dos, the boys have just dropped this incredible anvil on our heads, Blue Storm.

It seems the band has been busy, not resting on their laurels.  They’ve beefed up their horn section with Antonio Alvarez and Daniel Alvarez on saxes, and added wailin’ vocalist Roy Cabrera, and the rookies make quite an impression right off the bat.

Sure, “Blue Storm” may be just a “single,” but what a single!  Clocking in at over 14 minutes, it’s Katy Bar the Door Rock ‘n Roll that Just.  Does.  Not.  Quit.  The lyrics are a forceful litany of the harm mankind does, from incalculable damage to the planet, leaders who wrong their own countries, not learning from the mistakes of history, genocide, heads exploding from the sickness of civilization, and, well, golly, that’s just the lyrics!

There’s something beautiful about a band playing full throttle rock, everyone pounding away.  But with the band keeping it up on full afterburners for 14 minutes, basically without exhaling – it’ll take you to another layer of Valhalla.  It keeps going, and going, and going.  You’ve got Baruch Hernandez grooving away on organ and synths, the two Alvarezes blaring their horns till their lips fall off, Mitch Garcia on guitar screeching and wah wahing for all he’s worth, while Roy Cabrera hurls vocal fire and brimstone.  Lest you think that might be a sonic mess, it isn’t.  It’s bloody righteous.  The only mess was my scrambled brain by the end.  I beg of you...I beseech you.  Listen to this.

(Mark Feingold)






THE LANCASHIRE HUSTLERS – BIG ASK

(CD, Cassette & Download lancashirehustlers.bandcamp.com    )

This is the sixth album by the duo of Brent Thorley and Ian Pakes. They have been quietly releasing a series of fine albums since their inception some 25 years ago. They utilise a wide array of instruments including mellotrons, clarinet, lap steel, accordion, guitars, tablas, celeste and melodica.

They have been likened to bands like the Kinks and singer songwriters like Jimmy Campbell, with legendary Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller giving them high praise. For previous outings they have released a trilogy of ‘Pop’ operas, set some of Walter de la Mare’s poetry to music and even released the odd Christmas single.

This is a highly melodic album of gentle quirky pop songs. From the keening sixties melodies of ‘Happiness On A String’, to the pop nous of ‘Your Cool Reactions’, they have fashioned an album of memorable songs which settle in the brain. ‘We Will Meet Again’ wouldn’t be out of place on a Darren Hayman album. ‘Bluebell Painter’ is a delightful song about the beauty of nature and art. ‘Holding Me Up’ is a musical dedication to a supportive partner, recognising that no person is an island.

Another little gem is ‘You Who Only Play Love’, it has a particularly pleasing descending melody. The questioning push pull of ‘Surrender’ is embellished with soft wah-wah guitars and ‘No Patience’ has some fine supportive organ playing, a song about getting to the point; not dilly dallying around the edges playing cat and mouse. I particularly like ‘Held In Your Promise’ with its stinging lead guitar stabs and clarinet fills, but it isn’t long enough! This short and sweet album ends on a high with ‘Is That Devotion?’  This is a fine album recommended for lovers of well played, inventive, pop music.    

(Andrew Young)



AGUSTÍN PEREYRA LUCENA QUARTET – LA RANA

(LP/CD/Digital on Far Out Recordings)

 

If you want a quick burst of happiness - and who wouldn’t? - listen to this re-released 1980 treasure by Argentinian guitar master Agustín Pereyra Lucena and friends.  Agustín grew up worshipping Brazilian greats such as João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Baden Powell, and Vinicius de Moraes, and one day he would live his dream and collaborate with some of them, such was his growing reputation as a musician.

 

But in 1976, the foul winds of the brutal military dictatorship in Argentina drove Agustín to move to Madrid, and ironically dive deeper into music.  Two members from his former band Candeias in Argentina, Guilhermo Reuter (bass, vocals, piano, percussion) and Rubén Izarrualde (flutes, vocals, percussion) reunited with Agustín in Spain, where they found a musical home for a time.  When a third member, drummer Carlos Carli, departed, they met Norwegian stick man Fin Sletten at a performance, and soon the quartet was complete.  At Sletten’s encouraging, the four relocated once more, this time to Norway, where they found great success on the Norwegian stages.  By all accounts, their time in Norway was filled with happiness, both in the musical success they were enjoying, and fun and fellowship the South Americans had offstage, about as far from their original home as they could be.  They recorded this gem, released originally on the Oslo label Plateselskapet Mai, and one listen will reveal their joy is contagious.

 

The eight tracks are a mix of reimagined chestnuts by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ivan Lins, Baden Powell and others, and stellar Agustín originals.  Most are instrumentals, but some, such as opener, Ivan Lins’ “3 Horas Da Manha” (At 3 AM) and the title track, rain forth with spirited vocals.  AgustÍn’s acoustic guitar playing is never anything short of spectacular, his fingers dancing all over the fretboard, sometimes in sad romance, others in celebration.

 

His playing and arrangements marry jazz and classical styles, blurring the lines between.  Some tracks begin with lengthy, melancholy solo classical guitar, only to erupt almost out of nowhere with the full band in an explosion of playfulness.  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, when the whole band gets going, you’ll find it hard to keep your legs still, and may samba your way around uncontrollably wherever you happen to be.  Hopefully this won’t cause any embarrassing or dangerous situations.

 

My favorite track is the bossa nova title track, “La Rana” (The Frog), a reworking and major upgrade of João Donato’s “A Rã.”  It certainly jumps all around like the titular frog, and before long so will you to its infectious groove.  Beginning with a startling a capella vocal round, pretty soon the band seems everywhere all around you in bossa nova heaven, whooping and calling, with sprightly solos on flute by Izarrualde and electric piano by Reuter.

 

The closer, Agustín’s fifteen-minute composition, the suite “Encuentro de Sombras” (Encounter of Shadows) is a moody work.  Punctuated by his plaintive vocals, Reuter’s piano and Izarrualde’s flute work, the piece transitions two-thirds through from rainy day melancholia to a jazzy break in the clouds.  The final theme in the song cycle is ray of hope in the setting sun with a rousing vocal chorus, with a brief, poignant coda by the ensemble.

 

Agustín did the cover design himself.  He would continue to have a successful career as a revered international musician’s musician and innovator.  Sadly, he passed in 2019.  The survivors of the quartet look back fondly on the recording of the album, and the good times that gave it birth.  Highly recommended.

 

(Mark Feingold)



STEPHEN PALMER - TANGERINE DREAM IN THE 1970'S

(book from https://www.sonicbondpublishing.co.uk/)

Steve Palmer is probably known best to Terrascope readers as a one-time reviewer and as a musician releasing music under the names Mooch and Blue Lily Commision. However, he is also an established and recognised author, writing Steampunk fiction novels and short stories. I guess it was inevitable that at some point these worlds would collide and so they have with the publication of this excellent and comprehensive look at the work of electronic pioneers Tangerine Dream, concentrating on their ground breaking seventies albums.

    As you would expect the book moves chronologically, Steve writing in detail about each track on the albums, his poetic prose bringing the music to life, making you dig out all the albums and listen along. I imagine that everyone of you has at least one album by the band and one of the joys of this book is the ease of which you can flick through and find your favourite album to read about.

   Of course there is much more to the text than a simple review of each album, the book also tells the tale of the band, line up changes, methods of recording and their live work with plenty of bootlegs, live releases mentioned meaning you can dig much deeper than the studio releases if you wish, Youtube being particularly useful at this point. Adding more depth to the story there is a new interview with Steve Jolliffe included plus a very interesting chat with early member Steve Schroyder who sheds light on the formation of the band.

    Informative, well written, entertaining and with some great photos as well this book is essential reading for fans of seventies electronic music though it comes with a warning, it could get expensive, as you suddenly find the need to fill the gaps in the collection, as I did. Worth doing though because if you don't own “Rubycon” then you certainly should go and find a copy, possibly their finest moment, when all the elements come together seamlessly.

(Simon Lewis)