= January 2014 =  
Photon Band
The New Alchemy
The Cyrillic Typewriter
Insect Factory
Kitchen Cynics
Ela Orleans
Johnny Hawaii
Alasdair Galbraith

(LP from MVDaudio.com )

Ironic it may be to lead off 2014’s reviews with a release that dates back to the late summer of 2013, but time is a measure of durations of events as well as the intervals between them and Photon Band’s latest is a stone-cold psychedelic classic by whichever artificial means you apply to measuring it. Or at least, that's my excuse for having been too busy with Woolf Music to attempt to do this album justice when it first came to my attention. Trust me though: this is a record which in 15 years or less collectors will be failing over one other to lay claim to.

The Philadelphia-based Photon Band (which for all incense and porpoises is Art di Furia, who plays guitars, bass, vocals and drums as well as singing throughout and writing all the material) beautifully melds distortion-laced riffs, acid-drenched guitar licks and fuzzed-out chord changes, often within the confines of a single song (side 2’s lead-in track ‘Soundings in Fathoms’ is a particular favourite here), and throws into the mix gorgeous analog electronics effects and phased-loop guitar parts such as on the aptly named ‘Found in Space’ which closes out side 1. Along the way you stuble across such unexpected gems as the hard-driving rawk of ‘Posi-Vibe’ (a personal favourite) and the fabulous ‘What you See’, wherein Art throws shadow-puppets across the wall with his vocal imagery.

It’s this diversity which lies at the heart of the success of this album; or rather, it’s the brilliance of Art di Furia himself which is at the root of it. Either way I love it. A timeless classic which, like many a fine wine, will only improve with age. (Phil McMullen)



(All formats from Thrill Jockey www.thrilljockey.com )

27th December 2013 and Santa Claustrophobia has me weighed down to the extent that I am even contemplating an early return to the Place of Paid Employment (shudder). There is nothing else for it, then, but to busy one-self in the more pleasurable and sedate if downright less lucrative pastime of music reviews.

Thanks, then, to all that is holy (and speaking of which, thanks, by the way to the old guy in the white beard, for replenishing the s(t)ocks) for the recent missive from those inestimably fine people at Thrill Jockey, the world’s finest record label unless someone can prove to me otherwise, (Rocket gets my vote! - Phil) with news of a new Pontiak album. Innocence is the brothers Carney’s umpteenth album and, unusually for a band for whom the word prolific is something of an understatement, represents their first release since 2012’s Echo One and their almost under-the-radar extended soundtrack, Heat Leisure.

Despite an apparently new approach to song writing based on vocals-first rather than carving out songs from sonic maelstroms the immediate result is unmistakably Pontiak. From the opening cry of “wasted”, title track “Innocence” reeks of the Beastie Boys giving vent to their inner-stoner. Bros Jennings, Lain and Van don’t go in for harmonies so much as three-part shouting in unison and the effect is a reassuringly upbeat and visceral declaration of intent. “Lack Lustre Rush” is anything but - Iggy-like yelps heralding a blazing psychedelic mini-masterpiece to give the Christmas jams a well timed and unerringly accurate kick up the behind (while Van’s tom-toms beat a tattoo on old St Nick’s noggin). “Risque” is biker music for those of us who have trouble walking in a straight line these days let alone operate heavy machinery balanced on a few inches of rubber. It manages to meld a melodic chorus with a genuine head banging, dandruff storm inducing three minutes (most tracks are short, sharp and route 1). “It’s the Greatest” is a reminder that Pontiak are more than capable of restraint and suspenseful drama. Underpinned by Van’s ominous execution drumming and with an organ as its centrepiece this could easily grace a Midlake album and leave most of the rest of the content trailing in its wake. Soaring and melodic it is an effective counterpoint to the more eyes-out oeuvres.

For a time we seem to become stuck in a mid-set lull. “Noble Heads” builds from acoustic plodder to slow tempo rocker. Coming on the back of a strong “first third” it represents something of a ho-hum moment. “Wildfires” is a mellow, thoughtful, radio-friendly composition oddly (disturbingly perhaps) reminiscent of late 90s/early 00s Glaswegian crowd pleasers Travis. Hmm, that’s three slow ones on the spin. Had our heroes gone soft and should I too resort to the easy comfort of the Christmas jumper, new slippers and the sweetie tin (a bit early for a glass of port, old boy)? Fuck no, thankfully. “Surrounded by Diamonds” returns us to our senses. Sounding like a superior outtake from the Sabs’ “Sabotage” album this one chugs and rumbles along righteously and normal service appears to be resumed. “Being of the Rarest” represents Pontiak at their searing, shoutalong best while “Shining” with its weird time signatures and a dexterity of touch also manage to  excite the old aural antennae.

“Darkness is Coming” slows things down several notches again, with echoes (sorry) of Pink Floyd and Imagine-era John Lennon, but isn’t a patch on 2011’s ”Comecrudos” where Pontial proved that they can throttle back and still  produce a sublime sound. “We’ve Got It Wrong” is putting it a bit strong boys, there are only a couple of songs here which don’t quite find their mark (and with repeat listens may well just prove me wrong) and when you pull out the stops as you have with this finale and so much else here it’s enough to put a hacked off old hack back on even keel. (Ian Fraser)

(Innocence is released on Thrill Jockey on 28th January 2014)



( CD/LP from Subliminal Sounds)

Sometimes an album comes along that re-defines Psychedelia in your mind, taking all the influences from the past and re-assembling them into something both vibrant and timeless, another link in the never ending musical path that we all tread in our own way.

   Featuring Ebbot Lundberg, previously of Soundtrack of Our Lives and Per Svensson, this Swedish psych monster is gonna become the stuff of legend, a high velocity journey that is intense, beautiful and decidedly trippy. Opening with “Solar Eclipse” recorded at an ancient monument (Ale Stenar), the listener is soon engulfed in a squall of noise, guitar, sax and intoned vocals taking you far from the ordinary ready for your journey into altered states of sound to commence. Once suitably primed, the band waste no time in re-connecting your synapses, the classic guitar tone and riffing of “Creatures” coming across like a lost Texan band, shades of The Moving Sidewalks evident in the primal blast of the music. Driven by the magnificent guitar playing, the song is augmented by a rippling organ and lysergic rhythms, especially in the slower section, the music bringing the spirit of Jim Morrison to the fore, the song stalking through the environment in which it is playing, mirroring that moment when psychedelics get slightly crazy and unpredictable.

     After such intensity, the title track itself is a slower trip into the void, a sweet spiral into infinity bringing the sound up to date, the vocals reminding me of Long Live Death in their delivery. As the song takes flight the primal sax skronking of Mats Gustafsson adds extra layers of tension to the tune, the whole thing standing on the edge of chaos seeking the calm in the storm.

     As soon as the opening notes of “Silver Chain” are heard The Doors spring to mind and it is hard to dislodge this thought as the song moves on. However this is an ambience nothing more, the trippy atmosphere of the song taking you back to the time when you first heard this strange wondrous music, took your first trip, or even just lay in the dark with joss sticks burning and any song that can evoke those kinds of feeling is obviously doing something right.

   As the album progresses, each song is longer than the last, although nothing prepares the listener for “Extra Terrestrial Blues”, the final track and presumably the entire of side two on the vinyl release, a 24 minute monster that allows the musicians plenty of time and space to stretch out, with guitar and sax performing ancient rituals and dances in sound. As you would imagine this is a highly charged piece that crackles with ancient energy, reminding me of “Holy Magick” (Graham Bond) in the way it creeps inside your brain, removing linear thought and making you grin like a Cheshire Cat with a bag of mushrooms.

   What can I say, one of the top 5 releases of the year and this has been a vintage year for music, the fact that they thank Albert Hoffman for spiritual guidance may well tell you all you want to know, timeless and perfect. (Simon Lewis)




(CD from 4zero Records)

Stephen Lewry, more commonly known as Steffe Sharpstrings, presumably needs little introduction to Terrascope readers but for those not familiar with the name he is a guitarist, vocalist, composer and producer from the UK. He has been an active part of the festival music scene for a number of years and has performed in a significant number of bands including being a founder member of Here and Now. He also played with the classic Gong from 1990 – 1999.

Steffe left Here and Now in 2008 to concentrate on new music and is currently working with both Visitation Arena and Sentient. A live performance by this latter line up recorded at the Real music club Brighton in 2012 is their debut album. The other members of Sentient are Steve Cassidy (Here & Now, Planet Gong, House of Thandoy, Dream Machine) on drums and Gary 'Subs' Subassa (Karmakanix, Mecca, Dave Howard Singers) on bass guitar. At this performance they were also joined by Greg McKella (Paradise 9) who provided the space bubbles on tracks four and five.

The album starts with “Awaken”, a 20 minute track that has a long smooth intro, gently massaging the ears with some truly excellent glissando. The track gradually builds in pace, tempo and form with the addition of some  tight rhythm work provided by Steve and punctuated with a lovely controlled bass performance by Subs.  As the track develops it takes on a smooth jazzy space rock feel very reminiscent of the best of House of Thandoy but with some blistering lead guitar work for added excitement.

Next up is “On the other side”, another 20 minute piece with a similar feel but with more of a bluesy rocky edge to it, again some lovely lead guitar and bass guitar work melding together in the mix, the tempo held together beautifully by Steve’s drumming.   Just past the half way mark you realise that the track has subtly transformed with a dub tempo coming into play and Steffe performing some lovely vocals, taking the listener back to the days of his bubbled up on dub era.

This is followed by “Everything makes a difference” which has a very mellow laid back late night blues feel to it with Steffe’s vocals supported by some splendid guitar work which rapidly builds towards a full on rock sound before drifting back down to that mellow feel as the track closes.

The next track “Nearer” perfectly transports us straight back to the Here and Now sound, especially those long jamming sessions that we have such hazy memories of listening to during those days of the free festivals era, you can almost smell the woodsmoke and damp canvas. This track really shows off the way that Steffe and Subs work in perfect guitar teamwork to build and flow the sounds around each other, weaving a musical equivalent of a massive flock of birds flying and wheeling around together.

Finally we have “A is for Anarchy” This is another blast back to the Anarcho punk era of Here and Now, but with a tighter more refined edge to it than the music of those days. Whilst Steve’s drumming has been undeniably top notch throughout, this track really shows off to the full what this drummer is able to give to the sound of the band.

All in all this is a must have album that combines a wide range of styles from jazz to trance to funk and afro beat all tied together with a psychedelic improvisational sound that works perfectly.  This is a CD that rewards repeated listening, each time you hear it you pick up intricacies and depths that you missed on previous playing. As with all 4Zero releases to date this is a limited pressing of 1000. (Steve Judd)


( LP from http://www.jazrecords.com/)

Subtitled “Original Soundtrack Recording”, a quick search reveals an Australian police drama of the same name that has nothing to do with this soundtrack,

so this is either an alternative audio created by the band or something completely different. Either way, the 13 tracks on this disc are definitely reminiscent of a soundtrack, their minimalist electronic composition, with added strings and brass, giving them the feel of a Tangerine dream soundtrack, menace and uncertainty lurking just beneath the surface.

    Opening track “Somewhere” sets the tone, a droning electronic note and pulsing electronics setting the mood, a simple synth melody adding mystery to the piece and drawing the listener in. On “Doorway”, crashing cymbals and more drones underpin a fog of noise that rises slowly increasing the tension, the second half of the piece achieving a similar feel although this time it is the strings that provide the tension. Even more abstract is “Steps”, ghostly bells and synth washes creating a disturbed mood, something that is repaired by the delicate drones of “Lament 2” (there are 4 “Laments” dotted around the album, each a quieter reflective drone), the track a bitter sweet sound that is hard to ignore. To close side one, “Broken” another unsettling slice of noise with a hint of Steve Reich in its string arrangements and icy qualities.

    Opening with a repetitive cowbell and slightly discordant brass, “Descent” carries on where side one left off, the seemingly quiet softness of the music contradicted by the feeling of paranoia it invokes, something the more positive melody on “Faces” seems to counteract, just.

   Beautifully constructed and composed, “Blackout” has a classical flavour to it, slow moving piano and jagged strings competing with other sounding light a swarm of insects in a summer meadow, beauty and uncertainty merging together into an exquisite whole. Continuing this ambience, “Hands” has a delicious cello running through it, whilst closing track “Nowhere” is the sound of stillness rounding of a cohesive and emotional album with skill and assurance.

    Whilst this collection does indeed feel like a soundtrack it works perfectly well on its own, a wonderful album that reveals more layers each time it is played. (Simon Lewis)


( LPs from http://www.insectfields.org/home.html)

Mysterious in many ways, the split LP from Earthen Sea and Insect factory is housed in a beautiful cover that has only the names of the artists on the spine and label. There is no clue offered as to who created, produced, or released the music contained on the disc. This sense of mystery is continued once you place the needle down, each artist contributing one long experimental drone piece, each artist seemingly choosing a different sonic frequency to work in.

   Operating in the lower end, Earthen Sea, or Jacob Long (Black Eyes Mi Ami) as he is also known, goes for the meditative approach, a slowly moving cloud of sound that is warm and enveloping, flowing out of the speakers like a soft stream in a Zen garden, an air of tranquillity to be found as you let go of the tensions of the day. As the track progresses a deep bass pulse is added in the background as if coming from deep underground until finally the piece drifts into silence leaving memories of a richly rewarding listening experience.

Taking charge of the higher frequencies, Terrastock veterans Insect Factory offer a much harsher piece, metallic scrapes and vibrations fighting with a continuous high tone that flutters and oscillates above, the music contrasting beautifully with what has gone before. As the track moves on things become fraught with tension an electric guitar adding density to the sound, the track ending in a fade of feedback. After this sonic assault we are offered some beautiful guitar playing from Jeff Barsky, the invasion of melody and gentleness adding even more contrast to a fine LP that showcases music as art rather than product.

     Split into four tracks, the full length LP from Jeff Barsky allows the artist space and time to showcase a wide range of sounds, tones and textures. Opening with the relatively short “Globes”, we are treated to a relaxed and sultry drone interspersed with public address announcements (Possibly), the piece flowing elegantly across the room before the longer “Radio Forecast” takes charge, constantly changing and evolving as it moves through time, yet doing so at a slow stately pace. As the track moves on percussive elements enter the fray adding texture to the proceedings, the music becoming darker and tense, an unsettling deep drone rumbling underneath the sound of darkness falling. Further in the sounds become distorted and more fractured, this buzzing from the insect factory then slowly fading to reveal a chimes and fragility, the music suddenly becoming soft and gentle once again.

   Over on side two, “New Incision” is the sound of being becalmed in icy water, a slowly rising, drifting soundscape that has minimalist tendencies, requiring the listeners attention to fully appreciate its delicate wonders, all you can do is drift along.

   To end, the short “Sutures” is a sweetly chiming guitar piece that offers warmth and the human touch, the perfect end to a magnificent collection. (Simon Lewis)


(LP from www.thesearenotrecords.com)

Released in a limited edition of 250, the first 100 in delicious red vinyl, fans of icy kosmiche music should make sure they get hold of a copy of this excellent disc, the sounds of Froese, Neu, Schnitzler or Ash Ra to be found within its sublime grooves.

    Right from the off you are transported to stranger realms, the pulsing sequences of “City Deterioration” blended with harsher sounds, the music constantly shifting, glancing off itself at unexpected angles meaning you are never sure where you are headed. On “Prime Meridian” the music becomes fully immersed in  Tangerine Dream Mode circa 1973, the drifting soundscape and ghostly sequences dancing through your brain like a dream you are yet to experience, the trippy mood suddenly getting darker as the low drone of  “Haus Machine” enter the room,an electronic heartbeat leading the piece until over-excited sequences take over, each craving your attention as they crawl all over each other.

    Ensuring you do not slumber the opening of “Wings Of The Sun”is harsh and violent, the soundtrack to a late fifties sci-fi movie, just at that point when the aliens reveal themselves for the first time their arrival caused by some biological disaster way back in time. Indeed the tune remains this way until a high pitched drone/sequence suddenly gives it a modern twist, the song dissolving into noise again until it finally fades. More glacial in appearance both “First Ashes” and “Ancient Quest” return to the Radiophonics workshop meets Tangerine Dream vibe, the former having a distinctly primitive percussive sound,whilst the latter has some fast moving synths running throughout.

    To end the vinyl the title track is a brilliant summation of all that has gone before, a retro walk through the early history of electronic music that is both exhilarating and invigorating leaving the listener wholly satisfied.

   If that isn't enough, the download code that comes with the vinyl entitles you to the whole album plus six bonus tracks all of which continue the excellent work described above with “Future Machines almost inventing the genre Kraut-Disco.

   Basically the work of Patrick.R.Park, this collection comes highly recommended to lovers of electronic music. (Simon Lewis)  


(LPs – details from kitchencynics@googlemail.com)

I have loved the songs of Alan Davidson ever since I first heard him on a CD compilation that arrived with an edition of the wonderful Ptolemaic Terrascope magazine. Since that day, I have avidly devoured his albums, co-wrote a song with him, as well a releasing a split CD-R a few years ago and happily reviewing his work as they arrived through the letter box. When you read the list of artists willing to contribute a track to this tribute album it seems that I am not the only one, the list containing some of the best current artists working in the loose genre of folk music.

    To start things off the unmistakable voice of Josephine Foster adds another layer of eeriness to the delicate “Winter in Her Bones”, the edition of harp, cello and Spanish guitar adding different textures to the tune. Tackling “Richard in Bedlam”, One of Alan's best loved tunes, Tom Rapp maintains the aura of sadness, his melancholy delivery perfect for the tune, as is the voice of Alasdair Roberts, his rendition of “The Horseman's Word” awash with rhythm and wah guitar creating a sweet slice of soft psych folk.

   Managing to sound like The Green Pyjamas, Major Matt Mason turns “She's Growing Old Disgracefully” into a rattling good piece of guitar led rock yet still manages to keep faith with the original. Choosing a more experimental path “Lichens” is a whispering mix of melody and electronics in the hands of Kathleen Baird, the song reflecting some of the more experimental pieces to be found on Kitchen Cynic albums. To end side one Adam Leonard treats us to a rendition of “The Place You Hid” a great version and the perfect way to reach half-time.

     Based on a piece of bravery by Jane Whyte (who rescued 15 sailors) “The Heroine, Jane Whyte” is beautifully covered by P.G. Six, whilst a sadder  historical tale is offered up by Sharron Kraus whose version of “When Father Hanged The Children” brings to life a chilling tale.

    Clouded with distorted guitar noise Jeffrey Alexander adds another texture to this collection with his version of “Restless Morning”, the noise tempered  with a delicate  version of  “If I Was A Good Man “ courtesy of Adrian Crowley, the tune softly coated in ambient guitar drones. Continuing the psychedelic sheen, The spoken word and drone/floatation tank feel of “Jock Sheep” works perfectly in the hands of Electroscope, the whole collection finally ending with “Rue Bonaparte” as Rory Mcintyre remains faithful to the original that wonderful guitar line fully intact.

    As with all Alan's releases, the cover of this album features photos of his ancestors, the addition of a lyric sheet and a CD containing both the covers and the originals completing a perfect package.

   Welcoming us in with a lysergic shimmer,the title track from “I Am The Orra Loon” is a song so beautiful it could make grown men weep, the evocative lyrics cloaked in a haze of drifting sound, each moment perfectly realised for maximum effect. Containing ten tunes the album is a kind of best of The Kitchen Cynics, the album containing some of Alan's finest work, including “Jock Sheep”, Richard In Bedlam” and “The Place You Hid”, all of which can be heard on the tribute album reviewed above. Indeed, these two albums can be seen as close companions, a gateway into the personal and haunting world on Mr Davidson, somewhere we should all visit on occasions.

   Elsewhere, “The Wilhemina Gabb” is another beautiful song about maritime tradegy, the augmented by ghostly piano courtesy of Susan Matthew, whilst “Flies” weaves a gentle magic, enchanting the listener as it opens side two of the record. The songs each flowing into each other without a moment wasted until we reach the highly emotional and personal “Me Jack and Lee, and the Ghost of Skip James” dedicated to Lee Jackson and Jack Rose and a perfect example of Alan's lyrical gift, taking those small moments and capturing them for eternity, another song to bring a tear to your eye yet, at the same time,joy in your heart so wonderful is the songwriting of Alan Davidson. (Simon Lewis)



(LPs from http://www.lastationradar.com/)

Inspired by a Ray Bradbury story and now on its second pressing, “Mars is Heaven”is a beautiful record filled with wistful songs and melody, the tunes cloaked with reverb and a haunting production that brings everything to life. Opening with “Black and White Flight” the simple construction of the song and its lovely vocal arrangements lead the listener into the mellow flow of  “Mars is Heaven Part One”, an more experimental instrumental that has an acid sheen as if waking from a daydream. This mood is heightened on the excellent “Planet Mars” a song that relies on rhythmic repetition sounding like Danielle Dax covering “Rocket No 9” (Sun Ra), your toes will be tapping as you are absorbed into the tune. To round off side on a drifting cover of “Take My Hand”, originally by Polish band Brygada Kryzys, continues the dreaming feel, highlighting the excellent vocals of  Ela Orleans, something that makes these songs shine.

    Over on side two, part two of the title track has rumbling drums courtesy of John Martin Widger, his precise and powerful playing giving the track a solid foundation over which noise and a stoned surf guitar dance hand in hand. After the short and eerie “Into the Woods” ,with lyrics from Arthur Rimbaud, “Falling” has a darker feel with menacing guitar and hypnotic bass sounding like something Hand/Eye could have released, the song seemingly falling apart around your ears. Ending as we began, the simple pop feel of “Wonderful Us” is again cloaked in reverb, giving it a Phil Spector recorded in a cave ambience that is lovely to hear but quite possibly too weird for mainstream appeal, shame really as this album is charming from start to finish.

     Recorded in South East France “Southern Lights” is the work of Olivier Scalia, the album containing five pieces of instrumental happiness, beats and washes of sound mingling together to create a warm and expansive record. Beginning with the wonderfully titled “The Parrots are Not What They Seem (They're Just Pigeons on Acid) there is a definite sunshine feel to the track the music washing over you like warm sea as afternoon turns into the perfect evening, this ambience continued on “Driving Through the Jungle” another laid back rainbow of sound with a repetitive groove and a sweet melody line, giving it an exotica sheen. Asthe sunset finally fades and the stars begin to twinkle overhead, “Canoeing Down a Quiet River” slows things down further, a sweet and gentle melody that drifts by in slow motion, the track held together by an electronic pulse that is blissful and easy to enjoy.

     Created mainly electronically, or so it sounds, this album has a joyful ambience about it, no more so than on “Inner Beach” a shimmering slice of dream-pop that will make you day better as it floats past in waves of synths and mellow beats. To end, “Psychic Suntan” is just gorgeous, waves of sound ebbing and flowing around the room to relax your mind and slow down time, the perfect ending to a fine album that may take you a couple of plays to really appreciate.

    Constructed by three musicians who live in different parts of the globe and have never been physically present in the same place at the same time, “Pure Speculation” is as much a sound- art installation as a piece of music, each person bringing a different compositional strand to the project creating a 22 minute track that is powerful, emotional and inspiring. Experimental, droning and rich with imagination the track features, electronic sounds (Palix), bells, guitars, voice (Galbraith) and Highland Bagpipes (Watson) each player adding new layers and textures with the Bagpipes having the most impact mainly because it is not a sound that you hear very often in this context, their plaintive drone filling the piece with sound, with Watson skilled enough to be silent when needed, giving the bells and electronics a chance to add scrapes, rattles and chimes to the music. Constantly changing in tone, pace and mood,the music is never still,never dull rewarding the adventurous listener as it seems different every time, the way you hear it dependant on your mood and circumstance as much as the actual composition. Highly recommended, this is my personal favourite out of three excellent releases from a label of high quality. (Simon Lewis)