= APRIL 2006 =
|Simon Lewis (Editor)||Darling Downs|
|Steve Pescott||La Stpo|
SOARWHOLE, BROTHERS OF THE OCCULT SISTERHOOD and 6 MAGIK 9
Meet a CDR label with the laudable aim of “striving to free the minds of all our brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom.” Based in New South Wales, Australia, the echidna and platypus-loving ‘Music Your Mind Will Love You’ is a more than essential wet-index-finger-in-the-air tester as to what’s going down in the underground regions of the antipodes. It’s a haven for interchangeable / floating band set-ups – a working concept that’s positively encouraged as a shiny red pep pill for the creative mindset. As you’ll notice, many hats are worn and many micro-genres traversed. The main players in this incestuous puzzle appear to be Michael Donnelly (Alligator Crystal Moth, Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood, Terracid and Soarwhole), Ian McIntyre (of Ffehro, who also swears allegiance to the 6 Majik 9 flag), and Steven Moller (Soarwhole, 6 Majik 9 and also the back legs of Snowfoxx). These names will undoubtedly resurface with all the regularity of (to use a cinematic f’rinstance) a Raymond Huntley or a Richard Wattis during Elstree’s golden years.
(Alternatively of course, check them out live at Terrastock 6, where there should be some of these discs on sale as well - Phil)
(CD on Carrot Top Records, http://www.carrottoprecords.com)
The teaming up of Aussie rock legends Kim Salmon (The Scientists, Beast of Bourbon) and Ron Peno (Died Pretty) to construct a paean to the ectoplasmic essence of early American country sounds like a delirious conjecture; a proposition tossed around by fans of improbable musical conjunctions. That such a project is a reality, and the results so achingly beautiful, is a gift – the kind one doesn't want to scrutinise too closely unless it should dissipate like the skeins of morning mist that precedes a hot outback day.
First self-released in Australia in 2005, 'How Can I Forget This Heart of Mine' gets its world-wide release via Carrot Top Records, no stranger to out-country, being home to the Handsome Family, Retsin and The Naysayer. Like these artists, the Darling Downs deconstruct country and use its RNA to build an individualised mode of expression that defuses cliché at every turn. The elements are deceptively simple. Peno's vocals are a force of nature, on some tracks howling like wind through the broken spars of a derelict barn, on others keening like the ill-fated Ira Louvin floating in some purgatory of his own invention (the Louvin Brothers are a stated influence on this project) and occasionally threatening a yelping, demonic yodel (without thankfully going there). At their most affecting, as on the track 'Deep Deep Blue', the vocals are dream-like - almost improvised – and will definitely be a surprise to fans of Died Pretty. Apart from the occasional harmonica and percussion, Salmon's acoustic guitar carries the rest of the sound. Understated and crystalline, always lucid and always serving the song, Salmon's work here has a nuanced near-perfection, and when he does cut loose, as on the hypnotic 'Waste My Time', the impact is startling.
Stylistically, the duo is equally at ease with neo-folk ('I'll Be Always There' and 'In a Cold Place by the Lake'), Appalachian proto-country ('In That Jar', ''Let it Breathe' and 'And They Danced'), mesmerising balladry ('All Fall Down' and 'There's a Light'), and is also happy to digress into intriguing backwaters on tracks like the anguished 'Loverslain' (great wordplay thrown in for free), the unexpected psychedelic folk of 'Waste My Time' and the time-stopping soul-seeker 'Deep Deep Blue'. What stays with the listener is a ghostly afterimage that plays on the heart like headlight patterns on a bedroom wall at 3AM, and an inexplicable but not unpleasant sense of yearning and loss. It's a desolate, masterful work by two artists who have nothing to prove, and nothing to lose. (Tony Dale)
(CD/LP on Beta-Lactam Ring Records www.blrrecords.com )
first minute this album reminds me of The zodiac Cosmic Sounds, with
gentle bells and spoken word, before it suddenly explodes into a
frenetic mix of Magma, Gong, and Faust, the multi-lingual lyrics
driven along by syncopated rhythms that accent every word creating a
truly visceral sound, before, bang, we are back to the gentle psych,
the music slowly swelling again as the vocalist ponders flowers and
the whereabouts of the Beach Boys (maybe). Second track “Cet A-mort
Vibre L’Air” opens with some hypnotic percussion, which sounds like
an old seventies jewellery case that my mother owned, before slowly
collapsing into chaotic disorder, as if the musicians are being
slowly encased in ice. Elsewhere “Juene Fille Devant Le Miror” is an
exercise in free-jazz noise, with some great playing that lifts the
piece above the chaos it could easily become, and invokes memories
of the first time I heard “Camembert Electrique”, an album that does
seem to influence this record both in it’s attitude and the vocal
delivery, which, at times, bears an uncanny resemblance to Daevid
Allen's strange vocal inflections, no more so than on “L’intitule
Crème” which is a perfect piece of music.
A translation of the albums title is “Slices Of Thrown Time” which
sums it up beautifully, the music cavorting and distorting through
the songs leaving the listener delirious and confused in equal
measure, especially on “the sounds of the city seem not to
disappear” a piece that seems to encompass everything that is good
about European avant-garde rock music since 1968, whilst remaining
contemporary and dynamic in it’s approach. The same could be said of
the equally excellent closing track “Lorsque” which is the sound of
an introspective nightmare filled with some fine drumming and
unexpected moments of beauty as the trumpet leaves trails of
sunlight behind it.
Albums this rich and imaginative are a rare find, and provide moments of pure pleasure which are to be savoured, add to that some wonderful illustrations which complement the music with their Tim Burton style imagery and you have a package that will be enjoyed for years to come. (Simon Lewis)
CD on Aztec Music www.aztecmusic.net )
someone had played me this album, without me knowing anything about
it, I would have guessed that it came from the UK and was from the
late 70’s/early 80’s, as it bears all the hallmarks of the much
maligned and misunderstood “New Wave Of British Metal” (God, I hate
that phrase) a scene which was the inspiration for
thrash/death/stoner metal, and featured skull-crushing riffs, dumb
lyrics, and covers almost as wonderfully tasteless as the semi-naked
woman tied to a rack, as featured on the front of the third album
from Buffalo, which in fact, dates from 1974 and continues the
monster riffing that featured on their “Volcanic Rock” masterpiece
(see Tony Dale's Excellent review from
November 2005 ).
Opening track “I’m A Skirt Lifter, Not A Shirt Raiser” says it all,
heavy as fuck, tacky lyrics and a sing-a-long chorus, adding up to a
song guaranteed to annoy the hell out of parents back in
1974.Throughout the album the playing is tight and mean, the songs
shorter and more controlled than on “Volcanic Rock” with vocalist
Dave Trice sounding uncannily like Pete French (Atomic Rooster)
duetting with Ozzy especially on “Dune Messiah” or the Sabbath
inspired “Stay With Me”, a song that also sounds like stoner
favourites Orange Goblin. Track five “What’s going On” is a heads
down, no nonsense, metal boogie which will get your head nodding and
sounds great really fuckin’ loud and loaded on cheap booze, the
perfect stress reliever, in fact. Next two tracks “Kings Cross
Ladies” and “United Nations” are the longest on the album and allow
the band room to stretch their musical muscle, the frenetic and
brain damaging solos underpinned with some heavy heavy riffs and
sudden changes that keep the songs fresh and interesting.
Bonus tracks include the single version of “What’s Going On” and a
live version of “United Nations” recorded before the album was
released, and which has a brutal and primitive feel to it. Once
again, the packaging is a credit to Aztec Music, featuring a 6-page
digipack and a well-illustrated 20 page booklet, which includes
contributions from main songwriters Dave Trice and John Baxter.
MONO - YOU ARE THERE
For me there’s a very thin line between potent and tedious build-up rock (or post rock if you will). On one side of the coin there’s the inimitable Kinski, the destructive work of Neurosis and Explosions in the Sky and on the other there’s Mogwai, which very well might take the prize for the most predictable band to appear after the second World War.
Japanese quartet Mono is in terms of sonic characteristics quite predictable as well but they manage to package their sonic ideas in such an impressive way that it doesn’t really matter. Every shift in dynamics and instrumentation seems to be there in order to get the story told and not just for the sake of blending intricate atmospherics with full-on cathartic rock outs. This is music that despite its format sounds as natural as the cycle of days and seasons.
Another aspect I like with these guys is that they like to tease us; that they choose to wait a few extra seconds for the obvious to happen. I think someone described Mono’s music as spatial landscapes that build textured melodies on top of each other until each composition explodes. That’s a very accurate way to nail down what their beautiful mess is all about. Walls of aggression and white noise rarely sound this beautiful and affecting. (Mats Gustafsson)
(Phil McMullen adds: I have to say, I totally agree with Mats here; this album blew me away when I first heard it a few weeks back, and has been a pretty much constant companion throughout many long hours of Terrastock planning work. Track 3 especially is just awe-inspiring, beautifully constructed to build into a crescendo of sound akin to being trapped inside an industrial washing machine on a spin cycle!)
Well who’d a thunk it, eh? Mighty Baby together again after 35 years – apparently lured back into harness when guitarist Martin Stone hit upon the idea of a reformation to help the family of late rock photographer Keith Morris, lost at sea in diving accident last summer. Stoney called up various ex-members and they had so much fun delivering a three-song set at a private wake at Dingwalls late last autumn that here they were again playing a full-length Maundy Thursday show at the Rocket in North London.
Tellingly there was a gibbous moon filling the evening sky as Colin Hill, a handful of other veterans and myself made our way along the Holloway Road to the gig. Mighty Baby were one of the great acid bands of the original hippie era – for the uninitiated a quintet which grew out of the ashes of mod heroes the Action to become about the closest thing the UK had to the early Grateful Dead – Mighty Baby were want to long instrumental explorations as evinced on the classic live ‘Blanket in my Muesli’ (recorded live at the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre and featured on the subsequent Revelation triple album) whilst their two studio albums recorded for Head and Blue Horizon respectively have long since become favourites amongst collectors of the era, fetching ridiculous amounts of money. A mainstay of the early free festivals and the British underground, various members of the group also moonlighted as session men and played on some of the finest folk rock LPs of the period by the likes of John Martyn, Sandy Denny, Shelagh MacDonald, and Keith Christmas.
After they called it quits Martin Stone joined the wonderful Chilli Willi’n’the Red Hot Peppers, Alan King joined fellow pub rockers Ace (who had a big hit with ‘How Long?’) and later Juice on the Loose, whilst Messrs Ian Whiteman, Roger Powell and Mike Evans formed the strongly Eastern influenced Habibiya. In more recent times Martin Stone has made himself a name as one of the great Antiquarian book dealers and even stopped playing for a while. And Mike Evans popped up as bass player for Barry Melton’s UK tour in 2003.
We entered the venue at just gone 10 and the set was in full flow. The group had taken the stage to the sounds of David Ross’s tempura, before launching into ‘Trials of a City’. So there was no Alan ‘Bam’ King, ‘stuck in New Zealand’ or Ian Whiteman, ‘other commitments’ (the man’s regular day job for many years was keyboard player and MD for the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens). Whiteman’s glistening electric piano fills especially were sorely missed but Matt Deighton (Mother Earth, Paul Weller and Oasis) did a decent enough job as second guitarist and lead vocalist – Deighton’s more of blues shouter in the Steve Whalley/Mike Harrison mode so at times the Baby’s original subtle harmony vocals (oft reminiscent of Robert Wyatt/Pye Hastings) were sadly in absentia.
Still there was plenty to be pleased about – Deighton’s tonsils more than suited the material they’d picked for tonight’s set, almost everything from that bluesy, rocking Guy Stevens’ produced debut LP. We’d all but forgotten what a formidable rhythm section Roger Powell and Mike Evans make, and that man Stone showed that he hadn’t lost his Midas touch as one of the most innovative guitarists of his generation – switching between lap steel and lead, he was on blistering form.
Highlights included ‘Egyptian Tomb’ and a dazzling ‘House without Windows’, and two Ian Whiteman songs written during the last days of the Action and to be found on the Ace reissue of that first record, ‘Only Dreaming’ and ‘A Saying For Today’. The country-ish title track of the second album, ‘Jug of Love’ was a nice change of pace and the band even delivered a couple of numbers that as Mike Evans quipped, had never been performed live before: ‘Messages’ and ‘Ancient Traveler’ which had been done for that debut long player but left off the final version – these will hopefully soon see the light on the first legit CD release of ‘Jug of Love’. They even slipped in an obscure B-side ‘Devil’s Whisper’ late in the set.
Those of us patiently waiting for the band to whiff off on a lengthy romp were rewarded by the single encore, ‘India (John Coltrane)’ which allowed them full reign and for Martin (when he wasn’t being drowned out by Greg Boraman’s organ) to really let rip with his most fluid and mynd-bending playing of the evening, which rendered the addition of guest guitarist Christian Thompson - a mate of Stone’s from Paris– all but superfluous.
For those of you unable to make the show, the good news is that there was a nice souvenir pack produced by long time fan Deepinder Chima, Action biographer Ian Hebditch and the band themselves. And Peter Neal the man who put together the ‘Glastonbury Fayre’ movie and was responsible for those fabulous Hendrix documentaries filmed the set for posterity and various technical problems pending, should eventually be commercially available.
The band had been so dismayed by the poor PA at the sound check and almost thrown in the towel before the gig but it turned out to be a real triumph especially for a band that hadn’t played for some 35 years. They’re up for further live shows too and up for touring anywhere except the US which they consider currently too politically unsafe.
Wall Street may have had its worse day in a decade, and Colin Hill might have sprained his ankle during the gig, but it was a great night and if they tread the boards anywhere else you should do yourselves a favour and get along – they still don’t come much better than Mighty Baby. (Nigel Cross)