=  APRIL 2008  =

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Written by:

Meic Stevens

  Sharron Kraus

Jeff Penczak


Simon Lewis

Tau Emerald
 Nigel Cross Phantom Guitars

Tony Dale

Man - live review

Phil McMullen

Monika Barchen

Steve Pescott

Ex Reverie

  Agitated Radio Pilot
  The Owl Service
  Panther Modern



(CD from Sunbeam)


Hot on the heels of his triumphant concert last summer (captured on ‘Live in London’), Sunbeam complete their reissue series of Stevens’ original Welsh recordings with his second LP, originally released in miniscule numbers (Stevens reckons about 2500 LPs were pressed) in 1972 on the Welsh Wren imprint. Following the public’s lack of interest in his Warner Brothers 1970 debut, ‘Outlander,’ Stevens took a rhythm section into Warner Brothers’ Central Sound demo studio and recorded and mixed the album in two days. Assembled from songs left over from tracks he wrote for Welsh TV, including ‘Galarnod’ [‘Lament’], whose lyric was lifted wholesale from the Book of Jeremiah “because of its timeless and universal profundity. It is indeed a frightening lament.” The album, recorded entirely in his native tongue, opens appropriately with the bouncy toe tapper, ‘Shwd Mae? Shwd Mae?’ [‘Hello? Hello?’], which boasts a party-like, ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ atmosphere following some stoned chatter, possibly leftover from the “clouds of Nepalese hash most of us lived on in those days.” ‘Brenin Y Nos’ [‘King of the Night’] is tighter, a driving, acoustic number reminiscent of Richie Havens.


            Even Stevens admits that “writing and singing in Welsh is an uphill struggle,” so most listeners will be unable to follow the story lines, but the melodies are beautiful, and Stevens is a very emotional singer, such that I barely have to translate ‘Traeth Yn Obaith’ [‘The Beach of Despair’] or ‘Daeth Neb Yn Ol’ [‘Nobody Came Back’], the latter written for his father, to understand the songs’ heartbreaking intentions. Elsewhere, Stevens' environmental concerns are no doubt at the heart of ‘O Mor Lan Yr Oedd Y Dewr’ [‘O How Clear Was The Water’], a swaying sing-along that would certainly go down a storm at Green Party tree-hugging ceremonies! The aforementioned ‘Galarnod’ is a raspy-voiced, bluesy, religious monograph that evidences a Bert Jansch influence. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that Billy Bragg listened to ‘Merch o’r Ffatri Wlan’ [‘The Girl from The Wool Factory’] before writing ‘Greetings To The New Brunette’!


            ‘Gwely Gwag’ [‘Empty Bed’] is pure, unadulterated Mississippi delta blues that I suggest our dear friend, Keith Christmas learn post haste and add to his live set, while ‘Mynd I Weld Y Byd’ [‘Off To See The World’] is so damn infectious, I’d suspect there’s about half a dozen different Nick Lowe songs in there dying to get out! The original album ends with the strolling, Jorma Kaukonen-styled, strolling, acoustic blues of ‘Mae’r Eliffant Yn Cofio Popeth’ [‘An Elephant Remembers Everything’] that features Peter Swales on musical saw…in case you’re wondering what that theremin-like squealing is in the background!. Sunbeam completes the package with two live tracks of Stevens and unidentified slide guitar and banjo players recorded at Theatr Gwynedd in Bangor in 1974. ‘Dic Penderyn’ is another bluesy lament and ‘Santiana’ is a feisty strum fest with a rousing banjo solo! All in all, this is a worthy companion to Sunbeam’s other Stevens’ releases and deserves a place on your shelf alongside your other obscure 70’s folk albums! (Jeff Penczak)




(CD from www.durtro.com)


(CD from www.cameraobscura.com.au)


(CD from www.importantrecords.com)


    Come with me, dear readers, into the vale of new folk, where strange things are to be found exquisite music is everywhere and old legends seem real. For this particular outing our guide will be Sharron Kraus, whose unique talents grace all three of these releases, both solo and with two equally talented contributors.


    First up, “The Fox’s Wedding” is a collection of emotional songs filed with sadness, melancholy and longing, the stark instrumentation and haunting voice creating a rich yet frozen landscape of sound. Right from the haunting opener “Brigid”, it is clear that here is an artist assured in her vision, the song constructed so that not one note is wasted, the addition of upright bass giving the song a deep menace that is complemented by the banshee wails at the end of the song. On “Green Man” a soft piano offers a delicate touch, whilst “In The Middle Of Summer” is a truly beautiful song, the strings giving the song a warmth, and reminding me of Nick Drake in its simple power.


    On “July skies” the eerie banjo is the perfect foil for the sad tale, Sharron's voice in complete control, waltzing with the notes, full of emotion and delicate grace.


    Richly orchestrated, “The Prophet” has a livelier feel than many of the song on the album, the string adding a Middle-Eastern flavour to the song, whilst restrained percussion keeps the heart beating. Written by Thomas Campion (1567-1620), “Thrice Toss These Oaken Ashes” is a dirge-like song of unrequited love and is another perfect vehicle for that wonderful voice, which dominates the album, as it should.


   Having played this album several times, its depths have slowly been revealed and this could well be Sharrons most fully realised album to date, everything falling into place, pulsing with life and earthy splendour.


      Claiming Jefferson Airplane, Mellow Candle, and The Trees as influences (cor! - Phil) Rusalnaia is so much more than those influences, a pagan ritual for sunny days, the soft contemplative flow of the river or the wind through the willows. Featuring the combined talents of Gillian Chadwick (Ex-Reverie, Woodwose) and the aforementioned Sharron Kraus, the album is rich and varied with the two distinct voices adding a whole level of texture to the pagan folk within.


     Opener “The Sailor and The Siren” sets the tone immediately, the pulsing guitar and voices shimmering with mystery, joyous in their closeness. One of my favourite songs is the restless “Shifting Sands”, the lyrical content perfectly mirrored by the arrangements, with an eerie rattle adding a ritualistic air, the song as much a prayer as a folk tale. In fact, there is an air of mystery to the whole album, a flicker of candlelight casting strange shadows over the music. On “Kindling”, the psych-folk spirit is alive and well, the influences heard most strongly, with Producer Greg Weeks, adding some acidic lead work to the tune, one of the albums many highlights. There is a definite sense of legend on the title track (Not suprising considering Rusalnaia is a water nymph that tickles people to death), with the vocals particularly enchanting, the song taking you to the edge of the forest, the darkness within both scary and exhilarating.


   With a light and gentle caress, Dandelion Wine” is a gorgeous paean to summer, the arrangement of pipe and cello (courtesy of Margie Wienk) creating a brief splash of sun-lit brilliance. Finally, “Wild Summer” closes the album in magnificent style, a trance inducing pagan prayer to summer that uses a simple four-line lyric as a basis, launching into inner space and traversing the labyrinth, before emerging cleansed and golden at the end.


   One of the things I love about this album is the way that every song is your favourite as it is playing and then the next one is even better. I hope my family enjoys it as much as I do, they could be hearing it all summer.


    Finally, we enter the labyrinth and spiral toward infinity under the guidance of Sharron Kraus and Tara Burke (Fursaxa), working under the name Tau Emerald.


   Here the vocals are reduced to repeated refrains, chanted and buried under the droning folkscapes, the sound as important as the words. Opening track “Two Travellers” is their manifesto, luring the listener into a secret world, filled with chattering string, percussive fungus and ancient spirits, an inner dreamscape that is both gentle and mysterious.


   On “Stoikite”, the sound is reduced to rattling, chiming bells, the sound of a goat herd tumbling down a mountain meadow in joyous confusion, before “Barrowlands” creeps further into the caves, a heady mix of pipes/flute and hypnotic percussion, sounding as old as the hills themselves. This atmosphere is continued with the creeping riff of “Full Moon”, dense vocals adding a layer of mist to the music, the goats now safely shut away for the night, whilst the shepherd watches the night unfold.


     Featuring more vocals than most of the material here, “Henbane”, is a layered hymn, the voices giving way to some droning violin and the ritual drumming that seems to permeate so much of the album, binding it together.


    Leaving the best until last, the final two tracks seem to rise effortlessly toward the stars, with “Mermaids Call” being a droning sea-shanty, that is both disorientating and beautiful, whilst the final track “Laureola”, is a an unsettling, rising, pipe-driven drone, the sound of a storm approaching, although this storm may be of your own making and there is no place to hide.


   Whilst these albums may seem sonically different on first listening, they share a singular vision, following the same star. Mix them all up and you would have a blinding triple album of "wyrd folk", psychedelic, drone that would be fulfilling from start to finish. I hate to say it but you need them all. (Simon Lewis)




(CD from Psychic Circle)


For the third volume of Nick Saloman’s ‘Return of the Instro Hipsters A Go Go’ collections (and eighth overall) of rare, psychedelic instrumentals, he proffers “a cool collection of twangin’ guitar instrumentals from the UK 1961-1964.” As usual, he has unearthed a treasure trove of rock and roll history, including material from the chap who wrote the ‘Match of The Day’ theme, Alvin Stardust’s backing band, the inimitable Joe Meek, and future members of The Shadows, Foreigner, Unit 4 + 2, Colosseum, The Hollies and the pre-Creation Remo Four! These 25 tracks are born from the success of the UK’s biggest instrumental band, The Shadows, occasionally bringing in the twangy elements of Duane Eddy and the US answer to The Shadows, recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, The Ventures. We begin with The Falcons’ ‘Stampede’ from 1963, a wonderful countrified twanger which, like its title, suggests images of the great American West. The Krew Kats are historically important more for their personnel than for the straightforward ‘Jack’s Good’ included herein. They were born out of Marty Wilde’s backing band, The Wildcats and featured future session guitarist extraordinaire Big Jim Sullivan as well as future Shadows, Brians Locking and Bennett.


The Phantoms deliver the haunting, stalking title track, the Cambridge band’s lone UK release. However, following a gig as the backing band of one of Norway’s biggest rock and rollers, Per Elvis Granberg, they relocated to Sweden and became one of the countries biggest bands, releasing numerous singles, EPs and LPs up until their breakup in 1967. Before forming The Hunters, Brian Parker was a member of The Dick Teague Skiffle group, who featured a young Cliff Richard (still using his birth name, Harry Webb). The Hunters are represented by the swirling maelstrom, ‘The Storm.’ Following The Hunters demise, Parker joined Unit 4 + 2 and wrote their biggest hit, ‘Concrete & Clay.’


The Executives’ ‘No Room for Squares’ is a bouncy little number that sounds like an advert jingle, although it does boast some totally cool organ flourishes from future (pre-Creation) Remo Four and Family keyboardist, Tony Ashton. The late Ashton would also hook up with the late Creation bassist Kim Gardner (they both died of cancer in 2001) as well as his Remo Four partner, Roy Dyke in the R&B trio, Ashton Gardner & Dyke, who hit the big time with the Top 3 smash ‘Resurrection Shuffle’ back in 1971. The Executives also featured future NME editor Ray Carr! The Nu-Notes’ ‘Fury’ is a frenetic, Jurgen Ingmann (of ‘Apache’ fame)-styled guitar workout courtesy future John Mayall’s Bluesbreaker, Roger Dean, which has the blueprint for many of the galloping, ethnic instros from Camper Van Beethovan written all over it!


The Champions’ ‘Circlorama’ was apparently named after the latest development in surround-vision cinema, altough it sounds more like the ‘Tarentalla’ to me! The Fentones’ ‘The Mexican’ delivers a south of the border, Ennio Morricone-ish, spaghetti western vibe and features future Hollies drummer, Bobby Elliott. The band backed two pseudonymous singers named Shane Fenton, the second of whom (Bernard Jewry) later changed his name to Alvin Stardust!


Of course, a compilation of early 60’s UK instros wouldn’t be worth a damn wihtout a visit to Joe Meek’s studios and Saloman obliges via The Packabeats’ theme from ‘The Traitors’ from 1962. While it lacks the master’s legendary compression techniques (and, contrary to the comp’s claim that these are all “previously unreleased on CD,” you can find it on both of Sanctuary’s  Joe Meek compilations), it is a jolly little, fingersnappin’, toetappin’ winner, nevertheless. Saloman stays within the film world for The Planets’ theme to ‘Jungle Street,’ an echoey twanger with a fluttering flute filler that belongs in everyone’s Space Age Bachelor Pad collection. The rarity meter jumps off the board with Rhet Stoller’s ‘Big City,’ an unreleased acetate from 1962 that’s a snappy little number from the future TV theme composer, perhaps best known for composing the theme to the ‘Match of The Day.’


The Players’ ‘Bizet As It May’ is a bit of a novelty tune, revolving around Bizet’s familiar ‘Carmen’ melody, and you’ll also dig the Barons’ high-steppin’ ‘Cossack,’ which is as cool as a Russian winter (the band once included organist Dave Greenslade before he joined Colosseum), and Bob Miller & The Millermen (who once included Elton John’s dad, Stanley Dwight on trumpet), who offer one of film composer John Barry’s finest compositions, ‘Trouble Shooter.’ Finally, The Gladiators’ ‘Tovarich’ wraps up the set on a high note with a breezy stomper from the band that once featured Mick Jones (the Foreigner, not the Clash City Rocker!) For fans who can’t get enough of this sort of thing, Saloman also includes a referral to Trev Faull’s ‘Collector’s Guide To 60s Brit Pop Instrumentals’ that will surely while away the hours until he returns with another collection of hip instros a go go! (Jeff Penczak)



MAN – Half Moon, Herne Hill, London, Saturday 15th March 2008

(live review)


Have to admit it had been a fair time since I last saw the Man band in action – indeed it was back in April 2004 at the 100 Club and the night heralding what was to be the very short-lived return of guitarist Michael Jones and the departure of another founding member Deke Leonard.


Lot of water under the bridge since then – poor Mickey Jones’s deteriorating health has seen one of the greatest British lead guitarists of the past 40 years (up there with Ritchie Thompson, Martin Stone, P A Green and Richard Treece in my book) confined to a Swansea nursing home with no hope of his return to live gigs; keyboardist Gareth Thorington left soon after with the indefatigable Martin Ace now flying the flag for the old guard. Mickey’s son George now holds down the lead guitar slot and Ace junior Josh has come in on second guitar and vocals.


Jones Senior’s incapacity signaled the end of the band in some people’s eyes (my own included) but Man have soldiered on and released another studio album recently  and 2008 marks their 40th year in the ring (if you turn a blind eye to the hiatus between 76 and 83). It also sees the return of keyboard wiz Phil Ryan – cause indeed for much celebration especially if the Be Good To Yourself LP ranks amongst your favourites as it does mine.


Old habits die hard – at their zenith in the early 70s Man were up there amongst the best, they carved out a unique place for themselves that seemed to bridge the gap between the best of the American West Coast bands and the best of the German space rock outfits. So with the group playing literally down the road from me I felt it was time to see how the reprobates, old and new, were doing. There was a twinge of sadness as I crossed the road over from the station to the venue. It was here on an autumn evening in 1980 that I had first got to know Mickey, then living just opposite the Half Moon in a small flat with wife Jenny and baby son George – I’d interviewed him and then gone over to watch his power pop trio Manipulator. Happier days for him but I was glad I made the effort tonight.


It’s been a long transition, possibly a transition that is still ongoing, but the Man of 2008 are in good shape and this is a band looking as much to the future as it is to the past. They do have a fabulous back catalogue – something the line-ups in the 80s and 90s were loathe to exploit as my mate Gerard Tierney standing next to me night – pointed out.


Happily that stigma is a thing of the past – first up was a number I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do live, ‘Love Your Life’ from Do You Like It Here? As finer opening salvo as you could hope for – and although Ryan’s keyboards were rather drowned out, the band was firing on all cylinders. Maybe Wales victory in the rugby was spurring them on because they sounded as good as ever! Ryan got his chance to shine with the second number, a self-penned extravaganza from the band’s one and only studio LP for MCA in 1976, ‘Something Is Happening’ and it was good to have the old rascal back in action, still at his wise-cracking best even after the recent sad death of his wife, Boletta.


Tonight it was good to see that Man are not just trading on past glories – two numbers from the most recent studio album, the title cut ‘Diamonds and Coal’ and ‘Man of Misery’ brought Josh Ace to the front of the stage. He might be the most expressionless front man in rock right now but he can hold a tune and he knows how to pen a piece that whilst retaining the riffs and psychedelic crescendos that have always been Man’s trademarks, he adds new ideas, a more contemporary edge and energy into proceedings  – ‘Diamonds and Coal’, especially is one of the best things to enter the Man canon in a decade.  Some old warhorses then followed such as ‘Manilo’, ‘Many Are Called’ and best of all ‘Sudden Life’, resurrected from the late 60s and a number with that incessant dizzy guitar riff that’s just been crying out for revival.


George Jones acquits himself admirably as both a singer and player. He looks not unlike a cross between dad or Will Youatt circa 1972 with his long locks flowing . There were some uncanny moments of true Mickey J body language  - the way his mouth ‘chawed’ when he first took the stage and the gently swaying way in which is body cradles his Gibson – that truly messed with my head! But George is certainly no Mickey clone – it’s hard rock where his heart truly lies and he brings this element to bear in Man. He’s not much of a slide player though and wisely re-pocketed his slide after a few bars of ‘Romaine’.


The set may have sagged just a bit mid way – unfamiliarity on my part with new numbers like the political ‘Freedom Fries’ and songs like ‘Victim of Love’ sung by Martin do nothing to get me over my still tangible disappointment with Endangered Species  the last but one studio LP. A great opportunity wasted to my mind.


The encores made it a night to remember – for me ‘Bananas’ is always best when Phil is there and tonight was no exception – without the duelling slide guitars which came to characterize this latterly, Phil’s bubbling keys took us to the stars in that spacey middle section – even drummer Bob [Richards] whose no-nonsense drumming seems to me better suited to his gigs with Deke and Dave Edmunds played with uncharacteristic decorum here. And finally the acid test – ‘Spunk Rock’ which  they passed with flying colours, with Josh Ace showing he’s no slouch when it comes to the lead guitar breaks either.


They’re still in search of a new audience though – aside from a handful of under 30s at the front of the stage (pals of George or Josh’s?), the crowd at the Half Moon comprised almost solely of grizzled middle aged men with little or no hair! And hardly a woman in sight either!


Time is inevitably wringing the changes – if they can find that elusive younger following there’s no reason why Man can’t continue indefinitely. Meanwhile whether you’re a long time admirer or just intrigued by all the hyperbole trotted out by the  older members of the Terrascope editorial team, go and see them in this 40th year, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.


(Grizzled Nigel Cross)




(CD from Monika - Monika Enterprise, P.O. Box 620 349, 10793 Berlin, Germany)


One of Germany’s most eclectic indie labels celebrates their tenth anniversary with this, their 60th release, a compilation of exclusive tracks recorded especially for this birthday celebration and compiled by label chief, Gudrun Gut. Electronica has always been at the heart of most Monika’s releases and To Rococo Rot’s Robert Lippok kicks the party off with the awkwardly titled ‘The Heart of Nuut picked by the Crows of Neu Koeln,’ a bouncy slice of dance floor electronics. The helium-voiced Èglantine Gouzy raps her story of ‘L.A.’ over partner Fredric Landini’s syncopated backbeat for a cross between Nina Hagen and Lori & The Chameleons (remember ‘Touch’?) Monika has also strongly supported female artists and over a dozen of these 15 tracks are by (or feature) female performers, beginning with Berlin-based DJ Paula Schopf and Max Loderbauer, performing as Chica & The Folder deliver a heart pounding stomper with the glammy instrumental ‘Kleines Hoppla.’ Even Gut joins her own party with the speaker-rattling, heart pumping oom-pah of ‘Monika in Polen.’


     In the midst of all this woofer-wobbling, dancefloor-throbbing, headpounding electronic beat-o-rama, Austrian thereminist Dorit Chrysler steps in with her relaxing, reflective instrumental ‘Sweden.’ Throughout the release, we get a wonderful representation of the international music scene with songs about L.A., Poland and Sweden and artists from Cuba, Austria, Argentina, Spain, Bavaria, Norway, Japan, France, and Germany.


     The booklet is sadly bereft of information on the artists and my favorite Monika artist, Cobra Killer are conspicuous in their absence, but there is a complete discography for you to catch up on the albums you missed and we wholeheartedly congratulate Fräulein Gut and her staff on achieving this milestone in the extremely cut-throat indie marketplace. While the names may be unrecognizeable (the most familiar piece would be Masha Qrella’s vibrant instrumental interpretation of the obscure Depeche Mode track, ‘Goodnight Lovers,’ an understandable tribute within a tribute as the Mode are one of Monika’s biggest influences), that shouldn’t stop you from checking out this worthy collection.  (Jeff Penczak)




(CD on Language of Stone)

    Billed as "glam-folk", possibly, but only partly, to get attention in a marketplace overcrowded with freaks trying to lay claim to the psychedelic folk mantle, Gillian Chadwick's Ex Reverie project succeeds by avoiding irony and embracing contradictions. And there are plenty of them here: Ex Reverie's sound is a pool with eddies and currents of progressive folk, psychedelia, gothic and glam rock contributing. Given the record's provenance, this should not surprise - 'The Door into Summer' is very much a product of the prolific and distinctive Philly out-folk scene. Co-produced by Chadwick and Greg Weeks at Weeks' Hexham Head Studio in North Philadelphia, it features Gillian on lead vocals, guitars, dulcimer, percussion and keyboards, David Chadwick (Golden Ball) on bass, Margie Wienk (Fern Knight) on cello. Greg Weeks adds trademark acid lead guitar strategically throughout, as well as background vocals, recorders and keys. And the album comes to market via Language of Stone Records, a new Drag City offshoot helmed by Greg and Jessica Weeks, with an interesting set of releases to its name already, including releases by Orion Rigel Dommisse (no I'm not making that up), Mountain Home and Ilya Monosov.


    Bringing with her a fascination with alternate worlds (especially Science Fiction – she is named after a character in Heinlein's hippie manifesto 'Stranger in a Strange Land' and the title for 'The Door Into Summer' comes from that same writer), a degree in philosophy, and presumably an eclectic record collection that places legendary UK svengali/producer Tony Visconti's work with David Bowie next to his work with Tyrannosaurus Rex, Gillian creates dream landscapes that could be a soundtrack or homage to Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers legendary book and lecture series 'The Power of Myth'.


    Unsurprisingly from a musical family, she came to the place she is now by working out her song-writing craft through the twin extremes of solo acoustic work and Death Metal, and has fortuitously landed somewhere smack in the middle. 'The Door into Summer' announces itself with the dynamic ebb and flow of 'Second Son'; diaphanous verses trading places with crashing fuzz-onslaught chorus and driven cello until it all comes together in blazing consummation. Gothic strings saw away inexorably on 'The Crowning', adding to the foreboding that hangs over its sorcerous text, and Week's guitar wails like a migraine deciding which side of your head it's going to slam (but in a good way).  You'll know if this album is for you based on your response to 'Dawn Comes for Us All', which pushes glam and gothic elements to Japanese levels (think Lolita-goth manga and anime). If you have an irresistible desire to play the track over and over, obsessing on various elements: acapella and handclaps, leaden riffage, charred string parts and mordant soloing, you're definitely tuned in and will enjoy the whole broadcast. By contrast, later tracks like 'The Years', 'Cedar' and 'Clouds? or Smoke?' drift out into crystalline acoustic waters, spinning out legends with literate texts, sublime arrangements, and sinuous and complex vocal parts. All considered, this is an extraordinary work, if you are prepared to suspend your cynicism and embrace its elfin glory. File with your Espers, Nick Castro and Fern Knight CDs – it'll be easier to make those mix CDs for pagan holidays. (Tony Dale)




(Double CD on Deadslackstring Records)


    We have come to know Dave Colohan's "solo" concern Agitated Radio Pilot though a long and storied series of CD-R releases, some in quantities as low as 20 copies, so it's somewhat alarming (as in the best possible way - a call to arms) to be presented with a double production CD release, lovingly and probably painstakingly assembled over the course of several years. And it's a masterpiece that has rarely left my player since being issued in late 2007 – one of those releases that escapes the review pile and kicks down the door into your wider life, hence the tardiness of this review. The core of the record is Dave's sonorous vocals, introspective lyrics and adept song-craft, but it still feels like an ensemble piece. Members of live ARP incarnations are used, as well as an array of guests like Sharron Kraus, Richard Moult (Current 93), John Cavanagh (Phosphene), Allison O'Donnell (ex Mellow Candle), Maya Elliott (Current 93), Autumn Grieve, Richard Skelton and many more (the contributor list takes up a full densely-packed booklet page). So what could have been an indigestible 24 track "loner-folk" opus, is in reality a vast landscape, populated by crystalline acoustic ballads, skeletal instrumentals, field recordings and pure, dark ambience.


    'World Winding Down' is divided into two CDs, the first titled 'Numinous Blues' and the second titled 'Luminous Blues', though any conceptual difference between the two is difficult to discern – each mines Cohen-esque shafts of melancholy, on the way finding echoes of Christy Moore and Roy Harper (and in fact 'Harper's 'Another Day' is superbly covered on disc II). Each is an integrated set of 12 tracks that could have been a standalone release with no filler on either. Pieces are built around simple and effective acoustic guitar, piano, accordion to which are added various drones, arabesques and effects, providing subtle settings for Dave's words, which seem to spring from a collective romantic unconscious that has taken plenty of storm damage but is still willing to lie naked under the stars, quivering and vulnerable, hoping that next time things will work out. Let the epic 'Earthfasts' stand for the whole: a mini suite kicked off by an ambient instrumental that falls like fine not-quite-rain, giving way to mystical song scudding like cloud over secluded forest glades, while thunderheads of fuzz guitar gather on the horizon.  'World Winding Down' reveals itself gradually over many listens, and once in your collection is never likely to leave it. We have much to thank the Deserted Village collective for, and this stands alongside United Bible Studies' 'The Shore that Fears the Sea' as one of its greatest achievements.  (Tony Dale)




(CD/LP from Southern Records http://www.southern.net )


It’s hard to believe it’s as long ago as October 2006 that we first lauded the beguiling psychedelic folk outfit The Owl Service in the Terrascope’s reviews columns, a review published on the strength of their limited-edition hand-crafted debut CD ‘Wake the Vaulted Echo’ – an album recorded, as I recall, at Steven Collins’ Essex home with the (June) 2006 World Cup football serving as a backdrop. We were smitten then and smitten we are still by their fusing of traditional-sounding English folk ballads, seventies-sounding acid folk, latterday psychedelic rock, and gorgeous original instrumental compositions, bringing to mind as they did much-missed Woronzow-label recording bands of the 90s like the Flyte Reaction and Mick Wills, and claiming as influences such revered and diverse Terrascopic recording artists as Ben Chasny, Comus, Espers, Pentangle, Current 93 and the Trees.


    Since then a great deal of metaphorical water has passed under the bridge – a remix of the title track of that debut EP, a preview of ‘The North Country Maid’ plus an Owl Service collaboration with The Straw Bear Band all appeared on the 4CD set ‘John Barleycorn Reborn’; and the sublime ‘Cine’ release gained the band some much deserved attention - a three-inch CD featuring 3 songs from 3 films (‘Psychomania’, ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’ and ‘The Wicker Man’), it was painstakingly produced, mingling haunting female vocals with strings, bells and spoken word samples, with a snippet of original photography tucked into the tiny fold-up sleeve to add to the charm of the package. An intoxicating labour of love and just the sort of thing to tickle our glands here at Terrascope Towers. Watch out too for still yet to be released collaborations with Alison O’Donnell (former vocalist with Mellow Candle) on a 5 song EP entitled "The Fabric of Folk" to be released by Static Caravan this Summer, a mini-album for Oggum Records entitled ‘Midnight House’ containing experimental tracks inspired by WF Harvey’s collection of ghost stories; a lathe-cut vinyl release to herald the arrival of the Hobby-Horse Records Singles Club and the sequel to ‘Cine’, tentatively titeld "Il Horror de Owl Service".


    Meanwhile, here’s their debut album proper - it was for a while available as an internet download - aptly entitled ‘A Garland of Song’, as if to emphasise the traditional nature of the music therein. This is about as far as you can get though from bland revivalist repetitions of misunderstood hand-me-downs performed by bearded women in scratchy woollens; neither is it plain acoustic music with no real connection to traditional folk song, as so much of what passes for “folk” music today often is. This is real, visceral, dynamic music of the people; reinterpretations of songs of love, loss, ecstasy, jealousy, lies, theft, joy, obsession and deception – all themes which are as valid today as ever they were. ‘The North Country Maid’ who lost her job tending cows in the parlour after falling foul of her master’s sexual advances is essentially the same girl who today gets fired from the call centre after punching her line-manager’s lights out. ‘The Dorset Hanging Oak’ becomes the centrepiece of a nimby dispute over the building of a superstore, and ‘Corn Dollies’ are replaced in their symbolism by little yellow fir trees hanging from the window of an MPV on the school run.


    Not that the Owl Service sing any of this nonsense, I hasten to add; I use it only for illustrative purposes. Rather, they wisely stick to time-worn themes and lyrics, but nevertheless Steven manages to get under the skin of his chosen songs, celebrating both the tradition and heritage whilst at the same time ensuring the music evolves and essentially lives -  ‘Flanders Shore’, which closes the album, is a particularly fine example of this. The brilliant ‘Katie Cruel’ and 'Child Ballad #219' (both highlights of the album for me), ‘The Lammas’ (featuring hesitant strings and rattled bells interspersed with Lightning-Bolt-eqsue electric guitar strikes) and ‘Hoodening’ – examples of the short, bridging instrumentals which were such an outstanding facet of the ‘Vaulted Echo’ release - this is an exquisite album throughout, and one which fully deserves your attention.


    My Southern Records promo CD is short on information (and lacks a sleeve), but apparently the album looks as good as it sounds, and is also available on vinyl. You know what to do. (Phil McMullen)




(CDR from At War With False Noise Records

  www.atwarwithfalsenoise.com )


It’s not too often that, in my travels, I encounter a full-tilt, inject-the-formaldehyde-into-my-veins power electronics outfit that references the black arts. Step forward Panther Modern, an American three-piece masterminded by a certain Brian Zimmerman (21°) who christened (ha!) their debut recording after the U.S. witchcraft trials of 1692 (a “paradigm case of witch hysteria” – the accused were pardoned in 2002) and states that the three tracks correspond with ceremonies employed in the practice of satanic magic(k), each matching a basic human emotion.


This release began life as a demo and was sent to Alastair Mabon’s ‘At War…’ label, who was so bowled over by it that he released the thing pretty much on the spot. The trio’s battery of noise generators, loops and unstable electronic elements is constantly underpinned by the deafening rumble of ersatz jet engine roar over which is spread a stifling machine hum, squirming feedback detritus and, on track two, a scattering of raving / drooling voice samples.


A viscous gunge that could be tagged as the obverse to Whitehouse’s early torturing of the humble Wasp synth, or perhaps a cowl-wearing alternative to Carlos Giffoni’s Old Bombs project, Panther Modern deliver an undoubtedly colossal and bruising salvo of hurt.


As usual with ‘At War…’ produce, the artwork and packaging is something to behold. In this particular case, a silver on black illustration of the Lovecraftian god Cthulhu is summoned forth by visionary artist and chaos magician Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956). (Steve Pescott)