= April 2015 =  
Glenn Phillips
Sharron Kraus
White Hills
Palace of Swords
Paul Roland
the Moon Band


(2xLP on Shagrat/Feeding Tube/Snowstar Records)

Glenn Phillips is arguably the greatest guitarist you’ve never heard of – and the only argument in that statement is over whether or not you’ve heard of him. Draw a line between the nimble dexterity of a John McLaughlin and the soulfulness of a Richard Thompson and somewhere down the track you’ll find Glenn Phillips, stopping off at stations named “heartfelt” and “ferocious” along the way.

So runs the opening paragraph of the sleevenotes of this gorgeously produced and presented 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition double LP reissue of Glenn Phillips’ 1975 LP ‘Lost at Sea’. Given that I have the honour of having been asked to write the notes, I repeat them word for word here without apology. Credit for the fact that this reissue exists at all must go to Nigel Cross, who coordinated the project, and to Tony Poole who remastered it – but at the end of the day, what really matters is the music, and in ‘Lost at Sea’ Glenn Phillips gave us an album which remains “a fascinating album of solid rock riffs and tantalising melodies which, whilst obviously a product of its time, stands up pretty well to this day and well deserves the accolades afforded to it by the Melody Maker readers of the period” [MM readers voted ‘Lost at Sea’ into second place in the import albums of the year back in 1975]

I was obviously on fire when I wrote those sleeve notes as I can’t think of a better way of paraphrasing now, almost a year later. What’s of particular interest will be of course the second LP of previously unreleased songs which, together with a new introduction and contemporary photos from Glenn himself, turns this album from the merely extraordinary into the truly deluxe.

Side One of LP2 consists of four tracks recorded in July 1974 which predate the album itself. ‘Lenore’ (one of my favourites on the origonal LP) and ‘Dogs’ were re-recorded later for the album itself, and two more, ‘Second Time Around’ and the gorgeous ‘Veronica Lake’ which, with its sweeping, epic, wash of echoing guitar, sounds for all the world like a soundtrack to an unmade film noir, have never before been released. Side Two (or side four if you want to be picky) consists of four live performances by the band from February 1976. Acoustic guitarist Bill Rea plays bass for these shows (although he had yet to switch to the fretless bass sound which became such a feature of later albums), and again two of the songs will be recognisable to fans: ‘Creeper’ and ‘Sex is so Strange’ were both to be featured on the follow-up album ‘Swim in the Wind’. The band obviously had a much more jam-oriented approach to live performances which isn’t really hinted at on the LPs, and the two unreleased numbers here amply demonstrate their on-stage empathy, both ‘The Howards’ (which harks back to the days of Glenn’s former band the Hampton Grease Band, to these ears at least) and ‘Brookhaven’ leaving one slack-jawed at the sheer virtuosity.

There’s no hiding the fact that I’m a huge fan of Glenn Phillips. Here at last though is a collection which genuinely does credt to both the genius and the geniality of the man.

(Phil McMullen)


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

Whilst living in Mid Wales Sharron Kraus became very interested in the culture and legends of the area including the tales and characters of The Mabinogion, a collection of stories divided into four branches and three romances. These tales became the inspiration for this album, a beautiful collection that concentrates on the characters within the stories, the songs also containing personal memories, or so it seems.

    Opening track “My Friend's Enemies” features rippling Harp courtesy of Harriet Earis, as well as recorder and percussion all of them augmenting Sharron's sweetly played guitar and delightful voice, the tune leading you over rolling hills as you step into the stories. Always carefully constructed, each song marries instrumentation and words, blending them together and weaving them into the melody to great effect as  found  within “The Hunter” a tune that glistens with mystery and quiet splendour.

    Equally gorgeous “Branwen” features a beautiful vocal performance, the harp again adding enchantment to the tune, whilst on “The Birds of Rhiannon” Nancy Wallace joins Sharron, their voices working wonderfully together creating on of my favourite moments on the collection and ending side one in a delicate way that is almost meditation.

    Having stayed with Sharron several times whilst she lived in Wales “In A Quiet Place” seems to have a very personal feel, reflecting some of her own feelings whilst living there, whilst “Farewell” seems to conjure the landscape perfectly and sums up the feeling of leaving that magical place and all that it came to represent.

   To End the album, “Stranger in Your Land” is another personal take on the legends, a droning organ speaking of nostalgia and memory, whilst Nick Palmer adds twinkling Piano notes that soften the sadness.

  Whilst the album features an array of instruments that add depth and texture to the songs, at its heart lies the unique and beautiful voice and songwriting of Sharron Kraus, this collection being, quite possibly, her finest to date, each song shining like sunlight on a distant mountain top, timeless and captivating. (Simon Lewis)    




(LP/CD from Thrill Jockey http://thrilljockey.com)

Recorded at the back end of 2014 at David Wrench’s studio at Bryn Derwen in wilds of Bethesda, North Wales this can’t be what folks mean by getting it together in the country. No banjo, acoustic guitar and no creaking porch board within earshot. The opposite in fact, as White Hills embrace electro-synth-rock in a manner that they have only hinted at on previous releases.

OK let’s all be clear on one point here. White Hills have not, for a long while, been so firmly welded to the Hawkwind hard-drive as some commentators would have you believe and have long since charted more sonically adventurous time and space. Even so, the extent to which Dave W and Ego Sensation have delivered this their most diverse offering in terms of both style and substance to date is quite astonishing. Sure their sound is still as anchored in simple and effective repetition as it ever was but their approach seems fresher, more focussed and more challenging. It’s difficult to imagine producer Wrench, with his synth-pop credentials not having some influence over this direction of travel.

So what’s in the bag? Well there’s the glam-industrial infused “No Will” with its descending riff and the post-punk futurism of “SD or USB” for starters. In fact it isn’t until the strutting “Wanderlust” (Magazine meets “Let’s Dance” Bowie) that we hear first real evidence of Dave W’s amazing squalls of corrosive guitar, which makes it all the more gob-smacking when we do. It all softens us for the panoramic “Lead the Way”, six minutes of measured combustion complete with siren guitar that makes you want to stand atop a mountain with arms outstretched to pay last respects to the dying sun.

Add to all of this the Harmonia-style hypnosis of “I Nomad” and the anthemic bombast of “We Know What You Are” (Dave giving vent to his inner Alice Cooper) and you have a solid midsection shot through with diversity complete with a capital D. “Automated City” could be a Death in Vegas mash up with Sisters of Mercy on the set of The Matrix, while the call and response of the outstanding (and surely single material) “This Life’s Upon You” and techno-funk of the title track means there’s no let up in either the cyber-intensity or quality of material. No filler, no sir.

OK, I freely admit this took more than one listen for me to get it totally but when all’s said and done the love affair continues unabated. “Walks for Motorists” is White Hills’ most ambitious offering yet and testimony to the audacious spirit befitting a band of restless voyagers. It also has the makings of their most commercially accessible outing to date. As such if they don’t receive the mainstream exposure they so richly deserves then it will prove above all else that life is without justice and is, indeed, a bitch.

(Ian Fraser)




(7” + CD http://www.reverbworship.com/index.html

Featuring a white vinyl single containing two tracks plus a CD which also features the tracks on the single, one in extended form, as well as three extra tracks, this is a delightful package that is filled with sweet electronic ambience and some darker moments.

   Sounding not unlike Klaus Schulze, “Echoes From A Distant Star” has a chiming sequence at its heart, the relaxing vibe allowing you to drift off into you imagination. Equally charming, “Ringstone Round” has a slightly creepy atmosphere, the sequence joined by rising chords and vocal samples reminding me of Tuung in their early days, the tune hypnotic and engaging.

   Sounding like a completely different band the Midwich Youth Club mix of “We Are The New Hyperboreans” remains electronic yet has a rockier feel, prominent drums and pulses making sure the rhythmic elements stay at the forefront of the tune whilst synths swirl behind. Towards the end everything quietens down for a effect laden slide into nothing. Keeping with this style “Aesthetes Cured” is another upbeat tune that uses slowly changing layers of electronics to create a driving and hypnotic piece of music that remind me both of Yello and Appliance.

    Ending in a sombre and haunting mood, “Live At The Aberdeen Witch Trials 1597” is an unsettling sound collage that makes excellent use of vocal samples blending them with drifting sequences and droning electronics to create a track that is loaded with atmosphere drawing the listener into the tale.

    Beautifully produced from start to finish this collection is over far too quickly, a quick check on the website tells me that it has already sold out as it was limited to only 100 copies. Worth tracking down if you can. (Simon Lewis)




Hedersleben are a psych Krautrock outfit consisting of Kephera Moon - keyboards, vocals (Dragontime, Brainticket), Bryce Shelton - Bass and vocals (Hollow mirrors, Brainticket), Nicky Garratt - Guitar (UK Subs), Jason Willer - Drums/Percussion (UK Subs) all having recorded and toured with Nik Turner both as support and performing as part of Nik Turner's Hawkwind. Added to this highly credible line up we also have Kati Knox on vocals.

'Zu den neuen welten' starts out with synth chirps and bleeps to which is added some delightfully Ray Manzarek style Hammond keyboard playing. The track gently evolves with the addition of percussion, the energy rising further as heavily fuzzed guitar joins the party. This is a genuinely excellent track and the CD is worth the purchase price for this track alone; 'On the ground (safe and sound)' starts out gentle before evolving into a pulsing rhythmic powerhouse of a track with more of that heavily distorted guitar; 'Nomad world (dreamstate)' gives us a moment to pause with a mellow synth laden track to which Kati Knox's vocals add a mystical quality'; 'Xo5B' takes the mood of the album into an even more relaxed phase before gradually building in complexity and tempo with some sublime keyboard work; 'Tiny flowers / Little moon' is a delightfully psych track that is beautifully gentle and at the same time powerful. It starts out with an excellent bass riff and percussion before Kati's vocals are introduced into the mix, bringing the CD to a perfect close.

Whilst all the tracks on this album stand out on their own, it is best enjoyed in one sitting. The tracks complement each other as they flow from one to the next. Clearly a great deal of thought has been put into the order in which they are placed on the CD. The song writing, recording and mixing are top notch throughout.

If you enjoy the atmosphere of 60s psych, with some early Floyd percussion and Doorsesque keyboard work, brought right up to date with modern synth playing and song writing then this album is likely to bring you a great deal of pleasure. Certainly for me it pushed all the right buttons and comes highly recommended. (Steve Judd)



(CD from http://www.paulroland.de/)

Late in 2012 Paul Roland put together a band for a series of gigs in 2013, for various reasons these gigs never happened. However the band, featuring Mick Crossley on Guitar , had so much fun rehearsing they went into the studio to lay down tracks for radio play. These tracks now see the light of day on this compilation of rarities and unreleased music, the first in a proposed series. Taking up the first ten tracks on the disc, it is obvious that there was an electric energy in the band, the versions on display sounding radically different from the original recording with “Re-animator” reborn as a psych rock classic, complete with dervish violin from Veronique Rocka, whilst the twin guitar attack of Paul and Mick give the tune plenty of drive. Equally lively “The Crimes Of Dr Cream” maintains the energy levels making you reach for the volume knob and turning it way up. Mellower in nature “Cairo” has an Eastern sheen and more excellent violin work, whilst “I Was A Teenage Zombie” is another full-on rocker with fine guitar work and solid beat thanks to Joshua Roland (bass) and Patryk Korzybski (Drums), the lyrics tongue in cheek and guaranteed to make you smile. Across the ten tracks the band are obviously having a good time, a lysergic sheen hovering over the tracks with plenty of variation to boot, with highlight including and excellent version of “Aleister Crowley” and the heavy guitar assault of “Tortured by the Daughter of Fu Manchu”

   To be fair those ten tracks would have made a great album in themselves, however there are another nine tracks to enjoy kicking over with an amazing freakbeat version of “Meadows of the Sea” (Marc Bolan), that is awash with wah guitar and gets you rockin' around the living room. Following on is an acoustic version of “I'm Not Like Everybody Else” (Ray Davies) that contains the anger and snarl of the original despite its acoustic treatment, the song complete with a violin solo from Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan). Elsewhere, “Fairies” is a sweet acoustic strum, whilst “Kali” is an atmospheric track that takes you deep into the temple led by a simple repeated drone of notes. 

   As with all Paul Roland's songs the lyrics deal with gothic horror themes, the darker side of the human mind told with humour and understanding, Victoriana meeting Steampunk, each tune a tiny story to be savoured.

   Fans of Mr Roland's work will definitely want to add this collection to theirs. If you are new to his world then this is an excellent stepping stone without a duff track to be found. (Simon Lewis)



(CD available on Wisdom Twins)

Following a very promising single ‘Cedar People’ c/w ‘My Home’ (both of which are included here in case you missed them), the Canadian folk duo Nicholas Tomlinson and Reneé Forester deliver their debut album on Chris Wade (Dodson & Fogg)’s imprint. An intoxicating mix of bouzouki, sitar, recorder, autoharp, and acoustic guitars ticks all the right “acid folk” boxes, but there is also a pleasant country vibe to several tracks that should please both camps. Forrester’s soaring soprano shines on delicate ballads like ‘Silver and Gold’, but there’s something aloof about the production that feels like the tracks were recorded live in the front room instead of a proper studio. There’s a faraway ambience that distances the listener from what should be more intimate acoustics based on the tender material. It doesn’t totally ruin the experience, but it does feel like you’re on the other side of the field where the album was recorded – like attending a festival where you couldn’t worm your way up the front row. The lo-fi production distracts more than instilling an intimate relationship between audience and performer.

            But setting these minor reservations aside, there is a happy, clappy, singalong atmosphere to the rather medieval ‘Fortunes Way’ that will make Renbourn fans feel right at home, and ‘Cedar People’ floats heavenward on the crest of Forrester’s omnipresent recorder and the couple’s perfect harmonies. Tomlinson’s sitar solo also warrants special recognition. ‘In My Clothes’ verges on a religious experience, as Forrester’s angelic vocals (amongst her best) and recorder flourishes serpentine around Tomlinson’s intricate sitar to provide one of the finest acid folk/psych collaborations this side of Terrascope favourites, Fit & Limo (whatever happened to them?) Wade has given us indelible collabs with Allison O’Donnell and Celia Humphris on his own albums and the vibe on several tracks here revisits those wonderfully warm and fuzzy atmospherics, with the haunting, sitar-driven ‘Of The North’ another top-notch offering.

            With better production, this would be one of my favourite releases so far this year, as it’s clear that talent oozes out of every groove of this welcome addition to your folk/psych library. (Jeff Penczak)