= April 2017 =  
Hills
Gnod
Gnooms
Flowers Must Die
Derroll Adams
Pontiak
Earthling Society
Pandora
White Hills
Brinsley Schwarz
Insektlife Cycle
Jon Brookes
The Breretons
The Wellgreen
Sugarbush comp.
Phantom Dog Beneath the Moon
A Lilac Decline
 
 
 
 
 

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HILLS – ALIVE AT ROADBURN
GNOD – JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIALIST DEATH MACHINE
GNOOMES –TSCHAK!
FLOWERS MUST DIE – KOMPOST
(Various formats from Rocket Recordings )

It’s a bumper crop from the prolific Rocket Recordings stable this month not to mention a typically pan-European one.

If the idea of Swedes doing it to you at Holland’s premier psych/metal noise fest is your thing then thrill to Hills, Alive At Roadburn, Tilburg’s prestigiously loud and hairy annual April gathering. Here features four typically extended tracks, each one better than the one before. In fact ‘National Drone’, which draws on the impressive legacy of Parson Sound/Träd, Gräs och Stenar, mixing traditional folk and more exotic eastern phrasings into a gloopy jam, is probably the least interesting to the word processing listener, much less so one suspects than had you been fortunate enough to have been there. ‘Frigorande Music’ is in large part a more percussive and up-tempo take on ‘National Drone’, suggesting Goat-style wild abandon and, as it builds layer on layer, stands favourable comparison with the mighty White Manna. Now you start to get it.

Terrascope readers will in all likelihood be familiar with the band’s meisterwerk ‘Master Sleeps’ and may therefore be gratified to learn that the title track features here. And how glorious it is, too. Indelibly redolent of our old favourites Man interpreting Can this could be a sprightly take on the latter’s magnificent ‘Saturday Night’, precise, rhythmic drumming and bent guitar notes, while even the sparse vocals seem to sound somewhere mid-ether between Mooney and Suzuki. It’s a mesmerising 14 or so minutes which get the feet tapping and those shoulders shuffling (so please excuse any typographical errors that might have escaped unnoticed). It’s hard to imagine things getting better but it does. ‘Och Solen Sankte Sig Rod’ initially slows things down a beat or two to mean and moody but which ultimately yields a searing classic straight out of the top drawer. The transcendental groove sustained over almost a quarter of an hour is immaculate and will transport those listeners of a certain vintage back to a time and space which if they’ve not forgotten about may be forgiven for thinking they’d never make it back to. They were meant to play six songs but ran out of time. Only the most churlish and undeservedly entitled are likely to complain, though. The rest of us should be more than thankful for what we have received.

Mention of Roadburn brings us nicely on to Gnod who are this year’s festival artists in residence. With a strikingly simple cover straight out of the Anarcho-Syndicalist page of the Dulux catalogue and a title that’ll hardly with them the Bob Dylan Award for Opaque Imagery their call to arms gets underway with a blast of feedback and the bile spitting, bludgeon riffola of ‘Bodies For Money’. Imagine had Hawkwind been spawned by punks not hippies and you’d be close. As underbellies go this one’s in need of a torch and some good batteries. Woozy Gregorian-style chanting and pattern drumming ushers in ‘People’ (that one word is about the extent of the decipherable lyrical content) which continues in this tightly locked furrow while the bass and guitar serve as mesmerising counterpoints drawing you ever further in. A brief respite and then it’s back down a particularly dark, steep rabbit hole to a nightmare netherworld. A good job Lewis Carroll never got hold of any of this stuff.

‘Paper Error’ epitomises Rocket’s more cacophonous proclivities (this could be Pigs x 7), combining the anger of Black Flag and the primal metal of Black Sabbath. Somehow I don’t think we’re in Pepperland anymore. “You see that man over there? He’s been hanging around for years”. That’s ‘Real Man’. A more angular but hardly less intense offering with machine gun drumming, jagged guitar and scrambled static background “vocals” all adding to the uneasy listening experience. Not Real Mantovani, then, not by any means, but delve beyond the brutalism and it really is clever stuff indeed.  However, it’s ‘Stick In The Wheel’ (“don’t want to be a stick in the wheel, don’t want to be a cog in the machine”) which might reasonably lay claim to being the best thing here – insistent beats, sharp changes of tempos and time signatures although mercifully the result is more PiL than Prog. This one has it all.

Lyrically the album probably fails to deliver on the promise of the album title, being more about disaffection than revolution. Musically that doesn’t matter one jot.  Note for note this is probably their strongest collection of compositions since Chaudelande. Of course, it’s live where Gnod really excel as those clever folks at Roadburn have twigged as have us more simple folk at Terrascope who are pleased to share in the promotion credits for their Cardiff gig on 8th June, the culmination (at the time of writing) of a lengthy and hopefully triumphant tour.

Tschak! is Gnoomes’ second long format outing on Rocket and one we are sure the  label must be very excited about given the enthusiastic press that this Russian three-piece has already attracted during their fledgling career. It’s a rainbow alliance of gorgeous melodies, shimmering soundscapes and technophile, synth heavy motorik beats there’s something quaintly turn-of-the-80s about this as your scribe dredges up memories of Foxx-era Ultravox and early pre-hitsville Human League but with a thoroughly modern stamp. The frenetic ‘Cascais’ is a fine case in point, exhibiting an at once abrasive and ambient aesthetic, while the effervescent ‘Severokamsk’ evokes a sparkly-topped Neu fronted by a liberally refreshed Morten Harket. Psychedelia for the cybernetic age and one which is destined for wider appeal.

Last but most certainly not least, Flowers Must Die are the latest Swedish recruits to the Rocket label, following the path beaten Goat, Hills and Josefin Ohrn and the Liberation. They have a lot to live up to, then, not that anyone who will have heard them – and they have been long championed by Terrascope – will have any doubts as to their ability to step up to the launch pad. They were one of the very few bands for whom your reviewer found it necessary to witness the entire set at last year’s Psych Fest. Not only that but they managed the all too rare feat of impressing Mrs Reviewer. Audiences don’t come tougher than that, believe me.

Channelling the spirit of their Scandinavian forbearers (by which we mean the likes of Träd, Gräs och Stenar, not the pillaging Viking) and with healthy Hawkwind, Gong and Kosmische influences in the base sauce, the recently expanded six-piece turn in what to the uninitiated might seems like a surprisingly deft and diverse repertoire that avoids the psych-by-numbers often prevalent in the current scene. ‘Hit’ is but one example of a marvellous distillation of their various influences all wrapped up in a danceable format which marries improvisation, repetition and more than a hint of skilful song-craft amidst a sonic dust storm. ‘After Gong’ meanwhile melds Can-style repetition with free-jazz and a Funkadelic groove that also draws from an impressively wide-range of aural stimuli and which make for surprisingly mellifluous bedfellows.

  Indeed this is an album of seemingly conflicting styles and genres that manage to complement each other far better than they ought to. ‘Why?’ is replete with sensuous vibes stuffed into a hypnotic groove, before ‘Hej Då’ hurtles into deep space on a molten rock at intense velocity. Lisa Eklund’s repeated vocal refrains on the soulful “Don’t You Leave Me Baby” could hardly be in sharper contrast, while the almost Latino, Santana-like accompanying rhythm defies even the most static human objects not to at least twitch sympathetically. For sheer skill, variation and audacious sequencing then, gun to head moment, if you only buy one of these Rocket albums this month make it this one. It’s out on 28th April - just two days after they play London’s Shacklewell Arms under the Terrascope banner (not that we're excited about that, or anything). There again it’s now April, so you may not need to spend money on heating the house until October. In which case get the rest of them too. (Ian Fraser  )

 


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DERROLL ADAMS - FEELIN' FINE
(CD/DL https://ghostsfromthebasement.bandcamp.com/)

Born in the 30's, Derroll Adams grew up listening to early country music. In the fifties he wrote the classic tune “Portland Town”, travelled the West Coast and rubbed shoulders with Pete Seeger, Odetta, Woody Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack Elliott with whom he travelled to Europe in 1957. Embraced by The UK and Europe, he appeared in “Don't Look Back” and eventually cut this 'ere record for the English label Village Thing.

    Labelled with the term “Zen Banjo”, the first thing that strikes those of a Terrascopic persuasion is how much this album sounds like Timothy Renner and his work as Stone Breath, a rich sonorous voice and an old time Banjo style blending into something magical, elevating the collection into a thing of stark beauty, alive with emotion and history.

    The album opens in strong style as “Darling Cory” hooks you in immediately, the banjo augmented by some fine guitar courtesy of Wizz Jones and Roland Van Camperhout, the tune a classic folk/Americana tune with death as its subject. Even more evocative is the beautiful “Apprenticed in London”, two voices blending over some fine picking, the wistful “Freight Train Blues” following on and sounding like the epitome of this genre, trains, heartache, a lonesome banjo and a nostalgic voice rich with life and emotion.

    Over twelve songs the album rarely falters with highlights including wonderful versions of “Wildwood Flower”, Muleskinner Blues” and “Blue Ridge Mountains” all hitting the spot, whilst the original tunes including “Love Song” and “Chattering Jaw” holding their own with every song featuring some excellent playing and sensitive arrangements.

   As a bonus the CD also includes six tracks from “Along the Way” the follow up album recorded in Belgium. With the same sort of atmosphere the tracks fit in perfectly including “Mountain” a song adapted by Donovan to great effect.

   Timeless and haunting I feel I am gonna be loving this album for a long time. (Simon Lewis)

 

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PONTIAK – DIALECTIC OF IGNORANCE (LP/CD/Download from Thrill Jockey )

Virginia’s Carney brothers (Jennings, Lain and Van) have long held a place in Terrascope’s affections, and gave us one of our more entertaining not to mention strangest interviews a few years back in the relaxed environs of an hotel in Birmingham after a storming gig with White Hills. Their mix of inventive, dreamy not-quite-psych and pugnacious riffing invariably makes for interesting and surprisingly varied listening whether in their own right – Comecrudos and Echo One to name but two at opposite ends of the spectrum – or in cahoots such as the Kale album with Arbouretum and Heat Leisure pairings with members of Beach House and Guardian Alien.

The apposite and timely titled Dialectic of Ignorance is what we in the 51st state might terms a belter. The Smiths meet Verve of ‘Easy Does It’ succeeds in taking us where neither band has gone before and is immediately trumped (doh!) by the dub-infused ‘Ignorance Makes Me High’, the typically languid vocals underpinned by an echoing rhythm section and deft Joe Walsh style soloing. ‘Tomorrow Is Soon Forgotten’, also chucks in some cavernous Bonham style drumming, the beat fractionally out of synch with the rhythm which works to great effect throughout and lends a somewhat serrated edge to the listening experience.

‘Hidden Prettiness’ is just that. It almost succeeds in hiding its subtle aesthetic appeal. A repeat rat-tat-tat refrain slips into a Floydian slow pacer as interpreted by Midlake in one of their more inspired moments. ‘Youth And Age’ positively canters by comparison while still betraying the same influences. You’ve got to love a track called ‘Dirtbags’, propelled as it is by perambulating percussion, while an unremittingly rocksteady bass underscores a baby wailing enhanced fret mangling. ‘Herb Is My Neighbour’ you sense has less to do with someone named Herbert and has more in common with a favourite means of relaxing, such is the stoner vibe over which the rarefied harmonies are overlaid. It docks with the sonic squall of ‘We’ve Fucked This Up’, a toe-tapper, hand clapper and head shaker that even those of us with questionable three way co-ordination have little difficulty in resisting (mastering may be another issue). Such is the album’s elegant, relaxed vibe though that even this one soars rather than sears. Fuck it up? They probably couldn’t even if they tried.
(Ian Fraser)

 


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EARTHLING SOCIETY - ZEN BASTARD
LP/CD from Drone Rock records

Earthling Society have been producing fine albums of noisy Space-Rock since their inception in 2005. On this one they seem to have found another level of manic energy and rocket fuel, something very evident on the title track which begins with a droning Mellotron/percussion dance before exploding out of the speaker with a bulldozer of a riff that will knock you sideways, the guitar glittering with shards of synths/noise that are embedded within, drums and bass locking into the groove tighter than a camel in the eye of a needle. Through this haze the vocals are screamed and wailed, the whole thing sounding like sixties Floyd being channelled by Mudhoney, which is definitely a good thing in my book.

     Continuing this mighty Psychedelic sound, “OutsideOfInTime” is lost in fuzz and distortion, a hypnotic riff spinning you round the universe as the guitar aims for your third eye and gets there. Basically one long jam, the track is a world of wonder and the dub fuelled later section is definitely an out there moment, Lee Perry meeting Ash Ra on another planet entirely.

   At almost 20 minutes, “The Kosmic Suite” has plenty of time to play with your mind and uses it, a drifting Kraut Rock beginning encouraging you to settle down with a herbal ciggy and a joss stick letting your cares go up in smoke as the music washes over you. Once you are settled in, a chugging guitar fires up the engines and a warm lyrical bass line leads you through the stars as the guitar throws shapes all around, fans of “Warrior at the Edge of Time” should definitely sign up for the trip. As the track moves on there is a mix of quiet and loud, the musicians giving it their all before it all fades in a twinkle of synths and happiness, Space Rock perfection to these ears.

    Finally for the vinyl version, there is a longer version of the title track which, at double the length, allows the band to make even more psychedelic mischief, creating the version of choice for those of you with 15 minutes to spare.

     Also available on the CD and DL is “Mountain King Blues”, an Eastern sounding track that maintains the standard set by the previous tunes, whilst bringing some variation to the collection, another gem worth seeking out from a band at the top of their game. (Simon Lewis)
 

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PANDORA - TEN YEARS LIKE IN A MAGIC DREAM
(CD from PandoraMusic)

Hailing from Italy, quite possibly the spiritual home of Progressive Rock, Pandora re-create the seventies version of the genre with loving detail and warm and obvious fondness for the music of the time. Split into three sections this album contains music recorded over the last few years and also includes four covers in the final segment, more of which later.

    Opening section “Fragments of the Present” includes four long pieces, the first of which is “Always and Everywhere”, the song opening with some soaring keyboards that reminds me of early Marillion, the piece then breaking into a moodier slower section that slowly builds in atmosphere, piano and synths intertwining with melody and beauty before the guitars become heavier and the track starts to rock out a bit more. Purely instrumental, the track has plenty of prog twists and turns to keep you interested. Maintaining the same feel, with the piano again adding a gentle touch, “The Way You Are” adds some vocals to the mix, the sound of an Italian accent singing English lyrics something that seems a trademark of the genre, the music echoing the lyrics as the song moves on, the heavy guitar riffs tempered by melodic keyboards and a solid rhythm section keeping things flowing along nicely, the playing tight and intricate when needed, yet free flowing enough to get your head nodding as it moves into seventies hard rock pastures, shades of Deep Purple meets Uriah Heep on a good day.

 Entitled “Turin 03.02.1974”, the third track is an homage to a Genesis gig, the music occasionally breaking into that bands riffs, and their titles scattered throughout the lyrics, for me one of the album's best moments, the track shines with love and wonder and I guess we all have gig memories like that, the sing-a-long choruses only adding to the piece allowing you to share the joy. Finally for the first section, “A Drunken Poet's Drama” returns to the heavier sound and reminds me of Clear Blue Sky or, bizarrely, early Magnum a quieter, piano dominated middle section even evoking thoughts of “Zaragon” era John Miles.

    Moving on, section two “Temporal Transition” contains just one ten minute instrumental, the delightful ebb and flow of Passagio Di Stagioni” another highlight as it flows sweetly along, washes of keyboards opening vast expanses of sound, a softly spoken word section making way for acoustic guitars and more gentle melodic splendour, the whole reminiscent of the proggier moments from The Smell Of Incense. 

   Finally we reach the third section containing four covers, “Second Home By The Sea” - Genesis, “Man Of A Thousand Faces” - Marillion, “Ritual Pt 2” - Yes, and “Lucky Man” - ELP. And here is the problem, these tracks all sound fine and are obviously a labour of love, a tribute to the musician's influences but they seem to distract from the rest of the album, the original tracks working together beautifully as the band's own work, slightly tarnished by the inclusion of the covers. I reckon they would have been better served releasing them as a separate entity, creating a shorter and more focused album. That said, there is much to enjoy here if you are a fan of the genre and this album is something of a grower, getting better each time it is played and I have played the original songs a lot recently. (Simon Lewis)

 

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WHITE HILLS – STOP MUTE DEFEAT
(LP/CD/Download from Thrill Jockey )

This is turning out to be something of a purple patch for Thrill Jockey what with releases by Arbouretum, Pontiak and now another of their first division acts White Hills. Dave W and Ego Sensation’s latest (by now umpteenth) offering will have been as eagerly awaited as ever, although one suspects with a little more nervousness following 2015’s Walks For Motorists. In many respects their most ambitious and challenging listen, Walks split a listenership more used to their trademark molten space rock, from which they have in fact been gradually evolving over successive albums.

‘Overlord’ starts all space drips and route-one drumming before Dave announces his intent to “serenade with a grenade”. It’s a tautly atmospheric opening gambit that bestrides the old and new White Hills whereby the industrial psych of Hp1 meets the cyber glam of Walks. The Hills have never wasted many notes, their subtly different tonal variations on time worn repetition have carried them thus far and it seems senseless to deviate too far from the template. Yet at the same time this sounds refreshingly new not to mention bold and rebellious. “Defy the law” intones the man. Civil disobedience, eh. Good solid citizen in my book. Good solid binary rhythm, too.

For ‘A Trick Of The Mind’ a Keep On Running style intro gives vent to the inner Kosmiche, or how Hawkwind might have sounded had they taken a left turn under Nik Turner tutelage. The techno-dystopia of ‘Importance 101’ provides Ego’s first significant vocal here before more primal tub thumping ushers in ‘Attack Mode’, a hectoring, rhythm-heavy barrage which never strays far from its narrow, relentless groove.  ‘If...1…2’ is all crackle and fizz and works well, especially at volume, as it’s overlaid with more hypnotic beats and a nagging sense of deep space turbulence and looming disaster, which for some reason evokes Throbbing Gristle. Both ‘Sugar Hill’ and ‘Entertainer’ pack loads of cloying atmosphere, by which time it’s abundantly clear that extended, pyrotechnic guitar solos are on strict ration. As is often the case, though, it takes a title track to define an album and as with Walks it takes the form of a danceableclub mixmash-up of David Bowie and Talking Heads.

It’s debateable just how far Stop Mute Defeat will reassure some of those who may have felt White Hills lost their way a bit last time around and who yearn for nothing more (or less) than a rehash of Heads On Fire. It’s safe to say it’ll go a lot further in satisfying those of us who quite relish the prospect of favourite bands wondering what happens when they probe the infinite potential of hitherto unexplored territory. In my book that makes for a good result.
(Ian Fraser)

 

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BRINSLEY SCHWARTZ  - IT'S ALL OVER NOW
INSEKTLIFE CYCLE - VIVID DREAMS PARADE
(Both albums from the megadodo label )

The history of the Brinsleys is one of ups and downs, with one particular epic promotional jaunt to America to play in New York ending in disaster.  It’s a bit too convoluted to go into here, but I’m sure most Terrascope readers will be familiar with it already. This then is their unreleased sixth album, one that was recorded as the band was breaking up, all going separate ways, either solo or to other bands like Rockpile and Graham Parker And The Rumour. The tapes of which have been recently recovered, by guitarist  Ian Gomm, being rescued from Rockfield studio in Wales, where they were due to be skipped, upon pending refurbishments.
     Recorded (again at Rockfield) in the autumn of 1974 and produced by Steve Veroca, in a bid to make a record that would appeal to the American audience. Things kick off with “We Can Mess Around”, a jaunty organ led rocker, the keyboards played throughout by Bob Andrews, with lead vocals by Nick Lowe, whose “Cruel To Be Kind”, follows, a pretty fine version of this old perennial, which was a hit for Nick later on that decade.  “As Lovers Do” is a mid paced, fifties- echoing, pop song, again sung by Nick, big tremolo guitar and light syncopation decorate this one.  “I’ll Take Care Of You” is a pretty standard ballad, “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)” is soufflé light, harking back to the early sixties and has some fine Beach Boys style harmonies going on.  “Do The Cod” is the near instrumental that takes us to the end of side one, adorned with plenty of surftastic moserite guitar and Wurlitzer.
    “God Bless (Whoever Made You)”, a mid paced piano led ballad, not a million miles away from some of the stuff put out by Clover.  “Everybody”, ups the pace a little bit and is a tad retro, even for them, accompanied by a boisterous chorus, that is redeemed by some fine sax.  “Private Number” (yes that one) is a paired back version, given the Motown treatment with loads of organ, very nice. “Give Me Back My Love” and we are back to the late fifties and is kind of like an alternative “Twist And Shout” paired with “Nowhere To Run To”, some nice lead guitar toward the end. The final song  is the Stone’s “It’s All Over Now” but with a bit of reggae, which sounds a lot like the Brinsley’s aping Mick, backed by the I Three’s.

    Hailing from the Phillipines, Insektlife Cycle coalesced in 2013 from the metal scene in Manila. These four guys demonstrate some fine chops over the course of an hour, combining sinewy rock with drifty dreamlike passages, interlaced with knotty prog-like structures. The songs are purely instrumental, with the band working as one on a variety of song styles, particular merit must go to brothers Ronaldo Vivo Jr drums and Ronnel Vivo guitar, for driving these songs along with such a clarity of purpose, nary a wasted note. They are joined by bass supremo  Joy Legason and guitarist Jay Jumawan from underground metal band Barrabas.
     “Unicycle Monologue” rushes out of the gate with driving force, having two guitarists that are not showy but intuitively feeding off one another helps.  “Schizodelia” twists and turns throughout its five plus minutes with style. (touches here of the seventies band Ruby, who were made up of members of Creedence).  “Insekt  Circus” is crunchy and super tight.  “Forbidden Earth Dance” slows things down and has some nice touches and a cool progressive bass pattern, driven along by the muscular drumming of Ronaldo.
     “Dreams Unrecalled” just rocks like a bastard.  “Sleep Crawler” has some lovely jazzy touches, incorporating a fifties noir feel.  “Sungaze” slowly reveals itself through meshing guitars, shimmering like a heat haze.  Final song “Neonderthal”  ends in blistering style with coruscating guitar and insistent rhythm from the bass and drums, it sizzles along at a fair old whack.
    These guys are a great find, polished and well rehearsed, playing as a whole and are phenomenal musicians, constantly feeding off each other throughout this tight knit muscular record.  (Andrew Young)

 

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JON BROOKES -  AUTRES DIRECTION
(LP from Clay Pipe )

Jon takes us over the channel to France, for a trip in the bucolic countryside.  This is the third outing for Jon on Clay pipe and what a beauty it is. Starting with the sound of a ferry on “Se Reveiller”,  a few beeps and synths are gently percolated through the early morning mists and it’s not long until we disembark to the soft tones of the announcer.
    For “Le Chateau”  we are treated to bird song, some nice drone and the uncurling lope of this slow tune, hazy and gauzy.  After getting our bearings PN_17 arrives, it’s boinging synth echoes to a soft bed of ambient noise, feeling quite queasy now.  “Autres Directions”, the title track has some deep spatial tones that sit on top of some drifty dreamy synth stylings, all ghostly harmonies and distant clattering, before becoming slightly sinister towards the end. Here we also hear plenty of back ground noise including (unbeknown to her)a waitress in the village Boulangerie.
     “L’ancienne Grange” opens side two.  Like most of the music that has gone before, it has an unhurried way about it, peering into hedgerows and gardens at leisure.  We then arrive in “Lanverac” , Buzzards overhead , agitated crows caw and town birds are joined by some deep droning synthscapes .  We weave our way merrily through the outskirts of town with the sun warm on our backs, it’s a wonderful fusion of studio and countryside and the longest track on the record, it also has some very, very deep drones .
     “Central Ville” is reached and the church bell chimes, vehicles move on through, leaving a temporary silence.  The piece gains momentum with some slow building swells and fades,  this track has a very slight metallic industrial element,  but also plenty of found sound and ambient static.  Jon is very clever at this melding of seemingly disparate things, into a cohesive, immersive piece.  “Sortie” is the final track and feels like you have stowed away in the engine room of the ferry for the return journey - deep and sonorous.
     Like all of the releases so far on the label, (a label that has recently seen Jarvis Cocker singing its praises),  it has a real sense of place about it, also like the two previous Jon Brooks records, is guaranteed to sell out fast. (Andrew Young)

 

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THE BRERETONS  - KEEP YOU SAFE
THE WELLGREEN - SUMMER RAIN
VARIOUS - A SPOONFUL OF SUGARBUSH
LPs from Sugarbush Records

    Setting the standards for melodic, Psych jangle, Sugarbush have raised the bar again with these three releases, an exquisite trio that have been haunting my dreams for the last month or so.
    Filled with romanticism and an aching sweetness, The Breretons have created a collection of songs that is simply beautiful, each tune a perfect gem that has emotion melody and wonderful production, the vocals of Charlotte and Marc Brereton the icing on a delightful slice of musical cake. Opening with the title track the listener is quickly drawn in, a gentle beauty cloaking the song, lyrics and music matched perfectly. On “When We Were Young”, the mood continues the song gliding past, with strings adding to the atmosphere, each musician adding to the tune with sympathy and awareness. With a mellow jauntiness, “Skin I Live In” has well placed handclaps and a skip in its step, whilst “Love It” is a song that stops time completely, my favourite moment on the album, a warm bass drone underpinning melodies from heaven and an arrangement the pulls every nuance from the song. To end side one, “Sweet Release” is a distant summer haze, the sparkle of sunlight on water, a song so soft that it almost dissolves.
     Moving to side two, “Locked up” has a throbbing bass line that adds plenty of attitude to the song, the hypnotic drums re-enforcing the bass, with a louder electric guitar thrown in creating the rockiest track on the album, a complete contrast to side one. After this lively beginning, “Fake” takes back to the mellow beauty again with  strong vocal harmonies and droning strings combining together wonderfully. Getting you dancing around the room, “I Think I May” has a sing a long chorus and folk dance vibe adding another texture to the collection before “Boat Made Of Sand” slows it down again, another highlight with sparse instrumentation and inner grace. Finally, “Beast” leads you out, a slow burning tune that builds in emotional tension as it moves forward, washed with strings that echo the melody lines until it fades into nothing, leaving you with a strong desire to play the whole thing again.

     Sounding like a cross between Crowded House and “Primrose Hill” era John Martyn, The Wellgreen write wonderful Psych Pop songs with lashings of melody, hooks that hit the spot and a warmth that is easy to love, all of which can be heard on “Summer Rain” the beautifully formed  and inventive opening track. Just as lovely, “Maybe It's The Pressure of City Life” has a West Coast early seventies vibe, whilst “Jennifer” could be a Paul McCartney out-take with its piano and vocal interplay, the Beatles sound also evident on “Sunday” another top class tune that is easy to sing along to with that classic sixties music hall vibe. Keeping up the good work, both “Don't Give My Number Away” and “Secret Footprints” contain delightful vocals and a warm atmosphere, with the latter being a particularly fine tune that ends too quickly.
   Over on side two, “Grin and Bear it” finds the band in Boogie mood, the spirit of Bolan circa 1972 to be found in the guitar riff, the song also containing a great organ sound. Beginning with a solo vocal performance, “She's the Greatest” is a delight with wonderful lyrics that are paired with melodic loveliness and sparkling, mellow beauty, one of those songs you want to play again and again. Over the rest of side two the quality continues with “Remember” sounding like the Beatles meeting Elton John, “The Circle” floating past like a summer breeze filled with the scent of jasmine and “Dreams Are Made For Dreamers” is just a perfect nugget of pop, the whole album rounded of with “Impossible Love” keeping the seventies vibe and ensuring the album is as engaging and entertaining as it was at the beginning, wonderful stuff.

    Capturing everything that is good about Sugarbush, “A Spoonful of Sugarbush” is the perfect introduction to the label featuring 13 examples of their output each a small gem of melodic pop, psych, sweetness and each previously unavailable on vinyl. Opening with the jangle of Caddy, the listener is in for a treat as “Stormy Skies and Starry Nights” fills the room with melody and sparkle, before the power pop of Andy Reed takes over on “Darlin' You Don't Know”, a rockier tune with some great guitar work as has “”Take It From Me” the jangle supplied by Chris Richards, the tune having an epic quality in its soaring guitar lines. With a seventies new wave sound, the power pop of “Little Pretender” gets right under the skin, as it should considering it features label founder Markus Holler. Over the rest of side one the fun continues with the Hangabouts, Orgone Box and Silent Blue all contributing excellent moments of melodic happiness that are a pleasure to listen to.

   Flipping the record you are greeted by the Eastern promise of Maladantive Solution, whose “Ontology” has harmonies and sitar as well as as lush arrangement and a guitar snaking its way through the tune. It is always a pleasure to hear the Green Pyjamas and “Copper Eyed” is no exception, a distorted guitar rumbling under the vocal line with a backward guitar thrown in for good measure, or so it seems. Displaying a heavier brand of Psych, The Dowling Poole are almost prog on the complex and energetic “Strawman”, the mood altered by Future Harmonies  and their cover of “Whatever Happened To You”, the theme from 70's sitcom “The Likely Lads” and also covered by the Soft-Hearted Scientists recently. Completing the collection “Good Feelings” is a twinkling slice of mellow Psych from Trolley, whilst Wall of Orchids lead us out with “Come Back To Me” filled with the melody and shine that we have come to expect from Sugarbush, long may it continue. (Simon Lewis)

 

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PHANTOM DOG BENEATH THE MOON - THE STATUE OF THE HUNTER IS LOST AT SEA (CD)
A LILAC DECLINE - THE MOUNTAIN RAGES (Cass)
(From Rusted Rail )

It has been seven years since the last album from Avant-Psych folk outfit Phantom  Dog Beneath the Moon, and I, for one are delighted by their return, especially as this album ticks all the right boxes in terms of inventiveness, quality and atmosphere.
     After a brief slice of mood-setting spoken word, “King Rabbit Stalks Lowlight” offers a autumnal guitar and hidden drones, voices harmonising together beautifully, kinda like early Tuung meets seventies acid folk, the song alive with possibilities. With distortion and tension a-plenty, the title track creeps under your skin completely, the noise rolling in like a fog across the hillside changing the scenery adding mystery and disorientation until the sun breaks through again in the shape of “Birds In Thy Chimes” a beautiful tune brought to life by the vocals of Aaron Hurley and Andrea Fitzpatrick, a slow haunted Cello wrapping itself around the tune perfectly.  Equally wonderful, “All I meander Even Ever” could be a companion piece to the previous piece so closely are their sounds linked, whilst “A Riverscene Amended” is a coiling mass of pale drones lit up by spoken word and drifting vocals that illuminates like pale winter sunlight.
    Over nine tracks the mood is one of darkness giving over to reflection and light, a whiff of hope barely felt in the early morning gloom, another day heralded by the first bird of morning and to me this is perfectly summed up on “This Is No Poet”, my favourite tune on the album and one that I will return to often.
    Of course, although I have a favourite does not mean that the rest is not as good with “Snowy Vague Trees In A Graveyard” being as impressionist as the title suggests, as if not quite fully formed with the following “A Glimmering” rippling with melody and rustling percussion kinda like Galaxie 500 in an ancient forest, the whole album brought to closure with “Blue Velvet Lullaby”, a seven minute summation of all that has gone before but with the volume knob turned way up and guitars set to stun and then some, the final chapter of a particularly fine album, fans of Gravenhurst, Thirty Pounds of Bone or Galaxie 500 should definitely investigate.

     Opening with the sound of rain, “Raindear” quickly becomes a ripple of acoustic loveliness, a beautiful song lit up by the sweet vocals of Cecilia Danell, whose album this is, playing everything herself, creating a collection of delightful tunes. On, “Sparrow Sorrow” the guitar is augmented a simple keyboard line that really elevates the song, whilst the title track has a gracefulness that reminds me of Allysen Callery, that is until a distorted electric shoegaze guitar bursts in making you grin with surprise, as if Dinosaur JR had just joined the party.
    Achingly tender, “Galaxies Away” is a highlight for me, the sparse arrangement and gently treated vocals adding an air of magic and wonder to an already potent song that has the power of a crackling late night fire, that magic also cloaking “Red Gold Is Gone” another fine tune that stops you in your tracks. To end side one, “Winter Wanderer” has the sound of owls and a primitive heart, the tune recorded in a lonely Norwegian cabin using various empty bowls and cups and voice, the music having a ghostly, hazy beauty that is hypnotic and easy to get lost in.
      Continuing the musical alchemy on side two, “Tunnelling Through” is fully formed and engaging, with a rumbling undertone that adds weight, the electric guitar making an appearance again as well. Hauntingly psychedelic, “Nightshade” has an overcoat of lysergic power, quietly used effects that really add to the tune, whilst a singing Melodica and percussion add yet more texture to the collection as “Fine Day At Last” weaves its magic, almost an epic within the context of the album.
      Recorded in the Norwegian cabin, “Theremin Song” uses a digital Theremin and reverbed vocals creating a soft winter hymn, the album brought to a close by the wonderful “Campfire In The Snow”, seemingly mirroring the intimate beauty of the opening track, bringing us full cycle, a walk on paths less used.

    Offering one last surprise, there is also a hidden track, a cover version of a Nick Drake song that fits in with the rest of the album perfectly. Which one ? I hear you ask, well go and buy this album and find out, a collection of songs easily worthy of your time. (Simon Lewis)