=  AUGUST 2006 =

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Written by: Mono
  United Bible Studies
Simon Lewis (Editor) Fuzzy Felt Folk

Phil McMullen

The North Sea

 Tony Dale

Le Beat Bespoké II

Steve Pescott

Anthony Milton
  Plastic Crimewave Sound
  Earthling Society



(CD/2LP on Temporary Residence, www.temporaryresidence.com )


Mono have been flavour of the moment hereabouts for so long now that they’re in danger of having a permanent memorial erected in the grounds of Terrascope Towers. I’m picturing a massive black marble edifice, divided by clear glass at intervals, until unexpectedly towards the top of the structure it explodes into a shower of fragments, with flames spitting upwards towards a starry sky.


Their sound befits just such a monolith. Textured melodies and tapestries of sound are piled on top of one another, some as dense and impenetrable as the darkest of ocean depths and the next thinner than the highest and lightest of mountain airs, until inevitably the whole thing erupts sending molten rock (RAWK!!) cascading down around your ears. Although often lumped into the “Post-rock” oeuvre because of their adherence to this loud/quiet formula dynamic, Mono are in fact far more complex than that label suggests, holding metaphoric hands across the sea from with inventive bands such as Kinski, Stars of the Lid, Explosions in the Sky, Do Make Say Think and Paik (with whom they share a label in their native Japan) far more than the likes of the commonly referenced Tortoise and Mogwai. In fact, the term “psychedelic” seems unfashionable again today, but I’d still argue that Mono have more in common with the Grateful Dead than with Godspeed You! Black Emporer.


‘Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain’ is their 6th album – the others being, in order, ‘Under the Pipal Tree’ (2001 – still around, but only as an expensive import), ‘One Step More and Then You Die’ (2002), ‘NY Soundtracks’ (a 2004 remix record; I have yet to find a copy of this one, to my chagrin), ‘Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined’ (2004) and ‘You Are There’ (2006). The latter two are generally supposed to be their strongest, with ‘Walking Cloud’ (recorded by Steve Albini) their most darkly cinematic, a  nuclear winter of an album compared to the post-war optimism and grandeur of ‘You Are There’ (it’s allegedly based on a Japanese story ‘Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes’, about a young girl attempting to rid herself of leukemia by appeasing the gods via a thousand folded paper cranes, although since in common with all Mono’s albums it’s entirely wordless, that’s difficult to prove) but - I have to confess the first two are personal favourites. There’s a breathless charm and bombastic innocence about them which makes me weep with joy, the sound rolling towards you like the mother of all storms and then breaking overhead, unstoppable and majestic, frightening and yet exhiliarating.


Where on ‘You Are There’ the band used strings for cause and effect  – most notably on the closing 13-minute finale ‘Moonlight’ which opens with an Espers-like piano refrain backed with strings and marimba, in turn giving way almost reluctantly to gentle layers of guitars before, inevitably, it dies in a shower of lead as it crashes through the exit doors with all guns blazing, on ‘Palmless Prayer’ the band (Tamaki [bass], Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto [guitars], Yasunori Takada [drums], and Yoda [guitar]) use strings as the cause alone. The landscape previously hinted at, glimpsed through the misted eye of a lens, is their universe for the purposes of this album, with fellow Tokyo native and electronics composer Katsuihiko Maeda, aka World’s End Girlfriend, acting as their guide. The music is divided into five numbered movements, each of them having all the get up and go of a tectonic plate and yet, for all their glacial immobility, Mono draw out moments of incredible beauty within the shifting soundscapes, and somehow make the gentlest of crescendoes seem like the tumultous explosions of sound that we’ve come to know and love of them.


This album pushes complex music composition (I hesitate to use the term “classical”, since despite the layers of strings, it’s still decidedly an album that needs to be filed under ‘Pop/Rock’) towards entirely new frontiers. I’d give anything to see them perform this stuff live on the Terrastock stage – right before one of Ghost’s full-on orchestral sets, straight after Kinski, maybe with Amber Asylum in a supporting role. Yeah, I know... me and my crazy dreams..... (Phil McMullen)




(3" CD-R on Rusted Rail Records, http://www.rustedrail.com)


    At a few hushed seconds under 19 minutes, I guess you would classify this new United Bible Studies missive as a mini-LP, though it packs improbable quantities of beauty, craft and oddness into its six compact pieces. 'Bubbles of Earth' is trademark UBS, overlaying eldritch tape manipulation rituals over a weave of acoustic guitar and banjo and sonorous bass depth charges. The reversed vocal invocations are particularly disturbing, calling up dark Lovecraftian Earth magics. The acoustic 'Pictures of Katia' has a sea shanty feel – all drunken accordion and Dave Coloran's vocal melancholy – and will appeal to those that dig the Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree aspect of the UBS movement. 'Note of Hope' is a perfectly realised piece that builds from drones and spirit voices to spirited improvisation all in the course of four minutes. 'Hedge School Drop Out' could also be a Magical Folk track, its simple repeated mantra a bridge between two more substantial pieces. 'Elbow of Dawn' has an appropriate pre-dawn raga feel, and recalls the wonder that is the UBS CD 'Airs of Sun and Stone'. 'Spoon of Haar' is an acapella of ghost voices, as haunted and unknowable as the carved stones around the Neolithic passage tomb at Howth. It's a wonderful conclusion to a small but perfectly-formed work. The Mayan astronaut on the cover is apropos for these explorations, as they continue the journey to find the dream world that exists in parallel with this one.  'The Northern Lights…' is a nice dose of new UBS for those who have worn out their copies of 'The Shore That Fears the Sea'. (Tony Dale)




(LP & CD on Trunk Records, www.trunkrecords.com )


While you were out, the folk-related fraternity (folk rock, acid folk, prog. folk, folktronica) has added another member to its ranks in the shape of “Fuzzy-felt Folk”. This very apt* name was coined by Martin Green, a collector of obscuria and friend of Trunk label boss Jonny Trunk. For inclusion in this genre, the music had to have “a childish sweet sound but at the same time with an old-fashioned spooky edge”. Well, aside from New Faces entrants Piggleswick Folk with their kazooed gate-crashing of ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ I’d say this project, after years of crate digging and soul-draining slog in search of the owners of the tracks, has turned out to be a fascinating dip into some truly uncharted waters. After all, any compilation that opens with a Basil Kirchin piece is surely holding all the aces. ‘I Start Counting’ (also the name of an eighties electro act on Mute) is a demo for a late sixties film soundtrack of the same name. This was, to my knowledge, only ever shown once on terrestrial TV and was a creepy little murder mystery starring a schoolgirl Jenny Agutter and, if memory serves, Simon Ward as a killer bus conductor. The opening theme was pencilled in for Cilla Black (!) but thankfully she pulled out due to contractual problems. A close shave. Instead the session drummer’s teenage daughter took on the vocal chores and her pure innocent tones are a rare treat, rising delicately above a perfectly judged cool pre-fusionoid jazz-flecked background.


    Now for those of a certain age (I’d guess the lower limit would be 45?) the clipped Oxbridge tones announcing “This is the BBC Home Service for schools” should send the old memory cells into a quiver. There are a few tracks included here that were specifically recorded for “music and movement” classes! Oh, those memories flood back… half-hour sessions in the local church-hall, a place that witnessed Music and Movement, English Country Dancing and even the Tufty Club Roadshow. The formalised trad folk strains of Arthur Birkley’s ‘Cuckoo’ are almost too straight for my liking, but my view could be coloured by the fact that I distinctly remember singing this in Mrs Handford’s primary school class circa. 1968. I certainly don’t recall fellow Music and Movement’ers The Barbara Moore Singers – perhaps they were a little too pop for teacher? Their airy soft-pop mannerisms on ‘The Elf’ recall Free Design at their very sunniest (see ‘Kites are Fun’), while their ‘Hey Robin’ is an educational thumbnail sketch of the life and times of Robin Hood. Being brought up on Richard Greene’s portrayal on ITV (I should also mention that there was no better Sheriff of Nottingham than Alan Wheatley), I’d’ve loved this as a kid – but would’ve been saddened by the last verse’s death scene where Robin’s last wish was to be buried where his last arrow fell. “Sweet Robin’s asleep in the wood…”, they coo. Which seems to allude to the old legend that like King Arthur, both are merely sleeping and ready to wake when Blighty is in peril.


    That most prolific of library labels De Wolfe have two entries up for grabs. Reg Tilsley’s ‘The Troll’ which merges quirky Harry Worth-style comedic themes with a few bursts of Carnaby Street style syncopation, and Pierre Arvay’s ‘Merry Ocarina’ – a very regular visitor to BBC TV’s ‘Vision On’ programme, hosted by Tony Hart and Pat Keysell. A lugubrious minuet that showed us that The Troggs’ Reg Presley (see ‘Wild Thing’) had a serious rival in the ocarina stakes. Probably the only rival, actually,


    Orriel Smith is, for yours truly, the major find of the album. She recorded two tracks (‘Tiffany Glass’ and ‘Winds of Space’) for film composer Philip Lambro’s Tudor Records and can also be heard on Lambro’s score for the ‘Crypt of the Living Dead’ horror-flick. ‘Tiffany’ has an ultra-fragile otherworldly beauty redolent of the finest Linda Perhapcs or Vashti Bunyan material while ‘Winds’ is a kozmic folk swirl with tape effects (as surrogate Moog) which soon becomes a showcase for Orriel to pitch some notes that resemble scattershot high-end theremin swoops. Sun Ra meets The Swingle Singers at Jodrell Bank! There was also to have been an Orriel Smith solo LP, but sadly it never happened. Why?!?!


    Also included is a romantic/lyrical piece of ‘Folk Guitar’ by Claude Vasori which saw a release on the British micro-label Sylvester Records and Peggy Zeitlin’s ‘Spin Spider Spin’, and American children’s educational disc with kiddy backing vocals that cheerfully encourages us to respect the arachnids. Consider it done.


    In his liner notes, Mr Trunk expects this album to sell “bugger all… enough for a round of toast or a bus ride to the seaside”. Well, it’s time for those “strange adults and their children” to prove him wrong. (Steve Pescott)


*Footnote: I guess the patron saint of this newly christened genre should really be the golden-voiced Toni Arthur (of Dave and Toni Arthur fame), who released three excellent folk albums on Trailer and Topic Records and then, with a major career shift, joined the team at BBC’s ‘Playschool’!




(CD-R on Barl Fire)


    After a bit of a hiatus, Barl Fire have resumed transmission with a gloriously packaged (George Parsons' cover art has to be seen to be believed) addition to the extensive discography of The North Sea, musical alter-ego of Brad Rose of the burgeoning metaverse that is Digitalis Industries. I've always loved what Brad does with the North Sea and his various other projects. His acoustic music exists in balance with nature, containing no more or less ego than is necessary for its completion and dissemination. A lot of new folk music screams for attention like a precocious child at an adult gathering: "look at my reference points ma, look at the quirky bohemian construct with which I choose to present my art, da". Like the Jeweled Antler collective, Rose operates by stealth – launching hushed waves of beauty under the radar; and using natural locations to build his tone chapels.

   'Underneath the Jesus Tree' is a series of hushed ruminations under the thrall of nature, often with the sounds of birds and insects dominant in the mix. Vocals, where they are used, as on the hypnagogic title track, are so reticent that sometimes they seem imagined rather than heard. Throughout there is a complex weave of instrumentation in use: bouzouki, guitar, melodica, maracas, sleigh bells, violin, bongos, oud, tin flute, recorder, piano, kalimba, wine glasses, glockenspiel, bowed guitar and field recordings are all woven together into a spell to allow Rose to hold the wonders of the woodland world in the  palm of his hand. 'Marigold Perfume' places the listener in a field on a summer's day staring up at the shapes in clouds. 'High Tide' appropriately starts with a killer field recording a of North Sea waves crashing on Dunwich Beach, before all manner of string-driven atmospherics conjure a vividly-detailed hallucination of being cast away on some lost archipelago imagining the sound of wind chimes in the palm trees. But mostly this CD is about the forest, and we return there for the 10 minute concluding meditation of 'The Morning Birds'. A perfect CD to kick back with during an oppressively hot summer's day, long cool drink in hand.
(Tony Dale)




(LP from Circle Records, PO Box 62, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire NR17 4HA)


Le Beat Bespoké II, like its predecessor, is a collaboration that doesn’t adhere to the received style and format that fervent collectors of sixties comps would normally expect. Front/back covers depict tableaus of nouveau mods resplendent in their moderne schmutter, while the lion’s share of inner sleeve space is devoted to details of the London club scene and the activities of the “New Untouchables” who “promote mod/sixties culture throughout the world”. Which is a bit wearing when the music – the main reason we’re here, right? – seems to be squeezed out by some almost desperate self-promotion. Even the album’s compiler-in-chief D.J. Rob Bailey manages to receive six name-checks! His choices – floor fillers from his appearances behind the decks – are an interesting array of dynamic white soul, gritty pop and garage obscurities from the States, Britain and the continent – almost all of which have never been exhumed before.


    Of the American tracks, ‘Dude’ by Pappy’s Haunted House is a sure-fire attention seeker with its Augerized Hammond stabs and rich layers of phuzz. The name of Jimmy Thomas is highly rated in Northern Soul circles for a handful of sought-after singles, however ‘Springtime’, a girly back-up ‘n’ Hammond strutter concerning the sap rising in a young dude, was perversely issued in Britain on the Spark label. ‘One Two Boogaloo’ is a Booker T’d instrumental that comes from Chicago’s Light Nites who eventually morphed into The American Breed (the originators of Amen Corner’s ‘Bend Me Shape Me’) and, a little later, (Ask) Rufus (with Chaka Khan). A circuitous route indeed to the yankee dollar. The Continental entries are, shall we say, a little more eccentric/exotic in their make-up. ‘I Found You’ by Belgium’s Tops looks to the Indian sub-continent with its prominent acoustic guitar string bending and background femme wailing, while the faaaabulously named Brunetta and the Baluba’s ‘Baluba Shake’ is a tomboyish “ye-ye” groover with Brunetta’s forceful vocals closer in tone to a New York Shangri-La than a pop mademoiselle.


    The British helping spoons out some rather amazing flavours. The Martells for instance, their ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ has already been comped for the Mick Patrick-curated ‘Girls With Guitars’ LP (Imprint Records 1989). Rob Bailey (that’s his second mention here) admits to drawing a blank over this Decca mystery group. But, if we refer to Mick’s excellent sleeve-notes on ‘Girls With Guitars’, we find that The Martells comprised of brother and sister Rod and Carolyn Braddy along with two ex-members of Clacton’s finest beat group Dave Curtiss and The Tremors (3 singles on Phillips). The band name is derived from The Martello Towers and I’d be very surprised indeed if that diagonal guitar motif didn’t come from the fingers of Jimmy Page. Which leads me neatly to Mary McCarthy, her strident tones (not quite in the Sharon Tandy league) on ‘You Know He Did’ (a CBS single from 1967) revamps a Hollies ‘b’ side, the flip to ‘I’m Alive’, into something far more testy. That guitar rave-up in the middle section? No prizes for thinking what I’m thinking! A guitarist already at the top of his game and with enough sang froid to calmly tackle a packed conveyor belt of sessioneering – if it’s Thursday it must be Val Doonican, or is it The Mickey Finn?


    Anyway, enough of Jimmy Page. I’m not aware of his presence lurking in the grooves of the M.U.5 or Paul Nicholas, but who really knows? The former’s ‘Mr Watson’ is yet another gem that makes you wonder why it hadn’t been discovered before. Released on the mini-label ‘Crystal’ in the glam year of 1972, the aforementioned gent is at least five years too late for the party. This suburban diorama has all the hallmarks of a Ray Davies street surveillance (observations behind net curtains) circa 1967, though the vocal parts are from the school of Andy Ellison and the arrangements are pure Mark Wirtz, albeit on a smaller budget. Excellent stuff indeed, as is the Paul Nicholas cut – the Trad. Arr. ‘Run Shaker Life’. A ‘b’ side recorded in 1970, sandwiched no doubt between appearances in ‘Hair’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, Nicholas has had a weird old career. This ex-Lord Sutch pianist became Oscar in 1966 and released the revered ‘Club of Lights’ (on Reaction records) and a couple of Bowie-penned numbers, ‘Join My Gang’ and ‘Over The Wall We Go’ (both also on Reaction). ‘Over The Wall’, with its “All coppers are narnas” catchline, saw Paul/Oscar performing the number on TV wearing the old style “birds feet” prison uniform – everything going for it; but a hit it was not. He finally made it to household name status a good fifteen years later as the twinkly-eyed charmer Vince Pinner in the popular BBC sitcom ‘Just Good Friends’.


   I’m getting ever so slightly sidetracked here – apologies. Back to ‘Run Shaker Life’, an ultra-busy percussive backdrop creates a distinctively shadowy atmosphere, not too far removed from Dr John’s earlier ventures into the otherwordly folklore of Louisiana. Still on the same subject, Hard Meat, a late 60s proggy band who issued two little known LPs on Warner Brothers (UK) have a monster ten minute version of ‘Run Shaker Life’ on their self-titled debut. No sign of these in CD format (yet).


    So, to sum up then: sweep away the mile-wide narcissistic streak if you can and Volume Two will reveal itself, through some intrepid detective work, to be a mighty strong follow-up to the joys of The Gentle  Influence etc found on Volume One. (Steve Pescott)




(CD on Deserted Village)


    For their first production CD, the Deserted Village imprint has stepped from underneath the umbrella of Irish improvisational projects (the rainbow of sounds made by various United Bible Students) to pay tribute to one of their heroes, Anthony Milton - founder of the New Zealand label Pseudo Arcana. 'The End of This Short Road' was mostly recorded in 2000, but sat in a shoe box until now because the brief for Pseudo Arcana has always been to concentrate on more abstract, free and "challenging" music (their lengthy and industrious discography is home to antipodeans agitators like The Lost Domain, Birchville Cat Motel and Pumice, as well as like minded souls from various sectors of the CD-R parallel universe). Which is a pity really, because this is as fine and intriguing a collection of fractured folk and drone as anything in the Alastair Galbraith oeuvre.


    The opening track 'Day of the World' is a meditation on mortality, mixing effortless song-craft with the jagged recording aesthetic of the NZ Xpressway label. I love the loud hiss through the track, which I initially thought was rain on the roof, but in fact seems to be an insane level of tape noise. This continues to be the state of play on the sun-blind, spontaneous song-improvisation based on an ecstatic poem written by Milton, he says in the liner notes, "on my knees in a patch of gravel at Mangawhai Heads in Northland, New Zealand". Marking an end to the stunt-hiss explorations, 'Hops' is a compelling hoedown that nevertheless sounds like it was recorded when the originators of the form were working out its parameters. The deeply-stoned 'In Amongst the Ferns' is a hilarious homage to the home-use-only herbal plantation, viewed in wry retrospective. Particularly awesome is 'The Armchair', recording Milton's earliest experiments with computer sound capturing software. The fact that is has almost a Nurse With Wound cleverness to it speaks to the fabled Kiwi #8 wire principle - anything can be created with the simplest of tools and enough improvisational skill. 'Dream the Ridge' is a wondrously cacophonous soundtrack to an imaginary Western filmed in NZ for budgetary reasons. Back to hiss and plunk for 'Fine Stems & Drips like Tears', which is from the sessions for the 'Guitar Has Strings' album released by Black Petal, but was left off that album due to its dreamlike, melodic quality. It's certainly perfect here with its dripping rain-forest ambience, and is one of the CD finest moments, and that is saying a lot. The ecstatic, radiating vectors of sturm und drone that make up the lengthy 'Skylight. Rusted. 7PM' place you at the heart of these clearly sometimes lonely sessions. The guitar and bowed e-string workout is starkly beautiful and has about as much in common with the air-brushed rot that comprises most 21st Century popular music as a Salamander does with an i-Pod. One imagines modernity choking on it. Written for a friend's wedding, but, says Milton "discarded by composer for want of cheerfulness", 'Track for the Larkings' is a hauntingly beautiful celebration nonetheless. The most disturbing track here is definitely 'Could Be Killers Talk', where the recording process (conducted a floor above a business with organised crime connections) is used to blank out an argument that Milton really wanted no knowledge of. The CD concludes with the "hidden track" '…(chairs)', a lament comprised of waterfalls of hiss, some oblique strumming and exhausted sentiments.  


    A heartily recommended work, detailed liner notes for which can be tracked down on the Deserted Village website – they aren't in the actual CD booklet itself. (Tony Dale)




(CD from Eclipse Records)


Housed in a beautiful gatefold sleeve and pressed on thick black vinyl, this sprawling double album is a delight to the senses, full of swirling guitar-driven psychedelia and featuring guest appearances from Fursaxa, Spires That In The sunset Rise, Michael Yonkers, Josephine Foster and Devendra Banhart, whose spoken word introduction is a suitably trippy way to start the journey.


    There is more than a hint of Kraut-Rock improvisation to this record, the powerful tribal drumming offering an earthy support to the free-flowing guitar and chattering electronics, the band taking every opportunity to accelerate into the heart of the sun, with the long instrumental passages allowing plenty of room to fly, especially on early highlight “Korean Ghost Ship”. After the frenzied riffing of “far In/Out” the band relax a little for the mellow psych of “Moving Just Fine”, which slowly drifts away to close side one. Side two opens with more spoken word, this time from Tara Burke, before the band crank it up for the heavy meditation (medication?) chant of “Rolling Seas” the sounds of Hapshash drifting through time, or maybe the album takes you back to those late-sixties freakouts, you can definitely smell the hash on this one. After this earthy primitive stomp, a sense of lightness is introduced on “Flower Eating Dreams” the musicians displaying a sense of dynamics and a delicate touch that contrasts wonderfully with the previous track, before the fuzz laden garage crunch of “Into The Future” rounds of a near perfect side of vinyl.


    Side three contains just one long song, although this is divided into six parts, the first being the now traditional spoken word, this time courtesy of Michael Yonkers. Following this “New Throb” is a dense mantra that positively oozes manic energy, before “Following Orders” takes up the baton and runs with it, the band driving at full tilt for the far reaches of space, until final part “Shake Your Dying Cowboy Mind” disintegrates in real-time, an orgy of cut up vocals, noise and chaos that will shake your synapses into all kinds of weird shapes. Finally we reach side four, the spoken word intoned by Chris Connelly, before the band don their best space rock headgear and blast their way through “Corrosive” and the heavy drone of “Nil Null And Void” the vocals all but lost under the relentless electric wall of sound, this time augmented by demonic string arrangements that take the song into uncharted and frankly scary territory. Finally “Another Plane” leads us back through the corridor of dreams, the sound of flickering candles lighting our way home.


    Terrascopic to the Nth degree, this is a monster album in every sense of the word, living in a world where magick is still possible and freaked out improvisational music is the only music that matters. This could be the missing link between early 70’s Hawkwind and Comets On Fire, and I fuckin’ love it. (Simon Lewis)





    Between the release of their last album “Albion” and this fine slice of space-rock, The Earthling Society have expanded their line-up with the addition of keyboard player Joe Orban whose dextrous fingers are all over this album giving the band an extra dimension, allowing the other members to stretch out and play, something that is apparent right from the opening track “Council House Mystics”, it’s lazy bass groove the perfect vehicle for some excellent guitar/ keyboard interplay. Second track “Kosmik Suite No.1” has a funkier edge, with some superb wah driven guitar and a tight as fuck rhythm that gets you moving before the band slow it right down with a spacey interlude, the guitar scuttling like spiders around the speakers as the band wind it up for a noisy finale, complete with full-on rock’n’roll ending.


    Sounding like a laid back Can, Jamming with a nicely relaxed Hawkwind “Psychick Sunday” is a mellow instrumental groove that is warm and inviting, before “Girls Talk” takes up the funky space rock feel, although it retains the relaxed atmosphere, the keyboards adding some pop sensibilities, maybe this is the song that takes space rock back into the charts!


    So far so good, this album is definitely a step forward for the band, the songs are stronger and the sound is more focused throughout with everyone contributing to the tunes, playing with flair and imagination. Proof of all this can be found on the centrepiece of the album, the nineteen minute space epic “Kosmik Suite No.2” which is a masterpiece of the genre complete with swirling synths, heavy riffing, and a sense of dynamics that means the time flies by as the band crank it up and have some fun. Mind you the lyrics on this track, and the rest of the album, are very bleak concerned with the breakdown of society, religious bigotry and the environmental destruction of the planet, something that is at odds with the warmth of the music. Lastly on the disc, there is a live bonus track “outsideofintime”, on of the best tracks from “Albion”, and here taken into very spacey territory, with a hallucinogenic feel courtesy of some shimmering guitar lines that fly high, as the bass and drums drive the song along with some fluid and precise interplay.


    Never fashionable, space-rock is having something of a renaissance at the moment, with albums of this quality available, it is easy to see why. (Simon Lewis)




 (CD from www.silbermedia.com )


Having initially recorded ninety minutes of guitar riffs and arpeggios, Brian John Mitchell then sent them to musical minded friends, including JonDeRosa (Aarktica), Mike Vanportfleet (Lycia), Nathan Amundson (Rivulets), Jessica Bailiff, Jesse Edwards (Red Morning Chorus), and Paolo Messere (6.pm), who variously added harmonium, guitar, keyboard, Indian instruments, percussion, violin and vocals. The best of these collaborations are collected on this album offering a cornucopia of drones, harmonies, and improvisation that really works, the pieces flowing together giving the album a relaxed and cohesive feel. Opening track “Trust In Weapons” is a gentle wash of notes with a minimalist heart, slowly hypnotising the listener into the album’s ambience. Second Track “Wires” is a much busier affair, the menacing guitar line being augmented by an orchestra of sounds, the muffled percussion and drones reminding me of “Song From The Bottom Of A Well” (Kevin Ayers).


  One of my personal favourites is “Potential New Sound”, a delicately balanced drone decorated with sparkling guitar, the musical equivalent of a clear blue sky, so expansive is the sound. Elsewhere “Houses Not Homes” has a dense strummed guitar at it’s centre, whilst the brief “Suncatcher” introduces some wispy vocals into the mix. Finally “Burning Mornings” Closes the album as gently as it began the sound of daylight creeping though the window. This is a Beautiful album that weaves it’s magic in a subtle manner and can be enjoyed loudly or as ideal background music.


  If I had one criticism it would be that some of the pieces are much too short and have only just established themselves before fading again. Minor quibbles aside however, this is an album you should cherish for it’s simple pleasures. (Simon Lewis)




(CD/LP on Beta-Lactam Ring Records)


    It's rare that the experimental label Beta-Lactam Ring releases what is ostensibly a singer-songwriter record, so I was intrigued to get to grips with this release. Needless to say, it's anything but your usual angst-ridden guitar and vocals affair, combining elements of the avant-garde and psych-pop in its sonic brew. Brunnen is a long standing solo project of Dutch nutter Freek Kinkelaar, and this release is a compilation of 13 songs written at the somewhat leisurely pace of one per year between 1992 and 2005. As far as slackerdom goes, that is hard to beat. A little background on Mr. Kinkelaar is appropriate I think. From 1984 to 1987 he contributed several noise-experiments to compilation cassettes. Most of these were solo recordings released under the pseudonym Honeymoon Production. As Honeymoon Production he also produced Manipulation Muzak as a part of RRRs series of anti records. In the 1988 long time friend Edward Kaspel of The Legendary Pink Dots asked Kinkelaar to fill in as support act for a live Pink Dots performance, and having no idea what to do, he contacted Frans de Waard and together formed the Pink Dots influenced Beequeen. The Beequeen project has released around a dozen full-length records since inception, making one wonder if Brunnen is a catcher's mitt for the occasional solo brain-fart. In the early 90s, Kinkelaar In the early 1990s he worked with Dutch conceptual artist Paul Panhuysen at the fabled experimental label Het Apollohuis, and mastered and selected recordings for four compact discs released by Panhuysen, including one for matrix printers(!).

    A journey through 'The Beekeeper's Dream' is suitably oneiric, starting with the tranquil exposition of 'Cover Me', which couples a looping oboe figure with lilting vocals to great effect. Kinkelaar has a hypnotically compelling voice, exemplified by his intimate work on the sleep-walking groove of 'All the Same', which should be a single, really. As should 'Sister', which is the kind of destination that Barrett's talent might have taken him hadn't his sanity checked out early. At only a few minutes long typically, all of these tracks leave you hanging suspended in a state of desire for more. 'Shame' radiates shimmering waves of glassine melancholy and gossamer psychedelia. 'Rupert Writes a Rainbow' phase-shifts its psych-pop structure into alien territory with lush, queasy electronic touches. Oddness reigns supreme on the track 'Trust in Me', a cover of song from the 1967 animated film 'The Jungle Book', complete with narcotic Latin rhythms. But Kinkelaar is most effective on his own material. Later tracks are perhaps a little less-focussed, but it's difficult to address specifics since the actual track ordering doesn't seem to match the published one, so suffice it to say that overall the record has a conceptual and composition cohesion that belies its elephantine gestation, creating its own unique hermetically bound aesthetic.  (Tony Dale)