=  AUGUST 2008  =

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Written by:


Simon Lewis

Avital Raz

Phil McMullen

Jeff Penczak Crooked Hook

Nigel Cross

Black Sun Ensemble
  Hollow Ox
  The December Sound
  Sweet Marriage





( DVD from www.temporaryresidence.com )


    Originally influenced by US hardcore, Envy have now been plying their trade for 15 years and in that time have stretched the genre into an intense rock noise, part thrash, part experimental psych/noise.

    This DVD collect seventeen burning performances, filmed in clubs, basements, stadiums, etc, filmed both professionally and with hand-held recorders. As well as the live footage, there are plenty of audience shots, on the road moments, and other examples of life in a hard working grass roots band, giving the DVD the same feel as the recent Mono set “The Sky Remains The Same Forever”, also released on Temporary Residence.

In fact, as with the Mono disc, it is the shots of the fans that elevates this disc above a straight music vid, their passion shines in their eyes and the band respond to that passion, the music energetic and committed to the cause.  There are quieter moments too, such as the achingly beautiful “Fading Visions”, accompanied by footage of posters, backstage and travelling, a poignant and revealing sequence.

    Finally it is the music that counts, and here the bands intensity really shows. You get the feeling that the band are drained after every show having given their all to a reciprocal audience. One listen to the manic energy of “Left Hand”, the all out attack of “Color Of Fetters”. Or the more experimental ebb and flow of “A Warm Room” will leave you in no doubt of their dedication to their art. A recommended purchase that gives an insight into a hard working and long running band, here’s to the next fifteen years. (Simon Lewis)




CD  (goldoolins@hotmail.com


CD  (www.myspace.com/avitalraz)


    Hailing from Israel, previous albums by Goldoolins have contained elements of west-coast mellowness, English Psych whimsy, and a gentle folk-prog ambience. On this, their latest venture, all these elements remain in place, yet the sound has changed again, with added jug band, brass and faintly jazz arrangements adding to the good time feel the band have created. The songs have become a lot shorter too, with several of them not quite making the two minute mark, the whole album having a distinctly Mamas and Papas vibe, perfect for this sunny morning, in fact.


    Right from the start, the band set out their stall as “I Know you’re Not alone” blasts out the speakers (yep, turn it up), a bright and breezy brass driven swing with some fine vocals and a dynamic arrangement. Next up, “Be My Friend” reminds me of Jeff Kelly covering the Peanut Butter Conspiracy and is one of my favourite moments on the album. Following on “My Only Home” is a lush and haunting folk ballad with some gorgeous harmonies, think Renaissance or Mellow candle. These first three songs are varied and well balanced setti9ng the tone for the rest of the album, as the band move effortlessly between style, retaining a sense of identity and maintaining quality throughout. Whoever organised the running order must have had a good ear, as the album flows magnificently with the jug band goodtime of “Country Traveller” arriving at just the right time for a bit of well needed frivolity.


   Possibly the only out of place track is “The World Is Somewhere Else”, not because it dips in quality, or that it sounds completely different, just that at ten minutes it requires the listener to put on a different set of ears for the journey, being a long folk-prog epic, with the emphasis on folk, filled with lush harmonies, chiming guitar and delicate strings.


   Overall, this is an album with lots to reveal, strong songs and a delicate heart, their best yet.


     Also born in Israel, Of American Parents, Avital Raz has studied at The Rubin Academy Of Music and also lived in India learning classical Indian song (Druphad) with Master Ritwik Sanyal. All these influences can be heard in her debut EP, a shimmering, dream-like collection containing six beautiful, enchanting and utterly compelling songs that demand attention.


    There are shades of many of the current crop of female folk artists to be found In opening track “Migraine In Katmandu”, but these are fleeting thoughts, the music defiantly her own, a drifting meditation that is beautifully crafted and arranged, with the floating Bansuri lines, the final flourish. Even gentler is “Weep”, ghostly notes, supporting fragile vocals, the lyrics based on 16th C poetry, the whole piece a breath of wind on a still day. Third track “Migraine In Jerusalem”, seems to relate directly to that experience, a sad lament that is filled with love, trying to banish the pain through song.


   Seemingly about the fact that you can’t choose who you fall in love with, the title track is undoubtedly the finest track on the disc. Here, the different cultural strands are bought together into a droning and emotional whole, the song weaving its magic deep inside you, the lyrics perfectly matched by the music, the tension slowly building as the song progresses.


   After this intense piece, “In You” is a gentle spiritual love song that barely exists, whilst final track “All Pains” seems to seek nirvana through oblivion, the cessation of all things leaving only the truth. (Simon Lewis)




(CD from www.museumfire.com)


    After the success of previous album “Wayfaring Summer”, an album that raised the band profile and gained critical praise around the globe, this second album should continue that success as well as gaining praise of its own.


     With most tracks using first takes, the album has a warm and spontaneous feel, a hint of mystery and a richness of textures that fills a room. Opening track “Forwarned” is a call to the forest, a moving, almost acappella piece with the beautiful vocals of Shanti Curran drawing you under the trees, enticing and slightly unsettling. On “Red Bird”, banjo and guitar dance around those fragile vocals, creating a sleepy folk classic that is truly beautiful.


    There is a more experimental feel to “Ides Of March”, the slow-picking and primitive percussion taking the piece further into the wilderness and rejoicing in the shadows. Sounding not unlike Joanna Newson if she played the banjo, “Seadrift” is a ramshackle shot of mountain music that works perfectly, paving the way for “Black Mountain Road”, a song that starts backwards then gets going the right away, the enchanting cello of Helena Espvall lifting the song to heavenly realms.


    On “Dark Horse” it is the soft and gentle voice of Buck that carries the song, the banjo again adding an air of mystery, the song sounding similar to pieces by In Gowan Ring. Showing a sense of restraint and emotion, “Leaves Among The Ruins” is a solo guitar piece recorded in one take, the music drifting like a lonely cloud, sparse and lovely at the same time.


    In complete contrast “Dark Is The Night (In The Wind)” is a rambling drunken stagger, the percussive sounding banjo guiding the song slowly homewards, the vocals flickering lights through the trees. Droning violins add a sense of menace to “Swans”, the vocals washing over the sound with liquid grace. The chattering strings return for the rattle of “Echo Of Hooves”, a brief interlude before the final track “Plains Of Macedonia” a sad lament for solo guitar that finishes the album on a  strangely downbeat note, although maybe it is a prayer, rather than a lament.


     This album is a definite step forward, the duo carving their own niche, gaining confidence in their voice and walking their own path, long may it continue to be so. (Simon Lewis)




(CD from Safety Meeting records )


Hailing from New Haven, Connecticut USA, Crooked Hook are a coal-fired power trio – massive, dirty, belching out smoke and noise and rooted firmly in the past. Today’s adherents of the stoner rock clique would have you believe they reference Dead Meadow and almost invariably toss around the sacred words from the distant past “Blue Cheer” in hushed undertones, but they are some way wide of the mark. Dig deeper and tunnel across the Atlantic to where their musical origins undoubtedly lie and you’ll find bands like The Way We Live and Tractor ploughing much the same furrow circa. 1970 as Crooked Hook do today: heavy yet never heavy-handed, with an almost frightening melodic insight, both aggressive and caressing and packing more punch than a battalion of boxers. There’s no overdubbed solos, and the songs are sludgy and spacious just like the vast, coal-filled cavernous bellies of the power stations alluded to above.


Joey Maddalena sings occasional lyrics in a stripped-bare voice and defines their sound with swirling bursts of wah-wah lead guitar sludge. Bassist Rick Omonte doubles up as a local music promoter, so regular gigs are assured, and Jason Bates pounds anything vaguely percussive with devastating and devastatingly spot-on fills.

The track list on "The Captain Will Be Your Guide" runs to six songs, with the album clocking in at 48 minutes, leading some to describe this as a CD-EP. Rubbish. It’s the same length as an LP, and reminds me of the days when I used to hunt through the record racks in department stores mentally separating the pop albums from the potentially more interesting progressive albums, which tended to feature longer tracks. Let’s face it, extended riffage is no bad thing – and four of the songs on here stretch past the 7-minute mark. Apart from the title track, ‘Deep End’ is a personal favourite, and the closing ‘Crimson Dub’ is a truly monstrous sprawl with a splendidly fuzzed, distorted feedbacky ending which I for one can’t wait to hear live sometime.

Apparently they’ve already gigged with Boris, MV&EE and Growing, as well as with Dead Meadow and Blue Cheer, so they’re in good company. Find this album and you will be too. (Phil McMullen)




(CD from Camera Obscura)


This latest release finds the core trio of Jesus Angel de La Paz (Acedo), multi-instrumentalist, Eric Johnson, and tenor sax blower, Brian Maloney hitting a magic dozen, although it has been hinted that these may be their final musical utterances. Fittingly, the quartet, featuring percussionist John Paul Marchand and violinist John Axtell reach back to the early catalogue to reinterpret such seminal classics as ‘Blues for Rainer,’ Bolt of Appolo’s ‘St. Cecelia’ (stripped of its original heavy metal thunder) and ‘Baphomet’s Curse,’ and the ‘Sky Pilot Suite.’ One major change that long-time fans will notice is that Jesus has eschewed his trademark, serpentining “Eye of Horus” electric guitar solos for a more acoustic-based album. This may be as close to BSE Unplugged as we are likely to encounter!


The songs are, therefore, more melodic and more focused than the free-form jamming we’ve come to expect. Just listen to the gorgeous, floating-on-air melody lines of ‘Walking Down Rosemary Lane’ (a thinly-veiled Bert Jansch tribute?) or the ethereal ‘La Paz,’ as it soars heavenward on patchouli smoke rings. The Middle Eastern flavour of much of the bands’ work is retained via several sitar-drenched tracks, including the title track, which wow and flutters like the glistening Himalayas in the mid day sun.


‘Perelandra’ is a tender, acoustic rumination that occasionally morphs in and out of the riff from The Stones’ ‘Lady Jane,’ while the sedate rendition of ‘Baphomet’s Curse’ sways along like an afternoon siesta in your backyard hammock. There’s a relaxed, spiritual quality to much of the music that’s conducive for self exploration (as evidenced by the album title), resulting in a soundtrack for your voyage on the inner path to self discovery, and if it is indeed the band’s swan song, they go out on a pensive whisper that will be remembered long after the mushroom clouds of prior sonic explosions has settled onto the barren desert floor. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD-EP http://www.hollowox.com  )


Hollow Ox are a hauntingly effective, instrumentally astute and creatively inventive four-piece from Nashville, Tennessee USA comprising Cole Street, Mike Crouch, Matthew Mckeever and Jeremy McCall. I first stumbled across them when my good friend Tim Carey, from Nashville, recommended them for the Terrastock Tea Party held at the Springwater last May, along with 84001, Magick Plants and Heathern Haints. A combination of time, cost and distance meant I wasn’t able to attend, unfortunately, but according to Tim,  “We [84001] suprised a few people by completely changing our instrumentation and setlist. Heathern Haints gave an inspired set of dark psychedelia with many curious peaks. Hollow Ox was simply beautiful with all of their shimmery sound. And Magick Plants just rocked our faces off...” Sounds like a good night to me!


My interest thus piqued, I picked up a CD-EP with a silk-screened cover by Hollow Ox dating from last year (i.e. 2007) a month or so later at this summer’s Terrastock festival in Louisville, Kentucky – and to be perfectly honest it’s rarely been far away from my ears ever since. Title song ‘Similar Light’ lopes along in a very Windy and Carl-esque way, which is no bad thing, with hushed vocals set against eerie washes of beautifully full, rounded guitar tones. ‘Sketch 01’ is arguably the stand-out number of the collection for me, with a mesmerising electric guitar strum set against train-line percussion (you know that rhythmic sound you hear while travelling on a train, broken only by the sound of clattering over the points or the Doppler effect of passing a crossing gate bell? That’s what I mean...), which at the five minute point dissolves completely into a colourful, shimmering  haze like petrol fumes on a sunny day. ‘Fallen’ and ‘Become Action’ both have that classic post-rock darkness then shade effect nailed down just beautifully.


Post-rock is a style, an artistic endeavour if you like, which Hollow Ox toy with and then shy away from on a regular basis, rightly so in my opinion since, despite their primarily instrumental leanings – vocals are used more as shading and colouration than to add depth of meaning – Hollow Ox are much more than sonic whispers irregularly broken by plangent guitar and percussion. The EP features 5 tracks, although a couple more have been tagged onto my copy – presumably works in progress for a 12” planned for a December 2008 release. If you make your way along to http://hollowox.com/#songs you’ll find a host of free downloads available – all highly recommended by yours truly. (Phil McMullen)




(CD from www.thedecembersound.com )


    Like the bastard son of Spacemen 3 and The Rain Parade, December Sound are a drone infested paisley pop explosion, noisy as fuck and dressed in Day-Glo melody. Take opening track “Never”, after some muffled conversation, the drums kick in, distorted to death and brutal, before a monster guitar riff and all encompassing synths fill the universe with glorious sound. Following on “No Heaven Like Hell” is a rush of speed straight into the brain, the sinister middle eight containing some excellent shimmering guitar work before the whole band teeters on the edge of control for the songs finale.


    Things are slowed down a touch for the wonderful romp of “Drone Refusenik”, a swirling piece of psych, with wah guitar, phased vocals and a hypnotic feel, necessarily stoned and beautiful. Definitely in Spacemen 3 mode, “Painkiller” has one of those simple yet effective basslines that holds the song together, the vocals buried under layers of sound, the guitar creating a huge backdrop of noise in which to play.


     Treading close to shoegazing territory, “Reminder” has a lighter touch, still messed up but softer, the song drifting along, gazing out of the window on a rainy afternoon. A more upbeat sound can be found on the paisley classic, “Kill Me (Before I Kill You)”, one of my favourite songs on the album, containing everything that is good about this band.


    Mind you, the stooges infused noise of “Maker” also works a treat, three minutes of guitar enriched happiness that gets you going in the morning. On “Truth Hurts”, the band return to the huge drone strategy of earlier songs, a veritable slab of white noise with drifting vocals, and repetitive bass, reminding me of Ride, whose albums are well worth obtaining.


    Finally we come to the epic last track “Not If It’s On Your Time”. Starting slowly with some very restrained playing from the band, the song slow burns its way into orbit, building into a crescendo before fading again over nine ragged minutes. Of course this is not the end, as the hidden track that isn’t hidden, could be a coda I suppose, returns in a distorted mess of phased cacophony, something that doesn’t quite work for me, as I loved the long fade out that preceded it. Minor quibble aside however, this is a fine album, the fact that it was self-produced and released even more reason to embrace it to your Terrascopic heart. (Simon Lewis)



Psychedelic Schlemiels 2: More Lost Sounds from the Britpsych Scene: 1967-1969 - VARIOUS ARTISTS

(Wooden Hill CD)


There’s been such a proliferation of compilations from the first psychedelic era that I tend to give ‘em a wide berth nowadays – too much sub standard material out there, not enough gems.


And at the risk of ignoring some of the fellow travellers on this latest comp like Cellophane Cloud, The Loot and Opal Butterfly, forgive me for cutting to the chase and admitting that I hunted down a copy of this CD – 6 weeks to order through Amazon – simply to hear more nuggets from long-lost Mancunian heroes, Sweet Marriage. Happy to report it was worth the financial outlay and the wait.


Older readers may know this quintet by two tracks on the now long- deleted LP John Peel Presents Top Gear released in 1969 and featuring some wonderful music by the likes of Bridget St John, Ron Geesin and the Welfare State. Germaine Greer apparently drew Peel’s attention to them and following a show at the Marquee Club, the DJ was taken enough to include ‘Mort’ and ‘Titania’ on the aforesaid BBC LP.


Fellow Terrascope contributor Colin Hill and I both wondered what became of them subsequently – another late 60s lost band from Greater Manchester (see also Grisby Dyke and Greasy Bear) until we came across the snazzy Manchester Beat website (www.manchesterbeat.com and worth a look folks). There was a short history of the band by Olaf Owre and some much needed other information.


Marriage consisted of singer Tony Merrick, drummer Tony MacDonald, bassist Keith Lawless and guitarists Alan Doyle and Ron Walker – mining that rich psychedelic heavy pop vein that made Tomorrow and Wimple Winch so good, the combo delivered on all fronts rather similar to their contemporaries, the original Move – great singing, tons of energy and guitar drive, and capable of writing excellent original material. And stints at clubs in Hamburg really honed down their style.


Sweet Marriage at the Top Ten Club, Hamburg. Photo: James Ellingworth / Manchester Beat  website


They also shared with the Move a predilection for the American West Coast bands and regularly covered material by the Airplane, Love, the Doors and fittingly that super-charged super-talented Californian quintet Moby Grape. Sadly they were only around for a couple of years and aside from the Peel tracks only managed a single on the German Metronome label, both sides included here. ‘Childplay’ was their take on toy town pop rather in the vein of Tomorrow’s ‘Auntie Mary’s Dress Shop’. Tellingly the flip of this 45 was their version of the Bob Mosley song, ‘Bitter Wind’ from Wow. They really nail this – perfect vocal harmonies! Hope it’s not damning to say it sounds as good as the original. Their rendition of ‘Live and Let Live’, however, doesn’t quite do the same for the song from Forever Changes – here the tune is let down by the rather primitively-recorded drum sound, which is no reflection on  Tony M’s usually high standard of playing. They also performed Bryan Maclean’s ‘Alone Again Or’ a studio version of which is rumoured to exist on tape.


Alan Doyle regrets now that the band didn’t do more original writing from the start but their covers were pretty strong and showed a lot of taste (Lawless particularly was a big devotee of Peel’s BBC radio shows) and ‘Desiree’, originally done by the Left Bank was no exception – though to my ears there are quite a few Move moves in there – no bad thing!


The stand-out has to be the Merrick-Lawless tune,  ‘Death of Elizabeth’ – a complex,  lush piece of South Californian-style late 60s rock with echoes of the Grape, the Byrds and the quite wonderful West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. This and the aforementioned Love cover were recorded in London according to Alan Doyle when they got some sort of management deal with some guys from Rediffusion and a projected label called Rim. There’s a proper story about these guys to be told and it’s sad to think that such potential proved so short-lived – the band didn’t see 1970 out.


Take it from me, Marriage are too good to languish on some obscure collection of random tracks by other also-rans from 40 years ago. They need their own album and their full history revealing – meanwhile if I’ve whetted your appetites, track this set down. You won’t be disappointed.

(Nigel Cross - with thanks to Alan Doyle, Keith Lawless and Olaf Owre)