= August 2015 =  
The Amazing
Dean McPhee
Dr. Cosmo's Tape Lab
Evening Fires
Bobby Donnie
Tolerance Manoeuvre


(2LP on Partisan Records)

The Amazing are a deliciously melodic Swedish band led by singer, songwriter and guitarist Christoffer Gunrup, ably assisted by Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske, bass guitarist/keyboard player and sometimes third guitarist Frederik Swahn and on this album by drummer Moussa Fadera, who during the course of the past seven years have quietly gone about their collective task of restoring a contemporary feel to the left hand end of my record collection where the letters A and B mostly sit. Filed quite happily amongst Bronco, Byzantium, Brinsleys and – say it quietly – even Barclay James Harvest’s ‘Once Again’, the Amazing have over the course of three (now four) albums restored my faith in the healing properties of tranquil folk-pop and gently stoned progressive rock, and on 2011’s ‘Gentle Stream’ crafted an album so uniquely brilliant that I feared they’d never be able to follow it up.

As the years rolled on and nary a peep was heard I wondered if they had indeed imploded under the weight of their own genius, but then word slipped out that they’d changed labels (the first three albums were released by our old friend Stefan Kery at Subliminal Sounds) and a new double album first talked about early in 2014 finally saw the light of day on the U.S. label Partisan Records earlier this year.

Was it worth the wait? I should say so! The title track alone is utterly gorgeous, and in all probability a blast performed live. I’ve yet to have the pleasure myself. ‘Safe Island’ over on the B side is a reverb-drenched psychedelic tour-de-force (a term I know the band eschew, but it’s unavoidable here) packed with hypnotic lead guitar which smokes its way down to a distorted stub via some inspired keyboard work and enough feedback to floor a Dead-head. ‘Captured Light’ features the cascades of stringed instruments massaging the ears like a peal of bells which in many ways have become such a distinctive feature of the Amazing sound, while the closing coda is two parts Trees and one Nick Drake in equal measure. ‘To Keep it Going’ is already a strong favourite amongst Amazing songs to date, the introduction of what sounds like a Mellotron (and indeed may well be one) only serving to underline the band’s brilliant credentials. Best of all though has to be ‘Circles’, which is just astonishingly beautiful, the echoing vocals hovering over some gloriously understated guitar work and truly inspired drumming.

File under “Rock and Pop” and in future look out for copies in the 1970s section of the second-hand racks, because anyone playing this unknowlingly will immediately assume the gorgeously panoramic production could only have originated in mid-70s Laurel Canyon. And that’s meant as a compliment of the very highest order.

(Phil McMullen)



(LP/CD/DL http://www.deanmcphee.com/)

Released at the end of May, this album is a collection of solo electric guitar pieces that shimmer and glisten as they lazily drift through your mind, each note perfectly chosen to compliment the last.

    Influenced by folk music, drone, Moroccan sounds, trance and Dub, the music is also influenced by the effect used, with reverb and echo high on the list, giving the music a subtle coating of psychedelic bliss, allowing the listener to lie back and let the sounds envelope them.

    With each piece recorded live, with no overdubs, there is a gentle flow to the collection with “Smoke and Mirrors” setting the tone early on, a delightful melody with subtle variations and a gentle heart that creates a dream laden atmosphere. With the echo more prominent, “Glass Hills” maintains the gentleness, its mellow vibe perfect for sitting on a hill-top and just watching the world go by.

    With the pace of this album rarely breaking away from sleepy eyed stumble this is definitely a collection for those meditative moments with “Solar Crown” having plenty to hold your interest as you get tangled in the web of notes that are slowly woven around the listening space before “Effigy of Clay” takes you further into stillness, single notes that dissolve into nothing whilst a soft drone hovers above.

  Having worked with Acid Mothers Temple, Michael Chapman, Thurston Moore, Josephine Foster and Charalambides amongst others it is clear that McPhee is a talented musician with plenty of confidence, something that shows in this collection the minimalist feel of the tracks perfectly realised for maximum effect.

   To finish, the title track keeps the effect at a subtle distance as it charms us once more, leading you out wanting more, the track touching on folk melodies and containing a beauty that gives it a timeless feel ending an album that I will return to often.  (Simon Lewis)



(LP/CD/Digital from Rocket Recordings)

There is always going to be a nagging concern that a much anticipated follow-up to a landmark debut is going to fall flat. Gone are the days when a band would put out a tentative range finder, build on it and then struggle with the prospect of the difficult third album. Nowadays (hark at him) the debut is often so rehearsed and finely honed that the sophomore is onto a hiding to nothing. Don’t believe me? Then take a while to think of the number of vaunted hotshots who have come veritable croppers trying to match let alone top their opening salvo. Verily, the road to bargain bin hell is littered with New Dylans and biggest things since the Beatles.

Master Sleeps was Hills’ welcome and deservedly lauded introduction to Rocket’s burgeoning roster of heavyweight and increasingly international acts and these sonic Swedes were one of the memorable highlights of the label’s blistering assault on Liverpool international Psych Fest in 2014 – one of the best days of music your reviewer has been privileged to witness this decade.  So how well does eagerly awaited follow-up Frid slice the Dijon you might ask? Well I’m glad you did because it is gratifying to report that all seems exceedingly in order in this rarefied and mysterious corner of Scandinavia and it all goes a bit like this.

“Kollektiv” is a leviathan ghost ship appearing out of the mist out of the mist, a deep rumbling intro kicks into action unleashing a maelstrom of fret-melting axe work which makes way for sitar before retreating once more into the mist. “National Drone” builds on the raga-esque theme, the drone bit having as much to do with the incantation-style vocals as the music which builds to an intense psychedelic abandon. This is an early stand-out cut that already shows how the band has matured since Master Sleeps.

“Anukthal Is Here” - and I for one am pleased that he or she made the effort – again trades in eastern scales but is dreamier and more laid back with a coda that’s distinctively reminiscent of the theme to some groovy turn of the 70s TV show that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s but a temporary respite for “Milarepa” jolts you back to attention – oh my poor jangling nerve ends – serving up metallic drone overlaid with freak reeds as if in homage to Hawkwind playing under some woodland Westway. “Och Solen Sankte Sig Röd”– oh my poor spellchecker this time – is another spooky intonation which lopes along most agreeably and hypnotically, playing tickle with the cerebral cortex and is note for note the most compelling track on the album. All of which brings us to “Death Will Find A Way”, a fatalistically titled coda choc-full of backward guitars, bongo tapping, campfire chanting and another slice of retro-cosmic heaven. That’s me joining in, that is.

Whereas label mates and fellow country-folk Goat have only ever held limited appeal for me this is the real deal and not at all contrived-sounding. Not conventionally pretty either, perhaps, but pretty awesome all the same and just as pleasing to the ageing shell-likes than its predecessor in fact its variation of pace and texture may even give it extra legs, only time will tell. Praise indeed you might think and you’d be bang on the money.

No sophomore blues to report. Over and out.

(Ian Fraser)




(LP from Sugarbush records )

Telling the story of Max, a man trying to make sense of a society where everything makes sense, this album owes an obvious debt to “The Point” (Nilsson) using narrative between the tunes to tell the tale. Without spoiling the story, there is a host of characters including a girl, of course, time travel, pie and mash and other strangeness the whole thing capturing your imagination and making surreal sense in the end.

    Of course, it is the music that matters and here the songs are as imaginative as the tale, tunes ranging from classic Psych Pop, to more indie sounds, as well as a cockney knees up, the songs drenched in the sixties yet remaining fresh and bright.

     Opening song “City and the Stars” is a perky slice of sixties pop that gets you dancing, an optimistic start whilst “In Lieu of Something Better” sees Max beginning to question his life, the music a bit rockier with some lovely jangly guitar thrown in.

    Slower and more psychedelic “The Mirrors Reflection” is a moody tune that reminds me of The Moody Blues with its swirling strings and soft melodies. As the tale gets stranger, we enter weirder territory with electronic bleeps and plastic surgery mingling together before “Face of Another” reminds me of the Kinks with its swinging London feel. After the poppier latin beat of “Time Enough for Love” side one ends with the excellent “Painted Birds” a fine and groovy tune with great guitar and the whole band on top form.

    Beginning side two with a wide grin “Pie Mash and Liquor” brings out the cockney in you before suddenly dissolving into a reggae groove for the middle eight, the lyrics making you smile in time to the music, an excellent tune. Throughout the side the quality remains high each tune holding your attention, the story unravelling in an unexpected way as it nears its finale with the title track leading us out with delicious ease, a swirl of sound that envelopes the room beautifully.

    Beautifully packaged, pressed on silver/grey vinyl, this is a quality package that is limited to 250 copies, get one soon as they are selling fast. (Simon Lewis)



LP from Sunrise Ocean Bender
CD from Bandcamp

Released separately these two albums should be looked on as companion pieces as they were recorded at the same sessions, the LP containing six shorter pieces, whilst the CD contains four more extended pieces. Long time fans of the band should know what to expect, a laid-back West Coast vibe that shimmers with psychedelic goodness, a rural take on acid rock that drifts effortlessly across summer skies the sound beautifully realised on “Roll Away The Stones” the albums introduction that sets the mood before “We Cast Our Lot With The Waves” takes us deeper within, a gentle drone that sparkles with melodic beauty throughout sounding like a sea shanty for the mountains, saxophone and synths trading sounds that roll softly by. Adding a loose percussive texture “Staring Down the Gullet of the Great Beyond, Part 1” moves the sound into Kosmiche lands, the musicians distorting time in their quest for the perfect phrase, reminding me of Ash Ra or a soft focus version of Acid Mother Temple as they reach for the stars and beyond.

    Over on side two, things start strangely as “Space Mountain” emerges out of a cloud of free form space noise, nicely lysergic and definitely good for you as it displaces your senses. Taking the accolade of title of the week “Too Many Ravens, Not Enough Corpses” has a droning violin at its heart, guitar and synth adding to the distant noise the song echoing through the trees before reaching you in a fractured hallucinatory wave of sound that is easy to love, a pulsing drum adding a ritual element to the track. To end, “Staring Down the Gullet Part 2” is a slow burning piece of space exploration that begs you to lie back and simply enjoy, ending a magnificent collection in majestic style.

    Housed in a lovely cover with great artwork, the strength of this album is the fact that the whole band shine together, each an essential part of the whole and that ethos continues on its companion album which begins with the pastoral vibe of “Big Farmer Big Jesus” a slice of Cosmic Country that is beautiful and sweet as cherry pie, the music swaying like wheat fields in the summer the ever present drone tinged with sadness as autumn approaches.

   Throughout these recordings the musicians use a wide ranging collection of instruments meaning that although the pieces have a cohesive feel, changes in the sounds give each track a different texture or tone with “There is No Going Without Returning” having a bright, flickering feel to it, a rumbling bass adding another layer to a full sound that never becomes too overpowering, each instrument adding something to the track. Different again “Unaussprechlichen Kulten” has a darker more menacing atmosphere, an overloaded guitar, possibly a violin, squealing through the piece with intensity, cutting its way through a dense fog of noise, the track harking back to the early days of electronic experimentation especially when some haunting chords burst forth adding a spectral beauty to the mix.

   Ending it all, “Staring Down the Gullet Part 3” takes us back to the mellow West Coast vibe easing the listener back to reality and doing so with a great big grin.

      2015 is proving to be a great year for music and these two album are right up there, highly recommended. (Simon Lewis)




Learning their instruments whilst starting the band gives the duo of Stephanie Barber and Joan Sullivan a primitive and wide-eyed sound that is perfect for their brand of rock and roll the songs changing tempo and loudness in strange and interesting ways, the mix of power chord, ritualistic drumming and unique vocal style creating a collection that takes a while to hook you in, but when it does, boy are you hooked.

    Opening song “Birthday” is a giddy mix of The Shaggs covering Sonic Youth, a dirty guitar tone adding grit to sweet melodies, the lack of technical skill ensuring the song concentrates on power and feeling, the simplicity of the tunes masking the talent it takes to write a simple song that holds the attention. Think The Cramps of Nirvana for examples of bands that have made a career out of simple tunes.

   Throughout the collection the songs do indeed hold the attention and then reveal depth and an originality that crawls under the skin. Highlights include the vitriolic sweetness of “Letter” the moody “Weird” a song that has the influence of Laurie Anderson buried within its distorted grooves and “Swamp”, a tune that sounds so easy yet is lifted by the vocal performance and again tips a hat to Laurie Anderson.

   Over on side two, “Squid Pork Falls” rocks in a primal three chord kinda way, whilst “Night Sky” sounds like something that could be heard at CBGB's, its experimental nature creating another fine tune.

   As I said it took a while to really get into this album but now I am thinking that this could be one of my favourite records this year, how rock and roll should sound, played from the heart.

    Equally beguiling, yet in a completely different way, Wume are another duo that features April Camlin on drums whilst the synths are handled by Albert schatz. As the instrumentation would suggest there is a hypnotic, motorik feel to this collection, repetition being the order of the day as sequences pulse together, never losing sight of melody, whilst chanted vocals add to the dream like feel of the music.

   Opening track “Control” has that Kraut feel about it, a machine like quality to it, something that can be found across the whole album although, the drums do add a warmer touch to proceedings. With some gentle chords drifting across the machines, “We Go Further” is a beautiful slice of electronic music that burbles and pulses with precision, the ever changing soundscape holding the attention throughout.

    Slightly stranger, side one is rounded of by the woozy electronics of “Ostinaut”, chattering hi-hat and effected synths adding an other worldly ambience, the piece sounding very modern whilst retaining an analogue warmth.

    Nice and funky, side two is kicked off in style by “Gold Leaf” the duo getting their groove on, the track urging you to get up and have a bit of a boogie, in a fairly relaxed way, but still a boogie. To end “Two Bridges” is a delightful tune that will make you smile, the sounds beautifully blended, nothing wasted or over saturated.

   As with all Ehse releases, these album can be listened to for free and I would suggest that you should as there is much to be enjoyed. (Simon Lewis)



LP from Flashback Records

As far as I know this is a debut album from this London-based trio who blend guitar, cello, trumpet and vocals chords into hybrid instrumental soundscapes with echoes of avant-garde jazz and ambient dissonance, all of which is at one and the same time melancholy and utterly enchanting. Favourite cuts include ‘Through me Again’ which comes across sounding like Spaceheads on Mogadon and the haunting ‘4am’ with its jagged shards of guitar, shades of another veteran of the Terrastock festivals, Ignatz. I found myself occasionally yearning for some additional female vocals added into the mix, but that’s a small quibble about what’s overall an excellent album and undeniably a band to watch out for. (Phil McMullen)