= December 2011 =  
Mad River
Deleted Waveform Gatherings
Jesse Sparhawk / Eric Carbonara
Harp and a Monkey
Rapunzel & Sedayne
Even More Rock Family Trees
April in the Orange
Cabinet of Natural Curiosities
Stone Breath / Mike Seed
Black Tempest
Sky Burial
Various Artists - Keep Off The Grass
Various Artists - TV Themes
Various Artists - 2012 Annual
Beau Brummels
Leonard Cohen
Jack Bruce


(EP on Shagrat Records

Funny how things work out. If I had published just one more issue of the Ptolemaic Terrascope, rather than giving in to the crippling debts and gratefully reaching out for the lifeline so kindly thrown by Pat Thomas in California, this LP might well have never existed. Issue 36 was originally planned (in my head at least) to be a Mad River Special, an attempt to pay due homage to a band which quite simply meant the world to me; an act whose startlingly original music paved the way for my own musical exploration henceforth, and who even had the audacity to feature, on their second album, the voice of writer Richard Brautigan, without the influence of whose work I’d have never attempted to write a word myself.

Unique, eclectic and disquieting, Mad River blended elements of blues, folk, Indian music and avant-garde jazz together into something that was unmistakeably acid-rock. Their complex song arrangements, dissonant melodies and darkly inscrutable lyrics coupled with lead singer Lawrence Hammond's pained, high-pitched voice that lent even the gentlest of lullaby’s a distinctly sinister air, however meant that Mad River were the very antithesis of the feel-good vibe commonly associated with the San Francisco “sound”.

The band also became inextricably linked with the San Francisco Diggers, a group of  radical-left / anarchists operating in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco who disseminated broadsides and leaflets (as well as free food), staged art-happenings, performed street theatre and organized concerts, many of which Mad River appeared at. Through the Diggers they met the man who was to become their inspiration and principal benefactor, the poet and author Richard Brautigan. Brautigan hovered around the Diggers like a moth freed from one of the pages of his own poems. On the one hand, he’d freely pass around copies of his work  – pieces such as "All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace", "Karma Repair Kit" and "Love Poem" – but on the other, he’d insist on signing all of his work, which contradicted the Diggers’ concept of anonymity.

In the 1968 Digger film “Nowsreal”, Richard Brautigan appears in one scene planting seeds from his book “Please Plant This Book” and reading the poem "California Native Flowers". Mad River had used some of their Capitol Records advance to pay for the printing of that collection, returning a favour paid to them by Brautigan the previous year when they were quite literally starving, and Richard would ensure some of the Diggers free food ended up on their table.

The self-titled debut LP Mad River delivered to Capitol in 1968 was drenched in their by now trademark snaky guitar filigrees, improvisational chord patterns and dissonant melodies which, coupled with Hammond’s quavering voice, require several repeated listenings before making any kind of sense. By my reckoning all of that combines to make for a classic psychedelic LP that stands tall amongst the very finest of that or any other era, but it was unfortunately deemed to be both a critical and a commercial failure at the time, lacking sufficient punch and melody to garner itself sufficient – or indeed any significant – airplay.

In purely commercial terms, Mad River’s second and final LP, ‘Paradise bar and Grill’ (1969), was a resounding success compared to their debut, reaching the heady heights of № 192 in the American charts. Produced by Jerry Corbitt of the Youngbloods – in fact, both Corbitt and fellow Youngblood Banana (aka Lowell Levinger) contribute steel guitar – there is a homespun rustic feel to much of the material which is reflective of principal songwriter Lawrence Hammond's then newly rekindled love affair with country music. It was on this record that Richard Brautigan also appeared as a guest, providing the spoken narration for his own "Love's Not the Way to Treat a Friend," backed by a serenely mellow (for Mad River, at least) folk guitar.

What today would set the band apart as being interesting, collectable and even cult figures proved at the time to be commercial suicide however. All but an unmarketable commodity, Mad River failed even to last into the 1970s, finally calling it a day mid-way through 1969 after a disastrous show in Colorado where they were allegedly ripped off by the promoter and left with not even enough money to get home. It was a tragic, if sadly predictable, end to one of the most starkly original American bands of the 1960s, a band which is long overdue the respect and admiration they so richly deserve.

All due credit to a gentleman by the name of David Biasotti, who very kindly took it upon himself to track down and interview  for the Terrascope every single member of the band - and most of the supporting cast as well. I remember one time, David announced he’d managed to speak to the person responsible for their album’s cover art. I was, if possible, even more excited about this than he was. Week after week, David’s emails would roll into my in-box, each one further unravelling the mystery of Mad River – or occasionally opening up a new one, such as the fact that at least one outtake from ‘Paradise Bar & Grill’ existed (the band’s 1968 swansong, the one with Richard Brautigan on) – a supercharged romp in a similar vein to ‘Amphetamine Gazelle’ entitled ‘Jersey Sloo’ that features one of David Robinson’s finest ever guitar breaks – and boy, is that ever saying something. This, along with the legendary Dayton Sessions which had been passed reverentially between tapers for years, was obviously a “must” for the cover CD with the Mad River Terrascope Special!

Gradually the story came together; and just as gradually the Ptolemaic Terrascope fell apart. The already tenuous financial strings holding it upright snapped one by one, and along with them any last semblance of sanity on my part. I was only stopped from getting even deeper into debt and publishing my dream issue by a significant lack of Mad River photographs to support the text.

Finally, the photographs were found – some of them quite simply extraordinary. Had they been reproduced in the Terrascope as planned, they would have in probability have been in black and white – so in some ways, this album simply HAD to happen.

In effect, what Nigel Cross has created and put out on Shagrat is an utterly gorgeous, 34 page coffee-table book dedicated to Mad River, with an accompanying LP. Or more properly, a 5 track 12" EP. The book contains all of David Biasotti’s masterful notes and quotes, plus an astonishing collection of photos and supporting graphics – and the LP. Oh, God the LP! One side is taken up by the aforementioned ‘Jersey Sloo’. Needless to say, you need to hear this. It’s only a couple of minutes long, and is as Nigel Cross himself notes, by Mad River’s standard’s enormously accessible, quite capable of earning the band airplay way beyond the San Francisco Bay area had they chosen to run with it. The other side is nothing short of revelatory. Tony Poole – he of Starry Eyed and Laughing fame – has done a quite simply astonishing job of cleaning up and mastering the analogue tape Greg ‘Duke’ Dewey kept of the 1967 Dayton sessions, lending them a new depth and clarity previously only ever imagined, bearing in mind all most of us had ever heard was an nth generation bootleg audio cassette tape of the sessions. ‘Timothy’ in particular is an absolute gem, easily worthy of inclusion on their first LP – and as anyone familiar with the band will know, ‘Windchimes’ did in fact appear on that album, renamed ‘Wind Chimes’ and in a recognisable yet singularly altered form to that heard here.

This alone is worth the price of admission, but hopefully my humble attempt to do the album credit here will have encouraged you to buy it in any case. This is, mark my words, an historic and vitally important release. Tony Poole is very kindly selling them currently direct from his website, here:

(Phil McMullen)




The 'sixties never really went away, did they? We live in their shadow, not least through our music. So many of us would like to return to that time when musicians could do anything (or at least felt that they could), knew the value of melody, and wanted to explore the audio world. With this in mind, our old friends Deleted Waveform Gatherings, who hail from Trondheim in Norway - about half way between Oslo and the Arctic Circle - present a twenty-strong treasure chest of songs on their fourth album "Pretty Escape."

Opening with the lovely, Byrds-esque cut 'Time Passes Slowly,' the retro vibe of this album is set: soft harmonies, a proper tune, Rickenbacker-formed guitars. 'Farmer Abe' reminded me of another retro-popper, deVries, whose "Death To God" made such an impression recently. 'Cymbal Trees Pt. 1' is rougher and tougher, with wah-guitars and thumping drums, yet which retains the same attention to vocals and harmonies; then an instrumental break cuts loose with Doors styled Hammond and wailing guitar. Terrific. 'Brand New Funky Hairdo' sounds very much like La Fleur Fatale (another great retro Scaninavian band), but there's a strong Beatles influence too, not least in the style and sound of the lead vocal. A great cut, this, which also features ethnic percussion and backwards guitars. 'Even Though She's Gone' has a Crowded House feel to it and is another great tune; Oyvind Holm, the songwriter, has a remarkable ear for melody. 'Tear Off The Chains' rips up the speakers like Big Star, while 'Alone Down Here' has a T Rex vibe, almost glam, as if channelled from 1971. 'Got A Lot (Want It All)' recalls Tom Petty, while 'Write It On My Headstone' is straight out of the Beatles '68 book of songwriting - yet is original, catchy and beautifully produced. 'Luft' pits flute mellotron against a mournful vocal and is a perfectly judged change of mood and tempo, before the 3/4 rockings of 'Karma Phala,' with more fabulous vocals, harmonies, and even some proto-riffing from the guitars and bass. 'Come Out And Say It' references Macca, chugging piano and all, while the title track is a slow burn rocker. 'You Would Only Bring Me Down' recalls deVries once more and features a particularly good vocal, while 'Another One Of Those' has a Harrison-esque slide guitar fluttering amidst the Lennon-like vocal. 'Let You Win This Time' is a bluesy little number, while 'Bodies Without Organs' is a cut that opens with a bizarre techno part before lurching into another harmony-heavy song. 'Out In The Sand' is the most obviously Lennon styled vocal on the album, but it works nicely, while penultimate track 'Porcelain Prisoner' is a quirky little song that drags the listener's attention away from the album's vibe just long enough to prepare for the closing cut, 'Cymbal Trees Pt. 2,' which slows things right down and adds a psychedelic tamboura for that authentic retro sound. Fab!

Oyvind Holm, whose name will certainly be familiar to Terrascope readers thanks to of his previous band Dipsomaniacs receiving a great deal of much deserved coverage, can certainly write a tune; and his band support him in terrific style. This is an outstanding album that won't be straying too far from my CD player. Fans of La Fleur Fatale, deVries, Pugwash, Big Star and all the 'sixties classics will enjoy checking this one out. Highly recommended. (Steve Palmer)



(LP + download/CD from vhfrecords@aol.com )

Comprising two lengthy instrumental (stringed of course) compositions, student of oriental music, Carbonara, and classically trained Sparhawk (out of Fern Knight) on, respectively, 22-string upright chaturangui guitar and Lever Harp, serve up lightly intricate meditative patterns of sound that please the listener without demanding too much of him or her. “A Patient Promise” is playful and meandering and reminiscent of that 17 minute trip scene from 1960s stop-go animation UK children TV classic Chigley. Ok, that never actually happened but if it had, this is what it would probably have sounded like. “The Entwined Twin” offers um more of the same, although if anything is more varied and urgent, no doubt helped by the introduction of light percussion at around 4 minutes in, which provides what the Quiet One would have termed Extra Texture.

To their credit, Sparhawk and Carbonara resist temptation to overplay their hand through displays of virtuosity, although both are evidently capable of just that. The result is an accessible and enjoyable 35 minutes leaving one with a sense of remarkable contentment and well-being. (Ian Fraser)




(CD from Folk Police Recordings www.folkpolicerecordings.com )

Folk Police Recordings, which deserves our unstinting gratitude for releasing the excellent Peter Bellamy tribute “Oak, Ash, Thorn” earlier this year, is gradually carving itself a fine reputation as a sort of halfway house between the impeccably traditionalist Topic records and the more outlandish but rarely uninteresting output of alt-folk.

To an impressive and growing roster that already includes the likes of Bob Pegg, Terrascope totem the Kitchen Cynics and up-and-coming, eccentrically voiced Elle Goulding can now be added this mischievous, and at times irreverent bunch. Described in their press blurb as “the bastard sons of the Oldham Tinkers locked in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop”, Harp and Monkey are indeed a harp (and banjo)-driven trio, whose heavily accented delivery might suggest an XY chromosome equivalent of the Unthanks were it not for the fact they were less indebted to that great song writing duo trad/anon than to self-penned, humorous and often dark or wistful observations on life in a Northern town.

Outcome-wise there is much that is good and some that is work in progress. There are some real stand-out tracks - “A Better Life (The Bride’s Lament)” and “Old Wives Tales” being two most worthy of mention – the latter in no small part reminiscent of our old mates Kitchen Cynics. Both are clever and tuneful examples of storytelling set against nicely crafted, atmospheric and suspenseful backdrops (“A Better Life” even manages a cheeky Voodoo Chile style opening).

Elsewhere it is mostly a case of simple structures and a sense of fun that sometimes hint of disposability if it weren’t for some astute and occasionally poignant lyrical content. Only fleetingly is there a hint that it could all go a bit wrong, like when. “Polite Society” puts words to the “Tales of the Riverbank” theme, and I start to think, hmmm, humorous musical interlude on unfunny Radio 2 Saturday lunchtime comedy slot and begin to invoke uncomfortable memories of Richard Digance. Then all of a sudden they come out with the title track, a lush statement that reeks of summer days and something gorgeous and idyllic. Add a joyful and infectious la-la chorus and redemption is at hand. “Digging Holes” is the story of sacrifice and industrial revolution which brings us sharply back to the here and now, or rather the there and then. “Serenade For A Winter’s Day” brings home the flock, simple and melodic and what Coldplay might sound like on their next Christmas single.

So is there commercial appeal aplenty to be mined in the wake of the success of the folk-light likes of Mumford and Sons, then? Well possibly, although to be fair, Harp and a Monkey are probably too niche, too quirky and not cod-Oirish enough to cross over the Rubicon and into the mainstream. They are, though, one you should certainly check out if they happen upon a club near you and here’s an album is definitely worthy of at least selective exploration. (Ian Fraser)




Rapunzel and Sedayne - otherwise known as Rachel McCarron and Sean Breadin - are a duo of traditional folk artists who blend powerful, often haunting vocals with five string banjo, fiddle, frame drum, flute, and even a Korg Kaossilator (for otherworldy drones, mostly). The fourteen tracks on their new album "Songs From The Barley Temple" are sometimes trad standards, sometimes drawn from a variety of sources, and sometimes amendments made in their own style. The power of the album comes from the emotive singing, which folk fans across the north of England will be familiar with - the duo have played many festivals and gigs around their native Fleetwood in Lancashire.

'Porcupine In November Sycamore' opens the album with very strong, emotive vocals, the track being (according to the sleeve notes) a self-penned cut inspired by seeing porcupines in Blackpool Zoo. 'Robin Redbreast's Testament' focusses on Rapunzel's vocal, which is again mesmerising. 'Handsome Molly' is a trad classic, here focussing on Rapunzel's voice but with fiddle accompaniment and a smattering of Sedayne's vocals. 'Blackwaterside' opens with a high-register vocal from Rapunzel and a pattering banjo accompaniment, with the vocal on this track being much less in the trad folk idiom; almost confessional singer-songwriter. It's a lovely track, all centred around that gorgeous voice, and certainly an album highlight. 'True Thomas' is a standard from the Oxford Book Of Ballads accentuated with harmonium, while 'Silver Dagger' is another trad classic, with a haunting tune. These latter two cuts show the advantage of recording live in the studio (there are almost no overdubs here), with great interplay of vocal and fiddle. 'Diver Boy' brings Sedayne's vocals to the fore, with Rapunzel's providing a harmony. The lengthy, uptempo 'Housecarpenter & I Cure The Day' ends with a haunting Kaossilator/voice section that works marvellously with the concluding vocals: another highlight. 'Outlaws' is a Rapunzel arrangement of a Bonnie Parker poem, with a great chord sequence beneath the conversational vocal, while 'Owld Grye Song' opens with an enchanting kemence part, and matched vocals; this is one of the duo's live standards. 'Katy Kay/Katie Cruel' is a fusion of two songs with the singing of the former led by Sedayne and the latter by Rapunzel; another highlight. 'Riverdance' is a self-penned lament featuring harmonium and crwth, which is a bowed instrument - Sedayne specialises in ancient instruments. 'Robin Sick And Weary' features Sedayne playing the robin flute, which is an instrument that produces only harmonic notes (like certain Eastern, cross-blown flutes), the vocals on this cut being paired. The album closes with 'Skippool Creek,' which is a re-envisioning of the opening track, acting as a fine conclusion to the album.

Folk purists will no doubt bemoan the introduction of a modern instrument, but for a duo as steeped in the English tradition as Rapunzel & Sedayne any such wittering will easily be diverted. The strength of the album is undoubtedly the vocals, with Rapunzel's as natural as her breathing, but Sedayne is also a very fine singer, and the pair's overall vision, of dual vocals and minimal instumentation, makes this a compelling and satisfying album. (Steve Palmer)



(Omnibus Press ISBN 978-1-84449-007-3)

Believe it or not, it was as long ago as 1998 when ‘More Rock Family Trees’, the most recent of this now legendary series of five (to date) books, all of which are still in print, was first published. The only thing that’s changed over the intervening years is, as Pete Frame wryly notes, the technology: in a similar way to that in which the digital revolution was one of the signatories to the death warrant for the old Ptolemaic Terrascope, one day he took his great big lovingly hand drawn family trees to the printers in order for page-sized photographic negatives to be made only to be informed the whole process had been dumped in a skip and carted away. Finding someone to convert the whole to a digital process in part explains the delay since the last collection; the sheer amount of work involved and Pete Frame’s own diverse interests squares the circle. These family trees are, needless to say, almost insanely time consuming to produce; and even glancing at them can leave anyone with the slightest interest in rock music history wondering where on earth the past couple of hours have disappeared to as they lose themselves in the minutiae of each branch, each twig, each leaf of every tree.

I have to say, it’s Pete’s gentle, homely and invariably informative notes and comments which really bring these Family Trees to life for me. The concept has often been emulated, rarely more effectively than by Paul Barber (two of whose trees actually appear in this volume as if by Royal Appointment); and yet as much as I adore bands such as Felt and the Television Personalities, Mr. Barber’s Creation Records tree, which lacks any comments, isn’t half as captivating as his extended Jesus and Mary Chain tree over the page, which comes complete with sidebars that are very much in the Pete Frame style (very, very much, in fact…)

Take for example the fabulous Shirley Collins tree, which untangles a wonderfully long and complex career as never before. According to Pete, it was Austin John Marshall’s idea in 1964 to “pair Shirley with Davy Graham – guitar hero, progenitor of the whole folk baroque style”, a fact which I could I suppose have easily have researched myself, but hadn’t. Pete then adds that the duo once played at the Tudor Coffee Bar in Luton, Bedforshire – a gig run by himself.

Elton John’s extended family tree on page 7 is unsurprisingly perhaps one of the most fascinating. I confess to not being enormously keen on the man’s music myself, but I remain utterly enthralled by his career path through British music from blues to beat and beyond. It’s not at all surprising (to me at least) to see Hookfoot on there, as several of them were sessions musicians who made up Elton’s backing band in the late 60s / early 70s; but I confess to not having previously made the connection to Junior’s Eyes, Quiver and Cochise – and then seeing Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm (another favourite of mine from that era) on the same page really made me sit up and take notice! It’s obvious when you see it, but it takes a family tree to make you see what’s been there in front of you all along.

Other real joys in this edition include the story of the Lyres, tucked away on page 30; Mudhoney and the Seattle scene (fabulous one, this); the  Pretty Things (more complicated than you’d think!), and the page on which I think I ended up spending the most time – Chicken Shack, incorporating Blodwyn Pig, the Keef Hartley band, Savoy Brown and Jucy Lucy (whose Andy Pyle played on Rod Stewart’s ‘Every Picture Tells a Story, having been asked by Rod whilst on Savoy Brown’s tour plane – see what I mean about Pete’s notes bringing these things to life?!)

All in all, I can’t begin to recommend this highly enough. An astute move publishing it just in time for Christmas, too – I can imagine quite a few dads (and these days even grand-dads) being very quiet on Christmas day if they happened to wake up and find this in their stocking…. (Phil McMullen)




(LP from http://aprilintheorange.blogspot.com/)

(LP from www.forarborsforsatellites.com)

(LP/CD from http://www.anticlock.net/)

If you are a lover of seventies “Acid Folk”, then the latest release from Detriot based April in the Orange is going to float your boat in a serious way, a heady mix of acoustic guitar, drones, searing lead and psychedelic intent, all housed in a beautiful hand-produced sleeve.

Opening with the gentle strum of “Green Glass”, a softly blown recorder adding sweetness as vocal harmonies start to paint pictures, the feel is pastoral and summery until an acidic electric guitar writhes out of the music, alive and crackling with cosmic energy, a sudden rush up the spine that changes the nature of the song completely taking it out into another realm. Following on “Little White Bird” is a jaunty acoustic ditty reminiscent of Vashti Bunyan, whilst “Flow Down My autumn River” is a more lysergic tune, electric and acoustic guitar shimmering as strangely effected vocals drift over the top, creating a short psych-folk gem that sparkles in the starlight. To round off side one “A Broken Circle” adds some drone to the mix, the acoustic guitar almost lost in a haze of sound, the playing beautifully controlled to ensure the no sound becomes too dominant, the song slowly becoming engulfed in the drone with studied perfection.

Again mixing electric distortion with some fine acoustic picking, side two is graced from the start with the wonderful “Siva Casting Dice on Hebras' Edge”, a song that is beautifully balanced the very essence of a summer trip captured in a glorious 4:41, timeless and sublime. Sweet as a cooling stream “Colors in the Water” is another softly sung ballad, rose scented and over far too soon, before “If Night's Garden” re-defines the word mellow, another hazy lysergic vision that leaves time behind, shades of Nick Drake to be heard in the tune. As with the other side, the final song is a mix of dexterous guitar playing and electric drone, although this time the drone is in the ascendancy, roaring ever higher as the song progresses, finally taking us to the centre of the sun, smiling with the joy of it all.

Mainly the work of Andrew Barrett and Samantha Linn (with a few guests), this is an LP that will become a long-lost gem in a few years, become the envy of your friends and get one now.

For the third “cabinet of” LP, Jasmine Dreame Wagner has been joined by Alex Reed (also her partner in Son Cats), and this partnership seems to have brought a sense of maturity and direction to the sound. Where once the music moved through various styles, experimental, drone, melody, now there is a focus with the songs flowing into each other, each obviously the work of the same musicians. Having said that, I loved the ramshackle nature of the earlier works, it is just that this is the perfect step forward.

Opening with the brooding melancholy of “St James Infirmary”, it is soon clear that Jasmine is in fine voice, her vocals beautifully controlled, a sympathetic guitar backing adding a shed load of atmosphere to the tune, whilst a slow pulsing drum brings it all together.

With a sweet melody, “Cities” is a brighter tune containing a similar atmosphere, understated and gorgeous, the vocals again shining out over a gentle wash of guitar and percussion. Sounding not unlike something that Arborea might write, “For Sparrow” is a haunting tune, sparse and very effective, the addition of rippling piano notes adding to the song's beauty.

Turning the LP over, you can take time to enjoy the album's artwork, Drawn by Jasmine herself, the simple illustrations in perfect harmony with the music, the whole thing obviously a labour of love and so much better for it.

After the loveliness of “Lightning Song”, we arrive at the title track, a truly magnificent song, sounding like a long lost Laurel Canyon classic, timeless and sparkling with soft magic, the vocals transporting the listener to another realm. After such wonder, “The Road” could have been lost in the afterglow, but this is not the case, instead it follows perfectly, a slow-motion song that has an aching sadness, drawing the listener in again with practised ease, an electric guitar adding a droning background that works really well.

To round off this short (too short) album, there is a cover of Tom Wait's “Green Grass”, drifting piano and vocals combining wonderfully, ending the disc as it began, with sweet melancholy and breathless wonder.

This is The Cabinets third album and I love them all, but this may well be the best of the lot.

Containing three tracks from their latest album, Stone Breath prove themselves to be in fine form on their side of this split LP. After the very brief “Beautiful and Terrible”, a “Blink and you will miss it” moment, the band slip effortlessly into gear for the wyrd-folk workout that is “Scorpion Tears”. With rattling banjo driving the song, a dancing flute, guitar and rich deep vocals balanced by female harmonies, the song represents all that is good about the group, a deeply atmospheric tune that soaks deep into your soul. Stretching out even further “The Sky's Red Tongue” delves even deeper into the mystery, an eastern feel pervading the track,a divine and psychedelic walk through an imagined forest, alive with possibilities and crackling with energy.
Flipping the vinyl over Mike Seed and Language of Light mix drone, atmosphere and vocals to devastating effect, the opening track “Commit to Water”, getting straight into it, a rattling haze of sound offering a sonic background to the almost spoken vocals, each element drifting in and out of the mix in a cloud of atmosphere.

More melodic in nature, “Grendel at Long Mynd” is a gorgeous slow-moving folk song, reminding me of In Gowan Ring, a subtle violin the perfect foil for the rest of the tune. On “Rough Old Night” the same slow-moving feel is apparent, although the background has been reduced to a wash of drones, whilst on “Abraham's Guest”, primitive slide guitar circles around the words, creating one of my favourite tracks, the piece finally leaving in a cloud of noise, leaving the sound of an old piano dancing with itself on a windy day, the sound of falling leaves swirling across the garden.

Over two sides, this release oozes quality, creating a damn near perfect slab of vinyl, highly recommended, as are the other two discs reviewed here. (Simon Lewis)



(Catalogue Number TT04CD)

Black Tempest, aka Stephen Bradbury, will be well known to readers of Terrascope Online for his synth soundscapes in the Berlin School style - notably the albums "Proxima" and "Ex Proxima." On this new triple album, a live set recorded at the second stage of the August 2011 Supernormal Festival and two companion disks of recordings made during rehearsals for the gig are welded together into a monolith of synthy proportions.

Disk one covers the four tracks comprising the live performance, opening with the twelve minute atmosphere of birdsong, Phaedra-style sequencing and mellotron emulation that is 'Astral Pastoral Part 3,' in which Tangerine Dream circa 1974 is evoked. 'Proxima' is a mere stripling at four minutes, opening with a lurching sequence that acts as a foundation for more choir/strings mellotron emulation and sundry electronic effects. 'Tanks But No Tanks' uses World War 2 recordings and harsher, more dramatic electronic textures to evoke something of the chaos of that global conflict, adding wonky sequences and a Schulze-esque buzzing overtone later in the mix. It's the most effective and enjoyable track on the disk. A five minute conclusion, 'Proxima X,' ends the set, bringing in the flute mellotron emulation.

The second disk opens with one of the brightest and best tracks of the whole package, a version of 'Proxima X' recorded almost four months before the live event; the combination of bouncing sequences and ghostly organ sounds, reminiscent of 1974/75 Schulze, make an excellent cut. 'Proxima Y' follows, matching choir mellotron emulation with a stronger, more urgent sequence; also an effective track. 'Proxima Beta' is a shorter track with a really cutting, dramatic sequence, while 'Proxima Delta' returns to the Schulze style organ and a simple oscillating sequence, concluding this section of the disk. These four tracks listened to as a whole are the best part of the package: an excellent quartet. 'Tanks But No Tanks' lacks something of the live performance, while the seventeen minute 'Astral Pastoral Part 2' also seems rather empty in comparison with its live sibling. The disk closes with 'Y Proxima,' returning to organ tones and simple, but effective electronic additions.

Disk three is similar to disk two in style and intent. 'Proxima V' sounds like some of Edgar Froese's very early solo explorations (especially in the sequencing style), while the twenty two minute 'Astral Pastoral Part 3' returns to birdsong, loopy sequences and quite harsh, though occasionally cosmic, synth additions; later in the cut another Phaedra-esque sequence emerges, to dive back quickly into the choirs and birds. Two more versions of 'Tanks But No Tanks' seem a little unnecessary, but the twenty minute 'Proxima X' is better, with some good synth washes and oscillating analogue effects.

The two disk addendum to the live set could perhaps have been trimmed to one, making this a double album, especially given the success of the opening section of disk two, but overall this is a good package. Having explored the Berlin School soundworld comprehensively on his four releases however, Stephen will doubtless be keen now to enter new territory on his synthesizer powered journey. (Steve Palmer)



(no label details submitted)

Comprising one forty minute track, 'The Synaesthete's Lament,' and one, 'Within And Without,' at a mere sixteen, "Aegri Somnia" is a dark ambient trip into the headspace of Michael Page, Massachusetts resident, sound artist and visual artist for whom Sky Burial is a comparatively new nom de plume (he was formerly of noise/industrial combo Fire In The Head). Opening with a texturally dense drone/wash chord composed of synths, reverberated sounds and noise all thrown into the melting pot, the madcap saxophone of ex-Hawkwind stalwart Nik Turner soon hoves into view; heavily reverberated and often crossing that hazy line between individual notes and ecstatic sound, as pioneered by John Coltrane. All in all very effective, while some of the synth sounds underlying this Turner blast remind me of those tinkling and repeating sounds used by The Lickets. Around the sixteen minute mark Turner vanishes and the music quietens, allowing those gothic, deeply reverberated noises to return into the listener's consciousness. In places there is an almost Indian vibe, with some of the drones sounding like a tanpura; elsewhere the sounds echo those amazing Tibetan trumpets evoked by the "sky burial" ritual after which this project is named. About half way through the piece all pretence at musical form departs and there is a noise/sound section that evokes hellish times in some infernal realm. Then, at twenty eight minutes, the synth drones and the saxophone returns, along with what sounds like a sistrum, or some other jingly percussion instrument. The piece closes with Turner ascending god-like into the sonic heavens, while Page and his dense synthesizer backing sink into the fiery realm. This cut is one of the best, most interesting pieces of sonic ambience I've heard for a long time. It really is sculpting with sound.

The second track is more electronic and less gothic in tone - not lighter exactly, but evoking perhaps our curent machine-based lifestyle. Weird voices joust with bell and chime sounds, and all the time there is an insectoid synth drone and sudden bursts of feedback overlaying the audio miasma. It's what you would expect an android to complain about if it was experiencing a nightmare. After a short while a distorted three note pattern emerges from the mix, then dramatic synth tones and different types of sonic overlay; then Tibetan bells and feedback-delay noises. Great stuff, and sonically effective. By half way through however the piece has mutated yet again, and we're into a more pastoral place, with drifting chords and subtle electronic sounds; then the voices return, and much of the earlier harshness of the piece, which concludes with deep piano notes and a wash of electronic noise.

This is one of the best albums of its type that I've heard for some time. Too often practitioners of ambient styles go rather minimal, but on this album there is plenty of texture and change, perhaps inspired by the project's Himalayan roots, all of which makes for involving listening. Hawkwind fans will of course be delighted at the appearance of the heroic Nik Turner on the first track. A recommended release. (Steve Palmer)




Over the last couple of years, the Rumbles section has been filled with the numerous and varied releases from the wonderful Fruits Der Mer Records, a label dedicated to releasing versions of old classics recorded by modern bands, always on coloured vinyl and always with an eye for detail. Run by Keith and Andy, the label must be one of the success stories where independent music is concerned, the label going from strength to strength and proving that sometimes quality and quantity can sit happily together, their prolific release schedule maintaining the same excellent standards throughout. On these three releases the entire ethos of the label can be found, so allow me to guide you through the kaleidoscopic visions of Fruits Der Mer Records. Fun is guaranteed for all.

     On “Do Not Adjust Your Set”, six classic children's TV themes (three from BBC, three from ITV) are covered by six reasonably obscure psych bands, the result being a fine collection which will make listeners of a certain age, smile with nostalgic joy.
    Making the theme from “Robinson Crusoe” sound like an early electronic piece, Frobisher Neck do a fine job, their musings followed by a Psych-Pop rendition of “White Horses”, (were those really the lyrics?), as Saturn's Ambush make the world a better place. To rond off the BBC side, Rob Clarke and the Wooltones turn the “Sky at Night” theme into a guitar anthem, rather like Hendrix did with “The Star Spangled Banner”, great stuff indeed.

   Over on the ITV side, the “Ace of Wands” is also given the Psych-Pop treatment as Owlsey and the Pussycat (love that name) turn on their musical charms and backwards guitars, the lyrics ripe for such a lysergic sheen, before The Ohm keep it garage and heavy on “Captain Scarlet”, sounding like an obscure seventies heavy rock band. To finish the theme from “Fireball XL5” is tackled by Elks Skiffle Group,  their version similar to the original, but glazed with a Joe Meek feel, giving it a slightly unhinged air, rounding off the disc perfectly.

    As well as Fruit Der Mer, the label has Regal Crabomophone, an even smaller sister label which releases original tracks from modern bands. On the “2012 Annual”, the two sides are divided between the two labels, starting with a side of covers, the first of which “Destruction” is also a theme tune, from the movie “Just for the Hell of it”, the band Langor doing a fine job of sounding like an authentic 60's garage band, primitive and pounding, just as we like it. Even more primitive, “I'm a Man” is stomped into garage heaven by The Bordellos, the production values not much higher up the scale than “Green Fuzz” but the energy bursting from the speakers, heads nodding in primal agreement.
   In a completely different mood Beau, yes the one on Dandelion Records, performs “In the Court of Conscience” a lovely folk/acoustic track that is filled with light textures and beautiful playing. To round off the first side “Thick of a Brick” sounds very different without a flute, although the voice of Jay Tausig has certain similarities with Mr Anderson's, the whole cover done with flair and an obvious love for the tune.

    Over on the Regal Crabomophone side, Finnish band Permanent Clear Light mix Eloy with the sounds of Canterbury, creating a nice slice of mellow space-rock , that drifts lazily over 6 plus minutes like a fluffy white cloud in a deep blue sky. Leaving the Earth's atmosphere, Vibravoid take us out there, with the psychedelically inclined “All Stars Are Asleep”, a cosmic soup of sound that will make your ears very happy indeed. Finally, Red Elektra '69 get nice and heavy with the guitar riff, a high speed Hawkwind style instrumental that rocks, ending another excellent set of tunes.

   Right, after those two releases, the main course is about to be served, a 19 track double LP featuring new versions of old classics, housed in a gatefold sleeve and limited to 500 copies, dontcha just love vinyl.

    Opening with some chiming guitar and hand drums, King Penguin sound languid and reasonably stoned on “Thoughts and Words”, the sound of a sitar giving that authentic sixties ambience, a great start. Covering one of my favourite songs, “Ten Thousand Words in a Cardboard Box” gives The Seventh Ring of Heaven extra brownie points, the fact that they get it spot on is just a complete delight, keeping the song's lysergic intensity and adding some energy of their own. Live and also filled with energy, Stay get their teeth into “Back of Your Mind”, sounding like it was a good night, before Permanent Clear Light do wonderful things to “Cymbaline”, giving it a nice smoky haze.

     Featuring some fine guitar work, Sendelica may possibly improve on, or at least remove the cheesiness of, “Journey to the Center of the Mind”, certainly the playing is tighter and the phaser is turned way up. Tackling the second Nazz song of the disc, Jay Tausig is faithful to the original as he gives “Open My Eyes” the once over, realising you can't mess with perfection. Firmly ensconced in 1967, Extra produce a wonderful cover of “Utterly Simple” on of the Album's highlight for me, patchouli is almost compulsory. 

  Enchanting the senses “Sunshine River” is covered blissfully by Zombies of the Stratosphere, whilst a spooky psychedelic  atmosphere is conjured up by The Past Tense on their version of “Shattered”. To end the first LP, Hills Have Riffs retain the strangeness of The Godz on their excellent version of “Down By the River”, proving power does not mean volume, as they up the tension beautifully.

     Opening with a ten minute version of “Welcome to the Citadel”, Cranium Pie's Baking Research Station, take the compilation into Prog territory, a sprawling effort that manages to avoid too many time changes, more Porcupine Tree than Magma, the whole thing gliding by in no time at all. Next up one of my favourites on the LP, a rather fine cover of “Revolution” from Sky Picnic, female vocals giving the song a new twist that works well.

  Opening with a wrench of feedback Dead Sea Apes' version of “Land of The Sun” is a sonic masterpiece to be savoured, a powerful and brooding beast that need loads of volume to scramble your senses properly. Back to the Psych-Pop, Octopus Syng offer a bright and sparkling “Midsummer Night's Dream” before we go to the west coast as The Daedalus Spirit Orchestra take on possibly the most famous psych track of all time, their version of “White Rabbit” slower and more brooding than the original, working well in its own right. Sticking to the original template, “Something In the Air”, sounds as stately as ever in the hands of The Luck of Eden Hall”,  whilst Langor do justice to that Beatles obscurity “Rain”.

    To round off the LP,  Bevis Frond Makes “Creepin' Around” his own, his guitar work as delicious as ever, before  The Earthling Society end it all with “Dark Side of the Mushroom”, a suitably trippy arrangement that leaves you fulfilled and slightly deranged, what a long strange trip its been, but worth every moment.

    To sum it all up, these three release would be perfect Christmas gifts at any time of year, give them a listen and fall in love all over again. Hats off to Fruits Der Mer for such sterling service in the face of economic adversity, long may they reign. (Simon Lewis)


2xCDs in 40-page hardbound book
(Rhino Handmade  www.rhinohandmade.com )

By 1968, the mighty Brum’s had been reduced to the duo of vocalist Sal Valentino and guitarist Ron Elliott. Several years and a label change hadn’t returned the band to the dizzying heights of earlier successes ‘Laugh Laugh’ and ‘Just A Little’ and their fourth album Triangle, while a critical success, couldn’t seem to find an audience. So the pair hopped on a plane and jetted from Hollywood down to Nashville and headed off to the middle of the woods in Wilson County to the legendary barn-cum-recording studio that gave the resulting album its title. And while received wisdom often champions The Byrds’ Sweethearts of the Rodeo (recorded simultaneously across town) as opening the floodgates to what some of us music journalists like to call “country rock”, one listen to this album could give one pause to at least consider rewriting that chapter in the rock and roll history books.

Right from the gentle, finger-picked opening notes of ‘Turn Around’ you’re invited into a warm, cosy atmosphere chaired by the finest guitarists Nashville had to offer (Jerry Reed, Wayne Moss, Harold Bradley - brother of barn owner Owen - and Billy Sanford) buoyed by a rhythm section fresh out of Dylan’s own Nashville sessions (Kenny Buttrey and Norbert Putnam). ‘An Added Attraction (Come and See Me)’ is pure sashaying honky tonkin’ with another brilliant, drawling vocal from Valentino and rambling ivory-tinkling from David Briggs (an astounding solo version that Sal recorded upon his return to Hollywood is included  among the generous bonus cuts). And wouldn’t Roy Orbison have killed to get a crack at recording ‘Deep Water’?

Perhaps the album’s lack of Top 40-friendly hooks kept it off the charts and out of the record buying public’s homes? This certainly contributed to lead single, ‘Long Walking Down To Misery’’s lack of airplay. But there’s no valid reason that the dreamy, laidback (dare I say psychedelic) ‘Little Bird’ or the brilliant, (final) single ‘Cherokee Girl’ didn’t raise any muster in the music scene beginning to be dominated by the burgeoning acid rock movement. Perhaps the hatchet job Warner Brothers did editing the album versions down to attract the attention of AM radio programmers didn’t help the parent album’s cause either.

‘The Loneliest Man In Town’ is probably the album’s most straightforward “country” song, but like most of the album, it’s nothing that fans of Fred Neil or Lee Hazelwood would turn their noses up at. Elsewhere, the almost banjo-like picking of ‘I’m A Sleeper’ and Randy Newman’s ‘Bless You California” and the four-member  “guitar orchestra” on the hard-driving lament, ‘Love Can Fall A Long Way Down’ are some of the era’s finest stringbending.

This deluxe reissue features Rhino Handmade’s typically high quality essay (courtesy Alec Palao), track annotations and commentary from Valentino, Elliott and his occasional co-author Bob Durand, enlightening interviews with both Brummels, and an astonishing 25 bonus tracks, including previously unissued demos and alternate takes  and  almost all of which could’ve formed a second album. Granted, some of them are actually Valentino singles. But their country inflections are more than worthy of inclusion if for no other reason than to capture the million dollar lineup that helped him out, including Ry Cooder, Van Dyke Parks, Bread drummer Mike Botts, Clarence White, and Leon Russell. Add several unreleased Valentino tracks featuring Randy Newman on keyboards (white-hot, rocking version of Johnny Cash’s ‘A Little At A Time’ and a  stalking, swampy rendition of Dylan’s ‘Down In The Flood’ that hints at what John Fogarty was doing up at Coast Recorders in San Francisco with Creedence Clearwater Revival) and a few session outtakes and unreleased cuts cobbled together from Rhino Handmade’s earlier 4xCD box set, Magic Hollow and you have the definitive version of one of the late ‘60s’ most overlooked and underappreciated albums.... (Jeff Penczak)


LEONARD COHEN – BIRD ON A WIRE (DVD by Tony Palmer available from http://bit.ly/w1MSxl )

This particular Palmer offering is a testament to two men at the height of their powers and both doing what they do best – Palmer the consummate documentary maker, Cohen the peerless performer. In 1972 Leonard Cohen embarked on a 20-city tour that would take him from Dublin to Jerusalem. In his wake travelled acclaimed film and theatre director/writer Tony Palmer and his cameraman.

Cohen wasn't happy with Palmer's editing of the footage at the time and insisted it be re-edited by someone else. Unfortunately the outcome was considered to be so woeful that the good ol’ BBC, which had commissioned the film, refused to broadcast it, as a result of which it received a limited number of showings in theatres before disappearing from view for the next 27 years.

However what might have been a sad loss to posterity was avoided when, in 2009, Palmer was informed that the original footage, around 200 cans of film, had been rediscovered. Thus began the painstaking task of recompiling and restoring for this welcome if belated release.

Now I’ll freely admit that I’m not Cohen’s biggest fan. Scanning the racks and shelves of Fortress Fraser I cannot put my hands on any one of his albums and made a point of missing that BBC Radio 2 documentary a year or two back when all manner of types crooned, wheezed and mangled their way through “Halle-bloody-lujah”. However what is undeniable here is the way in which Laughing Len connects with his audience and how warmly they respond to him. Hell it seems they’ll do anything for this guy even when he’s giving them a telling-off. However this is a ride through some very choppy waters indeed. A bum sound system dogged the tour and lead to some uncomfortable moments with fans, critics and even security when at one concert fans who were invited by the man himself to come down to the stage so they could hear better were set upon by bouncers. There’s also plenty of the tortured artist routine on show, including some on-stage petulance at what he perceives as his own performing short-comings.

 At the end of the day, though, both artist and director win through. Whether or not you are a Leonard Cohen fan there is no disputing that this is a fine documentary and had Len not thrown a wobbler at the time it would have made a perfectly worthy successor to Pennebaker’s Dylan offering from a few years previously. As it is, what was once lost is now found, proving the old adage “better late than never”. (Ian Fraser)


JACK BRUCE – ROPE LADDER TO THE MOON (DVD by Tony Palmer available from http://bit.ly/w1MSxl )

Bruce himself provides the commentary to this deceptively understated but typically revealing documentary from the ever reliable Tony Palmer. Filmed in 1969 and first shown on the BBC Omnibus programme in 1970, the film begins with a stark depiction of grinding poverty in inner-city Glasgow, Scotland, where Bruce grew up, showing a derelict people in a derelict landscape, where children played in the ruins of their home environment and drunks lurched in the boarded up doorways of long-closed shops and businesses. Hard to believe that this is not the 1930s or in the wake of WWII atrocities but is in fact well within living memory. There’s no swinging London at the end of these 1960s and little sense that the people portrayed here had ever had it so good.

This is a story of local boy made good but who is clearly at pains to make a statement. We see Jack flying his plane, Jack riding his horse, Jack lording (lairding?) it on his very own island. Throughout, Lack is painted as a principled and strong willed character – something he perhaps inherited from his card-carrying Communist father. Bruce’s own ticket out of Glasgow was a music scholarship where he promptly rebelled against staid and conventional teachings and developed his love of jazz and the blues. Yet, there’s surprisingly little here of Bruce the musician – sure the soundtrack features snippets of his immediate post-Cream solo work and we are treated, inevitably it seems, to clips of Cream’s farewell gig at the Royal Albert Hall. Otherwise the main treat is Bruce emphasising his more serious jazz credentials as he is seen playing with his post-Cream band including Dick Heckstall-Smith and Jon Hiseman, and a couple of revealing anecdotes about his old mate and sparring partner Ginger Baker. However this is more social commentary than music documentary so unless you happen to be a major Bruce/Cream fan or are into your sociology as much as your musicology then you may be better served elsewhere.
(Ian Fraser)