= December 2018 =  

Eyeless in Gaza
Psychic Bloom
The Corn Mother
 Psilocibina
 Cubs
 The Joy Formidable
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   

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EYELESS IN GAZA – WINTER SONG

(A- Scale records www.eyelessingaza.com/index.html )

Twenty albums and more under their collective belt the duo of Peter Becker and Martyn Bates are back Eyeless In Gaza are back with a new album, the title of Winter perhaps reflecting the icy cold indifference to the band over the last 38 years since their first recordings. Martyn Bates: vocals, keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar, clarinet, bass whistle, soprano sax mouth harp and percussion and Peter Becker: bass guitar, drums, acoustic and electric guitar, wasp synth, pixiephone, melodic, piano, tapes, percussion, drum machines and echo-boxes, are still churning out great albums.

Electro acoustic album opener ‘Never Going Back’ provides a good entry into their sound, it’s quite dense with plenty going on, electric guitars ring out, arcing bass, sax, mouth harp, busy percussion and a concise chanted lyric. ‘And I Don’t Belong’ follows this, it’s a classic outsider song with a defeatist attitude, guitars churn and chime around Martyn’s lyrics. ‘Locked-In’ up next, is a great song, echoing perhaps Talk Talk and achieving a feel similar to classic period Kate Bush. The spirit of Ennio Morricone is brought to life in ‘Torn Bridge’; this is mainly due to the lonesome wailing harmonica, it’s also an instrumental, breaking up the album nicely. ‘I Also Dwell’ slows things down a little with a twilight ambient drifter of a song, full of verdant, poetic lyrics.

‘Wide Open’ the lyrics here speak of sun viewed through rain, of day into night, it drips with a gothic noir, blasted and shot through. ‘Older Day’ is perhaps my favourite on the album, guitars peel away in a gauzy haze, plenty of keyboards being sprinkled all over it, percussion is light, mainly shaker, it is another outsider song, an icy blast of isolation. ‘And I Dreamt’ is the longest song on the album, it stretches out their sound and moves along at a steady pace, again some lovely poetry from Martyn, with Peter’s percussion and bass framing his words to great effect, a touch of melodica and whistles add layers, it’s dreamy and slightly otherworldly in feel, all held together with some great textural keyboard sounds. ‘Amazed’ is more like a song from one of Martyn’s recent solo albums, a gentle meditative song of wonder. The record ends with ‘Gentle’ a song of mind and body, of conflicts and dilemmas, minimal music throughout providing just the right amount of tension and release. A healing balm for these troubled times, providing a fine end to an excellent album.

(Andrew Young)

 

PSYCHIC BLOOM – PSYCHIC BLOOM
(DL, Cassette on Detriti Records)

Psychic Bloom is a band from Tehran, Iran.  Originally a duo - friends from college - it’s now a solo outfit, who, against the odds, creates great music and has succeeded in getting it through to our ears.  This self-titled album, Psychic Bloom’s second, contains some excellent surf-garage-psych music.

The album has bopped around a few record labels between 2017 and 2018.  By necessity, it was a DIY project.  In a land where this sort of music is forbidden, it gives new meaning to the term underground rock.  Musicians, instruments, equipment, studios, recording producers and technicians are all rare to non-existent.  Psychic Bloom has dreams of moving to the West, making records, performing live, and being part of the scene; in other words, the things normal bands do.

The songs have a retro, hipster feel, loaded up with a little fuzz and a lot of twang.  Lyrically, Psychic Bloom draws influences from the great Persian poets of the past, and ancient Persian mysticism (though the songs are all sung in English).  Some tracks such as “Dead Valley Star” and “Drifter” sound like something out of a Tarantino movie set in a sizzling desertscape of the US Southwest – you can almost hear the rattlesnakes.  “Old Bud” has a surf-meets-rockabilly sound, while “Blazing Sands” brings a Link Wray influence.

The instrumental “Ghost Riders” rocks, with plenty of distortion and feedback-laden guitar.  “Yucky Vibes” has a nifty guitar solo with wah-wah and distortion, while “Downtown Party” is straight out of the garage.

Psychic Bloom’s surf-garage sound is certainly infectious.  If you enjoy rooting for the underdog, give them a spin.

(Mark Feingold)

 

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THE CORN MOTHER – A YEAR IN THE COUNTRY

(CD from www.ayearinthecountry.co.uk )

Purporting to be some lost folk horror-esque 70’s soundtrack to a film that was eventually made in the 80’s, but remains unreleased due to financial problems. Set in the 19th century, a small, closely knit farming community, worried about modernisation, and a repeat of a former blighted harvest search for a scapegoat, this results in the creation of The corn mother. The villagers become plagued by nightmares, in which this Corn mother appears to exact revenge for being made a scapegoat.

Gavino Morretti, does his best to scare the pants off us with ‘Ritual and Unearthly Fire’. Pulselovers deliver the theme of ‘Beat Her Down’ where the corn fields are beaten down by rods to chase away the corn mother. The Heartwood Institute arrive with the terrific wonky eerie electro of ‘Corn Dolly’. United Bible Studies are next with ‘From the Last Sheaf on the Braes’ a vaguely disturbing, barely there, ghost of a tune. ‘The Night Harvest’ by A Year in the Country adds a ton of synth stylings and electronics, creating a sense of forthcoming dread. ‘The Keeper’s Dilemma’ by Depatterning, does have the feel of isolation, with a clanging bell that feels like it’s just reacting to wind, and a jumble of synthesiser sounds one of which is close to the sound a sitar makes.

‘The Corn Mother’ by Widow’s Weeds’ a group made up of former members of The Hare and the Moon is presumably the theme tune to the movie, and provides us with a fairly straight acid folk song, although it too is quite scary, featuring as it does a dense mass of electronics. Sproatly Smith are ‘Caught in the Coppice’ their contribution appears to feature an electronic pigeon, it’s a mad synth tone piece, it flutters and coo’s along to a ghostly tune. The album ends with ‘Procession at Dusk’ by Field Lines Cartographer they provide us with a suitably spooky song to round off the proceedings. Let us hope for a good harvest next year.

(Andrew Young)

 

 

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 PSILOCIBINA - PSILOCIBINA
(LP, CD, DL on Abraxas Records and Electric Magic Records)

This is the strong debut LP from Brazilian power trio Psilocibina from Rio de Janeiro.  Consisting of Alex Sheeny (guitar, synth), Lucas Loureiro (drums), and Rodrigo Toscano (bass), Psilocibina play an all-instrumental, all-powerful blues-infused rock attack.  The album clocks in at a concise 36 minutes, and not a moment is wasted on falderol.

Opener “2069” nearly blows out the speakers in the first 5 seconds with its blistering descending line boogie riff.  What follows is a pattern on all the tracks, to my ears at least.  It starts with a style the listener might be familiar with, and then evolves into furious jams, time signature changes, and demonstrations of amazing technical skill.  With “2069,” it would appear our heroes have been listening to live Cream.  Not only is Alex Sheeny one hell of a guitarist (and he even designed the cover art, too), but Rodrigo Toscano plays the bass like a lead instrument, much like Jack Bruce, even with Bruce’s fat tone.

With “Galho,” after some introductory weirdness, we’re in Sabbath territory, dominated by Toscano’s activist bass playing, before Sheeny steers the ship into an Allman Brothers-like jam.  “Supernova 3333” starts out with Toscano and Sheeny trading heavy blues licks.  Loureiro plays a drum solo, long enough for a swig of your brew of choice, before the three dive in for more frolic and fun abusing guitars and amps.

On “Na Selva Densa,” Sheeny launches an opening volley of heavy riffage.  Some of the playing here is sick, just sick.  You can hear hints of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, but at the end of the day Sheeny is a supremely talented original.  Loureiro finishes the track with another drum solo, this time with a little more time to stretch out the pummeling.  Title track “Psilocibina” starts out with a slower tempo – well, slower for them – until about the two-and-a-half-minute mark when the high wattage mayhem resumes.

“Tropicos,” at 2:17 is the shortest track, but Sheeny packs a lot of Hendrixian magic in his fingertips, before the song transitions to another riff-based jam for the send-off.  Indeed, every song on the album sports at least two themes and time signatures.  Psilocibina always jumps to something new without letting a musical theme stagnate.  The finale, “LSD,” also their debut single, is muscular, maximum guitar funk followed by a minor transition to a space-rock middle section, before the funk-laden marauders return for the final conquest of your brain.

In a fair and just world, Psilocibina would be packing in venues and festivals throughout the land, enthralling fans and leaving them vanquished and breathless in their wake.  But heavy power trios are a crowded field, and there are even other bands with similar sounding names, so what can they do that sets them apart?  Let’s see, have greater technical mastery?  Check.  Have a more down and dirty sound – filthy, in fact?  Yah, that they do.  Leave the listener gasping and whiplashed from head-nodding and air guitaring?  Covered.  I really don’t miss the vocals, so nothing really lost there.  Well, the least we can do here is get the word out about them.  Hit the road, Jacks, and bring on album #2.

(Mark Feingold)

 
 

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CUBS – DARKR EARLYR

(CD from www.rustedrail.com )

Consisiting of members of United Bible Studies, The Driftwood Manor, Phantom Dog Beneath The Moon, A Lilac Decline and Loner Deluxe. This is the sophomore album by this alt folk supergroup, the band is made up of Cecilia Danell - acoustic guitar, jaw harp, tin whistle, keyboards and vocals. Aaron Hurley - acoustic and electric guitar, vocals, ukulele, autoharp, fuzz xylophone, melodica and percussion. Eddie Keenan - bouzouki. Scott McLaughlin - string arrangement/cello and piano. James Rider- acoustic guitar, bouzouki, banjolin and electronics. And Keith Wallace - percussion, production and found sounds.

For this album, which was recorded primarily in Ireland and Sweden, bar some fireworks in Berlin and a little piano and cello in Huddersfield, they have created a fine wintery album full of intimate, warm and fireside songs. The album title alludes to Bryter Layter by Nick Drake. The album starts with the ever so gentle instrumental ‘Embers’ before the skies darken and ‘October Skies’ hoves into view, here we are introduced to their secret weapon, the voice of Cecilia which reminds me a little of a cross between Judee Sill and Laura Veirs. ’Freezing Fog’ up next is like the theme tune of some ghostly western, with its lonesome harp refrain, I’m also reminded in places as the song develops, of early Tunng.

I won’t go through all the tracks, which would make this far too in depth as there are sixteen of them. I will highlight a few more though. ‘Deepest Woods’ a delicate, dreamy ballad of note imbued with various found sounds, this bleeds into ‘Kindling/Starry Plains’ creating a nice passage of music to drift off to, it has a few peels of thunder and it progresses into a widescreen instrumental, with some beautiful playing underpinned by cello. ‘An Echo in the Stones’ is an eerie, minor key piece, which tells of an impending nuclear winter. ‘When the Dust Settles’ is a folk noir instrumental, gently disturbing which us leads nicely into. ‘Swallows will be Leaving’ this works well lightening up the proceedings a little, it’s a tangled summer moving into winter song, one of the album highlights for me. ‘Highwater’ immediately has me thinking of The Wickerman, starting as it does with a Jaw harp, it has plenty of atmospheric electronics, gradually bleeding into ‘Little Cave/ Howling on the Hill, placing us firmly into Alan Garner territory. ‘Beyond the Haunted Asylum’ is a little unsettling, before album closer ‘Burrow’ takes us far into the twisted woods, of dreaming in moss and stone. Seek this album out; it will be a welcome friend in the winter, when it gets darkr earlyr.

(Andrew Young)


 

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THE JOY FORMIDABLE - AAARTH

(LP, CD on Seradom Records)

 

Aaarth is the fourth album by The Joy Formidable, the Welsh rock trio, now relocated to Utah in the US Southwest.  “Aaarth” is a play on arth, which is Welsh for bear (and also gets you to the top of alphabetical lists).  The Joy Formidable is Rhiannon “Ritzy” Brian (guitar, vocals), Rhydian Dayfdd (bass) and Matthew James Thomas (drums).  Aaarth showcases their sound well as an edgy stew of catchy guitar rock, indie, shoegaze and pop.  Having seen them live, I can vouch that they’re terrific on stage.

 

Much of the album’s inspiration, like so many other works of music today, is the divisions in our society in the world after the events of 2016.  Aaarth is an exclamation, looking much like “Aaargh!” which is certainly reflective of the times.  The LP is also available in a spiffy, limited box set.

 

While songs such as “The Wrong Side” are overt statements of the current political climate, Aaarth isn’t just a political album.  “Go Loving” is a tight, catchy rocker.  “Cicada (Land on Your Back)” employs a slinky, eastern style and is a highlight.  “All in All” is a slow-building track that moves from a backdrop of tiny bells and atmospherics to processed guitars to an all-out shoegaze guitar assault to a thumping beat.

 

“What For” is the type of hook-laden guitar-driven rock song Joy Formidable excels at so well, while “You Can’t Give Me” adds more sound and fury.  Closer “Caught on a Breeze” is a pulse-raising amalgam of much of Joy Formidable’s strengths – loud and quiet moments, driving tempo, rousing ensemble playing by the band, and moody soundscapes.  It’s a song seemingly made for an action movie soundtrack, and sure to be a highlight in concert.

 

My biggest knock on “Aaarth” is the fact that so much of Ritzy Brian’s vocals are indiscernible.  This is due to a combination of the fact that she frequently sings very low, both in pitch and volume, even whispery at times, and a muddy mix that does the vocal tracks no favors, even when they’re double-tracked.  This often results in songs where you hear a phrase here, a sentence there, but rarely the full picture.  That’s a pity, because I know she works very hard on the lyrics and clearly has something to say.

 

Being a bit on the poppier, radio-friendly end of the spectrum, Aaarth won’t be for everybody, but certainly has enough appealing songs and moments going for it to encourage an enjoyable listen.

 

(Mark Feingold)