= December 2019 =  
 The Greek Theatre
 Dhidalah
 Dodson & Fogg
 Caedmon
 The Green Ray
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   

 

 


THE GREEK THEATRE - WHEN SEASONS CHANGE

(SUGARBUSH SB064)


Sweden's duo The Greek Theatre have graced the ears of 2019 with a truly stunning new album. The instrumental "Twin Larks" starts things off with swirling sounds which yield to a wonderful acoustic guitar introduction that is accompanied by a delicate and beautiful flute piece, setting the stage for what is yet to come. "Laurence of Laurel Canyon" wastes no time getting down to business and is pure Greek Theatre with a dizzying array of textures, reminding us that Forever is indeed still Changing. The guitars and keyboards mesh perfectly and you quickly realize this is a very special record with top-notch musicianship. The song cleverly transitions into "The Post-Factual Jam" as we hear the band unleash a feedback-drenched psychedelic workout that is a most pleasant surprise, delivering on Laurence's earlier promise of blue cheer and purple haze. Switching the polarity, "Old Jawbone" opens with a gorgeous flute that is paired with the signature acoustic guitar magic that we know and love this beloved outfit for, all framed with a wonderful string arrangement.

"Bible Black Mare", the album's centerpiece, is a truly majestic offering which captures that rare vibe that was so prominent throughout David Crosby's solo masterpiece, "If Only I Could Remember My Name". Time ceases to exist and the listener is transported to an entirely different state. This track alone practically contains an entire album's worth of music. It is up to the listener to mine all the riches that have been carefully hidden between the notes. "Open Window" proudly displays the quintessential Greek Theatre sound. I can only assume that the lyric "broken circle" is a clever reference to their excellent sophomore long player. "The Streets You Hold" features some of the loveliest harmony vocals that you are likely to find anywhere, along with plenty of sublime, jangling 12-string guitar that brings to mind the very best moments of Roger McGuinn and The Byrds. "The Cabooze" is another instrumental piece, so cinematic that it would fit perfectly as a soundtrack to a film - a film that I would love to get lost in. It effortlessly fades into "A Different Place", which evolves into a mind-blowing guitar jam - a dream from which we are awoken. Was it a dream?

No, ladies and gentlemen, we are not floating in space. Rather, the haunting "Sail Away (Part Two)" reminds us that we are still "lost at sea", where this strange and magical journey all began, not drifting in the firmament, rather looking up at it, with the sun shining warmly on our faces in the daytime, but with the "nights getting cold" as the seasons change. They've managed to accomplish the near-impossible. That is to say, they've raised the already high bar that their relatively short career has already set. This, my friends, is a bona fide masterpiece.

Watch for this limited release on the excellent Sugarbush Records label.


(Kent Whirlow)

 
 

Home
 DHIDALAH - THRESHOLD
(LP/Digital on Gurugurubrain Records)

Tokyo’s heavy psych trio Dhidalah started back in 2007 and, building on recent successes, bring us their long-awaited debut album Threshold, courtesy of the seemingly infallible Guruguru Brain.  By all measures, it’s worth the wait.  Following 2017’s excellent No Water EP, the band expand their brand of instrumental stoner doom to the long player.  Dhidalah are Ikuma Kawabe (guitars), Kazuhira Gotoh (bass, vocals, synthesisers and “noise,” of which there is plenty), and drummer Konstantin Miyazaki.

Taking their name from a centuries old mythological being called a Daidarabotchi, whose footprints were so enormous it was said to have created countless lakes and ponds, Dhidalah bring the same sense of massive scale and force to their sound.  The album’s about the evolution of the human race and the beginning of the universe, according to Gotoh.  While it’s up to you whether you pick that up from listening, you can’t fail to be impacted by their massive sound.

The album literally begins with a crash of explosive thunder, announcing Dhidalah’s unmistakable arrival.  This leads into the krautrock-influenced “Neuer Typ.”  The pounding beat is punctuated by Ikuma Kawabe’s soaring and searing guitar work.  The three band members pack a whole lot of sound, adding distant voices and dark atmospherics to the basic trio of instruments.

“Adamski” is all molten sludge, with all three pounding away mercilessly at your brain as if their life and yours depended on it.  Dhidalah lets you catch a momentary breather while they take a starship tootling around the cosmos, before resuming the massive assault.  These guys play for blood.

Lengthy side two opener “Jovian Sky” comes in with some nice Mellotron, adding a little bit of color.  This is inevitably overtaken by more onslaught, with Kawabe’s guitar playing just relentless.  The Mellotron and effects occasionally weave back in and out, always overtaken by Dhidalah’s crushing punch-press attack.  I wondered how Miyazaki had any arms or drumsticks left afterwards.

Finally, “A.U.M.” starts off with a snare sounding like a high-powered rifle shot, which Miyazaki repeats to great effect.  “A.U.M.” is slightly Sabbath-like, with Kawabe displaying some Iommi-type techniques.  After some distant vocal chants from Gotoh and a bruising middle section, Dhidalah lift off for a high-spirited less-heavy jam, all three firing on all cylinders and featuring some of Kawabe’s finest guitar work, before crashing back to Earth for the finale.

Dhidalah forge a punishing, take-no-prisoners approach, heavy psych without sweeteners or Miss Manners’ etiquette.  If you like some adrenaline to pick up your day, don’t miss it.

 (Mark Feingold)
 

 


DODSON AND FOGG – SWIM

(Released on Wisdom Twin)

Chris Wade wraps up another prolific year with his third release under his Dodson and Fogg alter ego, bringing his output to nearly two dozen releases since his eponymous 2013 debut, about which we exclaimed, “A fine album that will remind you of the joy of living!" As with other recent releases, Wade plays everything, but it’s his double-tracked guitar interplay that once again amazes. ‘Blue Skies’ is another thousand yard stare into cloud formations, bird flight patterns, and solar/lunar celestial interplay, all woven around crystalline electric guitar solos weaving around a steady acoustic backing.

     The western-tinged singalong ‘Let Us Be’ is campfire fodder for the masses, while ‘In The Moment’ is a lovely, intimate picture of a romantic interlude with the one you love. A musical Valentine card, if you will, as is the dreamy ballad, ‘She Is My World’. A jaunty ‘How Long’ has a Hot Tuna-meets-Rockpile groove with a touch of Bolan’s boogie for good measure, and the funky ‘Coming Down Sideways’ evinces a bluesy swagger that Wade has been successfully exploring of late. Tasty fingerpicking and a Booker T-styled organ ride highlight the hard-driving instro, ‘The Lost Cyclist’ and we wrap with the epic seven-and-a-half minute instrumental workout ‘The Garden’, a languid stroll through a forest of tweeting birds with a pleasant reminder of Roger Waters’ ‘Grantchester Meadows’ occasionally tickling the memory banks. There’s also a bit of a gypsy groove provided by Wade’s dancing mandolin (?) that sets the toes a-tapping and the heart a-fluttering. Another excellent entry in a distinguished discography that continues to exceed expectations.

(Jeff Penczak)

 
 

Home
 

CAEDMON - RARE 

(Caedmon’s Return 002)

Christian folk rock band reconvene for their third album in 41 years. Their debut album is a bit of a Holy Grail; its value has risen over the ensuing years to become one of the most sought after albums in the acid folk genre. Self released in 1978, it showed an assured band and the surprise is that they never made a follow up until 2010; there is currently one of these originals online with an eye watering price of £1500! I managed to find a copy of a reissue a few years back on the Acme label for a tenner and I was surprised by how great the band sound; the songs were also very good with fine soaring female vocals and lashings of lead guitar.

For this new album we have 7 recent tracks and five tracks dating from 1975, plus a bonus of another live track recorded in 1978.  The band comprises of Ken Patterson - cello, keyboards, guitar and brass. James Bisset - lead guitar. Angela Webb - vocals. Simon Jaquet - mandolins, percussion and guitar, plus Simon Wilson - bass and guitar. With guest artists Caroline Brown, and Sally Jaquet, contributing a few extra vocals. Have the ensuing years been kind to them? Well yes is the answer, this new album is pretty good indeed.

Opening with a lengthy eight and a half minute gem, based on a 7th century fantasy in the form of ‘Dream Of The Rood’. Angela took some coaxing to participate in this new album and it's Caroline who tkes the initial lead vocals which reveals her slightly deeper tones, the song is an excellent one, it’s quite proggy too, with some terrific octave mandolin, deep cello tones and some fluid lead guitar breaks. ‘Go’, has a nice feel; it’s firmly in the funk/folk area, acoustic with some nice percussion. ‘Sky Song’ is a sister song to their most popular song ‘Sea Song’ and shows an older more reflective side to them, in a 6/8 time signature; ostensibly about a mother goose, it even ends with the arresting sounds of honking geese.

‘Runaway’, follows this with a folk rock song loosely based on Jonah and the Whale, enlivened by Sam’s supple bass playing. ‘Mustard Seed’ is a short song in the renaissance style, based on the mustard seed parable. ‘Rare’ the title track, has a mellow spiritual vibe with Sam Wilson’s voice caressing the ears. The mandolin, ‘cello, keyboard, fugal horn, bass and acoustic guitars ease us along through a folk ballad, a story. It’s the tale of a one-off 1978 album being duplicated, then re-released, pirated and becoming a collectors’ ‘Grail’. It’s an allegorical tale following a potter at the wheel which keeps on turning. ’Peace’, is a gentle hymnal, which has some beautiful cello lines and a terrific guitar figure by James.

Ken provided me with the following background on the unearthed 1975 tracks, which were recorded in The Netherbow Studio, in Edinburgh. “A digitising firm provided us with a USB stick of these long buried tracks at best quality and we were left with six usable tracks with sufficient integrity for us to re-master and put on the new record. The selection of songs all feature lyrics from other writers with music composed arranged by members of the band. Five are from a studio session in 1975, when the band was just consolidating its particular feel and sound. Only the studio version of fans’ favourite ‘London Psalm’ is driven by searing electric guitar. It juxtaposes with a 13/8 time signature sawn out on distorted ‘cello and acoustic guitar”.

‘London Psalm’, introduces these 1975 mono studio recordings, recordings which showcase Angela’s beautiful soaring vocals and James’s searing lead electric guitar and make me feel all nostalgic for an early 70’s London, the writer of poem London Psalm has so far to date not been traced, Sam composed the music. ‘Death Knot’ was written by Lance Stone who is a friend of the band, it’s firmly in the folk rock vein. ‘God Is Love’ is a traditional hymn lashed to a folk rock beat. ‘Born To Die’, this one sees them firmly in Pentangle mode, invested with some lovely harmonics and mandolin. ‘Tears May Linger’ is an up-tempo Psalm written by Simon Jaquet and exists nowhere else but here on these recordings. The album ends with the live 1978 recording of ‘Now The Green Blade Riseth’ a traditional Easter song with some lovely deep ‘cello guitar, recorder, guitar and bass, again no other Caedmon recorded version exists. There is also a hidden track ‘Heaven Haven', a snippet of a Gerard Manley Hopkin verse for solo voice and guitar. 

This is a wonderful return for the band and I hope that they can return to the studio again fairly soon. Available from December the 23rd and distributed by Guerssen Records www.guerssen.com

(Andrew Young)

 

 

Home

 

THE GREEN RAY - FIVE POINTS OF LIGHT
www.sugarbushrecords.com vinyl 300 copies

The Green Ray swiftly follow up 2017’s excellent Half Sentences with another gem, also on the same label. The band currently comprises of Simon Whaley - lead guitar, bottleneck, acoustic. Martin James Gee - vocals, electric and acoustic guitar. Mark Cullum – drums. Dave Mackenzie - bass.  Along with backing vocalists Wayne Worrell and Duncan Kerr on a couple of tracks plus Jeff Gibbs and Howard Plug Davies on bass and drums, for a couple of tracks. It was recorded at Antform studios.

Things kick off with ‘Sangsara Shanty’, a loping tune which is slow to coalesce, like some workingman’s dead out take, the acoustic guitars ring and the drum and bass anchor the tune, it has some fine wah wah guitar fills too, fading out to the sound of gently lapping waves. ‘On A Sixpence’, the next song continues in the same vein, a proper song with some lovely snaking fluid lead guitars. ‘Small Springs’ follows and is written by Ken Whaley it’s expansive, with Quicksilver flashes from the guitar, I’m reminded of ‘What About Me’ but without Dino’s histrionics, it’s taken at a similar pace too, all darting lead guitar runs and a sympathetic rhythm section kicking things along.

Side two begins with ‘Clouds Away Tomorrow’,  this one is a little more up-tempo, a touch of later period Byrds, there are nice harmonies, Martin has an unforced and relaxed style of singing which serves these songs well, some nice twin guitar intertwining throughout, very nice. ‘Before The Fall’, this starts with a little bird song, before a guitar figure appears that sounds so familiar but I just can’t seem to place it, the guitars really sound fabulous on this track, so good.  It’s an excellent song and one of my favourites, elemental in nature. The album’s title track ‘Five Points Of Light’, is lent a swampy vibe, mainly due to the bottleneck acoustic guitar, it’s a little more acoustic too. This sets things up nicely for final track ‘Close (To Afar)’, my favourite on the album, what a great song, the band being able to really stretch out, some blistering lead guitar and a cooking rhythm section with a great wig out at the end, fans of Help Yourself, Man and Quicksilver form an orderly queue.

(Andrew Young)