=  FEBRUARY 2009  =

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Written by:

Andrew Paine

Simon Lewis

Sindre Bjerga

Phil McMullen

Loner Deluxe
Tony Dale Led Zeppelin

Jeff Penczak

Gary Farr

Ian Fraser

Old Furnace

Will Roberts

Deep Feeling
  Robert Wyatt
  Astral Social Club
  Beat Balladeer comp.
  Ulaan Khol
  Beyond the Pale compilation
  the Luck of Eden Hall



(CD / 2LP from Temporary Residence Records )


MONO don’t so much write songs as shape them, like Gods, out of incoming weather patterns. They gather fluffy white fragments of cloud and forge them into majestic black thunderheads, they take gentle puffs of wind and spin them into hurricane-force onslaughts that destroy everything in their path, and turn the gentle patter of rain into raging tsunami of sound. And then they put everything right again; better in fact than it ever was before, washed and reconstructed and exciting once again. They are to my mind quite simply the most extraordinarily creative and mesmerising rock band anywhere in the world right now. They are also both the gentlest and the loudest, and often all within the confines of the same song.


‘Hymn to the Immortal Wind’ is MONO's fifth studio album, their first since 2006’s ‘You Are There’, and marks the band’s tenth anniversary in all. No mean feat in itself – but the truly remarkable thing is that not only is it a worthy successor to ‘You Are There’, but if anything betters it.


After five years of pretty much constant touring, the band holed up at home in Japan for over a year to focus on writing this album, emerging only once to play at Terrastock 7 in Kentucky - immediately after which they repaired to Steve Albini’s place to do a little recording, along with an entire chamber orchestra: 10 cellists and 9 violins, plus assorted viola, flute and contrabass. To describe the instrumentation as “vast” therefore is understating it somewhat. There is however an intimacy to these recordings which somehow makes the music even more real, more visceral, and thus more powerful still: you can hear wooden chairs creaking as the orchestra rocks in their seats, and hear the conductor’s opening cues (a trick MONO have been known to employ before: the occasional spoken word is enough almost to give the lie to their being a purely instrumental band)


Photo by Teppei


 ‘Ashes in the Snow’ opens the album, initially twinkling at you like a passage from Mike Oldfield’s progressive-rock magnum opus ‘Tubular Bells’, building layer on layer of rolling sound until it becomes a crescendo, and very much carrying on from where ‘You Are There’ left off.  After a brilliantly understated classical guitar intro by Takaakira "Taka" Goto, pounding drums are fittingly very much at the heart of ‘Burial at Sea’: arguably one of the strongest songs on here and definitely one of those with the most memorable melodies, the dynamics at work are simply spellbinding, passing from lightness to dark and from hope to despair repeatedly throughout the course of ten and a half minutes before finally exploding in an all-consuming cacophony of sound. ‘Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn’ follows on seamless behind it, a romantic, haunting and highly orchestrated number.


‘Pure As Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)’ is back into more traditional MONO territory, that trademark super-strummed, over-amped guitar sound well to the fore throughout, and once again exploding beautifully in a heads-down, rock-out fashion towards the close: one gets the impression this will remain a staple of their live set for some time to come. ‘Follow the Map’ is another highly orchestrated number, but with layers of guitars hovering over and around it like butterflies drawn to a brightly shining lamp. You’d expect ‘The Battle To Heaven’ to be face-meltingly loud, with a title like that, and sure enough it is: but at the mid-way mark there is an achingly beautiful, pregnant pause which lends the piece an almost thoughtful, mature and introspective aspect, like finding love unexpectedly in the middle of a battlefield.


‘Everlasting Light’ closes the album, and it’s on here that everything comes crashing together: an orchestrated introduction led, unusually for MONO, by a piano (played I believe by bassist Tamaki) suddenly explodes into a massive wall of guitar noise, which the band maintain for six minutes of so of unrelenting sound. It’s achingly beautiful and a metaphor for the album as whole, which I earnestly suggest you should check out at your earliest possible convenience. (Phil McMullen)


The Terrascope's interview with MONO, from December 2006, is available here








    Specialising in short-run, hand painted CDRs, Apollolaan releases are blessed with quality and variety, the emphasis on the individual and experimental. Judging by these three albums, it is a venture well worth supporting, especially as the founder is a regular visitor to the Terrascope forums.


    Home to just one long track, “Five Perspectives (or the same event)”, is a slowly building piece that opens with the repeated refrain “I Was Born To Silence”, hypnotising you the chant gradually fading as other instrumentation takes over. With whispers of synths and whistles, the sounds creep into being, until a wave of distorted drone flows into the music, fragile and beautiful, the sound ever rising, until, it too, is lost, the vocals re-asserting themselves, painting some wonderful, evocative images behind your retina. From here on in a meditative minimalism is to be found, rustles of sound curling around the words, the return of the drone more gossamer than before, cloaking the piece in mist before everything is silence.


   Featuring a host of ethnic instruments, plus electronics, guitars, drums, bass, etc, “Bright Blue Galilee” is another extended piece that is given plenty of room to grow and change, the result crackling with vitality, reminding me work by United Bible Studies. With rattled percussion and chanted vocals, the piece has a spiritual dimension at its start, the very psychedelic sound encouraging you to turn off the lights and listen completely. Having drawn you in however, the music is slowly absorbed into a different piece and you find yourself listening to drifting electronics and scattered drums, not completely sure when the music changed, but enjoying the effect it is having. Finally the music flutter and stops and you realise half an hour has passed in the blink of an eye or a thousand years, such is the power of this compelling sound.


    Recorded in a Methodist church in 2008, the live piece from Norwegian Sindre Bjerga, sounds as if the church in question has been submerged at the bottom of the sea, haunted and almost forgotten. Using the silence between sounds as much as the sound itself, the piece is abstract and calming, the electronics darting around the room, creating a completely different environment. As the music progresses however, the ghostly congregation makes its presence felt, the music becoming slightly uncomfortable, a presence just out of sight, until a roar of white noise fills the room with sound, obliterating what has gone before, the piece fading finally to rest on the ocean floor.


     So, three wonderful discs that require several spins to unlock their beauty, but are well worth the effort to do so. (Simon Lewis)




(2x 3" CD-R on Rusted Rail Records, http://www.rustedrail.com)


    Another small and perfectly formed artefact from the increasingly essential Rusted Rail micro-burst of a label, this time a hand-stamped double 3" CD-R set in trademark purple card sleeve with abstract polaroid art and informative folded card colour insert. Collector heaven! What I know about entity calling him/her/itself Loner Deluxe could be inscribed on the head of a pin with room left over for a haiku or two, but there is no denying the acumen on display here, on conjoined releases with different purposes but equal strike rate artistically. 'Must Not Sleep Must Warn Others' was originally released on the Tokyo-based Duotone label and has now returned home to Rusted Rail to be re-purposed at part of this twin pack.


    In a style one could describe (if one must) as folktronica, 'Must Not Sleep…' trades in the mellow, contemplative and pastoral weaving of melodies from ambiguous sources – possible keyboards, possible guitars, definite field recordings and icicle droplets of percussion. The connection to Dorset artist Michael Tanner (Plinth) is palpable (more of this further on) – the same sense of wandering through a tabernacle of antique instrumentation and dreaming toys is there, as is the innate calm induced by the recordings. Occasionally, beats and loops gently circulate, as on the track 'Listen to the Machines', which is helped out by Deserted Villager extraordinaire Dave Colohan on keys (identifiable from the sleeve notes). Some tracks are pure landscape, like 'The Beach at St Malo'. Occasionally the weather closes in, as on the brilliant 'Empathy Player', where sampled radio voices talk of extreme events over the counter-balancing jewel of acoustica used as backing track. 'Monumentals' creates further wormholes to the space inhabited by Plinth's 'Victorian Machine Music', while 'I must have fallen asleep and we drifted apart' closes the first disc with a melancholy meditation driven by guest pianist Scott McLaughlin (whose name pops up all over the place on United Bible Studies and Agitated Radio Pilot releases, and other tunnels through the Irish underground).


    'Lost & Found' is billed as a bonus 3" disc of previously unreleased material, and forms a fine companion piece to 'Must Not Sleep'. Opening track 'Summer Turns to God' is the result of mail exchange of material between Loner Deluxe and The Declining Winter and is a schizoid being made up of acoustic guitars, primitive beats, sampled voice and "electrickery",  all battling for headroom in intriguing fashion. On the previous Loner Deluxe release 'The Plinth Tapes', original source material was recorded in Dorset by Plinth and mailed to Loner Deluxe for collaging and beat generation, and that methodology is reprised on the track 'Dorset Sound', which crackles and hums into obscure electronic life like a previously unknown aquatic creature swimming into a collection net set by research scientists, finally emerging into the light of bell-like clarity (hopefully not stuffed and mounted). It's a great example of linear sound generation and subsequent scrambling and more can be found on 'The Plinth Tapes' for the curious. Elsewhere on 'Lost & Found', things are more fluid and contiguous, tone poems, sampled voice, sounds of the sea, beat propulsion here and there and much characteristic tinkling and chiming. 'Winternet' is typical if anything is, transitioning from delicate acoustic guitar and drones to thudding beats and back again. It all feels like some mashed up shortwave transmission from various parts of the world, orchestrated by a troubled savant for an unknown purpose, but somehow coming out as meditational rather than disturbing, which stands as exemplar for this whole project, really. (Tony Dale)




Richard Morton Jack – The Sunbeam Guide To Led Zeppelin

(Foxcote paperback book)


Jack (one of the principals with the Sunbeam reissue label, hence the title) has consolidated material from dozens of previously published books into a convenient, encyclopaedic A-Z format. Perfectly timed to coincide with the band’s 40th anniversary, the book will appeal to both fans and novices who have neither the time, dosh, or inclination to rummage through any of the thousands of back issues of Melody Maker, Record Collector, ZigZag, NME, et. al., or the 16 books highlighted in the bibliography that Jack used for his research. While the alphabetical format makes chronological analysis of the band’s output and influence moot, it’s perfect for beach, bathroom, or basement cherrypicking. (For readers with more of an historical bent, the book helpfully begins with a handy, five-page timeline of key events in the band’s tumultuous dozen-year existence, from The Yardbirds final gig at Luton Technical College (7/7/68) to their formal disbanding announcement (4/12/08) following Bonzo’s final vodka binge.)


            Interesting tidbits abound, from the opening entry (“Abba”!) to the meaning behind the symbols that graced the fourth (officially untitled) album, with a few headscratchers tossed in: “Fingers,” “Hands,” the “Red snapper” and “Telly Savalas” incidents, and “Tonsillitis.” Favourites range from the infamous feud with Countess Eva von Zeppelin over the band’s name (“a couple of shrieking monkeys are not going to use a privileged family name without permission”) that resulted in the band performing under a whimsical pseudonym, to the actual credit for said moniker (“Ox” Entwistle and “Moon the Loon” both claim credit, and neither are around to contest it any further). Other controversies paraded out for conspicuous consumption include the writing credit for ‘Dazed and Confused’ (see the “Jake Holmes” entry), the Satanic convocation (backward) masked in ‘Stairway To Heaven,’ an entry for the late Karen Carpenter, who, much to his dismay, topped Bonzo Bonham in Playboy’s 1974 music poll, a two-page entry for “Drugs” that’s self-explanatory, the violent “Oakland Incident” of July 23, 1977 (followed two days later by Plant’s five year-old son’s tragic death), insightful entries on “Plagiarism” and the band’s penchant for avoiding “Singles” and “Television” appearances, and a stab at just who did invent “Violin bow”ing their guitar – candidates include Page, The Move’s Roy Wood, Creation’s Eddie Philips, and…David McCallum!?


         Also included are the final words uttered on stage following their last concert, stories behind many of the songs and album titles/covers, band pseudonyms, member nicknames, lengthy bandmember bios, and early projects (Crawling King Snakes, anyone!?) Finally, detailed Appendices include a complete discography (including contemporary review excerpts), gigography, the band’s Swan Song label discography, and early Atlantic Records press releases. While certainly not definitive, it accomplishes its goal of gathering the highlights into one convenient location and giving fans a fun and accurate read, devoid of rumour and hearsay.  (Jeff Penczak)


Jeff Penczak spoke with Richard Morton Jack about his decision to bring yet another Led Zep book into the world.


The main reasons for compiling the book were a) to give fans a fun read that was accurate and not based on rumours and hearsay (I deliberately ignored most of the black magic, drugs, and groupie anecdotes, as they tend to come from peripheral figures out to make a fast buck); and b) to set down accurately the truth about the band for future writers to use as a basis for factual references to them. My hope is to work on similar books for other bands, so that the Sunbeam Guides will become a well-regarded source for accurate information about major pop artists.


You list 16 books in your bibliography. Were these the sources for your entries?


My sources were many and varied. The books mentioned in the bibliography are simply a cross-section of titles that cover the most important areas of the band's history the best. I read those and many more, as well as innumerable vintage magazines and newspapers, too, and these were far more important research tools.


I noticed several entries overlap with material commonly available on the internet, particularly the Led Zeppelin FAQ, Digital Graffiti. Was this a valuable research tool in preparing your entries?


All entries were based on extensive notes I made both from reading every previous book (that I know of), and also from combing through literally thousands of back copies of Disc & Music Echo, Melody Maker, Record Mirror, Sounds, Rolling Stone, World Countdown, Q, Mojo, Record Collector, ZigZag, NME, etc. from the 1960s and ’70s and beyond. I then incorporated all useful information into the relevant entry. The vast majority of information in existing books is taken from other books – i.e., not based on original sources. By returning to these sources I was able to assemble a book that is (I believe) as factually accurate as can be. My hope is that future books will refer to mine for factually accurate information. I genuinely doubt if there's a major interview given by any member of the band during the band's lifetime that I didn't read and incorporate into my research. The only critic / fan I spoke to was Dave Lewis, who fact-checked the manuscript. He is the founder and editor of the band's official fanzine (Tight But Loose), and the acknowledged world expert on them.



Gary Farr – Take Something With You



            Farr was the son of Welsh heavyweight boxer, Tommy Farr, but opted to pursue a career in music, fronting the T-Bones through several mid-60s singles and residencies alongside The Yardbirds and Stones (at Georgio Gomelsky’s Crawdaddy Club) and Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin’ Wolf (at The Marquee). Gomelsky paired him with ex-Blossom Toes drummer, Kevin Westlake, and the pair released a single (the string-laden pop of ‘Everyday’ backed with an early version of ‘Green’ that wouldn’t have been out of place on the first Crimson album are included here as bonus tracks on disk one) on Gomelsky’s Marmalade label in 1968. When the duo amicably split later that year, Gomelsky sent Farr into the studio to record his debut album (produced by Action vocalist, Reg King) with backing from The Action/Mighty Baby (Farr previously recorded an Action-backed demo that’s included on disk two and his brother, Rikki, managed the band), and members of Spooky Tooth (Andy Leigh provides a lilting flute backing to ‘Time Machine’), and Blossom Toes (bassist, Brian Belshaw contributes to the title track and opener, ‘Don’t Know Why You Bother Child,’ which combines the organic, earthy vibe of Roy Harper with the nostalgic, forlorn faraway stair of Tims Hardin and Buckley). Farr’s heartfelt performance gets the album off to a laidback start with this wonderful track that also opened his performance at the Isle of Wight festival on August 31, 1969 (backed by Welsh folkie, Meic Stevens on guitar, Leigh on bass and Mighty Baby drummer, Roger Powell – the liner notes include an excerpt from Stevens’ autobiography, Solva Blues, that provides an excellent background on the gig.)


            Martin Stone’s distinctively tasty guitar licks and Ian Whiteman’s barrelhouse piano join their Mighty Baby rhythm section of Roger Powell (drums) and “Ace” Evans (bass) on the Dylanesque (ca. Blonde on Blonde) ‘The Vicar and the Pope.’ Powell and Whiteman return (the latter providing a butterfly-flittering flute that weaves waves of wonder around Stevens’ delicate guitar lines) on the VERY Buckley-ish, ‘Green.’ The combined whiff of Keith Christmas (who also enjoyed the backing services of Mighty Baby on his debut album, Stimulus a year later) and Ralph McTell also wafts heavily in the air, as befits an album recorded, according to Stevens’ biographical excerpt, on “wine, beer, and Nepalese black….”


            The remainder of the album is comprised of loose, bluesy arrangements (occasionally TOO loose, as on the sloppy, Mighty Baby-backed ‘Dustbin’) and soaring, troubadour tales (the aforementioned ‘Time Machine’ features an angelic female backing choir) that are not that far removed from Al Stewart’s 1967 debut, Bed-Sitter Images. Martin Stone completists will cherish his welcome return with his Mighty Baby mates on the melancholic, ‘Curtain of Sleep,’ and the album ends, fittingly, with ‘Goodbye,’ a gorgeous solo effort that nestles sweetly between Buckley and David Ackles.


            Sunbeam’s deluxe reissue package adds a second disk of pre-LP demos from 1967 that suggest Farr was listening to a lot of Ritchie Havens (‘Concerto For Men In The Country’) and Bert Jansch (‘Images of Passing Clouds’). The complex ‘I See You‘ has a stony, Donovan-meets-David Crosby vibe, and ‘Pondering Too Long’ is an achingly sad love song and one of Farr’s best tracks – it’s a shame he chose not to record it for the album. We also get to hear demos for seven of the LP’s 10 tracks that offer an excellent insight into the album’s development and the arrangement skills that the musicians brought to Farr’s material, and a 1970 demo of ‘In The Mud,’ that would later appear on his disappointing second album, Strange Fruit (CBS, 1970). Following that album’s release, Farr moved to Laurel Canyon, California. He released a third album, Addressed To The Censors of Love (Atlantic, 1973) before fronting the US-based rock band, Lion, whose lone LP, Running All Night appeared on A&M in 1980. Farr sadly died from a heart attack after cycling near his home in 1994 at the too-young age of 49.


    This definitive reissue gives you a perfect opportunity to catch this accomplished acid folk rocker during his formative years, backed by some of Britain’s finest contemporary musicians. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD from 




    Opening with a glorious, string driven, rising drone, this is an album filled with emotion, passion and invention, the wistful music within painting pictures of expansive vistas and secret places. After the aforementioned opening track, you discover that the tracks run into each other, rendering the appreciation of separate moments almost impossible, the music flowing forward, gradually changing yet remaining cohesive, each part related to the ones either side. By the time we reach “Gnarled Roots”, the rising strings have become something much more abstract, the wind through the trees, a rustle behind you, with the twisted forest psych of “Vertical Features” altering the sound again. Introducing vocals for the first time, albeit used as instruments, “Driftwood Altar”, is perhaps the strongest point on the album, or at least, the one that resonates most one first listening, the album benefitting from several spins, allowing it to weave its magic slowly and thoughtfully.


   After the slow keyboard grace of “Little Siberia”, as icy as the name suggests, We get to “My Past Was An Evil River”, a frantic swirling cloud of percussion with a mellow silver heart, the melodies seemingly at odds with the rhythms, yet working admirably. Lasting just over five minutes, this is by far the longest track on the disc and very likely the most complex, the chaotic ending fading into a weird ghostly deconstruction of all that has gone before.


    With the gentle beauty of flowing water, “Furnace Farm Road” uses stringed instruments to relieve some of the sonic tension, whilst “Old Builders of the USA” adds some strange vocal chanting to its relaxed vibe. In Fact, this gently floating atmosphere is consistent until the final track, the music a mix of melody and sun-lit drone, the soft conversation of  “Home”, taking us joyously out into the sunshine, eager for our next visit to the Hidden Hills. (Simon Lewis)



Deep Feeling – Pretty Colours

(CD from Sunbeam)


With Giorgio Gomelsky producing and legendary loon Viv Prince handling…publicity (?!), these guys should’ve been HUGE! Formed as The Hellions in 1964, guitarist Dave Mason (yes, THAT Dave Mason!), drummer Jim Capaldi (yes, THAT Jim Capaldi!), Gordon Jackson and Dave Meredith quickly established themselves as Worcester’s leading beat act and released four singles on Piccadilly. Internal you-know-whats led to Mason’s departure and the band rechristened themselves Deep Feeling and brought in Luther Grosvenor (yes, THAT Ariel Bender!) and Poli Palmer (yes, THAT…well, you get the idea), allowing Capaldi to step out front on vocals. Word was spreading fast that this were THE group to see, and everyone from Macca and Gomelsky to Chas Chandler did just that one night at the Knuckles club in London. Chandler asked if his new protégé from America could sit in and jam and the band reluctantly agreed, thus earning them the distinction of backing Jimi Hendrix on his first UK performance!


            Unfortunately, everything went downhill from there. Gomelsky agreed to produce an album, but halfway through the Autumn 1966 sessions (the first five tracks on this reissue), Capaldi decided to up and leave to join a couple of mates named Winwood, Wood, and Mason who had been hanging around the Deep Feeling gigs and rehearsals, occasionally jamming with them. The remaining members decided they couldn’t continue without their front man, so they drifted into other musical endeavors. Grosvenor formed Spooky Tooth with Gary Wright, then later changed his name to Ariel Bender and joined Ian Hunter in Mott The Hoople, while Jackson and Palmer signed on with Gomelsky as a songwriting team before drifting apart (four of their demos recorded for Gomelsky in 1967 are also included here). Jackson went on to record the classic “lost Traffic” album, Thinking Back (also reissued on Sunbeam) which included all the Deep Feeling/Traffic guys, and Palmer eventually joined Blossom Toes for their second album (a 1968 Jackson/Palmer demo featuring backing from Blossom Toes is also included) before replacing Jim King in Family.


            So as I was saying, these guys should have been huge. But how does all this talent sound during their formative years? Well, the opening (title) track offers Grosvenor’s take on Holst’s ‘Mars’ with Meredith’s throbbing basslines anchoring Capaldi and Jackson’s harmonies spewing out lyrics like “I see pretty colours all around….” In his liner notes, Jackson insists the lyrics were about a lost love and not an LSD trip, but, as they say, beauty is in the ear of the beholder, so we’ll let the listener’s imagination go where it wants. Grosvenor’s white hot soloing (“on a rare Guild guitar we’d found in a music shop in Birmingham” says Jackson) weaves intricate circles around Palmer’s exquisite flutework (it’s been said that Ian Anderson turned to the flute after hearing Palmer play) on the bluesy, ‘The Ruin,’ and ‘Chicken George” is classic freakbeat with a rare (for the genre) bass solo from Meredith. Despite its awful mouthful of a title, ‘The Necessitarian’ (go on, say it TWO time fast!) features smooth  harmonies and a bouncy backbeat, but it’s nonsense lyric (“Na na na” repeated ad nauseum) seals its fate as disposable pap. The final studio track, ‘Or Something’ is more pleasant pop with hot solos and soaring harmonies that don’t exactly achieve the “world beat synthesis of African and Middle Eastern rhythms” that Gomelsky says he was looking for in his liner notes.


            A live 1966 BBC transcription from Radio Birmingham finds the band introduced as The Hellions, and Capaldi proffers a credibly tearful trawl through ‘I Put A Spell On You, while Palmer’s showcase vibes solo on ‘Coming Home Baby’ (recorded live at Birmingham’s Elbow Room) may be both the grooviest and jazziest tune in the set. Some of Jackson and Palmer’s demos show sonic evidance of their age (the ‘Man of La Mancha’-styled theatrics of ‘Imaginations Of Alice’ and the stalking nightmare with hints of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown in  ‘Blues For Witley’ are particularly warbly), but the others are quite relaxing – Palmer’s vibes on ’I Don’t Know Her Too Well’ are particularly attractive and there is a narcotic, Eastern vibe to his flutework on ‘On The Circle of Life’ which hints at the psychedelic vibe of Jackson’s album, which is “highly” recommended, as is this wonderful archival resurrection. (Jeff Penczak)






A glance at Domino Records’ website reveals that the label is home to the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Last Shadow Puppets, Franz Ferdinand, the Animal Collective and Tricky. Hip and heady company indeed, especially when you consider that amongst this impressive roster of artists is a bearded 65 year-old paraplegic renowned for singing in strains of what might be termed “London-alto”. But then it says much of the cultural, musical and critical cache of one Robert Wyatt-Ellidge that he can more than hold his own in such auspicious company.


Born in 1944 Robert Wyatt grew up in Kent, where fell under the influence of jazz and learnt to play drums. In 1963 he joined the Daevid Allen Trio before going on to form prototype Canterbury sceners, the Wilde Flowers who also featured Kevin Ayers. Wyatt, Ayers and Allen then went on to form Soft Machine, darlings of the UK music “underground” in 1966. When first Allen and then Ayers departed, the Softs moved in an increasingly jazz-orientated, instrumental direction culminating in Wyatt’s enforced departure in 1970. He then formed Matching Mole (a play on “Machine Mole”, the French for Soft Machine), with whom he recorded two albums in the early 1970s. In July 1973 Wyatt was at a party when he fell from a window ledge resulting in paralysis from the waist down, putting paid to both the band and his kit-drumming. What he did next however was to embark on a glorious if sometimes intermittent career as a solo artist. 


And this, readers, is where we come in. Domino has released eight of the venerable one’s albums plus his EPs all re-mastered and sounding wonderful. Mercifully, either Domino or Mr Wyatt have resisted the temptation to expand the sound to fit the space available on CD and have spared us the outtakes and alternative versions that seem so ubiquitous and all too often pointless.


Wisely eschewing Wyatt’s debut album, 1971’s “The End of an Ear”, which might charitably be described as a range finder, the reissue series kicks off with what many still consider to be his greatest work “Rock Bottom”, which is also one of Wyatt’s most evocative on a number of counts, not least because it seems so inextricably linked to his accident and was recorded shortly afterwards. These luxuriant, textured songs, coupled with what has often been described as the saddest voice in rock, lend a melancholic and reflective quality, balanced well with the playful feel of the music. We also have a sense of the recurring importance of partner and muse, Afreda Benge, who provides the subject matter for the sublimely beautiful opener “Sea Song” and provides a spoken word riposte during “Alfie”. Elsewhere, “Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road” provides a suitable vehicle for the off-kilter humour and dead pan delivery of poet and Peel-session stalwart Ivor Cutler. All this and Sgt Pepper –style brass, too.


A charming, beautiful, undersea symphony, this album alone would have cemented Wyatt’s critical and musical reputation. But then, to misquote the title of one of his old band’s songs, “he did it again”. And again, and again...


...In fact he almost manages it on “Ruth is Stranger than Richard” released in 1975. Whereas “Rock Bottom” showcased Wyatt’s song-writing talent “Ruth...” finds him mostly interpreting and arranging the work of other jazz-leaning and avant-garde inclined musicians such as Charlie Haden, Fred Frith and Mongezi Feza. Contrary to the title (a play on the saying “ truth is stranger than fiction”) the “Richard” side is the less conventional and more experimental one. When it works (as on “Solar Flares”, Wyatt’s only sole writing credit) it does so beautifully and hypnotically. However the good work is slightly marred by recurring snippets of nonsense of the sort that worked to such good effect on “Rock Bottom” but which at times sounds a bit contrived and juvenile here (“Muddy Mouse” be thy collective name). The “Ruth” side is a mostly enjoyable, fairly undemanding set of four songs that nod towards Wyatt’s jazz, Latin and African influences that will resurface to good effect over the years.


Given that Wyatt’s next offering, “Nothing Can Stop Us” was released a mere 6 years after “Ruth”, you could be forgiven for thinking that the title was more than a little ironic. What we have here though, is a wonderfully eclectic collection of cover versions showcasing not only Wyatt’s diverse influences but also a deep-seated radicalism, hence the title. Eva Cassidy this isn’t, as Wyatt delivers Chilean protest, Bengali trade union and pro-Stalin/Soviet barbershop songs. For those who fancy a bit of light relief there’s a cover of his old mate Ivor Cutler’s “Grass”. Best of all, though is Wyatt’s take on Chic’s “At Last I Am Free”. Delivered with sparse but crystal clear instrumentation and in Wyatt’s ethereal vocals it lends Messrs Rogers and Edwards’ standard a palpable if implausible air of spirituality. Of course, within the context of the rest of the album, the lyrics also take on a very clear political as well as personal meaning. Diverse, quite exceptional and wholly subversive, they really should give copies of this away with the “Morning Star”.


“Old Rottenhat”, released in 1985, was Wyatt’s first proper album in 10 years. In as much as it features all original compositions the album harks back to “Rock Bottom”, however the political theme that permeates much of the 44 minutes also makes it a logic and worthy successor to “Nothing Can Stop Us”. Allegedly written as a response to having heard that his music was being played on Radio Free Europe, this is one of Wyatt’s most political as well as melodic offerings. “The Age of Self” is a clear critique of Thatcherism, East Timor of American and Australian support for Indonesian military policy. Heavy? Well, yes and no. These sparse, but invariably graceful, beautiful songs, mostly played by Wyatt and he alone, lighten the mood and so aid digestion of the message. “The British Road” and “Gharbzadegi” are two of the best tunes Wyatt has ever written and sung, which makes you wonder why “Old Rottenhat” is sometimes overlooked even by Wyatt fans. That’s a shame as it is in fact one of his finest albums and deserves to be recognised as such.


Scratching his six-year itch with “Dondestan” (1991), Wyatt began a songwriting partnership with wife Alfreda Benge that has endured to the present. Again unswervingly left-wing in its lyrical content and still stripped down in its accompaniment, “Dondestan” cements Wyatt’s reputation as both an artiste and a social and political commentator, in whose hands radical polemic sounds almost casual and playful. What makes this set different to “Old Rottenhat” is Robert’s re-acquaintance with the top half of the drum-kit, which, at times, gives “Dondestan” a somewhat jazzier and more rounded sound than its predecessor. Otherwise it is business as usual. Whilst there are no standout tracks as such, the album is consistently enjoyable, only slightly marred by the faintly irritating title track. Not a classic but a strong set nevertheless. The album was remixed and re-released in 1998 as “Dondestan (Revisited)”, which is the version now released by Domino.


Meanwhile, fans were treated to another six-year wait before Wyatt unleashed his next album “Shleep” (1997). The sound is fuller, almost lush in places, and benefits from the involvement of some old collaborators such as Eno, Phil Manzanera and saxophonist Evan Parker as well as newer sparring partners such as the Modfather who contributes a brief but engaging instrumental at the very end. Energetic and confident, the mood is also lighter than on some previous offerings. The same can be said for the lyrics, which are much less in your face this time. The poppy opener, “Heaps of Sheeps” (about insomnia) sets the tone for this cracking offering. Other outstanding tracks include “Free Will and Testament”, “Alien”, and the mischievous “Blues in Bob Minor” about you know who. Overall, the album hangs together extremely well and has to be a contender for the best Wyatt album ever.  


If you’ve been following this closely you will probably have guessed that our Robert’s next album release would be released in 2003. Award yourselves a gold star and a dextrous pat on the back. But before we all get too smug, there is the not inconsiderable matter of a collection of EPs released in 1998. Variously entitled “Bits”, “Pieces”, “Work in Progress”, “Animals” and “Remixes, this box set is culled from various singles and projects recorded since 1974.


“Bits” features Wyatt’s version of “I’m a Believer”, a top 10 hit in 1974. The success of this song thrust him into the teen spotlight of Top of the Pops. On that occasion our man, angered by attempts to get him to sit in an armchair in case the sight of someone in a wheelchair might put the watching millions off their kippers, wheeled himself violently back and fore in an obvious strop. You’ll not hear a better version of this song than this, and it is here on EP number 1, as is one of many great versions of “Memories”, Robert’s song from his Soft Machine days and the wonderful bass-heavy, brass-savvy instrumental “Sonia”.


All of the EPs are well worth a listen, however special mention must be made of “Pieces”, which features another cover, this time of “Shipbuilding”, which (with due respect to its co-composer, a certain Mr D McManus who also recorded a version), Wyatt makes his own. That plaintive, almost disembodied voice, you feel, was made for this song, and captures Wyatt’s uncanny knack of making a protest song sound almost innocent and ethereal. Powerful stuff indeed!


Meanwhile, back at the “Six-Year Ranch”...


2003’s “Cuckooland” is another fine example of that ol’ Wyatt juxtaposition of mostly dreamlike, and at times languid, songs and incisive, no-holds barred lyrics– a hard centre in a soft coating. More jazz orientated and less diverse than “Shleep” this is another beguiling piece of work. The mostly gentle, almost lounge-jazz, approach is occasionally enlivened such as on the New Orleans jazz of “Lullaloop” and the trombone and bass driven “Trickle Down”, which has all the hallmarks of a folk song set to a Mingus-style swing. Wyatt also duets with Karen Mantzer to fine effect, particularly on “Insensatez”. The closing instrumental “La Ahada Alam” is a small but perfectly formed treat that rounds off an exquisite if somewhat over long offering (at 73 minutes it is Wyatt’s longest) although to be fair there is a 30 second break in the middle to allow the listener to draw breath.   


And so to the final and perhaps the most curiously picked over release in this series, if only because Wyatt’s live performances over the past 35 years have been as rare as the proverbial rocking horse doings.  'Robert Wyatt and Friends, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, 8th September 1974' features a stellar supporting cast in which the likes of Mike Oldfield, Dave Stewart, and Nick Mason meld with the avant jazz sensibilities of Mongezi Feza, Fred Frith, Hugh Hopper and Julie Tippett. Musically harder edged and more expressive than any of Wyatt’s studio recording, the band plays with gleeful abandon, at times teetering on the brink of chaos but always in control. Wyatt’s voice, too, is stronger and more resonant than in the studio and he seems in his element as he scats and improvises over proceedings. After a slightly tedious and contrived introduction from John Peel, and the nonsense of “Dedicated to You But You Weren’t Listening”, the hauntingly beautiful “Memories” sets matters on course and there is hardly a disappointing moment from thereon in. As a showcase for “Rock Bottom” it is hardly surprising that tracks from the album feature heavily and to excellent effect. Tippetts’ contributions are refreshing and sublime, particularly on “Mind of a Child” and her anchoring of Wyatt’s wild vocal fancies on “Instant Pussy”. The showstopper (a seven-and-a-half minute version of “I’m A Believer” has to be heard to be believed. “O Caroline” (from “Matching Mole”) would have been nice, but you can’t please some people can you? (Ian Fraser)   


The Terrascope's now legendary interview with Robert Wyatt, published in issue 9 back in 1992, is available to read online here.


Also, see Simon Lewis' review of Robert's 2007 album 'Comic Opera' here







(CD/LPs on VHF Records, http://www.vhfrecords.com)


Vibracathedral Orchestra alumna Neil Campbell returns to the VHF fold for a follow-up to his fine self-titled debut from a few years back, with twin interests in distressed "techno" and expansive dronescapes intact. Opening track 'Caustic Roe' (perhaps a nod to Richard James'  'Caustic Window' series of EPs?) nails this work's colours to the mast without delay, sucking the listener into a queasy, squelching alimentary tract of electronics that are akin to a stroll between rows of corroded and overflowing chemicals baths in a neglected electroplating facility. The Aphex Twin's stamp is omnipresent, as the sonic brew slowly peels the skin from the listeners face. 'Mügik Churn' dishes out more avant-techno: psychedelically swirling electronics race to keep up with a tachycardic beat regime that unlocks reservoirs of adrenaline in the listener, triggering fight or flight responses and generally doing its best to be as unsettling as possible. Here and elsewhere, it's as if dozens of krautrock/kosmische works have been thrown in a blender and pureed for maximum assaulting effect. But did I mention how much counter-intuitive, paradoxical fun this all is? Things change down for the blissed fields of drone and sampled child voice of the extended ambient piece 'Pilgrim Sunburst', and the variation is welcome, though you do wonder what this respite is preparing you for. Richard Youngs contributes to the Vibracathedral-like layered drones that make up 'Sweet Spraint', and he seems a logical co-conspirator for this kind of thing. Spider Stacy (from The Pogues!), who adds reeds to the same track and the next, does not, but is equally effective. 'Octuplex' is an adventurous journey overall, with many different road and off-road surfaces traversed. No track outstays its welcome, and the whole thing is forceful and confident, both challenging and rewarding the listener, especially when played though from beginning to end uninterrupted.


   'Faking Gold and Murder' is the third slab of pure night from Æthenor. This time around the core trio of Vincent De Roguin (Shora), Stephen O'Malley (Sunn0))), KTL) and Daniel O'Sullivan (Guapo) is augmented by percussionists Nicolas Field and Alex Babel, guitarist Alexander Tucker and the David Tibet on vocals. As foreboding as that line-up is, nothing quite prepares one for the monumental landscapes they create on this outing. Carving compositions out of three-dimension blocks of dark matter, they achieve a medieval, alchemical feel that is primal and ritualistic – and only made more so by Tibet's apocalyptic incantations. On the first of four unnamed and namelessly arcane compositions, crashing waves of percussion compete with subterranean drones and oceanic swells of keyboard and guitar, while Tibet weaves his nightmares over the top. It's utterly mesmerising and tonally complex and powerful beyond the telling of it, even in moments when all subsides to quietude, leaving simple ambient spaces for the listener to drift in.  The tracks are woven together, so it takes a while to realise the second one has started, and it starts with a forested tract of glissandi - dreaming percussive passages akin to what one might find on something by Brother of the Occult Sisterhood – and builds in intensity like some cosmic ceremony held in driving rain. The suspense built by the sinister panning hand-drums introducing the third track is used to great advantage by Tibet, whose oneiric channelling of the spirit world is as disturbing and wonderful here as on the most extreme of Current 93 material, though ultimately his words disappear under the weight of the ensemble's clang and clatter like the protestations of the insane trapped in a deliberately demolished asylum. He's back with plenty of shamanistic bon mots on the brooding final piece of the puzzle though, and it's a simpler construct, grounding the work in a satisfying pool of seemingly bottomless earth-penetrating drone and celestial keyboard-driven cloud formations. (Tony Dale)




(CD from www.wallacerecords.com)


Every time I hear a new Rollerball album, I am concerned that they may have gone off the boil that the album will not be as intriguing, wide-ranging or delightful as the previous offerings. So far I have had no reason to worry, and this latest offering continues their good work and could possibly be their finest yet.


   Opening with a slightly sinister piano/brass riff, “Cesena Sweat Pants”, could be lifted from an early Kevin Ayers album, that is, until the riff is swallowed by a creaking drone, synths, percussion and guitars combining to disorientate the senses, the vocals adding a new layer of confusion. After the strange pop of “Tweaker Developes like a Diamond”, a swirl of melody and effects, the piano takes centre stage for the wonderful “American Alcoholics”, the lyrics darker than the jazzy arrangement, giving the tune a weird dynamic that works so well. This jazzy element is more pronounced still on “Duluth”, all though, this is the jazz-rock sounds of the early seventies, dark and twisted, none of your Dixieland nonsense to be found.


    More experimental and electronic in nature, “Towel Boy Tent” is playful psychedelia the riff used as a launch pad for echoed vocals, flashes of synths and other strangeness, the mood altered again as the brass/piano combination leads us into the brief pleasures of “Bitsey, I Need a Boss”.


   Featuring the core line-up of Monte Trent Allen, Mae Starr, Gilles, and Amanda mason Wiles, plus, as ever, a small band of guest contributors, there is a cohesive feel to the disc, no musician taking over, allowing the songs to be fully realised, each one arranged with care and precision.  With only one song lasting more than five minutes and most under four, the band have created a continuously changing, yet instantly recognisable landscape, one you will want to visit often.


      As the album progresses things get better and better, with the sonic soundscape and muted solos of “For Edie” a definite highlight, whilst the mellow to noisy dynamics of “Kevin Loves Snowman” are perfectly judged. With a fuzzed punk bassline, “The Highersons”, must be excellent live, filled with energy and tension, as would “Karen C.”, an insistent piano riff, pushing the song forward with great power. Finally the band draw things to a close, with the electronica of “Twinkie Burrough”, another twisted soundscape, this time with an electronic pulse that stands it apart from anything else on the album, weird but it works.


    All I can say is this will not disappoint fans of Rollerball, and if they are new to them, this could be a great place to start. (Simon Lewis)




(Trail Records TR002, CD released 2008)  www.trailrecords.net


Vespero are a 6 piece band from Russia, and “Foam” is their latest album.  The line-up includes guitar, keyboards, bass/flute/synth, two percussionists and a female singer.  Foam was evidently recorded live during late December 2006 at the Union of Theater Artists in Astrakhan, Russia.  Despite this, there is almost no evidence that this is a live recording, as no applause or announcements are heard on this 46 minute disc.  The sound quality is quite good, and many parts could be mistaken for studio recordings. 


      The album itself consists of six pieces ranging from about four and one half to eleven minutes, whilst their sound could generally be described as psychedelic and/or progressive.  Instrumental influences would appear to include Pink Floyd 1968 through 1971, and early Krautrock such as Agitation Free and Ash Ra Tempel, both of which were also influenced by Pink Floyd. Whilst, the percussion sounds have an ethnic sound, echoing the Middle East or North Africa.  To this heady brew they add mysterious (at least to me since I understand no Russian) female vocals and seem to have integrated these influences well, into a sound they can now call their own.  The album opens with “Ouverture”, which serves its purpose by setting the stage for what is to come, as the second piece, “Instruments of the Roads”, opens with cosmic synth sounds, soon joined by a guitar part reminiscent of Ash Ra Tempel, the vocalist then joins in with an ethereal sound, making this into an interesting excursion. “Figures”, the third piece, is another good instrumental reminiscent of Pink Floyd, whilst the long title track offers ethnic sounding percussion over droned sounds and more vocals.  The shortest song, “Skat”, is next, displaying echoed guitar over up-tempo percussion, before the album closes with “Float”, eight and one half minutes of delicate restrained guitar, percussion, with more mysterious vocals woven in.  


Overall, Vespero provide quite a pleasant trip with “Foam” and if you are interested in hearing new psychedelic/progressive sounds from Russia, in a thoughtful cerebral mode, then look no further.  (Will Roberts)




(CD from Pickled Egg) PO Box 6944 Leicester LE2 0WL UK)


It’s been three years since we waxed poetic over this Liverpudlian guitarless instrumental quartet’s last release (‘Horse Republic,’ also on Pickled Egg), so it’s great to hear they haven’t totally evaporated into the aether like their music!


   The musicians, who have also served internships in Loka, Melodie Du Kronk, and Terrascope favourites from years ago The Lazily Spun, closely mirror their live set, and the eight tracks once again invite comparisons with everyone from Can and Miles Davis to Soft Machine and Sun Ra, so there’s a lot of musical territory housed within these grooves. Opener, ‘Sealing Wax’ throbs into the room on the back of Tom Sumnall’s pulsating bassline, beckoning, “Come one, come all…partake of our rhythmic feast.” Brother Harry’s twinkling keyboards and furtive blasts from trumpeter Phil Lucking complete the delectable package. The musique concrète of ‘Inca Hoots’ is as playful as its punny title (say it three times fast) and the hypnotic rush of the jazzy ‘Koanish’ and the bubbly ‘Penny Dance Test’ expand the lads’ oeuvre into Hi-NRG, Eurodance floorfillers. While I prefer the more linear tracks, there’s surely something within these avant grooves to prick up the ears of fans of Miles, Zappa’s orchestral work, krautrockers like Can and Amon Düül, and old labelmates, Bablicon. (Jeff Penczak)




(Psychic Circle)


This time around, Nick Saloman and his Psychic Circle imprint enter the infrequently-chartered waters of the British beat balladeer (Pet Records’ ‘Mystic Males’ comp of “Tripped Out Troubadours,” is the only similar compilation I’m aware of, but that concentrated primarily on American crooners.) As Saloman explains in his liner notes, “What I was trying to assemble for this album was a selection of quality male vocal, with a kind of pop/beat feel. The kind of thing you might have heard in any London discotheque alongside the beat groups, the Stateside soul sounds, the groovy girls and burgeoning psych riffs.” So we’re treated to short bursts of soulful strutting via Mickey Clark’s ‘Help Me,’ and future Guys and Dolls vocalist, Dominic Grant’s ‘Don’t Stop Girl’ (dig that crazy Hammond B solo!), Nicholas Hammond’s slightly psychedelic, Carter-Lewis-penned, ‘I Can’t Stop Myself,’ which sounds like an old Tommy James & The Shondells’ B-side, and Jason Cord’s heavily orchestrated ‘I’ve Got My Eyes On You’ that suggests Mr. Cord could easily have filled in for one of the Bee Gees if the need ever arose.


            Elton John completists will dig Brian Keith’s perfectly titled, ‘When The First Tear Shows,’ an extremely early John/Taupin collaboration. Another coincidental tidbit: Keith was the former frontman with The Plastic Penny, whose rhythm section was none other than future John stalwarts, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsen! I also was impressed by the powerful, Tom Jones-like pipes of Keith Powell that punch their way out of a paper bag called ‘Song of the Moon.’ And here’s another tasty trivia tidbit, Powell was the former lead screamer with The Vikings who was replaced by Carl Wayne prior to his (Wayne’s) departure to help form The Move! Don Adams’ (not the comedian best known for creating the Maxwell Smart character!) ‘That Feeling Is Gone’ elicits comparisons with Rod Stewart and Steve Marriott – he would later appear in the German production of ‘Hair’ and died in the 90s.


            One of the fun games I like to play with Saloman’s compilations is to see how many future famous musicians he manages to dig up in their former incarnations and this time around we have Neil Landon (‘I Still Love You’) from the former frontman of The Burnettes, who also featured bassist, Jim Leverton and guitarist, Noel Redding. Landon also toured Europe with The Ivy League, whose backing band, The Jaybirds, later evolved into Ten Years After. Following a brief stint in The Flowerpot Men (of ‘Let’s Go To San Francisco’ fame), Landon reunited with his former Burnettes bandmates, who christened themselves Fat Mattress. He later enjoyed a successful career in Germany and his Rock Family Tree has branches that later turned up as members of Status Quo, Deep Purple, Strawbs, Savoy Brown, Yes and The Moody Blues! Klaus Voormann even produced one of his later singles! Then there’s James Royal’s punchy ‘Call My Name’ from the guy whose band, The James Royal Set at various times included Rick Wakeman, John Entwistle and Mitch Mitchell. Royal has unfortunately escaped the public’s eyes and ears, so this unearthing is an excellent opportunity to catch up on this sadly neglected secret.


            Wrapping things up, we’re treated to Danny Street’s ‘Can I Go,’ a finger-poppin’ toetapper, and American, Ronnie Jones’ emotional outpouring on the Lou Rawls-meets-Otis Redding soulful weeper, ‘Put Your Tears Away.’ Overall, a collection of charming pop with a minimum of pap, there are some collectable rarities and the odd trivia answers tossed in that will all sit quite nicely alongside your aforementioned ‘Mystic Males’ compilations, while also pleasing the aural palettes of discerning collectors of oddball pop and beat ephemera! (Jeff Penczak)




(CD from Darla 2107 Camino Cantera Vista, CA 92084 USA )


            While technically not part of Darla’s groundbreaking “Bliss Out” series (although an earlier collaboration with Jess Kahr was volume 20), Danish producer, Jonas Munk’s ‘Confluence’ does form a stylistic trilogy with both the 2003 “Bliss Out” entrant, ‘The North Shore’ and 2006’s ‘Bajamar.’ Occupying the same headspace as fellow  snorecore artistes like Stars of The Lid, Aarktica, Azusa Plane, Main, and Windy & Carl, these floating soundwaves mingle with the atmosphere to create sonic bubbles in the style of Eno’s seminal ambient works. Waves of warmth envelope the listener like a proud mother caressing her newborn child, and while headphones or a surround-sound stereo setup will greatly enhance the sensory deprivation-like aura of these compositions, the pieces work equally well as soundtracks for meditative contemplation or a Chill Out comedown from a night of Bacchanalian overindulgence.


            Although divided into eight tracks with their own distinct titles, the music is best absorbed as a single entity with subtle differences possibly only revealing themselves upon repeat listens. An occasional piano flutter pierces Munk’s droning guitarscapes, as on the title track, which might tickle the brain tags harbouring memories of Angelo Badalamenti’s amorphic soundtracks for David Lynch. At times, as with ‘Leirosa,’ you may wonder if any sound is coming out of your speakers at all, while on other occasions your brain will still be processing the after effects of a track that has long since evaporated, leaving behind the aural equivalent of an afterimage.


            Subtle, evocative, hypnotic…the album should come with its own warning label, “Caution: May cause drowsiness or dizziness; do not drive or operate heavy machinery while listening.” (Jeff Penczak)



Ulaan Khol II

(Soft Abuse Records, CD released December 2008 www.softabuse.com)


Ulaan Khol is a project of American musician Steven R. Smith [see our interview with Steven from Ptolemaic Terrascope issue 30 by clicking here - Ed.] , and II is his latest album, although there is no information regarding this on the sleeve of this album.  In fact, there is no information on the sleeve whatsoever excepting the names of the artist and the album.  There are pieces of artwork, but these appear to be abstract, including no recognizable images.  Had it not been for the accompanying press release, I would not know who was responsible for this rather obscure 38 ½ minutes of music released by the Soft Abuse label of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. 


  Ulaan Khol II consists of eight pieces ranging from about three and one quarter to five and one half minutes, all of which are untitled.  The press release indicates that this is the second part of a trilogy of albums called “Ceremony”.  Steven R. Smith plays guitar, organ and percussion on these pieces.  The press release uses the term “dense tapestries” and this is an apt description for these compositions.  The over all sound is indeed dense, but don’t let this deter you from further investigation. The production makes this feel somewhat industrial, with the guitar tracks including feedback at various times, indicating that they must have been played quite loudly. In fact, playing the album at a fairly high volume would seem to recreate the conditions under which it was recorded, and it does bring out some details that might otherwise be obscured. Whilst Smith’s guitar work does  appear to have its roots in psychedelic rock music of that last three decades,  he seems to have digested them thoroughly and created his own sound, although,  despite the sometimes psychedelic sounds from the guitar, this music seems to avoid the structures of most psychedelic rock. I am at a loss for many comparisons to this sound, so it must be concluded that Steven has created his own sound for Ulaan Khol.  This album may not be the easiest release to get into, but one should not allow this to deter you from further listening, as I found that underneath the sometimes abrasive qualities of the production lay some melodies of great majesty and beauty.  Steven R. Smith and Ulaan Khol can be found on the web at

www.myspace.com/stevenrsmith  (Will Roberts)




(2XCD from www.sidewaysthroughsound.com)


  Housed in a beautiful A5 booklet, with artwork and information from each  contributor , this compilation is the realisation of a vision from Mark (thee sonic assassin ), a rather fine gentleman and the creative force behind Sideways Through Sound, the Australian based net radio show.


      Featuring folk, drone, and psych (as does the show), the compilation is home to all that is good about the current scene, both in Australia (disc 1) and around the globe (disc 2).


    Concentrating on disc 1 first, proceedings get off to an excellent start as Anonymeye display some wonderful guitar skills on the lively acoustic instrumental “Pacific Highway 3pm”, the mood lowered slightly (but not the quality) as River Crombie relaxes us with the truly beautiful “I’ve Grown a Heart”. Retaining the relaxed feel Tobias Selkirk sound like a wyrd folk version of Crowded House on “Many Things”, before a squeal of feedback introduces “Vulture”, a harsher tune with a full band adding power, plus a joyously noisy guitar break.


     Both desolate and powerful “Storm in the Sea” is a moody offering from the excellently named Owls of the Swamp, the spectral piano refrain burning a hole in the song, providing the finishing touch. Using loops, samples, and harp, Heidi Elva lives at the drone/experimental end of this compilation, the drifting ambience of “Monday” changing the dynamics, slowing down time and deliciously creeping under your skin, to be joined straight after by the fragile sweetness of Alice Hutchison, whose song “The Stingray” is a cry of defiance.


    Citing amongst their interests the periodic table, spiders and hard rubbish, The Orbweavers, play strange psych folk songs, topped off with the lovely voice of Marita Dyson, which adds a touch of softness to the lysergic background. Slowing things down again, Seaworthy mix wandering guitar with spacious drones on “Distant Hills Burn Bright PT2”, the ever rising sound as life affirming as watching the sun appear from behind the hills, as suggested by the title!


   To bring disc 1 to a close, The Boy Who Spoke Clouds offer “Armour”, an intense nine minute drone, filled with sawing strings, voices, and samples, the mood suddenly lightening halfway through, as if someone had flicked a switch, the piece slowly engulfing the room with a warm and fragile glow.


    To open disc 2, more acoustic guitar is employed, this time in the hands of Yousei Suzuki, whose work has a similar feel to John Fahey or Glenn Jones, with the excellent “Three Cinemas” both light and vibrant. As if mirroring disc 1, there is another delightful song up next, with The Gentle Good, making you stop and stare as he plays “Listen to the Rain2, which features some simple yet effective string arrangements. Having recently reviewed Jeff Eden in Rumbles it is a pleasure to hear his fine guitar work again on “Black Dervish”, previously unreleased, as are the majority of songs on the album, yet another reason to get a copy.


    Wyrd and creepy, “dagger Dagger” is one of my favourites on the comp, the deep gravelly voice of Old Lost John adding acres of atmosphere to the tune, as does the old pump organ, reminding me of Gorkys Zygotic Mynci in its construction. Sounding like early autumn, “The bend in the River”, finds The Driftwood Manor floating downstream, hand dipping in the water as the gentle, wistful melodies dance over the wonderful arrangements.  Featuring the solo electric guitar of Dean McPhee, “Dark Moon” was recorded in one take, the quiet ambience of the piece mixing with the rest of the artist here, whilst remaining truly unique within this particular album. Short and sweet, Muffin has a touch of Vashti Bunyan within the grooves of “Loop”, the glockenspiel and melodic adding a twist to the proceedings. Like the music of ghosts, “Lucy” sounds as if it comes from faraway, as Silver Pines charm everything around with their mesmerising blend of sounds, including a Banhart like vocal performance.


     Working to an epic scale, The Rowan Amber Mill are intense and magnificent on “Blood and Bones”, a hypnotic banjo adding menace to the tune, whilst an incessant drone nags away at the back of your mind. Finally, friends of the Terrascope, and possibly the most well known act on the album Arborea tell of “The Shadow and the Wind”, the sparse and desolate musical backing the perfect foil for the wistful vocals, creating an almost eastern feel o the track, some shimmering guitar adding substance in the middle.


      Hats off to Mark for creating a wonderful free flowing collection that is varied, current and contains enough quality to ensure it will still sound good years down the line. Limited to 200 copies, this is an album you do not want to miss out on if you have any interest in the underground folk scene. (Simon Lewis)




(CD from  www.luckofedenhall.com )


The follow up to the excellent  “subterrene”(2006), this album sees the band take their sound to a whole new level of enjoyment, containing 13 slices of prime time psych nuggets, each wrapped in a delicious candy floss coating, and riding some blistering, guitar fuelled, fairground rides.


   Right from the off, it is clear that business is meant, a twisted guitar propelling “All Else Shall Be Added to You” out of the speakers and into your mind, some swirling organ and strings adding depth and just the right degree of strangeness. Next up, the short and groovy, “Mary Ann’s Dressed in Peace” has a great big Paisley heart, early Soft Boys meeting The Dukes of Stratosphear, which is heaven to my ears. Taking a more relaxed approach, “Old Man Realise” has a lolloping bass line and a wonderful soaring guitar, whilst the acoustic psych-pop of “Bus Stop Daisy” sound just like you think it would, including the backward guitar at the end.


    Again played and produced by Gregory Curvey and Mark Lofgren, the album displays variety and depth, the duo letting the songs shine, effects judged to perfection and the playing maintaining a high level throughout, something evidenced on the full on guitar attack of “We Go To Sleep”, which is filled with manic energy and some frenetic fretwork. Or, you could check out the glorious vocals and lysergic melodies on “Cinnamon Mary and Her Skeleton Cane”, one of the albums finest moments, complete with chiming guitar and more excellent soloing, it just gets better and better. There is a hint of The Church on “The Time Has Come” (no bad thing), something not apparent on the much stranger “Beautiful Girl on the Radio”, the guitar sound rougher and the whole song having an “about to fall apart” feel to it. Things get stranger still on the slow burning acid drench of “She’s Using All the Colors” Joss sticks are recommended as you float downstream, blissful and grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat.


     Using backward guitar overload as its major weapon, “Down in Mexico” is a song that needs plenty of volume to bring out its qualities, but that’s alright as the sun will be shining and your windows will be open as you share the album with your neighbours, they will love it, honest. Demonstrating classic acid induced garage paranoia, “Just Can’t compromise My Security” is a burst of edgy noise, the drums rattling about inside the brain as choppy guitars creep through you veins. Gentler in construction, the drifting strings that run through “A Child in a Mine” add a slightly disturbing presence to the song, the lyrics re-enforcing the feeling.


     Finally, the band put it all together for the six minute finale that is “Sister Strange and the Stuffed Furry Things”, a future psychedelic classic, sounding like the Beatles meeting Kevin Ayers, in a ruined house covered in sunlight. Well, something like that anyway, whatever it is an excellent way to finish a rather brilliant album the lovers of the paisley sound, psych pop, or just good music, will thoroughly enjoy.  (Simon Lewis)