= February 2018 =  
The Myrrors
Becca Mancari
 Alan Simon
 Paul Messis
 Martyn Bates
 Dez Allenby
 Lake Ruth
 The Prefab Messiahs
 Trappist Afterland
 Dead Sea Apes
 the Final Age
Yoshimi O/Susie Ibarra/Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe



(LP on Cardinal Fuzz Records)

The Myrrors from Tuscon Arizona provide us with only one piece of music on this record. Previously released late last year on super rare cassette by the band’s own label, ‘Lunar Halo’ is now released on glorious vinyl and in its almost 29 minutes crams an awful lot of goodness into those grooves.

The record starts as a raga-like drone with loose and jangly percussion in the background sounding not unlike the wonderful Pelt. This lovely, meditative state is maintained for several minutes, slowly swelling and absorbing other floating sounds on its journey to create an almost free folk vibe with an Eastern mystical edge but with occasional moments of almost industrial sounding drones and roars bringing an added intensity. The track moves into a more structured sounding mode with the introduction of drums bringing a steady but laid back beat upon which the volume and power begin to grow. The guitar becomes a more prominent feature in the middle section but still retains that underlying Eastern feel and allows space for a diverse improvised sound to develop with various squalls, squeals, scrapes, strums and drones working quite happily together in a Velvet Underground extended jam kind of style.  At times there is almost a touch of a Swans/desert blues hybrid around the guitar sound in the slow building, sparse, hypnotic and at times intense atmosphere it creates. The last third or so of the track starts with a much more powerful heavy psychedelic rock feel before collapsing into a free form breakdown, reintroducing the raga like mood towards a calm and beautiful fade out.

This is a wonderful record which, within one long exploration, melds together a beautiful raga like beginning and end with a loose free folk jam, Velvet Underground style improvisation and a powerful psychedelic rock intensity. Hypnotic, imaginative and essential listening and I for one cannot wait to see them on their forthcoming UK tour.
(Francis Comyn)



(LP/DL on Gold Tooth Records and Tone Tree Music)
Singer-songwriter Becca Mancari’s debut Good Woman is Americana music at its finest.  Mancari is based in Nashville - arguably the hottest incubator for American music today, and not just country – but has lived in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, Africa and India.  Her music naturally brings a worldliness shaped by her travels.  Good Woman’s sound harkens back to Harvest-era Neil Young, Gram Parsons’ collaborations with Emmylou Harris, and many other country-rock influences.

But you can’t make a great album of Cosmic American Music without a great band and producer, and Mancari has that going for her in guitarist Juan Solorzano, pedal steel player Blake Reams, and producer Kyle Ryan.  Ryan’s production focuses on atmospheric sonics that bring out the best in Mancari’s intimate relationship-centered songs, and avoids typical Americana trappings.  But her secret weapon is Reams’ pedal steel playing.  While I don’t go out of my way to seek out pedal steel music, Reams connects, wringing every last drop of emotion out of the instrument.  His swoops and dives can be playful, and oft-times viscerally eerie, evoking players like B.J. Cole, Daniel Lanois or Pee Wee Charles on Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  Reams usually comes in a little bit after the song begins, but every time he enters, the song takes a distinctive left-turn into another place, a very appealing place.

Opener “Arizona Fire,” about a romance that burned out quickly, exemplifies this approach.  The listener is made quickly aware that this is not standard country-rock stuff, with Solorzano’s guitar and Reams’ pedal steel taking off like a runaway train.

“Waiting So Long” starts with a Les Paul & Mary Ford-esque guitar intro, which when later blended with the pedal steel and a trumpet in the background, maintains its jaunty rhythm.  “Summertime Mama” is a rocker about pure desire, with the guitars happily chiming away.

Then there’s the aptly titled ballad “Golden.”  I’ll wager you a pint you can’t drop the needle (or the cursor) on this gorgeous track about not being able to let go of an ex-lover, and listen all the way through without wanting to immediately play it again.  And I’ll be back to collect.  Exquisite harmonies baked with reverb and Blake Reams’ ghostly pedal steel wrap themselves around Becca’s tender vocals to create an utterly irresistible combination.  Producer Kyle Ryan’s sweetening process adds a pinch of this and a dash of that until you have the gesture the chef makes when the sauce turned out perfect.  Bravissimo.

“Dirty Dishes” begins with spooky pedal steel and sets the stage for another tale of longing - “Dirty dishes, dirty thoughts.”  Mancari then lets the band carry the water for a while, which they do with aplomb with a fabulous guitar and pedal steel freakout that ends all too soon.  “Kitchen Dancing” evokes bittersweet emotions starting with charming homespun images of “kitchen dancing with your feet on top of mine” followed by the heartbreak of “saw you dancing in some other arms tonight.”  Again, the balance of Mancari’s tender singing with Reams’ pedal steel takes the song to another level.  The title track, which closes the album, is a song of guilt (“and I pretend to be a good woman now”).   It features just Becca’s treated, harmonizing vocals, acoustic guitar and yet more ghostly pedal steel permeating the song.

Becca Mancari is a talented new voice in Americana, and Good Woman is a beautifully played, brilliantly produced debut.  I look forward to the sequel.

(Mark Feingold)



(LP/CD on Cardinal Fuzz Records)

I look forward to every release by The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol (TBWNIAS) with a fair amount of giddy glee and an itch in my wallet. This fine collective of psychedelic warriors have a back catalogue that any band would be justifiably proud of and ‘Droneverdose’, their opening release of 2018, is an absolute cracker.

The record kicks off with two relatively short tracks of under 4 minutes each. ‘Earworm’ starts with a tight metallic drum and guitar riff that AC/DC would happily confiscate as their own before some trademark soaring guitar takes off into familiar TBWNIAS territory. A sixties psychedelic rock feel comes from an organ weaving into the sound and then we take off on a brief Iron Maiden like speeded up riff from the days of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (TBWNIAS play NWOBHM could be a great record guys?) before coming back to the main riff to finish. There’s a lot going on in just under four minutes and it’s a great album opener.

‘Snorehand’ is next and even shorter with a killer Black Sabbath style riff roaring out of the speakers topped off by some joyful squeals of guitar mayhem thankfully not in any way like a sleep deprived Eric Clapton. I doubt anyone could snore through this and nor would they want to.

‘Gaussian Blur/Beach Debris’ is the first of the longer tracks and another song of two halves. It begins with John Westhaver’s hi hat driven new wave mutant dance drums providing a foot tapping intensity to the rhythm over which we have another wonderful high flying guitar work out on top of a rock solid riff. The second half of the track starts with a lone bassline and is soon joined by some more rock solid drumming and riffing that builds into a satisfyingly freaky wig out. A touch of eastern ambience comes through in the guitar and it’s quite a hypnotic trip.

The eastern feel is much more to the fore at the start of ‘118’ with the interaction of singing, percussion and drones setting a very different, calmer mood to what has gone before. Two minutes into the track a great bassline reminding me slightly of ‘Hocus Pocus’ heralds a series of changing moods alternating between short bursts of cosmic mayhem and almost ritualistic, prayer like vocal chant and handclapping before returning full circle to the gentle percussion, drone and vocal that started this beautiful and inventive track.

‘Tsunami of Bullshit’ is the final and longest track on the album at over 15 minutes and whilst it would make a great title for many a political or showbiz autobiography (insert your own subject here), instead we have a very bright and diverse psychedelic rocker. The opening section has a feel of Pink Floyd pre- Dark Side Of The Moon and indeed Hawkwind’s more gentle moments in its quiet repetitive, spacey atmosphere that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere too fast. After a few minutes a driving rhythm and insistent guitar riff kick in and change the feel of the track as it becomes another sonic feast of cosmic adventure allowing plenty of scope and time for some wonderful and wild guitar excursions to fly but always underpinned by that strong rhythm section. Towards the end of the track a more free form improvised break provides a brief change of feel and calms things down but not for long and we are soon cruising to the end of the track with all guns blazing.

This is another wonderful TBWNIAS record full of inventive and memorable music showcasing their superb extended psychedelic excursions but also their ability to deliver punchy short tracks filled with toe tapping goodness. A highly recommended addition to your shelves.
(Francis Comyn)




( Cherry Red Records )

With members of Supertramp, Jethro Tull, Clannad, Curved Air, Saga and Uriah Heep to call upon, the new album from Excalibur is a full blown prog folk Celtic rock opera.  At once a vast and accomplished concept record, that is full of pomp and bombast, but that is exactly what a thing like this should be, there are no half measures here. 

The story is of King Arthur. After a thousand years of imprisonment, Merlin escapes from Morgana’s spell, and, although briefly intrigued by the lush beauty of the new world, is soon to discover the rot and decay present.  He summons back the mighty dragon. So with a cast of hundreds playing all manner of instruments from oboes, clarinets, saxophones, guitars, Celtic harps, mandolins, violins, drums, bass and keyboards the story is brought to life. 

Epics such as opener “The Wings Of The Dragon” “Stonehenge” “The Last Lament Of A Fairy” and “Silver Moon” are truly sublime.  The playing as you can imagine is top notch, all these guys know their way around a recording studio and are virtuosos on their respective instruments.  Some 17 Excalibur records have preceded this outing of 19 songs.  Alan Simon is the writer and producer, who also provides acoustic guitar and vocals; he put this project together from October 2015 through to January 2017, recording in a variety of studios along the way. The Bohemian Symphony Orchestra Of Prague are on hand to elevate the songs to classical level, the voices on the record are by Moya Brennan, Siobhan Owen, Sonja Kristina,  Roberto Tiranti, Alan Stivell, Jesse Siebenberg and Alan Simon.

The opener itself is jaw dropping with tremendous fluid lead guitar from Martin Barre, taught wiry gear grinding bass, a lovely keyboard motif and sultry sax, setting the disc up nicely, two secret weapons are the beautiful crystalline vocals of Siobhan and Moya, which are just exquisite.  A couple of fine instrumentals “The Fifth Season” and “Behind The Mist” are used to great effect.  I didn’t think that I would like it; I thought that I would find the whole thing overblown, but guess what I absolutely love it.  “Calling For You” with superb crunchy rhythm and bubbling lead guitars plus the wonderful Celtic voice of Clannad’s Moya Brennan is tremendous, she also shows off her pipes on the elegiac “Silver Moon”.

Another female singer with an unbelievable range is Siobhan Owen who achieves a glass shattering final note on the wistful ballad “The Last Lament Of A Fairy”. “The Passion” sung beautifully by Sonja is haunting and provides a nice balm.  “You Are The Sunshine” has a lot of input from Jesse Siebenberg from Supertramp, and is a lovely lilting mandolin infused Celtic pop song. “There Is Someone” has heaps of Celtic harp and a thing called a Merlin whistle! Intoned and then sung beautifully by Siobhan.  The record ends with “Dun Angus 11” this song features guest vocals from Elfanthal’s Maite Itoiz and here the symphony orchestra truly shine and close out this wonderful record.

(Andrew Young)





(  www.13clockrecords.com )

Paul Messis is also a member of The Higher State who have a number of albums out and has released a couple of previous solo albums and a few 7” singles to date. Twelve new tracks of 60’s flavoured Garage rock, eschewing any fat on these tunes, he presents this latest, lean collection of garage rockers.  It’s like all the stuff you could hear on Pebbles, Nuggets etc, you all know the stuff.  So, without pushin’ too hard, I’d like to recommend this latest endeavour.  Things get off to a flying start, waspish guitar and snotty vocals, so redolent of the sixties with first track “Yesterday’s Confusion”.  “Sign Of The Times”, follows, this time a punkish folk rocker, imagine Lawrence (Felt) playing with the Byrds, excellent, and so it goes with next song “Societies Games, which this time sounds like Dan Treacy (Television Personalities) playing with the Seeds,  if this is up your street, you may feel that you have died and gone to heaven.  Massive slabs of fuzz guitar, vox continental organ, also plenty of ringing 12 string guitars.

“Back Against The Wall”, adds harmonica.  “Apathy’s Callin’”, slows things down, with a pretty ragged acoustic ballad that has a chorus of ‘It’s so hard to be yourself, when all around you apathy is calling’.  A nice cover of “Games People Play”, is given the garage treatment imbued with more waspish, stinging guitar and plenty of swirling organ, frantic, succinct and very, very good.  “The Ballad Of A Strange Cat”, is more of that twelve string folk rock.  The proto garage blues of “Mainstream Lifestyle Blues”, has cool licks and a nice wailing harp. “Stuck In The Past”, employs a steady walking rhythm with some nice bluesy guitar interjections, ruminations upon history. “Mistress Of Death”, Is a great little death song, with plenty of atmosphere.  Before you know it we are at the last song “Don’t Follow The Man”, is pure sixties raga rock and pretty groovy.  A most enjoyable record, it could well be his best.  Psych/garage rock is alive and living in West Sussex.

(Andrew Young)




( A-Scale Records )

A straightforward, accessible acoustic affair from Martyn Bates of Eyeless In Gaza, rooted in the singer songwriter mould.  Martyn plays acoustic guitar and sings, Elizabeth S plays second guitar, banjo, melodic, drum and harmony vocals along with Alan Tench cymbals, string machine, and ghost feathers.

It starts with “At Last”, a lovely haunting ghostly ballad.  Next song “Again Awhile”, is a strident twelve string mid paced song, with big kettle drum, this one reminds me of traditional native north American songs with a wailing accompaniment. “Shimmering“, now hove’s into view, an expansive acoustic song, accompanied by washes of backwards cymbal and banjo, It also introduces us to Alan’s string machine.  “Unknown Light”, is a paean to come into the light, spare and delicate in sound. Title track “I Said To Love”, a gentle unwinding song, that seems just out of reach, lightly glinting in the ether. “Hallucination” is another strident twelve string strummer, informed by some of Martyn’s poetic words, again with some ghostly vocals from Elizabeth. “I Am Bound”, is beautifully played and recorded, metaphysical and otherworldly, it has some nice splashes of melodica. 

“Softspokenlies”, questions time spent and wasted by untruths, a banjo inflected acoustic song, with some more ghostly interjections.  “Spring Dresses Winter”, concerns the seasons and a prolonged cruel winter.  “All The Lowlands”, is another gentle haunting ballad.  “Ruined Flowers” is one of the highlights, poetic and forlorn but not dreary, coloured this time again by Alan’s string machine. “Riches,Crying Moon”, is a minor key spectral ballad with echoed vocals. “Fight”, is barely there, a mere esper of a song, invested with more lovely poetry, I must say Martyn’s use of words is terrific throughout this album. “I Look Back” is another haunting little gem that has some great atmospherics towards its climax, bleeding out into found sound.  “There/Here”, the final song is a short, questing, delicate song of grace and beauty.

(Andrew Young)





DHM Records

Former member of seminal psychedelic acid folk and Terrascope favourites Forest Dez Allenby has released this two track EP ‘We Sail Our Castles’ . The title track celebrates the city of culture that is Hull, with mentions of the many famous people to have come out of this city; it’s an acoustic affair with plenty of acoustic guitar, harmonica and acoustic slide guitar.

The other song on this single is the wonderful “1968”, which is a cracker and deserves to be heard.  Here he reminds us of the social ferment and civil unrest of the era, with mentions of Martin Luther King and takes us right back to those times letting us also know that he was there.  The song also brings us right up to the present time, gently reminding us that there are still a number of issues that need addressing.  This song has some beautifully played acoustic guitar throughout, also like the first song it has lovely harmony vocals from Cathy Allenby.

(Andrew Young)



(12” and 10” LP/DIGITAL from Feral Child https://lakeruth.bandcamp.com/)

Noughties cult wyrd folk dahlings Eighteenth Day of May have a habit of spawning some rather tantalising offshoots. The UK members reconvened as Trimdon Grange Explosion not too long ago while Alison Cotton and Mark Nicholas’ The Left Outsides continue to be not just resurgent but resplendent.

No less welcome has been the return to active service of Stateside resident Allison Brice fronting Lake Ruth, which also features Hewson Chen from The New Lines and Matt Schulz of Holy Fuck. Whereas her former bandmates have tended to tread a deliciously dark path though, there wafts the sweet scent of dream pop - and more -around Brice’s latest musical squeeze.

I am of the belief that many an international conflict could be solved simply by sitting the protagonists down and having Allison Brice mewl at them. There is a clarity about her sweetly disarming, uncluttered delivery which runs like spring water and contrasts with the multi-layered, densely atmospheric instrumentation where busy shimmering guitars, baroque Left Banke harpsichord runs and energetic drumming vie for attention. Myriad styles and influences abound but it has to be said there is a distinctly poppy texture to much of the material and high end production to boot, both of which may have some of you wrinkling your pretty little noses out there. Stop that now. For the most part it is exhilarating and at times matches the heady quality and high water mark of 2016 scrumptious debut Actual Entity.

The lush quasi-continental feel is redolent of Broadcast and a less jazzy-sounding Soundcarriers. Much like the latter the template does mean that there is the occasional tendency for songs to bleed into one another. No matter, there are plenty of outstanding examples worthy of mention, none less that the soaring ‘The Cross Of Lorraine”. I’m not sure if there is such a genre as ambient-anthemic but if not then have that one on us. There are also plentiful “hello trees” moments, such as ‘Under The Waning Moon’ and ‘Walter The Taxi’, where Brice’s enchanting slightly vulnerable swoon is set against a skipping yet at the same time lolloping rhythm conveying a sense of wonder and innocence. Or so you would think. Yet don’t be fooled; sweet-sounding they may be but these songs are populated by a colourful cast of the embattled and dispossessed and lyrically the more worldly themes of oppression, resistance, survival and escape are explored. ‘White Wall’ brings to mind 90s dance favourites Morcheeba’s more chilled out leanings and the closing ‘Westway’ (a reference to Brice’s stint in London, possibly) introduces a tantalising hint of vocal vibrato to an already richly spiced sauce.

A glance at 2016’s Personal Bejezus (mine own indulgent ill-considered best of year new album releases which impresses absolutely no-one) shows their debut Actual Entity firmly ensconced in the upper quartile of the top 20. Time – and further listens - will tell whether this goes the same way. Right now though I’m already on the waiting list for a soppy grin removal procedure.
Ian Fraser



(CD from Lollipop Records, CASS from Burger Records, DL from https://theprefabmessiahs.bandcamp.com/)

It’s fun time folks, as, with tongues planted firmly in cheeks and a shed load of affection and acumen the Fab Fuzzed-Out Four Hoarse Men of Massachusetts once more pay homage to 60s garage psychedelia. Thrill as they hurtle headlong on a whistle stop tour of the precinct where Garageland meets Psychville. You know that bit before the road starts meandering too much and you can no longer find your own ass with a sat nav? That’s the one.

Sharp and to the point here are ten, three-or-so minute cleverly construed near-parodies of about 100 classics, with more reference points than there are pigeons around a bread van - waaaaaay to many to mention here but please bear with us while we try and make a representational fist of it.

‘Psychsploitation’ says it, and it sounds like something you really out to be able to pinpoint but can’t. Time to declutter and re-programme possibly. Or maybe because it is the acme of garage punk and they’ve nailed it straight off. Political statement rears its head in ‘The Man Who Killed Reality’, a none-too flattering dressing down of POTUS #45 complete with sassy snippet of ‘Hail To The Chief’. Sonically this comes closest to those other jolly sixties skitters the Dukes of Stratosophear albeit with an exaggerated nasal drawl.

Cue then the backwards guitar and white soul beat and even bubblegum leanings of ‘Someday Sunnydaze’ with yip-yip backing and a chorus which could be early Blur or some such. Don’t they know that modern life is rubbish? The harder rocking ‘Everything U No’ cuts and shunts ‘My Generation’ and ‘I can See For Miles’ over a dirty ZZ Top riff. Then it’s off the gas for the reverb drenched ‘Gellow Mold’, the most overtly psychedelic things here before ‘Having A Rave-Up’ hangs early Fabs on the eastern style hook of ‘Over Under Sideways Down’ by The Yardbirds.

‘Outtayerhands’ could well be the best thing here, with its mocking, censorious vocals and punctuations of ‘hey’ imposed on a killer and eminently danceable Kinks riff.  Or maybe it’s ‘Monster Riff’ the sounds of the Stones scoring a Rocky Horror remake with what for all the netherworld could be Axl Rose on backing vocals. You have to love a line like “your virgin vinyl, makes it final”. Doncha? Phased guitar heralds the bluesy shuffle, ‘Warmsinkingfeeling’, which you can imagine Endless Boogie having a fair crack at and who might have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those meddling hand claps. Then it all comes to a sticky end with the snide and sinister sing-along, ‘Last Day On Earth’, with its Batman riff and nuke bomb ending. Ka-boom. Although that’s probably just my head at this point.

What it all adds up to the essentially is power pop pinned proudly to paisley shirts with, if not quite a modern twist, then a harder edge owing to less innocent and savvier 1980s garage revivalism. Count Five adulterated with the Chesterfield Kings if you like. And we’ve barely scratched the surface kids. This is the shit with bells on. No finger cymbals though. No. Not those.
Ian Fraser



(LPs from www.Sugarbushrecords.co.uk ) 
Trappist Afterland produce challenging music that is informed by religion and ritual, of psalms and mystics. Adam Cole (who is Trappist Afterland) is a practising Gnostic and a member of the Holy Sophia Narthex of the Apostolic Johannite Church, although he stresses with his roots lying in a more orthodox way.

Trappist Afterland seemingly came from nowhere with their album “Afterlander”, released by Sunstone records in an edition of 99 copies during August 2015.  Produced on blood red splattered vinyl (these sold out immediately, leaving a lot of people curious to hear this mysterious Australian band).  Copies of the record started changing hands for over £100, the album was then subsequently issued in a small run of 50 CDs, again by Sunstone, these too disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Sugarbush records decided to press up some more copies of Afterlander, this time in a larger pressing of 200. These duly appeared last year, affording those people who missed out, to finally get to hear this seminal acid/folk album.   Now Sugarbush have pushed out the boat and released a few more albums by them.  Taking the opportunity to press up 200 coloured vinyl copies of their three earlier albums from 2011, 2012 and 2013, these were originally released only on CDr.  So this makes it the first time that these albums have been pressed on vinyl.  Sugarbush have issued a total of five albums by the group, also releasing the (again sold out) second release by them, again originally on Sunstone called “Gods Good Earth”; this and the Afterlander album have already been reviewed by Terrascope last year.

 And so on to the new old ones.  Their debut album was released in 2011 and entitled “The Round Dance Of The Cross”.  The album is a mix of exotic instrumentation played by the two members; songwriter Adam Cole (guitar, voice, vocal percussion, percussion, mellotron, synth and the wonderfully named ebowed krajappi) and Adam Casey (guitar, voice, throat singing, pygmy scat, hurdy gurdy, percussion, mellotron, synth, bowed banjo, Tibetan bowl and gong, wind chimes and grandfather clock).  First track “Whores Of Gommorah” begins with a light drone before a child’s exclamation of ‘We Are Dancing’, a couple of chants and the cyclical song begins, acoustic guitar, light percussion, vocals and mellotron appear and an underlying queasiness takes hold.  “Round Dance Of The Cross“ follows, it includes segments taken from The Gnostic Gospels Of Jesus, plus a little piano, played here by Julitha Ryan.  “Goodbye Captain Bell, Farewell Ricky Boys” a lengthy otherworldly song of the sea that would not be out of place on a Pearls Before Swine album.  It concerns a ship sinking off the coast of Sydney harbour with fourteen deaths.  A ghostly mellotron’s strings cloak the song in a strange ambience, both forlorn and desperately sad.  “The Seed Hatched A Sparrow” concludes the first side, this one has a light eastern vibe and concerns the passing of time, growth cycles and harvests, it has plenty of percussive sounds and a few impassioned cries.

Side two starts with “Trappist Afterland/The Hermit Monk Of Osborne”.  This track provides us some information on how they got their name,which is nothing more exotic than a wish to be drinking Trappist ale for eternity.  It’s a song in two parts, the second part incorporating Tibetan bowl and ghostly voices issued from what sounds like a tempestuous sea.   “Atlantis Return” continues with the watery imagery, against a chanted story with waves crashing above, it tells of Halflings and seashells.  Things turn a bit trippy with final song “King And Swine/ He Cut Himself With Stones” a child’s voice singing part of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to a tune comprising of Tibetan gong and chiming grandfather clocks, before the second part closes out this distinctly acid/folk record, to a bed of chimes, voices and percussive sounds.

The second album by them is “Burrowing To Light In The Land Of Nod”.   This was originally issued in 2012, with a similar instrumentation to the first one, but this time adding in bohdran, dulcitar, darbuka and bird noises.  The album is dedicated to Steven Begovic (The Patron Saint Of Gypsies) a friend who sadly lost his life during the recording of this album.  First track “Burrowing To Light” is a disconcerting mix of percussion, chants and whooping bird noises, again eastern tropes are brought to mind, with influences being felt from the original acid/folk groups,  bands like COB as well as The Incredible String Band.  A droning interlude before “Father=Sun Itself” appears from the fog, informed by Lilac Trees under a fierce sun, acoustic guitar, mellotron washes, percussive bells and chimes, infused with quavering vocals.  Side one closes with “Patron Saint Of Gypsies”, a drowsy tune that had me checking the credits for reference of instrumentation, it has that classic lazy Indian vibe, produced I should think, by the hurdy gurdy and darbuka.

Side two opens with “The Crystal Wood” a lovely languid song that mentions getting snagged in the roots of trees and of ‘feeling drunk like a mystic howling’, to a cacophony of otherworldly sounds emerging from this crystal wood, one that I certainly wouldn’t want to be in as night falls!  “Spirit’s Tongues” an acoustic song with gently weaving acoustic guitars, mellotron strings and percussive rhythm, dreamlike and again here’s that word again slightly otherworldly ending in what would appear to be a shamanistic ceremony.  “My Own Light Divine” is a simple song with mentions of tortoise and hare, of taking rambling forest walks, drunk with wine.  Last song “Leaving The Land Of Nod” incorporates much of what has gone before and again is quite eastern sounding, I’m sure that there is a sitar playing!  One thing you will not find on any of these records are electric guitars or indeed any rock instrumentation like drums or bass.  These two records are rooted firmly in the acid/ folk tradition, inhabited by bands like the aforementioned Pearls Before Swine and The Incredible String Band.

And so finally to their third album “The Five Wounds Of Francis Minor”.  Adam Cole is now the sole member, recording this new album at home on a four track.  This is a concept album, being based on both St Francis Of Assisi and John Dee.  For this outing he plays oud, lute, guitar, percussion, tanpura, harmonium and whir stick.  Album opener “Five Wounds Of Francis Minor” a tale of stigmata, of weeping scars and of being a vessel, it’s full of religious imagery to a tune of guitar, bells and percussion, with a tanpura towards its ending.  “The Psalm Remains The Same” a quite straightforward religious song asking for protection from evil spirits, played on acoustic guitar and bells.  The lengthy “Stars Of The Wraith” It tells tale of a Confession, followed by a woodland walk to clear the mind, it’s a slightly trippy song ,mainly because of all the backwards instruments with many parts, again being cyclical in nature, some very good guitar playing throughout.

“The Pine Mouth Cup” is fairly out there.  Backwards vocals appear over a bed of acoustic guitar, a speaking in tongues, it is undecipherable and quite strange. “Blackouts” is a fairly straightforward song about preparing for the darkness, but of hope too, of being there for when you wake up, it again ends in some phased backwards guitar.  “Chain Of Ponds” is probably the most musical of the songs on this album, a song in the round, the vocals are mixed quite low down and are taken from Psalm 140, again it’s quite eastern sounding with drones adding to its languid mood.  “Five Wounds” is reprised at the end of the record, as if beamed in from another dimension.

These records are selling quite quickly, so if you want any of them then you best act fast, before they sell out. (Andrew Young)

Postscript: Phil is working on a planned Trappist Afterland interview feature for Terrascopaedia magazine issue 10, due out later this year...



(LP on Cardinal Fuzz Records)

Manchester based Dead Sea Apes, along with fellow travellers such as Mugstar and Desmadrados Soldados de Ventura, are shining a spotlight on the North West of England as one of the real hotbeds  for innovative and exciting psychedelic rock today. This fine double vinyl album (three extra tracks available with the download) is in essence a compilation serving as a ‘best of’ but with such a good and diverse selection of tracks coupled with a generous selection of alternate and hard to find versions it is much more than that and for the hardened fan and newcomer alike there is much to enjoy.

We start proceedings with ‘Tentacles’ which is a wonderful cavernous dub infused track with more than a nod to the late great Mark E. Smith in the echo laden vocal. It could happily sit at the rockier end of On-U Sound’s classic dub experiments which is a good thing in these parts.  ‘Coronal’ follows in a very different vein with a slowly building melody and repetitive rolling drum pattern over which things slowly get wilder and more intense as a howling gale of guitars and cymbals build up to a thrilling climax before fading away to the close. ‘Planet V’ changes the landscape again – it’s a fine acid bluesy rocker showcasing some great guitar soloing.

With ‘True Believers’ we get one of the album highlights. It’s an atmospheric belter with real extremes of light and shade. The track opens with a gentle psychedelic groove but the peace is soon shattered by a gargantuan crunching riff before returning to more gently brooding territory. The respite is brief and soon we are heading towards an exhilarating climax with only a brief pause for breath on the way. This is an absolute gem of a track and a masterclass in how to build and release atmosphere and tension.

‘Land Of The Sun’ is a Skip Spence cover delivering another sky high riff and guitar solo extravaganza with deep almost spoken vocals finding their way through the maelstrom not unlike Mark Lanegan’s subterranean drawl. It’s a stunning cover. A lyric sheet (or should I say Dead Sea Scroll?) for those unfamiliar with the words would have been a nice addition to the set. After this roaring song we get ‘The Recognition’, cinematic, reflective and quite beautiful in its slow building intensity and mournful violin.  

‘Universal Translator’ establishes a different feel again with an atmospheric groove that becomes a  heavier and more insistent space rock beast as the track builds momentum and power. ‘Lupine Wavelength’ is another fine track that pushes the Bardo Pond and Mogwai buttons very satisfyingly in the shifting soft and loud parts on its journey. Rückstoss Gondoliere’ updates the Kraftwerk original wonderfully well and is followed by ‘Rethreads’, perhaps the most overtly ‘experimental’ track on the album with backwards effects and a sound collage feel creating something quite hypnotic. ‘Vamos Companeros’, originally by Harmonia starts with and is driven by an insistent and repetitive drum pattern generating a distinct and enjoyable ‘Krautrock’ vibe.

The bonus tracks to download are all worthy additions to this set. ‘Sunwolf Lotus Island’ opens with a prayer like incantation accompanied by cymbal swells which morphs into a riff driven squall of sound before fading to a gentle finish. ‘Knowledge and Conversation’ was recorded live at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge and is a great slow builder with an underlying riff structure reminiscent of Mogwai but with a much wilder guitar solo over the top. Finally we get ‘Wilder Penfield (Penfield’s Mood Organ Mix)’ which is quite different in sound and structure to what goes before. A definite touch of Tangerine Dream is evident to start with but an electro-heavy psyche jaunty urgency develops between guitar and keyboards with some fine propulsive drumming proving that Dead Sea Apes can dance.

As with all Cardinal Fuzz releases this is a limited vinyl release which will justifiably sell quickly. Hunt one down and you won’t be disappointed.
(Francis Comyn)



(LP from Cardinal Fuzz http://cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com/ Sunrise Ocean Bender http://www.sunriseoceanbender.com/)  

When it comes to solo/side projects by rock drummers then you never know what you are going to get. For every paradiddling polymath (Dave Grohl, Phil Collins even) or skilful bandleader (Bill Bruford) there have been a few pretty sorry perpetrations courtesy of the likes of Moon K, Starr R, Woodmansey W’s U Boat and a host of middling to muddling offerings in between. Really, you’d find it difficult to get odds on these sods.

Reassuringly, though, this one sits firmly in the profit column as you might have hoped from Jesse Webb, someone whose pedigree includes Anthroprophh, Big Naturals, Gnod and Repo Man. Seriously good improvisational fare based around an imagined film on themes of loss and isolation, The Final Age puts to good use an assembled cast that reads a bit like a who’s who of Jesse’s other projects.  In fact the title track, the presage for a wildly varied and exhilarating set spanning a minute or so longer than one side of your old TDK-D90s could accommodate, is more akin to fellow Big Natural Gareth Turner’s Kuro. No wonder as the other half of that duo, the awesome Agatha Max, provides the violin foil to some plunking bass, invoking an all-consuming melancholia and creeping menace. Happy days. And Max will feature again, such as on the wistful, gently coiling ‘A Certain Breed’ notable for Annette Berlin’s bewitching vocal as well as Agathe’s eerily evocative bowing. That same combination also works to devastatingly good effect on ‘There Will Be Waste’. A tolling bell and Berlin’s German narrative reeks of May 1945 and a central European wasteland, Max’s violin setting the suitably apocalyptic tone before the band lifts into a Kosmische boogie to nudge the Valkyries on their way.

In sharp contrast to all this delicious melancholia is ‘Trust Fund Death Camp’ (an early pace setter for song-title of the year) which for all the world sounds like a Hindu Festival soundtracked by someone in the throes of some exotically medicated shamanic trance. ‘Two Second Rule’ is another strong contender for our playlist (that’s a none-too subtle hint for either of the labels or Jesse himself to get some of this up on the Cloud). Percussive acid jazz/dance reminiscent of 90s bands like Red Snapper, it features hi-octane rhythms and furious Bitches Brew-style scat blowing by trumpeter Pete Judge from Get The Blessing, and punctuated by sporadic gunfire. The woozy, hypnotic and unsettling ’96 Layers’ finds Webb on spoken word vocals and shot through with squally guitar courtesy of Paul “Prof” Allen, by which time you’re well into playing Bristol Band Bingo. Hyperactive tub thumping and a heavy dose of jungle fever come courtesy of ‘Past Minus Future’ and the drum n’ bass combine mightily on ‘I Fail’ throughout which Gnod associate David McLean liberally splatters the sax skronk. ‘Mephadrone’ is exactly that – a devilish drone packed with attitude and dangerously heightened anxiety levels, whereas ‘Punching A Hole’ is the wonderfully squalid heavy end of an acid rock cudgel that you could easily hope was a criminally overlooked outtake from a Pink Fairies album. It’s a cracking way to end what is a genuine revelation and one destined for heavy rotation in the House of Fraser (so you can’t rotate a download. Who cares).

Drummer done good, and then some.

(Ian Fraser)



(LP/CD on Thrill Jockey Records)

Perhaps not such regular fayre in the venerable pages of Terrascope but I was pleased to review this intriguing and imaginative collaboration, including as it does a trio of musicians who have produced some of my favourite work in recent years.

There are four long, economically titled tracks comprising this first time collaborative improvised performance captured on tape at Brooklyn’s Roulette venue in late 2016. YoshimiO of the mighty Boredoms, OOIOO and a member of Free Kitten with Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth is joined by composer and percussionist Susie Ibarra, a long time performer of jazz and improvisation but also crossing genres to play with the likes of Yo La Tengo and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, composer and experimental musician who has produced some astounding synthesised sound worlds and collaborative works such as with Ariel Kalma.

We start with ‘Aaa’ (where else?) which starts with a ghostly swirl of voices accompanied by atmospheric bursts of drums and small percussion. The piece evolves with the voice of YoshimiO performing a more substantial duet with the drums through a series of cries, shouts and moans as the music gathers pace and percussive intensity. Occasional ripples of synthesiser rise above this, sometimes throbbing and sometimes swelling, almost celestial waves of sound. It’s not unlike some of the more challenging and experimental elements of Kosmische music at times given greater urgency by the constantly busy and inventive drumming of Susie Ibarra, in my opinion one of the very best improvising percussionists playing today.

‘Bbb’ starts with percussive rattles and shakes and stabbing synthesiser notes before developing into what sounds not unlike a fractured funk or ‘prog’ melody with shades of the more extreme instrumental music of Soft Machine to these ears. Ghostly vocals once again make an appearance but with raga and middle eastern inflections coming through in the wordless vocalising adding an air of mystery and beauty. The final section of the improvisation is an extended interplay between percussion, synths and vocals bringing an African feel to the music. This track has an amazing array of ideas, textures and references and is a hugely inventive and enjoyable piece, straddling the worlds of improvisation, progressive rock and traditional spiritual and folk musics.

‘Ccc’ is again driven by the drums with synths and short sharp echo laden screams and moans weaving in and out for the first section of the track. What follows becomes more celestial and spacey which touches on progressive and Kosmische stylings albeit driven by intense bursts of percussion.

Finally the album closes with  ‘Ddd’, a much more frenetic piece which at times and evokes the spirit and sound of Boredoms and Ruins through the more insistent drumming and occasionally frantic vocalising interspersed with more ambient interludes that serve to emphasise these break out moments.

The main feature of this superb record has to be Susie Ibarra’s drumming and percussive work which is inventive, energetic and yet subtle in all the right places, acting as the foundation for the music and supporting and enabling other musical contributions. The vocals of YoshimiO and the often more restrained but no less important musical contributions of Robert Aki Aubrey Lowe bring colour, mystery and imagination to this fine trio with a resultant improvisation that delivers emotion, diversity, intensity, beauty, melody and a journey through many musical genres and traditions that rewards repeat listening. This is music where each performer brings their own experience and identity to the music and together make something new, appealing and dare I say accessible. This music will certainly be attractive and accessible not just to fans of improvisation, free music and the brave and the curious but also to fans of Boredoms and Ruins, Acid Mothers Temple, Soft Machine and the more improvisational end of progressive and art rock music such as Soft Machine or Henry Cow to name but a few.

I heartily recommend this record and hope to catch a live performance somewhere, somehow, someday soon.
(Francis Comyn)