= February 2019 =  
 Teeth of the Sea
 Monteagle
 Pearls Before Swine
 Bell Lungs
 Rancho Relaxo
 Alex Rex
 Mandrake Paddle Steamer
 Lorrelle meets the Obsolete
 Carrie Martin
 The Petards
 Old Mexico
 Cosey Fanni Tutti
 Kungens Man
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   

TEETH OF THE SEA – WRAITH
(LP/CD/DL from Rocket Recordings)

It’s hard to believe that Teeth Of The Sea have been going since 2006 and are therefore no longer quite the Young Turks championed by Terrascope pretty much from the offset, thanks to McMullen’s uncanny knack of spotting a good ‘un before it even turns up on NASA’s radar. Along the way they’ve grown up and we’ve grown old in tandem, our paths occasionally crossing, such as when, fully three years ago, they graced one of our events at The Lexington together with White Hills (yes, THAT poster) while guitarist Jimmy Martin did us the honour of DJ-ing Terrascope’s Flowers Must Die gig a couple of years back.

There again it’s not without mild trepidation that a new release from an old favourite finds its way into the reviews pile. When all’s said and done this is TOTS’ first release since 2015’s crushingly good Highly Deadly Black Tarantula, since when they’ve misplaced a band member (they are now a three-piece of Sam Barton, Mike Bourne and the aforementioned Martin).As hiatus’ go, that’s a pretty lengthy one, besides which, following up…Tarantula was always going to be a tall order. What if, after all the anticipation, this turns out to be a stinker?

‘I’d Rather Jack’, mercifully, is not a re-tread of the Reynolds Girls’ 80s manufactured rage against the pop machine but a high octane electro-metallic big dipper that owes as much to its production values as musicianship. Oh and that’s metallic as in “kling-klang” and not a nod to Martin’s other night job as guitarist with inexplicably enduring NWOBHM footnotes, Angelwitch, although he does find room here to express himself avec gusto. There’s brass, too, those bold blasts of Morricone trumpet that have often punctuated the TOTS sound since day one but are more up front and to the fore here and throughout Wraith.  Angular, dystopian, and blessed with a strange and ethereal beauty, the shimmering, futuristic little masterpiece known as ‘Fortean Steed’ also gestures in a pagan, wyrd folk direction, grounding us in a scrambled hex of vocal courtesy of Kath Gifford of Stereolab and Wargs. Album highlight? Possibly, but it’ll have to fight off three, possibly four others for the accolade. I love a good scrap, me.

The album’s outrider and which has been softening us up for a few weeks now is ‘Hiraeth’. It’s a word that we from West of the Big Ditch maintain there is no literal equivalent in English, but longing or yearning for home pretty gets you there. Here the somewhat muffled trumpet explores a dissolute urban underbelly over which a plunking bass seems determined to keep afloat. It’s also a quite lovely, measured cinematic masterclass which builds over a queasy backdrop to a nagging, cloying conclusion that has you looking over your shoulder. Companion piece, ‘Her Wraith’ (can you see what they did there?) is another one of those slivers of deceptively simple insinuation. Again the muted trumpet hangs on the freezing air while percussive taps and the bittersweet plinking of keys provides an irresistible undertow.

It’s on ‘VISITOR’ where the Church of Hawkwind takes communion with the cult of minimalism and which again layers up as if for protection against the icy blasts of its own making. But wait…hey, is that drumming, like, proper drumming? Well anyone who can co-opt Valentina Magaletti to do their bidding is onto a sure fire winner as this proves, and besides which, Jimmy gets to show us his chops, so to speak. You might have expected them to end with ‘Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World’ another alluring slice of curiously retro futurism and in its way a nod to positivity and which would have made for soft, safe landing. However the honour falls to ‘Gladiators Ready’ (look, that’s what it says here) which kicks off pretty much as it reads, all hyped up tension where Jan Hammer intersects with Josh Wink on the life-affirming road to Danceville. An unexpected if rather banging way to bow out, but really, would we want it any other way?

All told Wraith appears less confrontational and a few shades of grey lighter than the fittingly venomous Highly Deadly Black Tarantula and as much I love that album (it made my personal top 3 of 2015) I’m not going to mourn its passing into the realm of back catalogue. Stinker? Well we reckon we have a nose for that kind of thing so take our word for it when we tell you that the air still smells pure and sweet. Better still are the soundwaves that travel upon it.

Ian Fraser



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 MONTEAGLE – MIDNIGHT NOON

(LP/CD/DL on Fire Talk Records)

Midnight Noon is the debut album from Monteagle, the recording moniker of Justin Giles Wilcox, formerly of folk duo Nassau.  Wilcox grew up in rural Tennessee, but has lived in Brooklyn NY for the past five years.  Midnight Noon is an homage to his rural upbringing, which Wilcox reflects upon from the perch of life in the Big Apple.  He takes his moniker from a mountain area in Tennessee near where he was raised, and having spent some time there, I can attest it is full of both pastoral beauty and a rich musical landscape.

The album is a singer-songwriter collection of atmospheric Americana.  Wilcox’s hushed vocals are treated with a smoky feel, and the five-piece band helps to form the late night, musky sound.  If he was aiming to wax both lyrically and sonically poetic on the country from within the city, he achieves that rather tricky caramel-in-a-chocolate bar goal quite well.

Opener “East LA” perfectly encapsulates the noir-ish Monteagle sound.  Awash in reverb (the album was recorded in a 1700s church in upstate New York), East LA is the sonic equivalent of your favorite adult beverage going down nice and smoothly.

Title track “Midnight Noon” is another standout.  Featuring autobiographical lyrics, it starts out sounding like it will just be an acoustic number, which would’ve been fine, but the full band comes in and envelops the listener with moody, echoing swells.

“Hollow Ground” is just Wilcox with an acoustic guitar, while an electric guitar provides tasteful adornment and there are just the right amount of harmonies for spice.  It’s a pretty melody, and the lyrics continue the theme – “meanwhile, fallen leaves look like people I’ve known/mothers bend like willows over the southern child.”

“Cherry Wine” brims with melancholia, a lament of romantic regret.  Pounding piano chords give way to a tender guitar solo.  “Black Dress” sheds the reverb, causing a minor surprise in the listening experience.  Wilcox is accompanied by just piano and acoustic guitar, and it’s another pretty, sorrowful tale - almost a show tune melody slowed down.  Closer “June” returns the full band (and the reverb).  The song is dreamy and drifting, dripping with nocturnal vibes.

Monteagle has created an ethereal slice of misty Americana in Midnight Noon.  The late-night mood piece eases you in its grip, and it’s a comfortable place to get lost in for a while.

(Mark Feingold)

 


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 PEARLS BEFORE SWINE - BALAKLAVA
(LP from Drag City)

I'd be very surprised if any Terrascope readers weren't already familiar with this masterpiece of anti-war music as a folk artform from the late, great Tom Rapp and his Pearls Before Swine - the band's second album, dating from 1968. The majority of you will I am sure already own a copy, either an original LP on the ESP label or one of the innumerable subsequent vinyl and digital repressings. I mention it here primarily for two reasons. Firstly, because this 50th anniversary version is absolutely essential no matter how much you think you know the album; the original engineer Richard Alderson has undertaken some painstaking remastering, including going right back to the sources to get the album's graphics clean and clear, and it both looks and sounds unbelievably good, a masterpiece in every respect. Secondly because Drag City are absolutely the right label to have undertaken this project, treating both it and the memory of our dear departed friend Tom Rapp with the respect that it deserves.

Incidentally, those of you attending the Woolf II festival this coming summer have a treat in store, as it's been confirmed that Tom Rapp's widow, Lynn, will be attending. "It will be an emotional roller coaster for me seeing everyone we knew from the Terrastock festivals.  There are so many happy memories.  Tom was thrilled to know he had so many fans, many of whom became friends"

Come along and meet Lynn, and rest assured this is one album we'll definitely be playing between sets and over the P.A.

(Phil McMullen)

 

 

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 BELL LUNGS – WOLVES BEHIND US
(Ltd Edition Lathe Cut EP/DL from https://bell-lungs.bandcamp.com/)

One can’t be sure if there is such a genre as post-folk but if there is then that’s where this belongs if indeed it belongs anywhere. Because you see nothing here is quite what it seems, and as those of you who’ve patiently endured The Writer’s subjective and ill-informed murdering of the Kween’s English these past ten years (“hello mother, hello social worker”) will readily attest, it doesn’t take genius to pull the cloth over these old ears. Still, at least I can spell dilettante.

Yet genius this may be, or as pretty damned close to that elusive quality that you can get without yet having passed the test of time. Step into the light of Terrascope’s 40 watt energy bulb, then, Bell Lungs. She’s an “experimental musician”, which as we all know covers a big canvas and often requires a long list of offences to be taken into consideration. Thankfully her imaginative and bitter-sweet fusing of electronic noise and textured harmonies wrung through more mellotron effect settings than there are currently what-if Brexit scenarios, marinated in a sometimes disquieting yet  compelling psychedelic ambience puts her firmly on the side of the angels. Mistype that and you get angles. There are a few of those here too but nothing sharp enough to cut yourselves on. These are mostly subtle energies, after all.
 
A spectral, barely corporeal sliver of experimentation tentatively touched from the off by ‘Cold Wind’, a haunting and layered acapella fading to grey before the title track sweeps high and low, a deceptive deep baritone cello which is in fact a guitar played through a mellotron emulator pedal, while the sweeps of high register as it so transpires is Bell’s electric violin played through the same pedal on a flute setting.  Look I’m easily confused and you’re probably sitting in my seat. Wordless vocals flavouring an already scrambling mix combine to offer something both enchanting and spine tingling as Bell coos and screams before finding a more becalmed resting place. Imagine if you will those former Eighteenth Day of May bandmates Alison Cotton and Allison Brice in their current guises over-dubbed one on top of the other and this might be the unlikely but mouth-watering outcome.

By contrast the beautiful and only mildly funereal ‘Falls Apart’ is relatively conventional. That’s relatively in the same way that most of us are apparently related to Genghis Khan. Hymnal and stirring, by stripping away a lot of the multi-tracking and more left-field sonic exploration you appreciate what a fine voice and an impressively warm vocal range Bell Lungs possesses, which leaves a lingering aural aftertaste that brings to mind Aldous Harding. Listen and weep with joy. Oh and the guitar? This time it’s pushed through an organ emulator. The question “why not just play an organ” never once crossed my mind, guitars after all are less expensive, more portable and anyway how much fun can you have with a box with settings? It’s what the question “what happens If I press this” was designed for after all. Still, I digress. ‘Dead Earth’, which sweeps the field, trills in the direction of a less fussy Josephine Foster and whisks us to a place of delightfully fondant cookiness with underscores of early Kate Bush putting the Third Ear Band through elvish boot camp. You can work out for yourselves what the guitar is doing this time, it’s beyond my comprehension and most probably my bedtime.

Proving once more that it’s not just possible to fall in love with music it’s probably harder not to, the truly sad thing about Wolves Behind Us is that unless some public spirited label comes along and gives it a proper release it is likely to pass under everyone’s radar. While music is a personal thing (it’s mine I tell you, mine) it would be criminal if this were to remain the preserve of a handful of reviewers and close friends and family. Meanwhile if I don’t listen to any other new music all year I won’t care. 1st February and it may already be game over as far as Album Of The Year is concerned. OK so it’s an EP, so what? Split hairs all you like. Over and out.

(Ian Fraser)
 
 

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RANCHO RELAXO – SOFT LUXURY

(LP/DL on Bandcamp)

 

Norway’s Rancho Relaxo brings us Soft Luxury, their ninth album since their founding in 2003.  It’s a crafty mélange of psych, sprinkled with shoegaze.  They play loud and they play slow, and after you’ve quickly settled in, you’ll relaxo with them.

 

Our program commences with “No Shadow No Soul.”  Beginning with a slow guitar fade-in (a pet peeve of mine:  how I wish artists wouldn’t do that on album openers – it only results in the listener turning up the volume in search of the right level, only to be pummeled eventually and having to readjust; but I digress).  Eventually the band comes crashing in for an epic shoegaze extravaganza.  I like the employment of little bells to help offset the sludge.  Spacy effects waft along the ceiling, and, as with most shoegaze, the lyrics take a back seat – but they’re there somewhere.

 

Next up is the hypnotic “Igjen.”  Besides the anthemic chorus of “Igjen!” the song is a drone, with dense layers of guitars and keyboards.  As with “No Shadow No Soul” the song rides out the repeating melodic figure instrumentally.  “You Know Her Name” follows (with no mention of looking up her number).  A mellotron-like wash (nowadays sometimes you just can’t tell whether it’s the real thing, so I’ll play it safe) sets the scene.  An eerie chorus sings of a mysterious girl, before the song drifts off into the atmosphere on wave upon wave of reverb-drenched melody.  If anything, “You Know Her Name,” at close to nine minutes, is Exhibit A of Rancho Relaxo’s system of playing a simple theme – in this case F – C – G, then lather, rinse, and repeat till they’re blue in the face.  But admittedly, it can also be quite comfort-inducing.

 

Later, “Mouth” is an earworm.  It’s one of those tunes you swear you’ve heard before, its hypnotic psych synth and underlying organ lines getting into your headspace and lodging themselves happily there.  “Mouth” also has the most audible lyrics on the album, so audible in fact, that a cough can be clearly heard at one point.  I love it.  “Det Sku Ikkje Skjedd” feature a loud, slow, swirling eastern guitar and organ melody.  The earnest vocals complement the piece nicely.

 

Closer “Out the Door” rides a lengthy guitar and organ groove with a Velvets-like vocal.  Eventually the groove gives way to organ solos and variations on the theme, before coming to a halt, the journey complete.

 

Soft Luxury is slow-paced layered psychedelia, bent on settling you into its catchy songs.  It’s full of breathing space, taking its time to simmer in the crock pot for lasting effect.

 

(Mark Feingold)

 


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ALEX REX - OTTERBURN

(LP/CD from Tin Angel Records)

The news that Trembling Bells had called it a day at the end of last year may not have registered on too many peoples' minds, but taken in perspective, should in reality been a much more upsetting fact than it was. Purveyors of one of the finer albums of 2018 in Dungeness, the song-writing of Alex Neilson had reached an absolute peak in turns of progressive psych. If that was to be the end, then they certainly went out on a career high.

The titular place of Dungeness would not stay away long though, and Alex finds himself revisiting the place once again on his second solo album, Otterburn. As a kind of memory, and he does intone “and I remember Dungeness, collecting skeletons”, it's a timely reminder of little ticks and nuances that make his lyrics so much fun to decipher. Unlike the previous albums weird progressive folk, On Otterburn he finds a path through a countrified landscape. Former Trembling Bells Lavinia Blackwall and Mike Hastings may return, but this album is a completely different beast from the past.

There is a melancholic sound to this album and as the sound of the wonderful opening track, Lay Down In Ashes usher's us in on a countrified riff, Alex invites us in ever so deeply into his world with a direct hit on your heart. It's the kind of opener which is enough to make you stop breathing as  the anticipation builds for what may come.

After this rather lulled beginning, its something of a shock when the rockabilly hurl of Amy, May I bursts forth. Based on a simple hand-clap rhythm the song is something of two parts separated by a wildly over the top 50's guitar from Steve Jackson (Belle and Sebastian). Somehow glueing the seemingly disparate parts together, the song turns into jubilant romp which provides first inclination that Otterburn is not going to follow any expected path.

Familiarity through the lyrics and vocal style are returned on 'Dildos, which features the aforementioned Dungeness, and the wonderful The Cruel Rule where Alex uses his key repetition of words which make up his signature sound. It's a welcome return to what we have come to expect, but also becomes a little red herring for what comes next.

The title track is a weird, not quite there, folk song imbued with an atmospheric ambience which evokes fishing, the sea, and salty air. It's lilting melody is drunk on itself giving it a slight sea shanty feel. Always Ready surges forth as Lavinia Blackwell's wonderful vocals provide accompaniment to the keening lyrics, whilst Master enters torch song territory in a rather disconcerting turn into the darkness. The latter jars at first, but on repeated plays you start to appreciate it as one of the moments of experimentation from the norm. That we end up thinking of these songs as anywhere near the norm is perhaps due to the off-kilter feel of the album itself.

That “normality” returns on the grief ridden Brother which sees Alex revisit the loss of his brother who suddenly passed away whilst sleeping on a canal boat in 2017. It's pay-off, as the strains of My Pony Boy see the song out, is an emotional point embodying that sense of brotherhood friends from childhood. By the time the soaring chorus of Latest Regret hits, you may find the waterworks are well and truly switched on.

That might have been enough for any other artist, but for Alex Nielsen, he leaves us with the devastating Smoke & Memory, sang acapella and allowing us to focus entirely on the lyrics, it has the impact of an old folk song, passed on down the ages, both comforting and strangely eerie. After all the album delivers, and musically its a stunning tapestry of country rock and folk, it is on Alex Nielsen that emotional impact hinges. Although melancholic and grief-stricken, we should also find cause to celebrate one of the best songwriter's/lyricist's around at the moment, and in Otterburn, an album to help us with our own grief over the split of Trembling Bells.

(Martyn Coppack)

 
 

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MANDRAKE PADDLE STEAMER - PANDEMONIUM SHADOW SHOW

(LP/CD from http://www.guerssen.com )

For most of us, I suspect, the only song by this band that you can name/have ever heard is “Strange Walking Man” a bona fide psych classic that always hits the spot. This is a shame as the collection I hold in my hands is a mighty fine example of some stellar tunes written in 1968 (mainly) just on that cusp between sweet psychedelia and more heavy progressive sounds and fitting the period perfectly.

    Signed by Parlophone but hoping to be on Harvest, there were high hopes for the band’s first single but it sank without a ripple and the band never recovered, splitting up in 1970 and that was that. Not quite though as these demos will only enhance the band's legacy with their invention and the way they perfectly encapsulate the times.

     Opening in sprightly fashion, “Pandemonium Shadow Show2 has a nice meaty riff, swirling organ and suitably trippy lyrics, luring you in with a smile and a sugar lump before “Solitair Husk” detonates your mind an epic rocker that starts in moody fashion before exploding in psychedelic joy, reminding me of The Greatest Show On Earth at their finest, everyone playing their heart out. Seemingly stepping back to 1967 although recorded in 1970, “Stella Mermaid” tells the tale of a drunken encounter with a mermaid and would sit beautifully on any Rubbles compilation. Equally entertaining is the wonderful “The World Whistles By” a heavy riff worming its way into your skull as the band tell their tale of madness and incarceration.

   So, four song in and not a single wrong move, this is generally where the cynical reviewer starts to think things will go awry, however in this case the second half of the collection is equally as strong with “Upminster Windows” sounding like it could be the perfect inspiration for that well known XTC alter – ego, makes you wonder if they ever heard the tune, whilst “Doris The Piper” is another classy, swirling rocker that deserves volume and repeated listening. 

   I guess the only problem with this collection is that it sounds so retro in 2019, that is until you realise it is, they were there and then it all makes sense and you can carry on enjoying the sounds as “The Doorway To January” slows things down with a mellow vibe mixed with some doomy riffing, strange but it works, one of those songs that takes a while to filter through, something also true of “Simple Song” with its dramatic opening sequence and a guitar twiddle that will have Diamond Head fans pricking their ears up before the whole piece becomes more jaunty and definitely heading towards the valley of prog, all good stuff.

    Finally “The October Song” drifts and floats on a cloud of reverb filled mellotron, another song that is stranger than it first seems, something this album is very good at meaning there is plenty to discover every time you give it a spin. (Simon Lewis)

 


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LORELLE MEETS THE OBSOLETE – DE FACTO

Vinyl/CD/DL from Sonic Cathedral www.soniccathedral.co.uk

Mexican duo Lorelle Meets The Obsolete released their fifth album last month, it was recorded at their home studio in Ensanada, Baja California and is a bit of a sea change as it’s the first to be released with a few extra members, the first albums were purely as a duo. The core members of Lorena Quintanilla and Alberto González have been joined by their touring band Fernando Nuti-bass, Andrea Davi-drums (both of Mamuthones) and José Orozco-synths.

In 2011 the band released their debut album ‘On Welfare’ via Chicago based Captcha records before being signed by Sonic Cathedral after their second album 2013’s ‘Corruptible Faces’, who put out the ‘Psych For Sore Eyes’ EP on which they featured. Third album ‘Chambers’ was released jointly in 2014 with Captcha and Sonic Cathedral.  Picking up fans like Henry Rollins and Mani along the way, their fourth album 2016’s ‘Balance’ was even featured in Mojo magazine who ran a feature on them.

And so to this latest album ‘De-Facto’ an album which sees them ripping up their own rule book. This time out they started rehearsing and recording in their own newly built studio, as a five piece band, the results of which sees the band located somewhere between ‘Tender Buttons’ era Broadcast and Low’s recent ‘Double Negative’. They also decided that Lorena would sing these new songs entirely in Spanish.

Opener ‘Ana’, is a slow feedback laden song, a little like ‘O Superman’ by Laurie Anderson in the vocals. ‘Linéas En Hojas’, has the feel of a lost 60’s garage nugget. ‘Unificado’, is a lengthy guitar led song that just gets heavier and heavier as it progresses and is one of the albums highlights, shifting gear a few minutes in, it ends in a blizzard of white noise some nine minutes later. ‘Lux,Lumina’, is a classy sci-fi shuffle, which also shifts gears a few times throughout its duration. ‘Resistir’, is altogether grungier, big dirty rifferama with clanking drums. ‘El Derrumbe’, brings in a bit of light and shade, synths and droning feedback laden sustained guitar weave together, but it doesn’t really go anywhere, before it bleeds into the albums final song the lengthy, meditative ‘La Maga’, this is another album highlight, dubby and trippy, with the synth lines working to great effect, it has the feel of the eighties but with a modern twist, as the song progresses so the guitar begins to figure more prominently, laying out some long loping melodies, ending with the sound of waves crashing on the shore. This album is a fine addition to the bands catalogue and one which is a definite sea change.

(Andrew Young)





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CARRIE MARTIN – SEDUCTIVE SKY

LP from Psychotron Records www.psychotronrecords.com

Acoustic guitar playing singer songwriter Carrie from Hull has been playing with mentor Gordon Giltrap for a few years and has been bought by him to the attention of Pete and Linda Bonner’s Psychotron records, who have just released her debut album, in an edition of 300 purple vinyl copies all with signed poster.

Other notable guests apart from Gordon include Oliver Wakeman, Elliot Randall and Daniel Cassidy. Touchstones for the album would be Janis Ian, Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell. Carrie is an excellent acoustic guitarist and also a fine singer.

The album begins with a harrowing tale of child abuse ‘Maria in the Moon’, a song inspired by the novel of the same name. This is followed by the short but sweet acoustic guitar instrumental ‘The Flight of the Dragonfly’, before the Celtic flavour of ‘The Dancing Dragonfly’, hoves into view, enlivened by some fine violin playing. It works well and is an early album highlight. ‘Paper Thin’, sees Carrie discoursing on the fragility of life. Side one closer ‘Purple Heart’ features some excellent electric guitar from Elliot and proves to be quite a catchy folk-rock song.

‘Time’, features some pretty, finger picked acoustic guitar and stately piano, it is a fairly sad affair dealing with the loss of a loved one and a dream of turning back time. ‘Holly Blue’, is a fairly sparse delicate ballad about one of my favourite butterflies, it has some nice cello, double tracked backing vocals and some very pretty acoustic guitars. ‘Heartbeat (Make Everyday Last), is a wintery song with some nice harmonics, it progresses intoa catchy mid paced rocker, again some nice piano but for me the drums are a tad too insistent. ‘No Return to Yesterday’, is a beautifully orchestrated acoustic folk-rock song about looking forward, acoustic guitar and violin weave and mesh together to fine effect, plenty of space for the instruments to shine out. Which brings us to the album closer ‘The Women in Me’, a wistful yearning song which in turns becomes more expansive with a few percussive passages, but it’s mainly informed by Carrie’s acoustic guitar figures. All the songs on the album have been written by Carrie, and I hope she does well with this release thereby enabling her to release further recordings which I look forward to hearing should any materialize.

(Andrew Young)





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THE PETARDS – PET ARTS 

Double Vinyl LP from www.bear-family.com

German record label Bear Family, have been raiding the archives of Liberty records and have just released the fourth album by German band The Petards. A band who started out in the sixties playing a typical kind of sixties rock similar to The Tages and progressed to Hendrix style pyrotechnics with the addition of a guitar player Bernd Wippich, who was certainly in thrall to Jimi and was picked after 60 guitar players auditioned for the position. The album was originally released in early 1971 and is generally considered to be the best album they made, it now sees a re-release almost fifty years later; it was also the last record the band made before splitting up. A further album Burning Rainbows appeared in 1981 but it dated from recordings also made in 1971 prior to the split.

Consisting of brothers Klaus and Horst Ebert both guitar and vocals, with Roger Waldmann and Arno Dittrich, the album was recorded in the famous Dierks-Studio in Stommeln.

Highlights for me are the rather groovy Spirit like ‘Rainy Day’, with its Randy California guitar styling. The fairly fuzz tastic ‘Cowboy’ all choogling piano and furious guitar bursts. The medley of ‘Willies Gun/Windy’s Nevermore’, is a pairing of heavy rock songs with hints of cream or maybe the Groundhogs. ‘Long Way Back Home’, has some flute and fluid electric guitars running throughout it. ‘Big Boom’, sees some fine double tracked guitars bursting out all over the shop with some excellent driving drumming and as it develops it drops in some clever nods to King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man, nice.

‘Too Many Heavens’, is a winner, a groover of the first order, wah wah, roto toms, piano and mad bass and percussion being the order of the day, as it stops and starts throughout its duration, going through plenty of changes. ‘Flame Missing Light’, sees the band in thrall to Led Zeppelin; as were many bands of the time, such a seismic impact did they make on the scene with the release of their debut album. ‘On the Road Drinking Wine’, is another little gem, plenty of electric piano and some lovely fluid electric guitars on the bounce. ‘Baby Man’, is imbued with some tasty riffs, hints of Quicksilver in the duelling guitars of Klaus and Horst. ‘Spectrum’, follows this and the less said about it the better, it’s basically a seven minute drum solo. The album ends with ‘Hello, My Friend’, a fine end to this pretty decent album, swirling keyboards, driving rhythms, mad piano and some great guitar lines. 

(Andrew Young)

 


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OLD MEXICO – OLD MEXICO

(LP on Cardinal Fuzz Records)

Old Mexico is the name given by Jason Simon of Dead Meadow fame to his assembled ‘band of merry pranksters’ (as tagged by SF Weekly) which he leads on a journey through the sonic landscape between Americana and improvisation on this self titled release. The merry pranksters in question, Dave Mihaly and Trans Van Santos, bring a range of influence and musical colour to a loose and impressionistic album which combines fine songwriting grounded in Americana of both the old and new weird west whilst straying off the beaten path to explore new frontiers.

The record starts with ‘Past the Western Wall’ which is in many respects its centrepiece. At nearly fourteen minutes it covers an awful lot of ground in terms of mood and music. It begins with an ‘on the porch’ or American pastoral feel of sparse laid back guitars, gentle harmonies and sax laden melodies on a summer’s night, but the storm clouds soon gather and an extended improvisation takes over with yelps of guitar, skittering drums and a rumble of free jazz squall. There’s a looseness of feel but equally a sense of order and direction to the instrumental passage which is grounded in Grateful Dead style adventures in sound with added Coltrane like bursts of rising and falling intensity and a touch of post rock shredding and experimentation. The final section of the piece returns to the opening melody and is an appropriately calm conclusion after quite a trip.  

‘Stellar Jay’ follows and is a lovely melodic and quite gentle country rock song but elevated from mere ordinariness by subtle sax, guitar soli and percussive colourings. Next up ‘Black Matador’ at nearly seven minutes in length. It has a laid back smoky jazz and blues feel in its plucked electric guitar melody and sax with a touch of Morphine and The Dream Syndicate/Steve Wynn also evident in the overall sound to these ears which is a very good thing indeed. ‘The Old Ones’ takes us on another change of direction with a 1950’s touch of echo to the underlying guitar melody and something a little more Floydian in the guitar and sax interplay mid song. The vocal, also drenched in echo, has a slightly detached post punk edge which all adds up to a fine head nodding tune. With the next track ‘Neon Tree’ the theme is firmly old country blues which slowly ramps up the intensity into a nice little stomper. The finale is ‘Madeleine Kahn’ a beautiful impressionistic piece with sparse electric guitar and jangling percussion which touches on desert blues and guitar soli and evokes a lonely, windswept desolate beauty. It’s a very fine way to conclude this record.

Old Mexico is an absolute joy to listen to and inhabits the space between composed Americana and improvisation very comfortably. There is fine songcraft, invention and imagination at play here and whilst it covers a lot of influences it does so with style. Whilst todays Mexican narrative may be around ridiculous ideas to build a wall, Old Mexico are quietly getting on with dismantling borders to great effect and long may that continue.

(Francis Comyn)




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COSEY FANNI TUTTI – TUTTI

(LP/CD on Conspiracy International Records)

Outside of the Throbbing Gristle years, Cosey Fanni Tutti has been prolific in the worlds of art and music and in 2017 her autobiography ‘ART SEX MUSIC’ was published to no little acclaim. Although Cosey has released a wealth of music in collaborations such as Chris and Cosey or Carter Tutti Void, ‘Tutti’ is only her second solo record following on from 1982’s recently reissued ‘Time To Tell’.

‘Tutti’ started life as a soundtrack to the autobiographical film ‘Harmonic Coumaction’ which was performed as part of the Hull UK City of Culture programme in 2017. The eight soundscapes originally forming that soundtrack have now been updated at Cosey’s Norfolk studio as this free standing release.

‘Tutti’ starts with the title track, all swirling atmosphere and lonesome jazzy cornet which soon develops an urgent repeating synthesised riff propelled by a dance beat over which sporadic bursts of cornet and ambient colours occasionally float. If ECM records did dance music it could sound like this.  ‘Drone’ changes the mood and has a more techno informed beat with darker, denser washes of sound and what could easily be the midnight sounds of jungle undergrowth coming to life. ‘Moe’ introduces sound treatments with a hint of exotica and indeed kosmische over a tribal style rhythm. ‘Sophic Ripple’ has a more spacey ambience with rhythmic bursts of rippling electric shards and waves of woozy drones and pulses which straddle the cosmic and the industrial. The darker, more experimental edges of kosmische and ambient industrial soundscapes are explored in ‘Split’ where the urgency of previous tracks is taken down a notch and sound colours and textures come more to the fore. Tangerine Dream was one band that came to mind when I first heard ‘Heliy’ which carries on the more textural ambience of the previous track but with a kind of disembodied dance quality to the ghostly almost gothic vocal incantation and fractured melody and beat weaving into the mix. ‘En’ is quite beautiful in a faintly sinister, lonesome, lost in deep space kind of way with its cosmic pulses and drones, distant beats, and wailing waves of distorted sound combining to great effect and elegance. The final piece ‘Orenda’ takes this mood to a glacial almost celestial finale with lush waves of kosmische beauty, stately minimalistic beats and occasional percussive shards like falling ice or distant chimes. It’s a beautiful piece of music to finish with and a perfect sound painting for the mind.

This is a wonderful album where references to Cosey’s musical life and influences clearly inform these soundscapes which in turn evoke a whole range of moods, emotions and imaginings for the listener. You could try to think about the autobiographical self portrait and feelings that Cosey has imbued the individual tracks with or simply take this as an album to immerse yourself in for its listening pleasures and create your own soundworld to enjoy.

(Francis Comyn)




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KUNGENS MÄN – CHEF

(LP on Riot Season Records)

Kungens Män are a six piece band hailing from Stockholm who have been together since 2012. Whilst being firmly grounded in heavy psychedelic space rock territory their albums to date have shown they are not averse to touching base with other influences including free jazz, drone and krautrock to experiment with their sound.

‘Chef’ is their first record for Riot Season and it may or may not disappoint readers to know that these are not songs about food and cookery. ‘Chef’ is in fact Swedish for boss or chief but it’s fair to say that although we are not talking food here, Kungens Män have brought a hearty stew of sound to the table.

The record consists of four lengthy tracks, each displaying a different aspect of the Kungens Män sound. Opening track ‘Fyrkantig Böjelse’ is very much rooted in krautrock with a classic motorik beat and insistent bassline underpinning eleven minutes of guitar explorations that build from wispy flurries of eastern influenced notes and harmonics into a meatier space rock workout with dense guitar interplay consisting of clouds of high flying notes and squalls of intense pedal powered riffing. It builds up a fine head of steam and whilst getting looser and wilder as the track progresses it always manages to stay just on the right side of chaos. After this opening onslaught, ‘Öppen För Stängda Dörrar’ takes the pace down a little but keeps the electricity levels high. It’s slower, swampier bass fuelled vibe provides the foundation for a dense mix of heavy cymbal driven percussion, ominous electronic screams and drones and an exploratory heavy psychedelic guitar ambience combining a jangly melody and spacey solo beautifully. ‘Män Med Medel’ is ten minutes of heavyweight rhythm and riff bound to get the head nodding and toe tapping furiously – or you could even dance! As if this wasn’t enough, topping off this brain frying beast of a track is some fairly unhinged guitar work which sounds like Hawkwind fighting through a blizzard led by Keiji Haino as guide. After this righteous assault on the senses, the album concludes sensibly with ‘Eftertankens Blanka Krankhet’, another lengthy eleven minute piece which brings calm to the proceedings with a meditative, more hypnotic psychedelic exploration not without its own intensity but with plenty of space to breathe and perfect to calmly and satisfyingly bring this fine album to a gentle end.

Kungens Män are fairly new to me but on this form I’ll be watching out with great interest for their next recordings and also exploring previous records. ‘Chef’ has provided a Michelin starred meal deal indeed and as Phil Collins might say ‘No Jacket Potato Required’.

(Francis Comyn)