=  JANUARY 2005 =



Written by:

  Simon Lewis (Editor)

Mats Gustafsson


George Parsons


Phil McMullen


Lee Jackson


Tony Dale


Jeff Penczak


Steve Pescott


Richard R. Gould





(CDs on Catsup Plate and Textile Records respectively)

I don’t think it’s ever possible to overrate the importance of landscape. If you have an open mind, free from too many preconceptions, I am sure it will always suck you in, but it will of course affect you in different ways depending on location. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of the most fascinating music created today has its origin in places draped in natural beauty or which hold certain characteristics of a similar power.

I’m not quite sure what’s magical about the place Daniel Padden calls home, but his music reminds me of a road trip that I did the other week. I went through miles of deep Scandinavian forests and there were times when I thought nothing else would ever show up again. But suddenly, when you least expected something to happen the distance between the trees started to increase and before I knew it I entered the gate of this beautiful hidden valley. It was like a start of something new and as I continued through a flower-clad avenue of old oaks leading down to a dark lake I couldn’t help but to feel privileged to have seen something so pure, free and mind-blowing. I am guessing that Padden and Volcano the Bear (an indescribable and quite wonderful combo that he’s been involved with) every now and then is trekking to this very valley to find the hidden music that they with excellent results have brought to the light of the public.

  Travelling and seeing places seems to have been important for Padden since his childhood as he was lucky enough to have parents who regularly took him off on walking and camping trips. He describes these places “as something timelessness – they have always been there, despite what else comes and goes. Standing amongst mountains makes you feel so small and insignificant, but also so empowered and inspired. My girlfriend and I were in the Lake District recently, and we walked up the Hardknott Pass, which I think is the highest road in Britain. Towards the top the sound suddenly changed, and you realised you were in a different place. It’s hard to describe, but you were walking at the same altitude as hawks were flying at, and it was a very strange and wonderful sensation. Something to do with different realms. I do like music that feels like its always been there. Music that is timeless or ‘ageless’ in that sense. Music that isn’t reliant on the technology of the day. Music that is made for its own sake. Music that works within its own self-created boundaries. Of course there are always your own imaginary landscapes too, which can be just as powerful and inspiring as anything else.”

    So maybe it makes sense that it feels like Padden’s music just has been hanging in the air of this specific vista, awaiting the right guy to come along and interpret it to something, which is audible for the masses. What we’re served on Padden’s second solo outing The Owl of Fives is a kind of free folk which comes packed with equal parts melancholia, dissonance and fragile beauty. No track is ever built up the way you expect them to be but there’s nothing forced about these multi-instrumental folk meanderings. I am not really sure how he manages to be so successful at his game but there’s something so natural in the way keys, strings, horns, bells and percussion merge into one united trail through the wilderness. Words like stumbling, fractured and fragmentized comes to mind but the overall impression is rather the one of seasons going by and colours changing in accordance to the sounds presented. Imagine an instrumental version of Tanakh teaming up with Kemialliset Ystävät or Tower Recordings and you’re definitely in the right terrain. And what a mesmerizing terrain it proves to be.

    If you like the sound of this there are absolutely no reasons why you shouldn’t also track down Padden’s self-titled debut on the always-brilliant Catsup Plate imprint, as some of the material on The Owl of Fives actually was created at the same time as the first album, but not used. Here's an album that is so distinctly unique in its sound that it's hard to think of any comparisons at all. And I guess that's probably what you expect from a guy who's been involved with the ’Bear since 1995. Being a follower of that band doesn't really prepare you for this mostly instrumental album though, as it includes less free improvisation and maybe is a little bit more concise and focused; containing abstract stylistic juxta-positions that despite its unorthodox nature always remains soothing for the soul. What we get is muffled clusters of soundscapes hovering over distinct folk structures that stumble along gently into an abstracted, imaginary space packed with emotion and intimacy. Depending on your own imagination this space can be found in rural Scotland, not too far from where Richard Youngs is at, but it's more likely to have you thinking about that dream you had about hiking in Southeast Asia. Dreams tend to come back to quite a few of my reviews, but if I would recommend only one record from 2002 to accompany my dreams, The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden might very well be the one.

    When asking Padden how important dreams are to him and if they play any kind of role in the creation of his music he responded like this: “I frequently dream of instruments that don’t exist. I find them in odd shops and people’s houses covered in dust or in cupboards. They all make wonderful noises and I cherish them. Then I wake up and they’re not there, and I’m sad for a little while. These dreams have been going on for years now – I still remember what some of them look like. Occasionally I’ll dream of music too, though sometimes it’s gone before I can get to a pen (which wouldn’t help anyway as I can’t read or write music). As I said before though, imaginary landscapes inform my music a lot, in terms of feel and time and space especially. I’d like to be able to score music, but instead I think I pick up on the ‘feel’ of sound as much as anything else, and ‘feel’ is something I get a lot of from dreams and imaginings. I don’t know if this is related, but I regularly experience very strong ‘deja-vu’ situations. I’ve had one whilst writing these words too.”

    I am not exactly sure what it is with Padden's deranged waltzes, bizarre piano structures, kazoo, scraped strings and cello that makes these records so magical, mysterious, gorgeous and innovative. But what I do know is that they move me like very few records have lately, and I know for a fact they affect your Editor in the same way, since Phil was unhesitating in asking me to review these records. I can't recommend Padden’s work enough. Essential. (Mats Gustafsson)



(CD on Woronzow)

    Nick Saloman and his Bevis buddies have hatched another solid collection of Saloman songs upon the world with "Hit Squad". The title track is one of the album's few moments of levity, sounding a bit like a manic 60s TV theme. Elsewhere the songs and sounds range from gentle acoustic balladry to impassioned folk rock, and even a few chunky burning embers. I like this album a lot; overall the tone is laced with self-questioning and moments of doubt and sorrow; but it also feels in tune with the times in this regard. This features several songs on a par with the best stuff Nick's ever written. Kicking off with the subtle, but lush "All Set?" with it's gleaming brass arrangements, and melancholic undertow. "Through the Hedge" begins with a weird spoken word loop and soon opens onto a widescreen Bevis Frond classic with a haunted feeling and soaring guitars, bass, keyboards and drums for almost nine minutes. The accusatory "Alpha Waves" is one of those patented Frondian reproaches that feels almost as affectionate as it does pissed-off. The soulful nostalgic "Way Back When" features a lovely Beach Boys-like harmony, as well as a bitter and sweet wistful quality. "Flood Warning" is semi-mythical introspection, with a ringing revelatory feeling that combines elation with thoughts of despair. "Your Little Point" feels like interpersonal resentment building to a boiling point, or passion tangled in some sort of frustrating knot. The tenderly beautiful "Crumbs" is the kind of love song that only Nick Saloman could write. The urgent mounting panic of "Doing Nothing" feels like a garagey thunderous dragon stomping and spraying guitar fire from it's tongue. "High Point" reminds me of The Band, back when they used to make it look so easy. This ends with the eleven and a half minute "Fast Falls the Eventide" which mourns in a hypnotic circle of sadness and surrender. There are many other fine songs amongst the eighteen that comprise the nineteenth Bevis Frond album. (George Parsons)



(CD-R from Big Music Records, 106 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz CA 95060 USA)

It had to happen sooner or later. It was inevitable I suppose that eventually someone would peer so far down into the terrascopic musical gene-pool 



that they’d fall in head-first and come out of it sounding like some bastard amalgam of a myriad different influences, a zombie come to eat your offspring and shit on your stereo with sounds so distorted and yet at once so familiar-sounding that you’re left crawling around the floor amidst the wreckage of your own record collection trying vainly to pick up at least one thread and follow it to a natural conclusion. But you can’t, because there’s nothing natural about it, it’s unreal, it’s – quite literally – out of this world.

     It all started when an innocuous-looking package from California arrived on my doorstep containing a CD-R and a spidery letter from someone signing himself off as “An avid P.T. reader and nerd.” Turns out his name’s Adam Payne, and he credits himself with “guitars, hollering, shitty bass, drum lessons, reeds, Korg MS 2000, fuzz, auto-harmonium, computer din and migraine”. It’s a good start – we like self-effacing, being masters of the art ourselves. Apparently 20 year old Adam moved to Santa Cruz a couple of years back from Los Angeles, armed only with a simple affinity for garage punk and the Floyd... and I ended up meeting Ethan Miller from Comets on Fire and Ben Chasny which pretty much set things in motion. Those guys are gods to me”. More good stuff – I have to admit, those guys are minor deities hereabouts as well.

Picture this, though. Take the hallucinatory ballistics of the drum track from Pink Floyd’s ‘Astronomy Dominé’. Then take a leaf out of the Comets on Fire guitar book and tear it to shreds, set it on fire and listen while it screams. Behind that layer some truly demented guitar lifted straight off the Hampton Grease Band’s sole album – oh, and toss in some Beefheartian saxophone-throttling weirdness to boot, just to stretch the HGB analogy still further. What’s missing? Oh, right – a little Mad River perhaps, that trademark high-pitched West Coast guitar sound - and perhaps some blood-curdling feedback in the “Live/Dead” mould. Let’s have a few moments of that too, shall we? Splendid – that’s track 1 finished. I think we’ll call it ‘Beginning and Slant’. Track two, all eleven minutes of ‘The Diamond Drops’, sets off into Six Organs of Admittance territory, before heading off onto an altogether different path, a path on which the guitars aren’t so much played as tortured, bent screaming until they obey the twisted intentions of their master. Ten minutes later we’re passing through the Neutral Milk Hotel and out the other side again (way out) to a track entitled ‘A Start Parts 1 and 3’, on which Adam, worryingly solo until now, is accompanied by the live band (David Novick, Tom Cabella and Marcello Fama). It’s two parts Hampton Grease Band and a grain of the JPT Scare Band, with a nod towards the Velvet Underground on mushrooms at the close.

 Awesome, awe-inspiring and yet somehow inspirational, it’s as insane as it is crazy. I honestly don’t care if this is the future or the end of rock & roll as we know it – either way, right now I feel as if want to be buried alongside it. Oh, and to cap it all, Adam’s now pressed up some vinyl copies of the album, spray-painting found sleeves to give each one that hand-drawn look. Drop him a line at residualechoes@hotmail.com (Phil McMullen)





(CD on Strange-Attractors)

    It’s strange fortune that brings The Manifestation back into my hands. I purchased an original version of the edition of 500 one sided LP’s at Terrastock 4 in Seattle on the eve of its release. That same weekend I witnessed Six Organs live for the first time—a monumental performance every flower-loving, underground hippie in attendance will likely never forget. I basked in the warm glow of friendship and enjoyed precious moments with other folks who’ve been regularly revered in these pages, or contributed to them in some way over the years. As Terrastock was a celebration of love that reaches beyond borders, The Manifestation was made to serve a similar purpose.

            The original Badabing release came as clear vinyl, with an extended, unclassifiable droney/folk jam on one side and a primitive etching of the sun on the other, all housed in a clear plastic sleeve. The sun is a reference to a light that eventually reaches even the darkest parts of the universe, a kind of declaration of love rendered as a pagan musical celebration. And now, the arrival of a gorgeous extended CD version on Strange-Attractors confirms The Manifestation’s place amid the spheres and reminds us just what a wonder it is to behold. As the original document was a celebration of light, this extended version dares to take things through the mirror, to the other side.            

            The title track runs the gamut from shuffling shakers, drones and more to trance-inducing spoken word (featuring the voice of a young female), which will have one reaching for comparisons to early 90s Current 93, a definite influence on Chasny’s music, while his rabid fingerpicking and strumming portray a willful wildness more in debt to Robbie Basho. It’s a striking piece by any measure of the imagination, and remains one of the highest points in the Six Organs catalog, but then comes the B-side, a storm of clicks and pops—literally the sound of the original vinyl etching being played on a turntable—with none other than David Tibet delivering spoken word over top. There’s more to it than that, though. Chasny incorporates the concept of Bode’s Law into the recording: The stylus serves as the sun, each point of contact on the vinyl is a planet, and Tibet’s voice stands for the Earth, which as the “center of the universe” has no mode or audible key at all. In many ways this release completes the promise of the original Manifestation and manages that rare feat of being just as essential and moving a statement as the original, plus something more. (Lee Jackson)




(CD on Strange Attractors Audio House, PO Box 13007, Portland, OR 97213-0007, USA)

For their fourth album, Paik hack through some of the heaviest thickets of sonic foliage of their career, creating a dark twin to the blissful noise of kindred Michigan spirits Windy and Carl. Opening track ‘Jayne Field’ is one of their finest workouts, carving robust melodies out of granite obelisks of noise and existing comfortable at the intersection point of early 90s UK noise-pop and post-grunge psychedelic rock. More than anything it suggests the immediacy of Paik live. As does the more industrial ‘Dirt for Driver’, which sports uncompromising riffage seemingly carved from Detroit’s proto-punk musical heritage, but which also nods in the direction of My Bloody Valentine on their cataclysmic final tour. ‘Dizzy Stars’ is as disorienting as the title suggests, spiralling down into a trash-compactor of slow-motion tectonics the like of which one might obtain by playing Swervedriver’s first LP at half speed. ‘Stellar Meltdown en el Oceano’ takes it one step further, reducing the glacial riffage of previous tracks into feedback drenched slab of minimalism that would not be out place on one of Sonic Youth’s self-released series of EPs. Fine details try and break out of the mix like animals trapped in a tar pit, usually to no avail. Slowly, guitars mass and take flight from the chaos, displacing the air like dragon’s wings and the apocalypse is just a heartbeat away. But it’s not all fun and games. The 15 minute long title track wears out its welcome early, spiralling downward toward a terminus of intractable drone. Perhaps the exercise was cathartic for the participants, but as a listener it’s like having one’s nose pressed up against glass viewing someone else’s epiphany. The experience can be inferred – understood even - but the end result is just a fogged-up window and a feeling of exclusion. But there is merit enough elsewhere on this 60-minute release to justify your hard-earned cash. (Tony Dale) [Phil adds: Paik are one of my favourite bands right now, so I was delighted when Dan from Tonevendor offered to score me a copy of the limited-edition double LP version of this album which has been put out by Clair Records. I have to say, I think the music suits the vinyl format more than it does the CD somehow – with ‘Dizzy Stars’ and ‘Satin Black’ each given an entire side of their own to sprawl across, the listener is encouraged to take them out of the context of the remaining material and be sucked down into the two opposing forces of dissonance, or alternatively to flip the record over to consider the punchier material as an alternative. Works for me!]





(CD on Hidden Agenda- address shown above)

    Ever since I first heard ‘Coffee In Nepal’ I have been captivated by Jeff Kelly, both as a solo artist and with the wonderful Green Pajamas. If there was any justice in the music business, and we know there isn’t, then Jeff’s songs would be sung by everybody and his sell-out gigs would be the talk of the town. Sadly, this isn’t the case but that doesn’t stop the flow of top-notch song writing from this talented musician.

  ‘For the Swan in the Hallway’, his latest collection, is another enchanting journey through the intimate parts of Jeff’s mind, which grows brighter and more rewarding with each listen. The first two tracks, the ever so brief ‘Melisande 1’ and ‘Kissing Alma Mahler’ remind you immediately that you have entered Jeff Kelly’s world but the album really gets going with the slow burning majesty of the title track. Influenced by a visit to a 300-year old London pub (complete with Abba on the stereo!), it begins with a simple chugging guitar which is fleshed out with psychedelic keyboard flourishes and some of Jeff’s fluid guitar lines, the music sliding into your head in a most welcome manner, a song that always ends too soon. ‘Stutter’ repeats the magic wearing its emotions on its sleeve with wistful pride.

  ‘Oxford Street’ again inspired by a visit to London, (much of the album takes a recent trip to England as it’s inspiration) is a tourist’s eye view of the famous street, complete with street sounds, and manages to mention London buses and London girls.

  Taking it’s inspiration from a lock of Emily Bronte’s hair found at the Parsonage Museum in Haworth, ‘The lock’ starts with a haunting piano motif and gentle percussion, the lyrics slowly drawing you into an extremely personal world, and as the strings and bass fill out the song the atmosphere is achingly beautiful. ‘After image’ a tribute to Helen Humphries’s novel continues with the subtle psychedelia that Jeff Kelly excels at, all brooding guitar overlaid with soft piano and lyrics that consistently add another texture to the song. In fact, the lyric, as with all Jeff Kelly’s albums, are beautifully written revealing different meaning and hidden nuances each time you hear them.

  ‘Whispers in the pool’ is a more upbeat affair, a brief but jaunty interlude, followed by the dreamy pop of ‘Ever so brightly’ with guitars intertwining into a glittering jewel with some suggestive lyrics added to the mix. Again influenced by an incident in England, ‘The girls of the ford’ recalls the day that Jeff was subject to some good-natured verbal abuse whilst photographing an old Ford. The song itself is a rockier affair with buzzing guitars and a driving bass line filling it out. The mood is slowed down again by ‘the depth of my desire’ the piano picking notes from the air and letting them fall onto this gentle song like English rain.

  ‘Melisande 2’ brings back the brief opening and extends it into a fragile tribute to Debussy’s opera ‘Pelleas and Melisande’, I’m sure he would approve. Final song ‘A night at the opera’ is a light-hearted tale about sex at the opera and is a fine way to finish a wonderful album that demands several listens before the full picture emerges filled with personal stories, colour and majesty. (Simon Lewis)




(CD on Hidden Agenda c/o Parasol, 303 West Griggs Street, Urbana IL 61801 USA)

  Another Terrascope, another Green Pajamas record, another outtake on the compilation CD; isn’t it good to know that in life some things never change? Mind you, we’re going to have to go some to get a new issue out in time for the next Pajamas album, given that it’s scheduled for release “soon” (and tentatively entitled ‘The Night Races Into Anna’). ‘Ten White Stones’ is more, far more, than a mere stop-gap collection though. Recorded live in the studio throughout, it has a wonderfully revealing rawness about it, a spontaneous vitality and freshness which few outside of those lucky enough to have witnessed their occasional live sets in Seattle taverns or at Terrastock festivals would be likely to guess; all that and Jeff Kelly beating the living daylights out of his electric guitar as only he can. The agenda is laid out straight away with the opening song in fact, ‘The Cruel Night’ (from ‘Northern Gothic’) featuring a blistering and truly revelatory lead solo from the big fella’ himself. Another Northern Gothic favourite ‘Lost Girls Song’ appears later into the collection, but aside from those two and the evergreen ‘(She’s Still) Bewitching Me’ the remaining seven songs are previously unreleased – including at least one bona-fide Green Pajamas classic in the old-school mould, “For S”, and one, ‘Blue Eyes To Haunt Me’, which Jeff only introduced to the band at the last moment, pretty much as they recorded it. There really is something here for everyone, from the die-hard fan to the curiously curious, a finely tuned balance of literacy, melody, psychedelia and good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, and I guarantee that in years to come this is going to be hailed as one of THE must-have albums in anyone’s representative Green Pajamas collection. (Phil)




(CD on Shadoks c/o Normal Records, Bonner Talweg 276, 53129 Bonn, Germany)

    Shadoks have outdone themselves with this double-disk package (at a single disk price!) which brings together both albums from this obscure mid-70s English folksinger. Everything you’ll love or hate about 1972’s 'See The Morning' is present in the 6-minute opener, ‘Smile Again:’ it’s a pleasant, sunshine folk pop number with lovely harmonies from Des Brewer, wah-wah guitar, and nimble-fingered jamming – sort of CSNY meets Swedish folk/psych loner, S.T. Mikael. ‘Catherine’ also benefits from lovely harmonies and shows a fine appreciation for the early folk side of Strawbs, and I love that frisky, country-rock flavour of ‘Joe’s Kaph,’ which combines the best of The Dead, New Riders, Help Yourself and Brinsley Schwarz.

If, like me, you believe that David Crosby’s 'If I Could Only Remember My Name' is the height of 70s stoner folk/psych, then you’ll be all over ‘Judianna’. From the opening screaming electric guitar solo of ‘Runaround,’ which has more than a passing resemblance to Jefferson Airplane in general and Jimmy Page’s contributions to Al Stewart’s 'Love Chronicles' in particular, 1975’s 'No Savage Word' announces we are in for more than a passing retread of the debut. For starters, Stevens enlists a full band, which includes future mega-producer, Warne Livesey (Midnight Oil, Julian Cope, The The, All About Eve, House of Love, Jesus Jones and many more – face it, you’ve got an album that he produced in your collection) on bass and guitar, Mick Ransome on drums and John Theedom on acoustic guitar (on side one). While the fuller sound rarely brings anything new to Stevens’ lovely melodies, I did enjoy Theedom’s accompaniment and Livesey’s glockenspiel on “Easy Love,” a mellow headnodder similar to the earlier release.

 A lengthy cover of Davey Graham’s ‘Angie’ (“deranged and played on acoustic guitar by Mick Stevens”) washes the stale taste of Simon & Garfunkle’s more popular version out of your ears, but feels uncomfortably out of place in its heavier surroundings; although, once again, Stevens’ guitar playing is stellar. But these are minor quibbles on this otherwise wonderful, laid-back, if slightly less accessible collection. An exquisite find and required listening for fans of the early 70’s folk/psych of Keith Christmas, David Crosby, the Brinsleys and Help Yourself. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD on Hux Records, 44 East Beach, Lytham, Lancs FY8 5EY)

  To many people, memories of the teenage years when you begin to discover music for yourself and take your first solo flight around the record racks tend to stay with you as you grow older. The bands you saw and the records you bought at that time take on a shimmering patina as if polished by regular handling – even if in some cases it’s decades since you actually thought of them. One mention of their name or a song heard on the radio though is often enough to transport you back and put a smile on your face. And, of course, it’s different for each one of us – that’s what makes it all so fascinating.

  My own “golden era”, as it were, can be pinpointed fairly accurately to the Spring of 1971 to the Winter of ’72; an eighteen month period in which I spent every spare penny I could find on reading about and buying records by bands who I could hug to my chest and call my own. I’d already heard the bands my friends were all talking about; these though were my bands, I was setting out on my own personal voyage of discovery – one which has, sadly perhaps, never really ended. I suppose the day it does will be when I finally grow up - or get buried, whichever comes first.

  It coincided with an all too brief timespan when, for some odd reason, an assorted bunch of British bands suddenly started to exude American west-coast influences. Long hair, patched jeans and cowboy chic were the order of the day, and Quicksilver, Moby Grape and the Buffalo Springfield were the hippest names to claim allegiance to. Gypsy were typical of that breed (along with Cochise, Help Yourself, Brinsley Schwarz, Home and others too numerous to mention); formerly a bona-fide flower-power outfit from Leicester named, somewhat unfortunately perhaps, Legay (one collectable 1968 single, ‘No One’ b/w ‘The Fantastic Story of the Steam Driven Banana’), in 1969 they decamped to London, set up home above a Wimpy Bar along the road from the Pink Fairies, changed their name to Gypsy and secured themselves a slot at the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival performing their new West Coast sound. A five-piece group with three guitarists, it was ironically perhaps their tightness and vocal harmonies which won them a record deal in 1970 with Liberty/United Artists, their eponymously titled album finally getting released in 1971 along with a non-LP single, ‘Changes Comin’ b/w the Neil Young inspired ‘Don’t Cry On Me’ (which just so happened to be my own introduction to the band courtesy of a late-night airing on the radio heard, as I remember, under canvas somewhere near Glastonbury whilst camping with a bunch of mates!)

  Inevitably perhaps the album didn’t sell as well as expected – a recurring theme whenever we mention any of these bands in this column it seems – dissatisfaction set in, the line-up changed slightly (including the addition of the mighty Ray Martinez, late of Spring, on guitar) and after a second album, the country-tinged ‘Brenda and the Rattlesnake’, and a tour in 1972, the band broke up.

  ‘The Romany Collection’ (Gypsy, Romany – geddit?) features their entire first album, the single released around the same time, plus six songs which date back to the same period but for one reason or another failed to make it onto either the first album or ‘Brenda’. If you haven’t heard Gypsy before then this is as fine an introduction as you’ll need – and if you’re like me and remember them fondly, you won’t want to waste any time picking this up and reliving a few happy memories of a fine little band. (Phil)




(Book, Published by Drag City)

Editor Steve Krakow’s counter-cultural ’zine has it’s impossible-to-find early editions (1 to 4) republished and reshaped into a rather snazzy, perfect-bound 144 pager that’s being distributed by those fine folks from Drag City. Consistency is the watchword here; even these early works, full of knowledgeable and enthusiastic gushing, have that unique handwritten style that outlines his twin obsessions with the furthest outreaches of psychedelia and comic book art. On the first hand there’s a detailed exchange with Simeon of the Silver Apples, pieces on ‘Acid Cults’ (including Ya Ho Wa 13, whose ‘Penetration’ LP has recently been given a legit vinyl reissue through Swordfish Records), ‘Pedal Steel and Fuzz’ (with the Byrds and the Burritos) and a densely populated raft of potted histories. These involve the (other) Birds, Poets, Masters Apprentices etc. Steve’s second love delves into the weird world of Sixties comix where random panels house uncanny creations such as ‘Proteus’, ‘Dr Spectro’ and ‘Dormammu’ (the latter, if memory serves, had a British goth band named after him in the mid-Eighties), all originating from the driven genius of Steve Ditko – best remembered as the creator of Dr. Strange. Even some of the more straight-laced inkers at Marvel loosened their ties a little and started to spew out some pre-psych weirdery – ‘Polka Dot Man’, ‘Spellbinder’ and ‘The Zodiac Master’ were simply TOO kinky to have been appropriated by pop artists like Mel Ramos and Roy Lichtenstein as gallery fodder.

In case you’re having second thoughts, I think that rock ‘n’ roll and comix complement one another just fine and share one obvious thing in common (no, it’s not Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’) – they’ve both been seen as the avatars of moral decline since the year dot. The “Moral Frenzy Corporation” that instigated “The Comic Code Authority” in the fifties had the self-same mad gleam of accusation in its eyes some forty years later. Step forward “The Backmasking Caper” (with Judas Priest et al) and The State versus the Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra for using H.R. Giger’s ‘Penis Landscape’ as an LP insert. Are you enjoying the deja view?

Anyway, back to the music… also included is the ‘Emperor of the If’ compilation CD which dips into the cassettes that accompanied the original ’zines. Unreleased Fursäxa, Magnog, Joy Poppers are featured, as are a couple of blasts from Steve’s altered-ego ‘Plastic Crimewave’; caught leading Utopia Carcrash and the earlier, lesser known Moleculad. Just like the previous issue that I had the pleasure of, this is a feast. (Steve Pescott)




(CD on Strange Attractors Audio House, PO Box 13007, Portland, OR 97213-0007, USA)

  Werner Herzog’s film My Best Fiend details his tumultuous collaborations with Klaus Kinski in a series of archival footage and first person narrations from the director. It’s evident that a big part of their creative success came from the innate differences in their personalities. Kinski, the wild-eyed madman who could beef up a manslaughter charge in the blink of an eye, and Herzog, the sad-eyed meditative naturalist, were constantly at odds with one another during productions, yet that strife bred some truly compelling journeys through the mind and soul. The best image of this disparate union comes late in the film when Herzog settles on a medium close-up of a grinning Kinski, finger extended towards a butterfly which skitters and dances on his appendage as if some natural gravity held it there.   

            Kinski, the Seattle band and Terrascopic mainstay, evinces a similar mastery of the chaotic and serene in union. As heard on massive studio albums, Airs Above Your Station and Be Gentle with the Warm Turtle, the quartet harnesses massive chunks of distorted guitar crunch that easily echoes the epic qualities of titles like “New India” and “Space Launch for Frenchie,” but along with the controlled bludgeon comes a quieter, meditative side that surfaces in dreamy drone segues, as well in the fuzzy minimal meditations of guitarist Chris Martin’s Ampbuzz side project, and during local live improv performances by the band under the name Herzog. Climb on and Take the Holy Water chronicles these live performances with four short tracks of improvised drone and clang and one extended (30 min.) space probe to the deepest regions of space.

            People expecting build-up noise rock crescendos might want to look to albums mentioned elsewhere in this review, but those who enjoy getting lost in a sea of headphone induced feedback undulation and mellow organic glissando will find themselves right at home in these expansive waters. Centrepiece “The Misprint in the Gutenberg Print Shop” especially offers the transportive goods with a mélange of shimmering drones and squiggles spread out beneath a bed of electric guitar trills and indiscernible hums, invoking the wandering space minstrels of friends Acid Mothers Temple at their mellow best, but it’s all rendered in a cleaner post ambient Eno wash here. The last three tracks cover more spiky terrain, from the Main like guitar clicks and flutters of “Crepes the Cheap” to the Flying Saucer Attack worthy mechanical fuzz squalls of “Bulky Knit Cheerleader Sweater,” which are just as effectively mind cleansing in their more abbreviated states. This aural butterfly makes for a fine edition to the more typical bombast of Kinski’s musical corpus, not to mention a highly recommendable platter for discerning fans of guitar based ambient improv. (Lee Jackson)




(CD from Soft Abuse, PO Box 2771, Tallahassee FL 32316-2771 USA)

I have already used so many superlatives when describing the San Francisco-based psychedelia/folk/drone/improv collective Jewelled Antler that it feels like I am beginning to repeat myself. So maybe it’s not so strange that I am tempted to start this review with a few words from a Jewelled Antler article I wrote last year. "Picture yourself in a true wilderness area, with a steep, almost imperceptible track leading through vast, red barked pine forest down to a hidden beach with waterfalls, which crash into the valley from cliffs a hundred meters up. It’s not an easy vista to find but once there you’re likely to find yourself just staring at the landscape around you for the rest of the day. If forced to point out a particular location where the spirit of Jewelled Antler resides this got to be the one." The second album from the Skygreen Leopards (including Glenn Donaldson of Thuja, Mirza, The Birdtree, The Blithe Sons and many others as well as Donovan Quinn of Verdure) is no exception of this although I guess you could describe it as the aural backdrop of the trip back home to San Francisco. That being said, One Thousand Bird Ceremony includes plenty of field recordings from pastoral meadows and windswept trees but also invokes something a whole lot more urban. There’s some sort of secret track between hope and sadness presented here which speaking of own experience is unavoidable to tread for anyone living for quite some time in a big city. The positive aspects are presented in the form of lovely psych-folk-pop nuggets and collages that due to its stumbling and somewhat fractured nature recalls the loosest work of the Elephant 6 collective. The more reflective side of things comes through the brilliant lyrics and the vocals that have me thinking of Richard Youngs at his very best. The instrumentation is incredibly rich and maybe it’s the ample use of instruments such as dulcimer, banjo, bouzouki, organs, tambourines, mandolin, and whistles which helps create a somewhat mythological feel or perhaps it’s titles such as "All Our Plagues Were Rainbows" and "Let Me Grow In Your Meadow". In our never-ending campaign for bringing heartfelt and honest music to the masses, I'm happy and honoured to celebrate the arrival of One Thousand Bird Ceremony, possibly the most accessible, but still hallucinogenic and somewhat challenging, work from the Jewelled Antler collective to date. (Mats Gustafsson)




(CD on Secret Eye PO Box 170 Barrington, RI 02806 USA)


(CDR on Freaks End Future, Willem Linnigstraat 10, B-2060 Antwerp, Belgium, Eu)

    You could never accuse Aberdeen, Scotland’s Alan Davidson of sleeping at the wheel. Yawning, perhaps—cocking his head sideways, maybe—but the lad is ever vigilant in negotiating the detritus of failed love affairs and faded memories with the enchanted aural confections he performs as the Kitchen Cynics. I first heard the ‘Cynics do a version of Tom Rapp’s “Stardancer” on the first For the Dead in Space tribute album years ago now, and was instantly, effortlessly transported to another world. Davidson’s reserved, literate Scottish accent perfectly captures the ethereality of Rapp’s haunting original, with subtle use of fuzz and effects beneath delicate fingerpicking, serving as the perfect aural springboard to your favourite secret garden. Needless to say, it made an indelible impression. Ever since I’d approached the music of the ‘Cynics with a curious awe, something whispered about and asked for in dusty record shops to no avail, before I finally tracked Davidson down via email and arranged a fruitful transaction.  

            Sporting one of the more memorable titles in the recent history, Parallel Dog Days is one of two new Kitchen Cynics’ releases making the rounds, this time courtesy of the same people responsible for the Tom Rapp tribute albums, For the Dead in Space Vol.’s 1-3, Secret Eye (formerly Magic Eye)—all highly recommended for the discriminating psych folk fan. Parallel is the first ‘Cynics album to be released on American shores to date, but let’s hope not the last (the excellent singles comp Seasonings is screaming for a larger pressing as I type). In Davidson’s own words, the album title refers to his earlier, wilder days: “I used to frequent a local pub where a guy would always bring in his dog, and, instead of standing at right-angles to the bar, it stood parallel, often causing the regulars to fall over it when they stepped backwards. I admired its refusal to change its ways!” There isn’t a better metaphor for the poignant determination that marks this recorded legacy.

            For the uninitiated, this is the perfect way into Davidson’s sleepy folk dream world. Melodic acoustic guitars sketch vivid images with delicate brush strokes, creating a bevel for nostalgic recollections of youthful indiscretions and drunken date-swappings. Each of these twenty songs offers an assured, slightly post punk/lo-fi version of folk pop with bits of cheap synthesizer, muffled percussion and cortex-tickling distortion fleshing out the typically austere approach. But ultimately it’s that hushed delivery and a credible, often hilarious, insider’s perspective on the ins and outs of these characters that makes this such a worthy treat. The hypnotic longing and slighted jealousy of “The Place You Hid,” the medieval recollections of “At Villa E.107 (Eileen Gray Reflects),” the Nick Drake by way of Donovan memories of “North of Balmedie, West of the Waves” and the serene folk bliss of “Tune for Tom Rapp”—a simple gesture of goodwill to one cult legend from another—are waiting to be heard late at night, a glass of cheap red wine in one hand, a dear friend nestled tightly in the other.

            The aptly titled Compulsive Songwriting Disorder offers more of the same in terms of quality songwriting, but as its title suggests, this is a bit darker collection. Tracks like the spartan opener “The Tartan Shawl” and the spectral “Great-Uncle Jack’s Deathbed Dance” paint forlorn melodic swathes in a dark, overcast sky. The tender interpretation of Bridget St. John’s “Ask Me No Questions” is a sweet kiss goodnight, before the more caustic “Murph’s Song” explores nooks and crannies of melancholic longing to hypnotic effect with its haunting refrain, “we’ve come together, but we’re all alone.” Other track highlights: the sinister discontent of “Waiting for Your Mail,” the slow burning fuzz wash of “Lethargic Lover,” the extended sound dream of “Dialogue” (featuring a lovely harmony vocal from Cara Lewis) and “In Dunottar Woods,” with music that sounds like it’s emanating from a very old phonograph, fitting for this sort of moody folk pop impressionism. See www.secreteye.org/se and www.freaksendfuture.com for more information. (Lee Jackson)




(CD on Pickled Egg)

    Glasgow band Scatter’s debut album, Surprising Sing Stupendous Love on Pickled Egg, is a genre-defying aural document that bounces back and forth from idea to idea, from jazz and folk to rock and electronic sound manipulation. Colourful brass instrumentation, gently damaged free form folk, muffled clusters of soundscapes, visceral ceremonies of strangely seducing strings, mauling tribal frenzy and some pretty groovy rhythms make up a record, which is packed with emotion, joy, intimacy and sheer brilliance. It’s difficult to explain exactly what it is that makes the album such an essential item but I guess you could say that it’s because it’s really carving its own little position in the music heavens. The album is shooting for a feel that does recall Bablicon at their most structured but at the same time there’s also a loose folk jam feel in the spirit of Vibracathedral Orchestra. The latter doesn’t really come as a surprise as Scatter is an ensemble which includes people who have performed with the ‘Orchestra. Just like the cousins from Leeds, Scatter seems determined to present a chaplet of different tones and colors rather than actual songs. But don’t get me wrong, we’re not only served a beautiful maze of improvisation that you continuously will get lost in but also melodies which you can hang on to. The impressive attention for details and the sensitive interaction between all the players gives the album a strong dialogic feel, a “call and response” approach which gives the whole thing a wonderful flow. There’s no point in putting a genre tag on this uncategorizable and highly hallucinogenic sonic stew, but that doesn’t stop it from being every bit as rewarding as it is challenging. Those up to the challenge won’t be disappointed. (Mats Gustafsson)




(CD on Big Beat c/o Ace Records, 42-50 Steele Road, London NW10 7AS)

    I’m going to assume that most Terrascope readers are aware of the lissom, soulful blues singer Sharon Tandy not through her 1966 Stax recording sessions with Isaac Hayes and various soul legends of the day, or indeed with her entirely separate recording career in her native South Africa, but rather for her time in swingin’ London – and in particular for that near-legendary 1968 45 backed by the Fleur de Lys on Atlantic Records, ‘Hold On’ c/w ‘Daughter of the Sun’.

  Two former members of the Fleur de Lys have been interviewed in past Terrascopes (Pete Sears and Gordon Haskell) but their story remains so complex – arguably one of the most difficult of all 60s groups to unravel – that it’s probably easiest to sit yourself down with a copy of the Fleur de Lys CD compilation ‘Reflections’ (FDL1005) before beginning to assimilate the material here. For a start, singles featuring the post-1966 Fleur de Lys were released under a number of different monikers - Chocolate Frog, Shyster and Rupert’s People – in addition to their backing singers such as Waygood Ellis, Donnie Elbert, John Bromley, and Sharon Tandy.

  Sharon Tandy was the South African former wife of producer Frank Fenter who had caused something of a sensation when, at the age of 20, she filled in for Carla Thomas on a Stax Records package tour. Fleur de Lys at the time (late 1966) had just lost two key members (Pete Sears, who joined Sam Gopal and then disappeared off to the States to join Stoneground, Silver Metre, Copperhead and subsequently the Jefferson Starship; and Phil Sawyer who joined the Spencer Davis Group) and had stripped down to a trio consisting of bassist Gordon Haskell and singer Chris Andrews, joined by Chris’ flatmate, guitarist Bryn Haworth. Fenter was looking for a group to back his energetic protégée on her studio and live work, and the Fleur de Lys were the ideal session group for the job – in addition to backing Sharon Tandy, they also toured Holland with Aretha Franklin, recorded an album with Barney Kessel and backed Isaac Hayes.

  And so to the collection to hand. In addition to seven songs from the 1966 Stax sessions and some 1965-’66 singles for Pye with orchestrated arrangements, ‘You’ve Gotta Believe It’s…Sharon Tandy’ features virtually all the UK singles up to 1969 on which she was backed by the Fleur de Lys, including amongst others the flagship ‘Hold On’ with its full minute of awesome distorted guitar work from Bryn Haworth; its flipside ‘Daughter of the Sun’ on which Tandy is in full-blown psychedelic priestess mode in the style of Julie Driscoll (as opposed to her usual Christine Perfect-esque blues wailin’); ‘Look and Find’ (the flipside to ‘Love makes the World Go Round’, which sadly isn’t included here) with gorgeous melodic bass lines from Gordon Haskell; ‘Gotta Get Enough Time’ – the final single Sharon recorded for Atlantic, and one featuring some fine wah-wah guitar footwork from Haworth – and ‘Our Day Will Come’ which bears witness to a late-night jam session the Fleur de Lys had enjoyed with the Vanilla Fudge at Spot Studios in December 1967 shortly after appearing on John Peel’s ‘Top Gear’ together. Sadly, none of the Sharon Tandy / Fleur de Lys recordings from Top Gear (‘Always Something There to Remind Me’, another ‘Our Day Will Come’ and an alternate version of ‘Hold On’) appear here.

Never mind though; along with the three songs the Lys performed solo on ‘Top Gear’ and the unreleased album for Polygram they recorded early in 1968 (from which only ‘Gong with the Luminous Nose’ has ever surfaced) there’s enough material out there still for a third album. Meanwhile, this collection will do very nicely indeed thank you; and has the added benefit of featuring the lovely Ms Tandy on the cover too! (Phil)




(CD on Drag City, P. O. Box 476867, Chicago, IL 60647, USA)

A lengthy, nebulous opening, combining Junzo Tateiwa's percussive effects, bells, and chimes, Masaki Batoh's hurdy gurdy, dodgy synth (longtime member Kazuo Ogino's Korg MS-20) and Taishi "Giant" Takizawa's whining Theremin, welcomes the listener to ‘God Took a Picture of His Illness on this Ground,’ part one of the four-part title track of Ghost's seventh album, and the first since their collaboration with Damon & Naomi four years ago. The track sonically resembles the meandering, somnambulistic brainscrapes of Atman and their more recent offshoot, The Magic Carpathians. On Part Two (‘Escaped and Lost Down in Medina’) Takizawa's Middle Eastern-flavoured sax work is reminiscent of Peter Vandergelder's lengthy solo opening The Great Society's seminal live version of ‘White Rabbit.’ The constantly escalating maelstrom of psychedelia rides Ogino's little marching piano riff to a crescendo rivalling fellow Japanese psychmeisters, Acid Mothers Temple. Part three, ‘Aramaic Barbarous Dawn’ is a short burst of metallic energy, somewhat akin to getting slapped up-side the head with a razor-encrusted nunchaku. It may be the band’s most brutal recording yet.

 Guitar god Michio Kurihara drags ‘Hazy Paradise’ across the heavens on the gossamer wings of vocalist Masaki Batoh's angelic cooing. Bubbling brooks, Batoh’s whispered storytelling and Ogino’s pied piper recorder and lute combine to make ‘Kiseichukan Nite’ an unintelligible yet lovely listening experience.

‘Ganagmanang’ and ‘Feed’ rival Mushroom’s current magnum opus for the year’s grooviest, most 60s-flavoured psychedelic jams - I can almost taste the patchouli wafting across the fields at Glastonbury. Wandering, opaque, oblivious and magnificent - these are some of their finest recordings in years, and perfectly complement the playful, whirling dervish, gypsy vibe of ‘Holy High’, a gnarly remake of an old B-side and a fulfillingly fitting finale to this elaborate smorgasbord of sounds, techniques and multi-genred offerings. All in all, an earthier, woodsier, more environmental direction for Ghost, and a sound I hope they continue to explore on future recordings. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD on Fünfundvierzig Records, Schmiedetwiete 6, 23898 Labenz, Germany)


(CD on Pedal Records, www1.odn.ne.jp/pedalrecords/)

    It seems like samurai guitar god Ken Matsutani has been out in the cold for so long that his seminal place in the dreaming of Japan into a powerhouse of 21st Century psychedelic rock has been lost. Founded in 1987, and originally counting fellow freak-out epicentre Michio Kurihara as a member, the ’Sheep issued a formidable series of releases stretching from their self-titled debut on Alchemy Records in 1990 to the pan-galactic sprawl of ‘Swirl Live’ in 1994 before pissing it all away on a series of lesser releases from the mid-1990s on. That is until now. ‘For Demolition Of A Spiritual Framework’ is a bold Pollock canvas of a record, dizzyingly drooling streams of retarded garage psych, strutting stadium metal, and higher-minded progressive rock over ones psyche in messy intersecting lines. Opener ‘Old Fish’ starts in a Japanese water garden before blowing like Krakatoa and blotting out the sun with the ash from its corrosive guitar explosions. ‘Fla Fla Heaven’ is a big, stupid, hilarious anthem with a distinct Rocket From the Tombs art punk vibe with the emphasis on punk, and in a distinctly Japanese move has been issued as a single as well. Using fuzz-drenched garage rock as a launching pad on ‘The Drop’, Matsutani and band get totally gone in a way that emphasises that this band was a necessary precondition for the existence of Acid Mothers Temple. ‘The Night of the Shooting Star’ emphasises one of the bands limitations - Matsutani’s vocals are not really compelling enough to carry a ballad - but it’s only an inhalation of breath before the band get to the heart of the matter with a slab of progressive heaven on the album’s centrepiece ‘Rain’. ‘Matsutani’s guitar work on ‘Rain’ is floridly excessive and absolutely wonderful in its evocation of the fog of war, clearing for a moment of folk clarity and single verse at around the 7:30 mark before an exquisitely melodic guitar coda. ‘Perfect Island’ is its complete opposite – a narcotic float on warm Pacific waters that gets away with some Spinal Tap-eque lyrics because you can’t really make them out anyway. ‘Just Going Around in Circles’ does just that, returning to a Zen garden of abstract forms to close out the proceedings in swirling drones and wind-teased chimes. Now all we need is a new White Heaven album… (Tony Dale)

  ….And right on cue comes the new LP-length CD from Stars, featuring White Heaven’s singer/songwriter You Ishihara and guitarist sans pareil Michio Kurihara. It’s probably no coincidence that ‘Small White Wonder’ is the most White Heavenly cut of the six tracks featured, with a driving psychedelic beat that explodes into a fiery, livid burst of molten guitar; ‘Last Door’ also features echoes of the later, more melodic days of that band with some entertaining lyrical imagery from You Ishihara and, inevitably, some toe-curling interplay between himself and Kurihara. The closing six-minutes plus of ‘Orange Hour Circle’ is an interesting progression for the band though, with haunting synthesiser (played by Kurihara) underpinning a beat which together somehow conjure up panoramic visions of a classic American made-for-TV detective movie. Though I could be way off the mark there; it wouldn’t be the first time. Either way this is a fabulous little collection that only serves to leave you longing for more. (Phil




(2CD on Secret Eye)

Beginning with the angelic, crystalline voice of Marissa Nadler (somewhat reminiscent of Naomi Yang of Damon and Naomi, and with an excellent new album out in her own right ‘Ballads of Living and Dying’ on Ed Hardy’s superb Eclipse Records imprint), ‘Ballad To An Amber Lady’ gets this collection off to a beautiful start. The Olivetree (aka Glenn Donaldson) gives us ‘Blind River’ while Isobel Sollenberg and the Gibbons brothers bury ‘Uncle John’ in an unnerving onslaught of psychedelic Pond-sludge. Three Scandinavian instrumentals: Norway’s Aquarium Poppers, (featuring Dipsomaniac Øyvind Holm assisting his brother, Thor Jorgen) give us a loopy, sound effects-laden version of ‘From the Movie of the Same Name,’ Noxagt’s metallic Goth version of ‘Regions of May’ and Finnish avant noisemongers Kamialliset Ystävät interpret ‘Guardian Angels’ (presented in their native tongue as "Suojelusenkeli"). The fourth contribution from our friends up north (and first in over four years) is from Sweden's Cauldron - the side-project of Holy River Family Band's Jens Unosson and Arne Jonasson, a pleasant, straightforward reading of ‘Man In The Tree,’ but sung in two different keys at two different pitches. Arne's guitar solo at the end, however, demonstrates beyond all shadow of a doubt why he is just about the greatest guitarist that no one's ever heard of. The prolific Erik Wivinus (Skye Klad, Salamander, Barlow/Peterson/Wivinus) returns to his Gentle Tasaday project with partner Eric Hefferber for the haunting, dirgy ‘Snow Queen.’ Acid Mothers Temple guru Kawabata Makoto brings his fx pedals and David Bowie-meets-Nick-Cave vocals to the recording studio and births ‘When I Was A Child.’

Prydwyn is one of the few artists on here who have actually recorded with Rapp (though several have appeared on stage with him at various Terrastock festivals), appearing on several tracks on his ‘Journal of the Plague Year’ comeback on Woronzow a few years ago, and his all-too-short, straightforward interpretation of ‘Prayers of Action’ is one of the disc’s highlights. Black Forest/Black Sea is the duo featuring former Science Kit/Iditarod member, Jeffrey Alexander. As former head of Magic Eye Singles and current stringpuller at Secret Eye, Jeffrey is responsible for all three wonderful Tom Rapp tribute disks, and his beautifully romantic collaboration with Miriam Goldberg on ‘Wizard of Is’ is a welcome addition to his discography. From Scotland, Alan Davidson and his Kitchen Cynics give us ‘Les Ans’ in the original tongue, a fine, folky, fuzzy figment of music that sounds like Jacques Brel fronting the Incredible String Band.

Tom’s son David kicks off ‘Volume III’ with a bubbly, toe-tapping winner, turning ‘Frog In The Window’ into a power pop shoutalong. He even recites the infamous “Miss Morse” code at the fade! Monster Island turn in a vitriolic recitation of ‘Riegal,’ with a funky backing that recalls Dutch hippies, The Fool. New Zealander Alastair Galbraith takes a break from his "wiremusic" projects for the tender, all-too-brief ‘Everybody's Got Pain.’ Prydwyn's third appearance (this time accompanying Timothy Renner in Stone Breath) graces ‘Ring Thing,’ which emulates the ending of the Pearls Before Swine ‘Balaklava’ album by rewinding the entire track.

  Finally, completists will need this tribute for the previously unissued ‘Balaklava’ outtake of ‘Translucent Carriages’ by Rapp and Pearls partner Wayne Harley (the other performers are unidentified). The performance and orchestral arrangement is clearer and more powerful than the original, and is a fitting conclusion to another worthy re-examination of the work of one of our finest (and most underrated) folk singers. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD from Water Records, PO Box 2947 San Francisco CA 94126 USA)

Nonchalantly flicking through albums in a New York store in 1972, our man in question was more than just a little surprised to see his own owlish features smiling back at him from an unfamiliar LP sleeve. The ironically titled ‘Familiar Songs’ was, in essence, a series of sessions that reworked material from Tom Rapp’s four previous albums for Reprise. They’d been shelved by the band as an unsuccessful experiment, some of them still only featuring trial vocals. An “evil manager figure” however thought otherwise: he sold the tapes to Reprise and scarpered with the cash – a salutary tale for artists who believe their every last utterance is safely under lock and key.

‘Familiar Songs’ was omitted from the ‘Jewels Were The Stars’ boxed set reviewed last issue, and it’s not really that hard to see why. The glimpses of a crystal city that the four previous discs afforded is now obscured by a haze of wholemeal, relaxed songwriterly values, now more at home in a plaid work shirt than the silks and satins of old. So – a curate’s egg or a swine after pearls? Well it still gives me a severe case of the crossed-wire syndrome. As mentioned earlier, Tom had no say in its original release – but he could presumably have vetoed this reissue if he was that embarrassed by it. As his own sleeve notes ask, “See the Wheat, forgive the Chaff” – although it’s a very difficult task to forgive ‘Charley and the Lady’, every bit as uninspiring as it’s a.o.r. title would suggest. ‘Sail Away’ (originally on ‘These Things Too’) promises good times ahead, but when the usually excellent guitarist David Wolfert’s solo crashes in it’s like someone is using a Howitzer to clear a blocked drain. ‘Margery’, ‘Rocket Man’ and ‘The Jeweler’ (to be found on the rightly lionized ‘Use of Ashes’) simply can’t hope to approach the majesty of the originals. There’s some vital tonal colours missing and they all seem a mite too self-satisfied.

It isn’t all bad news however, as ‘Snow Queen’ still retains its sense of delicacy and wonder. The piano work of Robbie Merkins is also well worth noting, bringing to mind Richard (DNV) Sohl for some reason I can’t quite fathom. So, closer to utilitarian than beautiful, but nevertheless still worth a look. Investigate the boxed set instead, or if funds are limited ‘Ashes’ alone will set you on the right path. (Steve Pescott)




(CD on Water Music, c/o Runt Distribution, PO Box 2947, San Francisco, CA 94126 USA)

    Hot on the heels of the 4xCD box set of PBS's Reprise albums, ‘Jewels Were The Stars’, Water continues their incredible reissue series with this 2xCD retrospective of exclusive live performances and demos from 1967-1976 remastered from Tom Rapp’s private tape collection. Fans of his 1999 Woronzow comeback, ‘A Journal of The Plague Year’ will recognise the opening ‘Where Is Love’, included there as part of the ‘Shoebox Symphony’ and heard here in its original "shoebox" demo version, minus Nick Saloman’s lengthy, yet memorable organ intro. The home demo for ‘Butterflies’ features just Tom and his guitar, minus the electric accompaniment from the final product on ‘Beautiful Lies You Could Live In’ and sounds sadder and more reflective. Rapp was always an underrated interpreter who frequently covered the work of Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell and Jacques Brel and the six-minute demo of the latter’s ‘Love You’re Not Alone’ is one of many revelations contained herein. Recorded with ‘The Use of Ashes’ musicians, perhaps the song was too long for inclusion, although the same line-up would later competently cover Brel's ‘Seasons in the Sun’ on ‘City of Gold’ (a full three years before Terry Jacks sold a billion copies and took his version to #1). Rapp’s playful version of Randy Newman’s ‘Sail Away’ (not the same song on ‘These Things Too’) on Martin D-18S and vicious glass slide is another find, revealing the humorous side of PBS that was often lost on the more sombre final releases.

  David Bromberg plays on the demos for ‘City of Gold’, ‘Song About A Rose’ and ‘Mary Mary’. The former is less frantic than the final version, where Bromberg’s sweet picking and slide work was replaced with hyperactive violin, although it does retain it's Dylanesque Nashville sound, while ‘Song About A Rose’ is heard without its distinctive flute accompaniment. And ‘Mary Mary’ is surely the filthiest song Rapp ever wrote (including the thinly veiled ‘Miss Morse’), with its commercial suicide chorus of “She turns penises into gold.” No wonder the label balked at that one!

  The original demo of ‘Rocket Man’ is another revelation, recorded here with Elizabeth in their apartment in Utrecht, complete with its original lyrics. And never has the recording process been so elegantly captured than on the original spontaneous recording of ‘Riegal’, heard here as Rapp is composing it directly into a tape recorder in his home in Vreeland. Tom sounds amazingly like Leonard Cohen here, and listen for the segment where he subconsciously drifts into the melody from ‘Gilligan's Island!’

  Disk Two contains a complete 1972 concert from Goddard College in Vermont. The intimacy of the small room is the perfect setting for PBS (at times you can hear a dog that was wandering around chiming in on the choruses!) Highlights include Art Ellis’s lilting flute work on ‘Island Lady’ (the lyrical source for the ‘Beautiful Lies’ album title) and dual recorder performance on ‘Morning’, and ‘Translucent Carriages’ (listen as Tom reveals the truth behind lyrics that have remained hidden for nearly 35 years!). As anyone who's seen Rapp at any of his Terrastock performances can attest, he can be both funny and informative in describing the gestation of his songs. Therefore, the decision to excise the between-song stage banter (ostensibly to include additional Dutch radio sessions from 1971) is disappointing, yet understandable. Hopefully, some of the forthcoming "complete concerts" will rectify this minor quibble. A pleasant surprise, however, is the inclusion of Rapp's rap on "Lessons from the 60's," culled from the end of his Terrastock III performance in London in 1999, the latest excerpt on the collection. (Ed: good to see there’s a name-check in the liner-notes for the late Jim Hayes, a PT reader and Tom Rapp fan who died a couple of months after finally seeing his hero perform at Terrastock London in 1999)

With the PBS/Tom Rapp revival in full swing (at least two more full archival concerts are planned, as well as the remastered reissues of the original albums), one can’t help but applaud Water's marvellous efforts at unearthing these buried treasures and eagerly await future instalments. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD from Brian Purington, 7005 Daugherty, Austin TX 78757 USA)


(CD from www.mountainmenanonymous.com)

Like a long-lost cousin you’d heard of but never actually met, My Education came tapping on my door one day and stole my heart. Based in Austin, Texas and formed as long ago as 1999 by various musicians quoting Stars of the Lid and Ultrasound on their CVs, their instrumental debut album ‘5 Popes’ was eventually self-released in March ’02 and only landed on my desk a couple of months ago courtesy of a fortunate happenstance involving Jeffrey Alexander of Black Forest/Black Sea, a lengthy story I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say that as soon as I heard them I knew at once here was a band which would fit any imagined Terrastock bill like a glove, on Stage 2 right after Tarentel perhaps, or filling the virtual space left on Stage 1 by a Godspeed You Black Emporer! who failed to turn up or a Mogwai who demanded an extortionate performance fee. Which isn’t to say My Education owe a bean to any one of those groups in terms of either inspiration or formula – they don’t – but what they are doing is surfing those same rolling waves of sonic cacophony, and performing breathtaking new tricks while they’re about it.

What My Education do best is to balance the darkness and shade, cross-hatching the quieter moments of their aural graphical landscapes with intricate strings and gentle piano and then splattering huge globs of distorted guitar noise across the canvas by way of a contrast – on ‘Lesson 3’ for example the sparse yet crisp piano notes form the perfect backdrop to the chiming guitars, and you find yourself clinging to them like a life raft on a storm-tossed sea of guitars as the song builds to a crescendo. The same stylistic approach is applied even more successfully to ‘Deep Cut’, while on the album’s nine-minute closer ‘Crime Story’ the urgency of the caterwauling guitars and violins lead towards, rather than away from, a graceful piano-led denouement.

I’ve seen this LP length album being described as an EP elsewhere which is, I think, a sign of a the times rather than a criticism of the fact that the five tracks don’t fill up the entire seventy something minutes of the CD. It sounds pretty damn near perfect to me.

Mountain Men Anonymous likewise came recommended by a Terrastock veteran, this time Caroline Ross from delicate AWOL who guests on their new album Krkonose (on the My Kung Fu label, whose promotional budget unfortunately doesn’t stretch to obscure English fanzines unfortunately; luckily the band themselves took the trouble to send us their debut to see what we thought.) Likewise formed in 1999, and once again exploring similar territory to Godspeed You Black Emporer!, there the similarity ends for Mountain Men Anonymous hail not from Texas or even the Rockies: they’re from Cardiff by way of Gloucestershire, a place they claim to be “the shitest place in the world – culturally dead” (they obviously never stumbled across the Land of Nod and the Ochre Records scene while they were there!) And unlike My Education the band also dispense with strings, piano and other pseudo-classical instrumental niceties, preferring instead to concentrate on blurring the edges of their guitar-led cacophony rather splendidly with an array of effects pedals. The results are at once hauntingly beautiful and spine-tinglingly loud, like being strapped to a jet engine as it careers towards the Earth. Awesome. (Phil)





(CDs on Lexicon Devil Records, P.O. Box 125, Richmond VIC 3121, Australia)

    Currituck Co. is actually one man, Mr. Kevin W. Barker, currently resident in New York City. You may have come across the fruits of his time as part of the Washington DC underground rock scene, including a 2002 CD on the Teenbeat imprint called ‘Unpacking My Library’, but ‘Ghost Man on First’ is another barrel of banjos entirely. If, like the title suggested, ‘Unpacking My Library’ was the work of an guitarist and songwriter working through his influences to reach accommodation with the demons of eclecticism, ‘Ghost Man on First’ finds Barker at the point of putting those demons to rest before moving on. Non-specific folk and country influences have been replaced with very specific roots in the 60s catalogues of Topic, Folkways and Takoma Records, and in the work of Robbie Basho, John Fahey and Bert Jansch. Barker’s archive mining bears fruit in the banjo and vocal interplay of the traditional ‘I Truly Understand’, in a meritorious version of Jansch’s ‘Silly Woman’ and in a startling rework of Nina Simone’s take on ‘Black Is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair’ into the shape of a ‘A Raga Called Nina’. Alongside these, Barker’s originals hold up well. A ‘Requiem for John Fahey’ finger-picks a shimmering dance up and down your spinal column, ‘A Raga Called Pat Cohn’ conjures a dream-time of meditational harmonics from the dancing ghosts of acoustic guitar, tabla harmonium and vague whisperings and never loses direction once during its 10 minute span, and ‘March of the People Who Do Not Know You’ is a wrenching red-shift back to reality with and acid bath of angry, gesticulating guitar chaos that Haino or Kawabata would be proud of. This release is sententiously sub-titled “part one of a three part lecture series curated by Curritick County” which if nothing else makes me want to stick around to see if such hubris is sustainable. ‘Ghost Man on First’ suggests it just might be.

It’s been reviewed in this magazine several times already in its CD-R incarnation, but now Verdure’s first offering ‘Cross & Satellite Station’ is officially released by Australian label Lexicon Devil, fans of Donovan Quinn’s misty Californian back-porch mysticism can upgrade to a production CD version should they so desire. There is some rearranging of tracks, a cleaner sound and new art, but in essence it remains the startling artefact it was two years ago. One minute into the opening track ‘Crystal Glass’ and it’s like you’ve witnessed the seeds of greatness being sown. With prodigious confidence, Quinn messes with the rail points and piles a train called Bob Dylan into a train called Tom Rapp, picks up the pieces and wet-wires them into his own hyper-active synapses to populate the landscape with freshly raised ghosts. If you don’t know by know that this thing is essential I guess we’re going to have to review it a fourth time. Please don’t make us do that. (Tony Dale)




(CD on Sonic Unyon, PO Box 57347, Jackson Station, Hamilton, ON, Canada, L8P 4X2)

     Journey with me across marmalade skies and the mountains of madness in the company of The Unintended whose self-titled debut is a kaleidoscope of psych-pop sounds and mystical lyrics which will leave holes in your head and a grin all over your face. Opening track ‘The Collapse’ sets out their stall with the finest guitar riff the 13th Floor Elevators never wrote, whilst ‘A quiet getaway’ is a heady mixture of the Feelies meeting early Floyd on a faraway star.

  Featuring members of The Sadies and Elevator, Elevator to Hell plus Canadian rock-star Greg Keelor, the whole album displays mature song-writing, great playing, an arsenal of special effects and, above all, a sheer sense of enjoyment. The fact that the album was recorded and mixed in only six days adds to the spontaneous feel of the music. Every song is a winner but ‘No curse of time’ stands out with it’s gorgeous psychedelic feel and otherworldly lyrics. A west-coast country feel is evident in ‘Angel’ whilst closing song ‘Beautiful things’ will haunt you long after the album has drifted away.

In a perfect world, of course, such albums would be played and enjoyed all over the world. As it is you should try your hardest to find a copy of this excellent CD before it disappears into the mists of time, only to reappear in thirty years time as a lost classic. Dust off those lava lamps, it’s time to take a trip! (Simon Lewis)




(CD on Locust Music, PO 220126, Chicago IL 60622)

    Terrascope favourite Greg Weeks (here on vocals, electric guitar, keyboards, autoharp and much more besides) is joined by Meg Baird (vocal, more guitars, dulcimer) and Brooke Sietinsons (acoustic guitar, percussion) as well as assorted friends on chamber instruments under the banner of Espers. Familiarity with Greg’s previous work will go some way to preparing you for what has been achieved here, but this tour through the essence of late 60s UK psychedelic folk and chamber balladry is so finely wrought it would probably knock Joe Boyd himself down a rabbit hole of memory back to the mixing desk at Sound Techniques in 1969. Across a hippie singer-songwriter nave with pews for Nick Drake, John Martyn, Bridget St. John and Vashti Bunyan, the members of Espers lay a transept full of psychedelic scaffolding to bring their compositions to vaulting life. Espers lay waste to a host of pretenders from the opening notes of ‘Flowery Noontide’. It’s not like they probably even mean to – their excellence seems structurally innate. Bells usher in Meg Baird’s beautiful vocals like a call to prayer and they levitate in a glittering cavern of instrumental bliss so real you can walk around inside it and touch the gemstones. The false premise that new psychedelic folk music has substitute a fidelity-challenged, druggy vibe for songwriting and musicianship is shattered forever by the moment of clarity that this track represents. Composing oneself and moving on, the second track, ‘Meadow’, is one of the finest songs this listener has heard in many a year. An ancient script illuminated by cello and viola, it shines down like the last ray of sun a death row inmate will ever feel on his face. Greg’s Nick Drake itch gets scratched on the track ‘Riding Voices’, but the piercing acid lead guitar recalls the wondrous obscurity of the Fresh Maggots LP. The scents of old religion infuse the lyrical ‘Hearts and Daggers’ and ‘Byss and Abyss’, which have the aspect of pagan ritual about them. Silent deities are invokes for quiet worship, and the sacred feminine placed rightly front-and-centre. The latter track dissolves into cosmic free rock, clearly establishing that the membership of Espers has an ear on the hear-and-now of the American and Japanese rock underground as well as the dreaming past. The final tracks ‘Daughter’ and ‘Travel Mountains’ weave the collection into one entirely consistent neo-pagan fugue. Several commentators have explained the rise of this kind of music as a retreat from reality by the youth of Western elites in the aftermath of 9/11, but Terrascope readers will more likely see a continuum stretching back through a range of similar artists back to the mid-90s collector’s boom, so one feels it is probably more to do with the enduring legacy of the extraordinary music during the social upheaval of the 60s, which resonates as strongly with those who encounter it now as it did then. (Tony Dale)




(CD on VHF Records, PO Box 7365, Fairfax Station VA 22039)


(CD on Strange Attractors Audio House, PO Box 13007, Portland OR 97213-0007)

    ‘Two Originals Of…’ makes one easily accessible CD out of Pelt member Jack Rose’s two vanished LPs on the Eclipse label, ‘Red Horse, White Mule’ and ‘Opium Musick’. The former LP contains finely wrought acoustic guitar meditations in the tradition of the Takoma and Vanguard labels, and strongly recalls the work of Sandy Bull and Peter Walker. The gloriously modality of the epic ‘Red Horse’ dominated Jack’s debut LP dominates the first of this CD. Embedding skyward gazing improvisation within a tight framework, Rose creates a modern classic of eastern-influenced acoustic guitar as well as dazzling with the giant leap that his playing has taken. Elsewhere ‘Dark Was the Night, and Cold Was the Ground’ is a simmering raga on slide, recalling a freer take on Ry Cooder’s work for the ‘Paris, Texas’ soundtrack, the muscularity of the playing on ‘White Mule II’ seems to dig notes out of the earth itself and ‘Hide the Whiskey’ abandons precision for a fragmentation grenade of slide guitar mayhem that rains shattered glass down around the listener. In the time between ‘Red Horse, White Mule’ and ‘Opium Musick’ Jack Rose developed and honed his skills in the raga form, as well as immersing himself in the pleasures of ragtime, heavily influencing the ‘Opium Musick’ recording, an eclectic collection with pieces for 12 string, 6 string, and lap guitar. There is collaboration here, too. The superbly wrought raga "Yaman Blues" features Pelt’s Mike Gangloff on tanpura, and the revisionist ragtime of "Linden Ave Stomp" is a duet with Cul de Sac’s Glenn Jones on guitar. Best track of all it the night-black 12-string menace of ‘Black Pearls’ which left this listener with constant desire to turn around and see if some hooded figure was standing in a rear corner of the room. The 12-page booklet reproduces the liner notes from both LP, allowing the opportunity to try and figure out whether the ludicrous notes for the debut LP by one ‘Kisan Nagai’ are a piss-take by label supremo Bill Kellum.

  Although one associates Glenn Jones most strongly with the heavy psych and space rock of his band Cul de Sac, he played acoustic guitar for many years before even picking up an electric guitar, and has slowly been gravitating in a more acoustic direction since collaborating with John Fahey on ‘The Epiphany of Glenn Jones’ (Thirsty Ear, 1996). On ‘This is the Wind that Blows it Out’ Jones creates a psychedelic swirl out of various primitive folk-blues forms, using higher order finger-picking and slide techniques to arresting effect. Delta blues is reinvented on the spectral title track, upon which Robert Johnson would smile down (or up) approvingly. ‘Sphinx Unto Curious Men’ is the complete ten minute version of ‘Second Victim?’, originally found in truncated form on Cul De Sac’s ‘The Strangler's Wife’ and it echoes enigmatically with full intro and outro in place. ‘Friday Nights With’ showcases Jones’ ability to place unforgettable melodic hooks in his compositions, ‘Fahey’s Car’ is a slipping and sliding sonic joy-ride along abandoned country roads (it even contains cheeky structural echoes of John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’). ‘The Doll Hospital’ forms a stunning centrepiece to the CD suspending the listener on every note to the point that one has to remember to breathe. A neat link to the Jack Rose CD reviewed above appears in the form of ‘Linden Avenue Stomp’ - an alternate take of the ragtime duet originally found on the ‘Opium Musick’ LP. Line up ‘This is the Wind that Blows it Out’ alongside works by Jack Rose, Ben Chasny, Steffen Basho-Junghans, and Harris Newman and it begins to look like a new “Guitar Soli” underground is emerging, fixing to ensure the relevance and therefore survival of folk-blues and raga forms on steel-string acoustic guitar into the indefinite future. Amen. (Tony Dale)




(CD on Alien8 Records, PO Box 666, Station R, Montreal, Quebec H2S 3LI, Canada)

Kawabata's freak-out ensemble once again turn their attention to the folk music of the Occitanian region for their most accessible recording since the last time they travelled down that particular path on ‘La Novia’ in 2000 (2001 on CD). On the sprawling terrain of the 30-minute 'La Le Lo', the bands takes a traditional Occitan melody and uses it to underpin one of the most comprehensively cosmic folk-rock compositions ever recorded. Interweaving quiet moment of melody formed from Cotton Casino's layered vocals and Kawabata's electric sitar with explosions of inchoate psychedelic rock from the ensemble as a whole, the piece is a thrill-ride that sustains the listener's attention throughout its extravagant duration by the classical improvisational technique of alternating themes with extemporisation. It always returns to some kind of anchorage. The descent from the final ten-minute guitar freak-out onto a landing pad of swirling synth and sitar is one of their finest moments. There is only one other track, 'L'Ambition dans le Miroir' - an original composition that echoes the more melodic elements of 'La Le Lo' as it forms a gauzy web of spaced-out vocals and electronics. It's the kind of near ambient piece the band excel at and haven’t done nearly enough of through their stellar history. All this and you get the usual gorgeous Alien8 packaging as well - this time with a cover that is a clever modification of the art to Steeleye Span's ‘Ten Man Mop or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again’ LP. Why? I don’t know. It must be a Japanese thing. (Tony Dale)




(CD on Silber Records)

    Ambient soundscapes were around long before Eno coined the term in connection with his Discreet Music release nearly 30 years ago, and today many artists continue to mine this fertile tradition of "speaker hum" music, from Stars of The Lid and Windy & Carl to Aarktica and The Azusa Plane. Into this esoteric yet equally accessible school of new music we welcome the five-years-in-the-making One, the marvellous debut from Small Life Form, the one-man project of Silber honcho Brian John Mitchell, who also records the other end of his guitar mania spectrum as Remora.

‘Small’ grafts a continuously looping monotonic "OM" over a beating tone that sounds like your heart hooked up to an oscillating metronome, resulting in the musical equivalent of an EKG. ‘Cymbal’ adds a metallic lustre to the proceedings - imagine hooking that EKG up to your refrigerator or air conditioner. Trumpets and trombones are the main instruments used in ‘Horns,’ which combines haunting, disembodied riffs with industrial engine hums - sort of like the next-door neighbour warming up his car on a cold winter morning.

Not only is One an enthralling listening experience as presented, but it also is a sonic project waiting to happen for those of you with the inclination and equipment. Mitchell says these pieces were created in such a way as to be looped and listened to simultaneously to create a completely new work. Unfortunately, you'll need seven CD players, each with a different track set on "repeat" to enjoy Mitchell's ultimate creation. Those with the patience and adventurous inclination to try something new will find One a deeply disturbing, challenging, yet ultimately rewarding work. (Jeff Penczak)





(CD on SillyBoy Records, via Rocca Pendice 22, 3 Abano Terme, Padova, Italy)

    Based on a series of field recordings taken during a Tuscany stage of the Giro D’Italia 2002 (apparently a cycling event), ‘The Colli di Pedona Tapes’ is probably the most strongest release to date from the Welsh duo best known for their fine series of release for Ochre, especially the excellent ‘Translucent’. It’s also one of the strangest premises for space-rock record ever (the race stage that the duo witnessed saw the cyclists surmount the Colli de Pedona three times and they drew great inspiration from that). ‘Certain Spaces’ is archetypical space rock, with driving guitars and percussion, bubbling Hawkwindesque synth punctuations, but with an air of the Tuscan sun shining down on its joyously motorik progress. It rocks surprisingly hard for this outfit. The title track is more typical Land of Nod fare, with warm ambient drones and languid guitar figures building the aural equivalent of an impressionist landscape. It’s music that realises, like the best photographers do, it’s all about waiting for the once perfect moment of light to capture a mood. ‘Vortex’ weaves some field recordings into the stew, and seems like a slightly anomalous drift to the industrial side of things before it dissolves into dappled patterns of light. It’s strange like sounds heard and part processed while nodding off (appropriately). ‘The Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ introduces some airy percussive clatter while guitars and base weave dreams over a fiefdom of drones. The lengthy ‘Il Giro’ caps it off nicely, and is a bit like a ‘Cycle Path’ version of  Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’. During it’s beatific course it includes field recordings of the Giro D’Italia 2002 to great effect and nicely rounds out a record that warms the mind like one of those multi-coloured drinks with umbrellas sticking out of them. (Tony Dale)




(CD on BlueSanct Records, PO Box 2092, Bloomington IN 47402, USA)

Originally starting out life as a CD-R limited to 52 copies in BlueSanct’s “Orphanology” series for homeless sounds (“the only Orphanology release to ever sell out” the label dolefully observes), this reissue allows ‘The Untied [sic] States of Elephant Micah’ a full release and a chance for overdue recognition as a spiritual an chronological precursor to the 2003 release ‘Elephant Micah, Your Dreams Are Feeding Back’. Elephant Micah is one man - Mid-Westerner Joe O'Connell - and for this release he plundered tapes of early demos and made cathartic recordings of songs that he says "were taking up too much space in my brain". O’Connell wields the signifiers of the mid-90s lo-fi medium in a way that reminds one that the aesthetic is far from played out. Proceedings begin with ‘Vet Sounds’ - an indistinct construct of hiss, piano and vocals like an old-time 78 heard through an apartment wall. But it’s really just a lead-in to greater things. Strong reference points in the canon of Neil Young (O’Connell sounds remarkably like a ‘Harvest’-era Young) can be found on the road hymn ‘Grace of St. Christopher’. A comfortable chair is offered via the slide-guitar instrumental ‘Rides Away Again’ and then the ‘Untied States…’ really hits its marks on the wonderful country ballad ‘Ohio Arch’. The latter piece knocks most so-called alt-country into a 10-gallon hat, and reminds this listener of individualistic downer country-folk of the sublime Handsome Family. The track is also reprised in blues form towards the end of the album. Superb ballads like this and ‘April 32nd’ are punctuated by things experimental (but never distancing) like the warm and meditative ‘%%%%%%%%%%’ (uh, yep) and chintzy Casio tone toe-tapper ‘Airconditioned Instrumental’, and the banjodelica of ‘Two TV Sets’. The reason this CD works so well is that it uses its recording limitations to envelop and engage the listener in some fine song-craft and instrumental work rather than as a veil to draw across second-rate material. In doing so it transcends those limitations. (Tony Dale)




(CD on Alien8 Records, PO Box 666, Station R, Montreal, Quebec H2S 3LI, Canada)

    Tanakh’s second full-length release ‘Dieu Deuil’ takes its name from the architecture of Daniel Libeskind, fittingly so as it shifts from the diffuse landscapes of their first release ‘Villa Claustrophobia’ to a concrete interior environment drawing on both improvisation and composed song. As is becoming more common in the new American underground, the springboard is UK folk-psychedelia circa 1969, specifically the warm transatlantic currents of Fairport Convention and Trees, as well as any number of folk-blue guitarists with one foot either side of the pond. This fusion warmth is important - extant comparisons to bands like Pentangle are not sustainable by the grooves. If you’re going to trade in these winds, you might as well set sail with something of a potential classic, which is what ‘November Tree’ assuredly is. One the most beautiful stretches of song in recent memory, ‘November Rain’ shuffles towards apotheosis in a fugue state of sighing violins and lovelorn twin male-female vocals. ‘Exegesis’ weaves magically intense psychedelia from a deceptively hazy Spanish guitar lead-in. Jesse Poe’s high keening vocal lament and the quiet fire of layered drones stretch the composition to near yield point before it vaults into the safety of clouds. A fine instrumental, imaginatively titled ‘Instrumental’, brings the Tindersticks to mind (not for the first or last time here), before the keystone song ‘Lady Eucharist’ evokes dusty devotionals in candle-lit churches and the sacred/erotic duality of the Catholic relationship with the Virgin Mary: ‘put God between us, and all I see is you’ (indeed). Like most interesting Christian folk/rock ‘Lady Eucharist’ is conflicted, visionary and utterly without any cheapening overlay of irony. ‘The Lord is in the Place…How Dreadful is this Place’ borrows the title from a Fairport Convention piece but little else for an improvisation that is extensively Middle-Eastern in framework and atmosphere. ‘Til’ San Fransisco’ takes a stroll in Tim Buckley’s old neighbourhood and finds it reclaimed by vines and beggars. ‘Images’ deconstructs the Nina Simone composition into a night bazaar of exotic sights, sounds and smells- perhaps without the requisite intensity to execute the idea successfully. ‘Lock the Door When You Leave’ builds a cosmic whole out of themes and atmospheres from throughout the album and collapses them into a point singularity in theoretical space. It’s a fitting punctuation point to end a singular work whose only real flaw is that it doesn’t come on three or four sides of virgin 180g vinyl. (Tony Dale)




(CD, no address shown but visit www.paulroland.de)

    Fans of Paul Roland must be rubbing their hands with glee this year with the release of a 2-CD compilation, a re-mastered version of 1989’s ‘Duel’, (both reviewed in Rumbles) and now this, Paul’s first new album for seven years.

  Opening track ‘Prelude/Mr Nyman’s Garden’ sets the mood with an eerie keyboard motif and haunting woodwind before the ‘Dark Carnival’ comes to visit you full of strange and macabre characters, each one seemingly lost in sombre reverie. As is usual with Paul Roland’s work, the album is populated with strange gothic tales that create a gas lit, Victorian ambience where anything could happen in the folds of the fog covered streets. A wide selection of instruments has been employed, each one chosen carefully to create a specific atmosphere and lead the listener further into the dark world within; the violin being particularly effective throughout. As with all his albums the attention to detail is exquisite, the arrangements embellishing the bittersweet stories without ever overshadowing the melodies, whilst the production ensures that not a note is missed.

In the last seven years Paul Roland has written several books on mysticism and also designed his own pack of tarot cards, influences which shine through in this collection as the lyrics spin their delicious tales of gothic madness and misfortune. So, if you enjoy the tales of H G Wells and Edgar Allen Poe, as well as some distinctly English psych, then this could be the album you keep hearing in the background as you wake from uneasy sleep. (Simon Lewis)




(CD on Vicious Sloth Collectables, www.vicioussloth.com.au)

Head music palaeontologists everywhere can now rejoice, for VSC have given the world a splendid (and licensed) reissue of this nose-bleedingly rare Australian psych-folk jewel. Some back-story first. In the mid-60s, Colin Drysden and Colin Campbell formed a duo to play the Sydney folk clubs. Shayna Karlin, Bob Lloyd and Jim Stanley came on board in 1969, the new collective adopted the name Extradition. After some well received folk festival appearances (reflected in the bonus tracks of this reissue) the line-up shifted, as Karlin, Lloyd and Campbell joined forces Richard Lockwood and Ken Firth of Sydney progsters Tully and "Hush" was recorded. By the time the record was released in 1971 the band no longer existed. This, and the fact that Psych-folk and the Australian psyche were not particularly compatible led to the LP sinking like a stone and very few copies are in circulation, with near mint ones commanding in the region of several thousand pounds. The good news is that it's a very strong record, and deserves its "lost classic" reputation. While being clearly influenced by hippie folk of outfits like Pentangle and the Incredible String Band, it has its own regional qualities. This is music that knows the value of silence, and makes good use of Asian instruments and scales to filter its British influences. ‘A Water Song’ opens the album and strongly recalls the correspondingly titled track on ISB's 'The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter', but with trips to the Zen garden to stare at the rocks scheduled throughout. It's a telling track; one that makes it clear that the band was happy to be up-front with its influences but experiment with them as well. Tracks like tracks ‘A Love Song’, ‘I Feel the Sun’ and ‘Song for Sunrise’ have a pre-dawn devotional quality to them, like miniature versions of the ragas of Ali Akbar Khan in mood. In them, Eastern and Western instruments and ideas revolve around each other like the bodies in a binary star system. The prehistoric origins of rhythm are explored in 'Original Whim'; the band creating a sparse percussive landscape using stones, sticks, pan-ethnic drums, gongs and bells to conjure the vibe of a 10,000 BC improv session. The band fast-forwards from the ancient to the classical on the stunning 'Minuet', then into ‘A Moonsong’, which sounds quite unlike anything I've heard. Starting with a with a high harmonium drone it evolves into a ghostly boat ride across moonlit waters. Its overcooked lyrical content is rendered utterly convincing by Carlin's unearthly vocal delivery. She sings "poor sailors we that sail celestial ships, are stranded here amidst the broken spars of our desire" and you just have to take the trip with her against your better judgment. Their Meher Baba tendencies are effectively dealt with on the length ‘Dear One’, but the pick of the later tracks is the prescient ‘Ice’ - its vision of a new ice age syncing perfectly with current global super-storm theories. A swag of bonus tracks recorded live with a slightly different line-up show that the band were equally effective on traditional material, and the listener is rewarded with an even better version of 'Ice'. Sonically the record is one of the best transfers from vinyl I have heard, walking the tightrope between removal of artefacts and retention of musicality with perfect balance, and the job done on the bonus tracks is nothing short of miraculous given the low grade tape source they were taken from. Detailed notes from label magnate Glenn Terry and Aussie rock-historian Ian McFarlane tell the band’s story in all the detail you could possibly want. All-in-all, a uncompromisingly excellent reissue of music that actually deserves such attention. (Tony Dale)




(CD on Orange Twin 475 Forest Rd., Athens, Georgia 30605 USA)

    One of the few extant acts from the Elephant Six collective, arguably one of the 90s most influential “scenes” that doesn’t have “post” or “rock” in its title, Elf Power’s seventh full-length is the first to feature the new line-up with former Olivia Tremor Control guitarist, Eric Harris and ex-Glands bassist Craig McQuiston. Having issued both a full-length (‘Nothing’s Going To Happen’) and EP (‘Come On’) of covers, the band make no bones about wearing their influences on their sleeves, so it should come as no surprise that their first all-out pop album would be full of singer/guitarist Andrew Rieger’s eleven candy-coated morsels that run the gamut from the spot-on Soft Boys-inspired title track, featuring guest vocalist Vic Chestnutt (the band previously covered several Robyn Hitchcock songs), to the swaying ballad, ‘The Stranger’, which elicits favourable comparisons to recent Dipsomaniacs releases, to the wonderfully hook-ladened ‘Hole In My Show’, which’ll have all you Green Pajamas’ fans grinning from ear to ear. Even the avant garde ‘The Cracks’ is a nod in the general direction of the more puzzling output of fellow Athens, GA natives, Neutral Milk Hotel and R.E.M.

  I also can’t say enough about the wonderfully infectious ‘Evil Eye’, with its wall-to-wall sound, crisp harmonies from Chip McKenzie and Rieger’s stinging solo. While pundits may argue it’s the band’s most lightweight (i.e., “pop”) album, the pogo-friendly Buzzcocks rush of ‘Don’t Let It Be’ notwithstanding, I can only suggest that the radio-friendly hooks, ear-catching melodies and enough name-that-tune, sleeve-wearing inspirations to turn Nick Lowe green with envy, ‘Walking With The Beggar Boys’ is not only Elf Power’s best album yet, it’s also one of 2004’s. Finally, after ten long years, they’ve found their niche creating perfect pop confections or, to paraphrase the estimable Mr. Lowe, “pure pop for 21st century people.” (Jeff Penczak)




(CD on Splendid Records)

    I have to say I’m still not convinced about the name – “Spooky HiFi” sounds like something off one of those bright yellow posters often seen on derelict bus-stops featuring a series of disc-jockeys with increasingly depressing names: “Sonic Bonfire with Fat Boy Steve Rawplug and DJ Halitosis” – but, the label’s enviable moniker more than makes up for that admittedly minor quibble. Splendid Records was set up in 1992 to release the second Flyte Reaction LP ‘Strawberry Lip Salvation’, it’s predecessor (‘Songs in a Circle’) having come out on Woronzow the year before – initially, it’s often forgotten, via the Terrascope as part of a two LP set entitled The Woronzow Bag: autographed LPs by the Flyte Reaction and The Ectomorph with inserts, lyrics, a poster and arguably the rarest item in the entire Woronzow catalogue (if only because it’s missed off almost every discography I’ve ever seen) a 7” 45 featuring an unreleased song by each which carries the catalogue number ‘WOO 14 and a bit’.

Anyway, I digress. Further Flyte Reaction LPs on Splendid included ‘Spectral Footwear’ in 1993, ‘Create a Smile’ in 1995 and back to Woronzow again for ‘Sensilla’ in 1999. Spooky Hi-Fi’s debut ‘Sonic DIY’ was also released on Splendid in 1999, the band being referred to as “Mick Crossley’s other project” (Mick being the singer/songwriter/guitarist in both outfits), though it’s sometimes hard to discern any difference between the two, especially with Flyte Reaction bassist Dick Field now having joined Mick in the Spooky HiFi line-up. Certainly several songs on ‘Five Lane Super Highway’ could easily be outtakes from almost any Flyte Reaction album, and if that seems like a backhanded compliment then I’m sorry: just read it as shorthand for “they’re fucking ace”. Listen with a previously trained ear to the sublime guitar-led instrumental ‘Choices #2’ or the soaring vocals on ‘Heart is the Sun’ and ‘Sing Out’ and you’ll immediately know just what I mean. To a lesser extent the driving harmonies and psychedelic polish of ‘Where The City Meets The Stars’ and ‘Master of Sleep’ likewise reflect the past as well as the present and future, which is no bad thing in my book.

The title track is well chosen: not because the title is particularly apposite (unless one happens to be flying a spacecraft I suppose) but simply because it’s marginally the strongest track on the album, with a gorgeous West-Coast vibe and guitar-work throughout that’ll curl your toes as well as your hair. ‘I Walked All The Way To Venus’ is pure Nils Lofgren; forget all the Neil Young comparisons that have followed Mick Crossley around - if Nils is your bag then Mick’s your man. Oh, and if you have a well-thumbed Snafu album somewhere you’re love ‘3 Keepers’ as well. Great stuff. (Phil)




(CD on BlueSanct)


(CD on Last Visible Dog)

    When attempting to encapsulate the essence of Providence duo Black Forest/Black Sea in one word, crossroads is the one that immediately comes to mind. Imagine a crossroad set somewhere in the wide-open flat lands of the west where each road secretly balances each other in terms of shifting landscape, mood and atmosphere. Forcefields and Constellations offers urban music for the middle of nowhere, somehow managing to be equally drawn to the pulse of the big city as to the vastest of landscapes. The opening ”Orion” does include a guest appearance from Christina Carter on guitar but I’d like to think it’s more than her series of sad and lonely guitar notes that makes this masterful track flow into dreamland with a kind of hazy grace that recalls Charalambides at their very best. Stay where you are and watch it glide effortlessly into the timelessness and fragile beauty of ”Nylon 2,” a track built around Jeffrey Alexander’s impeccable guitar work. It’s not like Alexander is the most technically capable guitarist on the planet but the way he makes this track breathe and the sort of images it presents are destined to stay with you for much longer than the track itself. “These Things” is the first track with vocals and I can’t help but to think of Stina Nordenstam when Miriam Goldberg’s thoughtful vocals are displayed against a tapestry of strings and electronic effects. If “These Things” discreetly signals some sort of straddle between the traditional song format and the formless then “Kyy Plays Perpetual Change” and “…with a Dead Man I’ve Never Met” point with steady hands in the direction of improv, samples, loops and experimentalism.

    From afar it seems like Goldberg and Alexander are just as willing to take things to the quietly extreme but they do so from different angles and backgrounds, and perhaps that’s why this is an album that I find utterly hard to categorize. Their predilection for dreamy acoustic orchestrations bathed in an ocean of processed electronics connects to the American free folk scene but there is also something about the whole presentation of this recording that makes me think of classical music and avant-garde. And just as you think you have a rough idea of how to describe their sound the sad lament of ”Tangent Universe” appears and I find myself brought back to that crossroad again. As I listen to the minimal cello tones of the closing ”Jamestown” that seem to be all twisted around its own axis through modulation and effects it’s apparent that we have reached the gate and found another path to the other side. Highly recommended.

    The same applies for Radiant Symmetry, the band’s second disc this year. It’s an album documenting some of the shows and sessions that took place during their four and a half month European tour earlier this year, so there was definitely lot of material to choose from when deciding what would go on the disc and what wouldn’t. The original idea was apparently to make a book filled with 3" CD-Rs, one for each country of the tour. They were going to send them to their hosts as a thank you gift, and although that’s a brilliant idea a regular CD is probably better as it is more likely to introduce new listeners to their music. And although this one is a further step out in the improv heavens than Forcefields and Constellations it still serves as a perfect starting point for newcomers. Many of the tracks includes various collaborations with members of esteemed outfits such as Volcano the Bear, Kemialliset Ystävät, Scatter, Lazily Spun, The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden and their additions only adds to the intriguing sounds. It seems to me that BF/BS is one of those combos that steps to another plane when collaborating with other artists. They’re fantastic listeners, which simply means accepting that the other person isn’t you, and when giving someone like Jan Anderzén or Italian Stefano Pilia a mesmerizing foundation and enough space to work with, sonic miracles are destined to occur. There is a strong sense of a “call and response” approach to the proceedings, which gives the whole thing a wonderful flow.

   It’s difficult to mention standout tracks here but if forced to a corner at gunpoint I’d probably go for the first one recorded in Tampere, Finland and the one for Radio Citta del Capo in Bologna, Italy. The first one is a wonderful keyboard/guitar/xylophone-driven Kemialliset Ystävät-esque lullaby that illustrates a world of twisted dreams full of abstraction, seemingly constructed just to soothe the most chattering mind. The second is a haunting piece of rural psychedelia where we find Goldberg’s cello wandering around, over, under and in the midst of crystalline guitar work from Alexander and Stefano Pilia. It’s a successful collaboration, not to mention a deeply felt masterwork. The same could easily be said about the rest of this flawless record that captures that lost moment of fragmented beauty. (Mats Gustafsson)




(CD on Hux Records, 44 East Beach, Lytham, Lancs FY8 5EY)

  Best pinch yourself: this is for real. At long last, 31 years to be precise, the lost, forgotten – in fact it never really existed - 5th LP from the Helps is finally here for your delectation. With sleeve notes penned by this magazine’s very own messrs. Nigel Cross and Phil McMullen, I’ve been drafted in to try to do the album justice.

So, has time been kind to one of the truly great unfortunates? Well perhaps “unfortunate” in no way covers all their back pages – best refer to the excellent history reproduced on the Terrascope website for that.

What you actually get is eight oldies (if you include the reprise of the majestic stomp that answers to the name of ‘Monkey Wrench’), ‘Light Your Way’, ‘Cowboy Song’, ‘Martha’, ‘Grace’, ‘Willow’ and ‘Duneburgers’ (the last three of which were featured on a Terrascope EP many moons ago), plus a re-recording of ‘Romance In A Tin’ from Malcolm’s ‘Lost And Found’ album; ‘Alley Cat’, a Ken Whaley track that has been doing the rounds in The Green Ray’s set; and an all-new song from Morley entitled ‘The Rock’. One of the most pleasing moments is just how well ‘The Rock’ fits into the scheme of things. It has all the classic elements of the archetypal Helps “feel”. A very tight arrangement with some great bass holding things together and some vintage Treece forays as his guitar break twists and tears.

What needs to be appreciated at the outset is the care and attention that has gone into the running order – this has not been cobbled together with a few extras slung on to avoid criticism over its running time. The newer and older material is mixed up, which smoothes the product into becoming a valid release in its own right, rather than merely being an historical release. Regardless of which material you come across it all sounds undeniably Help Yourself though. All the strengths and hallmarks of their warmth and charm are here to be enjoyed. Stylistically, the album harks back to the sprightly and purposeful arrangements of ‘Beware The Shadow’ rather than continuing the rather colder, harsher edge of ‘The Return Of Ken Whaley’. Of course it would be hard to avoid making reference to the closing track, the mighty “Duneburgers”. Of all the material on show here this probably has the closest feel to the 4th LP. Marvel at the Dave Charles vocals and the killer guitar of Richard Treece.

 Name-checks for the fellow conspirators, as this is typical Man Family outing. There’s a stupendous Deke Leonard solo on ‘Light Your Way’ - whilst identifiable as Deke, it carries a sunnier, warmer tone than his usual sharp one. Martin Ace’s ‘Cowboy Song’ sits well in the hands and larynx of Malcolm and is reminiscent of Rick Jones in Mealticket. Sean Tyla contributes ‘Martha’ and has a hand in the aforementioned “majestic stomp” of ‘Monkey Wrench’. Whilst we get two helpings of this short instrumental it really leaves you thirsting for more – have The Helps ever sounded tighter or meaner ?

 So, Go Get It! And let’s hope there’s more to come somewhere down the line – who knows, maybe even ‘Halfbreed’ (heard once on a radio session and never seen again!) might someday see the light of day. (Richard Gould)




(CD on Eclectic Discs, Unit 8 The Old Brewey Business Centre, 75 Stour Street, Canterbury Kent CT1 2NR UK)


(LP on Jackpot Records, www.jackpotrecords.com)

    Rarely has any album been released on a label with such an appropriate name as Eclectic Discs - though I must confess I always thought that the band with the most line-up changes in the history of rock, Man, being on a label named “United Artists” was rather ironic in itself. Clive John was a founder member of the Man band, and is also privileged to appear on my own two favourite Man LPs: ‘Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In?’ and ‘Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day’, playing keyboards on one and guitar on the other; although true to form he also managed to avoid being in the band when two other critical Man albums of that era (circa. 1971/72) were recorded – ‘Live at the Padgett Rooms, Penarth’ and ‘Back Into The Future’. He reappeared in ’75 though with a solo album which, inevitably I suppose, was anything but that: numerous members of the extended Man family put in an appearance, including bassist Martin Ace (on all tracks), keyboard player Phil Ryan and drummer Terry Williams, and Help Yourself’s drummer Dave Charles in addition to a handful of others from Deke Leonard’s Iceberg and beyond. Oh, and Andy Fairweather Low and John Williams, who interview a ferret. I kid you not.

It was always something of a mystery as to what possessed United Artists to indulge the crazy Welshman to such an extent that his stoned observations on Life, Oranges, Ferrets and Getting Busted should be not only recorded but actually released on an unsuspecting world. What’s even more bizarre is that thirty years after it was recorded, someone should see fit to reissue it on CD. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that – there’s actually some bloody fine musicianship on this album and a couple of great songs (‘Brand X’, ‘Out of my Tree’ and the blues-wailin’ ‘Visitin’ The Duke’ in particular) which deserve their place in the collection of any fan of mid-70s underground rock, especially anyone who digs Arthur Brown (you thought his world was crazy? Welcome to Clive John’s…) – I just cannot for the life of me fathom how releasing it could ever make sound commercial sense to the faceless suits in whose hands such decisions invariably lie.

Meanwhile somewhere in Oregon in 1975, an all-in wrestler and giant of a man known only as Beauregarde was at the height of his career. Renowned for his loud entrance music and the even louder three-wheeled motorcycle which carried him into the ring, Beauregarde was apparently one of the most intimidating and charismatic wrestlers of the period. Quite what made him decide to form a band and hire a studio in Portland to record in, and furthermore self-release a limited edition LP in the psychedelic-soul-punk stylee that befitted the era, was and is anyone’s guess: what is a matter of recorded history though is that the unknown 17 year old guitarist he recruited was none other than Greg Sage (doffs cap, touches forelock and kneels to kiss the hem of the Chief Wiper and Undisputed Guitar God Himself). Two songs even made it onto a single: ‘I’ and ‘Testify’ (pressed up and released on the Portland based Northwestern Incorporated label in 1970: I could do a “Strange Things” and reproduce a photo of it here, but I never could see the point of doing that beyond one-upmanship, which I’m really not into) – beyond that though, a couple of good solid songs and some stellar guitar-work from a young Hendrix acolyte, it’s a pretty forgettable album in all honesty.

Thank goodness for eccentrics everywhere though. The world would be a sorrier place without them, and indeed without these two albums. As the good Saint Clint says on the back of his one and only LP: May the Great Knee shine on us all. Oh yes indeed! (Phil)



(CD on Camera Obscura)

    ‘No Freeway, No Plan, No Trees, No Ghosts’ is the first album from Italy’s Ultraviolet Makes Me sick since 2001’s well received debut Soundproof (Camera Obscura), and thankfully not much has changed with these moody soundscapists. Plaintive rhythms are doled out at a languid pace with guitar, bass and drums the primary ingredients in the shuffling minimal jazz atmospheres, with some embellishments in the form of accordion, keyboards and cello. There’s even some vocals on a few of tracks (a first for UMMS), and they don’t get in the way at all, but it’s the meditative bliss of the gently winding instrumental soundtracks of the mind which really lure the listener in. Case in point: the potently expansive “Overexposed,” which goes from a squiggling mesh of deconstructed guitar noise and skittering percussion in the intro to a lovely, building melodic eruption that falls somewhere between Mogwai and Scenic at its climax. Other tracks approach a more simplified Gastr Del Sol with their peculiar lyrical stanzas and disjointed rhythmic flow. The end result is a masterfully subdued collision of gorgeous pop atmospherics and fractured jazz improv that rewards patient late afternoon listening. Fans of later Talk Talk and the names mentioned above, should take heed. (Lee Jackson)



(CD on Elektrohasch, PO Box 900301 D-81503 Munchen, Germany)

Stefan Koglek’s Colour Haze have really hit their stride with this, their 7th album. There’s an aura about it which completely sets it aside from not only the rest of the Colour Haze catalogue but pretty much everything else that’s around right now. Jazz-flecked rock with driving bass riffs and some beautifully modulated guitar-work which periodically flares up into a firestorm of bite, good taste and colourfulness like watching a controlled explosion in a fruit factory, it’s difficult to get away from the Spirit analogy but what the heck, if you’ve got it you may as well flaunt it - and on songs like ‘Love’ the band have it in spades. Over on what would’ve been Side 2 if this had been an LP (and it really, really ought to be) Colour Haze proceed to throw all that out of the window and spend 20 minutes or so playing Motorpsycho at their own game. And winning, hands down. Koglek’s no bird-free singer, plays no blinders in the axe department, but instead has crafted an archetypical route propelled by a riff that’s almost opaque, as if viewed through gauze all misty and compelling. I’m glad to possess this record and believe you won’t be disappointed either. (Phil)




(CD on Camera Obscura, address shown above)


(CD on Spinart, PO Box 1798 New York NY 10156-1798 USA)

   Former Abunai! drummer Joe Turner expands his self-released debut EP (‘Dollar Star’) to full length proportions by adding four tracks, including a marvellous opening suite that consists of the swirling, spacey instrumental ‘Waking Dream’ that segues perfectly into the naggingly familiar pop refrain of ‘When Will You Wake Up?’. Joe enlists some friends from the Boston underground, including his former Abunai! guitarist Brendan Quinn, two ex-members of Bright (guitarist Mark Dwinnell, currently soloing as Terrastock vet, Nonloc, and bassist Jay DuBois, formerly partnered with Quinn in The Squall) and Turkish Queen flautist Ajda Snyder to compliment his three one-man band efforts. There’s even a touch of Elephantitis Sextus in the guise of cellist Heather McIntosh (of The Circulatory System, which is essentially Olivia Tremor Control minus Bill Doss). Not to worry, OTC fans, as Turner grabs Mr. Doss and his current Sunshine Fix cohort Sam Mixon by the throat (literally) for backing vox duties on ‘Turn Me Upside Down,’ the wonderful sunshine pop psych fix previously heard on the indispensable ‘Further Adventures of the Telepathic Explorers’ compilation.

‘Coordinate Zero’ is an infectious slice of ‘60s bubblegum pop that’ll have Beach Boys’ and Buddah Records’ completists grinning from ear to ear. If you are a fan of anyone from early ’70s AM radio stalwarts like Steve Miller and Johnny Winter to late ’90s pop confectioners like Witch Hazel Sound and the Elephant Six collective, then don’t delay in finding a place for ‘Between Two Seconds’ in your collection. (Jeff Penczak)

The aforementioned Bill Doss’ Sunshine Fix album ‘Green Imagination’ is as crystalline-perfect a slab of psych-pop nirvana with prog sensibilities as you’re likely to find anywhere between ‘July’ and ‘Christmas’, as it were. Compulsively playable and magnificently produced, perfection is repeatedly attained with the nonchalant, gum-chewing ease of a gymnast chinning through a workout: it doesn’t so much sound like Mr McGuinn’s maestros in the post-Pepper thrall of the Beatles as feel like it: the masterful, drum-driven opener ‘Statues and Glue’, the undisputed Lennon-esque majesty of ‘What Do You Know’ and on the flipside, the McCartney-like strains of ‘Enjoy The Teeth’; ‘Papers Fall’; ‘Afterglow’… there’s songs here designed to hurl you into space and time to places where you left memories of yourself caught forever in sepia snapshots. Wonderful. I’m in awe of this guy, always have been and always will be…. (Phil)




(LP/CD on Time-Lag, 211 Marginal Way, PO Box 9715-162 Portland Maine 04101 USA)

    My wife, Heather (wave to the people Heather! waves) has the lucky knack of cake-making. I say “lucky” because it takes more than mixing all the correct ingredients together in the right time, right proportion and right place; if that were the case, I’d be able to do it myself. And whilst up to a point it’s true to say that I or indeed anyone can bake a cake, there’s no substitute for having the magic touch: the ability to measure out quantities by the handful rather than methodically, and to judge time without the ticking of a clock. Satwa have that same lucky knack. The ingredients were thrown together by chance: a native Brazilian guitarist recently returned from living in the USA at the height of psychedelic-prog-rock; a Moroccan armed with a sitar; a burgeoning underground community - and a super-heated political environment which meant any songs they wrote had to remain lyric-free for fear of the censors. The year was 1973 and Lailson and Lula recorded and self-released their middle-east meets south-west LP into a world which was hardly ready for it, stayed together long enough only to launch the album and then went their separate ways. The studio where it was recorded was flooded, the master-tapes lost and that may well have been that had not our mutual friend Nemo of Time-Lag Records not stumbled across it and set about re-mastering it from an original copy of the LP which Lailson still had. And we should be grateful: grateful to Lailson and Lula for recording this minor-masterpiece of the psychedelic oeuvre, and grateful to Nemo for having the wherewithal to release it. God bless ’em one and all: this album brought a rare smile to my face. Just like eating a home-made cake, in fact. (Phil)




(CD – Camera Obscura, PO Box 5069, Burnley, VJC 3121, Australia, www.cameraobscura.com.au)

    Like the dusty book of fairy tales that so enchanted me as a child this album has the power to transport you  to a different realm. Full of haunting tales each song displays passion and maturity throughout, the music and lyrics creating an absorbing and enchanting whole where not a moment is wasted. Take, for instance, ‘The song and dance of the bees’, the violas swarming and buzzing across the song creating the perfect backdrop for the almost erotic poetry of the lyrics. Elsewhere, ‘The pale prisoner’ has a delightfully macabre twist to its traditional tale, whilst ‘Angelica Caraway’ is a tale to melt your heart with its promise of love unfulfilled.

  All the way through the album the sweet and majestic voice of Sharron Kraus takes centre stage filling the songs with magic, as the sympathetic and accomplished musical arrangements compliment and enhance each nuance of the song.

  Overall the feel of the album is one of melancholy and sadness but the aching beauty of the melodies tempers this and the sympathetic playing of the musicians involved means you will return again and again to this most enjoyable collection. Featuring a host of instruments and a beautiful mix by Jeffrey Alexander (Black Forest/Black Sea) this is one of the finest modern folk albums you are likely to hear complete with excellent packaging and enough variety to allow you to hear something different every time it appears on your stereo.(Simon Lewis)




(CD on K Records, Box 7154 Olympia WA 98507 USA)


(CD and DVD on Kranky, PO Box 259319 Chicago IL 60625-9319 USA)

    Regular readers (and Terrastock veterans alike) will know that the Terrascope’s always laid on a red carpet and a guaranteed soft spot for Landing, the intelligent, literary American quartet who put the lullaby into space-rock. Contemplative, drifting and atmospheric, Landing was perhaps the one thing the band didn’t do: they cruised, and having cruised they cruised some more. On ‘Sphere’ however the band really take off, if you’ll pardon the painfully elongated pun: the drones are underpinned by the more traditional tools of the psychedelic rock oeuvre: rhythm, drums and even songs drift to the fore, theirs is a softly rippling sound now that’s part feeling and part headrush and further blurs the boundaries between themselves and their sister-ship Surface of Eceon, and I think it could well be my favourite Landing album to date. Which is no small feat, considering.

  Kranky’s release The Dead Texan in some ways bears a family resemblance to Landing, although the two couldn’t be further apart in terms of style and delivery. Where Landing’s roots trail across both inner and outer-space exploration, The Dead Texan’s are firmly rooted in video, classical music and European film. And yet there is a strange kind of synchronicity between the two, and a connection of sorts in that both have been featured in past Terrascopes: Landing somewhat recently of course, but The Dead Texan also in the form of Adam Wiltzie’s former band Stars of the Lid (and I believe he was too once in the band Windsor for the Derby, who received momentary notoriety courtesy of a mention or two in Rumbles). Composed, filmic, atmospheric and decidedly nocturnal, the 12 pieces sound like exactly what they once were: the beginnings of Stars of the Lid tracks; but listened to in the accompaniment of the sometimes animated, often tranquil video pieces that accompany them courtesy of Christina Vantzos (the other half of The Dead Texan) they take on a whole other aura, and it’s one which I recommend heartily for those all too important chill-out moments. (Phil)




(CD on Woronzow)

    Throughout his four decade career in British rock, Shaw’s bass has anchored the musical exploits of such legendary loonies as Arthur Brown, Hawkwind, Magic Muscle, The Deviants, Steve Peregrine Took (of T. Rex) and, currently, The Bevis Frond. Few may realize that Shaw actually began his career as a guitarist in mate Rod Goodway’s mid-60s psychedelic extravaganza, J.P. Sunshine, later agreeing to switch to bass to accommodate the arrival of Andy Rickell (aka Android Funnel). So it should come as no surprise that once again, on his half-dozenth solo release, Ade demonstrates he can bend the six strings with the best of them, although fans of his previous releases may find him taking more of a backseat to some familiar axe wielders on seven of the ten tracks this time out.

  For starters, leadoff track ‘Mirrors’ features a ripping solo from longtime friend, ex-Bevis Fronder and current Outskirts of Infinity guitarist Bari Watts, although the tune is still carried by Shaw’s omnipresent throbbing bass line. Original Frond drummer Ric Gunther rounds out the family reunion (only the Frond himself, Nick Saloman, is MIA, but we’ll get to him anon). There’s also some well-placed organ from former Abunai! Guitarist, Brendan Quinn.

  Head Alchemyst Paul Simmons weaves wonders with his solos on ‘Thirty Two,’ although Shaw does manage to burp some wackily weird and wonderful sounds from his keyboards. If lava lamps could talk, this might be what they sound like! Shaw’s weeping pedal steel opens the short pop dittie ‘Do It Again’ and his faux string orchestration adds an upper-crusty, formal air to the baroque ‘Cotham Hill’ (which regular readers of this magazine may mishear as “Colin Hill”)

  One would have to return to Nick Saloman’s earliest recordings to find the kind of sidelong psychedelic mindmeld that is the epic 18½ minute closer, ‘Saving Grace.’ Opening with tablas, sitars, chanting, distorted, backward vocals and what sounds like snippets from old JFK speeches dropped in for good measure, this oft-told tale of life on the road in a rock and roll band features the four-guitar assault of Saloman, Watts, Ade’s son, Aaron and ex-Only Ones guitarist John Perry and feels like an outtake from Woronzow’s recent gathering of the tribes compilation, ‘Acid Jam 2.’ It’s a perfect candidate for your we-are-not-worthy, guitar god mix tape and a welcome addition to the pantheon of tributes to the rock and roll lifestyle. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD on Dreamy Records, PO Box 30427 London NW6 3FF)

    Four years in the making, London-based trio (and veterans of Terrastock 3, never let it be forgotten) Arco’s aptly-titled second album speaks volumes for the benefits of restraint. Restraint both in terms of their songwriting and delivery – both of which are at once hushed, minimal and resigned - and restraint in the way that Arco haven’t followed the well-trodden trail that bands so often do and rush headlong to deliver songs in the wake of a success. And a success their debut album ‘Coming to Terms’ decidedly was, with four star reviews and the inevitable comparisons to the works of Belle & Sebastian and Elliott Smith dripping from the pens of critics and fans alike. There’s no reason either why both critics and fans shouldn’t take to ‘Restraint’ in the same way; eleven songs (again) and no surprises, the same air or sad desolation and euphoric consolation throughout, and yet a subtle hint of a new maturity and understanding – empathy perhaps – on numbers such as ‘Stream’ and ‘Meant’; for yes, even the titles are minimalist. An excellent album for drifting to and away with; neat cover photo too, one which looks computer generated (as so many album covers today sadly do) but which, remarkably, isn’t. (Phil)




(CD on Innova Recordings, 332 Minnesota Street E-145, St. Paul, MN 55101 USA)

  If you've ever wondered what "modern/primitive guitar" was or what it sounded like, look no further than the informative, self-penned liner notes of Connecticut guitarist Shawn Persinger's third solo album, mysteriously billed (for "marketing" reasons) as noted above. Deriving inspiration from artists as diverse as Eugene Chadbourne, Leo Kottke, John Fahey and Marc Ribot, Persinger explains that some of the elements of "modern/primitive guitar" include "dissonance, non traditional song structure, angular melodies, odd metres, rhythmic invention." all favourite aspects, to be sure, of the majority of the music in the collections of readers of this magazine!

As performed here exclusively on acoustic guitar, it's Fahey's and Kottke's work that may be the most obvious reference points, although tracks like the playful ‘Zero Percent,’ the infectious ‘30 Krowns 300 Zlotys’ and ‘Betray Your Country’ had me making mental comparisons to Terrastock favourite Pat Orchard, while the lightning fast, nimble-fingered ‘Talking Dumb’ will appeal to fans of the early work of the gifted Mick Wills, and ‘Sandpaper Polish’ and ‘Dot.Another Dot’ will leave the "howdy doodat" crowd picking their jaws off the floor.

  While the headspinning dizziness of the variety, intensity and intricacy of the tracks may seem daunting at first, the best advice is to pop it on and sit back and enjoy some of the most varied guitar playing you're likely to hear this year, particularly if you're a fan of Terrascopic favourites like Glenn Jones, Steffen Basho-Junghans, The Durutti Column's Vini Reilly and Roy Montgomery, as well as the aforementioned Wills, Orchard, and Fahey - comparisons Persinger eagerly welcomes, claiming, rather magnanimously, "I have no interest in flag planting." (Jeff Penczak)




(CD on Secret Eye)

    Ever since first treating my ears with the minimal psych/dream pop confections of Electroscope’s somewhat overlooked classic ‘A Journey to the Centre of…’, I’ve approached every step of those involved with great anticipation. John Cavanagh (one half of Electroscope) nowadays records as Phosphene and although I hesitate to say that the results are quite up there with the finest Electroscope material, his brand new album for Providence imprint Secret Eye is still one of the finest pieces of music I’ve heard all year. As so much of the music that seems to do the most for me these days, it’s a blend of different styles. The wheezing keyboards and the elegant electronic washes bring to mind folks like Eno and Cluster, but on top if it all we get fragile little melodies that explains exactly why Cavanagh recently published a book titled Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, a detailed look into the first Pink Floyd LP. There is something deeply Barrett-esque about the way Projection walks the tightrope between the wondrous and the cracked side of the world and the results end up sounding both familiar and eerily strange. Ominous electronic soundscapes, tranquil drones, vibrant psychedelia and eerie tone fluctuations are interspersed with a somewhat traditional song formula and lovely harmonies and as far as my sonic knowledge goes I can’t really place it in any given time or place. This could just as likely have been recorded in the US in 1967 as in Glasgow year 2003. Often repeated words like timeless and genre defying comes to mind upon describing the current activity on the surface of my eardrums. The ones that are willing to let the peripheral vision of Projection take hold will be rewarded with an unparalleled insight into the strange and alien potentialities of sound and pop music. (Mats Gustafsson)




(CD on September Gurls)

    Psychedelic stoner rock from Houston’s finest. LPQ form the missing link between Detroit and Birmingham (that's MC5 to Black Sabbath for those not up on their musical geography!) Their fifth album - originally titled ‘Louder Than Bongs,’ then mysteriously renamed after the chemical formula for Vitamin C - ‘C6H8O6’ presents studio versions of the previously released ‘Cole Porter’ and two tracks from their earlier release, ‘Ashes In The Bong of God’ (‘Airplane’ from the CD edition and the sidelong Kraftwerk cover ‘Hall of Mirrors’ from the 2xLP version), and appends half a dozen new stoner classics for the best release of their decade-long career. From the familiar two-note ‘Friday On My Mind’ opening riff of ‘Cole Porter’ which vocally and musically bears an uncanny resemblance to the fine psychedelic jams of the late, lamented Abunai! Ramon Medina's distorto vocals and wailing guitar solo drag ‘Brain’ around the room, leaving several cells scattered among the wreckage. Stuttering, stoned, studio banter and a penny arcade whistle opens the sleepy, acoustic jam, ‘Thorn,’ which starts out like Ya Ho Wa 13 until Medina's throat-shredding vocals and the duelling guitar soloing of guest axman, John Cramer (Mike Gunn, Dunlavy), awake us from our stupor. The heavy-lidded head nodder ‘Airplane’ wanders the room under the aroma of Pink Floyd, and Medina's sandpaper vocals and bassist Steve Finley's heavy riffing find the boys trading rounds of "bourbon and gasoline" with Motorhead on the aptly titled ‘Drunkest Man In Town.’ Finally, what else can we say about finally corralling ‘Hall of Mirrors’ into the studio? It's an opportunity for the band to wear their Hawkwind influences on their sleeves ("Naked" Charlie Ebersbaker's skronkin' sax is particularly tasty) and trade guitar solos in the finest Crazy Horse, Outlaws, Lynyrd Skynyrd traditions. So fire up the bongs, assume the cross-legged positions on the floor, drop your head, close your eyes and drift. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD on Kranky, PO Box 259319 Chicago IL 60625-9319 USA)

    Tom Carter’s ‘Monument’ is the second in a series of Charalambides-related reissues on Kranky – be sure to also check out Christina Carter’s ‘Living Contact’ and Charalambides’ ‘Unknown Spin’ - and since it originally came out in an ridiculously limited edition of 55 copies on Charalambides’ own Wholly Other imprint, this surely is a reissue quite a few have waited for. When picking up the original release a few years ago I remember writing that I happen to be one of those naive suckers that believe that if something is as great as Tom Carter's ‘Monument’ then someone sooner or later will have the decency to print more copies. And thanks to Kranky, that time is finally here.

    In the solo costume the male third of San Francisco-Philadelphia-Scotland trio Charalambides forges even deeper into the secret cave of austere and contemplative drones. There are two tracks here, the short almost inaudible opener works as some sort of introduction for the 47 minutes long central piece, constructed from a bunch of aural rocks floating in a vacuum of damaged string clatter. Sometimes they collide but most of the time they construct slowly shifting, gravitational sound patterns. Carter makes the modulated lap steel drones sound like vibrations in the air, like breath mist falling towards the ground but miraculously rising again and expanding into a black ominous sky. And then the sound clouds of guitar, e-bow and reverb just spirals around and around, on every new lap enveloping new heights of dark sound abstraction. This is music that will hang in the air and float in your dreams until it all dissolves into small sonic particles that won't stop haunting you until you've listened to it at least fifty times. (Mats Gustafsson)




(CD Strange Attractors, PO Box 13007, Portland, OR 97213, USA)

    Listening to the music on this album you get the feeling that here is a musician totally in tune with his chosen instrument, making exactly the music he wants to. This recording is so intimate that at times it is difficult to believe that one note can resonate so much emotion.

  Recorded in one take with no overdubs or effects of any kind Steffen rings a whole landscape of sound from a single guitar taking the instrument into rarely charted territory full of sudden twists and turns. The album itself is divided into seven books/pieces ranging in length from seven to twenty-two minutes. Each book is accompanied within the booklet by a poem written by Lance Henson, which take up the meditative qualities of the music exploring life’s mysteries from evolution to the modern day.

  Throughout, the play is exquisite in its textures, ranging from complex structures and rhythms to quiet minimalist passages that drift away like ripples across a lake leaving no trace of their being. For those looking for reference points John Fahey is an obvious example as is the work of Jack Rose. At times the music sounds like Sonic Youth unplugged particularly on the 2nd CD which sees the introduction of slide guitar an addition that takes the music further away from the usual with the music gaining an otherworldly feel whilst retaining it’s organic nature.

This album deserves to be listened to without distraction enabling the listener to discover the full and cohesive pallet that Steffen Basho-Junghans has brought to the work. Beautifully astonishing. (Simon Lewis)




(CD, Free City Media 90 North Avenue #2C San Rafael CA 94903 USA)

Free City Media’s second volume of international treats from the current crop of the world’s finest pop psych practitioners spans the globe from Australia to Norway, with stops in Germany, England and the USA along the way. It kicks off with the sunny sixties flower power pop of ‘Caught by this feeling’ by Norway’s Aquarium Poppers (aka Aqpop) with head-Dipsomaniac Oyvind Holm assisting his brother Thor and Karl Morten Dahl. AqPop’s debut album ‘Beautifully Smart’ is out now on the HHBTM label and well worth checking out if you’re a fan of the pop-psych end of the Elephant Six Collective. Next up is the asymmetrical agitpop of Anton Barbeau (‘Motor’), featuring, as he did on his solo album, the Bevis Frond as his backing band. It’s a downer of a tune that makes our hero sound like he’s locked in the basement with a needle and a spoon! Things don’t get much cheerier on Nick Bensen’s own track ‘summit’, a collaboration with Jeff Sanders (who released an EP last year under the name of Mountain Mirrors) which sounds like Frank Zappa let loose in a haunted house.

The Bevis Frond (This time Nick Saloman sans messrs Shaw and Ward) turn in a catchy pop tune ‘Under the London wall’ highlighted by a trademark guitar solo. The Bitter Little Cider Apples (a Lucky Bishops spin-off) are more punk than psych but fun nevertheless - their contribution to the previous volume was one of it’s poppier highlights. The above-mentioned elder Holm is back with the Dipsomaniacs for ‘Freedom Candy’ which oozes Love-inspired charm. The haunting baroque pop of  The God Box’s ‘Student of Astrology’ is another early highlight, and includes one of the best uses of the f-trumpet since ‘Penny Lane’. This project, featuring Fit of the German duo Fit & Limo, has released several records under the name Discolor, usually with a heavier psychedelic aroma.

    Bristol’s stoner punks The Heads combine Kiss, Blue Cheer, and Hendrix into a sonic sludge that will leave stoner rock aficionados “bleeding from orifices”, to borrow a phrase from one of their main inspirations. Then, in a complete about-face, we get Kay Bonya (aka Kable), whose repetitive mantra and wall of sound vocals turn ‘Just a Domino’ into a first rate auditory hallucination, not unlike Bongwater at their peak. I think this is her first release since 97’s ‘Tardy all the time’ (Fleece) – let’s hope it’s not her last.

    The Lucky Bishops deliver another lusciously fractured prog suite - think Yes meets The Residents in a pool of acid. Patrick Porter’s bluesy wail features some of the release’s tastiest guitar licks and intimate production values. Bill Doss and his Sunshine Fix Electric Blues Band tear a page out of Tommy James and the Shondells distorted vocal exercises on ‘I am a Tangerine’ and deliver the tongue-in-cheek frivolity of ‘What do you know?’. Former Abunai! Drummer Joe Turner goes right for the jugular with a sunshine pop psych fix of his own ‘Turn me upside down’, and finally thirty seconds into Troll’s ‘Shattered Venus’ I was ready to issue an identity theft arrest warrant to haul Lotte Sveningsen in for impersonating Kendra Smith, it’s that good!

As comps go, this has an extremely high “hit” quotient. Congratulations are in order to Nick Bensen and Free City Media for bringing us the year’s finest psychedelic compilation. (Jeff Penczak) 




(CD on Family Vineyard)

  I can’t remember how many times I’ve promised myself to never fall into the trap of speaking about nothing but my kids, if I ever would get any. There have been times when I’ve been so fed up with friends’ constant monologues about what their kids did or didn’t do that I’ve seriously considered leaving their place and never returning. And yet, here I am with my baby daughter Katja right beside me, and all I can think of is talking and writing about her. Wherever a discussion starts I somehow manage to connect it to little Katja. The Blithe Sons’ Arm of the Starfish relates to all this in the way that there seems to be nothing that calms her down like "Sun Anenome,” the second track of this lovely folk/drone mystery. This peaceful sound image is one of the more structured and delicate moments on the album, but the other tracks sure has a lot to offer as well, somehow balancing between intimate folk-psych atmospheres and more abstract sound investigations, ambient drones and manipulated field recordings.

    Arm of the Starfish is this San Francisco duo’s fifth full-length release, and it’s as much inspired by the landscape and the environment as any of their previous outings. But this one seems to be much more about dramatic shorelines, the crashing sea in its eternal struggle to create rock shapes beyond the world of imagination and craggy ocean cliffs than the meadows, windswept tress and green mansions of their previous albums. There is something highly oceanic about how the myriad of instruments (acoustic guitar, bells, dulcimer, banjo, harmonium, percussion, toy amplifiers, wood flutes, mouth-organ, violin-uke and Casio to mention a few) mingle with the sound of waves, wind and birds in the distance. Maybe that’s why the ‘Sons minimalist hymns and hypnotizing drones sound so natural despite their somewhat stumbling and dream-like nature. I can’t say for sure if this is the explanation why this pastoral album appeals to my baby daughter but just the idea that someone without any preconceptions about music and genres seems to dig this is enough for me to recommend it to just about anyone reading this mag. (Mats Gustafsson)




(CD on Goddamn I’m A Countryman, Åsgatan 31 A, 931 40 Skellefteå, Sweden)

    In the grand tradition of one-track albums, such as Tull’s ‘Thick As A Brick’ and ‘A Passion Play,’ Sleep’s ‘Jerusalem’ and Acid Mothers Temple’s ‘La Novia,’ along comes the debut solo album from Spacious Mind guitarist/vocalist Henrik Oja. With the exception of some percussive assistance from David Sandström, Oja plays all the instruments, including bass, keys, tapes, samples and digital treatments. From the shamanic opening, Oja is the tribal elder, summoning us to prayer with acoustic guitar and glockenspiel-ish keyboard effects slowly building to exquisite guitar lines familiar to those with spacious minds. After about 9 minutes, the skies burst open with heavy-metal thunder, and the second segment begins as a contemplative aerial view of the spoils of war as Huginn and Muninn (the all-seeing ravens from Swedish mythology) survey the carnage and prepare to report back to Odin. Ending with a soft stroll along the beach, Oja’s synths and sound effects direct the aerial dance of flocks of seagulls, as they kiss the water’s surface, signaling the rise of whales, dolphins and other aquatic sealife on the horizon. A short vocal segment, lyrics courtesy Spacious Mind keyboardist Jens Unosson ends part two as the door (literally) slams shut on the outer world and we begin the third segment with tinkling keyboards and meditative tablas for an extended exploration of inner space, highlighted by mandolins gently plucking at the brain tags we’ve sprinkled throughout our mind to identify and remember our most enjoyable experiences.

    ‘I Fell But Andromeda Rose To The Stars’ is both free-form and structured, and breaking it into three segments helps the listener’s fatigue factor. Moments of stoner metallica are tempered with floating, cloudlike passages of exquisite beauty. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD on SillyBoy Records, via Rocca Pendice 22, 3 Abano Terme, Padova, Italy)

  Cotton Casino’s debut solo album finds the erstwhile Acid Mothers Temple keyboardist taking off in a completely different direction to the heavy psychedelic freak-out of AMT. Her pop soul is on display here (who knew?) albeit in the most tangentially-addled form imaginable. ‘Sunflower’ is a great place to start, fixed as it seems to be at an intersection point between Japanese idol singer sugariness, anime soundtrack electronics, The Shaggs, and the 60s girl groups the Shaggs tortuously tried to emulate. From these unlikely elements it rises to exquisite perfection, slowly shifting upwards the frequencies so that the Western ear is receptive to the sounds to follow, some of which I swear only mammals with superior hearing to us will be able to hear. ‘Place’ dances orgasmically on clouds on waves of bubbling and squirting synthesiser, Casio tone, chintzy percussion and helium vocals and again subverts with the whole idol singer before it heads off like a lost weather balloon. The concept of flight then becomes a dominant theme in an exquisitely melodic set of tracks with titles like ‘Sky’ and ‘Fly High’. The former will no doubt be a retro-staple on Mars Dome jukeboxes. While darkness creeps in on later tracks nothing prevents ‘We Love Cotton’ leaving a dopey grin on one’s face. It up-ends the Japanese cultural imperative of “kawaii” (an almost religious obsession with cuteness) by being both “kawaii” and avant-garde and should appeal to anyone who clicked with the work of Pop-Off Tuesday, though it is far simpler in execution. Left to her own devices in her own sonic toyshop she has produced one of the most hermetically strange pop records ever, and one has to indeed love her for that. (Tony Dale)



Glazed Popems cover  


(Black Beauty - from Runt Distribution, P.O. Box 2947, San Francisco, CA 94126 USA)


The 'shroom’s tenth album (a double disk at affordable, single-disk prices!) opens with the smooth, relaxing mellow introduction of “L’Auberge” and proceeds apace to the more experimental “Pink Island,” featuring an avant guitar solo from Erik Pearson that slices through the brain likes shards of glass. The woodwinds (Ralph Carney), congas (Pat Thomas), various Eastern percussives (Dave Mihaly), and celeste, melodica and vibes (courtesy newcomer Matt Henry Cunitz’s vintage ‘60’s Mellotron) on “(Hats Off To) Bert Jansch” place you in the middle of Hyde Park ca. 1968, or at the early Glastonbury fests a few years later. The track is an obvious reference to the similarly titled trib to Roy Harper on ‘Led Zeppelin III’ and is perfect for freaking at the folk freaker’s ball, although only the hardcore Jansch fanatic will hear any of Bert’s melodies lingering within. It’s all about the mood, dude!

    “Isle of Wight” is a tribute to the site of Britain’s Woodstock, and features synth swashes from keyboardist Alison Faith Levy (of Terrastock vets, The Loud Family, although fans of her Sonoptic project will also recognize her soft, uninhibiting, fluid ruminations). The grooves are perfect for sitting cross-legged in a big, open field, staring at the clouds and having a heart-to-heart with a hookah-smoking caterpillar. Pearson trades his guitar for the flute and tenor sax, and guests Dan Olmsted (acoustic guitar) and Monica Pasqual (piano) pick up the slack, as most of the regulars sit this one out. But if, like me, you occasionally dig out your well-worn copy of the (1971) Glastonbury Fair ‘Revelations’ triple album and enjoy groovin’ to the sounds of Mighty Baby’s “A Blanket in My Mousli,” then this is right up your pink half of the bongpipe.

     The guitar/piano duet between Pearson and newcomer Brian Felix on “Two of Us,” er, “You and I Have Memories, Longer Than The Road That Stretches Out Ahead” (I kid you not!) is as ponderous as it is melodically beautiful (think of Penguin Café Orchestra’s more accessible efforts) and provides the requisite tug on the heartstrings that all precious memories instill. And if you’ve ever had a “Half Sicilian/Half Welsh” pizza, then this tasty tribal stomp will be (musically) repeating on you for days. Will that be for here or to go? Things fizzle somewhat with the silly homage to the Airplane’s “A Small Package of Value Will Come To You Shortly”: “Just Because Nobody Understands You, That Doesn’t Mean You’re An Artist,” but quickly recover on the pleasant woodwind rendition of “Backwaterside,” which is essentially a Katharine Starzel solo piece. This short finale wraps up one of the year’s finest releases with another nod in the general direction of Sir Bert. A genuine heroic effort and the missing link between the psychedelic experimentation of ‘After Bathing At Baxters’ and the communal hippie lovefest of ‘The 5000 Spirits, or The Layers of The Onion.’

     But wait! There’s more! A second disk, entitled “Oakland” opens with “The Beards Are Back In Town,” a jazz/funk/fusion monster that, with all due respect to Thin Lizzy, is the most effective statement of purpose that any band has offered to date and a welcome return to this reviewer’s good graces after several adequate, but ultimately disappointing releases. Halfway through this 11½ minute epic, the tide turns to a reflective, rather proggy vibe, highlighted by Pat Thomas’ syncopated backbeat, Erik Pearson’s snaking, well, snake guitar and a lilting flute wafting through the room courtesy Ralph Carney, whose tasty sax work drifts through the opening half of the track as well.

     The short, playful “Tin Foil Hat,” featuring the frolicking interplay between Cunitz’s gurgling Hammond and Brian Felix’s electric piano is as lightweight and comical as its title suggests, as is the equally short avant garde mini jam, “This Goes Squonk!,” which illustrates the band hasn’t lost its sense of humor and will certainly appeal to fans of the Chicago post-rock and alt.jazz of Tortoise, Joan of Arc and the Chicago Underground Duo/Trio/etc.

    A wonderful duet between Felix’s piano and Michael Rinta’s horns (trombone, tuba, bass trumpet) highlights the romantic “Blues for Bobby Seale,” as perfect a rainy day dreamaway as you’re likely to hear all year. In fact, as I write this review, I’m staring across my backyard through another of this summer’s torential downpours, and listening to Rinta’s weeping trombone brings a hint of sunshine into this otherwise gloomy day.

    Alison Faith Levy returns with synths and wordless vocals (or at least barely recognizeable ones) on the title track, adding a hint of ‘60’s nostalgia to the disk’s poppiest track, which would make a nice introductory single to the set. The titular puns continue on “Tonite Let’s All Make Love in Oakland” [as you’ll recall, “London” is the title of the other disk!], a warm, juicy invitation from the spider to the fly (courtesy Pearson’s honeydrippin’ flute) to come hither, honey, and check out my space-age bachelor web. One good pun deserves another, so let’s just praise Pearson as he switches to syrupy tenor sax in the finest Gato Barbieri tradition (cf. his Last Tango in Paris soundtrack), allowing Tim Plowman to pick up his double-tracked guitar for some, uh, tasty licks that are sure to offset the premature ejaculation urges on this elongated sex groove that may soon be coming…er, appearing in a porno film near you. And let’s not overlook Felix’s organ, which flows freely throughout – the glue that holds the whole enchilada together.

    Finally, we can’t overlook the walking, talking, funky jazz of Carney’s saxes and Cunitz’s swirling, Leslie’d Hammond and Baldwin harpsichord on closer “Running Wild and Looking Pretty,” which reminds me favorably of Quincy Jones’ seminal ‘60’s and ‘70’s soundtrack work, from The Hot Rock and $ through TV’s Sanford & Son and The Mod Squad. Oh, and did I mention those typically mouthwatering, drop-dead gorgeous, nude models spread across, er, adorning the cover, booklet, disks and gatefold?

    Perhaps their most cohesive release, ‘Glazed Popems’ features the tightest personnel that drummer/producer/leader and sole constant member Pat Thomas has ever worked with. The refreshing breath of cool, smooth jazz coupled with occasionally soft proggy vibes on the “Oakland” disk and the psychedelically tinged, slightly purpled haze of acid folk on the “London” disk combine to deliver one of the best releases of the year. (Jeff Penczak)



(Secret Eye, PO Box 170, Barrington, RI 02806 USA)

Beginning with the short statement of intent, "A Smoky Narghile" (i.e., hookah), it's obvious where this Providence trio's "heads" are at. The lengthy "Ice on Water" ups the tribal trance ante, with Da-vid's highly distorted guitar chasing those narghile smoke rings around E-rin's drumming as J-elph pumps his farfisa into a frenzy. Crazed shamanic chanting complements this definite headphone material for wandering the open air souks in Fez, sampling the many tables of leathers, blankets, kifpipes, sandals and assorted hippy acoutrements.
    The title track is a haunting, organ-driven, meander through the graveyards of the band's titular hometown of ancient UR; it'd also make the perfect soundtrack for one of those latenight rides through your local haunted house on Halloween. All is not gloom and doom, however. J-elph's playful organ riffs lift "Urdog, Awaken!" above its more somber surroundings into a jolly, carnival-like atmosphere. You can literally hear the roar of the crowd and almost smell the greasepaint as you wander the arcade, envisioning belly dancers, sword swallowers and fire eaters. By song's end, I half expected the band to break into some psychedelic rendition of "Can Can" and you'll have just as much fun.

    "DMZ" finds the band returning to a more aggressive amalgam of white noise guitar mayhem slicing through headpounding drumming and bloody shards of atonal farfisa skronk that brings back memories of Amon Duul I at their freakout best or an all-night gonzo jam session between Acid Mothers and Faust. Order is restored quickly on the lengthy finale, "Triumph," a, dare I say it, pretty melody wafting through the room, introducing itself to the myriad colours of your mind dancing on the walls and ceilings of your extra sensory perception. J-elph's looping organ drones and E-rin's martial beats propel a pie-eyed Piper through the gates of dawn into dizzyingly hypnotic heights. The happy-go-lucky, Fool-like chanting at the end also adds to the warm glow that has enveloped your smiling face. A "triumph," indeed! (Jeff Penczak)