= January 2022 =  
 Weirdshire Comp
Duncan Park
Peter Broderick
Hobbit House
Vinny Peculiar
Pekka Laine
Tangle Edge
Kitchen Cynics








 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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VARIOUS ARTISTS - WEIRDSHIRE AT BABAR CAFE
(CD/DL from Weirdshire at Babar | Various Artists | sproatly smith (bandcamp.com))

The Herefordshire-based Weirdshire ‘folk’ collective is a kindred spirit of ours as regards shared ethos and good taste. No wonder, then, that this collection of tracks, donated by acts that have appeared under its banner at Hereford’s Babar Cafe, succeeds in ticking a number of boxes.

For starters, many of the artists have been known to grace the occasional (and indeed odd) Terrascope performance space and whose oeuvres have been enthusiastically received at the gates of Terrascope Towers. Secondly, if like me you are looking for something to do during the Winteregnum then in the absence of liner notes a bit of research as to the provenance of those tracks with which I was unfamiliar (just over half) has proved to be a welcome distraction. Then of course there was the eleventh hour decision to give this a CD release, sparing the need for fraternal fisticuffs at the (currently virtual) Terrascope Debating Society between the Digital Wing of the party and the To-Have-And-To-Hold fundamentalists, concerning the question of ‘what constitutes a release?’

The biggest plus factor, however, is the incontestably high quality of the contributions. There is so much to celebrate here, commencing with United Bible Studies’ majestic drones and plaintive vocal and which provide such a solid, attention grabbing foundation. If there is a lovelier 1:40 than Emily Jones’ ‘Light Appearing’ then I’ve yet to hear it. In fact it’s high time we heard some new material from Emily. You see, there’s no pleasing some. Almost as gratifying is the mesmerisingly playful ‘Other People’ by Arch Garrison, which places Crosby, Stills and Nash in almost late medieval setting. A gentle, agrarian mood embodies much of the collection, typified by Burnt Paw’s thoroughly engaging ‘Lindisfarne Song’ and Alex Monk’s dreamy delight, ‘Tintagel In Spring’. Meanwhile, Haress (adopted Salopians Dave Hand and Liz Still) impress with their specially recorded midsummer meandering, ‘Dancer’s Green’, punctuated with field recordings of a local Morris team (of which Shropshire has abundance it must be said. Blame poor TV reception).

Tradition is well represented, too. ‘Death Of Queen Jane’, a Child Ballad in all likelihood chronicling the death of Jane Seymour , third wife of the serially spliced King Henry VIII, is splendidly interpreted by Burd Ellen, themselves named after one of James Child’s collected ballads (number 28, pop pickers). There’s also a sparse yet atmospheric ‘Searching For Lambs’ by local duo Alula Down (an integral part of the Weirdshire collective), taken from the delightful Summer instalment in their series of Postcards From Godley Moor.  Occasionally, though, we veer well and truly from the old straight track and down some twisting and tangled paths less trodden. Howie Reeves’ ‘Come To The Surface’ (from 2019’s Cracks, if memory serves) plunks and klunks like a marginally less astringent Richard Dawson, but most outlandish and atypical is Leonore Boulanger’s ‘Bruyant Qu’Brilliant’. Comprised of bewildering collages of avant garde weirdness that takes Broadcast, Eartheater and Deradoorian and stuffs each one to the gills with a Gallic sense of the absurd it makes Trout Mask Replica sound like James Last. Maybe this is what Kesey (should have) meant when he spoke about going beyond acid.  Wondering what this must have sounded like in a live environment sure gives rise to some delicious contemplation.

Add to the mix a deliciously spooky Bell Lungs some trademark inventiveness from Sproatly Smith and reassuringly top-drawer offerings by the likes of Nick Jonah Davis and Pamela Wyn Shannon and you can sense how this collection has such an irresistible appeal for your reviewer. Oh and if you’re on this compilation and you’ve not been named then it’s due to lack of space, and definitely no shortage of love. Weirdshire at Babar Cafe is not a live document but is definitely the next best thing. And yes it’s a release, and a blessed release to boot. So if you’d like to support a worthwhile artistic cause during these strangest of time then head to Sproatly’s bandcamp page and go get Weird. Regrets? Trust me, there won’t even be a few.

(Ian Fraser)



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DUNCAN PARK – INVOKING THE FLOOD

(CD/Digital on Ramble Records)

 

South African guitarist Duncan Park brings us this rich, mostly instrumental EP, which shows our rivers’ power of both beauty and force.  Park, performing everything, combines field recordings from his native land with his guitar playing and effects, which, like a river, can be a lazy trip downstream or an intense series of rapids.  And by the record’s title, he lets us know humanity’s capacity, whether by spiritual means or actual deeds, to bring about nature’s response, either wrathful or healing.  He fills in the soundfield with chimes, kalimbas, pedals and other electronics for a widescreen performance.

 

On brief opener “Rivers are a Place of Power,” his electric guitar plays to a drone amidst chimes in the wind, while waters rush by us.  It’s a solemn, spiritual introduction to both his guitar work and the nature themes of the record.

 

Next track, the nearly nine-minute “The Alluring Pool” is the work’s longest piece.  Park layers acoustic and electric guitars (both forward and backward), a synth wash, singing bowls, and a penny whistle, to create an oasis.  It’s a lovely ambient track, with pretty melodies.  But is the “alluring” that of a gentle, peaceful grotto, or a siren entrapping us into a false sense of security and danger that awaits?  That the pretty melodies are played to a somewhat coarse backing leaves one guessing.

 

This is followed by two tracks, “Riverbank” and “The Winding Stream,” which are even more accessible than “The Alluring Pool.”  On “Riverbank,” with a descending melody that reminds me of some of our other wonderful acoustic players such as Hayden Pedigo, Park uses harmonics and more rushing water to create a sense of peace.  However, his alternating between vibrating, fat, lower notes and the lovely upper register melody, conveys a sense that never will the river take you completely securely to paradise, though you might get close.  “The Winding Stream” plays Park’s acoustic guitar against a string machine or synth, and, as the title suggests, winds its way along without care or interruption.

 

Closer “Over the River” is the only track with vocals, and Park makes us aware that all is not quite perfect with the river.  With lines like “Over the River/I’ve been scared,” “…I could not heal” and “…were you forgiven?” there’s a palpable tension afoot.  There’s an Afro-sensibility from the interplay between the guitar and kalimba.  Rivers may be scenic, but they’re not crystal clear like a tropical ocean reef or mountain stream; Park shows us you can cast your sins into the rushing waters, but be careful not to get swept away.

 

(Mark Feingold)

 
 

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PETER BRODERICK – THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BRAMBLE

(LP/Digital on Erased Tapes Records)

 

After American-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick relocated to Ireland, he was, like many before him, moved to create art by the beauty and culture of the Emerald Isle.  He’s a bit of a world traveler, having also spent several years living and working in Denmark and Berlin between stints in his native Oregon.  This record was born from the sessions that produced his 2020 ‘Blackberry’ album.

 

The first side contains some brief songs, the highlight of which is a cover of Shel Silverstein’s “A Year Without Summer.”  In full-on Scott Walker mode, the richly orchestrated work is a perfect reflection of the times, though I suppose you could now make that “Two Years…”  Broderick’s baritone and Silverstein’s words poignantly envelop and beautifully describe everything that has been upside down these past couple of years.  There’s also a lush two-part rework of the ‘Blackberry’ album’s “What Happened to Your Heart,” courtesy of Bing & Ruth.  Broderick likes being whimsical on his releases, which comes through on Side 1 as well.  And wherest he goeth, his spirit-fruit the blackberry is never far away from his words and music.

 

But the real reason to buy this collection is the stunning, 22-minute instrumental title track.  Though the track is wordless, the title is adapted from the mid-1800s tragic ballad ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley,’ by Limerick poet Robert Dwyer Joyce.  The melancholy ambient piece is permeated by extended sparkling organ/synths, perfectly capturing the feel of that wind blowing through the vines and shrubs.  It’ll stop you in your tracks.  The twinkling effect is grounded by gentle violin, organ, synth and guitar motifs, and attendant effects.  It is both autumnal and wintry in its conjuring of imagery in your mind.  That it goes on for so long only serves to draw you in deeper and deeper, transfixed in meditation.  Like the timeless scenery that inspired it - that place isn’t going anywhere - and you won’t want to either while listening to the hypnotic piece.  Broderick isn’t really a psychedelic artist, but the track “The Wind That Shakes the Bramble” is about as psychedelic as anything I’ve heard in the past year, as far as pulling you in to an imaginative, peaceful, trippy experience.

 

With the inclusion, nay showcasing, of its formidable title track, The Wind That Shakes the Bramble pulls off the rare feat for me, of the album of supposed extras from the previous record’s sessions, that actually exceeds that album.

 

(Mark Feingold)

 


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THE HOBBIT HOUSE COLLECTIVE – DOUBLE 7”

(www.fruitsdemerrecords.com )

Fourteen years ago Fruits De Mer released their first single, a cover version of ‘Theme One’ by Schizo Fun Addict, it came about because label owners Keith and Andy had the idea of releasing classic songs on 7” but, due to licensing issues decided that modern bands covering said songs was a damn sight easier than trying to license the originals.

Going back to this original remit, we find more classic songs given a makeover by the West Country Fruits De Mer house Band The Honey Pot. Starting with Crystal Jacqueline who has the audacity to cover the classic, acoustic Led Zep song ‘The Battle Of Evermore’, originally from the Runes album and sung majestically by folk goddess Sandy Denny and whilst comparisons are inevitable, she makes a good fist of it.  I must admit to surprise in the choice of song, I believe it may well be the first cover of this genuine bona fide classic which I have heard. Along for the ride is Curved Air Violinist Darryl Way who adds some cool, extended electric violin passages as the song progresses.

This song is swiftly followed by another Led Zep song from a few years earlier this time it is ‘Ramble On’, by The Honey Pot, who feature the same vocalist and pretty much the same musicians bar Darryl.  It’s a fine version which stays pretty true to the original, which is more than can be said for the next song featured which is by Icarus Peel’s Acid Reign.  This is a sort of cover of ‘The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac, Icarus takes the theme and runs with it, burying the song in a blizzard of riffs and bizarrely adding jaw harp, as I say it is barely recognisable, purely instrumental, but very enjoyable none the less.

The final song on the EP is by The Locker Room Cowboys with ‘Wolfgang Does The Nurburgring’, a take no prisoners original instrumental by Icarus Peel. Over a solid bed of percussion and swelling organ flourishes, Icarus gets to play some fine searing, electric lead guitar passages. Mention must be made too of the great artwork adorning the sleeve. It is released in a couple of week’s time at the end of January with a few pre order copies for sale on the Fruit De Mer website.

(Andrew Young)





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VINNY PECULIAR – ARTISTS ONLY

(www.vinnypeculiar.bandcamp.com )

The prolific Alan Wilkes aka Vinny Peculiar is back with a new album. It takes as its theme famous artists like David Hockney, Rothko and Francis Bacon et al.  For this album most of the instruments are played by Alan, with a few added backing vocals by Leah Walch and drums on a few of the tracks by Joe Singh.  Vinny is a quirky, literate English singer songwriter, who writes intelligent, arch pop songs in the tradition of say Jarvis or Lawrence, but also of older singer songwriters like Ray Davies.

‘A Bigger Splash’, celebrates the life of David Hockney and name checks Neil and Joni and the Laurel Canyon scene. Alan compares his existence on Planet Earth with David’s Californian lifestyle with blue skies and swimming pools. ‘Rothko’ follows this with chugging guitars and a sly wit, in which he gets to grips with the constant stream of trendy visitors ebbing and flowing to art galleries, it’s a glammy treat with some tremendous rhyming couplets. The slower acoustic ‘Pathetic Lament’, cleanses the palate before ‘Heavy Metal’, gatecrashes the idyll.  Here Alan gets to name check the hoary 70’s, of British Leyland and Judge Dread, of smoker’s coughs and heavy metal heartbreak in Wolverhampton.

You’ve got to love a title like ‘Jack The Dripper’, a short acoustic song, which is swiftly followed by ‘Francis Bacon’, here Alan gets to take a gander around the London of The Groucho Club, of Soho, hangs with Damien Hirst and Jeffrey Bernard before Bacon’s final years in Spain. ‘Man And His Shadow’, is classic Vinny, a great centrepiece to the album, a lockdown song ostensibly about isolation; it features some nice tinkling piano, pretty backing vocals, yet deals with interrogation and electric chairs. ‘Grayson’ is pure fun, in which the pottery wheel is likened to the wheel of fortune, art versus money. I actually didn’t know too much about Grayson Perry until I watched his television series which I found to be hugely enjoyable and he came across as a great humanist with an easy way with people, displaying a high degree of empathy with the common man and a great laugh.

‘Fifteen Minutes’, deals with that old Warhol cliché of being famous for a quarter of an hour, a fine song which deals with revisionism and duplicity, reproduction is king and Andy knows best, while Nico’s harmonium drones into oblivion. The album ends with ‘Perfect Song’, it deals with doubt and insecurity, of life imitating art, of Alan trying to write the perfect song. This is a hugely enjoyable album which I highly recommend.

(Andrew Young)





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PEKKA LAINE – THE ENCHANTED GUITAR OF PEKKA LAINE

(LP/CD/Digital on Svart Records)

 

Here’s a very entertaining retro-style instrumental album by Helsinki, Finland-based guitarist Pekka Laine.  I actually bit on the 60s sound, cover art and even the old school-style title of the LP, and thought this was a reissued, decades-old original, or at least a career-spanning retrospective, but nope!  It’s contemporary, and it’s Laine’s debut LP!  (Please do not reply and try to sell me any dubious real estate or fortunes from a Nigerian prince – I’m not that much of a pushover).  Laine – better known in Finland as a journalist and maker of radio and television documentaries - combines a lot of influences:  Surf music, Spaghetti Western soundtracks, library music, The Shadows, Joe Meek, the funkiness of Dennis Coffey, and more.  The results are excellent, finger snapping fun.

 

His period accuracy is keen.  On “Lullaby” he even captures that dripping, plinking reverb sound from The Chantays’ ‘Pipeline.’  You know the one.

 

But it’s not all just nostalgic kitsch.  “Lonely Beach” and “Midnight at the Lakeside” combine studio effects to create images full of mood and atmosphere, depicting, er, a lonely beach and a nighttime scene by a lake (brilliant, I know).  Laine may have deliberately masked the title “L’enfer Des Cannibales” in French because it’s a cover of the theme song from the notorious 1980 gore-fest ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ by the great Italian film composer Riz Ortolani.  I must admit, though, it is a lovely tune.  Meanwhile, “The Silent Star” is a joyful little rocker.

 

The song that puts things all together, in my opinion, is “The First Autumn Day.”  Laine layers several guitars, including both his retro-surf sound, and a more modern distorted guitar taking turns to create a hip, funky track.  This leads into the final three tracks, “Solitaire,” “Meadow,” and “Enchanted.”  Each is a brief, quick-hitting mood piece.  Closer “Enchanted” reminds me of the instrumental version of ‘This Boy’ from the ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ film during Ringo’s lonesome reverie.

 

One could easily overlook (but we won’t) the fact that what makes the record possible and gives it so much class is Pekka Laine’s knack for writing catchy melodies across the board.  There’s not an unmemorable tune in the bunch.  He brings them to life consistently with such a likeable sound with his “enchanted guitar” you’ll fall under the spell.

 

(Mark Feingold)





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TANGLE EDGE – CISPIRIUS

( 2LP from Space Rock Productions )

    Having recently renewed my love for the music of Tangle Edge I was delighted to find this slab of vinyl lying on the doormat courtesy of Bass player Hasse Horrigmoe and I have spent the last few days getting acquainted with its wonders.

    Containing music recorded in the late nineties, this double album consists of just two tracks, the relatively short “Cancalam” and the epic three and a bit sides of “Beyond the Hills of Inhibition” parts 1-4, the whole album laden with that signature Tangle Edge vibe and a production that allows the music to sing.

      Opening with four chimes of the doomsday clock, “Cancalam” suddenly bursts into life sounding like a kosmiche Eastern funk band, the band grooving together, loose but tight, with drummer Kjell Oluf Johansson propelling the music ever onwards, whilst the bass locks in the groove and the guitar weaves magic above. Over 16 minutes the track flows with delicious intent, slowly changing, dancing and shining with inner joy both complex and totally accessible, a rare trick that means the music is something to be revisited and enjoyed many times, timeless yet undoubtedly classic prog in construction.

   Of course in the context of this album 16 minutes equates to a small starter before the main feast arrives in the shape of  “Beyond the Hills of Inhibition”, an hour long prog/space marathon that needs your full attention. Mind you Part one is only five minutes in Length, beginning quietly with some drifting white noise, rattling percussion and what sounds like thumb pianos, the music calming and delightful allowing you to close your eyes and drift away until the full band returns to lead you out of side one and into part 2.

   With another fine bass line, part 2 gets rocking immediately, the whole band working together to allow the guitar  of Ronald Nygarde to shine out magnificently (as it does throughout the whole album) making you realise what a great unsung musician he is, indeed what an underrated band Tangle Edge are. With so much time to experiment the music never stand still, slower passages arriving, under stated synths adding texture and dynamics whilst the use of a wide range of percussion adds plenty of interest and rhythmic diversity to proceedings, the band drifting off into Grateful Dead style ramblings on a regular basis, the whole side a mellow West-Coast delight

    Opening in slightly discordant fashion, and sounding a bit like early Soft Machine, Part 3 continues the sonic adventure in grand style, the music fading until only cymbals remain creating a sonic tension that makes you sit up and pay attention, the addition of a slowly creeping bassline only heightening the tension as the guitar begins to drone and wail above. Once again the music fades to leave only percussion until a distorted riff lifts everything again reminding me of Amon Dull II, the sounds strange and otherworldly, slightly unsettling psychedelia that creeps under the skin very different from the mellow vibes of part 2, the side ending with another Eastern sounding  passage although the tension remains.

   Beginning in similar fashion, side 4 has a Zappa vibe, the piece sinister, as if walking dark corridors, that is until a drum beat creates some light acting as a guide allowing the listener to mark time once again even though the strangeness is ever present. As the track continues this mood remains, the guitar once again shining above until, ever so gently, drifting white noise, rattling percussion and the sound of thumb pianos begin to light candles all around us, to softly lead us home where we began.

    I have played this album several times now and each time new wonders are revealed, another place becomes my favourite part and I feel there is still plenty more to be revealed. Beautifully pressed on delightful transparent orange vinyl and housed in a gatefold sleeve this is rapidly becoming an old favourite and I love that.

(Simon Lewis)




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KITCHEN CYNICS - SONGS FROM ROOM 9

(LP/DL from Almost Halloween Time Records (bandcamp.com) )

Released on the fiercely independent Almost Halloween Time Records, each copy of this album has a beautiful hand-painted sleeve depicting a seabird of some kind, or  so I assume all the covers I have seen follow this theme, the artwork adding a wonderfully authentic aura to the music held within.

   Opening with a delightful wave of guitar/whistle interplay, “A Rat Running” is a delicate, mid-seventies folk tune, Alan's softly delivered vocals maintaining the sweetness as the tune twinkles by, the fairy tale lyrics painting pictures in your mind.

    Awash with echo, “A Sailor”  has a darker edge as it rattles around you, the lyrics drawing you into the tale and the atmosphere it creates. Staying with that feeling, “Whose Fool Are You”  has some great washes of guitar running through it, whilst that familiar whistle sound dances over the top, a classic Cynics tune indeed.

     Possibly the finest track on the collection, “Album” has distorted vocals and guitar, the lyrics bitter and inward looking seemingly dealing with the passing of time and our inability to halt its progress. Sticking with the same theme, “A Question Answered” leads out of side one as gently as we began, the melodies floating by as sweetly as a floral garden in summertime.

    After a mellow and rather beautiful rendition of the traditional “Jennifer Gentle” the listener is treated to the brilliant whimsy of “The Hen”, a grooving bass line getting your head nodding whilst the lyrics take a dark turn far removed from the musical accompaniment, rattling percussion adding a spooky layer in the background, Another Gem to be treasured from this collection.

   Using  church organ styled sound at its heart, “holding Hands” has a regal sound and a dark sense of humour, whilst “Aches and Pains” is held together by reverb and echo, more of a dream than a tune, whilst the album is signed off with “Contentment” guitar and whistle again dancing beautifully together, that moment when the sun bursts forth from the clouds and a fine way to lead us out.

    As usual with a Kitchen Cynics release I can only recommend it whole heartedly, great music, great packaging, go and get one.

(Simon Lewis)