=  JULY 2007 =

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Written by: St Joan
Simon Lewis (Editor) Dust
Jeff Penczak Electric Crayon Set
Phil McMullen Anna Lockwood

Steve Pescott

Michael Cashmore

Tony Dale




(CD from Camera Obscura, PO Box 5069 BURNLEY VIC 3121 Australia)


     This international (England, France, Hungary) quintet’s sophomore effort continues to mine the same twin attack of lyricist Ellen Mary McGee’s literate, occasionally spoken work vocals and Krisztina Hidasi’s soaring, yet mournful violin. The shuffling, assured attack of opener ‘Singing Bowl’ recalls the soul-searching angst of Kristin Hersh and Throwing Muses, ca. ‘Pearl’/’Red Heaven.’ ‘Satellites’ was one of my favorite tracks from their amazing Terrastock VI performance last year in Providence, RI, and it’s a joy and a pleasure to hear a more relaxed and comfortable studio version, with Matthew Williams’ delicate guitar solo and Matthew Harms’ marshalling drum fills leisurely weaving around Kristina’s serpentining violin strokes. The musicians blend in perfect harmony to relate the story, which I think is possibly about a soldier “returning home from battle” with all the joy, relief, and anxiety that comes with the realisation that you have survived the worst horror that you will ever face.


     Hidasi is a virtual whirling dervish slicing through Harms’ wall of drums and Williams’ harsh guitar scrapings on the emotionally gut-wrenching ‘Fire At Sea,’ which leads to another of my favorite tracks premiered at Terrastock VI, ‘Gone,’ a whispered dirge of Cowboy Junkies proportions that is one of the album’s highlights. Amidst clashing cymbals and tenderly plucked guitar strings, McGee teases us with her sexually ambivalent reading of her opening lyric, “You come inside,” hesitating ever so slightly before completing the couplet, “Out of the rain.” At once we are eagerly tantalized by the aftermath of a sexual encounter, yet one of the participants is off in another world, “feeling so Gone.” A powerful statement of a relationship possibly flickering out and entering it’s endgame, told from a women’s point of view. We haven’t heard such naked honesty since Janis Ian scraped her soul out and poured it over our ears on her autobiographical debut 40 years ago.


     ‘Far Away’ seems to be exploring the same themes of distance and separation via the chorus: “It’s snowing [and raining] in my heart/But the sun is shining regardless,” as if to say, externally we present a front to our friends and family that we are in a happy relationship, but what they can’t see (inside my heart) is that I am turning to ice and freezing and being separated from this relationship, “Why is Far Away so far away?” Elsewhere, there’s a tad of a Neil Youngish country air to ‘Every Street Light’ that reminded me of Linda Ronstadt during her ‘Heart Like A Wheel’/’Don’t Cry Now’ peak and fans and trainspotters alike may recognise ‘December’ from the cover CD that accompanied issue 32 of the print version of Ptolemaic Terrascope in October, 2002. It’s one of their earliest recorded tracks, and still sends shivers up my spine. McGee and the band’s literary leanings are firmly represented with the spoken-word delivery, almost as if Ellen were writing/reciting a short story whilst the band provided musical accompaniment in the background. The band are no strangers to this process, having previously improvised a musical backing to a reading of T.S. Elliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ during a live performance at a New Jersey radio station in 2004 (set up by yours truly, I might add!) The tale highlights the band’s strengths, from the dripping violin, like tears rolling down the protagonist’s face to the marching drumbeat, almost Joy Division-ish in its bleak terror and pain. The title is so fitting, with December being perhaps the cruelest month as it brings us the joy of the holidays and the Christmas spirit, yet also ushers in the onset of winter and the death of nature, extrapolating into the recurring theme of broken relationships that runs through the album. Even the album’s title refers to the deceitful practice of goading ships onto the rocks for the purpose of looting their booty, and many of these tracks can be interpreted as examinations of the way human beings surreptitiously enter into relationships for the purpose of extracting all we can from our partner before leaving him or her in the lurch, like so many waves crashed on rocks.


     An encouraging and confident step forward from 2005’s mini-LP, ‘One At Twilight’ (which we reviewed here), ‘The Wrecker’s Lantern’ successfully circumnavigates the pitfalls of the “sophomore slump,” while simultaneously delivering one of the years most heartfelt, yet emotionally draining releases. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD from www.temporaryresidence.com )


This debut album from San Francisco band The Drift has been around for a few months now. Longer than that even when you consider it was actually recorded as long ago as Spring 2005. It’s received regular airtime here at Terrascope Towers while working away during the wee small hours, where their ambient space-rock, jazz-flecked post-rock and abstract soundscapes fit the bill perfectly without simultaneously awakening any neighbouring sheep. So much of a permanent fixture has it become, in fact, that I totally forgot to review it; which is particularly unfair given that the band themselves rather than their label or promotors actually took the trouble to send me a copy initially.


The quartet which makes up The Drift consist of guitarist and keyboard player Danny Grody (of our old friends Tarentel), bassist Safa Shokrai, trumpeter and electronics wiz Jeff Jacobs, and drummer Rich Douthit (of Halifax Pier), and together they build on the wide-screen cinematic bliss-outs that Tarentel explored so effectively on ‘From Bone To Satellite…’. Colour and texture are washed in like a diffused watercolour on the elegiac 'Gardening, Not Architecture', whilst at the other end of the spectrum on ‘Transatlantic’ Miles Davis' ‘In a Silent Way’ is echoed through gales, or at least gentle gusts, of jazz-flecked multi-instrumentalism, courtesy of Jeff Jacobs' trumpet and accompanying electronic sounds. The Drift also do the post-rock thing awfully well: 'Hearts Are Flowers' for instance is simply gorgeous, carrying the listener from ambient noise to elegant guitar rock with all the subtle grace and effectiveness that is to be expected from veterans of the sound, and yet with just enough wide-eyed improvisation to keep it fresh.


The Terrascope’s reviews columns exist principally to bring to the attention of our readers music which we particularly dig, and I don’t consider us to be in some kind of competition to be the first to have the definitive word - so while I apologise unreservedly to the band for having failed to have namechecked them before, I make no apology for including it now. They deserve all the accolades going, no matter how long after the release date they may come. (Phil McMullen)




(CD www.dustsongs.com and www.myspace.com/dustsongs )

Way back when, before the Terrascope was still a mere twinkle, I used to write for a magazine called Bucketfull of Brains. Some of you may remember it. It went through several editorships, each person subtly guiding it in whichever direction their own tastes veered towards. I stepped on board during the “Folk-Stomp & Psychedelic Rowdies” era curated by (my good friend and founding editor) Nigel Cross and bailed out during the “Paisley Underground & Power Pop” years favoured by Jon Storey. Since then editors such as "Hoss" Hutton and Nick West have guided it more towards alt.country and Americana.

I was reminded of all this when listening to the debut album by Dust, not to be confused with the band of the same name on Northern Star Records, or indeed the 1971 power-trio in the Grand Funk Railroad mould who counted amongst their number Marc Bell, later to become Marky Ramone. Or several other bands sharing the same name down the years. Formed in 2004, This Dust are a 5 piece band from Melbourne, Australia. The band feature Ann Marie Sullivan on lead vocals, Nicole Skeltys on keyboards,  Mark Gardiner on guitar, Gavin Vance on bass,  and drummer Dave Bower.


Their sound fits the post-Nigel Bucketfull era Paisley Underground glove very snugly indeed. It's a sound that incorporates psychedelia, rich vocal harmonies and guitar interplay in a folk rock vein that owes a debt to a wide range of 1960s West Coast pop and garage rock, from the Buffalo Springfield to Crazy Horse, from Creedence Clearwater Revival to The Mamas and The Papas. Think Pandoras (especially given the female harmonies) and early Walkabouts:  an intoxicating mixture of country twang, melancholy folk and urban scrawl, all with psychedelic overtones. It’s all warmly nostalgic and atmospheric, helped along by pristine production. Standout numbers are the opening 'The Message', with echoes of the Rain Parade in the guitar coda; 'Set Apart' which references Opal; the complex, middle-eastern tinged 'Indrawn Breath' (Game Theory spring to mind here), and the closing 'Cotton Seeds' which is pure Dust and, I suspect, a staple of their live performances. I like it - then again, I have been in a somewhat nostalgic frame of mind just lately... (Phil McMullen)




(CD from Soundhawk P.O.BOX 118 Pori, FINLAND)


     Timo Pääkkö should be crowned “the patron saint of Finnish indie pop,” having been treading the boards for a quarter of a century since he fronted The Jam-inspired, Health A1 in Harjavalta back in the Summer of 1982! Stints in other 80’s bands, including Gora and Kinsky (sic) preceded his first venture into the studio, from whence emerged his debut recording, a 1986 single for the Euros label as lead singer with Revitty Harso. A Kinsky single on Poko followed in ’87 before he formed the Penniless People of Bulgaria, who released a couple of albums and singles around the turn of the decade, also on Poko. I first came across his music via a single he recorded as leader of Jennie Tropik Dream in 1999. The Dream morphed into The Electric Crayon Set shortly thereafter, and we waxed poetically about their debut, ‘One Man’s Trash’ back in 2001.


     Five years in the making, the second album from his latest project, named after volume five in the ‘Rubbles’ series of UK garage psychedelia, is another collection of breezy power psych. The current lineup includes bassist Seppo Tyni (former guitarist in Finnish progsters, Elonkorjuu and Pekka Pohjoloa) and his younger brother, pianist Pekka; Pääkkö’s co-worker, percussionist Timo Lilja (who’s been with Pääkkö since the early days) and the latest inductee, guitarist Juha Kormano, who also performs double duty in his own Bina Band. The galloping title track starts the album off on an upbeat note, with the autobiographical lyric that fitfully describes where the band have been for the last half-decade: “Too many days in a rut with these words/I wonder if I even wish to be heard/Sometimes I think I just can’t fill the bill…” A short progy organ break from Tyni the Younger adds a nice dimension to the otherwise biting rocker. The promotional single, ‘Good Girl’ reintroduced the band to its fans last year and it tips the scales over towards the band’s pop side, with a light and fluffy concoction that’s rather reminiscent of The Lucky Bishops and XTC.


     ‘Morning of Magicians’ is a tender, acoustic ballad, with Pääkkö’s soft delivery reminding me of vintage Ian Anderson, and the track definitely benefits from its folky, Jethro Tull vibe. Pääkkö then ups the ante by inserting a reading of ‘The Poet’ by that master magician, Aleister Crowley that adds to the track’s eerie, unsettling mystique. ‘Spacedust’ continues to shuffle along in a laidback acoustic mood, with Tyni the Elder’s electric sitar adding yet another colour to the band’s broad musical palette. You may also dig the definite 80’s trebly guitar attack on ‘Initiate,’ which reflects Pääkkö’s past and reminds me of the power pop efforts of The Motors, Bram Tchaikovsky and particularly, Scottish popsters, The Headboys (particularly, their 15 minute claim to fame, 1979’s ‘The Shape of Things To Come’). Elsewhere, ‘The Black Prince’ is pure Andy Partridge, presented as a loving tribute to XTC, rather than a revisionist rehashing of their greatest hits.


     The album’s lone non-original, ‘The Otherside’ includes one of Pääkkö’s most anthemic guitar lines and is a rousing pop rocker that’ll take up residence in your head for days, while if your tastes run towards dreamy psychedelia, ‘The Angel of Mons,’ a gorgeous little guest vocal from Timo’s 20-year old daughter, Vilma will certainly appeal to Church fans. And for pure pop entertainment, it doesn’t get any better than the bouncing ear candy of ‘Key To The Sacred Pattern,’ which combines hooks that’d make Difford & Tilbrook green with envy with a punchy sonic attack similar to the work of our old friend, Mick Crossley and his Flyte Reaction. It’s a power popper’s delight, and quite simply my favourite track on the album. So plop this on and I guarantee your darkest hours will yield to the brightest sunshine. So if you like your 21st century rock with a tinge of 80’s pop sensibilities, you’re definitely encouraged to check out this wonderful confectioner’s delight! (Jeff Penczak)



ANNA LOCKWOOD - 1967 - 1982  
(CD from EM Records, 5-11-37-503 Yamasaka, Higashisumiyoshi-Ku, Osaka 546-0035, Japan www.emrecords.net )  

    Much like fellow New Zealander Len Lye (see Rumbles for June), the name of Anna Lockwood is inextricably woven into the tapestry of strictly stand-alone experimentalism. Also like Lye, she relocated to Europe; first to Cologne, where she came under the wing of computer composer Gottfried Michael Koenig, and then on to London where she worked on a series of tape pieces with sorely missed sound poet Bob Cobbing, who, if memory serves, was glimpsed on 'No. 73', a TVS kids' programme hosted by comedienne Sandi Toksvig during the eighties.

    The 'Early Works' set from EM moves things a few years down the line and concentrates on her most celebrated album, 'The Glass World of Anna Lockwood' which was initially based on a live action which debuted at 'Middle Earth', a club founded in 1967 in a cavernous warehouse basement in London's Covent Garden fruit and veg market, a stone's throw from the Royal Opera House. After a police raid, it moved to The Roundhouse at Chalk Farm (home of the Soft Machine and Third Ear Band, etc) in 1968, which is where Ms Lockwood's show ran for 76 solo performances. Two years in the making, the album version, housed in a beautiful prismatic sleeve (reproduced on the CD's inside cover) eventually saw release on Tangent Records in 1970. Its preparations ran concurrently with her membership of the unusually monikered Harvey Matusow's Jews Harp Band, whose solitary LP 'The War Between the Fats and the Thins' emerged on the Head Records imprint. It's a disc I've only ever seen once, and that was in London's 'Minus Zero' shop some years ago. However, I did strike it lucky at a Southampton record fair back in the nineties, where pristine copies of 'Glass' could be picked up for a quid, alongside labelmate Henri Chopin's 'Audiopoems' LP. Mail order lists used to call this phenomenon "warehouse finds" but sadly incidents such as this can never realistically happen again.

    The twenty-three pieces that comprise the album have self-explanatory titles, such as 'Micro Glass Shaken', 'Glass Bulb', Vibrating Pane' and 'Glass Rod Vibrating', and find Anna coaxing strange and once concealed timbres and harmonies out of hand-built constructs fashioned out of a medium that's usually taken for granted. So, if you're only familiar with archetypes such as the friendly rattle of the milkman's crate in the early morning, or the chink of champagne glasses, then a surprise or two is certainly assured.

    As to the extras which we have come to expect with EM, again there's no disappointment in that department. Alongside a booklet detailing Anna's 'Piano Transplants' in which an old upright is put into incongruous situations, for instance up to its keys in pond water or set on fire, comes an extra track in the form of the eighteen minute 'Tiger Balm' which was originally issued on 10" vinyl that came with the ninth issue of the Californian 'Source' magazine. Its emotionally charged magnifications and placement of, amongst other things, amplified cat purr, heartbeat, pacing tiger, 'Je T'aime' groans and slo-mo gamelan signify some kind of witchery was taking place on a grand scale - predating a like-minded cove such as Steve Stapleton of Nurse with Wound by a good seven or so summers! (Steve Pescott)





(CDs Durtro Jnana Records)


    Sometimes it's good to be able to give credit when credit is due, and expatriate English musician and composer Cashmore has too often been bypassed when the kudos have been given out to Current 93. His central role in the musical underpinning of C93 should be obvious to anyone who cares to listen to the band's work before 'Thunder Perfect Mind' and then hears it transformed by Cashmore through that landmark work and those that followed, especially ' Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre' and the 'Inmost Light' trilogy. He seemed the quiet engine at the core of those works, overlooked in the attention given to Tibet's apocalyptic poetry and Stapleton's sonic craftsmanship. Most egregiously, his credits were omitted from the original liner notes to the Sanctuary compilation 'Judas as Black Moth' – an accidental omission obviously, but an extraordinary one.  Prior to involvement with C93, Cashmore issued several artefacts under the banner of Nature and Organisation. These allowed his compositional skills to develop and play out on a canvas created in collaboration with post-industrial musicians drawn from the (then active) World Serpent microcosm. On the CD 'Sleep England' and the CD EP 'The Snow Abides', Cashmore is very much steering the ship; the former being written, played, recorded and mixed by him, and the latter composed and instrumented by Cashmore, but with significant guest roles given to Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) and Tibet.


    'Sleep England' is not, as one might have expected, a continuation of the baroque, neo-medieval settings Cashmore has created for Current 93 albums. Instead, the listener is presented with fragile, minimalist compositions with interior lives so melancholy they seem almost traumatised, as if by grief or other great loss. Given the title, perhaps there is an aspect of expat longing – homesickness not quite acknowledged but instead woven into stately, graven guitar progressions and exquisite melodies, as on the opener 'Twilight Empire'. Not finding reference points in the recent output of Takoma-influenced folk guitarists, I am struck by the parallels between the mood and style of 'Sleep England' and the landscapes created by Roy Montgomery on his 'Scenes from the South Island' CD a decade ago. The 13 compositions here are similarly pastoral in feel, and moonlit in execution. They are also spacious, with room enough to walk around and admire all the textural nuances of Cashmore's electric guitar work, which is graced with a simple effects chain that results in a clean, chiming, almost harp-like quality. If 'Sleep England' has any flaw, it is the invariant nature of the sonic palette and tempos used. Some variety might have made for a stronger work. Conversely, the organic, steady-state world achieved here is one that it is easy to sink into, and wake from as from a haunted yet beautiful dream.


    The liner notes that accompany 'The Snow Abides' state that the EP contains "a small selection of recordings made between 1999-2001", which begs several questions: why has this extraordinary music been held back for so long, and when can we have some more of what was recorded by this project during this time? What we do have is five thematically linked songs with vocals by Antony and lyrics by Tibet, over Cashmore's musical settings. It's around 22 minutes of some of the most perfect music I have ever heard, and one is left agonising at the brevity of it. Aside from composition, Cashmore contributes piano and percussion for this release, and the sound is filled out by oboe, and a string quintet. 'My Eyes Open' is an overture made from these elements, and is unapologetic in its classicism. Not that one should have to apologise for beauty ever, really. The title track introduces Antony's vocals to the proceedings, and I don't think I've heard his remarkable voice ever captured with such fidelity before. It's an astonishing experience, like an androgynous archangel decided to descend on the sessions and bless them with a touch of ambiguous eternity. Congratulations to engineer Steve Kent at Tin Pan Alley Studios in London for his work on this aspect of the recordings. More perfect chamber music continues to unfold with the 'How God Moved at Twilight' and 'Your Eyes Close', Antony's vocals casting a completely new light on Tibet's work as a lyricist. The thoughtful piano notes of the closing 'Snow no Longer' dissolve into ambient strings before tapering to a single sustained bass chord.  A fitting end to a finely constructed and all-to-brief work. (Tony Dale)