=  July 2010  =

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Written by:

The Magic Carpathians



Simon Lewis (Editor)

David Max

Ian Fraser

The Ascent of Everest
Nigel Cross
Daddy Longlegs
Phil McMullen  




(CD on World Flag Records WFR/028 www.magiccarpathians.com)


Magic Carpathians blend patterns of traditional music of Central and Eastern Europe with experimental avant-rock, for which they skilfully employ a bewildering range of traditional, acoustic and electronic instrumentation. Built around singers and multi-instrumentalists Anna Nacher and Marek Styczynski (ex-Atman), Magic Carpathians play music that is at once eerie, mournful, uplifting and life-affirming. “Acousmatic Psychogeography“, their latest offering, serves to elevate drone music to new heights. The opening 20 minute “Detournament” hangs beguilingly in the air like fine mist, a chilled/chilling backdrop to the call and response vocals of Nacher and Styczynski (whose repeated “Faces of Passing People” refrain frequently punctuates) before becoming more fractious nearer the end. It really is quite sublime. “Derive” is by contrast almost too discordant and “fingers down chalk board”, but thankfully “Sound Lines” returns us once more to a more tuneful and at times blissful state of affairs. “Drifting” commences with spectral woodwind and supernaturally plaintive vocals not dissimilar to Lisa Gerrard out of Dead Can Dance. The mood gradually builds with the use of long single notes and effect loops – you can imagine this echoing through the mountains (you can certainly feel it creeping up your spine). “Ley Lines”, which closes proceedings is more of the same albeit with meandering and at times frenzied acoustic guitar workout to add to the textures of bass, lupine woodwind, effects and gentle vocal ululations (Carpathian Mountain space-whispers, anyone?). This is majestic and powerful - and carries the Terrascopic seal of approval. ( Ian Fraser )


(CD on Important Records IMPREC286 www.importantrecords.com )


Liverpudlian psych/krautrockers Mugstar’s new album “…Sun, Broken” takes no prisoners. Although it starts with a queasy MBV-style pitchshifter sound (a lazy, can’t be arsed siren wail) a building tide of synthesizer and urgent riffage soon gets things under way in no uncertain style. I’m not too sure about the Hammond organ sound on “Technical Knowledge as a Weapon”, it’s all a bit too Jon Lord meets Keith Emerson for my tastes and suggests we could be heading down a dark and dangerous prog rock alley at anytime. Mercifully this never happens. What we do get however is an amazing sonic bombardment akin to exploding stars and Space Ritual era Hawkwind. “Ouroboros” is a classic case in point, a meteoric maelstrom of madness, all driving bass and hyperactive drumming. “Labrador Hatchet” slows the tempo but in some respects only serves to heighten the menace. Its claustrophobic and expectant grooves sound like so many cosmic crickets making out on an uncomfortably hot summer night on Mars, before “Today is the Wrong Shape” unceremoniously snatches you up an hurls you into the next galaxy. It’s another corking example of unrelenting space rock mantra music and features the only thing resembling vocals on the album. “She Ran Away with My Medicine” (like so many largely instrumental acts Mugstar seem to have song titles off to a fine art) has a cloying, in the womb feel to it, punctuated by an insistent heartbeat. “Furklausundbo” is the curtain dropper and is the most overtly “krautrock” of the six tracks here, melding a tripped-out organ sound with lively and catchy rhythm to produce some very decent motoring music, one to play with the window down tapping the roof with your free hand as you go (readers learning to drive really should have looked away prior to the start of that last sentence). And it all ends, some 13 minutes afterwards with that same slightly unsettling pitchshifter sound that kicked things off 37 or so minutes earlier. Stunning. Another band that proudly carries the Terrascopic seal of approval! (Ian Fraser)






(CD on Mind Expansion Records ME-2038 www.mindexpansionrecords.com )


You never know quite what you’re going to get from solo projects emanating from the Psychic TV/PTV3 collective. Most often it’s bizarre or a bit scary, or sometimes difficult to fathom. Not so this time. Now based in Basel in Switzerland, New Yorker and ex-Tadpole (and surviving veteran of Terrastock 1) David Max, who  has a new band called the Sons of the Void, has produced a psychedelic nugget that shows a considerable lightness of touch that places it well and truly in the sunshine. Drawing on a range influences, “Simple Psychedelic Pleasures” references UK psychedelia as much as it’s more garage or hippified US counterpart. “Everyone Is An Alien”, which kicks things off, is a pretty much the acme of catchy, melodic sunshine psych, and this is followed by the equally impressive “Was Will Be”, which Anton Newcombe could do well to note, as Max has trumped his Jonestown Joker. The dreamy “Here to Be Here” borrows from the introduction to Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air” but is very much its own delightfully amporphous entity thereafter. And then cometh the first of three covers – Syd Barrett’s “Dark Globe” - underlining Max’s musical Anglophilia. It’s a laconic, narcotic take and is a fair enough stab. However you feel it is simply a vehicle for getting our man in Barrett-mode for the song Syd should have written and arguably the album highlight, “Three Moons in the Sky”, which is utterly, utterly beautiful. You sense Max might even go one better with “The Cosmic Dance”, which features a spot-on guitar hook and intelligent arrangement but somehow falls just short of achieving maximum potential (I’m getting picky now though). More catchy psychedelic guitar and harmonies ensures that the “The Deep End” maintains the insanely high quality of what’s on offer before the second of three covers, a loping version of Nick Cave’s “The Ship Song”. It’s not as good as the Max originals here and as such adds nothing to the album, but in no way is it a Christmas turkey either. Hereon in, “The Deep End” possesses a harder and more urgent edge, bordering on the hoedown in places, thanks maybe to Max’s sometimes employer Genesis P Orridge’s violin. The delicate “The History Man” ushers in the last cover, a surprisingly deft take on Peter Tosh’s reggae classic “’Till Your Well Runs Dry”. Penultimate track “They Will Land” is, quite simply, a modern-day psychedelic classic that any number of original 60s artists would have readily traded their supply of Owsley’s finest to have written, before the plodding “Daughter Cry” brings matters to a slightly anti-climactic ending. No matter, this is this month’s contender for “best thing I’ve heard all year”. “Simple Psychedelic Pleasures”, the title speaks for itself.  (Ian Fraser)





(LP from Futurerecordings )


The Ascent of Everest are an elegaic, atmospheric symphonic post-rock band from Nashville, Tennessee USA led by (and produced and engineered by) Devin Lamp, and have been together since 2005 during which time they have released three records. This latter fact depresses me rather, as on the strength of 'From This Vantage' they are now officially my Flavour of the Month and as such will no doubt be damaging my wallet in the weeks to come as I endeavour to track down their entire discography. Aside from the second song in, the epic, shimmeringand truly fabulous 'Dark Dark my Light' which is undoubtedly the stand-out of the whole album and in all probability the closing song of their live set (and if it isn't, I shall want to know why) the second side's marginally the strongest overall - I'm afraid I'm unsure of the song titles since the LP cover is rather confusingly numbered as if the songs were on a CD (probably as a result of a lack of foresight in the art department, which is a shame as otherwise the screen-printed artwork is fabulous), and being coloured vinyl it's not easy to see where songs starts and finish; besides which The Ascent of Everest are specialists when it comes to the cinematic segue. However, exhaustive investigation - well, OK then a careful listen to the hushed vocals, which unusually for a post-rock band are a feature of the The Ascent of Everest's work throughout, suggests Track One side 2 is entitled 'Sword and Shield', and as such the gentle swirls of guitar/bass/drums picked out with cello and violin rise to a lush cacophony of sound in a particularly Mono-esque way on here. Elsewhere as often noted the band come across as a kind of psychedelic Dirty Three, or more aptly perhaps given the number of people involved (certainly more than three; in fact eight at the last count, though I'd imagine that would have to be trimmed slightly for the band's more extensive tours) Do Make Say Think on amphetamines. This isn't so much post-rock as pre-prog, taking the by now well worn themes of post-rock excess and nudging them forward towards a new summit of classicism but without the cliche'd excesses of, say, a War of the Worlds. I love it. (Phil McMullen)






(CD from www.daddylonglegs.us email: info@daddylonglegs.us)


Oh, kiss the fucking stars! Finally, finally this wonderful slice of rural rock has been reissued on CD, and not before time.


Daddy Longlegs were four Americans, who because of the Vietnam War and the brutal draft, ended up in England in the dying months of the 1960s. The group comprising Steve Hayton, Moe Armstrong, Clif Carrison and Kurt Palomaki was fermented in the madness of Haight Ashbury, forged in the wilds of New Mexico and given life in the green fields of Castle Carey, Somerset.


After a major fanfare in the British version of Rolling Stone magazine, they signed to Warner Bros and released their eponymous debut LP in the early summer of 1970 - a joyous brew of blues, country, and folk rock all filtered through the psychedelic funnel of the times. The LP arrived just as the British big sky bands were reaching their peak - a bunch of like minded groups, not so much related by blood but by their love of getting it together in the country, LSD and pot, and living the counter culture ideal. Influenced by the sounds of the Band, the Byrds, the Burritos, Cat Mother & the All Night News Boys and the Buffalo Springfield, they played a kind of hybrid back woods music that was the perfect backdrop for the all the longhair outdoor gatherings that were happening across these fair isles in 70/71. We're talking about groups like Bronco, the early Brinslies, Cochise, Greasy Bear, Help Yourself, Gypsy, later Mighty Baby,  Matthews Southern Comfort, Quiver, Terry Reid, and latterly Byzantium, Global Village Truckin’ Co and Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers. This little scene was authenticated and spearheaded by a handful of expatriate American combos - Gospel Oak, Formerly Fat Harry and most of all by Daddy Longlegs. By 72/73 it had all but evaporated and booze and public houses had replaced the bucolic retreats and home grown weed as many of the bands effortlessly switched track to become the backbone of the pub rock movement. But whilst the British acid country scene lasted, it gave those of us who strayed on to its path, a lot of pleasure.


It never quite delivered a work of the calibre of Music from Big Pink, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, or The Gilded Palace of Sin but all these bands knew how to hit the groove and how to provide a breath of sweet fresh air to the big downer outfits like Zepellin, Sabbath, Purple et al. that dominated proceedings back then. Musicianship was of a high order but most importantly they understood feel, and a good joint before the set was paramount! Alongside River, Despite It All and Silver Pistol, Daddy Longlegs was the closest we came to getting a stone(d) British country classic record.


There isn't a dud in the pack - the album starts off with a call to arms of sorts, the celebratory country honk of 'Tell the Captain' (a longstanding favourite of Terrascope contributor Colin Hill) sung and co-written by the amazing Moe Armstrong who, by the time he joined the band had lived more lives than most of us get to live in just the one. Someone should publish his autobiography. This is the kind of tune that just makes you want to break out into a huge grin! 'New Mexico Song', a love song of sorts is a light-hearted rustic romp, reminiscent of some of the tracks on the still unissued Greasy Bear album. 'Lady in Waiting' is the closest you get to a pure rock song with one of those punchy riffs that stays in your head for days after (or as in my case 40 years after!). My mate Pete Nelson, who bought the album the week it came out and I were fading out of school at this time and this number was a favourite we'd play every lunch time - i can't tell you how much it cheered our teenage lives! 'Bad Blood Mama' is a dirty blues rocker with some mean lead guitar from Steve Hayton - as this readily attests, Daddy Longlegs were a real tight band musically too. Next up is the band's theme song about the pleasures of rolling up another doobie - close in style to Country Joe & The Fish or the Holy Modal Rounders, this would have undoubtedly been a top 10 hit on the radio had it not been banned, it was certainly a hit (no pun intended) with live audiences. Side 1 of the original LP finished with another Hayton-Armstrong composition, the almost acoustic and achingly beautiful 'Waiting for the Snow to Fall'.

One of the biggest joys of getting this reissue was rediscovering the halucinatory 'Farewell' - a spacey folk rock masterpiece with modal electric 12-string tunings that could have fallen straight off 'Younger than Yesterday' or 'Notorious Byrd Brothers' - great harmony vocals here too. 'Motorcycle' is another Longlegs classic, another crunchy rocker with superlative drumming and that catchy ' Motorcycle and a cowboy hat' refrain - good stuff - that sets us up for one of my fave cuts, the evocative 'Behind the Waterfall', a Working Man's Dead-style chugger that always puts me in mind of the sequence in the Easy Rider film where Billy and Captain America stop off at the commune! Hayton’s lead work is again pure genius. Hallelujah indeed! 'Bein' Here Blue' continues the feel - again conjuring up the spirit of McGuinn and co from the Dr Byrds-Ballad ofEasy Rider era - ah the halcyon daze of yore! It's over all too soon and we're played out on 'Whiskey Moan', another fully-revved blues featuring Delivery's Steve Miller on delightful honky tonk piano and some nimble clarinet playing from Palomaki.


The good news is that this CD version offers up a further two cuts, both sides of the group's first single - an alternate version of 'High Again' - and better still the thinly-veiled, highly sexual 'To the Rescue (Wet Putso)', one of their best efforts that really kicks into gear on Steve Hayton's blistering solo which would give Quicksilver's Gary Duncan a good run for his money.


The original LP presumably didn't sell and by year end Hayton had jumped ship for Daylight, Amalgam, Bridget St John and a solo career - he sadly passed away in 2006. The band recruited guitarist Gary Norton Holderman and keyboardist Peter Arneson and signing with Vertigo put out Oakdown Farm, a sophomore set that certainly had its moments but never quite lived up to its illustrious predecessor - the band would carry on in with different line-ups for several more years (saw a great show at Amethyst Club, Preston in autumn 72), recording two albums for Polydor. Bassist Kurt Palomaki eventually quit too, and towards the end, drummer Clif Carrison even recruited various members of West Country acid rockers Stroll On and Over the Hill to fulfil live commitments including a legendary show at Bristol's Granary club.


Clif returned to New Mexico where he still lives today, Kurt Palomaki is still making music in North Carolina, Moe Armstrong has been working with US army vets, and is still writing poetry and prose - Oakdown Farm is currently still in print on CD but this overlooked debut really does stand the test of time so come on all you earth signs, why not do what the man says and take the back road to the canyon, walk around the pine tree tall - there's a bunch of nice folks there who have some fabulous music they'd like to play for you.


Nigel ‘Booger’ Cross with a tip of the cowboy hat to Chill Hill