=  JUNE 2006 =

Quick Links
Written by: Kyrgyz
  Hush Arbors
Simon Lewis (Editor) With Throats as Fine as Needles
Steve Pescott Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood
Tony Dale

Niagara Falls

Jeff Penczak


 Mats Gustafsson

Spacious Mind - Rothko

Mick Wooding

Spacious Mind - Tonen

Phil McMullen

  Acid Mother Gong
  Volcano the Bear
  Current 93
  Jigsaw Seen
  Earthling Society
  Kitchen Cynics
  Billy Thorpe
  Big Eyes Family Players
  Bardo Pond
  Talking Trees
  RÅd Kjetil
  Josephine Foster
  James William Hindle
  Wyrd Visions
  Father Beard






(CDs on Digitalis Records)


    Launching the latest batch of arcana from the Brad Rose's Digitalis imprint is the debut release by the unpronounceable Kyrzyg (presumably after Kyrzygstan). They are a bay area improvisational quartet comprising Tom Carter (Charalambides), Loren Chasse (The Blithe Sons, Thuja), Christine Boepple (Skygreen Leopards), and Robert Horton (Broken Mask, Infinite Article). One wonders whether to expect some plinking away in a forest on acoustic instruments guided by the Jeweled Antler side of the family tree, some higher key drone-psych-skronk incursions guided by Carter and Horton's leanings, or something altogether outside these axes. In fast, much like the recent Spiral Joy Band release on VHF, the six tracks on the Kyrgyz CD make extensive use of Eastern percussion, tape loops, and the creation of drones by various bowed instruments to create a temple architecture for journeying into cobwebbed regions of the unconscious, as well as mapping out a psychic travelogue through mystical Central Asian regions.  The sprawling opener, ' Kyrgyz (Crown of the Yurt, Window to Heaven)' hold true to a Central Asian theme as one imagines this sound swirling around one of the region's typical circular dwelling places (Yurt, natch) and exiting like opium smoke through the aged and much-stained shangrak - apex of the dwelling, source of light and documenter of generations. A quiet percussive introduction is gradually overtaken by an accretion of drones and layered group-clatter before evaporating into a decampment of unsettling sawing, bowing and plucking on a village full of obscure instruments. Other tracks create variations on this basic idea, and occasionally it veers off into some coruscating free jazz. If you ever wondered what would happen if Charalamabides shared a stage with members of the Jeweled Antler collective and this release is for you, though it is clear that Horton's noisier free-jazz leanings had the deciding vote, and consequently be prepared for things to erupt here and there in unpredictable fashion.


    I always thought that the debut Hush Arbors CD-R was too good to languish in out-of-print obscurity for ever, and that some gravitational imperative would see it emerge and find a wider audience, so it is great to see that this has in fact happened, and no finer folks to do it than Digitalis, since Brad has long supported Keith Wood's elemental forest folk project, both on Foxglove and Digitalis. Remastered and with sleeve notes by Ben Chasny, this release finally allows placement of Keith Wood near the heart of the now crowded drone/psych/folk metaverse. 'Magic Wood' leans its branches towards the light like the very best work by Six Organs of Admittance and Stone Breath – a chlorophyll mantra now sounding huge in remixed form. 'The Same Tree Forever' ripples with cosmic drones like the reverberations of a glass ball dropped into a methane pool on a moon with almost zero gravity. It captures eternity in less than seven minutes. 'Wait for a While' and 'The Werewolf Om' return things to loner folk-psych song-form, Wood's high, unusual vocals shifting the tracks away from singer-songwriter territory with their otherness. Occasionally halting, and occasionally breaking down in tempo, these tracks still exert a compelling pull on the listener. 'Red Horse' is fragile and insanely beautiful, an experience beyond words, like the way Terence Malick films water and woodland in 'The New World'. The elongated 'Smoke Burn – Eyes So Sore', combines clean ascending and descending finger-picked guitar scales with hypnagogic vocal swirls and bells for a suitably ritualistic conclusion, and it's not difficult to understand why Wood now supports and plays as part of the Six Organs of Admittance touring ensemble.


    With Throats as Fine as Needles is a project in the best traditions of the New Zealand underground with personnel to match. Birchville Cat Motel's Campell Kneale and Pseudoarcana's driving force, Antony Milton team up with James Kirk (Sandoz Lab Technicians, Gate) and Richard Francis (Eso Steel) to record the kind of chapel of tones that reawakens one's interest in the sacred drone in its purest form. Everything on their debut CD was recorded outdoors with battery-powered instruments, so there are parallels to Jeweled Antler projects like the Blithe Sons, but this work is more primordial, evoking the dense dripping claustrophobia of a prehistoric rain-forest in some inaccessible and little-visited corner of New Zealand. The tracks are not named, the band presumably wishing their music to instill none of the preconception implied by words.  Although recorded outside, the tracks evoke enclosed spaces like lost caves and underground caverns and the air and water that runs through them. Occasionally one gets the impression that the quartet have taped the keys down and nodded off, but closer listening reveals small quanta of sound - perhaps extraneous, perhaps intended - hovering around the central drone core.  The listener is constantly challenged to identify sounds – is that a beer bottle falling over? – did someone just trip over the whole recording rig? - and so forth, but in the end, it becomes a work about the creation of meditation spaces, and their precise contour mapping. If you still have an appetite for this kind of unleavened drone-and-clatter exercise, With Throats as Fine as Needles will make a fine addition to your collection.


    The Australian brother/sister duo of Kristina and Michael Donnelly have issued many CD-Rs under the flag of Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood, and this may be the last recordings made by the duo in its present form, though such is the momentum of the outfit, even if that were to be true there are probably a dozen more releases in the pipeline at various labels. Like the Hush Arbors, it's good to see them make it onto an actual production CD. A triptych of pieces housed (for the first pressing) in a beautiful silk-screened cover by the New Zealand art house United Fairy Moons, 'Goodbye' presents some of their finest work. 'Traware' exemplifies everything great about BotOS – blazing psychedelic guitar soaring over driving tribal percussion and bubbling electronics in a paradoxical brew that is both primitive and progressive. It's like the ghost of krautrock greats Ash Ra Tempel, Guru Guru and Amon Duul, rising in the Australian rainforest to groove with latter day exponents of the form like Cul de Sac and Primordial Undermind. 'In the Corner of Her Magik Vision' things get freer and more organic. Bits and pieces of deconstructed Incredible String Band, COB, Nurse With Wound and Current 93 swirl around restless and unborn until they take root and shoot up lysergic plant species that still stubbornly refuse to take orders but rather carry out a complex interlocking dreaming of soil, and rain and sky. Moments of great beauty abound – at one point some totally gone violin from Kristina (presumably) dances around hypnotic gamelan bell sounds and stuttering drums and it all slowly fades away to the barest of structures before it all starts to rewind for a shamanic head-melting conclusion before a lonely bass figure marches it off into the mist. 'Gravities Rainbow' (sic) is like a shortwave transmission where shamanic drumming, gamelan, electronic samples and improvised psychedelia have all been combined into the one carrier wave to be downloaded straight into human cortexes to bring on the next stage of evolution, or maybe to devolve humanity back to a more innocent state.

 (Tony Dale)




(CD on Honeymoon Records www.honeymoonmusic.com )


Full of texture and an ethereal presence that gives the music an otherworldly ambience, this album is a treasure trove of sound that is relaxing, surreal and full of life resulting in a truly satisfying release that will be returned to again and again.


    Opening track “Oviposit” has rattling percussion and a lazy whistle that weaves in and out creating a magical and earthy sound that reminds me of “Earth” the debut album by vangelis (and still his finest moment), whilst “Man Mythman” is filled with chattering strings each one striving to be heard above the rest sounding like an orchestra imitating the dawn chorus. Track three “Plantstand” begins with a strange nagging sequence, which is quickly overshadowed by an ominous drone and some eloquent and melancholy notes that slowly pulse and merge, the sound of a walk in the rain with no particular destination in mind.


    Throughout this album there are elements of drone, kraut rock, improvisation, free noise and the wyrd folk movement but none of these really apply to the excellent music being produced. The songs are not easily categorised and do not sound like anyone else, something that is to be applauded and which gives the album a strong and unique identity. This is demonstrated on the closing track “Dinosaurus” where structure and melody are distant memories, the musicians choosing space and sonic texture as their primary influence, creating a challenging yet almost delicate piece that is a joy to listen to, although your average Bon Jovi fan may disagree with me on that particular point. (Simon Lewis) 






Managing to squeeze ten songs into 30 minutes, this is an enchanting and intriguing release that is full of delicate songs that have the feel of fairy tales, the gentle melodies and sounds hiding a bitter darkness in the lyrics although this atmosphere is softened with humour and the possibility of happy endings.


   Opening track “Wooky” is a twisted ghost story full of treated vocals and an insistent guitar riff sounding like a hyperactive Kevin Ayers, whilst “Zone” is filled with a wistful ache that gives the song a sadness which is difficult to shake off. The sound of bubbles runs throughout “Duplex” giving the song a relaxed feel and complimenting the wonderful child-like surrealism of the lyrics, before strings and vocals give the whole thing a almost disneyesque feel, although old Walt would not approve.


    A sinister atmosphere pervades “Dell” the guitar moving from a jazzy riff through to discordant noise and chaos giving the song a sense of dynamics that really works. In fact, it is the details in this record that make it so successful, the sound in the background, the spoken sample, the hiss and crackle all add to the atmosphere especially on “06” which is a very unsettling tale that will make the listener look over their shoulder more than once.


    At almost six minutes “Glare” is the longest track on the album and has a more structured feel to it, the sounds of the sea filling the spaces behind as the guitar and voice spin their tale of a relationship on the beach. Finally “Urge (Reprise)” closes the album in a calming and relaxed fashion, being an instrumental version of a song that appeared earlier, the guitar and recorders gently fading to leave just memories of the strange and magical world we have just visited. The first time I played this I had to play it again as soon as it had finished, so strongly did I connect with it, I hope it weaves the same magic on you. (Simon Lewis)




(Goddamn I’m A Countryman)


     The fifth in their continuing series of limited edition (200 copies), self-released CD-Rs mostly dedicated to documenting live and previously unreleased material (as in the ‘Tonen’ release reviewed above), this three-track/64-minute(!) gig was recorded at New York City’s titular club (on September 5, 2005 – for you Yanks who abbreviate your dates backwards!) Following a seemingly inebriated intro from what sounds like one of Monty Python’s Mr. Gumby characters,  Henrik Oja rolls out a meandering bassline that forms the backbone to ‘The Cinnamon Tree.’ Niklas Viklund wah-wahs his way onto the stage whilst keyboardist Jens Unosson wanders aimlessly through the melody, speculating on which direction the band may be headed. Drummer David Johansson joins the fray with some scattered tom-tom and cymbol crashes, just to let th eaudience know he’s back there, and second guitarist Thomas Brännström plucks out random notes like teardrops rippling across a calm lake in the middle of the woods.


     Eventually, our dueling guitarists find the lost chord and the song’s main melody settles into a repetitive groove for Oja and Unosson to serpentine. About 20 minutes later, as the band fades silently into the background, Viklund is still hard at work ringing every last ounce of emotion out of the track’s riff and seamlessly segue’s into a new track, ‘E6’ (named after driving in the dark summernight on "Europaväg 6", European road #6) An exercise in spatial disorientation through deep string bending and effects-box manipulation, ‘E6’ is akin to what The Dead refer to as the “Space” portion of their exgtended jams: it doesn’t really go anywhere, but we all have a fine time getting there! In fact, I’ve just noticed that eight minutes have passed and Viklund is still playing with his effects pedals, while the rest of the band (and the audience) are left with little more to do than stand around in a stoney stupor. But Johansson is having none of this, so he starts pounding out a tribal backbeat. Oja catches on quickly and tosses out a mighty fine, rolling repetitive bassline that guitarists Viklund and Brännström dance around while Unosson splits the difference and focuses his keyboards on the white light in the distance. My ears are ringing…my toes are tapping…my head’s a-noddin’, I’m poised and ready for liftoff.


     Viklund eventually emerges from his cocoon and whips out his trusty slidebar and, Houston, we have liftoff…or, as Woody Allen so astutely suggested, “We have achieved heaviosity!” By the fifteen-minute mark, Brännström begins his little contrapuntal guitar solo around Viklund’s sliding sustain, and the astute Terrastock 6 listener may recognize this treasure as one of the cornerstones of their recent performance in Providence. After 20 minutes, Viklund is squeezing howling banshees out of his six string, Joahansson is about to be arrested for assault and battery on his drumkit and the whole enchilada tumbles effortlessly back to Earth, like the ephemeral flickering of an exploded firework.


     The band conclude their high-flying set with the omnipresent, ‘The One That Really Won The War,’ a live staple of the last half dozen-or-so live audio and video releases. (Inner)space is the place where our intrepid explorers reside and the lengthy, navel-gazing opening once again finds Viklund playing with his wah-wah toys around Unosson’s gently tinkling keyboards. Oja’s unobtrusive bass has been wandering around in the background and after about eight minutes, Johansson grabs a beat and Unosson blasts off with a mean organ solo. By ten minutes, Brännström hops on and our fantastic voyagers’ spaceship is bursting through chestal cavaties, ‘Alien’-style for the outer regions of the galaxy, blazing cosmic debrit and inner inhibitions in its wake. By 13 minutes, the band have entered Hawkwindesque hyperdrive and we can do little more than let our freak flags fly and hang on for dear life and enjoy the ride. (Jeff Penczak)






(Goddamn I’m A Countryman)


     Anyone who had the awesome pleasure of witnessing one of The Spacious Mind’s chest-shattering live performances - at Terrastock for instance - will know that the band are at their best during their extended, mind-melting psychedelic jams, so these outtakes from the recording sessions of their most recent studio album, ‘Rotvälta,’ itself one long 60-minute jam (see our review here) will be a welcome addition to any fan’s collection.


     Starting quietly with some nebulous musical perambulations, ‘Part 1’ (of 2) bursts forth on the wings of Niklas Viklund’s strolling guitar solo, like a 747 knifing through heavy cumulous cloud cover. Various percussives, most notably maracas and bells fill in the gaps while Jens Unosson’s percolating keyboards and synths bubble sinisterly in the background, reminding me of earlier efforts like ‘Dnimehts Of Us’ (from their 1993 debut ‘Cosmic Minds At Play’) and ‘Alice of Strange’ (from the following year’s ‘Sleeping Eyes and Butterflies’). After about ten minutes, things really get weird, as drummer David Johansson seems demonically possessed and Viklund and fellow guitarist Thomas Brännström proceed to perform a musical exorcism with their six strings with notes and chord progressions known only to them. Unosson’s electronics and a kindler, gentler Viklund/Brännström duality (all semblance of sanity quickly restored) gently float back to Earth, accompanied by bells, flutes and assorted harp-like string instruments. To borrow a phrase from Mr. Mojo Risin’, “This is the best part of the trip…this is the trip…the best part….”


     ‘Part 2’ opens with another of Viklund’s tasty solos, as he runs scales up and down the guitar neck in search of a theme that his partners can latch onto and run with. But like one of their greatest inspirations, The Grateful Dead, fans know the band is not in a hurry to arrive at any given destination and will wander around aimlessly as long as it takes. So ‘Part 2’ begins to approach ‘Dark Star’ in its idiosyncratic eccentricities and a perfect title for this segment might be ‘Six Strings In Search of An Author.’ Soon, Unosson’s ominous keyboards float across the studio around Johansson’s shamanic skin pounding until the quintet settle into a krautrock groove of harmonic atmospherics that rival the best of Tangerine Dream and Cluster.


     As outtakes from recording/jam sessions, the album reminds me of similar releases such as Abunai!’s ‘Round Wound’ and Nick Saloman’s collaboration with Doctor Brown, ‘Doctor Frond’ and fortunately, like those releases, it avoids the trap of compiling a collection of song fragments and half-baked studio noodlings. In fact, it is masterfully edited together (by Douglas K.) into a seamless whole and, ultimately works as both a marvellous companion to ‘Rotvälta’ and an impressive album that can stand in its own right and prove that The Spacious Mind’s cutting-room floor clippings are better than many artists’ “official” releases. (Jeff Penczak)




(4zero Records http://www.4zerorecords.co.uk )


(Vivo Records www.vivo.pl)


(Vivo Records)


    Three albums, all recorded live, all featuring loose improvised music, and all connected in a lineage that can be traced from William Burroughs to the latest crop of Japanese psychedelia.


    Recorded live in San Francisco during 1997-1998 (including two tracks from their first ever gig) the six pieces on this CD reveal a band getting to know each other musically, using the tight and rhythmic drumming of Pat Thomas (now the editor of the U.S. Terrascope) as a launch-pad for some excellent space rock excursions all underpinned by a can-like groove that hold the music together and allows for some wonderful interplay between the musicians. After the laid-back Canterbury groove of opener “Klonopin” the band turn it up a notch for “Kyle Loves A Funny Bunny”, the guitars happily feeding back over the insistent pulse reminding me of Jefferson Airplane covering a Television song. Two songs in, (27 minutes gone), we get to the killer punch, the perfectly constructed 18 minutes of “The Reeperbahn” a song with so much groove that you fear it may collapse under it’s own weight, it doesn’t! instead it evolves into a wonderful inferno of passion and intensity,Miles Davis walking with The Grateful Dead lost in Germany in 1971,the guitar shredding all around them with shards of notes that hit harder than nails, whilst the synthesiser stalks deep within your brain forcing your body to move to the insistent beat that drives the song along as powerfully as a locomotive.Apparently they could play this for an hour or more, which must have been something to hear and never forget.Further in “Phillip Seymour Hoffman” is a mellower and looser affair the guitars, flutes, and keys rippling between each other in a delightful way,soothing the soul and allowing some breathing space before the band finish us off with “Why Do Most German Booking Agents Have Brain Damage”, a heavy funk odyssey that will have you dancing all the way to your stereo so that you can play the whole damn thing again, you gotta love it.


    As well as performing as Mushroom, the band have been known to back Kevin Ayers on his rare U.S. jaunts and have even been known to play with another ex-Soft Machine, Daevid Allen, a man whose most recent and vibrant work has been with members of Acid Mother Temple under the name of Acid Gong Motherhood and whose “live in Nagoya” album is a masterpiece of psychedelic lunacy that manages to harness the manic energy of both Gong and AMT into a whirlwind of joyous noise.


    Right from the off, the band are in crazy mode, seemingly led by Mr Allen’s vocal extravagances, before Kawabata Makoto blasts the band right off the radar and into the golden void. Throughout the album the Glissando guitar and space whispers of the Gong half manage to hold their own, and often overtake, the intense musical visions of the AMT half creating the perfect meld of the two bands, both sides adding a fresh dimension to the other (think Camembert Electrique meets Absolutely Freakout). It’s hard to pick highlights as the whole CD is superb but there is a storming version of “Lady Lemonade” with a lovely mellow feel to it, as well as a frighteningly psychedelic version of “Master Builder”(here called “Hari Balmy Bom Riff”) that exudes energy from every sweaty pore. The more you play this CD the more you will find to delight, whichever band you favour and if you love them both as much as me, then, man, are you going to be in heaven, go get one and put a huge smile on your face.


    Quite where he finds the time I don’t know (cloning may be a possibility) but as well as spreading psychedelic joy with bits of gong, energising AMT and all the other stuff, Kawabata Makoto has found time to play in the strange yet awesome trio Seikazoku, whose live album is an astonishing showcase of musical virtuosity, that makes you wonder how three people could create such auditory hallucinations without some kind of supernatural help. As well as showing great skill on guitar, drums, piano, bass, violin, etc, the thing that really stands out is the way the three voices are blended as instrument, chanting, wailing, screaming and thoroughly enjoying themselves at the centre of the maelstrom. Ranging from typical, if there is such a thing, AMT noise works, through to almost sacred chants, percussive and vocal-led craziness, and all points in-between This is yet another essential purchase in the Acidmother canon, and alongside the other two albums here represent one of the finest collections of live music you will ever have the pleasure of hearing. Proof indeed, if you need any, that great music is alive and well, long may it continue. (Simon Lewis)




Beta-lactam Ring Records (http://www.blrrecords.com)


I hesitated a bit before accepting to review this new dbl disc from Volcano the Bear as I count myself to one of their most dedicated fans, and I am partly responsible for making one of their most recent CDs see the light of the day through my own Broken Face imprint. But after listening to their brand new double disc ‘Classic Erasmus Fusion’ I simply couldn’t resist to say a few words about this almost perfect sonic (and visual for that matter) document.


Volcano the Bear was formed in 1995 with the constant idea of being a group with uncompromising and boundless ideas, and they’ve always tried to aim for a sonic environment where they can do pretty much whatever they please. This results in a sound that beyond grandiose sonic qualities blends the very essence of key words such as surreal, shifting moods, myriad of instruments, humor, beauty and to a certain degree even self-indulgence. That being said, these sonic transgressors are not for everyone but if you’re a fan of free-form improvisations, free jazz, weird drones, pagan folk, whimsical acoustic pieces, disjointed percussive riffs, crackling electronics and actually own more than one record by either the Sun City Girls, This Heat, Faust, Residents, The Shadow Ring or Captain Beefheart than you owe it to yourself to check these cats out.


‘Classic Erasmus Fusion’ delivers all this, but despite covering a wide range of sonic territories and despite spreading out its weird tentacles over two CDs I’d still say that this is the most focused and downright accessible VTB release to this day. Listening to these discs is like walking through an old-fashioned carnival with impressions everywhere that separately is something very diverse but still somehow makes sense being placed right next to each other. The continually confusing myriad of instrumentation and polyrhythmic structures of the opening title track is placed right next to the warm, slow-moving folk number “Did You Ever Feel Like Jesus?” And from there it goes on in all possible directions of the compass, ranging from downcast, horn-laced folk to cryptic walls of noise but rarely without a certain amount of trance ingredients as well. For every track that is revealed, some new aspects of the music immediately arise. I can’t really elucidate what’s going on with these fellows but I am as hooked to these sounds, that stand above all definitions of music as I know them, as a trout to the skilled angler’s fishing-tackle. (Mats Gustafsson)




(CD on Durtro Records (UK) or Dutro Jnana Records (USA))


    What relevance visions of the Apocalypse, any Apocalyse, in this third, secular, millennium? What credence do we give to the Apocalypse dreamers, those blessed or cursed with end-time cinema playing on the back of their fluttering REM-state eyelids? Many of us probably have such visions, but are unable to capture them and channel them into art. Our dreams flow through our fingers and disperse like ectoplasm faced with the light of day. Perhaps we are lucky to be so relatively untroubled. Tibet radiates them and has consistently turned them into art: his and only his, a genre of one. Perhaps they are now less soaked in bodily fluids as they were, say at the time he released 'The Seven Seals are Revealed as Seven Bows...', but they're richer now, full of kaleidoscopic images of beauty and terror, and encased in musical settings as luminous as his imagery is liminal. The stream of ideas, words and images for 'Black Ships Ate the Sky' commenced after a particularly intense dream Tibet had about black ships entering our skies in preparation "for the arising of the final Caesar and for the Second Coming of Christ". This sounds like the kind of dream that one has after excessive indulgence in red wine and cheese through the course of an evening, but Tibet turns it into gold, weaving it into the tapestry of his various obsessions: Gnosticism, Kierkegaard, Louis Wain's Catland, the Patripassianist Heresy which contends that Christ's suffering persists through the millennia and will only stop at the Second Coming, and most recently, his embracing of Coptic Christianity as an expansion of his interest in Gnosticism and the Coptic language as representing the last stage of the development of ancient Egyptian. Yeah, it's a busy cosmology.


    By any measure 'Black Ships Ate the Sky' - the first new full-length Current 93 since 2001's 'Sleep Has His House' - is a work of overwhelming scope and impact, Tibet's long-standing collaborators Michael Cashmore and Steven Stapleton are joined by Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance, Comets on Fire) and John Contreras (cello arrangements) and a heavenly host of expected and unexpected collaborators to weave together a seamless realisation of Tibet's vision. Central to the structure of the work is no less than eight versions of the dark hymn 'Idumea', written in 1793 by Charles Wesley, the brother of the founder of the Methodists, James Wesley. Marc Almond, Antony, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Andria Degens (Pantaleimon), Baby Dee, Clodagh Simonds (Mellow Candle), Tibet and Shirley Collins all provide radically different readings of the hymn, diffusing any possibility of over-cooking of the idea. Marc Almond's angelic version opens the CD and it isn't long before one's hairs are standing on end. Chasny's influence is immediately evident in 'Sunset (The Death of Thumbelina)', as are Contraras' exquisite cello arrangements. For this Current 93 fan, its impact is akin to the first time 'Thunder Perfect Mind' set personal reality on its head. The first of two versions of the title track follows, and imagery is flying thick and heavy through dense atmosphere, like the heavy beat of dragon's wings. "Kill the Kings and cover/The babies in soap paradise/Pure glass in the cactus smile/Of the Madonna of Chandeliers" intones Tibet, and somehow you know what he means, without precisely knowing how you know. Rumours of lack of humour in the Current 93 oeuvre have always been greatly exaggerated, and lines here and there are wryly funny, like the opening couplet of the gorgeous 'Then Kill Ceasar' – "I was awake dreaming/Of new Dystopias to run to" - then following a stream of poetic non-sequiturs underpinned by some most splendid finger-picked guitar. 'This Autistic Imperium is Nihil Reich' recalls some of the pristine medieval structures that have characterised Current 93 since the arrival of Cashmore - the world of nursery rhymes gives way to Grimm's Fairy Tales of the end-times in Tibet's haunted child/prophet dialectic: "I say like Lazarus I arise in time/For tea and toast and judgement/And all that stuff that rests in the land of Jack and Jill" he concludes. Noddy has left the building, though, I think. I miss him! Dark electronics underpin 'The Dissolution of the Boat of a Million Years', but largely, throughout, the compelling architecture of psychedelic folk is used as the Ships gather on one hand, while on the other hand, "Cats curl and arch into kittens again". Of course, this being a Current 93 album, there will be at least one track that puts the listeners feet not just to the fire, but right through it and out the other side (to where?). In this case, it is the second version of the title track, where atonal blasts of electric guitar drive vocal hysteria with a cattle prod: perhaps fittingly, the guitar recalls King Crimson's '21st Century Schizoid Man'. Eventually, the visions end, and it's left to Shirley Collins to take us on a final journey through the text of Idumea, accompanied by accordion patterns – a reminder of the departed Dolly's pump organ for as many as will wish to recall that fine sound.


    So, how to place this work the hierarchy of two decades of Current 93 music? Because there isn't much else one can compare this Hermetic world to but itself. I think time is needed. I know other commentators are rating 'Black Ships' as Tibet & Co's finest ever, and certainly I'd rank it as their best since the singular masterpiece "Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre', but beyond that the only thing that is clear is that there will be few, if any, more poetic, musically complete, and brilliantly conceived, recorded and packaged releases this year. (Tony Dale)




(Vibro-phonic Recordings www.vibro-phonic.com)


Jigsaw Seen formed in the late eighties, Vocalist/Guitarist Dennis Davison already a stalwart of the late seventies/early eighties psychedelic revival having played in United States Of Existence and Playground.  Jonathan Lea – Guitars, Steve LaFollette - Bass and Tom Sullivan - Drums complete the line up with Gordon Townsend, Tom Currier and Teddy Freese contributing to some tracks. The band released a couple of singles and an LP in a sixties pop style reminiscent of Byrds, Beatles or Turtles.  By the time they came to release their five-track EP ‘My Name Is Tom’ they were beginning to display a more psychedelic edge to their music.


    Here you have the aforementioned EP and a further five songs recorded around the same time (one rare compilation track and four previously unreleased). The album starts with ‘Warehouse The Wicked’, echoing hard-edged UK psyche-pop such as Fire, and continues with ‘Black Aggie’ that makes use of acoustic guitar to produce a mellow psyche tinged folk sound. What!! Just as I was beginning to morph into the cushions I was sitting on  - Bang!  I’m hit between the ears with breakneck punk riffing as the next track steams along like a runaway locomotive.  ‘Persephone Again’ is great punk-pop - this song stops, hangs in the air, then surges on again finally ending in feedback.  Mmmm, I needed that.


    Next up is the Love classic ‘The Daily Planet’.  I don’t think the original has anything to fear but this is still a confident and accomplished cover. The next track is not just a Jigsaw Seen classic but a classic of the psychedelic revival.  ‘My Name Is Tom’ is grade-A atmospheric psychedelia, the riff building then dropping out creating subtle interplay between the instruments.  There is fine use of interesting sounds dropped into the mix before we surge back into the main riff again.  The middle section is an exciting eastern flavoured guitar solo, backed by a tribal beating of the drum skins then once again into the main riff of the song to finish.  A fantastic journey!


    How do you follow that?  Well they manage it by completely changing genres as we are treated to a strange, moody surf instrumental called ‘Murder At The Luau’.  Reverb galore like a freaked out ‘Pipeline’ by the Chantays. ‘I’m so happy today’ is mid-tempo psyche-pop reminiscent of early Traffic songs and would not have been out of place on the Rain Parade’s early offerings, there is more psych-pop with ‘Off Track’. ‘Eight Lancashire Lads’ starts with a gorgeous throbbing descending fuzz bass line.  Thudding guitar and drums join for the rest of the song, all blending together to make a thoroughly satisfying whole.  (Strange, I actually had a typo there but corrected it.  I originally typed ‘to make a thoroughly satisfying whale’.  I’m now thinking how much more interesting that might have been for the reader to ponder?)


    The last track is ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ and is a perfect close for the album.  The drumming is pure sixties soul but covered in a gutsy garage punk riff care of the dual guitars.  This one puts me in mind of early Move. A definite thumbs-up to vibro-phonic for re-releasing this EP and adding the extra tracks.  It makes an album’s worth of excellent material and I would recommend it to anyone interested in modern psychedelia. (Mick Wooding)




(www.nasoni-records.com www.earthlingsociety.co.uk )


    Like the proverbial phoenix, space-rock is having something of a re-birth at the moment, the genre producing some interesting, varied and experimental bands, that manage to avoid sounding like an old crusty festival band, and more like an updated version of seventies bands, using classic motives in new and imaginative ways to produce some spellbinding music. To illustrate this point perfectly, you only need to listen to“Albion”the most recent release (although there is a new one due shortly) from Earthling Society, which is a kaleidoscopic voyage to space-rock heaven, a kosmiche rocket ship filled with the spirits of Amon Duul, Sundial, Can, Funkadelic, Ash-Ra, Hawkwind, and Tractor (to name a few) and an album that will have you smiling broadly at the genius of it all.


    Opening with the tribal stomp of “Black Witch” the song is a powerful start with some inspired guitar playing and all manners of effects filling the spaces and dancing around the solid rhythms that push the piece forward and outwards. Spacier ambience is to be found on “Heart Of Glass” the song drifting gently whilst synths bleep and burble behind the dubby percussion, the song slowly vanishing with some well chosen vocal samples before the magnificent title track arrives to finally convince you that the genre is moving forward and is worth the ride, the guitars soaring into heaven courtesy of Fred Laird, ably assisted by David Fyall (Bass) and Jon Blacow (drums/percussion), three musicians who prove that a trio does not have to play three chords and feedback but can, instead, be quietly understated and dynamic in their art (not that I have anything against three chords and feedback) although there are lots of overdubs on this album and it would be interesting to see how it works live,especially on “outsideoftime” one of the finest and most cosmic tunes on the album.


     Not only is this a great album but it is also available on beautifully packaged gate-fold vinyl, so you get the pleasure of flipping the disc over to be greeted by the wonderful flute and percussion interplay, that takes “Beltane Queen” into the realms of overt Psychedelia sounding like White Noise or “seven-up” (the album Timothy Leary recorded with Ash-Ra Temple) and destined to become a lost classic. Next up “When It All Comes Down” is a tasty wah-wah led workout that grooves along with the warmth of a sunny day before the fourteen minutes of “universal Mainline” takes you off into a glade in the woods and leaves you to find your own way home, full of strange sounds, warm melodic bass/drums and mantra-like vocals that offer clues at every turn, before the band crank up the noise levels, the song sounding like something sundial could have recorded with it’s extended finish that allows the band to stretch out with a gorgeous flurry of music that closes the album in style. (Simon Lewis)






    Having released two of last years most hauntingly beautiful albums under the names Heidika and Carousell, sound sculpture Richard Skelton now offers us the equally wonderful Harlassen. Containing two named tracks and one hidden track, (that together last almost forty minutes), the album is an instrumental delight full of elegant playing and the whisper of ancient places.


    Opening piece “What The River Said” is a passionate journey that sweeps across the room, slowly adding layers, until a delicate wall of noise is achieved, the guitars and string blending into a heavenly orchestra of sound that effortlessly fills the surroundings without ever sounding harsh or overpowering.


    Track two “An Eddy Of The Blood” begins with a plaintive piano refrain that is slowly engulfed in a screeching violin and wavering percussion, the piano continuing to add a gentle background pulse to the music, creating an extremely hypnotic ambience that draws you deeply into yourself. Finally the hidden third tracks is revealed to be a delicate composition, that seems to have been blown across the fields, whispering its tales and spreading secrets among the flowers.


    As with the last two releases, this album is exquisitely packaged all three albums displaying a thematic style that ties them together visually and offers glimpses of the music within. (Simon Lewis)  






    One of the things I have always loved about the Kitchen Cynics is the evocative and poetic grace of the lyrics. Whether telling tales of the past or recounting personal stories, the lyrics always seemed the equal to the music, possibly the whole reason for the song, so it was with a certain trepidation that I first listened to this selection of twelve instrumentals from Alan Davidson.


    Opening things in gentle fashion “Knitting Mittens For Maiden Aunts” is a lilting tune that slowly draws the listener into the album with a wistful melody hanging in the air, and one that does nothing to prepare you for “Newt Went West” a cornucopia of sound that is hauntingly psychedelic, full of electronic growls and fading percussion. The sound of something akin to the banjo ushers in track three “Double Lined For The Gentleman’s Comfort” an almost trad-jazz tune, complete with whistling and a jolly good time for all. The ambience is changed again for “March 3rd:Thunder Receding (Improv)” which, as the title suggests, is the sound of a thunderstorm with some exquisite guitar improvisations overdubbed around them, and is one of the finest pieces on the album.


    So, four songs in, four different pieces and my trepidation is completely unfounded, the song standing on their own and highlighting how fine and imaginative a musician Alan is, creating a whole new world for the listener to explore. From start to finish the album is exemplary, “Fivesixeleven” is a short drone, whilst “Duncans Wiggly Eyebrow Dance” is very reminiscent Of the traditional “Black Is The Colour”, a song Alan has recorded before. The piano is used to good effect on “Walking The Mat In Winter”, the melody full of grace and emotion, with added phasing thrown in for good measure. Possibly the strangest track on the album, “Absolutely No Jills In Sight” is a series of clicks pops and hums, sounding like some san Franciscan free-form folk ensemble, before “A Heron Flies UP Holborn Street” brings us back to the familiar, with a typically relaxed and intimate tune, and the only one that I would love to hear some lyrics to, although that may be the title talking to me. It may be hard to imagine but on “Toddlehills/Conveth” The Kitchen Cynics manages to sound like he is auditioning for Gong, with a mystical ambient drone that really hits the right spot, a late-night ritual for the brain if ever there was one (It is also far too short at only 3:35). Finally “Unfounded Confidence In the Post-It Note” wins the title of the week award, as well as finishing the album in suitably weird but familiar fashion, with some more manipulated sound reverberating around the speakers in a Eno-esqe way that could be the new theme for Arena.


    If you love The Kitchen Cynics then this album is a must-have, another fine piece of work and one that will be played over and over again. My apologies to Alan for ever having doubts, nice one mate. (Simon Lewis)




(Aztec Music www.aztecmusic.net )


    I don’t know about you but whenever the sun comes out I feel the need to open an ice-cold beer and listen to some red-hot rock and roll, which means that lately I have been listening to this album on a daily basis, and soaking up some of the dirtiest, meanest blues guitar that I have heard for some time.


    Opening with a blistering version of “C.C.Rider” it’s obvious that this band are out to have a good time and destroy everything in their path, with a glorious wall of noise, that will have you nodding your head and possibly digging those air guitars out of the cupboard with the sheer energy of it all. Following more dirty blues, courtesy of “Be Bop A Lula”, the suitably warmed up band launch into the twelve minute self-penned opus that is “Momma”, which has a completely fucked up and righteous guitar sound that will rip your soul from your body and make you realise that, quite possibly, God did give rock and roll to you. By now the Aztecs are playing like a well-oiled behemoth, allowing Billy Thorpe to give his guitar a good going over, the musicians following his every move with exemplary ease. During a version of “Rock Me Baby” the band slow things down and get soulful, Giving Mr Thorpe the chance to show of his vocal skills and interact with the 35000 music fans that are, by now, completely under his spell and enjoying every single second of this kick-ass performance, singing and cheering at every opportunity.


    Elsewhere, the autobiographical “Most People I Know (Think That I’m Crazy) starts in a mellow fashion before launching into more guitar heroics, whilst “Jump Back” has some fine harmonica playing on it (not something i say very often) and really moves, with a wonderful groove that drives the song along with power and precision. Finally we come to the 15 minute “Ooh Poo Pa Doo” which, despite the dodgy title, contains everything that you need in a rock and roll performance, including the traditional call and response with the audience, an extended guitar workout, and one of those marvellous endings that go on forever, making for an excellent way to finish this collection of good-time music. All you have to do is add beer and sunshine. (Simon Lewis)




(CD www.pickled-egg.co.uk )


    This sprawling album has been available for a while now, and by rights should have been reviewed sooner than this. Trouble is, the sprawling nature of the music has made it difficult to write about and several false starts have been abandoned before this attempt, so, what the hell, I am just gonna ramble and see what happens.


    After the last Big Eyes album “We Have No Need For Voices…”, mainstay James Green,along with David Jaycock,decided on a different way of making music by exploring a wider palette of sounds and then finding the right people to perform them,rather than deal with a band as one unit.On “Do The Musiking” this approach has paid off handsomely, creating a massive 29 track, 78 minute opus that moves from gentle guitar pieces,into soft ballads, eastern European influenced songs and even touches on free-form folk, whilst remaining cohesive and retaining a high degree of quality control.


    First highlight is “Absolute Ending “ the Can sounding riff interwoven with Televisionesque guitar lines, giving the song a stuttering, repetitive quality that is beautifully enhanced by a wonderful vocal performance. On “Owlet Moth” flamenco rhythms collide with wistful strings, whilst “For Cognac” has a piano refrain that aches with longing, the arrangement dragging every drop of emotion from the music.


    A late sixties folk vibe is constructed for the gentle ballad “Sunday Jacket”, the timeless quality of the song shining through. Immediately following, "Bobo Square” is a whimsical tune, with a sunny psych feel evident in the chattering percussion, whilst “Ballad Of The Blue Lantern” would be right at home on Gorky’s latest album.


    Featuring twelve musicians including James Yorkston, Jeremy Barnes, Rachel Grimes, and Lindsay Aitkenhead, (whose strings are a major contribution to the feel of the album), this pool of talent allows the songs to really take-off and become fully realised, often taking on a classical persona, no more so than on “Die Nacht” which is a gorgeous piece of music that makes you listen, and is followed by the brief but lovely “Shanty For Darty”. An almost hallucinatory feel is conjured up by the drone-folk of “”A Dream Of Fires”, which at 3minute 20 seconds is one of only three tracks to break the three minute barrier, meaning that the songs pass by like dreams half remembered, something which gives the album a magical feel, the sound of woodlands on a summer day.


    On of my favourite track is “going home” a deceptively simple song with some great playing, the banjo really suiting the songs dynamics, the lyrics telling a tale of hope and longing.


    Finally “Diweddglo” lets the sun slowly set on our day, the flickering candles lighting our way home refreshed and full of light, the music soothing and bathing us in it’s majesty. (Simon Lewis)




(CD on ATP – no address provided. Catalogue number ATPRCD21)


It’s fitting somehow that Bardo Pond’s latest studio album – their sixth in all, I believe – should be released by All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP) Recordings, since to my mind it’s the festival arena, for want of a better word, that the Pond’s multi-layered psychedelic guitar drone and blissed-out riffery comes to the fore. Given the wherewithal I’d have been releasing their stuff myself on some Terrastock festival-related label; and were I to have been offered the chance to have done so, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about ‘Ticket Crystals’. Everything has come together on this one to create what I hesitate to suggest is the Pond’s ‘Volunteers’ (the definitive Jefferson Airplane LP) - a defining statement of a moment in time, and a perfect accompaniment to their astonishing set in the temple-like surroundings of the main hall at Terrastock 6.


    Continuing the trilogy of albums begun by 2001’s ‘Dilate’ and most recently 2003’s ‘On the Ellipse’, ‘Ticket Crystals’ has been two years in the making, primarily recorded in their home studio, with many of the songs already familiar to fans through gigs (such as the aforementioned T6) and CDRs put out by the band themselves.


   Opening cut (and already an established live favourite) ‘Destroying Angel’ sets the tone, the way Isobel Sollenberger’s hauntingly evocative voice floats above the piercing flute trebles as the guitars rip and burn their way through the crumbling ruins of the building leaves the listener in a state of shock, ill-prepared for the Ghostly complexity of the eleven-minute ‘Isle’ which follows (echoed further by the flute and temple bells of ‘Lost Word’ which in turn follows that). The bookend to ‘Isle’ in terms of sonic depth and general head-fuckery is the epic ‘Moonshine’ which, in a world populated entirely by double LPs, would sprawl all the way across side 3, accompanied by way of a contrast only by the Pond’s masterful cover of The Beatles’ ‘Cry Baby Cry’, originally recorded for and broadcast by the BBC as part of their commemorations for the 25th anniversary of the death of John Lennon.


   For me though the stand-out tune on here is the enigmatically titled ‘FC II’ – and not just because at eighteen-plus minutes it’s the longest, and closest therefore to the live Bardo Pond experience. From the launch pad of a hesitant violin drone the band adds layer after layer of distorted guitar and wonderfully controlled feedback and sustain, like a funeral pyre that you expect to topple under the weight of its own significance long before it actually gets ignited. Which inevitably, this being the Bardo Pond, it eventually does – carrying all that’s gone before down with it.


    Bardo Pond's finest album? Only time will tell. I think it’s probably my favourite to date though – and believe me, that’s saying something. I have no idea if this album is ever going to be released on vinyl, incidentally, although it simply begs to be treated with that much respect – I’d suggest you don’t wait to find out though. Grab it now, and ideally go and see them play while both they, and the material reproduced on here, are at their very peak.  (Phil McMullen)



TALKING TREES - DELUSIONLAND CD (www.wildshinerecords.com)


    Opening with the gentle psych-folk of “The Delusion”, this album has the feel of Kaleidoscope (UK), or The Byrds in the way it mixes a west coast ambience with some relaxing folk sounds to create the perfect soundtrack to a summers day.


    Featuring some excellent vocals from main songwriter Sean Robert Chambers, the songs are arranged wonderfully, with chiming guitars and Hammond organ filling out the sound, as backward phasing and understated percussion add some sonic decoration to the songs, particularly on the rather wonderful “William”, a song which manages to encapsulate the mellow warmth that pervades the whole album.


    Elsewhere the majestic “Song For A Someone” reminds me of the Lilac Time, with it’s melancholy charm, whilst “Mammon Mandarin” could have come straight from a Rubbles compilation, the whimsical lyrics being complemented perfectly by the instrumentation and melody that surrounds them.


    Throughout the album there is a delicate pastoral feeling that allows the music to drift into your ears, as gently as a falling petal blown by a fragile breeze, no more so than on the gossamer lined “Bread And Circuses” which seems more like a memory than a song.


     Final song “Athabasca” takes on a more overtly psychedelic hue, with swirling organ and a pulsing bass-line giving the song a lysergic glow, allowing the musicians to break loose, and is filled with a host of effects that swarm around the mix in delightful fashion, with the backwards guitar leading everyone on a merry dance around their senses, before receding over the horizon leaving just a hazy cloud of dust to mark it’s presence.


    While there is nothing groundbreaking or experimental here, this is an album that will satisfy on many levels, and it is good to know that such music is still being made in these commercial times. Let’s hope there are many more to come. (Simon Lewis)




(Goddamn I’m A Country Man)


     This Spacious Mind offshoot returns for their third release on the mothership’s imprint, and anonymity is once again the order of the day. (A little bird at Terrastock 6 told me that some SM guitarists may be involved, and fans will recognize the pseudonymous Wilmot Clawson, who once again contributes clever and well-written liner notes, but the folks up around Inlandet are not talking when it comes to revealing the true identity behind Råd and his (her?) compadres. No mind, though, because the music is once again a heady amalgamation of psychedelic wyrdfolk, avant skronk, jazzy, left-field electronic buzzes, disembodied vocals and songs about spirits, ghosts, and guardian angels all scrambled together with the ultimate goal of inducing complete headnodding bliss!


     The punnily-titled ‘Depending on These Shady Characters’ hints at the participants’ awareness of their fidgeting audience’s quest for nominal information about their identities, and opens the album on an ominous note of free-form chicanery, percussive mayhem, and the odd, electronic dipsy-doodle noodling that left a few “What the fuck is this?” comments pursed on the lips of friends I cornered into giving it a good sit-down-and-listen. Presumably one of the participants’ daughters (Hanelle is mentioned in the credits) was coerced to “goo-goo, gah-gah” her way through ‘Sen Ska Vi Se Vad Jag  Sjunger,’ although dad’s bongload-induced coughing fit at the beginning suggests something else may be a-foot (a-head?) Stringed instruments of indeteminate origin (not quite a guitar, not quite a mandolin) echo in the background, while Hanelle’s treated “vocals” (my Swedish is not strong enough to recognise any words – it could be Esperanto for all I know) assumes a ghostly disembodied presence that’ll scare you shitless if listened to alone in a dark room. My rough translation of the title, ‘Then We Shall See What I Sing’ suggests the incorporeal nature of the song. By song’s end, the stringed instrument has identified itself to my consciousness as a guitar, looping its melody with Michio Kurihara-esque Ghostlike resonance.


     With no time to get our bearings (each track segues into the next), ‘Dry Air Static Sparks Northern Skies’ has the air of a medley that its cut-up title suggests. From the musty, claustrophobic ‘Dry Air’ segment to the distorted vocals of ‘Static Sparks’ and the backward-masked guitar, electronic loops and communal Amon Düül-ish vibe of ‘Northern Skies,’ the track flows seemlessly from rough, avant garde abstraciton to headswirling, cotton-mouthed absorbtion. In sum, a heavy-lidded nodder of the “highest” order.


     The title track (a city in western Sweden near the Norwegian border) has a more pronounced guitar base upon which to lay your weary head. It’s no less psychedelic – in fact, the distinct guitar pluckings add a Jerry Garcia/Grateful Dead vibe over a slow-motion, In Gowan Ring-ish chaser. A fried, fuzzfest of a guitar solo interjects after about five minutes, ensuring the omnipresent danger of loss of consciousness doesn’t ensue. More disembodied vocals, reminscent of children’s voices from a nearby schoolyard wafting across the breeze form the basis of the haunting ‘Fylgia’ [a reference to a Norwegian shadow soul or guardian spirit that is perhaps hovering in the air keeping watch over our participants] before it morphs into an ominous keybard drone with the occasional gurgling electronics to keep it company. You’ll also love the explosive blast of sonic metal that highjacks the ass-end of closer, ‘Tjälen’ [‘Frost’] and drives it through your school like a hot knife through butter.


     So whether this is the experimental arm of Spacious Mind or likeminded Inlandet brethren who choose to remain anonymous, Råd Kjetil And The Loving Eye Of God continue to offer a platform for mellow, psychedelic exploration that may best be accomplished in the privacy of your own inner sanctum with natures finest herbs and spices always close at hand. In sum, a relaxing spacewalk and the perfect chill pill for those hectic 9-5-ers who need to unwind after a tense day at the office. Just exercise caution while driving and keep a supply of toothpicks clost to hand in case you find the world slowly fading to black. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD/LP on Locust Records)


    Perhaps uniquely among modern folk artists, Josephine Foster seeks to re-invent herself – or at least show a different aspect of herself – with every new release. Her last release, 'Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You' (2005), was post-millennial acid folk: its predecessor, 'All the Leaves Are Gone' (2004), an exercise in good old acid rock. At the heart of the matter is always the song, and so to Foster's strangest (some might even say most perverse) release to date. 'A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing' is indeed just that – the teeth of the avant-garde behind the eerie smile of 19th Century German parlour balladry. Temporally-shifted constructs of works by Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Hugo Wolf and others are presented using the full force of Foster's eldritch but powerful – almost vaudevillian - vocals. If one does not understand German, the effect is even more altered: with no lyrics for context, each song is like an alien abduction - one is experimented on by sound, poked and prodded by odd arrangements and unfathomable vocals, and returned to a reality that seems somewhat less concrete than it used to. The fragile musicology of Tiny Tim comes to mind more than once, but there is steel in the way the sinewy electricity of Brian Goodman's electric guitar complements Foster's multi-tracked vocals on tracks like 'Der König in Thule'. Crowning the record is the epic 'Auf einer Burg', on which her ghostly intonations are underpinned by no less than three electric guitarists (herself, Goodman, and the legendary Galactic Zookeeper Steve Krakow), allowing for a palette than ranges from the ambient, to the drone-based, to the distinctly noisy. An elf singing Schumann backed by the Dead C is a sustainable descriptor, and the old Marxist dialectic of synthetising a new idea from a thesis and its antithesis can be seen to apply here. Definitely not a disc for everyone, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as your first Josephine Foster disc, but a fine piece of outsider art and doubtless one of the oddest things you will hear this year. (Tony Dale)




(CD from Early Winter records, PO Box 3654 Sheffield S8 0PG  www.earlywinterrecordings.co.uk)


You’re looking flustered. You seem to be having doubts about that acoustic singer/songwriter that you’ve recently discovered. You think he/she might be harbouring M.O.R. tendencies (shriek!!) and it’s getting on top of you. Well, it’s time to act quickly before you become the object of derision amongst your friends and family. In response to this problem, I have devised a simple two-part test to help you through these times of gnawing self-doubt and sleepless nights.






Are his/her releases filed within close proximity to creatures such as Katie Melua and James (rhyming slang) Blunt?





b)      Has he/she performed on the ‘Parkinson’ chat-show?




If the answer to both of these questions is in the affirmative, then the artist under scrutiny is undoubtedly a prize wet lettuce of rheumy-eyed wimpery with precious little self-esteem. BUT! All is not lost. Simply take the contaminated produce to either the nearest landfill site or, better still, your local charity shop. Feeling better? Good. I know what can fill that recently vacated gap in your CD collection: James William Hindle, a nouveau folk/pop balladist with several well-received albums on Badman Records (of San Francisco) and Track & Field back in blighty. His latest CD ‘Joshong’ is an eleven tracker comprised of home recordings made in the UK and the States, from 2003 to 2005. Using acoustics, banjos, harp, percussion, sparse fx and occasional vocals, the atmosphere is one of relaxed intimacy (plumped up cushions and a glowing coal fire) in short capsule form pieces – perhaps some of which might be seen as sounding boards for future expansion?


    They fascinate from the start – part one of the title track, a banjo instrumental with echoes of Clive Palmer’s legendary ‘Banjoland’ set (now out on Sunbeam) makes way for the utterly beautiful ‘1983’, no relation to the ‘Electric Ladyland’ cut. With its celestial harp and choir (samples?) it’s as if Duncan Browne (he of the majestic ‘Give me, Take You’ LP) has revisited the earth to briefly possess the soul of a willing disciple. Oh, my....


    ‘Joshong Pt 2’, at eight minutes the longest track on here, weighs curling watchspring notes on delicate Indian scales. A raga that floats a certain Robbie Krieger motif into the former John Clyde Evans’ loft space. There’s also some displays of supple fingerpicking in ‘Bleak House’ and ‘Happy Cat’, the latter’s rag structure transporting a Cheshire cat grin to the wilds of South Yorkshire. ‘Feral Children’ belies its rather serious social issue titling to reveal guest accordionist Jamie Crewe to be the perfect soulmate to James’ skipping-string patterns.


    While we continually look overseas for blissful folk-based gorgeousness (Matt Valentine, In Gowan Ring, Basho Jungans etc), we seem to have an equally rewarding artist right here under our very noses. Investigate now. (Steve Pescott)




(CD from www.sonicunyon.com )


   Deeply hypnotic in it’s construction,”Sigill”, the opening track on this album, starts with a slowly played acoustic guitar riff that is beautifully embellished with chanted lyrics, and funeral drums to create a truly mesmerising eleven minutes of music that flows like a river, drawing you in, the very simplicity of the music proving to be its greatest strength. 


    Following on “Ceremony” is an even more tranquil version of the formula, with some wonderful harmony vocals that will send shivers down your spine before a darker atmosphere is introduced with a twisted cover of “Freezing Moon” originally by noisy metal band Mayhem, and here sounding like a Sharron Kraus performance, thanks mainly to the excellent vocals from Jennifer Castle which give the song an icy sheen.


    As this album moves forward the sound slowly changes, the addition of extra instruments/vocals ensuring that the songs do not become stagnant, giving the album a cohesive flow especially when organ and understated electric guitar are added to “Bog Lord” the song tinged with a sadness that is accented by the use of instrumentation, creating a fascinating slice of creepy psychedelia that gets right under the skin.


    The press release for this album alludes to a Nordic black metal past for Wyrd Visions, and these roots start to become more apparent on the closing track “Air Conditioning” the electric guitar (suitably distorted) becoming the main instrument as the piece builds into an intense whirlwind of noise before slowly fading leaving only the sound of wooden percussion being blown by a lonely wind. (Simon Lewis)




(CDR from Yen Agat Records, 597/1 Soi 17, Satham Tai Road, Bangkok 10/20, Thailand yen_agat@yahoo.com)


Cast your mind back a shade, you may recall Mirza as the cornerstone of the Jewelled Antler combine whose ‘Iron Compass Flux’ (on Darla Records) was one of the truly great imponderable double sets of the nineteen nineties. Band members Steven Smith and Glenn Donaldson’s future projects are, of course, well documented (Franciscan Hobbies, Thuja et very cetera) but in the interim, the other 50% of the band seemed to have fallen down a trapdoor, never to be seen again. Until now, that is.


    After an eight-year sabbatical with their glowing brains stuffed with influences from Pharoah Sanders, Nurse with Wound to surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, Brian Lucas (voice/guitars/tapes) and Mark Williams (guitars/keys/tapes) formed Father Beard in August of last year, with Brian located in Thailand and Mark in Spain. Apparently the obvious problem of distance was waved aside as a trivial concern due to both band members being sensitive to telepathic contact. Although, I suspect (bubble bursting time!) the respective postal services played a fairly vital supporting role in the scheme of things.


    With occasional help from ex-17 Pygmies’ Patrick Monnin (percussion and ‘magic boxes’) and guitarist/vocalist Nisa Lucas, ‘Tokens, Then Light’, their debut, has its songs and instrumental vignettes fashioned within a gauzy curtain of extraneous hubbub and mild noise particles, making this a perfect backdrop for their peculiar brand of mysterious/atmospheric avant garderie. The opening ‘Siamese Gift’ pulls back a beaded curtain to reveal several audio postcards of Thailand in which airport ambience and a miniature gamelan excerpt are captured in a fairly indistinct “swimmer’s ear” kinda way. ‘Last Song’  comes next. An earlier draft/scrawl of this review says ‘resigned aura/campfire apocalyptic’ which, after several plays, I see no reason to change. These allusions to a mystical path surface more often than not. Check out ‘The Templar Theme’ with its non-metric percussives and pinpoint guitar. Surely a better epitaph to these monastic knights than a crateload of Da Vinci Code paperbacks? ‘Black Circles’ has Brian’s muffled dialogue placed in a seventies Germanic framework, suggesting that when the mood takes them, Father Beard could be the displaced kin of Ohr Records’ Limbus 4. Certain K-rock signatures are also detected in the 7.24 minutes of ‘Lilt’, an elegant instrumental with more than a hint of Michael Rother’s fretwork circa ‘Katzenmusic’. ‘A Love Flicker’, lead by Mark’s piano vamps, is derived from sixties Britpop sike, albeit played through a talking doll’s voicebox, while ‘Glare for a Maiden Hand’ is the best Deebank-era Felt song they never wrote! I should imagine Laurence and chums would’ve killed their grannies for this during their tenure at 4AD. Aaaah! I’ve just noticed that Felt are yet another of the duo’s favourites, so it figures. ‘Clouds of Dust’ though is my favourite without a doubt. Its entire lyric “I said… there was a man in my room, who is he? How did he get here?” is supremely odd. It wears its echoes of M.R. James and Victorian children’s rhymes so well I was half expecting the pay-off line to be “I saw him again today… how I wish he’d go away”. But, no.


    So to sum up, you can tell dear reader by the length and the positive nature of this, ahem, piece, that I like this one a helluva lot – even more than that actually. So should you need (and believe me, you do) a companion to Wisconsin’s masters of serendipity, Davenport, or indeed one of the toasts of Terrastock 6, New South Wales’ Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood, then this should be your very next port of call. (Steve Pescott)