=  June 2009  =

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Written by:


Simon Lewis

Ashtray Navigations
Jeff Penczak Evening Fires
Erica Rucker The Soundcarriers
  Off the Wall compilation






(all from Deep Water Acres www.dwacres.com)


     As a general rule, anything on Deep Water is almost guaranteed to be of excellent quality and well worth seeking out. On this latest batch of releases however, the label has surpassed its own high standards to produce a collection of releases that has been on heavy rotation in this particular corner of the globe.


     Originally released in limited runs of 33 copies (what chance do you have?), the two albums from Goner are fine collections of hypnotic psychedelic rock, featuring repetitive grooves, hypnotic rhythms and a seemingly pagan heart. Starting with the album “Hind Hand”, the tribal drumming of “This Time a Thousand Years From Now” hosts drones that open up spaces in the landscape before things get serious with the trance inducing pulse of “Spirit Round Up”, a ten minute ritual that utilises those spaces, having an electronic feel, although it is mainly played on acoustic instruments, bringing out the hidden Shaman within. These two tracks set the tone for the rest of the album, droning strings and writhing percussion intertwining to often startling effect, the title track being particularly effective, whilst “Amongst Thieves” a short Banjo/drums piece reminds me of a recent single by Crow Tongue. Featuring a rattling drone that threatens to tear the roof off “There is Another Story of Adam” is deeply fulfilling, apiece of music to be played in the dark, whilst the final short track “Shotgun Wedding” is a spaghetti western them for acid heads everywhere, featuring some twisted whistling ending the album with style and humour.


  Moving on to “Haven” we are greeted by birdsong and footsteps before the slightly unexpected song “A Song” (should have guessed really) features lyrics adapted from a 17th century song, sung beautifully by Daniel Westerlund, who also writes the material for the band as well as playing almost everything, give or take the occasional guest. Next up, the title track has a lilting folk feel with a droned undercurrent, reminding me of United Bible Studies; whilst “The Last Folk Song” returns to the song form and features some haunting fiddle courtesy of Erik Rydvall. With a slowly building grandeur “Field Ceremony” seems to be at the heart of the album, the piece from which others sprang, including the folk funk of “Field” a brief musical snapshot that follows straight after. Both tender and as achingly emotional as the title suggests “Leave Home”, can reduce a grown man to tears with its fragility and sense of longing, the mood lightened by the humorously titled “No Atheist on a Sinking Ship”, although the music maintains an almost tangible power with its driving acoustic guitars feedback and dancing bassline. To round thing off, “Harbour Song” is as gentle as lapping waves, a soft acoustic guitar and gossamer effects allowing rest and reflection, the perfect finish to a pair of albums you should really own.


     Cut from darker matter, the album from Ashtray Navigations contains only three songs across its two discs, with disc one being taken up completely by the 58 minute drone/noise creation “Sugar Head Music With Sines”, a feral dust cloud of sound that roams across its surroundings covering everything in beautiful ashes of noise. As you can imagine, a track this long has the luxury of time, nothing is rushed, the journey as important as the destination as the sound slowly dissolves, reconstitutes and envelopes, the music having a strange beauty, the sound of an alien planet beamed back through space from a place many light years away. One thing that works particularly well is the fact that, although the music ebbs and flows, there are no sudden changes in pace or texture, the movements subtle and well crafted, creating a classic piece for drone-heads everywhere. Opening disc two, the relatively short (8:43) “Orange Matter Custard”, is a harsh wall of metallic shards and white noise, a nerve jangling ride into sonic wilderness that comes into its own played through headphones. The harsher territory is explored in closer detail on “Toilet Training”, a slower walk through the same landscape, the slow pace softening the edges and revealing space and textures that are both fascinating and absorbing, reminding me of the early album from Tangerine Dream, as they twist and wheel through the atmosphere. Clocking in at 43 minutes, there is plenty of time to get lost in the ambience, something I heartily recommend to you all.


     Containing just four long tracks, the first disc of “New Worlds For Old”, is a magnificent, rambling beast that twists and writhes, soars and dives, filling the air with a cornucopia of instrumental sounds, the music alive with melody passion and promise. Featuring some confident and perfectly understated guitar, “Tree From the East” opens the album perfectly, the light and breezy arrangement ushering floral melodies and the sense that summer is just around the corner, this is music for dreamers, a fact confirmed by the blue sky, white cloud beauty of “Hackberry Emperor”, the musicians displaying a lightness of touch the guitar note and percussion dancing like ripples across an ancient pool.


    Clocking in at 21 minutes 'The Black Worm That Devours The Sun' is the dark beast that rises from the pool, as the mood turns sinister and brooding, some darkly overdriven guitar work slowly droning, the track rising upwards until it slowly changes into a shimmering transparent drone with psychedelic intent and a bruised heart. After such shadows, “South” returns to the gentler path, echoing the timbre of the opening track, the whole disc displaying an intensity that causes you to hit the repeat button, searching for hidden corners of the music you may have missed the first time. Again containing just four tracks, disc two begins with the slow psychedelic haze of “The Use of Caves”, a superbly blended piece with drifting saxophone weaving through the notes with hypnotic grace. Taking the hint, “Here Comes the Wizard” takes the psychedelic ball and runs with it, a swirling moving mass of sound, electronics, samples, strange rhythms and lysergic intention. Seemingly constructed using stringed acoustic instruments and percussion, “Life in a Famous Bird Village”, plays out like one of the longer pieces by Kaleidoscope (US), although the influences are Appalachian/bluegrass rather than eastern, the whole piece a wonderful flight of fancy that is quietly magnificent. Leaving us coated in bliss, final track “What It Feels Like To Be Alive” is a long magical drone, the gentle levitation of the senses bringing calm and wonder, you are indeed, left feeling alive and refreshed ready to face the future.


    Apparently recorded in various subterranean locations, whether caves or cellar it does not say, the five tracks on “Blue Mountain Water” were recorded live with no overdubs giving them a freshness, the musicians involved working together to create a collection of great beauty. On “stone Creek” a sense of calm and stillness is created through the use of repetition, the riffs and melodies evolving so serenely it is hard to notice as you get lost in the music. Harsher in texture “Bituminous Helmet” is a storm cloud drone, that rumbles ominously, whilst “Smoker Station” manages to mix these two opposing sound together, the track held together by a serpentine recorder that wriggles between the two. At just under 20 minutes “Possum in the Void” is a stunning track, a percussion led ritual with serious intent, a shamanic dance that curls like smoke from a smudge-stick, hypnotism never felt this good before as you get lost in the void yourself. Finally, the two minutes of distorted country dance that is “Sawmill Blaze” will put a smile on your face and ground you after all that has gone before.


     Those of you with a hankering to spend some money could do no worse than invest in any one or, indeed, all of these discs, I can only hope that Deep Water Acre can maintain their incredibly high standards. (Simon Lewis)




(CD from Melodic)


            When the leader of the much-loved Free Design, Chris Dedrick steps forward to write the liner notes to your debut album (for vinyl junkies only – they’re not in the CD edition), you know expectations will be high. Luckily, this Nottingham quartet is up to the task. As befits a debut effort, their influences are firmly stitched onto their sleeves, from the aforementioned Free Design’s breezy, California sunshine pop to the soft, dreamy vocal stylings of Laetitia Sadier and Stereolab, to the acid/folk, jazzy, psychedelic kitchen sink products emanating from the De Wolfe music library. Yet there’s a 21st century spontaneity to the music that is as fresh as the ink on the morning paper or the scent of a new-mowed lawn.


            Tracks like ‘Caught By The Sun’ sneak up and pass by like a cloud slowly drifting across the sun, temporarily suspending the warm rays on your back as you lie motionless on a sandy shore. The traditional lineup of guitar/bass/drum/keys are supplemented by the vibes and flute that flitter through ‘Calling Me,’ creating a laidback snooze in a summer hammock while strains of Burt Bacharach waft across from neighbouring yards. And who would think to begin a track called ‘Volcano’ with shimmering chimes before washing the vocals in a Leslie’d wah-wah flutter that sounds like the singer is buried under a mountain of molten lava and then rudder the whole affair with a funky, throbbing bass line? (Kudos to Paul “Pish” Isherwood for his basso profundo rumblings that anchor these flickering crescendos, preventing them from ascending into the cumulous pillows in the sky.)


            ‘Been Out To Sea’ creates an atmosphere akin to floating on a raft, ebbing and flowing on the back of keyboardist Leonore Wheatley’s whispered vocals, frequently supplemented with her mates’ cooing that hearken back to the angelic duets between Mojave 3’s Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell. As they did during their Slowdive days, I’d love to hear these kids take a stab at Lee & Nancy’s ‘One Velvet Morning.’


            Things funk up a bit during the extended instrumental codas (indexed as separate tracks) to ‘Calling Me’ (‘Reprise’) and, particularly, ‘Without Sound’ (‘Part 2’), so it’s not all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. Also, by sequencing the lengthier tracks towards the end of the CD (essentially the second LP on the 2xLP version), you have a chance to whet your appetite on the fluffier pieces (I don’t mean that in a negative way) before getting down to serious six-minute stretch outs where the band really show their chops and demonstrate their love of earlier influences like Pink Floyd, Can, and other krautrockers like Harmonia and Neu! – and what’s not to like about that?


            Saving, perhaps, the best for the backend, tracks like ‘Let It Ride’ evince a grooving, Airplane-like vibe, but guitarist Dorian Conway has the keen sense not to step outside the band’s vibe for solo wanking, preferring to provide rhythmic impulses that maintain the sonic serenity. Indeed, it’s “Pish”’s thunder-fingered bass lines that are the record’s most standout element, with soft-pedalled keyboards, Adam Cann’s jazzy drum fills, and Conway’s guitar merely providing a solitary, coherent backdrop for those soft vocal harmonies.


            Fuzzy warbles abound in the minimalist grooves of ‘On That Line,’ with Conway’s punctuated guitar notes dancing like raindrops on a still lake while motorik drum fills, rolling bass lines, and backward-masked electronics jockey for attention. It all ends with the title track, an amoebic whisper of an instrumental that morphs into something romantic and lush, like an excerpt from a Michel Legrand soundtrack (e.g., Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Summer of ’42, et. al.)


            An exciting debut that’s sure to occupy a prized position in my 2009 Best Of list, here’s a band and album that both live up to their names. If you’re searching for something new that combines some krautrock grooves with sultry female voices coupled with the hop, jump, skipalong sweetness of California sunshine, all set to a John Barry soundtrack arranged by David Axelrod, I’ve got a suggestion for the top of your list. (Jeff Penczak)




(CD from www.floorian.com )


Floorian’s cleverly titled release has despite its very dark overtones and occasional “Sabbath-ness” some very shining moments of beautiful noise.  I don’t mean to suggest at all that they are a noise band.  It is much too melodic for that label.   The noise they make is not hard on the ears and not at all bad if one decides to drop anchor in a field of purple and yellow flowers for an afternoon.  Who doesn’t want to spend an afternoon cloudbusting in a field with vivid color perched against a waving green background of grass and trees?   


Then along comes Track 4, “How Far, How Fast” when the peaced-out field vibe feels as if it might derail.  I wonder if Floorian went to the Boris show in Columbus, OH not long ago.  Great show.  Boris knows how to come off the tracks and then hop right back on without even a blink.  I think I can see Floorian becoming master at this very same thing.  Again their influences are a bit more than apparent but I can’t cite that as a negative.  What is it like to be influenced by Pink Floyd and to allow your guitar to wail away like a Bean Si?  It isn’t a bad thing that anyone is inspired by another to do something that (for me at least) always sounds like the creation of myth and life.


It is obvious that I hear many of the bands that Floorian has listened to in their music but I do not find any fault in that because the result is a solid body of work that borders on pleasant, haunting and destructive without ever crossing too far into any of those directions.   


It reminds me of a night I spent in an old church listening to guitars echoing through the rafters filling the large sanctuary hollow amid strange artist-rendered crosses and crumbling walls. I loved that night.  It prepared me for my first Terrastock.  From that experience, I knew what I was getting into.  I’d love to see Floorian in a similar setting. Maybe the next Terrastock.  It’s really too bad that old church isn’t available.  (Erica Rucker)




(CDs from Past & Present)


            This 2-disk set (originally released in 1982/3) gathers both volumes of the rare as hen’s teeth compilations of obscure, 60’s punk and garage monsters that carried the garage rock banner alongside the Pebbles and Boulders series, before everyone started dumping their own mix tapes onto the market. Past & Present have done their usual due diligence in tracking down biographical info on the artists (the liners were presumably penned by Nick Saloman, who currently oversees similar archival compilations for Psychic Circle), although listing them alphabetically (instead of by tracklisting) in the 24-page booklet makes finding that info a bit of a scavenger hunt. But petty bickering aside, these 36 exercises in hormonal teenage angst give an excellent picture of what was happening in garages all over America, from the farmlands of Indiana to the hinterlands of Michigan and Wisconsin to the nether regions of central New Jersey, with numerous stops in Ohio, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and California. There’s even a few Montreal bands from north of the border, so there can be no quibbling with the fertile cross-section of styles lurking within.


            Volume 1 starts off promising, if not a tad depressing, with the snotty nihilism of The Magic Plants’ ‘I’m A Nothing,’ featuring a very young Peter Schekeryk and Tom Finn before the former married Melanie and the latter formed Left Banke! California’s Drones offer a ghostly guitar line to recommend the dreary, downbeat ‘I’m Down Today’ and a bouncy keyboard riff propels The Shademen’s ‘That’s Tuff.’ Moby Grape completists will drool over the unearthing of the extremely rare 1966 single by Peter & The Wolves, who cut their teeth on Peter Lewis originals that later found their way into the Grape’s catalogue. Both sides are included, but reinterpreting Van Morrison’s ‘I Can Only Give You Everything’ as The Seeds covering ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone’ is the clear winner. Fans of chick bands will drool over Chicago punkettes, Society’s Children, whose ‘Mister Genie Man’ is as exciting as the material Suzi & Patti Quatro were cutting up in Michigan as The Pleasure Seekers. Sharp guitar licks stick The Heathens’ ‘The Other Way Round’ out from all the other bands operating out of garages across Schenectady (NY), but that didn’t help them escape the neighbourhood.


            Wicked fuzz licks slice across Amarillo’s The Undertakers’ vitriolic take on Ray Charles’ ‘Unchain My Heart’ and Sacramento’s cleverly named The Opposite Six offer up ‘I’ll Be Gone’ with an appropriately punky twang, like Mick Jagger trying to sound black. If you’re looking for some psychedelia in your garage, try Florida’s Purple Underground on for size – ‘Count Back’ includes some groovy backward effects and unusual time changes, but like most acts highlighted herein, it didn’t garner them any success out side their local scene, despite opening for Spirit at the Palm Beach Pop Festival. The Trees’ ‘Don’t Miss The Turn’ refers to “one way trips’ while Kiwi-born, Ray Columbus & The Art Collection invite listeners to ‘Kick Me’ to escape their nightmarish dream (which could also be one of those “one way trips” you’ve heard tell about!) Fuzz guitars weave around frantic screams for help from what might also be a bad trip to create the stuff sweaty palms are made of!


            One of the most popular tracks is probably The E-Types ‘Put The Clock Back On The Wall’ which got a later airing on the Nuggets box set, so no further embellishment of its essentialness is needed, but I should point you in the direction of Corpus Christie’s Bad Seeds, whose ‘All Night Long’ might be familiar to 13th Floor Elevators’ fans as an early rendition of ‘Tried To Hide.’ Frontman Rod Prince later formed Bubble Puppy and enjoyed a modicum of cult success and a brief visit to the charts with ‘Hot Smoke & Sassafras.’ The Grains of Sand close out the first volume with the rather earcatching ditty, ‘She Needs Me,’ which, considering their frequent gigs backing The Doors and The Strawberry Alarm Clock and support from Kim Fowley and Michael Lloyd, definitely had hit potential. But one look at today’s charts and it’s painfully apparent that people will buy just about any old drivel shoved at them and talent doesn’t always bring the big bucks. Pshaw!


            OK, off to Volume 2, subtitled Skeletons In The Closet, which is an accurate reflection of the hidden gems within, starting with one of the finest slices of fuzzy punk to emerge from Montreal, MG & The Escorts’ stomping ‘A Someday Fool.’ Tampa’s Wrong Numbers sadly only released the 81-second ‘I’m Gonna Go Now,’ but it’s organ-driven, Seeds’-inflected debauchery leaves a lasting legacy. Syracuse University’s Fallen Angels only appeared on the A-side of their lone single, a super distorted rant with a thinly-veiled Bo Diddley backbeat. Legend has it they were so disgusted with the producer’s interference that they walked out of the studio before cutting a flip side! One-offs seems to be the order of the day, as attested by the eponymous Powered By Love, a fuzz-n-organ riff-fest with a catchy chorus that, unfortunately, didn’t, uh, catch on, despite maniacal, ‘Wipeout’-inspired cackling and the odd raspberry. I also loved Montreal’s transplanted Brits, The Liverpool Set’s ‘Seventeen Tears To The End,’ a freakbeat rocker in the finest tradition which would set nicely on any freakbeat compilation.


            The Triumphs begin their Paul Butterfield-penned debut, ‘Lovin’ Cup’ with an obvious cop of the ‘Dirty Water’ riff, but storm ahead in seedy, back alley fashion with superfuzz bigmuff distortion and snarky vocals, but, alas, broke up after their more soulful follow-up failed to sell. One of the best pounding drumbeats in the whole set is provided by James Boyce of Chicago’s Little Boy Blues. ‘Great Train Robbery’ takes a punchy stab at psychedelic punk, but the band slowly drifted apart and no original members appeared on their subsequent LP. There’s a hint of ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone’ floating through The Sound Barrier’s ‘Hey Hey,’ which enjoys a fierce sing-along chorus that remains in the head long after the song fades into The Deverons’ vivisection of the obscure Dylan punkfest, ‘On The Road Again,’ which suggests that the old bard had a much bigger influence on punk and garage than he was ever given credit for!


            Finally, the set wraps up with the British R&B stylings of California’s Deepest Blue, who played alongside The Seeds and Leaves, but could never recover from the tragic (separate) auto accident deaths of two members. ‘Pretty Little Thing’ would not be out of place in its namesake’s repertoire, but the band folded soon after. Vocalist Alex Shackelford wrote ‘I Found Out’ for Kaleidoscope’s Beacon From Mars album and later worked with Walter Egan and on Iggy’s New Values LP. (Jeff Penczak)