= June 2022 =  
 Alison Cotton
The Dry Mouths
Donovan's Brain
Holy Scum
Fuzz Sagrado
Rosa Beach Mason & Sean Conrad
nick nicely
J Lunz
Swarme of Beese
Ashtray Navigations
the Hardy Tree


(LP/DL from
Rocket Recordings' Community | Rocket Recordings (bandcamp.com))

Anyone spending even a cursory amount of time on here kicking Terrascope’s tyres will notice that Alison Cotton is a firm favourite hereabouts, having graced our pages, and various stages, many a time and oft as a member of The Left Outsides, Eighteenth Day of May and more recently a solo artist of burgeoning reputation. This is her first release for Rocket Recordings, whose catalogue increasingly defies categorisation and which, with GNOD side-project Moundabout, represents a foray into esoteric not-quite folk and not strictly-speaking psychedelia either, while teasing a slender ankle of both.

Here be six cuts with nothing much to choose between them in terms of tempo or quality, perfect as individual pieces or a continuous forty minutes meditative suite. Typically they showcase wordless vocals (the sparely instrumented ‘Violet May’ provides a rare lyrical excursion), a droning harmonium and deep sweeps of viola, sometimes no more than single or subtly alternating notes with which the occasionally multi-tracked vocals blend . ‘The Last Wooden Ship’ see-saws in mimicry of ghostly ship’s timbers and which you feel could break into a tentative shanty should it be arsed to do so. However, nothing much here shifts out of first gear and neither has it any reason to do so, an exception being some pretty frenetic sawing presaging the coda of imposing go-to, ‘17th November 1962’. Notes seem to hang then linger long after record has been removed and sheathed (or whatever the download equivalent of that ritual might be), like the ancient energy said to reside in standing stones. In this case, though, it evokes ancient oak, secret tunnels, the heady aroma of lilies growing up intricately wrought iron gates, and the steadfastness of thick stone walls.

Not meaning to overwhelm you with my boundless good cheer, but it’s the music I’d like played at my funeral and preferably in person - so much so, in fact, that I hope to live long enough to experience it.

(Ian Fraser)




(LP/CD/Digital on Spinda Records)


The Dry Mouths are an instrumental trio hailing from the Tabernas Desert area of Spain.  Their music is sometimes referred to as Desert Rock, though it’s a somewhat different desert, different rock than that played by some of their international cousins of the genre.


Thödol, while instrumental, is inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead.  The Dry Mouths are all excellent musicians, and the album is produced with consummate professionalism.  The ten tracks are divvied up stylistically into about three sections.


The first four tracks – “Den-Dro Sum,” “Hinayana,” “Kyenay,” and “Milam” – are the kind of slow, gentle, melodic, reverb-drenched ethereal electric guitar-driven sounds you might expect to hear from bands like Explosions in the Sky or This Will Destroy You.  Besides their electric guitar foundations, the tracks are also adorned with widescreen synth soundscapes.  This portion also happens to the most accessible part and my favorite segment of Thödol, and I would’ve been content for the whole album to be like it.


The middle section, comprising the tracks “Dhyana,” “Ngen-Dro Sum,” and “Chikhai” is a little more harsh-sounding.  Featuring electric sitars (Dhyana), heavier and sludgier guitars and synths (Ngen-Dro Sum) and saxophones and synths (Chikhai), this section may take the listener slightly out of his or her comfort zone, but the tracks never lose their strong sense of melody.


The final section, including “Dharmata,” “Zhi Tros Lha,” and Chönyid, is the most spacy and exploratory.  This one’s (even more) for the stoners.  All the tracks dial up the synthscapes and reverb as if to say welcome to my nightmare.   “Dharmata” has a krautrock sensibility of repetition and pounding.  “Zhi Tros Lha” is a swirling descent through a spiraling funnel cloud of a tornado through hell. “Chönyid,” almost a brief coda to the album, uses a synthy wall of sound before a Tibetan gong hurtles you off through innerspace.


Thödol pulls a headfake on the listener.  While the initial ~17-minute section may have you thinking this is an ethereal guitar band, by the end you will have all but forgotten the guitars are there, so much do they gradually build up the synth soundscapes to ultimately overtake everything like ivy.  The Dry Mouths maintain strong melodies throughout all ten tracks.  They take their time; the songs are slow in tempo, and the drummer never breaks a sweat, though he is rock solid.  All in all, an enjoyable ride.


(Mark Feingold)

(LP/DL from
Rocket Recordings' Community | Rocket Recordings (bandcamp.com))

GNOD members have been responsible for not so much a family tree as privet of off- shoots from the core band’s central template of thrillingly intense and repetitive noise rock (devotional classics such as The Somnambulist Tale, being the exception that proves I-don’t-know-what).However, Moundabout - the band’s main man-with-plan, Paddy Shine’s collaboration with Phil Masterson - takes inter-genre inquisitiveness in what for me in any event is a new direction. At a blind tasting you’d be as hard pressed to pin this on Father GNOD as you would anything on Boris Johnson. It’s Folk, Jim, but in so much as it is acoustic/lightly amped as opposed to mind-bendingly electronic or drenched in death star bludgeon-riffola. Be reassured though, Dear Reader, that there is still much dark matter here, though delivered in an admirably restrained yet brooding atmosphere.

Fixing on the ancient and still largely unexplained mysteries of Pre-Christian Ireland, it’s a musical contemplation of the megalithic that would have Julian Cope throwing any number of his daft hats in the air by way of appreciation. Occasionally touching on the melodic (opener ‘The Sea’ for example) there is much that’s redolent of Stone Breath/Time Moth Eye here, rumbling vocals, organic sub-psychedelic noodling and potent celebration of the Trance and Drone (our favourite musical boozer if, for no other reason, that no-one’s yet found a way to ponce it up). ‘Bog Bodies’ is a lugubriously interpreted ‘Find The Cost of Freedom’ (both can be found buried in the ground) while ‘Lonely’ plunks, Appalachian banjo-style, vocalised in the manner of a Mike Heron out-take from the first Incredible String Band album. The mesmerising centrepiece, though is ‘Dick Daly’s Dance’ a psilocybin reel that kicks up sparks from your campfire as it stumbles through it, with one foot and several brain cells in the Netherworld as it communes with the forebears.

File it under Folk if you must; or “gratifyingly wyrd” if you will.

(Ian Fraser)


Available on Career Records

Soundtrack albums can be difficult to review since by definition they are designed to accompany visuals. But fans of the Brain who’ve followed our reviews over the years will know how cinematic their music can be, so this projected accompaniment to the first full length film from Vietnamese director Mr. Tam (aka Dreaming Of You) makes perfect sense and is a welcome addition to an already expansive and expressive, not to mention “visual” discography. [Many examples of previous “cinematic” music appear on the career retrospective box set Convolutions Of The Brain (Career, 2018)]

     The project came about when a Vietnamese fan of the band shared Shambaholic with a friend of the director. Tam was intrigued by the themes of dreams and sleep deprivation and asked if they had anything more. Armed with a synopsis that described the film as a story of two lovers who can only meet in their dreams, Ronald Sanchez reviewed the Brain’s always-evolving collection of works-in-progress for tracks that captured the nebulous world of dreams - the nature of distorted time, non-linear events, and constantly shifting locations. Several of these tracks also explored the band’s continued interest in the sonic soundscapes of progressive and krautrock artists, including Neu!, Cluster, and Harmonia. Once the submitted tracks were accepted by Tam, an additional two tracks were added.

     Using the film’s rough blueprint, the first new track, ‘I Would Not’ sets the stage with lyrics about “closing eyes” and “falling asleep” all set to languid guitar backing and floating keyboards. Guitarist/bassist Scott Sutherland contributes the other new song, ‘Knives’, perhaps the poppiest track in the set - it almost feels like one of those drop-ins during a romantic stroll along the beach filmed with glossy camera movements and montages - the track the film studio might pull out as the “single” to help push the soundtrack album! In fact, it was a last-minute addition to the material offered to Tam.

     The playful burping synths of ‘Connexion Compléte’ add a giddy, metronomic Kraftwerk strain to the storyline, while ‘Holding My Own’ brings on the magisterial prog strains of the most explosive bursts of Pink Floyd’s bombastic segments from The Wall (‘In The Flesh’ kept sneaking into my head).

‘Cultured Memory’ is one of two lengthy tracks that effectively evokes a dreamlike state, with musical motifs and themes darting to and fro, simulating the REM sleep inherent in this altered state of (un)consciousness. Ric Parnell is particularly adept at bouncing our attention off the walls with his syncopated drum attack adding a dimension of misdirection which is so prominent during our dreams. [Sadly, Parnell passed away just as the album was set for release]

     In true soundtrack fashion of revisiting musical themes across multiple cues (tracks), ‘A Story In A Story’ repurposes the same backing track as ‘I Would Not’, excising Kris Hughes’s vocals to concentrate on Bobby Sutliff’s bluesy, floating guitar solo and smoky string arrangements echoing the disorienting “been here before” déjà vu element which often infiltrates the dream state. ‘I Don’t Dream Anymore’ is a cotton-mouthed, hypnotic navel gazer with sleepy vocals that self-define somnambulistic. You may need help propping your head up for this one!

     Finally, the lengthy closer ‘Des Formes Qui Changent Lentement’ brings in Mike Musbuger for the drumming honours (tape loops, actually), which astute listeners and longtime fans may recognize from ‘After The Main Sequence’ (from 2009’s Fires Which Burnt Brightly). Sanchez’s synths and Mellotron serpentine around the loops (or vice versa) to add to the hypnotic vibe which brings our dream to an end.

(Jeff Penczak)

(LP/DL from
Rocket Recordings' Community | Rocket Recordings (bandcamp.com))

An altogether different bag of chips in terms of tangential GNOD activity to Paddy Shine’s ‘dark folk’ Moundabout project is this Chris Haslam ‘supergroup’, also featuring members of Shuck, Action Beat and Dalek (pronounced Die-a-leck), whose Michael Mare’s guttural, single take vocal run-throughs exemplify the visceral spontaneity on offer here.

Societal apocalypse makes for some pretty intense lyrical doom-scrolling even without taking into account the route-one aural firepower.  Of foreplay there is none and titles such as ‘Room Of Cruelty’ and a ‘World About To Die’ pre-supposes anything but a happy climax. Wailing guitar feedback battles constantly with fiendish electronics and the propulsion you’d expect from a righteous backline featuring occasional GNOD drummer Jon Perry.  You might reasonably expect corporate sponsorship from the likes of Nurofen, too. Yet in amidst the cacophonous aural screed there is corporeal form and a method in the madness - ‘Everybody Takes You Just Take More’ for instance, sounds like early Sonic Youth mangling B-52s’ ‘Planet Clare’ in the throes of a firestorm of static. Let that one sink in.

Like an especially gruelling anaerobic training session, at times this seems almost unbearably tough going, but the perverse sense of elation at having seen it off the premises, so to speak, compels you to do it all over again. Let’s just get a couple of recovery sessions in first, eh? What doesn’t kill you, and all that...it’s just that those sunlit uplands are going to have to wait a while longer. That’s if the End of Days doesn’t get us first.

(Ian Fraser )


(CD/Digital on Electric Magic Records)


When we last left Chris Peters, he was sadly closing up shop on the excellent psych-prog rock band Samsara Blues Experiment at the end of 2020 after a long, successful run.  SBE was based in Germany; now relocated to Brazil, Peters brings us his new project Fuzz Sagrado.  He released a couple of fine instrumental EPs in 2021 (‘Fuzz Sagrado’ and ‘Vida Pura’; they’re both recommended, but the latter is tops), which, when heard now, sound like a warm-up for this full-length release ‘A New Dimension.’


Samsara Blues Experiment was the full band treatment, but Fuzz Sagrado is all Peters.  In addition to writing, and playing all the instruments, he mixed and mastered the album, too.  And guess what?  It sounds a lot, though not exactly, like Samsara Blues Experiment, and that’s a good thing.  If you knew him as a great musician before, shredding on guitar and adding keyboards, including Mellotron, he shows even more chops here in the DIY project adding the rest of the “band.”


After the two instrumental EPs, ‘A New Dimension’ is the complete deal, with Peters’ Ian Anderson/Mikael Åkerfeldt-sounding voice taking center stage.  Samsara Blues Experiment bowed out on final album ‘End of Forever’ with Peters seemingly singing bitterly near the album’s end of the divisions within the band which led to its demise.  If anything, the lyrics on ‘A New Dimension’ are even darker.


Full of melancholia, frustration, anger and despair at the state of the world today (hard to blame him, isn’t it?) and of personal struggles, Peters doesn’t mince words.  Even on the fascinating “Lunik IX,” which starts out with acoustic guitars and self-help mindfulness recommendation “Breathe Out, Breathe In,” Peters almost can’t help himself from transforming the song into a heavy droning, Eastern-sounding, minor-key, sardonic reflection of a shattered and dark soul.  It sounds like anything but music for peaceful meditation.


It's not all bitterness, though even the love songs aren’t entirely happy-go-lucky affairs.  Some are appeals to his partner to hang in there despite long-distance separation in a world gone mad.  “Baby Bee” is one of them, a compelling love song, set to a pretty melody and Mellotron background, thanking his partner for braving the storm and detachment, and supporting him when he needed it most.  It’s also the briefest song on the record.  “The Mushroom Park” and the title track cover similar ground of wanting to hold on together from afar with menacing storm clouds everywhere, and the promise someday of a loving reunion and long-held dreams fulfilled.


There are two strong instrumentals, the eleven-minute odyssey “Further” and briefer, melodic Mellotron-backed “Need for Simplicity,” which demonstrate both Peters’ compositional range and superb musicianship.


The album’s available on CD now, plus three CD-only bonus tracks, through Chris’ Electric Magic label, and he says an LP version is coming.  For those craving more from the creator who brought you Samsara Blues Experiment, not to mention Terraplane and his Surya Kris Peters incarnations, there’s plenty for which to dive in and enjoy.


(Mark Feingold)


(Cassette/Digital on Inner Islands) 


Wake is truly a magical ambient album by Rosa Beach Mason & Sean Conrad (Channelers, Ashan).  Combining wordless vocals by Mason and gentle soundscapes, from start to finish it’s a soothing bliss-out.  Mason’s ethereal oohs and aahs are both stacked and interweaving, as they float all around you.  They have the effect you get when watching a large school of colorful tropical fish swim in one direction, then turn on a dime on another heading. 


Sean Conrad’s soundscapes are perfectly restrained and simple, never overtaking the album’s eight tracks.  He usually blends a light synth sound with organic instruments, such as dulcimer, arpeggiated guitar, and flutes. 


The combination of the diaphanous vocals and soundscapes makes you feel you’re floating on air.  To me, the best ambient music is melodic, or at least retains a core melodic structure, and that’s what Mason and Conrad do to brilliant effect, such as on the track “Lure.  Like a subterranean woven and interconnected fiber network of mushrooms, Wake has strong underpinnings of nurture at its heart.  It can be mesmerizing, and never anything short of gorgeous. 


Another highlight is “Durance,” a most peaceful sonic journey.  Mason’s many vocal tracks are grouped in a small mid-range choir, while higher pitched ones sail up and all around.  The album is also marvelously sonically balanced and mixed.  Conrad wisely realizes Mason’s voice(s) are all in a trebly range, and counters it with just the right amount of bottom and mid-range in his instrumentation. 


I listened to Wake on a solitary nature hike through forest and field, and the enveloping experience was practically transcendent.  If you have a chance to listen in a similar way, do take advantage. 


The music reminded me slightly of the other-worldly qualities of Linda Perhacs, and if you like her music, you should love this.  Mason and Conrad developed these songs through improvisation, and further refined them from there.  It must’ve taken a long time to complete with all those vocal tracks, but the result is stunningly breathtaking.  Full of hypnotic, ethereal feeling, Wake is easily the most fulfilling and uplifting ambient album I’ve heard this year, and gets my highest recommendation. 


(Mark Feingold)

nick nicely - Secret Life Of Chance

Available from The state51 Conspiracy

nicely (always lower case) has been showering us with his unique blend of psychedelic synth pop for over 40 years, although there was a 30 year gap between his seminal ‘Hilly Fields (1892)’ and collectable vinyl imprint Fruits De Mer’s invitation to revisit it in 2012. During that time, an album of early demos and unreleased recordings (Psychotropia) was released by Tenth Planet (2003), with bonus tracks added to subsequent CD versions on Sanctuary (2004) and Cherry Red/Grapefruit (2010). Captured Tracks also reissued the expanded editions on vinyl in 2012 as Elegant Daze: 1979-1986. nicely also released several singles as a member Airtight, Freefall, Citizen Kaned, and Psychotroipc. His ‘Hilly Fields’ revamp sparked a resurgence resulting in several albums, compilations, and singles over the last decade and Secret Life Of Chance continues his exploration of randomly generated sounds using analogue and digital sources, but moving into a more ambient direction where each track detours into new and exciting directions, ensuring that no two tracks feel like they are emanating from the same artist. But this is not a greatest hits compilation or an idiosyncratic mix tape, but an exploration of his influences, rechanneled into electronica, but always bearing hints of his psychedelic pop roots.

     A burst of ‘Chopsticks’-inspired oriental melodies infuses ‘Introlusion’ which offers a sense of childlike gamesmanship within which nicely summons us to explore the “secret life of chance”. ‘Otherside 3’ delivers treated vocals across a dreamily distorted and phased  ‘80s synthpop landscape that lands us squarely in the alternate universe where Peter Gabriel and Laurie Anderson meet. Jesse Gallagher (Apollo Sunshine) guests on the more structured ‘Lives Unlived’, a smooth beat that should keep his younger fans on the dance floors, while the funky beat-tastic mo-terrific ‘Butterflyy Mind’ brings some of that psychedelicised time spent in Hilly Fields back for a new spin. If you were into the Brit Pop “E’s are good” frame of mind, you’ll love this - think Shamen-meets-Happy Mondays.

     ‘She Wave’ morphs a Scotch-soaked Tom Waits vocal (singing ‘Summertime’, no less!) onto a hypnotic, Kraftwerkian trip down the Autubahn, and his sold-out 2018 Fruits De Mer ‘All Along The Watchtower’ c/w ‘The Doors of Perception’ single finds a more accessible home. Dylan’s chestnut is dissected to the point of unrecogniseability, like Nick Cave’s multi-voiced and multi-faceted revamp of Cohen’s ‘Tower Of Song’ on the I’m Your Fan tribute. ‘Almost Julie’ returns to the dancefloor with body-swerving gyrations perfect for those sweaty Acid House re-enactments and ends the album on an upbeat, party hearty note, as if The KLF dropped by and brought their chill-out albums with them.

     This one’s a little tougher to absorb (prog, hip-hop, psych, soul and several other genres we haven’t invented names for) are kitchen-sinked into the grooves in a version that possible only Dylan could love, but you certainly won’t forget it anytime soon! The flip rescues the day, a pastiche of kite-flying, skywriting smoke rings that feels like it’s about to morph into a memory of some free festival from long ago and far away at any moment.

     nicely is always an adventurous listen, and his intentionally schizophrenic misdirections will keep your ears pricked for where that next beat is coming from or going to.

(Jeff Penczak)

(LP/DL from
Rocket Recordings' Community | Rocket Recordings (bandcamp.com))

With a name that you might visualise on the side of a van with the words ‘General Builder’ inscribed below it (see also C. Duncan and M. Ward), J. Lunz is the sole trader identity adopted by the very wonderful Lorena Quintanilla of acclaimed Mexican duo Lorelle Meets The Absolute. Del Aire is what American friends would term her sophomore release for Rocket Recordings following 2020’s Hibiscus, which we described at the time as more-or-less essential listening. There, no pressure at all on the follow-up, then.

Like much of Hibiscus, icebreaker ‘Cruce’ plants us back in Laurie Anderson territory, forcing me to confront a younger self slow to appreciate her brand of avant garde. Wait long enough and the ghosts of your formative musical education come back to haunt you. These days I get it. ‘Lineal’ takes it a step further; pulsing repetitive synth notes and an edgy, cloying vocal portending something more dramatic, adding layers of static and electronic orchestration as we go. The sudden ending caught me wrong-footed. Meanwhile ‘Ráfaga’ introduces an element of jazzy improvisation, by way of clattering percussion, while liberal use of echo lends an anguished, pleading note to the vocals. There’s also an unexpected and jarringly disconcerting coda, as if Lorena is trying out for a place on the GNOD tour bus. If Terrascope still did playlists, ‘Ráfaga’ might just have made the cut.

Or perhaps not, as other strong contenders this way come. There is a seemingly impossible juxtaposition of aural beauty and sonic screed in ‘Outside’ that pulls you in all manner of emotional directions, something underlined by the artist’s hyperventilation as the clock ticks down. Then there’s ‘Nina’, another exercise in nagging cyber-minimalism but with the addition of trumpet squalls courtesy of ‘Father’ Freddie Murphy (check out his suitably eerie and intimately intense current project, The Night Shows No Dawn). That just leaves ‘Horizonte’, which revisits similar grooves to ‘Cruce’, although this time Laurie seems to have been joined by a mutant Jon and Vangelis wandering a post-apocalyptic landscape. Bittersweet dreams, children.

Whether Del Aire reaches quite the same gold standard as its predecessor is a difficult one to call on the strength of just two run-throughs and the odd selective recap for the purpose of this musing. That might indicate something of a slow(er) burner. That’s no bad thing, in that it is often the things you grow to love that prove to be the most enduring infatuations. Just don’t expect me to play hard-to-get.

(Ian Fraser)


(LP from Backwoods Modern Recordings www.swarmeofbeese.com )

Austin, Texas has long been a fertile ground for musicians such as Swarme Of Beese. The band began life as an acoustic trio the Victor Mourning in 2008, comprising of Stephen Canner –Vocals, guitar and bouzouki along with Lynne Adele – vocals, violin, guitar, guitjo and percussion and Stefen Keydel – violin and viola with guest Mark Addison – piano, bass, slide guitar, electric guitar, glockenspiel, pump organ,  percussion, sampled cello, alchemy and thaumaturgy. Mark also produced, recorded and mixed the album at the Aerie studio in Austin.

Hillbilly noir and definitely in the American Gothic bag the record has been described as “hillbillies who got lost on their way to the moonshine still and stumbled upon some mushrooms”. This debut album by the band begins with the title track ‘Backwoods Of My Mind’, they have a laconic style, long and slow, like winding through the Appalachian hills where they lived for a few years before returning to Texas. Stephen sings this tale of rabbits and religion, subtle acoustic guitar and violin embellished with a few winding lead guitar licks.  She killed a rabbit and fed it to her family then used the bones to make an altar, praying for her daddy and of the pain of being young.

The following song is sung by Lynne ‘Singing In The Dark’, again Appalachia is not far away on this tale of woe, more folky in nature than the previous song, it has some fine scraping violin breaks lending the song more of an English folk sound. ‘Such A Thing As Tupelo’ slows things way down, delivered like a stoned Guy Clark, ashes fall like water. When you are in gothic country land it seems a banjo is never far away and so it appears on ‘Crown Of Wire’, more religion, love and loss. Acoustic guitar, violin and glockenspiel all weave together; with the violin leading us all on a merry dance.

Side two begins with ‘Battleground’ covering lots of ground it’s a very good song, a fuller sound. This is followed by ‘I Sing To You, this is a sad keening ballad, with forlorn vocals; again about longing with violin being the prominent lead instrument. ‘Guntown Mountain’, sung by Lynne is excellent, a great story song about defiance. The songs all have plenty of space with room to develop, as the instrumentation throughout the record is kept more as a way to frame the words, most apparent on this memorable song. The record ends with a heavy one, ‘Nothing But Her Name’ some terrific gothic noir. This is fine debut album.

(Andrew Young)


(CD available from Schnauzer.bandcamp.com   )

Bristol based band Schnauser have a new record to deliver to the world, this is their seventh album since releasing Irritant in 2017.

The band are made up of Alan Strawbridge who is joined by Dino Christodoulou, Duncan Gammon and Jasper Williams who play a mixture of sax, organ, guitar, synth’s bass and drums. The title track ‘Obligations’ opens the proceedings,  It’s a good fun opener and a fine way to start an album. Shades of clever pop band XTC are immediately apparent and Alan singing reminds me a bit of Kimberley Rew, “tight chest and trousers down” he sings in this quirky tale. ‘Daddy’, is a lengthy, fairly frantic baroque prog song, he’s something on the stock exchange don’t you know. ‘Waltz Of The Four Dark Corners’ follows and appears to be somewhat calmer, albeit a bit more strident and tricky, musically it’s very complex with tight arrangements, love the fuzzy, wah wah guitar in it.

Heavily treated vocals introduce us to ‘Positive’, a twisted fanfare which is followed by the clever pop nous of ‘Do The Death’, although it’s threatened to be overtaken by rampant saxophones at any moment. Duncan’s Hammond playing is swell here and the song takes on a distinct prog bent as it progresses.

Side two begins with ‘Bistro’, more of that quirky pop, maybe the sort that prompted Stewart Lee to write of them “Schnauser combine sardonic lyrics with sunny melodies, resulting in a pleasing album of intelligent pop”. ‘Forever’, is slightly more straightforward in nature, the bands distinct sound beginning to become more familiar, its a mix of sax, organ, guitar over a rhythm section often pulled in strange directions. Indeed mad organ informs us of the arrival of ‘Man Friday’ Soft Machine style organ  and brass stabs then kidnap it, the song develops into a tasty prog pop confection, which will delight the senses of the more prog orientated listener.

‘The Crane’ emphasises the quality of this band, lovely harmonies and playing, it shimmers with a lysergic quality, turning on a sixpence, the band move as one through this tricky multi part epic. The final song on this great album is ‘Twisted Solar’ which pretty much sums up the sound of the album with organs, sax and guitars all combining over great harmonies. This one’s my favourite of the album and a great way to end a never less than enjoyable album, I must say that I particularly enjoyed the Ratledge style organ wig out at the end of the song.

(Andrew Young)


(LP from http://bluetapes.co.uk )

Well known to Terrascope readers Ashtray Navigations have put out their first album on vinyl for a while, and the first problem faced with reviewing an instrumental album of clear plastic without a label is which side is which. Am I listening to ‘The Thin Cat’ or ‘The Feather’? In the end it doesn’t really matter as the mix of brain fizzing, eyeball melting music on offer here is designed to be one big trip anyway, a cosmic soup.

After a bit of investigation it appears that it is ‘The Thin Cat’, it is a trippy, organ infested fuzzed up drifter of note. This then morphs into the shamanic tropes of ‘The Tactic’ with its manic lead guitar. ‘The Blizzard’ lives up to its name, it blows hard and invades the senses and nearly killed the speakers. I quite like the way that ‘The Foot’ works after that, it’s a jazzy interlude but still with layers of synth and programming. This is followed by ‘The Spectrum’ which features heavy electronics, with hazy stabs of electric guitar over a heavy narcoleptic beat, fat with dubby bass notes.

Side two opens with ‘The Feather’, for me the best track on the album, the sounds of crashing waves yields to vibraphone, nasty lead guitar fills, it’s a narcoleptic drowsy song, infested with mad synth soundscapes. The synth bubbles and squelches throughout ‘The Panic’, a woozy song of note. ‘The Case’, is another highlight, bachelor space age pad music, atmospheric electro dream pop. Massed keyboards hove into view for the wonderfully titled ‘The Ink Circle’ with some fine synth playing, it’s a wonky delight and a fine ending to a great record.

(Andrew Young)


(LP from www.claypipemusic.com )

Frances Castle is a lady with many talents, she is first and foremost an illustrator but also a label owner (Clay Pipe) and musician (Hardy Tree). This is the fourth Hardy Tree release, following on from The Fields Lie Sleeping Underneath, Through The Passage Of Time and Sketches In D Minor.

This lovely, bucolic instrumental record starts with my favourite on the album ‘A Garden Square In The Snow’, we hear a garden gate being opened and closed, as its squeaks echo and fade we find ourselves in the glorious outside world, but a world that is slightly different from normal as this is a reflection of a much quieter world, one informed by the first lockdown due to the first wave of the coronavirus which happened in the spring of 2020. Like many others Francis, with not much else to do, took to wandering the local streets of her neighbourhood for exercise and well being. She also took the time to look up local streets in historical newspapers, reading of crimes and mysteries, noting the clientele of the area, livelihoods of past residents etc.

This opening track hits all of the right buttons for me, a pastoral melody wheezes away on a mellotron and plenty of instruments join in all bleeping and twinkling away. If you liked the Vic Mars album Inner Paths And Outer Roads you will adore this. Frances follows this with ‘The Spire Of St Mary’s’, built around violin and piano motifs, as light as a soufflé, a pretty, yet wistful melody plays out over a gentle bed of electronics. ‘St Saviour’s Through The Railings’, is announced by a couple of loud crows before the metallic notes of the tune start up, this is a sparse tune, a ghostly melody with a light dusting of percussion. ‘Shop Fronts And Parked Cars’ is a wonky delight, off kilter melody’s bounce about while a central motif is repeated, it ebbs and flows merrily along.

‘The New River Path, August’ is another favourite, I can just imagine walking along the river, noticing the bright water and deep dark eddies as I go, it’s a bright tune too, hopeful and calm which sets up nicely for ‘Railway Tracks’ in which the synth playing is the star of the show, it really bleeps and fizzes, with metallic echoes bouncing about, underpinned by other keyboard sounds. It’s another of my favourites and fits in to the flow of the album very well. ‘Mist On The Playing Fields’, sounds pretty forlorn and grey, underpinned by pattering percussion, it does however have quite a pretty central melody suggesting hopefulness.  ‘Face At The Window, Seaforth Crescent’, is another wistful wonky delight, a pastoral ode, it’s gentle yet somehow full of portent, of something just out of reach. This brings us to the last song on the album ‘Up The Hill’, beeps and echoes, it twinkles away nicely, again bucolic and pastoral, like a little pocket symphony. A fabulous addition to wonderful record label, I will be in the queue for a copy when it goes on pre sale in a couple of weeks, at the beginning of July.  

(Andrew Young)