= June 2016 =  
Maida Vale
The Dowling Pool
Orgone Box
Duncan Maitland
Soft Hearted Scientists
Mike Cooper
The Wych Elm
Terminal Heads


(LP from The Sign Records )

Children of the Terrascope Nation, trust me on this one. You are going to LOVE it. From the opening wah-wah guitar scream of the riff-laden ‘(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire” to the closing five-star ten-minute instrumental bliss-out that is ‘Heaven and Earth’, which doesn’t merely spruce up Funkadelic’s majestic ‘Maggot Brain’ with an overhaul and a new lick of paint, but pimps it up handsomely with new wings, go-faster stripes and even furry dice, this album is utterly brilliant.

‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ has a slow burning bluesy feel, almost inevitably building to a wah-wah guitar solo to die for (think ‘Chocolate Piano’ by Orang-Utan). ‘Standby Swing’ is arguably the charismatic lead singer Matilda Roth’s finest moment, reaching levels of passionate imploring few have scaled since Grace Slick was in her pomp. ‘Dirty War’ is another slow-burner; I was reminded of ‘Sail Inside’ by Cargo, another personal 70s favourite. ‘Restless Wanderer’ is understated in the same way that a Groundhogs number is understated; a slow yet powerful track with a strong message, on which the rhythm section really comes to the fore, with again some delicious electric blues guitar underpinning it.

Remarkably, this is a debut album. I can only imagine this Swedish quartet (Linn Johannesson, Johanna Hansson, Sofia Ström and Matilda Roth) have honed their art through studio jamming and innumerable live shows before committing to record, as it’s an absolute stunner.

If you’ve ever enjoyed records by any of the artists rather lazily name-checked by yours truly earlier in this review or indeed by NSU, Dust, Toad or Aunt Mary, then this is for you. And if you haven’t, well check it out anyway because I comfortably predict it’ll be in a lot of people’s best of lists at the end of the year (Phil McMullen)




(LPs on Sugarbush Records )

As with so many releases on Sugarbush, The Dowling Pool have a sixties feel, jangly guitar, and plenty of melodic swagger, however on top of that the music on their latest album is very difficult to categorise, sure it is definitely psychedelic but there is also a seventies art rock bent and the song writing of Blur seems present as well especially on the opening salvo of “Rebecca Receiving” and the sprightly groove of “Fight, Fight, Fight”.

    Equally entertaining is “When She Knows, She Knows” a fine slice of UK pop with honky tonk piano and an arrangement that is more complex than it sounds, with the vocal harmonies reminding me of Queen in 1975, as does the following tune “Vox Pops” which could be an outtake from “A Night At The Opera” which is a good thing and illustrates the quality of the writing on the album.

    To end side one, “Willing To Change” is a delightful tune that you continue to sing as you flip the record over where you discover the delights of “Hope and Glory” which could be a brit-pop classic except it is better than that, a glorious musical romp with smart lyrics and plenty of musical changes reminding me of XTC at their finest.

  As the album moves on there is plenty to love and even a nod towards Prince on the lovely “Bring Back The Glow”. To end it all, the title track glows with warmth, a gentle way to leave an album that is overflowing with wonder and quality, an album that will be getting plenty of air time this summer.

    Consisting of four track recording from the early nineties, “Lorne Park Tapes” chronicles the early musical development of Orgone Box through the songs of Rick Corcoran during a period where the main memories are “beach, pub,studio, train, rehearsals, gigging, ligging, someone's crash pad, repeat..”. To be fair the sleeves notes almost write the review themselves, a self confessed infatuation with The Beatles evident throughout the album, this obsession fighting with a love of melodic American Rock such as Tom Petty or Cheap Trick to produce song that could how the fab four would have sounded had they been American and famous in the seventies. This mix has resulted some excellent tunes that could define Power Pop, meaty guitar sweetened by melodic loveliness, with tunes such as “In The Right Hands” and “Hello Wonderland” making all the right moves and sounding very professional for four track recordings.

    Over eleven songs there is a definite personality and coherence to the tunes meaning they flow together to create a collection that all work together. Highlights include “Star” which has some great seventies guitar sounds and “Barbican” a tune with a darker lyrical content that reminds me of something by Cockney Rebel. Nice and noisy my favourite track is the excellent “Last Ride On The Jets”, guitar rocking out with abandon, plenty of jangle and shining with melodic sunshine, a perfect musical moment that makes me happy. To end, “Hard For Me”  wears the Beatles influence proudly on its sleeve, a slightly muffled sound only adding to its charm.

  With a twang of steel guitar and an easy strum, “Your Century” kicks off the latest release from Duncan Maitland with a laid back seventies vibe, bright production and plenty of hooks drawing you into the warm melodic charms of the track with  the bit in the middle reminding me strongly of 10cc, the charms continued on “Terry The Toad” another delightful and very relaxed tune that is easy on the ear, beautifully arranged and filled with some great playing.

    As the side continues you realise just how good the song writing is, shades of The Lilac Time, XTC, Paul McCartney and (I might have to whisper this) Gilbert O'Sullivan to be heard in songs such as “Crash Position” or the lilting loveliness of “Handbirds”, side one finished in style with “Alien At Home”, a song so catchy you can sing along the first time you hear it.

    With no let up in quality on side two, listeners are guaranteed a good time as a sweet trumpet heralds in the slightly reggae groove of “Up To You” another catchy as hell tune, whilst the lazy messing about on the river feel of “Insect Under The Stone” is drenched in the scent of lilac and honeysuckle so languid is its intent, especially as the trumpet takes over the melody line, beautiful.

   Throughout this collection the harmonies are spot on, the playing immaculate and the flow of the album ensures a sunny and suitably mellow 40 minutes is to be enjoyed anytime. If you grew up listening to the radio in the seventies then the tunes will bring back memories, although this is no retro trip, just a collection of timeless and wonderful songs.

   So three album that are different in style yet all shine with the quality that you have come to expect from Sugarbush records. (Simon Lewis)



SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS – GOLDEN OMENS (Double CD from www.softheartedscientists.com)

There are those acts who seem to be on a ceaseless quest for reinvention. Each new release is different from the first in an act of wilful determination never to let the grass grow under their feet. This can be admirable and exciting if a little hit or miss (confounding, even alienating one’s audience, as if many of them care).

Then there are those who you have a pretty fair idea of what each subsequent release will sound like. Sometimes this can be disappointing and a little irksome once the veneer of early promise is cruelly stripped away (Oasis?). At other times it can be thoroughly comforting and rewarding within its own charmed little bubble. Such is the case with Soft Hearted Scientists, whose latest double CD release – their 7th album – will seem like a comfortable old pair of slippers to devotees of their blend of thoroughly British lightly psychedelic and exquisitely crafted pop.

Like The Soft Cyclone which came out in 2014, this is divided into four sections comprising short and often incredibly sweet instrumental vignettes and charmingly sounding ditties of which the majority seem to be nonsensical or autobiographical (or perhaps nonsensically autobiographical) but entertaining stories in their own right. There is also an everyday feel to some lyrics – the misery of the British winter, the banality of TV “popular culture” for instance, while some of the more personal content hint at darker themes of homesickness and breakdown. Like Cyclone it also has an endearingly rough-hewn edge to it – you can sense that the overdubs have been kept to a minimum, so listen out for the occasional squeak or clunk.

Of those implausibly lovely instrumentals, “Imaginary Film Scene No.1” and “On A Pathway Darkly” sound practically utopian in their bucolic simplicity yet splendour and the polar opposite end of the “psychedelic spectrum” from the drone monsters. All praise then to Paul Jones who seems to be the main crafter of these short journeys into sonic sojourns. As for the wordy-ones then we mainly have Nathan Hall to thank. It is his constructs, lyrical flights of fancy and unfussy vocal delivery with which the Softs are most associated. “Golden Omens”, “Shiver Me Timbers” are among the early strong pace setters although until the penultimate track he never quite manages to approach the transcendental beauty of, say, “Strangest Scene” (from Scarecrow Smile) or “Before I Was Born” (Slow Cyclone). “The Opportunity”, when it arrives, is a melodic yet understated gem, while the Gorky’s-like “Helicopters Of Habershon Street”, the twilight “Glimpse!” with its wistful “ghosts of the young men we once were” and that unerring pop bullseye “The Creeps!” make for such a strong supporting cast that you simply have to marvel at the pleasure to be had in Hall and company’s “Syd meets Fabs meet the Oldham Tinkers” brand of wonderland whimsy.
(Ian Fraser)



(Cassette/Download from Zamzamrec

Twin is Christelle Atenstaedt, Bristol-based and a label mate of Deej Dhariwal who will no doubt be familiar to a good many of you both for his solo work and with Thought Forms.

Imbued with a sparse yet cavernous sound that could be described a spiritual ambient minimalism, Twin faces you down armed with not too much more than electric guitar, synths and a voice that sounds beguilingly incorporeal. On ‘Messiah’, layers of guitar build on a repeated riff before breaking through into what could easily be mistaken for an early P J Harvey solo outtake,  whereas ‘Viola Solaris’ is busier, more caustic and tips the hat more in the 4AD/Cocteau Twins/Dead Can Dance direction, before seemingly reprising the motif and mood of ‘Messiah’.

‘Traum’ is also a work of ethereal strangeness and charm that has a gently meditative, hypnotic quality despite introducing some restrained drumming (courtesy of Thought Forms’ Guy Metcalfe) into an intoxicating mix. However the choice for Terrascope playlist entry (should this become publicly available on Soundcloud) is likely to be ‘Moving Light’ which you can imagine echoing evocatively around some gothic cathedral and which speaks to me a lot more than ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ does these days. Restrained yet powerful and moving it epitomises all that is best about this highly accomplished and subtly majestic debut, which although billed as an EP is, according to my stopwatch, not far short of many a full-length release. ‘The Sheltering Sky’ offers up a more ominous drone, closer in style to Book Of Shadows, who used to grace our pages with some regularity but from whom we’ve not heard for a while, before ‘Astoria’ soars into some good old fashioned riffing and shredding following a deceptively measured start and which brings Hverir to a fittingly uplifting yet quite profound finale.
A few years back Phil and others organised a small gathering called Woolf Music, set in the grounds of a fine old house in Wiltshire and where Twin would have been thoroughly at home. Should anyone be tempted to do something similar again then this would be my choice for a sundown set (with Deej accompanying, perhaps). You really need to check this out but you’d better be quick as Hverir is in very limited supply indeed. Don’t let it slip away.
(Ian Fraser)




(LP from http://www.backwards.it/releases/)
This 73 years old gentleman has a recording career spanning from the late 60's until now, with more than 50 albums, solo or in collaborations, including The Recedents with the late Lol Coxhill.

I would lie if I said I've heard more than a few of his albums. I haven't. But I've heard this one and it really made me curious and made me go back a bit to try to see where the twists and turns in his career went.

Starting in the late 60's as a typical English folky musician with mostly acoustic guitar picking and singing and…

(here's the moment when I should try to concentrate almost 50 years of utterly high creativity into a few sentences… )

… onto a highly experimental approach to music, with guitar, electronics, samples and dark moods, as a folky version of Scott Walkers darkness. Mike Cooper shows an experimental lust where even the voice has partly turned into a Scott Walker:ish pitch reminding of Soused, his recording with Sunn O))), even though Coopers album was recorded in Beirut, Lebanon, in 2012, some time before Walker recorded his.

Cooper is on a journey where he investigates what sounds and emotions you can bring out of your instruments, your voice, your emotions and engagement.

The lyrics are, as I've understood, brought together with a cut-up method a' la' William Borroughs from two of Thomas Pynchon's novels, 'Gravity's Rainbow' and 'V'. This non-storytelling kind of lyrics is really suitable for the mostly improvised music, not keeping a straight song structure in line, letting the music drift away on a chord or droneish sound for awhile, like he's waiting for something to catch up on him and then he can go on for a couple of more minutes, or maybe with a new song, new sounds, new experiments.

I always finds it very exciting and uplifting when musicians who's been around for a long while show their interest in not standing still, want their music to point forward to some unknown territories, explore what they haven't explored before.

The songs on this album is written by himself except the final track, Bob Dylan's 'Master at War' which in Coopers hands turns into a dark, frightening nightmare. Most of the content is instrumental, but with his voice coming up every now and then, singing in a free way melodies more that verses and choruses. The instrumentation is lap steel guitar, often electrified, and electronics, sometimes loops. For me the album becomes more of a suite in eight parts than and album with a collections of songs. It's a well kept together unit.

Is there anything left of the folky Mike Cooper here? It's easy to say ”No”, but I'm not sure it would be correct. I'm not sure. It could as well count as free form floating improvisations and it's a goddamn interesting album. Maybe it's jazz, after all. Or 21st Century blues.

Favourite tracks: 'Humid Morning', with it's loops remind of Fripp's frippertronics, and 'Master at War', not because the origin of the song, but because the darkness with no end in Coopers version, the blackest black and it still feels hopeful.
And if everything gets too dark, it's just to think about the charming gentlemen with his huge collection of Hawaii shirts, colourful and bright. The darkness hides the light.  (Stefan Ek)



(4CD set free to ticket holders
see http://www.fruitsdemerrecords.com/)

Name a four letter word beginning with F?

Now award yourself a dextrous pat on the back if you answered “free”. Well, ok you will have to have bought a ticket for the Fruits de Mer/Mega Dodo which, depending on when you get to read this, either takes or took place on Bank Holiday Sunday 29th May, but as an introduction to the featured bands it is tasty morsel nonetheless and in common with the sumptuous goodie-bags doled out at the Fruits/Sendelica annual Crabstock festivals.

“Games For May” is a joint-venture between two labels who hadn’t noticed that vinyl had “gone away” and so no know better. It’s part all-day festival and part-record fair and featuring staple acts Sendelica, Magic Bus, Soft Hearted Scientists and The Honey Pot. From the top then…
Sendelica, of course, we know and love. Their featured CD is a leisurely 51 minutes of cosmic, mostly floating megamix which won’t quicken the pulse unduly but should whet the appetite enough for the uninitiated to want to explore down rabbit holes or pay close attention to bottles labelled “drink me” (good lord, is it Friday night again already) and to sate the thirst of those who have already been there and been done to. It’s grown up space jamming which will resonate with fans of Gong, floaty Floyd and the jazzier recesses of the Canterbury Scene, while that midsection is so chilled it comes with its own fridge. It’s what the late John Peel might have termed a “handsome sound”.

Now Magic Bus are a real throwback but one well worth reversing the old camper van for. A whole Caravan of Camels they are the living embodiment of the Fruits de Mer strapline “it’s as if the last 40 years never happened”. The singer has that Richard Sinclair languid baritone and they have that slightly quirky, almost jaunty off-beat delivery and pop sensibility that set the old Kentish lot apart from many of their contemporaries. Forget that this lot are from Devon, the eponymous track has more than a whiff of “Land Of Grey And Pink”, down to guitar riff, the flute and the organ. There are also a couple of exclusive and thoroughly agreeable live tracks here, I’m guessing from their previous Fruitstock appearances and if so it makes me even more annoyed that I missed them at last year’s 13th Dream in Cardigan.

Leading off with some very tasteful not to mention tasty blues rock guitar licks, “Games For May” soon settles down into a very English take on psychedelic pop showcasing The Honey Pot twin front people, Icarus Peel and Crystal Jacqueline. It is Peel who writes most of the songs and if I did my research properly I’d probably know who that guitarist was too. If Peel’s occasionally tremulous voice can be a bit of an acquired taste his Balin to Jacqueline’s is more conventional and not at all displeasing Slick. Certainly their “Pink and Orange”  and “Here Come The Dreams” from the 2014 Games For May pitches them as the UK’s descendants of Jefferson Airplane augmented by Hammond-sounding organ and driven by some scorching guitar work. This is where they work best, whereas some of their faux-sixties ballads sound as soppy as they do poppy (“Almost Exactly Beautiful” would be a very guilty pleasure indeed).

And so then to Soft Hearted Scientists and this one really is a treat, featuring cuts from all seven albums, including their latest Golden Omens. Highlights abound and include the breezy “Diving Bell” (from Uncanny Tales); the sparkly late-era Beatles of “Mountain Delight”, interspersed with wistful early Floydian ruminations (Wandermoon) and the endearingly silly “Seaside Sid and the Giant Squid” (False Lights), a darkly comic playground singalong to which banjo lends a somewhat jaunty edge. All in all a damned good introduction to a band deserving of a higher profile and level of appreciation.
(Ian Fraser)




Summed up perfectly on the press release, “Woodward is a kinda mixed bag- sonically, performance wise, song wise”, what they forget to mention is that, in some weird way, it hangs together wonderfully, a delightful sonic journey with a surprise at every turn, 16 tunes that seemed linked only by the fact they are all on the same album yet are some how in tune with the album's vibe.

    Consider “Trigger Warning”, the opener, delicate piano and a sweet voice glide gracefully until suddenly interrupted by the indie (think 4AD) noise of “Hobo Song” which accelerates out of the speakers, distorted and seemingly pissed off. Elsewhere, “Luminol” is a more considered slice of distorted guitar with melody structure and a subtle psych feel, whilst “(Shaved)” is fuzzy country Americana and “French Dance Hall Fire” closes the album in experimental dream pop mode, crackly drone guitar and sweet vocals writhing together in blissful surrender.

    Over on side two, “Magician For Hire” is noisy yet incredibly folky in a slow doomy way and sounds fucking great, the quality continued with the hardcore punk energy of “Adventure Girl” one for the home mosh pit on a saturday night. Lodged in the middle of side to the listener will find the electronic pop of “Ballad/Beat Combo” which begins as a dreamy (yep, you guessed it) ballad, before exploding into a lively art-rock piece, complete with synths and heavy guitar, sounding like Roxy Music if they had been an American garage band in 1971. Following “Iron” is a cloud of droning electronics and vocals, the whole shebang brought to a close with “---------” a banjo led tune about sugar and strawberries, obviously, ending a collection that has plenty of twist and turns, opportunity to annoy the neighbours and quality throughout, I kinda love it. My copy is pressed on blue vinyl and came with a fine sticker, hope yours does too.

    Generally sounding like a mini version of the album, the “Crashberry Waltzes” EP has one song on side one, playing at 45, and four on side two, playing at 33,1/3, the vinyl pressed on the kinda pink you would expect a Crashberry to look like. On side one, “Poison Control” blends Neil Young Guitar with dream pop atmosphere, the whole thing topped off with a lovely trumpet. Flip it over and you are treated to 4 slabs of energetic power pop that rattle by happily, with only the final “Ever Falls the Twilight” slowing thing down at least a tad, the trumpet adding a wistfulness to the brief tune.

  So, I have just listened to 21 tunes by The Wych Elm and I think I might just play them all again, result. (Simon Lewis)



(LP available on Revolution Coast Records)

When I asked keyboardist Jens Unosson what this PSP thing with fellow Spacious Mind guitarist Niklas Viklund was all about and how it differed from their previous collaborations in TSM, Eternal Love, Cauldron, and Holy Family, he was not shy: “Oh, this is something else all together. It’s back-to-the-roots music for freaks only!” One listen to opener ‘Wicked’ and you immediately sense he’s right – this is an altogether different kettle of musical fish. The warped, distorted electrical pulses and screeching guitar throbbing out of your speakers while they pound tribal drums and repeat the title over and over again sound more like the soundtrack to some satanic ritual going on in some dark, dank basement that one hopes the authorities never find out about. These surely must be the freakiest sounds these guys have ever laid down on wax. The simple, one-line lyric – “Destroy all powers to be!/You are free” serves their intended purpose, which Jens described as “Half deep ecology living-off-the-land & half anarcho wrong side of the tracks. We aim to cut through the heart of capitalism... You Will Fall!”

Viklund lets his Hendrixian freak flag fly on ‘Takin’ To The Heather Blues’, and the dystopian lyrics are delivered in the nastiest Captain Beefheart drawl this side of Joshua Tree. “Out here in the woods/There’s a quiet revolution/Messing up your heads with severe dissolution.” The whole thing sounds like a springboard from Peter Finch’s classic line from Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Herein lies several suggestions for a solution, culminating with “We fight the fascist powers that be/Below our banner PSP”, which Jens says can stand for anything from “Potentially Seductive Punks” to “Political Space Project” or “Purty Sure Peyoteros”. Side one closer ‘Woke Up In A Ditch n’ This Is What I Had’ is an acoustic blues shuffle that finds Leadbelly trading licks with Robert Johnson out on the Ghost Highway.

            It takes a pair of big ones to title a song ‘So You Want To Be A Rock n’ Roll Star’ and then proceed to play something that Pink Floyd left off ‘Shine On Your Crazy Diamond’, but PSP pull it off because they (as far back as their earliest Spacious Mind releases) have always managed to sneak in some offbeat, obscure, esoteric “not-quite-namedropping games” as Jens calls them to send musicologists scurrying through their record collections to answer that most frustrating of questions, “Where have I heard that before?”

            Now it’s time to pull out Led Zeppelin IV and relisten to ‘Black Dog’, then set it to a kraut rockin’ motorific beat and you’re halfway to discovering why ‘Mother In The Mud’ is subtitled ‘(The Number Is Four)’. Or maybe Jens and Niklas just felt like trying to add some balls to one of Giorgio Morodor’s Donna Summer tracks. Either way, you’ll bust a nut dancing to this one, at least until that middle section takes over with all its bloops and bleeps like we’re headbanging across the universe, pingpongin’ from star to star in a game of intergalactic pinball. A touch of Trent Reznor, maybe a tab (ahem) of Al Jourgenson and a few swigs of kickass-apoo joy juice with Gibby Haynes and you’re ready to frug the night away, freeing your ass so your mind can follow. That the whole thing ends with an excerpt from the 13th Floor Elevator ride from Floyd’s ‘Welcome To The Machine’ only adds to the fun!

300 copies. Vinyl only. For further information, dealer inquiries etc:

revolutioncoastrecords [at] hotmail [dot] com

Individual copies should be ordered from jens [@] beautifullies [dot] se

(Jeff Penczak)



( LP/CD own label )

Many years ago (well, 1990) I played drums in Gravesend based punk band Terminal Heads. A change of jobs meant I left the band after one cassette release “Small Talk”, but the band have continued on and have recently been given a new lease of life with a change of bassist, a support slot with Nomeansno and this, the release of their first vinyl album. As at least two of the band are vinyl junkies this is a major development, highlighted by the song “Must Be” which states, “Everyone knows music should be heard on vinyl”, I couldn't agree more.

    Playing a brand of old school punk that relies on energy, three chord riffery, energy and vitriol, the album kicks off in style with the aforementioned “Must Be” a song that takes to tak the current state of the media, social, entertainment or whatever, the lyrics spat out with venom as the guitar bludgeons its way out of the speaker. Next Up, “Drone” maintains the anger as the guitar continues its relentless path before “Countdown” muses on death and the question “which one of us goes first?”.

   Over the rest of side one, the band continue their relentless request for the perfect riff coupled with a desire to vent their spleen at society and its ills, with “Sheep” and “Clique” seeming to achieve this aim brilliantly.

     Over on side two the fun continues with “Headfuck” dealing with Paranoia, “Reality” shooting down those terrible reality shows, whilst “Locked Away” is a discourse on the way society drives the good from you forcing you to hide or discard your feelings, the whole thing rounded off by “Noise”, the vocals pleading for some stillness inside, the tune still bristling with angry energy something that runs through the whole collection, no ballads to be found, than fuck. Terminal Heads have come a long way since 1990 but their vision remains the same, good on ya. (Simon Lewis)