=  MARCH 2006 =

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Written by: Groundhogs
Simon Lewis (Editor) Great Depression
Steve Pescott Little Sparta
Jeff Penczak


Nigel Cross

Burning Star Core

Mick Wooding


Tony Dale

Honeymoon Music

Mats Gustafsson

Wooden Wand

  Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood
    One Ensemble of Daniel Padden









(Book from Northdown Publishing, paperback, £14.99, 1 900711 16 8)


It’s easy to forget how big bands can be even for a couple of years without somehow ever leaving a lasting mark on the collective public memory – then they’re gone, back to being just the property of their most zealous fans – they pack out halls, garner loads of column inches in the music press and even crack the album charts – but somehow they never reach the iconic status of the likes of Zeppelin or the Floyd – rock history is littered with names and I’ve spent many an hour ruminating on the whys and wherefores of how bands elude superstar status.


   The Hogs were one such combo – a band whose roots were in the rhythm’n’blues scene of the early 60s but whose encounter with fame was via a string of albums in the glory years of UK prog rock between 1970 and 1973. Led by the indefatigable Tony McPhee, lead guitarist, lead singer and main composer the Hogs emerged from being John Lee Hooker’s backing band to stars in their own right. There was no hype, the group built its following the hard way via gigs and word of mouth reputation – and of course albums like Thank Christ for the Bomb, Split and Who Will Save the World. McPhee was a highly regarded lead and slide player but as his musical vision developed he was a pioneer, one of the first to pioneer ARP synthesizers in a rock setting. For a while they were one of the biggest bands in the UK. McPhee went solo in the mid 70s and then returned with several different aggregations of the Hogs over the next two decades but without the success of the classic years.


    Even so, the band never completely lost its credibility – in 2000 when Julian Cope mounted his splendid weekend of space rock and psychedelic madness on the South Bank the Hogs played an early Saturday evening set – and former punk rocker Captain Sensible makes no bones about the importance of the band’s contribution in his very earnest foreword. As he so deftly puts it, ‘Thank Christ for the Bomb is the most amazing album I’ve ever heard’


   This biography is certainly not the most articulate rock book ever written  – too fan boy by far - but it does plug an important gap and is lavishly illustrated with photos and a host of other memorabilia. For those with an appetite for minutiae it offers fascinating reading – eagle-eyed Terrascopers will spot a bearded Andrew Lauder the man who steered the Hogs label, United Artists with rare vision and skill back then before going on to Radar, F-Beat, Edsel, This Way Up and latterly Evangeline. And for those who wondered who the corpse is on the front cover of Blues Obituary, all is revealed here. And it’s a great way to re-evaluate a band that’s perhaps too often overlooked in the annals of rock history (Nigel Cross)

For more info contact: michael@northdown.demon.co.uk




(Camera Obscura, PO Box 5069 Burnley VIC 3121 Australia)


     Fell is the new project of Josh Wambeke, formerly one-half of the late, great psychedelic pop duo Phineas Gage, whose ‘Reconsidered’ is one of my favourite Camera Obscura releases. When Wambeke’s partner Patrick Porter (say that three times fast!) left to pursue a solo career (check our review of last year’s ‘Lisha Kill’ here), Josh began working on a series of demos that led to the creation of his new quartet, whose debut album opens with ‘Summer,’ an iceberg-slow rumination on the loveliest of seasons that suggests we may have another Low completist in our midst. ‘Data+Backspace=Error’ is a horrible title, but luckily the music, a swirling slice of guitar-based psychedelia feeds my Chameleons’ jones quite nicely, thank you!


     The lads get all romantic and dewy-eyed on us on ‘End Forever,’ which has a spunky, country-and-western vibe that sashays across the room like The Cowboy Junkies wrangling with Mojave 3. Kudos to Mike Dewey’s slide guitar for providing a perfect, down-home, backwoodsy atmosphere. And fans waiting for vestiges of Wambeke’s past glories will not be disappointed with the dreamy, showgazey pop of ‘Some Rainy Day in ’98,’ which manages to combine Gage’s Floydian dreamscapes with the emotionally draining, narcoleptic sonic overload of a King Black Acid, ca. ‘Sunlit.’


     Wambeke tosses a few curves into the mix, particularly on ‘Effigy,’ a scratchy, electronics/drum machine loop that may best be appreciated by Nine Inch Nails fans, but since I’m not, I didn’t. For starters, the anticeptic, mechanical vibe of the track robs the album of its otherwise cozy, emotional warmth. But then Wambeke rescues my attention and saves the day with ‘Solitary Transmission,’ a floating headnodder with a crystaline guitar line straight out of The Cure’s ‘Disintegration.’ ‘Polarized Verse’ may be a little too timid for its own good…but oh, how good it is – a warm and fuzzy cuddlefest with a lilting melody reminiscent of Leonard Cohen and Jeff Kelly’s solo work. The ass-kicking coda even suggests the band could really work up a sweat in a live setting!


     I would have preferred if Wambeke dropped his little experimental, instrumental interludes (‘Rusty Fields,’ ‘Interlude,’ ‘Lights Flickering Off And On’), or at least developed them into complete songs – as it is, they might have worked better as B-sides to a CD single. But these are minor quibbles on an otherwise welcome return to the spotlight and another triumph for one of our most reliable labels who can always be depended upon to search out and deliver otherwise overlooked gems from the nooks and crannies of the independent music world. Bravo! (Jeff Penczak)






     I don’t know if these former University of Wisconsin classmates are preaching to their label or their listeners, but I got a few “Say ‘Amen’s and ‘Hallelujiah’s” to toss right back at you, dudes! The soft, acoustic pop of opener, ‘The Telekinetic’ floats in on a narcoleptic haze and the buzz continues on the proggy, Porcupine Tree-ish ‘Quiet Out There.’ The great Michigan space rock duo Ebeling Hughes are all over the laidback, breathy psychedelic pop of ‘Make Way for Nostalgia’ and with Todd Casper and Tom Cranley’s proximity to their midwest neighbours, I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t influenced somewhat by the headswirling, Floydian effects of EH’s ‘Transfigured Night’ (Zero Hour, 1998). In any event, it’s an early album highlight.


     The sleepy, cotton-mouthed vocals continue on ‘Never Said When,’ another jingle jangle, psychedelic pop gem and ‘Lux’ is a game attempt to win over the New Order dance crowd, marred only by too many abrupt time changes that finds them ventruing into Saint Etienne territory, but without Sarah Cracknell to rescue them. The intimate vocal duet on ‘Somewhere Over The Counterculture’ could be the perfect comeback song that could entice Nick Laird-Clowes to ring up Kate St. John and suggest giving Dream Academy another go. Heck, if ‘Remembrance Days’ was this good, they’d still be out there hitting the boards and collecting royalty checks.


     So this dreamy, romantic pyschedelia definitely belongs in the collections of fans of the Floyd’s soundtrack period, old-school proggers who aren’t afraid to dig out their old Genesis and Procol Harum sides, and Manchester pop-psychers Stone Roses and The High, whose overlooked gem ‘Somewhere Soon’ is fondly recalled throughout the gorgeous title track. (Jeff Penczak)






     Musical collaborations across professional artistic endeavors usually spells disaster for the simple reason that authors typically can’t sing, painters can’t play guitar, and photographers can’t play violin. An exception to this admittedly overly generic conclusion seems to apply to artists moonlighting as poets. Having a way with words is their life’s blood, so they can usually come up with a line or three that would easily translate into a song lyric, Rod McKuen’s overwrought sentimentality aside. Now stick a musical ensemble behind them – particularly one sympathetic to the plight of their poetry and you might have something worth investigating. Such is the case with this collaborative EP between Scottish phtographer-cum-poet Gerry Mitchell and the international quartet assembled behind him (I shutter to use the term “backing band” for fear they’d go for my jugular).


     Mitchell’s thick brogue may be somewhat impenetrable to non-natives, but it’s worth wrestling with to hear the heartbreakingly sad instrumentals driven by Susie Honeyman’s mourning violin that seem perfectly suited for liturgical funeral settings or cinematic soundtracks to teary-eyed documentaries. The dirgy waltz ‘Ruins,’ for example, may be the best accompaniment to a collage of images from the 9/11 bombings that you are likely to hear. But listen closely to Mitchell’s Luddite rants in ‘Skyscraper Housebound’ and ‘Carefully Constructed Ruin’ as he rails against the inexcusably lame justification for tearing down buildings in gentrified neighborhoods to put up McMansion eyesores and ‘Scalpel Slice’ can be experienced as a concept album about the raping of our landscapes. Anyone who’s witnessed arrogant 21st century Yuppies buying up houses in your neighborhood or along the shore communities only to tear them down and rebuild with customized kit mansions will understand his frustration and relate to his anger.


     Finally, the EP’s second instrumental ‘I See Life’ once again rides along the wings of Honeyman’s emotional string scrapings that recalls label mate Saint Joan’s wonderful ‘One At Twilight’ EP that we reviewed last year. An enticing teaser that, although probably not so intended, has me clamouring for a full length from Little Sparta as soon as possible. (Jeff Penczak)



LANDING – BROCADE (Strange Attractors Audio House, P.O. Box 13007, Portland, OR 97213-0007 USA)


     A small “Utah musician exchange program” greets us on this Connecticut band’s seventh full-length, as guitarist Dick Baldwin temporarily moved back to Utah and old friend Peter Baumann (who, despite a popular music site’s claim, is NOT the ex-Tangerine Dream dude) stepped in on synthesizer. [The band actually planned to follow-up last year’s ‘Sphere’ with ‘Gravitational,’ which was to consist of music “inspired by, and progressing from” ‘Sphere’’s three-part centrepiece, but Baldwin relocated prior to its completion. The new material with Baumann was progressing so well, they decided to release ‘Brocade’ first. Fans will be glad to hear that ‘Gravitational IV’ is now scheduled for a vinyl-only release in  March.] Whether it’s the reunion with Baumann (he helped out on 2001’s ‘Oceanless,’ the band’s previous full length for Strange Attractors – that’s him in the CD booklet) or the impact of recent collaborations with Yume Bitsu’s Adam Forkner in their Surface of Eceon side project, the band sound downright bubbly on opener ‘Loft,’ and its indescribably catchy, repetitive, motorik riff is one of their most can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head tracks in years. The simple, minimalist ‘Yon’ uses another elegant little repetitive keyboard riff as a skeleton for the band to flesh out with some swirly synths and echoed, fluttering, bleeping electronic  flourishes. Come to think of it, this would fit perfectly on any number of aforementioned Tan Dream albums, so maybe…, Nah!


     Aaron Snow’s meandering guitar line on ‘Spiral Arms’ cuts through more swirling atmospherics to paint a tense, ominous visual image, making it a perfect candidate for the soundtrack to some future David Lynch surreal epic. Watch out Angelo Badalamenti! The other end of the pulsating, hard-driving Krautrock spectrum (represented by the works of Neu!) permeates ‘How To Be Clear,’ a rumbling, cacophonous metalic explosions with Aaron’s vocal utterances knifing through a petal-to-the-metal, high octane riff straight out of Lemmy’s adventures with Hawkwind/Motörhead.


     The only place to go from these dizzying heights is down, and that’s exactly where the album crashlands with the 17-minute marshmallow overcoat, ‘Music For Three Synthesizers,’ a buzzing flatline of ambient drones that sets the controls for the heart of the sun with occasional comets, shooting stars and cosmic supernovas intercepting our intrepid explorers’ cosmic journey to the outer limits of mind, body and universe. The band’s previous Krautrock tendencies come full circle with a more direct conneciton to the classic electronic kosmische musik of Tangerine Dream, Cluster, and Popul Vuh on yet another exceptional addition to their discography which, despite the cliché, actually does seem to get better with each subsequent release. (Jeff Penczak)




(Double CD on Cenotaph Audio, PO Box 81941, Pittsburgh PA 15217 USA www.cenotaph.org )


Colour me in blushes – it’s to my embarrassment that Burning Star Core / C.Spencer Yeh had yet to pin my ears back until the appearance of the ‘You Are Legend’ track, to be found on the freebie comp CD that came with the 2004 edition of Bananafish ’zine. It’s an error that was compounded by discovering that this Cincinnati-based experimentalist (and Lovecraft fan – check out ‘Nyarlathotep’ on the Burning Star Core’s ‘Very Heart of the World’ LP) has been grinding out cassettes and CDRs for the past ten years or more. He’s also collaborated with Comets on Fire, John Olsen (of Wolf Eyes) and Matt Bowers’ Hototogisu along with many other projects, more of which later. The “Soldats” double set is, therefore, the perfect catch-up for this slowpoke reviewer to acclimatize himself with the Spencerian/Burning Star Core three-way split into electro-acoustics, prosthetic larynx displays and violin deconstruction.


    The first disc rounds up fairly recent deletions from labels such as the ‘Gods of Tundra’ and ‘Chondritic Sound’ and finds Spencer mainly in the vocal/tronix field. ‘The Art of Sitting With One’s Own Ass’ for example is an expanded ‘J’ai mal aux Dents’ (from ‘The Faust Tapes’) mixed with a brutal methodology reminiscent of the Neubaten gang around the time of the ‘Thirsty Animal’ twelve-incher. ‘White Swords in a Black Castle’ (with sound sources on loan from Hair Police and I.O.V.A.E.) is an upper case pulveriser that would easily put those grim-faced power electronic strormtroopers in the shade. It’s a close-miked expo of a mutant waste disposal system attempting to lunch on parts of the house it’s installed in, or perhaps a random melange of recordings from several metal finishing factories – apt really, as I’m working in one of those at the moment – but without the yellow earplugs.


    Disc Two shines torchlight beams into a less frequented archive store and swings towards more improvised material. ‘Three People’ and ‘Bronze Coleen Under the Kitchen Floor’ walk/wriggle hand in hand with cartoon bacteria noise, with the electronic squiggles suggesting soundtracks to syphilis instructional films shown to rookie military types.  The ‘Unfinished Guitar Solo’ is fx-gorged muscularity of a brutarian stripe, while my personal standouts are ‘Live at Gameboy Compound’ and ‘Live at Oxford, OH’. The former meets a warlike troll interpreting Henri Chopin while the latter is a violin skree-a-thon with choice Flynt/Cale bow-lines hissing frantically on a grease-caked griddle. Fabulous – a word not given lightly.


    Oh yeah – as for the other projects? A playing / recording trio with drummerist extraordinaire Chris Corsano and the Moses of avant saxophony Paul Flaherty... membership of Thurston Moore’s Dream/Aktron Unit, and a Burning Star Core touring unit comprising Yeh, messrs. Tremaine and Beatty of the Hair Police, Mike Shiflet alongside members of Eyes and Arms of Smoke. Spoilt for choice, no? (Steve Pescott)




(Sub Pop www.subpop.com )


Well, 18 years after Mudhoney leapt at us from the turntable with ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ – they’re back, and still going strong. Three original members are still here – Mark Arm: Vocals, Guitar, Steve Turner: Guitar, Vocals and Dan Peters: Drums. Guy Maddison has been on Bass since ’99 (original bassist Matt Lukin having retired in ‘99)


    Not owning much Mudhoney myself since 1991’s ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge’ I was filled a sense of trepidation in reviewing this LP. So many bands just go on until they’re stale. And when I read the credit on the insert “Horn arrangements by Craig Flory” I have to admit I nearly shifted a few pounds! What?! Mudhoney with horns! Surely this can’t be! What transpired though was a truly enjoyable experience and I am proud to report that Mudhoney can still kick out a fine album after all these years. Now, about the aforementioned horns, fear not, they actually fit with the music extremely well and are used to compliment the dynamics, not to overpower them. (If only the Pretty Things had had a similar experience with ‘Emotions’!) The quality of the music is superb throughout and Mudhoney manage to vary their offering here without losing their distinctive sound.


    So let’s cut to the chase – what’s on the record? The opener is ‘Where Is the Future’ – cue a meaty riff carved out by distorted guitars – Ahhh! All is well with the world. Then comes the chorus…and the Horns! My god! Mudhoney seem to have teamed up with the resident horn section for the Stax soul label…but it works perfectly. Yes, this actually adds sonically to the recording….Phew! Next up is ‘It Is Us’. The tempo is raised here and so is the punky attitude as thudding drums (great drum rolls) back up a gnarly fuzzed guitar riff – and hey, here come those horns again! ‘I saw the light’ is almost blues (Mudhoney style) – a slow grinder with a catchy chorus. The next track hits me square in the face with a southpaw I wasn’t expecting. ‘Endless Yesterday’ is the least Mudhoney-like song on the LP. It’s almost as if Mudhoney had a drunken jam with mid-period Pixies and this is what they thought they remembered. ‘Empty Shells’ has that punk anthem feel to it but the middle eight section sounds as if it has been transplanted into the wrong song. No worries though – it works! ‘Hard-On for War’, apart from having a title that leaves you in no doubt as to the song’s message, is more familiar Mudhoney territory. I reckon black Sabbath would have been proud of the main guitar riff on this one. ‘A Brief Celebration of Indifference’ is an instrumental and is more classic Mudhoney, puts me in mind of ‘Superfuzz Bigmuff’ at times – crashing drums and jagged fuzzed guitar. ‘Let’s Drop In’ starts with a sleazy almost Hendrixy blues riff but all similarities to the great man end when Mark Arm’s vocals come in, the riff reminding me of Thee Hypnotics somehow, while the horn section on the chorus produces a very different feel when it cranks in.


    Next up is my favourite track on the LP. ‘On the Move’ kicks off with a nice start/stop riff before launching into a punky 4/4 thrash. This cycle continues throughout the song and they bring it right down in the middle eight before exploding back into the riff again. This song is everything I love about Mudhoney. ‘In Search of’ is another slow grinder but the sonic elements of the guitars actually put me in mind of Hawkwind circa ‘Space Ritual’! There are also psych synth noises throughout the track. Mmm. ‘In Search Of’, ‘In Search Of Space’ – I wonder? No, no, – get a grip! Mudhoney paying homage to Hawkwind! Sort yourself out!


    Last song of the LP is ‘Blindspots’. This is the archetypal Mudhoney sound – exactly what you expect and exactly what you want….but with horns – say hello to Stax again! A cacophony of brass brings this enjoyable offering to a close. I’m so pleased these guys have not lost their edge and can still make music this exciting after all this time. Me, I’ll probably be backtracking now to find what other gems I may have missed by these guys since 1991. (Mick Wooding)




(CD on HONEYMOON RECORDS www.honeymoonmusic.com )


Focusing on the experimental, underground music scene that is blossoming in Philadelphia (plus a few artists from Portland and Europe) this compilation is a disorientating mix of folk, drone, improv, and noise that contains some genuine moments of brilliance, as well as a few surprises.


    The gentle electronic folk of Stainless Japan –“Water On Your Mind” opens the proceedings with a calming feel that is the perfect way to lead the listener into the strange world of Honeymoon Records, a world which gradually changes as Phosphene take the helm with “Triumph Tree”, sounding like an early Floyd demo, full of psychedelic delights, and well worth hearing. From here on in things become even stranger as Peace Feather disorientate your senses with seven minutes of sonic playfulness, percussion and brass fighting for space in a cauldron of noise, before a twinkling drone leads us home. Sharron Kraus is generally known for her beautiful voice and folksy ambience, on “Ninth Life” however, the voice is used as a drone instrument accompanied by drums, bells and whistles to create an unsettling meditation which works perfectly. Elsewhere, Meg Baird (Espers) teams up with Helena Espvall as Trollslanda, whose “Kling Klang” is a free floating folk song with an aching longing at it’s core, whilst “Fission”-Niagara Falls is the sound of a slowly dissolving mist, gently revealing the landscape within.


    One of my personal favourites on the album is “March Hare”-Fursaxa featuring the unique and faintly unsettling voice of Tara Burke, the sound of which, drives this hypnotic and dramatic piece in a delicious manner. The sonic intensity is notched up again by Chris Bozzone-“surrounded By Demons And Butterflies” a slow drone played on the devils accordion, the vocals barely audible through the dense instrumentation and fog bound atmosphere. Rhythm and Harmony are more prominent as The Watery graves Of Portland enter the fray, drums and piano darting and twisting around each other creating a delightful ambience which offers a rare glimpse of sunshine in the proceedings (Not that this album is depressing, just that it does focus on the difficult and the challenging end of the musical spectrum), before Sharks With Wings destroy all sense of time with glorious distorted noise of “Catastrophe/ catastrophe” a song that takes no prisoners in it’s quest for aural destruction. A more gentle approach is taken by Thom Zephyr Roach- “Row Seven” a pulsing electronic piece of music that leads us beautifully to higher ground, a place of rest and meditation, somewhere to refresh the senses.


    At almost eight minutes “Meditation On Larry” by The Doctor And Philip is a ramble through the American heartland, the lyrics suggesting a personal story as gently picked acoustic guitars are slowly engulfed by an electric presence that pushes the song into stranger places the guitars sounding like Television in their intensity, the music becoming denser, displaying some excellent playing, before slowly fading into nothing. “Arbor Day”-Noah Raymond Levey takes us to a place where psychedelia and drone collide displaying a whole host of sounds and textures in just over three minutes, offering a synopsis of the whole album within it’s time span. Finally, Eric Carbona does nothing to ease our minds with the heavily treated noisescape of “Music For Wine Glasses” which grinds and attacks the air with a series of differing tones and pitches that get right under the listeners skin and is a far cry (as it should be) from the gentle opening track experienced some 68 minutes earlier.


    This is a compilation that is both varied and unified, offering us different interpretations of the same visions, and is well worth getting hold by those of an inquisitive nature. (Simon Lewis)




(CD www.5rc.com )


    “Gypsy Freedom” is the sound of a band in tune with itself, ready to experiment and with a clear idea of where they should be headed, although, it has to be said, it took me a few plays before I hitched a ride and finally realised just how good this album is.


    Opening with some beautiful drifting sax “Friend, That Just Isn’t So” quickly mutates into a warped Gershwin impression, the vocals twisting around the melodies, creating a strangely disjointed yet charming soundscape. Next up, "Didn’t it Rain" invites Sun Ra to come join the fun, the bass pulsing with a life of it’s own, as percussion and wind instruments indulge in some eastern mysticism, the late night smoke curling around the room in a most pleasurable way, the piece slowly levitating into a hypnotic chant that is both psychedelic and irresistible.


  Further in,  “Don’t Love The Liar” has a guitar style that resembles a freak-out band covering Black Sabbath (only Quieter) and ends far too soon, before “Hey Pig He Stole My Sound” (title of the week) returns us to a Can inspired groove as weird as a dissolving sugarcube, sweet, lysergic, and well worth the ride.


    Meanwhile, in another musical box, “Sun Sets On Clarion” has a melancholic west-coast feel, highlighting the bands dexterity as they move between styles and moods with ease, refusing to be pigeon-holed, yet retaining that all important sense of self that marks them out as a band rather than a collection of individuals. Proving this very point “Dread Effigy” could be a wyrd-folk classic with it’s wonderful picked guitar and harmony vocals, which brings to mind Kaleidoscope (U.S.) in it’s execution and style.


    Starting with a heady mix of bass and electronics, the twenty-one minute “Dead End Days With Ceasar” sounds like it could have dripped off the debut album by Hawkwind, full of low-key noises and a dark slightly paranoid aura, that is brooding rather than scary, but is definitely uneasy listening by candle-light, the strange vocals doing nothing to undo the tension created by the music. Finally “Genesis Joplin” is half prayer, half confession, a deep south voodoo mantra that is a fitting way to end this deeply rewarding album, that needs time to be appreciated but will reward the effort. (Simon Lewis)




(CD-R on Musicyourmindwillloveyou, http://mymwly.blogspot.com)


    According to its creators, the latest BOTOS opus is "intended as an aid in the transformative pursuit of prehuman awareness or empty clatter as model of space-time", and on the balance of sonic evidence its difficult to disagree that they've achieved their intent. This shadowy outfit steered by the shamanic presence of Michael Donnelly has always aimed for sound-scape as pre-civilisation ritual, sitting cross-legged in the middle of a triangle with tribal psych-folk, AMM-style improvisation and Asian devotional music as its vertices. At the risk of muddying the geometry, there are a lot of parallels between these influences, and the cohesive/immersive BOTOS sound can be somewhat attributed to the divinity that exists at their confluence. Let the shape shifting begin…

    Typically, hypnotic drumming, shimmering metallic resonances and honeyed drones are in play early in the opening track 'Sun' during which swirling nano-creatures dance about like motes in shafts of sunlight angling in low through trees at sunrise. Deceptive formlessness hides an intricately thought out rhythmic base: the track is composed in a conscious, though not programmatic way, separating this work from the plethora of random noise generators out there. Free magic constructs draw up plans for a forest temple in lines of light and warding while demon forces circle inwards to the hypnagogic chimes of 'Preying in Circles' which definitely conjures the feel of mid-period AMM. 'Augustifolia' is like the Supreme Dicks stripped back to folk, blended with elements of middle-Eastern jazz and surrounded with ghost voices. True to the theme of this release, every time you think you have a grasp of its structure, everything runs through your fingers like quicksilver and heads off somewhere else. 'The Silk Wolf Whose Arrow Spirit Speaks' is a centre of sorts for 'Canisanubis', standing perpetually on the verge of coalescing into a Can inspired groove, but staying tantalisingly free of doing so, thus remaining master of its own destination. Which appears to be atop some desert ridgeline, pinned like a butterfly under the great burning wheel of the southern constellations. On the way down, navigating by ghosts of fireflies, 'Rael Scum So Stretched it Seems' and 'Moon' are our soundtrack, the former a short exercise in shattered glass and refracted starlight, and the latter a foray into relative accessibility - an acoustic guitar driven instrumental depositing the listener safely back on terra firma. (Tony Dale)




(CD-R on Brainwashed Handmade Series, http://www.brainwashed.com)


    Volcano the Bear member Daniel Fadden's latest venture under his own flag enters the world via a limited edition (500) CD-R from the esteemed Brainwashed organisation (visited regularly by this writer for their fabulously Byzantine discographies of acts like Current 93, Coil and Nurse With Wound). It also comes housed in a marvellous letterpress card sleeve, reminiscent of the packaging of the Independent Projects label, which is all to the good, and places the listener in a receptive head space for band versions of Daniel's multi-faceted, multi-instrumental work.  For here, Daniel's solo compositions are realised by a five piece ensemble: Chris Hladowski on bouzouki, Alex Neilson on drums and percussion, Peter Nicholson on cello, Aby Vulliamy on viola, and Daniel his own self on guitar and voice.

    It's clear from the outset that the ensemble approach and looseness of the live-to-radio format suit Padden's work very well. The overall feel is antiquarian, reminding one of everything from the soundtracks composed for Fassbinder by Peer Rabin, to various Greek, Eastern European and Middle Eastern traditions (and there are echoes of the work done by Magic Carpathians on similar foundations) and indeed deconstructed classical chamber music. 'Clown Flinging' begins and ends with nerve-jangling bowing, but coalesces into free-wheeling gypsy folk in between. The bouzouki-powered 'Mustard Mustard' is infused with the smoke of a thousand North African souks - one gets totally immersed in its celebratory, dervish swirl only to have the rug-seller pull his wares out from under you as the piece falls apart into a dizzying profusion of bowed dementia. 'Baltic Antiquarian' wears its roots partly on it sleeve, but the ensemble travels down a vector to the outer rim of sanity by virtue of Padden's pushing the envelope of his fractured Robert Wyatt vocal stylings. These will not be to everyone's taste, but suit the material here perfectly. On 'Norway Sleeps Norway', Padden's voice is more likely to please folk purists, but he's earned the right to be taken on his own terms. It's an astonishing track - a divinely memorable sea shanty suitable as much for plying interstellar trading routes as it is for traversing the oceans of Terra. 'Weevils' has the tortured soul of the best Rembetika - all it needs is the fisherman's cap and worry beads to accompany its ouzo-soaked waltz, Typical of many of the tracks on this release, it builds up a head of steam only to fall apart and then be reconstructed piece by piece. In a sense, it's a very Brechtian technique, drawing the audience in, then forcing it to analyse what is being performed by laying bare its circuitry for scrutiny. Remaining tracks 'The Tumble Waltz' and 'Farewell You Porcupine' (ha!) consolidate a superbly realised set, which achieves a level of virtuosity and creativity that few artists would match given unlimited studio time. One has to constantly remind oneself that it's a live radio broadcast.

    Listening to Padden's 'Live at VPRO Radio', it's difficult to take some of the other material flying under the free folk banner as seriously as one is clearly meant to. Like the Windy & Carl release before it on this label, copies will not last, so you know what you have to do. (Tony Dale)



Pickled Egg Records ( www.pickled-egg.co.uk )

Three’s been loads of interesting music coming out of Scotland recently and given this debut album from Glasgow-based Nalle (which is the Finnish/Swedish word for teddy bear) there are no indicators that this is going to stop anytime soon. Nalle is a trio featuring Hanna Tuulikki (vocals, kantele, flutes), Aby Vulliamy (viola) and Chris Hladowski (bouzouki, clarinet). All group members are part of the much-heralded Scatter ensemble and Hladowski and Vulliamy are also members of The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden. Given this sort of background it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that we’re served a tasty slice of fragmentized folk and acoustic drones that beautifully walks the tightrope between the quite sweet and accessible and something much more haunting and damaged. Songs vary from strummed folk-ish melodies to the pleasantly wasted and trippy but no matter style the demanding voice of Tuulikki always remains in the center of things. Her fairylike, haunting, slightly childish vocal delivery sounds like she has been trapped under water for her entire life and when she finally makes it to the surface her voice won’t let go until she’s said everything that needs to be said.

Imagine a mix of Fursaxa, Spires that in the Sunset Rise, Joanna Newsom, Islaja and Larkin Grimm and you’re in the right ballpark. This is not for everyone but those intrigued by forest-clad psychedelia and moss-clad folk music that wants to seduce as much as to scare the shit out of you don’t want to miss out. (Mats Gustafsson)




Soft Abuse (http://www.softabuse.com)


Pumice is a New Zealand one-man band that finally is starting to get some of the attention he deserves. This was simply unavoidable to happen, as Pumice AKA Stefan Neville is a man with a touch that always has stroked me as golden.  His arrangements may often seem simple, his lyrics fragmentary, but there’s something hidden under the surface—that voice, that eccentric perspective and that sense for penning melodies perfectly suited for being draped in all sorts of nakedness and fuzz.


‘Yeahnahvienna’ was recorded direct to DAT (while temporarily living in Vienna, Austria), which gives the album a distinct kind of immediacy and raw tone. Add carefully plucked guitar that walks down a winding road of melancholia, a small dose of aural madness, loner folk characteristics, NZ experimentalism and an unhealthy portion of self-destruction to all this and you got yourself an album that is more structured than any of his predecessors but still equally rewarding. The Alastair Galbraith comparison is still very much valid when it comes to the mood presented and the overall fragmentary feel but Neville truly is one of a kind and to describe him as anything less would be a grave understatement. (Mats Gustafsson)





(Oggum records, daf@oggum.co.uk)


Featuring a mix of drone, improvisation, ambience, and wyrd folk meditations, both these disc deliver quality over quantity, with pastoral sounds as refreshing as a spring morning.

    Opening with the sunlight on water sparkle of “One Darkness Make” Blodeuedd soon enchants us with the ambient folk drone of “In A Druid Wood”, the gentle drift of the wind instruments blending perfectly with the background atmospherics to create a song that perfectly encapsulates its title. Following on, the majestic title track is a slowly rising cacophony of sound that drifts from the mountaintop to engulf us in its mystery, wrapping us in light and offering sanctuary from our linear existence. Finally the sixteen minutes of “Blodeuedd” is a walk through sacred landscapes, every step part of the quest, bells bowls drums and pipes taking us to places that the Jewelled Antler Collective strived for (and often reached) where the music is part of the surrounding, an integral part of the moment, and more than mere entertainment.

    Opening with a drone so powerful it will re-arrange your molecules “Made Of Flowers” is the sound of the mountains themselves, still yet always moving, silent yet full of noise, the music is cut down to the very essence creating a place of extraordinary beauty over its fourteen minute existence, forcing you to take notice as it destroys every clock in your house. Finally “Full Of Stars” closes the two-track CD with a gorgeous sonic sunset, the shadows creeping across the land until only the stars remain above and you are left with a great big smile on your face. (Simon Lewis)



Strange Attractors Resurrection Series, vol 4. (www.strange-attractors.com )

Originally released in 2003, and featuring the talents of guitarist Richard Franecki (who originally left the band in 1990), this album is a space rock selection box of immense proportions, full of meaty riffs, soaring electronics, and the kind of monster psych heaviness not heard since Hawkwinds "“space Ritual" blasted off into the cosmos many light-years ago. Indeed, some of the bass runs on this disc are so uncannily reminiscent of Lemmy that you keep having to check the credits, especially on the pulsating opener “Uber-Wizards Of The 88th Meridian” which utterly destroys everything in its path for 14 glorious minutes of space rock heaven. Never missing a beat “Hit The Kill Switch, Eugene” introduces a kraut-rock groove to the proceedings before everything is engulfed by the swarming guitars, their insistent riffing driving the ship ever onwards whilst the electronic storm rides shotgun, keeping vigilant in the vastness of space.
As this album progresses the electronic experimentation slowly takes control, the band metamorphosing into distant cousins of Ash Ra Tempel, sending meteor showers tumbling from the speakers, and hinting at the desolation of infinite space, although this desolation is shattered by the still vibrant guitars that lie just beneath and threaten to surface at any time.
Just after the halfway mark “No Pepsi In Kabul” lands us softly in the desert, the unmistakable smell of hashish rising through the afternoon haze, as the band mix eastern motifs with deep drones, creating a lush oasis for the senses, before “Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Daisy Cutter” reveals the mirage and pulls us back to space with its hypnotic bassline and oh so psychedelic visions.
Eclipsing everything that has gone before “A Question For The Somnambulist” is a master class in heavy psychedelia, easily living up to the rest of the albums promise within its sixteen minutes, Hawkwind walking close by, only this time their self-titled debut is the blueprint as the music drifts of in clouds of brooding noise, the last gasp of a dying sun, before the growling bass steps in to guide us into its very heart, a massive wave of sound forever building.
Following on is a bonus track “The Hot Shop” recorded at the same sessions and continuing the quality with its heavy guitar sound high in the mix, and again sounding like the “sonic assassins” themselves, which is definitely a compliment in my book, so do yourself a favour and buy this before it sells out again. (Simon Lewis)