= March 2011 =  
Seasons They Change
Baby Woodrose
Nick Riff
Guthrie & Budd
Kitchen Cynics
Alex Monk
Mani Neumeier & Kawabata Makoto
Funky Frauleins comp


According to author Jeanette Leech, the late Australian ex-pat music journalist Lillian Roxon coined the term “acid folk” when describing the music of Pearls Before Swine as “folk music affected by the discoveries of an LSD-influenced generation.” Leech herself elects not to define the genre which has gained prominence in recent years; in no small part thanks to Ptolemaic Terrascope and the Terrastock festivals it sponsored beginning in 1997. She does elaborate on Roxon’s rather nebulous offering, however, suggesting “It wasn’t folk music made under the influence of LSD per se, but folk music profoundly affected by the attitudes of exploration that also prompted the use of hallucinogens.” Seasons They Change (Leech’s original title, Shifting Sands was modified as being a tad too obscure) traces the history of what Greg Weeks, in his rather self-deprecating, yet presumably tongue-in-cheek “Forward” describes as “a musical movement that plucked inspiration from a largely forgotten form, built itself up through a true community of friends and artists, and was largely happy to remain under the shadow of obscurity from whence it originated.”

Leech begins her hefty, 360-page tome at the beginning of Britain’s folk revolution in the mid-‘50s at small gatherings at Cecil Sharp House and University College London. Soon Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger (Pete’s half-sister) formed their Critics Group, a rather draconian organisation dedicated to preserving folk songs within their original social and artistic parameters. As Leech notes, the upshot of this was “a policy that prohibited any singer from performing a song from a language or culture that he or she wasn’t born into.” Seeger herself later admitted that the group was “evangelical and dictatorial”, even if “their intentions were honourable”. It was a reaction towards this prescriptive attitude that led artists like Shirley Collins, Davy Graham, Anne Briggs, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and others to bring rock, blues, and jazz influences to their folky repertoire.

Starting with the early recordings of these and other like-minded artists, Leech explores the parallel development of experimental folk on both sides of the pond, from the early days of Britain’s  extremely influential Incredible String Band and the influential-but-little-known Jackson C. Frank and Roy Harper to America’s Holy Modal Rounders, Tim Buckley, Pearls Before Swine/Tom Rapp, Mike Hurley, Pat Kilroy and John Fahey. We learn the importance of forward-thinking record labels like Elektra, ESP-Disk, Nova, Village Thing, and Harvest, who were “seemingly willing to welcome artists who prized integrity and who were enterprising and eclectic in their music.” Of course, a Top 5 showing for ISB’s The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter showed labels there was potential gold in them thar hills. Key players, from Joe Boyd, Bernard Stollman, and John Peel to second wave movers and shakers such as our own Phil McMullen and our dear departed comrade Tony Dale, each get their moment to shine as Leech illustrates their importance to keeping the flame alive.

From the fledgling folk ruminations of Tyrannosaurus Rex, the folk rock hybrid of Fairport Convention and the jazz-inflected Pentangle, Leech covers all the major players, but it’s the lesser known artists that she’s uncovered that make the book a trainspotter’s dream and speaks somewhat to Weeks’ opening remarks that “folk and psychedelic music have now been relegated to the periphery.” Finally, Vashti Bunyan, Dr. Strangely Strange, Ian A Anderson, Comus, Forest, Wizz Jones, Mellow Candle…familiar names to all Terrascope readers… receive the spotlight their careers always deserved. Leech even manages to untangle the lazily spun web of Clive Palmer’s post-ISB projects enroute to forming Clive’s Original Band in 1971, in the process revealing that he was the first person in Scotland to be busted for LSD (and I’m not referring to the British monetary system glamorised by The Pretty Things!)

Too many of these artists have suffered the ignorance of commercial music compendiums which focus on the familiar names from the major record labels that no doubt influenced the selections included therein. Whether it is The All Music Guide, any of the Rough Guides or the highfalutin Rolling Stone Encyclopaedia, you’ll probably find little or no mention of many of the artists Leech uncovers here. In fact, if there is any hesitation I have it’s in the delineation Leech has drawn between straightforward folk artists and the more outré musicians who’ve come to herald this eclectic genre. While Shirley Collins, Judy Dyble, Michael Chapman, and David Tibet specifically eschew the “psychedelic” or “folk” labels, their inclusion suggests Leech has attempted to cover all the bases – a laudable endeavour to be sure, but one that may leave some scratching their heads over the omission of your favourite artists. I personally miss the likes of Jake Holmes (whose cult debut, The Above Ground Sound includes his original version of ‘Dazed & Confused’) and Alan Davidson’s prolific Kitchen Cynics, whose catalogue of over fifty releases  are at the forefront of Scotland’s lo-fi, homegrown psychedelic acid folk scene, but these are minor quibbles when compared to the hundreds of artists that are analysed.

We’re thankful that Leech travels away from the British/American artists for an interesting account of European acid folk, with stops in Spain, Holland, and Germany (a brief overview of Krautfolk); although her section on French acid folk sorely misses Sauderleine, one of the leading proponents of traditional French folk, and the Italian examples are essentially limited to references to an ex-pat American (Tucker Zimmerman)and Brit (Mark Fry’s classic Dreaming of Alice, which was originally released on the Italian RCA subsidiary, IT Dischi.)

As progressive music rose to prominence in the early 70s, folk artists ventured into uncharted waters in a new subgenre that Leech calls “progressive folk”. Her chapter covers such envelope-pushing acts as Trees, Bread Love and Dreams, Synanthesia, Spirogyra, the hypnotic, Eastern-influenced sounds of Magic Carpet, and “one of the most atypical and dramatic stories of the whole progressive folk genre”, Mellow Candle.

Soon, however, sales of psychedelic folk albums began to wane and the major labels lost interest. Progressive and hard rock albums began to rule the charts and airwaves and audiences flocked to this new thing called “glam” or “glitter” rock and artists who worked in the psychedelic folk medium found themselves on the outside looking in. Arena rock replaced the intimate settings where psychedelic folk performances prospered and acid folk heroes like Incredible String Band found they couldn’t get the gigs that were previously so easy to come by. This gave rise to an influx of “private” or “vanity” pressings which continues to this day and which would flourish in the latter half of the book which covers the last three decades of psychedelic, acid folk.

Elsewhere, Leech discusses cult figures and releases by the likes of Perry Leopold (who allegedly was the first artist to describe his music as “acid folk” when discussing his self-released 1970 album, Experiment In Metaphysics), Midwinter, and Stone Angel. Leech also describes the rise of spiritually-inspired Christian folk by the likes of The Trees (sometimes called The Trees Community and not to be confused with the British band, Trees, who are also discussed at length in other chapters) and “the Holy Grail of British Christian acid-folk,” Caedmon.

Admittedly, some artists receive lip service via short name checks, but then that’s what second editions are for! And to include anyone who may even remotely be considered “acid “ or “psychedelic” folk over the last 50 years would require a book twice the size. A dozen pages of photographs put some faces on the musicians and a brief bibliography offers suggestions for further reading. I did miss an Appendix of suggested recordings which would enable newcomers to build their own acid folk music library, and I think a few more introductory compilation suggestions might have also been valuable to get folks started. A few are namechecked, including the Ptolemaic Terrascope cover disks, Timothy Renner’s Hand/Eye, (2002), Golden Apples of The Sun that Devandra Banhart assembled for Arthur magazine in 2004, and Jane Weaver’s Bearded Ladies (Bird, 2007), but one should also seek out the David Tibet co-curated, 5-disc box, Not Alone: Médecins Sans Frontières (Jnanna/Durtro, 2003) for rare and exclusive tracks from over a dozen of the artists discussed herein, including Devendra Banhart, Six Organs of Admittance, Dolly and Shirley Collins, Vashti Bunyan, Marissa Nadler, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Current 93, and Pearls Before Swine.

The other bold decision that Leech has made is to forego the typical compendium format – simply listing artists alphabetically with a brief career survey and a list of key releases – and instead, presents an historical narrative that allows the reader the opportunity to follow the genre’s development as new artists build upon their earlier influences. Hopscotching back and forth from Britain to America also provides a parallel historical timeline of how the music developed independently and what key stepping stones or road blocks were unique to the geographical context. As you get deeper into the story, artists weave in and out of Leech’s narrative – it’s almost as if you’re at a party and all these great musicians have stopped by and after they’ve told you their story, they step out for a smoke while you continue chatting with a new set of musicians until the original partygoers return to pick up their tale.

The book is also chock full of tasty trivia titbits, including how Pentangle’s disastrous Cruel Sister (Transatlantic, 1970) nearly single-handedly brought about the demise of Ian A. Anderson’s  important independent folk imprint, Village Thing; how Bobb Trimble used the stamp collection his grandfather gave him to mail out copies of his privately-pressed 1980 debut, Iron Curtain Innocence; how David Tibet (Current 93) invented the “apocalyptic folk” genre and, by extension, the whole industrial folk, neo-folk, folk noir, and dark ambient folk subcultures; how Sterling Richard Smith became Jandek, and how the lead singer from proggers, Curved Air and the soundtrack to an obscure British horror flick essentially saved acid folk from oblivion and provided the springboard to the acid folk revival in the 90s and 00’s that features throughout the remainder of Leech’s treatise.

The second half of the book seamlessly segues into acid folk’s revival following a particularly dry period during the ‘70s. As Leech traverses the nineties and the naughties, numerous participants of The Terrastock Nation drift in and out of the narrative, each given their just due in forming the current state of the acid and psychedelic folk scene. Indeed, Leech subtly admits that today’s acid folk scene was in many ways the direct result of the work of Ptolemaic Terrascope via its reviews and interviews with like minded artists, many of whom would subsequently perform at the Terrastock festivals. From Stone Breath, Ghost, Tom Rapp’s career revival, Sharron Kraus, Charalambides, and Greg Weeks through Jeffrey Alexander, Ben Chasny, Espers, P.G. Six, and over a dozen more, fans of the Terrastock festivals will find interviews with their favourite artists, along with Leech’s thorough analysis of how they fit into acid folk’s historical timeline.

Subsequent chapters on “freak folk” bring Devendra Banhart, Espers, Fern Knight, and Joanna Newsome out of the darkness, while the “folktronica” scene is represented by the likes of The Memory Band, Four Tet, Adem, and Tunng. The “apocalyptic folk” of Current 93 and “splatter-folk” of Norwegian duo, Thinguma*jigsaw examine the underbelly of the scene; while State River Widening and Gnarls Barkley’s folk sampling of Anne Briggs and Trees, respectively illustrates how far folk music has come in the 21st century!

The importance of independent, self-released labels is explored via the efforts of The Eighteenth Day of May and The Owl Service, and Britain’s “Technicolor psychedelic-folk troupe”, Circulus are rightly placed at the centre of the burgeoning live folk festivals scene of the mid-‘00s, highlighted by the influential and increasingly well-attended Green Man festivals in Wales.  Leech wraps up her analysis with recent additions to the acid folk pantheon, including Marissa Nadler, Josephine Foster, Nick Castro, Fursaxa, Trembling Bells, United Bible Studies, and the marvellous Finnish scene embodied by Islaja, Kamialliset Ystävät, and Lau Nau.

I also enjoyed Leech’s use of appropriate song and album titles for both her book (named after the Incredible String Band song) and Chapter titles (e.g., “Lepers and Roses”, “Chariots of Silk”, “Wisdom On The Moth’s Wing”, “Sum of All Heaven”, etc.), thus adding an air of mystery to this misunderstood and underappreciated niche in the music world. You may also have a hard time identifying or categorising artists who’ve chosen this style of music to share with their audience, but Leech’s voluminous notes, titbits, and interviews with key participants will aid in segmenting this stratum of your record and CD collection into an esoteric but richly rewarding collection of music that only improves upon subsequent listens. And for that, we will be eternally grateful! (Jeff Penczak)

The Terrascope interviews Jeanette Leech



(CD from www.northernstarrecords.com)
(CD from www.bipolaroid.com)
(CD/LP from www.badafro.dk)

Modern psych is an adventurous and multi-headed beast as can be heard from these three diverse and excellent releases.

    First up Youngteam, whose latest album is the first band release for a Northern Star, a label responsible for releasing some excellent/essential compilation in the last few years. Hailing from Sweden, Youngteam walk the shoegaze path to psych bliss, with the title track of this latest offering detonating out of the speakers in a haze of delicious noise, reverb up and chocks away, the track containing passages of floatation tank drone and rippling melodies as well, the finer moments of Ride and Slowdive springing to mind. Slightly poppier in construction “Your Love” is equally fine, with some great guitar work and a delicate sheen of effects coating the tune. These two tracks set out the pattern for the rest of the album, noise and melody intertwining to great effect, the music soaring into blue skies at any given moment. Amongst many highlight, the gentle psych of “My only Friend” is a stand-out track of softly spoken beauty, whilst the chiming guitar of “Northern Star”, recalls Spacemen Three in its sonic power, which is never a bad thing. Finally the aptly named “Goodbye” leads you out, a graceful delicate haze, a shimmer of wonder that is the perfect ending to an excellent album. If there was to be one complaint, it is that I would love to hear the band stretch out over ten minutes or so, to really get lost in the sonic ether, but this is a minor quibble and does not distract.

    Trading in a different kind of psych, Bipolaroid have always been one of the more consistent and original psych groups around, with their “E(i)ther Or” album being a personal favourite around here. So, it was with great anticipation that I played this, their latest work, and I am glad to say I was not disappointed, the band continuing the high standards of earlier albums.

    Written as a concept album (although I have no idea what about, apart from the city of New Orleans), the album kicks of with the heavy strangeness of “Vampires on Montgut”, the song rocking from the off, deep, dirty and very satisfying. This dirty sound is continued on “Rising Sun”, another fine effort with some excellent guitar playing and a solid rhythm, that propels the song along. Displaying a love of Syd Barrett, “Bright Shadows” is an excellent song, seemingly simple yet deeply strange at the same time, whilst, “Dead Horse” is a more relaxed tune with some dark lyrics, the song closing side one in a haze of dark psychedelic smoke.

    With a fluctuating line-up caused by Hurricane Katrina, amongst other things, it took mainman Ben Glover a while to stabilise the musicians for the band and side two sees a change in drummer with King Louie Bankston replacing K.Bardy.  Maybe it is coincidence but the band seems to change their sound as a result, with the second side featuring five brighter, more  60's influenced tunes, with the fantastic “Vibrations” a positive joy for the ears, sounding as though it was recorded in swinging London in '67, something could also be said to some degree for the remaining songs on the side. In fact, they could have come from the first Pink Floyd album, not that they are rip-offs but they contain similar sonic qualities and the vocal style is very Syd especially on “A Second Line For Minutemen”.

   In the end this album is a grower, each time you play it more is revealed, one that is gonna be around for a while, methinks...

    Finally for this trio of reviews, the latest offering from Baby Woodrose, which is new, yet also old, at the same time. It is ten years since the release of the first release from this fine artist and to celebrate, this release collects together 15 demos of songs that went on to form that first album.

     Blasting off with the high-octane garage stomper “Baby Blows”, you know that you are in for a good time, the sound quality better than many sixties garage equivalents, the riff taking you straight back to those times, fuzzed-up, fucked-up and exceedingly good for the soul. From here on inall you can do is hold on tight and go with the garage swirl Even slower more moody songs such as “caught in a Whirl” have enough attitude and snarl to keep the tempo up, whilst full on assaults like “Pandora” or “City of People”, originally by The Illusions, just roar at you with a snotty punk finger raised in the air. Elsewhere the majestic psych swirl of “Spinning Wheels of Fire”, introduces a Elevators/Prunes vibe, whilst the surf guitars of “Flaminica” add a splash of sunshine to the proceedings. Saving the best until last, The last three tracks are all killers, The almost perfect Garage anthem “Nobody Spoil my Fun”, wrecking your speakers with attitude, “She's all mine” sounding as if it belongs on Pebbles Volume 1, and “Run Little Girl”, a catchy little number, that will blag smokes and drinks off you all night before leaving with the coolest guy in the room, as it should be, all you can do is put this on again and get totally trashed. Play loud, repeat..  (Not Released until April, pre-order one now.) (Simon Lewis)



(CD from www.nickriff.com)
(CD from www.darla.com)
(CD/download  from www.17f.ch)

    Fourth in the “Riffdisc” series, “The Universe is Mental” sees Mr Riff, stepping along into some spacey psychedelic instrumentals, sounding not unlike those huge sequence driven epics that Tangerine Dream were so good at creating in the mid seventies. Of course, cynics may suggest that with the technology of  today, this is all to easy  (maybe it is), however Nick assures us that the music was created without the use of MIDI, drum machines or synchronisation, meaning the musician has to listen and respond as he creates the sounds. All this means that we have here a huge pulsating beast of a record, with a human heart, generating a warmth that lift the music high into space, with a smile and a positive glow.
    Opening with the electronic sweetness of “Cast into the Firmament”, a beating drum keeps the pace as the twinkling ripples of the music flow over you with a calm assurance. Once settled, “Paleo Vision” adds a weird funk to the proceedings, Tim Blake meeting 808 State, in a warehouse on the dark side of the moon, which is much better than it possibly sounds.
    As we progress through the album, the music ebbs beautifully, the rhythmic elements being matched with patches of lightness, such as  “The Limits of Perception”, a blissful track with a relaxed piano dancing through the clouds. Although mainly instrumental, the addition of vocals and saxaphone (played by Jhaz Sigeret) on the lilting “Forever” offer another layer to the album,before “Sumerian Spaceport” plunges straight back into the space rock pool, a warped eastern theme taking the music into weird territory for 5 glorious minutes. This psychedelic sheen continues on the excellent “Snake Charmers Ritual, a track that seems to shimmer out of the speakers, a hypnotic mirage of great power.
    Stretching out over ten minutes 30 seconds “Implant Procedure Explained” takes a different path with droning swirls of synth and voice samples being thrown through all manner of effects, creating a stuttering monster of a tune, bringing to mind some of the finer work by The Orb. Finally the lighter tones return, with vocals woodwind and that lovely piano drifting slowly back to earth,a falling leaf landing softly on warm ground.

    Even more delicate, to the point of almost vanishing, “Bordeaux” the latest album from Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd, is a collection of softly spoken ambient textures that drifts into being, as delicate as a single petal resting in the palm of your hand.
  Over nine songs, the music is never less than beautiful, a serene wash of sound that lazily relaxes you, each piece graced with infinite chords and gentle notes, the perfect  soundtrack to doing nothing except existing in the moment.
  In lesser hands, this kind of stuff can become extremely boring and tedious (and this is an album that you will either love or ignore), here, however, the music is a lesson in measured minimalist ambience, ideal for those who want to turn everything off for a while and just dream.

    Working under the name 17f, Swiss musician Frederic Merk has created an impressive debut album, which features various Swiss musicians, a Sufi master (Kudai Erguner) and was supported in part, by the Cultural Department of the city of Vervey. Written and produced by Merk himself, the album has a mesmerising blend of styles, simple minimalist compositions colliding with burst of heavy percussion, background electronics and hints of prog dynamics.
    On “Le Sex Faible”, the haunting sounds of the Ney are engulfed by powerhouse drumming and a wall of noise, whilst the lovely “Le Nain II” has some splendid Saxophone, that brings to mind the tones of Didiere Malherbe, the liquid bass line adding to the feel of mid-period Gong.
   Sounding like a Fripp/Gabriel collaboration, “For a While” has a understated vocal performance that adds real emotion to an already wonderful tune, whilst “Receipt” confuses the senses, leaping between styles, cut-up samples, and precise percussion, driving the tune through its various incarnations.
     After the brief experimental ambience of “Racine” we come to the main event “Aiga”, a seventeen minute composition that deals with loss in an elegant and poetic manner. Held together by some excellent drumming, the voice weaves a magical spell, the same understated vocal style blending with a river of electronic/acoustic sounds, the piece flowing free and easy from the speakers, enchanting and poignant in equal measures, the sax adding another level of beauty to the Tune.
     Finally, “Angel” brings it home, strummed guitar and gossamer textures ending the album with simple charm, an astonishing debut album that is inventive, mature and emotional. (Simon Lewis).




CDr available from Melody Bar


Terrascope regulars will probably need no introduction to Kitchen Cynics AKA the prolific musician/artist Alan Davidson, on guitar, vocals and psaltery, occasionally aided and abetted here by Susan Matthew.

Pitched somewhere between Alasdair Roberts and Ivor Cutler and shot through with psychedelic ambience, courtesy of the School of St John Martyn of the  Echoplex, Davidson has delivered a  dreamy, bucolic-sounding  gem of an album sung in a heavily accented voice, the ethereal feel of which is nicely offset by everyday lyrics of life, love and loss.

Many of the fourteen tracks are typified by tripped- out psychedelic folk, with titles that reek of rusticity such as “Leafily Earthily”, “The Lamb Born on Wolf’s Hill” and the gorgeous instrumental “Rose Bay Willow Herb” all of which form an exquisite opening triptych but which are but hand maidens to the wistful, melancholic and implausibly beautiful “The Wilhelmina Gabb” delivered in a fractured and rather vulnerable tenor.

From here on, Davidson occasionally plucks us out of the otherworld with some endearing and gently old fashioned humour. “Overly Sentimental Song” is basically Ivor Cutler scored by Syd Barrett and is so catchy I was humming it for a week after just one listen.  “Pecking Order”, featuring Matthew on ukulele, is a wonderfully playful and absurd child’s guide to the food chain whilst “Beryl Won’t You Shave Your Legs Tonight” is a welcome reminder of the comedy ditties my Scots grand-dad and first-generation Welsh father used to make up for me, much to my huge delight, when I was a small boy, although I never recall either of them sounding quite like this.   It would be easy to overdo the whimsy and thus be dismissed as a bit of a novelty but there is a depth to Davidson’s writing and a rather nice balance to proceedings.

“Her Mother’s Eyes”, “Eighty Yards” the instrumental “Burnett Moths” co-written by Matthew and on which she plays right-hand piano, are all highlights in the template forged by those strong early outriders.  “The Moon Is Up” starts off as a gently soothing melody such as you might sing to your child to stop them fretting and to settle them down but soon take on darker overtones as, flecked with distant canon fire, it scratches and moans at your synapses, a harbinger perhaps of what Davidson and Matthew hone to such effect under the guise of the Matricarians (read on down the page, ladies and gentlemen). You’ll not fail to be unmoved by the sublime title track which would have Robert Wyatt tearing at his beard wishing he’d written it.

This curiously life-affirming pearl will delight all you fans of dawn-and-twilight, lo-fi acid-folk  - chill out music for those who like nothing better than listening to the sound of dewdrops forming while gazing at the Northern Lights. No, not bad at all. (Ian Fraser)



CDr available from Melody Bar


The aforementioned Alan Davidson is also the main creative force behind the Matricarians, which also features Kitchen Cynics collaborator Susan Matthew, together with Duncan Hart and David Mackay, who also share in most of the writing credits.

Chewart Croft is a more conceptual, experimental and less conventionally song orientated work than the Cynics project reviewed elsewhere. The latter’s folk influences are certainly less in evidence and are mostly replaced by what might be termed neo-classical cello and piano recitals were it not for the fact that these songs orbit a strange parallel universe inhabited by spectral matter and are underscored by often stark electronica . Vocals too are pretty scarce, muted and strained. The exception here is “The Midwife Had a Baby”, which starts off like a lysergic nursery rhyme and just gets more and more deranged, as if the recipient’s strange tasting Ovaltine takes effect as the tune unravels . Much of the instrumentation is mischievously playful – remember all those infernal “musical tunes” and clockwork contraptions at the end Of Pink Floyd’s “Bike”? Well imagine what they might sound like when they’re running down and this is what you’ve got   Hypnotic and otherworldly, the ambient textures and warped string (and-circuit board) quartet feel can be both beguiling and discomforting and in a way quite challenging. Well we always like a challenge here at Terrascope, and we’ve come through this none the worse for the experience, while the “plink, plink fizz” of much of the material meant that we didn’t even need to reach for the Alka Seltzer.

Whilst not as immediately accessible as, and arguably less essential than, “The Gleam In The Heron’s Eye”, this inventive and often scary collection is, nonetheless, very decent fare and well worth taking the time to explore. (Ian Fraser)



Ltd edition Vinyl 2 x LP on Smeraldina-Rima and on download

Recorded in London over a two year period, “The Safety Machine” is musician/producer Alex Monk’s first vinyl release and is limited to just 300 copies and download.

A musical hybrid of sparse soundscapes and laptop trickery with the occasional nod towards song structures, “The Safety Machine” lacks for neither ambience (meaning atmosphere as well as referencing le genre musicale) or ambition but occasionally – and let us get the demerit out of the way at this point - Monk spoils a good trick by employing some needless heavy handedness and the odd inexplicably oblique ending such as on the otherwise flawless “Cabiria”, featuring London based Italian singer Elisa Gallo Rosso .  The album works best when Monk goes a bit easier on the “look what this does” soft-synth technology, such as on the opening “Masks Survive”, which evokes pastoral post-Barrett Floyd (think Cirrus Minor and Grantchester Meadows) as a score to an M R James ghost story and interpreted by Current 93 at their ethereal best, to deliver 10 minutes of sublime and spectral beauty, while the aforementioned “Cabria” is a drone par-excellence which wouldn’t sound out of place on one of the Book of Shadows’ better efforts, “The Ocean You Chose” is an instrumental of shimmering splendour, while “Spiders” and “Crossing” (again featuring Elisa Gallo Rosso) evoke Dead Can Dance at their most sepulchral, before the latter returns us to a more tuneful, yet somehow still bereft feel of the opening number,  The glacial majesty of “Sammy’s Song” (an eulogy to a loved one lost in childhood) slows the heartbeat yet further and this is how things stay as we float slowly and sombrely down river, feet first, on a torch-lit barge.

Not a laugh a minute, then, but definitely recommended for those who like their chills as much as their thrills. (Ian Fraser)




CD from Bureau B

The legendary leaders of Guru Guru and Acid Mothers Temple originally combined forces (with Tsuyama Atsushi) five years ago in Nagoya on a project called Acid Mothers Guru Guru. The result of this dream trio was Psychedelic Navigator (Important, 2007) and an ensuing US tour. A year later, Mani and Kawabata recorded these improvisational jam sessions across two evenings in February and August, 2008. As one would expect, the results are maniacal, unfettered, acid-fried, headswirling psychedelia. No doubt the original tapes ran for hours and have been whittled down to these five tracks spanning 50 minutes. But if you are familiar with either of these artists’ impressive (and extremely vast) back catalogue, all the elements are present – from the hypnotic tape loops and slashing guitar lines weaving their way around percussive lightning flashes on ‘Mushi’ to the whirling dervish drones of the epic, 20-minute centrepiece, ‘Spinning Contrasts.’

As the songs develop, you can feel the collaborators absorbing each other’s energy…acknowledging a direction they want to head into and then proceeding full steam ahead. Occasionally, monosyllabic grunts burst from ecstatic headspaces where each performer is peaking from the spontaneous combustion of ideas as the two merge into one ferocious maelstrom of noise – like a psychedelic tsunami coming at you at 200 km/h.

Parts of this may remind you of seminal krautrock freakouts from the likes of Amon Düül, Can, Ash Ra Temple, and Faust, while others sound like the carefully constructed chaos of Captain Beefheart – from scattershot insanity to thousand yard stare catatonia, it’s a gut-punching, breath-stealing experience you won’t soon forget.  (Jeff Penczak)



Grosse Freiheit CD/LP

Another hour-plus of sexy beat babes, full of heavy grooves, jazzy funk, blazing horns, and dancefloor barnstormers. Living up to its subtitle, “Female beat, groove, disco, funk in Germany 1968-1981”, the occasional disco track does sneak in (Veronika Fischer’s ‘He, Wir Fahr’n Mit Dem Zug’ and Li Monty’s ‘Funky Bone’ – both from 1977 – firmly grounds the compilation in the 70’s and reminds us how popular Silver Convention were), but the majority of these obscurities will still bring a smile to your face and set your happy feet a twitchin’. From the Saturday Night Live-styled brass backing to Fasia’s ‘Arbeitslosen-Blues’ and Joy Fleming’s sexy, funky take on the classic ‘Fieber’ (‘Fever’) from her 1975 Atlantic LP Menschenskind (featuring Amon Düül bassist Lothar Meid!) to sexy Uschi Brüning’s pillow-talking, Barry White-meets-Burt Bacharach’s ‘Hochzeitsnacht’ and the legendary Hildegard Knef’s sultry sashay through ‘Gern Bereit’ from her Decca 1968 Cole Porter tribute album Träume Heissen Du (Hildegard Knef Singt Cole Porter), there’s nary a moment’s letup as we stomp our way across the dance floor on the way to the nearest wet bar!

Other highlights include Su Kramer’s soulful ‘Weisser Sand’, featuring a gnarly drum break and a fingerbleeding fuzz solo, the English-language funkfest that Inga Rumpf (Germany’s leading female blues rock vocalist) wrestles out of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’, Swedish bombshell Lill Lindfors’ James Last-orchestrated romp through ‘Harper Valley’ (Polydor, 1968) that successfully translates  the C&W chestnut into a roasting fireball of derisive spittle with full-on brass & string assault and tasty six-string backing, and Donna Summer (back when she was still known as Donna Gaines) hypnotically slowdancing cheek-to-cheek on her 1972 psychedelic B-side ‘Can’t Understand’. (Jeff Penczak)