= March 2016 =  
Heron Oblivion
Soft Hearted Scientists
The Lickets
Blue Lily Commission
Cavalier Song
Festivalized book
Judge Barry Herzog
Magic Shoppe
Uther Pendragon


(Sub Pop)

Every now and again an album comes along which stops you dead in its tracks. This is one such album, a perfect example of where the sum of the parts equals something far, far greater than any mere mathematical equation might suggest.

The opening ‘Beneath Fields’ has a haunting American West Coast feel about it, soft tribal drumcalls from former Espers leading light Meg Baird (who doubles up as drummer and vocalist in Heron Oblivion) as the Cipollina-esque guitar fills from Comets on Fire’s Noel V. Harmonson mark smoke trails high in the sky above. The twin guitar duelling gets down and dusty in the follow-up ‘Oriar’ when guitarist Charlie Saufley (who I’m familiar with from Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound, as well as playing bass in Ben Chasney’s Hexadic alongside Noel) kicks in with some glorious feedback-drenched noise, while Meg sings high and clear with a voice not far removed from the Celia Humphris of the legendary Trees. Trust me, the effect is truly extraordinary. The side’s closer is ‘Faro’ , a throwback to the late 80s in style and delivery, a leaf torn from the 11th Dream Day songbook, scrunched up and amped-up to levels even the Dream Syndicate in their Precoda-led heyday only rarely achieved, with some reverberating bass work from the legend who is Ethan Miller (one time of Comets on Fire alongside Noel Von Harmonson, and also of course of Howling Rain). Still with me? Sorry, families can be complicated I know. Anyway, I can imagine this being a killer song played live.

The second side is the winner for me though, as note after note takes the album from the sublime to the exquisite and upwards from there towards the unparalleled. The opening ‘Rama’ finds Beg Baird in full Celia Humphris mode, a gorgeous lilting melody and gentle percussion.... and then the guitar kicks in. And it completely flattens all before it. It’s THE most gorgeous sound I’ve heard since a young Michio Kurihara first trod the boards with White Heaven, which believe me is quite some compliment coming from me. If all you’ve heard of Kurihara is his work with Ghost or latterly Boris, then do yourself a favour and check out White Heaven sometime (interestingly I see Heron Oblivion’s songs are copyrighted to Silver Current (ASCAP), which happens to be a White Heaven song title in itself, so maybe I’m onto something here... makes a note to himself to ask them sometime...)

It’s the album’s closer ‘Your Hollows’ however which I suspect is going to run away with the accolades. It starts sounding for all the world like a Crazy Horse number, you fully expect Neil Young’s voice to come in after the opening guitar salvo - and instead you get Meg Baird. But not just the Meg Baird you’re used to, but an inspired Meg Baird, a Meg Baird who hits notes so high and so clear that you fear for your crystal glasswear. The band also pull off a very neat trick whereby the join between Meg’s voice trailing away and the feedback-drenched lead guitar is completely invisible; I’ve listened a dozen times now and I still can’t tell how they do it. Brilliant.

Quite possibly THE most Terrascopic album of the past five years. If you’ve even once enjoyed something I’ve ever recommended then do yourself a favour and check this out immediately - it’s simply brilliant.

(Phil McMullen)


( CD from  http://www.softheartedscientists.com/)

Ten years of soft hearted psychedelia has given loveable, whimsical rogues Nathan Hall and Dylan Line quite a reputation amongst groovy folk, and so the time does seem right for a re-release of their debut album “Uncanny Tales From The Everyday Undergrowth.” Opening with the dreamily retro ‘Mount Palomar’ – which sounds like a lost nugget from the Sagittarius sessions – the album wears its beautiful influences on its sleeve. Tunes are good and production values are high; and the harmonised singing is terrific. ‘Diving Bell’ goes into freaky ¾ territory – hints of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn here in vibe and instrumentation – while, like the opening cut, carrying through a lovely tune. ‘Wendigo’ takes the SHS “chant” style of songwriting into a mystical forest, while ‘The Petition’ loops and winds its way through some cosmic tuition via a barrage of fuzz guitar and bloopy synths, and ‘Brother Sister’ takes the listener to some colourful places via a lovely tune and delicate synth arrangement – super. ‘The Yongy Bongy Bo’ merges narration and vocals with music in way that reminded me of The Space Goats, ‘The Haunted Song’ takes more beautifully harmonised vocals and sets them to a perfectly judged backing, while ‘Many A Monster’ has a Floydian vibe circa 1969. ‘Isabella’ is the longest song on the album, taking a phased/flanged piano riff and setting it against the most Barrett-esque vocal on the album; the song has a narrative flow and ease of arrangement that marks out the whole album. A highlight indeed, and illustrating the comparatively fastidious recording style reminiscent of the work of Pugwash, amongst others. ‘Midnight Mutinies’ pits acoustic guitars against synths (or possibly face-slap percussion) while vocals swish and sway above… really nice, this one. ‘At Night The Quarry Glows Like A Mother Ship’ has an anthemic quality with its dramatic cymbals and synthi-riff, while album closer ‘Black Castles’ is a whimsical, trippy little number designed to allow the listener to come back to Earth after the high-flying anthem before. The album as a whole is a very fine example of how, if you have the songs, this kind of retro fabulism remains a rich vein for British bands. A second disk carries some of the original song demos.
     Editors note, the second disc is equally as enchanting as the first and it is great to hear different versions of the tunes, some of which, such as  “The Yongy Bongy Bo” sound as good if not better than the released versions. Highly recommended to all.

(Steve Palmer


(CD from https://internationalco.bandcamp.com/)

U.S. duo The Lickets (Mitch Greer and Rachel Smith) have carved out a niche of hypnotic albums using a wide range of instruments, influenced by many of the minimal composers, not least Terry Riley. On their new album “Dolls In Colour” they take a left turn into Berlin School territory, with massed ranks of sequences founding the music, while at the same time using the bed of real instruments – guitars, cello, flute – that gives their music a warm, analogue quality. The tracks are shorter than those of previous albums, which brings a transitory quality. Opening with the seven minute ‘Pigeon,’ the music immediately take the listener into mesmeric territory. ‘Sacred Knives Of Vengeance’ is more of a precise harpsichord dream, while ‘Patterned Ground’ brings half sung, half whispered vocals into the mix. ‘Birds Of Enchantment’ recalls earlier works, with its swirling, repetitive motifs all rising out of the mix, then falling back into it. ‘The Magic Yard’ at three minutes is perhaps too short, bringing an acoustic guitar to the music; but alas the track fades before it gets going, like a forgotten dream. Distinct echoes of Tangerine Dream and hints of Ashra Tempel haunt ‘Test Particle,’ whose guitar inserts add colour to the softly oscillating synths, ‘Florist’ has the weird vibe of a horror film soundtrack, while ‘Human Lanterns’ could almost be an out-take from Tangerine Dream’s “Phaedra” – the most clear-cut instance of the new direction of the duo. ‘St Paul & The Peacocks’ brings echoes of Terry Riley’s keyboards plus some gentle guitar to the mix, while album closer ‘Island Of Trees & Sorrow’ has an attractive shimmering quality to it, overlaid with melancholy guitar chords. It’s always good to find a band exploring new territory, and The Lickets – already a force for sonic enjoyment – do so with verve. This new album has influences, and they pop up occasionally, like the calling cards of old friends, but there is much new to enjoy. The work will be enjoyed by fans of electronic music, but present fans of the band need not concern themselves about the new direction. It’s a great direction to go in. (Steve Palmer)


(LP/CD/Download from All Time Low)

Demian Castellanos has been a bit of a tease of late – 2015 releases ‘KYVU’ and ‘Beyond The Mirror’ were drawn from the vaults while we eagerly awaited the new material. That wait is over.

‘Monographic’ (in a fittingly monochrome cover with linear design) does not disappoint although it does represent an incremental departure from the deliciously dank and cloying aesthetic of previous Oscillation releases. That hardly means that it is lacking in suspense or edginess but there is a more upbeat and dare one say commercially friendly feel to this than on previous releases. Castellanos’ deadpan vocal is something like a fusion between Syd Barrett and Genesis P Orridge voicing Tales Of The Unexpected and this lends itself pretty well to the material. The lead-off title track is a jaunty chug evoking early Hawkwind having a bit of a knees up while “Take Us To The Moon” is, if not quite danceable, is liable to get the faithful twitching a bit down in mosh central and “Truth In Reverse” is a lysergic psycho-drone deconstruction of “Spirit In The Sky”, and way-less annoying. In between these two is “Let It Be The End”, a narcotic slowie of the sort Primal Scream used to throw in to good effect to break up the maelstrom. “Another Attack” meanwhile is an exciting and up-tempo, almost-garage psych construct and easily the most outstanding track thus far. Now THAT will get them moving.

However, what elevates Monographic from a good album to the truly impressive are the final two cuts (at least on the original CD version). The shimmering drone of “Lonely People” represents a return to the dark basement sound of earlier Oscillation and even chucks in a gloomy “anthemic” chorus that you can sing along to, assuming you could muster the energy to do so. It’s on “Alignment Zone (Extended)” that it all comes together though. A lengthy slab of uber-psych, a deep space exploration co-scripted by drummer Valentia Magaletti, it’s quite possibly the best thing Castellanos has put his name to. In fact the whole album could well be Oscillation’s strongest release to date.

(Note: The CD version comes with three extra tracks, all drones, all good. The vinyl format offers different permeations of additional material)
Ian Fraser



(DL/CD-R http://www.musiczeit.com/)

Containing four long sprawling tracks, this epic collection should really be available as a double vinyl album with gatefold sleeve and inserts, sadly however this does not seem possible at the moment, so you can get it as a download or as a hand made CD-R from its creator, one Stephen Palmer, a Terrascope scribe, author and a very prolific musician.

Opening with “The Journey” the listener is welcomed in by a breezy sequence and mellow drumming, the mood light and airy as various stringed instruments join in the fun sounding like a sweet slice of Sunshine Pop. As the piece moves on flutes enter the fray giving the music the sound of early Vangelis (“Earth”) as they weave amongst the stringed instruments and you suddenly find yourself drifting away from the opening feel until, eventually, you are plunged into a more psychedelic world that is ambient and expansive. After eleven or so minutes of exquisite music, the mood suddenly dives down into a tense drone, horns and pipes fighting with string chords and the sounds of crows the listener taken deep within the mystery in a ghostly shroud of sounds that you can fill with your own visions. Moving on, “The Trip” offers more of the flute drone over stringed instruments, impossible to name as Steve has so many weird instruments that I have no idea what he is up to, before degenerating into a distorted piece of repetitive electronics that is very unsettling, the track then reclaiming some melody with a beautiful pulsing sequence and sweetly pitched synth washes that suddenly explodes into the light with the addition of drums, extra sequences and melody lines, this mood maintained until the end of the track, a heady mix of seventies space music and ambient dance music, with even the hint of a very mellow Happy Monday's in the background.

In an ideal vinyl world, side three would be taken up with “The Voyage”, a track that manages to sound like Man jamming with Ash Ra temple, the hypnotic percussion of the opening section strongly reminding me of those spacey mid sections that were so popular in the early seventies, all rising chords, chattering electronics and echoed guitars. Bloody lovely it is to and it is almost a shame when it all gains a sense of order before suddenly becoming a sea shanty drone although it is so easy to get lost in this new direction that you have soon forgotten about the opening segment, the music taking you on a ride that ensures you stay in the present, walking the same shores as United Bible Studies in its sonic mystery.

Finally, “The Excursion” begins as a rain soaked wash of sound a single bell signalling the arrival of a deep Aum of a drone that will get you reaching for a single candle and the headphones, birdsong adding touches of lightness and beauty, as does a very lysergic flute, the music levitating your mood and quite possibly the room with ease. For the last few minutes the track changes again, becoming a delightful string quartet playing some sweet and melodic music that allows you to re-enter the atmosphere with no ill effects, the sounds soothing and very beautiful.

Filled with exotic instruments, stately drones and moments of wonder, this collection sound different every time you play it, a warm and very organic album that is something I will be returning to on a regular basis. (Simon Lewis)



(LP/MP3 God Unknown)

God Unknown is rapidly carving out a reputation for some of the tastiest releases at the moment (including the debut Henge LP and a whole raft of split singles featuring the likes of Oneida, Teeth Of The Sea, Acid Mothers Temple, White Hills and of course Mugstar). Cavalier Song may be unheralded when mentioned in such august company although you get the sense that this might well change on the strength of this superb if comparatively un-pyrotechnic debut.

“Anode” sounds like a guitar-based version of Bohren and der Club of Gore. It’s lush and thrilling whilst perfectly understated and with just right amount of reverb and space (as in gaps this time) “Stones For Throwing”, by contrast, ups the ante somewhat. The suspense dial is turned way up courtesy of far more urgency and machine-gun drumming, dropping down in the mid-section to just a rumbling bass and a descending riff before resuming the chase. It’s reminiscent a bit of Teeth Of The Sea with more conventional instrumentation.

“Oarfish” is the central track, a beautifully slow meditation full of hanging single notes and shimmering ambience. However in keeping with the quiet/loud alteration, after the calm comes “Easy Spider” (great title) with its whoops, hollers and Can-like repetition (there are echoes of 1980s King Crimson in there too). It’s like being trapped in a hellish menagerie which gives chase as the track builds to near-climax before finally abating. “Trees” is the introspective slow burning coda which helps with the comedown.

This is clever stuff, full of post-minimalist inventive abstractions that demand that you actually listen to what is going on. Well we’ll be paying close attention to Cavalier Song’s progress and so too God Unknown, whose quality control thus far has been unerring. (Ian Fraser)



(Book from http://www.gonzomultimedia.co.uk/

Although a few books have dealt with aspects of the alternative/free festival/underground scene – “The Battle of the Beanfield” edited by Andy Worthington comes to mind – none has provided the reader with quite such sumptuous detail as Ian Abrahams and Bridget Wishart’s “Festivalized.” Covering a period from the hazy, early days of free festi culture in the 1970s through to the last true free festival at Castlemorton, the book tells its tale with a sympathetic, yet never rose-tinted viewpoint, via the recollections, opinions and stories of many from the scene – famous individuals and ordinary punters alike. It’s a terrific read, and everyone who has come across the scene, whether tangentially, or in its entirety like the numerous musicians, artists and travellers who lived on the road, will want to check the book out.

      The work not only follows the general flow of free festival history, it covers numerous aspects of the scene, from smaller things like the food, through larger considerations such as the politics and the drugs situation, to major events like the Battle of the Beanfield. Contributors come from all sides – musicians such as Joie of the Ozrics, Nik Turner, Swordfish of the Magic Mushroom Band, Cornish troubadour and all-round 12-string wizard Nigel Mazlyn Jones, Simon Williams of Mandragora… and many more: counter cultural free-thinkers like Penny Rimbaud and Mick Farren; plus a huge array of folk who were there… Oz Hardwick, Michael Dog, Jake Stratton-Kent to name just three. It’s a glittering array of contributors.

     Particularly moving are the less pleasant memories. Many contributors dwell on likely reasons for the demise of the scene, not least the Brew Crew, the immense amounts of drugs, and a change in some communities’ perception (fuelled by a demonising right-wing press) of so-called New Age Travellers. Bridget contributes a sad epitaph as she recounts battling her particular demons (albeit with a happy ending). There is lots of positive stuff too of course, not least the cultural contributions that, alas, only underground types would recognise, and which Tory grandees in their great big houses failed even to recognise, let alone understand. Thatcher’s brutal inhumanity will never be forgotten in this country. Then there’s the music, the coming together of common people in mostly peaceful circumstances, the veggie curries, the buses, the wigged-out conversations around the camp fire...

      This work could have been a freaked-out howl of rage against the rigidly class-structured, prejudiced conservatism of Britain. Instead it’s a measured, superbly put together, moving, funny, serious, thought-provoking account of a wonderful time in the alternative culture of our country. It deserves to be recognised as a historical document.

     Highly recommended to all who have lived, learned from, or just admired at weekends British alternative culture and the magical promise of the free festival. (Steve Palmer)



(CD from 4Zero)

Based on Julian Cope’s stodgy and crushingly underwhelming debut novel “131” (the title refers to the main highway in Sardinia along which most of the inaction takes place and not the number of pages most of us got to before despairingly banishing it to the car boot pile) ‘Blowdriver’ is attributed to the book’s fictional arch-villain, turn of the 90s rave DJ and footie hooligan Judge Barry Herzog.

Mercifully the protagonists here though are Julian Cope (real name) and Holy McGrail (probably not) who turn in a brace of extremely lengthy instrumental workouts typified by tribal drumming and enthusiastic though not often subtle use of primitive synths. Beware the high mono-pitch on “Zuidlaren June 89” if you’re driving as you could end up checking your seatbelt, hand brake and for any open doors before realising it’s your in-car entertainment. It’s all very much in the mould of Julian’s “Rite” albums and bears testimony to his enduring affinity with the more outlandish order of Krautrock. It’s unessential but diverting enough and good fun too, all of which is OK. That’s more than can be said for that confounded book.
Ian Fraser



(10” vinyl from Bandcamp)

Pressed on lovely white vinyl, this four track EP comes with no information about who plays in the band and the only way of telling which side is which is matching the subtle differences on the labels to the artwork. This, of course, only adds to the mystery, although a little research on your part will solve everything.

One thing is for sure though, this band are fond of Spacemen 3, and a host of other guitar led psych bands, with opening track “Salventius” delivering a fucked up guitar anthem that howls from the speakers in all its two chord glory, a psychedelic stomp that should be played at volumes high enough to tear your head off.

After this opening salvo, “City Alight (Yeah)” has a more mellow vibe sounding like a Shoegaze band covering The Thirteenth Floor Elevators swapping the cathedral of sound for a somewhat more lysergic jangle whilst sticking with the epic arrangements. Not quite as immediate as the opener the track is a definite grower with a great surprise ending.

Turning things over, “Redhead”, mixes The Stone Roses with The Purrs, a swirling mass of guitar noise that is melodic and modern, the band letting the song stretch out and soar away with some fine playing and a fistful of energy, I imagine that this one is gonna sound amazing in a live setting.

To end, the title track opens with a lazy jangle before morphing into another epic guitar anthem that ebbs and flows with joyous abandon propelled along by a warm and melodious bass line that sits at the heart of the tune.

Sometimes you just want to lose yourself in the sound of electric guitars, at those moments this could be the perfect soundtrack, dive in and wash your troubles away. (Simon Lewis)



(LP/CD/DL from http://highmoonrecords.com/)

This, the final album from the legendary Love finds the band exploring a soulful funk with touches of blues and rock. Originally released in 1974, the album features Arthur Lee and a host of session musicians, the collection intended as a partner album to the unreleased “Black Beauty”.

Opening with “Time is Like a River”, the band get into a soulful groove with Lee's voice about the only thing left from the classic line-up, although there is some sharp guitar playing mixed in there. Slow and moody, “Stop the Music” has another fine vocal performance, the tune anchored by some solid drumming and droning harp. Stepping straight into the funk “Who Are You?” is a Curtis Mayfield inspired slice of groove with horns and organ a-plenty, the tune rounding off a trio of tracks that seem to sum up the whole album in their musical styles, the rest of the album having plenty of style and generally keeping your feet tapping with “Be Thankful For What You Got” having a very laid back style with plenty of staccato wah guitar and a lazy bassline dancing with mellow percussion, whilst “You Said You Would” is a country rock tune with some rockin' guitar work running through it.

To round off the original album, “Busted Feet” is a heavier workout that has touches of Hendrix at its core, whilst final track “Everybody's Gotta Live” is a sweet acoustic song that has a stripped back innocence to it, a good tune to end a solid yet fairly pedestrian collection. I guess that if you can divorce this album from the rest of Love's work then it is enjoyable enough without ever being essential.

One of the draws for the Love fan will be the four unreleased songs on the album with “Do It Yourself” starting with some electric guitar mayhem before becoming another funky workout, “I Gotta Remember” again sounding like a Hendrix number with its wah guitar passages, something also true of “Somebody”, whilst “You Gotta Feel It” is a soul track that is pleasant but drifts away quickly. As for the rest of the unreleased track most are alternate takes on tunes on the original album, or throw away tunes like the Rock and Roll “Graveyard Hop” which is the sound of the musician warming up as far as I can tell.

One other word of warning, the bonus tracks are only available as downloads not on the vinyl which only includes the original album and a download code for the rest of the material. This information is not readily apparent on the website, although it is there in the small print. (Simon Lewis)



(LP from Guerssen )

Oh these don't come along every day of the week. Uther Pendragon 'San Francisco Earthquake' on Guerssen records is a double disc set of unreleased recordings by a band in the thick of the action during those golden years of the sixties.

Why they never released anything in their lifetime is quite astonishing as they had the songs and the chops. These recordings are simply stuffed to the gunnels with searing, blistering fuzz guitars and that classic San Francisco sound, a tour de force of west coast psychedelia. OK the vocals are a bit weak in places, but really they are secondary to the great sounds on offer here.

The record starts with a spoken word invocation on life and death, then we are straight into classic psych territory, swiftly followed by a pure garage rock number, which wouldn't be out of place on the original nuggets set.

Formed in the Bay Area as a teen garage band called Blue Fever and in operation from 1966 until 1978, their music evolved from garage through psychedelia into heavy rock. The band were known by various names, Kodiac, Mandala, Justus and Pendragon before settling on Uther Pendragon. The core of the band always remained the same; Mark Lightcap (rhythm guitar and vocals), Bruce Marelich (lead guitar, vocals) and Mark Espinosa (bass, vocals).

Managed by Craig Pedersen (Tripsichord Music Box) who put them in the studios at Pacific sound to record a killer garage-psych acetate in 1967, which I am sure he would then of hawked around a few of the larger record companies like Columbia, but none of them bit, leaving behind a multitude of unreleased recording sessions from which this release are taken from.

They all lived in the same house during this period ala the 'Magic Band' which shows in the tight arrangements on these songs. Touchstones would be The Oxford Circle, Savage Resurrection, and Moby Grape, with a massive influence being Quicksilver Messenger Service and they deserve to be mentioned in this illustrious company.

I am simply staggered that they never released anything whist active, as the quality was certainly there as is evident on this release. Standout tracks are plentiful with my particular favourites being, the spooky Devils Due, the rumbling San Francisco Earthquake, the concise Magical Door, stretching out on Realm Of 7 Planes and Spanish Fly, rocking out on Hells Rock, the twists and turns of Music Box and Kristina. Stuff like this, of this quality, simply does not come around very often.

How a band of this calibre remained unreleased is beyond me as they certainly were in the right place and the right time, and obviously spent plenty of hours in various recording studios honing their craft over a number of years and Guerssen are to be commended in unearthing this gem. If you have a liking for the early classic west coast sound then you could do a lot worse than investigating this release, It has plenty of great snaking, snarling, stinging lead guitar, twin vocals, fine harmonies , all held together over a tight rhythm section. (Andrew Young)