= March 2019 =  
 Big Front Yard
 Steve Gunn
 Brainiac 5
 Matthew Edwards
 Willie Gibson
 Astronauts, Etc
 Jim Spencer
 Kitchen Cynics
 Oliver Cherer
 Sonora Sunrise
 Green Seagull


(2LP from Thylacine Records)

1973 was a peak in the timeline of musical exploration for a younger me, and picking through my shelves today, still crammed with albums from the British leg of the country-rock underground by the likes of Bronco, Hookfoot, Help Yourself, Quiver, Brinsley Schwarz, Home, Byzantium, Gypsy and Cochise, it’s interesting to note how many albums from the years up to and including that date have survived both my changing tastes and, more tellingly perhaps, my occasional record-selling purges when times was ’ard. By 1974 both musical fashions and production values were changing, ushering in a funkier, often keyboard driven groove; bands like the Neutrons, Snafu and Hobo briefly held sway over my bedsit dance floor, while by 1975 a harder, rockier edge still was introduced by the likes of Ducks Deluxe and Bees Make Honey as the glorious flame of the Pub Rock era lighted my way into a new world of the 9 to 5. The Brinsleys, of course, were still there; they simply cranked up the volume and went for it. By 1977 the whole thing was all over, in so many ways.

Just occasionally the field still gets overturned by musical detectorists to reveal a glinting treasure from that period, though I confess it’s been a while since anything really floored me; the Greasy Bear recordings from a few years back is probably the only recent example. The (re-)discovery of Big Front Yard is though a treasure in every regard, and Thylacine Records – not the same one that released some Violent Femmes records a decade or so ago; this is a Shagrat Records subsidiary - are to be congratulated for putting together this absolutely fascinating double album of previously lost recordings dating from between 1973 and 1975, from a band which included brothers Mick and Steve Dolan (ex Hard Meat), both now sadly passed away along with, it seems, everyone else in BFY.

‘Morning Glory’ is an early favourite; Nigel Cross rightly maintains that this song in particular always reminds him of Traffic, placing him back along the highways and byways of the West Midlands, the birds singing, the church bells ringing, the era of John Barleycorn or Low Spark. Big Front Yard guitarist Mike Dolan actually went on to play on Traffic's Far from Home LP so he’s obviously not far off the mark. I have to confess though that the song always puts me in mind of the Neutrons, which is no bad thing in itself. Over on side 2, ‘Keep on Keeping On’ is notable for the warm harmony vocals and a majestic guitar solo – I can easily imagine this being one of Big Front Yard’s end of set dance-floor favourites. It reminds me of Home’s ‘Red E. Lewis And The Red Caps’.

There’s then a brief run of absolutely outstanding cuts on side 3, including ‘Time it Right’ which is pure, unadulterated West Coast rock – whichever of the Dolan brothers, Mike or Steve, sings on this one he sounds exactly like Jay Ferguson, and the song like an outtake from one of his much-maligned solo albums. The song then takes off on a long, dazzling twin-guitar passage not a million miles away from the Man band in their pomp, before picking up again from where it left off. Another dance floor favourite for the boys on their night, I strongly suspect. This is followed by the sublime ‘In Your Wagon’, a heart-rending ballad written by some time Dolan sideman Phil Jump which is built on an exquisite lattice work of guitars. A slow-burner to end the night, swaying on the dance floor with the girl of your choice in your arms.

There’s more choice cuts in store over on Side 4, including the opening psychedelic rocker ‘Mad John's Dream’ with what sounds like a B3 Hammond cabinet in full swing. This was the B-side of the group's one and only 7" 45 released on the Rampant label; and the closing ‘Godzilla’, a lengthy instrumental showcase, shades of  Wishbone Ash or, again, the Man band.

All in all a fantastic double album which is worth every moment of the several months of negotiation and brilliant restoration - the latter in the capable hands of Tony Poole, ex- Starry Eyed and Laughing, who themselves also date from that (to me, at least) critical period of British music, 1973/5.

(Phil McMullen)





(LP/CD/DL on Matador Records)


Steve Gunn is a treasure.  The non-flashy singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, and originally the Philadelphia area, crafts thoughtful songs and is a prodigious talent on acoustic and electric guitar.  Fresh off producing Michael Chapman’s latest, he brings us The Unseen in Between.  Gunn has now been making music for a little over ten years.  While his early work was folk-based and largely acoustic, he has gradually incorporated more electric guitar into his repertoire (and the man can play).  The Unseen in Between strikes a balance, with a representation of really all his styles from past to present.  Subtlety is the watchword – usually – and The Unseen in Between is a perfect title for appreciating his work and the rewards it brings the astute listener.  The album’s nine songs feature a sparkling production by James Elkington and engineer Daniel Schlett.


From the opening acoustic strums of “New Moon,” Gunn and Elkington gradually build up the sound to include tremolo guitar, harmonica, strings, atmospherics, and a wah-wah flourish at the end.  “I see a glimmer” he sings – “across the wall, through the mirror.  Out past the street, beyond the weather.  To that place no one seems to know.”  That is both the intro and the essence of The Unseen in Between and Steve Gunn’s message – look further, then further still.


“Vagabond” is a mid-tempo roller, with acoustic, pedal steel, and Gunn’s wah-wah playing, and graced with guest Meg Baird’s harmony vocals.  It jaunts along with a Dire Straits-like feel, as Gunn sings of romantic but lost characters on society’s fringes, with words like “Camped out in a graveyard.  Took a job to clean some tombstones.  Like lovers in a shadow of a crooked dream.”


“Chance” is in the classic Gunn electric style, much as the later “New Familiar.”  In both, Gunn introduces a laid back, linear, hypnotic, labyrinth-like acoustic intro, which forms the song’s underlying basis.  He and the band take their time settling into a nice groove, slowly building the verses and choruses.  Then he takes his Strat and goes exploring for, well, The Unseen in Between.  In “Chance,” Gunn veers off, riding a towering wave of guitar feedback to the song’s conclusion.  “New Familiar” is the album’s crowning point.  The buildup and guitar layering are most splendid on this six minute piece of psychedelic heaven.  Gunn plays a blistering solo to round out the song.  I’ve listened to the song 1,457,689 times and haven’t tired of it yet.  “Chance” and especially “New Familiar” are sure to become concert favorites – and he is marvelous in concert.


“Stonehurst Cowboy” is a gentle acoustic ballad about nostalgically revisiting his old neighborhood.  The song is inflected with sadness and loss from the death of Gunn’s father two weeks after the release of his excellent previous album, 2016’s “Eyes on the Lines” after a two-year fight with cancer.  Gunn spent precious time with his father near the end, getting to know each other as never before, and the lessons and experience inform Stonehurst Cowboy.


“Lightning Field” returns to the sonic territory of “Chance” and “New Familiar,” with exquisite layering of acoustic and electric guitars and soloing by Gunn.  Producer James Elkington somehow draws a perfect balance of all these guitars, to which he likely contributed, retaining in crystal clarity the acoustic guitar foundation amid all these axes.  The song is about visual artist Walter De Maria’s work of the same name, comprised of 400 stainless steel poles driven into the New Mexico desert, intending to catch lightning for display to onlookers.  The song is humorous, about traveling to see this majestic phenomenon, only to come away empty-handed, having seen perhaps a glimpse of its intended result, or nothing at all.


“Morning is Mended” is a pretty acoustic song filled with tasteful soundscapes (and is not a retort to Cat Stevens).  Closer “Paranoid” – definitely no Sabbath cover, rounds out the album with a big production, including strings, piano, bells as a nice touch for accent, and a couple of psychedelic interludes.


The Unseen in Between is Steve Gunn’s most well-rounded work yet.  This unassuming, talented young man rarely goes over the top, though he clearly could if he wanted.  The songwriting, production and playing are first-rate, with some new classics to add to his growing canon.  Sensational work.


 (Mark Feingold)




(Reckless Records www.brainiac5.co.uk CD)

Following on from last year’s ‘We’re Ready’, Cornwall’s finest return with probably their most eclectic record yet and I mean eclectic in a good way. The new record is based around an unused loop recorded during the last albums sessions, which they have stretched out and expanded for the 4 part centrepiece to this record, a song which is split into parts, and lasts around the half an hour mark.

The album also features a raft of special guests and a number of styles all of which work tremendously well. The album starts with the punkish ‘Long Enough’ which uses lyrics from E.E. Cummings poem ‘As Freedom Is A Breakfast Food’.

The first part of this bonkers sea saga that is ‘Back To Shore’ ( all with Woody as ringmaster) begins with ‘Back To Shore Pt.1: A Woman’s Work’, this eight minute song begins with a huge riff before a recitation appears by Lucy Yuill, it then features the Zennor Mermaid Chrissy Quayle - who throughout this album plays terrific flute, sax, whistle and vocals. We are headed north, to the Norselands, on a crazy percussive bed which includes jews harp, (even this song is split into various parts), unlock the gates, frenzied manic guitar solos bubble up with a free jazz undercurrent, phew!

‘Back To Shore Pt.2: This Way’ follows, a nine plus minute, vaguely tropical tale, narrated by Oxman. It’s accompanied by harmonica, slide guitar, more crazy percussion, at some point Dave Brooks plays some Dega electronic pipes? Chrissy adds some more delicious dollops of flute. Further into the song we hear highland bagpipes and baritone saxophone. It’s as mad as a box of frogs, there really is so much going on during this crazy folk inflected sea shanty, that it’s hard to take it all in.

‘Back To Shore’ Pt.3: Tribute To Alex Ward’ has some blistering lead guitar, a cool tenor sax figure by Oli Arlotto is utilised to fine effect, acting as a repeated riff throughout this shorter piece. We now arrive at the longest song of the saga ‘Back To Shore Pt.4: The Seal Man’. A twelve plus minutes song, introduced with lyrics from Rebecca Clarke’s “The Seal Man”. It is an epic song, filled with bird song, bubbling African style percussion, lead guitar, percussion, Jew’s harp and drums. The baritone saxophone by guest Oli is blowing a gale, the guitars mesh together and some textural keyboards are added. At some point the proceedings slow down a little and Richard Booth makes an appearance on underwater guitar.

‘Elegy’, a brief guitar instrumental breaks things up, before the penultimate ‘What We Can’, a catchy song written by Charlie Taylor hoves into view. After all that has gone before this is a pretty standard rock song. The album ends with the cool rocking ‘Breaking Up’, a song written at days end by Duncan Kerr, it tells of black nights with a monkey on your back, perfectly showcasing the band which consists of Charlie Taylor: vocals, guitars, keyboards, drums and percussion. Duncan ‘Mad Dog’ Kerr: guitars, vocals and bass. Wayne Worrell: bass and Joe Malone: drums. This is as varied an album as I’ve heard for some time, I absolutely love it, and now can I please lie down in a darkened room!

(Andrew Young)






Signed to Paris label December Square Records, this is the third album by Matthew and his Unfortunates. The first album was recorded whilst Matthew lived in California. He has since relocated to Birmingham here in the UK; the second album was released by Gare Du Nord in 2017 entitled 'Folklore'.

The band consists of Craigus Andrew Barry on guitar; Derick Simmonds on drums; James Cotterill on bass, David Roberton on Mellotrons, piano and theremin, plus Matthew on vocals and guitar with guests Dagmar Krause, Danielle Cawdell, Kirsty Griffiths and Jennifer Edwards. It was recorded at the Woodbine studios by John Rivers.

This is a very impressive album of highly literate songs, which I wholeheartedly recommend; it features ten concise songs which are melodic and superbly executed. The albums opening song is ‘Beside Myself’ a soul baring song reminiscent of Bowie in his ‘Golden Years’ period, it also has some fine keyboard textures and a few verses sung by the female backing singers and a succinct guitar solo towards its end. ‘Bad Design’ follows this opener with the band firing complementing each other. ‘Anthony Bold’ is a song about an orphaned kid who got a full scholarship to a minor public school, the experiences of which left him scarred for life. A well observed song and an early highlight. ‘Desire is a Witch’ is a slightly discordant rock song, well placed in the album, providing a little grit. ‘The Sons of Marxist Fathers’ is ostensibly about his parents, escaping to California but never psychologically leaving the Birmingham Shires. The affecting lyrics tell of a childhood handing out communist literature and a dreaming of utopia, it’s a fantastic song with some lovely jazzy guitar, plangent keyboards, it slowly builds in momentum until Matthew returns with treated vocals and an amazing nerve shredding solo played on a bass clarinet by Chris Cundy.

‘The Birmingham Poets’ the title song is delightful, guitars bounce, a pretty, melodic, descending guitar figure is added, the song is short and fairly sparse, but highly affecting. Here’s a sample of the excellent lyrics “I told my mother I was forthright and stoic, mum I’m jumping off the rocks with the Birmingham poets”. ‘California, Can You Wait’ is a terrifically catchy song which should probably be released as a single; complete with bahbah interjections, ala ‘Reward' by The Teardrop Explodes. ‘Our Boldest Daughter’ a song which expresses the happiness and pains of family life, is another well observed song. ‘The Rag trade’, has some great precise guitar parts, textural keyboards and distinctive vocals by Dagmar. The album ends with‘We Think the World of You’, a song written the day after Matthews father died. In fact the album was recorded in a difficult and turbulent period with Matthew’s mother passing just as the record was completed, one of the band members had cancer, plus another member had a breakdown and also lost his mother too!

This is one of the finest albums I’ve heard in quite a while, the songs are well written and concise without a wasted note, the playing is exemplary.I highly recommend you seek this album out, it’s released on the 5th of April, I suggest you put the date in your diary.

(Andrew Young) 



Available on Vinyl/CD/DL www.staterecs.com

This album has been out since the end of December last year. The band are principally a garage psych rock band, who were active at the turn of the millennium for five or six years before splitting. They reformed and put out a single a couple of years ago and now return with a new album.

Starting out in 1996 they were heavily influenced by the moody, minor key mid 60’s US garage bands, but changed tack after an album and a few singles to a more aggressive UK freakbeat sound, delivering the excellent album ‘Our New Day’ for Bomp’s Voxx imprint. Their follow up ‘Yellow Glass Perspections’ included healthy dollops of psychedelia. This new album was recorded on 8 –track, at State Records custom built North Downs Sound studio.

The record is full of clever surprises, ‘Going But Not Gone’ is a sixties flavoured stomp with period jangly guitars, swirling organs and cowbell. ‘Nightmare’ was released as a single in 2016 and is pretty catchy. ‘Don’t Look At Me’ is taken at a slower pace and adds some flute, it sounds like it is taken straight from one of the Pebbles compilations. ‘Human Living Vampire’ is a psychedelic punkish freakbeat song with plenty of 12 string guitar ala The Byrds, this one sees the band really cooking. ‘Have You Ever Loved Somebody’ is classy and so very sixties in style, the first side ends with ‘Riot On Kingsland Road’ a frenzied rocker, with added flute and all manner of sirens and sound effects.

‘Til Tomorrow’ is a sixties styled mid paced nugget, again with plenty of raw jangly guitars. ‘I’m Coming Home’ is a lot heavier, crashing drums and heavy riffs, organ fills and plenty of searing lead guitar. ‘Baby From The South’ is perhaps the most British sounding song, reminding me a little of My Drug Hell’s ‘Girl At The Bus Stop’. ‘Peace Of Mind’ a gently chiming guitar introduces this yearning slice of psychedelia. We move back to the USA with the classic Sir Douglas Quintet sounding ‘Hang Up’ an organ-drenched affair, it bursts out the speakers, spewing fuzzy lead guitar everywhere. The album ends with ‘You Can If You Want’ which reminds me of Cream, it has some raw harmonica, a cool bass pattern and everyone’s firing on all cylinders, a suitable end to a fine album, this is a class album, welcome back.

(Andrew Young)  





Gare du Nord 10”/CD/DL


Here’s a bit of an oddity, an E.P based on the author and aviator Antoine de Saint Exupéry, composed and played on modular synths with a few vocal lines from Emma Winston and drums by Ian Button. This is a follow up to the 2017 album from Willie entitled ‘Vivaldi: Seasons Change’, an electro classical realisation of Vivaldi’s: Four Seasons.

Willie Gibson is not his real name, it is a pseudonym for George Baker who was a Trumpet player back in the late sixties /early seventies before becoming fascinated by synthesisers. He has also set up Ravenwood Music, a production music boutique with a collection of music libraries and an electronic themed catalogue. Here he utilises the following; VCO’s, Tip Topz 3000, Verbos HO; studio electronics 4075, Lima Flo Motormouth, Grendel Formant Filter, Toppobrillo Multifilter, Thomas White Dual LPG; Sequencers Klee, Oberkorn 3, Tip Top z8000, Stepper Acid; Misc: MI Rings, 2hp Pluck, Tip Top Fold plus Roland SE-02, Doepfer, Dark Energy, Make Noise O-Coast, Moog Etherways plus various plugins. I’ll be testing you all on these later.

The record begins with ‘Wind, Sand And Stars’ on which we experience take off and gain a little altitude before flying over mountains and seas whilst encountering a storm as the song progresses, we have an occasional vocal and real drums, the song moves through a few phases chugging along nicely.‘Dawn Flight’ all soft focus memories of an idyllic childhood spent in France, it is a song that wouldn’t be too out of place on a Clay Pipe album, reminding me of Vic Mars or The Hardy Tree. On this song we hear calming, glacial sounding synths, melodically twinkling away. ‘Cap Juby’ introduces a little danger into the proceedings; it’s all a little unsettling with visions of mirages and sandstorms blowing all around. ‘Black Pebbles on a White Plateau’ opens side B of the 10”. Here we find Saint Ex in North Africa, grounded on a high white mesa, with steep vertical sides. On a piece of earth never visited before by man, he alights and discovers a black pebble, then further pebbles all the while feeling like a speck in the vast universe spread out all aroun dhim. Saint Exupéry went missing in ‘July 44’ somewhere in the Mediterranean, neither the aircraft or his body were ever recovered. On this final song we are reminded that “what is under the ocean of clouds is.... eternity”.

Also out on Gare du Nord is a tour 7” by Twink, which you may still be able to find a copy of. It was released at the start of Feb and is still available as of 1st of March.

It contains two songs ‘Brand New Morning’ written by him and Picture Box’s Robert Halcrow,   described as a surreal mix of Manfred Mans ‘Up The Junction’ and ‘Piper At The Gates OfDawn’ era Pink Floyd. It’s very playful and very English and features Robert on most of the instruments with Ian Button and David Woolf. The B side is a Twink original entitled ‘Dreams Turn Into Rainbows’ a fine melancholic song, enlivened by Mellotron, cello, flute, guitars, bass and drums. Limited to 200copies from www.garedunordrecords.bandcamp.com

(Andrew Young)




(LP/CD/DL on Company Records)


Catching up on undeservedly overlooked albums from 2018 (by us, at least), we have Living in Symbol, by the Bay Area artist Astronauts, etc., aka Anthony Ferraro, aka Tony Peppers.  Ferraro is a multi-instrumentalist, with Living in Symbol his second album.  The album was co-produced by friend Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi, for whom Ferraro has played keyboards on tour.  Ferraro plays just about all the instruments, with the exceptions of percussion by Brijean Murphy and drums by Jonathan Mattson.  In fact, between Bear and Mattson, you have two thirds of the excellent 2017 prog/jazz album “Star Stuff” by Chaz Bundick Meets The Mattson 2 helping out.


Living in Symbol has the feel of David Axelrod or even Les Baxter-type lounge exotica and Philadelphia soul updated for the digital, one-man bedroom recording age.  Or, as my son simply called it, “the coffee-house in outer space.”


The album takes a couple of tracks to find its footing, so I’ll advance to the third song, “The Border.”  A gentle piano and bass intro leads to easy listening synth strings.  Dreamy flutes and an organ make way for Ferraro’s romantic croon.  The song (and most of the album) could be from either a ‘60s movie soundtrack, or 70s soul/R&B piece.


Next up, “The Room” has the feel of Johnny Mathis in his prime riding a time machine to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9.  Likewise, “9 Fingers” is a lovely melody gushing with romanticism and love, complete with a so-cheesy-it’s-lovable spoken word break.  I dig the outro, with Ferraro’s digital choir fading into him noodling away on piano as the song fades.


“Fly Over Me” just begs for Barry White to do the voiceover narration over the synth wash.  It leads perfectly into the wah-wah intro over the bass and drums of “Visitor.”  This song is much like the earlier “The Border,” but perhaps more chill if that’s even possible, which is just fine, because by this point, you’re melting and flowing with the album’s mellow vibe, and haven’t a care in the world.


“Who I Talk To” is all sugary strings surrounding Ferraro’s soulful, laid-back crooning.  “Kelly On the Moon” continues the soothing touch, pulling together all the album’s elements – the synth strings, a tasteful guitar figure, and the gentle vocals and harmonies.  Closer “Idleness” is the album’s most curious track.  Featuring sound effects like phones ringing and footsteps, the song is perhaps about a dying man in a hospital.  It includes lyrics such as “I found another leak in my brain.  Not to fret, it’s just like the others.  A pinprick and its sisters and brothers.  Won’t amount to anything.”  Angelic strings lead to rain sound effects, a stop-start, and a ride to the end.


Living in Symbol is one warm, candle-lit bubble bath of an album.  Astronauts, etc. has melded together some disparate elements in time and technology to create a relaxing, winning recipe.


 (Mark Feingold)




(DL on Numero Group)


Numero Group has re-released the small catalogue of blink-and-you-missed-him singer-songwriter Jim Spencer, including this, 1974’s 2nd Look.   The clever consumer will deduce that this was his second release.  Spencer’s other albums are 1973’s Landscapes and The Most Beautiful Song in the Forest from 1977.  Additionally, he formed a band called Major Arcana in 1975 which recorded one album.


Not much is out there about him.  A random search would more than likely lead the intrepid researcher to a minor baseball player of that name.  Spencer hailed from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and never really broke out of the local scene.  He dabbled in poetry and publishing underground magazines, and at one point tried writing a blend of rock and Wagner he called “The Wrath of the Ring Worm.”  According to Numero Group, Spencer’s albums were originally issued on the fascinatingly-titled labels Thoth, Akashic, and Castalia Records.  Sigmund Snopek II, who played keyboards, flutes and strings on 2nd Look said “he had forbidden books in his basement.  He was fascinated by other cultures and religions and incorporated some of that into his music.”


2nd Look, which will most likely be more like First Look for most listeners, is well-produced singer-songwriter music of its time.  Fans of Gene Clark and Gordon Lightfoot should find much to like in its ten songs.  It’s full of tender melodies, and Spencer’s voice is warm and pleasant.  The subject matter more often than not tends to be dark and melancholy, touching on subjects of failure and abject self-reflection.  Opener and sort of title track “Second Look” is about regretting one’s decisions in life.  The sound is very Gene Clark, no bad thing at all.


“No Place to Land” is about being rudderless and struggling to find success and love.  It’s notable for its use of Mellotron, highly unusual for a US singer-songwriter album.   “There Comes a Time” is probably the album’s standout track.  It’s a very pretty song, though again the subject is dark, about realizing the world is a harsh place in a great many ways.  It again features Mellotron, and reminds me of Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce, and even Seals and Crofts in some ways.


The seven-and-a-half minute “What Am I Doing Here?” clocks in as the album’s longest track, and is the odd outlier.  A song about getting dumped by a girl, it features a Traffic-like sound, including a long jam by the backing band, and is not unwelcome by any means.  “Just a Little Time with You” is a pleasing love song, a rare non-depressing song on the album.


“Laura” is a sublime piece in waltz-time, written by Ron Matelic.  The brief instrumental “Interlude” leads to “Lament,” you guessed it, another melancholy song, about a lost love.  The lovely baroque piece has madrigal touches and wouldn’t be out of place on Odessey and Oracle.  “Next to You” returns to Gene Clark territory.  It’s sweet, upbeat, and – surprise – this time Spencer gets the girl!


Jim Spencer would sadly pass away of a stroke at the young age of 39, probably brought on by excessive drug use.  2nd Look is gentle singer-songwriter work, whose pretty melodies and Spencer’s warm voice belie an undercurrent of sadness.


 (Mark Feingold)



(LP from https://kitchencynics.bandcamp.com/)

Limited to 99 copies, each with a unique collaged cover, this collection of tunes is a thing of wonder created by Alan Davidson, a man who seems able to pen quality tunes at will.

   As with all Kitchen Cynics albums, there is a historical and sometimes personal lyrical bent to the tales told within, with opening track “Katherine's Prayer” concerning the death of physicist James Clerk Maxwell, it's haunting refrain matched by gently swaying guitar lines and a psychedelic twist. Even better is “Now I Am An Animal”, the music sounding like a lost Incredible String Band recording whilst Alan's wistful voice narrates the story of a dying Inuit found near Aberdeen in 1728, and how he would feel as he died, the tune mad even more poignant with the addition of vocals from Gayle Brogan.

   In memory of Tom Rapp, “Being Here With You” is another gently reverberating tune that creeps under the skin soft and sad with a lyrical beauty that lifts it into a sweetly fading summer sky creating a tune that makes you listen closely.

    Finally on side one, “Bride Of the Bard” has a more traditional feel both lyrically and sonically although it still fits perfectly with the rest of the side.

    Reminding me of John Martyn in its swirling guitar sounds, “Conveth” is a personal tune concerning a place where some of Alan's relatives were once weavers, the backgrounds sounds droning and twinkling under the words with precision, not a note wasted.

    With a guitar sound that seems to have become Alan's signature over the last few albums, “condensation” is another classic Cynic's song that deals with the uncertainty that comes with old age, the lyrics playful and nostalgic leading us nicely into “Music Of The Ages”, originally written by C.O.B. And here performed with added Phono Fiddle courtesy of Chris Joynes and Gayle Brogan as well as a whistle and plenty of random noise/heavy guitar giving the song a delightfully lysergic feel.

   Finally Alan sings of a recently acquired family Grandfather Clock, a soft slowly undulating tune that is absolutely beautiful, conjuring images and soothing the soul, leaving you feeling relaxed and slightly nostalgic.

    I feel that this is one of Alan's finest moments, the mood of all the tunes is harmonious, the playing is perfect and there seems to be a theme of ageing, time and approaching mortality running through the collection, highly recommended. (Simon Lewis)



(LP from www.secondlanguagemusic.com )

Musical maverick Oliver Cherer creates a real early contender for album of the year. He began writing and completing these songs after discovering a tape of songs dating from 1983 in his loft, the time lapse might explain some of the 80’s feel to them they possess. Labels such as Les Disques Du Crepuscle and Factory spring to mind, there is also a label called Kooky which has put out records by both Vini Reilly and Oliver Cherer, so a touch of serendipity.  Oliver plays Vini Reilly’s actual guitar on some of these songs. It’s been written, produced and played by Oliver Cherer at his St Leonards On Sea home studio, with special guests Elaine Edwards on soprano sax, Riz Maslen (of Neotropic) on backing vocals, Claudia Barton ethereal voices, Fritz Catlin extra percussion and Darren Morris Fender Rhodes.

‘Weight Of The Water’ has a cool intro, Oliver has often reminded me slightly of Robert Wyatt and this opening song has something of the Canterbury sound to it, electric piano and spangled guitars and a light psych touch, could be early Cure.  ‘A Small Town’ gothic noir arrives, a classy very parochial English setting, musings and reminisces of times passing; this song has some lovely jazzy guitar and benefits from a soprano sax. You can almost feel the torpor in the room, all twitching curtains and small town minds.

‘Untitled 1983’ with its atmospheric minimal backing, is a well observed song delivered to a crepuscular tune. It’s raining and it’s cold. ‘Earth Rise’ is very moody; we hear a portrait of an artist.  Again it has a few nice eighties touches and a spiralling guitar figure. It features some excellent playing on the ride which forms the second half of the song. ‘Sinners Of The World’ a bossa nova drum machine is joined by more of that spangly guitar and terrific sax. The mood of the song takes from the song before it and that one the song before that, lending a sense of continuity, it defiantly rails against the machine.

‘Slowly, Slowly’ a small town drama, subways and daydreaming, electric guitar, sax and drum machine. ‘An Unfamiliar Kitchen’ a strange tale about a man who arrives at the station without a name, acoustic guitar and ethereal vocals, more wistful sax, a gentle sad song, again the rain is still coming down, a chair creeks and a clock ticks. ’Seberg’ what a great tune this one is, a French gothic noir, all hanging around smoking looking cool, with curlicues of guitar notes, peeling away.

‘Most Days’ the title song sees our protagonist inured to the world, out on the side, unfeeling and insensate. The tune is feather light, a pretty confection, with a hint of the Beach Boys. ‘The Girl on Top of the Trees’ on this song you can see the bones of this project, principally Fender guitar, Casio Keyboard and drum machine. About halfway through this final song, it fades out and re emerges with a great instrumental ride.  (Andrew Young)



(CDs from trailrecords.bandcamp.com )

Russian band Sonora Sunrise, have put out a few digital releases so far, this is their first physical album which has been released by Trail records, a label who put out the recent compilation by The Spacious Mind last year. Sonora Sunrise, play a-grade space rock, with a desert vibe. The four piece band feature guitars, keyboards, bass, and drums, being mainly instrumental.

After a brief intro called ‘Ancient Stones’(Sundown) we arrive at ‘Welcome To The Sandland’ eleven minutes long and not a minute wasted, it builds into an epic sandblasted space rock song that is an early highlight of this most impressive album. What is it with Russia lately; they seem to have taken space rock to their hearts?

‘Unexpected Trip’ features a synth introduction which develops into a seven minute kosmiche delight, aided by some propulsive drum and bass. ‘Poison’, another seven plus minute song is an altogether heavier beast, crunchy guitar riffs, drifting keyboards, some excellent fretwork from Artem Demidov and excellent synth work from Dmitry Shersnev.

‘Canyon’ features the vocals of Katya Zlobina, it has a slight eastern vibe mixed with shades of Native American chanting, it also has some very tasty wah wah guitar scattered throughout its duration, developing into another excellent song. ‘Millions Of Snakes’ is a ferocious space rock song, which features oodles of lead guitar as it progresses.

‘Roadside Picnic’ slows things down a little, providing a little respite, it being a little more acoustic in feel but still has some excellent Randy California style electric guitar soloing, plus some nice textural synths. This impressive album closes out with a keyboard driven version of the opening song ‘Ancient Stones’ (Planetary Standoff). (Andrew Young)



(CD from https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/bitterns )

New psych band from Houston, Texas. After the great storm in 2017, in an abandoned house, they set about recording this EP. There were thousands of gutted houses left behind after the storm, eyeless, dark, decaying structures, overgrown with vines, lizards, vermin and insects. They named this house Lizard Ranch Studios. The band consists of El Sectro guitar and vocal (There is a rumour that El Sectro is Clinton Heider and he may have had some connection with Terrascope favourites The Linus Pauling Quartet ) plus Puka - bass and Mono - drums.

Citing the 13th floor elevators; the original Texas psychedelic pranksters, and also with Houston itself; it being the birthplace of psychedelia as inspirations. They have recorded seven songs of pretty decent psychedelic rock. ‘Requiem’ the first song is terrific, cool snaking guitars, and a solid rhythm section. It becomes apparent quite quickly that he is a super cool guitarist, some great echoing spacey lead guitar. ‘Pieces’ is a sub Bydsian, slightly plodding song and is the weakest song on this ep, it is redeemed by some fabulous lead guitar towards the end, compressed and spewed out.  ‘Hard Times’ however, is much better, more of an acoustic blues song, dusty and parched desert rock. It tells of hardship and futility.

‘Dolls’ and up we go, the band returns, an excellent rock song straight out of the mid seventies, a few atmospherics like the backwards guitar and when they arrive the lead breaks are ferocious and incendiary. ‘Words’ starts Manchester Baggy, disaffected and aloof, but it doesn’t really go anywhere; however we can still enjoy El Espectro’s fretwork. ‘Slider’ what a great song, straight out of the gate, the wizard man, spells and incantations, swamp frogs and Spanish moss. It also has one of the best guitar solos I have heard towards its climax. ‘Bittern’s Lullaby’ is the last song and is my favourite. Crunchy loping rhythms lock in to a song of the Bittern, what strange birds we are together, see the sun break through the cover, see the reeds sway side to side, hear me call my lonely lover, life’s a bittern’s lullaby, with glorious shards of electric guitar pouring down, epic. More please.  (Andrew Young)



(7”single from www.megadodo.com )

Continuing the bird theme, Mega Dodo have put a fabulous new 7” single out by Green Seagull. The A side 'Simeon Brown' is just what the doctor ordered, some English toytown psych. This lot are all over the sixties. Soft mournful brass, piano, chorals, orchestrated arrangements, some lazy fuzz lead guitar, it’s a sunny song, so terribly English. ‘Belladonna’ swings to a Carnaby Street vibe, sharp moves, swirling lights and cool organ stabs, it’s a mover, a sure fire hit, a middle section jangles they add some excellent percussion, a little compressed guitar and some nice harmonies. It also has the requisite short fuzz lead guitar desired and manages to find a little space for some bleeping synth. Terrific, that was excellent, thanks for that Green Seagull. It also sports another tasty cover by Sara Gossett. (Andrew Young)