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=  MAY 2005 =

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Kitchen Cynics

  Black Sun Ensemble

Written by:

University of Errors

From Quagmire

  Simon Lewis (Editor) Kawabata Makoto
  Jeff Penczak Major Stars
  Tony Dale Patrick Porter
  Nigel Cross Magic Carpathians
  Mats Gustafsson Marissa Nadler


  Green Ray
  V/A By The Fruits...
  Nihil Project
  Nick Castro




( )


     Listening to this album is like stealing a glance in a forbidden diary or eavesdropping a conversation, each song is so intimate and personal that you wonder if, perhaps, you should look away. Yet, at the same time, the lure of that intimacy compels you to explore more fully the fascinating world within.

   Benefiting from a recent upgrade to digital recording, the warmth and charm of the songs are brought to life by beautiful arrangements and a sympathetic choice of instrumentation that allows the nuances of the lyrics to shine through.

    It’s hard to single out favourite songs on this consistently fine album but the imagery created by ‘chemist shop girl ‘ will make you smile, whilst the wonderful version of Fairport’s ‘crazy man Michael’ contains some beautiful flute playing by Philip Johnston creating the perfect backdrop for the words. Moving on ‘Watersprite’ is an erotic tale full of humour, whereas the gentle sadness of ‘Now’s The Time’ (about Nick Drake) will leave a tear in your eye. Featuring a mix of originals and some well-chosen covers the album flows and laps around your ears like a spring tide as refreshing as a walk in the country

    Discerning readers who are already familiar with The Kitchen Cynics should have no hesitation about purchasing this release, whilst those of you who have not yet succumbed would be well advised to start here with this excellent example of their art. (Simon Lewis)




BLACK SUN ENSEMBLE – LIVE AT KXCI VOLUME II (Slowburn Records, c/o Eric Johnson, PO Box 241 Tucson, AZ 85702 USA) ( )


This second volume of stoned rockers wandering the desert in an ‘El Topo’-styled hallucinatory haze was recorded on the March 22, 2004 edition of the ‘Locals Only’ programme on Tucson, Arizona’s KXCI-FM. Like its predecessor, it mixes interviews with a terrific set of live interpretations of songs from BSE’s back catalogue (and a couple of new teasers from the forthcoming studio album) and marks the band’s 20th anniversary together. Guitar maestro Jesus Angel del Paz (aka Acedo – it seems each release is accompanied by a name change!) whips his Eye of Horus Sitar Guitar into a frenzy on the lengthy opener, ‘The Shining One,’ which finds him joined by Brian Maloney’s skronking sax and Eric Johnson “on everything else,” although KXCI DJ John Paul Marchand is also on hand (replacing Brian Cole, aka Otto Terrorist, who relocated to New York just prior to this recording) to pound the odd hand drum and shake the maracas. ‘Rosemary Lane’ (not the Bert Jansch song) and ‘Lillith’ (featuring Maloney’s romantic, serpentining sax fills) cocoon the audience in a warm blanket of heavenly vibes and smiling faces, elevating them to that great floating cumulous burrito in the sky.

    Fans of The Bevis Frond’s Nick Saloman and Sun Dial’s Gary Ramon will bow down in “We’re not worthy” reverence at Acedo’s brainfrying fretwork on the two tracks from ‘Hymn Of The Master,’ the lengthy Middle Eastern-flavoured ‘Captain Wormwood’ and the tearfully gorgeous ‘Song For Precious.’ One of my personal favorites, their mesmerizing ethni-delic signature song, ‘Dove of the Desert’ wraps up the set on a high note (pun intended) and whets the appetite for their eleventh album, ‘Bolt of Apollo,’ due later this year. (Jeff Penczak)





    Back in 1967 the original Soft Machine (Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Mike Ratledge, Daevid Allen) recorded a collection of demos that were subsequently released as ‘Jet Propelled Photographs ‘ after Daevid Allen was refused entry into the U.K. due to his alleged involvements in the Paris riots. Since this time Mr Allen has always stated that he was unhappy with his contribution to the songs and would like to record them again.

    Well it’s been a long time coming but finally the songs have been re-fitted for the new millennium, with guitar duties being undertaken by Josh Pollock whilst Daevid restricts himself to vocals only. Are they any good though? The answer is a resounding yes, every song is a bundle of joyous energy, the much loved tunes brimming with infectious good humour and playful psychedelic touches which add to the originals rather than spoiling their memory.

    This time around, the sparse instrumentation of the originals has been replaced with a broader palette, the band utilising megaphones, xylophones and toy instruments, within the mix. Special mention must go to Warren Huegel who had the dubious task of following Robert Wyatt’s exemplary drumming style, and does so with great aplomb demonstrating a lightness of touch as well as great precision, blending well with the solid bass of Michael Clare to create the perfect backdrop for the “all over the place “ guitar playing which dominates much of this record. Finally we come to the vocal performance of Daevid Allen, who turns in one of his finest performances seemingly fired-up and full of passion for these songs, giving them 100% of his attention and allowing the words and music to lock together into a cohesive whole.

    Displaying a vibrancy not noticeable in the melancholic 1967 versions, this album is rooted firmly in the present, and is so much more than an exercise in nostalgia. As such it should appeal to lovers of psych-pop, the planet gong, as well as forward thinking fans of the early Soft Machine. (Simon Lewis)





(CD on VHF Records,


    On first hearing From Quagmire's uncompromising chamber-angst several years ago via a preview copy of their 'Tropic of Barren' CD I thought it fairly unlikely that Dorothy Geller and her collaborators would be still around and three CDs down the track in 2005.  'Habitats in the Wound' follows the outfit's excellent debut, and subsequent equally fine 'Caught in Unknowing', down a path that seems to exist outside any kind of recognisable tradition or "scene".  As on previous releases, Geller plays minimalist acoustic guitar, partner Vinnie Van Go Go (indeed!) contributes splashes of electric guitar and percussive abstraction, and James Wolf weighs in (though not on every track) with haunted viola passages.  Most of the CD was recorded in the UK, which allowed guests Helena Espvall-Santoleri (Cello), Sharron Kraus (Whistle and Clarinet) and Simon Wickham-Smith (Electronics) to fill out the bands skeletal atmospheres with some useful intermediate shades and colours.

    From the opening track 'Ingrate', significant divergences from the aesthetic of previous releases are manifest.  The band's previous paradigm involved wells of silence, barely more than room sound, from which bursts of sound would erupt like icy stalagmites.  Psychic wounds reflected in puncture wounds inflicted by sound; striking but cold.  On 'Ingrate' the song breathes with subtle and continuous sentience, underpinned by Espvall-Santoleri's cello drones and the eventual transition to calm but probing acoustic guitar and vocals.  It's a lot more flowing and organic than previous work.  The title track is splendid, and has some of Dorothy's most forceful and easily absorbed vocals, though it ends with eyes downcast as electric guitar and cello hang on to each other for grim death while they spiral downwards into the void.  'Holiday Song' is decidedly not, unless you're at one of those fascist English holiday camps contemplating an early check out.  Great multi-tracked ghost girl vocals steer it into Gothic territory, in a good way.  Sharron Kraus's whistle plays off-key to the primary melody on 'Between the Chores' with alarming results.  There are clearly no easy options on this record, as the track ends like a hasty execution.  If the record can be encapsulated in one track, it would be 'A Father's Vision/Story of Knife', where the elements of FQ's sound come together for a subtle and chilling walk through Geller's dark imaginings.  Everything, including Simon Wickham-Smith's electronics ares so barely there but still somehow so clearly etched that you wonder how they manage to prevent it all from falling apart. 

    'Habitats in the Wound' is audible in the same way that darkness is visible, and is a considerable step forward for Geller, though depressives may want to avoid. (Tony Dale)





(CD on VHF Records,


    The third volume in the 'Inui' series is another addition to the daunting discography of the preposterously prolific Japanese maestro, best known for his liminal guitar exorcisms at the altar of the Acid Mothers Temple.  And if you thought the formless great 90s fascination with formless drone excursions was behind you, Kawabata begs to differ (here and elsewhere).  His Inui project posits the ideal drone piece as something constructed via sedimental accretion of tones as if by forces operating on a geological schedule.  The result is more landscape than structure.  His tools are bouzouki, sarangi, electric guitar, viola, and ECS-101 and in his use of them they are democratised, none standing proud of any other in the mix.

    There are only three pieces on this 72-minute release.  The first two pieces run about 12 minutes each, and are finely orchestrated skeins of sound, rendered ethereal by the absence of any substantive lower frequency activity.  These tracks come across like a more contemplative Vibracathedral Orchestra: abstract and non-linear sound narratives for meditation or medication (ideal for the tinnitus sufferer no-doubt).  The 47-minute 'Fuku' exists completely outside any rational compact between artist and listener.  On 'Fuku', a shimmering aurora of glissando guitar hovers over an endlessly repeated bouzouki scale while various ambiguous sounds are layered throughout. The tradition of Eastern devotional music is clearly being referenced and augmented here, and the pay out is spiritual rather than sensory.

    Those familiar with previous 'Inui' series releases are likely to have a fair idea if this release is for them or not, and others should approach with caution, and perhaps time and patience available. In any case, 'Inui.3' is a worthy addition to the Kawabata canon, despite breaking no real new ground. (Tony Dale)





 (Twisted Village, 12B Eliot St. Cambridge, MA 02138 USA)


    It’s been three long years since we last heard from the (twisted) Village People and despite the unimaginative title (which represents either the number of a) releases, b) band members, c) tracks, or d) all of the above), it still feels good to have them back home again. Opener ‘How To Be’ may be their tightest, most accessible track yet, with a catchy melody and a suitably brain-frying solo from Wayne Rogers. The swelling, Valkyrian ride of the 13½-minute ‘Song For Turner’ (a possible tribute to former Abunai! drummer, Joe, who helped organize Terrastock 5 in the band’s backyard in 2002) finds Dave Lynch’s maniacal, amphetamine-fueled drumming racing around another finger-bleeding solo. Following a brief respite midway through for some of the lengthiest sustains you’re likely to hear all year, Rogers and Kate Biggar check their inhibitions at the door and proceed to jackhammer your skull for five minutes of dual gun-slinging debauchery that’ll have you bleeding from orifices with your heart in your throat.

     Vinyl junkies will have great difficulty extricating themselves from their comfy chairs to flip the vinyl edition over to side two, where ‘All or Half the Time’ eagerly awaits. It’s another infectious pop song (!) that hits all the requisite heavy metal hot buttons of the Who/Cream/Hendrix triumvirate. The album wraps with the 15-minute ‘Phantom #1.’ Opening with another lengthy (five-minute) sustain (is it speaker hum or brain buzz?), Lynch once again shakes our comatose couple back to reality, as his antagonistic skin pounding supports Tom Leonard’s rolling bass lines serpentining around Rogers’ razor-sharp shards of white noise. After about eight minutes, the bottom falls out from this rude awakening… and then things really get weird! Lynch assaults his drum kit as if it’s the last performance it will ever give him, while Rogers and Biggar exorcize their demons as they scale stratospheric heights of six-string wizardry, coaxing the spirit of Jimi out of retirement for an appreciative wink and a congratulatory thumbs up. Sacrilege? Perhaps. Accurate? You betcha! (Jeff Penczak)





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


    Porter’s third release on our favorite Australian label, including the criminally overlooked ‘Reconsidered’ (2000) from his old Phineas Gage project is yet another stylistic turn – this time for mainly acoustic field recordings at a house in Schenectady, NY two summers ago. ‘Good People with Bad Credit,’ with its repeated chorus of “I’m going crazy”is a gentle tonesetter that stylistically and sonically snuggles somewhere halfway between Pinup Boy du jour, Conor Oberst and Neutral Milk Hotel’s concierge, Jeff Mangum. Matters slide down the psychological razor blade from there with the jolly suicide note, ‘End Badly’ and ‘Hospital’’s anguished plea for help (“Get me to the hospital quick/Save me…save me…save me…”) is all the more poignant when you realise that it was inspired by a hit-and-run death that Porter witnessed right in front of his rented house/recording studio. The ending is so abrupt, you can literally imagine someone standing in the middle of the street one moment and SPLAT!…becoming road pizza the next.

     If Jack Nicholson’s character in ‘The Shining’ had been a musician instead of a writer, he might have typed up pages of lyrics for songs as harrowingly lonely and emotionally scarred as these. The title track reminded me of dreamy, stars, The Fruit Bats (particularly ‘Slipping Through the Sensors’ from the wonderful ‘Mouthfuls’ (Sub Pop, 2003), but don’t come here looking for Wilco or Jayhawks retreads – Porter’s arrangements are much sparser…naked even… and hummable earcandy is not the order of the day.

     ‘Lisha Kill,’ a reference to a local river, not some socialite’s murder, also works as an alternative soundtrack to ‘The Blair Witch Project:’ admittedly bleaker, but possibly better suited to the material than all those Gothic trappings that drowned the “official” soundtrack recording. Its psychologically stark, lost in the woods with no direction home vibe is also comparable in its emptiness to Sean Connaughty’s latest (‘Five Hands Tall’) that we reviewed last issue. Lonely, latenight introspective horrorshows that you probably don’t want your babysitter listening to while protecting the life of your two year old!

     The full instrumentation on ‘Window Seat’ (guitar, bass, drums and a nifty keyboard solo) adds a more polished veneer and a sense of completeness to the track, making it one of the album’s more accessible pieces, while ‘Free Kittens’ benefits from a laid-back, strummy, stoney, seventies vibe perfect for lying in burned-out basements staring at full moons. An intelligent, challenging treatise on cabin fever and the games one’s mind can play when left to its own stimuli-deprived devices. (Jeff Penczak)





 (Vivo, ul.M.Konopnickiej 27, 18-300 Zambrów, Poland)


Many Americans incorrectly (but understandably) seem to feel they were the only ones devestated by the events of September 11, 2001. Truth is, those tragic moments left an indelible mark on the psyches of the entire world, and the fallout has gradually reverberated throughout the international music scene with tribute and/or concept albums trickling into the marketplace ever since. Poland’s Projekt Karpaty Magiczne (The Magic Carpathians Project) has been releasing challenging, ethnic, avant folk masterpieces (self-described as ethnocore) since Annę Nacher and Marka Styczyńskiego (aka Marek Styczynski) began the project with several friends in 1998 while collaborating on Atman’s final release, ‘Tradition’ (Drunken Fish, 1999). Following a trio of ‘Ethnocore’ releases, the duo’s eleventh album launches their new ‘Ethnoise’ series and, with titles like ‘The Prison of Your Mind’ and ‘Asylum on the Moon’ can be approached as a concept album about coming to terms with loss, loneliness, and insanity in an increasingly evil universe.

    Nacher (w)raps her wordless scat vocals around the “second take” of opener, ‘The Place I Come’ while she and Marka demonstrate their dexterity on a range of multi-ethnic and homemade instruments ranging from her tampura, sruti box, “waves & tronics” to his didjeridu, Finn pipes and ocean drums, not to mention the proverbial field recordings, sonic suicide, fuck-ups, toys, found objects and magic tree rattles that appear throughout the recordings. Nacher slowly orients the listener to its decidedly eastern European surroundings, which are as bleak as the barren trees and snow-covered landscape of the cover photo of Anna, closed-eyed and trapped (or protected?) by a Queen’s death mask(?). It’s cold, aloof, yet fascinatingly intriguing, and sucks us into the vortex of ‘The Prison of Your Mind,’ a cacophony of distorted guitars, waves, electronics and loops that demonstrates through its seven frightening minutes trapped inside a spaghettied traffic jam of fried synapses, rubber rooms of discarded grey matter, and frantic mental detours down one-way dead ends desperately seeking that elusive escape hatch that a mind is, indeed, a terrible thing to taste.

     ‘Carpathian Herbs’ may not have the romantic allure of Panama Red, Acapulco Gold or Nina Hagen’s tribute to “haschisch, feinstes kaschmir, edelster tuerke, [and] afghanisches gras,” but with Styczyńskiego’s various flutes, pipes, sax, oboes, clarinets and didjeridus doing loopdaloops around Nacher’s bastardized radio sounds and ecstatic wailing obliterating the line between pleasure and pain until she’s literally speaking in tongues (none of them English), this is one, fucked-up, hallucinatory bad trip. Your only hope is to either keep reminding yourself that those voices, hands and fangs groping at you in the dark are all in your mind – a horrific phantasmagoria born of the native herb or, better yet, just say “Nie!” To regain your sanity, it may be necessary to take a deep breath and a cold drink of water.

    The title track is a lumbering Phoenix, laboriously rising through a distorted electronic haze, discarding its ashen cocoon to be reborn in a world protected by chanting monks in a monastery in Rila, Bulgaria and fakirs performing high above the Nepalese Himalayas. (The unique electronic background sounds come courtesy Styczynski’s manipulation of Mirek Badoora’s badoog, an analog sound modulator he designed and built especially for this session which emits sinusoidal amplitude modulations, thus delivering sounds you’ve literally never heard before).

    The mental anguish and emotional torment continues unabated on ‘Asylum on the Moon,’ as Nacher (in English) relates the torturous tale of our heroine trapped in a Snake Pit, with its repetitve chorus, “Her brain squeezed like an orange” sung as an anguished plea for mercy. Its closest relatives are Siouxsie’s ‘Voodoo Dolly,’ Janis’ ‘Ball & Chain,’ or any number of Nina Hagen’s psychotic, demented tongue-twisters. In contrast, Anna’s gently rolling guitar and Marka’s soaring Finn pipes on the uplifting ‘Warsaw Vibes’ suggests their inherent love of their homeland will give them strength to rise above whatever the world throws at them: perhaps by enveloping yourself in these warm Warsaw vibes, that insanity “out there” will be held at bay for a few moments longer.

    Admittedly not the most sonorous introduction to this talented duo’s gifted body of work (believe me, the title is well-founded), adventurous listeners may, like these Magic Carpathians, find hope and slowly begin to rebuild their lives after the world-changing events of 9/11 and the Mideast conflicts. As Anna sings on ‘2003,’ “It’s been a hard time/Getting used to life/On the brink of tragedy/2003/Watching war games on TV.” We can all hope and pray that, someday soon, those TVs will have something else to entertain us with. (Jeff Penczak)





(Eclipse, 2172 Sierra Santiago, Bullhead City, AZ 86442 USA


Ed Hardy scooped up Ms. Nadler’s marvelous debut ‘Ballads of Living and Dying’ for his eclectic Eclipse imprint based on the ecstatic word-of-mouth recommendations her CD-R was garnering among folk aficianados and the underground indie cognoscenti, including yours truly. Rewarded with one of last year’s finest folk releases, Hardy and Eclipse bring us Nadler’s sophomore effort, and I’m pleased to announce it exceeds the great expectations of her debut. Marissa seems more focused and relaxed this time out, and the sparse arrangements (essentially just Marissa and her acoustic guitar) of these eleven self-penned tracks deliver an intimate coffee house/living room vibe where every emotional nuance of her sweet lilting voice can be poked, pried and appreciated. Throughout, the reverbed vocals still bear more than a passing hint of Buffy Sainte-Marie, particularly on tracks like ‘Mr. John Lee (Velveteen Rose),’ but the swaying melodies and rolling guitar lines also have a distinct strolling minstral quality, and ‘Old Haunts Never Die’ seems to have learned its melody from one of Marissa’s inspired teachers, Leonard Cohen.

   Aiding and abetting Marissa’s acoustic guitar backing, co-producer Brian McTear adds just the right flourish of Hammond organ to tracks like ‘Mr John Lee’ and ‘My Little Lark,’ Nick Castro’s tin whistling on ‘The Little Famous Song’ adds a hint of melancholy to this lovely ditty, and Marissa breaks out her ukelele for ‘In the Time of Lorry Low.’ With her uncanny sense of melody that is often as simple yet memorable as a child’s nursery rhyme or Medieval ballad (the latter track and ‘The Little Famous Song’ being perfect examples), there’s a nostalgic air of familiarity about these songs – as if you’ve heard these melodies somewhere before – yet they are all strikingly new. The ability to make the new sound old again is one of Marissa’s many endearing charms, making this perhaps more attractive to fans of traditional folkies like Vashti Bunyan or Alisha Sufit and the contemporary work of Sharron Kraus than the more pop-infected work of Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell. Regardless of your personal preferences, Nadler’s infectious warmth is undeniable and these reflective, melancholic, ocassionally haunting ballads will remain with you long after the angelic choir of her soaring backing vocals on the final verse of the eerie closer, ‘Horses and Their Kin’ fades into the night. Another brilliant winner and, perhaps, the year’s finest folk album. (Jeff Penczak)





(Subliminal Sounds, P.O. Box 17011, SE-104 62 Stockholm, Sweden)


Hot on the heels of Gustav Ejstes’ magnificent third album, ‘Ta Det Lugnt’ which graced many critics’ “Best Of” lists last year, the wonderful folks at Subliminal have reissued this CD version of his 2001 vinyl debut that is even better than last year’s treat. (NOTE: Completists should be aware that this in-name-only reissue appears to only include two tracks from the debut, ‘Mitten Av Mars’ and ‘Känslan Som Gror.’ The vast majority of the release consists of contemporary (1999-2001), but previously unissued tracks. Also, the disk spreads fourteen unnumbered tracks across three suites. The following individual track references are therefore based on approximations and best guestimates of where one track ends and another begins.) A groovy, heady mixture of backwards guitar loops, treated electronics and frantic drumming kicks off ‘Runt Och Tillbaka,’ the opening track in the four-part suite, ‘Stadsvandringar’ (also the title of the CD-version of his second album). This segues into ‘Ängzlycka 1’ which turns up the space-age bachelor pad lounge quotient via vibes, flutes and nimble guitar licks that are perfect for cha-cha-ing across the dancefloor. The aforementioned ‘Mitten Av Mars’ is an ambient stroll through a bird sanctuary, serenaded by a combination of our fine feathered friends’ tweeting and Ejstes’ gentle vocals, all accompanied by his spacey flutework – the perfect compliment to Roger Waters’ ‘Grantchester Meadows.’ The closing segment, ‘Nedför, Släpper Du Taget?’ continues the sleepy, folky flute & bongos’ vibe.

    The second suite, ‘Midsommarbongen,’ as its title suggests, is perfect fodder for lazing in a summer field, lips wrapped around the glass drainpipe. Alex Wiig’s meandering sitar sidles alongside Ejstes’ flute/bongo combination during ‘Samling,’ which opens the proceedings, before our stoned wanderings are rudely interrupted by the concluding electronic atmospherics of ‘Ängzlycka 2,’ which also features an organ solo reminiscent of Keith Emerson’s classical wanderings throughout The Nice’s back catalogue. ‘Alstermo Flygplats’ invades our consciousness over Marco Lohikari’s rolling, throbbing bassline with Ejstes’ flutes, Wiig’s sitar and Fredrik Björling’s kinetic drumming delivering a high energy, funky jazz break. And the two-part, West Coast/Country Joe & The Fish vibe of ‘Livet Som Man Borde Leva Det’ and ‘Livet Som Man Lever Det’sandwiches ‘Bockagöl’ for a perfectly executed three-point landing back on terra firma.

     Suite number three, ‘Lilla Vännen’ begins with the disk’s most structured “song” ‘Det Äkta Och Nära,’ a mellow, pop/psych floater that yields to the hesitant, syncopated ‘Dock Allere’n’ (which reminds me of ‘Something/Anything’-era Todd Rundgren) until the proggy histrionics of the title segment, ‘Om Lilla Vännen’ stir us from our golden slumbers. By the time we reach the concluding ‘Känslan Som Gror’ (from the vinyl debut), we’re on the trail of Rush, armed with better mood enhancers. For fans of Germany’s Fit & Limo and Cosmic Gardeners, New Zealand’s Lamp of the Universe, fellow Swedes, Spacious Mind and other astral projectionists of the highest order. (Jeff Penczak)


photo to follow



(live review)


Whilst there is no doubt that the art of electric rock guitar improvisation is safe and sound and developing in the hands of everyone from the Last Days of May, Mogwai and Sonic Youth and way beyond, it seems that acid rock as exemplified by ye olde San Francisco Sound is a dying tradition – nobody appears to be taking up the baton – whilst every young band worth its salt is hell bent on ransacking their parents’ record collections or studiously copping style and ideas from rock’s yesteryear, those fabulous bands that rocked the Fillmore appear to be all but forgotten. And as the years roll by, the good and the great drop by the wayside – Cipollina, Garcia, California are gone, perilously few keep the flame...


So it’s great to report that the Green Ray are alive and well and still doing it!


And judging by their gig at the Plough in Walthamstow last night, doing it like no other!


The band – currently Simon Whaley, Simon Haspic, Ken Whaley and Richard Treece - took the stage around 9.15 – ex-Plummet Airlines guitarist Richard Booth had cried off at the last minute despite promising a set of his own songs backed up by Ken and Duncan Kerr, as he was under doctor’s orders that he should rest up prior to the Airlines’ reunion gig at John Eichler’s pub on 1 May.


Whaley Snr. has settled into his role as front man as effortlessly as a hippie smoking a doobie, and after a brief hello and tune up, the group slid into a loose jammy instrumental – that soon took up a lovely flowing tempo that allowed Treece to unleash the first of many stunning breaks, here at his most Gary Duncan.  Ken’s elastic bass lines whooshing in and out whilst the two Simons kept up a relaxed tempo – apparently entitled ‘Dr Love’ (I refer to the set list whish I nicked but which they didn’t laboriously adhere to), this was a freewheeling treat.


Over the course of the next hour and a half, Treecie reminded me again and again why he’s still my favourite living guitarist – permanently seated nowadays when he plays live, the maestro – black beanie pulled right down over his skeletal face, sat hunched over his guitar coaxing forth some of the most euphoric sounds imaginable. Off stage he shuffles like a derelict, but once he straps on that Fender and plugs in, he becomes a god!


Next up was a tune that has become one of the highlights of any GR gig over the past couple of years – Gillian Welch’s ‘For Free’ – now Ken is no great singer though unlike Simon H he can at least hold a tune. It surfaced too early in the set tonight, the vocals were hesitant but Ken did get to grips with it as the number progressed.  Re-worked from the acoustic treat on ‘–Time (the Revelator) this now rocks along and Treece was adding some of his best ‘Zuma’-esque licks – imagine Jeff Blackburn singing this with Ducks and you’ll get a flavour.


Simon H’s ‘So Much More’ was more conventional and the band rocked out in style – Haspic may be no singer and not much of a guitarist but the guy knows how to pen a good tune or two! And Treece put his foot pedal to work – a king of the wah, up there with Clapton, Kaukonen and Jimi!


‘Float’ written by the late Simon Burgin saw Treece’s only substantial lap steel work of the evening, though part way through he switched to more conventional lead taking this instrumental into some thumping Green Manalishi territory and then back into a more ethereal direction. Should be on the Radio 2 playlist!


A couple of old Helps songs followed – with the adrenalin rush of ‘Running Down Deep’ especially exciting – Treece even pulling out some Flamenco-ish runs towards the end as the band sailed the true Quicksilver seas! Donovan’s ‘Season of the Witch’ also allowed them to stretch out – at times I was reminded of Dream Syndicate’s re-wiring of this old standard whilst at others Treece lit it up with some good ole fashioned blues rock..


‘Silver Ring’ – not sure if this was a cover – cut it up like only the Dead used to be able to do with Simon W’s best karate chop rhythms the equal of anything Bill the Drummer or Ed Cassidy could pull out – allowing Treece room for some of his most exploratory work of the evening.  Whilst Si B’s great ‘Maypole’ (now re-titled ‘Swain’s Green’) was something akin to the Dead taking on the Albion Band! Another great tune!


The combo have hit just the right balance between their own material and other people’s – and though without their old guitarist Si Burgin, they’ll never quite assume the greatness of the late 90s, are much improved  - if they played live every week they’d a truly great band.


Cobwebs blown away by this juncture, the Ray went through the mainly instrumental ‘Swedish Detective Movie’ – Ken did announce the name of the writer who inspired it but sorry I wasn’t taking notes – a potential epic in the ‘Electric Fur Trapper’ vein, this has cannibalised some older material but works well, and I’m looking forward to hearing this again soon.


The set closed on a high with the Julie Miller tune ‘All My Tears’, and based on the Emmylou Harris version – this is an absolute cracker – it just never lets up and Ken was by then on top of his game with the vocals whilst the maestro just tore out a flood of licks that were the equal of Thompson or John C – tears in the eye stuff!


 The encore ‘Love & Mercy’, an almost folkie gospel style thing typified the whole mood of the evening – whilst we’d been half expecting the blood and thunder of ‘Brown Rice’ to see us off into the night, this was a gentle bedtime lullaby.  Playing at an ear-friendly volume, the music never quite reached the primal peaks the Green Ray can scale – for once Treece never quite howled like a mescaline buffalo as McMuff so aptly expressed it! And that’s not meant as a criticism.


The band will carry on playing the first Tuesday of every month at the Plough (next show 10th May) – Wood Street, Walthamstow is not the easiest or nicest of places to get to – but believe me, I was so glad I made it over there last night. Thursday 21st July promises to be an extra-special one – a gathering of the tribes – as Barry ‘The Fish’ Melton will be joining the band for a full electric set– fresh from what promises to be some great West Country gigs with Mr Lowell Levinger III, and going on Barry’s gigs here in 2003 and 2004, this will hopefully deliver an evening of vintage San Francisco magic – and will see Ken and Barry reunited for the first time since the Commander Cody tour of 1976.


So tell your mates, and get along because once these guys go, it’ll be the end of acid rock as we know it! (Nigel Cross)





Time-Lag/Eclipse (  and )


Given the fact that I’ve praised the two labels responsible for this massive triple LP release on a regular basis for the entire ’00s and that I’ve interviewed five of the six featured artists the main theme of this review probably doesn’t come as a big surprise. This is simply one of the most essential pieces of music that will be released this year and you owe it to yourself to check it out before it’s gone out of print.


What we get is a gorgeous deluxe 3LP set packaged in a full color, fabric textured, triple gatefold cover that unfolds to reveal a huge 25 inch by 37 inch poster in classic San Francisco ballroom-era style art. The actual music is just as stunning as the LPs gather the cream of the so-called free folk movement, featuring a side each from Six Organs Of Admittance, Jack Rose, The MV/EE Medicine Show with Chris Corsano, Dredd Foole, Fursaxa and Kemialliset Ystävät with Joshua. I could honestly end this review right here as that’s probably all you need to know about this dazzling compilation, but just to further let you know exactly how great it is here’s a quick rundown of the six sides.


The first LP in the set places Ben Chasny on one side and Jack Rose on the other, and if that’s not a dream line-up I am not sure what is. Chasny’s epic and highly meditative ‘If There's Time, Sing! Sing! Sing!’ displays just about every side of his sonic repertoire; ranging from gentle psych folk, gorgeous acoustic guitar picking and primitive folk clatter to all sorts of tape manipulation. If Ben Chasny and Jack Rose have one thing in common it's the talent for making the acoustic guitar sound like it's living a finger-picking styled life all its own.  On ‘Now That I'm a Man Full Grown’ we find Rose treading over just that kind of articulate acoustic guitar territories but his other track has more of a foreboding vibe to it, nodding discreetly towards the corrosive drones of Pelt.


The second LP is probably the most diverse with Matt Valentine and Erika Elder's MV/EE Medicine Show on one side and Dredd Foole on the other. The 22 minutes long ‘Massage for the Dakota Sioux’ also features the indescribable percussionist Chris Corsano and the outcome is simply superb. If you ask me this brilliant and surprisingly intense piece of No Neck Blues band-esque shamanism and intoxicating drone experimentalism might even be the strongest MV-related work since those first cpl of Tower Recordings releases. Dredd Foole’s two contributions is probably what I like the least on these three LPs, but if you dig freely improvised non-verbal vocals and minimal guitar patterns with lots of space between the notes this might definitely be for you.


Despite the praise given to first LP described above I am tempted to announce the final piece of vinyl as the finest one in this set. Fursaxa delivers highly transporting music with the aid of quietly meandering acoustic guitar and gravitational vocals over a bed of droning harmonium: Words like emotive, trance-inducing and hypnotic comes to mind but you really need to give this one a spin yourself to fully understand its impressive impact. Last but by no means least is another successful collaboration, this time in the form of six short pieces by Tampere, Finland’s Kemialliset Ystävät and Joshua Burkett (appearing as Joshua). Here we find Kemialliset Ystävät’s world of twisted dreams full of alien abstraction, improvisation and moonlight trance colored with something a bit more melodic. I guess you could see it as a secret meeting between beautiful, melancholic folk compositions and strangely fractured folk-scapes, loops and all sort of fucked-up electronics. The end result is surprisingly structured and if you force me to choose just one side of this monumental release it will unquestionably be this one.


Everything about this release is so far off from your every-day musical experience that you'll be seen standing with your mouth wide-open for the rest of the day. This limited outing (1000 copies) sum up most of the aspects that makes music important to me and since you’re reading this I am guessing it’ll have a similar effect on you. You need this! (Mats Gustafsson)





(bluefog records / )


    Recorded ten years after their debut, Elevator celebrate a decade of music by producing an album full of simple songs that weave majestically from full-on guitar noise to gentle and mesmerising psychedelia. Opening track ‘Thick Wall’ is a headstrong rush of guitar riffage, swirling through nine minutes of electric mayhem before fading into birdsong and gently picked melody, whilst ‘Memories Of You ‘ is a short song that shimmers with a soft nostalgic haze and could have easily been recorded for Elevators alter-ego combo The Unintended, whose self-titled debut was one of my favourite albums of last year.

     Book-ended by two longer pieces, the rest of the songs clock in at under four minutes, a fact which allows the album to move along at a cracking pace without ever losing it’s way and puts the emphasis firmly on the excellent song writing prowess of Rick Wright who wrote all but one of the tracks. Throughout the album the band manage the difficult trick of producing a cohesive set of song that flow together beautifully whilst still being varied enough to hold the listeners interest. Highlights of the set include ‘To Cry A River’, a wonderful song full of brooding psychedelic flourishes that create the perfect backdrop to the words; and ‘Catapillar’ a surreal tale filled with fuzzed bass and strange lyrics, which creeps into your head in a delicious manner. The title track itself is a mass of distortion and phasing, threatening to destroy the song completely before the guitars are replaced with drone and backward vocals, a song that begs to be played loud, as does the whole album. Finally we come full circle as ‘Where Is The End?’ carries us through seven minutes of heavy space-rock sounding like Spacemen 3 in their early days, the basic riff being swamped with all manner of electronic gadgetry, the song taking off to the furthest parts of the galaxy as it slowly disintegrates in an unsettling storm of sound which abruptly vanishes leaving just the ringing in your ears. (Simon Lewis)







   With it’s feet firmly set on the pagan path, this album is a sprawling collage of tribal percussion, spoken word, acid guitar, chanting, bubbling synths, and droning strings that is breathtaking in it’s scope and invigorating in it’s execution. Like a long lost krautrock classic the music has an organic quality constantly changing, crackling with stoned energy and refusing to stand still long enough to be fully recognised. Throughout the band switch from English to Italian and back again, the lyrics shouted/whispered or sung whilst in the background the synths open up the back of your head allowing the percussion room to dance with you synapses. Just as you think the band have found a mellow place to dwell the guitars come screaming back, the distorted riffs harking back to Hawkwinds finest moments, and driving the rest of the band furthur into hyper-space. This is space-rock at it’s most cosmic and primitive, a tribal stomp through your brain which cries out to be played at high volume giving the songs a chance to explode into the room, infiltrating the space and awakening the sleeping gods that dwell there. In the middle of this glorious noise the band slow things right down with ‘& The Angels Went In Two By Two’ a sad and beautiful song that slowly dissolves into a pulsing bass drone and chanted nursery rhymes creating an unsettling melancholy feeling which is carried into ‘Radha(r)’ where the piano, trumpet and clarinet blend and improvise around each other like a rainy autumn evening in an unfamiliar city. Clocking in at just under nine minutes ‘Be Here Now’ is the cream of the crop an electrifying mix of exotic instruments (harmonium Tibetan bells, didgeridoo), brass, and wind instruments which blows in like a change in the weather, swirling and dancing around the speakers, taking us into the heart of the ritual and including 30 seconds of complete silence, before fading back in like the final throws of a storm. Also included is a final hidden track where the electronics take centre stage, creating a spacey and ancient atmosphere, the glissando guitar snaking its way through the mix.  (Simon Lewis)







     One of my favourite singles of last year was ‘Tale From The Black/Pool Beneath The Pond’ by Tunng, which displayed a sense of the surreal beneath its pulsing electronic heart. Now comes their debut album, a stunning collection of infectious and beautiful songs. Mixing acoustic instruments and electronic sounds, the album drifts along like a hazy summers day, each song gently fading into the next, as the songs weave their magic around the listener. Opening song ‘Mother’s Daughter’ sets out the bands manifesto perfectly, distorted electronic voices mixed into the picked acoustic guitars, whilst the lyrics are half- sung, half-chanted giving the song a hypnotic quality. Throughout the album there is a folksy feel created by the traditional instrument and excellent vocal delivery, whilst underneath, the percussion scratches and picks at the songs, the occasional, and well chosen, sample creating tension and changing the songs dynamics. In the wrong hands this blending of folk and electronica could lead to a cacophony as each sound struggles to gain the upper hand, with Tunng however the blend is perfect, each song a complete and satisfying experience. Nowhere is this balance more finely illustrated than on ‘Song Of The Sea’ a simple song played on guitars/banjos with gentle lyrics and handclaps for percussion, yet underpinned with samples and distant sound effects that compliment the melody without disrupting its flow. On the other hand, there is ‘Kinky Vans’ where the electronic heart takes centre stage, the sounds compressed, cut-up and generally messed about with creating a far more abstract piece of work, although still fitting into the overall ambience of the album.

    On this album Tunng have produced an original and highly enjoyable collection of songs which produces surprises with every listen and never fails to have me singing along with it’s melodic groove (Simon Lewis)






Strange Attractors Audio House (


It wasn’t until my loved one discreetly said ”Again?” that I realized that I just was about to put on Nick Castro’s ’Further from Grace’ for the fifth time in a row. Forgetting time and space is something that comes quite natural when walking across Castro’s beguiling and timeless acid folk territories. ‘Further from Grace’ is a wonderfully soft-spoken and masterfully crafted folk album, ornamented with cautiously created traces of experimental passages, organic drones and Amon Düül-like communal trance. The cello-infused opener sounds like some lost psychedelic 60s’ folk gem of the most hypnotic variety, while ‘To This Earth’ truly is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve heard all year. Flute and acoustic guitar hover on top of Castro’s emotional vocals and dreamlike lyrics with the same kind of natural grace as morning mist over an isolated forest lake.


For this Californian’s second album he has assembled a cast of very potent players calling themselves The Poison Tree, among others including members of Espers as well as underground folkster Josephine Foster. Even though they invite us to a mostly subtle sound world there’s a wide array of instruments in action here, ranging from traditional ones like guitars, piano, cello, percussion, organ and flute to more unorthodox ones like whistles, mijwiz, dumbek, flügelhorn and lap dulcimer.


The slightly jazz-tinged instrumental ‘Waltz for a Little Bird’ is saturated with an inconsolable sense of loss but at the same time somehow manages to point out that it’s time to move on. The best thing here might very well be the downcast “Guilford” that provides classic folk balladry, but it’s done with such honesty and nearly perfect lyrics that it strikes me as original and exotic rather than sounding like something that’s been done over and over again. When Castro sings “Your eyes shone like diamonds, that I can never afford” it’s just perfectly clear that this is a masterpiece I’ll never grow tired of. ‘Music for Mijwiz’ offers one of those intoxicating ethnic mantras while the surprisingly up-beat closer ‘Walk Like a Whisper’ takes thing back to the hazily masterful. Another chapter in the acid folk book is taking form, and as far as I am concerned this is a book that needs no closing paragraph. (Mats Gustafsson)