=  MAY 2008  =

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Written by:

  Windy Weber

Phil McMullen


Jeff Penczak

Nigel Cross Transmissionary Six

Simon Lewis

Fred Neil

Tony Dale


Preston Swirnoff

  The Terminals
  Fern Knight



(CD from The Music Fellowship)


Perfectly timed to whet the appetite of heads gathering for this summer’s Terrastock, Washington DC USA-based experimental collective Kohoutek have released their first official CD via the estimable Music Fellowship imprint (run by Landing’s Daron Gardner). Psychedelic improvisation is the key here, ranging from unsettling, discordant guitar noise to delicately floating melodies, often within the confines of the same, admittedly usually expansive, number. They claim to draw inspiration from a litany of familiar names: Can, Agitation Free, Ash Ra Tempel, Skullflower, Dead C, Bardo Pond, White Heaven and all the usual suspects: their signature guitar sound though, used to great effect throughout, reminds me very much of Terrastock 1 veterans Hovercraft, whose instrumental musical vision likewise veered somewhere between industrial noise, ambient sounds and the soothing lull that comes with repetition.


‘Glacial Tears’ opens with a bee-swarm maelstrom of guitars poised on the very edge of feedback, backed with electronics tuned to the rhythm of a revving motorcycle. Miscellaneous production flourishes worthy of ‘Are You Experienced?’ see the track out through a slow nodding dawdle to psychedelic oblivion. The title track in comparison hurries along, building like the wind whipping up a prairie dust storm. Feedback crackle and the twisted, knotted singing strings of guitars tuned along to the Cul de Sac songbook introduce ‘You Owe Yourself a Good Bath’, which unexpectedly becomes almost melodic and lilting amongst the furious static scribble as the layers are slowly peeled back. This is, I think, my favourite number on here. The band return to the tin-can percussive onslaught and meandering, Beefheartian slide for the epic closing piece, ‘There is No Consolation Prize’.


If that all sounds like a challenging listen, fear not; the trip might be abrasive at times, and not one for the faint hearted, but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable. Sometimes raucous and grinding, sometimes serene and hypnotic, ‘Expansive Headache’ has no lyrics to get in the way - just guitars, drums, bass, and assorted electronic gizmos. Consider me hooked. (Phil McMullen)




(CD from Blue Flea LP from Kenedik )


            Twenty-five years ago, the Anti-Nowhere League burst (some might say vomited) on the UK post-punk scene with their seminal ‘We Are The League,’ which included a blistering interpretation of Ralph McTell’s ‘Streets of London’ that’s still one of my favourite punk covers ever, as well as the hilariously vitriolic, ‘I Hate…People.’ A quarter of a century later, Windy Weber, one half of the ambient space duo Windy & Carl and one of the lovingest and caringest people it’s ever been my pleasure to meet steps out from behind her bass with her debut solo album with that familiar title. She’s chosen to adorn the cover of the album with her 1987 passport photo, a moment in time frozen from her punkette pixie days where she resembled a cross between The Cure’s Robert Smith and ‘Eraserhead’’s John Nance to illustrate that the music within is not the sunshine, lollipops and rainbows you might expect. Windy recorded the album completely solo with her muse, Carl Hultgren engineering the tracks and His Name Is Alive’s Warren Defevre mastering. The two sidelong tracks clock in at 24 and 32 minutes, although both have been shortened for the LP version to retain the sound quality. (The LP also includes a completely different mix, so you basically need both!)


            ‘Sirens’ vibrates into the room, not unlike the industrialized soundscapes on the soundtrack of David Lynch’s aforementioned post-apocalyptic nightmare, ‘Eraserhead.’ The nails-on-blackboard wailing sirens that Windy creates on her guitar create metallic tears of pain and shame, and the listener is left to compile their own (s)hit list of people they hate who…rape the landscapes, pillage the rain forests, murder the fauna, destroy the flora, strip-mine the countryside into oblivion, pollute our oceans, streams and rivers, tear down historical buildings or cozy little seaside cottages to put up McMansion eyesores… people who “paved paradise and put up a parking lot” and “love the smell of napalm in the morning.” ‘Sirens’ is a screeching clarion call to sleepyheads to wake up and stop the destruction of nature and maybe put a little love in their hearts. Like the sirens that warned of the alien takeover in ‘Invasion of The Body Snatchers,” Weber is imploring us to step back and realise what we are doing to each other and the world we live in and make some serious adjustments. Midway through this howling banshee of a tune, Weber discovers her whammy bar and creates an eerie, theremin-like sci-fi skin-crawling effect, and a fillings-rattling, ear-piercing shrill, achieved through an extended sustain on her guitar creates the perfect siren-like wail from which the track derives its title. It’s like an extended Hendrix solo on     Quaaludes: time stops, heartbeats are suspended and you’ll feel like someone just jabbed a knitting needle into your eardrum. If that doesn’t raise your dander enough to get up and do something, it’s time to call the undertaker.


The half-hour second track, ‘Destroyed’ is a three-part suite which begins with multilayered “voices” gasping for air in a sea of madness. An omnipresent electronic drone creates an ominous backing track, leaving the listener with the sense of suspended animation. The classic sci-fi film, ‘Alien’ used the tag line, “In space, no one can hear you scream,” and the first part of this track sounds like Windy tried to capture the sound of that dislocated plea for help falling upon deaf ears. The lengthy coda finds Windy repeating the title, which is eventually swallowed by the middle section, a cacophonous mushroom cloud explosion, which could symbolize man’s total chaotic destruction of himself and his surroundings. A supernova implosion of feedback suggests our time on Earth may be drawing to a close. With nation fighting and murdering nation and death tolls rising on a daily basis, the end may truly be nigh. The track and album ends on a pessimistic note of deprivation and, ultimately, death.


This album is for misanthropes who are “mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore.” French playwright Jean-Paul Sartre’s most famous line appears in his 1944 existential masterpiece, ‘No Exit’: “L’enfer, cest les autres“[“Hell is other people”] and Miss Weber has just created its soundtrack. (Jeff Penczak)




(2xCD on Sunbeam Records www.sunbeam.com )


The story of the Terrascope’s love-affair with this album is, I should imagine, fairly well known by now – but for the uninitiated I’ll quickly recap. Released in February 1970 and long thought to be Clark-Hutchinson’s debut LP, A=MH2 (the equation standing for Andy [Clark] equals Mick Hutchinson squared, just in case you hadn’t realised – I confess it took the best part of 20 years to finally dawn on me what it meant!) initially flared across the progressive rock firmament like a comet and then promptly sank completely without trace, helped in no small part by the two protagonists being in no fit state to promote it. Somewhere along that all too brief trajectory though it imprinted itself upon my impressionable young mind as probably one of THE most influential and inspirational albums I’d ever heard, as a consequence of which the duo were amongst the top ten “targets” we (i.e. Nick Saloman and myself) identified as being potential subjects for an in-depth Ptolemaic Terrascope feature when we first discussed ideas for the magazine in 1988.


    By this time the name Clark-Hutchinson was such a distant memory to most that even record dealers all but ignored them. Their final LP ‘Gestalt’, from 1971, was classed as rare, but only because comparatively few copies were ever pressed – copies never attracted the astronomic prices that contemporaries such as Warhorse’s ‘Red Sea’ once fetched, for example. I in fact took advantage of this very same dropped stitch in the fabric of time by picking up a copy of their second album, ‘Retribution’  in 1990 or so for around the price of a pint. I already had a copy, but you know how it is when you see a bargain. Besides which, this was a label-less test pressing, which made it marginally more interesting than a regular LP. Anyway, I took it home, played it, and was at first disappointed to realise the wrong LP was in the sleeve – and then on playing it again, suddenly realised that it was in fact Clark-Hutchinson playing, but playing straight blues, rather than the twisted, drug-hazed ragas that they’d become known for.


    We had by now interviewed Mick Hutchinson for the Terrascope – a feature which is available here and also, I’m proud to say, in edited form in the sleevenotes of this Sunbeam Records reissue – during the course of which Mick had told us that they (Clark-Hutchinson) had in fact recorded a blues album for Decca prior to recording A=MH2 which had failed to see the light of day (allegedly because of a falling out over the title of the song ‘Make You’, which intended to be called ‘Fuck You’)


    Nothing was known of this record - I had stumbled across what was at the time thought to be the only copy that existed. After a short period of negotiation, I arranged for the Little Wing of Refugees label in Germany to give ‘Blues’ a legitimate European release, both on LP and CD. Mick and Andy finally got paid a few bob for their efforts, such fans as there were left finally got to slot into place the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle, and in some small way I felt I’d repaid the band for all the pleasure their music had brought me.


    It’s taken another decade or so for the whole story to be finally available in one package though, and all credit to Richard Morton Jack at Sunbeam Records for making such a thorough job of it, with gloriously detailed notes and some original photos. What really stands out for me about this double CD are Peter Sherster’s sleevenotes. Peter was both co-manager and producer of both albums, and writes both fondly, wittily and with great insight about the period – a truly fabulous story which is well worth the read! Nobody’s going to buy the CD booklet without the two discs to accompany it though, so any review of this release is fairly redundant without mention of the music therein.


    Disc Two, perhaps a little confusingly, predates Disc One in that it contains the ‘Blues’ album, for the most part recorded in West Hampstead in March 1969. One contemporary review of the Little Wing CD a few years ago described it as "...a great record of swinging, pumping blues that fits the pattern of early British blues rock, when bands like Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack and the Groundhogs began to explore their own new sounds, leaving behind the limitations of the traditional blues form…", which isn’t too wide of the mark, although it barely does justice to the album’s tour de force, ‘The Summer Seemed Longer’, which is a slow-burning ten minute acid blues epic featuring some truly outstanding guitar work from Mick. Truly a lost classic – you can probably imagine how I felt when I first heard it that afternoon back in 1990 after having been a fan of the band for such a long time. According to Sherster’s sleevenotes, the band were demoted from Decca’s 8 track studio to 4 track when this particular number was cut, which in part explains the slight dip in sonic quality – it may also explain why Little Wing were unable to use the original tapes for their release, and  mastered that particular track from the LP that I’d found.


    When ‘Blues’ was turned down by Decca the band, suitably pissed off and determined to do their own thing – Mick had earlier decided against joining  The Moody Blues just before they made 'Nights In White Satin' because they weren't following the Eastern direction he was interested in, and immediately prior to hooking up with Andy Clark he’d been playing in Sam Gopal's Dream, improvising Indian music and jazz with a little blues thrown in – the band decamped to studios in Marble Arch in May 1969 and over the course of two, intense, all-night sessions they recorded what was to become their debut, A=MH2, disc one of this 2 CD set.


    As mentioned earlier, the album scorched briefly across the progressive rock sky upon its release, peaking at #8 in the LP charts, sandwiched between ‘Led Zeppelin II’ at 7 and Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ at No. 9. It then disappeared almost completely from the public consciousness, which is a real shame. Consisting of five extended instrumental tracks, the basis of the "new" Clark-Hutchinson sound is built around Mick Hutchinson's brilliant middle-Eastern style guitar playing, which is given full rein on tracks such as the 13 minute 'Improvisation On An Indian Scale'. 'Acapulco Gold' is a more relaxed, laid-back piece (albeit once again showcasing Mick’s guitar) while the pair experiment with a variety of instruments including keyboards, saxes, flutes, bongos and bagpipes on 'Improvisation On A Modal Scale'. The hypnotic 'Impromptu In E Minor', a personal favourite of mine, and 'Textures In ¾' completes a virtually unique and truly groundbreaking album, one which sounds as arrestingly original today as it did forty years ago.  (Phil McMullen)




(CD/double vinyl LP from Stickman Records )
2006's 'Black Hole, Blank Canvas' will go down as one of those great transitional albums - proof that a band long in tooth and losing a key member could still seize victory from the jaws of defeat. With the departure of veteran drummer Hakon Gebhardt, the remaining members Bent Saether (who co-produced the album) and Hans 'Snah' Magnus Ryan stripped the old Motorpsycho engine right down, cleaned the pistons, derusted even the tiniest valve, and gave it the full MOT, oil and paint job. Right before our very eyes it felt like one of Norway's longest-standing psychedelic institutions had been transformed from a somewhat directionless band well past its sell-by date to a group bristling with all its old youthful swagger and dazzling power.
    'Little Lucid Moments' sees the Motorpsycho rebirth continue apace and then some. For a start they have a new member behind the traps - Kenneth Kapstad formerly of Monolithic, Dadafon and Gate - and as their record label rightly proclaims, they are indeed a band again - you feel there is palpable sense of 'OK we're ready, now let's get down to some serious business' here. The group exudes the kind of sense of purpose it did in its heyday.
    With an assured roll from Capstad the new album glides sleekly out of the pit stop - the 20+ minute title suite is the absolute embodiment of the Motorpsycho sound we have grown to love over the past two decades and more besides. Soundwise we're back to the golden age, a time somewhere between 'Demon Box' and 'Trust Us' and with improvisational nods towards some of the lengthier work-outs on 'Roadworks Vols 1 & 2', ('Heavy Metal Iz A Pose..' and 'Kongsberg Jazz Festival'). For you true believers this will slap a big smile all over your faces, it's almost a best of Motorpsycho - bombastic fuzz bass, lightning fast instrumental bridges, spacey interludes, psychedelic crescendoes, punctuated by some astonishing deft drumming from Capstad, Bent's lovable raspy vocals and some staggering fretwork from Ryan - you're left feeling that this is such a return to form that even if the rest of the album descends into some of the dreadful pop pastiches of seven or eight years ago this is already good enough.
    But as I said, the new Motorpsycho aren't just treading water or simply marking time, the next epic up is Ryan's 'Year Zero (A Damage Report)', a slow burning prog rock masterpiece. If nothing else it showcases what an amazingly musical band Motorpsycho are - we live in an era where musicianship seems to count for nothing, and has little currency with the current generation who regards punk rock as year zero. These guys can play and then some - this number shows off their not inconsiderable musical and compositional chops. Capstad is a revelation - Gebhardt was a one-off and Motorpsycho wisely chose not to try and replicate him. The new guy is both a powerhouse (you can feel him testing his older compatriots regularly here) and driver and one who finds time to decorate and augment the music with a highly original intelligence.
    Good so far? Well nothing prepares you for 'She Left on the Sunship' - over a thunderous drum beat, they leave the planet on this one - I forgot to mention that Deathprod aka Helge Sten is back with the crew too, armed with a battery of audio viruses and other effects - and so are the mynd-fuck psychedelics. Nowhere is Helge better felt than here - following soaring opening melodic vocal and jangly guitar passages, this literally sets the controls for the heart of the sun and curves up into a mighty arc, heading off into big galaxies of burning super-nova guitars somewhere between the MC5 and Sonic Youth - just like it says on the can - yet some seven or eight minutes into the journey, everything drops away leaving you to space walk on a long fade-out of whirring Riley-esque tape loops around which the band weaves a hypnotic kaleidoscope of electronic and instrumental sounds. Guaranteed to mess with your head something fierce!
    In contrast, 'The Alchemist' is the perfect closer - a woozy work-out that recalls the more human side of the band that you might find say on disc 1 of 'Timothy's Monster' - this grabs you gently but firmly and bathes you sensuously in its golden glow like re-discovering the pleasures of a long-lost lover. For me 'Little Lucid Moments' just gets better with every play - so much going on and so much yet to discover. You feel they could do anything and go anywhere on the strength of this. 
    To the detractors, all I can say is that there's not a shred of pandering to the commercial mainstream with this record. Let's state the obvious and just say Stickman (and Rune Grammofon in Norway) will be hard-pushed to find a single on it to market this record further. Meanwhile for those of you lucky enough to see them play Terrastock in Louisville, Kentucky in a few weeks time, you're a lucky bunch of bunnies. Played live the material on this magnificent album will blaze a vista of opportunities for the band. You're in for a treat of epic proportions. (Nigel Cross)




(CD on Tarnished Records)

    It’s seems like a while since anything by this fine Seattle-based duo crossed my path, so it was a surprise of the best possible kind when 'Cosmonautical' landed here like journey's end for some piece of glowing space debris.  The TX6 joins the talents of Terri Moeller, erstwhile drummer for the legendary Walkabouts (stepping out from behind the drum kit for some right-brain dominant composition and vocals), and Paul Austin; founding member of Willard Grant Conspiracy. Sharing a common interest in the celestial side of Americana, as well as a near unhealthy obsession with Mark Hollis and Talk Talk, the two have spent the past five-or-so years crafting cosmic country at the centre of a triangle with Gene Clark, the Cowboy Junkies and Pernice Brothers at its vertices. With their fifth full-length release, "Cosmonautical", the band continues to take known forms (the music is not experimental particularly, being fashioned from familiar country, folk and rock elements), mix in big plenty of big science, and process the results intuitively, holistically, and randomly so that the listener is carried along by the beauty of it all, but also de-kiltered by some pretty odd lyrical concerns.


    'Zero Gravity' sets the scene with a suitably weightless marvel of a song, exquisitely wrought, and a warmer Mazzy Star comes to mind: the listener floats similarly, absent any recognizable Cartesian co-ordinate system for orientation. Off the charts, as they say. 'The Dangling Electrified Boy' takes elements of classic country like lap-steel and keening, almost maudlin vocals and experiments on them in a steam-age laboratory and after the songs passage through various reactions and distillations, comes out dazed and adrift in oneiric space. 'Edison Stare' cops some vintage (and entitled) Walkabouts moves, and one is transported to 1AM in a deserted bar in the back of beyond watching the house band fighting unconsciousness as they stagger through the final moments of their third or fourth set. It's heavy-lidded stuff, but none the worse for it. 'They Finally Let Me Drive' recalls the Walkabouts even more strongly, being similarly angular, driven and compelling. It's easy to get sidetracked here and go hunting for old Walkabouts albums to put on. Not everything works, for example, 'I Want to Deprogram You' is a touch too enervated to engage active listening. But they follow it up with the fine 'Lovesick at the Crimescene', which somehow manages to echo Jeff Kelly, Elvis Costello and the Decemberists while staking its own patch of headspace outside the range of those reference points. 'Finders Keepers' brings the dense electronic Talk Talk worship and it's great too.


    Holland Codes are personality types created by psychologist John L. Holland as part of his theory of career choice, and 'Your Holland Code' seems to play around with notions of identities we adopt to present to others "I'll be your wild cat, I'll be your fortress" and those we receive and process as well. As far as one can tell from the somewhat difficult to decode lyrics (this is one CD which would have definitely benefited from the inclusion of lyrics).    


    Catch this release before it sublimates into some other form, and the band's web site www.rodeosatellite.com is highly recommended too, especially for the fun in figuring out what the radio dial does.  (Tony Dale)






             His songs have been recorded by the likes of Jefferson Airplane (who also wrote two songs specifically about him), Tim Buckley, Harry Nilsson, The Animals, Sandy Denny and dozens of others. He inspired and mentored Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffett, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon. Yet few of his cult fans knew, let alone ever heard of Cleveland-born, Fred Neil’s early singles, cut half a century ago for obscure labels like Look and Brunswick. Fallout has rectified that problem with what must surely be one of the archival unearthings of the year: both sides of the six singles Fred cut between 1957 and 1960. Session/release dates, backing performers and other historical info would have been welcome, but Fallout have elected instead to reproduce the labels for collectors to drool over.


            The set opens with his debut single, 'You Ain't Treatin' Me Right,' released by Look on October 28, 1957 (cat. # Y-1002), a barrelhouse piano-stomping rockabilly number.  It’s easy to see why Buddy Holly was attracted to record his ‘Come Back Baby’ (on September 10, 1958) after listening to Neil’s hiccupy stutter. The flip, 'Don't Put The Blame On Me' is a tears-in-your-beer, country weeper with a chorus of angels on backing vocals. Historians hoping to trace Neil’s musical progression will be slightly disappointed, as the records are not sequenced chronologically, and Neil’s fourth single (released by Brunswick in 1959) is up next. Credited to “Freddie Neil & Friend,” ‘Listen Kitten’ is strikingly similar to Holly’s ‘Maybe Baby,’ so the two obviously respected each other’s songwriting styles. He also had the chance to perform it live on Alan Freed’s TV show! Neil lowers his baritone about 12 octaves to turn the flip, ‘Take Me Back Again’ into a Negro spiritual that harkens back to his days singing in a gospel group in St. Petersburg in the early 50’s.


            Neil’s annoying habit of singing like Bowser (from Sha Na Na) with a frog in his throat almost turns ‘Heartbreak Bound’ (his second single, released on ABC-Paramount in 1958 and credited to “Freddie” Neil) into a novelty number. The flip gives this collection its title and is a lively, Johnny Cash-style road song with Jordanaires-like backing and I think on the evidence of this record that his influences have switched from Holly to Elvis. (In 1959, Neil actually cut a demo with Mort Shuman for an Elvis movie, but the song was never used.) By the time his third single was released on Epic in 1958, he had become a bit of a crooner with the smooth-as-silk ballad, ‘Love’s Funny,’ which also shows an appreciation of Roy Orbison, who would record Neil’s ‘Candy Man’ for the B-side of ‘Crying’ (Monument, 1961). The b-side, ‘Secret Secret’ is rather schmaltzy, as if he was playing to Bobby Darin or Paul Anka’s fanbase. (Not as outlandish as it sounds: in 1958, Neil sat in as a session guitarist on Darin’s ‘Dream Lover’ and Anka’s ‘Diana.’


            Neil turns Floyd Tillman’s ‘Slippin’ Around’ (Epic, 1960) into a goofy, yodeling, hiccupping novelty tune, complete with silly, chirping backing chorus. Epic brought in some of their big guns to try and get a hit out of Neil, and he does a smashing job on the flip side, Bob Merrill’s galloping ‘You Don’t Have To Be A Baby To Cry.’ Barry Mann, whom Fred knew from his days on the Brill Building payroll, wrote his final single, ‘Rainbow and A Rose,’ an orchestrated weeper that thankfully tones down the stuttering and hiccupping. It’s the most radio-friendly track here, but unfortunately failed to attract an audience. The set concludes with the true story of the ‘Four Chaplains,’ four WW II chaplains who lost their lives when a German sub destroyed the USAT Dorchester. Coincidentally, the torpedo that killed the ministers struck on February 3, the day that Buddy Holly also died!


            Shortly after his final single was released (Epic, 1960), Neil was introduced to the Greenwich Village club scene by Len Chandler, and he began a long and productive career performing at Café Wha?, The Night Owl, and The Bitter End, where he was occasionally joined onstage by the likes of Bob Dylan, Dino Valente, Karen Dalton, Tim Hardin, Ritchie Havens, John Sebastian, Felix Pappalardi, and many other soon-to-be superstars. This release may have little in common with the material that Neil later performed on his legendary solo albums, but it’s a welcome piece of the early puzzle that shows “the other side of [t]his life” and that laid the foundation for the incredible body of work the late troubadour would eventually produce. (Jeff Penczak)




(LP from Discourage )


This is seriously fucking good; one of those quite literally extra-ordinary LPs that come along every once in a while which you just know instinctively are going to be dug out and played, sniffed and caressed for years hence – White Heaven’s ‘Out’, that first Six Organs of Admittance LP with the painted cover and The David Redford Triad’s ‘The Mystical Path of the Number Eighty Six’ spring to mind immediately as examples of what isn’t so much a genre as an artform in its own right.


    The Six Organs reference is particularly apposite as it happens, since Side B of this album, which features just two side-long tracks (God, how I’ve longed to write that into a review again...), is a remix / rebuild (with added flourishes of his own) of the same title track, crafted by producer Tim Green of the Fuckin’ Champs, who also as it happens lent his production skills to ‘Shelter from the Ash’, the third Drag City album from Six Organs of Admittance. The piece remains essentially similar in theme to the opener but differs enormously in sheer dynamics, and thus could easily be mistaken for an entirely separate work in its own right. Don’t run away with the idea that Nudity dabble in cacophony-to-calm conclusions, guitar dexterity, and soothing instrumental folk melodies though; theirs is a far more bombastic sound than Ben Chasny’s, driven by precise, metronomic percussion which owes more of a nod than a wink to Amon Düül 2, Neu and La Düsseldorf, feedback guitar sludge straight out of the early Edgar Broughton Band songbook and with a drip-feed of pure essence of Hawkwind coursing through their veins (they’ve been known to cover ‘Hurry On Sundown’ in their live set recently too).


    Nudity’s secret weapon has to be Dave Harvey, former lead guitarist with Tight Bros From Way Back When (former Tight Bros fellow guitarist Quitty is on bass too), a man who Knows How To Solo. Vocals, such as they are, are hushed and hazy and almost an afterthought to the toe-curling acid-drenched feedback guitar which soars and dives across a blood-red sky like prehistoric winged creatures hunting their prey – for anyone who ever saw the animated film that once played behind the Floyd’s ‘Echoes’ – turning the second half of the song (on both sides) into an avalanche of sound which threatens the upper reaches of the Richter Scale. So perfect as well that this is available in the 12" format, as vinyl is the only way to experience it, from starting groove to ending groove and no remote control to pause it with. There are 200 copies on purple vinyl and 600 on black; the covers are all individually silk-screened.


    Awesome. I haven’t been this excited about a new band since first hearing Wooden Shjips a year or two back now. It’s a crying shame that it’s too late to squeeze them onto the bill for the Terrastock 7 festival which takes place in just a few weeks time, but rest assured they’re a shoe-in for next time… (Phil McMullen)






( CDs from Last Visible Dog Records www.lastvisibledog.com )


    Subtitled “Four Pieces of Electroacoustic Music”, The Latest album from Preston Ari Swirnoff is a rich tapestry of sound, the music dense and engaging, the instruments blended into clouds of billowing sound that are both challenging and rewarding. Using 20th Century minimalism and ritualistic drones as a starting point, Swirnoff uses organ, piano, tone generators, tape machines, guitars and echoes to produce four startling and original soundscapes, each different in texture yet bound by a common goal. On “For Piano and Electronics”, the piano is never wholly lost in the mix, yet is cloaked in a haze of textures and tones that slowly change as the piece moves forward. Using four different kinds of organ (Wurlitzer, Ace Tone, compact air, full air), plus tube amplifiers and a tape machine, gives “For a Room Full of Organs” a dense and sometimes overwhelming presence, the ever swelling chord/drone undulating to produce its own harmonies and rhythms, the music sounding different each time it is heard.

     Featuring the guitar playing of Ilya Monosov (Who is the other half of The Shining Path, along with Swirnoff), “For Electric Guitar” has a more devotional feel, The sounds modified into a gently chiming landscape, the music warm and airy, an added deep bowed drone giving the piece presence and depth. Finally, “For Four Tape Machines” uses tone generators, variable speed tape machines and echo boxes to create a rattling alien train ride, racing through the terrain at high velocity, strange creature darting just outside your vision. The perfect end to a wonderful album of experimental sound that is playful, serious and utterly compelling.


    Pooling the talents of members of The Renderers and Sandoz Lab Technicians, “Submarine” is a ghostly collection of songs, rich in atmosphere and awash with creativity. As soon as the opener “under The Wheels” crawls from the speakers you know that this is going to be an uneasy ride, the sadness of the song almost overwhelmed with the storm of effects and feedback that give the song its character, a torch-song played in the underworld. Stretching to just over twelve beautiful minutes, “Twister” has plenty of time to weave its dark magic, taking nine minutes to reach the melody, the desperate lyrics matched perfectly by the stark music that preceded them. This magical sadness is continued on the lonesome “Stranger At Your Party” and “The Places We Walk (To Put Down Our Dead), the latter containing some awesome feedback/guitar noise that is best heard loud, the song threatening to escape from the confines of the speakers at any time. A more traditional structure is employed on “Slow Motion”, the band getting into overdrive as the song reaches a crescendo, guitars turned way up past 11. Finally, the band ease you out with another, possibly bleaker version of “Stranger At Your Party”, ending an album as beautiful as it is bleak, an album that pulls you into yourself, a personal collection of songs that cries to us all.


     Originally released in 1993, “Touch” is a collection of sonic pop songs colliding with psychedelic noise tendencies, sounding not unlike Pere Ubu or a melodic Butthole Surfer. Throughout the album, the bass and drums anchor the songs giving guitars and organ plenty of room to smash thing up and generally cause mayhem, the odd lyrics only adding to the disorientating feel. The first highlight is the delicious wall of pop noise “Suicide”, a velvets-like riff driving the song furiously to a finish. With a punk heart, songs such as “Wyoming” or “Amnesia” are joyous jolts of noise, whilst elsewhere the band display more psychedelic wares, the organ taking centre stage. Whatever mode the band is in, the musicians maintain the same level of intensity, the songs crammed with energy and attitude, making you want to crank it up and open the window just to annoy the neighbours, well, it did me anyhow.


    With this trio of releases Last Visible Dog sets standards in quality, variety and taste that are hard to beat. Respect is due to label boss Chris Moon who manages to raise the bar every time he releases another disc, the entire catalogue almost essential for those of a Terrascopic nature. (Simon Lewis)




(CD on VHF Records)


     Fern Knight's eponymous follow-up to their fine 'Music for Witches and Alchemists' is another fine splash of wattle and daub on the ever growing and strengthening construct that is North Philadelphia's psychedelic folk scene. As with so many of the releases from that neck of the woods, Greg Weeks recorded it on the glorious atavistic ribbon that is 24-track magnetic tape, and it was mixed by the deft hand of Brian McTear at Philly's Miner Street studios. This is worth noting up front, as few releases in modern times sound this good – placed perfectly at the intersection of analog techniques that achieved apotheosis in the 60s, and digital techniques that give an expansive clarity to the higher frequencies so that the sound-stage created seems sky-high and oceanic, erasing the dimensions of living room and even car and transporting the listener to somewhere else.


    On this latest Fern Knight release, the strengths of the chamber quartet assembled by Margie Wienk are very much to the fore. Margie's vocals and cello are augmented by Jesse Sparhawk on harp and electric bass, Jim Ayre on Flying V and percussion, and James Wolf on violin. Traditional chamber instrumentation (harp, cello, violin) are thus able to form a narrative able to be emphatically punctuated by storms of electric guitar and bass to give voice to the drama in Wienk's songs. It's a dialectic between the pastoral and the apocalyptic that is central to the concerns of this particular Fern Knight work, if not all. 'Bemused' seems to come from a European art music tradition; Brechtian techniques come to mind in its juxtaposition of harp breezes and electric guitar super-cells. Lyrics are impressionistic rather than narrative: "Lapping sea foam with your fingers that stretch circumference around", repeated in rounds, endlessly gyrating. 'Silver Fox' must be one of the most striking neo-folk compositions of the past decade. An iconic melody and a traveller's tale – originally it was intended for a compilation on the theme of Carnival that was never realised but the world has it now to enjoy. Margie explained the haunting story to me thus: It's a story of conjoined twins and their attempt at running away from their circus life sometime in the early part of the 20th century. Their tale of loneliness is told through the eyes of other solitary creatures they meet on their way: a mushroom, a fir tree and a fox. But as winter arrives, so does the realization that they will have to heed the barker's call and make their way back to their home in order to survive. Sonorous cello introduces the marvellous 'Sundew', a bewitched impression of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, which can now cast some light to erase the dark shadows left in my mind by the brilliant, snowbound episode of The Sopranos set there.


    Several tracks on the CD were written during travels in Ireland. 'Synge's Chair' stunningly depicts the search for a landmark, conducted to fill in time while temporarily stranded on one of the Aran Islands. It takes a typical UK folkloric route, using a Childe Ballad approach with numerous verses telling the story.


    The album concludes with the three-part progressive folk 'Magpie Suite'. The Prelude's lyrics are taken from Milton's "Paradise Lost" and features fine overlapping male and female vocal lines sung by Wienk and Greg Weeks, forming an effective lead-in to the apocalyptic second part, which has almost a Cold War anxiety about nuclear holocaust to it. In effective contrast to the lyrical concerns, the music setting is medieval and sentimental.  The final part sets impressions of a blasted landscape over baroque instrumentation, as if Cormac McCarthy's coldly secular "The Road" were to be re-imagined as ending in rapture rather than ambiguity. (Tony Dale).