= May 2014 =  
Marissa Nadler
Crabstock Festival
Braniac 5
Richard Booth Trio
D Charles Speer
Thalia Zedek
Josh Burkett
Doors tribute
Dan Lyth & the Euphrates
Avital Raz


(LP from Sacred Bones records)

There’s something haunting and ethereal about this record right from the outset, the opening song ‘Drive’ layering Marissa Nadler’s exquisite little-girl-lost vocal delivery over and over against a simple plucked 12-string guitar coda. And I suppose it’s all down to how you interpret it, but I have to admit that I also find the little flourishes of pedal steel (from the masterful Jay Kardong) only serve to heighten the sense of mysteriousness that pervade the album.

This is of course Marissa Nadler’s trademark. There’s a ghostly, captivating fragility about her whole delivery and demeanour that makes you almost afraid to reach out and touch her for fear the beautiful apparition will disappear. Much of this album evokes that same essence, the beautifully sad, achingly simple ‘Firecrackers’ (a strong personal favourite) being a case in point. And yet again there’s Jay’s pedal steel to close the song.

Elsewhere there’s a renewed sense of assurance, a strength drawn from maturity.  ‘1923’ is reminiscent of early Opal recordings and is one of the songs on here that benefits from a string arrangement (courtesy of Eyvind Kang); ‘Was it a Dream’ which opens Side 2 (ignore what it says on the cover about it closing Side 1) is lushly textured and features some gorgeously understated lead guitar (from Phil Wandscher I think), while The lyrically sublime ‘Desire’ plays similar tricks with the forebrain to the opening song ‘Drive’ but with strings in place of the pedal steel, once again lending it a sense of maturity.

Like a good red wine or a meal cooked by a loved one, this is a record to linger over and savour. Subtitled ‘an LP recorded in 2013’, one can only hope there’s another to follow very soon indeed. (Phil McMullen)




Organised by Fruit De Mer Records and Sendelica the UK version of Crabstock (there is one in Finland and the States as well) featured three acoustic acts plus two full electric bands and was held in the small and very friendly Cellar Bar in Cardigan.

    Having arrived and settled in the first thing you noticed was the excellent beer selection, including a Crabstock festival Ale, (sold out very quickly) and the fact that the audience were all relaxed, smiling and chatting happily to each other, signs that a good night was about to be had.

   To open proceedings Jack Ellister entertained us with his gentle take on sixties psych, his dream laden songs enticing to the ear although he played so quietly, by choice apparently, that it was sometimes hard to hear over the background chatter. Nevertheless, those that could hear seemed to enjoy his set and each song was greeted with warm applause. Next up, the wonderful and enchanting vocals of Crystal Jacqueline soothed us sweetly, the late sixties vibe fully in force as the delightful tunes wafted over us. Throughout the set, the guitar playing of Icarus Peel was the perfect accompaniment to the voice, not surprising as the two play together in The Honey Pot, covers of both Love and Jefferson Airplane also going down well, a great set that ended too quickly. Special mention also to the groovy shoes worn by Mr Peel, nice.

  The final acoustic act was from James Mckeown, whose songs are both delicate and thoughtful, the audience remaining attentive and quiet during his performance. Another set that was over far too quickly, it was rounded off by a great cover of “Magic Potion” (The open Mind) which had people all over the venue scratching their heads before they remembered what it actually was, or maybe that was just me !

After a brief pause and some delicious veggie chilli and chips (and more beer) it was time to crank up the volume and The Earthling Society came roaring down the runway and took  us all up to space rock heaven, their heady mix of Distorted riffery, electronics and groove getting heads nodding all over the room, the change of pace and volume from the acoustic acts a startling thing which ignited grins and drinking rates. To be fair, I had my head closed for most of their set, letting it all wash over me in sonic bliss, highly recommended for psych fans everywhere.

      Being local psych heroes and co-organisers of the event it seem perfectly suitable for Sendelica to end the whole party and boy did they do it in style, their soaring space rock mellowed with sax solos and the eloquent guitar work of Pete Bingham which had the crowd dancing, swaying and smiling like that there Cheshire Cat.

     As with the Terrascope Tea Parties, the best thing about this festival was the sense of community that was evident in the room, people discovering that they were sat next to someone they only knew through the internet, the joining of dots, such as the fact that I met the bloke that recorded and uploaded the recent acoustic Bevis Frond gig. This feeling was as fine as the music and we can only hope that this is not the last Crabstock, long may it live. (Simon Lewis)



(CD from Slowfoot Records www.slowfoot.co.uk)

When I say I remember "Spoombung" - that isn't some reference to an obscure kids' t.v. puppet programme from the seventies involving remodelled hosiery. In fact, "Spoombung" was a rather singular album by ex-Stump bassist Kevin Hopper that emerged on Stereolab's Duophonic label some years back. It was as if most of its sound spectrum had been constructed with the aid of the most pliable form of India rubber. recorded, no doubt, on rubber tape, where rubberoid studio walls bow and wobble in time to the thwack of four super slack rubberized bass strings. An angular slice of avant nearly funk that's thankfully still in evidence with this newish Hopper-related combo. Alongside Kev, stands ex Frank Sidebottom(!) and Scritti-sessioneer Rhodri Marsden (keyboards) with Slowfoot label boss Frank Byng on drum clatter. This, their debut, buys into a set of busy, cyclical instrumentals where tracks like the nervy "Floored" and the spy jazz noir of "Philby Flies" suggest roots in Canterbury prog, Sasha Frere-Jones' Ui and the Creese/Milton-driven engine room at the heart of early Blurt. In fact, it's the latter comparison that bears the most fruit, but even that duo's locked groove/purposeful tail-chasing is easily outgunned in terms of duration, by this small group of Prescottmen, who can really dig their heels in. After all, their trademark human loopery is structured around two basic concepts. Namely; "Play it till it feels uncomfortable" and "Our time is different from the audiences' time". They do and it is. Fact. Discounting Ruins and the very great Back Door (l.p.s on Warner Bros.), a bass as lead m.o. would usually be a party piece for some technoflash ensemble. With this though, there's precious little ego expansion and all three have fully succumbed to and are in thrall of th' groove - albeit a refreshingly inventive and unconventional one.
( Steve "no r" Pescott )



(CD http://www.brainiac5.co.uk/)
(CD http://rbtrio.com/)

Coming across like a heady mix of The Soft Boys and Floating Anarchy era Here and Now, Brainiac 5 have manic punk energy harnessed to a serious Ladbroke Grove attitude, the result a wonderful cornucopia of sound that will take you back to free festival days, cups of mushroom tea and that slowly spiralling wisp of smoke, be it from a joss stick, a camp fire or a good blast of home-grown. I say all this with a sense of regret because, for some reason, this band passed completely under my radar during 1977-1980, the period this compilation covers so it is a good thing this collection exists to let me know what I was missing.

     To get you in the mood, “Waiting For The Woman” is an energetic opening shot, shades of Hawkwind present in the riffing, the band full of energy with Guitarist Bert Biscoe definitely earning his salt, as he does on the psychedelically inclined, West Coast groove of “Endless River”, a tune that ambles along in a delightful manner, the whole band just letting it all go. However by 1978, Bert decided he needed a change and left the band to for a more political unit. Enter Richard Booth, an experienced player who had worked with Malcolm Morley (Help Yourself), played Peel sessions and gigged extensively. Whilst there is no major change after this switch, there are subtle differences to be heard in the music, with “Working” mixing Zounds with Inner City Unit, whilst Vegetable wears its punk influences proudly, although the second half is more Hitchcock than Lydon, the lyrics containing plenty of humour to make you smile. In fact you will finding yourself smiling  a lot whilst you play this disc, it just seems to make you feel better about things, gets your foot tapping, makes you think and sometimes gaze back to the past with wishful eyes.

   Over 17 tracks the band rarely let up the energy levels, yet provide enough contrast and skill to keep your ears glued to the music, two live tracks rounding off the compilation and proving they could cut it live too. Fine stuff for freaks everywhere.

     Being the perfect companion to the electric mayhem reviewed above, “Spill the Moon” is a wonderful semi-acoustic collection from Brainiac Richard Booth, the word understated definitely relevant to this collection, the songs containing a delicate introspective heart as well as memorable hooks, sweet playing and a warmth that runs throughout.

    With a restless rythym and voodoo riff, “Fade Away” is an early highlight, the world weary vocal delivery suiting the lyrics, the band locked in tight throughout. On “Liberty Bell” the feeling is mellower, guitar and keyboard trading notes and melodies, whilst “Moving” is one of those songs that becomes a personal favourite as time moves by, a simple melody hooking itself into your brain and not letting go.

  Throughout I am reminded of the music of Roy Harper with a twist of Springsteen, making for an original sound that is rooted in tradition, the songs strong and engaging and whilst it may not be ground breaking it is a solid collection that will become an old friend to be played around the fireside with a glass in you hand. (Simon Lewis)



(CD/LP/Download from Thrill Jockey Records)

You’ve got to hand it to Thrill Jockey, a label with not only one of the best but most eclectic rosters of artistes at the present time. Amongst the drone, psych wigouts, experimental noise and weird electronica, sits the more measured and accessible but no less interesting likes of Arbouretum and one Dave Charles Shuford, aka D Charles Speer and his current project, The Helix.

Doubled Exposure mixes out-on-the-range cowpokery, bar-room honky- tonk, Mexican and Greek rhythms with a tasteful slug of psychedelia, delivered in Speer’s Georgia drawl. It’s tempting to chuck it in the box marked “country rock” but, as with most thinks in life, it ain’t as simple as that. “Wallwalker” is what you get if Iggy Pop were to keep his shirt on and sang rockabilly, all clap-along choruses and which is certainly infectious enough to get the party started. “Cretan Lords”, meanwhile, fuses that retro-reverb sound of Chris Isaac with a bit of Mexicana and those Greek influences that permeate much of Speer’s work. It’s a soundtrack to a cosmopolitan western if that makes sense. If you want to know what Kevin Ayers might have sounded like fronting a quality States-side road house band then look no further than “Bootlegging Blues”, as Speer’s voice drops a register. Centrepiece is the epic instrumental “Mandorla at Dawn”, fusing the jingle-jangle of the Byrds or Allah-Las with a country twang and a melodic psychedelic vortex, although the highlight for me is the rocksteady beat and pedal steel-driven title track which neatly encapsulates Speer’s approach to fusing myriad and diverse influences. “Tough Soup” ends where it all began, another upbeat party goer although for some strange reason this one made me want to start doing the Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Show, something which has never appealed to me in the slightest previously.

Strange brew.

(Ian Fraser)



(Ltd edition CD and LP from Thrill Jockey Records)

Zedek’s new mini-album (six tracks weighing in at just under 29 minutes) is her second release in twelve months following an extensive recording lay-off. If, like me, prickly, somewhat mournful and arid-sounding observational song writing is your thing then this small package is likely to prove something of a small bundle of joy for you. “Fell So Hard”, delivered in Zedek’s hard, androgynous, Patti Smith style vocal is a killer – a burnt out blues rock of disarming intensity with a folksy underbelly courtesy of some sawing violin. It’s beyond doubt the strongest cut on the album although the rest is deserving of your intention, comprising as it does the haunting ballad “Julie Said”; a classy instrumental (“Midst”); a languid “Dreamalie”; the slow-burning country-tinged cover, “Flathand” and a stunningly stark and portentous “Afloat”, featuring just Zedek’s plaintive voice and strummed electric guitar. Less than half an hour it may be but while you may by all means blink, please don’t miss it.

(Ian Fraser)


(no image available)


(Feather One’s Nest Records)

One of the artistes to have graced Woolf Music last August (wow, 9 months already), “Myself Among Others” finds New England guitarist Joshua Burkett in collaborative mood with a varied collection of 20 mostly instrumental and home recorded cuts ranging from gentle guitar workouts to noise collages. His best known foil is undoubtedly Thurston Moore although it is the several numbers that Burkett performs with one Kemialliset Ystavat (yes, new to me, too) and sundry others that make for the more profound and interesting listening.  The pastoral, lightly psychedelic strumming and picking of tracks such as “Song Without Words”, “S/A” and “My Griffin is Gone” contrast markedly with the experimental drone and free form structure of “Specis Flea” (with Noah Wall) and the ominous sounding “Part 1” (with Sound of Pot) or for that matter the sawing and somewhat spooky “Happy Medium” (Ystavat). Occasionally the sung word manages to get a look in as on the charming if rather eccentric “Love” with Ed Asker and with Lou Nou on the equally pleasing “S/M”) but mostly it’s the guitars and sundry accompaniment that holds sway. The outstanding if deranged “Youth” (Wall again, with muted vocal), psychedelic snarl of “Golden Bear Returns” and the fiendish hoedown “Elevated Platforms” (Ystavat) all deserve mention. Sadly the last three tracks aren’t referenced in the sparse liner notes but I think you get the picture by now.

Unfortunately more information about this release (such as where and how to score a copy) is in short supply. However if you can overcome this no doubt minor impediment and can make allowance for some subterranean low-fi recording quality in places then this is definitely worth going to the trouble of tracking down.

(Ian Fraser)




Tribute albums, in my experience tend to fall into two categories. Worst case the bands are trying to sound like the genuine article, with varying levels of success; pointless if you already have the originals; or best case they do their own versions, again with varying levels of success.

So having got that out of the way, it is on to the CD, superb cover art, appropriately psych and mysterious. A nice gatefold cardboard job, which upon opening revealed a CD and a slot from which, with a bit of poking and delving, emerged a tasteful little booklet giving a bit too much information about the Doors and not enough about the bands on the CD.

Now to the music, first up we have Elephant Stone with their version of ‘LA Woman’. It didn’t take long for a Cheshire cat like grin to spread across my face, this is good, no scrub that this is an excellent reworking of the track with Elephant Stone stamping their own dark moody style, well and truly onto the sound; next up is The Black Angels giving us their version of ‘Soul Kitchen’ the rather original vocal style cutting through some excellent percussion and soulful guitar work, all mixed to give a vast soundstage; then we have Psychic Ills ‘Love Me Two Times’ taking the track right down to its bluesy origins before letting it soar on high with some searing guitar work; Lisa Elle’s vocals on Dark Horses version of ‘Hello, I Love You’ add beautifully to a track that has real raw power; Camera turn ‘People Are Strange’ into an instrumental track that loses something in the lack of vocals and yet gains from letting the music speak; Dead Meadow’s version of ‘The Crystal Ship’ is deep, dark and almost sensual; Sons Of Hippies version of ‘The Soft Parade’ was superbly performed, nicely disjointed and edgy but left me craving for the original; Dead Skeleton’s take on ‘Riders On The Storm’ produced a deliciously dark and suitably atmospheric result; I have heard some disappointing versions of ‘Light My Fire’  but this version by Wall Of Death was absolutely perfect, some bits left out but all the good bits in there with some cracking keyboards; Clinic’s version of ‘Touch Me’ is really different, deeply out there, pure psych and rather excellent; in ‘Roadhouse Blues’ VietNam have stuck with the bluesy feel but given it an extra nerve jangling edge which really works; Geri X have very much stayed true to the original with ‘Love Her Madly’ good but nothing new; the final track has to be ‘The End’ The Raveonettes this version is a short, perhaps a little too short, but oh so sweet track to finish off this very interesting and rather exciting album.

To sum up, this CD is a tribute, not an imitation. The bands are superb and their interpretations of the songs are original, well thought through and excellently performed; which serves nicely to show off the talents of some of the current bands in the psyche scene. It is an excellent buy for anyone who likes a bit of psych and for anyone who enjoys the music of the Doors. (Steve Judd)



(CD/BOOK DL http://www.armellodie.com/)

    In this technological age, it seems that anybody can record an album in their spare room with little fuss or sound problems, so it is very refreshing to come across an album that has been recorded entirely outside in various location around the world including Australia, Turkey and Uganda, although the majority of recording took place in Scotland where Dan Lives. Of course, none of this would matter if the end result was dull or mediocre, however this is not the case, the recording difficulties/possibilities seemingly inspiring the performance and songwriting of all those involved, creating a vibrant collection of quality songs.

    Mainly recorded under an emergency rain cover outside an country house, “All My Love” is a gorgeous song that slowly builds, horns adding atmosphere, to a sweet piano melody and understated drums, the whole reminding of something by the Fence Collective, in particular King Creosote.

   With rhythms recorded on tree stumps, not all of them, “Four Creatures” is a track that seems alive, the hypnotic pulse suiting the lyrics whilst the sparse arrangement allows the song to breathe. Equally vibrant “How It Happened” is again fuelled by rhythm, variations allowing the song to shift and writhe, dancing around the vocals with Horns adding a happy smile to the tune.

   Partly recorded on a beach in Turkey, “This Time In November” has a darker, more sombre mood featuring piano and voice only, the song a moment of reflection, the lyrics hinting at loss so beautifully that they can be read as poetry.

    To end the album there is more than a hint of Steve Reich in the sound of “Super Nature”, a repetitive pulse that walks beside the vocals creating a delightful tune that is both simple and haunting, field recordings from Morocco of a call to prayer adding some variation and atmosphere, the song slowly fading into silence.

    As well as the excellent music, there is also a book that contains images of some of the recording locations and a short story that is surreal yet easy to read, the whole package compiled with love and attention to detail, making it something that to be cherished and enjoyed. (Simon Lewis)



(CD  http://sotones.co.uk/)

Born in Jerusalem, Lived in India and now residing in the UK, Avital Raz manages to mix all these influences into her music creating a engaging and personal body of work. On her fifth album she has managed to crystallise  her sound into a cohesive whole that flows beautifully yet remains varied right to the end.

   Opening track “Blue Ball Moan” is a desolate folk tune enhanced with shards of Cello played by Pete Harvey, the sound of loneliness that is utterly compelling. Next up, “Kali's garden” is an energy filled tale with an excellent vocal performance and more atmospheric Cello, the track rolling and tumbling out of the speakers engulfing you in a haze of words and music that is easy to get lost in. Gentler in musical texture as it begins “The Edinburgh Surprise” tells of a drunken encounter with a stranger, the music slowly becoming edgier as the tale is told, conversation turns to seduction, the music ramps up the tension until all is resolved into a sweet chorus about anal sex and peace. A strange and strangely beautiful song that reminds me of Nick Cave in its construction.

    Moving back to a folk style, “Daisy's Song” is delicate and haunting, Cello and Piano adding atmosphere to the melody, the tune swaying like a summer meadow in a warm breeze. Keeping the gentle feel, the title track has lyrical bite, a personal tale of  belief or lack of it, the search ever continuing, the song again showcasing Avital's powerful vocal style.

   Opening with a cloud of drone “In the Garden” has an Eastern psychedelic sheen, a gorgeous warming haze of sound that invites you to lay down and listen, reminding me of the songs on “Strange Love Songs” an earlier album released in 2007.

    To end “Water” brings you down sweetly, another delightful songs built around  Cello and voice, the guitar keeping time with a slow and  gentle riff, a song to relax with and the perfect end to a great collection that reveals something new every time you play it. (Simon Lewis)