= November 2017 =  
Linda Perhacs
Kontiki Suite
The Green Ray
Trappist Afterland
The Green Pajamas
Die Geister Beschworen
Richard Haswell
Merry Year Round comp
Earthling Society
Violet Nox
The Lords of Thyme
Matt Christensen
Causa Sui
Stereocilia
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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LINDA PERHACS – I’M A HARMONY
(CD/Digital Download on Omnivore Recordings)

So what do you do after your comeback album, which came 44 years after your first album, now considered a rediscovered gem? If you’re Linda Perhacs, waiting another 44 years isn’t an option, so you make another album, that’s what.

First, a short scene-setter. Perhacs was a dental hygienist who did a little songwriting on the side. Cleaning the teeth of a big record executive led to her break (and his shiny bicuspids), which resulted in the 1970 album Parallelograms. The beautiful acid folk piece quickly disappeared, but over the years slowly garnered enough acclaim from fans and music celebrities alike that it became a cult classic. Perhacs was lured out of retirement for 2014’s well-received The Soul of All Natural Things, released by one of those famous fans, Sufjan Stevens, on his Asthmatic Kitty label. Now we have I’m a Harmony, produced by Perhacs and Fernando Perdomo from the previous album, plus Pat Sansone (Wilco).

I’m a Harmony features a wealth of collaborators, including Julia Holter and Chris Price who worked with Perhacs on the previous album, plus members of Wilco, Devendra Banhart and others. In fact, there are so many collaborators credited (I count 15), that the cover art lists them in small font in a circle surrounding Perhacs’ portrait (she is credited as “Voice and Vision.”) Now you might think an album with this many cooks would sound very disjointed, but that isn’t the case at all.

Perhacs writes songs with themes of spirituality, nature, love and beauty, and sparkle with positivity. The songs on I’m a Harmony feature Perhacs’ writing and singing, with expansive audio soundscapes. Upon listening, one might be tempted to believe the songs started out as conventional pieces by Perhacs, then embellished with lush electronic ambience and interludes by some of those many collaborators into something almost unrecognizable by the unsuspecting 75 year old. But again, this isn’t the case. Perhacs was in control all the way through. She’s come a long way from the singer-songwriter feel of Parallelograms.

Album opener “Winds of the Sky” introduces the nature and spirit themes, and ends with a soaring guitar solo by Wilco’s brilliant Nels Cline. “We Will Live,” about the enduring nature of love, features tasteful acoustic guitar and a gorgeous melody and production. The song is one of many to feature Perhacs’ wordless harmonies with Julia Holter so achingly beautiful it sends chills up the spine, as well as a spoken piece by Banhart.

The eight minute title track “I’m a Harmony,” sometimes listed as “I?m a Harmony,” is the album’s centerpiece. It starts out as a playful piece with the lyric “I’m a Harmony and extra-sensually I’m singing this to you through your laptop,” with little jabs of “wow wow wow.” You won’t find something like that on the first album. The vocal layers build and build and lead into an electronic middle with sounds seeming to come in and out from everywhere. Things simmer down for a quiet round with Perhacs singing another breathtakingly gorgeous wordless duet with Holter, evoking a double helix to the heavens, or perhaps a pair of figure skaters in a snowfall. Utterly heart-stopping. When the vocals return, Linda sings “it’s more beautiful than perfection can ever be” and she couldn’t be more right. Hearing this track, the listener can’t help but put down whatever they’re doing and listen. It glows.

Later in the album, “Beautiful Play,” evoking “liquid echoes in the sky” features yet another lovely melody and tasteful atmospheric production, again with help from Julia Holter.

“Visions” is another extended piece with Holter, oozing with spacey electronic layers and deep-zone reverberating levels of vocal interplay. Finally, “You Wash My Soul in Sound,” featuring Mark Pritchard, surely must have the inside track as the theme for the next convention of the sound engineers’ union. The track goes “where moon and sun embrace/where color, form and sound are found” and is awash in honesty and loving kindness.

I’m a Harmony is a moving album by a special lady. We should all be so lucky and talented to be able to create works like this at 75.

(Mark Feingold)

 


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KONTIKI SUITE
THE GREEN RAY
TRAPPIST AFTERLAND
THE GREEN PAJAMAS
(LPs from Sugarbush Records

 www.sugarbushrecords.com )

Sugarbush Records have a few new albums out, all on limited coloured vinyl. They have rereleased the debut album by the KONTIKI SUITE  “The Greatest Show On Earth” (300 copies) that we reviewed a couple of months ago, when it was released by Sunstone records, selling out very quickly. They have also released the brand new THE GREEN RAY album “Half Sentences” (200 copies) which was released by Reckless on CD last month, which we also reviewed in September.  This one decorated with terrific cover art by the brilliant west country artist John Hurford.   Sugarbush have also rereleased the wonderful TRAPPIST AFTERLAND album “Afterlander” in an edition of 200, this is a highly collectable record that was released last year in an edition of 99 copies again by Sunstone. Selling out on the day of release and currently going for crazy money, get in quick before they again sell out. (This one comes highly recommended by Phil!)
 
Talking of Phil's recommendations, Sugarbush have also released a new record by THE GREEN PAJAMAS. 'Supernatural Afternoon'is available on 300 purple vinyl copies.   Collecting various 45s, released over the years the prolific Pajamas, deliver a cracking new cohesive record, which could well be their finest to date and if you don’t have any of their previous records this one would make a good place to start.

'January Girl' is a heart warming wintery tale, a sublime mid paced rocker that kicks off the record with a tune that would have suited Tom Petty down to the ground.  “Big Black Storm”(single version) sees Jeff Kelly the leader, singer and songwriter proving what a great songwriter he is, a great searing lead guitar, underpinned by a driving rhythm section which is augmented by some fine violin playing.  “Who Is the Girl” (version2) arrives on a bouncy piano motif, with Jeff’s questing lyrics concerning dying stars, is over far too soon. “Supernatural Afternoon” allows the band to stretch out a bit and contains some really memorable lyrics like ‘Witches cradle by a Haitian moon, on a supernatural afternoon’ which is the song’s refrain, some blistering lead guitar spluttering all over the song proving also what a fine lead guitarist Jeff is. “The Jailer’s Song” closes out side one, over a twinkling music box, sinuous bass and more of that big, slightly fuzzed lead guitar, this song clearly being placed here to make you flip over to the other side.

Side two begins with the classic “Kill the Power” showing some Celtic influence, weaving over a Crazy Horse rhythm section, a stomper of a song, delivered impassionedly by Jeff, who also provides some strong melodic guitar lines.  “Red Bird (single version)” is a catchy rock song with pop sensibilities and again I’m reminded of Tom Petty by Jeff’s vocals.  “Ancient Lake” slows things down and finds our protagonist ruminating on time, with nature providing a balm, some medicine for the soul if you like.

“The Red, Red Rose” (song for Phoebe Prince) brings up the tempo again, and has long been a favourite, a harrowing story of a young girl hanged in her school clothes on a January afternoon from the gallows. The record ends with the brilliant “Raise Ravens” a string infused gem, gently rocking throughout with some fine melodic guitar picking out the verses. This is a very strong album, concise and accessible. (Andrew Young)

 

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DIE GEISTER BESCHWOREN / HELEN ESPVALL
www.tandemtapes.bandcamp.com 

A split cassette release of 25 copies on the tiny boutique label, Tandem Tapes out of Jakarta, Indonesia.

This cassette arrived in an elaborately designed mailing bag, decorated with collages, featuring Prince on one side and Superman on the other and immediately grabbed my attention.  This is the work of one Oryan Peterson Jones from up there in Humboldt County, California, amongst the giant redwoods.  Oryan was one half of Datura Blues.

The record is a split with Helen Espvall, a member of Terrascope favourites Espers, whom Oryan met at a festival in Denmark.  Side one is a lengthy experimental sound collage called “The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore” featuring massed hushed chorals, bird song, thunder storms, rushing waters, slide guitar, synth’s, banjo andpercussion, along withsnippets of spooky dialogue and all manner of strange sounds, taking in along the way a bit of African primitive and American blues drone.

Helen’s side consists of three tunes “I Andanam” a sparse, sonorous harmonic piece featuring I believe harp, treated cello and synth.  “Som Mareld” a short gentle, experimental and languid tone piece, provides some balm for the soul before a blast of heavily amped cello wakes up the senses, with the final track on this cassette “For Leucothea”, this one being quite psychedelic and slightly distorted.

(Andrew Young)

 


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RICHARD HASWELL - LAMP BLACK
(CDR on Rhubarb Music

Richard Haswell has released over 20 albums, this being his first since the acclaimed “Asteroids” in 2013.  This outing sees him in thrall to various acts such as the drones of SunnO))), the gothic vocals of Scott Walker and also in the recent music of sonic alchemists Teeth Of The Sea as well as singer songwriters Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billie.
 
Opening with the lengthy “Sequoia” a drone heavy piece that turns slightly eastern as it progresses with Teeth Of The Sea’s influence being felt as it develops, being peppered by some exotic  Berber Sax by Gareth Urch;  I am reminded myself of Stonebreath, particularly the vocals.  “Paperweight” follows and has some really tasty lead guitar, which comes courtesy of Mark Adams.  Other tracks of note are the acoustic “Arizona Maybe”, “Fair Or Foul” which is rich in guitar and atmospherics.
 
The traditional “Ten Thousand Miles” also known as “The Turtle Dove” which has some nice electronics and comes on like Nic Jones if he had been bought up on more modern hazy electronic atmospherics, also of note is “Haywire” where Richard’s double tracked vocal is ably assisted by violin, organ and Irish Bouzouki to fine effect, it’s a mainly acoustic track but with a bit of dirt beneath its fingernails.  The record ends with a reprise of “Arizona Maybe” which is both stately and elegant.

(Andrew Young)
 

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VARIOUS ARTISTS - ALL THE MERRY YEAR ROUND
(CD comp from A Year in the Country)

“ALL THE MERRY YEAR ROUND” is packaged in two sumptuous editions on CD, the Dawn edition and The Night edition. This time around we have United Bible Studies with “Towards The Black Sun” kicking things off.  Every time I hear this band they seem to have a different lineup and trying to pin down their sound is very hard, this is a sparse dream like invocation with most unusual disconcerting percussion.  “Rigel Over Flag Fen by Circle/Temple deliver a haunting pastoral piece replete with gongs and Hurdy Gurdy i believe.

“She Became Ashes And Left With The Wind” by Magphai is based on a simple piano melody, both ghostly and pastoral oh and short.  “Winter Light” by Cosmic Neighbourhood is a bit scary with electronic birds and insects informing proceedings, rising out of a cosmic soup of synths.  Field Lines Cartographer deliver a menacing “Azimuth Alignment Ritual” where analogue synths and found sounds collide to great effect.  Polypores arrive with “Meridian” huge slabs of synth create a musique concrete, pulses and washes ominously building and decaying throughout creating an otherworldly vibe.

 A Year In The Country give us “Tradition And Modernity” a portentous piece of space age music, a bit wonky with plenty of whirring and clicking analogue synths. Sproatly Smith is up next with Moons (Part-1) a sort of Morse code inflected choral piece with all manner of synths and electronics, again eerie and otherworldly, until an organ and gentle beats takes us somewhere else entirely, i get the feeling of tuning the dial on an old radio, receiving snippets of sound.  Tales Of Jack by Pulselovers delivers an almost catchy tune with mini explosions of percussion detonated deep within its structure, this one also has a wonky melody played on analogue synths.

“I’ll Bid My Heart Be Still” by The Hare And The Moon and Jo Lepine is a delight, it’s nice to hear Jo’s crystalline vocals again on this traditional tune, anchored in the present by the sympathetic electronics of The Hare And The Moon.  The vocals yield to distant ringing bells and more atmospherics before returning cloaked in effects. “In A Strange Stillness” by Time Attendant continues with the eerie feel of a lot of this record, it also has some harp coming through the ether of narcotic sounds, a bit of ’The Outer Limits’ also informs proceedings. The record ends with The Séance presenting us with “Chetwynd Haze” a disconcerting collage of electronic sound that takes in along the way, scary children and ghostly wails.   

(Andrew Young)

 


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EARTHLING SOCIETY - ASCENT TO GODHEAD
( Blue vinyl LP or download on Riot Season Records )

Earthling Society are likely to be fairly well known to many readers of the Terrascope so I will limit myself to a brief introduction. They are a UK psyche space rock outfit, currently consisting of Fred Laird - Guitars, vocals; Jon Blacow – Percussion and Kim Allen – Bass. The band have been around from 2004 and have released an album most years.

This album starts with a recording from 2009 ‘Can You Levitate?’ and what a start it is with drums leading rapidly in to what can only be described as a pagan cry of raw energy. This drive continues throughout the whole seven minutes of fast paced, old school psyche rock; the mood of the album takes on a more meditative pace, whilst musically shifting us a few thousand miles Eastwards, with ‘Ascent to Godhead Part 1,’ deliciously trippy in its fluid character and rhythm, with a glorious mix of jazz and Asian instrumentation resulting in one of the most interesting tracks that I have heard this year; the next track ‘Electric Bou Saada’ is a true to form, new psyche extravaganza with spiralling guitar riffs, thundering percussion and a pace that brings to mind what it must feel like to jump off a cliff wearing a wing suit. Just past the half way point the parachute opens and the music lets you gently float back down to earth. This change of pace within a track is something Earthling society are masters of; the final track of the album, ‘Ascent to Godhead Part 2’ again shows off the band’s ability to shape the sound within a track to enable it to evolve and change in a freeform style. Mike Seed adds to the whole co-ordinated chaos feel with some delightfully out there sax playing.

A very fine album that like all the good ones can take a few plays to fully appreciate.
(Steve Judd)

 

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VIOLET NOX – NEBULA
(CDr from Reverb Worship and Digital from Bandcamp )

The obvious Terrascopic connection to this release is the presence of Kris Thompson late of Abunai!, ever-presents at the Terrastock festivals (eight of them to date), at least two former members of which are known to the authorities as being “over here” (hi Brendan and Joe, there’s your cover blown).

Boston quintet Violet Nox is Kris’ latest sonic squeeze in which he joins the original band nucleus of Karen Zanes and Dez DeCarlo plus a couple more. Yep that makes five, no need for the second hand, then. Nebula is the band’s first stab at something akin to a full-blown release and for which they have enlisted the services of Gary War (ex-Aerial Pink) and Thompson’s former Abunai! compadre, Joe Turner.

‘Lamb On The Moon’ sets the scene with its techno intro on the heels of which a guitar riff hints at something heavier and slightly more orthodox. This is glam industrial, not dissimilar to the cybernetic direction White Hills seem to be embarked on but softer, dreamier. Mmm, there are distinct early 80s post-punk notes here too, with an unorthodox but tasteful psychedelic twist. This is already shaping up to be something of an aural wine taster.

More digital drum beats usher in ‘Dentscape’ and there’s that juxtaposition again, between the harsh abstraction and much warmer tones, particularly the guitar and Zane’s vocal. It’s how I’d imagine The Left Outsides would sound if someone like Alex Patterson were to bag production credits and it’s a must for The Playlist (take note). There’s not a great deal to choose quality-wise between the rest. I have a peculiar soft spot for ‘Black Cat Bone’. Not because it sounds like a good name of Grunge Metal band but because it’s how I always wanted the Cocteau Twins to sound. There is the abrasively tribal upbeat title track and finally the single ‘Snow King’, the nearest thing here to an (un)conventional rock track and which sounds like a female fronted The Cure overlaid with lots of synths and digital riddims.

There is in fact a lot happening here without it being overly fussy. Like many an interesting listen or indeed a good film you are bound to pick up something new and different each time you delve in. Quibbles? Well they are minor indeed so it almost seems churlish to even mention them. The tracks are a little overlong when in fact they would benefit from being a minute or too shorter – less sometimes being more, especially in this format. Moreover, Artificial Intelligence has yet to find a way to better that inexplicably four-way co-ordinated and otherwise unreliable quirk of evolution The Human Drummer. That aside I’ve enjoyed you very much, Violet Nox and I know at least two floors you can sleep on should you ever wish to come hither and play for us…

(Ian Fraser)

 

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THE LORDS OF THYME - THE FUTURE OF THINGS PAST
(LP from Shagrat / Feeding Tube Records)

Feeding Tube's first album for American consumption from London-based jazzy folk-rock quartet The Lords of Time gathers together a rag-bag of assorted colourful fabric both previously released (primarily on Sunstone Records - see our review of their album from a year ago here) and recorded live over the past few years. With some insightful assemblage courtesy of Nigel Cross's Shagrat Records and superb sleevenotes from Bucketfull of Brains magazine editor Nick West, who knows a thing or three about music of this nature, this is as fine an introduction to the band as it's possible to imagine. 

The record opens with a superb cover of 'Hares on the Mountain' from Shirley Collins & Davy Graham's 1964 LP 'Folk Roots New Routes' , recorded for and previously released on the 'Shirley Inspired' project fundraiser with the band backing Canadian exile guest vocalist Bonnie Dobson - the original composer of 'Morning Dew' I learn here (told you Nick West knows a thing or two…)

The instrumental 'Girls on Bach' contains a fabulous faux-Mellotron and shimmering electric guitar intro and was apparently the first post-Circulus collaboration recorded by the three former members who make up the core of The Lords of Thyme, guitarist and vocalist Joe Woolley, bassist Tali Trow and drummer Patrick Kenneally.

Another highlight, for me at least, is / was 'Fare Thee Well', one of the live cuts dating back to 2014, which is notable for some glorious pedal steel guitar from Neil Herd (from the Coal Porters), invoking visions of B.J. Cole driving Cochise along at a horse-drawn pace; while over on the B side 'Moment to Moment' is redolent of another much-missed 1970s UK country-rock outfit, the mighty Brinsley Schwarz.

Limited to 400 copies, so move quickly to secure your fix. It's unknown whether that figure includes several artist copies which slipped out with sadly monochrome versions of John Hurford's splendidly psychedelic sleeve art, which come to think of it reminds of the Relatively Clean Rivers cover. Nice one.

(Phil McMullen)

 

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MATT CHRISTENSEN – I KNOW WHAT THE FIGHT IS
(LP from http://www.morctapes.com)

Best known for his work with Zelienople with whom he performed and recorded for around two decades,  Christensen has also amassed quite a body of (mostly self-released) solo work of which this is his latest for the always interesting Morc label.

It’s not so much a latest outpouring though as a slow, atmospheric trickle.  Delicate to the point of gossamer light, these are sparse almost wraith-like compositions. Christensen’s hushed, breathy vocals and his guitar were always a hallmark of Zelienople but here they appear to be cast adrift with little sign of visible or, come to think of it, audible support. 

‘Come To Me’ sets the template and a course from which it seems impossible to deviate (although the nicely rippling guitar runs on ‘They Love You’ also demand mention). Percussive taps, a spectral harmonica, plunking bass and cavernous twanging, underpinned by a warm, analogue-sounding production all combine to deliver up a lusciously languid confection. It’s possessed of a certain smoky, arid quality, akin to JJ Cale riding out on the desert plain feel but the most abiding impression is of so many variations on a theme of ‘Ruffi’ from Slowdive’s Pygmalion, a song that, if there is indeed an afterlife, is one I’d like to take with me.

Perhaps a bit more variety wouldn’t come amiss, but as we’ve said before, when your song is this good then what’s the rush to change it? Perfectly agreeable at any hour of the day but specially bred, you sense, for those small hours.

(Ian Fraser)

 

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CAUSA SUI – VIBRACIONES DORADOS
(LP from http://www.elparaisorecords.com/)

‘“It’s Zeppelin” muttered the scribe as the first bars of ‘The Drop’ kicked in. And for once, if only fleetingly, he was right’.
Well if you’ve not heard Denmark’s Causa Sui before please give this a moment to sink in before savouring the fact that there’s more depth and something a little more special to this than rock god by numbers. Sure there’s a dominant lead guitar with a style both distinctive and melodic (as opposed to ‘glorified rhythm guitarist leans on pedal’ scenario ) but there’s something more complex going on such as a complementary electronic bubbling nestling under the tightly anchored rhythm section and which occasionally rises to the surface. There is also something of a trademark where the band take their foot off the gas to rather delicious effect. In this case it’s a lovely dreamy sequence in the coda that offers sharp relief to the root chord structure.

‘El Fuego’ follows in similar formation to ‘The Drop’. A little more ponderous perhaps, the concrete rhythm laying the foundation from which to launch some expressive guitar work. Again there’s that easing off this time in the midsection, which hovers gloriously like a bird above the ocean – I’m resisting temptation to compare it with ‘Albatross’. This one’s way preferable, probably because it hasn’t been overplayed and perhaps because its commercial appeal isn’t so damned obvious.
The thrilling Kyuss-meets-White Manna ‘Severn Hills’ (with just hints of Cavern of Anti Matter while we’re throwing reference pints at the page) might just maybe the pick of the bunch here, while the title track brings matters to a fitting climax, thrust forth by brontosaural riffs to warm the hearts of War Pigs everywhere. There’s the now accustomed breather, by which to say there’s something interesting in the soft centre and not just them playing the same thing slower and which epitomises the creative ying-yang of hard rock and more reflective passages flecked with ambient sound washes. Conclusion is reached via a cheeky almost prog-like guitar lick and an ascendant cacophony. Job done.
(Ian Fraser)

 

STEREOCILIA – HIVE MIND
 (LP from http://dronerockrecords.com/)

Bristol based John Scott’s synthesized guitar loops have been quietly thrilling us here at Terrascope for a number of years (Stereocilia was a feature of Woolf Music back in 2013) so how delighted were we on a scale of 9.5 to 10 to hear the digital thud of Hive Mind in inbox – look you to have to use your imagination these days.

‘The Water Has No Darkness’ possesses that near-dramatic Tubular Bells quality that threatens much but ultimately leaves you in suspense. It’s on the mesmerising ‘Static’ that things really click into place, the looping themes surfing the gentle and luminescent wave of shimmering ambient drone for what seems like blissful eternity (well worth 13 minutes of anyone’s time, then). The more organically rooted ‘Aurora Borealis’ is something of a light interlude between the main features, an agreeable enough diversion and one that helps you gently if temporarily to a safe landing before the side-long showpiece ‘Another Sleepless Dream’ on which Scott is aided and abetted by Guy Metcalfe from Thought Forms (John’s first collaboration with another musician on record). It’s a doyen of drone-full delight, reminiscent in places of more glacial Kosmische with hints of Gong in their most fluvial form. The first hints of change can be detected with the seemingly innocuous introduction of gentle but crystal clear guitar before Metcalfe’s drumming and a right-ways twist of the guitar amp’s volume knob shakes you from what is bound to have been a pleasurable reverie. It ensures that the second half stumbles into a lumbering psychedelic stoner groove into which the head falls easily into a most compliant nod every two seconds or so in approximate time with the beat. Scott’s musicianship is such that it never falls into the Sabbath-is-everything-and-everything-is Sabbath trap. Thankfully it’s more like Dave Gilmour with a delicious twist of the twang bar than the more prosaic rumblings of the metal muthas. All expands to fill the universe before seeming to explode into a million dazzling fragments after which you’re left with the sense of cosmic dust settling. Cough.

There are times when we may be tempted to think we’ve seen and heard it all and especially when it comes to musical formats that, by their very definition and nature, are self-limiting. All the more reason to commend Hive Minds for its variety and intelligence. An at times masterful work that will transport you hither and yon, it ought only to enhance Stereocilia’s critical and commercial status while cementing Drone Rock Records’ reputation for eclectic and praiseworthy releases. May they both live long and prosper.
(Ian Fraser)