= November 2018 =  
The Spacious Mind
Rowan:Morrison
Jim Ghedi Toby Hay
Kikagaku Moyo
Ryan Crosby Band
David Rothon
Kinski
Keiron Phelan
Kris Gietkowski
Dead Sea Apes & Adam Stone
Mesange
Israel Nash
Environments
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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THE SPACIOUS MIND – THE DRIFTER
(CD from Trail Records)

The Spacious Mind presumably need no introduction to Terrascope readers, the band having been staples of both our reviews and features columns as well as the Terrastock festivals pretty much since they first sidled onto the space-rock scene, politely bowed and then proceeded to blow our tiny minds on their debut ‘Cosmic Minds at Play’ in 1993. The band’s back-catalogue, on a myriad different labels, now is quite considerable, however a lot of the releases were fairly limited in terms of distribution, and a compilation of their music, no matter how overdue, is almost bound to throw up some gems which even the most diligent of fans (and I definitely include myself in that number) won’t have previously heard.

Unfortunately the Russian-American label, Trail Records, took it upon themselves to edit the selected tracks to fit a single CD without checking with the band first, meaning that in total at least 20 minutes have disappeared overall. Nevertheless, there’s over an hour of fine music represented, including both tracks from the 2002 ‘Reality D. Blipcrotch’ 10" – a record which I vaguely recall having been released around the same time as their stellar appearance at Terrastock in London.  The nearly 15 minute long ‘The Drifter’ launches the set with a rhythmic, meditative groove fuelled by hypnotic keyboards, an array of atmospheric effects, a guitar that licks and howls like a wounded buffalo, plus there’s a cosmic vocal segment which wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place in the Roundhouse circa. 1971 (there’s a live version of the same song later in the set which was originally released on a CD-R on the band’s own Goddamn I’m a Countryman label which serves to confirm my theory, incidentally). The original B side of the 10” ‘The Players in the Band’ is one of the heavily edited numbers, having been reduced from 14:37 to 8 minutes 31 in total – if I’m totally honest I probably would have omitted it altogether in preference for full versions of the other songs on here, but it’s nevertheless a valuable piece of the jigsaw.

We also get treated to 14 minutes of the majestic ‘Euphoria, Euphoria’ from the 1997 album ‘Garden Of A Well Fed Head’ originally released on Patrick Reilley’s Lone Starfighter Records, a limited-edition LP which featured a glorious die-cut sleeve. Another haunting swirl of space rock, it features a similarly howling wah-wah guitar tone and the trademark hypnotic atmospherics. The real treat for me was hearing ‘Floatin' Down The River Whistlin' On A Tune,’ a distinctly Floydian slice of jazzy space ambience from the Copenhagen Space Rock Festival Compilation CD from 2002 – something I’d not heard before and am really happy to have finally discovered. Unfortunately several minutes are, once again, lost. Finally, ‘Spirit Roots’ is another live cut (and another truncated one) that references the Floyd, with a Set The Controls vibe about it – the track comes from ‘Take That Weight Off Your Shoulders’ the same CDR as the live version of ‘The Drifter’ mentioned earlier.

In an ideal world this CD would be reissued on a 2LP set with all the tracks restored to full length, but I can’t realistically see that happening – so do yourselves a favour and grab this while you can.

(Phil McMullen)

 

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ROWAN : MORRISON – BURY THE FORESTS
(CD/DL from Miller Sounds)

Having first happily encountered the Rowan Amber Mill on a Dark Britannica compilation many moons ago my last exposure to the strange and compelling musical world of Stephen Stannard was when he collaborated with Emily Jones on the engaging spoof horror concept The Book Of The Lost.  That was one occasion, reader, where it might have paid to have read the liner notes before spending a fruitless hour or so searching the google box for details of a TV series that had somehow escaped my attention.

This time around Stannard has partnered with Angeline Morrison for a collection of seven mainly co-written compositions (six if you consider that there are two versions of the same song). In actual fact Bury The Forests is an EP precursor to a forthcoming album entitled In The Sunshine We Rode The Horses. It is in itself a striking work of art and not simply because it is sumptuously packaged in two different deluxe CD editions complete with prints and badges and neatly encased in a slim-line tin.

‘The Blizzard and the Nightingale’ finds Morrison chanting over a lilting almost insouciant backing before sinking into lots of repeat lines which serve to stoke the hypnotic atmosphere, her voice cracked with traces of unworldly fragility. ‘We Rode The Horses’ is presumably the title track from what is a now, hereabouts, eagerly awaited album, with Morrison’s multi-tracked voice taking on a more authoritative note. Here as elsewhere, Stannard’s instrumental arrangement nails that 70s wyrd-folk aesthetic, which will come as no surprise to those familiar with previous Rowan releases. His ear and intuition seem unerring, in fact so adroitly crafted is this and the rest of the set that the music seems to transcend time and mere genre.

There are two versions of ‘The Meadows Call’ on offer, the first of these being the Ridgway mix, quite apposite as the EP is set in both the real and imagined histories of the ancient Ridgeway path and surrounding features such as Avebury, Stonehenge and Uffington White Horse). It sounds marginally more solemn and less produced than the version marked “original”. Both have their place of course and right now that tends to be on the trusty Denon here at the Veal Crate. They are the nearest that the duo come to making a commercial concession. Another personal favourite here is ‘Gather Around’, with its antiquarian, folk lore and new age references to stones, beacons; of rhythms rising out of the grounds and our old mate the white hare, all set to a gentle, gorgeously lilting melody. It’s a lyrical as well as musical theme that recurs throughout, culminating in the Caledonian sounding ‘At The Circle’s End (Spoken)’ and a narrative that chronicles birth and rebirth, not just of the seasons but the habit of nature – and sacred sites – in resisting the impact of unwarranted human interventions.

If your penchant is for music possessed of a spirituality, a heady enchantment and an almost impossibly bucolic charm then Bury The Forests is hardly likely to disappoint. You can stare at that tin or just dive on in. Actually you can do both, so why not break that seal and give it a listen?

(Ian Fraser)

 

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JIM GHEDI & TOBY HAY – THE HAWKSWORTH GROVE SESSIONS
LP/CD from https://cambrianrecords.com)

Toby Hay from the Radnor Hills and Peak District native Jim Ghedi combine to produce something rather quite special. Cast in the mould of these two complementary and similar guitarists – a great friends to boot – the combination of the two produces a breezy decimal of dexterous workouts that seem to owe so much to the great outdoors that makes you wonder if they oil their guitars with linseed and cover them over in wax jackets.

Released on Hay’s own Cambrian imprint, the Sessions came together in a couple of days of recording, employing nothing more than 6 string (Ghedi) and 12 string (Hay) acoustic guitars, improvised live and with little or no studio trickery. The rapport between the two is such that it brings to mind Dave Brock’s comment about his almost telepathic communication with Lemmy during their Hawkwind days when each instinctively knew what the other was going to do. Well that seems to be the case here as well - for Hawkwind read Hawksworth.

The pine top freshness of ‘Earl of Errol’ sounds like it is being played on harps such is the sharpness of the fingering and the sprightliness of cadence. Contrast this with the misty forest glade redolence of ‘Night, Moon, Dance’ to which you can easily imagine the fair folk dancing (look, it’s that time of year, right?). The ruminative ‘The Marcher Lords’ has a more refined and traditional feel, while ‘The Huntsman and The Horse’ begins in the most exquisitely subdued fashion but which over time is punctuated by intense flourishes borrowing elements of baroque, Andalusian and traditional folk styles. What is noticeable is how little of this can be predicted, the playfulness and possible friendly competitiveness ensuring that, from a seemingly innocuous though infectious melody, the sparks are apt to fly off at all angles at the drop of a hat. Nimble fingerpicking ensures that the almost title track skips along barely touching the ground and a thoroughly absorbing set is rounded off by ‘Arran To Aboyne’ a dreamy waltz and a suitable note on which to end, leaving you with a gladdened heart and a smile on what in my case are distinctly grizzled old chops.

Of course, Terrascope has long championed yer “nimble fingerpickers”. To the impeccable roll-call of Basho, Rose, Jones and Chasny we can confidently add the names Ghedi and Hay.

(Ian Fraser)
 

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MÉSANGE – GYPSY MOTH
(LP/DL from
https://godunknownrecords.bandcamp.com/)

For those not yet fortunate enough to have fallen under their spell, Mésange is a truly mouth-watering collaboration between violinist Agathe Max (Kuro) and guitarist Luke Mawdsley (Cavalier Song and recently of Mugstar). Gypsy Moth is what our US friends term their sophomore album and which I always think refers to as telegraphy.  It’s builds nicely on the compelling template created by last year’s Heliotrope of neo-classical minimalism and drone, powerful and slow moving under electronically charged skies. Beautiful and intriguing, theirs is an epicene entity in which the violin and guitar often sound interchangeable while still asserting strong individual identities.

The opening title track is a superb distillation of all that is good about Mésange, one where the sum of two instruments sounds more like a  string quartet creating an understated yet majestic solemnity and a soundtrack waiting to be plucked by the assiduous film maker (who would be well advise to shoot in monochrome over sepia). For that matter it wouldn’t sound out of place and indeed would probably enhance series quintillion of Game Of Thrones.

‘The Return’ barges in courtesy of somewhat more allegro Sunn 0))) style riffing – welcome to the powerdrone. It evolves into something akin to an epic Celtic soundscape redolent of Alan Stivell stirred in with the theme to Last Of The Mohicans. ‘Smile’ and ‘Apricot Delight’ throb and pulse as though to the seesawing motion of a tall ship’s masts and timbers on a relentless ocean, and, on the former, the sea soaring of a bird as it takes flight. Which brings us to ‘Stars’, as it strays ever so slightly onto Albatross territory, all hanging notes and a uniform interplay between guitar and violin. You can see how these two bagged the gig with Terry Riley recently. In fact if you ever get a chance to see them live then grab it with both hands (we would of course recommend Woolf II on the weekend of 8/9 June 2019). The cathartic ‘Foe’ features Max’s spoken vocal, an eerie presence locked into a squall of Mawdsley guitars and which is already pencilled in for the next Terrascope playlist. This comparatively blustery shower just melts away on the vaguely Sino-sounding ‘Summer Snow’, as delicate as the rare meteorological phenomenon it describes, yet still utterly absorbing. In an otherwise increasingly tempestuous world where it seems we are all at ever greater risk of being cast adrift on seas of turbulence there will always be room for these two in my lifeboat.

(Ian Fraser)

 

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KIKAGAKU MOYO – MASANA TEMPLES
(LP/CD/DL on Guruguru Brain Records)
 
Kikagaku Moyo is one of the most beloved and adventurous psychedelic bands around.  While they started in 2012 doing fairly conventional psych rock, they quickly started musically exploring, and broadening their palate wider with each new release, never afraid to get weirder and I mean that in the most complimentary way.  With new album Masana Temples, the band seems to be taking stock of their journeys, both inner and outer, and putting it all together.

Some have called Masana Temples Kikagaku Moyo’s most accessible album yet, and I don’t disagree.  But don’t quite expect them to start dominating the dance pop charts.  This is still very much a psychedelic band, one who’s at the top of their craft.  The band went to Portugal to work on the album with jazz musician and producer Bruno Pernadas, and it turned out to be a brilliant move.  You can hear influences such as Beautify Junkyards and Tropicalia along with the other myriad styles on the album.

Lead track “Entrance” is a worldly (other worldly?) sitar piece.  If it sounds like actual expert sitar playing from India rather than a psych band messing around with one there’s good reason:  Ryu Kurosawa studied the instrument in Kolkata, India under sitar masters.

This leads us to the eclectic, stupendous “Dripping Sun.”  Beginning with Kotsu Guy’s bubbling bass, the song transitions to a wah-wah and fuzz-infused section, before pulling up quietly for Go Kurosawa’s trademark laid-back vocals.  Whether surrounded by a rocking cacophony or a babbling brook, Go’s vocals always seem to say, “shhh, listen to this.”  The song transitions again to a section probably inspired by Pernadas, one of several on the album to remind me of a drugged-out version of composer Antonio Carlos Jobim.  Another transition and we’re rocking to a guitar freak-out!   Then it goes one more time back to Go’s chill vocals.  Kikagaku Moyo are masters of light and shade and “Dripping Sun” is Exhibit A.

“Nazo Nazo” returns us to a Japanese feel, with some nice guitar work towards the end.  “Fluffy Kosmisch” employs a motorik groove that gives way to a spiffy rock freak-out to round out the track.  It’s the kind of changeup a band like Dungen would throw at you.

On “Majupose” the genre-hopping continues back to Tropicalia influences, which only grow further on “Nana,” with an incessant beat that segues into the rockingest sitar solo you ever heard.  Wonder if Ryu Kurosawa learned that in India.

“Orange Peel” is delightfully woozy, another Jobim-like number, with wobbly synths and guitars, and a vibraphone solo.  Rather makes you feel like you’re in a long car ride in the rain, right up to the thunderstorm sound effects at the end that segue into the lovely, (too) short instrumental “Amayadori.”  Its rain sounds, acoustic guitars, cello, bells and Japanese style melody take you right into a rainy Japanese garden.

Remember that bit about light and shade?  Turns out they were just setting us up for “Gatherings,” which explodes out of the speakers with distorted guitar glee.  Can we rewind that and do that transition again?  “Gatherings” is another tour de force like the earlier “Dripping Sun.”  With elements of Wooden Shjips, the song establishes a hypnotic rhythm, then gathers momentum and sledgehammers you over the head with heavy guitar rock as the rhythmic journey continues.  I tell you we’re in the hands of masters here.

Wrapper-upper “Blanket Song” continues the light and shade, returning us to an acoustic piece, really a coda, seemingly a left-off track from Led Zeppelin III.

I read one complaint that Kikagaku Moyo doesn’t “cut loose” enough on Masana Temples.  Anyone who thinks that clearly doesn’t get this band.  Masana Temples is Kikagaku Moyo’s most fully-realized album, a road trip through many continents, moods, seasons and musical styles, and the quality never lets up.  It’s their finest record yet.

(Mark Feingold)

 

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RYAN CROSBY BAND – RIVER MUSIC
(CRLP003 300 x limited edition coloured vinyl copies from www.cosirecords.bandcamp.com )

Ryan plays the electric slide guitar, 22 string Chaterangui, bass, harmounium and vocals and is accompanied here by Koushik Chakrabarty-tabla, Philip Kaplan-gui’tarode, Danny Mekonnen-tenor saxophone, Jay Sheffler-harmonica and Grant Smith-calabash and percussion.  This is Ryan’s fifth album, beginning his career in 2005 with a cassette on which he was backed by ‘The Instances’, he then had a self titled album in 2012 on the small Comforter Music record label, followed by a couple of releases on the Jellyfant label, before being picked up for this release by the German label Cosi Records.

Ryan has studied electric 12 string blues guitar and indeed plays folk/country blues in fine style, but, and this is the thing that really elevates the music on this beautifully recorded album, he invests this template with a fat dollop of Indian ragas, with open string tunings and tablas. The songs all have plenty of gutsy harmonica and excellent percussion, the electric twelve string blues ring out with single string melodies, he also has a slightly old-timey quality to his singing.

Ryan has been inspired by African and Indian musicians, like Ali Farka Touré and Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya. These influences are keenly felt, and as such have invested these country folk/blues with desert rhythms and Indian ragas.  The songs sing out with a clarity and determination that work so well, the album should be listened to as a complete piece.  The title track is in itself magnificent, driven along by tabla and harmonica with Ryan’s guitar ringing out, the press release says “It’s like Jerry Garcia, Charlie Musselwhite and Ravi Shanker, having a relaxed jam session on some shadowed patio, somewhere in Mumbai”.  I would also add that in places I’m reminded of the sorely missed slide guitar maestro Bob Brozman and the relaxed singing style of Geoff Muldaur. This is an excellent album, that I’m also pleased is available on vinyl, as it sounds particularly great in this format.

(Andrew Young)

 

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D.ROTHON - NIGHTSCAPES
DL/Vinyl Turquoise blue 500 copies on Clay Pipe wwwclaypipemusic.co.uk

David Rothon is a musician from south east London who has been involved in a number of projects over the years, from playing pedal steel guitar for the likes of The See See, The Hanging Stars and he has been an integral part of Redlands Palomino Co, to a collaboration with Ian Masters of The Pale Saints and Cloudier Skies with Claudia Barton. Although he does play some pedal steel guitar on this album it’s not really featured that prominently. The record is informed by that period in the middle of the night when insomnia takes hold, when all around is sleeping, this is a nocturnal journey into the hours before dusk and dawn. With a palette of Mellotron, cor anglais, Omnichord, strings and pedal steel, Nightscapes is an otherworldly ambient record, which in keeping with most of the fine records from Clay Pipe, is also informed by field recordings. The record really works best when listened to as a whole, with each track complimenting one another throughout. The album starts with peels of ambient pedal steel introducing ‘The Midnight Bell/I Have Been Here Before’. This is swiftly joined by ghostly narration and Omnichord.  ‘And Breathe’ is a heavenly trip into exotica, highly melodic with some faintly disturbing electronic percussion. ‘Waldeinsamkeit’ is a highly evocative tune, it’s like some distantly remembered TV theme, delivered via cor anglais, guitar and strings. ‘The Bus That Never Came, The Train That Never Left’ is full of crepuscular Mellotron, cloaking the track, adding barely there percussion and swirling strings, to a tune that is reminiscent of a woozy ‘All Of Me’.  ‘Lonesome Depot’ a verdant, dripping, ghostly tune, redolent with plangent peels of steel and electronics, it’s lonesome, cold and wet. ‘The years That Fall Away’ sees piano, vibes, keyboards and percussion, creating another wonderful slice of off kilter exotica. ‘In These Quiet Streets’ pacing footsteps of unfulfilled sleep, to a tune delivered via cor anglais, keys and ambience is again quite cinematic. ‘Straight On Till Morning’ briefly highlights his pedal steel, but quickly yields to a tune of woozy Mellotron, Omnichord and sparse percussion. ‘Unwoken City’ gradually coalesces into a drifting, dreamy piece of ambient music; a wash of otherworldly sounds envelops the listener, dragging them down into sleep. The record ends with ‘Mello Toning’ a melodic tune of Mellotron, pedal steel, keyboards, and gentle percussion. Another winner from Clay Pipe, it’s not released until early in December, but I am reviewing it early to give you all the chance of getting a copy before it inevitably sells out. 

(Andrew Young)

 

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KINSKI – ACCUSTOMED TO YOUR FACE
(Kill Rock Stars www.kinskiseattle.bandcamp.com )

Seattle band Kinski are now approaching their twentieth year as a band and return with their fourteenth long player, having been on Sub Pop for most of the noughties and Kill Rock Stars for most of this decade. Along the way they also recorded a few 7” for labels such as The great pop Supplement, Trensmat and God Unknown among others, and appeared at several Terrastock festivals having been invited by Phil, who remains a big fan of theirs. They have also collaborated with Acid Mothers Temple and released split singles with Bardo Pond and more recently with Kikagaku Moyo.
 
The record starts with the knowing ‘Fun Couple’ before the short sharp punch of ‘Guest Girl Vocalist’.  ‘Kinski 101’ is an instrumental blast of chugging, angular rock, with a couple of short succinct guitar solos. ‘This Is the Weekend We Take the House Apart’ is pure classic indie rock, almost catchy, imbued with some molten lead guitar breaks in a couple of places.  ‘There Goes Hot Stamper’ is another fairly short, but heavy, fuzztastic punk-rock song. ‘Riff MOM’ is more instrumental riff laden indie rock. Things then settle down a bit, for the seven plus minute instrumental song ‘A Nap Is a Slice of the World’, more layers of rhythmic guitars, bass and drums locking together as one, weaving cool patterns. The record ends with ‘That’s the Way I See the City’ providing a nice instrumental conclusion to the album, which has been produced by Trans Am’s Phil Manly, a song on which he plays Ebow and tremolo guitar.  It also has a little bit of muted trumpet played by Greg Kelley.

(Andrew Young)

 

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KEIRON PHELAN – PEACE SIGNS
(Gare du Nord CD/DL www. garedunordrecords.co.uk )

Keiron has quite a lengthy recording career, recording albums for the likes of Rocket Girl, Leaf, Static Caravan, Rural Colours and Second Language to name a few. He was a member of State Widening River and Littlebow, was one half of Phelan Sheppard, and more recently has produced a couple of albums as a principle member of Anglo Japanese outfit Smile Down Upon Us. As far as I can see most of these projects have been instrumental, Moom Looo was the main vocalist in Smile Down Upon Us, so it was a big surprise to find out that on this album Keiron has for all intents and purposes produced a singer songwriter album, and what a fantastic album it is.  Full of humour and excellent musicianship,  Keiron has surrounded himself with some of the cream of London’s players, It was recorded at Soup studios by Giles Barnett and Simon Trought.

‘New Swedish Fiction’ introduces the album, Keiron’s voice reminds me a little of Edwyn Collins, the song is enlivened by his flute playing and by some beautiful harp played by Brona McVittie. The title track ‘Peace Signs’ features, as do most of the songs, the fine piano of Jenny Brand, sympathetic drums by Ian Button, and bass by co-producer Giles Barrett. It also has a touch of violin by Jack Hayter. ‘Satellite Hitori’ up next sounds like the stuff he came up with in Smile Down Upon Us, a jaunty, sprightly song, its lyrics speak of a truculent, uncommunicative satellite, it has organ by James Stringer, a touch of Oscilator by Oliver Cherer and more lovely harp. Most of the songs feature Keiron’s fine flute playing. ‘Song For Ziggy’ features clarinet by Jenny Brand and whistling from Simon Trought, it’s an infectious song, as light as a soufflé, Jack Hayter adds some pedal steel and the whole thing is just delightful.

‘Mother To Daughter Poem’ features vocals by Angele David-Guilou, and some interesting percussion by David Sheppard, more harp, whistling, clarinet and organ.
‘Apple Shades’ is a wistful chamber/folk song, with oodles of clavinet and clarinet swirling around each other. ‘My Children Just The Same’ ups the tempo, it also features a pretty violin refrain. ‘Ain’t She Grown?’ is a beautiful folk rock song about how quickly time has flown by, it also has some fine pedal steel guitar, stately piano and is pretty much perfect. ‘Country Song’ almost instrumental, is a fine, pastoral tune, all the instruments given room to shine, particularly flute, harp and pedal steel. ’Hippy Priest’ is a knowing, humour filled song, it has some great lyrics, taking in along the way, The Piltdown Man, Desperate Dan, The Klu Klux Klan and Telegram Sam. This staggeringly good record ends with ‘Canterbury’ a Chauceresque mystical song, with all the musicians complimenting each other throughout. It is without doubt, one of the finest albums that I’ve heard this year and I’ve heard quite a few.  

(Andrew Young)

 

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KRIS GIETKOWSKI – SYMMETRIC COMMUNICATION
(LP/CD on Strange Fish Records)

Polish multi-instrumentalist Kris Gietkowski was rescued from YouTube obscurity by Fruits de Mer Records when a smitten Keith Jones chanced upon his solo interpretations of tracks from the 1970 debut album by Egg. A very fine album of Egg material followed on the Fruits de Mer ‘Strange Fish’ imprint with a further limited run release where the material covered expanded to embrace Atomic Rooster and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. That’s perhaps not a career path embraced by many except the very brave but the results so far are very definitely worth the risk.

‘Symmetric Communication’ breaks the mould by including original compositions alongside a cover of Egg’s ‘A Visit To Newport Hospital’ (from their second album ‘The Polite Force’) on a 3 track vinyl release, expanded to 4 tracks on CD. In the good old ‘prog rock’ tradition the four tracks on this release are not concise with the shortest track clocking in at over 8 minutes but they provide the space for some imaginative and diverse instrumental adventures which come together in a cohesive and well put together set. This is predominantly a keyboard driven record but that’s not to underplay Kris’s general skills on other instruments and like other one man bands such as Todd Rundgren for example, he plays the entire supporting cast more than adequately.

The record starts with F(x), an almost 20 minute three part suite that in many ways defines the scope and ambition of the album. This is a record grounded in well chosen classic progressive influences but also more modern references. The former is found in the spiralling repetitions, dramatic riffs and complex time signatures defining Van Der Graaf Generator and the classically influenced organ sound of early ELP blending skilfully with Canterbury vibes and touches of pastoral psychedelia and even hints of jazz fusion and church music. There are also enjoyable moments of what can I can only describe as ‘electro-psych’ or ‘lounge prog’ which would not be out of place on Stereolab or High Llamas records. The aforementioned Egg cover and ‘Divided By Zero’, another original composition complete the vinyl release (with bonus track ‘I’m Afraid I Can’t Do That Dave’ on the CD version) and they perfectly complement the theme set by the opening track i.e. changing time signatures, memorable riffs and elegant melodies skilfully brought together in long form tracks that don’t outstay their welcome.

Kris’s skill on this record is to imbue a real sense of respect for his influences whilst avoiding simple pastiche, clearly having fun and adding his own musical personality to the mix. It’s part mad professor but also an intelligent, complex and yet melodic record that successfully straddles musical generations and the result is a really enjoyable listen. Seek this out and enjoy a time warp with a modern twist.
(Francis Comyn)

 

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DEAD SEA APES & ADAM STONE – WARHEADS
(LP/CD on Cardinal Fuzz Records)

When I heard that Dead Sea Apes were going to release a collaborative album with writer and artist Adam Stone I was certainly curious about how that might sound. ‘Warheads’ certainly paints a bleak, downbeat, sometimes angry and often dystopian picture of the world through the eyes and words of Adam Stone but not without a fertile imagination and a dry deadpan wit which comes through in the lyrics and monologues that Dead Sea Apes provide a fascinating and effective soundtrack to.

‘Inside of Me’ kicks off the record in grand style with a picked guitar melody drenched in sixties pysch surf and TV thriller atmosphere that paves the way for a short and punchy garage punk song with Adam Stone’s John Lydon/Jello Biafra like vocal generating an added boost of urgency and edge. ‘Reduced to Zero’ follows and at almost 11 minutes in length is very much like a variation on The Doors more out there versions of ‘The End’. It performs a sharp U-turn in musical and vocal style starting as a slow building spacey eastern tinged psychedelia with atmospheric percussion, guitars and drones over which the almost spoken vocals slowly grow in passion and intensity to an echo drenched shout matched perfectly by the swelling energy and emotion of the guitar and drums. It’s a quite spectacular track that is followed by another lengthy epic in ‘Retreat To Your Bunker’ which has an insistent electronic almost industrial groove, driving repetitive beat and nagging vocal that could easily come from The Fall’s top drawer. If Mark E. Smith and Robert Calvert sat down over a pint or three to chat about the state of the universe it might well sound something like these long but captivating tracks which may not contain much in the way of sunshine and joy but nonetheless are good for the soul.  ‘(You Are) Doing What You Want (All Of The Time)’ returns to a heavier garage rock sound with a psychedelic edge and with the howling Lydon/Biafra vocal reappearing to great effect. ‘Broken In Two’ is different again with electronic pulses and waves of synth and guitar bringing a new soundscape to the record that once again provides a great match for Adam Stone’s intense and bleak observations. ‘Yes/No’ is powered by a heavy and doom laden riff that has touches of shoegaze and grunge guitar from the nineties with a distinctly metallic edge. The final track ‘Power To The People’ again starts out with electronic pulses and waves of guitar and synths over which an incredibly John Cooper Clarke like vocal dispenses a final serving of finely tuned pessimism and weary wisdom.

I really like this record and its diversity of musical styles and influences which make what could have been a difficult and awkward record very listenable, often gripping and definitely accessible. It’s a great addition to the Dead Sea Apes canon albeit one which was unexpected. Pessimism and grim reality can be entertaining and here’s a masterclass in how to do it.
(Francis Comyn)

 

 

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 ISRAEL NASH - LIFTED
(LP/CD/DL on Loose Music)
 
Israel Nash’s fifth album came out mid-summer and I’ve had it on repeat ever since.  “File Under Hippie Spiritual” says a tiny note on the cover.  Hmmm.  Operating out of a sprawling ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas, Nash embodies Lifted with glorious melodies and musical grandeur on an epic scale, but there’s one thing that ultimately pulls me in more than anything else:  It has a Big.  Fat.  Lush.  Honkin’.  Shiny.   1970s Production that you just don’t hear any more.

To say Nash piles layers of instruments and voices high and applies a liberal dose of reverb throughout is a bit like saying dogs slightly like to ride in cars with the windows rolled down. The songs evoke widescreen imaginings of vistas of rolling hills, gushing rivers, desert prairies and big skies, bigger than all get out.  The melodies are deceptively simple, the kind you take to the moment the song starts.  He writes of nature, individuality and imbues his songs with a strong sense of pathos.

The blend of his unique voice and the wall of sound kind of makes me think somewhat of Gregg Allman fronting 'All Things Must Pass'.  Indeed, Nash name checks All Things Must Pass on “Strong Was the Night,” whose melody also reminds me a little of the Allmans’ “Sweet Melissa.”  Other influences you’ll hear are Neil Young, Jonathan Wilson, and a dash of Brian Wilson circa ‘66.  But oh, that production.  The analogue sound soars from the Texas prairie to Laurel Canyon and back.  Co-producer and engineer Ted Young deserves all kinds of credit, as do musicians Joey McClellan (guitar), Aaron McClellan (bass), Eric Swanson (pedal steel), and Josh Gleishmann (drums), plus Jesse Chandler (arrangements), members of Grupo Fantasma (horns), and Kelsey Wilson and Sadie Wolf (strings).

Choosing highlights is next to impossible here; there are just too many.  “Looking Glass,” “SpiritFalls,” “Northwest Stars (Out of Tacoma),” “Hillsides,” “The Widow,” and the aforementioned “Strong Was the Night” are all out of this world, widescreen cinematic paeans to greats past and the present, and a world of possibilities.

'Lifted' is my #1 album of the year.  Masterful.  Go out and get ya some.

(Mark Feingold)

 
 

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ENVIRONMENTS, VOLS. 1-11

(DL, App on Numero Group)

 

Between 1969 and 1979 a unique mastermind named Irv Teibel single-handedly recorded, produced and issued 11 albums of natural sounds.  The albums sold millions to a stressed-out world.  Part artist, part sound engineer, and part huckster, Teibel started an industry that continues to this day in a multitude of forms.  When our family used to travel with our then-small children, we brought a white noise machine that simulated sounds of the surf, or rainfall, to help them fall asleep.  That’s Teibel’s legacy.  Whether it’s cassettes in a gift shop, humpback whale recordings, waterfall machines in catalogues, dentist’s offices – you name it – Teibel knew he had something back in the late 60s and it continues to this day.  The original environments albums were and still are the best of the genre.  They sold millions back in the day.  But after being long out of print, the albums have all been re-released.  You can find them on the major streaming services, and Numero Group has even created an app where you can mix and match things like “The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore” and “Ultimate Thunderstorm.”

 

I say they’re the best because Teibel painstakingly recorded his found sounds, then meticulously processed and mixed them for effect, essentially dialing them up to 11.  I must say they sound remarkable.

 

In 1968 Irv Teibel went to Coney Island on assignment to record the sound of the surf for a film soundtrack with an Uher portable stereo reel-to-reel and an assortment of microphones and cables.  He found the results captivating.  However, he wasn’t satisfied the with the overall result.  A friend later turned him on to one Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz, a 19th century German physician and physicist, who believed that the sounds of nature such as the wind and the sea “might have great psychological benefits, if only some means of accurate reproduction could be found.”  Teibel would spend the next year traveling up and down the eastern seaboard, making 100 recordings of the sea, none of which satisfied him.  He took his original Coney Island recording to a friend named Louis Gerstman, who worked at Bell Labs, and had access to an IBM 360 computer, an astonishing piece of hardware in 1968.  Working together for days, running the recording through the computer, making tweaks and adjustments, and adding delays and overdubs, Voila, they produced Teibel’s “Psychologically Ultimate Seashore,” to be released in 1969 as Side 1 of environments 1.  Side 2 would be recorded in the Bronx Zoo, called “Optimum Aviary.”  The album was an immediate hit.  An industry was born.

 

Teibel would garnish his record sleeves and press releases with claims such as “HAVEN’T FELT SO GOOD SINCE MY VACATION, BETTER THAN A TRANQUILIZER,” as well as boasts that the series would improve reading speed and comprehension, improve appetites, make hypertension vanish, improve students’ grades, and noted that the “effect on the esthetics of lovemaking is truly remarkable.”

 

Subsequent releases would include titles like “Gentle Rain in a Pine Forest,” “Wind in the Trees,” “Dawn in the Okefenokee Swamp,” (where fortunately Teibel’s Scottish Terrier was trained enough to not howl when threatened by an alligator), “Summer Cornfield,” “Caribbean Lagoon,” “English Meadow,” and “Alpine Blizzard.”

 

Teibel would advance in technological sophistication with the times as well.  For “Wood-Masted Sailboat,” (environments 8, 1974), he filled 24 tracks, including seagulls from the Virginia shore, bell buoys from the Long Island Sound, a creaking mast, and an old chronometer from a clock shop in Manhattan.

 

So how does it all sound?  Incredible, I think.  I thought that it would be like watching, er, listening to paint dry, or “Furniture Music” in the words of Erik Satie.  But when I took it out for a drive about town, with four speakers emanating hyper-waterfalls, crickets, seashores, and thunderstorms in surround sound, I found it to be the most relaxing drive of my life!  The sounds are at once alive and vibrant, and you’re right there in the middle of it all.  It’s definitely not wallpaper to forget in the background.

 

As for how to listen to it, you can do it any way you like, but since most of the tracks are at least 30 minutes, my preference is to use the streaming service or the app to create a playlist.  Then you can advance the track in less than the full duration to another one.  You can arrange it by the hours of the day, or shift back and forth between the various water-based tracks and land-based ones.  It’s your thing, do what you want to do, as the Isely Brothers said.  (And I can’t tell you who to sock it to – just had to get that in).

 

Ironically, Irv Teibel went out into the middle of nature with his microphone so you could shut the world out, and it works.  The environments series is like nature in audio High Definition.  You may want to jump in that ocean or grab an umbrella in that thunderstorm.

 

(Mark Feingold)