=  SEPTEMBER 2005 =

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Written by: Folk Comp
  The Dreadful Yawns
Simon Lewis (Editor) Vocokesh
Jesse W. Poe Testface

Phil McMullen

All Tomorrows Party

Mats Gustafsson


Lee Jackson


Jeff Penczak





(CD on Last Visible Dog http://www.lastvisibledog.com/  )


It takes a certain kind of label to release a massive triple CD set with a relatively unknown Finnish experimentalist. Providence, RI-based Last Visible Dog is such a label and I love them for that very reason. That pretty much every single thing they choose to put out is sonically amazing is almost beside the point. What’s important is that there are no visible or invisible barriers, no restrictions about Last Visible Dog, just passion for peripheral sounds and a willingness to spread the gospel about artists that are incredibly talented but somehow remains criminally overlooked. All this is very much the case with Uton, the home for Jani Hirvonen’s solo music. Whispers from the Woods is despite its magnitude, a perfect introduction to this overlooked sound champion as it beautifully displays the different aspects and sides of his solemn but somewhat claustrophobic drones, meandering electronic soundscapes, clattery rhythms and plucked acoustic instrumentation.

    This collection contains everything from ‘Taman Ganan Jalkeen’ (CD-R released on Haamumaa in 2002), all of ‘Mika Kasvaa Maan Gisalla’ (CD-R released on Hammasratas in 2003), all of the Jewelled Antler-released ‘Ay Um Au Lam,’ five rare compilation tracks and six previously unreleased tracks. Over the span of more than three hours of recordings Uton turns on a pretty fantastic ancient drone machine that conjures spacious yet occasionally harsh sounds, which land somewhere between the thermal pools of southern New Zealand and the Finnish woodlands. Hirvonen doesn’t turn the machine off until your mind is transported to down under, or at least to some sort of unknown and mysterious realm.  In its best moments this is just as good as the crown jewels from Flies Inside the Sun's repertoire and its various off-shots, but you’re as likely to hear Coil or the organic sound textures of some of the early Krautrock explorers when listening to this. Vibracathedral Orchestra-like droning strings wrestle with minimal guitar scratchings and flutes, and although remaining on the difficult side of fringe music, this still works like balsam for the warped mind, and its organic qualities are as mesmerizing as they are surprising. (Mats Gustafsson)



Various Artists - Folk Is Not A Four Letter Word 

(CD on Delay 68 Records http://www.delay68records.co.uk/ )


There are some 4000 four-letter words in the English language, and yet not even half of them are BAD. Yet, I remember being a kid in school and the teachers breaking our balls over using four-letter words, “Boys watch the four letter words!” being a cunning linguist little shit head, since I liked books better than the tube, I used to always get the eyebrow with smart ass retorts like, “like love, or like, or like math!” I have grown up a bit since then, just turned 30 in fact, and as if a nice happy 30th Andy Vote drops this amazing collection of obscure folk, this is not your mom’s apron string back door folk obscurities but dope beat oriented folk that has a groove and soul and yet all the laid back acoustic warmth of what we love in folk. Funny how most of our over used (even by myself) cuss words are four letters; made me stop and think, you know some of my favorite words are only four letters even my favorite English collocation consists of a pair of four letter words “FISH TACO”, but four letter words are great like: Afro, Aloe (especially when you got a sun burn), babe, ACDC (earlier period only), beer, boob, cake, cope, come, cure, cusp, Dune, dusk, ears, Eros, fawn, foxy, gala, gale, gift, gigs (never enough good ones), gone (for a pint), hook, howl, hugs, Iris, Juju, Kali, Leos (like me), lips, luck, milk, moan, mojo, naps, racy, raga, rock (especially the over the top kind or the really druggy kind), sale, sexy, shag, taco, tits, toke, tush, twat, vibe, vows, warm, wine (preferably red), wink, yawn, Yoda (and his lovely syntactically broken sack of rehashed Joseph Campbell lectures), yoga, and zeal.

    It is from a lexical set like this that Twisted Nerve's Andy Vote, who refers to this collection as “a flock of unsung songbirds”, picked these sixteen songs from relative obscurity. They are obsessively and lovingly curated along with enthusiastic and illuminating liner notes. But what really matters here are the songs, which are just stellar! I mean he must have had at least a couple four letters stuck in his head when he picked these songs cause beat, weed, deep cuts and damn good would suffice to describe the kind and quality of this folk collection.

    This is the kind of folk I remember my folks playing when I was a kid, the Pentangle kind of folk, but not just that, more like those great cuts from non-folk bands that just happened to play some sort of hybrid folk song on one of their records, like Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” or Cactus “Song for Aries” or Amon Duul II “Sandoz In The Rain (Improvisation)” or the instrumental on Les Sinners “Sinners” record, that kind of stuff. The kind of song you’d buy a whole record just to get, and here is a whole album of just these kind of folky jam gems. Words to remove from your head would be Grateful Dead, sorry if I conjured that with folky jam, I mean Anthem of the Sun and a hand full of their songs are fantastic, and I might go to the mat for them, but it is not that kind of thing, this is even better. This is like a mix tape made by your older brother’s cool girlfriend made circa 1970 after her year abroad, stuff you wish you had always known about. Other words to remove in the four letter vein in regards to this record (and in general) would be:  Abba, ACDC (latter period), acne, army, cats (only cause I’m allergic to them), cold, doom, dues, envy, fuss, frat, gawk, gnat, gone, guns, nuke, pain, pimp, runs, snot, ugly, woes, yack, zero, zoos, just to name a few.  (Jesse Poe)




(CD on Bomp! www.bomprecords.com )


Try and ignore, if you can, the off-putting band-name – a “joke” which I assume is based on what in certain parts of America today passes for irony – and give this quartet’s second album a listen, because it’s one that repays repeated listenings, and moreover an album gets better and better as the album unfolds.

The Yawns aren’t doing anything startlingly original; theirs is a sound that’s been well-defined and well-loved for nigh-on 40 years now, and one which has been faithfully reinvented on a regular basis ever since. Take three parts Buffalo Springfield and a dash of the Byrds, distil some of the same ideas that Fairport Convention toyed with in their early years, and take a leaf out of the Long Ryders and latterly Uncle Tupelo’s book: jangling 12-strings, countrified Telecasters, harmonies, harmonicas, melodic bass and tub-thumping drums.

 The Dreadful Yawns also though write singularly fine, memorable songs, wisely opening with one of the best: ‘You Sold the Farm’, which even has the quavering Neil Young plaintiveness off pat in the vocals department – ‘Part of Your Past’ later on in the collection is even more of a faithful homage. For a while after that the collection hovers between sounding like the Byrds circa ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ and any Buffalo Springfield album you’d care to mention (neither of which is necessarily a bad thing; ‘Back in the Ground’ would be a classic song wherever it hailed from), and then on what I suppose would normally be the second side of the album, track 8 onwards, the experimentation begins to kick in: ‘Get Straight’ comes across like a variation on ‘Thoughts & Words’ (from the Byrds’ own ‘Revolver’, ‘Younger Than Yesterday’); ‘There’s No Place Like Home’ sounds like it might’ve found a place it could call home on Crosby’s ‘If Only I Could Remember My Name’ – and what’s for me the absolute pinnacle of the album, ‘The People and The Sky’, goes places in it’s eighteen sprawling minutes of psychedelic, effects-laden mayhem that few American country-rock outfits since the Grateful Dead have dared to go. I suggest you follow them; this band has “class” stamped all the way through it… (Phil McMullen)




(CD on Strange Attractors Audio House http://www.strange-attractors.com/)


Before Stereolab or Bardo Pond suggested that the Krautrock of yesterday (or should I say tomorrow) was ripe inspiration for the sonic catharses of today, Richard Franecki shown the way with Milwaukee’s F/I, an interstellar steamroller that compressed the overlap between Komische headspace, industrial grime and garage rock into one bludgeoning reverberated mass. 

    When the rest of F/I suggested exploring a more accessible sound around 1990, Franecki responded with a firm “hell no!” and quickly reemerged with the visceral space/improve squid monster that is Vocokesh.

    “Through the Smoke,” the 5th Vocokesh album in 15 years, delivers seven more vibrant offerings to the Krautrock gods that range from feverish trance improv, “Vibe #6”--balanced brilliantly between spacious meditation and head-banging power chords--to fully dusted heavy psych blowouts (“12 Monkeys,” “New Cropcircle Boogie”). 

    The epic title track pushes the envelope even further with deep electro-industrial swells that build into endless acid solo eruptions in the Ash Ra Tempel vein.  The ensemble is swimming in some seriously uberstoned currents at this point; ditto the equally involved “Sunday Afternoon,” whose plodding rhythms and distended leads weave a shimmering sound bath of cosmic translucence over 16 minutes. 

    “Through the Smoke” will appeal to anyone digging on the heavier side of the psychedelic spectrum today with propulsive, tight musicianship that collapses into the most prismatic sonic constellations only to precisely recombine once again.  Whether anyone’s actually paying attention or not, Vocokesh remains America’s premier space/psych exponents. (Lee Jackson)




(CD on Sleepsound)


    Testface is Oregon (by way of New Hampshire) multi-instrumentalist, David Snider, who lassoed some friends to provide drums and keyboards and coaxed label heads (and Armored Frogmen), George Ayers and Jake Baker to provide synths on this, his sophomore CD (following several years’ worth of cassette-only releases). The festive air is apparent right from the start as opener ‘All The Glass Prayers’ begins with found sound specialist Brian Mumford and Snider playing with squeaky toys while Derek Trost types away (literally) in the background. Snider’s droning omni-chord wrestles the song into a sweet, flowing dreamscape, highlighed by his  twangy Roger Waters-meets-Dean Wareham vocals. In fact, Luna’s influence is readily apparent here and throughout the wonderful disk. The jaunty ‘Sounds Don’t Come Around Here’ demonstrates Snider’s flair for surreal lyrics, a la both Wareham and Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum, although Snider’s tunes are more focused and accessible than your typical Elephant 6 magnum-cum-oafus.


    The multifaceted Snider even has a hint of Steven Kilbey in his vocal inflections for ‘Go Calligraphers,’ an introspective ballad with more than a hint of Church-like rural psychedelia wafting about. An olde tyme Carney atmosphere courtesy Alexis Stevens’ warped, distorted piano forms a brief musical interlude on ‘Till the Sun Breaks Down,’ although her ‘Blood,’ the only non-Snider composition here, tends to meander and lost me about halfway through the plot.


    A lyric from ‘Hold On Merry-Go-Round’ provides the disk with its title – the song itself is a very sparse, lo-fi, backporch sleeper that will appeal to fans of loner/stoner folk/psych artists such as Six Organs of Admittance, Songs:Ohia or Salamander frontman, Sean Connaughty’s recent solo effort, ‘Five Hands Tall’ that we reviewed here in April. ‘Picture Picture’ wraps the melody from John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’ in more surreal lyrics and tacks on an extended glockenspiel and vibes coda for a quirky, perky pop confection. And I don’t mean to make too much of the Dean Wareham references, but just close your eyes and listen to ‘Kings Castle’ and tell me that doesn’t sound like an outtake from the Luna leader’s inevitably forthcoming solo album!


    Hot on the heels of excellent releases from The Fast Computers and Armored Frog, ‘Doctor Won’t You Get Us To Dawn’ solidifies Sleepsound’s position as one of the labels of the year, whose future releases should all be worthy of your attention. There’s much to like here for fans of any of the artists mentioned in particular, and rural, folky psychedelia in general. And collectors of the highly-prized Australian label Camera Obscura may also want to sit up and take notice, particularly fans of their solo releases by the likes of Patrick Porter, Scott Smith (aka Lifesmyth), Brandon Siscoe (aka Ink Puddle Compound), and Donovan Quinn (aka Verdure). (Jeff Penczak)




(CD on Alive Records naturalsound@alive-totalenergy.com )


    Wow, must be my lucky day, its not very often that an album made by a Japanese power trio falls through the door. Even luckier is the fact that they sound like a perfect cross between Mudhoney, The Velvets, Teenage Fanclub, Sonic Youth, and The Beatles (albeit buried under thick layers of glorious fuzz) and they are bloody good to boot. Opening with a flourish “Sympathy for The Junkies” is a glorious wall of noise and melody, sounding like the gathering of storm clouds as the band slowly build the sonic tension, the speakers crackling with angry electricity, before “love Can Bring You Down” opens the floodgates with a demented riff straight from the songbook of Husker Du. Next up “Light Of Love” is all early Mudhoney and dripping with feedback before the band softens the edges with the sixties influenced “In Shade Of Blue”.

    Led by guitarist/vocalist Tetsuro Kitame, All Tomorrow’s Party have been together two years and obviously have a varied and excellent range of influences, which they put to good use throughout this shimmering debut album, that exhibits all the passion and power that made us fall in love with rock’n’ roll in the first place.

    By the time “Cracked” seduces and hypnotises us with its liquid, bass- heavy groove we are totally hooked, happily swimming in a sea of sound, and oblivious to the world outside. Here the band sound like Sonic Youth jamming with The Stone Roses, creating a fine slice of psychedelia, timeless in it’s melancholy flow, and from here on in the band own your soul, toying with your emotions and plying your body with a musical fix rarely found in so pure a form. Further into the album “As Tears Go By” has little to do with Marianne Faithfull and everything to do with a perfect song, before the band head straight for the jugular again with frantic pace of “Bad Bee Says” which is primitive rock’n’roll at its most sublime. Finally “The Night Porter” leads us home with a tumbling riff that echoes the precision of Cans’ finest work and reminds why this album is called “Yoo Doo Right Yoo Doo Slide”.

    Music this passionate and memorable comes around but rarely, I suggest you grab a slice of the cake and have yourself a real good time. (Simon  Lewis)