=  September 2009  =

Quick Links


Written by:

Adrian Shaw and Rod Goodway


Earthling Society

Simon Lewis (Editor)

Aqua Nebula Oscillator

Phil McMullen

Current 93

Ian Fraser

Jeff Penczak The Future Kings of England
  Kath Bloom Tribute
  Up All Night comp



( LP / CD from Greatest Hits Records)


It used to be the case that some records were undeniable “growers”. You’d get them home and play them and find yourself by half-way through side 2 drifting away to wash some coal or iron a newspaper, or whatever it was that people did in olden times (I wouldn’t know, obviously). The next day you’d find yourself humming a tune which you can’t quite remember hearing before. On goes the record again and suddenly you hear that tune. And the next song rings a bell, as well. Before you know it, a week or so has passed and you think it’s not only the greatest album the band’s ever made but possibly the only record you’ll ever need to buy again, or at least until next payday. Some records creep up on you like that.


I’m not sure that happens so much now. Attention spans are shorter; we’re led to believe first impressions count for everything. If a CD fails to grab us by the nipples right from the start we’ll skip through the tracks. If the download takes more than thirty seconds we’ll start another and forget to go back to unzip the first one.


Adrian Shaw and Rod Goodway’s album ‘Oxygen Thieves’ is a case in point. It’s a gem of an album which only reveals itself after deep immersion. I’ve been playing it for days and am still discovering new highs. I guarantee in future years it’ll be talked of in hushed terms as an unheralded collector’s wet-dream, not least because of the pedigree of the chums involved (I shan’t insult Terrascope readers’ intelligence by introducing Ade and Rustic Rod as if you’d never heard of them, but for the uninitiated they go back together as far as J.P. Sunshine in 1967, subsequently working together in Rustic Hinge, Magic Muscle and more recently the Bevis Frond), but also simply because it’s a mesmerising and more than competent album in its own right.


‘Coloured Rain’ – not the song recorded by Traffic in 1967 for their ‘Mr. Fantasy’ album - kicks things off with a regal-sounding keyboard intro blending into a hypnotic middle-eastern vibe. Vocalist Rod Goodway is at his most howling and eloquent here, peppering the desert imagery with psychedelic space-dust. In fact, space, deserts and psychedelics are recurring themes throughout, with an interesting leaning towards modern technology and the internet cropping up here and there too.


‘Dog Fight’ is one of the album’s indisputable stand-outs, with a memorable hook, beautiful curling guitar riff which taps on the stars before grounding itself in a glorious explosion of sound. One of the best songs I’ve heard in a long while and hopefully a number which will someday make the transition to the live stage – I for one would really like to hear that.


‘The Fence’ is one of the shortest and yet strongest tracks on the album, with a driving riff from guest guitarist Aaron Shaw (son of Adrian and no mean musician in his own right) and Mr Goodway throwing his all into the vocals department, reminiscent perhaps to Julian Cope in places. They are neighbours so maybe it’s a geographical thing.


‘Stranger Things’ over on the flipside of the LP pretty much defines the GoodShaw sound: a howling guitar solo from Ade, a middle-eastern stomp underpinning the song, and Rod Goodway (who sings throughout and penned all the lyrics: the instrumentation and arrangement is all down to Ade, and a fabulous job he’s made of it too) shining a light into hidden recesses of the mynd.


Unsurprisingly given the experience of the musicians involved, they’ve left the best until last, leaving the listener eager to hear more (actually, there are two extra songs on the CD version, but being a bit of a Luddite myself I’m sticking to the LP...) Entitled ‘Race Away’, it features a guest guitar break from Bari Watts, some hauntingly descending vocals from Rod and a closing guitar sound akin to Spirit in their heyday.


If I have one slight gripe its is that the sleeve art appears to have been designed around the CD format and then scaled up to fit an LP, rather than vice-versa, which has led to a little fuzziness in the graphics and lettering. The LP also lacks (aside from the 2 extra songs, ‘When The Darkness Comes’ and ‘(May You) Never be Thirsty’) the rather spiffing inside cover artwork of an ‘Oxygen Fish/Submarine’ by another of Mr Goodway’s neighbours, Steve Lines (of Stormclouds). Then again, that might just be all down to me being old and stuck in my ways, which is one accusation that can never be levelled at these guys. They are moving with the times and still producing music which is fresh and interesting after well over 40 years together, which is quite something when you stop to think about it. (Phil McMullen)



Earthling Society – Sci-Fi Hi-Fi

(CD on Zero 4 www.4zerorecords.co.uk  )

Aqua Nebula Oscillator – Under The Moon Of…

(CD on Pan European Recording/PIAS)


Their 4th album release (their second for Zero 4 Records), 'Sci-Fi Hi-Fi' sees Fred Laird’s Earthling Society mining both rich progressive and psychedelic seams. The opening, title track, is an instant winner. Strongly reminiscent of San Francisco’s Wooden Shjips, with a pounding beat and echo-drenched vocals, there are also welcome hints of early ‘80s Here and Now, particularly in the chorus and bridge. This is followed by two classy and inventive instrumentals. First up is “Tempel of Flaming Youth”, which features some atmospheric saxophone and a wonderful, deceptively spacey first few minutes, before kicking off into something altogether more urgent, with the “prog” side vying for supremacy against the psychedelic onslaught.  “EA1729” is trickier, insistent and even more ambitious, covering as it does a wide variety of styles and allowing all the band members to flex their musical muscle, before “The Lantern” slows things down apace. Reminiscent of some of their previous “acid psych” outings, this is a splendidly melodic affair with a distant and distorted vocal that’s already made its way onto the MP3 playlist. “A Future Dream” suggests that the band must’ve majored with honours in Pink Floyd studies at the Court of the Crimson King, before the epic and unambiguously titled “E.V.I.L.U.S.A” throws everything, including the kitchen sink, at the listener over 20 rollercoaster minutes. Breathtaking stuff? You bet.


If I had one minor quibble on first listen it’s that at times it seemed there was a little too much going on in the music. Subsequent journeys into this particular astral galaxy have since cured me of this mild bout of travel sickness, though. C’mon bring on the vortex!


The contrast in psychedelic styles between Earthling Society and France’s Aqua Nebula Oscillator could not be greater. You could never accuse the latter of over-complexity for sure. And there are a number of reasons why their 'Under the Moon of…' should in fact be something of a turkey. There’s the clunky name for starters, the cover showing the four band members in full psychedelic face paint and a publicity sheet, which all points to a band that’s trying a little to hard.


Well so much for presuppositions. If you like your psychedelia dark, direct and dirty, then look no further. You simply won’t find a better CD this year. The opening track, “LSD Therapy”, sets the tone for most of the album with some reassuringly nasty reverb guitar and driving garage psych reminiscent of the Seeds, Stooges and MC5, spearheaded for the most part by a Gallic Siouxie Sioux. It’s difficult to pick out highlights as there isn’t a duffer a duffer amongst the 14 tracks here, whilst there is enough variation here to keep things interesting as well as exciting. Oh! And the singer plays an oscillator, which together with the relentless fuzz guitar and pounding bass and drums should mean that this will appeal to fans of Acid Mothers Temple and Space Ritual-era Hawkwind as well. And what they’ll make of this on Planet Krautrock and in Julian Cope’s house is anyone’s guess.


Much of this album was reputedly “captured live in some improbable places” which may be a load of old phooey, but you suspect not. This is a band I’d be tempted to cancel (well postpone anyway) the family holiday to see if they ever come to these shores. As long as it was in a small, dark basement club with the doors bolted and the reverb on maximum, of course!


So here we are then, two very different but exceptionally good new psychedelic albums and welcome additions to the canon. Both then are highly recommended. Which one you prefer will depend very much on your world-view of “psychedelic” music. But if I only had one CD voucher in my hand, a gun to my head and 5 seconds to make a decision, I’d go for dark, direct and dirty. (Ian Fraser)



Current 93 – Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain

(Coptic Cat Records www.southern.net )


Current 93 is essentially an esoteric and experimental vehicle for one David Tibet, named thus by Genesis P Orridge, of whose band, Psychic TV, he was once a member. This is an album heavily steeped in mysticism. It is unpredictable, unsettling, and a little scary in places. It is also hugely atmospheric, highly evocative and very psychedelic in a heavy (both in the sense of being dense and often loud) kind of way. It is also very good!


At the centre of it all is Tibet’s slightly creepy spoken word delivery which insinuates itself into your being whilst around him an impressive roster of musicians improvise up a maelstrom, and where traditional “rock” instruments are supplemented with what sounds like viola and cello as well as electronics.


Tibet cites folk music as a strong influence over his work and it is true that in the quieter and more reflective moments on this album one gets glimpses of amongst others, the Incredible String Band. In fact his phrasing and use of imagery owe as much to Robin Williamson as they do to Mr/Ms Orridge and that whole PTV/Coil scene. Add to that instrumentation at times reminiscent of bands such as Mogwai, God Speed You Black Emperor or A Silver Mt Zion and what you get is the sort of scene you might once have stumbled into in some far corner of Glastonbury festival in the small hours whilst trying to navigate your path through or perhaps back to Planet Earth. Not that this is an especially easy journey, but then the most intriguing and often rewarding ones usually aren’t.  (Ian Fraser)



Orbweavers – Graphite and Diamonds

(own label - www.theorbweavers.com )


Australia’s Orbweavers are a five-piece who have been described as playing folk-noir or alt-country music. However neither label quite does justice to a finely crafted, dreamy and atmospheric album in which Marita Dyson and Stuart Flanagan’s vocals are ably supplemented by crisp, often low key arrangements of acoustic and electric guitars, augmented by bass, trumpet and violin and, albeit sparingly, drums.


The ethereal feel of this impressive debut is mostly propelled by Dyson’s breathy, echo-enhanced vocals, which lends a hugely evocative feel to proceedings. The tracks on which Flanagan sings tend on the whole to be a bit more straight-ahead but are no less enjoyable. The Orbweavers draw on a variety of musical styles with strains of light jazz and mariarchi mixing with the acid-folk and alt-country influences to heady effect. Such influences are used so intelligently, however, that they lend the album an identity all of its own.


Standout tracks include the openers “Vitus” and “My Needle” and the Flanagan voiced “Met Her on My Way Home” and “Fairy Tales” but you could just as easily pick four other tracks that are just as good, which underlines the strength of “Graphite and Diamonds”. Such is the narcotic effect of this fine album you occasionally wonder whether you might nod out or fancy something different, but there is more than enough quality here to keep the listener mesmerised and wanting more. If Alice in Wonderland were ever to be filmed in the desert against a modern backdrop, then the soundtrack really ought to sound like this .


File under “sublime and rewarding.”  (Ian Fraser)



The Future Kings of England – The Viewing Point

(Backwater Records www.backwaterrecords.com )


Hmmm. An instrumental, “progressive”, concept album about an old man’s thoughts as he ponders his past, present and uncertain future as he looks out to sea in his car. You may be forgiven for thinking this is an obscure re-issue from 1975. In fact it is the brand new offering, and third in all, from Suffolk’s The Future Kings Of England.


The influences are clear enough - turn of the 70s Pink Floyd, Caravan and, most strikingly, “Snow Goose”-era Camel. Less psychedelic than the publicity would have you believe, there is however a textured and dreamlike quality about much of what is on offer here. It is all very thoughtful, well arranged and well played, and lest this sounds like I am damning it with faint praise, please bear in mind that I have not consciously listened to anything like this for many years. Perseverance and stubbornness will out, however. Two end-to-end listens and, by Jove, Holmes, I think I’m beginning to get it.


Taken as a whole, the album is neither grandiose nor pretentious. Prog excess is kept neatly in check whilst the band weaves its subtle arts to good effect. It’s loud and fast when it needs to be, it is also beautifully calm and mellow in all the right places. Pick of the six tracks here are “Sea Saw” and the closing title track, but take your pick. All in all, “The Viewing Point” demands the listener’s attention and deserves to have it. It will certainly receive third and subsequent end-to-end listens in the House of Fraser. To cap it all, at just over 44 minutes it is the ideal length for an album. Full marks, then, for resisting the temptation to fill up the space on the CD. Besides, and this takes me back as well, it would fit nicely onto one side of a TDK D-90 (with apologies to mystified younger readers at this point). 


All things come in cycles and if, in the wake of the recent BB4 “Prog Britannia” programme there is going to be a new Prog Rock revolution it could do a lot worse than to start here. (Ian Fraser) 



Various Artists/Kath Bloom – Loving Takes This Course

(Chapter Chapter Music, PO Box 247 Northcote, VIC 3070 Australia )


The idea is so brilliantly simple, I can’t believe no one’s done it before: a 2xCD tribute set matching one disk of the artist’s original (i.e., source) recordings with a second disc of tributes to the same songs. Chapter Music head Guy Blackman has recently begun reissuing Kath’s  material recorded with Terrastock veteran Loren [Mazzacane] Connors, as well as her first collection of new material in nearly 25 years (Terror) and a compilation of some of her earlier material (Finally). If you haven’t picked up Finally yet, this serves as the perfect replacement, as the disk of Bloom originals contained herein features exactly the same track listing.


Bloom gained some well-deserved mainstream exposure in the classic Vienna record store scene in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, in which Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke awkwardly listen to ‘Come Here’ in the listening booth, a scene whose sexual tension is perfectly captured by Bloom’s lyric and delicate delivery. The song’s opening lyric also gives this set its title, so it naturally kicks off both discs. Bloom’s original is a warm, welcoming lament for a timid lover, while the tribute disks opens and closes with two (European) interpretations – Belgium’s Marble Sounds’ acoustic guitar, mandolin, and bongo version is even sparser than Bloom’s, although the catchy  “ba da dum bum” chorus is a nice touch, while Sweden’s The Concretes’ rockinger rendition benefits from Maria Ericksson‘s quivering delivery. Bloom’s experimental folk recordings with Connors (perhaps early examples of wyrdfolk?) are well represented on half the tracks, and none are more nakedly disjointed and minimalist than the medley, ‘The Breeze/My Baby Cries’ from 1982’s Sing The Children Over. Bill Callahan [aka (Smog)], no stranger to lo-fi aesthetics himself, is dutifully sedate and melancholic on his mellow, clip-clopping (thanks to Thor Harris’s hand drumming), piano-driven version (that’s Jonathan Meiburg on Wurlitzer electric), which is easily more accessible than the original and benefits from the big studio production (at Cacophony in Austin).


Laura Jean adds a distinctively medieval touch to ‘When I See You’ courtesy her recorder duet and goblet banging (!), and Red House Painter/Sun Kil Moon frontman Mark Kozelek (himself, quite an accomplished interpreter via “tribute” albums to AC/DC and Modest Mouse) adds a little zip to the anticipatory ballad, ‘Finally.’ Bloom’s ‘Forget About Him’ and ‘Ready or Not’ (from  1993’s Love Explosion) find her actually kicking up a sweat on these snappy little country ditties (imagine an indie Emmylou Harris), whereas Devandra Banhart throws penny whistles, organs, a calypso backbeat, and a somewhat irreverant, sub-Jagger delivery at the track that borders more on satire than homage. He also retains the gender, which also seems to rob the track of its decisively feminist appeal. On the other hand, Mia Doi Todd succeeds in spades with a straightforward, toe-tapping run through ‘Ready or Not,’ which also features an unbilled backing vocalist just as Bloom’s original. And Scout Niblet’s mini-Melanie cooing vocals – more spoken than sung – draw even more emotion and heartache out of ‘I Wanna Love’ than Bloom herself!


Connors’ weeping, almost slide guitar backing to ‘Look At Me’ sounds like tears dripping down Bloom’s cheeks and Josephine Foster (of whom I am not a big fan) does a good job recapturing that pain, although her screeching, occasional atonal delivery still grates. That’s not a problem with the warm, whispered, heavy breathing of French ex-pat, Marianne Dissard, whose collaboration with Calexico’s Joey Burns on ‘It’s So Hard To Come Home’ not only out-woe-is-me’s the original, but is clearly one of the tributes highlights. I’m making a mental note to check out more of her releases. The multi-talented Dissard also engineered (!) Amy Rude’s ruminating tiptoe around ‘In Your School,’ which sounds exactly the way you’d expect a lonesome folkie recording in the Mojave Desert to sound!


The set ends with an unexpected treat – a previously unreleased current recording from  Bloom (‘If This Journey’) that benefits from excellent production, a swooning violin, some sunny, Western-styled harmonica, and an uplifting vocal that bodes well for Ms. Bloom’s future career. The producers have managed to enlist one of Bloom and Connors’ early collaborators, Tom Hanford to give it his best shot at interpreting this new track and, along with Evan Stover’s violin, he comes up roses – an old-fashioned folk tune that manages to overcome its nostalgic lyric with an optimistic vocal and swooning accompaniment.


Much of the rest of the set runs along these same lines: Bloom and Connors’ tracks from four of their nine collaborations (more of which are also gathered on the worthwhile, but difficult to find, 1981-1984, Megalon, 2000) offer a brittle view into their minimalist scramblings in the dark – somewhat like depression-era folkies, while “today’s artists” bring the luxury of big studio production to bear, and the result is like listening to tentative, demo-stage versions of these songs (Bloom’s disk) alongside a more “finished” product (the tribute disk). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the originals bristle with excitement, anxiety, and tension that is perhaps best captured under the primitive circumstances and it is wonderful to hear the young kids take so lovingly to their source material. Bloom’s solo tracks are a little more accessible, often including additional backing vocalists and traditional drum and bass backing, so newcomers may be more easily drawn to these more traditional folk songs. But I would still caution against getting too enamored of the “polished” versions on the tribute disc at the expense of not returning to Bloom’s originals, despite their occasional bedroom recording quality. The honesty and heartbreaking intimacy of these tracks could have been destroyed in more “commercially minded” hands, but these artists, some of whom had never heard of Bloom before they got the offer to contribute, genuinely sound like they are enjoying both themselves and their creator’s works.


And since it may be a little frustrating flipping back and forth between CDs to better track the differences in arrangements and delivery, you might just want to let each disk play through as programmed. Just please start with Bloom’s originals on Disk 2.  (Jeff Penczak)



Various Artists – Up All Night

(Past & Present)


Double entendres aside, here we’re assaulted by “20 Heavy Nuggets from the Golden Age of Hard Psych” – essentially a trawl through the cutout bins of US hard rock albums from 1969-73 and featuring the typical plethora of cock rock posturing, wanking guitar solos, and stratospheric, shrieking vocals from longhaired fellas in too-tight pants. While the majority of the acts are as unknown now as when these tracks were originally released, there are a few interesting tidbits buried inside all this sludgy mush. Rick Derringer produced Florida power trio Tin House’s sole LP, from which the bluesy ‘Be Good and Be Kind’ is lifted, and most 60s freakazoids will recognize The Litter from their classic debut 45, “Action Woman,” although that oft-comped track is left behind in favor of ‘Journeys’ from their final LP, Emerge. By now they’d lost most of their lustre and the track is pretty forgettable…and strangely seems to fade out before the lads are done playing. Maybe the engineer got bored?


            Euclid, one of the few bands to emerge from Maine, featured Ralph Mazzota, guitarist  from cult psychers, Lazy Smoke (of Corridor of Faces fame), and their grungy, exhaust-fumed thrashing of Spencer Davis’ ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’ is one of the sets highlights. Not having heard the entire album, I can't  comment on the liner note’s reference that Damnation of Adam Blessing’s second album, The Second Damnation is “considered by some to be one of the finest hard rock  albums ever made,” but ‘Driver’ seems to hit all the appropriate buttons: hard-driving melodies, succinct solos, tolerable vocals, so perhaps further investigation is warranted. SRC (named after the band’s lead singer, Scott Richardson Case in, er, case you wondered) cut three highly regarded hard psych albums in the late 60s, but ‘Up All Night’ from their second, Milestones is poppier than most of their tracks, perhaps an early example of power pop psych?


            You just knew that Ozzy and Black Sabbath would have influenced some of these acts and Philly’s Bang pull off a pretty good impersonation with ‘The Queen’ from their self-titled 1971 debut. Dragonfly offer one of the heaviest psychedelic tracks in the collection, complete with lyrics about tripping and other sonic effects to accompany your warped mind’s reaction to ‘Enjoy Yourself’ from their lone album, which didn’t even feature the band’s name on the sleeve! Fans of the ultra obscure may remember them from their previous incarnation as The Legend, who released an album on Megaphone a few years earlier. Other hard rock influences from across the pond are on display in Granicus’ cringe-inducing ‘You’re In America,’ wherein lead shrieker Woody Leffel trys to out-emote Plant while the quartet behind him chug along at various sub-Zep levels.


            Finally, Sir Lord Baltimore’s Kingdom Come may have been the first album to be reviewed with the words “heavy metal” (courtesy future Angry Samoan, Mike Saunders’ 1971 review in Creem), but the title track presented here just grates and annoys to no end... and it does seem interminable at 6:35…. Everything I despise about this genre is here in spades: horrific tortured vocals, mind-numbing solo posturing, a meandering arrangement that gets lost up its own arse halfway through… just go away. Two-thirds of the band reunited and issued a Christian-themed album a few years back which I’ve not heard, although the music was supposedly left over from an aborted 1976 album, which may give a whole new twist to the phrase “heavy metal thunder”! The rest of the tracks mostly feature the same combo of bleeding air guitar solos, throat-shredding vocal posturing, thundering bass runs and headpounding drumbeats that were all the rage in bars and local clubs back in the day this stuff originally trickled out on tiny labels with little money to support or promote the product. Fans of bar band boogaloos might enjoy a quick run through these tracks, but others should proceed with caution. (Jeff Penczak)