= Rumbles =
= August 2006 =
Judging by the amount of music that has fallen through my letterbox in the last month or so, it would appear that Terrascopic artists spend their winters hunched over assorted instruments, microphones and recording equipment, creating their latest masterpiece and then releasing it as the sun warms the earth, ensuring that it all arrives at my gaff at the same time in a deluge of epic proportions. Of course, this is plainly nonsense given the places that the music comes from, many of which are plunging into their coldest months just as I am relaxing in the garden with a glass of something cool. It does however allow me to get started on this edition of Rumbles, which features a truly diverse and wide-ranging collection of musician all eager to entertain your ears.
Talking of diverse, as we were, it seems fitting to start with “Little Darla Has A Treat For You v.24 Endless Summer Edition 2006”, an excellent double disc compilation that features such artists as Aarktica, Boy Racer, The Orchids, and a whole host of other luminaries, the music ranging from drifting pop to stuttering electronics, trashy guitar to ambient clouds of sound, all the songs displaying a summer sheen and a fine line in quality. Special mention goes to Dislocation Dance for the kitchen sink pop strangeness of “Meeting Mum And Dad”, Follow The Train with the shimmering groove of “Endless Summer, Manual whose “Dizzy Sun” is a gorgeous heat-haze drone, then there’s New Radiant Storm King’s glorious Byrds-esque jangle on “Her Halcyon Days”, the reverb bliss of “waves and echoes”-Portal, or even the fuzz-laden harmonies of Sweet Trip whose “Darkness” is awash with gentle noise and sweet melody. All these are just personal faves however, there is not a single duff track here and enough variation to avoid boring the listener, added to that, the booklet contains a fine recipe for Guacamole! It’s gonna be a good summer. (www.darla.com)
Sticking with compilations for a moment, those who like some surreal and disturbing electronic music, complete with beefheart/butthole style vocal weirdness should check out “Dark Black Semen”-CJ Pizzaro, the opening track on “Electricity Is Your Friend” a quite startling collection of modern sounds full of strangeness, noise and passion. Second track “Never Know What To Say”-Dragon Or Emperor offers no respite a guitar driven squall that rips out of the speaker with manic glee the vocalist wrenching his voicebox through impossible shapes. Further in DisinVectant is the sound of a well-educated locust swarm, Daniel Padden maintains his quality control on “Cornelius, and Revox create a track entirely from human voice. Mind you anyone who hold the Beatles in reverence should, maybe, stay clear of Jliat as he deconstructs “Strawberry Fields” using tape loops and echoes, and he does it superbly creating a nightmare of rhythmic noise that will have the average Beatles fan running for their favourite version of “Help”. A dramatic change of pace is offered by dead western (no capitals) whose “They’re Dying Young These Days & Sailin On “ is an apocalyptic howl at the moon played on acoustic guitar, with a deep resonant voice that the artist describes as “operatic folk”. Sadly, time prevents me from mentioning every musician gathered here, suffice to say that those of you who like it experimental, darkly humorous and crackling with electricity will love every minute of this epic album. (www.3pinrecording.com).
Finally on the compilation front is the free download album “Down To Grease On Holiday”. Those of you who think “Grease” may be spelt wrong will shudder/laugh maniacally when they see the picture of Olivia Newton-John on the cover. Yes folks, this is a compilation of cover versions all lifted from the grease soundtrack, often played with more enthusiasm/volume than ability and will either make you grin or wince. Actually they will make you do both and this album should only be played once and then when you have drunk far too much, it is free however and the Terrascope readership can’t resist a challenge, or can you? (www.filthylittleangels.com)
One of the better bands on the above mentioned disc are The Utopians, whose latest EP is called “Britain’s Littlest Killer” and contains three track that display an early Roxy Music vibe harnessed to a up-to-the-minute guitar sound which gives the music a touch of class and allows the band to steamroller their way through with energy and precision, especially on “Piece Of Me” which is possibly the pick of the bunch, although opening track “The Utopians” is a definitely a grower, and has a way of worming itself into your head. (www.filthylittleangels.com)
Offering dark and angular guitar shapes Imogene have an fantastically messed-up sound on their self-titled album, which finds new ways of using familiar song structures, with the feel of early sub-Pop lurking in the background especially on “Sunny Day Child” and “wasteoids”. Elsewhere “Wormwood Raindrops” has a more laid-back experimental feel, whilst the rest of the album has a stoned groove running through it making for a highly enjoyable and coherent release. (www.imogene.info)
If they ever decide to release “The Best Drone and Experimental Noise Album in the World Ever Part One” then I reckon “Blue Angels” a drifting 16-minute opus from Growing would fit the bill perfectly. Slowly building in intensity, the harmonies and reverb are enhanced by some wonderful Fripp-like guitar, which slowly takes control of the piece re-shaping it into strange and beautiful patterns. Mind you any of the six tracks on “Color wheel” could be contenders, as the whole album displays a wonderful sense of balance and harmony, the drones tinted with both melody and discord, whilst stuttering rhythms add to the tension. Final track “Green Pasture” adds some harsh guitar noise to the visions, before giving way to a gentle fade-out. (www.rockactionrecords.co.uk)
Hailing from Mid Wales Strap The Button are a bunch of experimental/psychedelic surrealist noise freaks who have just released an EP and a Full album on Good Name For A Racehorse Records.Not interested in a short and snappy title the EP is called (deep breath required),”What Kind Of Rat-Bastard Would Play That Song Right Now At This Moment?” and is a cornucopia of tribal drone, dustbins hurled through windows/flashes of sunlight on water/torch song/ burning tyres/ lounge madness, which will keep you guessing from start to finish, and to these ears contains the playful spirit of Kevin Ayers’ early albums. Another deep breath is required before attempting the album title “Going To Jib Choons (Choons For Going To Jib To, Like Innit)” which is a fully realised and richly imaginative disc, full of hypnotic instrumentals, squalls of noise and cut-up vocals, reminding me of The Serpents and containing a track called “243 seconds of elvis followed by a scream” which suggest the whole album could be viewed as a collection of sound effects for a bizarre amateur production of a movie about Tom Parker, but probably isn’t.Either way this is a gem of an album well worth the trouble of tracking down.(www.goodnameforaracehorse.co.uk )
Currently residing in San Francisco, multi-instrumentalist Liam Singer manages to mix classical motives and art-rock pop together on his second album “Our Secret Lies Beneath the Creek”. Opening track “The Hero, The Cube And The Flower” has a Phillip Glass feel imbedded in it’s rhythmic piano lines, whilst “Losing Teeth” has a whimsical prog sheen that is completely charming. In fact, there is a definite early seventies, arty-prog sound running through the whole album, something which doesn’t detract from the quality, and has not resulted in extended musical tedium as the tracks are kept short and purposeful. Throughout the album the playing is dynamic and relevant, with the piano dancing and twisting through the music with grace and minimalist fervour producing a relaxing and delicate album that is just perfect as the sun gently sets behind me. Special mention should go to the excellent packaging that seems to have captured the spirit of the album within the artwork; as well as the fine production work courtesy of Scott Solter who has recently released his own album “One River” which shimmers with textural light to create a classic ambient album full of gently flowing sounds and droning undercurrents. Featuring guitar, found sound, bowed cymbals and voice, the seven tracks included are blended into each other to produce a continual piece of music that slowly shifts and is as aquatic in its’ meandering as the title suggests, the dreamlike tones being perfect for anyone who has watched a leaf drift slowly down a wandering stream. Both these albums are available from Tellall Records, whose obvious dedication to quality is to be applauded, (www.tellallrecords.com)
Also working under the ambient flag is Tor Lundvall, whose latest album “Empty City” is full of scratchy electronic drones that pulse and writhe in slow motion, offering us a glimpse into a frozen urban landscape, full of broken imagery and forgotten ghosts. Hauntingly beautiful in their icy prison, the twelve tracks are sequenced for maximum effect, sounding like Aarktica, or an incredibly mellow Portishead, as they slowly dissolve around you leaving only a faint outline to show they ever existed. (www.strangefortune.com)
On the strange but likeable “Enter The Winter”, Nat Baldwin sings with a deep and resonant voice that reminds me of Jeff Buckley in its delivery, although the comparisons end there, as Nat accompanies himself on upright bass, engaging the listener with a collection of tense and dramatic songs, that are enhanced with trumpet cello and percussion to mesmerising effect. These different sounds are the perfect vehicle for the songs, the fractious harmonies created suiting the voice, no more so than on the sublime “Enter The Light Out”, a song so taut it could snap at any minute. These harmonies break down completely on the juddering “Spells”, the instruments fighting for attention. Final track “Within Walls” is a rockier affair the drums keeping the peace, allowing the musicians to dance in unison to close the album perfectly. (www.brokensparrow.com)
“The Dance Of The Sun And Moon” is the 3rd album by French/Argentinean duo Natural Snow Buildings and highlights perfectly their blend of drone, free folk, and delicate songwriting. Spread across two discs, the music drifts and rages, shards of noise softened by gentle percussion, mystical drone and elegant arrangements creating a diverse and enthralling album that demands repeated listens to reveal it’s many layered textures. Highlights include the gentle beauty of “Gary Webb”, the twelve minute floatation tank of “My Bones Are Yours”, the short, but oh so sweet opener “Carved Heart”, the feedback drenched title track, or the epic drone of “Felt Presence Ghostly Humming”. The album is packaged wonderfully too, with hand made sleeves and some excellent illustrations adding to the overall quality. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ambient music is a much maligned term that makes many people think of the vacuous sounds of new age music which is enough to put anyone off for life. Fortunately there is more to ambient music than a couple of soulless sequencers and dodgy flute-playing, a fact that is proved by “Statistical Truth” the latest album from K.Leimer whose minimalist soundscapes are relaxing, delicate and filled with a sense of longing, drawing the listener into the journey. The gossamer filled synths are occasionally joined by sparks of percussion or the soft rain of piano notes, but for the most part the sound fills the room more like light than sound, offering a sonic radiance that is calming and thoughtful. Only on “Anterior” is the tempo altered by electronic rhythm that generates some movement into the stillness, but this soon fades again. (www.palaceoflights.com)
More ambient/drone can be found on the excellent “Red Lion”, the latest (perhaps) album by Peter Wright, whose work is always intriguing, mixing electronics and field recordings to fashion slow soundscapes that are as expansive as the ocean and contain mysteries a-plenty. This approach is demonstrated to perfection on “Approaching Low From The West”, the icy glimmers of sound mingling with a recording of children playing to eerie effect. On “Blue Ridge” the instruments sound as though they are suspended in the trees and played by the breeze, whilst “Small Return” has an eastern feel that stirs memories of Japanese gardens and drifting clouds. Final track “Infection” is like watching a tear fall in slow motion, finally landing on dusty floor, lost forever in a haze of longing, and is a beautiful way to finish an outstanding album.(www.digitalisindustries.com) Also available from Peter Wright is “Pariahs Sing Om”, a triple CD containing the original album of the same name plus “Catch A Spear As It Flies” and other rare and unreleased pieces.Throughout the three discs there is a sonic cohesiveness that pulls the music together, offering the listener a glimpse into other spheres, the music slowly evolving over time, sometimes crawling, sometimes drifting, the glacial drones throwing up shapes and calling back lost memories and forgotten spirits.This is music that needs to be listened to and the more you concentrate the greater the reward, the sheer scale of the drones becoming overwhelming at times. (www.lastvisibledog.com) Also available from Last Visible Dog is the self titled album from Stefan Neville, a collection of short pieces recorded live onto a reel to reel two track. Full of noise and effects the music has the feel of a hastily put together collection of Polaroid snaps, the chaotic structures, or non-structures, creating musical sculptures as much a finished works. There is an excellent array of sounds on the album, drums falling downstairs, overdriven guitar squalls, more gentle guitar pieces and chattering background sounds from a variety of sources. All this adds up to a schizophrenic yet exhilarating ride that is not for the faint-hearted, I look forward to the next instalment. Staying with LVD for a while longer, the self-titled The Feral Blood Of Swagger Jack is an intriguing collection of acoustic and electric songs recorded by mythical (or Not) bushman Swagger Jack on one of his rare brushes with society. Featuring some fine blues/folk inspired songs, accompanied by droned violin and muffled percussion, the album has a wonderful fireside atmosphere although the lyrics hide a bitter heart especially on the angry chorus of “No Camping”.
Finland seems to have a thriving and creative musical scene at the moment, and is best known for its free-folk ventures, full of woodland mystery and magic. Coming to blow this myth wide open is Tivoli, whose album “Interstellar Overbike” is a glorious haze of Comets On Fire Riffery and Hawkwind attitude, that roars out of the speakers with bass-heavy abandon, looking for something to destroy. Featuring three tracks in 35 minutes, there is plenty of room to get busy with the wah pedal and allow the band to propel themselves into another galaxy, not bothering with the usual slow bit in the middle, instead keeping everything turned to eleven. (Last Visible Dog Records). Finally on LVD, we stay in Finland to enjoy the more familiar free-folk of Sala-Arhimo whose self-titled album is a pastoral delight, the melodies swaying like meadow flowers, the warmth of the sun always present in the magical harmonies and delicate musical passages. Favourites include the absolutely gorgeous “Muotoja Taivaalla” full of tinkling bells and hazy keyboards, the excellent jazzy saxophone that fills out “Turilas Ruusussa”, and the early floyd feel of “Sulan Pellon Takana”. Mind you there is not a bad track in sight and the whole album flows in a magnificent way creating a small classic that will become more and more sought after as time goes by.
One of the more well-known names from the Finnish scene is Avarus, and you can understand their standing in the community when you hear “Vesikansi”, a four-track, wall of controlled noise, that is primitive and brutal in its approach, the smoke from a huge bonfire curling through primeval forests on a quest for enlightenment, whilst the lost souls of wolves howl at the moon.The final two tracks feature Tara Burke and were recorded live in Dublin, the musicians conjuring up a high magic drone that crackles and burns,the dense and chaotic music crawling into every crevice with a hallucinogenic splendour. (www.secreteye.org) Also on Secret Eye are Auto Da Fe, featuring Martin Kvisvic and Tara Tavi from Amps For Christ.On “The Spectre” the band have created a blend of Seventies folk, primal percussion, and psychedelic jangle, that makes all the right moves with a weird world music vibe created by the use of Harp, Tablas, Chinese Banjo, Tibetan Bells, Tambur, and other ethnic instrumentation. Full of delicate playing and strong melodies the album has an undeniable sparkle, the songs full of life and vitality at times sounding like Pentangle jamming with Kaleidoscope (U.S.) whilst Long Live Death improvise around them.
Sounding like a mix of Japanese psych, Sun Ra and the velvet underground, The Stumps have produced a ramshackle and heady collection of improvised rock music that is soaked in lo-fi energy and contains a creative spirit that is so lacking in commercial music these days. Featuring the talents of James Kirk (Drums/percussion), Stephen Clover (bass/synth, the overall package) and Antony Milton (guitar Field-recordings), the band move from deep space psych through to more traditional rock improvisation, proving themselves adept at blending the two styles into harmonic perfection. Standout track is the 18 minute “Sun’s Goan Shine On Me Soon” which starts out in the far distance before slowly falling to earth in a feedback driven frenzy that cascades into nothing. (www.digitalisindustries.com)
One of the noisiest and angriest albums to fall through my door in recent months is “Odi Profanum vulgus Et Arco” from Italian noise terrorist Miss Violetta Beauregarde. Containing sixteen track in nineteen amphetamine fuelled minutes, this is a brutal collage of fucked up electronic beats, howling noise and screamed vocals, sounding like The Locust fighting the Buttholes in a crowded shopping centre. Including some of the finest songtitles around including “Adolf Hitler’s Emotional Side”, “I’m Wolverine and Your Walrus and I’m Kicking Your Arse”, and “The Unbearable Lightness Of Tractors” this is a great shot in the arm to get you going, but could be filed under art, rather than music. Get one yourself and then decide. (www.temporaryresidence.com)
“A Vision of Lost Unity” is one long (28 minutes) piece of music from 230 Divisadero, which slowly engulfs you like a rising tide, as you lie, shipwrecked, on the rocks far from your home. Filled with swirling synths and slow motion drones, the music is desolate and lonely, compelled to look inwards for the answers. At 12 minutes the music seems to reach a crescendo of loss before slowly retreating back into itself, with some exquisite strings adding to the atmosphere, the music slipping back into the ocean of silence from whence it came. (www.milkandmoon.com)
Opening with some haunting solo piano, I was expecting ”Wilhemina’s Dream” to be filled with similar compositions from Joe Frawley, however second track “invocation Of Pan” proved me wrong, with looped speech samples confusing the senses, the acoustic instruments buried deep in the mix. The title track continues the juxtaposition, gentle melodies and minimalist strings interwoven with speech and sound, creating a bizarre radio play that is fascinating to listen to.”Agoraphobia” starts with a looped welsh voice saying “I’m not going out, I can’t” before being engulfed with sounds and other voices that flit between speaker creating a very unsettling ambience indeed. Normality is resumed for the flute/piano led “Interlude”, before the following two tracks continue the electro-acoustic experimentation. Finally the brief piano notes of Reprise leave us back where we started after a highly enjoyable 30 minutes of sound manipulation. (www.joefrawley.info)
Opening with some delicate eastern sounding violin, the second album from We Have Heaven is an intriguing blend of sounds and speech that is experimental and surreal in equal measure. Definitely improvised and defiantly lo-fi, the tunes have a Phillip Glass meets the Velvets feel to them with the violin adding a droning undertow as the guitars gently weave between, sometimes harmonising, occasionally becoming harsher, creating an album that could be defined as uneasy listening, the background noises and sound of the band talking to each other only adding to the homespun charm.(www.easysubculture.com)
A much spacier ambience can be found on “Gaiaspace” the latest album from Mooch, an album that contains seven tracks of drifting synths, pulsing sequencers, hillagesque guitar, electronic percussion and still manages to avoid the obvious clichés that this kind of music can fall into. Opening track “Emerald” is the perfect introduction, the blend of sounds creating something vibrant rather than soporific, with the guitar adding some wonderful atmosphere to the slightly unsettling percussion lines. Further in, the 17-minute “Indigo Sky Trip” is everything you need to know about Mooch, filled with synth explorations, ethnic rhythms, and a warm groove that will take you on a journey to a different realm. If you like Ambient Trance then this is a fine example of the style that is well worth investigating. (www.deadearnest.btinternet.co.uk)
Treading similar ground All India Radio blend field recording, samples and real musicians to evocative effect on their fourth album “Echo Other”, which has a lazy summery feel running through it’s 12 tracks. Add to that some sumptuous string arrangements, wide and clear production, beautiful vocals that sparkle like sunshine, and you have an album full of quality, relaxing and beguiling, that is the sound of evening slowly drawing near, the last rays of the sun casting long shadows across the lawn. (www.allindiaradio.com.au)
On their latest album “Frisbee”, the seven-piece band Now are joined by a whole army of percussionist whose combined skills fill out the sound of the songs completely, no more so than on the opening track “Abominatry” which build from pop song to street carnival in a delicious manner and will definitely get you feet moving. Elsewhere there is a Talking Heads/Eno groove to the songs with the bass-lines becoming central to the song, with the musicians playing tightly together, creating tension, whilst retaining a loose feel, (a good trick if you can do it). Throughout the band are not afraid to experiment with different rhthyms, the vocals telling stories, and the well-rehearsed grooves allowing the other instruments plenty of room to improvise, bringing to mind bands such as Rollerball, Caravan, and The Comsat Angels, although these are mere echoes to be found in a collection of original and high quality songs.(www.pickled-egg.com)
Fans of jazz-rock and Frank Zappa may be interested in “Canteloupe Island” a collection of Zappa songs recorded by Jean-Luc Ponty in 1969 and including contributions from Ian Underwood, Arthur.D.tripp III, George Duke and Zappa Himself who plays guitar on “How Would You Like To Have A Head Like That”. As you would imagine the playing is exemplary throughout with Ponty making his Violin sing, wail, and dance with joy, producing some fantastic improvisations over the immaculate accompaniment. As well as Zappa compositions, the second disc contains a stunning version of the title track written by Herbie Hancock plus two Ponty tunes all of which are played with great skill and emotion, with sympathetic arrangements throughout. There is nothing here that will make you love this music but if you are a fan then this solid collection is well worth obtaining. (www.bgo-records.com)
Also on BGO comes a single disc featuring “Livestock”/ “A Street Called Straight” by guitar wizard Roy Buchanan. As the name suggest “Livestock” is a live recording from New York City 17 November 1974 and contains some great blues playing including versions of “Reelin’ and Rockin’” and “Further On Up The Road”, as well as a some storming guitar playing on “Roy’s Bluz” the guitarist being given plenty of room in which to demonstrate his axe prowess. However it is the studio album that proves more interesting in this particular package as the playing is more experimental, in a bluesy way, featuring Horns, extra percussion, and a nice funky production that gives the project a warm and home-grown feel, as it ranges from blues to country to funk without missing a beat. Standout track include, the acoustic country swing of “Caruso”, a slow funk cover of “If Six Was Nine” , and the quite remarkable sonic experimentation of “Guitar Cadenza” which is a wail of guitar feedback, echo, fuzz and hiss and sounds like nothing else on the and more like Hendrix himself, bizarre indeed.Buchanan continues the guitar frenzy with his solo on the slow gospel/blues of “The Messiah Will Come Again” before “I Still Think Of Ida Mae” rounds things of with some lovely finger-picking and soulful vocals.
Sticking with the blues for a while Ruf Records (www.rufrecords.de ) are on a mission to bring both contemporary and re-released blues to the masses and seem to be doing a fine job judging by their releases so far. One of the most interesting is by Canned Heat whose “Instrumental 1967-1996” opens in grand style with the 19 minute “Parthenogenesis” a tune split into 9 parts and featuring weird electronics, drum/percussion solos, piano songs, some nasty fuzzed-up guitar mangling as well as their trade-mark boogie. After this schizophrenic start things settled down a bit and we are treated to a collection of blues instrumentals, including swing, boogie, slow songs and some great live stuff that really hits the spot. The album was compiled and produced by original drummer Fito La Parra, and he has obviously taken time and trouble to ensure that this is not some cheap cash-in, but instead, a worthwhile edition to the history of Canned Heat.
More traditional blues forms can be found on “Full Circle” the first album in Fifteen years by blues master Walter Trout, whose fluid guitar style and soulful gritty vocals are perfectly suited to the music he plays. On this album he is joined at various times by such blues luminaries as John Mayall, Jeff Healey, Joe Bonamassa and Richie Hayward, and the result is a refreshingly contemporary sounding album that is filled with some heart-stopping solos, wonderful backing and a genuine love and warmth for the blues, all of which is evident from track one “She Gives More Than She Takes” which sets the standard early on.
Also on Ruf Record is “Pilgrimage” which features three relative newcomers to the blues scene, Aynsley Lister, Erja Lyytinen and Ian Parker. For this record label boss Thomas Ruf took them to Mississippi and Memphis and there, they recorded their music in authentic studios surrounded by the living history of the music they love. The move obviously paid off as the trio wears their hearts on their sleeves over thirteen tracks of quality music, including some emotion filled ballads and some all-out rockers. Throughout the songs are played with passion and enthusiasm as well as being backed by some fine blues session men and produced by living legend Jim Gaines.
Finally for da blues, the authentic sounds of New Orleans boogie are bought to life by Mitch Woods whose “Big Easy Boogie” bring together a cavalcade of blues legends including Earl Palmer and Herb Hardesty (both of whom played with Fats Domino). Recorded in 2000 the twelve original composition swing with complete joy, the musicians revelling in every note particularly on the fantastic “Thought I Heard Satchmo Sing” which is a rollicking good time in three and a half minutes. Also included is a dvd of a concert recorded in 2002 plus the usual host of extra features. If this wasn’t enough reason to buy this disc then the fact that a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to Hurricane Katrina relief fund should persuade you further. (Club 88 records www.mitchwoods.com)
Treading an altogether spikier path, is the twisted and obtuse guitar noise of HO-AG, whose album “The Word From Pluto” is full of twists and turns, with bags of hardcore energy and a complete disregard for tradition, all of which makes for a damn fine piece of aural confrontation. Reminding me of a full on Hampton Grease Band, the musicians tear through the songs, employing a cut and paste method to composition, the songs stuttering with epileptic energy, which is controlled with some amazingly tight playing, sounding like the Dead Kennedys at full throttle. (www.ho-ag.com)
Slightly less frenetic guitar driven songs can be found on “Phobos”, the latest recording by Foma, a record that mixes some gentle acoustic songs with noisier pieces that have some very prog sounding keyboards running through them, especially on the excellent opening track “Don’t Burn Babies”. Elsewhere Departure” has a post punk guitar riff, whilst “Arrival” has a psychedelic tinge with some great guitar playing, and this tinge continues for the rest of the album. Full of variation, this album is a highly satisfactory collection, which is full of melody and invention. (www.littlekissrecords)
Any band who sounds like The Green Pyjamas is doing something right, and on “New Ways Of Letting Go”, Michael Zapruders’ Rain Of Frogs have the same melancholy playfulness within their bitter-sweet songs. Opening with the beautiful, piano-led “The Alchemist”, the album is a treasure-trove of melody and lyrical story-telling, with some wonderfully emotive playing and a clean production which allows everything to shine as brightly as the first star of evening. Full of West Coast vibrations, this album maintains a consistently high standard, and is recommended as the perfect way to wind-down after a busy day. (www.howellstransmitter.com).
Sometimes band come along that remind you of so many other bands you come to the conclusion that, maybe, they are wholly original and just wearing their influences on their collective sleeve. One such band is Iron Hero, whose “Safe As Houses” is an indie inspired collection of post-punk guitar and 60’s jangle that reminds me of Ride, REM, the stranglers, and a host of others without actually sounding like any of them. At the end of the day however it’s the songs that matter, and this album is crammed with some fine tunes that will get your toes tapping, and have you singing along in no time. There is nothing groundbreaking or experimental, just a collection of quality songs that should be heard. (www.ironhero.net)
Originally released in 1988 as a limited edition vinyl album “Seventh Sense”, the debut mini-album from Scottish band The Hucksters immediately sank without trace, despite some glowing press reports. Now, the album is available again, this time on CD, and should certainly be investigated if you enjoy the guitar sounds of REM, The Church, or Thin White Rope, as it is full of jangly guitar interplay and soaring solos that give it an epic feel. Standout tracks include the Byrd-esque “Western City Sky”,and the sweet country-ish guitar on “Lose Out”, but this is a joyful experience from start to finish that still sounds fresh and relevant despite it’s 18 year absence. (www.goldfillingrecords.com)
Basically the work of Leicestershire based guitarist Jon Attwood, Yellow6 have been producing ambient post-rock for 8 years amassing a body of work that spans fifty releases, including compilation appearance some of which are gathered on a new 3 CD collection that also contains singles and unreleased tracks. Entitled “The Beautiful Season Has Passed” this is a dizzying collection that drips with inventiveness and an eye for detail, every track having been lavished with thoughts and ideas which ensures that all three discs can hold you attention and reveal more layers with each listen. Ranging from ambient pieces that are as fleeting as clouds, through to noisier experimental pieces, this is an album that you can immerse yourself in completely, the sounds washing over you, taking you away from the mundane, and leaving you refreshed on your return. (www.rroopp.com)
Clocking at just under thirty-four minutes and featuring twelve songs “In The Maybe World” is a delightful collection of songs from singer/songwriter Lisa Germano.Full of sweet melodies, heartache lyrics and a voice that could melt the devils heart. This is late-night music to listen to alone, allowing the emotion to seep into every pore, the mood enhanced by otherworldly arrangement, the piano and strings dancing together in perfect unison,whilst the guitars serenade them and Lisa’ vocals glide above with a breathless eroticism hard to ignore. (www.younggodrecords.com)
The juxtaposition of quiet ambience and full-on guitar drones is beautifully demonstrated on “The World is A Tragic Place, But There Is Grace All Around Us, So Attend To The Grace”, the latest album from capulet. The Gentle drift of opening track “Die Die Disco Death2 gives nothing away, and “F#” maintains the delicate feel until five minutes in, when some crashing waves of guitar pour over the song before quickly fading again into a gentle mist of notes. Next up “Boys Vs Girls” has more of a rock feel, with added drums and an upbeat feel, that is slowly overwhelmed by the waves of guitar that appear as the song progresses. On “No Time Spoke The Clocks” the sound becomes slower and more expansive, building towards that familiar guitar sting, the tension rising, the journey seemingly taking forever until the storm finally breaks, rolling over us, leaving strange electricity in the air, before a second storm crashes unexpectedly overhead. (www.motivesound.com)
Forsaking all trace of ambience in favour of feedback and sheer volume Howlin’ Magic go for the jugular right from the start of their self released album, that is awash with brutal guitar riffs and electronic noise, like being caught in the middle of an earthquake, especially on “Music Of The Spheres”. Occasionally, an attempt is made to inject a melody or semblance of structure into the mix, but these are soon stomped on by the guitar torturing that dominates the sound. Not recommended for small children or those of a nervous disposition, everyone else dive in and have some fun.( email@example.com)
Another self-released album is “Hostages Are Cheaper Than Friends” from Inertia Bloom, which contains three long tracks that mix Pearl Jam riffing with spacey Kraut-Rock guitar workouts, the loose playing and lo-fi production only adding to the charm of the album. Opening track “When I Sleep I Point at The Sky” could be the worlds first example of Kraut-Grunge, and is a splendid way to start the album. “Funny We Should Meet Like This”, explodes into life with some intense noise before settling into a gentler mode, the guitars still weaving their magic, with the noise returning at the end. Final Track “There May Be Dragons” has a more delicate sheen, the lyrics sung over reverb percussion and gently chiming guitar/piano, giving the song the feel of a daydream, before some heavily treated percussion propels the song into a psychedelic finale. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Featuring guest appearances from Cat Power and Lou Barlow, the self-titled album from Ensemble is a stunning merger of electronic and acoustic sounds, resulting into a fully realised collection of songs that need several plays before revealing their fragile beauty. Recalling to mind recent albums by Rollerball, the music has a jazz tinge, and a psychedelic pop heart that allows the disparate elements to combine perfectly. Highlights include the lighter than air drone of “Still”, the drifting genius of “One Kind Two Minds”, on which Lou Barlow adds emotion with his downbeat vocal style, and the electronic beat of “All We Leave Behind”, whilst final track “For Good” is the sound of summer rain, so gentle as to be hardly heard at all. The Whole album was created and put together by Olivier Alary, and is obviously a labour of love, the joy in the music plain to hear, let’s hope there is more to come. (www.fat-cat.co.uk)
Some fine finger-picking can be found on the self-titled album from Wooden Spoon, whose dexterity on stringed instruments makes this album a pleasure to listen to, as folk/bluegrass melodies are given an experimental twist with some eerie piano and a haze of background noise that still allow the melodies to shine through. With a warm and relaxing feel throughout images of the countryside flood your mind if you close your eyes and listen, the smell of the earth forever at the back of your mind. (www.digitalisindustries)
One of the finest labels for those with a liking for Hawkwind style stoner rock is Elektrohasch, whose latest releases maintain the quality and reputation with energy a-plenty. First up Hainloose really rock on their second album “Burden State. This is stoner with a southern edge, the heaviness tempered with a sense of melody that gives the band a gritty sweetness, somewhere between Sabbath and The Allman Brothers. This mix is evidenced to perfection on “Proud of My Doom”, where the Blues rhythm is given a good going over by the heavy heavy riff, as the band get into their stride. Also on Elektrohasch, Colour Haze are probably on of the best known names in stoner/psych rock, and, over their eight album career have produced some of the best music in the genre. On “Tempel” the band are the perfect blend of heaviness and psychedelic, mixing shades of Sundial, with seventies rock sensibilities to forge an album full of long trippy guitar workouts, the tightness of the rhythm section allowing the guitars to soar high into a blissful sky. (www.elektrohasch.de)
Finally for this edition of Rumbles we come to the very short vinyl section. Just one item to declare in fact, and that is the very excellent three track 10” from Mesma who show how good modern pop music could sound if creative forces dominated rather than financial concerns. The lively feel and fabulous bass-line of “In The Cards” make it a natural opener, a gentle percussion melody adding to the ethereal ambience that rides along side the pulsing backing. Next track “Inner Static” is an earthier affair distorted guitar and electronics battling it out, before a brief calm is offered with ringing chimes softening the noise. Side Two contains the final song “A State Of Perfect solitude”, a slow undulating drone that is quietly unsettling as it slowly drags the floor from under you, until the song gains a woozy rhythm section and echoed guitar to lead you back from the precipice before dissolving before your very ears. (Simon Lewis)
Finally, a quick few from Phil... kicking things off with ‘Flyover’ by The Workhouse (www.bearos.co.uk). Oxford’s The Workhouse are one of my favourite bands tilling the post-rock field right now, and along with Thought Forms they’re probably the finest British exponents around. I never can hear the Mogwai references that keep getting mentioned – but if you’re a fan of Explosions in the Sky or Mono, then The Workhouse should also tickle your fancy, with their slightly jaunty take on what can sometimes be a ponderous instrumental style. My only complaint is that they don’t seem to play live often enough. Hopefully with the release of this 2nd album they should get out there and play a bit more. Can’t wait to hear them tackle the title track of this album live in particular – it’s an eight and a half minute mini-epic with (gasp!) vocals and all manner of sublime sonic excursions. ‘Mandalay’ by Virgin Passages (www.forerecords.com) sees another British group take on what’s become an American obsession: fractured folk with an acid-stained fringe. This Staffordshire based trio’s CD for Fire Records has been assembled from a collection of lo-fi and live recordings previously made available – I hesitate to use the phrase “released” – on cassette and CDR, as a consequence of which it lacks a consistent feel beyond the band’s own unique understated sound: not so much an album then as a shoebox stuffed with assorted musical snapshots. ‘Headstones for Progress’ and ‘Part Weatherman’ are both worth hearing though, the latter sounding for all the world like a Chinese school orchestra fed hallucinogenics and let loose in a heavy metal band’s rehearsal room with instructions to thump and strum everything in sight. Ace.
Next up, a compilation from Cream of the Crop (www.myspace.com/creamcropzinelabel), which is run by the indefatigable Colin Scott. Colin’s tastes (and that of the ’zine) tend to veer towards the hardcore punk end of the spectrum, but he has a good ear and anything creative and original and played with passion is grist to the mill. Standout tracks for my money are those by Belgian noise-merchants One Louder; ‘Candles’ by Tim Mungenast which has a glorious guitar riff and a San Franciscan hippy vibe throughout; the complex instrumental ‘Ghosts of Dusts’ by Sandsnowman; Black Maria Memorial Fund’s masterful singer-songwriterly ‘Jealousy’ – and the consistently brilliant Left Outsides with their ‘Now it’s Over’. Good stuff – worth checking out. ‘Mindbreaths’ by Skiesfalling (www.sonicsoundwave.com) is the latest project from Blake Hutyra’s SonicSoundWave outlet, which has been a constant source of delight here at Terrascope Towers for several years now. ‘Sun Ra Set’E’ has a gloriously laid-back jazz vibe which brings to mind some of Spirit’s soundtrack work for ‘The Model Shop’ movie, while ‘Redwall’ finds Hawkwind colliding with the Floyd somewhere out there in middle space. Glorious music to while away the last of the summer's wine to. (Phil McMullen)
Written and edited by: Simon Lewis. Producer: Phil McMullen.