On lovely red vinyl is “Never Seen You Cry” / “This City” another 7” single from Et Tu Brute, with the A-side being a fine melodic psych-pop tune that grooves along in a sunny relaxed way, with the flip continuing this groove reminding me of The Monkees or The Hollies, good stuff indeed. (worldwide records)
Pressed on even lovelier marbled pink/brown/orange vinyl “The Second Summer of Love” is a beautiful swirling slice of ambience played by Dragon Turtle, the music providing the backdrop for a spoken word monologue from Eric De Jesus (We Have Heaven) telling the story of an American in London, the two parts creating one sublime and fulfilling whole. On the b-side, “The Leaves on the Trees Were Green With Youth” has a slightly more frenetic feel whilst continuing the quality of the A-side completing an excellent 7” that looks as good as it sounds. (http://www.la-soc.com/)
Rounding off the 7”'s is “Salomonsens Hage” / “Singers and Swallows”, a 33rpm single from Tusmorke an Oslo based quartet whose music sits at the Prog/Psych crossroads, the heaviness of the A-side tempered by a sweet flute sound, whilst the B-Side is more mellow in its construction. Fans of The Smell of Incense or the Canterbury scene should certainly check them out as both sides have a warm sound and are beautifully composed,this would be my single of the week if such a thing existed. (http://www.freshtea.no/english)
Ok, time to move onto the full LP's, beginning with the mysterious electronic soundscapes of Bliscappen Van Maria, whose “Bliscepen” album is a heady psychedelic bloom, mixing the electronics with drifting guitars, bass and drums to devastating effect. Opening with the mind expanding cloud of sound that is “Eerste Bliscap”, the band set the tone, before thing step into a more hypnotic groove on “Stellaert Lysates”, a chugging guitar dancing with sequencers, driving the piece forward with urgency and passion, the track eventually morphing into a full-blown slice of space-rock that is a delight for the ears. To round off the side, “Sporen Nor Vaden” is a more abstract blast of sound, synths and tumbling drums fighting each other in a warm blanket of electronics, the track slowly fading like the embers of a fire, leaving a warm glow and a pile of sonic ashes. Opening with crashing waves of sound and dissonance, side 2 is dominated by “Oons Speels”, a monstrous behemoth of high Kraut magick that sucks you into its spinning vortex, prowling across your synapses like a deranged shaman in need of a fix. Acting as a soothing balm, “Ellindicheit”, is a softly spoken piece that closes the album in a whisper of beauty that ripples like a meadow in a warm summer breeze, the hazy guitar flourishes flickering like insects across the track. Fans of Kraut, electronic, expansive psych music need this LP, a future classic available now. (http://fourth-dimension.net/)
Working in the area of Noise/Experimental/Drone Latvian born, Berlin resident Viktor Timofeev manages to inject at least a smidgen of melody into his compositions, although these often seem more like reflections of melody rather than melodies themselves. On “GIVE HEALTH99”, his latest collection the mood is dark and desolate, distortion and confusion taking centre-stage, the music grinding through solid rock before emerging, tense and battle-weary. As with most experimental sounds, at least for me, it is the longer tracks that work best, with the 14 minute “Flying Zonogons” really creeping under the skin, a slow motion pulse like the heartbeat of a long forgotten creature that is only now remembering its purpose here on Earth. Difficult at first, the tracks here will reveal themselves as deep and mysterious, the harshness cloaked in a sheen of soft melody adding an alien beauty to proceedings. (http://lobitlandscapes.org/blog/)
On the same label comes the rather wonderful package that is “For Ostland” an album pressed on clear vinyl (streaked with black), containing a poster of the sleeve (artwork by Viktor Timofeev) and an inner sleeve as well, all good stuff which is thankfully matched by the music inside as NIHITI mix drone, experimental, ambience and distortion to perfection. After the atmospheric opener, the band take a sideways step as the cover “Ghosts and Lovers” (Marissa Nadler), turning the song into a beautiful gossamer haze of sound that is intense and aching with longing. On “ankhmazes” the sounds of old spirits walk the room, telling their tales without words, whilst over on side-Y, as opposed to side-X, “Sun Shatterer” is a slice of electro-pop fed through an industrial mincer, almost dance-able and sounding very fine indeed at high volume. To end, “Hymn Divisions” blends pulse with ambience, creating a mesmerising piece that floats away across a cloudy sky, brief glimpses of the moon allowing you to get your bearings.
Also available from NIHITI is “Other Peoples Memories”, an earlier LP that shows the band still searching for their final destination, the tracks having a more song-based edge, with “No Angel Came” possessing a rock heaviness that has become buried in distortion on their next LP. Elsewhere “The Ringing In” is a pop song filled with melody, whilst “Party Of” is a gently cloud of (mainly)acoustic psych, the two tracks sitting uneasily next to each other on the album. Over on side two, the band reveal Talk Talk to be an influence as the side contains five electro songs thare woozy and left of centre but definitely more straightforward than the bands later offering. Having said that, this is still a fine collection and there will no doubt be times when this disc will be chosen over the other, each having a personality of their own.
Hailing from Amsterdam, Labasheeda make tense and dramatic music on “Castfat Shadows” their third LP released on transparent green vinyl and also available as a download. Opening with the driving title-track, the band crank up the tension with some sleazy guitar noise that are the perfect foil for the distinctive voice of Saskia Van Der Geissen. Reminding me of Sonic Youth “Detective Song”is a slow burning tune that is constructed with great skill, whilst “Cars” is a short blast of punk energy that will wake the neighbours. Slow and atmospheric “Minor Flaw” shows a band capable of restraint, each musician adding something to the sound allowing the song to breathe in all the right places something also evident on “Withdrawn” which closes side one with gentle charm. Over on the other side the band maintain the quality with “Intertwined” offering the slow and atmospheric side, whilst “On Tippy Toes” shows the manic side, both styles living together happily creating an excellent collection of imaginative songs that offer variety and quality in equal measure the whole thing a joy to the ears, I bet they sound great live. (http://www.prestochangorecords.com/)
Time now to switch formats and concentrate on the CD's that have arrived here recently.
Offering their first album for 13 years, Bailter Space return to the fray with the ragged beauty of “Strobosphere”, a collection of guitar-led tracks that range from the shoe-gaze melody of opener “Things that we found”, the more meaty riffing of the title track and the Stooges influenced “Dset”. Throughout the set, the band are tighted yet gloriously loose, ensuring the energy and emotion is the most important part even on slower numbers such as “Op1” a song that reminds me of the band Almost August. Highly enjoyable from start to finish, the album is a lesson in melodic guitar noise that needs volume for maximum enjoyment, the listener being reminded of other bands without feeling Bailter Space are mere copyist, something evidenced on the Nirvana sound-a-like of “Island”, complete with quiet/loud bits and snotty attitude. Here then is the album's strength and weakness, a great collection but almost too familiar for its own good. (www.firerecords.com)
Those who read Rumbles on a regular basis will probably have noticed that I am a bit of a metal-head on the quiet, it is certainly where I started musically and I am still a sucker for a meaty guitar riff and lots of volume. Feeding that particular need at the moment is Small Stone Records whose latest batch of releases walk the line between metal/stoner and hard rock with quality and style. First up the excellent Green Leaf, whose “Nest of Vipers” LP is filled with chunky rock riffs, harmony vocals and understated solos, all topped off with a thoroughly modern production that recalls Pearl Jam or Soundgarden. This is a great combination with songs such as “Lilith”, the Sabbath-like “At The Helm” or the fuzzy noise of “The Timeline's History” pressing all the right buttons. Best of all though is the title track, eight minutes of moody rock heaven that burns bright and majestic across the sky and features a rather fine organ solo amongst all the slow-burning heaviness ending the album in breathless delight. Next up Sun Gods in Exile, whose brand of southern fried stoner boogie is good-time party music of the highest order. Opening with the crunchy riffing of “Hammer Down” you know exactly what you are going to get, the band motoring through such songs as “Moonshine”, “Smoke and Fire” and “I buried my Bitch's Car” in relentless pursuit of a good time. Even when to band slow it down there is energy a-plenty with “Climb Down” recalling all those classic seventies southern bands, yes even that one, adding some much needed variation to a rockin' collection that is perfect for that summer BBQ, party on dude. Much harder to categorise Mellow Bravo play short sweet rock songs that have a psych-pop sheen giving the band an identity of their own, their self-titled album filled with eleven gems that sparkle with playful energy. Highlights include the bouncy “Where the Bodies Lay”, the vibes that shine through “Lioness” and the sleazy guitar of “Love Hammer” all great tunes. To be fair though, the whole album manages to rock and make you smile at the same time, sometimes heavy, sometimes melodic, sometimes surprising the one consistent is the quality that remains high throughout. Finally on Small Stone comes Mangoo, who, despite having a singer called Pickles, play moody rock music with orchestral flourishes and the occasional trumpet. Definitely modern in their approach, the music is heavy, the themes are dark and nobody is smiling, which is as it should be. Those wishing to drown in relentless noisy rock should checkout “Deathmint” or the Sabbath inspired “Lose Yourself”, whilst the Lighter good-time sound of “Diamond in the Rough” is proof that the band don't really take themselves that seriously. Elsewhere “You, Robot” is a meaty rocker, “Painted Black”is slow and beautiful with some tasteful guitar touches, “Home” suprises with its Banjo riff and “Datzun” is a ten-minute epic that closes the album in style, building the tension and getting heavier and heavier, ending a fine and varied album that is something of a grower, I feel. (www.smallstone.com)
Those looking for some post-rock shimmer could do a lot worse than check out Easter Island, whose album “Frightened” is a sparkling collection of songs with a shoegaze coating. Over 11 songs the band display songwriting maturity a sense of light and shade and an ear for a melody. Able to rock out on songs such as “Hash”, the band also do slow and gentle, with “Ginger” sounding like The Red House Painters in its approach and dynamics. Elsewhere the band soar upwards on a warm breeze as the title track redefines the word shimmer, the beautiful production really lifting the song skywards, as it does the whole collection. (http://easterisland.bandcamp.com/)
Moving swiftly away from shimmer into the land of drone and noise we find three recent releases from HC3 Music. First up, TLO741 present “Held To Account”, ten improvised live tracks intended to be heard a high volume using electronic instruments as a way to remove harmony and rhythm. To a large extent they succeed with their purpose, although the human mind being what it is, you begin to find harmonies and rhythms buried in the sound, the brain filling in the gaps meaning each person interprets the pieces differently. However you hear it, the music is rich and fulfilling, each one similar yet individual, with Pat Gillis, the musician responsible, using the full sonic spectrum, the bass sounds being particularly effective to my ears, with “Understream”, “Coal Vermin” and “Inteference Pattern 1” winning the day for me.
Comprising of live and soundboard recordings from 2005-2009, “In Front of the Crowd” is the latest release from Northern Machine, a duo comprised of Pat Gillis and Bill Warford. Harsher in structure than TLO417 the musicians weave dark sonic tapestry that take on a life of their own as they ebb and flow, seemingly breathing with intensity and purpose. Over ten untitled track (well I can't find a tracklist anywhere) the band never let up making for a thrilling exploration of sound space and time that is well worth hearing, strap in and prepare for lift you, you wont regret it and you may find enlightenment and a sense of peace amid the chaos.
Finally Songs From The Otherworld offer “Mycophagy” a 3” disc that features one long piece based around singing bowls, gongs, flutes and sound manipulation. Meditative and ambient, the track has a peaceful quality, the sounds flowing like water around the listener creating a sense of space and being, allowing one to relax . (www.hc3music.com)
Working in a similar field (or possibly cave / abandoned factory), the latest releases from the Adeptsound label offer more improvised drone and experimentation. Writhing from the speakers like a wounded beast, the music of Zilverhill, is haunting and otherwordly as they prove on their latest album Laodicean”, a terrifying composition that rumbles and groans making you want to turn around at regular intervals. Featuring one 45 minute piece, there is no respite, the chilling feeling remains throughout, the musician's well thought out use of sounds and silence meaning the tension never dissipates, the music creating visions of darkness and decay in your mind, an excellent, if somewhat draining, listen. On the same label and equally as chilling comes “The Circle of Angst” a four part album from Schuster. For a brief second there is light as part 1 begins with a tinkling piano, but this fades leaving a rumbling serpentine drone that undulates and twists away from your grasp, seemingly never ending until the piano briefly returns, as if only a memory. With a slow heartbeat pulse part two slows thing even more recalling the majestic iciness of “Zeit”, the distant drone now hardly flowing over the barren rock it traverses. With parts three and four continuing the journey, this is a deep and solitary pleasure an album to be heard alone enabling the listener to completely immerse themselves in the soundscape, an intense and powerful vision. (www.adeptsound.net)
Right, after those slow-motion inner explorations it is time to get the brain and body moving with the manic intensity and skronking chaos of Cactus Truck whose hyper-energetic jazz free-form workouts are enough to spark electricity between the ears and get you grinning like a cheshire cat. Featuring John Dikeman – Sax, Jasper Stadhousers – Guitar, Bass and Onno Govaert – Drums, the band display amazing understanding and dexterity, their almost telepathic interplay giving the piece a vitality and rhythm that is hard to pin down but excellent to listen to. Opening with the ten minute “Aporia”, the band make a holy racket right from the off, giving the listener no time to get bored or distracted. When faced with such cacophony it is hard to pick a favourite but what is not to love about a free form jazz workout called “The Snotgreen Sea, The Scrotumtightening Sea”, or if that is too long “Splork”. (www.cactustruck.com)
According to the press release Thumpermonkey like to steer clear of the prog pigeonhole, in which case they should stop playing music that has the word Prog running all the way through it. Definitely modern in sound and production values, the guitars are crisp and upfront, the sound is rich and full and the songs well played and well composed and there is definitely a heavy element to the band, the riffs complex and interesting. Above all though, the songs are constructed as prog, changing riff and rhythm, taking unexpected turns and displaying a sense of melody amongst the complexity. Good stuff it is too, with “ Direct” being an early highlight mixing Yes with Muse, the whole band right on it from the off. Elsewhere, “Deficit” has quiet dignity (and a hint of early Marillion), whilst “Toxcatl” nails that Canterbury vibe with some great vocals on show. Overall a rather enjoyable collection that is modern, refreshing and definitely progressive. (www.thumpermonkey.com)
Blending synths, electronic beats, programming and guitar, Superstringphobia is a one man project with David Sanderson producing a swirling kaleidoscope of energetic sounds that remind me of Ozrics, Hallucinogen Eat Static and a host of other festie / psychedelic dance acts. Obviously produced at home the sound is sometimes slightly muddled, although this is a minor niggle as the composition makes up for it, the tracks containing the right amount of energy and cosmic swirl to get your feet tapping and your mind reeling. Favourites include the electronic mash-up of “Haunted Dancefloor”, the meaty riffing of “Outer Space Rock” (a definite Hawkwind flavour evident) and the self explanatory “”Inside the Kaleidoscopic Mind” a tune with a sweet groove and some excellent synth sounds. (http://soundcloud.com/superstringphobia)
Opening with a gentle acoustic number, Bezoar seem like another new folk band chiming sweetly from the speaker, that is until a wall of guitar noise interrupts the pastoral ambience and the band morph into a Sabbath influenced power trio with stoner relatives. Switching again, track three has a more heavy psychedelic feel, albeit dark in its intensity and detuned guitar noises and it is this feel that pervades the rest of the disc the guitar taking center stage over a collection of moody and often magnificent tunes that will blow those cobwebs clean away. My only complaint is that there is no track list printed on the sleeve although once the album is playing you can just get lost in the music instead. (http://bezoar.bandcamp.com/)
After all that doomy noise lightness can be found in the solo piano pieces of Laura McMillan whose “Linger Longer” album is filled with lilting and delicate pieces that wash over you with elegance and romanticism. Possibly not Terrascopic in the strictest sense, whatever that means, the music on show is easy on the ear and perfect for a relaxing day in the garden or for soothing your cares away. (http://perhapspiano.com/)
Playing the type of music that you may well find in a Tarantino movie, Crooked Cowboy and the Freshwater Indians mix Johnny Cash, Nick Cave and Tom Waits into an enticing brew, the deep voice and slow pace of “Bed Bugs” proving the perfect opener to “Annalog and her Hopeful Diaries” their latest release. On the title track soft recorders play a mournful melody, the lyrics matching the melancholy feel that is both aching and compelling. Live the band can range from 6-12 in number and this shows in their use of a wide range of instruments, each song being given a different favour whilst retaining the band sound. Containing just 5 tracks and lasting a mere 20 minutes, this is a collection of sleazy country styled tunes worth hearing when it is released in September. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Finally, some experimental electronica which is both inventive and playful, the sounds obtained from a collection of samples collected by the projects organisers Long Division With Remainder, who then invited other artist to use the samples as they wished, the results to be releases as a series of EP's named “Collision/Detection” . On “Volume 2”, West Norwood Cassette Library create a series of rhythmic hypnotic tracks that could be seen as intelligent dance music, precisely arranged and produced with minimum waste. Highlight for me is “What's Going On (Stuff is Happening)” Spoken word samples blended with sequences and drum patterns to create a track filled with glitchy energy.
Moving onto “volume three”, The Lord take a more experimental approach to proceedings, with “Dilligence is a Fish” containing distorted guitar and a cut and paste approach to rhythm, whilst “Parlimentary Crampons” distorts sounds with precision and imagination.
Taking the abstract and the ambient as their starting point Honk Kong in the 60's ensure that “Volume 4” is a sweetly flowing affair, synths burble and glide whilst some lovely vocals create a wonderful pop atmosphere especially on “The Ungrateful Root”. Sounding not unlike a 70's synth band, the almost prog tinged “Into the Forest of Eyes” is another delicate piece of music that floats along in lazy sunshine, as does “Banbury Grove” this time adding vocals and a bass groove, the collection rounded off by “The Clearing” a hazy cloud of synth washes electronic ambience. Of the EP's mentioned here, this is probably the most Terrascopic, however the whole series is imaginative and varied warranting investigation from listeners with an open mind and a taste for electronic music from all eras. (www.frontandfollow.com) )
Now it’s time to hand you over to Steve Palmer who has been working his socks off to bring a flavour of the new releases from the last couple of months, cheers Steve.
Dancing Mice are from Edinburgh and do quirky pop-lite, which on their fifth album "13 Difficult Lessons" covers quirky indie all the way through to quirky folk. Opening with the almost lo-fi 'The Tall Blonde,' the band's charmingly ever-so-slightly-out-of-time ramshackle jangling (with banjo accompaniment) is catchy enough to raise a smile, as are 'Cool' ("He's so Eurovision, simple tunes that hide precision" - this is music about music) and 'Thrills,' a song which sounds quite tipsy. 'The Red Shadow' brings in some electo-vibes, while 'Assembly' is a lovely waltztime groover sounding not unlike bands such as Dark Ocean Colours. 'The Man In The Islands' sounds excitingly like a Julian Cope out-take from 1991, 'Scarred By Love' is the longest track on the album and easily the least successful, but 'Time Alone' is a good cut, 'Fathers And Sons' raises another smile (great instrumentation) and album closer 'The Dance Of The Black Mouse' is electro-bonkers in the nicest possible way. Mostly successful, the band's humour, music and lo-fi ambition supports an entertaining listen.
Ric, a gentleman from South London, presents his first release as a three track EP. Opener 'Dea Ad Gloriam' reminded me a lot of The Migrant in tone and instrumentation, with a slight similarity too in voices. Ric Kemper half keens, half sings his music, with some slightly shambolic - in the very best way - instruments backing him. Comparisons to Syd Barrett are over-doing it, but this is very likeable music. 'Dusk She Flies' ploughs a similar furrow, as does the retro-psych 'Roadways,' although this last cut has the least confident vocal, perhaps. All in all, promising indeed. An album would be an interesting listen.
Who or what are Moulettes? Well, their music has been described as orchestral folk, progressive, world and classical, and all of these elements are indeed part of the mix on their second album 'The Bear's Revenge.' And a very fine sound it is. Opening with the beautifully sung 'Sing Unto Me,' the recording is professional, detailed, perfectly played; a stonking first cut. 'Country Joy' is uptempo, almost manic, with more multi-layered vocals sung and recorded to perfection. No wonder the Guardian's Robin Denselow is a fan. The seven and a half minute 'Some Who You Love' goes through a few moods and timbres as it weaves its waltztime tale, 'Songbird' has much more of a traditional folk sound than the earlier cuts, while banjos are brought in for 'Muse Has Wings,' a haunting track. 'Unlock The Doors' brings in various string instruments, then a frenetic bass/drum riff, which underpins a dramatic cut that reminded me of some of the early Solstice material. 'Half-remembered Song' matches eerie cello with eerie whistling, then with other heavily reverberated instruments - an album highlight. The eight minute 'Blood And Thunder' is another complex, heavily produced track - the most obviously progressive - which sparkles with energy and musicality. Overall, a terrific album, and all the better for being unclassifiable.
"Now We're Golden" by Ian McGlynn is a collection of melodic songs opening with the über-anthemic 'Gold Morning Mend,' which sets out the man's stall very well. 'The Warmth' also matches cunning instrumentation with a catchy tune, while 'My Pathetic Heart' goes into pop territory, as does 'Falling Towards Heaven,' which is a note-perfect three minute single. The pace slows down for 'Cathedrals,' which goes for a Maps style, though perhaps not so successfully as some of the more uptempo, earlier tracks. 'The Tick Of Time' is a bit of a whinge, but 'My Tiger Darling' returns to uptempo pop, which is what the man does best. 'I'm December' rocks out and is one of the highlights of the album, with some superb guitar and a good tune. Closing cut 'O Friends Of Mine' is a curious mixture of keyboards and moods, and, with its unsettling vocals, is an unusual final track. Good vocal, though. The album will appeal to anybody into the melodic end of well written, well produced pop rock.
If a modern, folkified version of Bo Hansson is your thing - and he certainly was my thing in the '70s - then Barrett Elmore's "Woodlands" is for you, not least because, rather curiously, it was recorded in a secretly located Swedish recording studio. The opening track 'Entrance' duplicates Hansson's "Lord Of The Rings" sound, before the melancholic 'The Creek' hoves into view, which is a rather lovely, psych-folk song beautifully sung by Mikaela Eriksson. The mood is contemplative, the sound retro-modern. It's just perfect. 'I See A Man' evokes '67 Floyd all too briefly, then 'The Nixie' does the psych folk thing again, except with softly sung male vocals, that work just as well as Mikaela's. Terrific stuff. 'Drowning' is more of a rocked-out groover, and 'Storm' is very trippy instrumental. 'The Brook Horse' returns the band to retro-sounding psych whimsy (not least the '67 Hammond organ) with a bit of a Doors-a-like cut. 'Lost In The Swamp' is another superb instrumental with an angelic close, 'Dusk (Dance Of The Pixies)' returns Mikaela to the fore, while 'Woodlands' concludes the album proper in grand style. A twelve minute closing cut 'Psilocybe Semilanceata' matches piano, recording effects, percussion and explosive guitars into an excellent instrumental, which actually sounds as if it was pieced together from jams, but which works well as a whole. This is a really great album that will appeal to all lovers of retro sounds. Highly recommended.
Mangled Bohemians are a duo hailing from Portland, Oregon, and perform the kind of mad, screwed up experimental music that could get them locked away by the men in white coats. Using guitars, synths and James Lee's vocals, the band create uneasy - though occasionally light and airy - soundscapes that sometimes seem industrial, but which more often aim for a sort of refracted intensity, deeply reverberated, yet with subtle overtones. 'Amphetamine Supernova' is the template for most of the album: spiralling guitar, weird vocals, plangent guitar backing. 'Into The Fire' pits phased synths with rippling guitar and bass, evoking a kind of end-of-festival vibe by some out-there sonic explorers. 'Mind's Eye' is easily the album highlight, a terrific melange of twittering guitar, drones and plucked notes. Great stuff. Album closer 'Slipping Away From Reality' is retro and trippy, with some Barratt-esque slidey guitar and some extremely strange vocals. Quite a trip, this one, but an enjoyable voyage nonetheless.
"Resting In Aspic" by the ambient-drone Listening Mirror is a collection of spectral, slow-change cuts that inevitably evoke trailblazers like Brian Eno, but which also hint at the recent work of Clive Wright and Harold Budd. A piano drifts over the soothing drone of opening track 'Outside Heaven,' then does the same next time, though with added birdsong. 'The Organist' is a fourteen minute drone with very little change through its duration, while 'Falling Under' again matches natural sounds, piano and droney backing. I think this is my favourite track of the seven - it just works of its own accord. 'Without Saying Goodbye' is another lengthy drone, 'Venice Boxhead' is more synthesized perhaps than any of the other tracks, and recalls the work of Quiet World, while final track 'Wet Roads' brings in choral synths and more natural sounds for a suitably ascendant conclusion. Well produced and a nice listen, so one for minimalist ambient-heads.
The J-Pegs do the boy-girl harmony thing on their EP "Hard Country". Ultra-catchy, Merseybeat-influenced opener 'She Had Everything' is a really strong song, as is 'Feel My Heart.' Tunes! Retro sounds! Top harmony vocals! This is great stuff. And nothing over three minutes. 'Someone's Someone' slows things down a little and adds retro-organ, but, again, a great song and terrific harmonies. A folk-tastic violin enlivens the quirky 'Hard Country,' while the closing cut uses a stomping Motown beat and a more modern synth to end proceedings. Sounding as if it was channelled direct from 1964 or 1965, this EP is a must for retro lovers. A delight, and highly recommended.
American trio Bear In Heaven have gained quite a reputation, not least working with Norwegian cosmic-disco supremo Lindstrom. On their third album "I Love You, It's Cool" their brand of dense, synth-heavy music sounds a little like something ZTT boss Trevor Horn might have considered working on. Opener 'Idle Heart' matches massive drums, intense synths and a confident vocal with a hint of a tune and heavy production values - one inevitably thinks of Tears For Fears. 'The Reflection Of You' is not dissimilar in tone to the preceding cut: BIG drums, lots of synths, and dense, intricate notes, over which a keening vocal floats. It's drama-laded, and has the kind of production values that make the listener think of the late 'eighties. 'Sinful Nature' has a hint of Robin Guthrie and a hint of Propaganda, but is its own, excellent cut. 'Cool Light' reduces the intensity a little - good track selection here, as the overwhelming density can become a little wearing - then the album veers off into the Pet Shop Boys-a-like 'Kiss Me Crazy.' 'Space Remains' ramps up the tribal drums to their logical conclusion, while album closer 'Sweetness & Sickness' is a welcome relief from the sonic barrage. The density and intensity does get a little too much at times, but there is just enough audio variety throughout, and almost enough slower, calmer cuts to make the album work. You will however need a lot of stamina to listen to this album.
Ent-t Records continue their excellent work in producing interesting instrumental albums by top performers, not least with the new album "Dark" by harpist Julia Rovinsky. The five tracks here are versions of pieces by top composers, opening with the brief 'The Room,' courtesy ambient-meister Harold Budd. Rovinsky's version of 'Etude For Piano No. 2' by Philip Glass is calm and reflective, like a nylon musical box, while 'Du'A-Invocation' by Munir Bashir is forbidding, in places minimalist. 'Für Alina' by the great composer Arvo Pärt soars, albeit delicately. The most interesting track for me is the concluding one, a version of Steve Reich's extraordinary 'Piano Phase,' here given a spectral and beautifully performed intensity - the album highlight for sure.
Moon Of Ostara is a solo offshoot of pagan psych overlords Earthling Society, whose "Stations Of The Ghost" provided excellent spacerock listening last year. On "The Star Child" the mood is approximately the same, with lambent guitars rocketing over drums, bass and guitars, with some vocals and a few Hawk-style analogue synths. It's a pagan-influenced melting pot of space synths, backwards inserts and more traditional riffage and soloing, provided by Fred Laird, whose solo project this is. The fourteen minute 'Star Child Part 2' brings in an oscillating analogue backing to sundry guitars and synths, before the riffing returns, and a dense barrage of synths and mellotron. 'Part 3' is more straightforward rocking and soloing, before the eleven minute 'Part 4,' which brings in heavy drums, manic stereo effects and another barrage of synths. Space-tastic, and certainly one for any who enjoyed Julian Cope's recent shamanic outings.
"Cocktails" by Scot Tom Baird is a collection of songs written by this bearded multi-instrumentalist, following up the successful debut album "Incidents And Accidents." The strange, though not unpleasant 'Holy Moly' opens the album, featuring minimal instrumentation based around harmonium, piano and Baird's honestly recorded vocals. This is indeed something from the new genre of Uplifting Melancholia. The title track is more uptempo, telling a Scottish tale in a unique manner, while 'Summer Ills' is perhaps a little too fragile for its own good, though doubtless well intentioned. 'Diamonds' enters folk-pop territory in lush style - an album highlight - while 'Volunteers Special' returns to the "naked voice and not much else" sound. 'Bearings For Mary' is superbly arranged and recorded and a great little song, while the romantic 'Carolina Suite' brings in an extra female vocal for a special effect - another album highlight. 'Trickle To Flood' features some strong guitar playing and album closer 'Faraway Hill' is a waltztime tale. Variety, musicality and occasional strangeness make this an enjoyable listen, not least if you veer towards Caledonia.
Fear Falls Burning is the work of Dirk Serries, otherwise known as Vidna Obmana, and comprises a mesh of drones, drums and bass. Four cuts, three lengthy, one short, constitute the album, the opening track beginning with guitar-drones, before the drums and bass come in. It's a kind of ambient metal, with hints of rock, hints of minimalism; the cumulative effect is powerful, however. The following three tracks do essentially the same thing as the first, but alas the "cookie monster" vocals make some parts of the music unlistenable.
The return of Last Harbour is something to be enjoyed, and on their latest album "Your Heart, It Carries The Sound" all the trademark elements are present: "melancholy and despair channeled by the evocative voice of Kevin Craig..." "spine-tingling climax..." "half-spoken vocals..." "epic and anthemic, doomy undercurrent..." It's all here! The title track opens the album with epic sounds and resonant vocals from the aforementioned Mr Craig. 'Never' carries a tune: the drums rock, yet the instrumentation is quite light. A great combination, and a terrific album highlight. 'The Heath' ("blasted and barren") is brief and dark, while 'Narrow Hearts' lopes on a thunking bass. 'Annabel' is remarkably light and buoyant for this band (musically at least), 'Replacements' piles doom upon more doom then heads off into a spectacular, ear-shattering climax. 'Open Up & Rust' is more like folk-rock, with another nice bass part, wandering up and down the fretboard; nice spectral synths, too. 'The Stars Look Down' is half song, half ambience, and works very well, while 'If You Mean To Be Lost' sounds like it was recorded at the rear end of a very dark cave. On a very dark night. Closing cut 'This Is How We Disappeared' takes all the reverb out so that the vocals and the band are back in intimate contact with the listener. Very effective. All in all this is another excellent, original and dramatic work by a unique band that could never be mistaken for any other. Recommended.
Wrapping up this section we have a book, "Harmolodic Programmes 2012," from the Bottletop Press. Essentially a mix-and-match collection of essays, quotes, poems and other sundries from various musicians - and musical people generally - the book is a kind of intellectual coffee table publication for anybody, like me, who thinks a lot about music. Of particular interest are the Rush items, the Zappa items, and the quotes. I had this by my sofa for a while and found plenty to dip into and be entertained by. Something to give to the muso in your life for Xmas.
Kalen Nash is a resident of Athens, Georgia, and on his new album "Ukred" he creates a kind of mini Fleet Foxes sound, albeit lighter on the harmonies than that band, lighter also on instrumentation. 'White Oak' features a Foxy melody with pounding drums and Guthrie-esque guitars - a great combination, before the slow, woozy 'Ramona' and 'Tell Me You Love Me Again,' which is more of a singer-songwriter affair, with drifting keyboards in the background and softly plucked guitars; not such a strong song, but a good sound. The lengthy 'To Be' again matches softly arpeggiated guitars with a mournful guitar, this time drenched in reverb - probably the most affecting vocal on the album. 'The Uno' is up close and personal, just the man and his guitar, while 'Wake Me Up' is highly produced and a bit of a sonic departure when compared with other cuts - pretty good though, with a nice bluesy guitar. 'When And Where' sounds like something Steve Winwood might have doodled onto an audio scrapbook, while 'Not Enough' carries another great vocal on a strong melody. Album closer 'Where Are You' is a mournful cut, ending the album in appropriate style. Fans of Fleet Foxes, Espers, Grizzy Bear et al would certainly enjoy this fine album.
State-mates of Kalen, The Corduroy Road are a quintet also recording in Athens, Georgia, but their sound references Americana far more than the downbeat Nash. "Two Step Silhouette" is a collection of twelve upbeat fiddle 'n' banjo cuts, most of them less than three minutes, opening with the bouncy 'My Dear Odessa,' which sets out the band's stall, and, indeed, the rest of the album: deputies, buckshot, grampa, etc. 'Living With Me' is a bittersweet homage to life, 'Love You Can't Shake' is banjo-tastic, 'Heaven's Own' steps up the tempo even more, 'Familiar Company' is indoubtedly the single from the album, while 'Open Your Eyes When You Sing' has the least comprehensible lyrics, although a fine solo vocal. The album concludes with the comparatively long 'Struggle And Strain,' which is a slow-burner but which features a great violin part and more ruminations on the unfairness of life. One for fans of The Felice Brothers and Megafaun, who, I suspect, will love it.
In similar mode, mood and sound are Woodpecker, who on "Thanks Anyway" present eleven Americana-infused alt.folk cuts, perhaps of a more tuneful nature than the aforementioned Corduroy Road, and with a nice line in male/female vocals. Opener 'Every Boy In NY' screams "I'm a single! Release me!" so loudly the chart fixers don't even need to wake up. 'Movie People' adds glocks and pattering drums to the fiddle and banjo soundworld, and also what sounds like a bit of a brass band, the song passing tunefully by, as does the altogether softer and darker 'Married To The Movies.' 'Matt And Ben' begins like a tired Duelling Banjos, but then veers off into a fast tempo'd storytelling cut: a softer Pogues, as it were. 'Paperbacks With Paragraphs Underlined' is the band doing melancholia (not with success, it has to be said - a bit of a dirge) but 'Scrabble Travel Set' is better, not least because of its whimsical lyric and supple female vocal. 'If You See Something...' has a great chord sequence and a tune, while album closer 'Black Lodge' matches cello with plodding drums and plucked banjos/fiddle. An appealing album for sure, which any fan of Americana would like, but which might also appeal to the nu-folkies, or even Sufjan Stevens fans. Terrific packaging and an alternately funny and gross "streets of NY" video (binbags, diner foods and pizzas sing the song) add to this striking work.
And so to Britain - the mother country, as I like to think of it. Et Tu Brucé are West London popsters with a following based on BBC Radio 6 and some local radio coverage, their debut album "Suburban Sunshine" pitting West Coast harmonies with hook-laden riffs. Opener 'Dress Me Up In Bruises' (I see what you did there guys) is a fast paced stomper with a bit of a tune but a lot of attitude: good opening. 'Memories Remain' treads retro territory - fabulous harmonies and a better tune, the whole reminiscent of an almost-Dodgy. 'This City' is more manic in tone, with a hint of The Jam in the instrumental backing, 'Never Seen You Cry' is Kinks-lite whimsy, albeit successful, while 'Miracle Crash' pulls out the Rickenbacker guitars although forgets to have a tune. 'Never Say Trevor Again' is the band's recent single, but what a strange choice, while the much better 'The Turning Of The Screw' again references The Kinks to create a joyful album highlight. 'Stars Fall' is harmony laden and terrific, 'I Keep Forgetting' has the album's best vocal and some proper guitar chordage, while album closer 'It's All Nothing' ramps up the percussion and attitude to create a hint of Oasis for a great finish. All in all, very promising, and one for fans of Dodgy, Cast, et al. If Britain ever had a proper summer this album could possibly be its soundtrack.
From the Azores Islands no less comes The Joy Of Nature, which is the solo project of Luis Couto, but which on "My Work Was Not Yet Done" takes contributions from other musicians. Part acoustica, part ambience, part rock, the album is a trip through sixteen tracks over an hour, opening with the almost psych 'November' and 'No Cambiares Lo Que No Puedes Cambiar,' which has a chanted vocal over light instrumentation - a curious, but not unpleasant combination, with a hint of early Mercury Rev in the sonic tapestry. 'Song Of Quiet' is indeed ambient in nature, while 'Interlude From The Garden Of Delights' is a freaky little instrumental. The next three cuts all have long titles in Spanish/Portugese, but essentially continue the fascinating journey set up by the opening cuts. Another curious instrumental follows, then the second half of the album, in which more bucolic post-rock cuts emerge, some with female vocals, some so light they're almost fey, others (notably the superb 'Waltz From Erased Days') much darker, with classical/avante garde influences. The album closes with a woozy trip through the sun-drenched Azores landscape. This is a really good album, which somehow fuses a range of moods and soundworlds into a coherent, organic whole. I really liked it.
Rosary Beard are a guitar duo from the north east of Britain composed of Hunter Sagehorn (guitarist in rockers Alta Mira) and Matthew Loiacono (aka Matthew Carefully). It seems a few ad hoc guitar sessions led to a tour last year, ranging from art galleries through attics and churches. The ten tracks on offer on the duo's album "Halfmoon Fever," the cover photo of which was part of its inspiration, paint bucolic pictures in tones of fingerpicked guitar, mostly light and rippling, occasionally veering off into clawhammer styles. Restful, and occasionally luxuriant.
Four years ago I reviewed "Goodbye Game" by Sean O'Brien And His Dirty Hands, which, if memory serves, I described as an album of solid entertainment, referencing Dave Edmunds, Dodgy and Shakin' Stevens. Sean's new one "Future Harvest" is essentially in the same ballpark; a full band, rock-pop songs, crashing drums and riffing guitars. 'Shadow Sharks' is big and beaty, 'Advice Coming In' adds Hammond organ to the mix, while the title track is retro 'fifties style - a return to Edmunds. 'A Thorny Path' is an acoustic delight and the album highlight, not least in its gorgeous string quartet backing. 'Leaves' goes into country'n'western territory, 'Your First Clue' returns to rock, 'The Dress Of Tara Jane' is out-and-out US country, while 'Not Always So' returns to riffing rock. Album closer 'Sister, I Have Fallen' appears to be a confession of some kind. An album of solid entertainment, albeit rather more US-leaning than last time, and so, perhaps to its detriment, falling between two stools.
Onewayness is American electronic composer Adam Holquist, who on "Blue Star Is Freezing" proffers two long drifting, droning cuts, enlivened in places by found sounds and field recordings. 'Kill All Voices,' the opening track, also uses sampled mellotrons and Moog synthesizers, alongside real synths and electronic instruments. The cumulative effect of this eighteen minute track is notable, as the emotional content of the music slowly builds, then is drained by a kind of 'eighties jam dance (with a hint of Berlin School). The tinkling 'Blue Star Return' serves as a bridge between the two main cuts, the second of which is 'Nothing Is Hidden, Nothing Is Revealed,' which essentially is drones, synth washes and little else - though the middle of the track is graced by a beuatiful slide/synth part - but which also packs quite an impact. Later on, voices draw the listener's attention away, then fade. Calm electronica, nice timbres: a good album, this, one which most EM fans should appreciate.
"Something About The Summer" is spiky American-style punk-pop done by duo+2 Koko Beware, brash and noisy and with a bit of a snarl, although not much - and maybe a hint of the B52's, although not much. The shouty 'Pretty Girls' just about exceeds two minutes, 'Feed Me' is similarly short and sour, while 'I Want To' at two minutes is a kind of mini mash-up between the Buzzcocks and The Ramones. 'Beach Babe' is a standout track which made me smile and which works on its own merits. Should be the single. 'I Miss You' is the sound of Motown if punk happened fifteen years earlier - it shouldn't work, it so shouldn't work, but by golly it does - while 'All I Think Of' also shouldn't work. 'Round And Round' is a good little stomper that recalls The Rezillos, 'I Just Wanna Dance' returns to fem-Ramones, while 'Back And Forth Forever' - let's be charitable - borrows bass from Joy Division, then adds a hideous guitar part. 'Stay' is a good stop/start cut, before 'All Alone' closes the proceedings in reflective style. If you can imagine American surf tracks meeting and merging with British punk acts then adding a big dollop of Ramones, then this you will like. The good tracks do outweigh the duff ones, though this album, inevitably, is something of an acquired taste. Kudos, however, for sheer cheek, and the style to pull the experiment off.
Last year I reviewed the four track EP "Twine" by Sligo songwriter Pearse McGloughlin, and a lovely collection of songs it was too. Now the man has completed his second full length album, this time with a full band, Nocturnes. Opening with the marvellously atmospheric 'Antelope March,' the next song 'Bright Star' is a waltztime lope through harmony-laden territory - another atmospheric cut. 'Morning Mist' returns to the acoustic sounds of last year's EP, while 'Caught In Craft' does similarly, though with even more impact - an album highlight. 'Stage Fright' puts the man's delicate voice against a piano, before 'You And The Lion' returns to softly picked guitar, although the band do make an appearance later in the track. 'Temps Perdu' hints at Irish folk, although obliquely, while 'Twine' references earlier music in more ways than one. 'Spherosphere' opens with an eerie violin before a marvellous vocal emerges, making another album highlight. The album closes with 'Going Away,' which all too briefly evokes, almost funerally I would say, the ghosts of departure. A really good album showcasing the talent of this songwriter.
"Towers" by Baltic Fleet (Echo & The Bunnymen keyboards man Paul Fleming) is an evocation of post-industrial landscapes in the north west of Britain, notably Liverpool and Manchester, painted with Krautrock-tinged synths and drum machines. Opening with the anthemic title track, synths chime and whoosh as the metronomic beats and sequencers fire up. Great stuff! 'March Of The Saxons' does likewise, with at least as much verve, while 'Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse' is more of a rock jaunt with a hint of the 'eighties - another killer cut. 'Engage' does exactly as this title suggests, with a hint of New Order, while 'The Wilds' is more sparse than some of the fare here, though just as successful - nice chord sequence too, hinting at various Teutons. 'Winds Of The 84 Winter' pits a fluttering sequence against BIG drums, while 'Hunting Witches' is a strange little confection evoking Hooky's bass. 'Toire De' also evokes bleak Manchester before going into a belter of a cut. 'Midnight Train' is composed out of chiming keyboards and thunking drums, before the closing track, 'Reno,' which draws atmosphere from piano and synths - an ambient conclusion. This is a really great album that I much enjoyed, evoking motorik, krautrock, but perhaps most of all that particular brand of synth that was all over the place in the very late 'seventies. All lovers of EM will want to check out this album. Highly recommended.
Mad Planet hail from California and do a kind of spaced out disco electronica on their new album "Ghost Notes." The band is a trio, with a female bassist/vocalist, drums, electronica and a smattering of guitars; the tracks are mostly a kind of torch song from somewhere in an alternative cosmic past. The opening pair of tracks are so-so, but 'Let It Begin' is more striking, with breathy vocals and a sparse, yet exciting mix, which recalls the disco classics of Blondie more than anything else: an album highlight. 'The Unknown' features a particularly good vocal and a nice thrumming bass line before it goes into heavy sequencer and drum territory - a good cut. 'Run To The Sea' has an 'eighties thing going on, not least in the guitar sound, but a good chorus, while 'I Want You' and 'The Outlaw' evoke Blondie, with the latter featuring a nice viola part from Danny Graziani. 'Two Of Us' is another album highlight - nice multitracked vocals, a tribal feel, quite a dark atmosphere. Album closer 'Slowly I Turn' is slow and spooky, with minimal instrumentation - a thought provoking closer. A very good album, this, with much to recommend it. Comparisons to Blondie aren't far from the mark, there being a similarity in timbre and delivery between Debbie Harry's voice and Cooper Gillespie. Recommended.
If you like noisy, dirty, scuzzy space-rock with lots of riffing guitars, wailing vocals and clashing drums then "An Echo Through The Eyes Of Forever" by Seattle's Black Science may be for you. Opening with a chunk of very heavy occult-inspired space-rock, the album then heads off into psych pop territory on 'Easy Prey,' which, though heavy, is a little lighter than the opener; great trippy ending too, with a Brock-esque guitar sound and a nice bass line. 'Anywhere' is dubby-trippy, with jangly percussion and lots of spaced out guitar stabs - very nice. 'The State Of The Art' sounds like a nightmare presented by Primal Scream, while 'Hardcore UFOs' is a snarling, thrashy cut that heads off into hyperspace and doesn't come back - great metal overload ending. 'Exegesis' is another trippy track, before the sixteen minute closing cut 'Our Sentence Is Up,' which is psych punk, I'd say, with healthy doses of riff-tastic Hawkwind and ott metal thrown in, but which also heads off into jam/festival territory before returning to tripped out metal. Great stuff for space-rockers, an accomplished sound, recording and production. Nice one!
"Machine" by Ormonde is a rumination on the vagaries of love created by two Seattle based musicians - Anna-Lynne Williams formerly of Trespassers William, and solo artist Robert Gomez - who, until the album was created, hardly knew each other. 'I Can't Imagine' features weird electronica and thunking drums, above which a vocal is floated, while 'Cherry Blossom' features the barely intelligible vocals of Gomez, which, I suspect, are something of an acquired taste. 'Lemon Incest' features both vocalists, while the title track is lugubriously slow, with a churchy organ and piano backing. 'Secret' is more uptempo, with paired vocals, while 'Blank Slate' is a kind of fey folk-tronica, and quite successful, as is 'Hold The Water.' The Lennon-esque piano of 'Drink' hold the attention for an album highlight, while concluding track 'I'll Let You Know' is a lovely amble through softly plucked acoustic guitar and accordion; the best song on the album.
Isnaj Dui is the nom de plume of Katie English, whose gorgeous, light and ephemeral soundscapes grace her album "Abstracts On Solitude." Although English has been on the alternative/electronic music scene for a while, this new album is different, conceived and recorded in response to a panic attack. English's bass flute opens the work, before more unusual, electronic sounds emerge; a kind of crepuscular ambience that works really well last thing in the evening. 'What Lies Inside' merges acoustic instruments with electronica, with the flute acting as a kind of balm against the strange electronics. It's a refreshing and successful combination. 'Quarter Wave' brings in acoustic percussion and waves of droning synths, while 'Nature Of Light' returns to that relaxing, heavily reverberated flute. Very nice indeed... 'Peripheral Motion' adds dulcimer to the mix, overlaying more eerie electronica, while closing track 'The Last Will Become A Darker Grey' mixes flute with drifting keyboards, reminding me of some of the passages in Edgar Froese's classic solo album "Epsilon In Malaysian Pale," although there the flute sound was provided by Froese's trusty mellotron. I very much liked this album, with the flute a particularly attractive feature. Highly recommended if you like meditational ambience.
Also on Hibernate Records is Wil Bolton, who adds natural sound recordings to an arsenal of ambient guitar textures on his album "Under A Name That Hides Her." Opening track 'Clearing' is a melange of tinkling keyboards (or possibly a glockenspiel), backwards guitars and dreamy, droney textures: very pleasant, and, at seven minutes, not too long or too short. 'Blackpoint' is slightly heavier in mood, with denser textures and sea-based natural sounds from Ynys Mon, while 'Skyview' is based on loops and rippling sounds, and is essentially a long drone. 'Barbed' plays with rain and forest sounds, which swirl beneath the chiming guitar textures, while 'Dissolve' returns to more obvious, untreated guitars and Welsh birdsong. The album ends with 'Passing,' which through the use of dense guitars looped slowly creates a vivid atmosphere. The combination of natural sound and mostly guitar-sourced timbres is a successful combinatin, leading to a very enjoyable album. More power to Hebden Bridge!
Kevin is not an English bedroom artist of indeterminate surname, they are a Finnish pop rock band, singing eight songs in English on their third album "Ebb And Flow," the sound world here not unlike that provided by fellow Scandinavians La Fleur Fatale, Deleted Waveform Gatherings, etc. Opener 'Standing On A Rubber Band' features riffing and soloing guitars, harmony vocals and a lot of joie de vivre - a great beginning. 'A Lonely Place' is quirky pop-lite with a smattering of acoustic instruments, while 'This Is Real' adds bongos, faux-funk and dubby guitars to the retro mix, and has a memorable vocal line, melodically and lyrically. An album highlight. 'Trans-Atlantic Boogie' has a Deep Purple influence, I feel, with a chugging rhythm and fab harmony vocals - another highlight, with more than a nod to the work of La Fleur Fatale. 'We Carry On' is another funky little number, while 'Four' is a bit of a glam stomper, the sort of thing you might have seen on TOTP around 1974 maybe. Great cut, though. 'The Uprising' opens with choral vocals before heading off into the most obviously retro cut on the album, which over eight minutes traverses 'sixties influences of various kinds. Another highlight. The album closes with the spacey 'Vermona,' which merges everything that has gone before into a smorgasbord (I know, I know, that's Swedish not Finnish) of delights. "Ebb And Flow" confirms once again that there's something in the water over there in Scandinavia. With bands like this, and La Fleur Fatale, Barr, Deleted Waveform Gatherings, Paths Of Prakriti, The Migrant et al, it does seem the place to be...
I Come To Shanghai are an American duo whose game plan is to make convincing albums that fit onto one side of a vinyl record. "Eternal Life Volume 1" and "Eternal Life Volume 2," here presented on a single CD, features big-sounding analogue synths, songs, hooks and beats. Opener 'Love Shark' is memorable, and, like all the tracks here, it segues straight into the next cut, 'Trapped In A Dream,' which brings more chunky synths into the mix. 'Stand By,' 'Halley's Comet' and 'Mother's Arms' make it clear that the duo's plan is going to be followed, with track lengths in some cases little more than a minute. There's convincing melodic material here however, and many nice synth textures, leading to an intriguing listen. 'Hotel Travellers' is pure ambience, while the final cut of the first volume, 'The Skyline Repeats,' is quirky and light. Volume 2 opens with 'Nothing To Conceal,' perhaps not as successful as some of the earlier songs, but the upbeat and raucous 'Empty Eyes' is better, as is the rolling, slide-enhanced 'Another Holiday.' 'Moose, Indian' ramps up the analogue textures and continues the slide guitar theme, while 'The Loon' is a lush, almost decadent song. 'You And I' and 'Swallowed By The Light' conclude the album, the former with an anthemic theme, the latter a kind of vocodered peep into an alternative 'seventies past. This is a never less than intriguing and enjoyable listen, which for me recalled the Alan Parsons Project - not in terms of the sound, more because of the use of different vocal textures, moods and songs, which, when adjoined, create an almost progressive tapestry. If you like synth pop but don't mind a few diversions into rock and ambience, this is for you, and for variety alone it is to be lauded. A successful and enjoyable venture, with much to recommend it.
Terrascopic Rumbles for January was brought to you by Simon Lewis and Steve Palmer. Artwork, layout & direction by Phil McMullen - © Terrascope Online, 2012