new month arrives, a year draws to a close and a new Terrascopic Rumbles begins. Since the last Rumble, a veritable torrent of interesting music has arrived through my letterbox, including a pleasing pile of vinyl, so, without further waffle, let’s get down to it.
Recorded with Moog and Formant analogue synths, the 7” single “Two Systems – Music for Modular Synthesisers” is a glitchy stuttering joy to the ears, brought to you by Wrangler /Scanner. Fans of Delia Derbyshire, Eno and Tangerine Dream will be in seventh heaven as ancient sounds caress the ears, others amongst you will just marvel at the excellent picture disc, featuring pictures of the analogue beasts involved. On the same label, Static Caravan, Cheval Sombre soothe the troubled mind with the delicate folk/psych of “I Found It Not So”, a dreamy and delicate song that is soft as moonlight.
Hiding on the B-side of the disc, “Where Did Our Love Go”, is a cover of The Supremes song run through a Galaxie 500 filter, the arrangement exposing the bare wires of the song in delicious fashion. Featuring Sonic Boom as producer, this is a 7” worth tracking down, if you can find it.(www.staticcaravan.org)
Released on flecked-grey vinyl, “Ace Hardware Presents” is a 10-track 7” EP (33 1/3) by the seriously noisy and angry Mayfair and Huxley. Favouring energy over production, the band hurtles through the brief pulses of guitar noise that masquerade as songs, each one a coiled and furious spring. Adding to the fun is a vocalist that sounds like Moe from The Simpsons after a really bad day. Fans of Killdozer, Jesus Lizards or Pussy galore should dive right in and turn it up. Also on grey-flecked 7” vinyl is a wondrous split single from the always interesting Anti-clock Records. Featuring one track each from Language of Light/Crow Tongue, this is quality stuff indeed, with “The Tower” being a dream-laden slice of melancholy propelled by some haunting violin work courtesy of Justin Jones, whilst Timothy Renner and drummer AE Hoskin, create a primitive techno/folk groove under the guise of Crow Tongue, as “Wind Chant” drives itself under your skin. Housed in a beautiful sleeve, with illustrations by the artists, this comes highly recommended to lovers of folk strangeness. (www.anticlock.net)
Finally for the seven inchers, “The Planes Gone Dad” by Geese is a softly swaying wash of indie/psych on lovely white vinyl. With a sing-a-long chorus, an English feel with a surreal coating, the song grows on each listen until you find yourself humming it for weeks afterwards. With part two on the B-side, this is a good reason for resurrecting the single as the perfect musical form.(www.vanitycaserecords.com)
Growing up slightly, “Y” is a gorgeous 4-track 10” EP from Maya, the songs slow and languorous, sounding as if you are eavesdropping on secrets you should never have heard. Filled with slow-motion strings and rippling piano, the songs are completed by the hesitant yet beautiful voice of Maya herself, best heard on “Bliss Implode”, although all four songs shine out into the night sky with an ethereal icy beauty. (www.discalcula.com)
With song titles such as “Day in the Life of a Cloud”, “karmic Engines” and “Father Time He Wastes It”, I was really hoping that “E(I)ther or” the new album by Bipolaroid, was going to as good as the packaging suggested. Actually it was even finer, a blistering collection of psychedelic tunes, ranging from the surreal to the noisy to the plain weird. After the sprightly opener “Day in the Life…”, the magnificent “Transparent make-believe” takes thing to a different level, some excellent guitar work letting the song fly high. After three more brilliant songs “Mouth of Lions” finishes side one in dramatic fashion, sounding like Leonard Cohen on acid, drifting flute and strings adding to the otherworldly atmosphere. Changing gear, side two springs into life with the stop/start garage guitar of “Father Time He Wastes it”, before “Hallelujah” reveals a love of early Floyd. As with all great psych albums, the whimsical toy town pop of “Fell Right out of Bed” makes you smile whilst simultaneously confusing the ears with the joy of it all. Possibly my favourite track “The Golden Era” is a classic in the making, revelling in its sound, the slow and blissful middle passage creating just the right ambience, before the band kick back in with sonic vengeance. If this album had been released in the sixties it would command ridiculous prices on well known auction sites, don’t let that happen now, get one while they are still available, you will not regret it for a moment. (www.bipolaroid.com)
Originally released as a limited edition in 2001, “A Green Dream”- The Mirrors is a yet another psychedelic collection worthy of your attention, the music walking the garage/psych line with consummate ease. Whilst the original release suffered from lousy sound due to the cramming of too much music onto the vinyl, this deluxe double vinyl edition, lets the full glory of the songs shine through. One listen to the garage snarl of “My Lovely Lover” will convince you of the bands intent, whilst the title track veers into psychedelic territory, whilst losing none of its bite. Elsewhere, “Ecstasy” is the swirl of hash smoke, the smoke mainly drifting across that electric prunes album we all love, an influence rather than a rip-off. Over four sides the band manage to maintain quality and an acidic vision that creeps under the radar and embeds itself in your bloodstream , each song a delicious nugget to be enjoyed many times. Also included are two previously unreleased songs from the same session, with both “Gracie’s Pink Pussycat” and “Bad Dreams” destined to become garage classics, awash with layers of fuzz guitar and snarled vocals. There are so many reasons to buy this album, but if I had to pick one it would be the seek and destroy guitar solo that drives “Lonely Sunday”, worth the price of admission alone. (www.hookorcrook.com)
On the same label, the demented garage chaos that is Human Eye, needs to be experienced firsthand on their album “Fragments of the Universe Nurse”, a twisted selection of weirdness that attempts to batter your senses until the ego has been destroyed completely. Opening track “slop Culture” says it all, a schizophrenic romp, the Cramps meeting the Residents to cover every song on Pebbles 3 “The Acid Gallery”. After a while the songs blend into each other, a whirlpool of confusion, although special mention must go to “Poison Frog People”, a demented space rock work-out that demands high volume to be fully enjoyed (not sure my neighbours enjoyed it as much as me though). Finally the title track leads you out of the craziness, eastern-psych fed through a blender, unsettling and highly addictive, just the thing for those long winters’ evenings.
To complete the vinyl phase of this Rumble, Dead Western changes the mood completely with his first full length release “Soften Your Screams into Sings”. Basically the work of Troy Mighty, this is lonesome outsider folk that tugs at the heartstrings, a strange mixture of Ring, Banhart and Scott Walker. Managing to be difficult to listen to whilst being beautiful is the music’s strength, with songs such as “abandoning Offering” revelling in their outsider status. Housed in an intricate hand-made sleeve, stitched together by the artist, this is a Terrascopic gem, a truly individual voice, making music as art not commerce, applaud loudly, then buy one. (www.kdvsrecordings.org)
Changing to CD’s, but sticking with the folk theme, Dumb Angel, evokes the spirit of Nick Drake covering Red House Painters on their latest album “I woke Up This Morning”. Commencing with the title track, the music is delicate and hazy, wistful lyrics matched by sympathetic playing and a warm centre. Throughout the ten tracks the band keep the same feel, wandering melodies enriched by strong arrangements and deft touches with “Twenty Three” and “Galaxies and Suns” really hitting the spot for me. Also available is “Ghost Dance”, the debut album from the band. Equally as good and even more fragile, this is another collection of drifting, gentle songs that should appeal to fans of Iron and Wine, Jamie Barnes, or Kings of Convenience.
Seemingly revelling in being an outsider, “Merchant of Death” the latest offering from Ginger Leigh is a great collection of sounds, structures and melodic madness, a nod to Dadaism, Experimental electronic music and unexpected happiness. The title track is a primitive death stomp that opens the album with intent, whilst “This is Ginger Leigh” is a bizarre sixties groove that suddenly lurches in odd directions. Elsewhere, “Flechettes” is eastern psych squashed into two minutes, the Mexican flavoured “Tea House” is battered by glitch electronics, before falling over completely and “It Might Be Long Before I Return” is warm electronica, that almost escapes unharmed. Finally “Al-Ironman” sound like it should, the opening chord from Sabbath looped over and over again. Pop this in the player when you don’t know what to play, a new surprise everytime. (www.gingerleigh.com)
Difficult to categorise yet easy to love, “lay-By”, the third album from Stockholm dweller A Gilbert Play, is a warm, emotional take on post-rock, filling the room with melodic and inventive tunes. Mixing electronic pulses with a host of real instrument, including the mellow and jazzy vibraphone, this is the perfect album for Sunday afternoon. Put it on and watch the leaves fall from the trees; somehow they seem to be connected. (Dreamboat music firstname.lastname@example.org)
Creating an exquisite tapestry of softly falling notes, “Night and Day Songs for Solo Guitar” is a mesmeric collection of music from Jeff Eden, which does exactly what it says in the title. Opening track “By Night” is blissful and relaxing lulling the listener into a contemplative mood that continues for the rest of the album. With all song recorded without overdubs here is a simplistic, minimalist feel to the record; something that suits it well. By the time the last notes of “across the Lake” fade from your hearing you will feel the world is a better calmer place, the power of the music having woven a spell around you. (www.myspace.com/jeffericeden)
Equally gentle are the delightful songs of Smile down Upon Us whose latest self-titled album is a pleasurable experience from start to finish, the dreamy melodies enhanced by soft flute, banjo, mandolin, strings, a fold-up bike and the beautiful vocals of the strangely named MoomLooo. With an experimental twist adding contrast to the album, songs such as “Childs Walk” reveal extra depths the more you listen, whilst a cover of “Tiptoe through the Tulips” ends the album with a giggle and a beaming smile, enchanting. (www.staticcaravan.org). On the same label comes the psychedelic drift of St Just Vigilantes, whose wonderfully titled “Pastor of oaks, Shepherd of Stones” mixes folk and electronic to great effect, reminding me of Tunng before the electronic overwhelmed them (on record at least).After a brief flurry of sound, “”Rose Grenades” sets the scene with understated splendour, a twisting ivy of sound that creeps into your spine, the scraped violin adding a touch of unease to the piece. Mixing short instrumental flashes with longer song based pieces; the music is sensual and vibrant, with final track “remembrance” being a longer instrumental infused with a beauty it is hard to shake off.
Those seeking more alien, unstable music should pop round for a cup of tea with Kotra (the working name for Ukrainian Dmytro Fedorenko,) , whose latest release “Reset” is a startling collection of jagged and warped sounds recorded live over a two year period. Never still, the music ranges from the distorted bass riffs of “In Strict Sense” , through to the high pitched whines of the 15 second “Solid Dissection”, whilst “Rational attack”, the 10 minute opener is akin to being attacked by a swarm of mechanical insects. (www.kotra.org.ua)
Recorded at the Endhart Gallery, Berlin, the appropriately entitled “Endhart” is a recording of one of the final concert from performance artists Tri-Meh. Working between 1985 -1987, the duo of Bernd H and Safy used primitive synths, metal object, guitars, found sounds and prepared loops to create chaos and confusion through sound. Linked to the Cologne avant garde/fashion scene, the music drones, crackles and rattles its way through seventy minutes, revealing a surprising beauty and stillness at its heart, the drones producing an almost spiritual feel to the music, which is easy to get lost in. (www.brigade-music.com)
As we all know, the name Digitalis conveys a level of quality that has few equals when it comes to improvised/outsider/drone/folk sounds. The latest batch to reach these ears suggests that this will continue to be true for some time to come. Filled with sounds that echo with high places and the shadows of mountains, “At the Foot of nameless Roads”, is a gigantic yet personal vision from Brian Pyle. The opening title track is glacial and timeless, a slowly expanding soundscape that rolls through the room removing any trace of modern living, primal and alive. Glittering like a jewel on the shores of a mountain lake “Mud banks Shine in Broken Shards”, is an intense drone that seems to last longer than its allotted four minutes, whilst “In each Cracked Shell, There Is Restless Time” is the sound of tectonic plates shifting underfoot, a vast and dynamic piece that almost renders thought impossible, all you can do is listen. Treading very similar ground, although perhaps of a warmer hue, “”We’re only in it for the Spirit” is a collection of four untitled pieces from Finnish drone master Jani Hirvonen and J.P.Koho (Vapaa), working under the familiar Uton name. Clocking in at less than 40 minutes these are drones with magickal properties, the instruments taking on a spirit of their own under the musicians guidance, creating a new mythology from old sources. Final track is a slow chanted song, with ghostly guitars weaving a different spell, releasing the listener from what has gone before. Finally on Digitalis, Valerio Cosi takes improvisation into another realm with the excellent “Heavy Electronic Pacific Rock”, which may or not be rock or heavy, yet is suited to the title. Opening piece “Study for Saxophone and Electronics” is just that, yet steers clear of out and out skronking, managing to sound jazzy without really being so, although there is a definite hint of the jazzier Canterbury sound. On “A New Vispanna”, a lone sax starts to blow holes in the universe, layers slowly added until a glorious soul invigorating noise is flying forth, this then slowly dissolves, some hand percussion adding a trance element to the music, my favourite track on the album. Which is strange because as a Kraut rock lover, “Proud to be Kraut/ A Burning OM:Reprise” with its Can rhythms and Gong like ambience would seem to be much more to my usual taste, and it is, maybe this is my favourite track after all. Then again, The floating spiritual bliss-out of “The North Pole Vibes” has the power to levitate my mind, the sax playing as sweet as you will ever hear, now this is my favourite track and this, perhaps, is the albums real strength, the ability to hold the listeners attention, to remain in the now, enjoying every second of a remarkable album. (www.digitalisindustries.com)
Augmenting his acoustic guitar pieces with the sounds of toy pianos, glockenspiel, electronic noises and percussion, “Handsome Like a Lion” is a warm-hearted six track disc from Arliss Parker. Purely instrumental, there is a light and relaxing fell to the music, with wanton percussion and dancing electronics adding to the playfulness. The rather fine “She Smiles While She Sleeps” is a shimmering delight and a good indication of the sonic treats that lie within. (www.dagrecords.com)
Stalking the trails of Nick Cave and Tom Waits, Dead Heart Bloom ignites the room with some sleazy rock ‘n’ roll on their EP “Oh Mercy”. Second in a series of three, this is darker than the first (see previous Rumble), with opener “Love Like Lies” boasting a grungy blues persona that carries through until the end. After the frantic garage of “I’m Going To Meet Jesus” and “There Is No Mercy”, the final track “Hymn” slows things down whilst retaining the sleaze, a funereal mariachi march that pushes all the right buttons. Bring on number three. (www.deadheartbloom.com)
Oozing quality from every pore, The Antiques, display a majestic vision on their second album “Awake”. Once the drone of “Blackout” has altered your perception, the band start to tell their tales with layers of organ and guitar giving depth to their epic pop tunes which, in places, remind me of Damon and Naomi, The Byrds, and Felt, although the songs remain individual and the album itself is a varied and far reaching collection. Leaving the best until last, the 20 minute title track opens vistas in your imagination, a soaring and beautiful piece of work that is akin to standing on top of a mountain, the wind roaring through your ears as you gaze at the tiny world below you, awesome. (www.theantiques.org)
Slow burning and hazy, the music of Fuzzy Lights is both experimental and familiar, with aching violins, guitar drones, and an eerie atmosphere creating a truly mesmerising soundscape that can be explored over and over again. Both playful and noisy, there is a hint of Mono meets Mooseheart Faith about the sounds, both psychedelic and melodic with “Capturing Shadows” and “Colour of the Sun” displaying the bands differing sides with easy style. (www.littleredrabbit.com) . On the same label the folk musings of Crazy Man Michael, easily live up to their namesake on their excellent album “The Green Light”. Adorned with Drake-like Strings, the songs are rooted in Late 60’s/early 70’s folk sounds with mandolin, ukulele, and harmonium adding to the feeling of time travel. Over nine songs the band sing of love lost, hope in the future, and the paradox of life itself, the arrangements breathing life into the songs creating a vibrant collection that defies its almost completely acoustic instrumentation to crackle with natural electricity. As with all great folk album, loss and sadness are never far away with “Doomed Youth Blues” and the ghostly “Nights Journey” fulfilling the quota, whilst the delicate flute filled “Halcyon” shines some light into the future.
Sometimes brutal, sometimes ghostly, the feedback infested dronescapes of TLo741 (An electronic component number) are magnificent in their execution, soaring electronic pieces that roar and whisper, entice and repel. On the latest offering “Back to Minus”, Pat Gillis uses synths, effects and tape manipulation to twist the sound into alien territory, early Kraut mixing with Acid Mother Temple and Musique Concrete to create five pieces of warped listening pleasure, with the title track being the pick of the bunch for me. (www.hc3music.com/tlo74)
Working out of Helsinki Aan are a duo consisting of Jari Koho and Jani Hirvonen, whose “Kultainenn Kupoli” cd is a twisted collection of improvised free-folk that will have you smiling with joy or running for the nearest shelter, depending on your tolerance levels. Being discerning Terrascopians, I’m sure it will be the former as you settle back to be slightly disorientated and enjoy 40 minutes of uneasy listening, the duo using strings, electronics, voice, bells and percussion to move your centre of gravity. Watch out for the opening track, you may think (just briefly) that your CD player has ceased to function. (www.myspace.com/aanmusic)
Equally as intense but in a more laidback fashion, the edge of the universe drone of “A Lonely Place” is one slowly drifting piece that envelopes the listener in its unearthly beauty, relaxing yet energising. Possibly music for meditation, this is a single heartbeat slowed to 38 minutes, awash with possibilities yet, ultimately, as still as a single tear. Created by the always listenable Ian Holloway, this is another worthy release from Quiet World, the cover of which is as Zen-like as the sounds. (www.quietworld.com)
Far more sinister drones can be found on “Framed of Remission”, a split CD featuring Diaphragm and Migrations in Rust, that contains three tracks , one each, then one collaboration. Migrations kick things of, the jet engines in hell roar of “(Listening for) His Cavities payment to Soil”, making sure that you are awake, as it tears through the air in a huge wave of noise, the building intensity rendering you helpless yet strangely calm. In contrast, Diaphragm chose to confuse the senses with random noise, electronic rattles and scuttling utterances on “Curl”, the soundtrack to a sixties children’s’ animation series deemed too weird for broadcast. Finally these two halves are welded together for the title track, a deep foreboding drone that grinds through the brain, boring holes in your soul as it seeks release. Best played very loud; there is a beauty within the noise, although seekers will need to stay alert if they are to find the key. (www.peasantmagik.net)
Another split release that will be of interest is “Submission to a Higher Order of Knowing” featuring the experimental electronic talents of Thanaton (John Gillanders) and Corvus Devexus (Jake Coolidge). Featuring speech samples, warped electronic, and real-time instruments, the music is dark and damaged, with a dense texture that is, at times, nearly impossible to penetrate. Featuring 5 tracks, on from each artist, one from each artist mixed by the other, and one collaboration, there is much to explore within these sonic structures, both artist showing themselves adapt and inventive, with true collaboration “The Owls Are Not What They Seem”, bringing out the best in both participants. (www.myspace.com/darkmatterindustries)
Moody and enticing the soundtrack to the film “Haxan” is a collection of electronic composition from Guy Bartell, working under the name Bronnt industries Kapital. Featuring 27 short tracks the music has elements of drone and experimental patches, whilst melodies add lightness to some of the pieces. The film itself was released by Tartan Films (TVD3758), although I have no idea as to its content or availability. (www.staticcaravan.org)
Part Jonathan Richmond, part Julian Cope, part Super Furry Animals, the music of Everything Now, takes traditional song structures and warps them ever so slightly on their latest album “Spatially Severed” , a fine layer of lysergic dust coating the tunes. Take “The Shelter”, a rowdy rock guitar fighting with a swarm of synths and a sing-a-long chorus to great effect. Elsewhere, there is a sixties pop vibe to “Venus Tossed the Dice”, whilst the bar room piano of “Alice of Dixie Cup” is augmented by surreal lyrics and strange vocal backing. Finally “In heaven Smoking Trees”, is a fine psychedelic rocker, distorted and imaginative ending a collection of songs that grow with every listen. (www.mftrecords.com)
On the lovely L’Animaux Tryst Label, “Beaks That Could Smile” is a gentle and reflective collection of songs from Kelly Nesbitt, the guitar and voice decorated with small additional noises and sparse instrumentation. Highlights include the delicate beauty of “Kelly Goes Country”, a Glockenspiel adding texture to the song, the acapella of “Gracias a la Vida”, and the strangeness of “Earbait #4”. Add to this some unexpected spoken word interludes, a gorgeous vocal performance throughout, and you have another album of quality from a label of distinction. (www.lanimauxtryst.com)
Recorded live at his fourth ever gig, “Childhood, Christian Lies & Slaughter” is a collection of solo acoustic pieces played by Cian Nugent. Quiet and reflective, the pieces are gently flowing meditations that flutter across your consciousness in beautiful harmony. Displaying a real talent and an emotional maturity, Cian manages to make every note count, whether on the softly played “I Will Take the Top of a Tall Cedar”, or the seemingly more technical “The Emerald Tablet”. For grace and beauty the wonderful “Abyssal Plain” is a real gem, My absolute favourite and worth the price of entry alone. It is also gratifying to note that the audience at Seomra Spraoi, Dublin, listen intently, showing respect for the performance, allowing every nuance to emerge. (www.myspace.com/ciannugent)
At the other end of the spectrum, there is noise a-plenty on the self-titled 4track release from Elapse-O, a two piece from Oxford, whose music is filled with incessant rhythms, grinding guitar feedback and electronics. With the vocals buried deep in the maelstrom, I am reminded of early Sonic Youth or the first album from Honolulu Mountain Daffodils, the mantra “Noise over everything” seemingly appropriate, especially on the magnificent “Golden Ships”. Available on various formats, including a free download, there is no reason not to dive right in. (www.myspace.com/elapseo)
Available on limited vinyl only, although this includes a cd version, the latest release from the Other Electricities label is a split release from Gultskra Artikler/Lantern. Working out of Moscow, Alexey Devyanin, inhabits a shadowy mysterious world, his music mixing free-folk and sound collage to great effect, the music obviously created with care and vision. Of the three tracks available here, “Figase” is the standout, a heady drone overlaid with chanting and rattling sounds that blend into a dreamlike trance. Final track “”Berezka” adds distant melody and a sense of peace, the end of the quest, a time for reflection and sleep. In a different yet complimentary vein, Lanterns’ music offers a purer drone landscape, although a similar trance state is achieved, especially on “Snake Ice”, a long piece that twist slowly and with purpose. Final track “Dir Tup” finds the band retreating into a cave at twilight, a crackling fire dancing to the shamanic magik of the music, played on acoustic guitar and breathless flute. (www.other-electricities.com)
Created “At a time of intense grief, misery, sadness, anger and loss of hope”, Ryan Emmett has managed to evoke all these emotions on “The Failure of Human Instinct”, released under the name Hunted Creatures. Dark and brooding with no glimpse of light, the music still manages to offer a strange beauty within its distorted drones, an outpouring of emotion that has vulnerability hidden just below the surface. On “Incapable of Flight”, however it is hard to find any hope, the music a tightly coiled ball of despair that bites deep into your soul, whilst the slow death-march of “Mercy at the Hands of the Lord” is a bleak and hopeless prayer to a distant God. Reading the sleeve notes, it is obvious that these pieces were created as a process of healing and understanding, the fact that Ryan has chosen to share them is testimony to his courage and the success of the process. (www.dynamosound.cjb.net)
Blending traditional instruments, trumpet, guitar, piano, with laptop and sampling, Rich Johnson has a wide palette from which to craft his music, the pieces ranging in influence from slow jazz, to folk, to experimental and Musique concrete. Starting quietly, the album smoulders over two tracks until igniting suddenly on the appropriately entitled “Ignite a Noise”, jazz trumpet and skittish electronic rhythms colliding in stuttering happiness. Although the music is strange and experimental, it never becomes harsh or discordant, maintaining an inner harmony and a fragile surrealism, vibrant yet controlled. Definitely a grower “Up the Turret Mil” is an album that can surprise every time it is heard, the lightness of touch just one of its many wonders.(www.loyallabel.com)
Hailing from Israel, Quetev Meriri, recorded their debut album in one night of intensive creativity, the results then mixed and edited to create a collection of free-folk pieces that remind me of United Bible Studies in the way the sound move from tranquil to chaotic. On the fifteen minute “Seed” , the band pull out their best moves to sound like an outtake from “666”, weird and ethnic, the sounds crawling from the speakers in psychedelic clothing, the chanted poetry of Vasko Popa, having an ambience that transcends the fact I do not understand Hebrew. The kind of band that would sit happily on the Hand/Eye compilation, maybe it is time for volume 2. (email@example.com) Available from www.psychprog.com
Continuing our travels around the globe, Sea dweller are an Italian band whose “Underwater Town” EP is a mix of Post-rock and Shoegaze, the soaring guitars rejoicing in their epic noise, melody and distortion dancing together on the crest of a sun soaked wave. After the stately attack of the title track, “Every Inch” ups the tempo even further, the rock steady rhythm section, allowing the guitars the space to explore their own personal sonic frontiers, safe in the knowledge that the band will guide them home. With some nifty rhythmic interplay and chiming guitar “Settings” is another fine song, whilst “She, Whispers”, the six minute closing track is a soaring mix of Ride and The Darkside, the whole band working in harmony and understanding letting the music take them to the stars with majestic ease. (www.seadwellermusic.com)
Displaying a skewed pop heart, “The Enchanted Realm of the Pink Widower”, is a sweet and tempting collection of songs from The Pink Widower. Reminiscent of Bands such as The Coral, Zutons, Super Furry Animals, there is a mischievous, playful streak running across the album augmented by some fine and precise playing allowing the songs to sparkle with joy. (www.pinkwidower.com)
Time now for a selection of recent releases from the very aptly named ProgRock Records, who deal, as you would guess, in the wide ranging field that is modern prog-rock, a place where early Genesis are but a distant memory, usually. However, first up is Rewiring Genesis, a group of talented musicians led by Mark Hornsby, who have gone to the trouble of re-recording the flawed prog masterwork that is “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, originally recorded by the Gabriel led Genesis. My first thought, possibly yours as well, was “What is the point”, the album is much loved amongst fans of the band and seems fine as it is, but then I realised that many modern prog fans may never have heard an album release 34 years ago, and this project may well introduce a new generation to some classic songs. The proof, of course, is in the pudding, is it actually any good, well, yes it is, the production is sharp and clear and the playing arrangements are sufficiently different from the original to make it an interesting experience for people who love the original. Indeed, songs such as “In the Cage” retain their air of menace even with added orchestration. On the negative side, Gabriel’s manic vocals are missed, and the use of horns doesn’t always work (but then, I can live without horns on any record), and the cover does not include the crazed story that added to the weirdness of the original double vinyl. Overall, this is a worthwhile project, and maybe sounds like it would if it was recorded by Genesis today rather than all those years ago, personally, I still prefer the original though.
Featuring musicians such as Tony Levin, Chris Poland and Ty Tabor, “Innervisions” is a high-speed prog-metal instrumental romp that will appeal to lovers of noisier King Crimson, John McLaughlin, and some of the more technical metal bands around at the moment. Written by keyboard player Tadashi Goto, the album feature plenty of virtuoso keyboard noodling, but there is also room for lots of guitar, jazzy interludes and some crunching riffs. Mixing tempos from the high energy opener “Karma”, through to the more reflective “Inner Peace” ensures some variety, but the band sound best when they rock out as on the blistering “Liberal Paradox”, I swear the bass player has at least 15 fingers to be able perform the opening riff.
A much lighter, commercial version of prog can be found on “Decadent Light” the latest album from Evolve IV, an album of relaxed songs with some fine playing and a funky vibe, sounding like it would be right at home in 1976. Pleasant rather than essential, there are some excellent musical passages on the album with “Rolling Along” and “Baby Come Back” being good examples of their sound.
Penned by Metal Church Guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof, “The Lost Art of Time Travel” is the second album from his alter ego 70’s rock band Presto Ballet, which, as a name, leaves a lot to be desired. That notwithstanding, the album takes its sound from the American rock sounds of Kansas and er Kansas, the band sounding uncannily the same as the original band, with sudden time changes, heavy chords, and twinkling keyboard passages all in place. As I grew up listening to music like this, amongst other things, i find this album extremely nostalgic and an excellent example of the genre, so I guess, it is people like me who will buy this release, rather than the teens of today, who may well find this slow and pedestrian compared to Lamb of God, Children of Bodom etc. all the above available from (www.progrockrecords.com)
Another band taking its influences from the 70’s, is Magnolia whose latest album “Falska Vagar” is a collection of heavy rock tunes with plenty of crunching guitar, riff changes and hands in the air moments to make it a great way to waste 40 minutes in the company of the Gods of Rock and cold beer. I imagine you have all heard albums like this, influenced by Sabbath, Cream and a host of others, so you will know how it sounds. All you need to do is crank it up and grin like a Cheshire cat as the fun begins. www.recordheaven.com)
Every time Darren Hayman goes on his traditional English holiday he writes some songs and then releases them as an EP. There have been four so far “Caravan”, “Ukulele Songs From North Devon”, “Eastbourne Light”, and “Minehead”, and these have now been collected, along with some bonus songs on “Great British Holidays EP’s”. Typically British, the song contained, are sweet, nostalgic, modest and wonderful, each EP having a flavour of its own creating modern folk music in a quiet and unassuming way. Opening track “Caravan Song” is the perfect way to start, Games of Bingo and drinking on a caravan park, loneliness and the desperate attempts to have fun perfectly captured in gentle regret. On “Future Song” the disappointment of the holiday reality is painted beautifully, whilst on “Loft Song” a quiet electronic pulse gives way to a lo-fi tale of love and imperfection. Opening the “Ukulele” EP, “Rain All Summertime” has an electronic drumbeat and bouncy chords, the lyrics telling of love that transcends the rain, sounding like Gorkys at the seaside, a track repeated on the equally excellent “The Only Light I Know”. On “Eastbourne Light”, the title track is as beautiful and as reflective as a song from The Green Pyjamas, whilst “Retirement Days” is a magical three minutes of toy town pop. Final EP “Minehead” continues the quality with “Out of Season” full of memories and “The Way It Seems” filled with aching beauty, a simple song that works in every way. Also included (as if you haven’t had enough already0 are five videos and an interview with the man himself. Accompanying the excellent “The Protons and the Neutrons” are images of girls on holiday, drinking, dancing, karaoke and laughing a lot, the final image of a drunk girl being carried home sums it all up. Other videos show the caravan parks, images of the songs being recorded, bicycling, happy dogs, Eastbourne (of, course), deckchairs and the feel of an English holiday. Interviewed by Robert Rotifer, Hayman himself comes across as articulate, quiet and thoughtful, which explains the gentle nature of the songs. Rumble album of the month! (www.staticcaravan.org)
Darren Hayman can also be found playing with UK bluegrass, country, folk band Hayman, Watkins, Trout & Lee, who’s latest single “Fine Young Cannibals” is a soft chiming lament, perfect for an evening around the fire. On the B-side “That’s Why She Loves Me” is a short Hillbilly love song, with excellent humorous lyrics. (www.fortunapop.com)
Coming across like an acoustic punk sea shanty “The Saddle Song” is a single release (Vinyl and download) from Mary Epworth and The Jubilee Band, who have energy a-plenty as they swagger through the song. On the other side Mary shows her sensitive side with the sad country tinge of “Sweet Boy”, her vocals breaking your heart. (www.myspace.com/maryepworth)
As we turn the last corner all that is left in my pile are two compilation albums, the first of which “Be True To Your School” celebrates the first 13 years (roughly) of Fortuna Pop, a label that has visited the Rumbles column more than once. Purveyors of quality pop and no hint of anything connected with the x factor, the label have many hidden gems amongst their releases, most of which appear on this album. So you get the eastern groove of Discordia, the guitar pop of Finlay, The soft psych of Butterflies of Love, and the totally brilliant “You’re The Prettiest Thing” by The Chemistry Experiment. Featuring 25 songs all with a pop heart, this is a treat for the ears, go on, have a dance ‘round the kitchen. (www.fortunapop.com)
Hands up who wants a cup of tea, milk, sugar or a slice of lemon? How about some music, maybe this compilation “Teaism” a collection of songs written about the art and culture of tea, featuring some experimental music that is easy on the ear, calming and refreshing as a good cuppa should be. After the brief opener “Kettle Song”-Max de wardener, all chiming notes and a whistling kettle, The Break-Ups, take the Zen approach with the whispering gossamer drone of “Assam”. Elsewhere, the gentle folk wyrdness of Carlos Y Gaby is highly soothing, whilst Tunng use the Boston tea party as their inspiration for the folktronica of “Shove It”. After 14 magnificent slices of sweet delight, Cibelle with Josh Weller round thing off with the final slurp of “Mr and ms Grey”, a gentle folk smile, the beginning of which will make older readers think of Rolf Harris, but only for a second. Highly entertaining, this could be the perfect Christmas gift for a tea loving friend. (www.staticcaravan.org) again, their releases are dotted all over this Rumble. (Simon Lewis)
Time now to hand over to Stephen Palmer, who has even more tiny gems for your delight:-
From the wilds of Scotland new label Autumn Ferment Records brings us Flake Brown's "Help The Overdog," a release of short, surreal songs sung to what can best be described as a dishevelled Spanish guitar. The pseudonym of East Sussex based Tony Ramsay, these brief sonic tales (the entire fifteen-track work is 30 minutes) are sung in idiosyncratic style, and relate various impossible dreams and unlikely stories. Sometimes the feel is bizarre, sometimes freaky, and sometimes sad. But for all the weirdness Ramsay can hold a tune, albeit an unusual one; an alternative folk music, if you like, that only he has ever known. Listening to the album is rather like hearing your best friend's pub tales after one too many ciders - you never know what he's going to say next, or where his wild voice will stray. Fans of The Incredible String Band would certainly enjoy this, as long as they have a tolerant attitude to the odd.
"Matter And Light" by The Theatre Fire comes slinking, boogying, and sometimes strutting from Fort Worth in Texas. Formed in 2001, the band is now a groovy seven-piece, in sound and tone not unlike a rootsy Dr Dog. Horns smoulder, tambourines jingle, banjos rattle, guitars go chug-a-chug. It's goodtime music of the subtle sort, guaranteed to raise a smile and sometimes shake a leg. The band's signature sound is best represented by tracks such as "It's All The Same," "Dahl Parts," and "Coyote," but they also do quiet numbers like "Swashbuckler Blues," and scary southern-gothic like "Beatrice." Delicate instrumentals like "Say Yes" and "As To Mouth" unexpectedly interrupt the country-blues rocking. If Gorky's Zygotic Mynci had been formed in Texas, this is what they would have sounded like. The song writing of Feagin and Heath is alt-trad, but original enough to evoke, not copy. And I imagine the band are pretty good live, not least because they seem to have played alongside everybody in Texas. A good rootsy boogie through tunes and sounds, with some very fine song writing. (no contact details given)
Beth Jeans Houghton's self-titled ten-minute EP skips far too quickly through enlightened cosmic folk territory. She's only eighteen, but undoubtedly a talent. Wonky cimbalom, and picked and fuzzed guitars underscore reverberant, multi-tracked vocals, and the listener is reminded of an alternative Liz Fraser. It's like a folk Cocteau Twins: hypnotic, beautiful and magical. A full length album would be most welcome.
From the space-rock heartlands of Portland, Oregon come two albums by Paint And Copter, a trio of sonic alchemists with many years of underground music between them. The first release, "Damnatio Memoriae," is a groove-laden melting pot of guitars, pattering drums, synths and various acoustic instruments (oboe, harmonica), with vocals dropping in and out as the tracks evolve. It's like a slow, gothic Hidria Spacefolk, or a tripped-out Transient Waves. Dark and melancholic is the mood, and the theme. Occasional female vocals are provided by Mae Starr, and these bring an alternative feel, particularly on "Remote Viewing," which sounds a bit like a darker and rockier Portishead. Elsewhere, "Determinacy" bounces along in funk Hawkwind style. Variety of tone and sonic originality make this an enjoyable release.
Next up is "Semper En Obscurus," the follow-up to "Damnatio Memoriae," a release collecting new work and two remixes. As before, the mood is slow and reverberant, as seven cuts of bleak rocktronica skulk by. Opener "Always In The Dark" is a highlight, with strange, droning vocals, while later "Bad Intentions," with its terrific descending chord sequence, and the intense "Don't Ask Any Questions" grip the listener in macabre fashion. "Ghost Squadron" is what The Doors might have sounded like had they survived into the early 'eighties; a very good track, this, but too short! Great handmade artwork complements the release. Fans of Massive Attack yearning for more rock and less technology might like this band, while devotees of the earlier Porcupine Tree sound would also appreciate them.
Fruits De Mer Records is an intriguing venture, the idea of which is to take tracks from the 'sixties and have them reinterpreted by unexpected artists. On volume two of the venture we find Mellow Candle's Alison O'Donnell singing Nick Drake's "Day Is Done" and Head South By Weaving performing the Nico/Cale composition "Frozen Warnings." Both tracks are spooky, groovily so in the former case, eerily so in the case of "Frozen Warnings," with this latter track being a particularly intense listen.
Volume three features Spanish neo-hippy band Stay performing one of my favourite Strawberry Alarm Clock tracks "Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow", and also the Stones' "2000 Light Years From Home" (excellent wah-guitar sounds) and Graham Nash's "Chicago." Great vibe, great playing, great cover versions.
Both these releases are available as 7" singles on coloured vinyl in editions of 300. Brilliant, inspired, mental as mental can be. Terrascope readers should support these releases!
Formerly of noted 'nineties chart-botherers Sneaker Pimps, Kelli Ali now releases her third solo album "Rocking Horse," a work inspired by travels in California and Mexico. Collaborations with high profile artists such as John Densmore, Bootsy Collins and Paul Oakenfold, plus the support of One Little Indian Records, make this a formidable release. Ali's soft, yet soaring voice climbs over light, intricate instrumentation; production is by the formidable Max Richter, mostly utilising orchestral instruments. Ali's intimate style suits these gorgeous slices of sweet music, with two early highlights being the Hammond suffused "One Day At A Time" (almost Floydian in tone), and the delicate "The Savages," whose oboe instrumentation recalls Justin Hayward's "Forever Autumn". Later we encounter "A Storm In A Teacup" with its stately string quartet and "The Kiss," which reminded me of early 'seventies Renaissance, as did penultimate track "What To Do." Album closer "The Kiss Epilogue" restates the theme from the earlier track in instrumental form. This beautiful album would suit last thing on Saturday night or first thing on Sunday morning, if you see what I mean... Attractive artwork, too. (www.kelliali.com) (see also Phil's take on this in the main reviews section for December)
Meanwhile, on a gypsy-inhabited shore somewhere in America, accordionist Michael Lambright offers his first solo outing "Allumwandlung," a series of six accordion cuts lasting half an hour. Lambright is a member of East European inspired quartet Madagascar, and of folk band The Big Huge. This release is presented under a creative commons licence, which means it is free to download and share. All the tracks last between three and eight minutes, some slow and sombre, others, inevitably, evoking evenings in Paris, or distant French fields. The melancholy "Y'vonim" is based on Yiddish tunes, while "El-ahrairah" (the name of the trickster rabbit deity in Richard Adams' "Watership Down") is a dirge of chords and sustained notes. This album is recommended in particular to world music fans, and comes packaged with witty charm in a stamped cardboard case, as if posted from foreign climes (Japan in the case of my copy). Clever.
"Skogsbo Is The Place" by Barr is an intriguing new disk from Swedish label Sakuntala Records, via Transubstans Records. The music, placed somewhere between a folky Super Furry Animals and a Scandinavian Pentangle, is delivered via acoustic guitars, piano, bass and drums, with other instruments peeking through the acoustica tapestry every now and again; psychedelic lullabies indeed. Vocals are male/female and full of luscious harmonies - in European style rather than West Coast. Opening track "Summerwind" sets a sombre mood, explored further in "Words Would Do," until the lighter, almost poppy "He Ain't A Friend, He's A Brother" arrives with hooks and riffs a-plenty; the album highlight for sure. "Calling My Name" is like a hippyish Espers, while the lengthy album closer "Sister, Lover Alone" twists and slinks through numerous prog-folk turns. An album of sustained interest, beautifully sung, and nicely produced too. If more music of this quality is produced by the newly set up Sakuntala Records, we will be living in happy times.
Time to return to the 'sixties now; one of my favourite occupations. The self-titled debut album by The Rollo Treadway is a sinister tale composed entirely of whimsical pop stylings in the mode of The Zombies et al. Songwriter David Sandholm's influences are pretty obvious as the listener hops and skips through the recording: Beach Boys organs joust with Zombies strings arrangements, while Rickenbacker guitars chime, or shimmer through Leslie amps. Great stuff, and just about on the good side of too-clever-by-half. The theme is the mysterious kidnapping of two childen, narrated for the most part from their point of view. The band (a quintet, though originally a duo) play with zest and Hammondy enthusiasm. But this is no pointless pastiche, although pastiche is a word that could so easily be used: many of the songs have great tunes, and Sandholm's breathy, inflected voice is a perfect vehicle for the macabre lyrics. Highlights include the complex "Friday's Child" and the irresistible "Charlie." An album of class and wit, though some will find it too 'sixties for comfort. Anyway, it's heaven for lovers of the greatest decade in pop music.
Sean O'Brien And his Dirty Hands is, as you might expect, Sean O'Brien and his band, here releasing their second album "Goodbye Game," the theme of which is the many ways people say goodbye to one another. Two bright and breezy openers rattle by in indie style (think Dave Edmunds meeting Dodgy), but the mood does change through the album. "Aftermath Fears" is a lugubrious rock'n'roller in 3/4 time - one of the best cuts on the album - while "All That I Don't Know" has a country and western feel to it. O'Brien is a veteran of The Mariettas and Denim TV, and his quarter century of music biz experience shows in the confidence of this work. All the songs are written by him, with one exception, and interest levels are kept throughout by change of mood and tempo. "Get Over Tunis" is a mildly bonkers faux-reggae stomper, while "New Home Tonight" is the sound of Dave Edmunds with a hint of Shaking Stevens' "This Ole' House." Great track! The closing cut "Goodbye Game" is a return to pacy indie, with bittersweet lyrics and rocking guitar accompaniment. An album of solid entertainment.
If sophisticated vocal harmonies and quality songwriting is your bag, then you may want to investigate the outstanding self-titled debut album by The Ash And The Oak. So many similarities come to mind - The Byrds, CSNY, Neil Young - but these are only handy hints for the purposes of this review. The band is unique. I say band; it appears to be the nom de plume of main man Simon Leighfield, though the playing is credited to The Ash And The Oak. Most tracks use drum machine, guitars and voice, but this simple arrangement is augmented by glockenspiels and some keyboards. The real star of the show however is the songs - the best I've heard for ages - and the superb multi-tracked vocals. It's hard to believe this album was recorded on 4- and 8-track machines, but there you go. Quality will out as they say. Country Mile Records themselves were the people who stumbled across, then released the album, so kudos to Ray for presenting something very special. There aren't any particular highlights because every track is a highlight in some way, though if I had to choose I'd go for "Blossom," "Goodnight" and "The Finishing Line." Highly recommended, and the band are touring, recording a session for BBC Wales, and have new tracks on the way. Don't miss this one!
Love old films? Love film soundtracks? Then you must have "B/W Vs. Technicolour" by SPEkTR, which is, frankly, an insane project, though in the best possible way. As far as I can tell it's soundtracks to imaginary films, mostly from the 'fifties to the 'seventies judging by the sound-world: rockabilly guitars, surf styling, orchestras, blaxploitation voices, Hammond organ. They even have their own jingle at the beginning and the end of the disk. It's impossible not to love this, and as every crazy track goes by you can't help but imagine what kind of film would go with it - a very clever idea, allowing listeners to use their own widescreen imaginations as they listen. I kept visualising Bond movies (I get the feeling the band are Bond fans judging from their name), weird early SF, and trashy 'seventies flicks. Mondo bizarro! The artwork is in keeping with the theme, showing a VHS videotape emerging from a battered box. Film fans would adore this, but anybody who likes a good instrumental and, well, a good smile would love it too. And this is no novelty release, it's great music!
The Child Readers are Loren Chasse and Jason Honea, a duo who have since 2000 been making music in various parts of the world: California, Berlin, Madrid, Portugal and Estonia. Loren Chasse is best known as the founder of the influential Jewelled Antler record label, while Jason Honea has sung solo and in various bands. "Music Heard Far Off" is a strange, varied, and in places quite intense recording, very lo-fi in parts, to the extent of some seriously distorted vocals. However this technique does add to the emotional intensity of the album, and only detracts occasionally. The songs veer between the lyrical experimentation of "Underground Colours," the otherworldly balladry of "Starlight Veering" and the cosmic thrum of "The Plague Angel." A genuine one-off, though not, I feel, one for last thing at night, unless you enjoy the anticipation of having nightmares.
Berlin has been home to many musicians, and quite a few scenes. It now gives us Trost - that is Annika Line Trost - whose second album "Trust Me" is a collision of cool electronica and seductive vocals. The youthful Trost has quite a history behind her: one half of Cobra Killer, gigs with Shizuo and Atari Teenage Riot, playing music by age 13. The songs here are composed from samples and fragments, overlaid with Trost's half drawled, half sung vocals. The feel is pretty lo-fi, and it's difficult to know if that was a deliberate choice. Mostly, it works. Cuts like "Man on the Box" and "The Scales and the Score" have a great scratchy vibe, overlaid with nonchalant vocals and surf guitars. Trost sings in English, French and German for that European atmosphere; on "Black" she comes over all teenage-Nico. Weird...
Samsara Blues Experiment does exactly what it says on the tin and does it really well. This two-track, self-released disk is a demo of work in progress from a team of ex-Terraplane members, led by their guitarist Christian Peters. Imagine "Nantucket"-era Mountain jamming with Ravi Shankar, add one part stoner psych vocals and one part late 'sixties blues, and you have the concept. I loved it. Some superb playing, a good 'Sabs' heavy feel - you just know these guys would do great at Woodstock. More please.
Now, Christian Peters has been busy recently, because next up is Soulitude "So Came Restless Night..." which essentially is solo work from the Samsara Blues Experiment man, self-released as before. The album begins with a nice electro-ethnic introduction, before we are into cosmic guitar and freaky synth territory. The soaring "Morninghope" sounds like a stoned Manuel Gottsching, while "Awakening" reminded me equally of Popol Vuh and In The Labyrinth. There's a distinct feel of Gottsching and Popol Vuh in the later, sitar-infused tracks too, especially the expansive "Last Farewell To Elisabeth," which benefits from a subtle string synth.
Dancer Vs. Politician is the solo project of German/American musician Sanni Baumgaertner, who has in recent years been travelling between Berlin and Athens, Georgia, whilst preparing her release "A City Half-Lost." Partly sung in German, partly in English, these well orchestrated and arranged songs range from futuristic ballads such as "Mond & Stern" with its theremin-like musical saw (an instrument played by the versatile Baumgaertner), to the Dido-esque "Justin Fairborn." "Happiness" is confusingly sung in German (great tune though), "Neuer Morgen, Neuer Tag" is early 'eighties synthi in sound, while the last two tracks, "Wet Leaves" and "Homeless Mind," have an uplifting quality that conclude the album in great style. If you like wistful European music and have an acquaintance with the German tongue, this is for you.
"The Measuring Of Moments" by Adrian Shenton went into my CD player at the perfect time - by which I mean, just before I went to bed. (I had a feeling I was going to like it though, from the snowy artwork and the label name, Quiet World.) This music drifts and trips along a number of icy lanes, with crystalline grace. The opening track "Good Morning" balances resonant synths and glockenspiel sounds, before we are thrust into an idiosyncratic noise-and-accordion-synth melange. Further tracks explore dense synthesizer sound-worlds, a little light Berlin School sequencing, and strange vocal distortions. "Self Confidence" matches woozy bass synth with clicking marimba noises and distorto-drum machine, across a bed of Rhodes. The album closer, "Goodnight," is another cosmic slice of synth chordage, and very nice too, with its three-note closing melody. I really enjoyed this album, which avoids standard electronic music cliches - and boy are there a few of those - by travelling its own path with little reference to what other musicians are serving up. Melody and tone are stark, yet have certain warmth. The sounds and synth chords are chosen to match the mood. Recommended to EM fans who like the quieter end of the genre.
Jozef Van Wissem is a lutinist whose album "A Priori" is a stately, almost stark walk through a number of slowly changing note patterns played on ten course and thirteen course lutes. Each track is based on a melodic theme, and slowly, over a number of minutes, the playing style alters, occasionally jumping to a new harmonic variation, occasionally adding a sudden glissando or plucked note. The album is arranged as a melodic palindrome. It's a mesmerising experience, best heard in silence, with nothing else going on around. Some music of this type is difficult to concentrate on and becomes little more than background noise, but some, including this album, achieve sound that can be heard for the duration of the work. Highlights include the Eric Satie-like "Aerumna" and "Thelema," and "The Heavens Are Parting And The Spirit Descends Like A Dove," which with very little by way of melody or variation achieves a hypnotic quality, mostly through the deep, rich sound of the lute being played.
Lovers of turn-of-the-century Americana will go wild for "Dreamland" by Beat Circus, which effortlessly evokes the mysterious and macabre atmosphere of New York's Coney Island, and in particular its circus environment. This is surely the house band for "Something Wicked This Way Comes," or in fact any other depiction of sinister circus goings-on... Hitchcock, anyone? The songs are mostly written by main man Brian Carpenter, and played by a talented ensemble of twenty two on acoustic instruments: banjo, tuba, harmonica, trombone, zither, violin... with occasional intrusions from theremin, mellotron and electronics. Sound effects add to the experience. Some of the tracks are instrumental, some have carnival lyrics, sung solo and in chorus. The recording and production is faultless. In a final twist of irony, Carpenter's voice sounds not unlike Metallica's James Hetfield, most notably on the freakish "Death Fugue." The artwork is fantastic, adding much to the atmosphere. It's difficult to know who the work is aimed at, but as an evocation of ghostly goings on in old-time America it's perfect. This is the first part of a New Weird Americana trilogy, so expect two more nightmares...
Perfect Blue's "On A Higher Plane" takes the listener into dubby electronica via minimal drums, analogue synths and freaky textures. The project of The Electric Mainline man Scott Causer, and Rob Allen, the disk simultaneously evokes bad trips and fluffy ambience. Opener "Nexus 6" combines massive synth chords with oscillating arpeggios, while "Sunshine" pairs vocal samples with churchy and fluttering synths. "Empty Dreams" brings in percussive elements while the track's mix and production change the sonic tapestry as the piece progresses; it's like a lighter Boards Of Canada. "Stardust" evokes 'nineties Warp Records, while the two closing cuts are the album's trancey highlights. The album does lack originality a little, but makes up for that with well-chosen sounds.
Balladry is the space of life, and with Cult With No Name's second offering "Careful What You Wish For" the listener certainly gets balladry. The band is the London duo of Erik Stein and Jon Boux, who write and play everything except a little violin. Opener "Flying Ant Day" is a piano ballad with impassioned vocals, "Context Is Everything" adds subtle percussion, bass and synths, and then we are off into a mix of styles - the faux-electronica of "And Those Same Mistakes," one of the highlights of the album, the restrained torch song "On The Fingers Of One Thumb," and the surprisingly bouncy "Hurting The Ones You Love The Most," which brings Bruce Hornsby to mind. The cover of The Stranglers' "Golden Brown" is interesting, but ends up illustrating the brilliance of the original. Stein is an excellent vocalist, with quite a range, his voice soaring, then subsiding through these melancholic songs, while the ever-present piano hints at Elton John, Ben Folds Five, and other balladeers. Proper songwriting, well produced, and terrific packaging too.
Concept album time! "Celestina" by 17 Pygmies tells the tale of doomed astronaut love in the environs of a giant gas nebula in the constellation Cassiopeia. The band has been going for well over twenty years, building a reputation in their native America for pop exploration, but this release is a new direction: spacey sounds, restrained classicism, haunting vocals. The tracks don't have individual names, rather are numbered from "Celestina I" to "Celestina XI". So, here we go... introductory instrumental, mournful 3/4 time song, wistful instrumental with choral synths, creepy guitars/voices, 12-minute Floydian jam, cosmic flight of fancy, uplifting song with churchy synth, rock jam collage, solemn 3/4 time song, glockenspiel and synth minimalism, Eastern-sounding instrumental coda. Evocative, compelling listening, in places the album recalls KK's "Telescopes," though this is a more restrained work; where KK's music is poppy and beaty, this album is classical and mournful, replacing the wide-eyed wonder of "Telescopes" with elegy. The album stands out as an original, atmospheric work that repays deeper listening. Highly recommended, and, as with the two other Trakwerx releases in this section of Rumbles, outstanding packaging.
Smouldering Ashes is a band formed by half of the aforementioned 17 Pygmies - Jeff Brenneman on guitars and Dirk Doucette on drums - with vocals from Veronica Ashe and other instruments by Tory Troutman. All four musicians have pedigrees in numerous American bands. This debut recording, "Nervous Constellations," is a brief confection of songs delivered in nonchalant style. The eerie "Shenfinity" merges violin and piano with reverberant vocals, while "Sea-Blue" brings in more stringed instruments for a whimsical waltz. The idiosyncratic quality of the playing stays on the charming side of disordered, while the appearance of electronic sounds and guitars augments the acoustic foundation. Best track on the album is the penultimate "Temporary Archives," superbly arranged, with allusive lyrics. A good listen for a quiet Sunday morning on your own.
The pedigree of LA folk-rockers Listing Ship twinkles with stellar names, particularly those associated with Heather Lockie, who with Lyman Chaffee founded the band in 2000. Now expanded with friends and family to an seven-piece, the band puts heart and soul into the tremendous "A Hull Full Of Oil And Bone." Though all fifteen songs on the album are self-penned, many of them sound like genuine shanties and standards from historical times, when men were men, women were women, and whales were plentiful. The musicianship is impeccable, the singing top class; Lockie's voice sweet, Chaffee's deep and resonant. "Coal-Hearted Woman" runs through every sexual metaphor in folk to hilarious effect, while the solemn "Depression" features great violin playing. The strings-infused "Dragonfly" trips along very nicely and has a catchy guitar motif, while the banjo-and-percussion "A Sad State Of Confusion" features vocal harmonies so tight you couldn't get a sheet of paper between them. "Isabella" features a strong vocal from Chaffee, sung to strummed guitar and female vocal harmonies; superb. The closing "Voice Of The Future" is a rock-out with angry (presumably anti-Dubya) lyrics. Fans traditional folk will not fail to hear the quality of this album, while nouveau folk-rockers will also enjoy it. I found it a particularly good listen.
Anthems-MA are a Boston (US) four-piece who mix dreamy pop with distorted guitars and dubby bass. Early cuts on their first full length album "Time Starts Now" merge Siouxsie-style metallic vocals with Verve-like epic guitar soundscapes, while later tracks (especially instrumentals "City Without Shadows" and "Viewfinder") evoke Echo And The Bunnymen and The Cure. The artwork does little to dispel the 'eighties vibe. Album highlight "Call To Arms" has a superb vocal set against McGeogh-style chiming guitars. A solid listen, if a tad uninvolving in places.
A heavyweight package to conclude, as we enter the world of the Mats/Morgan Band, here presented in CD plus DVD format. "Heat Beats Live" is the audio side, while the DVD, "Tourbook," covers material from 1991 to 2007, focussing on the drums. Keyboardist Mats Öberg and drummer Morgan Agren are legends in their native Sweden, and had the good fortune to be singled out by Frank Zappa for touring duties during the 'nineties. The music on the CD illustrates why this happened. Öberg, blind from birth, is a keyboard prodigy, while Agren is regularly voted into the top three best drummers in the world. The music is jazz-rock, echoing Zappa, but more often world/jazz-rock supremo Joe Zawinul, and his ilk. Bassist Tommy Tordsson aids the remarkable duo. The tracks, all live, range from heavyweight jazz-rock freak outs in impossible-to-follow time signatures, to otherworldly Zawinul-esque divertissments. Öberg wrings some great sounds out of his synths, particularly on the (relatively) calm "Tvingle", which also has incredible bass from Tordsson. Fans of the Mahavishnu Orchestra's Jonas Hellborg would appreciate this musician. If there is a fault with this type of music it's that too often there's no breathing space, and this is the case on occasion here. But mostly it does grip the listener, especially the insane piano/harp/drums/brass trio cut "The Bösendorfer Of Advokaten." The DVD collects sixty five clips of Agren in action, ranging from studio work and sessions to live cuts. Excellent quality material, and an absolute must for drummers in any genre.
Rumbles for December 2008 was brought to you by Simon Lewis and Stephen Palmer.
Artwork, layout & editing: Phil McMullen. © Terrascope Online MMVIII