= D e c e m b e r 2 0 1 1 =

s another month flies by and the dreaded deep midwinter looms large, the only thing to do is get stuck into another fine collection of sounds sent our way. Thanks as ever to all the artists and labels that allow us to hear their work.

We begin this time with some vinyl offerings, the first of which is "Transparent Make-Believe", the debut LP from Bipolaroid, now re-released as a limited edition slab of vinyl with silk-screened cover. Originally released in 2003, the opening cut "Farewell and Godspeed" whisks you back to 1967 with its

Floydian riff and vocal delivery, the song drenched in patchouli, the riff augmented with all manner of effects creating a psychedelic stew that tastes just fine. After such an awesome start "King of Cabbages" takes a gentler approach, acoustic guitar and strings building nicely as you gently float downstream. Sounding like a lost track from Tomorrow's sole album, "Callous Affair with Lady Godiva" is another UK psych influenced tune, as is the rest of the LP, again done with passion and an eye for detail that makes for a very pleasurable listening experience.

After the string-driven creepiness of "Insect Religion", the slow and beautiful "The Looking Glass" features great string arrangements and possibly a Mellotron, the slow hazy ambience like the music of daydreams. The mood changes on "Old Witch", a more sinister vibe is created, the tune very reminiscent of Syd Barrett's solo work.

Over on side 2 the fun continues, with "Dimension 5" proving to be a driving slice of psych with effected guitar and more Floydian vocals, whilst the lead guitar and keyboard electronics take the tune higher and higher. Chock full of what could be termed Classic Psychedelia, this album is a joy from start to finish, with "Madeline" being a sweet love song, "Sympathy for the Swine" taking the Syd comparisons to new heights and "Galileo's Son" drifting slowly across the sky, cloud-like and wonderful. Finally, the album closes in glorious fashion, the Mellotron introduction to "Time Machine" heralding possibly the finest song on the LP, a joyous amalgamation of all that has gone before; the gentle opening is slowly lost in a cloud of electronics before the drums kick in, taking the song further into deep space, the astronauts smiling as they go. My thanks go to Ben for sending me the test pressing - much appreciated; it sounds wonderful on vinyl.

(http://bipolaroid.bandcamp.com/album/transparent-make-believe )

Comprising of eight drifting drones and meditations, The Lickets latest album "Here (on Earth)" is the perfect soundtrack for late night reverie, the music thoughtful and expansive. Opening with the short and hypnotic "Transpersonal Earth Spirals" which serves as an introduction, the musicians shift up a gear with the drone of "The Intervals Between the Ordered worlds", a twinkling soundscape that reveals hidden depths the more you listen. Sweeter and more gentle, the marshmallow drones of "End of Jupiter Phase" allows the listener the time to breathe, to let the sound wash over you, its slow rising splendour beautifully realised, the mood continued on "Anatomical Serpent Drawings for Fun and Profit" the track that closes side one.

Weaving a spider web of electronic sound "The Octant Coordinate System" is a glacial piece that shimmers with cold beauty, whilst "The Glorious Eye of Stellar Life" is the sountrack to our first meeting with alien cultures, an epic drone that mixes electronics and acoustic instruments to perfection. And then just as you think you know the band’s sound, acoustic guitar, flute and vocals band together for the sweetness that is "Neither Sun nor Moon", a gentle song that seems at odds with the rest of the album, yet fits in with the experimentation around it. To close, the title track takes us back to more familiar ground, the repeated phrases and textures creating music to listen to with your eyes closed, precisely made and gorgeous.

(www.internationalcorporation.net )

Comprising of Shana palmer and Melissa Moore, Secret Secrets is an experimental, avant-garde outfit, using voice, drums, electronics and effects to create a secret world of sound. Opening as a ripple, “Lunar Storm” builds and builds into a lush whirlpool of emotion and noise, whilst “Lying in Ladies Bane” is a shower of electronics held together by a rattling drum pattern, sounding not unlike the “In the Summer of the Mushroom Honey” Album. Halfway through the track changes, a Can-like drum beat driving a rising drone, the tension building with chanted vocals creating a dynamic soundscape, complete with a stuttering ending that works perfectly. With a tribal feel, side one is rounded off with “Down in the Hollow”, A secret cavern ritual filled with power and mystery.

Nice and Noisy, “Songs about Love, Luck Animals and Magick” continues the tribal theme, the drumming just on the edge of chaos, driving a bass ridden stomp, before the whole thing breaks down, short and sweet. Filled with trembling strings, “Take to Taste the River” is more contemplative in its construction, whilst “An Honest Descent” is one noisy fucker of a tune, the sound of a thousand Hoovers turned up loud, primitive drums and shrieked vocals, seemingly about your last moments on earth, this one needs volume. To finish, “Threshold Consciousness” uses hypnotic rhythms and primal vocalising as its a basis, a disturbing and experimental romp that completes “Chiromagica” an engaging and alive album that comes from the heart. (www.ehserecords.com)

To round off the vinyl, a couple of 7” singles, the first of which, “”O'Dell” / “1971” by Son Cats, is The Cabinet of Curiosities under a different name. You would not be able to tell this from the music though, the A-side being a noisy guitar/psych romp sounding like the Strawberry Alarm Clock if they had ditched their keyboard player and turned everything up, whilst the other side reveals a bass/drum led stomp, with some mean guitar and weird Bolan-esque lyrics, fine stuff indeed and well worth a listen.

Finally, The Underground Gentry get all moody and psychedelic on “Don't Touch Me” the A-side of their lovely multi-coloured single, the track Paranoid and worth turning up all the way. On the other side, we find “Scream”, a garage surf stomp, complete with screams and suitable twang, all good fun. (Skinbag records, thegentryunderground@hotmail.co.uk)

Like a lazy afternoon psilocybin experience, “All Out Revolution”, the latest album from The Red Plastic Buddha, begins in a gentle haze, the songs as much Pop as Psych, cloaked in melody, with “Running on Empty” reminding me of The Church, as does “Daisy Love” - although this time there is a definitive paisley sparkle beginning to appear around the edges of the music. Slow and dreamy, “Army of the New Tomorrow” features some great vocals and guitar work, whilst “soldier Boy” gets heavier, a moody guitar driven tune that moves the album away from its pop beginnings.

With a beautiful string arrangement “Sad Girl” has a wistful Lysergic sheen, the sound of sirens breaking us from our reverie as “Between Stations” signals another phase in the disc, a drifting cloud of sounds and samples that leads into more psychedelic lands with “King of the Underground” suddenly exploding out of the speakers, a full on rocker that pushes all the right buttons, a swirl of effects, drums and guitar to feed your head, our landing cushioned by the lovely “Seahorse” that follows.

If you were to name the five most well known sixties Psych classics, then “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” would surely be up there, so it is a brave move for the band to cover the song. A fair job they do too, with the right amount of garage organ and energy to spare, it is just not the original. After the gentle “Star Shaped Holes” and the brief sitar swirl of “Tao of None”, the album ends with “Waves” is seven minutes of eastern influenced bliss, that erupts into a fine freakout, the spirit of sixties Floyd brought to mind, with great guitar and powerful drums/bass, ending the disc in suitably psychedelic style. (www.spacecatrecords.com)

Opening with a similar eastern sounding swirl, The Luck of Eden Hall tread the same musical path on “Butterfly Revolutions vol. 2”, their latest and quite possibly finest album. Classicaly psychedelic right from the start, “Metropolis” is a fine beginning, sounding like a cross between Plasticland and Todd Rundgren (“a wizard, a true star” era), before “Complicated Mind” ups the energy levels a lively tune with bright production and fine playing all round.

With a beautiful melody, “North Hampton Wood” has a soft pastoral feel, like stepping into someone else's dream, whilst “The Ottoman Girl” could be an outtake from “SF Sorrow”, which is no bad thing in my book, especially as the tune is followed by the brilliant “Henrietta Lacks a Smile”, gentle piano and weird lyrics combing to create a little gem of a song. The quality is continued on the heavy psych-pop groove of “Flowers”, ending a very strong trio of songs.

Moving on, “Revolution” will make you smile with its lyrics, “Realisation Loop” will make you dance like a loon and “We Are Not Self Control” will let you drift in your armchair, the album finally ending with “A Drop In the Ocean”, another suitably trippy tune, filled with echo and power, guaranteed to make you feel good. (http://bit.ly/u6sdZp)

Fans of primitive garage in general and The Cramps in particular should do themselves a favour and check out the self-titled album from Thee Grave Men, two Englishmen living in Sweden, the disc packed with scuzzy rock and roll recorded in mono and sounding all the better for it. After the sleazy opener of “Hey There Pretty Baby” gets you in the mood, “Come on” will confirm whether you are gonna enjoy the ride, and I get the feeling it is a love or hate thing with this album as it sets out its stall early on and does not step far from the blue print. Mind you, when it sounds this fucking good why would you want to change a thing, as the duo rock their way through twelve slices of good time rock and roll including covers of “Green Fuzz” and “Let there Be Drums” as well as some blistering originals including “Digging Graves”, “My Girlfriend is a Werewolf” and the excellent “My Witch”.

More sleazy rock and roll, of a slightly more modern variety, can be found on “Yours Until the Bitter End”, the latest album from The Bloody Hollies. The first thing you notice about the music is how much like Jack White the vocalist sounds, add to this dirty and distorted guitar and comparisons with The White Stripes and The Raconteurs become almost inevitable. This is a shame as the band can hold their own in such company, with tracks such as “So Grey, So green”, “Dirty Sex” and “Leave That Woman Alone” easily competing with the current crop of media darlings. Energetic and alive throughout this is a really strong collection that deserves much more recognition than it will undoubtedly receive, just turn it up and have a good time. (http://www.alive-totalenergy.com/x)

On the same label and sounding like Cream on a heady mixture of acid and amphetamines, Radio Moscow will detonate your mind with one listen to their third album “The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz”. Just listen to “Little Eyes” the intense and crazy opener that mixes Blue Cheer with Acid Mother Temple, offering the whole thing to the Gods of fucked-up noise, before stirring it up again to create “No Time” which is the same song turned up even further, the thrilling guitar work of Parker Griggs matched by the bass of Zach Anderson and the Drumming of, err, Parker Griggs! Thankfully Mr Griggs employs Cory Berry to play drums on stage; he is not quite that multi-talented.

Over twelve tracks, this album is a relentless steam train of guitar riffing, dirty solos and power chords, held together by rock solid rhythms and crying out to be turned right up, the energy levels never faltering and the interest held until the very end, as “Inside Out” finally shreds the last of your grey matter from the insides of your skull. The perfect match of sixties excess and stoner riffing, this will become a long lost classic, buried under the shit of commercial music, get one now and save your soul.

Definitely more stoner than sixties, Black Rainbows are another power trio on a mission to destroy your ears, as one listen to the excellently named “Supamothafuzzalicious” will confirm. Filled with dirty detuned goodness, this is another collection that does not let up the pace as the band tear their way through ten, heavy as fuck, future stoner classics. By the the time you get to track three, the intense riffing is already changing your reality, with “Mastermind” ensuring that you are here for the duration, a brutal piece that would make Monster Magnet green with envy. After the heaviness, of the previous tracks, the penultimate track “I Love Rock and Roll” is almost easy listening by comparison, at least it has a more traditional song structure and the lyrics are easier to hear, before “Cosmic Flower Blues” ends the album, pretty much doing what it says, a slow-burning blues workout, offering a cushioned descent from the madness that preceded it. (www.heavypsychsounds.com)

Two more albums filled with heavy sounds can be found on the ever reliable Elektrohasch label. First up, the instrumental heaviness of Rotor captured live on stage in 2009. Featuring 9 songs from their last two albums, the band meld power and precision together to excellent effect, sounding like “Red”-era Crimson, meeting Mudhoney in a dark and smoky club, brutal and hypnotic in equal measure, as can be heard on “Drehmoment”, the perfect set opener. Consistent in sound throughout, it is hard to pick out individual tracks from a high quality, high energy set, although “Transporter” does stand out with a more stoned groove than the rest of the tracks, a rolling bass getting your head nodding nicely.

Formed in Salzburg, Been Obscene are a melodic stoner band, slightly gentler and more hazy than others in the genre, although they can still rock it out when required. On their latest offering “Night o'Mine”, there is a wonderful mellow feel to the tunes, although they maintain their heaviness, and it is this contradiction that gives the disc its charm and originality. Flowing beautifully together, the album works as a whole rather than a collection of songs, each a chapter in the novel, although on a personal level, the atmospheric “Snake Charmer”, the dirtiness of “Apathy” and the rockin' title track are my favourite three chapters. (www.elektrohasch.de)

With a groovy lounge feel, DC Fontana are a long way from guitar heaviness, their sound characterised by lashings of Hammond organ, dancing flutes, a solid hip-swaying groove and, on this album at least, songs sung in Italian and French. Over 14 songs the band have a ball: a good time feel pervades the room, Mary Quant dancing in the corner whilst Twiggy struts the catwalk, the beautiful people smoking French cigarettes from elegant holders and the scent of Moroccan hash drifting from dark corners. Add to this some brash brass and an ear for melody and you have a collection that will make you smile, get you moving and generally brighten your day - and there ain't nought wrong with that.

Featuring drums and organ/synths only, more swinging sixties sounds can be heard on “Out of Bounds”, the latest release from Trummor and Orgel , although there are also nods to Kraftwerk, Stereolab and seventies soundtracks, the music both retro and current, drifting from one to the other often in the same tune. This contradiction can be found in “Letters in Red and Blue”, a sequencer drifting in and out off the tune, whilst Jimmy Smith organ rides over the top, whilst on “Making Sense” it is purely retro, but done with love and style. Whichever way you look at though, the playing is top notch, the groove is in place and all is well with the world.


Filled with some bouncy powerpop tunes and some slower mellow moments, “Last of Many” is a rather good collection of tunes from The Foxes. “Suzy” is a great place to start, a well written bundle of energy with hooks galore, whilst “Something about You” is a bitter sweet tune cloaked in a beautiful melody. Veering at times toward Brit-Pop, the songs are well structured and more interesting than most bands of that ilk, with the vocals of Nigel Thomas giving the band a sound of its own, as demonstrated on “Sweet Little Wonder”, which should be a summer anthem, complete with sing-a-long chorus, whilst the groove of “Get Me” is the perfect i-pod tune for walking through town. Finally “Sorry to Leave You” has a staccato riff and a fine arrangement that is subtle and fully realised. Self released, this collection is a labour of love, hats of to the band for their sterling work.

Finally from me, for the time being at least, a single from The Doomed Birds of Providence which contains two slow and atmospheric pieces, the seven piece band making the most of their varied inspiration to illustrate the tale of Frank Jardine and his eventual demise from leprosy, with violins and hand percussion adding the sombre mood required. On “Death Flurry” the perils of early whaling are told, another sombre piece with a perfect arrangement, the song building tension as it progresses, turning into a folk drone before eventually flickering out beautifully. (www.frontandfollow.com)

And now it is Steve Palmer's turn to offer some thoughts on some more recent albums. Over to you, Steve.

Seasoned Irish hitch-hiker Robert Sazarin Blake works with John McSherry on the EP "A Long Series Of Memorable Nights Forgotten: The Belfast Sessions," which over eight brief cuts evokes much Hibernian storytelling, with Blake providing the guitar and singing, and McSherry a series of dazzling Uilleann pipe parts - stunning player Francis McIlduff, with 'Storms Of November' being a particularly jaunty example of the music's verve. 'Another Fog We're In' is much slower in tempo, with a darker vocal, almost confessional in mood. 'City Covered In Snow' opens with that lyric, and another, quiet, mournful vocal, augmented towards the end by McSherry's low whistle; a beautiful end to a simple song. 'Bergen, Belfast, Aberdeen' continues the slow, singer-songwriter feel with a lyric about rain. 'In A Poem' keeps the low whistles of McSherry, 'Farm In New Hampshire' is uptempo and brings back the Uilleann pipes, while EP closer 'Lord Saltoun And Auchanachie' is a traditional song offered by Sazarin alone, without instrumental accompaniment. I like the way this EP begins uptempo, quietens, then rouses itself again; and some terrific playing.

(www.sameroomrecords.com )

There seems to be a mini-explosion of women doing techno tribal music at the moment (Metal Mother, Rita Ro), and here is another, by the name of Diva, whose album "The Glitter End" matches tribal drumming, breathy vocals with modern synth textures and distorted lead sounds. Perhaps it's the global influence of the mighty Björk. Opener 'Snake Dream' sets out the synthetic sound world before, on 'Glow Worm,' the multi-tracked vocals arrive, bouncing and careering over a multitude of percussion/synth textures; an effective combination. 'Liquid Garden' is an Eastern-inflected instrumental cut, before the sheer weirdness of 'Hold Me Again,' which sounds like an explosion in a water bomb factory - incomprehensible vocals meet bubbling bass and plinky synths. 'Andromeda's Lullaby' matches a distorted acoustic guitar with more drawn-out, sugar-sweet vocals, and is the most successful mix'n'match cut on the album. The title track sounds like it was recorded during a bad trip, yet, through its melody, manages to keep its heart. On 'Twilight In Inquanok' the mallet-instrument samples fight drum machine cymbals, while on 'Crocodile Crawl' the vocals are again incomprehensible, deeply reverberated and bizarre. 'Spinning Vines' ups the ante with a thunking electro-rhythm, 'Jazzy Cats' is neither jazzy nor feline (great bass though), while 'Highest Cloud' is another trippy collision of synths and vocals. I liked this album for its sheer startling impudence.
(www.criticalheights.com )

"The Ley Hunter's Companion" is a two track EP whose opening cut is strongly reminiscent of Manuel Göttsching's seminal trance epic "E2-E4." The basic rhythm and style is augmented after a few minutes by an analogue-sounding addition, while the base sequence flickers and mutates. At the end of the track a lovely analogue lead line emerges, alas far too briefly. The second cut opens with a softly shimmering sequence reminiscent perhaps of Terry Riley, with more hints of Ashra coming in later. Contact the artist Sub Loam at:-

(http://dissolvingrecords.blogspot.com/ )

Allergy To Consciousness "Evidence One" is a collection of tracks from the Allergy To Consciousness range, which is a series of singles released worldwide on the EnT-T label. Opening with the angelic voices of Hila Baggio on 'Gush Forth, My Tears,' the anthology then moves through a wide range of styles. Tal Weiss (whose singles and album I reviewed in May) is one of the main producers, and she has a track here too, the subtle 'Return Of The Native.' Other highlights include the Dub Mentor cut (Weiss' musical partner elsewhere), the lilting 'Six Wings Of Bliss' by Julia Rovinsky, and the heartfelt song 'Spiderman' by Edo. Although there is a musical vision behind this collection, it does on one or two occasions tip over, becoming just a little too eclectic. As an introduction to some fascinating artists however it has undoubted value. (www.ent-t.com )

American five-piece Big Tree have a background in jazz, but decided to make harmonious pop inflected music instead. Band leader Kaila McIntyre-Bader is also the songwriter, merging her vocals with a kind of chanted, group-vocal sound that on the band's second album "This New Year" gives the tracks a euphoric vibe (quite like Animal Collective). Opener 'This Fall' is cute, but 'Augury' is excellent, showing a talented songwriter; this cut could easily be a single. 'Seattle Bound' features complex harmonies and an arrangement full of space - another highlight track - while the title track bounces steadily before going off into a heavy guitar and emotive part. Very good. 'Two Seasons' is slower and set in 3/4 time, with heavenly backing vocals and what sounds like a ukulele accompaniment, while 'Open Window' is in a more traditional rock style, with heavy drums and fuzzed-up guitar. An 'Imagine' style piano opens 'Gloria,' also set in waltztime, before group vocals and an accordion augment the cut; the combination of instruments and a great vocal make this cut another highlight. 'Storm King' has a gorgeous melody, at first sung simply and quietly, making it yet another highlight. 'Home (Here)' matches Spanish handclapping with a bluesy cut, that after a surprisingly short time morphs into a haunting, piano-based part, before returning to the original style. 'Woods' is slow, complex and evocative, with some very fine guitar playing, while album closer 'October' is the longest track on the album at seven minutes, quirky in places, and dependent on the band's group vocals and a brass section for its power. This is a very good album indeed, and it improves with extra listens: recommended.
(www.bigtreesings.com )

Stepping up to a two track single now, and "Spitting Pearls" by Leeds-based hopefuls Post War Glamour Girls, which is a curious, ponderous, almost gothic cut, though the vocal belies that description, as do the light, female backing vocals. The second track, 'Ode To Harry Dean,' matches part sung, part-spoken, part yelled vocals with a lurching backing track. Aggression and subtlety all in one.
(www.sturdy-records.co.uk )

Last year I went doo-lally for "Travels In Lowland" by The Migrant, aka Scandinavian songwriter Bjarke Bendtsen, an album which is never more than an arms-length away from my CD player. Here now is the follow up album, "Amerika," which aims to evoke American landscape and folk heritage. A softly strummed guitar opens 'Molehills' before Bendtsen's emotive, reedy voice carries a gorgeous melody. Already the hairs are standing up on the back of this reviewer's neck. 'Everywhere You Go' pits a 2/4 guitar part with another emotive vocal and some backing vocals to marvellous effect. 'The Hurricane' is a slow, loping cut, backed with handclaps and a single bass drum, before backing vocals and a mad trombone enter the mix. '2811 California Street' is a classic Bendtsen melody and arrangement, with great electric guitar accompaniment, oscillating keyboards and keening violins. It's one of those songs for which the phrase "turn it up!" was invented. 'Don't Talk' adds a little light Americana with a slide guitar and mouth organ to create a bit of a mish-mash, but 'It's Alright Heart' returns the listener to melody and calm; another lovely song. 'Take It!' is underpinned with drums and indie-styled guitars and features another classic Bendtsen chorus, this time augmented by a backing group. Great production on this cut, as the guitars seem to leap out from a completely different song. 'Why Two?' opens with a bluesy acoustic guitar, over which a simple, mournful vocal is imparted. Later, a piano adds new timbres. At eight minutes, album closer 'Flight AA71' is by some way the longest track on the album, with another strong melody, Americana arrangement and slow tempo, which builds through backing instruments and vocals to something anthemic. Overall, this album isn't quite so wonderful as its predecessor, but it's still very, very good, and streets ahead of the competition. Highly recommended.
(www.teamclermont.com )

Russian psychedelic progressive music is not something I'm well up on, so the Trail Records compilation "Tripwave" provides a useful overview - retrospectively - of the scene, or at least of the scene as it was between 1989 and last year, for this collection covers 21 years of Russian prog(!) 'Celt' by Eastern Syndrome sounds like a Moscow based King Crimson - some great sax tooting on this cut - while 'Moon Dream' by The Moon Pierrot is a kind of funked up, semi-jazz Cher with Adrian Belew guitars thrown in - astonishing. 'To Rake Your Fingers Through The Grass' by Do Major pits complex, stop-start drumming with languourous, then increasingly hysterical female vocals, while 'Dream #5' by Decadence is a kind of steppes-based prog ballad that goes slightly o.t.t. on the wailing guitars. Disen Gage shimmer and go rock-Gong on their track 'Solaris,' which is the highlight of the collection I'd say, before the harsh stylings of Rada & Ternovnik on their cut 'Interlude,' which pits ultra-distorted guitar with tribal drumming, not very successfully. 'Soda' by KRTL is a really good uptempo rocker - bet it was great performed live - while 'Happy End Is Inevitable' by Deti Picasso from 2006 is a bit of a washout. 'Inna Burst Into Tears' by Vespero is another album highlight, featuring gorgeous flute, exotic synths and a marvellous vocal; hints of Jane from the Ullulators, I thought. Kafedra.org on 'Entrance To Invisibility' go all Russo-dub, while collection closer 'Thee' from last year by Liompa is percussion and synth heavy: a sort of avante-garde New Order made with real instruments. For its unabashed, nay, semi-insane variety of sounds this is a great compilation, which I enjoyed.
(www.trailrecords.net )

I looked at the booklet for "Axis Mundi" by Paths Of Prakriti and said to myself, "this is going to be basically 'sixties, song-based, and have Hammond organ in it..." And I was right! Black-and-white, Hindu icons and naked people: you know it makes sense. So, this bunch of hippy troubadours from Trondheim - probably housemates with fellow psych songsters Deleted Waveform Gatherings - have created a twelve track album of shoegazing Scando-pop, using half-mumbled vocal stylings, rippling guitars and summer-lazy drums and percussion. I was very much reminded of Spacious Mind offshoots the Holy River Family Band, whose "Welcome To Riverhouse" album was a great debut. 'Running Dry,' 'There Is A Road' and 'Outside Your Door' all set out the POP stall; floating arrangements, summer-warm vibe, not much by way of melody. Still, on this album it's the vibe that is foremost. 'Dark Horse' channels Velvet Underground by way of Anton Barbeau, 'Kingdom Come' has a blues chord progression, 'Kali Has Woven' is effective in its simpler arrangement, while the five minute 'Oh Surrender' is the album highlight, all Indian instruments and mesmeric vocals - it sounds like the contents of George Harrison's mind just as he was waking up one morning in 1966. Album closer 'Heaven Or Hell' features a rather natty little tune, which was a nice surprise. I didn't like this album quite as much as I thought I would, but it is a grower, and goes very well with an evening sunset. Well worth checking out, not least if you smoke dope and wear loon-pants (or if you like the Holy River Family Band, as do I).
(www.merlins-nose.com )

The Story UK (the 'UK' distinguishes them from an American duo called The Story) are a group from Somerset, who on their debut "Joy Ride On Memory Lane" proffer twelve tracks of what might be called psych folk, but which is nearer psych pop, I feel. Opening cuts 'Her Name Is Love' and 'Standing In The Rain' are both jaunty, melodious songs full of 'sixties harpsichords, fuzzy guitars and Donovan-esque vocals, which definitely hit the spot. 'For The Good Of Your Soul' sets the controls for the heart of Syd Barrett, though only by association - this is original stuff in many ways, though it's 100%, unashamedly retro. 'Running Out Of Time' is a gorgeous cut, beautifully written and performed, while 'A Stone's Throw Away' is a kind of psych pop round, with verses and choruses merging... lovely. 'Roundabout' is a jaunty little number with an East End style piano in the mix, 'Sixty Eight' brings in Moody blues style keyboards and a pattering drum sound - great track, this - while 'Andromeda' returns to a folk vibe, with flute and hand percussion; this one very 'Donovan,' I thought, which is of course a good thing. 'She Doesn't Care' is a minor key lament, 'Real World' matches sumptuous guitars with a tinkling Rhodes, 'The Chase' has an Indian hint, while album closer 'Magic Lantern' brings in the flute mellotron and a classic 'sixties descending chord sequence on a track that rolls and rides the psychedelic tide... lovely. Yes, this is a retro album with only retro sounds, but the songs are lovely, the sound impeccable, the production excellent, and the vibe of the whole package is just perfect. Very good indeed, and a must for all 'sixties heads. (www.rainbowquartz.com )
[Phil adds: I do believe this band features father-and-son Martin and Tom Welham, the former having been a member of Forest back in the day. Our 2002 feature on theme is reproduced here:
http://www.terrascope.co.uk/MyBackPages/Forest.htm ]

More psych now, but with an American slant, for Denton Texas is the home of five-piece rockers Sundress, whose six track, self-titled EP is a great gaze at shoes and other items of a downwards persuasion. Opener 'Middle Of Here' is slow and woozy, with hints of Spiritualized, though the sound here isn't as intense as that band, while 'Bloom' is way too short for such a good song - very melodic. 'Derelict' is a kind of shoegaze grunge, in that it contrasts slow/quiet with slow/loud, adding a Hammond for that retro feel. A really good cut, this, with a hint of the Stone Roses in the mix and style of the vocals. 'Page Of Wands' is much faster than the precedng three cuts, then 'Sailor's Vision' boasts a thrumming bass part and shrieking, stereo-hopping guitars, to great effect. 'Thirteen' is another uptempo rocker. Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips rates this band, and it's not hard to see why.
(www.facebook.com/sundressnation )

The Dead Trees also hail from America, LA to be exact. There, the band make noisy, spunky pop vignettes of between two and three minutes. Thanks to a country-hopping lifestyle and a hand up from Strokes' guitarist Albert Hammond, they recorded music in LA, and found friends. Highlights include the joyous 'My Time Has Just Begun,' the happy clappy 'Older,' and 'Play Your Hand,' which takes a pop cliche and makes it original. 'Mexican Politics' has more than a hint of Jonathan Richmond & the Modern Lovers. A lot of the cuts flash by just too quickly to make a mark, but there is enough here to make the album worthwhile.
(www.affairsoftheheart.de )

If you like extended stoner jam songs then "Mirador" by Dutch psych-rockers Sungrazer is one for you. Mesmeric vocals, solid bass, rock solid drumming and ultra-fuzzed multitracked guitars make a heavy, heavy impact on this great album - and they're a trio! 'Wild Goose,' 'Octo' and 'Sea' all explore the band's chosen template, with some freaky guitars from six string maestro Rutger Smeets. 'Goldstrike' has an early Led Zep vibe to it, and is structured in a different way, with terrific dual vocals from Sander Haagmans and Smeets. By far the longest cut on the album at fourteen minutes is 'Behind,' which is almost stoner-prog in its complexity and scope. An amazing piece of work. The title track reminded me of Nirvana, while album closer '34 & More' is lighter in mood than the rest of the album, with additional vocals and an almost festival vibe. If you freaked out to Astra's "The Weirding" or enjoyed last year's offering from The Soulbreaker Company you'll love this.
(www.sungrazer.nl )

Six track electronic EP "Wild Blue Yonder" by Three Fields (a Birmingham-based gentleman) is a brief trip through music inspired by the open skies. 'A Distant Star' matches a sonorous three-note loop with subtle piano, while 'How It Rains Here' lays a breathy synth over a keyboard organ sound, before the return of the piano which is the hallmark of this EP. 'Ghost Bride' is brief and ambient, while 'Like Vortices' brings a Kitaro-style sequence to choir-like chords and another piano. 'On' is similar, with an extra sequence, while 'Transition' is Eno-esque ambience. The tracks are brief and don't develop much, which brings a refreshing atmosphere to the work, like an unexpected drink of cool spring water.
(www.soundcloud.com/threefields )

Following hot on the heels of their popular and well received "Bananas Foster," cult US art-popsters The Jigsaw Seen, who are not averse to asking Brian Wilson for a loan of his dogs, bring their new album "Winterland" along for us to enjoy. This is indeed a well connected band, for featured on the winter-themed newie is none other than Dave Davies of The Kinks. Opening cut 'What About Christmas?' matches a vaguely retro sound with a catchy tune and chorus, while - rather regrettably - the sleigh bells feature on 'December.' The album picks up with the jangly 'Candy Cane' which could have come straight out of Manchester circa 1991. Nice one. 'Circle Of Steel' is a Gordon Lightfoot composition, here given a sparkly renewal, while 'Christmas Behind Me' sounds like Dire Straits having an argument with Neil Young. 'First Day Of The New Year' and 'Dreams Of Spring' are fillers, but then 'Winterland's Gone' with its woodwind, flute and clarinet is a charming conclusion. To my ears this album suffers rather when compared to its illustrious predecessor, though it's not without its good points.
(www.thejigsawseen.com )

Californian residents Built Like Alaska bring us their third album "In Troubled Times" after a bit of a hiatus, during which the band's line up changed, as did their direction and expectations. Originally a rock band, the tenor of the new album is lighter, with the emphasis on making the songs work through group playing and decisions; a more subtle production, too. Opener 'The Union Song' is a great track, building to a thunderous climax from a slow start, while 'Antique Love' pits a techno drum sound with chiming mallet instruments and a quiet, heartfelt lyric. Possibly a single, this one. 'The Saint Is Here' is perhaps a tad over-produced, though it has a nice vibe, but 'Rotten In The Film Bag' rocks out majorly, 'Famous Goodbyes' is quite delightful, and 'John Henry' has a kind of mild Motown vibe going. 'Put You To Bed' brings a whirring synth to the mix but is a bit of a filler. 'Break Of Day' is a little fluffy, but album closer 'In Troubled Times' is charmingly quirky. Overall, the album is just about varied and interesting enough to make its mark in the ocean of US indie.
(www.futurefarmer.com )

Gold Beach are also natives of America, this time from Houston, Texas, where on "Habibti" they make idiosyncratic music with the recording studio as the controller. They are a duo - Michael Winningham and Tony Daugherty - who record tracks far out of their comfort zone; always a good way of proceeding. Opener 'Habibti' showcases a very fine voice and a great ear for arrangement and production, while the loping 'Until You' is similarly well sung, with a lovely zither (?) and assorted instruments underpinning the song. 'Gold Beach' is more of a singer-songwriter affair, based on acoustic guitars and piano before lurching off into backwards reverb and thrumming keyboards. It sounds a little like a very experimental MGMT. 'Hands Of Ether' brings stringed instruments into the mix, to create an album highlight. 'I, Testify' is gossamer light and a strong tune, while 'Everyone I Know' has a conventional song structure and vibe, and is all the better for it. 'Perfect Weights' is light and airy, while 'Skin Of Yours' - for me the album highlight - pits a great vocal with a marvellous production. 'Phantom Limb' is a kind of electro-noir folk, while album closer 'Diving Bell' sounds like it was recorded inside one, though the luxurious production more than does the cut justice. Unique sounds. (www.goldbeachband.com )

A trio of releases on Critical Heights to end with. Now, I like a good kosmische cut, so "Get Off Their Knees" by British guitar duo Delphic Vapours is one for me - delicate notes hanging in e-space, subtle textures... 'A Pythian Cleft' is nice opener, and not because some of the guitar sounds on this track sound remarkably like my own. The piece was recorded live in Winchester, and here is presented without post-production. After a while the duo switch on their distortion pedals and the whole thing goes bonkers - in a good way. Lots of lovely feedback, too. The second cut, 'Singing, Ringing Tree' has a different vibe, mostly I suspect from being a studio recording. The mood is tough and dangerous, with lots of distortion, though towards the end the track drifts into a lovely "cosmic" section. Great stuff.

"Eternal Western Youthdream" by Owen Tromans is completely different - songs, lyrics, keyboards, drums, melancholy, and all recorded between 2001 and 2011, so this is very much a retrospective of the man's work. And pretty good it is too. Tromans more often than not sings directly, with little by way of reverb or effects, and so creates an intense atmosphere, whether it be keyboard-haunted dirge or uptempo "pop" song. His voice has hints of Phil Oakey, I feel. 'Three' is very good, lyrically ambiguous, while 'The Coast' is out-and-out indie pop, and 'The Last Word On The Sunshine Girls' fragile and haunting. 'John's On The Bridge' is a twelve minute epic with rock guitars, crashing drums and pounding bass; it passes through quiet and mad rock-out moods on the way. 'Like Rheticus' is bouncy, catchy pop - could easily be a commercial success - while 'Circle' returns us to melancholic territory. 'Cuckoos Over Cradley' brings in a pedal steel and Leslie'd guitar for that touch of Americana, while 'The Spanish Flag' sounds almost like a folk standard. A terrific cut. 'Acre' is a slowburn track owing a little to Neil Young, before the concluding cut, 'Scratching At The Stitches,' which returns to the man, his naked voice and a guitar, before a percussion and backing vocal ending hoves into view, quite wonderfully. A real eye-opener of an album.

A fifteen minute EP of punky thrash? That'll be "Incredible" by Weapons, although it might be "Weapons" by Incredible - lacking info, I can't be sure. Anyway, it's loud and bad, with semi-snarled vocals. 'Foxglove's Advantage' pounds its way through its agenda, 'Hammerhead' sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom, but 'Holding Light' is better, and it's an acoustic waltztime track, rather weirdly, as is 'All Legs & Nobody,' which is the highlight of the EP. (www.criticalheights.com )

Now time for a welcome re-appearance from Stefan Ek with some more rambling Rumbles.

Through horizontal rain in chilly winds and then even more rain the mailman succeed to deliver a new package of disordered CDs, CDRs and whimsical information about various artists who appreciate our opinion of their work. So, here it comes:

Loopish, repetitive, dronish and psychedelic, that’s the essence of Annapourna Illusion’s new release “Life is an illusion”. I might well have been sleeping during the lectures but I don’t know too much about this guy. But the music captures me. It definitely Kosmische music of best kind, a bit Ash Ra Temple, but in my ears mostly inspired by Tangerine Dream’s first releases, long before they went boringly mainstream, when you could hear guitars here and there and the drummer was still Klaus Schultze. Three quarters of an hour, six tracks between 3 and 13 minutes, and it’s the longest that’s most impressive. I guess the music could have been going on for hours and you wouldn’t mind. This music is not only light in the context of weight; it’s also light as when the sun shines into your face, makes you warm and happy. This is happy music, slow, but happy and I like it a lot.
( www.rocketrecordings.com )

We continue with another Krautish komische album, “Western Lands” by Comets Ov Cupid, a space rock project by Jason Kesselring, who might have been heard with Skye Klad or The Satyrswitch. Space & kraut with some Barrett influences melt together with some intensity sometimes heard by Julian Cope. Vivid and wildly flowing space music, cosmic and psychedelic, filled with lust. Really gives the illusion of a tight, but healthy unpolished band rather than one-man’s-job. Made as a 45 minutes concept, kind of a suite in 9 parts. Beautiful package, edition limited to 175 copies. ( www.cometsovcupid.com )

Lib EMBA’s “Terminal Muse: Blue” is next on the player. Those of you who are completely addicted will recall I wrote some words a year or two about the great EP “Terminal Muse: Red”. At that time I didn’t know anything about Lid EMBA except it was an alias for… someone. Today I know it’s Sean Moore who is… well, someone. Nevertheless, this is the 2nd instalment of a trilogy which is said to be dedicated to the cost of persistence in art. This album is in line with the “Red” one, but brings it a bit forward. It’s electronic; it’s still partly Zappa-jazz-from-hellish mixed with long dronish ambient fat-chorded layers of keyboards, yes, even a few moments of weird head banging (‘Zakula’). With the modern techniques of today you’ll never know the origin of the sounds, if it’s analogue or digital and who cares? Yet another great album, a little bit longer than the previous EP, a mix of styles, a mix of analogue (which I think it is) and digital (which I doubt it is) sounds. The music is inventive and curious, kind of “let’s see what could have happened if Wendy Carlos wasn’t lost in soundtracks”, a little bit more up-in-your-face than the “red” one. The album concluded with what might be a quick and new tradition, a track wonderfully versioned by James Plotkin. Of course I’m looking forward to the third part of the trilogy. ( www.stickfigurerecordings.com )
( www.lidemba.com )

Oneida and Mugstar, both old friends of editor Phil, offer us “Collisions 2”, a split LP from Rocket Recordings, two sidelong tracks of 15 plus minutes. First out is Oneida with ‘Shahin’s Bong’ a wild and intense kraut-psych-space-drone-feedback jam. You can hear how the amplifiers are put to 11. Fans of Oneida are use to their unpredictable diversity of genres and here’s yet another one, not too often heard (at least not on studio albums), when the band goes out of control and still keep it magnificently. You really can hear how fun they have playing this.

Turn the LP over and we get Mugstar’s ‘European Nihilism’ (btw, isn’t it a wonderful title; I think I know what they mean). Track opens softly, with just a synth buzz which turns into tone and after a couple of minutes the rest of the band enters on what becomes a wonderful space trip of a quality not even Hawkwind can offer today. Two bands working in some kind of same field, but from two very different angles, two perfect compliments to each other. The LP is, of course like it always seems to be today with interesting music on vinyl, limited so I guess you have to be quick to get a copy. ( www.rocketrecordings.com )

As long as we can remember Scotland has brought troubadours and acoustic guitar players to us, folk singers who became heroes in the 60’s and then inspired a great lot of musicians all over the world and made people pick up their guitar and bring new music to us, maybe amplified their guitar, turn into psychedelic inspiration. Now, for the last few years, at least for us living far away from Scotland not being regularly updated on what’s happening locally, there have been some uprisings of space rock and psychedelic music. But, not to make this a too long and boring introduction, let’s go right to the topic: The Cosmic Dead, a five-piece out of Glasgow. Their debut album is a self-titled cassette album on Who Can You Trust?

This is fresh jammy space-rock in the field of Here & Now or maybe even Øresund Space Collective. Wonderfully looooong jams, well kept together by driven and forceful drumming and bass-playing, letting guitars and keyboards interact, sometimes also with non-word vocals. Yes, we’ve heard it before, but when it’s as good as this is we never get tired of it, want to hear it again and again. The music transfers its energy into you. The Cosmic Dead sound hungry, inspired, lustful. Four tracks in almost 80 minutes (19, 7, 14, 40 minutes). Your ears deserve this. ( www.whocanyoutrustrec.wordpress.com )

“Not Here” by Auristis is a four-track album running for about 35 minutes. Auristis is a one-man solo project by 19-year old Liam Adams. In a world when it seems like most teenagers dream about winning a talent competition on TV, get their 15 seconds of fame and then be gone it’s refreshing to hear a youngster dealing with the sound of noise and drone, like Auristis do. Following the tradition of most noise artists he already does have an extended discography. This is the new release, first on Amoebic Industries. It’s more like heavy distorted sounds than noise, at least for the album’s first three tracks. The final and longest number does have some softer moments though the distortion is watching you from around the corner here as well. This is good. It’s not fantastic, it’s good; but then a lot of what Merzbow has done is good, not fantastic. So, in 30 years we’ll see what happened with him, Liam is working in the right direction and the future is his.

( www.auristis.bandcamp.com )

Andrew Taylor is another very talented multi-instrumentalist, this timefrom Norwich, and on “Mohribold” his talent really comes to the light. The album consists of four long tracks, 14 – 18 minutes, and mainly acoustic music is filled with melodies, harmonies, ideas. It’s like a musical kaleidoscope when a small shifting makes big difference but still with fantastic colour kept. I don’t know if he’ll like it or not, but hearing this music makes me think of Mike Oldfield. Don’t forget, in the very beginning, when there was light, and I’m talking about “Tubular Bells” and “Ommadawn” (forget “Hergest Ridge”), the music of MO was really good, inventive, charming and, yes, colourful. This is the Oldfield I talk of. There are a lot of acoustic guitars, recorders, flutes, glockenspiel, percussion, high pitch electric guitar solos, etc. Andrew plays it all by himself. On some few moments a couple of friends add trumpet, bassoon and cello. For anyone who has given up the thought of complex folk-inspired after 1975: You are rescued! “Mohribold” is waiting for you. andrew.taylor.bandcamp.com

Playing now is “All of the True Things I’m About to Tell You Are Lies” by True Colour of Blood. From the information to hand it was released in 2008 on Gears of Sand and as to why it’s taken this long to reach me … well, I have no idea. To business: TCOB is actually Eric Kesner from Virginia, US. For one and a half decades he has performed and recorded what might be called ambient or dark ambient sounds of music using just his guitar (+ efx). The result has ended up on a handful of albums plus appearances on myriads of compilations. Even though “All of the True…” isn’t all new it’s at least the most recent album by TCOB. It’s ten tracks lasting for almost 80 minutes, each track spanning between 3 and 17 minutes. The music is minimalistic, it’s dark and it’s ambient. On all tracks but ‘Once was Blind but Now I’m Deaf” the sounds comes softly sneaking at you, asks for your attention, in no way the amplifier is turned to 11, it’s more like 2 or 3. Each track has a dronish approach with very slow changing while the tune goes on. It need some time to establish within your senses, so, give it that time. This is not music for every moment of your life but when you’re in that particular mood, it’s really really good.

( http://www.gearsofsand.net )

Hum of Gnats is a one-man project of Italian resident Ezio Piermattei. “Purge the Weevil from your Midst” is a new album from him. Four tracks, 10 – 12 minutes long. What you hear are basic field recordings (or samples), or constructed patterns over which Ezio improvise by playing clarinet, piano, percussion, viola, guitar, plastic bouzouki, accordion, recorder, vocals, etc, etc often in layers – you get the message: he is a truly talented multi-instrumentalist. The music is vivid, smart and lively and if you force me to compare with anyone the first name in my head is Fred Frith around time of “Technologies of Tears”. The tunes are like collages, much happens all the time, not a chance you’ll get bored. Electro-acoustic meets melody. If you want to come closer to it, which I think you should, you can chose to pay for a physical copy or download it digital for free.
(www.rermegacorp.com ) ( http://humofgnats.bandcamp.com )

Paul Kidney Experience are a bunch of savages from Melbourne, Australia. Their recent album, “Radio Transmissions” is a self release consisting of two long tracks, ‘Dustberries’ and ‘Tardigrades’, 24 & 22 minutes. Like an umbrella over the music is Paul’s own growling throat-a-like and/or shouting singing. The music is heavy, dronish and psychedelic jams mixed with non-beat moments, sometimes soft and cosy, sometimes frenzied as hell. Except Paul himself, the core of the band is Richard Walsh and Ben Butcher on guitars, Don Rogers on bass and Nell Day on Tony-Conrad-ish violin. Some of the core members also play other instruments, and on both tracks there are also other additional musicians, notably Matt Gleeson on drums on the first and Lloyd Honeybrook on alto sax on the second. Sometimes it seems hard to describe aural impressions by words but these tracks are two great performances by a great band of which existence I knew nothing until today. For the engaged and curious listener there are some great and representative clips on the Tube you can check. For the album contact paulkidneyexperience@gmail.com

“Anomie or Swimming in a Black Sea” is the second album by Invisible Elephant. The album starts with a short preface; voices from what might be a playground and soft acoustic instruments, quickly followed by ‘Everything’, a beautiful track which brings your mind to the music of early Spiritualized. Then another quiet interlude followed by what is the most beautiful track of the album, ‘Wish’, with guest vocals by Ryli, a track that really brings me to emotions, also bringing me back to memories of This Mortal Coil, a band which seems sadly overlooked today, one of the world’s most brilliantly beautiful outfits. Then it goes on, soft, bright and clever, with ‘Black Sound’ as the only different tune, the albums rocker; a bit heavier than the rest, with pulsing drums and bass. This is a good album, pointing into a post-rock, shoegazey direction. What’s negative? Well, to be grumpy, the promo copy does only have 7 tracks, 25 minutes, and the covers say it should have been 9, so it’s hard to judge. ( http://twohandsmusic.bigcartel.com )

Even an old grumpy reviewer sometimes needs a smile. In “Dead Organ Music – The Cosmic Tapes” by Dronæment there is a 10” mini-poster, a cover rip-off of Donovan’s Cosmic Wheel. It makes me glad. The album consists of 6 tracks, ‘Organ I – IV’ and ‘Cosmic Tape I – II’. The first of them only three minutes, the rest between 6 – 14 minutes. The organ tracks are organ drones, mainly played on the high register part of the instrument. The Tape tracks present deeper drones with added electronics. It feels analogue and it feels lo fi, but then, who has ever blamed Velvet Underground for their lo-fi-ness? The sounds of the music do have slow changes, it’s not demanding, but it needs some attention from you. It’s ambient cosmic music for any time of the day.

( http://dyingforbadmusic.com )

“Seven Years of Gulliver” is another release on Dying for Bad Music, this time by The Vévé Seashore. The album was originally released on vinyl in 2007 and here we are now with a download re-issue. The VS consists of Elroy Oversex on vocals, guitars, etc and Lord Fuck on keyboards and bass. On one of the album’s 15 tracks they do have a pal hitting the skin of some drums. A couple of tracks do have a handful of minute’s length, but most of then are shorter pieces, just a few minutes long. It’s mainly psychedelic, weird folk music. Syd Barrett? No, it was just in the beginning of the album. Maybe Kevin Ayers would have been better in comparison. My favourite track is the 4-track ‘Seven Inch Script’ suite and ‘I’m a full cloud’, moments when they let the music fly away in surprisingly directions. I like to be surprised, like in the middle of ‘I’m a full cloud’ when suddenly the music completely flip out, like player, loudspeaker and half of the Universe break down. And it’s just a trick. ( http://dyingforbadmusic.com )

Another combo from the vital and vivid music scene in Southern Australia is The Gruntled who has sent yours truly a couple of releases to pass his magnifier over. Harvesting in the fields of space psych noise improvisations they deliver music that makes my ears focus in a most pleasant way. First out is Various Recordings 2004-2008, a really good sample of the band’s music for an ignorant soul like me. Even though the music has an electric touch, as when Pelt improvises on electric instruments, they use a lot of traditional medieval instruments like hurdy gurdy, bagpipes and crumhorn. With addition of bass, drums and some electronic utensils they create masterful psychedelic drone music which sometimes goes into noise territories as well. It’s hypnotic, diverse and attractive, like a musical cat-walk for weird minds like mine, and when listening to it my mind slips into some kind of none-drug trance. Fascinating! We’re offered 7 tracks for 70 plus minutes, five of the tracks longer than 7 minutes, it gives you time to lean back, close your eyes, concentrate and float away. The band on this album is Nick Potts (horns, bagpipes, jew harp, harmonica, loops), Ricarda Reeck (hurdy gurdy), Richard Walsh (guitar, theremin), Matt Gleeson (bass) and Craig Daryl ‘Skull’ McPeade (drums).

Another excellent release by the combo is “Live at 3 PBS”, an album recorded 2008 with same band members as above, but minus bass (Matt G leaves the bass at home, changes to drums for this album). Two long tracks. The first, ‘Totentanz’ begins with Ricarda Reeck singing in a folky, lovely way over the drones, before the track developes into a space rock improvisation which ends after 30 minutes. It’s big and spacey, it’s wonderful. It’s Pelt meets Oneida meets early Pink Floyd meets…eehhrr… The Gruntled. Next one, ‘Looking at what they want’ is a 12 minutes intense drone improvisation which concludes the album.

Finally in the package are a combined DVD and CD including two media versions of the 32 minutes track “The Ball of a Hundred Kings”. Even though the stable background consists of drone constructions it turns out to be a regular, but great, intense psych space jam. The DVD is whimsically and psychedelic, exactly as it should be. To be honest, The Gruntled was an unknown band to me, but now I’m hooked. Where to get it? Try an email to:
( www.myspace.com/the_gruntled )

Listening to Cheer-Accident’s new album “No ifs, ands or dogs” is like stepping into a world of experimental avant-pop. It’s said to be their 17th album and you can hear it; they are certainly no novices. The band consists of a handful of highly talented multi-instrumentalists, composers and performers to which you can add another handful of talented guests. For those who have missed my previous reviews of their music it’s a bit difficult to describe. Take a big pot, throw in Beatles 1966, early 10 CC, The Residents, spice with Zappa, U Totem and King Crimson. The music is so complex, it’s like being at an art exhibition with extremely colourful paintings. It’s fascinating, overwhelming, but after a while it’s as if the impressions knock you down. The 15 tracks lasts for 50 minutes. Keep it at 5 tracks a day and your experience of this music will be continually rewarding. ( www.cuneiformrecords.com )

The fruitful collaborations between Richard Pinhas & Merzbow continues with a live album recorded at Sonic Curcuits Festival, Washington DC, USA in September 2010: “Rhizome”. Both musicians use their trademarks, RP on guitar and loop system, M with his laptop. The sound is as distinct as the music, Merzbow a little bit laid back, compared to his solo outfits, the noise is kept low, but this is what works best with Pinhas playing and layers of soundscapes. The fat waving sounds undulates back and forth, it’s like bringing your senses to the waterfront, dipping your toes, letting them be washed by the waving water. I wonder what it would have sounded like if Merzbow was the captain, letting the noise forward a bit, and Pinhas the ship crew, accompany the noise with his guitar layers. Maybe it would have sounded the same. Five tracks, 10 – 16 minutes, melted together in a long row. The first pressing of the album also consists of a 27 minutes DVD of live footage from the same concert. ( www.cuneiformrecords.com )

And now the How the Grey Haired Reviewer Became Even More Grey Haired Section: A huge consignment of music, all on the same label ( www.albertsbasement.net )from Australia. Promo-copies of 7” Singles, LPs, Cassettes, CDRs, CDs - old, new and future releases. Almost no info except artist name and trick titles. On a bad day I might have opened my window and made eleven flying saucers of them, but today is a good day…

Highlights include “Animals Hidden in the Waist High Grass” by Zack Kouns which is a five track, 35 minutes CDR prepared for an Australian tour in 2010. Zack present some interesting experimental weird folk here; acoustic metal-stringed guitar, electronic sounds and (possible) viola, some vocals. Sometimes other instruments are added. Next in line is “Cassette” (which actually I think is titled “Sifting Through”) by Tom Hall. Tom plays the banjo. He improvises. Five tracks, 5 – 9 minutes. Reminds me of another experimental banjo album, “Hymnprovisations for banjo” by Daniel A.I.U. Higgs. Banjo is a bit like accordion, a not too common instrument (unless you’re not living in the Appalachian Mountains) – and if you don’t hate it, it could be interesting. This is interesting. Then there’s “Deja What?” by Blank Realm. Psychedelic music from Brisbane, sometimes in a pop direction, sometime in an avant-garde ditto. The music is very diverse, from Blue Cheer to a touch of Hawkwind. Heavy wah-wahs, spooky vocals. Yeah.

“Franco-Prussian Fillets” is a cassette by Francis Plagne from Melbourne. 26 sketches, ideas, melodies, fragments, most of them shorter than 2 minutes. Kind of Eno, when he still kept time limits short, or maybe even some charming moments of Fred Frith ca. “Step Across the Border”. I love the collage feeling of the music. Hugely inventive and varied music and even though the shortness can sometimes be frustrating it’s also its strength; like a good poem or haiku it leaves you thoughtful and curious. This cassette album is a delightful surprise and I hope it’s not too limited so many people can capture it. Should be a LP reissue according to me. Another cassette release: Pissypaw/Weirding Module “Split”. One track each, both of them about 8½ minutes long. Pissypaw is the duo of Olle Holmberg and David Mutch. ‘Samtiden’ consists of a heavy, monotone keyboard loop, kind of Suicide, over which a mumbling melody is sung. I like its unpolished surface, the rough edge. It’s a good track. Second is Weirding Module (a.k.a. Michael Troutman) with ‘Dimension 1.7’, a mostly ambient piece filled with various electronic devices (if there is weird folk maybe we also should invent weird ambient – and if so, this is it!). No vocals, but also an interesting piece of music. Next up: “Untitled”, a 7” Single by Muura. Noise and buzzes, industrial drones and creepy vocals from far away. Muura (a.k.a. Matt Early) is another experimental issue from Brisbane. Lo fi, of course, but no matter the sound quality, there is a strict construction of the pieces, especially the B side track. Maybe not something I would die for, but definitely interesting and it makes me want to hear more from this guy.

Finally for now, “Your Colla, the Colour of Mounds” by Various Artists, a 19-track compilation with artists known and unknown from the label and more. It’s far from commercial, but much more accessible than many of the releases mentioned above. Weird pop maybe, a bit like Albert’s Basement’s version of Cherry Red’s classic “Pillows & Prayers” compilation. No matter what, I think it’s the most attractive and appealing album from the big Albert’s Basement package. All of the above available from: ( www.albertsbasement.net )

Just time for one last Rumble before heading out towards the hitherto unexplored pastures of 2012: long-time collaborator Chris Videll on one of the more noteworthy new releases of the past few months, "Chaudelande Vol. I" by Gnod.

I found their many cassette releases and splits (at least those which I've been able to track down) interesting, but Gnod have really come into their own of late with the recent "Ingnodwetrust" (difficult but rewarding) and the completely stunning "Gnod Drops Out with White Hills II". The latter deserves a rave review all its own for being some the finest spacey motorik garage rock I can imagine. You White Hills fans need this. "Chaudelande" continues on this roll. The two extended tracks on side one seemingly draw on that collab oration with White Hills, though they're darker and heavier here. The opening "Tron" is downright menacing, all storming guitars and swirling heavily effected vocals, getting progressively noisier over 9:00 but never losing momentum. The keyboard driven "Visions of Load" is somewhat more methodical and may bring to mind vintage Chrome in spirit at least. "The Vertical Dead" is where things take a sidelong turn in a somewhat different direction. Here they take their time and slowly unfurl some very dark, almost tribal heaviness over the course of 17 minutes, the vocals becoming increasingly unhinged in the middle third or so. Resembles Bardo Pond at times instrumentally perhaps, but this is a nicely weird take on that sound. Sadly limited to 500 copies on white vinyl (over at the Tamed Records site) and well worth tracking down.

Terrascopic Rumbles for December was brought to you by (in order) Simon Lewis, Steve Palmer, Stefan Ek and Chris Videll. Editing, layout, graphics and & direction by Phil McMullen - © Terrascope Online, 2011