= Rumbles - January 2006 =
Yet again the end of the year is nearly upon us; well, rocketed past actually! Meaning this rumble is a tad later than it should be! Hopefully you have all enjoyed a fantastic year, got that rare multi coloured seven inch you have always been searching for, and are now relaxing with your favourite album from 2005; and as you do, raise a glass to the On-line Terrascope as we prepare to celebrate our first year of web based activity, a year which has seen us publish 150 album reviews, 4 editions of rumbles and seen the articles/interviews expand as the year rolled on. Thanks go as ever to Phil McMullen for his vision and patience, to all the reviewers for sharing their passion, to all the band/labels for sending us this stuff, to you for reading about it, and finally to Cara for allowing our lounge to become filled with more music than she even thought existed, long may it continue.
To kick us off this time, is the war zone noise of Big nurse (www.highdensityheadache.com) whose debut 12” “Runnin’ With The Devil” / ”DXM” is the sound of the Butthole Surfers crashing into Acid Mother Temple in a sleazy punk club, everything louder than everything else and all the better for it. A lovely slab of thick black vinyl and well worth owning. Also on vinyl, this time of the seven-inch variety is a split single featuring The Nein / Cantwell Gomez And Jordan (www.sit-n-spinrecords.com). Both sides are fast paced guitar driven songs and compliment each other well, the Cantwell Gomez And Jordan offering an angular bass heavy middle eight before exploding in a final frenzy whilst The Nein have a tight rhythmic punch peppered with distorted guitar and culminating in a lysergic change of pace for the last 30 seconds.
Another single worth hunting down is “Ramblin’ Man” / “Boom Boom A Zoom Zoom” by Bob Urh And The Bare Bones (www.ultraproductions.org ),the a-side is a slow burning garage lament with suitably primitive production values and vocal so lonesome they’ll make you reach for the bottle, whilst the flipside ups the pace, full of distorted slide guitar and tribal stomp backing.
Finally on the vinyl front, two items from the always excellent Static Caravan (www.staticcaravan.org), first up is “ Would Anyone Come To Visit Me “ a ten-inch from THE Besnard Lakes that is a slice of dreamy post rock that moves from dronescape to melody and has an Enoesque feel about it as it drifts out of the speakers and gently throttles you. Side two continues the theme adding some crackly percussion and samples that add a surreal playfulness to the piece, the lead guitar providing some exquisite feedback and overdrive to a beautifully mixed piece of music that grows in stature every time it is played. Next up The Strange Sounds Orchestra offer us pop music played on a whole array of unusual instruments on their seven-inch “Strange Sense Of Liberty” which features child’s xylophone, stylophone, dulcimer, audio test oscillators, theremin and kalimba, to name but a few, but still manages to sound like Kraftwerk in the early 80’s mainly due to the use of cheap Casio products as their main source of percussion Excellent it is too, as are the two tracks on the other side which drop the percussion in favour of a more experimental approach which sounds like White Noise jamming with Tunng in a mellow mood. Continuing their excellent re-issue programme BGO Records have just released “Early Steppenwolf”/ “For Ladies Only” which pairs a live album, recorded when the band were known as the Sparrows with the ninth and penultimate album by Steppenwolf, a pairing which shows how the band changed during their career as well as highlighting that the band had more to offer than their two famous hits. Opening with the title track “For Ladies Only “ which features some wonderful piano, The album is a fine collection of early seventies rock music featuring some fast numbers, a bit of boogie, the expected ballad, and is far better than I was expecting it to be with great playing, a fine vocal performance, and a solid cohesive feel which means it is an album rather than a collection of songs. Recorded at the Matrix in 1967 “Early Steppenwolf is a much rawer blues based affair, the songs offering plenty of room for improvisation, and featuring a particularly meaty version of “Howling For My Baby”. Highlight of the whole set however is a twenty minute version of “The Pusher” which starts as a free form psychedelic improvisation, the drums leading the tribe ever onwards before it breaks down into chaos sounding like an outtake from the acid tests, the band walking the edge of insanity until, finally, the storm is broken and the band break into a gorgeous, swirling version of the Hoyt Axton classic.
Also on BGO (www.bgo-records.com ) is a pairing of “Blue Matter” / “A Step Further” the 3rd and 4th albums respectively by Savoy Brown, a band who were an integral part of the British blues scene without ever breaking away from it, although they fared far better in the states, where they are now based and still touring. These two album probably represent their finest work, “ Blue Matter “ kicks of with the psych-prog classic “Train To Nowhere”, a song I first heard whilst enjoying an evening of psychedelic bliss (but that’s another story), which is a wonderfully atmospheric opener although it does not sit comfortably with the far more blues orientated material that fill the rest of the album, excellent though that is.” A Step Further” has a brassier feel to it but is again full of fine blues material which taken together make up a brace of essential uk blues rock, if you like that kind of thing, which I certainly do.
Solo Career are an instrumental quintet composed of three guitars, bass and drums, on their “Season Finale” album, recorded live 1997 and in the studio 2002, they create an atmospheric spacey sound that has an epic quality, the musicians showing great restraint, feeding off each other rather than competing, and allowing the music space to ebb and flow creating a wonderful organic feel. Bass player Richard Derrick is also the head honcho at Box-o-plenty records, the label responsible for this release, as well the excellent Kevin Ayers live set reviewed elsewhere by the Terrascope. It is no surprise then to find members of Solo Career have also supported Mr Ayers on his jaunts around the U.S. and appear on the aforementioned live cd. ( www.box-o-plenty.com ).
In the last few months a whole host of music has arrived from the good people at Record Heaven/Transubstans (www.recordheaven.net) a label that is releasing consistently excellent music from Scandinavian bands past and present. Formed in Stockholm in the early seventies Rag I Ryggen play heavy progressive rock, mixing Swedish and English lyrics, and featuring some great guitar/organ interplay sounding like the album that Uriah Heep never managed to make. This re-release of their self-titled (and only) album includes three live tracks that are liberally laced with overdrive, and move along at a cracking pace.
Also from Sweden Mrs Brown had the misfortune to release their wonderful symphonic rock album in 1977, a year that regarded such music as less useful than that stuff stuck to the bottom of your shoe: a great shame as this album contains some grandiose and sweeping music that has a gentle melodic quality within it’s keyboard led songs.
Working in far heavier territory Abramis Brama play riff heavy music mixing Sabbath with Soundgarden to create some fine stoner rock on their two albums “Dansa Tokjavelens Vals” and “Nar Tystnaded Lagt Sig. .” Originally released in the 90’s these albums are a welcome addition to the heavier end of your collection, with both albums maintaining the pace throughout.
Still with Record Heaven, and probably the pick of the bunch for Terrascope readers are Norway’s Gargamel whose lone (so far) 2002 album “Watch For The ‘Umbles” mixes prog and psych influences and contains echoes of Tangle Edge and Anglagard, with their complex rhythms and long instrumental passages. Featuring cello, sax and flute as well as the obligatory Hammond, the music is dense and moody creating a scintillating musical journey from start to finish. Lovers of Scandinavian Progressive sounds should look no further.
Oresund Space Collective is a group of Danish Swedish and American musicians who get together periodically to play improvised instrumental space-rock, liberally drenched in synthesisers, and sounding like Klause Schulze jamming with the Nodens Ictus, whilst Daevid Allen nods wisely in the corner. The music is not startlingly original but is well played and atmospheric and fans of this genre will love this release.
Finally on Record-Heaven, Drahk Von Trip offer us “Heart and Consequences” an exhilarating collection of songs which ranges from guitar-driven psych to slower more reflective passages featuring the fine vocal performance of Susann who sounds like Polly Harvey mixed with Barbara Hudson, in fact, the album has the same feel as the debut L.P. by Ultimate Spinach, although has it a thoroughly modern production, which sparkles out of the speakers. Standout tracks include “Ode To The Goddess” or the moody and magnificent “Gahn” which positively drips with atmosphere and menace.
Formed in 1992 Mooch have recorded several albums over the years as well as amassing many hours of unreleased music, which is now beginning to see the light of day, thanks to a cd-r release programme courtesy of guitarist Stephen Palmer. The First of these is “Flight Of The Dub Voyager” , an hour long psychedelic journey into inner space, which features gently pulsing bass, some excellent Tim Blakian synths, and drifting guitar, creating music that is as gentle as watching clouds on a summers day, and manages to avoid becoming repetitive or boring. (www.stephenpalmer.co.uk)
More gentle and summery music is played by Goldoolins A melodic folk trio from Israel, whose 2nd album “Songs Of The Turly Trio” is an easy going collection of acoustic songs with mellow harmonies and wonderful hooks that make the world a better place. Featuring fine arrangements and added cello, trombone, oboe and violin, the album is held together with some fine vocal performances that light up the songs creating a gentle folk classic. (www.goldoolins.com)
Music of a much darker texture can be found on “+” the debut album by Whitelodge a band from Florida’s swamps, who mix wyrd-folk, with downbeat psych, to fashion a musical landscape awash with murky waters, the snap of a broken twig in the mist, and a generally unsettling ambience which shrouds the album in a dense fog. Comparisons with Current 93,Death In June or maybe Bag are valid but the band have a creepiness of their own which is softened by some fine playing and arrangements that allow subtle melodies to drift out like the moon on a cloudy night. (Beta-Lactam Ring Records www.blrrecords.com ).
Coming on like a tightly coiled ball of energy, Icebird have managed the difficult task of recording their (no doubt) live intensity in a studio setting. Their debut album “ Magnitude” sounds like a down and out Dinosaur JR sharing a bottle with Shellac and the wipers, the whole album crackling with noise; a non stop avalanche of bass heavy riffs, chaotic guitar and powerful drumming, that rattles around your brain in joyous abandon. You may have heard it before but rarely is it done so honestly, a band worth tracking down. ( www.flyingsquirrelrecords.com ).
Continuing the noisy theme Nixon Now do an excellent impression of an early Sub Pop band on their ferocious album “Altamont Nation Express” which powers it’s way through 15 tracks of high energy tracks, the guitar burning with a Stooges like anger that threatens to destroy your speakers throughout. Among the songs are two covers, a full on version of “The Rocker” (Thin Lizzy) and, bizzarely, a grunge rendition of the disco classic “Carwash” which is only recognisable by the lyrics, possibly a good thing methinks. (www.elektrohasch.de ). Also on Elektrohasch are the strangely named Ugh!, whose latest offering “Meat Fairies” is destined to be a stoner rock, full on noise classic, featuring a whole array of sonically intense guitar riffery each more enjoyable than the last.”Ginko” also features some wonderfully individual sax playing adding a freakout nature to the proceedings; whilst final track “She” is nine minutes of slow burning monster (magnet) sized noise, finishing off the perfect album for those of you with a crate of beer and room to move.
An equally intense music is creates by the Norwegian drone collective Kobi on their splendid album “Dronesyndrome” which mixes electronically processed sounds with “real” instruments (cello, double bass, guitar) to create a wonderfully textured and ever-changing soundscape that brings to mind ancient woodlands, ghost ships becalmed on vast oceans, and all manner of surreal images, as it plays. Two years in the making, the album has been lovingly crafted, the sparseness, textures and use of silence as equally as important as the scales or melodic devices utilised, something beautifully realised on “Yellow Scales Slid Across Oily Rolls Of Flushed Skin” a track which adds stuttering snare to the palette. This is an album that bears close scrutiny, each subtle nuance adding a different emphasis to the sounds meaning that it sounds fresh every time it is played, what you hear being determined as much by your mood and activity as by the music itself. (www.silbermedia.com )
Another band living the drone life is Belong, although this time the sounds are distorted and abused, the songs seemingly decaying in front of you, creating the perfect requiem for the bands hometown of New Orleans, itself fighting for survival after the terrible events of last year. Indeed, there is an overwhelming sense of sadness about the music on the album, no more so than on the poignant title track “October Language” a track that is pure emotion made sound. Not an album for the faint-hearted, but one that reveals its secrets in slow and splendid isolation. (www.carparkrecords.com ).
More free-form soundscapes are created by the oddly named The Cutest Puppy In The World, whose debut cd-r “Shut In The Basement” is a walk through a macabre circus sideshow, each booth revealing another bizarre character, another dark vision that laughs with joyful madness. Created by Layne Garrett and Bryan Rhodes, all the music on the cd-r has been improvised, a fact that lends the music a playful and unexpected ambience that offers some relief from the music’s darker patches. The band have also played several live gigs around their hometown of DC/Baltimore, so catch them if you can.(www.cutestpuppy.net ). Also available (for free download) is a 2cd-r set by Layne Garret “space superiority is not our birthright but it is our destiny” which mutates and distorts all manner of sounds into a disharmonic squall of noise before returning to the more melodic sounds of real instruments, although these are still interlaced with crackle, scrapes, and whistles which rattle across the music like a misplaced swarm of flies. Great stuff and well worth a listen. (www.questionthetruth.com/noise )
Sometimes music is used as a vehicle for some vitriolic, personal, or political views the message becoming far more important than the tune. This is certainly the case for Pete Dale and the Beta Male whose album “Betrayed By Folk” is a protest album for this present age, invoking the spirits of Phil Ochs or Woody Guthrie, as the songs put forward Pete Dales view on the police, terrorists, Americans, the secret service, music, and meat eating hippies. Throughout the songs are direct simple and honest , one man speaking his mind, and doing so with a healthy dose of humour and self depreciation. (www.fortunapop.com )
So often, it is the opening track on an album that determines your level of expectation for the rest of it. If this is the case, then The Donuts have a lot to live up to as their latest album “The Monkey Wrench Gang” opens with the sublime power pop of “soon “ a song which rocks with melodic brightness sounding like R.E.M. pretending to be a bar band again. As luck would have it, the band do indeed keep up the good work, squeezing 12 gems into 29 minutes of tuneful joy, each song sticking itself into your head before the next one drives it out with yet another hook laden chorus or middle eight. Not startlingly original, but startlingly good, go grab yourself some donuts today. ( www.thedonuts.com )
Finally for this edition of rumbles The Chemistry experiment offer us a bizarre pairing of Justin Hayward and Syd Barrett on their latest ep “Interstellar Autumn” which starts off as warm and lilting cover of “Forever Autumn” before mutating into a lively and space-rock inspired version of “interstellar Overdrive. Originally conceived as a one off live performance, it went down so well the band decided to record it properly. Only you, dear readers, can decide whether it is a piece of inspired madness, or something so cheesy it should be left on the shelf. Also on the ep is the completely gorgeous pop masterpiece that is “You’re The Prettiest Thing”, reason enough, on its own, to buy this cd which may just find it’s way into your heart. (www.fortunapop.com )
Well, my ears are now well and truly knackered, so I will hand you over to Alan Davidson who will navigate you through the rest of this edition of Rumbles.
Wearing its 'home recorded, lo-fi and proud of it!' badge with pride is the first Songs of Green Pheasant album. Influenced by the novels of Pasternak and Hesse this is a very tuneful album with some lovely harmonies floating through the mist created by the reverb guitar.
Sometimes there's gentle strumming, sometimes there's ghostly fingerpicking, as in 'The burning man' or the fragile and beguiling 'Until. The standout track in a strong set is 'From here to somewhere else', which accompanies us to the album's end in stately fashion. The overall mood of the album made me think of Gravenhurst, or Galaxie 500, with its understated passion really growing on me. (Fat Cat Records, FATCD40 www.fat-cat.co.uk)
With world music's steady increase in popularity It seems strange that Osibisa haven't garnered the plaudits they deserve, having brought their mix of Ghanaian 'highlife' and Caribbean rhythms to the rock masses. The reissue of their 1972 third album, 'Heads' should help their cause, as it sounds very fresh and not at all out of place amongst today's sounds. It opens with the feel-good 'Kokorokoo', before getting into a neat groove with the ever-popular 'Wango Wango', and then varying mood nicely with the beautiful flute-led 'So So MI La So'. The rest of the album maintains the high standard, with crystal-clear production making it a joy to listen to. (Beat Goes On, BGOCD 690 www.bgo-records.com)
On 'Building the bass castle Vol.1' Voltage seem to be sitting on the post between 'Rock' and 'Post-Rock'. With their home made electronic instruments you'd expect a more avant-garde outcome, but this particular robotic beast rocks, but tunefully! Some deceptively sweet glockenspeil lulls the listener into a false state of calm before track 2 (there are delberately no track titles, to avoid too obvious 'scene setting') cranks up the bass and drums and swaggers in like a playground bully. However this particular playground bully then sits down and reads some philosophy whilst embroidering a handkerchief with images of dragonflies and drag racers. (Flameshovel Records DIGO30 www.flameshovel.com)
Northern Song Dynasty's album gained a great review from the Terrascope when first issued as a limited edition a few years back, being described as 'enchanting and deep', and I'm certainly not going to disagree. Since then, the duo concerned have gone on to find a fair degree of appreciation (separately) in the bands Red Morning Chorus and Eau Claire, but they should still be proud of this release! The songs are subtly blocked in with processed guitar and sympathetic percussion, with (sometimes wordless) vocals adding strokes of colder colours, and I have fallen in love with the last one, 'One step down'!! (All Is Number Records AIN002 www.allisnumberrecords.com)
The same label gives us Cristal's first full-length release. It's a self-titled affair, and one of the band, Bobby Donne, is also in Labradford, although this wades a much murkier water. It's a collage of fuzzy electronic improvisations, which jump from unsettling noisescape to subtle droplets of harmony in chaotic fashion. The 'vicious meets vertiginous' approach might not be to everyone's taste, but if you like a challenge then this will reward the effort. (All Is Number Records AIN003 www.allisnumbers.com)
Sun Zoom Spark have added some new members (including Brian Maloney of Black Sun Ensemble) for their new album, 'Saturn Return'. It kicks off with the power-poppy 'Dixie Cups and Valentines', and, good as it is, it seems more lightweight than expected. Three songs in things take a psych/prog sidestep, and continue to get heavier until 'Well of Souls' comes along with its slow, 'electric Django' blues. There's an unexpected cover of Camper Van Beethoven's 'The Fool', too, which sounds great, but the highlight here is definitely the thirteen and a half minute 'Nocturnum' which features some ace brain shredding guitar and bubbling keyboards. (SlowBurn Records SBR 043 www.slowburnrecords.net)
Daniel Patrick Quinn's Suilven Recordings label has an excellent sampler out, which was free on request, although I've a feeling that was for a limited period only. It features five tracks from Quinn himself, including the brilliant 'Nine Standards Rigg', which no cairn should be without! There are four selections from DAC Crowell (two with Kurt Doles), of which my favourite is the peaceful and meditative 'From a window'. The remaining track is by LVXUS (Crowell's duo with the late Jim Irwin), and it sits well here, among fine company. (Suilven Recordings SUILVENP01 www.suilvenrecordings.com)
Another cool sampler is the joint effort from the labels Flameshovel, Pretty Activity and Record Label, featuring some nice 2005 tunes from the likes of Chin Up Chin Up, Parish School, Ume, Euphone, Voltage and Cex. It's all pretty contemporary-sounding, with someting for everyone, from college-friendly rock to more dancy beats to folksy guitar picking. My particular something was 'I'm not a robot barabarian' by Tim Kinsella, or maybe it was 'My kingdom for a trundle bed' by Bound Stems. Grab one and make your own decision!! (www.flameshovel.com or www.prettyactivity.com or www.recordlabelrecordlabel.com)
Until next time....
Editor: Simon Lewis. Principle contributor: the princely Mr Alan Davidson. Producer: Phil McMullen.