Return to Index
= Rumbles :: July 2005 =
Greetings, and welcome to the latest instalment of “Rumbles”, finally reconstructed from the smoking remains of a personal computer, and full of hidden gems to delight your ears and stimulate your mind.
To get things going in a gentle fashion we have the beautiful folk sounds of Emma And The Professor whose self-titled cd is a minimalist blend of vocals guitar and bodhran, which together create a fine collection of original songs that are held together by the soaring and crystalline voice of Emma Heath. With the bodhran adding a delicate pulse to the song, especially on the exotically tinged ‘Eastern Sunrise’ or the excellent cover of the traditional song ‘Blackwaterside, this is the perfect music for an evening around the fire. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Another lady with an incredible voice is Anne-Marie Helder one time vocalist with the (sadly) defunct Karnataka, founder member of Tigerdragon, and owner of one of the most emotionally charged voices you are likely to hear. Now, with the release of ‘The Contact’ Anne-Marie has the chance to really explore her song writing and has concocted a powerful selection of personal songs that allow her voice to really develop and shine. With beautiful arrangements and sparkling musicianship the songs explore the darker side of life whilst retaining the memory of hope within us all, a theme well served on ‘Exodus’ with it’s haunting piano motif and faultless guitar playing (provided by producer Dave Kilminster). Elsewhere ‘No Other Lover’ is a love-song of intense beauty, whilst ‘Murder’ opens with a brooding soundscape before erupting into a disquieting exploration of the desire to kill. (www.annemariehelder.com).
Occupying stranger sonic territory are The Broken Blackbird Ensemble whose debut album ‘Gadzooks’ is a brooding collection of wyrd-folk soundscapes. Using a host of instruments including cello, Autoharp, xylophone, banjo, pipes bowed cymbal, and jaw-harp; the music is free form and improvised without being too harsh and discordant. With music of this nature it is hard to highlight individual tracks but ‘Bambino’ has a wonderful violin drone which complements the pulsing bass line, ‘Lady Of The Leaf’ has some exquisite guitar, ‘Great Mu’ has a fine eastern feel highlighted by some suitably ragged percussion, whilst the closing song ‘The Feeling Of Not Coming Back’ sounds like the rain dripping from the trees creating some excellent introspective psychedelia. (Early Winter Recordings www.earlywinterrecordings.co.uk )
Improvised music of a more industrial kind can be heard on ‘Rumblings’, the aptly-named latest album by improvised noise veterans Smegma. Utilising turntable manipulation, horns, electronics, junk toys and marijuana this is a train-wreck of an album that roars through your skull leaving fragments of chaos all over the place. Featuring the vocal talents of Richard Meltzer (who has written lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult!) there are some strange and disturbing pieces here, but also a large dose of humour including a song about saving worms from being crushed or dried out on the sidewalk, kinda like the Muppets meet the Butthole Surfers. With a free jazz influence all over it like a rash this is not an album for the melodic amongst us, but for those who enjoy the strange and surreal this is an epic treat especially if you succumb to the pleasure of head-phone listening. (Surefire Distribution. Hanson records P.O. Box 7496, Ann Arbor, MI 48107 USA )
Also on Hanson/Surefire Distribution is ‘Death Tone’ by Hive Mind. This is one long track (43:33) of pulsing electronics that slowly disintegrates into a nightmare of white noise and oscillations that will scramble your brain quicker than a pint of tequila. With no lyrics or rhythm time becomes meaningless as you are left suspended in a black hole of noise praying for a glimpse of light yet strangely fascinated by the sonic maelstrom that surrounds and engulfs you. One word of warning, there are some extremely piercing high range electronics on this album so if you are listening at high volume be aware of the possibility of damage to your ears… what a beautiful way to bleed.
Continuing our journey through the valley of noise, Exist have created a disturbing and schizophrenic landscape, a place where pianos fall from the sky, trucks crash into china shops, huge swarms of bees attack schools and the voices in your head never leave. Everything on the album was performed by David Stoller, a man on a mission to distort your perception of music and occasionally scare the living daylight out of you. Finally you can listen to your nightmares. (Zenpendragon records email@example.com)
From New Zealand comes the stripped down sound of cja, whose recently released album ‘ironclad’ is a collection of musical skeletons, each piece utilising guitar, electronics and occasional voice to create an emotional and desolate album full of quiet desperation and barely tangible sounds. There are no solos here, no unnecessary embellishments, even the songs are untitled being named only by the time they last. Yet, there is great beauty here also, an organic wilderness, a place to think and feel away from the stress and confusion of everyday life. (www.digitalisinustries.com or www.lastvisibledog.com)
Those who prefer some melody in their music would do well to check out The Doxies, whose third album ‘Weight Of Gold’ mixes Americana with some west-coast flourishes to produce an album with a glorious hometown feel. Recorded on vintage analogue equipment, the album has a seventies vibe (man) which adds charm to the songs, none of which outstays their welcome, creating a warm listening experience full of joyful playing that sounds great driving in the sunshine, let the good times roll. (Emergency Umbrella Records www.emergencyumbrella.com www.thedoxies.com )
A recent re-issue worthy of attention is the authentic British rock sound of Savoy Brown, whose albums ‘Raw Sienna’ and ‘Looking In’ (both 1970) have been turned into a two for one by the good people of BGO Records. Of the two ‘Raw Sienna’ has aged the better, full of funky blues with some excellent brass arrangements and soulful vocals courtesy of Chris Youlden. Elsewhere Kim Simmonds supplies some sterling guitar work to songs such as ‘I’m Crying’ and ‘Is That So’, the latter having a cool jazz swing to it. ‘Looking In’ is a patchier album and suffers from the loss of Chris Youldens vocals, however there are some great songs such as the heavy rock of ‘Poor Girl’ or the tasty blues of ‘Sunday Night’ which starts slow and builds into a Santana styled workout which allows Kim Simmonds to demonstrate what a fine guitarist he could be. (BGO Records www.bgo-records.com )
Having been shot by his wife, spent time in jail and derailed by drink Little Freddie King can claim to have lived an authentic bluesman’s life. The fact that he was born in Mississippi and repairs TVs for a living can only strengthen the case. The proof however is in the playing and on ‘You Don’t Know What I Know’ he more than proves his credentials with a rocking collection of songs that will get your foot tapping and leave you with a craving for bourbon that you may never get rid of. Recorded in 2004 Little Freddie and his band rip their way through almost a dozen self-penned songs including the country tinged ‘Chicken Dance’ and the boogie-fest that is ‘Tough Frog To Swallow’. (Fat Possum Records www.fatpossum.com )
Finally for the blues portion of this particular rumbles come the heart-felt and soul-tinged playing of Ian Parker whose live album ‘….Whilst The Wind’ is a wonderful collection of songs played with passion and precision and marks out Ian Parker as a guitarist to watch as he demonstrates a fluid style high on emotional content. The highlight of the set is undeniably a blistering medley which couples together ‘Almost Cut My Hair’ with ‘The Green Manalishi’ to create an eleven minute showcase of guitar prowess. (Ruf Records www.rufrecords.de )
Guitar noise of a different flavour is hammered out by Rotor on their second album simply called’2’. Inhabiting a place where starless era King Crimson meets Monster Magnet, this is a ferocious slice of distorted riffing and turbo charged wah-pedal action, which stampedes through you like a herd of buffalo chasing the sun. On ‘Erlicht’ an eastern flavour is introduced, the lyrics sung in Persian, the song taking on a heavy psychedelic aura creating a space-rock masterpiece for the grunge generation. (Elektrohasch www.elektrohasch.de )
Those of you who are to be found awake at 4:00 A.M. may well be reaching for ‘Like Trees We grow Up To Be Satellites (The Backwards America)’, the second release from Lazarus . The work of William Montogomery, and one of the most beautifully haunting albums you will hear. ‘The Walking Sonnet’ starts thing off with gently picked guitar and elegant, liquid strings which coat the song with just the right amount of sweetness, after which, the album continues on it’s introspective path, displaying an fragility which invokes a feeling of sadness that runs through the whole thing. Featuring an array of instruments including tabla, Hammond organ, vibraphone and box harp; it is the arrangements which really lift the album into the heavens, each instrument is blended with care, and chosen for a reason creating just the right atmosphere for the song. Even when ‘Singing To The Thieves’ adds distorted guitar and drums to the mix, the song still seems as if it about to fall apart crashing back from whence it came. (Something In Construction www.somethinginconstruction.com www.williamlazarus.com )
Also on ‘Something In Construction’ and walking a similar path is The Silent League whose ‘The Orchestra, Sadly, Has Refused’ is another fine collection of songs, the strings adding a majestic melancholy tinge to the album. Full of sparkling pop tunes, the album is a melodic delight, the piano in particular offering a very enjoyable mood and working perfectly with the vocal delivery.
Music of a happier nature can be found by placing ‘The Pink Elephant With Nipples For Tusks’ by The Thurston Lava Tube on the stereo and then grooving to the surftastic sounds within. Unashamedly retro in its outlook and full of summer tunes that sound like The Shadows jamming with The Surfaris, this is the album to blast over the neighbours’ garden next time the sun comes out. Including such titles as ‘The Anchor Pigs’, ‘I Didn’t Bite The Dinosaur’, and ‘It Must Have Been The Mousse’ as well as a completely groovy version of ‘Mrs Robinson’ this is frivolous fantastic and fun, fun, fun. Oh, and the organ player is called Blodwyn P Teabag, what more could you possibly want? ( Cordelia Records 31 Greenhithe Road, Leicester, LE2 7PU, UK www.cordelia-records.co.uk )
Having been around since 1982 The Spongetones can consider themselves musical veterans and this experience certainly shows on ‘Number 9’ their sixth album, which is full of effortlessly crafted songs that wear a sixties influence proudly on it’s sleeves. At times sounding uncannily like The Hollies, pop music rarely sounds this good, brimming with perfect harmonies, chiming guitar and melodies so fine it will take weeks to get that smile of your face. Summer’s gonna be good this year. (Loaded Goat Records PO Box 29056 Charlotte, NC 28229-9056 USA)
Moving back into the present The Chemistry Experiment show us exactly pop should sound in these modern times. Smooth as silk, with a heart crammed with regret and a sleazy backbeat ‘The Melancholy Death Of…..’ is a confident and striking debut album with flowing production and languid songs full of lost love and intimate conversation. Echoing the sounds of Tindersticks and Pulp, this album has a vision solely its own, a sprawling soundscape that owes as much to film scores as it does to the cleverer end of brit-pop. To top it all of is the completely brilliant ‘You’re The Prettiest Thing’ a song which should be on the play list of every radio station in the western hemisphere so compelling is its charm. (www.fortunapop.com )
Clocking in at only seventeen minutes is the short but decidedly sweet sound of Ink Puddle Compound whose ‘Blood Modulator’ creates an organic soundscapes with softly sung vocals and original electronic backing. Much of the music sounds as though it was recorded in a large aviary somewhere out in space and the whole thing has meditative quality to it that is very relaxing. Basically the work of Brandon Siscoe and limited to 200 copies this comes highly recommended and I look forward to hearing the full-length version. (Grotto Mimosa PO Box 61 Bloomington, IL 61702 www.grottomimosa.com )
Produced with the help of Steve Albini, ‘Small Stones’ the second album from Bellini is a twisted and angry noise of guitar destruction and pounding rhythms that echoes the sound of obvious influences Big Black and Shellac. Taking no prisoners the album is a rollercoaster of passionate vocals, courtesy of Giovanna Cacciola, and low slung minor chord guitar riffs which really hit the spot. ‘The Exact Distance To The Sun’ is the perfect example of Bellini’s sound and the whole album is one to play after yet another shit day at work. (Temporary Residence Ltd.)
Inspired by the surrealist drawings of William Schaff is ‘For Will’, a five track e.p from the wonderful Kitchen Cynics whose Alan Davidson continues to plough an idiosyncratic path all his own. Each song is inspired by a specific drawing, which has given the lyrics a dream-like quality, a trait echoed by some of the finest music that Alan has ever written. Limited to only fifty copies and available exclusively from William Schaff, Terrascope readers should waste no time in tracking down this mini masterpiece before it disappears forever. ( www.williamschaff.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org )
‘Quite Silent’ is the 5th album from Charlotte Greig and is a refreshing blend of traditional folk songs and original pieces that flows along like water through a sacred glade creating a wonderful album which gets better with each listen. A favourite of your editor at Terrascope Towers for some while now, Greig sounds at times like Anne Briggs with echoes of Sharron Kraus. The songs are dominated by Charlottes haunting and powerful vocals whilst excellent musical backing is provided by Julian Hayman whose own voice blends beautifully. Every song maintains a remarkably high standard but standout tracks include the dizzying beauty of ‘Go To My Window’, the folk-drone of ‘On A Virgin Plain’ and ‘Innisfree’ which adapts a poem by W.B.Yeats and closes the album with graceful charm. Mention must also be made of ‘The Garden At Dawn’ a tribute to John Cage which lasts 4.33 minutes and is a recording of the garden at 4:33 a.m. (Harmonium Music 31 Victoria Park Road West, Cardiff, CF5 1FA. www.charlottegreig.com )
One of the sad facts of life (and having music arrive through your door on a regular basis is not often a cause for sadness) is the ratio of cd’s to vinyl that seems to arrive on the mat. These days a slab of vinyl is a cause for celebration guaranteed to bring joy to my day, even before I’ve played it. So, the next few rumbles are dedicated to the artists that still recognise the perfection of that black plastic circle.
First up is Tar Pet - The Artist Revealed Is Taralie Dawn, a personal and beguiling album full of distorted sound scapes and skewed songs that fade in and out of each other in a carnival of lo-fi charm. Over 40 minutes the listener is drawn in slowly and surely, the music scratching away at your ears, each play revealing a different texture, a different sound. Indeed, it took several plays to really appreciate the full beauty of this album. A grower, as they say. ( Eclipse Records www.eclipse-records.com )
Also on Eclipse is ‘When The Windmill’s Whirl Dies’ the latest album from My Cat Is An Alien, which contains three long pieces of claustrophobic drone, punctuated by funeral percussion and sounding as if they were transmitted from deep space, the noise of the flotsam and jetsam of human activity washed up on an alien shore. The side long title track is the pick of the bunch with whispered vocals painting bleak pictures of the twilight, visions that will haunt you long after the music has died. Housed in a wonderful gatefold sleeve and pressed on thick black vinyl, this is a fantastic object to treasured and enjoyed.
Finally on eclipse come two albums by Monosov Swirnoff , ‘Seven recorded works’ and ‘Two Recorded Works’ recorded in 2003 and 2004 respectively. The first of these albums contains improvised and abstract pieces played on hurdy gurdy, harmonium (Ilya Monosov) melodica, organ, and piano (Preston Swirnoff ) which have a scratchy hesitant quality, the half-formed melodies competing with the scrapes and drones of the accompanist, sounding like Satie heard in a misty winter forest, the exact location of the sound remaining a mystery.The second album contains two pieces for tape loops, bowed guitar,air organ and voice, whilst the other side is played by The Shining Path, who are Monosov Swirnoff in rock band mode. Side on begins with ‘Sail On’ a very successful exercise in drone dynamics, the guitar and organ creating a shimmering tidal wave of sound which engulfs the listener and cocoons them inside the music before a pulsing guitar riff starts your synapses dancing. Finally a deep sea shanty is evoked, mermaids call to you and the lyrics beguile you further “Heart like a sail, but that’s alright dear, I’ll be your ocean, riptides in motion”. The final side is an altogether noisier affair as The Shining Path cook up a storm of feedback guitar and driving bass which needs to be turned up for full effect, as it grates and stutters it way across the cosmos, leaving shards of broken noise embedded in your walls.
Lastly we turn to a couple of singles worth tracking down. The First Punic War-‘Candle E.P.’ is basically J.Warden and his acoustic guitar playing seven songs that are simple repetitive and surprisingly effective. Favourites include the opening ‘Here Is A Candle To Light Your Way’ , ‘Last Train To Nowhere’ with its rhythmic guitar and heartfelt lyrics and the frantic strumming of ‘May’. Released on lovely orange vinyl on a small label this is a labour of love and the kinda thing that should be applauded for it’s desire to be heard. (Carthage Versus Rome Records www.thefirstpunicwar.com )
To wrap up my portion of Rumbles I must mention Adverse Effect, a fifty page magazine full of well written and caustic reviews, in-depth articles, and loads of other stuff. Edited by Richo and featuring a host of writers, including Terrascope scribe Steve Pescott (see below!), the latest issue (volume 3 #2 ) features Peter Hammill, Devendra Banhart, Paul Bradley, and is an entertaining and informative read from start to finish with a vitriolic and playful style all of it’s own. ( PO Box 63, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6 6YU, England. Richo.email@example.com www.adverse-effect.com )
Right I’m off to practice for the Nozstock festival now ( http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/nozstock/frames.htm)
so I'll hand you over to the capable pens of my fellow Rumblers. Firstly Alan Davidson will guide you through some recent gems, after which Steve Pescott will lead you astray with a whole host of obscure delights. Thanks to them both! (Simon Lewis)
On the re-released two CD set ‘Fielding’, Hala Strana explore Middle-European folksong with a passion. Originally issued on Jewelled Antler in 2003, this sees the core duo of Steven R. Smith and Glenn Donaldson mixing found sounds with traditional folk and newly written pieces to create an exciting and heartfelt blend. Instruments used include psaltery, optigan, bul bul tarang and oud, and this is a must-buy for for folk fans (and those of ‘New Weird Macedonia’!), especially as there is a new long track added to the original issue. (Last Visible Dog LVD066/67 lvd.4mg.com)
Not too far removed from Hala Strana in spirit is the Wellington, New Zealand sound artist Steven Clover, who records as Seht. Again there is use of samples and found sounds, although the feel here is much more contemporary. One track, ‘Make the baby Jesus cry some more’, betrays Clover’s interest in space-rock (he’s part of The Stumps), but there is also a fine tribute to John Fahey, and some less common instrumentation, such as canned laughter and formica table. (Last Visible Dog LVD057 www.lastvisibledog.com)
The Opaque Reality’s Dougal Treacle is very apologetic about the rushed nature of this release (and its artwork), but it’s a charming two song release, (sadly also the last on Dead Spunk records), coupling ‘See Side’ with ‘Dawn Within’. The first song is a short, sweet love song with indian sounding drone chords, and the second has a late 60s vibe using sitar/guitar sounds, shimmering keyboards etc. I like it a lot….my only gripe is the lack of contact details….hope you can track this down!
Techix describe what they produce as ‘Experimental classical surreal folk music’, and who am I to argue? On ‘Monosymphonic’ they give us twelve tracks of rather attractive violin and guitar melodies which have been electronically treated/twisted/slowed down/overdubbed to excellent effect. The sounds veer from fairly traditional romantic classical to near avant-garde via catgut-meets-beats interludes. (Anticlock AC0002 www.techix.com)
The God Box have issued a follow up to 2003’s ‘Psymphonettes’, called ‘Aaahh!’. Like its predecessor, ‘Aaahh!’ is an acid-drenched homage to 60s Pop-psych. Limo (for it is he) and friends give us hints of Syd-era Floyd sharing joints with Kaleidoscope and having sitar lessons with the Incredible String Band. Not dissimilar territory to the Dukes of Stratosphere or Murmurs of Irma then, so if you’re not a purist about these things and just enjoy hearing lovingly-crafted tunes, then this will do nicely.
Another intriguing release on Last Visible Dog is the debut CD from Brasil and the Gallowbrothers Band, featuring Mirt and Dominic Savio of the Polish band One inch of shadow. The use of clarinet, and cello suggests some bizarre scenario where a 30s jazz band has been introduced to the joys of the sugar cube – songs coalesce, then dissolve as field recordings take over. However this is a trip well-worth taking – and repeated doses allow all sorts of mental images to present themselves. (Last Visible Dog LVD 071 www.lastvisibledog.com)
ET Sans is a Canadian outfit featuring ex-members of Le Fly Pan Am, Godspeed You Black Emperor and Silver Mt Zion. This Cd features four long tracks, ranging from a very peaceful, quietly chanted opener to a noisefest where the group are happy to acknowledge the influence of Suicide, as screams fight to be heard against electronic pulses. Then the listener is calmed again by a half sung/half gently-spoken piece which slowly builds. The last track Krautrocks along nicely……..great stuff! (Alien8 Recordings ALIENCD52 www.alien8recordings.com)
The godfather of World Music, Ravi Shankar was in fine form when he recorded ‘Jazz et Ragas’. However don’t expect any late-night listening here. The music rages along, with hardly a pause for breath. Some fantastic sitar/tabla duel improvisations set the scene, with the third one sounding almost impossibly fast. It’s not until eight pieces in that there’s a really calming moment, on ‘Raga Hamsdhwani’. This is followed by the beautiful ‘Dhun Kafi’, with a melody rich in emotion, yet played with the confidence only found in a real master of his art. (BeatGoesOn Records BGOCD651 www.bgo-records.com)
BGO have issued Spirit’s ‘Future Games’ and ‘Spirit of 84’ as a double pack, and like last year’s pairing of ‘Son of Spirit’ and ‘Farther Along’ it’s a case of a stronger album attached to a weaker one. ‘Future Games’ is brimming with good songs, and samples from Star Trek, etc, whereas ‘Spirit of 84’ sees the band reworking some of their best moments, but without any real spark. Still, it’s Spirit, and still a pretty good deal for new fans and older ones whose vinyl copies are worn out. (BeatGoesOn BGOCD657 www.bgo-records.com). (Alan Davidson)
Over now to Steve Pescott….
During the many years of bass service given to the Violent Femmes, BRIAN RITCHIE has developed an interesting sideline in his study of the disciplines of the shakuhachi. His “Shakuhachi Club NYC” (cd), assembles styles and instrumentation from timezones that, in the cold light of day, should really fall at the first hurdle. That they don’t is a reflection of the choice of talent at his disposal. Brian’s deployment of this traditional Japanese bamboo flute straddles ‘out jazz’ with studious shades of exotica in the interpretations of Coltrane’s “Living Space” and Ayler’s “Change has Come.” This rambunctious exercise in juxtapositions also utilizes a rhythm section based on a 1920’s era jazz kit (pre upright bass/acoustic gtr strummage). Don Nosheny’s huffing/red-faced tuba and the banjo of Tony Trischka (solo LPs on Flying Fish) push Television’s Billy Ficca’s drum artistry into an exuberant tour de force (de batterie). Wow. Though his playing here is far removed from his regular gig. Personal favourites: the funky salvation army band lurch of “Oyster Stump” and “Lace Dress”, a series of cautious steps into the unknown, setting a Sam Spade mystery against a Tokyo skyline. (Weed Records, 2295 San Pablo Ave., Suite B, Berkeley, CA 94702, USA)
Rex Essex (a name last used by a fifties CIA operative?), is the string-puller behind MELLOW. An anglophile dreamer whose ‘Bliss’ cd combines programmed drums with plush keyboard settings and a warm coating of fuzz guitar. His hushed warblings (found at their most winsome on “Higher Than”), come packaged with a ’72 handstamp and make an assured step towards a new sub-genre: junkshop glam psyche(?). A tableau in which Weird Strings-era Paul Roland spies on Reefus Moons rifling through Bolan’s dressing-up box. (Global Impact Records, 11489 NW 48th Ct., Coral Springs, FL 33076, USA)
Longhairs with full beards and baleful stares… Pittsburghians Alexei Plotnicov (gtr) and Jim Lingo (bg) are yer actual 21st century Rasputins. They reinforce their mysterioso vibe by shrouding themselves in a machine-generated pea souper fog during gigs. With drummer Paul Quattrone (also of labelmates Modey Lemon), they make up the appropriately named MIDNIGHT SNAKE. Their wildly chaotic instro freakouts found on their eponymous cd form heavy coils that constrict in a deadly embrace until the last creaking bone gives way. The opening “Nitro-Turbo Overdrive” with its drag/biker connotations, “Machine Gun Cock” which outsirens the Sabs’ “War Pigs” and the eleven minute ‘He ain’t my Brother, he’s Heavy” (what would the Hollies say?) are riddled with fuzzbomb detonations and acidic killerwah. Yet (naturally) they fall a coupla notches short of the savagery at the black heart of High Rise and their gargantuan chums. Nevertheless, this riproaring debut has enough clag and clinker to satisfy the most voracious noisehog. (Birdman Records, 441 Victory Blvd., Suite C, San Francisco, CA 94080, USA)
Duluth; ‘the commercial/industrial centre of N. Minnesota’ and birthplace of a certain Mr. Dylan is also a base for the CHEER UP POEMS and their label Wire Heart Records. Housed in an oversized sleeve with its artwork suggesting a distressed merkin (a pubic wig, for our more well-bred readers!), their debut cdep “Our Two Strings” superimposes Piano Magic-like experimentation onto wallpaper-patterned ambience in “Learn to be Alone”. The FSA/S3 fused drone pop of “Shaped like a Baby” adds to the vibrant convergence of styles with guest Andy Smentkowski adding further shafts of sunlight with some finely observed pedal steeltwang. (POB 3631, Duluth, MN 55803, USA).
You might be familiar with those ’51 tiny masterpieces’ found on Morgan Fisher’s “Miniatures” project of the 1980s; in which a disparate collection of artists from Quentin Crisp to Etron Fou Leloublan (does this really translate as ‘Trombone Crazy White Wolf’?) had their creative juices reduced to a mere droplet with just one minute’s groovetime apiece. The Noisemakers Collective – a worldwide fellowship of poets, musicians and left-field grazers – release their third comp entitled “Third Ear”. This follows Morgan’s concept but stretches things a little by allowing slightly more breathing space with an extra 30 secs each. Among the 28(!) subjects are a couple of groups that have already enjoyed column space in previous Ptolemaic Terrascopes. And these are they…From Minneapolis we have a folk/impro offcut from the very great “Transparent World” cd by BARLOW/PETERSEN/WIVINUS called “Palpitation”. RICH BARLOW offers “Lusitania” – a delicate exercise in analogue delay, while his band THE PINS select a soundtrack taster from “The Young Machines”; a play written by John O’Donaghue. He teams up with Rich as MOLLOY. Their “Nine” is taken from “Naif” – their limited edition debut set and “BHZ”, (another segment from the ‘Young Machines’ play), apparently consists of backing tracks to a version of the ‘trad arr’ “Barbara Ellen”. And that’s only 7 minutes 30 on the clock. OBVIOUSLY I can’t mention everyone, as some of the queue forming behind could definitely get grouchy. So, in the spririt of the ‘Limner’ – it’s time to get small! THE CURTISM: grindcored abrasion b.p. (before piercing), in which Godflesh manfully wrestle a gorilla to the ground. MIMIC: lab coat and clipboard electro-acoustics. GOOFUS ERECTUS: tinkers with the circuit board of a Dalek’s pleasure centres. BARRKING DICE: Kraftwerks’ “Autobahn” cordoned off with ‘Haz Chem’ signage. IRRITANTS: looped hard rock chaotica. And finally, on “Mary Mungo and Midge”, the MIDGET SUBMARINES recreate a kid’s cinema club interlude. £6.00 (inc p&p) buys you 74 collision – filled minutes of audio diversity. Contact Lord Lucan; (the cd’s curator), on firstname.lastname@example.org or www.noiseweb.co.uk …speaking of miniatures – fancy a breakneck 22 tracks in 39 minutes? Then I think you’d better wear a brace… ‘cause here come THE CURTAINS! They formed in 2000 and consist of Chris Cohen on guitar, synthesist Greg Saunier and Andrew Maxwell on Drums/Perc. “Flybys”, (their second cd), has, to these ears, a pronounced Canterburyesque odour-surround to it. Perhaps it’s down to my recent regime of spinning Hatfields, Nat. Health and Gilgamesh vinyl which has left a possible slow release aftertaste – who can say? Though, incidentally, The Curtains mothership, Deerhoof (Chris and Greg are members), appears to follow similar sauntering movements too, with their “Milkman” lp, (on Kill Rock Stars/Free Porcupine Soc’y Records). Aside from “Death Constellation” – a hairy-palmed speed date with boffin metal, (see ’74 Crimso or Sandoz, on Shagrat Records) – the trio settle into a playful series of marches and attractive plangent fanfares. Good examples of each style being “Telegraph Victories” and “Waiting for the Eliminator”, where Chris’s playing, (reminiscent of the great Phil Miller), achieves an odd rubbery friction when placed agains the anti-music waveforms of Greg’s electronics. (Thin Wrist Records, 12920 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049, USA) Since scribbling – The Curtains get another one under their belts in the shape of the “Vehicles of Travel” cd – this time on Frenetic Records – USA.
The only morsel of info on THE OPAQUE REALITY given out by Dougal Treacle (the MD of Dead Spunk Records), is that they’re “a finer vibration of The Huzzle” – (see ‘Rumbles’ in Ptolemaic Terrascope issue 35). It’s highly possible that the two projects are interchangeable as the shimmering figures of the sitar resurface on the Reality’s self-title cd/ep with “Transparent Illusion” and the Honeybus/Tradewinds-styled sike-pop of “January Tuesday”. However, rising many point sizes above those two slightly straighter tracks comes “Alpha Twilight”. In amongst the haze of backwards tapes, finger cymbals and an excitable 6-string, a laconic voice appears to endorse a typeface that possesses mystical/trance inducing properties! Akin to a futuristic tv ad, it’s certainly much more of an oblique experience than an opaque one. Dead Spunk (like Flitwick) operate an absolutely FREE service to anyone who sends in their name and address. Of course any person responding is reminded to select ‘safe’ fonts such as Helvetica or Times Medium. (60 Thursby Rd., Bradford, BD3 9EB or email@example.com)
Dunno about your coiffure, but discs sleeved with ‘Play Loud’ instructions (in bold type-no less), almost always fail to part my hair. OAK; a long defunct Estonian trio, fronted by bassist/voxist/noisist Erkki Tero are a notable exception. Their self-titled 7”ep logs a complete session sponsored by Bad Vugum during their brief scoot around Finland back in ’93. If the five tracks included here are anything to go by – it must’ve been a right wholesome blast for the local populace. Their bottom end crunch, allied with grey-gauzed tape layering and oxygen-starved mutter drag down the principles explored in late eighties Chicago to depths seldom reached. (Zerga Records, Valskarink 29, 20740 Turku, Finland) Also on Zerga is a split picture disc single with cosmic jazz big band ASTRO CAN CARAVAN and new instrument inventor BRADFORD REED. The former’s “Lost Robot” has its Sun Ra-derived i.d. blasted to kingdom gone by DJ OHRA’S zoned-out remixing chops. The vox subhumana is encouraged to mix with a series of knobbly sound swells extracted from the Venusian Moog Cookbook’s squelchier pages. The only discernable moment of lucidity is when a voice pops up at the close asking “R2D2… where are you?” A weird moment indeed, akin to a saucer crash in the woods or similar. Bradford’s “Bright Moons & Bird Dances” moves within a synthetic gamelan landscape – fashioned with drums, bells and the ‘Pencilina’ (a ten-stringed board gadget – once struck with pencils – now chopsticks). Matthew Pierce further enhances this evocative ethno-forgery with some stately violin figures that seem to be culled from some myth-based Chinese film obscurity. The God of Synchronicity sure moves in mysterious ways… in February ‘05, Kenny Baker (the man inside R2D2) was nabbed for drinking and driving. What kinda message is that sending out to artificial intelligences? I tell you, this country is going to the ‘droids….
To blag a Mott the Hoople song for a mo’ I was ‘Born Late – ‘58’ so was unable to appreciate the true iconic status of Gene Vincent first hand. In those days before (Social) deviancy beckoned, the aura of that black clad fallen angel drew a young Mick Farren in like a moth to a flame. ‘Gene Vincent – there’s one in every town’ is his twelfth piece of non-fiction. It traces the major incidents in Gene’s battlescarred life and also gives a more balanced edge to the myths that have accumulated in his wake. We read of his meteoric rise to fame with ‘Be Bop a Lula’ and the very serious bike smash which would result in a lifelong tightrope walk where a regular painkiller, speed and booze cocktail was downed just to maintain some kinda equilibrium. Mick’s sensitive reportage will bring a lump to the throat of the most cynical, hard-bitten reader. As will the latter chapters, which refer to the ‘second coming’ of G.V., where after the turbulence encountered by r’n’r’s major players; (Little Richards’s ‘retirement’, Chuck ‘n’ Jerry Lee’s brushes with the law etc), was a MUCH needed fillip for rock’n rollers everywhere, who in all probability saw Gene as the lone torchbearer for THE CAUSE. Due to the brainstorming of Jack Good, Gene’s second bite at the cherry saw him fully leathered up (predating the Avengers’ Cathy Gale by a coupla years), hunched, eyes heavenward beguiling audiences throughout the UK and that means even surviving the Glasgow Empire!! – which is NO mean feat – as many acts of that time would attest. Mick meanwhile attended the more peaceful climes of the Brighton Essoldo. All I can offer in response is seeing an oft repeated clip of the great man from ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On – a TV prog from ’64 where he was backed by Sounds Incorporated. But even that brief moment is pretty bloody amazing. Mick sure was one lucky beggar! Though his pocketbook doesn’t profess to be the definitive guide to Genedom – anyone with a passing interest in the world of the ‘Catman’ and ‘Rolling Danny’ will find Mick’s electric prose a joy to read – I know I did. Oh! This also has a paragraph or two on Vince (“Brand New Cadillac”)Taylor – Gene’s anglo-french shadow, who went totally hatstand for a while in the sixties after an acid banquet – surely a prime candidate for a biog someone? Please? (Do Not Press, 16 The Woodlands, London, SE13 6TY. ISBN: I-904316-37-9)
OK you be Tony and I’ll be Doug – but do I have to wear a polo neck? With a few adjustments to equipment that looks suspiciously like ex-army surplus stock, we’ll reactivate our own Time Tunnel (with even more of a resemblance to the Vertigo label), and once again be flung back into the past. 1970 seems a good a time as any to begin this reissue section with the imaginatively titled “Unreleased Album” by PANDAMONIUM finally coming in from the cold. Kentishmen Martin Curtis and Bob Ponton were the songwriting focus of beat group The Pandas who, keeping pace with the emerging psychedelic movement, expanded to Pandamonium a coupla years later. A CBS deal resulted in the first ever cover of Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” and the highly regarded “No Presents for Me” (found on “Electric Sugarcube Flashbacks” Vol.3). A label change to Liberty saw the duo’s “Thoughts & Words” lp meet the full-on indifference of the company’s promo dept. A year on and a further eleven tracks for a projected album (back under the band’s name), came up against the same brick wall and subsequently accumulated over three decades worth of dust ‘n dead insects. Which is a crazy situation – few sessions of that era could possibly boast the talents of a Sandyless Fotheringay, Heads, Hands and Feet and the production know how of Shel Talmy and Hugh Murphy. Opening with an optimistic brand of blue sky psych-pop, rich in three-part harmonies, “I am What I am” has an atypical, effortlessly cool backwards guitar spiral c/o Albert Lee that’s matched with faux innocent verse in “…suddenly losing the ground and I’m up in the sky…” These dreamy swirls (see Fleur de Lys or even Fairfield Parlour), slowly dissolve like cream in coffee as the twosome realize that the days of love-ins and oilwheels would soon be last decade’s news. In order to look more contemporary they would need to diversify. As with “Baby I’ll be Yours” a compact piece of countrified pop in a Cochise vein and the sweeping orchestrations found on the anti-war “Sit and Watch the Sunshine”. Which is more Love Affair than Love yet still a neat idea that could’ve easily found its way onto Emperor Rosko or Stuart Henry’s playlists (guess the age of the writer!), I can’t really end this with a “worth the wait” tag line – ‘cause aside from those diligent folks at ‘Radioactive Records’ – who else really knew anything about this?? ‘Zactly! (www.radioactiverecords.com) (also available I believe on CD through the same label)
Mobilised in 1970 as ‘a direct response to the drugs scene’, Vancouver BC’s NEW CREATION consisted of the pure driven snow vocalese of Lorna Towers, her son Chris on underamped guitar/vocals and drummer Janet Tressen. During a brief and hesitant one year career they managed a solitary coffee house gig, a local cable TV show performance and signed off with a couple of ‘45s and “Troubled” – an lp on their own ‘Alpha Omega’ imprint with a run of one hundred copies, which only found their way to friends and relatives. This rarity even sidestepped Ron Moore’s indispensable ‘Underground Sounds’ guide. It did however, receive an entry in Scott & Felberg’s ‘Archivist’; a book dedicated to the N. American ‘Jesus Rock’ movement. Uh oh! – this could, I’m sure you’re thinking, signal a gruelling preach-a-thon with added subliminals urging you to make a radiant pyre out of those bestial Blue Cheer discs and instead enter a world of purity and general loveliness. Well… I can confirm that Jesus and God appear on this CD reissue far more regularly than on, for example; Fantazia’s Third Estate or Arkarma’s Earthen Vessel repros. But ‘Reverend Happy at the Church of Clappy’ it most certainly ain’t!! The opening “Countdown to Revolution” confirms this with a mix of pessimistic oration and unsettling sound fx and suggests a long abandoned United States of America or Dreamies experiment, beset by severe apocalyptic heebie-jeebies. After that unsettler the trio de-weird themselves appreciably but not totally. Metre is at times charmingly ragged and singlemindedness reigns over natch’l ability. Thoughts of W. Heath Robinson contructing a (Desperate) Bicycle out of (early) VU components or, The Shaggs without a pushy dad can’t fail to materialize when faced with the vulnerable beauty of “Sodom & Gomorrah” or the found-in-a-cracker kazooed beginnings of “Eternity Ahead”. “Yet Still Time” could almost figure as a fledgling Modern Lovers’ dalliance with calypso and “No Excuse” puckers its lips in an elegant display of r’n’r whistling. Coming verrrry close to “Countdown…” in the inspired ‘only in America’ stakes is the anti-Darwinist “Dig”, a “Red River Valley” – edged satire with cameo roles for Australopithicus and Piltdown Man. I bet the fundamentalists were overjoyed to discover the latter’s fraudulent origins – though it did take 41 years before the truth was uncovered. Troy Peters, boss of ‘Companion Records’, has pulled out all the stops here to make this a major event for those collector droogs who think they have everything in the micro-press canon. The eye-pleasing digipacked format contains a heavily researched booklet with the inevitable Irwin Chusid piece, band interviews and original sleeve designs – one from an eleven year old! (POB 31182, San Francisco, CA 94131 USA)
Even though The New Creation were obviously committed and sincere in their Christian endeavours, I can envisage SISTER GERTRUDE MORGAN regarding them as no-good hippy imposters and chasing ‘em around the block with the business end of a broom. Born in Lafayette, Alabama in 1900, she became a street corner preacher in New Orleans while in middle age. During the fifties – after hearing the voice of God – she began to crayon and paint religious images on any available surface, (these are now housed on two floors of the Folk Art Museum in Manhattan). Larry Borenstein, a local art dealer, discovered her work a decade or so later. He bought her the orphanage (which she ran for years) and released “Let’s Make a Record” – just Sister Gertrude’s gruff voice and her (standard issue) tambourine accompaniment. This has now been put in cd format by Ben Jaffe’s ‘Preservation Hall Records’, (a wing of the legendary New Orleans venue) and is wrapped in an oversized glossy card package with a disarming self-portrait of Gertrude dressed in her de rigueur starched white nurse’s uniform. Surprisingly there’s no trace of an Irwin Chusid sleevenote this time, but these austere spirituals, (culled from scraps of biblical verse/sermons), will doubtlessly still fall within the outsider bracket. Quite wrongly – that’d be the equal of Beefheart being lumped in with Larry Fischer and The GTO’s during the Bizarre era. This 14 strong selection is best served (hot) on the second take of “Power”, where her cries of “More power lord!” are better suited as barked out orders to some old testament Casey Jones figure – if such a thing were possible of course. (726 St. Peter St, New Orleans Louisiana 70116, USA)
OTIS SPANN’s “The Biggest Thing Since Colossus” has been granted a reissue on 180gm audiophile vinyl through the auspices of ‘Pure Pleasure Records Ltd’ (www.purepleasurerecords.com). Which is a heady tonic for fans of his particular take on gritty urban blues. Originally released on Mike Vernon’s ‘Blue Horizon’ label in ’69, singer/pianist Otis, long favoured sidesman and half-brother to Muddy Waters, is teamed up with the best British support that the blues could buy; in the shape of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. Though the session is without the services of Mick Fleetwood. His place is taken by S.P. Leary; a featured artist on the “Blues Jam at Chess” double – also reissued by ‘PP’. Sony Rewind has already issued “Colossus” in cd form, but it makes MUCH more sense to find the gently rolling “Dig You” and the frantic self-penned “Walkin” in this less vacuum-packed/Mr Clean format. And the artwork! It’s a 24-carat framer. A livid red background is home to a scuttling Stag Beetle (less dangerous than a “Crawling King Snake”), while the back sleeve shows our man, ciggy in hand, proudly displaying his racing bike! It’s also a firm fave of our esteemed Editor, Mr McMullen – though I’ll be damned if I can find the allusions to bodily fluids in the lyrics that he did… Incidentally, the equally collectible “7836 South Rhodes” lp by EDDIE BOYD has also been given vinyl status by Epic Records. Again, initially released through Blue Horizon – albeit a year earlier than Mr Spann’s. And again, minus the full compliment of Macmen – this time Jeremy Spencer appears to AWOL.
…Back to the here and now with a jolt – thank you Whit Bissell and the very lovely Lee Meriwether – behind the scenes. Multi-tiered personality and backroom sound alchemist Daf Roberts (also Alphane Moon, Our Glassie Azoth and Blodeuedd), has had his NIMBUS 2000 project scooped up into mcd form c/o Octane Grammophon. These pieces of folklore-tronica on “Kettle of Fish Walking” are extracted from the (now) impossible to find shared ep’s/comp appearances on Oggum. Though “Wobbla” with it’s 60’s sci-fi themes and the doctored children’s rhymes of “Handclap” are unique to this collection. A lot has been made (in review circles) of their similarity to Ohr-period Tangerine Dream - but I can’t detect any signs of piano harp, zither or ‘echo machines’ that Edgar and company employed in that period. I’d venture Nimbus would find closer allies in mid-period Ash Ra Tempel or the Galactic Explorers – the latter an early seventies obscurity rescued by Psi-Fi Records (an Acme subsidiary) a while back. (Heikinkatu 15 b 15, 55100 Imatra Finland)
The monoslabic Sleep were the titans of sloth metal for a good part of the nineties, having the ability to close down your day to almost time stop and also to be able to eke out one ‘songthing’ to a full four sides of vinyl in the shape of “Jerusalem”. An idea far too radical for their previous record company, who shelved it until ‘Tee Pee Records’ took it over in 2003 in an alternate form as “Dopesmoker”. After Sleep split, Matt Pike formed High on Fire (with 3 cds on ‘Relapse’ – the latest being “Blessed Black Wings” boasting a Steve Albini production.) Meanwhile Al Cisneros (bg/vox) and Chris Hakius (d & perc) have been dutifully knapping their flint tools in preparation for their debut as OM, (God’s word underlying all manifestation – apparently). Their “Variations on a Theme” cd maps out three long, (2 elevens and a twenty-minuter) root canal grindouts during which time the evolution and extinction of the dinosaurs came and went and old Father Time’s beardlength increased doublefold – you get the idea? Monotony (usually such a derogatory term), has never reached such a suffocatingly total end result. Extra merits go to graphics that shy away from the generic, (y’know…scimitar-like lettering surrounding Astaroth grimacing with gluteus maximal discomfort as the haemorrhoid cream fails to take hold.) Instead a gull is seen (in b/w) effortlessly coasting on a thermal, unaware that it will become the symbol for a new high point in avantist metal drone. Graded A+ B+, that’s Amazing and Bewildering. (www.holymountain.com) – also available on limited edition vinyl.
More packages of a ‘Suomi’ origin to be opened up and tasted – if you’re agreeable? Surely more hate-filled than smiley-faced, Helsinkimen Teemu (gtr), Vesa (bg) and Riku (d & p) are FUN (though Fungi might be more appropriate). Their debut cd “Szklarska Poreba” is a volatile/neurotic uxb of almost Albini-clone dimensions that merges with the smashed crockery discarded by Dub Sex and Death by Milkfloat, two great and regrettably undervalued British combos of yore. Their tightly drilled and relentless forward noise motion has not an atom of space for fuss and frills. The songs of outsiderdom (“2.22 men”), lost weekends in “Alcohol” and urban ennui (“No KO”) are splotched and scratched by Ralph Steadman and regulated by the stamp of a scuffed cherry red d.m. If Psychoplasma are the apex of their world (just guessing – probably wrong), then Fun’s base camp (proudly displaying pirate flag and full camo), comes as a loud and highly promising first step. (If Society Records, Jyrangontie 7a1, 00550 Helsinki Finland)
After Bad Vugum’s Deep Turtle ground to a halt during 1996 – Mikko (drums/perc) moved on to theatre work, bassist Tapio became a software engineer and Pentti Dassum (noises/devices) joined TRANSKAAKKO and later formed KROKO. Both now have cd releases on the Zerga imprint. Transkaakko’s “Uuni” shows the nonet on one of the fold-out panels looking for all the world like factory staff lined up during fire drill. Yet this innocuous snap (along with a snow scene, a barn, baker’s oven and err, another snow scene), surrounds a great example of ethnic Esperanto. A synthesized language where initial Finnish origins are blurred by all manner of non-native instrumentation. 3rd Ear-ish oboes, recorders, ouds, bouzoukis and darboukas to create an eddying, mysterious soundscape with a sepia-tinted melancholy never too far away. If the girls from Mellow Candle could be invited to be guest vocalists for a second Orient Express album, (or even Mogollar?) – that would come ‘fairly’ close stylistically to the “Uuni” oeuvre. It’s one that really deserves to be on vinyl with ‘hipgnosis’ sleeve art. “Rabia” is Kroko’s second full-lengther. Their frenzy-core trio dynamics are cobbled together from a coupla concerts and a studio session, which are then cropped/edited and mixed with other rehearsal tapes. The end result is a wriggling (think of a tubful of larvae), collection of improve-slobber and slumber-crunching which is randomly phased out by the crackle of faulty wiring. An approach which could be construed as glitchbound – only to be denied that classification by virtue of the occasional ferocity and noise at its core….
Back to DEEP TURTLE – it’s good news here as well. They took to practicing again in 2001 and a year later went back into the studio for the “Turkele” mcd. This has now received a limited (600) run on Zerga. Their mambopunk/’hardbopcore’ (their terminology) has undergone a new development since their magnificent “Vomitsprinkler” album back in ’94. Along with a ‘children’s song’ (I’d guess this’d be “Perdido” – but it’s difficult to tell), six numbers are protest songs sung in Spanish! Why this is …gentle reader we may never know….
Elvis Coffee Records (POB 160, Swansea, SA1 6WB), was formed approximately 4 years ago as a cdr label primarily concerned with local electronic/avant garde musics. All of their catalogue is priced at an admirable £4.00 (7 dollars stateside) and are produced in short runs. So it would be wise to procure some of the following before they eventually become a vague whisper on the rumour mill. JEBUS is a collaboration involving members of PSI (no links to the American trio on the ‘Evolving Ear’ label), Directive 4 and Green End Listening Station. With their heads full of sci-fi themery/NWW and the timeless possibilities of dronescaping, they entered an anonymous studio in Feb ’04 for their first improv session. The results of this 6-hour meeting of the minds can be found on “The Ants are Eating my Head”. The four untitled pieces are cyber-tooled with murky throbbings, zero grav oscillations and arrhythmic metallic skritching. Theirs is a sound that is surely more than a sum of their influences and one as spicily alien as modernist taste decrees. Welsh musician Ian Holloway is the sole entity sitting in PSI’s (or, Psychic Space Invasion’s) control booth. “And the Cows go Mu” is his (or their) fourth and goes the way of Noggin (if memory serves?) and Picastro in employing Chinese funeral money as sleeve art. This apparently gains ‘worth’ only when burnt and transported to the next whorl of existence – I believe I’m halfway there already… But PSI have value now – so that new flamethrower of yours can remain in the broom cupboard – ok? Again, as before… 4 ‘untitleds’ place a faceless string section, vague in number, into the muffled acoustics of an undersea cave. Bizarrely – 9 minutes into the first track – you can actually hear what seems to be a diver’s airways snagging on jagged barbs of steel wreckage! His atmospheric pressure (Pounds per Square Inch?) dropping drastically and it’s almost real enough for you to think about dialling the coastguard. A further slice of Jebus and a piece from PSI’s second session can be found on the first ‘E.C.’ compilation, ‘The Breath of Forgotten Places’ along with Swn (the Welsh for ‘noise’), Ulysses Girelle, The Buff Monkey Ensemble, Directive 4 and Green End Listening Station. It’s available FREE when ordering any of the other cd’s… (Steve Pescott).
General editor: Simon Lewis. Overseer: Phil McMullen. Typing: huge thanks to Tracy Sienkiewicz