Whilst Spring is traditionally a busy time for the postman around here, I have been overwhelmed recently, not only with the quantity, but also the quality of the music sent for review. This means there is a lot to discover this time round, so apologies if some of the reviews are shorter than usual, but be assured all the music contained in this Rumble is well worth investigating.
To start, a quick apology to Heart and Crossbone records, whose excellent noise compilation was reviewed in the last Rumble. Unfortunately, the contact details were not quite right. Interested parties should go here (www.hcbrecords.com) and while you are visiting, check out (take a deep breath) “The Anti-apopathiaphulatophobicoustical Days”, the latest album from Raxinasky, a brutal disc that mixes doom laden riffs, with Crimson-esque changes, sound samples and bundles of energy. Clocking in at just over 40 minutes, this is a sonic journey that requires a safety harness; insanity is but a heartbeat away.
Home-made, lo-fi and wonderful The Marshmallow Staircase are a mix of Hawkwind electronics, crunching riffs and psych-pop melodies, meaning a good time is guaranteed for all on their album “Red Giant”. Worthy of a mention is the space rock of “Alpha Centauri”, the bass heavy electronic swirl of “Photon” and the delicious “Here Comes the Airplane”, my favourite track on the album.(www.summerstepsrecords.com)
Next up, we place the spotlight on Italy a country that seems to be quietly developing an underground scene of its own at the moment, much of it based around the success of Jennifer Gentle, whose mainman Marco Fasolo is responsible for the production of “Yawling Night Songs”, the debut album from Slumberwood, a five piece band (including visuals) that include elements of Kraut, folk, electronics and psychedelia in their sound, creating a fresh and diverse collection of tracks that sparkle with life. Opening track “Yahoo” is a droning Kraut rock sprawl that builds into a dizzying crescendo, whilst “Galline” is an echo laden freak-out smeared with lysergic intent. Having confused the listeners’ senses, peace is restored with the rippling ambience of “Thru Crop Fields”, a delicate acoustic piece that calms the nerves with its simple beauty. Also included is a cover of “Mr Sandman”, the song transformed into a drifting electronic pulse, whilst the final song “The Bride Side”, is a sprightly folk dance that leads us back into the real world, dazed and grinning happily. (www.asilentplace.it)
To maintain that happy grin it is recommended that the reader plays “Anthem No.1” the opening track on the self-titled album from Italian group Ballo Delle Castagne, its driving riff will get your head nodding in no time, you may even be moved to dance around the kitchen! Once this is over you can get your breath back and enjoy the proggish psych of the rest of the band’s tunes, swirling organ and fuzz bass laying the groundwork for some wonderful guitar playing, the layers of sounds beautifully produced into a richly satisfying whole. Highlights are the aforementioned opener, the rockier “Specchi e Perline Colorate” and the slow psychedelic groove of “Il Pianto di Cristo su Gerusalemme”, complete with sitar and hypnotic percussion as well as some very Italian piano flourishes. (www.hauruckspqr.com)
Finally from Italy, Magpie Wedding allow us a glimpse into their fragile and personal universe with their “Torches” EP. Using folk as their starting point, the band add touches of drone, wyrdness and emotion to the mix with opening track “Time Yet” having the feel of a Nick Drake recording, the haunting voice of Grace, charged with emotion, drawing you in. Exploiting the tension between throbbing bass and delicate guitar notes, “All Without Leave” is another excellent song that seems filled with sadness, whilst final track “Bright Autumn” is a song of hopeful defiance, delivered with poise and restrained passion. (www.magpiewedding.com)
Time for a change of scenery now as we nip over to Norway in the company of Hakkon Ellingsen whose latest album “The Plum Album” is a cornucopia of melodic sunshine pop guaranteed to make you feel better about life. One listen to the Beatle-esque opener “Sunshine Girl” will drench you in a shower of happiness so vibrant you won’t come down for a week. Elsewhere, “I Love to be With You”, will be on any Valentine’s Day compilation you ever make, whilst “Barefoot Sunshine Girl” is a sweet as a spring day, ukulele driven gem that I am still not tired of. Of course, there are more bitter sweet moments such as the aching “Tonight” with its heartbreaking string arrangements, or the piano led “100 Years Ago” but even these are so beautiful they will make you smile. Filled with thoughtful and perfectly realised arrangements this is a collection of song that you could fall in love with on a daily basis. (www.termorecords.com)
More exquisitely crafted pop can be found on the opening track of the intriguingly named “No Need to Light a Night Light on a Night Like This”, the latest/debut release from Snowglobe. Beginning with the lyrics “Tried to help you girl/ but just added to your pain”, the lyrics are sung over a bright melody, the juxtaposition creating a delicious tension as “Nothing I Can Do” gets under your skin with ease. On “Teenage Queen” a distorted guitar adds some crunch to the riff, although brief snatches of other instruments give the song a weird sheen, something also found on “Comforted”, the feeling of dreaming created by the whirling electronics almost drowning out the song itself, almost. Final track, “Prelude” is a slice of cut-up psychedelia, fairground noises, Dixie land jazz, and other sounds drifting in and out in a dreamlike manner to excellent effect. (www.makeshiftmusic.com)
Produced by Steve Albini, the latest album from Bellini is a dark a twisted monster that recalls the sounds of The Pixies or Sonic Youth, the skewed guitar riffs and intense vocals ramping up the tension at every opportunity, with opening track “Wake Up Under A Truck” summing it all up in three glorious minutes. Recorded over four years, this is the sound of a band exploring the dark side, the songs telling tales of the loss of loved ones, confusion and doubt, play loud and cleanse yourself in its noise. (www.temporaryresidence.com)
Featuring two long fuzzed up freakouts, “Collisions pt1” is the first of a proposed series from Rocket Records. On this edition New York Band White Hills take on Uk riff merchants The Heads, the two bands managing 40 minutes of music between them. First up “I Will Find Peace Of Mind” is stoner Sabbath being played by a bunch of mutated Hawkwind clones circa 1972, the repetitive riffing and twisted effects augmented by distorted lead and mantra like vocals, the whole thing crushing everything in front as its soars into the dark reaches of the galaxy, before finally dissolving into static whispers and field recording of a crowd. Not to be outdone, The Heads dive straight in with more epic riffing and frenetic lead guitar as “Camden Brain Slurry” attempts to destroy what is left of your senses, the manic opening section slowly breaking down into a weird, psychedelic and noisy middle, crunching chords, feedback and strange effects distorting time and space before the band take off again, rocketing ever further outward to join White Hills for a party on the very edge of the universe. (www.rocketrecordings.com)
Originally released on Woronzow Records in 1989, “A Sibilant Sin” the first/only album from Psycho’s Mum has recently been re-released on Pirate Island Discs. Featuring Nick Saloman on several tracks (Guitar/piano/vocals), and even our very own Phil McMullen on backing vocals on one track, this is basically a heavy psych party album, with a hint of rockabilly and a joyous heart. Featuring some fine guitar playing and crisp playing, the songs range from the long workout of “Peak”, through to the garage trash of “My Baby Went Away”, whilst the moody and magnificent “Daggerman” is an album highlight and well worth tracking down. (www.highpanch.org.uk)
As we seem to be walking the valley of the riff at the moment, it seems a good time to mention the latest releases from Elektrohasch, a label whose passion for a good riff seems to know no limits. First up, Danish band Highway Child are a hard and heavy rock band with a blues twist, as demonstrated on “Lonelytime Blues”, the opening track on their latest offering “On The Old Kings Road”. With an obvious love of T-Rex, Zeppelin, Grand Funk, and a host of others, this is a good-time band with a beaming grin, the excellent playing and bright production forcing you to open the window and share the songs with your long suffering neighbours. Throughout the album there are acoustic passages, slower moments and a warm groove meaning this is an album that is easy to love, uncomplicated and as welcome as an old friend.
The latest from stoner rock veteran Mat Bethancourts is the intriguingly named Cherry Choke whose self-titled debut album is overflowing with fast-paced stoner/garage anthems that have a touch of the Who’s manic intensity about them. Check out “The Lie”, “I can See The Girls Grow” or the Excellent “Cheetah” to see what I mean, the band going full-throttle, raw and exciting just like rock music should be.(www.elektrohasch.de)
Sounding a tad like Frumpy on amphetamine, Fuzz Manta are another Danish Band that like to rock, with the vocals of Lene Kjaer Hvillum, giving the band a slightly different sound, her ballsy delivery echoing Grace Slicks as well as the aforementioned Inga Rumpf. After the frenetic opener “Cage of Glass”, the band settle down to a more mid-paced groove with the bluesy “Night Fright”, whilst the eastern sounding “Strange Days” adds a heavy psych twist to their sound, making for a varied and enjoyable set of songs. On “Sickness” the opening riff is so distorted and heavy you would be forgiven for thinking Mudhoney had entered the building, whilst final track “Over the Mountain” takes us back to the frenetic rock sound that opened the album, and is a damn fine song to boot. Featuring some excellent cover art “Smokerings” is an album well worth tracking down. (www.baddealrecords.com)
Remaining in the genre of space/stoner/psych for a while longer, it is the turn of World In sound to entertain us with a trio of rather fine albums in that vein. Recorded live at the Hertzberg Festival 2006, the self-titled album from iH8 Camera, is a collection of seven improvised pieces named after places the band travelled through to get to the show. Featuring guitars, synths, sax, drums, bass and vocals, the music on the disc maintains a sense of melody whilst still being experimental and adventurous, the fact that band members also play in other groups together giving them a cohesive sound that allows them to fit lyrics into the pieces. Also impressive is the way the two very distinct guitar sounds merge so well, whilst the rhythm section, adds energy and stability to the proceedings. After the relaxed psych groove of “Breitenbach am Hertzberg”, the band display a heavier edge on the more brittle riffing of Grebenau, although this breaks down into a slower spacier ending, the guitars again proving their quality. The rest of the album mixes these to styles into an entertaining and beautifully played whole that is worth hearing. Working in a more traditional song based style, The Living Room fill their album “Times Like Lakes” with 12 shimmering psychedelic-pop ditties, some swirling organ and breathy female vocals adding velvet textures to the tunes. Consistent in its quality throughout, the title track contains some wonderful and concise guitar playing, whilst the organ sound on “Rising Dawn” is pure 60’s heaven, the song sounding like it belongs on one of those numerous obscure compilations. There is a glorious lysergic sheen present on the aptly named “Acid Comes”, a dancing flute and more precise guitar sounds adding to the atmosphere, whilst on the “Just a Little Song”, a sitar completes the psychedelic vibe, the band sounding like Frumpy covering Jefferson Airplane and completing an excellent collection that has just revealed itself to be essential to anyone interested in psychedelic music. Sadly the band no longer exist, they released one album in 1997 (“Chambers”), and this collection is their never released second album, and one you must hear. Finally on World in Sound, El Cuy whack everything up to 11 and treat us to some high-energy rock on their turbo charged self-titled album. Right from the off, the band just go for it, as “Animal” roars out of the speakers and attempts to break all the ornaments in your room, sounding like a heady mixture of the Monomen and Motorhead on a three day speed marathon. For ten songs the pace never lets up as the classic three piece line up of Guitar/Vocals, bass and drums just rock, with tracks such as “La Pesada” and “Arrancate La Piel” making you realise how much fun rock and roll can be, no more to be said. (www.worldinsound.com)
Those of you who do a lot of driving with the top down or windows wide open should check out Greater California whose latest album “All the Colours” is a perfect blend of Vocal harmonies, irresistible hooks, and great playing, you can feel the breeze in your hair as the songs swelter out of the stereo. After the breezy summer opener “All the Colours”, the exquisite “Them the Downs” is a tour-de-force of AM friendly rock, with class a-plenty, whilst the mellow strains of “It’s Great” could be the perfect summer song. Fans of the Beach Boys, The Zombies and Californian sunshine should search this one out. (www.myspace.com/greatercalifornia)
Released on North Pole Records, “Fireants” is the latest album from Scott Arbogast, now using the name Rainstick Cowbell, the collection filled with taut acoustic songs, the artist using his guitar as a tense platform for the bitter lyrics, the message as important as the melody. With his distinct voice set to pissed-of, Scott berates the world, scars his inner demons and justifies his existence to his family with vitriolic fervour. This could all go horribly wrong of course, but there is enough instrumental inventiveness and variation to ensure the message is projected without wastage, whilst the lyrics themselves have a naïve poetic charm that bears repeated readings/listening, the meanings often open to individual interpretation, meaning you can match them to your own fucked up existence. Perhaps, a lo-fi Roy Harper is the best comparison I can come up with. On the same label and perhaps representing the other side of the same coin, Italian songwriter Tizio Sgarbi sings gentle rural, acoustic ballads using the name Bob Corn, his album “We Don’t Need the Outside” is a warm collection of gently rustling songs that reveal a man content with his existence, although still questioning life’s meaning. Summing it all up is “The Hottest Autumn Ever”, a triumph of simple song writing brilliance, with strummed guitar and hand percussion providing the backing for lyrics of such loveliness, that the world becomes magical again. The press release describes this as a sleepy Bonnie “Prince” Billy, which is good enough, although this is better. (www.myspace.com/northpolerecordings)
Whilst the Terrascope is thought of as a community of friends, it is, I must state that Geoff Blaxall,, is indeed a personal friend of mine, a man I have played guitar with and whose songs I have watched grow, so it is with great pleasure that I now get to write about his debut album “At This Point in Time”, a fine collection of simple acoustic tunes imbibed with warmth and charm. Featuring 12 mellow tunes, the songs deal with love, hope and regret, the outcome always positive, always looking forward, the sparse instrumentation adding to the fragile beauty of the compositions. I have loved these songs for a long time so it is hard to judge, perhaps, but some of the highlights are “You Said When You Were Young” with its simple lyrical refrains, the beautiful love song “Blossom” and the philosophical “It’s the Silliest Thing” complete with some subtle organ backing that adds just the right amount to the tune. Saving the best until last, the final two tracks are just gorgeous, with Geoff’s understated vocal style wringing the best out of “Ghosts Still Haunt You” and “Standing Next to Me”. (www.myspace/geoffblaxall)
Always beautifully packaged and worthy of your attention are the releases from Apollolaan Recordings. The Latest batch does not disappoint, so let’s start with the soft strangeness of Tex La Homa, (Matt Shaw), whose latest five-track EP “The Rites of Spring”, mixes gentle acoustic guitar, flutes, bells and almost whispered vocals into an intoxicating whole. After the introductory lullaby instrumental of “Bonnie”, we are led into a stranger dream filled world as “The Bridge” reveals itself to be a surreal hallucinatory tale, reminding me of Kevin Ayers in its feel. Opening with bell and flute “Wild Swan” is another dream washed journey, the piece turning into a vocal drone, rising and falling until the echoed flute returns, curling like mist around our thoughts. After such mystery, the gentle guitar of “Penn Hill” is a welcome breeze, a chance to sit in the sun before a rattle of electronic insects heralds the arrival of “Sunshine and Snow”, the disturbing sounds used as a backing for spoken words, the listener needing to strain to hear the meaning, producing an intense and edgy soundscape that is a long way from the gentle acoustics of the opening track. On the same label, Wink is a three piece group whose self-titled release contains one 27-minutes track which was recorded live. Utilising guitars (bowed and picked), effects, loops and laptops, Anne Chris Baker, Romke Kleefstra and Jan Kleefstra have created a softly flowing drone piece with spoken words and gently falling notes, the music rich and overflowing with emotion. As the music moves on it ebbs and flows, giving the impression that you are on a journey, floating on a timeless river unaware of past or future. Definitely one for the headphones this is music to be enjoyed alone, a deeply satisfying trip. Proving that variety is the spice of life, the final release on the label is “Onehundredandonedrones” , a collection of pulsing electronic tunes from Mybroken101, with opening track “Drones” setting the pace as a relentless rhythm and squashy breaks dance out of the speakers, a dirty distorted guitar adding to the volume and adding to the fun. Things are slowed down slightly for the more ambient electronics of “Monday (Tex La Homa Remix), which sounds like Renegade Soundwave, the slower pace remaining in place for “Never Down Again” an icy blast of electronic repetition that is highly effective. Add to this the droning wash of “Through the Darkness” and a heavier bass mix of “Never Down Again” ;and you have a collection well worth turning up loud and getting completely lost in.(www.apollolaan.co.uk)
No doubt citing Loop, Spacemen three and Hawkwind amongst their influences, the improvised music of Enormous, shares the repetitive guitar drones of those bands, the endless wall of riffs decorated with synthwork and driven forward by some powerful bass and drums. After the brief warning salvo of “She’s a Man”, thing get more serious as “Pour it on your Head” mashes up your mind, snarling echoed vocals making the Spacemen Three comparison even more valid. The pace if not the intensity is slowed down for “Few Orbison” a more lysergic take on the sound with some excellent wah-guitar at the end, before the mood is changed again by the bizarre vocal excursion on “Arabs in Manhattan”, a chattering riff acting as counterpoint to the performance. Finally, the more psychedelic “Everybody Out” takes you to the stars, a swirling ten-minute improve that is very hallucinogenic, especially played loud, ending a rather fine album, which, whilst not breaking new ground, re-works old themes with style and a sense of mischief. (www.sonamiuzik.net)
Showcasing a great line in jangly guitar rock, Yorkshire band Water (1997-2000) are long gone, but there legacy now lives on as their sole lost album has been released by Belle records. Containing 11 songs “Monkey Steps” move from jangle to some harder garage numbers each topped off with a gritty vocal performance and a flair for melody. Final three songs, “Don’t do me No harm”, “Summer Breeze” and “A song for Summers” highlight the bands diversity and talent, the whole collection an ideal soundtrack for that long, late night, motorway drive. On the same label, “Sun Son” is a collection of reflective acoustic songs from Sol Gravy, with the delicate charms of opening song “Remember Me (Summers Gone)” being a particular highlight. Elsewhere, “I am the one” is a long sleepy reverie, whilst album closer “For a Girl” is another fragile song that captures your ears with its sweetness. (www.myspace.com/bellerec)
Creeping slowly, like ivy over old walls, the Scottish label Autumn Ferment has revealed itself to be a label of quality, each release given the care it needs. Their latest release is “Naked Shadows” from American artist Fort King, the album a collection of reflective and quietly confident folk songs laced with atmosphere and soft psych touches. With subjects ranging from Native American Folk heroes to more personal laments, the simple acoustic tunes are enriched with organs, slide, cello and percussion, whilst styles range from the woozy bar blues of “Hanging on”, to the instrumental beauty of “Tanabata”, the cellos flowing like molasses around the melody. Elsewhere, “House Finch” is a sad and poetic tune complete with birdsong, whilst closing track “Black Palms” is a dark tale of suicide sweetened by soft playing, the tune wreathed in atmosphere. (www.autumnfermentrecords.com)
Similar acoustic musings can be found on “These Long Dark Country Roads”, the latest six-track EP from Ant. Recorded by Darren Hayman and featuring contributions from James Milne and Tjinder Singh (Cornershop), the songs are simple, sweet tunes, the lyrics displaying an understated and peculiarly English sense of humour. On “Time I Was Gone” an insistent Ukulele underpins the guitar, the lyrics direct and engaging telling tales of indecision and tea and biscuits. Featuring a lyrical piano “Come to the Phone” is a song of regret, Harmonica and ukulele adding to the emotional content, the lyrics filled with sadness tinged with a slowly fading hope. Final song “Wherever you go” has a Neil Young inspired riff, soft and warm with some lovely vocals and a fragile heart. (www.antpop.com)
Vibrant and flawless, the Spanish guitar work of Victor Herrero is utterly captivating on his new album “Anacoreta”, a collection that features ten instrumental pieces. Having been playing since childhood, Victor displays a virtuosity that is tempered by an understanding of dynamics and the importance of space, each track an exquisitely formed jewel that sparkles with life. Both passionate and icily precise, this is music doused in sunshine, a small ray of Mediterranean warmth. (www.boweavilrecordings.com)
Precise in a completely different way, the electronic compositions of Abreaktor, are glacial in their execution, scratched distorted beats and snatches of melody creating a glitchy ambient pulse that is pleasing to the ear. On the five track EP “Any day Now And”, this ambience is broken up with some more insistent rhythms, such as on the creeping paranoia of “Ercet/Frequent Flyer”, the downbeat mood maintained for the rest of the tracks. (www.brigade-music.com)
Fans of The Jesus Lizard, Sonic Youth, et al, may the noisy guitar destruction of Suetta to their taste. Formed in 1994 and lasting only two years, the band show a healthy disregard for restraint especially on the seven live tracks included. Mind you, things are just as distorted and generally fucked-up in the studio with “Batter Dipped” and “Sun in my Eyes” being particularly fine. Final track, the ten minute live chaos of “Extruder No. 3” is an anarchic ride through clouds of noise spoken word and mayhem, just as it should be. (www.summerstepsrecords.com)
More indie-punk noise can be found on “Gloom Bloom” the debut album from We Are Hex, a four-piece band from Indianapolis whose song are constantly evolving featuring noise and melody welded together in creative fashion. Highlights include the Siouxsie-esque “I N D P L S”, the adrenalin rush of “No FM/ No AM” and the percussion-led swirl of “Loose” a song with a shoegaze soul. (www.wearehex.com)
Singing tales of early Australian history, including convict murders, betrayal and ghosts, The Doomed Bird of Providence actually hail from London and Colchester and have been performing together for just a year. A classic murder ballad, opening tune “Letter from Van Diemans Land”, features Ukulele, violin, accordion and bass, creating a creaking musical landscape over which is sung the sad tale of a man wrongfully hanged for a murder he did not commit. On “Brother We Will Be” there is a Jaques Brel” influence threaded through the dramatic arrangement, whilst “Dorothy Handland” has a cinematic feel as it weaves its tale of an 82 yr old woman sent to Australia for Perjury, only to hang herself on arrival, dismal stuff indeed but beautifully realised. The final track on the EP is “Bells in the Dead of Night” a more traditional folk song with familiar themes of murder, guilt and ghosts, the tune rounding of f a rather fine collection from this talented quartet. (http://lailyrecordings.wordpress.com/)
On “Audio Verite/Deceptive Bends” their latest, double CD, The Treat harken back to the glory days of vinyl by pretending there are four sides, the music split into “Rock”, “Acoustic”, “Electric” and “Experiment”. Starting with Rock, the band punch their way out of the speakers with the heavy psych-pop of “This is the One”, a statement of intent built over a modish guitar riff and a solid backing. On “Showtime”, the tempo is increased as the band rock out, although the ELP inspired lyrics seem out of place amongst the frantic riffing although may be it is only old prog-heads like me that will notice this. With a wonderful rock shuffle, “For a Reason” closes the rock side with a joyful smile, the band reminding me of mid period family. Moving on the acoustic side features five early seventies sounding tracks with “Cycles” reminding me of The Greatest Show on Earth, including some excellent flute and guitar playing as well as rolling had percussion that pushes the song along at a fine pace, whilst a country fell is evident on the good-time feel of “By the Sea”. To close the side, “The Dragons Den” has some wonderfully whimsical lyrics about Alice and her Dragon, the light arrangement and sympathetic arrangements making the song one of my favourites so far
Basically a three piece, the trio play a huge array of instruments, the variety finally coming into play on disc two as the Electric side threatens to blow your mind wide open with the guitar heavy psych of “Massive Attack”, a crunching riff overflowing with wah-driven guitar and pounding drums, the bass propelling the song forward with an angry buzz. A similar sound is also present on “Anger Management” another rocker of vintage quality; the band beginning to loosen up for the freakier romps that is “Cybernaut”, the tune opening up with some stellar playing from all. Finally hitting the lysergic zone “Silent Voices” is an eastern influenced track that is early Floyd influenced especially in the authentic organ sound, a great song that spins around the room in a perfumed haze. Final track on the side is a slide riddled slice of county whimsy about “Farmer Jack’s Tree”, ending the strongest and most Terrascopic side so far. Ok, onto the Experiment side, an intriguing title that seems slightly misleading as “Citizen of the World” sound like it could be equally at home on the Electric side apart from the fact it uses an acoustic guitar for its riffing, good song though with a very evident 1970 feel. Next up, “The Art of Deception” has a jazzy groove, with some laid back Clarinet playing and breathy vocals giving the song a summery sheen, this feel carried on by the funky rhythms of “Fan the Flames”, the songs of Traffic coming to mind. Featuring sliding, atonal string sounds and half sung, half spoken words, “Little Fly” finally justifies the word experiment, a paranoid tale about a fly in the room; this is a surreal piece of whimsy that is strange in a good way, although you may not play it that often. To end the side and the album, “In My Own Time” is a slice of 70’s rock with more excellent flute a punchy guitar riff and dynamics that lift the song a notch above, add to this some Mariachi trumpets and you have a future classic that is one of the strongest thing on the entire album. A brave experiment, this album may be slightly too long and, personally, I would have liked to have heard the song mixed up over the discs rather than broken into section, however, having said that, I will definitely be returning to the album as I feel that it may be a grower with enough variety and quality to justify a long and happy musical relationship. (www.thetreat.co.uk)
Playing a blend of ambient drones and Shoegaze, the music of Benjamin Finger is hard to pin down as his album “Woods of Broccoli” is a heady mix of sounds, with a spacious ambience, and a wide open feel that allows the music to expand into the room, flowing around you like water. After the waterfall roar of the title track, Little Sparkling Mist” adds some drifting female vocals to the proceedings, the vocals floating in and out of the mix in experimental fashion reminding me of the songs of Larkin Grimm in their sonic intent. With glitchy percussion and reverbed piano, “Unestablished Gossip” is haunting and hypnotic, the gentle notes and slightly disturbing undercurrent creating a dynamic tension that really works, whilst on the excellent “Throat Travelled Yellow Hills” phased sounds and rippling guitar create a landscape of subtle colours, the piece filled with dappled light. Ending simply, “Howl (At the Buffalo Girls” is another piece of drifting ambience, the vocals reminiscent of Bjork as they hover over a delicate guitar, a mesmerising finale to an intense and personal album. (www.howisannierecords.com)
Those familiar with the Fence Collective will know that quality is something that the loose group of musicians strive for, their folk ethics often married to an ear for melody and sweetness. All this is perfectly true when you listen to “technicolour Wilderness”, the latest album from Candythief, a three-piece centred around the songwriting skills of Diana de Cabarrus, whose glorious vocal performance adds a great deal to the vibrant tunes on offer. Creeping in on a tip-toe of notes, “Foreign Sands” has soft violin and a sixties pop swagger, whilst a French gypsy flavour runs through the waltz of “Entente Cordiale”, the lyrics in both French and English. Featuring a more electric sound, “Junk” moves into folk-rock territory, although the sweetness remains smoothing out some harsh fiddle runs that weave in and out of the mix. On the other side of the coin “Alphabet” is a dreamy pop song with a sheen of hazy sunshine hovering offer it, the song building into a quiet crescendo that is handled with precision by the musicians. At eight minutes “Ghosts at the Feast” is, by far the longest piece on offer, giving the band a chance to stretch out, creating an electric folk classic, the band rocking out in the long instrumental section with some acid lead guitar working snaking through the tune courtesy of Alex Ward whose contribution makes the song glisten with electricity. Finally the charming “A Good Day” gets your feet tapping and leaves in a positive and happy mood, which is no bad thing at all. (www.myspace/candythief)
Those of you searching for some dark gothic psych with the occasional rockabilly undertones can rejoice that your wait is over, all you need to do is wade into the murky waters of The Diamond Center, whose latest album “My Only Companion” is a reverb-drenched collection of songs with a primal heart and a penchant for the darkside. Opening track “WTT” sounds as if it crawled from the swamp to arrive dripping into your living room, a slow motion stomp, which sets the mood for “Dos Frados”, the band giving the Cramps a run for their money in the primitive stakes. Featuring a mangled guitar and vocals, “Ohio” is Garage-Drone, an atmospheric cloud of mist, whilst the band get their mojo working on the stomp heavy groove of “The Deer Pistol” a song best hears loud and drunk. Definitely the heaviest thing on the album, “Cap’n Death” is a heavy garage-psych delight, beautifully lo-fi and bathed in a malevolence that drives the song out into the world to wreak havoc on unsuspecting passers-by. To end it all “Nemo” is another atmospheric garage gem that will grab your brain and give it a good shake, completing a late night album that comes into its own after a few glasses of something dangerous. (www.diamondcentermusic.com)
Dancing out of the swamplands, we are suddenly bathed in light as the bright sunshine pop of The Swims greets our ears with a smile and the sound of flutes, memories of the Beach Boys floating in our heads. This sixties pop sound is continued throughout the entire of “ItemLord”, the band’s latest collection, a sparkling jewel of a record that has melody a-plenty as well as some shimmering organ, crunchy guitars and harmonies to die for. After the warmth of opener “All is Nice”, the short sharp “Ladyfist” is swirling power-pop, whilst “Descend into my Cape”, turns up the Garage meter, a stomping rocker with all the right moves, the tune immediately followed by the sweet acid twist of “Pile of Features”, the contrast between the two songs highlighting the creativity on offer. Consistently engaging, the whole album is an aural pick-and-mix, a cornucopia of sounds and flavours, all held together by some tight playing, great songwriting and a sense of fun that gets your feet moving and the your whole being smiling, add to this the fact that the collection seems to get better every time you play it and you have a disc that could be the essential summer purchase. (www.theswims.com)
Recently released on Time-Lag Records, “Where’s My Hat?” is a delicate and graceful collection of small song and instrumental from Joshua Burkett. With a feeling of fragility running through the disc, the pieces are almost sketches, gossamer thin yet intensely beautiful, the sound of cobwebs and falling leaves. After the drone folk intro of “Intro”, a picked guitar and quiet vocals introduce the lovely “Or a Constant Maze”, a softly spoken song that is followed by “Where’s my hat pt1”, an evocative instrumental with a hazy afternoon feel. There are four parts to this piece interwoven through the album, each a variation on a theme, each beautifully worked and each laden with slow atmosphere and presence. In between, the songs are like prayers and whispers, the highly charged “A Moon Equals Zero” being a particular favourite, whilst “Wish for a Blue World” shows there is a place in music for sympathetic whistling. Mainly utilising guitar and voice, with well placed effects and other sounds, including some Pipes, this is an utterly charming and quietly confident album that you may well find yourself returning to when in need of some reflection. (www.time-lagrecords.com)
Having been “Below the radar” for a while, it is good to see the Blue Sanct label sticking its head above the water, especially when said label has just released “Village of the Damned” a collection of lo-fi experimental folk tunes from the pen of Clare Hubbard recorded under the name Caethua. Sometimes stark, sometimes slow and drifting, the music is a powerful individual statement, a deep burning collection that demands attention, the ghost of the past colliding with future events, the global and the personal meeting at the crossroads, plotting and scheming for their own dark purpose. Not that it is all depressing just how it is, a personal vision that sears with longing and purpose. There is a flow to the music that almost renders individual tracks redundant, but “They Walk the Night” and the drone ghost of “Burning Yarrow” seem to be at the heart of the album, spectral and almost overwhelming. (www.bluesanct.com) The labels catalogue also includes work by Drekka, Black forest/Black sea, Vollmar and The Iditarod, to name a few, so go and support a label with good intentions and some fine music.
Talking of small independent labels, Tip Toe Records is a Yorkshire based label that has just released a compilation showcasing its roster. Containing 16 acts, the songs range from folk balladry, to louder guitar bands, the occasional jangle and some leftfield pop a well. The thing all the acts seem to have in common is an ear for a great melody, the artists writing songs that are memorable and stand up to repeated plays. Of course, any compilation will have highs and lows depending on the listener’s personal preferences with some of mine being “The Devil and Me”- The Old Romantic Killer Band, a rowdy acoustic stomp, “Finger”-Fists, a song with lots of swagger and a strange vocal middle eight, the cloud-filled electronic pulse of Negative Landscape-Ten, and “Like a Magnet”-Travels by Telephone, a lovely song bathed in warmth. At its heart this compilation is a compliment to the art of songwriting, a good thing in these produce based times. (www.myspace.com/tiptoerecordsuk)
Right, time for a small vinyl selection, the first of which is a split single on Vanity case records featuring Geese/Reg Pantal, with Geese offering the mellow piano led sadness of “Kensington Terrace”, some melancholy lyrics and harmonies giving the song a tear-stained sheen. With a similar feel “Sweetpea and Suzanne” also uses a piano, another relaxed melancholy song with some surreal lyrics, music from your dreams. (www.myspace.com/vanitycaserecords)
Featuring Jerusalem and the Starbaskets/Bengal Traitors and pressed on clear vinyl is a split single from The Great Pop Supplement, with the Starbaskets offering a slow acoustic trip with harmonica solo, sounding like early Neil Young, although the harmony vocals add a certain sweetness to the tune. On the flip, the Tigers get a 70’s groove going with “Sumtimes” being a dirty acoustic stomp, not unlike Mungo Jerry in its approach. (www.thegreatpopsupplement.com)
Next up two new releases from Static caravan, the first of which is a 7” slab of solid black vinyl from Cave, whose “The Ride” is a ferocious instrumental that builds into a roaring psych-rock monster, analogue synths, pounding drums and thick guitar adding density to the song. Flip the record over and a dirty 70’s rock riff assaults your ears as “Bobbys Hash” proves itself equal to the A-side, another quality slice of in-yer-face, instrumental heavy psych. Great picture of a fish as well! On the same label yet cut from different cloth is the latest, bright green vinyl 12” from The Yellow Moon Band. Here, ambient space rock is the order of the day, the mellow groove of “Polaris” having shades of Porcupine Tree and the Orb amongst it relaxed sounds. This is definitely music for summer, the swallows dancing with the clouds as bees buzz lazily between the lavender, just lie back and enjoy. If you can summon the energy then I highly recommend turning the disc over where you will discover the sonic delights of “Lunadelica” a very spacey drone that may very well cause you to levitate into the clouds for a chat with the swallows, whilst “Chimney” will slowly dissolve your senses into satori. (www.staticcaravan.org)
Recorded with analogue synths and effects, “Aural Spaces” is a collection of soundscapes and drones from Ian Middleton. Written between 2004 and 2007, the record consists of ten pieces of ambience, with a cohesive palette of sound that create a meandering, free-flowing mood, the music light and airy whilst containing substance and elegance. Highlight of side one is the oscillating delight of “Whirrloop”, a Tangerine Dream style space journey that is beautifully realised. Opening side two “Nocturne” reminds me of Tim Blake, a slow drone with twinkling sound darting between, whilst on “Horizon” things slow down even more, a harmonic drone that slowly loops through the air to mesmerising effect. This track paves the way for “Time Building”, the latest album from Ian, containing six long drones that shimmer like heat haze into the room. Certainly a more focused effort than “Aural Spaces”, the pieces are mature and thoughtful in their construction, time being spent on finding the correct sounds to layer together, the music being created from the relationship between the repeating loops, shifting and phasing with measured beauty. Mainly recorded with an Korg MS-10 and a handful of effects, this is a lesson in restraint, a work of purity as one listen to the magnificent “Wellspring” will tell you. This is a collection that can stand beside My Cat is an Alien in its quality and presence, something that means it is absolutely essential for fans of electronic music and drone. (www.entracte.co.uk) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Time now to hand over to Steve Palmer who will lead you into more undiscovered delights, thanks as ever Steve.
"Forces" by Silver Pines is a shoegazing stroll through spacey songwriting territory, piloted by seven musicians. The 26 minute duration makes this work an EP rather than an album, with most of the seven songs hovering around the three to four minute length. Opening track "Timefather" features languorous female vocals before we hit a spacerock strum which sounds like an indie folk Hawkwind. "Maypearl" features doubled vocals so laid back they are more like sighs and exhalations, but with the Americana style backing it's a very effective piece. "Parasites" has a great female vocal with another distinctive space folk backing, while the countrified "Travelling Bones" features acoustic guitar and pedal steel. "Polar Bear" is a much heavier track sounding like it might have been influenced by the late 'sixties Floyd experiments, while the EP closer "Old Sky" has a marvellously wobbly vocal and Leslie style guitar. The combination of folk instrumentation, spacey guitars and touches of Americana make this a very good listen.
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If internationally flavoured experimentation is your cup of mint tea then you could do worse than to investigate "Sketches Of Marrakech" by Right Speaker Heavy. The first thing to notice is the beautiful packaging: hand made paper, interesting text, weird drawings. A collaboration between the band, Pat Moriarty (art director of Fantagraphics and Comics Journal), and Morton Hurley (editor of Anthology Of Spam Poetry), the album dives from acoustic ethnicity with Urdu poetry through beer-inspired ambient Indo-fusion and shortwave radio percussivity to the 'sixties freak sounds of "Cosmic Four Dots." Possibly LSD was involved in the making of the final track (the text hints as much), "Konkona Sen Sharma," a 21 minute epic of tanpura, piano, Nepali drum, violin and harmonium that sounds like Brian Eno chilling in Varanasi. This album is very good indeed; recommended to all those who love crossing the world of the wings of music, it would be particularly good accompanied by a refreshing brew as the morning sun rises...
Noiserv is the nom de plume of one David Santos, whose "One Hundred Miles From Thoughtlessness" is another fantastically packaged item, in this case featuring spiral bound black-and-white card illustrations and a handy pencil that, I imagine, is meant to be used to colour in the drawings. The music is slow and reflective, featuring Santos' intense vocals underpinned by subtle instrumentation: bass, metallophone, synths and drums or percussion. The compelling "Guarentee" with its ghostly melodica is a highlight of the album, as is the eerie "307d" with its hints of Radiohead's Thom Yorke in the vocal performance, and the pastoral and haunting "For The Ones Who Left Me," which begins quiet but bursts into drums and synths. The album concludes with the waltztime "Bontempi" - a cheap make of keyboard - which, as far as can be said of this melancholic listen, raises the spirits, and the ghost of a smile. Though this music is much more restrained than that of Radiohead, anybody into that band's intense emotionalism would appreciate Santos' creation.
Another EP now, "The Natural Order Of Things" by Trespassers William. The feeling here is dreamy and floating, part Cocteau Twins, part Red House Painters. The band have had quite alot of success already in America, where they are based, and this translates into confidence and skill of experimentation on these five slices of electric despair. Opener "Sparrow" chills the marrow with delayed guitars weaving their way around Anna-Lynne Williams' lonesome vocals. "The Lids" features a distinctly funereal organ and world-weary vocals, while the more cosmic "Red" features a lighter vocal and dubby keyboards. "I Could Go Back" is the standout track though, slightly faster than the others, with great guitars and a chorus that should uplift any lonely hearts. Overall, a quality release - and why not check out the free MP3 of "Sparrow" at www.sleepsoundpr.com. The band are touring Britain in October with label-mates Glissando.
"Sparkle Plenty" by Cathode has the DNA of Boards Of Canada in its electro genes, but Steve Jefferis, the man behind the project, is no copyist. Cathode is essentially a solo venture with guests, and while Jefferis has been through a few labels, his 2004 debut "Special Measures" was also released by Expanding Records. Opener "Stabiliser City" sets the tone for the album, with its strong melody, warm analogue sounding synths and pounding electro-drums. Elsewhere we encounter the oriental percussion'n'bass of "Dream Feeder," the chilled bleeping of "Control And Restraint" and the Reichian mallet instruments of "Structure Hunger." The only weak spot for me was the overly glitched "Without Memory Or Desire." Judicious use of samples through the album augments the obvious musicality of the Cathode way, while the synths are never less than gorgeous, as evinced by the wondrous "Brockenspectre." An example of just how good electronic music can be when it's done properly. Fans of Boards Of Canada, Autocreation, Legion Of Green Men et al need look no further, while fans of German wunderkind Spyra would also be interested in this. Warp-tastic!
Tarentel are a trio of musicians here releasing a set of live cuts, "Live Edits," recorded in Switzerland and Italy, and all improvised. The music is futuristic: drums hammer and pound, reverberated into science fictional spaces, while electronic and guitar noise provides a suitably arcane accompaniment. A tremendous sense of tension and urgency is built up by some of these tracks; the drums shift between patterns and sounds, sometimes more distant, at other times seeming to leap out of the speakers, especially when the cymbals crash. The guitars and electronics sound like alien radio broadcasts, often distorted into walls of feedback. Highlights include the simply weird fourth cut (the tracks aren't named), which at 13 minutes must have freaked out the Bern audience, and the sixth track, which seems to have been created with broken guitars and a huge delay pedal. The penultimate and concluding tracks are beautiful, almost cosmic trips through ambient sound.
Lost treasures of rock always have an aura of mystery and fascination about them, and the more famous the participants the higher the level of intrigue. In 1983, John Cipollina, esteemed guitarist with West Coast luminaries Quicksilver Messenger Service, recorded a jam session and a set of songs with one Merrell Fankhauser and some friends. The results, "Live On Maui and California," have just been issued on OmOm Records, and interesting listening they make. The opening trio of tracks are various cover versions - as the sleeve notes point out there was no rehearsal - and are high energy rock'n'roll in style, with Cipollina's guitar to the fore. Later songs come from a second session, while at the end of the disk we find other nuggets, featuring (amongst others) Texas Tornado guitarist Louie Ortega. Some of these later tracks don't have quite the same attraction as the earlier ones, but this album is an important musical document with a good proportion of classic cuts, not least "Into The Crater" which is dedicated to, and about, Randy California. West Coast afficionados will certainly want to check this release out.
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If superbly orchestrated songs are your thing then "More Love And Death," the third album by Johnny Parry, should be right up your street. Parry has been around for a few years and has worked with some high profile musicians; this third full length release builds on his reputation for chamber orchestration and unique lyrics. Openers "God Loves Me," "Fields And Birds And Things" and "Men Will Hang" set the tone for the album: original orchestration, haunting trumpet in an Ennio Morricone style, while Parry's rough voice (that inevitably recalls something of Tom Waits) is matched with the operatic soprano of Donna Loomans. The combination is unique: emotional, compelling, eerie, majestic. "Dine Alone" is dark and sombre, with Parry's vocals at the lower end of rumble, just audible above a male voice choir. Album highlight "Lying Ahull" is the sound of a New Orleans funeral march transposed to Britain, while the track's apocalyptic lyrics match this sound world perfectly. "The Wonderful Adventures Of Lucy And I" soars and dives, supported by beautiful strings and a heavenly female choir, while the title track is supported by drums and bass as well as the chamber orchestra. There's a hint of Leonard Cohen in "Love Will Hunt You Down," while album closer "Little Prayer No. 14 (Now That You're Gone)" has some very spooky glissando vocals and instrumentation that reminded me of classic-era Mercury Rev. The quality of this album is evident in every single note.
In 1970 a band from the US north-west called The New Dawn privately released their only album "There's A New Dawn," which has since become something of a lost classic. Now re-released by Jackpot Records with the assistance and full backing of original member Daniel Bazzy, this has all the hallmarks of the late 'sixties: reedy guitars, vocal harmonies, melancholy organ sounds, tambourine. Opener "(There's A) New Dawn" matches these characteristics with ocean and bird sounds, before the heavier "I See A New Day" comes over like The Doors meeting The Turtles. The lyrics alternatively cover boy-meets-girl themes and typically hippy concerns - unity, peace, love - and this is perfectly illustrated on the gorgeous "It's Time," with its layers of backing vocals and recorder accompaniment. "It's Rainin'" ends with freaky storm recordings, before we encounter the Hammond-tinged "Hear Me Cryin'," which seems to hark back to an even earlier era through its Merseybeat vibe. "Dark Thoughts" has more of a garage sound, while "Proudman" boasts more great backing vocals and a thrumming bass. "We'll Fall In Love" has one of the stronger tunes on the album and more Hammond, while "Last Morning" has irresistible percussion and a cheesy spoken word insert. Album closer "Life Goes On" shuffles on underpinned by a solid bass line. Classic! For the completists there are three demos from 1971 and a 2008 reunion live track, while the disk comes with a 24 page booklet detailing the band and their songs, and will be an absolute must for all 'sixties heads. Check out Ugly Things magazine for further details.
Fans of indie-pop will be interested in "Failing In Biology" by Simon Felton. Formerly of Garfields Birthday, Felton now releases his debut solo album in the shape of ten tunes each of around three minutes duration. "Mister Magic Eyes" and "In The Attic" set the pattern of the album, being sonic confections with strong melodies. Definitely some singles here. "Paisley Man" shows off the skill of Felton's songwriting, with great minor/major key changes and another good tune. Felton's voice is light and mellow, a little like Ian Broudie if you could remove Broudie's Liverpool accent, while the musicianship of the other two main players is exemplary. "Me" is more of a rocker than the mellow tunes so far on show, while "Neptune's Fountain" has a delightful Byrds-esque feel to it. An assured debut of considerable charm. [Postscript: a Mr. Anton Barbeau of Sacramento has written to ask whether we could consider mentioning that the album was co-produced by himself and Alan Strawbridge of the Lucky Bishops. "I think the production team of me and Alan is an angle that has helped pull in some folks in our tiny psychedelic-minded universe towards his record that otherwise wouldn't have Simon on their radar," says Anton. Fair enough. Consider it mentioned.]
Last year both Phil the Demiurge and I gave Kelli Ali's "Rocking Horse" enthusiastic reviews. Now Ali returns to enchant us once again with the acoustic album "Butterfly," a collection of songs recorded in a single day. Where "Rocking Horse" was set to the sounds of guitars, organs and some orchestral instrumentation, the new album has mainly acoustic guitar and flute as its foundation. On the opener, the title track, Ali's unique voice is in fine, sweet form as she sighs and soars through the song. "One Day At A Time" is a reinterpretation of one of the highlights from last year's album, sung in tremulously captivating fashion, while "Willows Song" (from the film The Wicker Man) adds violin and cello to the sound, creating a perfect pastoral mix. The new version of "Rocking Horse" is particularly striking, with a repeating guitar motif, thrumming cello and soaring violins, and Ali's voice reverberated. Terrific stuff. "Urique" is gently wonderful, while "A Storm In A Teacup" - another highlight of last year's release - floats us away into spring skies. "Before The Kiss" reinterprets the theme of "Rocking Horse" in gorgeous style, concluding the album. It's impossible not to be won over by this alluring release. I need to dig out my copy of "Rocking Horse" now and give it another spin...
Not The Only Clown In The Village release their new EP "The Credit Crunch" on Welsh label Tidy Like Records. The action is punk-infused power pop with X-Ray Spex sax and semi-insane backing vocals on the main track "Credit Crunch." You're mad, guys! But in a good way - Robin Benson rolls his R's just like Johnny Rotten. "Genocide Rush" isn't an assault on Canada's finest, rather a faux-dub attack on American bureaucratic and political hierarchies (I think), while "Too Much Money In Football" is absolutely spot on. Great fun, and, obviously, TIDY!
"Awkward Aura EP" by The Murmurs Of Tension is a highly charged sprint through psych-pop, influenced by West Coast and garage sounds. They're based in St Helens though, and tour the UK. Doors-esque organ and rocking harmony vocals take us through "Oh When She Cries," then it's on to the rhythmically slow/fast "Showdown." "Power Of Bagsy" mixes a Texas garage vibe with a punky chorus, while "We Won't Get Back To The Other Side" is a psychobilly romp with great guitars and drumming. "Big World Outside" closes the EP in suitably bonkers style. Best cover artwork I've seen for some time too.
"Snowflakes And Car Wrecks" by Hauschka takes us into modern chamber music territory. Volker Bertelmann is the man behind this solo project, and he has quite a reputation as an exponent of the prepared piano. Opening track "Ginsterweg" is in classic 'seventies Steve Reich mode, and very lovely it is too, with stringed instruments adding to the prepared piano. "Wonder" begins quietly then ventures into more Reichian territory, but where Reich's music of this ilk tends to stay rooted by the same note or chord for a long time, there is much more key variation in Hauschka's work here. "Tanz" begins with glissando cellos before going into an American-sounding piano and strings duo piece; this is the longest piece on the album, and it works particularly well. "Kindelsberg" is a Keith Jarrett-like slow piece for solo piano, while "Hauberg" is a melancholy stroll through plinking piano notes and mournful cellos. The closing track, "Tagtraum," is a melodic, almost sunny piece where all the players work together. This album really is a breath of fresh air.
Lasse Passage is the recording name of Norwegian songwriter Lasse Passage Nøsted, whose "If You Don't Have Time To Cook, You Don't Have Time To Live" is a pastoral saunter through various parts of the world visited by him. "I Have Seen" unfolds to simple acoustic guitar and the double bass of cohort Jo Berger Myhre, while "What Have I Done" is in band format, with pattering drums and sparkling electric guitar. Nøsted sings confidently and often upliftingly in English, and the lyrics concern typical day-to-day concerns: love, relationships, life. "Far From Love" has a jazzy feel as it winds slowly and quirkily through various moods; great drums and double bass on this track. "Options" is an uptempo song with hyper vocals - the single of the album - while closer "It's Not The First" is Nøsted on his own, with an acoustic guitar and the sounds of nature.
Off to America now for "Pain Is A Reliable Signal" by New York singer-songwriter Sam Jacobs, aka The Flying Change. This album of ten short songs documents trying times, as Jacobs, his wife and family encounter the American health care system. Judging by the lyrics the experience was unsatisfactory. As the album unfolds, the core of Jacob's lugubrious voice and guitar is augmented by instrument and electronics arrangements by producer Paul Brill; sometimes subtle, at other times rocking. "The Mayo Clinic" features pedal steel guitar, resonant drums and a gorgeous minor key violin solo; an album highlight for sure, while "The Ways That We Destroy Ourselves" is angry and uptempo, with hyper drums and brass band backing. "Don't Look Away" has a strong tune and a very nice orchestral/synth accompaniment, with tinkling piano to counter the unsettling lyrics; another highlight. "The Northern Bay" ends the album with Jacobs' enormously reverberated voice, suggesting vast uncaring hospitals and empty corridors. An accomplished release.
The Sons Of Noel And Adrian are a couple of UK musicians based in Brighton, whose "The Wreck Is Not A Boat" is a four track EP of songs verging on folk territory - but often departing elsewhere - augmented by various guest artists. The title track features hypnotic banjo and chanted multi-stranded vocals, while the 3/4 time "Go Jo Jee" has massed ranks of vocals layered to great effect upon one another. Quivering slide guitar, brass and cellos augment the melancholic "Ruby Red Isan's" (my favourite track on the EP), while "Elsa's House" is an eerie lament with mediaeval style percussion. Impossible to categorise: haunting and compelling.
Also by the band, and also recommended, is the album "Sons Of Noel And Adrian." "Kernow" uses folk instruments and flute to great effect, with the lead singer's querulous vocals compelling. The mini-epic "Damian" is like the point where brass band and folk ensemble collide - fantastic. "Ragwort" has extraordinary thrumming strings and sound effects shot through it, ramping up the tension, before the mellow brass returns to chill the listener. The female vocals add much on "Divorce," while "Violent Violet" sounds like an evening fayre song. "Inside Olympia" concludes the disk in uptempo fashion, with jingling tambourine and arpeggiated guitars, while the chorale of voices seem distant and mysterious as they chant their way off into the sunset. This band has a unique sound that many into folk or folk-fusion will want to check out, and they tour extensively, so go see 'em!
The Italian psych-rock scene must be doing well if "Steal Another Hour From The Night" by Nicotine Alley is anything to go by. Recorded and mixed in four days, and marrying powerful yet subtle guitars with rock drums and bass, the fuzzed-out songs, all written by main man and ex-Jennifer Gentle guitarist Paolo Miono, have various influences including Neil Young and Crazy Horse on "Hole In The Sun" and "Talking With Jesus Blues," which has a great Doors-esque guitar solo at the end. The drums pound and clatter on "Song For You," an album highlight - great chorus - while "Distracted" is another song that lies somewhere in the Neil Young direction. Album closer "A Pond Full Of Stars" is a mighty psych jam with some nice guitar/bass unison playing, then a spooky bowed guitar part beneath a bluesy solo. Rockin' good entertainment.
We're heading into the Flingco neck of the woods now, with the first of three releases from the label, "Over All Of Spain The Sky Is Clear" by Interbellum. This is the studio project of one Brendan Burke, a recording engineer from Chicago. The music is a mixture of classical (solo cello provided by Fred Lonberg-Holm) and digital, floating in ambient style across Burke's piano clusters. The work of Roger Eno or very early Michael Nyman comes to mind. Occasional sound sources and synths drift up into the lower reaches of the music, like the echoes of other pieces. Half the album is devoted to "The Life And Death Of Anne Zimmerman," which multi-tracks cellos to great effect, adding voices and subtle electronica.
Experimental black metal, anyone? "Oneiromantical War" by Wrnlrd (pronounced wern-lerd) is the place where black metal and sample-led experimentalism meet. "Nighthole" is a fairly restrained opener, then we are into the chugga-chugga riffing of "Breath Of Doors," with its hyper-distorted guitars and random drums. Very little is discernable beneath the distortion of "Silent Command," while the twenty minute closer "War" is unforgiving in its mix of acoustic instruments and distorted riffery. Fans of black metal may want to investigate this.
"Re-Ups" by Cristal is a careful, deliberate and rather clever melange of noise, sound, and more sound. Short - EP length perhaps, at 29 minutes - the key here is sonic texture. The trio of Jimmy Anthony, Greg Darden and Bobby Donne (Labradford) create futuristic digi-scapes that drone and reverberate, coming and going into quietness or even silence. "Rimescolisi" sounds like a snippet of life inside the Blade Runner city, while "Xicifu" wails and scrapes its way through another distantly reverberated sf landscape. "Left Of Swept" explodes your speakers in a great burst of noisy exhilaration, while "Avici" is a soft and distant drone that wonderfully mutates into what sounds like a far off mellotron. Interesting, if a tad difficult.
Returning now to Scandinavia we encounter La Fleur Fatale and their terrific debut album "Night Generation." Formed from the ashes of Sweden's Planet Superfly, the mood is sweetly groovy, a real psychedelic journey, beautifully arranged and sung, with lots of harmonies. The opener "Straightway Ride" marries 'sixties organ and backwards guitar with an uplifting song - a great beginning - while the title track follows the same template, and just as effectively. "I Wanna Be Adored" (not a cover of the Stone Roses, although there is a Roses feel to a few of the tracks here) quietens things down with acoustic guitars, tambourine and mournful vocals, while "Children Of Neon Lights" is really retro, with its recorder, plaintive organ and Beatles-esque chugging piano. "Sunshine Underground" merges percussion, crashing guitars, organ and great harmonised vocals in a Who-like explosion of a track that, quiet understandably, has been picked up by various stations and even companies. Reminded me of early Charlatans - a killer track. "Free The View" is a Byrds-esque delight that also reminded me of the much missed Dodgy, while piano, sitars and mellotron launch us into "Golden Hair," which again has a Charlatans feel, due in part to singer Alexander Le Fleur sounding a bit like Tim Burgess. Closer "Seven Years" has an end-of-the-road Beatles feel to it. Don't pass this one by! The band have a new album out at the end of the year (this one is from 2007, but it has only recently been released outside Sweden) and are gigging the UK in September. What a wonderful album - a band to watch, for sure.
A spine-tingling solo voice opens "Then I Saw Summer And Sun On The Earth" by Kalbakken, a brother/sister combo based in Manchester but with Norwegian ancestry. The track titles are all in Norwegian and the lyrics are sung in Norwegian, with English translations given on the inner booklet. Instrumentation is sparse and folk based - voices, acoustic guitars, occasional other instruments such as violin and concertina. The effect of these folk melodies is quite hypnotic, as Kirsty Jane Birchal Nyhuus' voice soars over the instruments. "Hvem Kan Segle" is quiet and reflective, whereas "Hesten Fra Fornes," an instrumental, bounces along around its guitar and violin. The theme of seasons passes through the album, with the opening songs evoking spring, then summer, then autumn and winter in the latter half - the gloom-laden "Jeg Lagde Meg Sa Sildig" is actually a love song with a beautiful melody, albeit frosty. This is an album that's something special, undoubtedly, and housed in a beautiful printed card case.
The four-track EP "Saint Luminous Bride" by Last Harbour - labelmates of Kalbakken - is a trawl through brooding indie-rock from this Manchester collective, adding three unreleased tracks from the sessions that produced their 2008 album "Dead Fires and the Lonely Spark" to the EP title track. This title track trips along over pattering 3/4 drums, guitars and fuzzed-out violin, while "The Rifleman and the Bird" is doom-laden but rather good. Comparisons to Arcade Fire and Nick Cave aren't far from the mark. "Brothers" begins slower than a funeral march but builds to a frenetic conclusion - my favourite track - while "Hewn" is short and melancholy. Great stuff.
Screen Vinyl Image, Jake and Kim Reid, are from the District of Columbia, USA, and make a trippy, synthy, beaty noise on their debut album "Interceptors." Hints of Berlin School electronics, UK 'eighties synth bands and US house drift through the album. The restrained opener "Synthetic Apparition" mixes string synths with looped and delayed samples before the Suicide-esque drum beats come in for "Cathode Ray," and we're off on a heavily reverbed trip, like an electro Jesus And Mary Chain. "Slipping Away" features a great heavy bass sequence above clattering drums, while the poppy "Fever" is reminiscent of Echo And The Bunnymen. A distinct Joy Division sound emerges on "Asteroid Exile," while "Lost In Repeat" recalls a trippy Depeche Mode. Closer "Chaser" is another cool beatbox-Depeche track with chanted vocals and an ever so slightly Hooky bass... A pretty good album all in all. Fans of Suicide will lap it up, while those enamoured of the 'eighties UK scene will find much to enjoy.
If Turkish jam bands are your thing then you could do worse than to investigate psychedelic explorers Siddhartha and their album "Trip To Innerself." Though recorded ten years ago, this work has been re-edited and released by Alexander Tsalikhin of Brooklyn's Trail Records. The sound recalls bands such as The Spacious Mind and Hidria Spacefolk, with a hint of late 'sixties Pink Floyd - always a pleasure to be influenced by! Multi-faceted opening track "A Trip To Innerself" passes through many moods on its psych journey, propelled by rocking drums and overlaid with pulsing/drifting keyboards. "The Explorer" brings in Ozgur Kurcan's vocals on a more traditional rock track - not a success, I feel - while "Desert" is a beautiful acoustic psychedelic lullaby. "Baroque" floats along in waltztime to its simple but effective oriental melody. At almost twelve minutes "Nervous Breakdown" is the longest track on the album, beginning in Ozric Tentacles style with treated guitar and synth whooshes, before launching into an oriental-key jam-song again recalling Hidria Spacefolk, Oresund Space Collective and their ilk; best track on the album, this, with some great fretwork from the two guitarists, and a distinctly progressive feel. "Beyond Destiny" continues the prog theme with tricksy time signatures, guitar chops and whirling keyboards, and more vocals. "Distant Cry" and "Black" conclude the album, the former a rainswept slow burn of a song that reminded me of Porcupine Tree, the latter a bizarre psych-stomp with female vocals from Nil Karaibrahimgil; very 'UK festival' this track, I could imagine it being done by Mandragora or Kangaroo Moon. Space cadets and prog lovers alike should enjoy this very good album.
Speck Mountain come from the US and exist as a trio, creating what they term 'ambient soul' on their new album "Some Sweet Soul." In practice this means spacey pop songs in delayed and reverberant style, overlaid by Marie-Claire Balabanian's sweet drawl of a voice. Opening cuts "Shame On The Soul" and "Fidelity Shake" are widescreen soundscapes yet rely on minimal instrumentation; it's all in that big, big voice and the mixes. "Angela" is a faster song with dreamy multi-tracked voices, rimshot drums and spiky guitar; a 'sixties organ gives a lovely retro sound. If the Cocteau Twins had been American this might have been the result. "I Feel Eternal" brings in a muted brass section, while "Some Sweet Relief" opens like a bluesy torch song before mutating into a deeply reverberated gospel style cut. Really good, this track, showing off Balabanian's fantastic voice. "Backslider"/"Backsliding" opens with chiming synths and Rhodes style piano before heavenly vocals come in; another great track, with a cinematic quality, especially at the end where Balabanian really sings out. "Twinlines" is another slowburn epic, while the concluding cut "Sister Water" twinkles and shimmers over glockenspiel, tambourine and delicate guitars. Quite an album.
Also on Carrot Top Records we have "Jam Tarts In The Jakehouse" by The Bitter Tears. A mixture of half-sung, half-spoken vocals (males and female), piano, and thumping drums, the album lurches from uptempo cuts like "Slay The Heart Of The Earth" and "Stumper" to more gentle acoustica like "Inbred Kings" and "Hamptons" with its harmonising vocals. "The Companion" is a sinister tale with spoken/shrieked vocals set to a thunking great music track, while "The Love Letter" brings in more brass, and a string section too. Closing cut "Worthless Sleaze" pairs woozy brass with strummed acoustic guitars and more sinister vocals; my favourite track, both musically inventive and witty.
Rumbles for June 2009 was brought to you by Simon Lewis and Stephen Palmer.
Artwork, layout & editing: Phil McMullen. © Terrascope Online MMVIX