With the New Year now well under way, and the snow outside making everything look like a hideously overpriced wedding cake, it is definitely time to start another Rumble before everything descends into general chaos here at review headquarters.
To rouse us from our slumbers Heart and Crossbone Records have recently released “What Pleasing the Lord Looks Like-Marriage, Extreme Noise…..And Terror from Israel and Japan”, which basically does what it says on the tin, but does it with class and style. To guide you in “Miezarumon No Kage” sees Ryokuchi send us down a blind alley, with some ethnic free folk, before the track lurches onto the highway of doom laden noise, the vicious guitar riff de-tuned and fucked up to perfection. Following on Cadaver Eyes mix drone and doom at 16rpm, whilst Zenocide re-invent sludgecore with “Room”, a track that oozes malevolently from the speakers.
Creating their own Maelstrom, and then riding it to hell, Lietterschpichdiet seriously mess with your ears, before MONEYISGOD grind you further down with the tribal destruction of “Cancer”. Filled with electronics, screaming and discordant drone, Poochlatz maintain the noise levels with ease, as do Remesh, with “Zvaha” possibly out brutalising anything else on the disc. Finally Nerveless end it all with a nineteen minute guitar drone that sounds/feels like a glacier crushing your car with your entire family still inside it, not for the faint-hearted but excellent all the same. (www.hbcrecords.com)
Sticking with the experimental noise for a while, “White Noise 2” is a collection of pieces put together by Ryan Emmett, who appears on the disc under the guise of Hunted Creatures, Themselves reviewed in the last Rumbles. Whilst there is indeed noise involved, this collection is more concerned with ambience and emotion, something admirably demonstrated by Josh Bayer, whose “I’m A Little Betty” is a delicate guitar and cello piece that is a wonderful as the first signs of spring. Mind you, Forest Dweller, make up for it with the destructive tendencies of “Path to the Lean-To”. Elsewhere, Mike Tamburo is his usual brilliant self, “Sex Story” is a short and surreal piece from Telefonics, and Tusk Lord are delicate and beautiful. Of course with 19 varied artists spread over 24 tracks, this compilation is guaranteed to provide a cornucopia or aural delights to the discerning ear, definitely worth a listen. (www.dynamosound.cjb.net)
Describing themselves as a noise rock band Black Science are that and much more, the swirling sound and psychedelic ambience of their album “A New Mastery Of Light”, sounding both fresh and ancient as a ritual at the same time. One Listen to “Observer Mathematics” will hook you in, the band sounding like the Buttholes Jamming with Hawkwind in Berlin in1970, a potent psychic brew that stretches across the whole disc. With track titles such as “Stoned Man Down”, “Two Way Ticket to Infinity” and “Visitation”, is is obvious the band are not in it for the money, instead treading their own messed up path, the accompanying story/account of a vision in the wood only adding to the strangeness. (www.myspace.com/darkmatterindustries)
Hailing from Tokyo, The Goodluck Boys, are a psychedelic and often chaotic collective, whose music is given away via their website and by cd-r’s at shows. With each one being different, there is no definitive release, just a huge archive of playful, lively, esoteric, confusing, imaginative and individual music. As it is free you have no reason not to investigate further, and if you can find a copy of the magnificent “Storytelling of the Crows” amongst those available, so much the better. (www.goodluckboys.com)
With the same hypnotic power as staring at the stars on acid, “The Moon and the Radio Tower” is an epic piece of improvised music that drifts, startles, soothes and constantly surprises, mixing electronics, horns, distorted voice and, presumably, anything else the creator Zack Kouns can get his hands on. Sometimes music like this gets tiresome or plain dull, here however, there is enough variety and imagination to carry you along for the ride in a state of perpetual wonder, the piece sounding fresh and alive. (www.myspace.com/zackkouns)
As someone who is fond of some guitar riffery in their musical diet, I am always delighted when a parcel from the excellent Elektrohasch Records (www.elektrohasch.de) falls through the door, the most recent containing yet more top notch sound. On “Satya”, the second album from My Sleeping Karma, the main influence, at least for the song titles, is Tibet and its ongoing struggle for independence. A definite step forward for the band, the music manages to combine heavy guitar riffs with a melodic stoned ambience, reminding me of The Liquid Sound Company or early Porcupine Tree. After the relaxed groove of “Ahimsa”, an immediate highlight is the title track itself, which kicks in with a unusual drum groove before the guitars pick up the pace, the bands experience playing live giving them a tighter feel than on their first disc self-titled disc, good though that was.
As with all the tunes, the music is free flowing with the relaxed and the heavier blending into each other, whilst the addition of vocals on “Svaatanya” adds a welcome change of emphasis to the song. To finish, “Sandi” is a wonderful piece of organic psych rock, a warm guitar riff leading the way into an Eastern sounding piece that demonstrates all that is good about the band. On the same label, Kings of Frog Island have moved into darker, heavier territory on their second album “2”, although the trademark vocals and guitar riffs remain from their debut album. This time around however, the band have a denser delivery, downtuning the guitars and cranking everything up an extra notch, to excellent effect it must be said, as one listen to “Hallucinations will tell you. On “Welcome to the Void” there is a definite Sabbath feel, whilst “Satanica”, “Witching Hour” and “Amphibia Rising” are an unholy duo of devilment and noise, which must sound fantastic live. Finally, “Amphibian Rising” is a rustling drone; you can hear the wind howling around the gravestones, as the bells toll midnight. Featuring a revolving band line-up depending on who is around, although Andrea Tabacco and Frank Gingeleit, have managed to turn for everything, Instant Drone Factory, is a band whose music is completely improvised with no overdubs or even rehearsals. Whilst this could be a recipe for disaster, one listen to their “Live” album, tells you that the band manage to sound cohesive and incredibly powerful despite, or possibly because of, their lack of practice. Over four tracks the music wails, caresses and beguiles, with opening track “Summer” being a fine example of their art, flutes, drums, guitars, and vocals managing to stay together in loose tumble of noise and melody. (www.fuenfundvierzig.com)
Those of you who prefer their noise in short sharp packages should check out Snaps Records from Italy (www.snapsmusic.com) , whose roster includes 80’s/90’s U.S. Punk band (and old Ptolemaic Terrascope favourites) Sanity Assassins, their “Big Hits” album being a collection of 14 hard to find singles and unreleased stuff. Bloody good it is too, the sound ranging from punk to fuzzed up garage to more hardcore fun, fans of Wino, The Monomen, or UK 70’s punk should dive right in. On the same label, Free Love Society are a garage-psych Goth band, whose four track release gathers a single from 1988 plus two songs from compilation cassettes. Opening track “Egyptian Queen” is a great slice of doomy 80’s psych, matched perfectly by “Pandora’s Box”, whilst the closing track is a energetic cover of “Cherry Bomb” that apes the original a little too closely for my taste, although does capture spirit of the song. Recently released on Tornado Ride Records, also from Italy, is “Indiana Roadkillarama” the latest studio offering from 70’s Punk stalwart Dennis Most. With the emphasis on energy and fun rather than precision, this is an eleven song collection that hurtles past, the guitars set to maim, reeking of bad attitude and sleazy good times. Highlights include the opening salvo of “Don’t Take Me for Granted”, a noisy cover of “Lucifer Sam” and the garage sounding title-track that has a definite nod to The Fuzztones. Elsewhere brutal covers of “Psychotic Reaction” and “Police Car” (Larry Wallis), gives you an idea of where this guy’s head is at. Another one for those beer stained Saturday night parties and well worth obtaining. (www.dennismostinstigator.com)
Based in Wakefield, Geek Pie records are dedicated to serving their local area, something they do well with their four-track release “Let There Be…..Geek Pie III”. Featuring four local bands, there is a definite indie feel to the disc, both in sound and production. Opening band The Whippets set the standard with the stuttering indie-pop of “Film and TV”, jangly guitar and a fine arrangement making this retro indie worth investigating, whilst the guitar and harmonica of The Passing Fancy, is the perfect foil for the introspective lyrics (and Whistling) of “Escobarred”. Next up, One Day After School, employ a drum machine to aid them, the slightly fey beginning overtaken by washes of guitar that lift the song above the ordinary as it all starts making sense. Finally, the strange electro-pop sensibilities of The Frog Next Door is a joyous celebration of personal ambition and Englishness, with a hook to die for.(www.myspace.com/geekpiegeek) . the whole thing comes in an excellent home-made cover as well, as it should.
Recorded in a tumble down shack in Tasmania “First Frost”, is the eleventh album from Melbourne based band The Lucksmiths. Making a conscious decision to record in the country, the album deals with the differences between city and country, the lure and pull of both. Having recorded eleven albums it is obvious that here is a band who are comfortable with each other, the songs having an easy swagger, confident in their approach and abilities. Coming across like a mix of Morrissey and Crowded House, with a dash of The Byrds, the music is melodic, warm and generally relaxing, with the beautiful “California In Popular Song” being particularly memorable. Eschewing the usual lyrical fare, for a more thoughtful approach songs such as “The Town and the Hills” and “The National Mitten Registry” bear careful listening, the latter containing a wonderful brass arrangement. Other highlights, in an album filled with them, for me at least, are “Lament of the Chiming Wedgebill”, another soft, wistful tune, and the final “Who Turned on the Lights”, which ends the album with a sense of style and elegance. (www.fortunapop.com)
Playing a strange mix of folk and creeping psychedelia, the oddly named Dame Satan are well worth hearing, their latest album “Beaches and Bridges” filled with atmospheric songs that feature Banjo, electric guitar, and excellent vocals. Highlights include the creepy opener “Downstream”, the country tinged stomp of “The Struggle” and the slow beauty of “Oregon Trail”. Mind you, there is not a lax moment one the disc. (www.damesatan.com)
Featuring a similar atmosphere but housed in a different musical box, My Beloved, play dark Gothic rock, with a modern twist, their latest album “Force Feeding Love” containing 8 grandiose pieces that are epic in their construction. Opening track “Backworld Blues”, has a touch of Mono about it, soaring strings slowly rising as the song ebbs and flows before finally exploding over nine glorious minutes. A welter of feedback introduces “Hells Kitchen” the songs structure nearly buried by the bruising noise throughout, whilst the more distant, reflective drone of “In Vitro”, have a more soothing quality about them. Fans of bands such as Mono, Bright and Aarctika should investigate further. (www.mybeloved.dk)
Coming across like a post-rock Beefheart, Hi Red Center, play spiky difficult songs, with stop start middles and weird lyrical twists, the fact they also have a melodic heart only adds to the fun to be had on their latest album “Assemble” which features nine compositions amongst its infectious grooves. Think Todd Rundgren jamming with Deerhoof and you may be somewhere close. (www.joyfulnoiserecordings.com)
Next up, a couple of releases from the always interesting Other Electrcities label. On his 4th album, Daniel Vujanic, working under the name Baja, has created a beautiful and relaxing collection of music, filled with both acoustic and electronic instruments, the balance between the two giving the sounds a melodic freedom, as if the pieces are pictures. Whilst there are elements of jazz, electronica and free-form within the pieces, each retains an identity of its own, a sense of purpose and an inner beauty, perfect for an evening in front of the fire.
On the same label Male are a collection of Chicago musicians who each improvised their pieces to create “All Are Welcome”, the whole project being overseen by Jonathon Krohn and Ben Mjolsness. The resulting sounds are dense and exhilarating, the music roaring and squirming from the speakers, like being engulfed by a huge wave, until you become lost in the water, unsure of which way up you are. Offering relief “Dark Advances” is a plucked guitar piece, a brief glimpse at the sky, before you are plunged into the water again. (www.other-electricities.com)
Weaving the same kind of ethereal magic within their songs, it seems completely inevitable that Grouper (Liz Harris) and Inca Ore (Eva Saelens) should record a split album together. Slightly obviously entitled “Split”, the disc contains four songs from Grouper followed by seven songs from Inca Ore, allowing each artist to highlight their skills over more than one song. Opening proceedings, “Little Gray Cat” tells the tale of a lost cat, fevers and restlessness, the beautiful reverb notes adding a wistful urgency to the drifting textures, with fragile vocals finding stillness within the scene. (The cat came home, by the way). Sounding like a drunken Phillip Glass, the repetitive riff behind “Poison Tree” adds just the right feeling to the gorgeous vocals and melody, the piece on of the highlights of the album. Containing a similar ambience both “Fallow” and “A Light Change” maintain the restless mood, quality songs with the textures of dreams, completing a delightful quartet of tunes from Grouper. Beginning with the almost ritualistic chant of “Churpa Champurrado”, the music of Inca Ore, uses strings, piano, sound effects, treated vocals and percussion to create small, strange, snapshots in sound, the pieces more abstract than Grouper, using atmosphere as well as melody. Highlights include the spooky “Michael, I will Meet You at The End of Time”, the haunting vocal performance of “Vista Maria” and the long drone of “Valley of the Sherbert Cathedrals”. All in all, excellent stuff from two very individual artists, well worth seeking out. (www.acuareladiscos.com). Available on the same label, “Little Flashes of Sunlight on a Cold Dark Sea” is the fourth album from Matt Shaw, working under the name Tex La Homa. For this album the emphasis is on simple acoustic songs, mainly using acoustic guitar, piano and vocals. Right from the start, there is a warmth and grace to the disc, with “The Unanswered Question” drawing you in with its seductive tones. Even better is the slow stately vocal performance on “Dream Sliding”, a seductive song that is beautifully bound with delicate piano notes that hang like jewels from the melody. Things get livelier on “The Greatest Key”, a countrified riff, getting the foot tapping, the lyrics singing of the joys and perils of love, whilst an understated solo is the icing on a highly palatable cake. By the time you reach “Ania”, the eleventh and final track, you will have a wide grin on your face, the uncluttered joy of these songs reminding why music is so important in this complicated world.
Taking a far more electronic/drone approach, the album “Fernworthy” finds Tex La Homa drawing us in with some dense and wholly satisfying dronescapes, the sounds rich in textures, as the music moves through four parts with the long opening sequence giving way to some deep space exploration as part two walks around the outside of the vessel. Gentlest of all part three is light and graceful, ripples of notes and the wind in the trees adding a sense of movement to the track, before part four returns to the deep space chattering with playful abandon, the sound of an electronic firework display. Released on Matt Shaws own Apollolann label, this is an excellent example of drone with a human face. On the same Label, Plinth will ease your soul with the fragile beauty of “Dulcimer Music”, a collection of Six pieces that drift across the room like clouds, the music beguiling and utterly charming. I assume all sounds are made with dulcimers, both bowed and plucked, (mainly bowed) but I don’t know for sure. However it is done, there is magic in these recording, and interested parties should act quickly as the edition is limited to fifty copies. Finally on Apollolann, “Minstrels for Sleepless”, is another gentle and understated gem, this time written and recorded by Nick Palmer working under the name Directorsound. Playing an array of instruments including piano, guitars, bouzouki, clarinet, dulcimer, saw and drums, the music is pastoral and vibrant, the gentle piano/violin pairing of “Some Reckless Healing” giving way to the more complex “The Shepherd and the Moonlit Thief”, both tracks soft as moonlight and sounding wonderful. Throughout the album the musicianship is peerless, adding considerably presence to the tunes, the effortless simplicity belying the more technical aspects of actually playing them. Highlight of the disc is “Whispers”, a delicate and wide ranging track complete with the otherworldly sounds of the saw, whilst the final “A Little Later” leads us out as we came in, wide eyed and filled with peace. (www.apollolann.co.uk)
Anyone familiar with Static Caravan Records will know that their releases encompass both folk and electronica. On “A Beard of Bees”, the quintessential mix of those two genres can be heard as Dollboy weaves his magic over 12 delightful songs. With a voice that contains traces of Wyatt within its tones, the music on the album is whimsical and playful, containing a Canterbury vibe and an English heart, whilst comparisons with Tunng are inevitable, although, perhaps, should be avoided. Proof of all this can be found on “California”, a song which contains some of the finest flute playing since Camel were in their prime. With quality ingrained across the whole album, it is difficult to single out tracks for praise, but the soft psych cover of “He Went Down to the Sea” (the Monks) is exceptional, whilst “Heavenly” is perfect sunshine pop. Finally, “Oh Ahab” might as well have “Canterbury” stamped through it like a stick of seaside rock. I get the feeling that my hi-fi will be seeing a lot more of this album when the sun comes out again. (www.staticcaravan.org)
Featuring Mae Starr and Monte Trent Allen, both members of Rollerball, Moodring can be forgiven for bearing sonic similarities with that band especially in the vocal department, however there is sufficient difference to make this a worthwhile project on its own, the lo-fi recording adding denseness to the twelve songs on offer. More ramshackle (in a good way) than their other band, the music often steps off the path into darker more experimental places such as those found on “Panda Mask”, which features a guest appearance from Front Machine. Other guests on the album include Paint and Copter, Plants, and Gilles (Rollerball), whose presence turns “Idaho” into a lost Rollerball song worth searching out. Finest of all though is “Seer”, a quite magnificent drone that is the centrepiece to “Phoolan Devi” a varied and enjoyable album from start to finish. (www.wallacerecords.com)
Seemingly timeless in its construction “Dead Bees ((The((Quiet)Earth))Suite) is the sound of the elements in musical form, a drifting wind driven drone that is testament to the creator Seht. Over 36 intense minutes “One Moment” becomes the room itself, the power of the drone seeping into your consciousness until nothing else seems relevant, the music becoming the universe itself. Far more dynamic in structure “A Dance; Four Moments” has a modern classical feel, the notes creating rhythm rather than purely melody, the sound of insects lazily shifting between flowers on a sunny day. As the piece continues, thing slow down again a stately drone once again holding sway, with a chiming presence that has a spiritual quality about it, the album finally fading into nothing, leaving you in sudden silence that is quite alarming. (www.pseudoarcana.com)
Over the course of three tracks and half an hour, FRIA KONSTELLATIONEN demonstrate that experimental music is alive and well in Sweden, mixing psychedelia, drone and improve to excellent effect. Opening track “Popone”, sounds like early Floyd engaged in a winter ritual deep within the forest, the stuttering notes and chanted vocals creating a ritual like atmosphere. Thing get much darker and chaotic with the arrival of “Rosta Av Mossa”, an alien sounding industrial drone that is filled with the hum and whine of defective machinery, creating a deranged and sinister ambience. On the final piece “Tram Sendo” primitive percussion dominates, the scraping and rattling mixed with high end drone and more deconstructed machinery, the carefully thought out sound of someone throwing a toolbox down the stairs, the track building into a flawless cacophony of sound. www.friakonstellationen.com)
More fucked about noise can be found on “Should You Fear Hell?”, the debut ep from Brisbane based band AxxOnn. Featuring on long drone, that starts in relaxed fashion, descends into hell, then saunters out of the other side, wiser and none the worst for its adventures; this is an engaging and worthwhile listen that benefits from a major crank in the volume department. (www.axxonnband.com)
Available as an 8” lathe cut, as well as the inevitable download, the latest single from The Retail Sectors, is a heady mix of noise and melody, the densely layered sounds slowly building as the tracks progress. On the A-Side, “March of the Incurable Workaholic” is thick with invention, whilst “Song About a Girl Who Killed Herself Yesterday” is a seven minute crescendo of dark uncertainty, disguised as a warped electronic/psych workout. The work of Kentaro Togawa, this is definitely one not to be missed. (www.distractionrecords.com)
Resolutely refusing to utilise the letter E, either in a word or as a chord, Angil and Hiddntracks, have recorded “Oulipo Saliva” a strangely beautiful album that is filled with the sounds of woodwind, brass, strings and percussion. With minimal use of guitars, the songs are small and surreal, almost like the soundtrack for a 70’s childrens programme, but more twisted and disturbing. Very compelling once it starts, the music drags you in and makes the world seem different, the songs sufficiently catchy to get your feet tapping, whilst your brain tries to work it all out. (www.chemikal.co.uk)
Retrieved and re-edited from various recording sessions/jams, “Basement Tapes Volume 2” recently released by Terminal Lovers, contains just one long piece (split into two parts), The music spending the first ten minutes as a spacey drone before the band take over, a rolling wall of guitar riffery, fired up by the solid rhythm section behind. With some fiery guitar work to be had “Sodden Wheels in a Supper Club pt1 “is a lot of fun at high volume, with part 2 becoming seriously psychedelic as it moves through time, echo boxes set to kill, with some free drumming and a mean guitar giving everything a chaotic edge. Volume is everything for this one, well worth irritating the neighbours for. (www.angelsbloodrecords.com)
With a funky West-Coast groove, 5-Track and Glass Goblins are a ray of sunshine as they wind their way across the four songs on their EP “Kira”. Sounding like the Grateful Dead on the title track, the sweet vocals and mellowness are perfectly melded together, the softness tempered by the sad lyrics contained within the song. Slightly rockier “Space Angel” contains some excellent lead guitar and a fine bass-line that leads the way through the song, the track ending in a squeal of feedback. With a similar feel, “I Don’t Know What to Do”, is a live track that has a looser feel, the guitar again dominating. Also live is the final 25 minute improvisation “Yuppie Repellent”, a track that sound like it could have been recorded at the Fillmore in 1967, the guitar dancing and weaving through the matrix of sound created by the rest of the band, lovely stuff only slightly marred by an over loud snare drum. As it says on the press release “If you lose your happy thoughts you’ll fall out of the sky”, no chance of that whilst this is playing, I think. (www.5-track.com)
Displaying psych-pop tendencies crossed with a love of Todd Rundgren (there is a track called “A New Wizard, A New Star"), The self titled album from Magic Hero vs. the Rock People is an admirable collection of 20 short songs that are interesting, varied, well produced and never dull, meaning the album flies by, as you hum melodies, get captured by the lyrics and sometimes wonder who that song reminds you of. As with so many Terrascopic albums, this gets better the more you play it, revealing missed textures, or short songs that were hidden last time around. (www.myspace.com/magicherovsrockpeople)
With a name that means Land of Milk and Honey and covers of Aha and Radiohead on their latest EP , Slaraffenland are a confused as that suggests, the blend of electronic noise and pop harmony working more effectively than I was expecting. Add some well orchestrated brass/woodwind, and you suddenly have a band who sound very tasty indeed on their “Sunshine” EP. Even the cover of “Take on Me”, has been given a more experimental twist, sounding like an avant garde brass band with a sense of humour, whilst the cover of “Paranoid Android” has a more serious tone, the band once again making the song their own. Mind you their original songs are much better, especially the opener “I’m a Machine”, which says it all in five beautiful minutes. (www.home-tapes.com) On the same label, released as a limited edition white vinyl LP (not the promo sadly), “Bee Removal” is a languid and hazy collection of pieces from Nick Butcher. Using recorded sounds such as trains, coins etc, as well as more traditional instruments, the music is so quiet, that any activity in the house overwhelms it, even turning it right up merely amplifies the world around (or so it seems), the only way to fully appreciate the disc is to use headphones, when you are suddenly submersed in a huge world of carefully crafted sound. Even when the ambient/drones become more audible as the disc progresses, there is a sense of stillness, slow motion and a cessation of time that is utterly compelling.
Working under the name Ciniflo Ferox, Scottish resident Jan Lakowski has created some original and seemingly personal music using only acoustic guitar and voice. What is most startling about these tracks is that two of the four pieces on “Purple Fever Pear” are over 30 minutes long; yet so exquisite is the playing that there is no more moment when you are bored or restless, the lyrics adding to the music, painting surreal pictures in your head. Pick of the bunch is the 42 minutes of “Soon We Will Be Sisters in a Crucifixion Moon”, which is breathtaking in its scope and ambition. Available from the same artist is “Pink Strangelet”, a collection of shorter songs, the shadows of Nick Drake and Roy Harper, walking through the disc, the intense songs well worth the attention needed to appreciate them. E-mail: email@example.com
With the feel of a lo-fi Rollerball or an elephant 6
collective, the excellently named Dragonfly Motorboat are well
worth checking out on their short collection of songs entitled “Ghost”.
After “The Slow Drag” the bright and breezy opener that could be the
theme for a 70’s TV show, thing go very wobbly as “Melody for the Ghost”
imitates drunkenness with great success, seemingly rolling out the
speakers in a very unpredictable way. Some sort of order is restored on
“I Got the fear!” another sparkly instrumental that has theme tune
stamped upon it. Featuring some rather fine wah guitar “Blues for a Lazy
Eternity” does roughly what it says on the tin, the funky bass adding to
the relaxed groove as the guitar lets it all hang out. E-mail:
Reaching The final part of their EP trilogy, “In Chains” finds Dead Heart Bloom, in a more mellow and reflective frame of mind than on the early releases, an acoustic guitar laying down a warm and melodic base, the songs benefitting from glorious harmonies and a wistful feel. With some lovely understated guitar, “Flash in a Bottle”, arrives with charm and elegance a-plenty, whilst the beautiful “Falling Toward Goodbye” is as sad as the title implies, yet compelling never the less. On “Impossible New City Dream” the closing song, some simple string arrangements capture the mood completely, ending what could be my favourite of the three releases. Available as CD’s or as a free download, this is quality music and the songs sound great when put together. (www.deadheartbloom.com)
Some more quality songwriting can be heard on “Anthology 98-08”, a double CD collection culled from the 21 albums released so far by Richard Haswell, working under the name Rhubarb. Similar in feel to Paul Roland or Early 90’s Robyn Hitchcock, this is thoughtful and intelligent music that slowly draws you in and then enchants you. Mainly quieter in construction, there is still plenty of variation with the storming Hawkwind like rocker “Phoenix”, shaking the dust from your brain right in the middle of disc one, whilst the psychedelic “Red Sky” from the same disc has a definite Porcupine tree vibe. On disc two, the delightful “Travel Song” will make you smile, the pastoral “Act 3” will make you want to open a window and the spiralling guitar of “The Fall of the Sparrow” will make you want to turn the fucker up. With 37 song to choose from there is always something here to keep you amused and nothing to make you recoil in fear. An excellent introduction to an independent and talented musician, (www.worldofrhubarb.co.uk)
Next up two albums with involvement from one of our new reviewer Will Roberts. First up Eh? Deliver some spacey ambience on the echo drenched “4”, sequencers and twisted percussion, tumbling into space with effected guitar and the occasional sample. Add to this some noisier portions and a healthy dose of imagination and you get a collection of pieces well worth taking a bite from, with “22 year delay part 1 and 2” being particularly effective. More song orientated but still psych and electronically inclined The Logarithms also impress with “Waterworks”, a 15 song collection that flows across the room in a tide warm melody, more sequencers and a definite sense of purpose. Featuring some great guitar reminiscent of Hillage/Ozrics, this is definitely one for those lazy afternoons in the garden or a late night chill in a smoky room. (www.myspace.com/thelogarithmsband)
Released on the wonderfully independent Australian label Albert’s Basement, The s/t debut album from Oscar Vincente Slorache –Thorn, opens with a sound akin to standing on a runaway as a jet takes off, before plunging the listener headfirst into a wasps nest as “Spinning Objects” takes control of the speakers. After this initial aural assault, thing become more focused, or maybe your ears become more attuned, the music seemingly friendlier and easier to digest. In fact, “3d” has structure, melody and even lyrics (not for the first time, but definitely the most structured) , something of a surprise, but a very welcome one. Highlight of the collection though is the final 14 minutes as “When I Watched” shimmers like a heat haze, a gauze-covered drone that is ancient and filled with dreams. (www.myspace.com/albertsbasement)
Space rock bordering on experimental, with growling electronic percussion and some oh so dirty noise can be found on “Gaitan”, an in your face collection of modern psychedelia created by Olekranon. Even quieter tracks such as “Black Sands” seem to carry the threat of imminent chaos and confusion, whilst the real thing is offered on the likes of “Dropout” and the mighty opening track “Clusters”. (Inamrecs@yahoo.com)
Right, time to move gracefully into the vinyl section of this Rumble, never as large as it should be, but always completely satisfying.
Sharing a side of a 7” each, Kid Icarus and Das Black Milk, come out with honours even, the formers self-titled track being a mid-paced rocker that has a nasty guitar sound underneath some infectious hooks, whilst the latter provide similar fare with “Art in a Blender” and “Wanna Be King”, though there is a more garagey feel to the tunes, as well as some lovely backward guitar. Comes on deep brown flecked vinyl for extra happiness. (www.summerstepsrecords.com)
More split single shenanigans can be heard when you spin the latest release from World In Winter, which features The delicious ambient guitar of Dean McPhee, the slow-motion swirl of “Water Burial”, totally relaxing as they wash over you with gentle persuasion. Over on the other side Chapters, perform the same trick, as the slow pulse of “The Whiteness of the Whale”, hypnotises you into blissful submission. (www.worldinwinter.co.uk)
On the wonderful Static Caravan label, Golden/Night Swimmer is an enchanting single from Beth Jeans Houghton. Whilst both sides are excellent, it is “Golden” that will take the praise, the beautiful vocals stepping lightly over a delicate guitar riff which breaks down in the middle as treated vocals and effects change the mood, just for a moment. Truly beautiful. (www.staticcaravan.org)
Reminiscent of Tunng covering Nick Drake, “Tales Between the Tides” is the title of the two track single from James Reid, who was last heard on the now sadly defunct Barl Fire Recordings. Slow and stately, “She Waits by the Shore” , is a soft tale of longing, with gentle guitar and glitchy electronics, whilst “Wandering Man” is another quiet folk tune, this time with a more prominent beat that is the echo of footsteps on a empty beach. (www.autumnfermentrecords.com)
Featuring a strange and freaky picture of a cat on the cover, “To What and What Of” turns out to be a slightly lounge, psych-pop tune with attractive vocals and a light touch. Brought to you by Sisters Lucas, the other side expands on the lounge side of things, with “Habit” having an almost “French Pop” feel, and a bright production that gives the song a joyous sound. (www.bellyachecandyshoppe.com)
Deliberately obtuse or just for the fun of it I don’t know, but the album “Coyote Deathbed Surprise” by Golden Boots is full of suprises. First up it is on mint green vinyl, secondly the A-side has double grooves which run parallel, and thirdly the B-side runs from the inside out, which makes it a record to avoid when drunk. At most other times however, it is a collection of home-grown psych songs, complete with sound effects, samples, strange vocals and a warm welcoming groove that is hard to resist. (www.myspace.com/goldenboots)
On gloriously black 180g vinyl, “Proud Flesh” is the soundtrack to a film of the same name by Chiara Giovando and Jenny Graf Sheppard. Recorded under the name Harrius, the music is often abstract with snatches of vocals and piano drifting in and out like ghosts. Rhythmic elements akin to Steve Reich can also be heard, the whole album having a cold and distant atmosphere, serious and almost classical in its intent. Often very beautiful indeed, this music needs solitude in which to be listened, fans of “Koyaanisqatsi” will understand. (www.ehserecords.com)
Finally from me, Ham 1 lighten up my soul, with the sweet sound of “The Underground Stream” warming everything it touches with its light psych sound. This is sunny music without pretension, delightful and unadulterated, your feet will tap, and you will find yourself singing the chorus, or maybe just swaying gently around the room. Even on the more overtly psychedelic tunes such as “Toothless Frontlines”, the sense of melody and lightness of touch are not discarded, buy it now and be prepared for summer. (www.infinitycat.com)Just time now to hand you over to Steve Palmer with a final selection to take your ears away.
Rob St. John's "Like Alchemy" EP is the follow-up to 2007's "Tipping In" EP, which introduced this Scottish singer-songwriter to the world. The opening title track is a slow, mournful waltz, in which St. John is accompanied by cello, harmonium and double bass. The whole EP was recorded live one evening in 2008 at Stockbridge Church, Edinburgh, and although there are one or two overdubs this live setting augments the track and the three subsequent cuts, which continue the slow, stately theme, adding subtle backing vocals and saw (a bit like a theremin). In "A Red Heron" there is a hint of John Martyn in the arrangement - the track also showcases St. John's uniquely woozy voice - while the concluding cut brings the disk to a close in suitably spectral fashion. Original instrumentation, quality recording and an unusual voice make this a really good listen.
My Country Of Illusion are AstralGlamBoy and Barnmaster Scud - possibly these are pseudonyms - who, though one lives in Mexico and the other in Rome, create dense, improvised ambient jams on the album "Jambient Excursions." Utilising guitars, bass, samples and electronics the pair make spooky looped music that hints at old horror films, the space music of Brian Eno, and, on occasion, early 'seventies synth music. While the album concept is perhaps not the most original, the music holds the attention for its hour duration, particularly with scary, science-fictional tracks like "El Sonido Ed La Vina," which has some of the weirdest sample loops I've heard, and the thirteen minute guitar and drone-fest "El Sonido Del Pakhavaj." Probably not one for last thing at night though, unless nightmares are your bag.
If American indie is your kind of spiky, happy-go-lucky noise then "Make The Happiness Stop" by Pro Audio is definitely worth investigating. Echoing bands like Eels and The B52's, this patchwork of helter-skelter songwriting and brief sonic inserts (rather like Frank Zappa's on some of his mid-period albums, though here the inserts fade in and out) bounces along joyfully, covering subjects as diverse as identity theft, mad magicians, the rise of technology ("F.U.Robot"), and people turning into cats. The alternating vocals work well, allowing the listener to eavesdrop on apparently normal, though actually rather surreal, conversations, while the device of breaking up the indie-rock songs with electronic inserts allows the album time to breathe. Some of the synth sounds have an 'eighties vibe, adding a whiff of nostalgia to the mix. Good stuff, especially if you like off-the-wall lyrics.
Scott Pinkmountain of Scott Pinkmountain & The Golden Bolts Of Tone will be a name familiar to you if you remember US psych bands Pinkmountain and PAF. Scott was originally Scott Rosenberg, famed free-jazz saxophonist, a colleague of luminaries such as Anthony Braxton and a noted avante garde composer. Having dissolved Pinkmountain and then PAF, Scott changed his surname, gathered a vast crew of musicians (two orchestras, a brass and percussion group) and created a cycle of songs about love and the loss of love, "The Full Sun." As the record label's notes have it, sometimes more really is more. This music has the epic sound of Spiritualized, the brass band and Hammond-laden vibe of Pink Floyd circa "Atom Heart Mother," and the complex lyrical modes of Brian Wilson. It's a big, strong, absorbing listen - one to get sucked into over days and weeks. Two songs, "Abyssinia" and "Unforgiven," which together take up almost half the disk, form the backbone of the album, alternately epic, intense, haunting and melodious. And of course the whole thing sounds absolutely fantastic. Orchestras battle with guitars and drums, choirs appear then mysteriously vanish, guitar solos soar, softly strummed songs come and go, and through it all we travel through the slow demolition of love with the songwriter. An outstanding release.
Yvonne Neve and Simon Carroll, formerly of Mancunian band Mantra, now record as Red Painted Red, here with their second EP "Preach." (Great use of ironic packaging, which is entirely green.) Neve's voice floats above a sinister backdrop of tribal-sounding drums, Rhodes piano, synths and electronics, her timbre not unlike that of Portishead's Beth Gibbons, with just a hint of Tori Amos in the higher registers. The four songs here are dramatic and intense, featuring these ethereal vocals and some spoken parts and sound effects; the combination of innocence and macabre drama is very well done, particularly on the spine-tingling closer "Preach." A third EP beckons, creating a full length album that will, I imagine, be something special.
"Broken Threads" by Ishca is a bucolic ramble through English folky singer-songwriter territory; acoustic guitars, shakers, tambourine and gentle vocals. Songwriter Mick Seal's pastoral voice is augmented by Tina Salter's reverberant backing vocals, and by occasional mandolin, piano and double bass. Standout tracks "Dignity" and "Broke And Healed My Heart" are really rather good. I'm a bit perplexed by the band name variously being given as Ishca, Ischa and Ishcaca, but if you like classic folk well performed this may be for you.
Yorkshire-based musician Martin Cummings, recording as Northerner for his debut "The Ridings," creates dreamy instrumental music, not ambient exactly - perhaps slipstream ambient - mixing guitars, synths, and found and natural sounds to great effect. Comparisons with The Durutti Column are not unfounded. The use of electronics and strange sounds beneath the gentle guitars is particularly effective. My only complaint is that some of the tracks are just too short; extending them would give the listener time to get into the mood. At this length some tracks sound rather like accompaniments to a film. But the album is original, well constructed and sounds great. The limited edition of 300 double CDs includes an album of remixes, featuring the melancholic Bracken trip-hop remix, the folk electronica Aus remix, Glen Shipley's faux-soul sampledelic remix, and the concluding, and very spooky Yuri Lugovskoy remix. Altogether, a quality release.
"Azar" by Venice Is Sinking takes the listener into beautifully harmonised dream-pop, courtesy singer/instrumentalists Daniel Lawson and Karolyn Troupe backed by the three other members of the band. Imagine a less raucous Arcade Fire with West Coast male/female vocals... Through the album the recurring "Azar" theme splits up the songs: the uplifting "Okay" features a great brass ensemble, while "Wetlands Dancehall" is a sad waltz with particularly fine vocal performances. "Young Master Sunshine" is pure distilled melancholy, "Sun Belt" is like a skewed Western film theme, while the haunting orchestration of "Iron Range" augments its already strong emotional impact. Concluding cut "Charm City" underpins the harmony vocals with viola, subtle brass, and mallet instruments. Fans of slow-burn melodicists such as Marjorie Fair and Grandaddy would appreciate this excellent album.
If late 'sixties sunshine pop is your thing then the re-release by Rev-Ola Records of one of the lost gems of the era, namely "The Magic Garden" by The 5th Dimension, will excite you as much as it did me. Entirely written by Jimmy Webb ("Up, Up And Away") and presented to the band as a complete work, the album was critically well received, but, incredibly, it bombed commercially. Unused to this, band and songwriter parted, leaving the band to find Laura Nyro ("Stoned Soul Picnic") and further hit parade success, while Jimmy Webb wrote elsewhere. But "The Magic Garden" has not lain down and died. It is a truly wonderful work, a song cycle of great melody, marvellous orchestration and superb performances: simply gorgeous all the way through. Though no hits were contained therein, some of Webb's finest work is present in its grooves, notably the anthemic title track, "The Girl's Song" which manages to out-Bacharach Burt himself, and other gems such as "Paper Cup" and "Carpet Man." Simply an essential release.
Annelies Monsere's "Somewhere Someone" is a brief foray into minimal, ghostly songwriting: six tracks in ten minutes. Monsere, possessed of a breathy, high-register voice, combines her songs with Hammond organ and other delicate instruments; piano, glockenspiel, and eerie solo strings. The brevity of the tracks works to the artist's advantage, as all of them seem like dreams only half remembered. An album, "Marit," follows soon.
Still in single territory, "Northernmost Woe" by Siscoe (aka Brandon Siscoe), a limited edition of 200, is dark, minimal songwriting whose sound reminded me of Bo Hansson's "Lord Of The Rings," though that, I'm sure, is coincidence. The half sung, half spoken vocals are reverberated, underpinned by arctic guitars, echoing percussion and doomy drones. Great stuff, and very atmospheric. Meanwhile, sited somewhere between single and EP length and also on the Grotto Mimosa label, we find "Black Shudders" by Kelson Durian; also a limited edition of 200. This in tone is not dissimilar to Siscoe's release, but features different instruments, notably acoustic guitar, or perhaps it is a banjo. The seven tracks are brief, a couple of minutes apiece; minimal, deeply echoed, sometimes accompanied by slow drums. The final track features superbly judged electronics and synths. Eerie listening - and unsettling artwork for both releases. (www.grottomimosa.com)
Over to another EP now, the self-titled release by Unfinished Drawings - songwriting by a duo who hail from the marvellously named Mytholmroyd. A set of support slots for big-name bands and an album release in 2007 has already endeared this duo to their audiences in Leeds, but this EP sees them straying into a new, more electronic sound. "Eloquently Forced" is a sprightly song arranged with layered backing vocals and pattering drums, while "Verdana" is mid-tempo synth-pop, also with acoustic guitars. "Nobody Knows It" is the strongest track of the five here however; a proper tune and very well produced. Overall, a good listen, if a bit undemanding at times.
"The Last Of The Melting Snow" by The Leisure Society comes with ecstatic quotes from luminaries such as Marc Riley, Mark Radcliffe and Lauren Laverne. They loved it. Do I? Yes, it's great! Dreamy vocals in 3/4 time float over a deliciously orchestrated backing. The B-side, "A Short Weekend Begins With Longing," is just as good. One senses great promise from this outfit, whose debut album is out on March 2nd.
From a single souffle of pop to something more like an exotic deli of rock. "A Wingless King" by Writ On Water is the new album release by duo Jeff MacKey and Daniel Johnson, here joined by three additional musicians to make a full band. Deeply reverberated vocals, Fripp-like guitar lines and mid-to-slow tempos give much of the music a wistful, shoegazing sound. Elsewhere, uptempo cuts take hold, such as the dramatic "Ancestor" and the gritty "Rain Over Unmapped Sea." "The Laughter Ceases" is an oriental sounding chant-groove with great bass and flute. Really good, this track. Other cuts, such as "Wondertime" and "Dead Give Away" suggest a less electronic, more soulful New Order. A very good album overall. Also available are two of the band's EPs, here presented on one disk. "Ancestral Echo" and "Wunderzeit!" are released post-album, but the music on the EPs is linked to it, as an addendum in the case of the former, and as an acoustic side project in the case of the latter. "Ancestral Echo" features a number of dramatic cuts, notably the gothic plainsong of "This Kingdom Of Tin" and "Uncasting Spells," with its layers of Cocteau Twins-style guitars. "Reflection" has a certain Joy Division feel to it. The "Wunderzeit!" EP is composed of songs, remixes and a demo of "Wondertime." "Twilight" has a real 'eighties sound to it, while "Should Have Known What To Expect" floats off into mysterious reverberation. "Santa Cruz" has some brief but fab guitar work, while the closing remix of "Angie Swirls In Pastel Summer" is acid sequences and bleeps in chillout mode. A worthy addition to an interesting album. (www.writonwater.com )
Rumbles for March 2009 was brought to you by Simon Lewis and Stephen Palmer.
Artwork, layout & editing: Phil McMullen. © Terrascope Online MMVIX