= March 2010 =




ith the flow of music seemingly busier than ever, it is time once again, to hand you over to Ian Fraser who will take you through another collection of sonic distractions for your ears.

The Flying Eyes are what the Doors might have sounded like had they come from Baltimore, Maryland and not LA. “The Flying Eyes” is a compilation of that band’s two impressive EPs “Bad Blood” and “Winter”, on German label “Trip In Time”. Flying Eyes play psychedelic-tinged blues pitched somewhere between a more guitar orientated Doors and the heavier sound of, say, Cream. Singer/guitarist Will Kelly is in fact a ringer for Jim Morrison and at times his most recent Jim-lite replacement Ian Astbury, particularly on “She Comes To Me”, the closing song from “Bad Blood” and which puts one in mind of “Love”-era Cult. Stand out tracks include punchy opener “Lay With Me”, the title tracks to each of the EPs (the varied “Bad Blood” and the shimmering and catchy, “Winter”) and the closing “King of Nowhere” a dreamy sub-Floyd number sung, I think, by co-guitarist Mac Hewitt. However, the 12 tracks demonstrate consistently good quality throughout and so “Flying Eyes” carries a seal of recommendation from your reviewer. www.myspace.com/theflyingeyes


The Sky Drops – “Bourgeois Beast” (Fridabear 002) If you thought the White Stripes were a wee bit contrived and two-dimensional then check out gaze-grunge duo the Sky Drops from Delaware USA on this their first full length release “Bourgeois Beast” (Fridabear 002). Comprising Rob Montejo (guitars and vocals) and Monika Bullette (drums and vocals) the Sky Drops rip through 10 melodic Montejo compositions that are reminiscent of the Dandy Warhols albeit with rather more subtlety and depth. It goes without saying that the choice of an opening triptych of numbers is vitally important to any release and Sky Drops nail it with “Heavy Penny” a rousing Warhols/My Bloody Valentine hybrid followed by the semi-acoustic-sunshine harmony-with-killer chorus of “Swimming with Fishes” and the finely crafted pop nirvana of “Long Way”. Excellent stuff and it doesn’t end there, no sir. For example “Sleepless” is the best track the Warhols never wrote (in fact better than most of stuff they have in recent years). Whilst the harmonies between Montejo and Bullette do not always work perfectly in a conventional sense (and perhaps they are not meant to) they do lend tracks such as on the trippy “Stone White” an endearing quirkiness.

There’s a written note on the press blurb that came with this that reads “hope you enjoy our piece of art”. Well yes, we do in fact. Nine days in and this is one of the best things I’ve heard so far in 2010. A word of warning though and it is that The Sky Drops will need to evolve their sound a wee bit if they are not to be simply labelled and, heaven forbid dismissed as Warhols copyists

And so we come to the longest and daftest album title of recent months. “A Sort of Spasmic Phlegm Induced By Leaden Fumes of Pleasure” comes to you courtesy of Phased, a Swiss three-piece augmented by a synthesizer player. Put together in just nine days, “the album that ought to not speak its name” hits you with a force of an ice truck – think Black Sabbath fronted by Dave Brock from Hawkwind in a doom metal tribute act and you’d be pretty close. Opener “A Surreal Deal” (the song titles go down hill from there folks) is the kind of Sabbath-Wind classic some of us may have dreamt of since we were small boys and “Rim Shot to Infinity” (see, I told you) sounds like a mid-album instrumental homage to the Hawks wedged between the pile driving first three numbers and the doom n’ riff laden last few tracks of which the highlight is the crunching 10-minute monster that is “Nachspiel Revisited I and II”. It’s not often I feel the urge to head bang in the study or for that matter anywhere else these days but the boys from Phased made me do it, Mum.

If your tastes are at the heavier end of the spectrum then this may be well worth checking out. Ouch!

In writing and recording the title track to this album Isle of Mull’s James Irvine Burgess, aka Caterpillar Smoke has probably achieved more in three minutes than many of us will in a lifetime. Put simply it is one of the most beautiful and impeccably crafted piece of music I’ve heard in quite a while, showcasing Burgess’ pleasant light-tenor, a guitar style reminiscent of Nick Drake and a haunting, melancholy air courtesy of a violin. If the rest of “Return” (Weirdy Fly Records) can’t quite live up to its eponymous highlight there is plenty to commend it, like on the instrumental tracks such as the opening “First Contact” with its subtle yet uplifting blend of chill-out and soft percussion, the brief jungle drum dominated interlude of “Ayarubyl” and the similar percussive groove of “Where No Tribble Has Gone Before”. However the main contenders for “best runner-up in class” are the slow and menacing “Pugilstic Parasite” on which Burgess’ spoken word delivery is eerily reminiscent of fellow Scot, Malcolm Middleton and the closing number “Gaia” which sounds like a wonderfully unholy alliance of Mogwai and Dylan Carlson’s Earth. Lose a point though for “Mudstroll”, it doesn’t work.

A short, interesting and varied album, if there is one small criticism it is difficult to know at whom this is pitched, and if that-means Burgess fails to find his audience then it would be a great pity.

Adam Leonard’s 3rd LP “Nature Recordings” betrays his Syd Barrett-as-interpreted-by-Robyn Hitchcock influences with excellent results, particularly on “The Man Who Invented Himself” which kicks off this smashing little offering. “Lillian I Love You” is a sublime piece of pop, whilst “Dawn Rain” is an Anji-esque workout which showcases Leonard’s talent on the old string box. “The Archaeologist” is a fair enough take on Roy Harper, but most intriguing and ambitious of all is the side long (yes this will be out on vinyl as well) “The Eighth Tower parts I to IV” a meandering yet still focussed concept exploring both Leonard’s pastoral and more experimental leanings with further nods towards Harper and Barrett/Hitchcock as well as the more meditative school of Krautrock and acid-folk.

This is a curious little gem of an album and one that should delight the discerning listener, time and again.

Already on heavy rotation hereabout, “Lunar Galleon” (Hexasion HEX 0-2) the 3rd widely released CD from Portland Oregon trio, Paint and Copter, offers up a heady dreamscape of late night psychedelia, ambient textures, righteous noise and plain weirdness. Main man Andy Brown (at whose place this was recorded) shares vocal duties with guest member Mae Starr from Moodring, an often back-of-the-mix combination that simply adds to the otherworldly vibe. Stand out tracks are pretty much everywhere but include the opiated “Everyone Wins”, the lysergic and unsettling “Plans for Escape”, the Starr-crossed “Stunned”, the growling and scary “Alchemy Lab” and that Floydian slip of a thing, “Ruination” which winds up these marvellous proceedings. Churlish of me to mention it in light of how good this is, but the artwork proves the old adage that you can’t judge an album by its cover (what were you thinking, chaps?).

So there we have it - music for Shapeshifters to watch the Sci-Fi channel to, and right up there near the top of what is proving to be a hugely rewarding batch of Rumbles this month.

Another act from across the big pond, and not to be confused with the Death Metal act of the same name, Le Loup Family is a Maryland five-piece who mix American folk with Beach Boys melodies and harmonies and tribal stomping to mine a similar seam to wunderkinds and current flavours of the month Fleet Foxes and Animal Collective. The clean organic sound of “Family” (Talitres TAL – 052) is in contrast to the band’s first offering from 2007 and which relied on synthesizers and electronic instruments to a much greater degree. The results are a euphoric celebration of being, the tracks often seamlessly segueing into one another occasionally rising to tribal campfire chanting and drumming before returning to a gentle calm. Hard to pick a highlight as, with aforementioned Animal Collective, it is sometimes difficult to know where one track ends and another begins. However “Go East” is outstanding, with impeccable Pecknold and co choral phrasings and an insistent banjo lead, whilst “Forgive Me” has that irrepressibly joyous feel that makes you want to light a fire on the beach and bang on a few dustbin lids with some friends. “Sherpa” is a rousing back of the camper van sing-along. Aptly, the closing “A Celebration” is a yomp to the end – more chanting and of course those incessant drums.

“Family” makes for a perfectly diverting and uplifting 47 minutes but you sense that Le Loup are likely to find it difficult to slip out from some illustrious shadows.

Probably the most mainstream release one can imagine crossing Terrascope’s threshold “All Nations” by Nova Scotia’s Acres and Acres showcases nine mostly country/folk tinged tracks by songwriters David Scholten and Kris Pope. The songs are all highly individual and quite noteworthy in their own way. “Appleseed” evokes Harvest Moon era Neil Young whilst “Joker” clips along beautifully with a ghostly, atmospheric feel aided and abetted by the clear voiced Amelia Curran on backing vocals. “Polar Bear Song” is a fine tune with a slightly ethereal twist and a lyric about global warming whilst “Don’t Come Knockin’” is a toe-tapping, back porch delight. “Cell Phone Song” is deceptively child-like in its construction (a bit like “I’m Sticking with You” by the Velvets) but gently mocking of what has become the ultimate teen and adult pacifier –clever stuff. The only disappointment to these ears is the cod-gospel “All He Needs” which comes across as a bit smug and right-on. Mind you any track which features three backing singers called the Ukeladies can’t be that bad. Taken as a whole though, the homely, or should that be down-home feel of this album hits the spot especially with eight inches of snow outside  and a fire roaring in the hearth.

“Skin and Feathers” by Avital Raz is a beguiling and at times sensual melding of western folk and Indian musical influences from this Israeli singer-songwriter. The six songs on this EP are all quite exquisitely arranged, delivered in a pure voice and with words that seem to accentuate the deeply personal, as well as a certain spirituality and worldliness. The lyrics are obviously an important part of Raz’s work and, though at times a trifle unorthodox, carry a lot of emotional weight. Only occasionally does she stray into the Joni Mitchell trap of trying to cram a lyrical quart into a pint pot. Musically, tracks such a “Beautiful (Kali’s Garland)” and “#3972” are exotic and somewhat esoteric treats on what is a cerebral and well-crafted work that reveals an important talent deserving of a wider audience.

Continuing in no uncertain terms with the international theme are The Joy of Nature, a Portuguese multi-media project on this the second part of their “Empty Circle” trilogy. Entitled “The Empty Circle - Part II Rastos de Sangue e fragmentos da Tradiciao” this is, we are, told a celebration of the spiritual tradition of the group’s Portuguese and European ancestors and with it the folk traditions of Portugal and particularly the Azures. To these untutored ears this all sounds like what you might expect to hear at an Elizabethan banquet if lucky enough to be scored and arranged by a committee comprising Alan Stivell, Dead Can Dance and the Third Ear Band. “The Empty Circle…” sits a little uncomfortably (or perhaps that should be unconventionally) along with the rest of the Rumbles this month. However, it should provide intrigue and enjoyment enough to reward the more adventurous and baroque (and berserk?) of you. If in doubt then check out the band’s My Space site as three of the tracks here are available for streaming.

www.myspace.com/thejoyofnature http://joyofnature.221design.com/store/

This apparently untitled two track EP from Pennsylvania’s We Have Heaven is a study in improvisational minimalism and as such I’ve decided to give it an improvised, minimalist review. The first track, “Ghosts on the Lake at Night”, is meditative and repetitive and hits the spot. The second track, ”Ghosts in the Trees at Night”, is noisy and repetitive and takes slightly longer to impress, but it does. Worth exploring, especially if you have a film to score.

Here’s another minimalist EP, this one courtesy of Denmark’s Chasing Eudamaimonia – self-titled (Phisteria PHI015), showcasing two tracks of roughly 10 minutes duration named “Circles” and “Waves”. This is a very ambient school of drone, and with the exception of one brief passage towards the end of “Circles” is some way removed from some of the doom merchants name checked by the band on their My Space page. The sound is glacial, you might say a bit dark, yet also atmospheric and strangely uplifting. I found it excellent to chill out to, and to play whilst reading a good book (but probably not ghost stories). One can also imagine it used as a soundtrack for selling a lot of healing crystals and ornate candles (retailers take note). Quite impressive.

This is available to download from iTunes or on 10 inch vinyl.


And so to the most interesting and challenging part of this month’s reviews...

Superfolk is/are an enigma. Whilst these obviously home produced full-length CDs are replete with copious sleeve notes there is little to indicate who or what comprises Superfolk, except that there is a San Franciscan connection. Plenty of food for thought, though, as Superfolk espouses philosophy and politics and provides a full set of lyrics, to which I suspect you would be tempted but, for the most part, hard pressed to sing along with. The two offerings here, “Songs for Crows” and the double “2012 Volume 1 and II” are a bit difficult to take in during the course of a single listen. Songs range from versions of This Old Man (restyled “This Old War”) “Pop Goes The Weasel” (on which terrorists chase fascists), Michael Row The Boat Ashore” and..erm..”Roll out the Barrel”, to experimental noodling and self-penned compositions that amount to a campfire take on pretty much every cool acoustic artist you’ve ever listened to without quite being able to put your finger on who, exactly, they might be.

Over 48 tracks which rely on acoustic guitar and vocal (but with the occasional child’s toy thrown in for good measure) the results are a bit hit and miss, but in no way devoid of merit. Every once in a while you come across a homespun gem that makes the Superfolk experience worthwhile. In fact a judicious compilation culled from these oddities would be quite a rewarding experience and one that might give the mysterious Superfolk a deserved cult following.

For more information about Superfolk contact love@superfolk.org

“Shadowlands” is Allister Thompson’s first outing under his own name. Although Canadian by upbringing his musical influences betray his UK roots, and the tracks here are redolent of 1970s folk-rock and vaguely “prog rock” influences. This album occasionally strays too close to Moody Blues territory for these ears, although ironically it is to these moments to which Thompson’s competent if otherwise unremarkable voice seems best suited (he also sounds like Jerry Garcia on the blues sounding “The Demon Wife”). That said there is nothing to really dislike about this capable solo debut which is well played throughout and sounds extremely polished. Pick of the tracks are the first three, the cigarette lighter-in-the-air “Where Will You Go” and, best of all, the closing “Altai” – a sublime fusion of Pink Floyd and ambient Krautrock, and which is lined up for the old iPod.

And finally, it’s back to some comforting wig-out madness courtesy of Cleveland, Ohio’s psych-heavy Terminal Lovers on their latest effort “As Eyes Burn Clean” (Public Guilt PGO18). ”Press The Bank”, mixes 1960s West Coast excess with Camembert era Gong and sets the scene for the next 50 or so minutes. The guitar sound is heavily reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane circa “After Bathing at Baxters” and “Crown of Creation” and the tribal chug of bass and drums of the seemingly ubiquitous Germanic (I’ve pledged not to use the term Krautrock again during this set of reviews) influence that pervades much of today’s best stuff.

The album comprises 7 tracks labelled A1-4 and B5-7, so even on CD you get the at once welcome and irksome impression of a pause in proceedings (the saving grace being that you don’t have to flip over, blow the dust off the needles and hope for a safe landing of stylus on vinyl.

There ain’t no duff track here, Ma. However considering that the underlying musical theme here is one of sonic attack it’s ironic that two of the most interesting tracks are the slower and curiously named “Steve Ashby” and the mind blowing *Truth Between Errors” which is bookended by a rock hard shell of furious shredding but has such a deliciously soft centre. Bloody brilliant!

 Thanks Ian! I'm now going to round off a few more discs in urgent need of reviewing... where does the time go?

    First up, the rather wonderful The Lower 48, whose “Everywhere to Go” EP, contains5 sweet songs including “Mama’s Eyes”, a song that contains some excellent vocals that glitter over a rolling riff, creating sweet music indeed. Cut from similar cloth, “Bedroom” has a wistful quality, whilst “Transmission pt2” closes the disc in an upbeat mood. Mixing the sounds of The Magic Numbers with First Aid Kit, this is a fine collection that is easy on the ear, filled with melodic grace. (www.thelower48.org)

    Sent to us by Marcus Holmes, a music fan and Terrascope supporter, rather than the labels, the next five albums are from underground Finnish bands, who receive little or no publicity abroad, Thanks Marcus. Featuring 19 songs, most of which clock in at under three minutes, the curiously named “Who that in the Kitchen, Yankin’ My Chain” is a collection of weird country/blues tunes courtesy of Cheese Finger Brown. Featuring vocals the sound like a cross between Beefheart, Beck and that bloke from Dr Hook whose name I have forgotten at present, the album has definite charm and presence, and is mixed with the rough bits around the edges giving an authentic analogue feel. Highlights include the blues rumble of “Old Hashbrown”, the weirdly psychedelic swamp sounds of “Who That?” and the glorious boogie of “Come On Jack, but really it is all good, the whole thing topped with the distorted blues stomp of “Man in a Jar”.

(shippim@hotmail.com). With a psychobilly grin and a garage attitude, The Country Dark sound best turned up loud and reasonably drunk when their rock and roll art becomes just about perfect. One listen to “Psychos in Love”, “Liquor and Whoring” should get you dancing, whilst “Mrs Struthers Udders” will make you laugh as well, the band morphing into a heavy psychedelic band for the tune, although that country twang remains. With a bright production that really punches the songs out into the room this is a great EP, but I bet they sound even better live. (www.trashcanrecords.com) .

Containing 20 members, Astro Can Caravan come across like a spacey, psychedelic big band, the songs expansive and wonderfully arranged, with themes drifting in and out, the tunes taking unexpected turns making for a very interesting ride on their album “21st Century Drifting Episode”.  Ranging from experimental, to much more melodic pieces, this will appeal to fans of Sun Ra, Ian Carr and Miles Davis. (www.deepturtle.net) . There is definitely something in the Finnish water, with the previous three bands having a blues/jazz/country feel, something that is maintained as Cosmo Jones Beat Machine take centre stage, and add a latin twist to their music, the songs on “Belzeboogie” filled with infectious rhythms, and whiskey soaked vocals yet again having a Beefheartian flavour. Tight as fuck, the band navigate their way through 10 songs with energy and verve a-plenty, the arrangements ensuring the songs sound as good as they should, whether they are full on rockers like “Turkey Deuce Bop” or more twisted and atmospheric affairs such as “The Nature of this Deal”. Inventive and well crafted this is definitely worth a listen. (www.myspace.com/cosmojonesbeatmachine)   Gloriously primitive and noisy, The Micragirls do their garage thang with style on “Wild Girl Walk” an album brimful of short noisy tunes, The Cramps being an obvious  influence, with the trio of garage ladies showing they have attitude to spare, rockin’ hard on “Electric Chair Twist”, the instrumental “Hit and Miss” and “Rock and Roll Rocket”. Love it! (www.themicragirls.com). 

   Available as a limited edition slab of vinyl, “Hey Colossus Vs Dethscalator” is a split release that has noise tattooed across its forehead in large fucking letters. Containing just one long Piece, split into sections, Hey Colossus start with bass rumbles and swathes of white noise before a monster riff kicks in, distorted as hell, the band sounding like a doom metal band lost in the depths of Hades, the dark atmosphere further enhanced as the riff splinters into a thousand spinning shards of noise, an implosion of sound that is relentless. Side two belongs to Dethscalator, who have five tracks on offer, with the opening “Festival of Sticks” attempting to shatter the senses, with some murderous riffing creating a dark platform for distorted paranoid vocals. On “Canadians”, thing get slowed down, the noise just as brutal, drowning in tar has never been this much fun before, the fun extended with the stooge-like riffing of “You Know Nothing About Cars or Martial Arts”. A fine pairing of bands that works really well, making for a perfect collection. (Black Labs www.riotseason.com)  On the same label, Todd make glorious noise on the album “Big Ripper”, which is chock full of chaotic brutality, thirteen tracks of menace and intensity, with highlight including, the manic distortion of “Happy Easter Florida”, the full on heaviness of “The Rub”, and the final bass heavy drone of “French and out of France”, which ends the disc in style. In-between the band have energy and purpose as displayed on “Between them two Roundabouts”, the whole album an intense rollercoaster of deranged fun.

(Simon Lewis)

     After that brief interlude, it is time to hand over to Steve Palmer who will guide you home, thanks Steve. 

     Tom Dyer's "Songs From Academia (Volume 1: Songs With Singing 1981-2009)" is a collection of musical work from this American university president (Argosy, Seattle to be exact). Opening with the Gong-like "The Prize," the album flits between the afore-mentioned dates, taking in the synth-pop of "Little Sally Walker," the quirky electro-pop of "(Half The World Is Made Of) Women" with its grin-inducing lyrics, and the even quirkier "The Question Asked," which - dated 2007 - is an indication of how much this musician's style has changed since the early 'eighties; great production on this track. "I See Pictures" has a strong UK post-punk vibe to it, while "She's Winning The War For Daddy" is half show-tune, half brash pop-tune. "The Stars" and "The Sky" are very recent, the former a thumping rocker, the latter a bizarre electro-stomper, while the concluding track, also recent, also showcases Dyer's skill at putting together poptastic riffola. Great stuff - proper singing and playing, and another volume to come.

Pickled Egg Records bring us something from an alternative faux-'sixties dimension, namely The Doozer's "Great Explorers" album, a collection of ten songs with a Syd Barrett sound. While some of these songs inevitably serve to illustrate the genius of the departed Cambridge wonder - in comparison with mere mortals anyway - this album does have many individual and attractive features; a collection of ethnic instruments widens the sound palette, and while The Doozer does sound like Barrett (whether accidentally or deliberately is impossible to tell) he sings and plays well. "God Does Not Need Light" rambles along very attractively, while the mental-as-anything "Hornbill" is a ramshackle Balinese melange of a track. "Brother Lazarus" is doomy and not a little scary, while "Up And Down" could have been recorded in 1967 and might even have been a hit. "Decisive Mind" and "Semut 2" close the album with great guitar work and nice vocal harmonies. Given the influences shown on this album and the comments said influences will draw, it could have been a lot worse. Recommended for 'sixties explorers.

Ian Holloway & Banks Bailey are a couple of sonic explorers from South Wales, here presenting their album "A Brief Sojourn," which is a single thirty-six minute track taking electronics and natural sounds as a basis for work. The synthesizers drone and sway in stereo, while other sounds lurk deep in the mix. The natural sounds are subtle and don't take over; a deep and melancholy mood covers the piece. Very good indeed, and ideal for that 'last CD of the evening' moment.

"For Rockers, Ravers, Lovers & Gazers" by Revolution In Sound is a great and varied collection from Northern Star Records. Opening with "Deflowers" by Maribel (half way between The Stone Roses and Echo & The Bunnymen), the album then heads into "Clusterf***" by The Manahttan Love Suicides (punky with female vocals), "Lights" by The Nova Saints (Led Zep riff meets The Edge on guitar with anthemic vocals - the album highlight), "Tape Check (SA90 Edit)" by Delicasession (good groovy instrumental), "Vala Svala" by Punk TV (widescreen sampledelica), "No Heaven Like Hell by The December Sound (Motorhead go surfing), "Sick Fuzz" by Ursula Minor (J&MC noiseniks), "All Too Much" by The Electric Mainline (half way between Hawkwind and New Order), "You Created A Storm" by Laboratory Noise (if The Charlatans went bonkers), "When The Black Sun Sets" by The Voices (hypnotic metal shoegaze), "Insecure" by Hot Zex (Casio-wielding rockers), "Introducing Mr Gladstone" by Youngteam (The Cure do electro-grunge), "Pale Fire (Ulrich Schnauss Mix)" by Dead Leaf Echo (superb mash-up of harmonised vocals and thumping drums), "A Picture (Of The Broken Hearts)" by Mint Ive (U2 with snarling vocals), "Slipping Away" by Screen Vinyl Image (Joy Division go heavy-duty electronic), "I Love You Every Time You Smile" by Sunnyvale Noise Sub-Element (collision between a guitar and a sampler at a rave), and "Motorik" by Kontakte (guitars take acid then lose it in 1989). Unevenly mastered in places, but a top collection nonetheless.

The new single "Sea Of Regrets" from iLiKETRAiNS is very moody and very regretful. Inspired by environmental leaders James Lovelock and George Monbiot (for which, well done), the song explores our relationship with nature - "Our bones will be your oil" - beginning slow but ending up anthemic and inspiring. Excellent.

"Master Box" by Robert Stillman is a seven track EP composed by this well regarded piano/player-piano composer, who has graced the stages of various venues and festivals. Recorded whilst attending a player-piano workshop, these strange, sometimes lurching, sometimes eerie instrumental pieces evoke old recording studios and back-street boogie-woogie haunts. "BBQ Dave" parts one and two drift between honky-tonk and ferric tape collage, while "Fox n Me" has an otherworldly feel that makes the listener imagine what bizarre and lovely black-and-white silent film might accompany it. Beautifully created artwork and housing complete this attractive offering.

Gentle indie folk stylings now from Suturee, in the form of their self-titled debut recording. These nine brief tracks feature chiming guitars, soft male/female harmonised vocals and ethereal instrumentation. Opener "Afraid Of Hands" sets the fragile mood, while "Detain" comes across like a light Marjorie Fayre with a touch of un-psyched Grandaddy. "Name Remains" is so delicate a breeze would blow it away, but features emotive singing and a fantastic guitar backing; the album highlight without doubt. "Fail To Feel" is almost as good, while the piano-haunted "Wait Less" and "Me To Meet" evoke half-forgotten childhood. Album closer "The Presence" is pastoral and gorgeous, ending the album perfectly. The mix of male and female vocals, superb playing, arrangements and melancholy mood make this a special release. Recommended.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we go back to 1970 for some prime 'sixties-inflected prog. "Rebirth" by Blonde On Blonde is a lovingly re-released album by these Welsh wonders, who, based on a small label, lacked the clout of other bands on other progressive labels. "Rebirth" was their second album; after one more, they split. Featuring the fine vocals of Dave Thomas (a kind of male Grace Slick), here unadorned except for some 'sixties style reverb, the music features guitar, bass and drums, with occasional appearances of other instruments (eg. piano and brass). "Castles In The Sky" evokes a prog Summer Of Love, while "Broken Hours" is more upbeat and urgent, flowing through other moods also. "Heart Without A Home" seems almost to prefigure glam - echoes of The Sweet - while "Time Is Passing" is a brief half-acoustic vignette of family life. The lengthier "Circles" recalls psychedelic Rolling Stones material, while "November" is a brief foray into echo-drenched psych-blues. The twelve minute "Colour Questions" - a mini prog epic - begins with haunting guitar, then launches into what could best be described as a surf-Doors sound, with hints of Mountain thrown in for good measure; great guitar playing here from Gareth Johnson. The track rolls and mutates through varying moods and styles, ending with more psychedelic guitar, intense vocals and galloping drums. Album closer "You'll Never Know Me/Release" begins with a melancholy piano, returning to 'sixties-tinged territory then ending up evoking the early Renaissance recordings. The single version of "Circles" concludes the remastered CD. Congratulations to Future Noise Music for finding and releasing this one!

Still in retro territory, and also on Future Noise Music's Fantastic Voyage imprint, comes a box-set of John Barry film music compositions. This four CD collection features music from the films "Elizabeth Taylor In London," "Zulu" and "Four In The Morning," while the last disk collects odd and ends. Dating from 1963, "Elizabeth Taylor In London" won Barry an Emmy nomination; the disk features spoken word as well as Barry's notable music. "Zulu" - a film beloved of all Michael Caine and 'sixties fans - is a classic soundtrack, here augmented by "A Selection Of Zulu Stamps," which merge 'sixties arrangements with a few African influences - strange, slightly schizophrenic listening. Dating from 1966, "Four In The Morning" featured the young Judi Dench; the disk mixes spoken word with the eerie, beautifully arranged score. The final disk gathers Barry recordings from 1963-65, including rearrangements of music from the main three disks, a James Bond theme ("From Russia With Love"), and some easy-listening lounge music. A great collection, and, again, kudos to Future Noise Music for putting this out.

C Joynes' "Revenants, Prodigies & The Restless Road" is a rather lovely collection of folk instrumentals in the clawhammer fingerpicked style, augmented by extra instruments and some analogue synthesizers. The stripped-to-acoustic theme works well with the material, particularly on the nostalgic "I Love You Hanny Fuji," the avante-garde "Nyambai Sawmill," the shortwave radio-infused "Bones For Dogs" (my favourite track), the slow and stately "Poison In The Well," and the reverberant "Out Of This World." Listeners with a penchant for idiosyncratic acoustic guitar, pastoralism, and who have leanings toward clawhammer folk will love this unusual and relaxing album. Superb artwork and presentation complete the package.

Dialis are made up of two musicians, Franco Bottoni and Giuseppe Giulio Di Lorenzo, whose debut album is "Precatio". A number of additional musicians augment the duo's line-up. The opening title track is a slow, almost funereal rock song sung in Bottoni's strongly vibratoed, Nico-like voice. Piano (provided throughout by Di Lorenzo), synths and string instruments augment the bass and drums. The lyrics are sung in English, and concern gothic, high-emotion subjects: life and death, slaughter, adolesence. "As Judas Curses" features electric guitar, cello and soft backing vocals, the effect not unlike a restrained Opeth meeting Pink Floyd on a particularly dark night. Other highlights include the violin-wrapped "Labyrinth Of Senses," the pastoral "Feeding Of Tears For E. Dickinson" and flute flavoured closer "A Cliff Apart," which is as positive and upbeat as this band is ever going to get. I started out unsure of this album, but its originality, otherworldly atmosphere and great instrumentation won me over. One for the goths, I suspect; fans of Opeth's "Damnation" should investigate too.

Last year I raved like a madman about the wonderful debut album by The Ash And The Oak, which was as accomplished, beautiful and outstanding an album as I'd heard for ages. Now comes a two-track promo for "the end has no end," which is the second album: "Everyone Says/Quadrology." The first track is a waltztime stunner in which Simon Leighfield's fabulous voice is multitracked with gentle acoustic guitars and Barrettesque piano into a pop classic. "Quadrology" however is surprising: heavy, with a Sabs riff and chiming piano. Blimey! It goes through quite a few alternate moods and gets you after a while though. Can't wait to hear the new album, Ray.

"Death To God" by NYC-based, ex-The Turn-ons main man Travis DeVries, aims to evoke Madchester times, and such bands as Ride and The Stone Roses. Guitars chime, vocals swoon, drums roll and bass thrums. Sometimes the fuzz recalls The Jesus & Mary Chain, sometimes the Rickenbacker guitars evoke very early Stone Roses. The mellotron-augmented "Broken Heart" - an album highlight - is slower, almost progressive, while "Mountain Meadows Massacre," another highlight, showcases DeVries emotive voice, which reminded me of KK. "Black Thursday Repeat" does have a Madchester feel to it, but then he follows that cut with "Cold London Town," reverberant, melancholy and acoustic: it could have been recorded live in an underground station. It's this mix of styles and sounds that work for the album. Faux-Spanish "Polar Shores" waltzes along nicely, while album closer "Wherever You Are" is affecting and uplifting, albeit tinged with melancholy. A very good, involving listen.

Dutch rockers Templo Diez present their latest album "Merced," a varied and thoughtful journey through moods and soundscapes. Opener "On Our Way" begins slow and spooky, then works up to an emotive cut. The instrumentation may be 'standard band,' augmented with violins and subtle keyboards, but the male/female vocals work well and the whole thing is imaginatively produced. The ethereal "After Hours" is a soundtrack to late evenings, while "Shangri-la" matches solitary piano with female vocals and subtle guitar effects. Beautiful keyboards support "Hush," which has the feel of a grown-up lullaby and a tune strong enough to suggest 'the single'. The menacing "Shine At Last" has a superb vocal performance, and illustrates what this band does best - evocative, slow, emotive - while "Goldmine" ups the drama levels to even greater heights, with its massed ranks of violins, keyboards and vocals. Good stuff.

Ruby Throat is the new project of Katiejane Garside, here offering up an extended version of her cult album "The Ventriloquist." Formerly of Daisy Chainsaw, and here supported by multi-instrumentalist Chris Whittingham (whom she met by accident on the tube), Garside and Whittingham's album of stripped-back, gothic songs begins with the haunting "Swan And The Minotaur," before the ethereal "House Of Thieves" unsettles the listener still further, and the delicate, subtle "Naked Ruby" entrances. Gorgeous slide guitars open and support the mesmerising "Sotto Angel" - an album highlight - while "Dear Daniel" sounds like a cross between Daniel Lanois (maybe the song references him) and Kelli Ali. The album's title track has a kind of diffident intimidation, not least in its lyrics, while "Lie To Me" features more Gilmouresque slide guitars. "Ghost Boy" supports Garside's fragile voice with more gorgeous guitars and keyboards in a track with more rhythm and solidity than most here. The epic "John 3.16" is sixteen minutes of eerie backwards guitars, half-whispered vocals, bass drones, guitar and vocal effects, where the whole is considerably more than the sum of the parts: hypnotic. "Happy Now Part 2" closes the original album in foul-mouthed, singer-songwriter style, while two bonus tracks conclude this version. A captivating work, and one for fans of Emiliana Torrini, Kelli Ali, Joanna Newsom, Woodpecker Wooliams.

Rumbles for March has been curated by Simon Lewis, with contributions from Ian Fraser and Steve Palmer. Much thanks to all concerned! - Phil (artwork, layout & editing)