Welcome once again to the Terrascopic Rumbles column, a treasure trove of tiny diamonds, where the unexpected always happens and sound is twisted and distorted into beautiful sculpture for your listening pleasure.
Before we move into the sculpture hall however, a quick mention for Persepolis Records a new label keen to release music of a Terrascopic persuasion. So, budding sculptors in sound should contact the charming Mark Valentine for more details. (www.tartaruspress.com/persepolis.htm)
One of the strangest aspects of writing 'Rumbles' is the fact that the music reviewed can be anything between one day and three months old (sometimes longer), meaning that music I earmarked for review can sound completely different by the time I write about it. Of course, this may be due to my fading memory rather than anything else, but a case in point is two EPs (EP 1, EP 2) by Silver Pyre, which I remembered as being quiet and ethereal. On hearing them again however, track one ‘Sovereign’ is a lively pagan folk song with droning string and strong vocals, whilst ‘Shurton Bars Ammonite’ is a strong and vibrant drone that electronic minimalism and live drumming at its centre, creating a slowly rising and majestic piece of music. Much more like my memory of the music is ‘Filament’ a quietly drifting wash of ambience with the sound of water flowing underneath, whilst final track on EP1, is a gentle electronically driven piece, the sequences almost lost under the swirling ambience and fractured vocals. Continuing the theme of sequenced electronics and droning soundscapes, EP2 opens with the magnificent ‘Mammalia’, a perfect summation of the Silver Pyre sound. On ‘Mudhorse’ a brooding ambience is conjured up with a distorted bassline supplying the tension, whilst ‘Clayshoal’ is a slow moving fog of sound that engulfs the room. Finally ‘Carbon Ryme, Ancient Mariner’, is a haze of droning electronic experimentation mixed with feedback, organ and crackling percussion, that slowly breaks down into a deep drone that is dissipated by a chilly wind. Masterminded by GS Fawle, these EPs need to be heard together and are a wonderful way to kick off this edition of Rumbles.
Displaying some lovely skewed guitar and a wide pop smile ‘The Captains Table’ is a glorious romp that features members of Olivia Tremor Control, although the main songwriter is Jim Willingham, who, working under the name Ham 1, has created a sonic palette that has an Elephant six Flavour within its delirious grooves. Highlights include the guitar frenzy of ‘‘Saluki’, The Psych-pop happiness of ‘Moonie’ filled with guitar effects, and the twisted country drawl of ‘How Can You Watch TV With A Dead Person’. Varied and inventive throughout, this is a lesson in how songs should be constructed, and a damn fine album to boot. (www.orangetwin.com)
Adding an extra spoonful of noisy strangeness, Bear In Heaven have the free ranging tendencies of early Soft Machine, Splashes of melody engulfed by walls of electronic noise and distortion, before the band leap sideways again. All this is summed up on opening track ‘Bag Of Bags’, although the quality is maintained across the whole 47 minutes, with the band having a Rollerball vibe as they improvise around the elusive basslines and psychedelic grooves. (www.Home-Tapes.com)
Those of you searching for a post-punk, free-jazz, noise filled treatise on the internet, need search no longer, as the schizoid vocals and spastic drumming of Naked Mall Rats, grates away at your synapses with frenetic Zappa-esque fervour. Displaying more energy than a roomful of amphetamine she-devils on a hen night, ‘Somewhere On The Internet’ is both stoopid and intricate, fans of Brian Eno should look the other way. (www.bathotaxe.com)
Sounding like The Fall crossed with Early Mudhoney, and demonstrating a healthy disregard for the value of production, Das Black Milk have delivered a classic chunk of scuzzed up garage punk on their self-titled album. Relentlessly lo-fi and noisy, this is best heard very fucking loud, when it becomes a wall of intense psychedelic weirdness (even the acoustic bits), the stooges popping into mind and the paint peeling off the walls, lovely indeed. (www.summerstepsrecords.com)
Also on Summersteps, Kid Icarus has re-released two early cassette recordings under the moniker ‘The Cassette Years’, Featuring the ‘The Cucumber Album’ and the ‘Laughing Skeletons EP’, this is a fine collection of songs that have the feel of Julian Cope or Robyn Hitchcock amongst their grooves. With a wide ranging sonic palette, an inventive musical mind and an ear for melodies, the songs are a charming collection of lo-fi nuggets that will have you singing along in no time.
On ‘Red Deer’, classically trained guitarist Tom James Scott has distilled the acoustic guitar to its most poignant and emotional, the pieces as delicate as feathers floating in a moonlight pool, gentle and reflective. Clocking in at only 30 minutes, the obvious mastery of the guitar is matched by the feeling of the pieces, making this an album that is too short, as the music relaxes you into a place of great beauty. Housed in a wonderfully designed gatefold sleeve, this is another fine release from the ever-excellent Bo’ Weavil (www.boweavilrecordings.com)
Another ever reliable label is Temporary Residence home to ‘Complex Full Of Phantoms’ a split CD from By The End Of The Night / Tera Melos. BTEOTN kick us of with a collection of six noisy guitar instrumentals, which are complex in their construction without losing the melody or energy required. With more than a hint of metal about them the songs pulse with life and have a large grin spread all over them. Even Faster and with an even wider grin Tera Melos have the same kind of complexity about them, the vocals almost lost in the chaotic craziness of the riffs. 31 minutes of joyous and demented punk rock metal weirdness, what more could you want. (www.temporaryresidence.com)
The name Nigel Mazlyn Jones may well be familiar to many of you, but probably not as an ambient electronic/dance artist, (Think more Ultramarine than the Shamen). However, on ‘Planet For Sale’ he has procured the help of Steve Hillage, Banco De Gaia, and Guy Evans, to create a wonderfully organic protest album, that concerns itself with the state of the planet and what can be done about. Ensuring that the tracks merge into each other ensures you can get lost in the mellow grooves and warm beats, giving a slow lysergic trickle that draws you in and delivers its message perfectly. Furthermore, part of the proceeds from the album will be donated to ‘Environmental Assistance’ a registered charity concerned with the education of young people across the globe. A fine album and a worthy cause, go get a copy and boogie around the lounge with a clear conscience. (www.isleoflight.co.uk)
Mixing chilly drones with soul-warming psychedelic rock jams, The Stumps have come up trumps with their latest album ‘The Black Wood’, an album that is filled with alien sounds and intense sonic explorations. After the slow-drone openers, the bands hit their noisy stride on the third track, a pulsing bass and pounding drums forming a solid foundation for the guitar destruction that engulfs the room. From here on in, the band roam from noise to drone to experimentation, forming a cohesive and life affirming whole. (www.lastvisibledog.com)
Also on LVD, The Terminals have a melancholic and trembling heart on their fifth album ‘Last Days of the Sun’, sounding not unlike Julian Cope During his ‘Jehovakill’ period. Featuring twelve dense and tightly woven songs, the album lets not a second be wasted, each song seemingly the perfect length. Add to this some inventive guitar playing, a rich organ sound and mesmerising backing, and you have an album that will grow to become a much loved favourite, magical indeed.
Recording under the name Eyes Like Saucers, ex-Urdog keyboard player Jeffrey K has created a haunting and personal body of work on ‘Still Living In the Desert’. Mainly recorded whilst living in the Arizona desert in 2006, the album features twinkling minimalist Glockenspiel, and a stately Indian harmonium, the unusual sounds giving the music a refreshing feel and complementing the droning vocals on such tracks as ‘Sea Song’ (Robert Wyatt) or ‘Fruhling der seele’. Elsewhere the instrumental pieces have the simplicity and dignity on ritual music, the emphasis on the atmosphere created, meaning this is wonderful music to relax to, the sounds taking you to the deserts within. (www.lastvisibledog.com)
Finally on LVD, the sublime guitar textures of ‘Axes’-rst are guaranteed to slow you down and take to a calm and quiet place, the sounds stripped of melody to become drifting textures and slowly reverberating drones. Reminding me of the exquisite music of My Cat Is An Alien, every piece on the album is formed with care and precision, a shower of space dust driven by an alien wind.
With a backing that consists of the opening note from ‘Iron Man’ (Sabbath) repeated for six minutes, whilst banshees wail and howl over the top, the latest album from Ginger Leigh and the Hallucinations, is a primal cavern ritual overflowing with chanting, eastern motifs and rattling percussion. After the intensity of the opening track, ‘Heaven’s Eye’ is calmer, although no less intense, a call to prayer for a lost psychedelic tribe. Following on, the lo-fi funk of ‘get It Right! ‘ is something of a surprise, demonstrating the bands abilities to switch styles, although the lysergic feel remains very much intact. From this point on, anything goes as the musicians roam through their imaginations, snatches of bluegrass, drones, experimental noise and alien lounge music/exotica, all featuring in the mix. The more I play this album, the more I like it, must be the surprise element within. (www.gingerleigh.com)
Collecting together all the vinyl only releases by jazz influenced musicians The Drift, ‘Ceiling sky’ contains six long instrumentals all of which are inventive, beautifully mixed and thoroughly deserving of your attention. First two tracks ‘Streets’/ ‘Nozomi’ were only previously available as the bands debut 12’ single, whilst ‘Noumena’ and ‘For Grace and Stars’ were bonus tracks only available on the vinyl version of their debut album. Finally re-mixes by Four Tet and Sybarite complete a glorious half dozen pieces that stand together as a cohesive collection in their own right. Standout cuts are the delicate drift of ‘Nozomi’, the twisting experimentalism of ‘Noumena’ and the chattering drum and bass rhythms of the Four Tet re-mix. (www.temporaryresidence.com)
Housed in a gorgeous black cardboard case, complete with wax seal and black feather insert, ‘Excerpts from a Broken Bone Choir’ is a moody collection of songs from American Catastrophe. Sounding like a wyrd-americana version of Nick Cave, the six songs on the album are rich in texture and detail with a vibrant production that really projects them out of the speakers. Highlights include the brooding power of ‘The Well’, the chilling atmospherics of ‘the Farm’, and the slowly swelling majesty of album closer ‘Tension’. Not o be missed this is a lovingly put together package that will stand the test of time. (www.oxbloodrecords.com)
Also on Oxblood and featuring American Catastrophe is ‘First Blood’ a label compilation featuring the cream of artists working in and around Kansas City. Featuring 16 bands the compilation is a solid and well thought out collection of mainly post-rock/garage/americana bands, many of who have nicely noisy tendencies. As with all compilations you will like some songs more than others, but in this case, this is due to personal taste rather than a drop in quality, nice work indeed.
With icy banshee wail and cold glacial drones ‘Songs of Impermanence’ is probably not for the faint-hearted. However those who choose to dive in to the freezing waters will be rewarded with an intense a dramatic journey, filled with strange sights and mythical visions. Written and played by Olsen Majon zoot (I hope that is right, the text is hard to read), the two long tracks on the disc are their own reward, a full production helping them reveal their power. Similar in sound and mood is the music on ‘Puzemjalsku’s House’ – Ikuisuus, although the long opening piece has a more haunted quality about it, a walk through that cursed forest of myths and legend. Both albums (www.ikuisuus.net)
Sounding like a meeting of Suzanne Vega and Michelle Shocked, and demonstrating the songwriting prowess to match, Emily Jane white has written a beautiful and delicate collection of songs on her debut album ‘Dark Undercoat’. Favourites include the delightful title track, the downbeat piano of ‘The Demon’, and the sparse sadness of ‘Two Shots To The Head’, the song closing the album with melancholic glory. Oozing class, I see no reason why this should not cross over into the mainstream, be the first on your block to own it. (www.doublenegativerecords.com)
For those of you looking for more Rawk with your Rumbles, may I suggest you head over to Record Heaven and check out two hard-rocking Swedish acts, both of which will blow the cobwebs right out your ears. First up Graveyard do a fair impression of Blue Cheer covering Leafhound, on their self-titled debut album. Mixing heavy chords with some intricate playing and even the odd folk melody, the band rarely take their foot off the gas even when they step out into spacier territory, sounding like the finest 70’s band you have yet to hear. With a more contemporary sound, Burning Saviour are definitely riding the same train, their stoner riffing melded to a love of twin guitars, creating another slice of headbanging riffage to scramble those braincells. (www.recordheaven.net)
Also available from the same label, are the space rock explorations of Oresund Space Collective, whose latest album ‘black Tomato’ is an outstanding collection of Hawkwind style riffs coated in synths, driven along by a free flowing rhythm section, and awash with effects, textures, and smiling faces. Recorded live, the three long pieces and wonderfully arranged, the music ebbing and drifting sideways, before driving into deep-space, a glorious example of improvised bliss.
Reading back over the last few paragraphs it strikes me that this is a particularly eclectic Rumble, or maybe I have just forgotten how to organise the music. Either way it is very rare that we feature a collection of classical musicians playing acoustic music. However that is precisely what Aranis Do, sounding like a minimalist orchestra playing post-rock prog, the soundtrack to a surreal black and white movie. Full of unexpected twist and turns, such as the pristine vocal lines of ‘Yosu’, the whole album is a wonderfully expressive delight, the music complex, soothing, magical and sounding perfectly Terrascopic to these ears. (www.anticlock.net)
Once you get past the fact that opening track ‘For the Dead’ sound like something from ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ put through a post-rock mixer, you will find plenty to admire in the dreamy pop grooves of ‘Goodbye Farewell’ the latest release from Black Tie. Containing 11 melodic nuggets, the serene arrangements and meticulous musicianship have created a relaxing album with depth a-plenty. Check out the soft breeze splendour, or the dark twist of ‘Apollo’s Raven’ to appreciate the bands muse. (www.socyermom.com)
Citing Glen Jones, John Fahey and Jack Rose amongst his influences, Cian Nugent (no relation to Ted, thank God) displays plenty of imagination and six string prowess on his self-made and self-titled debut EP. Clocking at 15 minutes, the five pieces enclosed are softly swaying acoustic gems displaying a warmth and gentleness that is wholly engrossing. At only 18 years of age, there is surely more to come from this fine musician. (www.myspace.com/ciannugent)
Recently to be found backing Kevin Ayers on his latest album ‘Unfairground’, The Ladybug Transistor have a sound reminiscent of the Church or The Purrs on their latest album ‘Can’t Wait Another Day’. Slightly more poppy than either of those bands, the songs are augmented with trumpet, sax and cello (amongst others), to create a lush and satisfying whole. Elsewhere a lovely Hammond organ fills the room beautifully, the arrangements never letting the melody get buried in the mix. Maybe not groundbreaking, but a fine collection of songs never the less. (www.fortunapop.com)
Showing much heavier tendencies as well as a penchant for doing the unexpected Mass Shivers twist and turn through 28 infectious minutes on their latest album ‘Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy’. Opening track ‘Womanising Metal Studs’ is a bizarre mix of the Stooges and the Beach Boys, whilst ‘Mossy Nethers’ is a repetitive can-like groove, with some creeping brass adding to the atmosphere. Diverse and never dull, this is well worth a listen. (www.pickled-egg.co.uk)
Those who enjoy the moment in time when beat became psych should certainly find much to savour on ‘Phonography’, the new album from The Treat. Opening with a heavy eastern-sounding riff, ‘Fanfare for the King’ kicks things off magnificently before ‘Make You Crawl’ displays defiantly beat tendencies in its riffery. Thing continue in a similar vein until ‘Meadowland’ shifts gears, a gentle psych nursery rhyme with a fine arrangement. From here on in the album gets more varied with some fine freakout guitar on ‘Effervescence’ the icing on the cake, although the short but wonderful ‘Black Cat Whites ‘ deserves a mention too. The cover pushes all the right buttons as well making for an excellent overall package that hits the spot. (www.thetreat.co.uk)
Like a brisk walk through the industrial regions of Hell, Lietterschpich are the sounds of your nightmares on a handy silver disc. Entitled ‘I Cum Blood In The Think Tank’ (very likely title of the month) the album groans, screeches and intimidates small children and the elderly across 12 grizzled soundscapes. Pick of the bunch is the 12 minutes of ‘A Horse and A Walk In The Park’, fun for all the dysfunctional family. On the same label and sharing a love of fuzz and noise, (as well as vocalist Rani zager) Grave In The sky go for the lo-fi sludge-metal jugular on the bizarrely named ‘Cutlery Hits China: English For The Hearing Impaired’, an album that grinds everything in its path into the mire, relentless as a glacier. Favourite moment is the decaying space rock maelstrom of ‘The Devils Rejects’, something you will either love or hate, a bit like marmite, although with broken glass hidden inside the sealed jar. (www.HCBrecords.com)
“Ah, Zanzibar Snails,” I thought, “some nice folky drone and melody”. How wrong can you be as free form noise, sax wailing, and a tendency to be atonal, leapt from the speakers. Released on 3” CD, ‘Krakkatowiak’ is an improvised dissonant delight, seventeen minutes of sonic fury in a handy package, play it loud and get lost in its difficult beauty. (www.mayyrh.com)
Also on 3” CD, Vole have a warmer organic touch on ‘Vole Radio 1’, a selection of improvised radio broadcasts which, as the blurb says ‘is good for drunken occasions and otherwise spirited moments whilst doing the hoovering’. Whilst the housework may be entirely optional (it is in our house!), this is a fine collection of inventive pieces that would make a perfect companion to the Zanzibar Snails. Do something Terrascopic and buy them both. (www.vole.info)
Released on the suitably named Dark Winter Records, ‘Agnosia’ the latest release from Formication, is a powerful piece of dark electronica that inhabits the space between waking and dreaming. Over 32 minutes and 5 tracks the album crackles with glitchy percussion slow moving drones and lysergic soundscapes that alter the very room. Comparable with Future Sound Of London or early Tangerine Dream, lovers of electronic music should not hesitate from diving headlong into the dark ambience. (www.darkwinter.com)
Opening with a slow and delicate cascade of notes, ‘Occasional Music’ is a collection of music from Steve Peters, best known for his work as an installation artist. Ranging from gently piano compositions, such as the opening ‘Paris, Once’, through to more exotic pieces, such as ‘Planctus’, the music is never dull or lifeless, retaining the spark of creativity throughout. Elsewhere, ‘Ancestral Memory’ is a Steve Reich sounding drone, whilst closing track ‘Two Rivers’ is the sound of nightfall, a gentle electronic lullaby that soothes and relaxes the soul. (www.palaceoflight.com)
Originally recorded to accompany an installation by visual artist Roisin Coyle, ‘Lost at Sea’ is a fascinating collection of sound and spoken word from musician Mike Smalle, working under the name Cane 141. Featuring electronic textures, sound effects and field recordings, as well as more conventional instruments, the music has a strong minimalist feel, the words adding to the rhythms of the music. Elsewhere the chiming percussion adds an eastern feel to the pieces, whilst the stories are compelling to listen to, the music painting picture in the background. Best listened to in one go, with the lights down low and the headphones on, this is a wonderful album that is evocative and atmospheric, creating a perfect blend of word and sound. (www.cane141.com)
Also utilising field recordings, this time mixed with improvised acoustic guitar, ‘Ophelia Wanders’ is a inventive collection instrumentals with influences ranging from the experimental tendencies of John Fahey, to the dexterity of pickers such as Bert Jansch. A fine example of this dexterity can be heard on the title track, the playing expressive and emotional, whilst ‘over Across and Down’ has a more eastern sound in its slowed down style. Final track, the 12-minute, ‘In the Falling Light’ is a truly beautiful piece and is worth the price of admission alone, the fact that a whole albums worth of good stuff accompany it is reason to celebrate indeed. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
‘The Julius Work Calendar’ is the latest offering from Richard Haswell working under the name Rhubarb. Treading the same path walked by the likes of Paul Roland or Robyn Hitchcock, the album is a fine collection of psych-tinged songs that have plenty of character of their own. After the moody delights of ‘Forest Fear’, a Zeppelin Drum sample introduces the excellent ‘Kill It At Birth’, the tune rocking along with style. Throughout the album there is plenty of atmosphere and variety, with the acoustic based ‘Too Close To See’ tugging the heartstrings, whilst the drone led ‘Boiler Room’ is a more experimental slice of sound that works admirably. Final song ‘The Banks of Claudy’ sets traditional lyrics to some droning strings and shuffling percussion, capturing the essence of the story with downbeat accuracy. (www.worldofrhubarb.co.uk)
Playing guitar drums and microphone at the same time (presumably with the help of a loop pedal or two), Craig Comstock has created a dense and hectic soundscape on ‘Cut Loose’, released under the name This Is My Condition. Featuring 13 short sharp noisy offerings, the whole album is a twisted delight, dissonant, challenging, funny and intense. You may not play it very often, but you will leap around the living room when you do. (www.thisismycondition.com). Also available is ‘This Mission’ a collaboration between This Is My Condition and dkzk (aka Dan Kozak). Here the spiky songs are augmented by howling sax, flutes and more to create a free jazz squall that will either make you shudder or rejoice, depending on your taste. Personally, I find it invigorating and joyous, the sound of a winter storm approaching.
Featuring one of the most beautiful opening songs I have heard, ‘I Think I’m Dead’ is a slow moving folk delight. Written and performed by Paul Oska, the whole album contains a similar feel to albums by Sharron Kraus, the songs starkly embellished with picked guitar, sparse percussion and haunting strings, the songs intimate to the point of pain, filled with longing and a sense of futility. (www.myspace.com/pauloska)
After a brief flurry of noise and atmosphere Resting Rooster, settle into their groove with the eerie and atmospheric ‘Wild Across The Shore’, a song that reminds me of ‘Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo’ (Pere Ubu), must be that guitar riff. Elsewhere song about John Merrick and the smell of ghost, ensure that the band keep their weird quota on high, something they do for thirteen songs, sounding like a wyrd-folk Red House Painters jamming with Ant Bee. Oh yeah, the album is called ‘songs From a Window’ and it is mighty fine. (www.odawastheband.com)
Imagine if you can a heady mix of Scandinavian Prog (Tangle Edge, Anglagard) and the art punk noise of CBGB’s (Ramones, Television, Dead Boys), got that, then slip ‘Growling’ the latest album from Sleeping People into your player and press play. Filled with attitude, dexterity, and volume, this is a complex treat for the ears, the tunes constantly evolving with minimalist fury, especially on longer pieces such as ‘James Spader’. Basically instrumental, the surprise appearance of vocals on the last track adds a human touch that softens the landing with a warm glow. (www.temporaryresidence.com)
Right, that’s it for these Rumbles, thanks as always to everyone who has sent me stuff, I do get around to it eventually. (Simon Lewis)
Rumbles for November 2007 was brought to you by Simon Lewis. Artwork, layout & editing: Phil McMullen. © Terrascope Online 2007