Highlights include “Crystal Sea” the atmospheric opener from Embla Quickbeam, the electronic pulse of Pye Corner Audio who sound like an old DR Who episode and the strange sound world of Anna Meredith who creates a unique and haunting sound on “The Binks”. All these gems and more are to be found on disc one, the whole being an intense listening experience so a brief rest is in order before we move on to disc two. Ok, coffee made it is time to dive into disc two with the ghostly strains of Old Apparatus bringing visions of becalmed, abandoned ships lost on an endless sea, these visions rudely destroyed by the appearance of VHS Head, their brand of cut and paste sonic alchemy proving highly effective. Elsewhere, These Feathers Have Plumes take us deep within the earth mixing drones, field recording and spoken word, whilst Wrong Signals have a lighter pulse, seemingly taking flight across the skies, although there is an intensity that grows as the track develops, as there is with many of the tracks on this compilation.
With 28 artistes taking part this is a great collection that will challenge the listener, the sounds fresh and invigorating the whole album flowing together beautifully meaning you will return to it again and again. (http://www.frontandfollow.com/)
Also available from the same label is the “Collision/Detection” box set, a compilation that brings together all the EP's of that name that were released over the last couple of years. The box also contains bonus material and the original samples that the pieces were created from. All the EP's were reviewed in previous Rumbles so it is suffice to say that this is a set filled to the brim with excellent music worthy of your attention.
Mixing the sounds of The Band, The Byrds (in their country period) Steve Earle and some gorgeous vocal harmonies Butchers Blind play Americana with style and commitment, the use of a variety of instruments and the sense of emotion meaning that “Destination Blues” is a collection that deserves repeated plays. Opening track “Nobody Hears What I Say Anymore” is a sad lament that resonates within, the harmonies lifting the tune above the ordinary, whilst the title track has a loose jangly feel that really works. Strong throughout it is the slower songs that work best for me with “Drowned” being a quiet classic with a haunting vocal performance, whilst “Selfish Silent Films” is a majestic song with a sparse arrangement that suits. (http://www.paradiddlerecords.com/)
Hands up who remembers Blodwyn Pig ?, You do, well then you may be interested in “Pigthology” a collection of rare, live and re-mastered tracks compiled by founding member Mick Abrahams. Opening with the excellent “See My Way” the listener is transported back to the early seventies, a time when the blues was the preserve of hairy white men, and there we stay as the band treat us to 12 tracks of guitar based rock with brass added in places and plenty of soloing courtesy of Mr Abrahams. For me it is the live stuff that sounds best with “Cosmogification” sounding fresh and alive, whilst “Same Old Story is a fine funky workout with some excellent brass work from Jack Lancaster. To end we are treated to a moody rendition of “Stormy Monday” that sounds just like you think it does, no bad thing. One complaint is the lack of actual information about where and when each song was recorded, maybe that is just the train spotter in me and the inclusion of sleevenotes by Mick Farren is a welcome bonus. Unlikely to gain new fans, this compilation will be welcomed by those that have a fondness for the bands two original albums and has obviously been compiled with love and care. (http://www.gonzomultimedia.co.uk/)
Next up a trio of releases from the ever wonderful Morc records, these have been sitting around for a while so apologies if they are hard to get hold of, well worth the effort though. Pressed as a one-sided 12 inch, “Summer Eyes”/”A Sweet Thing” is a delightful two song distraction from French born Felicia Atkinson, with the first track being a glittering drone that sparkles with bell like sounds and sweet textures, a thirteen minute journey into sunlight and mystery, the piece becoming denser as it moves forward yet retaining a sense of lightness that is highly appealing. The second track is much shorter than the first, another free-flowing instrumental that retains a more melodic structure within its creaking electronic construction.
Released as a split seven inch, the next release sees Boduf Songs paired with Jessica Bailiff, both artists re-working one of their older songs into a new form. Lilting and beautiful, “Decapitation Blues (Redux) is a sparse folk ballad with a glorious voice from Boduf Songs, whilst “Lakeside Blues (Again)” is a keyboard drone swept away by haunting vocals,these two sounds blending into a heady lament that slowly overtakes you. Together the two songs work perfectly, ach complementing the other.
Finally, Bingo Trappers offer us twelve weird doses of psychedelic Americana on “Sister Planet”, music to be heard in the swamps of your mind, complete with a sixties influence and a large dose of imagination. Favourites include the excellent jangle of “Triping Around”, The Dylan/Young influenced “Turn to You” and the slow and humorous “Buy a New Car”. Throughout the collection the listener remains engaged, washed with sweet melody and a wry smile, perfect late-night fireside fodder. (http://www.morctapes.com/homepage.html)
After all that loveliness it may well be time for something noisier in the shape of Bazooka a Greek combo that mix grunge, garage and primitive metal into a glorious stew of scuzzy riffs and bad attitude on their self-titled album.. Over 13 tracks the energy remains high and the guitar remains fuzzed up and nasty with highlights including “Ravening Trip”, “Penny” and the excellently named “Zed, the Mystical Goat”, but hey, it is all fun in a drunken friday night kinda way, just turn it up and forget your troubles in a wall of guitar noise. (http://slovenly.bandcamp.com/)
Equally noisy, but in a more stoner kinda way, Portugal based band Miss Lava have all the right moves in place on “Red Supergiant”their latest collection of tunes. With a solid rythym section and some inventive riffs, the band exude power and a sense of excitement especially on songs such as “Ride”, a track that rocks hard walking the line between Stoner and Metal with assurance and a swagger that is hard to ignore. Elsewhere “Hole To China” shows a sense of light and shade, whilst “Murder of Crows” has a fine groove running through its metallic delight. (www.smallstone.com)
Blending, experimentation, melody, psychedelia and the proverbial kitchen sink, Painted faces create music that is always interesting and engaging on the latest release “Real Life Horror Stories Part II”.Basically the work of David Drucker, the ten tracks range from eighties synth pop to guitar noise and all points in between, yet manage to remain cohesive and relevant to each other, the lo-fi approach suiting the personal nature of the tunes. Favourites include the minimalist synth pop of “My Girlfriend Is A Ghost”, the haunting strains of “Cauldron” which sounds like Galaxie 500 recorded in a bathroom, and “Hurricane That Swallowed Halloween” a slow moving and ghostly drone with an electronic pulse running through its centre. At the albums heart is one man's vision, music made because it needs to be made and that can only be a good thing. (http://www.paintedfacesband.net/)
Also making individual music and sometimes collaborating with David Drucker, King Ghost create a similar blend of experiment and melody on “Doubt Love” an eight track collection that features samples, noise, vocals,electronic beats and guitar riffs,all mixed into an enticing whole. In Fact, opening track “Ride” features all these things, its home-made charm shining through. With the cd split into two sides rather than individual tracks it is easy to lose yourself in the sound, suffice to say this is an enjoyable trip that is easy to get lost in. (http://kinghost.bandcamp.com/)
It is always good to hear music made by members of the Terrascope forum especially when it as excellent as “Winter Hours” the latest album from Chris Videll who works under the name Tag Cloud. Featuring seven instrumental pieces, the album is a collection of droning, experimental sounds that are slow and sombre in mood, each track slowly evolving, the music given time to develop and flow. Never dull, the sounds are well chosen, the addition of beats giving tracks such as “Grendel Dub” an energy and purpose although at its heart it is the drone that sings the loudest, listening to the album is like watching the sea on a winters afternoon, getting lost in your thoughts as time becomes irrelevant. (http://zeromoon.com/)
Run through with a delightful home-made feel, a labour of love rather than a product, “Naming Birds” is a 14 song collection from Bird Names. With a strange jangly Chinese feel, “Piedmont Spring” hooks you in straight away with the following “Another Locked Costume for your Dreams” having the sound of mid-seventies Zappa heard in a dream, intriguing stuff indeed. Elsewhere, shades of Todd Rundgren can be heard on tracks such as “Starlight” and “The Windows are Closed”, whilst album closer “I'm Walking Through a Town In My Mind” is Elephant 6 fed through a lo-fi filter, a suitable ending for a collection that is far weirder than it first appears, go and have a listen. (http://birdnamesmusic.com/)
Filled with glorious jangly pop tunes that will make you smile, “Mid Cent Mod” is a five song album/EP from Son of Skooshny. Opening track “Dizzy” says it all really, a heady mix of The Byrds, The Church and Green Pajamas, taking the best elements of those bands and distilling it down to perfection. As you can tell, I really like this set and none of the other tracks disappoint with “Mid Century Modern” having a warm glow and a sixties vibe, “Sorry” having a lyrical poignancy, “Knee Deep” rocking up a bit and “Untold History” rounding everything off far too soon, which is my only complaint about this fine, fine collection. (http://sonofskooshny.bandcamp.com/)
Now for a few words, well quite a lot really, from Steve Palmer.
Cornish group Corncrow, whose 2011 album "Sweet Nightingale" I very much liked - "a marvellous folk journey through Breton and English themes and songs" - have released a new album "So Brightly Shining," which opens with the sorrowfully gorgeous 'Oh Bright Eyed One,' written by Cornish mainstay Clive Palmer. With echoing flute and hand-cymbals, this opener is perfectly judged. 'Meriasek' is sung in the indigenous Kernewek language and is another beauty, while 'O For Summer' features guests guitarist Pete Berryman, a survivor of the original '60s Cornish folk scene. 'The Road To Marazion' matches Steve Hunt and Kim Guy's vocals with pattering bodhran and distorted harmonica to good effect, the traditional 'Maid In Bedlam' features a terrific vocal from Kim Guy, and 'Chicken On A Raft' is a Cyril Tawney standard, Tawney being the father of the Westcountry folk revival. 'Pike Street Rag' is a Steve Hunt solo piece, while the album closes with a pop/rock remix of the opening track by Paul Dye. An outstanding album which rewards repeated listens. Highly recommended.
Like many music afficionados of my age (51, since you ask), I was brought up in the belief that very few guitarists were as fine as Steve Hillage, and this belief is reinforced by the appearance of a recording of a British gig of 1979 featuring the classic Hillage/Giraudy/Anderson/McKenzie/Stewart line-up. Recorded by the BBC for their "Rock Goes To College" programme, this was the line-up that performed most of "Live Herald" and some of the studio cuts of that era. Of the band, bassist McKenzie is on particularly fine form. The concert is well recorded (not bootleg quality, but perhaps not mixing desk either) and features many classics, including the opener 'Salmon Song,' also 'Hurdy Gurdy Man' and George Harrison's 'It's All Too Much.' Two bonuses recorded in 1977 complete the set, though their endings, I notice, are swiftly cut off. A bonus DVD includes short promos and a revealing and absorbing recent interview with Hillage and Giraudy. Any Hillage fan will want "Live In England 1979." Kudos to Gonzo Multimedia for making it available.
"Towards Abstraction" by Big Dwarf is a short four track album of modern psych that mixes a wide range of influences from the '70s, '80s and '90s. Opening with 'Cage(d),' which brings twinkling synths to a nice rock groove, the band's stall is set - good songs and good production. The opener begins quiet and psych-folky, but ramps it up to rock status six minutes in. 'Kill 'Em (In Their Sleep)' is dubbier and more like an Orb offcut from that band's 'Orblivion' era maybe, while the ten minute 'Fear Of Flying' matches drifting synths with uptempo drums and a booming bass. The track then goes through various softer moods and styles, ending uptempo with some nicely fried guitars. Album closer 'Inner Space' features Alison O'Donnell (who, namedrop fans, I chatted with at the Woolf Music Festival recently), opening big and synthy before heading off into a kind of synth folk, which alas on occasion buries O'Donnell's voice in synthetics, to the extent that I often couldn't make out what she was singing. An interesting mixture of styles and sounds for sure.
October Gold are a Canadian duo whose second album "Bridge Of The Sun" contains twelve alt-folk tracks based around the writings of author Steven Erikson, whose "Malazan Book Of The Fallen" will be well known to fantasy readers. The opening two cuts mix voices with acoustic guitar and violin and also beautifully arranged orchestral accompaniment, to very good effect. This is an album of some class. The title track matches an emotive vocal from Kit Soden to a subtle orchestral accompaniment, while 'Dust Of Dreams' is much slower, with Aliza Thibodeau's violin particularly evocative. 'Weathered Wings' continues the album style before the nearly solo work of 'You Will Take My Days' which essentially is Soden and his guitar. 'Gallan's Hope' features some marvellous violin work and is certainly an album highlight, while 'Teller Of Tales' is another "full band" piece with drums, bass and orchestra. The pair of concluding cuts feature deeply reverberated vocals and more superbly arranged folk music. A very good album with lots to engage the listener, whose cumulative effect over almost an hour is considerable.
Neil Campbell is the man behind Bulbs, whose new album "On" is a varied, curious, progressive but never less than ambitious twelve track song cycle. The theme appears to be SFnal (this is instrumental music, though there are vocal samples). A well known British guitarist, Campbell pits his various instruments with deep thrumming bass and tight drumming from Andy Maslivec and Joey Zeb respectively, both Liverpool based musicians who have worked with Campbell on various projects. The acoustic (often Spanish) guitars merge well with the electric, and the synths subtly adorn the music. All the tracks have many moods in true prog fashion. Overall, the effect on the listener is perhaps a little distant, a little samey, it being difficult to engage with some of the cuts in the second half of the album, where the mood is little different to the first half. I think the lack of sung vocals contributes to this effect. A rarely less than interesting album, however.
Eight cuts over thirty minutes comprises the new album "Hooky" by American duo This Frontier Needs Heroes, whose stock-in-trade is folk-pop with drawled vocals. Recorded at the studios of the mighty Dr Dog, opener 'Hooky' is a bit of a turgid stomper, but 'George Cloony' is better, with a nice Americana backing. The vocal interplay between Brad and Jessica Lauretti is best on album highlight 'It's Over Now,' though it's pretty good too on the quirky 'Sometimes Things Don't Work Out,' which has a bit of a sense of humour about it. Album closer 'She's Gonna Be A Lot Of Trouble' has an almost rock'n'roll vibe, and may hint at Dr Dog themselves. Catchy and uncatchy in equal measure.
"Trouble" by Lys Guillorn And The Mercy Choir is a three track single CD, opening with Paul Belbusti's melancholy title track, whose simple banjo backing and harmonised vocals paint a sad picture. (Good song though.) 'Communion' is from Guillorn, and again the melancholy is foremost. Affecting though quiet and subtle backing vocals add to this track. The final cut is a Soft Boys cover, Robyn Hitchcock's 'I Wanna Destroy You,' covered for no other reason than the pair like the song. A diverting listen.
If wide ranging, intriguing, well played, original and exciting improvised instrumental music is your thing then "Montana Fix," the fourth album by Gunnelpumpers, should be right up your street. With few overdubs and a palpable studio intensity, the album comprises nineteen cuts, all of them fascinating listening. Improvised music either fails or succeeds, often as a consequence of nothing more than bad/good luck or the wrong/right atmosphere. This succeeds. Atmosphere is everything. Most of the tracks are short - some very short - and this sound-hopping is one of the bedrocks of the album. There is a unifying figure however, the bassist Douglas Johnson, as if often the case with bands like this. I suspect jazz fans would be particularly interested in this album, but perhaps also rock fans and prog fans who prefer instrumental music and who maybe are put off by excessively long tracks or endless technically proficient noodling. A rewarding listen.
Queen Elephantine make doom-laden instrumental music of the twin-drum, twin-drone, twin-guitars variety. Opener 'Veil' is a kind of shamanic tribal slow-groove of the kind enjoyed lately by Julian Cope (he is doubtless familiar with this band), while 'Crone' follows a similar path, but with more free drums (which really make the cut into the album highlight) and interesting guitar/bass interaction. 'Snake' brings in voices and is very slow, while concluding cut 'Clear Light Of The Unborn' brings it all together. Very doom-laden.
"Journey To The Far Side Of The Room" is a psychedelic trip by sonic surrealists Kingdom Of Not. Nothing is off limits here - the tracks are sometimes melodic, sometimes weird, often surreal, sometimes bizarre, occasionally funny... 'The Girl With The Demon In Her Head' is the first song like a song, featuring spoken word, choral vocals and much more. Whimsy and quirky are personal things, and one man's sense of humour is another man's FFS, but here there is sufficient musicality to hold the madness together. 'Why Do Kitty Hide Under The Bed?' recalls some of Frank Zappa's weird vocals and sonic adventurousness, while, later on, there are echoes of '60s garage in the excellent 'Radio Beam In Your Dreams.' Similarly lengthy and trippy is 'Debbie & The Demons,' whch channels retro weirdness into a kind of fluffy nightmare, if there is such a thing. Album closers 'The Beetle is ALIVE!' and 'Cables To The Ace' conclude the album in suitably bonkers style. If you can get past the singing styles (many won't, many will) this is an odd journey where nothing from our merely human subconsciousnesses is forbidden.
"Metal-infused prog with loads of riffs, quiet ambient bits and Floydesque drifting" was how I described Brit progsters KingBathmat's last album "Truth Button," and their new one "Overcoming The Monster" progresses in similar vein. Mighty metal guitars, then quiet piano open 'Sentinel,' before keening vocals emerge. A concept album of sorts - or, if not that, certainly one with a strong theme - the album deals with the mental blocks and obstacles that we encounter day to day. Nods to fusion and prog infuse the track (guitar solos battling with well harmonised vocals) but overall the mood is kept constant. 'Parasomina' is filled with more quiet and more metal, but, again, the track just about keeps its balance. The title track uses analogue synths to good effect in the style of older bands such as Pallas and their ilk, and again the massed ranks of guitars are excellent. 'Reality Mining' is by some way the shortest track on the album, with a noticeably lighter feel, to its advantage - the album highlight - while the twelve minute 'Kubrick Moon' closes the album, whose synths and general production make it the most progressive track on the album, and the second best. A good addition to the band's back catalogue.
Martin Archer returns to jazz weirdness for his new solo album "Blue Meat, Black Diesel & Engine Room Favourites," which is avante garde to the max. Opening with a melange of jazz and orchestral instruments in an atonal shriek, the album then heads off into the twenty five minute opus that is 'Of The Above,' wherein many instruments contribute to a sonic journey, some of it jagged, some of it mellifluous. Elese where the album is merely percussively mad, saxophonically challenged, big-band devilled, or enlivened by noted psych violinist Graham Clark.
"Get high and listen to Sons Of Hippies," exhorts the cloth badge that comes with the band's new release "Griffons At The Gates Of Heaven," which mixes stoned grooves hinting at retro pastures with excitable vocals and much swirling of guitars, sitars and synths. A good beginning! The opening cut 'Forward' matches mellotron keening with female vocals to excellent effect, while 'Mirrorball' is more of a slow stomper hinting at Breeders and others of their scene. Still psychedelic, though. 'Dark Daisies' brings in a gothic edge while 'Spaceship' ride has a punky vibe, not least in the vocals, which, while not shouted punk style, have that aggro edge. Excellent cut, this, including some nice surf guitar half way through. 'Magnets' is light and could be a single but 'Blood In The Water' is much heavier, with a terrific shouty chorus. Great cut. 'Minute x Minute' is metal infused with squealing vocals, 'Animal Battle' is channeled from the late 'sixties maybe, while album closer 'Cautionary Tale' is a kind of grunge-lite. Subsequent spins show that this album has depths as well as surface. Good songs, great vocals and a top-notch production from Jack Endino makes this a notable release. Recommended.
Longtime Dutch club circuit exponents Mercy Giants release a new album "Steel Dungeons, Mighty Foes!" on the increasingly less experimental Tonefloat label, opening with a jazz-inflected cut based around piano and thrumming upright bass. A nice start. The second track focusses more around vocals, delivered in a whispery voice with light backing vocals; again the double bass and piano provide much of the accompaniment, but there's a nice guitar floating around too. The short third track follows much the same format, but brighter and louder, while the fourth track is quirky and features a great vibes part. With staccato vocals, this is the album highlight. The fifth track enters rock territory, not entirely successfully it has to be said, while the album closer is soft and sinuous. Unlike some jazz-inflected albums, this has sufficient verve to last, and last enjoyably. It's an album I very much liked.
An accumulation of British indie talent marks the second album "Gendres" by Brighton based The Pure Conjecture, which opens with a spiky indie-rock song 'Roadworks On Memory Lane,' a format followed through much of the album. Formed around songwriter Matt Eaton, the album depicts a faded culture degraded by social media and clever-clever soundbites - it wonders what the place of art is in this milieu, a question many of us ask every day... 'Surfin' Sunset' is a kind of melancholic "goodbye" to something, performed as an instrumental, while 'Opinion Fatigue' (great song title) is based around piano and string instruments, and has both verse melody and strong lyrics. 'Mr Tong' (it's all gone horribly Pete?) hints at languid Meditteranean climes in its acoustic arrangement and relaxed vocal style, while 'I Just Want You To Love' me is a bit of a mish-mash of half-ideas. 'Midnight Dancing' is much stronger, as is the Pugwash-esque 'What's Worse,' which also hints at 'eighties stars such as Prefab Sprout, although Paddy MacAloon would never have used that drum sound. Album closer 'Thought I'd Get Along Without You' matches high flying string synth with surfy guitars and another languid vocal. Variety, wit and wisdom make this an enjoyable release. (email@example.com)
"Thought & Language" by Dead Leaf Echo is a sixteen track opus that floats through the listener's consciousness like so many veils of dreams. The sound is a kind of synth-infused rock with prog elements and a superb production - a lot of effort has gone into this release. Opener 'Conception' is a brief instrumental with heavy synths and a brief vocal, before the first song proper, 'Kingmaker,' where dual male and female vocals ride over a vaguely Cocteaus-ish guitar and synth background. Very nice indeed. A similar format works as well for 'Featherform,' but 'Internal' is more of a mood piece, with sound effects and more over its six minutes. Effective, and again superbly produced. 'Memorytraces' and 'Birth' bring more 'eighties influences into the mix via the combination of plangent guitar and synths, before the opening drift and subsequent trad-rock of 'Birth.' 'Thought' is a calm vocal over ambient synths and sounds - a nice break from the full band - while 'Gesture' - the album highlight perhaps - works through bringing new instrumental arrangements to the heavily reverbed, keening vocals. 'She Breathes' is maybe the most obviously 'eighites cut, with the female vocals to the fore, while album closer is quiet and drifty. There is perhaps not enough variation in the sound to last over sixteen songs and almost seventy minutes, but, that aside, the quality shines through, and it's all eminently listenable. If you like the shoegaze/Cocteaus albums being released by Saintmarie Records then you'll love this.
The soulful voice of American ex-hardcore musician Chris Zurich has been lauded by many, and it is in fine form on his new album "Black Ink," which attempts to bring melody into genres where previously this element had been missing. Opener 'Annie' sounds like white soul, but a strong song and excellent production elevate the cut above the routine. 'The Sounds' is more like indie-rock, but again with a strong song and arrangement this is very good. 'Bend Song' is slow with hints of Americana, 'North Of Sky' and 'No One Escapes' use light/dark arrangements to good effect (with Zurich's voice on particularly good form on the latter), while 'Nothing Around Me' is a great dub-tinged cut - light, but dark at the same time. 'All Night Long' is full-on rock, while album closer 'Grinning In Your Face' pits the album's most soulful vocal with a chunky band backing. Very classy - you can see why this has gone down so well in America.
The debut album from Lisbon (Portugal) residents Beautify Junkyards is a lovely, light psych folk album with much to recommend it. Sung in dense reverb, the nine songs here all seem to echo the countryside, with soft synths and multiply harmonised vocals floating over it all, typified by the gorgeous opening track 'Rose Hip November' - which is a cover, in this case of Vashti Bunyan - as are all the tracks here. 'From The Morning' is a lyrical cover of the Nick Drake song - an album highlight for sure - while 'Radioactivity' is, amazingly, the Kraftwerk standard; and it really works well! Heron's 'Yellow Roses' is up next, then something a little different, bringing in the band's interest in the Brazillian tropicana movement, in this case a cover of Os Mutantes' 'Fuga No. 2.' Bridget St John's 'Ask Me No Questions' comes along next, with a particularly good vocal from the band's female singer. 'Another Day' by Roy Harper and 'Parallelograms' by Linda Perhacs follow, with the latter given a dense, psychedelic sheen by effects-laden vocals and lots of reverb and delay, while album closer 'Song For The Naturalist's Wife' by Donovan is suitably hippyish. Vision, musicality and entrancing voices make this an outstanding album. Highly recommended - I made the effort to like their page on Facebook.
A couple of three minute instrumental songs is what's in store from The Space Agency, with the A cut being the sitar-enlivened E/A/B rock of 'Bombay Potatoes' and the B cut the surf-style 'Purple Power,' which is the track I prefer. Groovy, yes.
"We Are The Dreamers" by The Stargazer Lilies is another of the stack of shoegaze, heavily reverbed, Cocteaus-indebted albums coming out of America at the moment, but this one is a little different, having distinct 'sixties vibes, as on the rather good opening title track. 'Del Rey Mar' is back to the Cocteaus, but 'Undone' is a curious beast, all backwards guitars and tinkling tambourine - good track. 'Well Versed To Verb Doubt' is an ambient interlude before the woozy guitars and synths of 'Light Of Day,' which seems to emerge half drunk from the speakers. (By now the vocals are so low in the mix and reverb-heavy they are, appropriately, unintelligible.) The penultimate pair of tracks depart little from the plan, but the closing track 'Because' is very different - a soft vocals as if in the centre of a canyon, accompanied by one guitar. The album is good, in places very good, but... well, we have heard most of it before. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Richard Haswell had The Word's album of the month in June 2010, and here he is now with his new album "Asteroids," opening with the stark and striking 'Jarvik,' which hints at some of the early 'eighties British acts, though his voice is more Bowie, with hints of Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks - a voice that strikes the listener at once. The arrangement is synth-heavy, hinting at Joy Division and others of that ilk and era, as is that of 'The Undreamed Of.' 'Routinely Armed' is a bouncy pop song, again in synth-mode, though some guitars do poke through the mix. 'One More House From Happiness' is a bit of a dance floor stomper, again carried by Haswell's voice. 'The Distance Between You & I' is a trippy little bop through weird synth textures and sound experimentation, while 'The Water Poet' is a rolling guitar-inflected instrumental. 'Surfacing' returns the listener to 'eighties Britain somewhere up north (though with freer, whooping vocals, which work really well) and album closer 'The Thinner The Ice' is slow and melancholy, reflecting on broken relationships. What a very good, engaging and enjoyable album this is. (www.richardhaswell.co.uk)
I stumbled across The Cairo Gang on an Uncut magazine front-cover compilation CD, and to my ears they were the best thing on it. So, happily, I can now hear the band's twenty minute EP, and write some words about it. The band are an offshoot of Bonnie Prince Billy collaborator Emmett Kelly, whose lonesome voice whirls around the 12-string guitar and drums arrangements, not least on mournful opener 'Tiny Rebels.' Hints of Roger McGuinn, good tune, clear production: nice. 'Take Your Time' is the album highlight, a joyous, mid-sixties haunted song of great beauty. Even more 'sixties (tambourine and harmony pop vocals) is 'Shake Off,' which maintains the standards of the work - a classic two minute single, like people don't write any more. 'Shivers' is slow and deathly dark, all about suicide, but 'Father Of The Man' is another hit-in-waiting (or would be, forty seven years ago), as is the concluding track 'Find You With A Song.' Overall - brilliant. And how much do I envy Kelly his Rickenbacker 12-string? A lot. (Arvel@endlessnest.com)
Elf Power are American psychy folk-rockers of almost twenty years standing and old friends of the Terrascope, who on their new album "Sunlight On The Moon" present their brand of melodious music, opening with the lyrical and engaging 'Transparent Lines.' The arrangement is simple and effective, supporting the song nicely. 'A Grey Cloth Covering My Face' is a bit more fuzzed and retro, while 'Lift The Shell' is likewise, except set to a stomping beat that really lifts the piece. The title track matches weird lyrics with male/female harmonised vocals - an album highlight. 'Things Lost' brings in piano to counter the strummed acoustic guitars, while the beguiling 'Darkest Wave' is perhaps the best thing on the album. 'Manifestations' hints at Mercury Rev and is another good cut, as is the loping 'Total Annihilation,' which seems to heark back to 'fifties and 'sixties paranoia. 'A Slow Change' is slow and soft, concluding the album appropriately. Hard to believe that some of these songs were literally recorded as they were written - but quality will come out. (email@example.com)
Days Between Stations album "In Extremis" is the work of two main musicians, Oscar Fuentes Bills and Sepand Samzadeh, but the guest list raises this work of orchestrally powered prog to another level, including as it does Pete Banks (here represented with almost the last recordings he made before his untimely death), Tony Levin, Colin Moulding and Rick Wakeman, to name just the best known artists. Opening with an orchestral overture, the scene is set - much atmosphere, rock instruments as well as the orchestra, drama and intrigue. 'In Utero' floats a gorgeous guitar solo from Samzadeh over the Angel City brass section - a terrific track. The eleven minute 'Visionary' brings in Billy Sherwood's vocals (and drums) to great effect for another engaging track, as is the quieter, more reflective and keyboard-based 'Blackfoot,' which Bills shines on - a great stick solo also from Tony Levin half way through. The single-length 'The Man Who Died Two Times' is the most "traditional" prog track on the album, recalling latter period Yes, or maybe Asia. 'Waltz In E Minor' is a brief orchestral interlude before two tracks spanning over half an hour. On 'Eggshell Man,' Sherwood's vocals come to the fore before a waltztime instrumental section evoking exotic climes via the ethnic tar instrument. Rick Wakeman also appears on mellotron and Minimoog. 'In Extremis' occupies the last third of the album or thereabouts, placing itself as a classic "one side of vinyl" piece of prog, but it manages to avoid most of the pitfalls - there are some longueurs, alas. Utilising choir, orchestra, rock instruments and more it moves between solemn and slow movements to music more grandiose, with the guitars of Pete Banks particularly in evidence. Prog fans old and new will not want to miss this important and eminently listenable release.
More old friends of the Terrascope, "Sunya" by Hollow Ox exists in the place where The Verve and REM meet - four guys, drums bass guitars and vocals, here playing on eight lengthy songs. Opener 'Title' chugs along, slowing at the end for a more atmospheric conclusion. The vocals are a little weak and noticeably low in the mix, but the overall sound is okay. 'Open Door' is better, with effected vocals and more variety in the arrangements, while 'Dream Forth' goes through a few styles and moods, with reverb-drenched guitars to the fore once more. 'Give Me A Light' is glacially slow, 'Trancer Groove' is my favourite track on the album (great guitars with a suitably anthemic feel), while album closer 'Sunya' opens peacefully and gracefully before moving off into more uptempo fields. Definitely one for Verve fans to check out. (www.hollowox.com)
Individual, quintessentially English songwriting and arrangements are the style of Phil Martin on his latest release "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark," which opens as it means to go on with the stomping and witty 'Grateful.' Hits you between the eyes, as it was undoubtedly meant to. The title track goes into singer-songwriter territory, with Martin singing over an acoustic guitar, before a myriad of backing vocals come in - another great cut. 'Frontline' is quirky, all about the creation of music, and features more terrific backing vocals, while 'Dearly Departed' is a great little number that you imagine Martin might play, shrugging his shoulders, at the end of a gig. 'Getting Away With It' mixes more music references (including The Alarm!) with a music-hall arrangement, 'Intermission' is a kind of jazz reverie serving to separate the two halves of the album, while 'High And Lonesome' is, well, a bit of a dirge. The ska-lite 'Way Back In Modern Times' harks back to the 'seventies and is an album highlight, while 'Half Way Through June,' another album highlight, is more of a production number, with superb vocals and backing vocals. 'Bitter And Twisted,' the last song proper on the album, evokes the New Wave more than any other cut on the album, not least through the stylised vocals. A brief instrumental skit concludes the album. Variety, wit and clever arrangements make this an enjoyable romp with much to recommend it.
"Close To The Hedge" is a fundraiser and band sampler for Pink Hedgehog Records, whose roster includes many artists familiar to Rumbles, not least Anton Barbeau and Garfields Birthday. It's an eclectic and mostly excellent mix: the black watch (poptastic song), Anton Barbeau (confident pop-rock), Schnauser (quirky and retro-ish), Mondo Jet Set (woozy pop-rock), Chandler Frederick (curious), Hamfatter (piano-led oddity), Eye (atmospheric and very good), Cheese (great little song from Shindig mainstay), Des'n'Al (psych-pop weirdness), The Bitter Little Cider Apples (rollicking pop), Garfields Birthday (great Simon Felton vocals), Peter Lacey (funky freakout!), Freak Circus (more pop-rock), Electrasy (ballsy rock excellence), YO MA MA (saxy soul-ish cut), Hallelujah Bay (folk-pop... maybe), Steve Wilson (ballad with a dark side), Triops ('sixties ahoy!), The Lucky Bishops (everything and the kitchen sink) and Stephen John Kalinich (trippy spoken word weirdness). Only a fiver, so check it out at Bandcamp!
Terrascopic Rumbles for October was brought to you by Simon Lewis and Steve Palmer. Artwork, layout & direction by Phil McMullen - © Terrascope Online, 2013