= Rumbles  =

= September 2006 =


Rumbles this month is brought to you by Steve Pescott 


I think it’s safe to say that Aunt Mary were Norway’s biggest progressive band of the seventies, certainly big enough to warrant two (count ’em!) “ Best Of” albums on Polydor. Like fellow progsters Høst, they hailed from Østfold, between Oslo and the Swedish borders, and released three LPs on Vertigo of which ‘Janus’, arguably their most assured outing, has been accorded vinyl reissue status through Arkarma. Its 1973 origins are almost immediately evident in the instrumentation department as we witness the emergence of the compact and now easily available Mini-Moogs gnawing at the ankles of the more traditional keys like Hammonds and Lowreys.

    A few moments on this LP have Bengt Jenssen’s Hammond pyrotechnics augmented by some fairly inconsequential synthi-squeeble that really fudges the band’s momentum base and apex. Thankfully though, in the hands of these Norwegians, its usage was on a slow ascendancy – after all Dr. Robert’s brainchild couldn’t really compete with the organistics at the heart of ‘Candles of Heaven’ which eventually pans out to be a Nordic cousin of Quatermass – minus the pterodactyls, of course. Other highpoints include ‘Nocturnal Voices’ which details a descent into full-blown madness, with some hysterical falsettos pushing the point home, and the moody threat of ‘Stumblin’ Stone’ which possesses some heated dialogue between organ and Bjorn Christensen’s west-coast influenced guitar lines. There’s a plethora of engaging writing and playing in these grooves which can easily hold its two faces up proudly against anything that Europe could disgorge at that time.



Also from the same stable, and again on good old thick vinyl, comes the Web’s final album ‘I Spider’, their first for Polydor (£125 gets you an original!). This came after a couple of albums on Deram: ‘Fully Interlocking’ (1968) and ‘Theraphosa Blondi’ (1969), both regulars as local chain-store cheapies during the early seventies, along with albums by Swegas (who were they? And why were all the copies of their ‘Child of Light’ LP sold in badly torn sleeves?), Noir, Rock Workshop and Birth Control. It takes quite a while to drag your eyes away from the sleeve art, which is one of the truly greats in the school of the profoundly disturbing – other contenders being ‘Court of the Crimson King’ and Gnidrolog’s ‘Lady Lake' – wherein the bodies of a cassowary (possibly – look, I’m no Bill Oddie…), a rabbit and a fox have had their heads removed to be replaced by human hands mimicking the missing body parts, a bit like those silhouette games you played as a kid, only far more unsettling. The arrangements edge towards the dark zone too. Band leader / vocalist / keyboard player /songwriter Dave Lawson has fine-tuned a number of borderline Canterburyesque scores, enhanced by the tenor and soprano sax of Tom Harris, into dark tales of misanthropy, alienation and mental cruelty. I don’t know who it is who crossed Mr. Lawson prior to making this LP, but Miss X got it with both barrels! Rock bands are (still) the perfect platform for a litany of axe-grinding. So, no lurve songs and no Yes-styled fantasy tosh; all of which is fine by me. The title track has Dave taking on the role of a vengeful spider. “I’ll grant you a final wish before my lips of death you’ll kiss” (see also ‘Spider and the Fly’ by The Monocles on Pebbles Volume 3). As befits a band called the Web of course, the second LP title refers to the Latin name of the tarantula, or bird-eating spider, photographed on the front cover in all its hairiness. There’s also a deep vein of morbid infatuation mined in ‘Love You’ which has some superb bass grind by John Eaton, no doubt scowling as he thrummed. In the not-very-suite ‘Concerto for Bedsprings’, an insomniac’s desperate plea for sleep segues into another plea for release from humdrum nine-to-five-itis. Disturbing yet alluring subject matter from yes, yet another supremely undervalued band who forged a sound that’s pretty much a one-off in the seventies progscape. This is almost certainly due to two drummers / percussionistas: Kenny Beveridge and Lennie Wright, the latter’s mastery of the vibes offer up a cool jazz-like stream that runs as a counterpoint to the surrounding darklands. If you need a comparison, my copy is sandwiched between dodgy bootleg copies of the two Secondhand albums (‘Reality’ and ‘Death’) and the ‘…Boomland’ LP by T2.

    The Web later shapeshifted into the more horn-dominated Samurai, who managed a solitary, self-titled album on Greenwich Records in 1971. This is another “must get” which has been issued on vinyl by Dr. Prog Records (not too sure of its legality) and as a CD on Arkarma last year. (www.cometrecords.com )


The ‘Grides’ CD is the sixth entry in Cuneiform’s laudable excavation of unreleased Soft Machine sessions, featuring the “classic” line-up of saxist Elton Dean (1946-2006), Mike Ratledge (keys), four-string supremo Hugh Hopper and drummer Robert Wyatt. The set consists of tried and testeds from their back catalogue, material destined for ‘Fourth’ and the never officially released ‘Neo Caliban Grides’ (from which this release acquired its name). It was recorded at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam during a small Dutch tour, shortly before Dean split for a solo career (see ‘Just Us’ CD, also on Cuneiform). After the ‘Live in Paris’ double pack, ‘Grides’ comes on as a frantic, sometimes raucous declaration of intent with its 79 minutes loaded with monstrous fuzz-bass, distorted organ stridency, magisterial drumming and, in the middle of it all, Elton blowing up a veritable saxophonic storm (reaching force eight on the Aylerometer during ‘Teeth’ and ‘Virtually’). A lot has been made in recent years of the uncanny empathy (or E.S.P.) displayed by Can during their most “outerist” moments – but I’d expect the same powers were buzzing right here. That’s the only logical explanation on offer when you encounter something like ‘Neo Caliban Grides’ seamless transition from free-form jaggedness to tightly scored instro passages. A humbling moment for musicians and non-musicians alike. Cuneiform rightly deserve looped applause for its detailing of a continually influential jazz-rock quartet at the height of its powers, and this comes as a fitting tribute to the sorely missed talents of Elton Dean. Ess-bloody-ential!

    Postscript: ‘Grides’ also comes with a twenty minute DVD of the band at Radio Bremen’s studio in 1971, which was filmed for German TV during the line-up’s final European jaunt (Cuneiform Records, PO Box 8427, Silver Spring MD 20907-8427 USA or www.cuneiformrecords.com )


In all the years of collectormania, I’ve only ever come across a mention of Fickle Pickle’s LP ‘Sinful Skinful’ once, and that was as a bid item in a Plastic Factory mail-order list from 1989, so it was a highly sought-after item even then. But strangely enough, in the thirty five years since its release it has never been reissued – not even as a dubious vinyl copy originating from Italian shores. How did they miss it? Well, finally the Castle/Sanctuary conglomerate has seen fit to reissue said album on CD with an additional fourteen tracks, which include demos and numerous continental singles. The sticker proclaims it to be a “lost psych classic” but its year and contents, for the most part, places its repertoire in a quirky seventies pop niche. The Pickle consisted of multi-instrumentalist Cliff Wade, Geoff Gill (ex-Smoke) and Wil Malone (formerly of Orange Bicycle and Motherlight), all refugees from Monty Babson’s Morgan Bluetown label, and bassist Steve Howden who saw time in the highly regarded Vertigo prog-band Red Dirt. Their solitary album, which only saw release on the Dutch micro-label Explosion, shows the quartet in possession of a w-i-d-e ranging knowledge of musical forms that’s combined with a straight-faced, almost ‘Innes Book Of Records’ style, parodic approach. Because of this, it’s pretty difficult to nail ‘Song X’ or ‘Y’ as the defining Fickle Pickle moment. They can scoot from Badfinger-like pop-rockers (‘Our Time is Thru’ and ‘Let Me Tell You’) to the Beach Boys’ harmonies and Scots trad intros/outros of ‘Only For The Summer’. Then there’s the long lost sound of the music halls in the Flanagan and Allan (ask your great-grandad) impersonation ‘Blown Away’ and ‘Dr Octopus’ – an Edward Lear in Carry On land tango that recalls Mud’s early forays into that field with ‘Crazy’ and ‘Hypnosis’. Y’see? Everything under one roof – just like Tesco (but minus the megalomania). But, even with the occasional fan letter to Macca (a K-Tel-ised cover of ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ is particularly nasty) and a pointless ‘American Pie’ (bleurgh!), the good stuff still outweighs the bad. (Sanctuary Records Group Ltd, Sanctuary House, 45/53 Sinclair Road, London W14 0NS www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.co.uk )


It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to discover that Ovo’s ‘Mistenia’ refers to Myathenia Gravis. Judging by the sickly aura surrounding this LP, I guess this Italian scuzz-duo would think nothing of naming it after a debilitating nerve disorder. Comprising Bruno on scaled-down drum kit with Stefania Pedretti on vocals/guitar (with cello/piano/harmonica occasionals) it’s the latter’s gorgon-like presence on vocals that swallows up most of the available groove space. The sound of an evil ventriloquist’s dummy manipulated by a black-metaller, with manic, eye-watering vibrato, occasionally melts into a clawed Bjorkian figure on tracks such as ‘Co Co’ and ‘Voodoo. But steal yourself (and anyone else in near proximity) for the side-long title track: it’s a dirge-smeared psychodrama that suggests that anyone going full pelt into a Diamanda Galas scholarship will surely suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous throat nodes. A punisher of Melt Banana / Stretchheads (remember them?) proportions that displaces label mates Fat Worm of Error as first prize in the ‘Ugliest Baby’ contest! (www.loadrecords.com )


As old father time strides purposefully on, it appears that the houses of ambience and electronica have seen fit to cut themselves off from simply everything by wallpapering over their respective doorways and resigning themselves to stew in their own circuitry ad infinitum. In other words, things from these once rich genres have gone on the slide. But every so often, as with a new discovery like Triosk or the next Mille Plateaux disc, a well lobbed brick comes crashing through the windows of the ennui suite. This time round, it’s the turn of Kinn to enthral with their second CD album ‘Karlshorst’ on the Sinnbus label. A trio comprising bassist Marcel Turkowsky (also of Masonne), Frank Schültge Blumm (guitars etc) and drummer / percussionist Jon Thoben, also with Gaston and Taunus. Their pure melodic sense within the folktronica framework and the close scrutiny of the nuances of mood and atmosphere pull the listener in at the first instance, as in ‘Laumer’ where the peaceful loop of oars slapping water is then assimilated into a delicate guitar filligree. See also how the zither-like guitar flashes of ‘Limone’ gradually boil over into a zone of almost Brotzmann-like crackle and feedback. This has also received a release through Audiodregs for the American and Japanese markets – but for Europe, contact www.sinnbus.de – you won’t be disappointed.


The names of Billie Brown, The Big Fella, Pettsie and Big Nagsie should really conjure up grainy images of lead-pipe wielding hard men in a gangland-related episode of ‘Taggart’. Instead, these gentlemen made up N.S.U. who, according to these yellowing mail-order lists again, could not fail to entice with character references such as “Killer speed freak psyched hard rock” (Tranceformer) and “Dirty doomy bluesy prog” (Plastic Factory). Their lone album, ‘Turn On, or Turn me Down’ (a sly dig at Leary’s ‘Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out’ presumably) came out originally on Stable Records in 1969 and shows the four-piece to be more than able proponents of gutsy, chipped tooth r ‘n’ b with rough-house vocals from John Pettigrew and potent lead work from Ernest Rea, which falls in the same style as Sir Edgar Broughton and Tony McPhee. Ubiquitous backing vocalists Sue and Sonny make two notable appearances on the r’n’beat ballad ‘Love Talk’ and the hazily recalled fallout from an all-night bender entitled ‘Stoned’ (as in "Everybody must get..."). Picture them as a Stackwaddy with a Lanarkshire burr, but where Mick Knail and Co. relied on covering standards, N.S.U. constructed a strong set of originals, except that is for an eight minute reworking of Canned Heat’s ‘On The Road Again’ with (well, it is 1969) a drum solo – though not on the ‘Toad’ scale. In the pantheon of sixties/seventies Scottish hard rock, this is easily on a par with Zal Cleminson’s Tear Gas. Nae bother. This reissue comes via Earmark Records, who have also given a second life to N.S.U.’s labelmate, the mysterious Jaklin and his self-titled set of prog/folk bluesers (www.abraxasrecords.com )


Apart from the outermost echelons (Varese/Ligeti/Xenakis), I have to hold my hand up to having a near total lack of empathy for yer classical music. But even I, a self-confessed uncultured wretch, can identify certain classical themes that are occasionally dropped into rock and pop writing. How about ‘My Mind’s Eye’ (Small Faces), ‘Lover’s Concerto’ (The Toys), ‘All By Myself’ (Eric Carmen) and ‘Night of Fear’ by the Move for starters? These are fairly obvious appropriations (they must be if I noticed them!) but under the auspices of Brooklyn 3 piece Tungsten 74 this working concept has been given enough propulsive energy for a trip to the asteroid belt and back. After three albums of improvised psychedelia and inspired titling (e.g. ‘Mating Habits of the North American Finless Brown Trout’ and ‘We Didn’t Know It Was A Mutiny Until It Failed’), they’ve decided to barricade themselves into a local basement and ransack the world of classical scores with their ‘Binaurally Yours’ CD. The trio’s marathon instro workouts would see certain selected phrases / chord progressions scoured and bleached out until only the barest whisper of the original work remained. I assume the beguiling acoustic trails found in ‘Come Sweet Death’ have their roots in Bach, but then I’m only relying on the giveaway title and a little search engine-uity. As for the sources of the crazed ‘Fire Alarm’, well forget it. Though with its new coat of electric lights I can discern a certain kinship with the intensity and freewheeling forward motion of Fred Frith’s Massacre. The two-part ‘Rusty Cavalier’ however is the group’s crowning glory. With some assistance from the McMillan Encyclopaedia, this is in fact a radical transplanting of Italian opera composer Pietro Mascagni’s ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ into a huge shimmering spiral of oceanic beauty. If all post rock (is this term still in vogue?) was as emphatic as this, we’d all be in clover. (Technical Echo Records, 172 5th Avenue, #51, Brooklyn NY 11217 USA www.technicalecho.com )


Now it’s not too often that a band can collect cartloads of glowing fan mail right across the board, including ‘Forced Exposure’, ‘Music Week’, ‘Sounds’ and ‘Option’ (and even an early issue of the Terrascope!) but it happened to The Hucksters, and I’ve no doubt the CD reissue of their ‘Seventh Sense’ mini LP (through Gold Filling records) will cause a new set of reviewers’ hearts to flutter uncontrollably. United through a love of Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Gun Club and Big Star, this Wishaw-based (from Lanarkshire again!) band formed in 1988 and signed up to a local indie label, Rocket 5 Recordings, who released their debut single ‘Way of the Feeling’. This became 'Single of the Week' in Record Mirror, no less. The album that followed crammed a whole lot of action into its 25 minutes. It’s a fully rounded and confident collection with fiery twin Telecaster interplay (c/o Boyd Pollock and Alan Hayton) and idiosyncratic drumming from “Lefty” Burnette, ex of the New Rose recording artists The Primevals. Unlike a lot of American wannabes in Britain at the time, this 4-piece could tear it up as soon as look at you and remain in a convincing holding pattern with fast ‘n’ punchy dynamics. Check out the excellent ‘Chain Up The Dogs’ with its “very best of times” steal from the ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and then muse on the numerous misdirected REM comparisons found in the accompanying cribsheet. The Hucksters are not Michael’s type (ha!) but could be put in the same bag as the Neats, who used to be on Ace of Hearts’ books. Even as we speak, Alan, David Dalrymple (bass) and Guy Dinwoodie (vocals) are still out there gigging with dates planned for Scotland and London during the forthcoming year (www.goldfillingrecords.com ) (NB Simon Lewis also covered this in the August issue of 'Rumbles'; an album so good that we all want to talk about it...)


Next up comes a couple of releases from the Sussex-based Lumberton Trading Company, the source of the ‘Worn to a Shadow’ CD/picture disc by E.A.R. (the second functioning head of Mr Sonic Boom). First off it’s the latest solo release from an artist with associations as wide ranging as Coil, Spiritualized and Julian Cope. The sleeve of Thighpaulsandra’s ‘Chamber Music’ CD shows a rather intimidating black and white photo of a shooting party – their demeanour suggesting a liking for human prey rather than buckshot for a buck rabbit. The title’s classical references are now further cast aside as we glance down the twin chambers of a 12 bore on the CD’s face. An uncompromising ride seems thankfully on the cards. Thighpaulsandra deploys a whole host of obscure (to me) electronic keys such as a SteimLisaX, RSF Kobol and a Metasynth, alongside the more familiar (old school?) Serge Modular Synth and the EMS VCS3 to create a melange of dense musique concrète that’s bolstered by an “all gates open” approach to synthetic texturing. In fact those last two squawk-boxes give a quotient of the material a distinct INA-GRM feel (Bernard Parmegiani in particular). But there’s precious little gallictronix found in the opening ‘Cast in Dead Homes’ which explores hypothetical sci-fi scores reminscent of Trunk Records’ ‘Tomorrow People’ soundtrack and yet it’s Delia Derbyshire-shaped toneworld is expansive enough to allow into its fold luminous guitar (c/o Martin Schellard) and Tom Edwards’ marimba lines which conjure up images of Artie Tripp or even the undervalued Ruth Underwood (of the seventies Mothers of Invention). ‘A Blizzard of Altars’ follows, flecked in a cold, nervy sweat, triggered by unexpected dead ends and sheer vertical drops is then made X-rated by a verse or two of apocalyptic gum flap by, ahem, ‘Weremia de Spaceboy’. This could be Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce doing his finest Peter Lorre impression, but then again – nah! ‘Bleeding Test of the Cripple Thrush’ pitches Thigh’s blurting French horn against further marimba punctuation, Pinhas-like guitar and Vocodered detonations. ‘The Unwilling Wardens of Ice’ closes as a spellbinding glacial largo. Frank Naughton’s violin, Martin Shellard’s icy pedal steel and Thigh’s Mellotron complement each other so well that a temperature drop in your immediate vicinity is inevitable. A great thing and more gripping in its relative simplicity than ‘Eskimo’, that other white-on-white travelogue by the Residents.

    These Lumberton Corp. boys are certainly the king-pins when it comes down to eye-catching sleeve art. At first glance the cover of Theme’s latest CD resembles a Martian TV test-card, with a weird silvery contraption (c/o sculptor Mo Jupp) in the process of beaming out signals to the population of the red planet. The ‘Our Angels Dislocated’ release is an intermittent project that began in 2002, a couple of years after their debut (on Parallel Shores Removed) emerged. This was an album that radiated several shades of dark, via formless / imposing synthetic gauze, found sound flotsam and electroid chatter. In the interim, ‘O.A.D.’ has cultivated an array of more arresting tonal colours though the trio of Richard Johnson, Hassni Malik and Stuart Carter are more inclined to embrace the purples, mauves and yellows of bruised flesh than optimism’s blue skies and bright shiny rainbows. Their arsenal of eclectic instrumentation can set the ancient world against the unknown, as in ‘Jisatsu’, a loop and backwards guitar vignette, and ‘A Few Words Failed’ where further textures from the Indian sub-continent are overshadowed by the movement of what seems to be a set of vast sliding steel doors. ‘East of Now’ is a firm favourite and edges back to European shores. It’s moog (I think) and organ loop paints a picture of a rather severe, early Cluster experiment but those traces of early Krautrock are ushered out as a monastic choir (recently activated from suspended animation) enter from the wings. A sympatico production by Sion Organ (who can also be found on the previous album as an “audio mulcher”) has seen Theme calmly step out of their own skins and into some inter-dimensional ghost world. A subtle transformation for the trio and one that should certainly fascinate anyone into the cutting edge of filmic soundcraft (Lumberton Trading Company, PO Box 224, Brighton East Sussex BN1 1TE www.lumbertontrading.com )


It’s so easy to lose track of the number of Trespassers W releases, and equally easy to stumble over the names of the eight or so labels this Dutch bands have appeared on. But, ‘The Noble Folly of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ is definitely the last instalment in their ‘Sex ‘n’ Drugs ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll’ three parter and follows hot on the heels of last year’s ‘The Drugs We All Need’. It’s an affectionate glance back at the early years of rock ‘n’ roll – a time of innocence and exuberance which spawned the birth of teenagerdom. Under the diktat of the quartet’s founder member Cor Gout and co-writer / multi-instrumentalist  Ronnie Krepel, this exploration of the world that Gene, Eddie and Little Richard ruled is both irony and pastiche free. So the idea of this album as a possible series of Flying Lizards style deconstructions is avoided. Quoted in ‘Rockerilla’, Cor said that “the set is very direct and simple… naïve but expressing the emotions”. The man behind the desk, Lukas Simonis, underlines the first two values by eschewing the expected greasy reverb beloved of Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios and instead freeze-framing the band with a compact, clean and fx-less approach. The clipped six-strings and sparse drum parts almost reinvent a Rough Trade feel around the time of Spizz Energi and the Monochrome Set. ‘Do the Don’t’ appears to be the working principle here, as “it’s the noble art of leaving out”. ‘Maureen’ sashays along to a skeletal Diddley-beat while the all too brief ‘Catman’ – “a god who disappeared” – is a heartfelt tribute to Gene Vincent, though it bears no resemblance to Mr Craddock’s number of the same name that was later covered by The Birthday Party. ‘Goon’, along with the Offenbach-sourced ‘Belle Nuit’, is ever so slightly out of place but has had its hooks in me for quite a while now. It’s a string quartet led mini drama where the moon, usually a benevolent symbol in a million lurve songs, has in this case become a rather reproachful, sardonic character, berating a tongue-tied male for hesitating over making the first move with his dream date. “As the moon fell into the canal and as it was floating along, it snapped at me... you goon!” – now isn’t that just great? A rare slice of Brechtian teen balladry which I just have to play again. I’m still puzzled that a band this prolific and so capable of producing such witty and intelligently written songs is still considered a sidebar to less talented groups… a wider patronage is surely deserved. (Somnimage Records, PO Box 24, Bradley IL 60915 USA www.somnimage.com www.tresspassersw.nl )




Written and edited by: Steve Pescott  Producer: Phil McMullen.