ith summer in full swing, the scent of flowers drifting through the window and butterflies waiting to be photographed, it is hard to sit indoors and start another Rumble. On the other hand, the pile of aural goodies here assembled is filled with promise and happiness, better get it on then....
Arriving in a beautifully home-made cover, “Crow eye hint” is one long piece of atmospheric drone from Aranos. At just under an hour, there is plenty of time for the track to develop, skittish piano stabs competing with echoed resonance backward tape manipulation and low end rumble. Good stuff that need attentive listening. (http://www.aranos.org/home_aranos.html)
Another disc housed in a beautiful sleeve is “Twilight Birds” by Michael Rodgers, the disc, the printed envelope containing a 3” disc and seven photographs by the artist. Opening with the sound of birdsong, the disc has six tracks of gently rippling guitar, the music soft and reflective, perfectly summing up the title of the album. Equally important to the album are the photographs, all shot at twilight, the birds barely visible in the low light branches of the trees. Undoubtedly a labour of love, this is a thing of beauty to be cherished. (www.lostlights.org)
Next up a selection of the invariably good stuff from Last Visible Dog. Firstly, The Renderers delight the senses with “Monsters and Miasmas”, a truly beautiful collection that opens with “Deep Hole” a song that has echoes of a mellow Leonard Cohen, before “A Little to the Left” adds a creepier atmosphere, the excellent vocals of Maryrose Crook adding layers of tension to the slow-folk tune. Just when you think you have got a handle on the band, “A forest of Forests” bursts through the door electric guitars blazing, taking electric folk into a distorted realm with style, hints of Nick cave and PJ Harvey stuttering through the song. From here on in, the band mix and match the styles, retaining a sense of quality and mystery throughout, a thoroughly entertaining ride that delights the senses at every turn. Moving on, make sure your volume is turned up for a re-issue of “Little Things”, the third album from NZ's The Terminals. Recorded after a major line-up change, the new look allowed the band to break free and explore a noisier less structured path, the 11 songs becoming fractured, coated in splashes of feedback and chaos, although still retaining some semblance of order. A perfect example of this is “Mekong Delta Blues”, the song slowly dissolving into free-form territory, although not quite, which pretty much sums up this fine album. Missed by most at the time, this is worth grabbing now. Markedly more experimental, yet equally absorbing is “Kristallivirta” an improvised collection from Aan Meets Eyes Like saucers, which is as it says being a collaboration between Jeff (Eyes Like saucers) and Jani, Jari (Aan). Consisting of oscillating drones, the first two pieces “Wu-Wei”/”The Spaces Between” are glorious sonic explorations that pull the listener in. It is a suprise however, when the title track introduces some warm hand percussion, chanting and a harmonium, the music changing textures to become warmer more relaxing, having the feel of a psychedelic sea shanty. The final two track return to the chaotic drone of earlier, although the addition of the percussion adds a ritual temple feel to the proceedings, which is no bad thing, adding to a rich and varied album. Sounding not unlike a haunted factory, “tron” is a dense and difficult album from Armpit, the full-on noisescapes are industrial and unsettling in their outlook, whilst the live tracks feature strangely distorted vocals, guitars and organ, different but equally disturbing. Listing six tracks, my CD player shows 14, which is just another confusing thing about this bruising and elemental disc. All in a days work for the band, tough on the ears for the rest of us, but worth a go if you feel the need. Finally on Last Visible Dog, another re-release, this time in the shape of “Conference of the Aquarians”, a stunning collaboration between Valerio Costa (Sax, electronic, guitar etc) and Enzo Franchini (drums, percussion, vibes). Filled with vibrancy, playfullnes and stunning playing, the music veers from free-form drone, to relaxed mellow ambience, taking in eastern influences and Musique-concrete influences along the way. Over nine tracks the playing is exemplary, the invention staggering, whilst the bright production allows the music to shine through. An essential purchase. As always, these releases are beautifully packaged with care and love, search them out and be handsomely rewarded. (www.lastvisibledog.com)
Featuring some quintessential psychedelia, you can almost smell the incense as it curls its way around “Testament From the Human Plantation”, a heady mix of Rocky Erickson and early Fuzztones, brought to you by one-man band Aron. Sounding as if it dwells in that short period when garage rock became both psychedelic and very weird ( the first “best of” Pebbles album spring to mind), the disc contains ten sweet slices of lysergic happiness, with “Six Brides of the Forest” being an early highlight, whilst “Human Plantation” has a Country Joe and the Fish flavour, complete with suitably trippy lyrics. To round off the disc, “The Sea I See” is a stretched out piece that levitates itself out of the speakers with some fine fuzzed guitar leading the listener ever onwards. If there is such a thing as old skool psych, then this is it, and anyone who cut their psychedelic teeth on those 60's compilations is gonna love this album. (www.orpheusrecords.dk)
A more modern take on psychedelia can be found on “Flight of the Solstice Queens” the latest album from Chester Hawkins, who works under the name Blue sausage Infant, the music as strange as the name, mixing electronics, cut-ups, live instruments and synths to produce a exhilarating blend that reminds me of Porest (whose “Prude Juice” album was a personal favourite from 2003), in the way it switches styles yet retains a sense of its own identity. After the disorientating opener, the title track employs a hypnotic beat to hook you in, whilst all manner of strangeness revolves around you, definitely head-phone material, the track stimulating some kind of reality shift in the listener. In fact the whole album should be heard through headphones or at least in the dark for full sonic effect, with the final track “the Sentimental Communist” described, very accurately, in the blurb as “pure head music”, just lie back and experience it. (www.zeromoon.com)
In a more paisley pop style, The Red Plastic Buddha, are having lots of fun on “The Sunflower Sessions”, a six-track disc that contains some bright and breezy tunes as well as a killer version of The Elevators “Rollercoaster”, proving the band know their roots, the song containing just the right amount of attitude and moodiness. Elsewhere, “Forget Me Not” is an impressive opener, whilst the live “Gingerbread Pornography” suggest the band can deliver a boisterous night out. (www.redplasticbuddha.com)
Swiftly changing tack, as we often do on the good ship Rumbles, a couple of gems on the, always excellent, Rusted Rail label have arrived recently, the first being “The Trees, The Sea in a Lunar Stream”, the latest album from Phantom Dog Beneath the Moon. Opening with the excellently titled “As Perceived by Mice”, the album is filled with gentle melody, atmosphere, srangeness and quality, the musicians illuminating a hidden world of sun-filled dreams and excursions into dusty attics, both nostalgic and hopeful. Highlight for me is the wonderful “Stealing Owls” a marvellous arrangement bringing the song to live, whilst “Halloween” builds slowly over nine delicious minutes from soft acoustic to chaotic electric, without losing its identity, great stuff. On the same label comes “Holy Ghost” a 3” cd from The Driftwood manor, featuring six short tracks that overflow with a sweet folk feel, that heady mix of sadness and melody, all topped off with the wonderful voice of Eddie Keenan. Mixing the sinister with the beautiful, the lyrics of “Bury Me Alive”are at odds with the sweetness of the tune, whilst “I Would Lose You Still” is aching in its sadness yet completely beautiful. (www.rustedrail.com)
The Driftwood manor can also be heard on “Found Photographs of Ancestors”, a three-track disc released on Apollolaan Recordings, on which they can be found forsaking the short song in favour of longer pieces, the band stretching out their sound to perfection on the opening, title track, a gorgeously sweet drone that is the sound of morning mist being burned away by the sun, a piece easy to get lost in. On “The Burden of Crows”, a repetitive acoustic riff is the foundation for some droning raga flourishes and soft washes of voice, whilst the final track “At Clanmacnoise” has a more unsettling ambience, the music lost in a forest as darkness approaches, the low end drone rumbling through the track, laced with feedback until a gentle guitar brings some softness, that softness broken by the chanted refrain that speaks of a doomed existence. (www.apollolaan.co.uk)
On the same label can be found the soundscapes of Stormhat, whose album “Kabine” contains six tracks of glacial drone, the sound of falling glaciers and rocks crashing into the sea. The work of a Danish artist, the music is free-form yet contains hints of rhythms and melodies often created by accident as two sounds play along side each other. Highly charged with atmosphere, this is the sound of remote places, ancient rituals and inner journeys. Not only that but it gets better the more you hear it, especially the fragile and eerie “Sound Mirrors”, the highlight for me. Finally for Apollolaan, Andreas Brandal works his magic on “Sunken Gardens” creating slow moving Krautrock inspired electronic meditations. Over seven tracks of crackle, grind, swirl and float, the music offers visions and dreams, your imagination the only limit to what is perceived, the sound beautiful and filled with life, offering much to those with the patience to listen intently. Deeply moving and recommended.
Next we have a collection of albums from Elektrohasch, whose releases tend towards stoner, and hard rock, but are also of sufficient quality to interest Terrascope readers with noisy tendencies. For their final album “Procession”, stoner rock stalwarts Josiah, have collected some unreleased tracks and a live set that ably demonstrate their power. Opening studio track “Procession” has a slow-burning Sabbath feel, the pace quickened as the far too short “Broken Doll” takes over, blowing the dust from your hair and putting a smile on your face. Moving on “Thirteen Scene”, sounds like it was recorded in 1973, primitive underground rock and roll that gets right to the heart of the matter, with main-man Mat Bethancourt pushing his guitar hard and loose, his vocals matching the intensity of the over-driven axe. Mainly recorded at one gig in Sweden (2007), the live tracks are sweaty and nasty, the dense riffing threatening to rip the roof off as the band tear through their set. When not fronting Josiah, Mat can be found leading The Kings of Frog Island, another guitar heavy band that have just completed the final of their trio of albums, although some live gigs are planned before the project is finally laid to rest. Simply entitled “3” (guess what the other two were called) the album begins with a drone of noise overlaid with the names of women burned at the stake for being witches, this solemn opening finally giving way to the stoner rock riffery of “Glebe Street Whores”, a fine slice of de-tuned madness. From then on in the band maintain the intensity, a cornucopia of heavy tunes that make for an exhilarating ride, the slower pace of songs such as “Dark on You”, ensuring variety, adding to the pleasure. Best of all is “Keeper Of...”, with its dark intro and evil intent, the song oozing into the room to lay waste to the occupants.
Instrumental (mainly), reasonably complex, melodic and noisy, “4”, the latest album from Rotor is a rather fine 9 track collection, that is filled with energy and inventive riffing, the band honing their sound into a killer blend that gets you rockin' round the living room, sounding like Sabbath jamming with King Crimson, possibly covering Queens of the Stone-age songs. Anyways, I like it, as I do “Legacy”, the latest offering from Hypnos 69”, whose brand of heavy, progressive, space rock, seems to get better with each release, with the epic three-part opener “Requiem (for a dying breed)” saying all you need to know, a fine way to start a 72 musical trip that is thoroughly enjoyable. Unlike a lot of modern, so-called prog, this album avoids sounding like a technical metal album, retaining a wonderful feeling of space, the use of keyboards and sax further expanding the textures of the music.
Staying with Elektrohasch a while longer, the strangely named Been Obscene, like their guitars nice and sleazy, mixing classic seventies hard rock with a splash of grunge on their album “The Magic Table dance”, which features 8 suitably fuzzed-up ditties. After a couple of tight but loose instrumentals, the band get their groovy freak on with the stoner funk of “Come Over”, before “Freaking Rabbit” sees the band let rip, proving themselves a very capable bunch of musicians, the rest of the album maintaining the pace and the pleasure. Finally, on the same label, Highway Child sound exactly like you think they should, classic rock riffs, loud and dirty, with bluesy undertones and suitably analogue sound. Retro enough to sound like it was recorded in 1971, the album still manages to sound fresh as well, the musicians obviously relishing playing together, with songs such as “In The End”, “Once is Once to Much”, and the gentle closer “Born on the Run” making an old hippy smile. All the above (www.elektrohasch.de)
That's it from me for now, now over to Steve Palmer who will lead you home, thanks Steve.
The record label Dying For Bad Music has sent the good burghers of Terrascope three of their releases, the first of which is the "Least Carpet EP" by Least Carpet. These eight short tracks - presented in an extraordinary multiply-folded yellow circular wrapper - hint at psychedelic folk, with bouzoukis, drones, mandolins and softly fuzzed guitars. 'The Goat Horn' and 'Haystacks' evoke nostalgic days of yore, while 'The Flying Carriage' has a golden '69 Floyd feel to it; and very nice too. 'Rivers' is more electric, fuzzed and delayed as if heard from the edge of a cosmic festival. 'A Narrow Path' returns us to the Floydesque balladry, while 'Old Wedding Song' and 'Leaving' have an English folk feel to them. This is very enjoyable music, evocative, and perfect for a warm summer morning. Fans of The Family Elan (reviewed last time) would love this.
"You Keep Them" by Low-Fye (that band name being a pointer to the contents) is the work of Tom Hayes, a singer songwriter from North Wales whose songs - start/stop clicks, hiss and all - are recorded on this album. Although not entirely one-man-and-his-guitar (there are overdubbed backing vocals for instance), the feel is lo-fi, though never overtly so. Most tracks clock in at a couple of minutes. 'And I' is mournful, while 'Smoking On An Empty Stomach' and 'Vein' remind the listener of artists such as The Child Readers. Tracks like 'Known To Crush' inevitably evoke Gorkys Zygotic Mynci, whose brand of idiosyncratic Cambrian psychedelia must have influenced this musician. One of the highlights of the album is 'Drowsy', with its strong melody and strange lo-fi/hi-fi production. 'Neuropathy' evokes the kind of delightful bucolica pioneered by Dave Gilmour in the late 'sixties, while 'The Click', with its great vocal performance, is another strong cut. 'Symptoms' is set on a bed of echoed vocal effects, the song then transmogrifying into another Gilmouresque acoustic strum; really nice. 'That Same Bird' is eerily mournful, while album closer 'Voices', short and sweet, merges radio/TV sounds and gorgeous guitar arpeggios. A most intriguing album.
Aalfang Mit Pferdekopf is the nom de plume of one Mirko Uhlig, whose "Is It Possible To Be At War With You?" is a collection of surreal songs in the psych singer-songwriter mode, interspersed with ambient washes. Opening with the helium-manic 'Auf Wasserleichen Gehen', the music calms down a little for the subsequent title track. Uhlig's voice is an acquired taste - echoes of Opeth's Mikael Akerfeld when he's not doing honey-monster vocals - and the production values tick boxes marked "quirky," "idiosyncratic," "random" and "occasionally intrusive," but the album is certainly listenable. The comparatively brief 'Auf Finnisch Klang Mein Alltag Mystisch' is a gorgeous ambient wash of sounds and synths, while the following 'At The Foot Of Rain From Tupelo' is similarly good. 'The Scoop Of A Bee' is a hazy psych-folk canter, while 'Nachtmeerfahrt Eins' is another delicious slice of ambience, enhanced with storm recordings. By far the longest track on the album is the thirteen minute 'Kor Sakta,' which is a spooky peer into a murky ambient world: terrific. The album concludes with a final folky cut 'Chicken Poxes.' A mostly successful effort.
The 3" CD is not something you see very often (I've only ever seen those produced by ambient legend Vidna Obmana), but here are a couple, courtesy of Marcus Obst of the DFBM releases mentioned above. "Fieldpiano" is by Sunslide, a.k.a. UK pianist Nigel Simpson, seven quiet solo pieces backed with location recordings made around Simpson's home town of Felixstowe. Evoking Eno's work, the mood is soft and reflective, and rather lovely. My favourite piece was the sublime third track, with its subtley buzzing synths and impressionistic piano. I'm uncertain as to the point of the noisy final track, but, that apart, this is a notable release.
"The Travelling Guild" by French artist Imagho is in the vein of the above work, matching quiet music, this time on acoustic guitar, with environmental sounds; it also is contained on a 3" CD. Imagho tries to match the mood of his playing with the environment; as he himself explains, these are aural snapshots, capturing unrepeatable moments. The simple playing is best on the two pieces recorded in an unused church in the department of Lot. Another fine, gentle release.
Debut albums are welcome and interesting, and the eponymous release of Boston's psychedelic garage band The Freeways can certainly be so described. Taking one part vintage pop-psych, one part garage thrash and one part US road trip, the album conceptually journeys from east to west, beginning basic and fuzzed-out with tracks 'Whenever You Want Me' and 'I'll Take It,' before progressing to more swirly fare like their cover of The Warlocks' 'Shake The Dope Out.' Karen Zanes' light voice contrasts with the buzzing guitars and battered drums, but on the quieter 'Country' she is given more space to emote, alongside a tasteful Hammond organ - an album highlight, this cut. 'Casa Loma' again has a more West Coast feel, with particularly evocative guitars. Groovy track 'Glass Eye' really digs the vintage vibe, while the superb concluding cut 'End Of Summer' is a joy. The latter songs rather outshine the former, but this is nonetheless a good release.
Moral Crayfish are two musicians from Pennsylvania, Dan Cohoon (the founding member of the project) and, on "Go To Church & The Crooked Shoe," a document of two live recordings, Scott Verrastro. Dan plays prepared guitar and Scott various items of percussion. The music opens with hulking great chords of guitar and feedback, to which Scott adds subtleties of percussion. It's an impressive sound. The first three tracks on the disk document an unedited live recording at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, while the second is a performance made at the Crooked Shoe venue in Philly - and it is this second work that really send the disk into space. Feedback and droning chords crash against live drums, and there is what sounds like a (barely audible) undercurrent of audience chatter that adds atmosphere to the recording. It's the sort of music you begin thinking is ambient, but really it's too dark and challenging for that name. Good stuff throughout, with part four of the second piece containing some particularly bonkers playing.
And so, dear reader, to three releases from the Palace Of Lights label, the first being "Subterrane" by electroacoustician Marc Barreca, which is an extraordinary album indeed. Opening with a slowly mutating drone, dozens of miniscule samples, loops, ever-changing sections of field recordings, and the unidentifiable audio debris of various acoustic instruments are layered in a never-repeating mix. With the exception of the twelve minute second track (a masterpiece, I would suggest), most cuts here are a few minutes long: the electro-twinkle of the title track, the ethnic melange of 'Glimmerglass' - which reminded me of Jon Hassell's "Aka Darbari Java" - the loping organ chords of 'Jumbled,' and the stridulating glissando delights of 'Twilight Reprise.' Very fine listening indeed, and recommended to all those into the avante garde, ambient or electronica.
K. Leimer - whose "Lesser Epitomes" I really enjoyed in 2008 - assisted in the recording of Barreca's opus, and the second offering from the palace is his new album "Degraded Certainties." Six tracks of almost exactly twelve minutes each occupy this disk. The opener 'Angoisse' hovers bell tones, tinkling sounds and random signals and notes over a droning chord, to mesmerising effect. Leimer's skill is the creation of beauty from simple sources, creating effortless complexity. 'Hommage' follows the same route but with a different sound palette, while 'Paper Telephone' has a foundation of string sounds, over which faint and subtle sounds float. Some of the looping sounds of 'Allotropy' sound like a cross between a flute mellotron and a violin, and they are highlighted by bass and backwards sounds: a ravishing mix, and the best track on the album. 'Common Nocturne' takes the piano as its foundation for a few quiet moments, while the closing cut 'French Opera' uses a deep drone to highlight its tapestry of plucked strings and backwards sounds. Kerry Leimer is an outstanding musician, and this is an outstanding album.
The final work of this trio is "Dua_Belas" by Gregory Taylor, who assisted in the creation of the above album. Taylor's sound, unlike that of the other two musicians, is more akin to electronica than the soft, floating tones and shifting textures of Leimer and Barreca. One thinks of FSOL's Environments series, and the American minimalists, evoked by the looping sequences and tones of Taylor's electronic sculptures. 'Andreas' sounds like early 'eighties Tangerine Dream in places, and sets the tone for a superb album, while the loops of 'Simon_Petrus' very much evoke the early work of Terry Riley, adding harsher, more modern sounds to the mix. Later tracks sound like feedback cut-ups, looped samples endlessly mutated, Balinese ambience, and neo-classical whimsicality. 'Matius,' an album highlight, is a great, dense slab of orchestrated sound and faux-Balinese twinkling, while 'Anak_Kember_Tomas' comes across as a lost portion of the soundtrack to the film "Alien." The eleven minute mini-epic 'Simon_Si_Patriot' opens doomy and Schulze-esque before entering a kind of analogue hell in which low-end warning synths compete with atmospheric noise: a fantastic track with great atmosphere. The final cut concludes the album with distorted organ sounds. Another outstanding listen. Fans of ambient music, electronica, Berlin and Kosmische electronic and synth music should check out these releases from an important label. All three are highly recommended.
And so from the sublime to the progressive. (I'm joking, don't worry.) Opening a quartet of disks courtesy of Shadoks Music, "Trubrot" by Iceland's first supergroup Trubrot is a kind of Scandinavian version of The Nice, or Refugee if your taste extends to Patrick Moraz. Sung in Icelandic of course, the lyrics are impenetrable, but the music certainly is not. Blending Hammond-soaked rockers with more folky fare (eg. the lovely 'Frelsi Andans') the album covers proto-progressive work, whimsical late 'sixties stompers and acoustic folk, some of which evokes King Crimson's early pastoral cuts. It's a lovely listen, with the male/female vocals working really well, while Karl Sighvatsson's organ playing is superb. Shadoks must be complimented on the sound quality and the high quality booklet; and they are releasing the subsequent Trubrot albums. Meanwhile, also in Iceland, but recorded in England and sung in English, prog-rockers Svanfridur were cooking up an early 'seventies progressive brew entitled "What's Hidden Here?" It would be their only album - here it is remastered by Shadoks with, again, an extensive accompanying booklet. Opening rocker 'The Woman Of Our Day' comes over like Cream-lite, but then it's 'The Mug' which opens with piano and pattering drums only to morph into what sounds like a lost Bowie track: extraordinary. Superb harmony singing and great playing (bass especially) make this a terrific listen. What must have been a very early Moog synth also appears; these guys were ahead of their time. Violins accent the stomping 'Please Bend,' while the title track is mournful song also accompanied by violin. The instrumental 'Did You Find It?' utilises that early Moog to great effect, evoking classic Bo Hansson material from the same era, while later tracks return the listener to the signature heavy/progressive sound - a kind of Sabbath-lite with Cream influences. Great stuff, not least the phased/Moogy penultimate cut. Fans of Astra would like this one. I loved it. John And Philipa Cooper, meanwhile, were a South African brother and sister who cut one album "Cooperville Times." The opening cut sounds remarkably like 'Wishing Well' by Free, except with a harmonised 'sixties vocal sound. Subsequent songs echo Blossom Toes and their late 'sixties ilk, and will fascinate fans of the era. This is perhaps not the strongest of these Shadoks releases, but it is interesting, with highlights including the whimsical baroque pop of 'Wild Daydreams,' the Donovan-like rocking 'Man In A Bowler Hat' and 'She's My Woman,' which marries a sha-la-la chorus with classic 'sixties guitars. A small amount of distortion suggests this CD rerelease has been transferred from what is described as the rarest South African record ever, but generally this is not a problem. Investigate if you love the rarer 'sixties. Finally, a return to Iceland in the form of Odmenn, who were progressive before their time. Essentially a blues-rock quartet boasting four excellent musicians, the band only cut one album, "Odmenn," which is a double album of fifteen tracks. Singing in Icelandic, the nature of the lyrics is unclear (except one track 'It Takes Love'), but apparently there were protest songs amidst more mellow verbal fare. The music is superb: tight, complex, with particularly fine drumming from Engilbert Jensen. Eirirkur Johannsson's lead guitar is also great. A Hammond organ enlivens some of the cuts, while a few echo 'sixties sounds, indicating the band's roots in 1966. Not all the tracks are bluesy rockers; 'Minningar' is slow and impressionistic while 'Stund' is almost poppy. The final cut is what must have been an entire side of vinyl on the original release, a nineteen minute odyssey into guitar histrionics, blues jamming with some particularly mad guitar playing, phased drum solos, etc. It's instrumental and comes across in places like early Yes, elsewhere more like Cream. An amazing track. Kudos to Shadoks Music for these four releases.
Marianne Segal was a member of legendary folk-rockers Jade, whose star shone bright in their early 'seventies heyday. Since leaving that band this singer-songwriter, possessed of a gorgeous voice and undeniable songwriting talent, has been out of the public eye, but now Snow Beach Recordings have issued her "Gypsy Girl: Archives 70s, 80s & 90s Vol. 1," which presents the listener with a variety of material from those decades. Supported by well regarded musicians from such bands as Gryphon, Fairport Convention and Jade, Segal's voice has hints of Annie Lennox, while the arrangements vary between Enya-style and more traditional. 'Hello Pepe' and 'On A Distant Shore' immediately present a powerful, emotive voice and strong songs, while the title track has a memorable melody. 'Shan't Dance' reminds of Renaissance, while the harp and bells on 'How Long' give it a new-age feel. 'River And Stream' is recent (1990) in plaintive singer-songwriter style, with a wonderful guitar accompaniment from Graeme Taylor, while 'Kiss Of The Buddha' is an earlier attempt at pop. 'So So Scorpio' most clearly evokes Lennox in vocal tone (no bad thing of course) whilst retaining Segal's own unique phrasing. The slew of 'seventies cuts that follow, including live track 'Ben,' all illustrate Segal's compositional talent, not least the big-sounding production of 'Miranda.' Closing track 'The Moon And I' marries a tremendous vocal with subtle keyboard backing. This album is testament to a talent that we are the poorer for having lost for so long. Volume 2 must surely offer many more gems.
If Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and early Jean-Michel Jarre are your thing (and, believe me, they really should be) then you will love the new release "Proxima" by Black Tempest, a.k.a. Stephen Bradbury. Combining the best of analogue sequencing with drifting chords, vintage synth effects and tasteful guitars and bass, I loved this. Split into three sections covering 52 minutes, the album takes all the best bits of the Berlin School and reworks those parts into analogue heaven; specifically that provided by Moog, Doepfer and Roland. The sequences don't outstay their welcome, as can be the case with new BS material, and the overall form of the three compositions is very pleasing. Electric guitar parts are subtle and don't (as could be the case with a certain Mr Froese) overwhelm the tracks. I suppose "Phaedra" would be the nearest sonic comparison. This album will be receiving regular play at Palmer Towers.
Also on the Apollolaan Records label comes "From The Moat" by Stormhat, a.k.a. Peter Bach Nicolaisen. This one is much more avante garde that Bradbury's opus, and is best described as experimental, merging field recordings with fragments of found sound, noise and (perhaps) some synths and samplers. The mood of the opening cut is eerie, like alien noises from some far away pasture, and subsequent tracks follow this pattern, to similar effect. Sometimes the minimal noise-scapes are spooky; elsewhere, as on the fifth track, where bell sounds and massed noises merge, the effect is darker and more intense. It's a curious, sometimes disorientating listen, but it's never less than intriguing and some passages, notably on that fifth track, become quite lovely.
5-Track & Glass Goblins' "Lost Soul Island" comprises a number of drums, bass, guitar 'n' vocals rock cuts, the tracks evoking spacerock jammers such as Acid Mothers Temple and Phish, while reminding the listener also of some of the Velvet Underground's work. Slow, hazy songs such as 'Space Angel,' 'Kira' (echoes of Hendrix) and 'Godless Weather' groove in an inescapable way, while the closer 'Can't Find The Ocean' marries riff-tastic guitar with garage bass and drums. One for Deadheads expanding out from Haight-Ashbury perhaps.
"Nine Doors" by the Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra is pitched somewhere between spoken word performance art and Faust-like improvised jamming on non-musical instruments. The images and feel are unremitingly gloomy, and occasionally what might be termed post-apocalyptic. The strongest tracks are those where musicality comes through, eg. 'Oil Film.' Not the easiest listen and probably best experienced live.
Considerably less noisy is "Grimpen Mire" by Graham, an album of quiet instrumental ambience from Portland, Maine. Opening with a steady thrum of white noise, reverberated chords and soft, slow notes billowing over the top of this foundation, the music is slow and minimal in classic Eno mode. And it's rather good. You have to have a certain strength of vision to make this kind of music work, and Graham has it. The second of the two "untitled" tracks opens with a massive organ chord and bass drone, which slowly resolves and fades. 'Titled' (Graham uses ironic track names) brings in a rhythmic element, and also piano notes that hover over the base. 'Those Who Stole The Most Gold Drowned' is another long drawn-out chord with subtle overtones and eerie sounds, and the album closes with a final cut in the "untitled" series. Excellent ambience for quiet moments, and one for repeated plays.
"Fire In The Whole" by Plastic Crimewave is a set of thirteen demos. The style is primitive, the recording lo-fi, the singing mostly indecipherable, the playing idiosyncratic. With one exception each of the tracks clocks in at around two minutes. A certain amount of work will need to be done on this before the final album is ready.
The self-titled disk of freeform psychedelic jams by The Rrreverberationsss is an EP of four tracks recorded live in classic drums, bass and wailing guitars mode. The playing is great, the band noisy and freaked out, the atmosphere strong. The first cut 'Black Friday Gas Chamber' is short and heavy, while the second, 'Nothing Ever Felt So Real,' is a little slower with dual guitars and trippy vocals, ending in a kind of lurching hyper-jam. 'Green Fuzz,' a brief third track of stoner proportions, interjects itself before 'Heavy Snow,' the closing eleven minute cut of slow, dense jamming. A band with potential for sure, with hints of Hawkwind, Litmus and Astra in the mix.
Son Of The Sun hail from New York state, here presenting their debut full-length album "The Happy Loss." With hints of psych and garage, the album mixes strong tunes, good tight/loose playing (as the songs require) and a clear recording. There are hints of Band Of Horses (notably the classic "Everything All The Time") although Zak Ward has a very different vocal style. Opening cut 'The Good Ole Days' is garagey, but 'The Other Side' reveals a more subtle side, and 'How Can It Be' showcases the backing vocal style and additional instrumentation that brings so much to the mix. 'Leopard Print' - an album highlight - shows the band's mastery of melody, form and instrumentation, while 'Get Together' is more of a stomper, again with a great tune. 'Keys (Last Call)' has a hazy 'sixties feel to it, returning the band to the garage influences, and features some great guitar playing and a nice breakdown/comeback section. 'April Fools' is slow and melancholy but builds to anthemic proportions - really good - while 'The Franklin' is a quirky little number. 'Stay The Same' opens like 'My Sharona' before heading into garage territory, while album closer 'Tell Me' opens quiet and ends big and bold. A sophisticated debut release with much to recommend it.
Fans of trad folk will certainly want to check out "The Hind Wheels Of Bad Luck" by Cath & Phil Tyler, who hail from northern Britain. Eleven compositions, most of them traditional, make up this great little album. Recorded with minimal instrumentation during a long weekend, Phil Tyler's sparse playing accents Cath's confident vocals. The melodies are the couple's, the lyrics mostly unearthed from collections and song books. 'Dearest Dear' and 'Imaginary Trouble' are strong openers, while the instrumental 'Whip Poor Will' is charming and beautifully played (on what sounds like a fab guitar). I particularly liked the lengthy 'Golden Ace/Courting Is A Pleasure', which contrast to perfection. The blink-and-you-miss-it 'The Wind That Shakes The Barley' fingerpicks and rolls, before 'Castle By The Sea' and 'Long Time Travelling' conclude the album. As has been pointed out by other reviewers, this duo's combination of delivery, choice of song and sheer style make them a major force. Highly recommended.
"Divine Cantos" by Marianne Nowottny is a dark and perplexing interpretation of six sections of Dante's 'La Divina Commedia.' To a backing of deep, resonant keyboards, occasional lighter instrumentation and dulcimer, Nowottny's intense, almost overpowering vocals bring us brief snapshots of Dante's literary classic. The vocals on the concluding two tracks are lighter however, appropriately, as the text deals with Paradise, and are easier on the ear than those gloom-laden opening cuts. A strange, forboding, but ultimately positive release.
Backseat Dreamer is the nom de plume of US electro-kid Sean Neuse, whose "The Colours Of Dreams, They're In You" comes over as a kind of New Order-esque drum machine-rooted pop collection - think Maps especially, but also a stripped back Caribou. Dreamy vocals lie heavily reverberated over swirling, string-rooted keyboards, while bass drums thunk and hi-hats scratch and phase. The synths on 'Blind Science' are good, while 'Real Inside You' has a bouncy vibe. I also liked the dense 'Twilight Valentines' and the title track. A little more audio variety would not have gone amiss however: lacking the melodic originality of that classic first Maps release, and missing some of the sonic imagination of Dan Snaith, this is nonetheless an attractive release, that could find its audience amongst fans of M83, Digitalism and Maps. One final point: the album has been either mixed or more likely mastered with far too much compression, making it difficult to listen to in places.
"Leaves Of Grass" by Dirt Weed Review returns us to the world of drifting synths, noise and prepared guitars. It's dense, intense, crazy and mostly formless. Veering between avante garde crashing noise, looped and delayed guitar thrums, but occasionally moving into spacey random-note moments, the music battles your eardrums - but in an interesting way. One for fans of Moral Crayfish.
Meanwhile, back in the crazy world of Apollolaan Recordings, we stumble across Spaceship - essentially astral synth traveller Mark Williamson - and his album "Out Of Time's Abyss." Skewed and violent guitar/bass parts clash with synth noise weirdry and bass drones so malevolent they leap out of the speakers. Another intense listen: 'Chain Movement' is eighteen minutes of Mark sketching the environment of Hell in electronics, while the briefer 'Ranks Of The Horrified' adds plodding drums to the mix - this one sounds like Satan's theme tune, though it calms down a little at the end - while closer 'Traversing The Chiastolite' is cool and rather more like the afterlife... subtle analogue synth playing, electric guitar and an ominous sequenced backing - the best track on an intriguing production.
Peter Delaney, it transpires, is live in Amsterdam. Also on Apollolaan, his eight track EP documents him and his guitars, singing songs of life and all its difficulties to an appreciative audience. With one exception the songs are brief and bittersweet. Delaney's voice can soar high but also has a reedy undertone, reminding one just a little of Michael Stipe. He's a confident singer and never puts a note wrong, while his guitar accompaniment is polished. Highlights include the emotional 'My Eyes Are Blessed' and the eight minute 'The Guest,' which matches world-weary vocals with ukelele accompaniment. 'O, Great Father Ocean' has the depth and power of a traditional song. (It may be - there are no sleeve notes.) A surprisingly affecting and certainly accomplished release.
"Tall Shoulders" by Lille is a five track EP of strange and eerie power, written by Atlanta teenager Grace Bellury. Opening with 'Straw,' whose strong melody and spooky instrumentation supports a pure voice, the release continues with 'Robert Cohn,' possibly a song to an ex-lover (these songs have a confessional feel to them) which ends on an almost operatic high. 'Melancholera' is the hit of the EP, with a mesmerising vocal performance. The title track is a brief sugar hit, alternately floating and soaring, before the closing cut, 'Blue Boat Boy,' which is in more traditional rock-pop mode. An amazing new voice has arrived; in places I was reminded of the calmer moments from Joanna Newsom's "Ys". Well produced, original and recommended.
Singer-songwriter Roger Harvey is the man behind Dandelion Snow, whose "The Grand Scheme Of Things" is a roustabout ten track record of personal experiences over the duration of a year. Opening with the martial and challenging title track, the album presents its travelogue with confidence, if a little over-reliance on standard band instrumentation; and Harvey's voice may be an acquired taste. 'Way Down Low' continues the band-styled approach, with Harvey's voice keening over it all. 'Middle Of Nowhere' bounces attractively, while 'Salt Lake City' does exactly what it says on the tin. 'Wooden Gods' is perhaps the album highlight, with a nice Hammond touch augmenting one of the stronger songs. Fans of the viewpoint of Roger Harvey will doubtless want to check out this release.
Warning Light is an American electronic musician by name D. Haddon, whose album "Further On" explores ambient/synth territory, and does it very well. Although comparisons, inevitably, can be made to the pioneering work of Brian Eno, the ten pieces here, while within that oevre of slow and subtle, have textures and mixes nicely balanced, for example on the ocean-slow rise and fall of 'Further On, Monoliths.' 'As The Heavens Fade Out' is darker, more like drone music, while album highlight 'Northern's Requiem' matches church-like synths with sub-bass for an all too brief four minutes. 'Sea Rations,' on the other hand, is almost a quarter of an hour, in which time one massive chord is mutated, stretched, then laid to rest in noise and deep rumbling. Another good release from the Stickfigure label.
Junkboy consists of two main men from Brighton and Hove, whose new album "Koyo" is a twelve track delight veering between bright-eyed psychedelia and bucolic meandering. Brief acoustic trip 'Firth' opens the collection before 'Home,' in which elements of shoegaze and psych-pop are merged to great effect. 'Friends (part 2)' recalls Brian Wilson, but more so the Wilsonesque stylings of The High Llamas, as does 'Function Of The Sun.' 'Pieces In The Sky' features lovely male/female shared vocals, while 'Dr Rendezvous' changes the mood to something more folky. 'Present' is as light as a feather, while 'Stendahl Syndrome' is a nicely played and arranged waltztime instrumental, with a full band sound. 'Ghosts' sounds like an English Gorky's (specifically, "Spanish Dance Troupe") while 'On The Shore' returns the listener to bucolic territory; especially good harmonised vocals on this cut. 'Let The Light In' has a lovely riff and chord sequence, and a positive vibe. Closing cut 'Tones X' recaptures the earlier Junkboy sound, with great brass ensemble/guitar jousting. Overall, a very good album indeed, which I much enjoyed.
US guitarist M. Mucci plays acoustic guitar, and a few other bits and pieces, on his latest foray "Time Lost." Opening with the solo acoustic piece 'Small Triumphs,' which reminded me just a tiny bit of Steve Hackett's 'Horizon,' further fingerpicked wizardry ensues on 'The View From Here' - superbly played, with a marvellous "travelling" quality. 'The Culprits' is more impressionistic, adding slide before returning to the clawhammer style, while 'April L'Occhi Part 1' is almost ambient, with its slow, isolated notes. 'Chase Down Alice St.' adds percussion for extra drama - it works well - then goes almost into a full band sound. 'Moments Between' is contemplative, before the seven minute extended ramble of 'A Day Like Any Other,' which is not in clawhammer style, features a harmonium, and contrasts well with the rest of the album. Closing cut 'April L'Occhi Part 2' drifts off as did part one. Refreshing, beautifully played, and most enjoyable.
Fruits De Mer Records have offered us psychedelic listeners some treats in recent years, and now present their first full album, "A Phase We're Going Through." Their promo contains only five tracks, but no doubt the album is all as good as this quintet of lovelies. The Luck Of Eden Hall do The Monkees' 'Love Is Only Sleeping,' The Swims do July's 'My Clown,' The Chemistry Set do Del Shannon's 'Silver Birch,' and Cranium Pie do Hendrix's 'Little Wing.' All great versions, with, natch, a lot of phasing. One to acquire if you love the best decade in music, from a quintessential record label... can you see what I did there, Keith & Andy?
And so to a book! The Man Who Provides Goodies - as I like to think of Simon Lewis - has seen fit to offer me review copies of two tomes, the first being Keyboard Magazine's "Classic Rock," a collection of original interviews from the pages of Keyboard. Focussing on players from the 'sixties to the 'eighties, the bulk of the interviews are with 'seventies keyboard wizards, for instance Elton John, Jon Lord and Keith Emerson. The interview with Tony Banks is fascinating, revealing much about the Genesis man's working method in particular, and also the band's as a recording entity. The Elton John piece is similarly interesting. I've always loved those classic early albums by Reg, and this interview lifts the lid on much of interest, not least how other keyboard players fit in with him, and with his style of tinkling the ivories. An absorbing read, and, unsurprisingly, a must for players who want to learn more about how the classic synth and keyboard players have achieved their sounds.
Book two is more of a coffee-table read, in equal parts amusing, frustrating and revelatory. Entitled "Venn That Tune" by Andrew Viner, it has a simple premise. On one page is a Venn diagram, chart or graph giving hints to a song title. You have to guess the song. Let me give you an example: a circle with, inside it, two words; stay and go. Outside the circle is written My Options. OK, pretty obvious, it's 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go?' by The Clash. Easy? Well, that was an easy one... some of the others are impossible, and therein lies the cunning plan of Mr Viner, as this innocent looking book becomes something of great frustration - and of course great fun.
So... back to music, and the bonkers world of Apollolaan Recordings. Gish/Perry are purveyors of minimal electronica, whose "I'm Afraid I Ate Too Much Butter As A Youth" is three long tracks of said electronic minimalism. 'The Sandwich Girls Of Belgium' is a long drawn out chord with various recordings and noises laid over the top, while the title track is similar, except with a grittier, dirtier chord. 'Kent' closes the album with location recordings. Not without its merits, though a bit lacking in listenable detail through those extended chords.
On the same label we find 230 Divisadero, whose "The Silent Watcher" is a rather curious collection of six songs: a short album or a long EP. Opener 'Xun Xurtu' matches lugubrious vocals with sparse, often acoustic instrumentation to notable, if strange effect. 'Storm In December' features more quiet vocals, acoustic guitar and effects. The intention is to create mood and timbre; there is little by way of melody, but it does work. 'The Swamp Folk' is quieter still yet full of atmosphere, while 'Gone To Waste' is a melange of stop-start vocals and instruments. 'Maps We Loathe' is an atmospheric instrumental featuring Richard Adams (not the author, I imagine), while closing cut 'The Silent Watcher' is alternately trippy and ambient. Rather good, this release; there's potential here.
Elsinore make upbeat pop-rock in drums/bass/guitar/vocals style. Hailing from Chicago, they present ten songs on their album "Yes Yes Yes." With vocals sounding a little like Matt Bellamy out of Muse, the arrangements are dramatic, if limited, founded on a standard band style with some backing vocals and keyboards. Opener 'Landlocked' is fast and beaty, while 'In The Sea & Air' is more experimental and pretty good, although those Muse-esque vocals may put some people off. 'Lines' is less faux-operatic - a rather good single in waiting I think - while the lengthier 'Gasoline' is an album highlight with nice production. 'Wooden Houses' closes the album with more Muse-like posing. They're not going to set the world alight, but this album is a solid listen.
Quiet World is the label of productive ambient musician Ian Holloway, whose "The Earth In Play" is one short track and one long in the company of multi-instrumentalist Darren Tate. The five minute opener matches sea recordings against mystical synth drifts, before it's on to the half hour main track, an enigmatic concoction of single piano notes, ethereal drones and drifting synth chords. Holloway, as his previous releases have shown, has a talent for creating ambience, and this is another fine example. Great for winding down at the end of the day.
If you like heavy Dutch space rock then "Into The Multiverse" by Stone Oak Cosmonaut is for you. Sabbath riffing goes against vocals and synth noodling to create a swampy space rock for fans of Hawkwind, Litmus, et al. The band is a trio who recorded the album on a single day. Opener 'She Is My Interstellar Cow' pushes all the buttons mentioned above, while 'Cosmonaut No. 6' is sludge-slow, with doomy vocals. 'Fly Into The Light' is a brief Motorhead-like stomper (with Lemmy vocals!) and then it's off into the thirty-eight minute epic 'Into The Multiverse,' which by turns goes cosmic, metal, electronic/ambient and riffola. The vocals are a bit indistinct in places, but the track is suitably spacey and is definitely one for Hawk fans. 'Telescope' closes the album with more of the same, albeit fast and very heavy. Rock-tastic.
Mirko Uhlig & Dronaement have a long track each on "Farewell Fields," an album of electronic ambience, with Uhlig's piece being studio-bound and overdubbed, and Dronaement's live in Dresden. It's unclear exactly what instruments are being played, but the results are beatific and enjoyable. Ringing tones and bass notes move around subtle textures in Eno-esque style on Uhlig's 'Para Puri'. There's little variation through the piece, but just enough to sustain it. The second track 'Fields (Live)' is more of a drifting chord enhanced by additional notes all roughly of the same timbre, though the piece does evolve over its thirty two minute duration, ending up with strange samples and a floating sequence. Of the two, I prefered this latter piece. All in all though, an agreeable work in an attractive package; the kind of album you want to settle down to last thing on a Sunday evening.
Polytoxicomane Philharmonie are a collective of five musicians who present a two-disk jazz-tinted psychedelic extravaganza in a graphic-art styled booklet entitled "Go Ape." One thinks of Zappa, amongst others; they call themselves Freakout Krautjazz, which is not inappropriate. Opener 'Dervish' combines furious riffing, bizarre vocals, trippy snippets and superb playing to create a unique blend that you've never heard before... ever. It's like a radio broadcast from a deranged Sun Ra-loving mind; hard to believe this is a quintet. 'Fine Animal Gorilla' is less frenetic but just as trippy, with great call/response vocals and fine psychedelic guitar backing. 'Spoonful Of Majoun' echoes Zappa more obviously, with endless tempo changes and style adjustments, and also vocals in the great man's style, while 'Catwalk For Little Monsters' is more of the same. Disk two presents four tracks in similar style, with 'Open Letter To Albert H.' a particularly trippy synth/electronica outburst and the brief 'Etude 27' a melange of feedback and weird sounds. The disk closes with almost twenty minutes of space rock styled jamming that illustrates the band's superb musicianship; a quite brilliant track that Gong fans would love. The artwork in the accompanying booklet is colourfully insane, complementing this crazed epic of a release. Recommended for Zappa enthusiasts, jazzers who love rock, and anybody into the trippier end of psychedelia - "multicoloured ear-cinema" indeed...
Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy present their "Live At The Toff" as a DVD. This is the record of a concert held in Melbourne in September 2009, featuring singer Steve Kilbey of The Church and Martin Kennedy of All India Radio. The music is a performance in track order of 'Unseen Music Unheard Words', played here as a band with a drummer and pedal steel player. An appreciative audience enhance this unique performance, which, shot from a multitude of viewpoints, serves to put the viewer both in front of the stage and on it.
Rumbles was brought to you by Simon Lewis and Steve Palmer. Direction by Simon Lewis. Editing / butchery and artistic direction, such as it is, by Phil McMullen ©Terrascope Online August 2010