= August 2021=  
Birds of Maya
Rodrigo Amarante
 The Wheel
 I See Hawks in LA
Andrew Wasylyk
Anton Barbeau



(LP on Drag City Records)

Birds of Maya are a classic and pleasingly noisy guitar, bass and drums trio drawn from the cream of the vibrant Philadelphia lo-fi garage scene. Sightings outside of gigs and jams in and around Philly are rare but all three members have their fingers in many pies and can be seen and heard in a number of well-known outfits. They’ve been getting together on occasion as Birds of Maya to generate some musical mayhem over quite a few years now but ‘Valdez’ is only their fourth record and their debut for Drag City having previously graced the Holy Mountain, Richie and Little Big Chief labels. It was actually recorded back in 2014 soon after the release of their previous record in 2013 but its ageless scuzzy splendours sound bang up to date – just blow off the dust and yesterday doesn’t seem so far away.

‘High Fly’ thrillingly introduces the six tracks making up this record and instantly we have the smell of paint stripper in the sweaty garage air with searing, distortion coated riffs, a rolling fireball of drums and bass and a chaotic mess of frantic guitar solos and punky vocals with a touch of the Mark E Smith school of snarl and sneer for added enjoyment. The short and searing ‘BFIOU?’ follows and has a distinctive and enjoyable touch of hairy early eighties NWOBHM (hands up who remembers that acronym? Everyone? Excellent, we’ll continue…) in its urgent riff and a vocal abandon remaining just the right side of unhinged. ‘Busted Room’ slows the pace down with no less power and energy invested in its crunchingly relentless riff, hammer blow drums and intense, frenetic guitar solos over a near 10 minute assault on your senses. ‘Recessinater’ is a lengthy excursion in the world of psychedelic garage boogie and a tune of two halves starting with quirky off kilter guitar lines bobbing and weaving around each other and an undeniably catchy feel thanks to the upbeat and solid drum and bass interplay before things speed up and become more frenetic and uncontrolled. ‘Front Street’ returns to brevity and metallic riffing with a touch of Hawkwind to these ears in its vocal feel and cosmic punk propulsion. ‘Please Come In’ keeps the temperature high and rounds things off with a stomping and relentless garage riff underpinning an intense, distorting vocal and guitar soling with just the right amount of wild abandon.

This is a thrilling listen and it’s amazing that a record this good could remain unreleased for so long but thankfully we have it now. It’s got a brutal elegance and infectious energy with the raw appeal of a jam where the band knows when to explore and when to stop and a musical nous, coming from musicians who are clearly enjoying playing together and creating those little sparks and sometimes incendiary flames to put a smile on the face of both band and listener. I’ve mentioned a few influences that stand out to these ears and there is of course a deep and respectful nod to The Stooges and their ilk but Birds of Maya are much more than your average noisy heavy psychedelic garage trio. If Birds of Maya are recording anytime soon, let’s hope we hear the results much more quickly than 7 years after the event.

(Francis Comyn)



(LP, Digital on The Reverberation Appreciation Society)


Slift, the fabulous hard psych three-piece from Toulouse, France, is right on the cusp of busting their international audience wide open.  Their last two albums, La Planéte Inexplorée (2018) and Ummon (2020), rendered them a powerful emerging psychedelic force to be reckoned with, with another studio album baking in the oven.  They recently made a live appearance for the vaunted Levitation Sessions series of livestreams and albums that’ve been helping us all get through this worldwide mess, which will only enhance Slift’s rapidly growing reputation as both a brilliant studio and live band.


If you haven’t seen or heard any of it, leap straightaway to youtube to check out their ruthless performances of “Ummon” and “Heavy Road.”  While many of the Levitation Sessions have been filmed in places like abandoned warehouses, ampitheaters, and the desert, Slift looks to be on what could be the set of Doctor Who or Flash Gordon.  It’s actually CEMES, the French National Center for Space Studies, in a site called “la Boule” (the Bowl), and the gigantic retro future contraption in the background is the top of an old microscope.  The place produced what Slift called “an astronomical level of reverb” to reckon with during filming and recording.


Take-no-prisoners opener “Ummon,” the title track from their most recent album, is frankly jaw-dropping.  Man, these three guys put out a massive, massive sound in that old rocket ship.  Drummer Canek Flores and bass player Rémi Fossat lay down an airtight, mega-propulsive groove, while guitarist and vocalist Jean Fossat is simply an unstoppable force, playing guitar and singing as if his very life depended on it.  Jean and Rémi are brothers, and play a matching set of white Gibson SG guitar and bass.  Jean was once asked how he’d describe their live shows, and he responded:



GrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrUUuuuuuuuuuuu. bbbrrrrr brrrrrrr.

brrrrrrrrrrr. FuuuuUUUuuuuuZZZZzzzzzzzzzzCRRSHHH


I can pretty much concur.


That they keep up this level of energy and intensity for eight tracks totaling an hour and 15 minutes, is a credit to them.  You more than get your money’s worth, and they leave the impression they could keep going and going, if the planetary scientists next door can handle all the aggression and the titanic racket.


Slift burns on with the flaming “Thousand Helmets of Gold.”  They’re also masters of light and shade, and of combining a galloping rhythm track with Jean Fossat’s killer guitar playing, reminiscent of Zep’s “Achilles’ Last Stand.”


That light and shade is on full display on Ummon’s suite “Citadel on a Satellite,” here expanded out to fifteen glorious minutes, and a real highlight.  Slift combines their in-your-face fierceness with a slower, synth-augmented space cruiser excursion, whose chilling, reverberating ending demands an enormous light show.  This segues brilliantly into the heavy, sledge-hammering “Hyperion,” as on the studio album.


On “Heavy Road,” Jean Fossat brings throat-shredding vocals, guitar feedback, wah-wah, and synth flourishes into a crashing performance, with the usual rock-solid rhythm from Rémi Fossat and Canek Flores.


When I hear Slift play, they just suck me in from the start with their big, fierce sound and thrashing soloing, and I can’t get enough of it.  Levitation’s original double LP, in eye-popping artwork and decadent Splatter Vinyl, sold out in the blink of an eye.  However, they did a rare – for them – repress, and you can still get it in all its glory.  I can’t wait for the new studio album and live appearances (with audience), but this will gladly suffice in the meantime.


(Mark Feingold)



(LP, CD, Cassette on Polyvinyl Records)


This may be Rodrigo Amarante’s second solo album, but the brilliant 44-year-old Rio de Janeiro-born singer and multi-instrumentalist, living in L.A. the past few years, has certainly been around.  In his native Brazil, he was in the successful rock band Los Hermanos in the early Oughts.  Following that, he joined the twenty-piece samba band Orquestra Imperial.  After moving to L.A., he has worked with artists such as Devendra Banhart and Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes, and formed the band Little Joy with Moretti.  He broadened his audience with his 2015 song “Tuyo,” the perfect theme song to the excellent Netflix series Narcos and its successor Narcos Mexico (both series well worth checking out).


As a recording artist, Amarante reminds me of a sort of Brazilian Bryan Ferry.  Like the esteemed Mister Ferry, Amarante’s an incurable romantic.  He couldn’t make an unromantic record if he tried.  His gentle, drowsy, crooning voice is both sensual and relaxing.  However, also like Ferry, there’s much more to unpack beneath the surface than just romance, and Amarante has the true heart of the artist.  His lyrics wax of philosophy, personal experience, poetic imagery, and yes, love.  Drama has both the sway and the ghosts of the greats such as Jobim and Gilberto, and the confident swagger of his current digs.  He may get by with a little help from his friends, but on Drama, Amarante also plays most of the instruments, as many as ten.


Also reflecting his in-betweenness, about half the songs are in English and half in Portuguese, and one even mixing both.  Amarante has always been interested in movie-making, and he’s dabbled in it a little bit on the side.  Likewise, he created Drama to be sweeping and cinematic.  Opening with the brief noirish instrumental title track, a string section plays behind crowd noise in a club, and commotion we can’t see.  This transitions to the kind of song we came here for, the lovely single “Maré.”  This one’s got it all, and you can’t not like it.  Starting with the same rhythm on Jethro Tull’s “Living in the Past,” (DA da da - DA da da - DA DA), Maré (The Tide) bubbles with excitement, and full of a big band widescreen sound.  He sings (translated from the Portuguese) “I needed to feel/I can only insist/dream and destiny have/between reason and faith/I know luck is not wanting more than to live/it’s having love to give.”


Amarante goes from this to “Tango,” which starts with a lying-in-a-hammock-near-the-beach-strumming-a-guitar feel, which eventually spreads its wings into a full band arrangement.  “Tango” is a charming track about simply dancing and falling in love.  “Tara,” a story sung in Portuguese about a relationship that didn’t work out, is all late night bossa nova arrangements over Amarante’s gently strum guitar, and even has an occasional 1930s style big band horn section and chorus for accent.  It’s the perfect soundtrack for the sparsely lit, black and white tuxedo-and-gown night club scene from the film in your head that naturally unfolds when you listen to Drama.


The carelessly upbeat “Tanto” returns to the very welcome poppy territory of Maré.  Full of punchy horns and a lightly swinging Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66-type arrangement, “Tanto” again belies its poppiness with impressionistically poetic lyrics (translation required).  Again, the cinematic sense of agency takes over by the end as a string section sways to the sensuous rhythm.


“Tao” is sung in both Portuguese and English and is probably the most artistic song on the album.  Sounding like it could’ve been included on Van Morrison’s Moondance album, Amarante sings “The Tao is an empty cup/poured and never filled/hidden deep and yet above/before the gods could dance.”  The seductive “Eu Com Você” is more poetry set to swinging Technicolor sonic imagery.


Closer “The End” wraps Amarante’s piano-based melody around Gabriel García Márquez-type lyricism, and the Hollywood strings take us out while he sings “To live is to fall.”


Drama is an album which takes aim and succeeds on many levels.  Its dreamy and swirling, yet relaxing, feel, is bolstered by Rodrigo Amarante the songster, poet and aspiring auteur.


(Mark Feingold)



(LP, Digital on Komos)


If you’re looking for a record to give you lots of smiles and put you into an undeniably pleasant mood, you can’t go wrong with this ultra-rarity re-release from 1979, courtesy of the still new French label Komos.  Évé, aka Everaldo Marcial, was originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and fled the dictatorship in 1974 for France.  He recorded this sole album in 1978 in Parisian suburb Courbevoie (site of the 1878 World’s Fair), and it was released a year later on the Free Lance label.  The album soon dropped out of sight, and by the early 1980s so did Évé, moving to the United States and sadly giving up music.


But what a gift he left behind for us!  Its nine songs are filled in the MPB style with soft, but ever so lively acoustic guitar playing by Évé and Pascal De Loutchek, plus plenty of percussion by a mix of fellow expatriates and local Parisian musicians, guided by Évé’s and the gang’s wonderful singing in Portuguese.  African American flute/tenor saxophone/oboe player Bruce Tobé Grant served as music director, and contributed some delightful reed and flute accents to the proceedings.


All songs are Marcial originals, although “Os Ratos” seems inspired by the well-traveled “Trem de Doido” (translation: “Crazy Train” – no, not that one), originally by Lô Borges in 1972 and covered many times since.  The title track is especially beautiful, alternating between Évé’s and De Loutchek’s guitars and Bruce Tobé Grant’s soaring flutes.  Those flutes reappear like a pair of doves flying majestically together up, over, below and all around the melody in “Zoeira.”


The album is just a celebration of joyful acoustic guitar playing from start to finish.  My favorite track is the instrumental “Sala dos Espelhos,” which showcases the beautiful playing, and is full of classical influences and rippling little six-string surprises, sunbursts and shooting stars.


On one hand, what a shame that Évé didn’t record more.  He was obviously overflowing with talent.  But on the other hand, his sole album is so magnificently uplifting, and we are fortunate to have it.  Kudos to Komos for re-releasing it on vinyl for us to share.


(Mark Feingold)




This was a lovely surprise to receive, full-cream melodic Canadiana that’ll put a crease in your denims and a smile on your face. Lovingly crafted in glorious analogue and meticulously mixed using vintage equipment, The Wheel's self-titled debut LP is unashamedly packed with songs of love, loss and longing.

‘No One Can Save Her’ kicks off with a beautifully full-toned guitar that rings like the introduction to a Neil Young and Crazy Horse epic. ‘Worry Doll’ (and the title track itself over on the B side) sounds like it’s lifted straight off the Workingman’s Dead sessions; a hint of which is woven into the very fabric of the band’s being it seems. ‘Forward’ features a gorgeous pedal-steel guitar riff from Wayne Garrett, one of the stars of this particular show; and ‘Mind Leads’ features world-weary vocals that put me in mind of the Miracle Legion, which is no bad thing at all. Finally ‘Slow Dance’ gradually works its way into your heart with some absolutely gorgeous guitar lines from Jamey Lougheed and Mike Corbiell. There’s four guitarists in all including electric, lap steel and pedal steel plus vocalist and acoustic guitarist Patrick Whitten. It was Patrick that took the trouble to answer some of my questions regarding the background to The Wheel.

“The Wheel began as a psychedelic folk electric guitar duo sometime in 2012 [and] was fully formed in 2015 with a bunch of like minded music enthusiasts and record collectors from several different bands all falling into place at just the right time to cater to a collection of songs I had written during the preceding years. We've been practicing and doing live performances ever since. As for the record, Danny Vescarelli (Devonian Gardens) tipped me off that local studio, "Magnetic North", not only had the best hourly rate in town, but was also the best fully analog studio that Calgary had to offer. We went in and laid down the bed tracks live off the floor in two days, then I managed to nitpick the thing for nearly 4 years before its completion in 2020”. And as for that magical something that they seem so successfully to have captured? “The title track was recorded onto a Stephens 821b tape machine that belonged to The Grateful Dead from 1979 well into the early 80's as part of their live recording rig." So that explains that, then!

Any future plans for The Wheel? “We're nearly ready to jump back into the studio to record the follow up album, my solo acoustic record is completed and ready for release, and I've got enough songs written for at least the next two The Wheel albums which should commence recording later this year.”

A suitably up-beat note to end on, and far better than my original intention which was to sign off by crediting Patrick as being the spokesman for the Wheel.





(CD/DL Western Seeds Record company www.iseehawksinla.bandcamp.com)

On Our Way is the new album from Californian country rock group I See Hawks In LA, this is their tenth album and for me their best to date. The band consists of Rob Waller on lead vocals, acoustic guitar and synth. Paul Lacques on guitars, lap steel, autoharp, mandolin and jaw harp, Paul Marshall plays bass and Victoria Jacobs plays the drums, with all the band members contributing backing vocal harmonies. They formed at the tail end of the last century and have played many shows with artists like Chris Hillman, Dave Alvin, Lucinda Williams and many more through the years; indeed playing live is where they are at. This new album also sees contributions from ace fiddler Brantley Kearns, Danny McGough, Dave Zirbel and Woody Aplanalp from Old Californio, amongst others.

It kicks off with the mandolin led ‘Might’ve Been Me’, replete with pedal steel by Paul Zirbel which wouldn’t be too out of place on American Beauty/Workingman’s Dead era Grateful Dead, this is followed by the very catchy title track ‘On Our Way’, a very strong opening pair of songs. ’Know Just What To Do’ is slightly more expansive, it starts (and ends) with some mad twisted fiddling from Brantley and some backwards guitar, before unfolding into a gentle song of revelation. This is followed by the short, bluesy ‘Mississippi Gas Station Blues’. Victoria wrote and sings the wistful ‘Kensington Market’, a well placed indie rock song which details the various sights, sounds and people encountered there; it also features some fine organ from Danny.

The short ‘Kentucky Jesus’ is a song ostensibly about an alternative war hero and comes with contributions by Richie Lawrence on accordion. ‘Geronimo’ is a great dusty Native American tale imbued with plenty of telecaster, pedal steel and mandolin breaks; it is pure country rock gold. ‘Stealing’ is another little gem of a song and sees contributions on vocals and guitars from Old Californio’s Woody. ‘If I Move’ is sees the band playing a Byrds like jangly country rock song with oodles of pedal steel. ‘Radio Keeps Me On The Ground (Slight Return)’ maintains the standard, it ebbs and flows with plenty of room for the instruments to shine and deserves to be played on the radio but probably won’t, especially over here on this side of the Atlantic. The album closes out with the expansive, lightly psychedelic ‘How You Gonna Know’, a groovy rootsy rocker, heralding in a new tomorrow. 

(Andrew Young)



( Vinyl/CD/Digital from Clay Pipe Music www.claypipemusic.com )

I am reviewing this record because although the vinyl has already sold out on Pre-orders I feel that it may receive a repress as is often the case with Clay Pipe releases.

I don’t know much about Andrew except that he is a Scottish musician who was born Andrew Mitchell who has previously released a few albums and EP’s. This album is almost purely instrumental apart from the title track album closer ‘The Morning Of Magnolia Light’.

The record opens with a very gentle bird song infused melodic ‘Blossomlessness #2’, which sounds very much like someone broken down on the side of a busy road throwing open the doors and windows allowing nature in, we hear a chaffinch, a few crows and a distant drumming woodpecker. As the sound of the road gradually disappears a beautiful melody is played on piano, to a woozy bed of electronics. A wonky guitar line introduces us to ‘Through The Rose Window’ which also features a trumpet, played by Rachel Simpson, the song then takes in a very oriental motif which reminds me of Tokyo Rose by Van Dyke Parks.  A loping, lone guitar introduces ‘Magpie Spring’ a delightful song which just reeks of Spring, the keyboards and various electronics weave throughout each other, it sounds very much like a seventies children’s theme tune as played by Vernon Elliott. ‘Sun Caught Cloud Like The Belly Of A Cat’, introduces a very light percussive beat, more trumpet, arpeggio guitars and swirling electronics, shot through with yet more bird song, a touch of slide guitar enhances the cool melody.

‘Avril Hydrangea’, is achingly beautiful, a pre set on an organ plays the ascending and descending melody whilst piano and mellotron combine together to enhance it. More lonesome trumpet heralds in ‘Western Necropolis Twilight’, which I imagine would be a perfect headphone soundtrack to a deserted night time city walk. ‘The Ghost Who Never Arrived’, swirls and envelops us in a reverie, a beautiful, gossamer light melody gradually unfurls. ‘Observatory In Bloom’, is possibly my favourite, it’s just beautiful, the melody is bright and busy, with yet more bird song and plangent electric guitar notes. Stately piano introduces ‘Smiling School For Calvinists’ light percussion and woozy keyboards make this a lively song, which for some reason makes me conjure up a music teacher teaching the song to his class of eager students. The album closes out with the title track ‘The Morning Of Magnolia Light’ a slow soulful song which features the only vocals on the album as the title is intoned over a slippery slightly oriental sounding melody which is injected with some cool brass before the song collapses and we are right back at the start as if it was all a dream.

(Andrew Young)



(CD/DL Big Stir Records www.bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com )

The very prolific Anton is back with a new album, following hot on the heels of its predecessor Manbird; a double album with an avian bent. Anton wrote this album during the pandemic but in no way are the songs about it but they do reflect a period in his life in which travelling around Europe and America playing his songs was not an option, it also sees him pretty much locked down on a farm. It would appear that he has found a Vocoder for this latest outing, which he uses to open the album with, intoning the title ‘Oh The Joys We Live For’. It’s a very playful song with some great rhyming couplets like “Kittens In the barn, where Grandma keeps her yarn” and “Kisses on the nose, the aphids and the rose”. It also has guest Sharron Kraus playing recorder and adding vocals. ‘Cowbell Camembert’ is a typical Anton song, sly and gently humorous, the kind of thing that Syd could have written; it even features a cowbell solo!

‘One Of Her Super Powers’ is a jangly pop song with some of the clever wordplay which he does so well.  ‘Filmik’, is pretty mad, a short song for an imaginary film score, which features vocals from Rosie Abbott. He goes all mystic with ‘Crystals’ it features searing, crashing lead guitar lines from Bryan Poole, more recorder and vocals from Sharron with some added Vocoder and jigger bells played by Julia VBH. ‘When Life Brings You Beer’, is about life on a farm, which Ant has been living on during the pandemic, it’s about growth and decay and of course beer, Christ alone knows what instrument the solo is played on, though it’s some sort of keyboard. ‘I Love It When She Does The Dishes’ is a real soap opera, a catchy, poppy song which again features Sharron’s vocals and recorder plus some waspish, backwards guitar from Bryan. ‘It’s Alright Rosie’ is another song of domesticity, in which he reassures his partner during the long nights, we’ll adapt and survive, a cat and mouse saga, imbued with slide and buzz guitars played by Kevin Allison. ‘Three Days The Death Enigma’ which deals with a suicide, it has many keyboard parts and flute played by Sharron. ‘Die Smiling’, features Prophet’s 5 and 6 and has some added skronking saxophone played by Fred Quentin. ‘Saltlick’, is a bit more of a rocker where Ant plays all the instruments. The album ends with the very catchy ‘I Been Thinking ‘Bout You’, and could be the only song to feature the word Gobbledygook for the bridge, it also sees his teeth turning blue, through unrequited misery.

(Andrew Young)