(LP on Happy Happy Birthday To Me)

Singer/songwriter Ben Crum has been spearheading Great Lakes for over two decades, orbiting the Elephant 6 collective with Terrastock performers Andrew Rieger and Adrian Finch (Elf Power) and Jeremy Barnes and Scott Spillane (Neutral Milk Hotel) contributing to his eponymous 2000 debut (Kindercore). Barnes, Spillane, and the late Bill Doss (Olivia Tremor Control) also help out on 2002’s follow-up The Distance Between (Orange Twin). 2010 saw drummer Kevin Shea and vocalist Suzanne Nienaber join Crum (guitar, bass) to solidify the current lineup and Contenders is their fourth release together.

     The dirgey ‘Eclipse This’ seems COVID-inspired, a claustrophobic trawl through barbed wire and dusty, deserted landscapes. “And nothingness speaks to what might be/Come into being.” Existential angst with a three-martini hangover. Neil Young and Crazy Horse influences seem at the heart of ‘Way Beyond The Blue’, all fuzz petals, drawling vocals, and sinewy melody lines with signpost lyrics like “Come let us smoke together” pointing the way!

     The hypnotic sludge of ‘Easy When You Know How’ is elbowed aside by the insanely magnetic country rocking toetapper ‘Baby’s Breath’ and the jingly-jangly good timey ‘Last Night’s Smoke’ which will induce drooling nods and illegal smiles amongst Mike Ness and Camper Van Beethoven fans. The fun continues on the philosophical ‘I’m Not Listening’. Shea’s galloping drums (Gary Glitter-meets-Adam & The Ants) are at the heart of Crum’s multifaceted lyric of broken relationships, canceled TV shows, aging pop stars past their sell-by date, and “every picture tells a story” revisionist history.

     While the world may not be ready for the swaying doo-wop of ‘Born Frees’, its nostalgic yen for more innocent days is refreshing, and the intimate, soothing nodder ‘Wave Fighter’ spotlights Nienaber’s delicately lilting delivery. The set wraps with the heavy-lidded ‘Your Eyes Are Xs’, which sounds exactly like what it says on the tin!

     If you haven’t investigated the kaleidoscopic crystalised third-eye musical mind of Ben Crum and the Great Lakes, Contenders is a great place to start your trip.

(Jeff Penczak)

March =  2022 =  
Rivers Flow Reverse
Arnald Paul
Dust Mountain
Snowy Dunes
Great Lakes
Ghosts of Jupiter
Fever Dog




(LP on Psychedelic Source Records   Twisted Flowers 001)

This is the first release from a new Greek record label Twisted Flowers and is a double vinyl LP by a Hungarian band made up of various members of Lemurian Folk Songs and the Psychedelic Source Family recorded in a shed in the middle of a muddy forest somewhere in Hungary. The band consists of Kristi Benus: vocals, Lörinc Sántha: vocals and banjo, Nico Delmas: trumpet, Gergely Gerdolla: noises plus Bence Ambrus: guitar and other instruments.

The album which sounds very much like taking a slow meander down some large river, unfolds unhurriedly with the languid strains of opener ‘Leaving Shades Ahead’, and is unusual for a psych folk song in that it features banjo. It has some tasty, sparse electric guitar lead lines and female vocals. Things turn very acid- folk for the following ‘At The Gates Of The Perennial’ in which the sounds of nature are joined by would you believe pan pipes, but also some fine arpeggio electric lead guitar notes peeling off into the atmosphere, again it is unhurried with plenty of space to develop, the lightly marshalled drumming drives the song along as it progresses to its conclusion some ten minutes later.

‘El Sendero’, is a lot shorter and has some fine harmonics, this song ushers in ‘El Sendero parts 11 & 111’, which when all put together run to over fourteen minutes, where mutant jaw harp, found sounds, bells, chimes, drones and fine electric guitar lines build in intensity to create a song to get lost in, again the banjo sounds misplaced, as indeed does the trumpet, but they do make it different from the usual psych album. ‘The Final Round’, greets weary travellers with an invitation to take of your muddy boots and join us for an invocation. A sparse moody murder ballad, enlivened by spiralling slide guitar notes which gradually coalesce, building to intensity by the infinite guitar playing and close-miked female vocals.

The eleven minute ‘Rain It Rages’ again utilises the template of trumpet, banjo and arpeggio electric guitar as it slowly builds, it’s like Miles Davis jamming somewhere in the Appalachians. The song is again the acid- folk bag with female vocals and features some cool electric lead guitar playing off to the side. ‘Oriental Western’ is a strange ghostly tune followed by a slow and mournful ‘Ripples’ is introduced by a clawhammer style banjo, it also has male vocals which come as a bit of a surprise this late in the proceedings, sounding not unlike Terrascope favourites Stone Breath. The LP version adds another couple of songs and has artwork by Tamás Tth. 

(Andrew Young)



(10” Lathe Cut + DVD from )

Arnald Paul wear’s his influences on his sleeves. They are mostly English singer songwriters like Syd Barrett and Robyn Hitchcock and is certainly filtered through a sixties kaleidoscope.

The record starts with backwards guitars and a toytown Teardrop Explodes style on ‘Spiders’. On ‘The Travelling Troupe Of Simon Smart’, a nursery rhyme deeply rooted in whimsical Englishness, rendered on 12 string acoustic guitar, strings and keyboards, a story of an outcast and the various characters encountered in an old travelling freak show.

 Arnald recorded these songs over the last thirty years onto cassettes, they are home recorded on a 4 track cassette deck, not unlike the kind of music made by Pig Rider. ’40 Souls’ highlights this homespun way of recording, embellished as it is with amateurish strings. ‘The Soiled King’, shimmers with a neo psych style heavily influenced by Syd Barrett, it’s a wonky confection with spacey keyboards and is inspired by Grimm's fairy tales.

Arnald’s 12 string guitar features prominently throughout the record and forms the bedrock of the songs. ‘Dr Please’ one for the armchair traveller, my mind goes high, Doctor please give me one more dose! It ebbs and flows with a visceral, toytown psych pop quality.

 An English folky melody is corrupted early on in the following ‘Stiff’ by a dirty fuzzy electric guitar riff as it heads off in a punky direction before dissolving into chaos. The record ends with ‘Annabel Lee’ ramshackle 12 string guitar, slightly Eastern sounding motifs and wonky tape loops, heavily influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, Arnald sings about a mythical sea creature or perhaps a haunting spirit.

It is accompanied by a DVD entitled ‘Yellow Facet Lime’; it consists of 20 videos, most of which are brand new, created solely for this release. The artwork is by Ian Barrett the nephew of Syd and features an octopus with a lobotomised head, so there.

(Andrew Young)



(LP/CD/Digital on Svart Records)


This is a terrific debut from Tampere, Finland-based Dust Mountain.  After a first listen, I did something I rarely do, which is immediately play the whole thing again, and I wanted to do it a third time after that.  The album features female vocals, with English-sung lyrics laced with pagan imagery (as one glance at Tekla Valy’s cover art will also affirm).  But while most records in that thematic area tend to fall into either the hauntological folk or doom metal categories, Dust Mountain is neither of those.  Braced with electric guitars, flute and Mellotron, one might suggest progressive rock, but it isn’t that either; this is rock with a melancholy, and not heavy feel.  Some bands I’d (lightly) compare it to include Coven, Purson, Blood Ceremony, and very distantly, Heron Oblivion.


The band is co-honchoed by brother and sister Toni (keyboards, mandolin) and Henna Hietamäki (lead vocals), who wrote all the songs together.  All the members hail from a multitude of Finnish bands, the most famous of them being Hexvessel.   Henna Hietamäki’s vocals blend perfectly with harmony singer and guitarist Pauliina Lindel’s (they used to sing in the same choir as children).


The subject matter sprinkled throughout indicates that something sinister may be afoot in the fields of Finland.  Witchy rites, Aleister Crowley’s black magick, and of course old Lucifer himself get nods.  And if they ever decide to film a sequel to Midsommar, Dust Mountain could make a fine soundtrack.  Only the song “Apollo” trades in the pagan robes for Greek mythology in the heaviest track on the album.  Henna Hietamäki told Echoes and Dust “I’m really interested in folklore and old traditions; pagan-rooted Finnish traditions that have been mostly forgotten.  I’ve also been interviewing some shamans working in Finland and I’m really appreciative of their thoughts…”


Hymns for Wilderness abounds with superb songwriting, arrangements and production all around.  The sound of the album is just sensational, with a warm, full, analog feeling.  The tracks are all killer, no filler.  There’s not a dud in the bunch.  My favorite is “Village on Fire.”  It’s the rockingest track on the album, about “burning down unjust kingdoms.”  The propulsive rhythm, with mandolin and electric guitar riffing away, really gets the blood pumping.  But it’s the long outro, with an extended build featuring Henna Hietamäki’s and Pauliina Lindel’s vocals, plus soaring Mellotron, that positively induces goosebumps.  The song is only 5:50, but I think I could listen to that explosive outro for about a half hour.


 The band is super-tight, which I suppose is unsurprising, considering the number of other bands from which its members came.  And Toni Hietamäki really knows his way around a Mellotron, which elevates many of the tracks.  Hymns for Wilderness has duly vaulted into being one of my recent favorites.


(Mark Feingold)

(LP/CD/DL from
Music | Rocket Recordings (

Recently decamped to Hebden Bridge (the Hexen Valley of the title and, for the uninitiated, a more rugged Glastonbury of the North) and with a line-up still coalesced around Founding Fathers Paddy Shine and Chris Haslam, Gnod reprise the communal approach with which they were first associated at Salford’s Islington Mill. It’s a formula that succeeded well enough then, and it sure bears fruit now.

Gnod’s last album, La Morte du Sense, doubled down on the aural bombardment that has served them so well in recent years and which as good as nailed it on that occasion, too. Now stripped back to a four-piece featuring two guitars, bass and drums, one might reasonably expect to again be on the receiving end of a bare-knuckle pasting. And to an extent we are, except that Hexen Valley introduces us to a few more jabs and feints, even a hint of fancy footwork to keep you guessing. Which of course makes it all the more delicious when you do get floored. Boy how we love a sucker punch - fall for it every time.   

From the jagged, “Rhubarb and Custard”-style beginnings of ‘Bad Apple’ we know we’re in for a treat. Gnod are not famed for conventional vocal prowess but here a talking narrative, accompanied by yelps seemingly from deep within a rancid barrel of the rotting fruit, effectively make the point. A rasping bass riff and squall of feedback heralds ‘Spotlight’, a fifteen minute off-centre centrepiece showcasing Gnod at their most gloriously attritional and teetering on a narrow bandwidth that proves again the old adage of less is more.  A distant voice occasionally calling from the void over a steady 4/4 rhythm constitutes something of a breather and then it’s back on your heads.

New man Richard Chamberlain brings to the party a great line in take-note guitar intros, upon which several cuts hitch a ride. ‘Skies are Red’ is no exception, propelled too by high octane lung busting rants and Jesse Webb’s machine gun drumming, so powerful and precise that it sounds like he’s somehow cloned himself. The brooding ‘Antidepressants’ packs a woozy, cloying bad-batch psychedelic quality, incessant keyboard plink and stoner vocals that have you metaphorically bumping into walls as you stumble rubbery-legged down an endless ill-lit corridor. A rumbling bass and shrieking feedback shakes us out of a dark reverie and it’s time for those legs get to mosh again. Really? At my age? Aw, c’mon...oh alright then. Then the dissociative Ketamine vibe kicks back in again, and we all fall down. And dribble. It certainly has me licking the blister pack for more.

What else? Well, a pathological aversion to “drop g” song titles was tested by ‘Start Runnin’’. Thankfully it has the redeeming quality of sounding like a spirited if hyperactive first cousin of ‘Death Valley ‘69’ or indeed any other example of the more corrosive 80s Sonic Youth oeuvre that takes your fancy. And finally there’s the curveball, the shimmy, as “Gnod do Lou Reed”. Yes, seriously. One of the Velveteer’s heavier outings, ‘Waves of Fear’ is given extra heft and a suitably emotive vocal delivery that work brilliantly. Describing Reed’s withdrawal (and in Lou’s case no doubt with drawl) from drug addiction, taken out of context the catharsis may be a little lost, but this is an absolute triumph to be sure. An album of Adele’s break-up songs must surely be on the cards now.

Gnod and Hebden Bridge, a strange band in a strange land - a Paradise Rust where the old mills, once dark and satanic, grind to new metallic rhythms. Long may they, and we, linger there.

(Ian Fraser)




This third album by Stockholm’s Snowy Dunes is not what it initially seems – well, not exactly.  The four-piece begins the album and title track with several minutes of gutsy, bluesy, fuzz and wah-wah filled hard rock reminiscent of 1970-era Taste, Uriah Heep, The Third Power, Sir Lord Baltimore, High Tide, etc.  That is, until they take an unexpected left turn into the middle of a spaghetti western for a spell, before settling into half-speed version of the hairy head-nodding rock with which they started.


This sets the general course for Sastrugi, the album.  (Sastrugi are not Italian pastries, but rather wind-blown ridge lines in, um, Snowy Dunes.)  You’re in for a tour of hard psych, proto-metal, hard rock – choose your bloody moniker – styles and their extant variations.  And Snowy Dunes does it with expertise and style, lots of style.


On next track “Let’s Save Dreams,” Snowy Dunes enlists a little help from their friends Alex Gatica (keyboards, acoustic guitars, backing vocals) and Adele Friberg (additional vocals).  There are some Jon Lord-esque organ stabs for an early Deep Purple vibe, plus an electric sitar I found somewhat out of place (your mileage may vary), but overall, another superb track.


On “Great Divide,” Snowy Dunes slows things down – at first – again.  Keyboard and bass player Carl Oredson adds Mellotron to what starts to shape up to be a laid-back ballad.  Until, that is, the “Great Divide” opens up a few minutes in, when singer Niklas Eisen clears his pipes and the song morphs back into melt-the-paint-off-the-walls heavy psych territory.  The Dunesmen keep this slow-fast, light-heavy back-and-forth thing going at a dizzying clip throughout the track.  They are excellent at utilizing light-and-shade over the course of their songs, keeping the listener constantly guessing, but always with strong melodies.


The final two tracks are both lengthy trips, the nine-minute “Medicinmannen” and eleven-minute “Helios.”  On “Medicinmannen” Eisen switches to his native Swedish, while guitarist Christoffer Kingstedt gets several opportunities to shine in a wah-wah induced frenzy, and Oredson contributes more Mellotron and spacy synths.  The band makes the most of the extra time to jump back-and-forth between slow/light and fast/heavy sections.


Closer “Helios,” begins like a Zeppelin-inspired electric delta blues track that could’ve easily slotted onto Led Zeppelin I.  But you just know the eleven-minute length is going to be filled with lots of excursions off the beaten path.  There are hints of The Doors, and a lengthy lysergic departure.  Guitarist Christoffer Kingstedt again lends a forceful dynamic to counter Eisen’s powerful vocals.


If you like songs from collections like the I’m a Freak Baby or the Brown Acid series, Snowy Dunes is for you.  But it goes well beyond those mileposts, with the band never sitting still in any given track, constantly changing up (or down) the tempo and VU-meter levels.  Vocalist Niklas Eisen has a mighty voice, letter perfect for this style of rock, while guitarist Christoffer Kingstedt and bass/keyboard player Carl Oredson add plenty of their own muscle.  Turn it up.


(Mark Feingold)


(CD/Digital on bandcamp)


Boston-area nu-psych band Ghosts of Jupiter is led by multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Nate Wilson.  On this, their magnificent third album, their brand of melodic psych is also home to some ace songwriting and playing by the band.  Ghosts of Jupiter reminds me in some ways of the Swedish band The Greek Theatre and also Communicant, which we reviewed back in October, for their extreme reverence to a strong melody, and a fine band to back up the sound.  I also hear a touch of Fleet Foxes in the air.  On many of the songs Wilson takes sharp aim with his pen at the things poisoning our contemporary society.


The first things you notice when you hit Play are Nate Wilson’s dreamy tenor and harmonies, and his fine flute work in the psych folk of “The Undertaking” and “Villains.”  But this isn’t dream pop; you’re in for an album with loads of variation.


“On Bending Tides,” about trying to find one’s way in a world knocked off its axis, adds a bit of muscle, as the band pulls more of the wraps off Thomas Arey’s drum kit and adds a powerful guitar solo.


The album contains several peak instrumentals parsed between tracks, all of them stylistically different.  But the key to each of them is once again their incredible tunefulness.  “The Wandrian” mixes slide guitar, piano, organ, flute, glockenspiel and synths in a rock and prog voyage.  “Battlekat” is a slowly simmering pot of analogue synths, organ, flute and electric guitar, while “Gustav” brings the funk, rock, jazz and prog in a sweeping mélange.


On “Northern Road,” which seems to be about the madness surrounding many toxic political rallies and demonstrations, which continues to plague our times, there’s a lovely interlude of flute and Mellotron to counter the darkness of the lyrics.  Although I wish that stretch would’ve lasted longer, even for the backing of the entire song, the track is practically flawless nonetheless.


“Sea of Madness” isn’t the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song of the same name – but its sensibility is such that it could’ve been by them anyway.  The rocker seems like a barb at the misinformation, disinformation and lies spread by conspiracy theorists.


“Imperium Waves” just rocks, and closer “No Direction” has some great harmonies.  It tells us we may all be adrift, but the refrain “we’re going home” repeats towards the end, though we may not know where that exactly is any more.


While plenty of artists have covered the insides and outs of the pandemic and its short-term and lasting effects, I was very pleased to see someone finally willing to take on that other thing lately plaguing us, which is us.  It’s easy to lose that bubble on Keepers of the Newborn Green, because Ghosts of Jupiter have an often-sweet sound, enhanced by Nate Wilson’s soft vocals.  They add some edge with a very polished and professional sound and a well-rounded mix of styles and instrumentation.  You can easily lose yourself for a while in this album, because musically it’s so strong, one song after another, and you don’t want it to stop.  Finally, the cover art by the great Robin Gnista lends still more class to an already classy record.


(Mark Feingold)


(LP/CD/Digital on bandcamp and Glory or Death Records)


This very fun album is like one very long sugar rush after eating a lot of sweets.  Southern California’s Fever Dog brings their third album proper ‘Alpha Waves,’ and it’s an overflowing bottle of 70s style AOR and glam rock, well played, and I mean REALLY well played.


The band is led by childhood friends Danny Graham (guitar, lead vocals) and Joshua Adams (drums, vocals), both from the Coachella Valley, and also includes Quanah Lienau (guitar) and Jaxon Fischer (bass).  Graham and Adams have run this outfit in one form or another since they were around 12 years old (they’re twenty-somethings now).


Some of the songs on Alpha Waves are clearly done lovingly in the styles of their influences (“Bruiser!” is T. Rex, “King of the Street” is The Sweet).  Most of the rest is their own amalgam, but in their tunes and arrangements you’ll hear early Queen and ELO, among loads of others.  That’s in the vocal sections.  In the solos you’ll hear four amazing musicians, more on that below.  The cover design by Danny Graham is all about the androgynous glam.


But here’s the thing.  You come for the glam, AOR and power pop, but you fall hook, line and sinker and stay for their musical chops.  These guys’ playing is simply stunning.  Virtually every song has an extended break where Fever Dog just crushes it on guitars, organs and synths like Minimoogs.  They may be young, but these dudes can play.  You need look no further than knockout title track “Alpha Waves” to see what I mean.  Plus, their arrangements have lots of excellent attention to detail, like their backup harmonies. 


While Fever Dog’s lyrics can often be no more adventurous than “Ooh, I got a hold on you” (an interesting twist at least, since doesn’t the sentiment usually flow the opposite direction in pop songs?), it isn’t all it seems on the surface.  “Star Power” laments what it takes to make it in the biz and how fleeting success can be, set once more to the boys’ ultra-confident playing on electric piano and guitars, while title track “Alpha Waves” takes you “on a quadraphonic starship ride.”  And on instrumental track “Mystics of Zanadu” they dispense altogether with verses and choruses and let their axes and vintage synths do the talking.


Fever Dog takes a genre in some ways exemplified by The Lemon Twigs, and ups the ante many fold (and the D’Addarios are no slouches).  They worked on this album for five years and it shows.  I hope you’ll take a chance on this record; you’ll be impressed at how exceedingly likeable it is. 


(Mark Feingold)