4 Aug 2015

United Bible Studies "So As to Preserve The Mystery"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

It is always a cause for celebration when wyrd folk collective United Bible Studies release a new album and 'So As To Preserve The Mystery' is indeed a recording that is a veritable gift for the listener. With a back catalogue of silver flecked gems already in their wake (such as 2014's 'Doineann' and 'Spoicke', or 2009's 'The Jonah') this new album continues the outfit's pursuit of rough hewn beauty and windswept otherworldliness. The collective this time around include some well known names from the experimental and folk worlds such as Michael Tanner (also of Plinth), David Colohan (also of Raising Holy Sparks), Richard Moult, Alison O'Donnell (Mellow Candle/The Owl Service) and Áine O'Dwyer, whose solo album 'Anything Bright or Startling' (search it out) is one of the most stunning releases of the last few years. Recorded between Ireland, the Western Isles of Scotland and the south coast of England 'So As To Preserve The Mystery' is an album that sings of the landscape, the elements and of the vast skies above.

Opener 'Tossing The Daisies' is a shimmering sunset of a song, gentle rattles of guitar and hushed cymbals holding the tension behind Alison O'Donnell's spectral vocals. Strings and piano emerge but their strength is in restraint, the song is perfection in its glacial and spooked simplicity. Next, 'The Place Of Bays' introduces O'Dwyer's harp, soft washes of keyboard and Colohan's distinctive and evocative vocals. Orchestral swells and an unearthly choir build and peak until analogue keyboards gradually fade the track out; this heartbreaking and wind torn lament is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the album. Indeed, this is music that has more ambition, emotion and creative blood in its ancient veins than just about any other act at work today; trust me, you must hear this. 'Teampall Mholuaidh' returns O'Donnell to vocal duties accompanied by the haunted harmonies of Amanda Feery (who adds a wonderful ghostly sheen to a number of tracks), layered psych guitar, choral strings and cascading harp. Like watching a storm out at sea this feels both equally thrillingly stirring and shiver inducing. 'Deireadh Fomhair' is a mellotron and string soaked quiet howl into the horizon, harp and piano glistening across sombre drones as the wind begins to whistle and sweep around the music itself. These are sounds that will break your heart. 'Winistre' begins with the sound of church bells and bowed strings before the buzz and hum of guitars and bouzouki enter, the maelstrom growing like a swarm of swallows around the gentle acoustic plucking. Tension is raised and released and raised again, as if on the swell of the waves or on the wind itself. Mixed male vocals begin a folk rhyme as the swell recedes, reminding us that at its heart this is traditional (albeit experimental) music, until the strings and guitar come crashing in in a heart stopping moment of sheer perfection.'An Gort Gan Geata' is more reflective and hushed, Colohan's voice framed by icy, twinkling drones and flute, evoking something of a longing, of places remembered and known. This segues into 'Islands', a wintry ballad that builds upon layers of keyboard and dramatic string stabs before the light begins to fall to dusk and a wash of warm, shimmering, silvery drones cover all that is there. It is absolutely breath taking.

The album is described as 'in support of heartfelt paeans to nameless gods, apocalyptic requiems for the new/old world, and an overwhelming sense of wonder at the natural beauty of Éire and the Western Isles' and it succeeds admirably in its quest. Quite simply this is one of the best albums I've heard not just this year but in a long while. A beautiful sadness and nostalgia permeates the album and it is an incredibly powerful listen, despite its relative finesse and gentleness. There are not many acts who can conjure such wild, open landscapes in their music, with such emotive impact and sensitivity, yet United Bible Studies do this time and again. Essential.

Available now on CD at the Deep Water Acres website with beautiful artwork and photography by Richard Moult adorning the sleeve.

Stream it here:

3 Aug 2015

"Don't Be Bad! - 60s Punk Recorded in Texas"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

When entrepreneurial Texan producer Huey Meaux scored a surprise hit with the Sir Douglas Quintet's British Invasion influenced "She's About a Mover" in 1965 he was quick to decide that maybe lightning could strike the same spot twice. So, Meaux set out to capture that elusive follow-up hit, seemingly recording any and every young garage band that crossed his path, all of them under strict instructions to sound as English as possible.

Meaux's failure to capitalise on "She's About a Mover"s success might lead one to suspect that he was wasting his time, but the contents of this collection resoundingly indicate otherwise. Released across a myriad of labels, (all of which were owned by Meaux and set up to divert attention from anyone who might cry "Payola" should a number of these tracks appear on the same chart), this is an extremely strong anthology, with most tracks making their first appearance on CD. Mock English accents are played up to an outrageous degree, and the influence of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Beatles is ever present, but there's no disguising the Nuggetty garage roots of the featured artists, particularly Sands, whose "Open Your Eyes" is unmistakably pilfered from the Seeds, but hugely enjoyable nonetheless.

The opening monologue on Barry & Life's "Top-less Girl" gives the game away too: "Baby you're a complete accident, no ugly-stick for you, it's prevention of cruelty to wood week " Even the most controversial Brits of the time were far too polite to be this outlandishly snotty.

So what we're left with is an unusually successful hybrid of snotty Texan garage punk, and British Invasion r&b, with far more effective hooks than you'd expect from a bunch of snotty brat teens, corralled by an opportunistic producer.

Triumph's "Better Come Get Her", Sands' "I Don't Need You" and the Phinx's moody garage ballad "To No Place of its Own" are definite highlights for me, but there's nothing on this extremely consistent collection that languishes too far behind these gems.

Sadly, "dreadful proclivities" only vaguely alluded to in the otherwise comprehensive liner notes landed Meaux in jail soon after, preventing any involvement on his part in the burgeoning psychedelic movement, but "Don't Be Bad" is more than enough to build his reputation upon.

It's amazing that material of this quality is still awaiting rediscovery in vaults around the world - a real eye opener for those who think that everything worth ressurrecting has already been reissued.I'd be surprised if there's a better garage comp this year.

Available here (UK/EU), or here (US).

The Poetry Book "Young Martyrs"

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

I received this post punk / dark wave EP without a press release, but I can tell you that this band from Madrid, Spain has created a short, goth-tinged masterpiece with "Young Martyrs". It contains all the hallmarks of the aforementioned genres, yet stands on its own as a modern piece of work. One is reminded of the Jesus & Mary Chain, Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division, and even Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.

You can expect unsettling sonics painted with a lovely dream pop sheen (“Love Letter”), and even a bit of Peter Hook thrown in for good measure. I say all this with great fondness, for anything that redirects my ears back to the late 80s is a good thing.

“Decay” goes all dark on you, and wow, they’re either channeling Ian Curtis or a bit of A Place to Bury Strangers. Its bleakness is pervasive and unrelenting, and not a glimmer of light is thrown in to relieve things.

The title track operates at a slightly lighter level; swirling sonics and deeply buried vocals encase you, and everything is featheweight by comparison to “Decay”.

“A Last Ritual” is more in your face and direct, though Chris W’s voice is muddied and heavily treated. It is danceable and could be a first single of this EP. Not only that, but the fuzzed out, spacey guitar is rather psychedelic to boot.

“The Promise” is an unexpected, disturbing end to the EP, a song that belongs on the soundtrack to your favorite nightmare. I am most drawn to the lullaby keyboard melody that dominates in the first thirty seconds. It then morphs into classic dark wave with distorted sonics.

Fans of the genres mentioned here will really like "Young Martyrs", and let’s hope it means a lot more music from this band in the future.

Available on CD here (with three extra tracks), or as a name your own price download / stream here:

2 Aug 2015

Glaze of Cathexis "Desolation Spirituals"

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

Ueda, Japan based duo Glaze of Cathexis have recently released this short EP (on their own Roving Sage Records) to garner some attention for their full length release, which has just been released a matter of days ago. As a musical partnership, Scott Atkinson and Matthew Comegys seem to have it worked out. Atkinson (of Brisbane) and Comegys (of Atlanta as well as Dr. Schluss' Garden of Psychedelic Obscurities blog) meld perfectly, writing well crafted garage tunes with a helping of blues and folk to keep it interesting. The "Desolation Spirituals EP" gives a balanced introduction to their current sound, alternating between Kinks-esque, harmony heavy rockers and more eclectic acid folk numbers. What strikes this listener most is the mix of these four tracks, which is sharp and pushed to the forefront: the guitars are full and rich, the drums snappy, and the vocals clear. It's unusual to hear such a direct mix in any of the many pools of the current psychedelic scene.

The title track - like "The Kashmir Effect" that appears later - is a driving, garage tune with impressive pop hooks that stick with you a while. With a gritty vocal take, "Desolation Spirituals" is the most raucous of the four cuts. But "Silver Lad" takes a different spin on the aesthetic, channeling a lighter and more playful tone. Overall, the EP is well balanced, split, in a way, between two sides of the musicians, who never allow one to occlude the other.

"All-Free," the closing track, is a collage piece, recollecting 70s psych heavy hitters by using free form guitars and rhythm to back a spoken word piece. It's an interesting closer for the EP that leaves listeners wondering where Glaze of Cathexis is heading.

It's becoming a bit of a trope in the genre, but perhaps with the internationalism of Glaze of Cathexis the two will be able to achieve their lofty goals of finding "the core ideal behind our daily rat race" and "connect to a global audience with their transcendent music and vision."

"Desolation Spirituals EP" is available at a name your price cost on the band's Bandcamp page, while the full length "The Amorphous Infinity" can be had through the same link for a mere $2.

31 Jul 2015

"Dust On The Nettles: A Journey Through The British Underground Folk Scene 1967-72 "

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

What a superb collection this is. Grapefruit's new, bargain priced triple CD charts a course to the British underground folk scene, specifically between 1967 and 1972, the years when psychedelia and progressive rock were being integrated into other strands of music, which was evolving at an accelerating rate, breaking down the boundaries between genres.

The UK folk scene had already seen a major revival just prior to this timeframe, thanks to young blood like Bert Jansch and Davy Graham, but it wasn't until the onset of psychedelia, and the establishment of the album as a major statement, that the British folk scene really began to expand with the explosion of young folk talent chronicled here.

In terms of production, it's often not overtly psychedelic, but when it is, it's spectacularly so, particularly on Mary-Anne's "Black Girl" - one of many artists introduced to me by this collection that I will be investigating further in the future. Instead these artists paid attention to the possibilities offered by psychedelia and progressive rock, and took these lessons to heart, writing progressively more complex songs with a wider frame of reference, rather than relying strictly on traditional material. Exotic instrumentation is introduced into the mix, and songs like Mick Softley's "Eagle" seamlessly integrate Eastern influences in exciting new ways.

Much of what you'll find here could be classed as acoustic progressive music. Rarely do the artists use a typical verse, refrain, verse structure, instead electing for complex multi-part songs, opening up explorative possibilities for improvisation, while still remaining strictly tethered to the songcraft demanded of folk music.

Many labels have released collections with similar goals to that of this one, but there have always been glaring omissions that have hampered the credibility of these anthologies as definitive articles. This, however, is the real deal. Everyone that should be here, is, and they're all represented by appropriate material, lovingly remastered. On top of the big names, there are numerous acts spread over these three discs who are entirely new to me, and they're uniformly excellent, making this collection ideal for those wanting to dig deep, and reignite their excitement for the genre, as well as those taking their first steps into investigating the UK folk underground.

Phenomenal, and a total bargain for the asking price.

Available here (US), or here (UK/EU).

30 Jul 2015

Katje Janisch "West Of Twilight"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Katje Janisch has had a few tantalising and bewitching psych tinged songs on ye olde world wide web for some time now. It is therefore a genuine delight to find a whole, brand new début album of otherworldly and wyrd folk to fall under the spell of. Entirely performed and recorded by Janisch herself on guitar, recorder, percussion, piano, dulcimer and other esoteric stringed instruments, this is music that harks back to the classic purveyors of psychedelic folk such as Linda Perhacs, Susan Christie and Vashti Bunyan as well as setting out its own, unique stall.

Opener 'The Ancestors' begins with a gentle sprinkling of piano, woodwind, the sound of a dulcimer and Janisch's distinctive and ethereal harmonies. Transportive and utterly beautiful in its cascading melodies and unearthliness, this music is magical indeed. 'The Dance' is a sprightly recorder led, Will O' the Wisp of a song; it seems to skip through the woodland in a haze of acidic folk via a myriad of layered vocals and glistening acoustic reverie. Next, 'Neptune's Dream' is a more reflective piece, Janisch's carefully and effectively placed vocal harmonies drifting softly over finger picked guitar and washes of strings. This is music to dream to, to close your eyes to and find yourself in the land of Fae or perhaps down the rabbit hole with Alice herself. 'The Queen of Swords' melancholy air is punctuated by insistent percussion, adding a delicious tension to the stately and baroque atmosphere. The song ends with a choir that literally raises the hair on the back of your neck. Fans of Joanna Newsom, Fern Knight and Espers will adore this as will aficionados of classic psych folk such as Mellow Candle, Caedmon, Trees and Stone Angel.

'Seven' adds cello and a medieval processional grace, these are songs of another era and another world; romantic, beautifully sad and truly timeless. Special mention must go to Janisch's incredible vocal range; she holds a quiet power that never overwhelms the delicate and considered arrangements but which instead compliments her music and becomes almost an additional instrument in itself. Next, 'The Yew Tree (Resurrection)' is a folk fable of eerie and nimble loveliness, xylophone twinkling over cello and an unforgettable, circling guitar motif whilst 'Mother' is haunting chamber folk with a late night Wicker Man mood. 'The Golden Cup' reminds this listener of Nick Drake's wistful and wondrous stylings; a dusky, autumnal, smoky air is ably conjured by Janisch's spectral vocals and the echoed woodwind. 'Cordelia's Lament' is a ghost filled, sombre but evocative affair, like the aural equivalent of cinematic chillers 'The Innocents' or 'The Haunting'. Strings bow and bend and pizzicato punctuates the song's icy, gothic atmosphere. Final track 'The Hunter And The Fairy' adds gentle acoustic warmth in a wyrd lament that is filled with both magic and moonlight.

That an album containing so many gentle jewels is only Janisch's début bodes extremely well for her future releases, for this a hugely accomplished, deeply impressive and utterly spellbinding album filled with white witchcraft and the lore of the woodlands. For genuinely timeless and beautifully made acid folk take a trip here, just west of twilight.

Available now in limited quantities on the Reverb Worship label in a lovely, handmade sleeve featuring Janisch's artwork. Make haste as this will sell out quickly.

Here's a streamable version for you to check out:

29 Jul 2015

Jaill "Brain Cream"

Reviewed by Maggie Danna

"Brain Cream", Jaill’s fifth album, is chock-full of infectious jangle pop which often toys with surf rock. This is an interesting genre for a band that is based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and full of depressingly melancholy lyrics. Lo-fi and a bit psychedelic, Jaill plays in a style comparable to that of Wampire and Warm Soda. While "Brain Cream" is quite similar to Jaill’s previous albums, it has a more polished and synth-dominant sound than its predecessors.

“Got an F”, the album’s focus track and single, manages to make the experience of failing sound like a positively joyous experience, thanks to the band’s sunny, buoyant sound. The listener is left unsure of exactly what the band got an F on, but can rest assured that it was certainly not this song, which is A+ material. “Getaway” is another superb track and has a great hand-drawn music video featuring the band playing nonchalantly while aliens, hot dogs, and other objects ranging from the absurd to the mundane scroll past them in the background.

"Brain Cream:, and much of Jaill’s previous work (especially their fourth album, "Traps"), reminds me very strongly of early of Montreal (think "Cherry Peel" – "Aldhils Arboretum" era) and The Apples In Stereo (especially "Fun Trick Noisemaker"), due to its slightly acoustic nature, keyboard synths, and whimsicality. This similarity is most apparent in “Symptoms”, which, with its precise combination of sliding synths and jangly guitar and its extremely Kevin Barnes-esque vocals makes the comparison undeniable. So, if you like Elephant 6, make sure to check this out.

Jangle pop as a genre is especially well suited for summer weather, and "Brain Cream" is the perfect summer album as it is fun, substantive, and goofy. On first glance, the album art appears to be a colorful assortment of ice cream cones with the band’s name written across them in pink lettering. On closer inspection, it becomes apparent that it is not ice cream but brains (thus, brain cream) on the cones and that the lettering of the band’s name is full of tiny ants, most likely coming to lick up the delectable drips from the melting brain cream. The initially idyllic appearance of the album cover is similar to that of the songs, which are upbeat and full of poppy hooks but ultimately dark, saturated by hopelessness and self-deprecation. It’s definitely pop, but with various oddities.

RIYL: Wampire, of Montreal, Warm Soda, The Apples in Stereo

Available here (UK/EU), or here (US).

28 Jul 2015

"Side Effects" (Fruits de Mer Records)

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The always ambitious Fruits de Mer label have tweaked their formula slightly for their latest release with fantastic results. Classic tunes from a bygone era, given a good psychedelic going over is still the order of the day, but "Side Effects" is a tribute to the 12" single, with eight different artists given a full side each to dissect and explore a favourite track. Some have chosen tracks which are already lengthy in their original forms, while others have been more adventurous in their selections.

This handsome box set (with artwork by The Luck of Eden Hall's Gregory Curvey), contains four LPs, "Sidetracks", "Sideways", "Sideshows" and "Sidesteps". Let's take a look at them one by one.

The Soft Bombs open "Sidetracks" with a faithful rendition of Pink Floyd's "Echoes", which sticks reasonably closely to the original, but accentuates all that was great about the Floyd version. On the flip Arcade Messiah flesh out Aphrodite's Child's "Four Horsemen" encompassing everything from psychedelia to space-rock to prog-metal (which makes it a bit of an anomaly in the FDM catalogue).

"Sideways" welcomes the Bevis Frond, who tackle a krauty gem in Electric Sandwich's "China". Originally released in a highly truncated form on FDM's "Head Music" collection, this version is almost triple the length, with Nick Saloman shredding relentlessly over a pleasing motorik pulse. J Mascis eat your heart out. U.S band Wreaths are next, with one of the more clever reinventions here. Their take on Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown" is cosmic american music of the highest order. Spacey waves of psychedelic ambience that never get too busy, gently cushion a strong vocal performance. If My Morning Jacket had started listening to Agitation Free instead of Prince, they might sound like this now!

"Sideshows" turns the space-rock dial all the way up to eleven. Superfjord turn in what I reckon is the highlight of the set, turning the Byrds "CTA 102" into the stratospheric envelope pusher that it's always yearned to be. The explorative instrumental passages here are pretty great, and there's an amazing vocal sequence that sounds like someone introduced Brian Wilson to a sampler. Pretty special. The Luck of Eden Hall are on the other side, de-programming some of the more progressive elements out of Yes's "Starship Trooper" and reprogramming it as a prime piece of cosmic psychedelia. 

Lastly we have "Sidesteps", a pretty amazing prog jazz / space-rock hybrid. Julie's Haircut do an ambitious, but fabulous job of Miles Davis' "Shhh/Peaceful", fusing the original's sense of zen-like wonder, with some of the more furious playing from "A Tribute to Jack Johnson". Most would fall flat on their face attempting this, but Julie's Haircut own it. And what to say about the final track here? The wilfully perverse Sendelica take a crack at Donna Summer's "I Feel Love". Stripping it of all vocals, they reshape it into an extraordinary suite of ambient / space-rock with a few progressive jazz elements. Amazing.

What's particularly impressive about "Side Effects" (apart from the inventive arrangements, and stellar playing), is that over the course of these four long records, the artists never lose their focus, contributing 17 to 24 minutes apiece that are entirely filler free. I'm almost certain that this is my favourite Fruits de Mer release so far, and as FDM are one of my very favourite labels, you can take that as a particularly enthusiastic recommendation.

Available here from August 21st - preorder now, I'm told that they are selling extremely fast, and may be all sold on pre-sale.

27 Jul 2015

10000 Russos "10 000 Russos"

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

Porto, Portugal’s 10000 Russos (pronounced “dez mil russos”) are Fuzz Club Records' latest practitioners of space rock . The story of this record, according to the band, is that it was “written and recorded inside an abandoned 1980s shopping mall, where escalators have been out of order for the last fifteen years and the only source of light is some plastic Swedish designed / Chinese made bulbs.” With a mythology like that, the trio’s debut places itself in a self-made context of isolation and something near mock nostalgia. And, as a whole, the record seems to have achieved its goal of exploring a marginalized landscape that’s both urban and internal; if a debut record can achieve any emotional response, the band’s done the heavy lifting. There’s an eeriness and gothic thickness to “10000 Russos” that’s memorable – and more memorable than a lot of records.

Unlike many of their contemporaries, 10000 Russos embraces a steady bass drum thump that acts as an anchor to their otherwise wandering sonic excursions. That constant beat acts as a mile marker, keeping listeners in the moment while tracking the distance from the start. So while tracks like “UsVsUs” map surrounding space, there’s a constant, hypnotic beat to ground it across all its eight minutes.

“Karl Burns” is a slow groove that, by way of drummer and vocalist João Pimento’s sparse, effected but confident vocal meter, channels the Doors over its continuous drones and pulses. Compared with the songs that follow it, “Karl Burns” focuses more on the atmosphere and feel of the song than the explosive passages that appear in the rest, while still prepping listeners for the larger sonic flourishes to follow.

“Baden Baden Baden” kicks off the b-side and, much like the previous side, continues with motorik beats, sprawling guitar, focused bass and effect laden vocals, but “Baden Baden Baden” feels more focused and streamlined, preparing listeners for the long closing two part track, “Stakhanovets / Kalumet,” which is the album at its strongest and most ambitious.

10000 Russos’ self-titled record is available now digitally from Fuzz Club Record’s Bandcamp page (below) and CD or vinyl pre-order from the label’s main page.

This one will be playing for a while here.

26 Jul 2015

Andy Wade "Fix It Till It's Broken"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Andy Wade (brother and collaborator of psych masters Dodson And Fogg's Chris Wade) follows up his impressive debut 'Pushing Senses' with this new release which is veritably bursting at the seams with cosmic, psychedelic exploration and creation. One wonders about what went into the milk these two brothers had as infants but there is a parallel sense of the joy of making music in both their works; 'Fix It Till It's Broken' is no exception and demands to be heard.

The opening title track sets out the album's stall with thrillingly brutal bursts of squalling psych guitar and thudding bass, framed by the siren's wail and rise and fall of oscillating synths. It is an arresting start to a varied, creative and breathtaking album. 'Prowl''s unusual time signatures, Hammond flourishes and garage rock touches are exemplary, recalling Procol Harum and Bevis Frond in their barely restrained menace and intensity whilst 'My Beginning, My End' is a reflective and widescreen, banjo flecked ballad of loss and hope. 'Who We Were's fiery guitar sound and glistening piano runs are filled with more insistent hooks and memorable riffs than many bands manage in an entire album. With hints of both Warren Zevon and The Icicle Works this is classic rock with added twists and curious corners. 'Interlude' adds one of those unusual and unpredictable yet pleasingly left field forays with a pulsating electronic instrumental, like Kraftwerk with added explosive Neil Young guitar. 'Don't Take This Away' is a dramatic country-hued stomp, filled with reverberated guitar and piano stabs. This could easily have been the soundtrack to the new series of True Detective, its dark, traditional Americana sound perfect for soundtracking the shadowy Stateside underbelly. Next, 'Run' is a Kinksian/ Dave Davies styled paean with an exquisite guitar melody and hugely evocative waves of piano. For Wade there seems to be an almost endless well of musical creativity and invention, the album veers from thrilling, full on psych rock ('Dive') to carefully constructed and layered late night laments ('One For Life'). This album is one man's vision and you get the feeling that every note, every line is utterly genuine and from the very heart. This only adds to the exuberant and enticing nature of this release. One can't help but be enthralled and enraptured by the sheer talent and energy on display. 'Staring At The Sun' closes the album, echoed guitar and pensive harmonies giving way to thunderous Crazy Horse riffage and fuzz guitar. A suitably thrilling end to an album that virtually buzzes and crackles with sheer life force.

Available from the links here, this is a hugely successful and eclectic piece of work that drips conviction, life and honesty. Wade has created a second slice of psych rock wonder; join him there.