9 Feb 2016
Reviewed by Shaun Rogan
Ah the dawning of a new year brings a new offering from Doug Tuttle, co-founder of the late lamented Mmoss and now emerging solo artist in his own right. Following his excellent self-titled debut, Doug has teamed up once more with the ever-cool Trouble In Mind label to deliver ‘It Calls Me On’, a considerably less troubled transmission from our man in Massachusetts.
The overall mood of ‘It Calls On Me’, like most of Doug’s work is somewhat melancholy and he clearly remains a seeker of truths. The plaintive messages in the songs are littered with ‘if’, ‘could’, ‘try’, ‘find’, ‘time’ often wrapped in sublime multi-tracked harmony. There also remains a sense of distance between Doug and the listener when engaging with these finely crafted songs. This is reinforced by the record sleeve, which looks all the world like one of those 1970’s private press jobs that the late Patrick Lundborg so enthusiastically catalogued in the Acid Archives book. Doug is a man alone and apart, looking out into the distance like he is waiting for someone/something to arrive. It’s a hugely symbolic image when taken in the context of the music enclosed. Doug is giving you something to consider but not necessarily inviting you in. An interesting paradox that adds a layer of mystique to his work in my opinion that many others fail to capture.
Much of what has made Doug’s output such a joy thus far - his dreamy, slightly off-centre psych-folk-pop-rock and exceptionally tasteful deployment of electric guitar breaks - is intact here but has been stripped back further with the aim, I imagine, of creating as pure a mood piece as he can. To this end he has succeeded impeccably on this brief but hugely satisfying record. It is beautifully crafted with great attention to detail and some lovely referencing of the wider psychedelic and rock canon within its grooves. You guessed I love it already, right?
Opener “A Place For You” throws a curve ball with its faded in intro suggesting a space rock journey before being usurped by some lovely sunshine guitar and Doug’s now familiar and hugely chilled vocals floating over the top. It’s a strong start and quickly followed by the chiming pulsing title track, driven by backwards hi-hat, an endlessly downward chiming guitar riff and bass stabs - all ‘Pebbles-era’ psych flashing. A trip. “Make Good Time” is a beautiful hymn-like rapture that manages the wonderful feat of welding ‘Goin’Back’ by the Byrds to ‘A Message to Pretty’ by Love and is probably the single most beautiful moment on this remarkable record. And this is where much of the record dwells, in a hazy shade of winter, divining the spirit of the late 60s and early 70s and alchemically bringing it to a very ‘now’ sound. “These Times” is pretty and pastoral, a lovely acoustic driven piece with martial beat and those floaty double tracked vocals. “Painted Eye” is psychedelic and has an almost done/kosmiche vibe to it and reminds me very much of the second LP by Soundtrack of our Lives, "Extended Revelation" with its slow deliberate tempo, slide motifs and a killer’ in a meadow-lea’ stun fuzz guitar solo bursting into your ears. A real beauty.
“Falling to Believe” again has that wonderful signature slow sigh vibe that Doug has become a master craftsman at delivering with a truck load of soul and includes a sublimely clever referencing of David Gilmour’s solo from ‘Time’ in the guitar break which given the subject matter of the song is another indication of how much love and care has gone into this record. “Saturday-Sunday” is the longest track on the record weighing in at around 7 minutes, its warm keyboard refrain driving the tune and underpinning the soothing vocals sitting above imploring you to let your Saturday surround you like a blanket of goodwill and restorative power. It’s another winner, especially as it disintegrates into the ‘Sunday’ section - an extended motorik vamp of acoustic guitar, kosmiche drone and pulsing bass riff.
Matters are brought to a dense, jarring, fuzzy conclusion by the spectacularly brief “Where Will You Go” which breaks down and disappears into the ether almost as soon as it has arrived.
Ultimately, I think of ‘It Calls Me On’ as a giant paisley coloured parachute that glides you down through a shimmering winter sky, gently drifting to earth and offering assurance that whilst much of life remains unresolved your landings will be soft and ultimate destination will be the right one. Doug Tuttle has put down a marker for those issuing new works this year and everyone should take note. This one is a keeper.
Available here (US), and here (UK/EU).
8 Feb 2016
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
Psych legend Paul Roland sees some of his finest early recordings reissued on this expertly compiled compilation from Austrian label Klanggallerie (also home to The Residents). Originally a German only release back in 1985 it collects tracks from Paul's first album along with an assortment of singles whilst also adding five essential and previously unreleased bonus tracks. Roland's music should need no introduction but for any uninitiated listeners, his is a back catalogue of psych riches that range from baroque, string filled tales of wonder, whimsy and terror to full on lysergic garage rock.
When I asked Paul about his thoughts regarding this release he stated 'To be honest I was initially reluctant to release it but as the label pointed out it was a ‘seminal’ album in my career and the one which had introduced me to a European audience back in 1986 plus it had not been released on CD before. (The version released by New Rose/Fan Club in 1991 included four re-mixes, not the original versions). But the clincher was the opportunity to include five previously unreleased songs from my overflowing archive which make it rather special I think'.
'House Of Dark Shadows' contains several of Paul's immediate classics such as the ominous, synth-accentuated anthem 'Blades Of Battenburg' and the chamber psych pop of 'Burnt Orchids'. The mastering is exemplary. These tracks (some roughly thirty years old) sound crystal clear and Roland’s richly textured and detailed mini-symphonies sound immediate, resonant and powerful. Roland’s skill as a teller of tales is evidenced on the masterful acoustic reverie of 'Madelaine', a twisted and eccentric yarn of insanity that is bolstered by backwards streams of guitar and swells of violin. 'Dr Strange' is a psych/ new wave hybrid that both the Psychedelic Furs or Robyn Hitchcock would have been equally proud to write, whilst 'The Puppet Master' creeps and crawls subtly into your psyche, an uncanny masterpiece that references both Amicus movies and TS Eliot. Next, 'Captain Blood' blends synth strings, strident guitar and acid tinged flute with impressive results, creating a brooding and thrilling blast of psychedelic rock whilst following track 'Death or Glory' also evidences Roland's anthemic side. 'Cairo' is a mysterious and disquietening paean to the east, flute swirling around tabla, harmonium and acoustic guitars while Roland’s distinctive vocals and lyrics conjure up an entire landscape in the listener’s mind.
'Green Glass Violins' is a string laden slice of perfect cosmic pop complete with glistening harpsichord; if the more baroque side of Roland appeals do seek out his chamber classic 'A Cabinet of Curiosities'; you will not be disappointed. 'Lon Chaney (1883-1930)', a folk shanty dedicated to the horror Meister and 'Ghost Ships', a hallucinatory piece of paisley coloured genius, end the album proper. However we are also gifted with the five unreleased bonus tracks which prove equally as essential. 'Midwych's demented acoustic and xylophone harmonies need to be heard to be believed whilst 'Shiloh' is a stroke of musical genius. What initially comes across as a jaunty acoustic and organ based folk number emerges as something altogether more darkly doomed indeed. 'Versailles' recalls Roland classics such as 'The Great Edwardian Air Raid' and 'Wyndham Hill' and one wonders how such gems have lain in the vaults for so long. The superb 'Count Magnus' stalks by means of plucked bass and the peal of bells, Hitchcockian strings eventually emerging to dramatic effect. The album closes with 'Summer of 1910', a sepia tinged melancholic treasure propelled by a military style snare and an increasing sense of dread of the global storms ahead.
All of Roland’s catalogue is highly recommended and it is gratifying to see some of his earlier work being presented in such a considerate and thoughtful manner. For fans this album will be essential on account of the unreleased material; for others it offers an excellent introduction to one of the UK's finest and most individual songwriters.
CD or digital available here:
3 Feb 2016
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
Boston quintet Magic Shoppe have a fresh new EP of delectable, reverb-drenched treats on the street as of early February, and it's a great place to start for the newcomer, as well as an extremely satisfying new chapter for those who've been following them for a little while.
Frontman Josiah Webb recently admitted in an interview with The Artery that he hates the term 'psych', going on to clarify "As a genre, so many bands use that word. It’s overblown, it’s lost it’s meaning. It’s become the new ‘alternative.'" It's a sentiment that few could argue with, with bangwagon jumping bands, and grasping-at-straws publicity agents eager to grab themselves a spot on the psych-sphere, on the coat tails of Tame Impala and co., despite a large number of these bands being at the heart of it, guitar rock bands.
Despite Webb's frustration with the genre's shifting scope, there's little doubt that Magic Shoppe are a psychedelic rock band - not one of these newer generation 'psych' bands, but the real deal. The trimmings are all there, from the colourful light shows that accompany their live performances, to the walls of reverb on the guitars, to the sixties derived spelling of the band's name. But it's not just a case of ticking the required boxes. There's plenty of substance beyond the style.
"City Alight (Yeah)" (which you can check out the video for here) is a great primer for what to expect here, a psychedelic shuffle with a great dynamic, heaps of hooks and an appealling rhythm that seems to draw from a tribal, Native American palette. "Redhead" is a more propulsive affair, a BJM style rocker with a great pentatonic riff, and layers of hazy vocals that are used more for textural effect than as the focal point that you'd perhaps expect. The title track is a little more relaxed tempowise, upping the jangly guitars and allowing the various layers a little more space to breathe. There's some lovely Macca style bass work, and an undercurrent of drones and backwards guitar lurking just on the edge of perception giving it a sense of being a part of something much larger and cosmic.
Great stuff. The greedy bastard within me can't help but think that a whole lot more than the four tracks contained within would be nice, but the more appreciative side of my nature is quick to acknowledge that we're very lucky indeed to have anything of this quality finding its way independently to our ears.
Investigate here, on vinyl and digital:
2 Feb 2016
Reviewed by Todd Leiter-Weintraub (Hop On Pop)
I really liked Boogarins’ 2013 debut, "As Plantas Que Curam". Of course, it all started with the excellent songs, but there was more, too. I loved the home recording that made it all sound authentically psychedelic, like a relic from 1969. I liked the fact that it was the work of just two musicians—Dino Almeida and Benke Ferraz—and that they had to solve problems with their limited personnel and limited resources. It all added up to a very engaging, charming slab of psych that sounded like a personal gift to the listener.
But the album garnered some attention, and the band hit the road with a proper rhythm section. So, when Boogarins travelled to Spain to record "Manual" in a proper studio, they brought with them their two new, permanent members: bassist Raohael Vaz, and drummer Ynaiã Benthroldo. And while they all came home to rural Brazil to record overdubs and mix the album, the sound is anything but the homemade concoction of the debut.
"Manual" opens with a short, noodly intro, after which “Avalanche” explodes out of the speakers, soaked in reverb and dripping with the epic, expansive, modern psych influence of My Morning Jacket. In fact, there is far more MMJ on this album than there is Os Mutantes or early Caetano Veloso. The fidelity is crystalline and the sound is huge, even in the quieter moments. “Tempo” follows, with dreamy, proggy arrangements, guitars that both sparkle and snarl, and a dizzying groove. The improved recording quality shines a light on the interesting chord voicings that were slightly obscured by the fidelity on their debut, and also on the excellent, new rhythm section, who spin a variety of dizzying grooves, all while remaining watertight.
It is a far cry from the humble, homemade, pure Tropicalia of the debut.
That’s not to say that the new turn is a bad thing, nor has the band forgotten their pedigree. They still sing exclusively in Portuguese, and even the most-modern sounding tracks on here carry the scent of Tropicalia. “Mario de Andrade – Selvagem” has a bit of Os Mutantes in the melody line, in the cadence of the singing, and in the break and the rhythmic shifts. And “Falsa Folha de Rosto” could almost be an outtake from a late 60s Tropicalia classic.
But young bands are supposed to grow, and Boogarins has grown in every single way. The larger budget has allowed Almeidz and Ferraz to explore their songwriting, expand the arrangements, and create more-densely layered songs. And the addition of Castro and Vaz has given them even more freedom to build upon their increasingly complex compositions.
There is a lot here for the listener to explore, and the clarity of the recording lets us hear every bit of it. I cannot wait to find out what I am going to hear from them next. But in the meantime, I am going to enjoy the hell out of what I have right now!
Available here (US), or here (UK/EU).
1 Feb 2016
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
The highly prolific David Colohan and Richard Moult, both mainstays of wyrd folk collective United Bible Studies as well as solo composers in their own right (and in the case of Colohan also of Raising Holy Sparks and Agitated Radio Pilot), are quickly becoming the foremost progenitors of modern experimental folk. Emerging during the dying embers of 2015, the extraordinary 'Branded by Constellations' quickly sold out at source (the fine Fluid Audio label) but is still available for download and directly from the artists themselves at Bandcamp. The haste in which this release was eagerly devoured speaks volumes for the sheer beauty and preternatural quality of this recording as well as, it is hoped, ever growing recognition for both composers. Following their previous collaborative album, the gorgeous 'Hexameron', both parties offer something different for this work; each takes a solo turn on an extended, piece of folk infused chamber music. In the words of the artists themselves the album as a whole 'celebrates selflessness in the face of an insurmountable tide' and there is something defiant within each song; something of standing alone against the unstoppable and uncaring elements.
David Colohan presents his piece first, the vast and melancholy 'As the Stars Change Places with the Falling Snow'. Recorded entirely by Colohan in Ballymahon, Ireland during the summer of 2015, this piece opens with a Celtic sounding wail from a resonating harmonium. Waves of warm analogue keyboard strings and organ swirl around this proclamation, blanketing it in a soft Popol Vuh/ Tangerine Dream haze. As this intro fades the wailing horn returns, the sound of wind slowly lapping around delicately placed piano notes. It is as much the space within and between the music that stands out and helps create the image of a seemingly endless stretch of deserted land under an infinite sky. Crystalline and mournful melodies drift into focus as murmured voices float by, the keyboard lines layering and intertwining to create a genuinely moving and evocative work which has something very old at heart; this feels like music that has been around for centuries, within the stone and earth beneath our feet and far out into the distant sky above. Colohan's work often evokes such a feeling; both earthy and spiritual, this is true folk music. Indeed, there is something sacred sounding about this work that reminds this listener of a similar sense felt when listening to the work of Richard Skelton; there is a reverence for nature in the melodies and sound that echoes the slow, steady, melancholic glacial slide of the clouds, the waves and the day turning to night.
Moult's piece 'A Moorland Shrine/The God of Disappearances', recorded on the Isles of Skye and Harris, enters with keening strings and woodwind with shards of beautiful sound reaching skyward. This is then joined by reverberating and cascading piano notes, merging to produce a slice of gorgeous chamber ambience. Within the beauty minor chords twist and contort, suggesting a level of tension and a sadness at this music’s heart. Call this modern classical, Avant-garde or indeed experimental folk; arguably this music belies description yet its emotional impact is certain. This piece is truly heartbreaking and transportive, to be listened to with your eyes closed. Next, the pace increases and the piano becomes more urgent, dramatic drones whirling past into the darkness. A baritone choir heralds something ominous, a coming storm or desolation as the sounds darken and the drone work becomes deeper, more sonorous and more like a glistening, slowed down choral work. The scale of the sound conjured here is massive and carnivorous; the strings and drones echo and reverberate as if through an infinite emptiness, becoming a dark orchestra of their own.
Both pieces on this release complement each other; Colohan's gentler, sadder, windswept elegy and Moult's turbulent and lovely storm clouds. Both are essential and unlike anything else you will ever hear. Each piece runs to almost twenty minutes and yet neither feel stretched, overdone or overlong; rather they build, unfold and uncover new layers of emotive and truly affecting music. Look up, seek out these constellations and gaze upon them.
Available at David Colohan's Bandcamp page with some physical copies potentially still available from the artists – send an e-mail to email@example.com to register interest.
31 Jan 2016
Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz
Seattle has many fine bands, and The New Cardinals are a welcome addition not only to the Northwest music scene but to the psychedelic spectrum as well. The band is the duo of Sam Rice (bass, keyboards, vocals, percussion, effects) and Peter Tilton (guitar/vocals). This is chiming jangle pop with a slight melancholy edge.
Witness it for yourself on the fabulous “Window Days”, which seems to channel Brian Wilson as well as modern artists such as Tame Impala. “Let’s Talk” surfs a prog vibe with its cool organ, perky synths, and great harmonies, all washed with a hazy psych sheen. “Hidden In the Light” revels in late 60s/early 70s pop, while the album’s closing track, the lush “Tomorrow Waiting” takes its time sucking you into its widescreen marrow, and after seven meandering minutes, leaves you completely blissed out and wanting more.
This is a treat for all fans of delicately crafted psychedelia with a late 60s sensibility.
Available as a free / name your price download here:
29 Jan 2016
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
Initially a soul outfit (what else could they have started as with that name?), Welsh six-piece Eyes of Blue escaped an unhappy time on the Deram label, signing to Mercury just as they'd discovered the sounds of the US West Coast, amalgamating those influences with some much closer to home - UK psych -pop and the nascent proto-prog of the Moody Blues. In the process they became one of the very first groups to play what was becoming known as progressive rock. "The guys from Yes would come along to our gigs, stand at the back and make notes" says drummer John Weathers in all seriousness.
They made two LPs for Mercury, both of which have just been freshly reissued on CD by Esoteric Recordings, who are developing a peerless catalogue of UK progressive classics from lesser known names.
Debut "Crossroads of Time" starts off with a bang, with the percussive Graham Bond penned title track being something of an epic, but rather than frontloading the album, it acts as a sampler of the scope of what follows. Recorded in 1968 and released early the following year, there's still plenty of psychedelia to be found amongst the more progressive elements here - particularly the startling, Eastern guitar breaks of "Prodigal Son" - as well as cleverer-than-most vocal arrangements (put to great use on an inventive cover of the Beatles' "Yesterday"), and heaps of Hammond organ. Memorable songs too, and an excellent debut all around, which often reminds me of what a Welsh-born Spirit would have sounded like.
Later on that same year, the band's second album "In Fields of Ardath" appeared, a much more experimental and progressive album, with the band's growing confidence leading them to take a greater degree of control in the mixing room, as well as a more collaborative approach to the songwriting. "After The War" and "Door (The Child That is Born on the Sabbath Day)" are a step in a heavier direction, with doom-laden passages which ought to appeal to fans of occult-rockers like Black Widow. Elsewhere there's a lightness of touch on the bewitching wordless vocals and sumptuous jazz chordings of "Extra Hour" which show the bands willingness to stretch themselves in more than one direction, creating an impressive, visionary opus in the process.
It's a great swansong for the band, assuming one ignores the underwhelming followup as Big Sleep in 1971, which would be generally for the best.
All you need to know about the band is contained within these two splendid vessels, and as we've come to expect, Esoteric's new editions are definitive, with an excellent remastering job and thorough, informative liner-notes. My highest recommendation.
Crossroads of Time is available here (UK/EU) and here (US).
In Fields of Ardath is available here (UK/EU)) and here (US).
28 Jan 2016
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
Dodson And Fogg, essentially the project of mainman Chris Wade with a cast of colourful and talented contributors, returns with 'Roaming', the band's ninth album (or tenth counting last year's superb joint Chris Wade / Sand Snowman release 'Tell The Trees It's Autumn Again'). This fine collection of psych jewels offers yet more of the song writing nous, wit, quirks and genius that Wade instils in every one of his recordings from Dodson to his work with Rainsmoke and Rexford Bedlo. For a while criminally underrated, Wade and Dodson’s star now seems to be on the ascent and this album can only serve to draw more, much deserved attention.
The album opens with the title track, a determined sounding acoustic guitar giving way to Wade's glorious vocal harmonies to create the dual uplifting/melancholy essence of Dodson And Fogg. A uke solo lifts the song to a higher plain and there is a wide-screen, journeying ambiance that is almost tangible (and reminds this listener of the Fleet Foxes epic 'Helplessness Blues'). Continuing with the sense of being transported forwards into an ever increasing horizon, 'I Could Tell You The World Is yours' is a wickedly contagious and propellant track that combines distorted fuzz guitars with whip fast acoustic arpeggios and Wade's almost deadpan yet hugely emotive delivery. 'For a While' slows the pace, a gorgeous sprinkling of chiming guitars and backing vocals by none other than Nigel Planer (of The Comic Strips presents/ Young Ones fame) framing a wistful piece of perfect psych pop. A darker hue is suggested by 'The Best in Me', ominous minor chords and Celia Humphris's (of acid folk masters Trees) evocative backing vocals. Wade can dip into and evoke a wide range of emotional reactions with his songs with apparent ease, an inflection or turn of phrase turning a deceptively upbeat song into something altogether more nostalgic, sepia tinged or vice versa. 'Book of Rules' is a case in point, ably switching from something Bolanesque and stridently positive to something altogether more mysterious and cosmic with sudden change in gear, a hint of mandolin and some carefully positioned vocal harmonies. Each of these songs is a mini symphony in itself; you have to hear just how in control of his craft Wade is, how on top of his game this modest singer songwriter currently is (and I don't mind repeating again and again, he is by far the country’s leading psych artist). This is not to suggest that these songs are clinical or contrived in any way; quite the opposite, they crackle and burn with creativity and the sheer joy of bringing this music into the world. 'I'm Running Out Of Patience Now' demonstrates this with ease; there are more melodies and ideas in this song that some artists manage in a career.
'Pulling faces' introduces tabla (much of Dodson's output works without the use of drums which gives the music a notable and effective sense of floating and otherworldliness) whilst 'Always Looks Like That' adds some truly beautiful harp and chimes to a song that is pure Canterbury scene in its hazy, English riverside reverie. 'Yesterday Man' is the classic slice of British psychedelia that Damon Albarn has been trying to write for the past 25 years. This is followed by 'Rain Clouds' which takes a leaf out of Village Green Kinks territory with some acid folk flecked flute from Georgia Cooke thrown in for good measure, resulting in an album highlight. 'Roaming 2' begins with the sound of a telephone being answered and a reverberated eerie vocal from Daisy (of Daisy And The Dark) as fellow long-time collaborator Ricky Romain sprinkles some of his essential sitar work across a building and growing sense of solitude and the open road, guitar rumbling and echoing as the tension builds to height after height. The album finishes with 'Silver Bay', an arrival at a destination of sorts with the sound of gulls and waves leading into a reflective and magical acoustic meditation. Written with partner Linzi (who also contributes the stunning sleeve art as she often does with Dodson releases) this is the essence of Dodson distilled; melodic, English psych with a Syd Barrett sense of unease and an undercurrent of rainy day sadness. And then we are left to scratch our heads and wonder how Wade can continually do this; prolific yet with a stringently high sense of quality control, this album of gems simply adds to the riches already stockpiled in Dodson's back catalogue.
This is an essential listen for lovers of classic 60s psych pop, The Kinks, Bolan, Barrett and for those enamoured of beautifully constructed nuggets of psychedelic wonder. I trust this refers to you; if so then it is time to go roaming with Dodson And Fogg.
Available now on CD and download form Wade’s Wisdom Twins website and Bandcamp page.
27 Jan 2016
Reviewed by Dedric Moore
Moving away from fat beats and distorted guitars, Al Lover expertly combines dub aesthetics with Krautrock's discipline and patience for long hypnotic grooves on his new long player "Zodiak Versions". Some of the songs are reminiscent of Peaking Lights' bending of the idea of dub and electronics, while others remind me of the underground dub music that embraced electronics in the 90s. Regardless, "Zodiak Versions" is a great stereo listen, as time was obviously put into psyching out your mind with stereo imaging. What is also fun to observe is how Al rides a fine line between the genres but always remembers to add in a "psych" riff or groove to balance the spaced out atmosphere and dubbed out drums.
Krautrock and dub are cited as major influences on "Zodiak Versions", and within that you can heap a bunch of electronic beats and sweeping synths. It is interesting to hear a DJ's approach to songwriting balanced against mood-building.
"Kling Klang Soundclash" and "Zodiak Version" start off the album with lots of atmosphere as electronic percussion slides in to tickle your ears with a bit of rhythm. "Studio Einer Dub" adds a complex rhythm as synths lead the charge, building layers of melodies. The track is very "dub" and spaces out at just the right times. "Jah Warble" gives a nod to the bass style of Wobble with some low, low end bass. "Neo Eno" gives a nod to Eno's ambient work, which has influenced half the globe, particularly his idea of space being as important as the melody. It sounds like watching the stars while leaning against your car on a calm night.
"Planetarium Rock" and "Earth People" bring more heavy groove as the beats get tougher while the synths stay chill. "Stockhausen Soundsystem" brings the beat back down but the fuzz creeps in on the synths and gets things moving. "Osbourne Ruddock vs Connie Plank" (best song on the release) hits just the right mix of dubbed out effects and hypnotic beat. The funky organ groove in the background keeps me hitting repeat on this one.
From there the album winds down into more meditative fare and ends on "Kosmiche Music in Dub", with pitch-bent keys that meld together almost like a sitar drone and spaced out snare echoes, until the groove kicks in for a dramatic ending to a diverse release.
Available here (US), or here (UK/EU).
24 Jan 2016
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
Hailing from Greece, Black Lesbian Fishermen are a mysterious collective that count Alan Trench (Orchis, Temple Music), Nikos Fokas, Stratis Sgourelis and Rebecca Loftiss in their number (the latter artist recording as a part of both the excellent Grey Field Recordings and Howling Larsons as well as the being the creator of the 'In The Cities Of Your Eyes' compilation in aid of Syrian and other refugees). The hazy psych of Howling Larsons gives some indication of the sprawling yet beautiful exploratory symphonies contained herein and the atmospheric experimentalism of Grey Field Recordings offers a hint as to the melodic but defiant disdain for boundaries or convention.
Opener 'Lignite Light' is a live take and one which captures the Fishermen in all their resplendent, kosmiche power and beauty. Chiming guitar lines weave lysergically into backwards effects before merging with flute and resonating E-bowed strings in a grandeur that recalls both 'Saucerful of Secrets' era Floyd and the majesty of Japanese psych legends Ghost. The sounds are vast and yet comforting, the sense of a dark yet tranquil solar emptiness above us is eerily present throughout. At ten minutes this track is an epic and bold statement of intent; the Fishermen's stall is firmly and truly set out. 'LIL' begins with queasy dread filled keyboards, gong and percussion, conjuring up a possible soundtrack to an unwritten Alejandro Jodorowsky film. Spoken word vocals intone before ominous bells peal and a cosmic wind gathers pace to be joined by Rebecca Loftiss's flanged vocals. It’s both hugely effective and unsettling, the sound of some extraterrestrial apocalypse. Next, 'Ragged Ritual' enters with a Nico-esque Eastern harmonium, Loftiss's voice echoing alongside esoteric percussion and processionary, regal and solemn keyboard and guitar refrains. Drums and bells appear through the haze as a seriously tripped out voyage of guitar voyage, ever building and ever searching. Reminding this listener both of Popol Vuh and Godspeed You Black Emperor in its precise yet exploratory guitar lines and pervading sense of ever layering and building repetition this is nonetheless an utterly unique recording; the Fishermen conjure sounds from darkness that sound quite unlike anyone or anything else you'll hear. The pace quickens and molten, distorted bursts of lead guitar scream like comets through the sky. It's both exhilarating and utterly hypnotic. Meanwhile, 'White Reptiles', with its angelic choirs and doom filled metallic guitar coasting over a shuffling beat, continually grows in intensity and circles with a sense of unease; a dark pulsar of a song. Loftiss's voice drifts throughout as if in a dream, adding a further hallucinatory edge.
Another extended live take 'All in the Green' is introduced by oscillating analogue keyboards and a strident bass line. Shimmering strings and chimes blanket the song as it begins its strange exodus to the stars. Bursts of fiery and incendiary guitar interjects as an otherworldly organ journeys further and further outwards into the void. The album finishes with 'Ice', an unearthly crackling and haunting siren beginning the song as bells toll and a slow, stately drumbeat and bassline emerges. As vintage synth sounds wail and tear across the canvas, a proclamatory voice talks of 'ancient skies' and the effect is virtually hypnagogic; it feels like you are dreaming this music.
The band members have an impressive history and catalogue with their other projects, however Black Lesbian Fishermen stand in their own right as a mindblowingly impressive psych band that firmly command their own distinctive and transportive sound. For fans of 'Warrior on the Edge of Time/ Hall of the Mountain Grill' period Hawkwind, the afore mentioned Popol Vuh as well as kosmiche artists such as Sand and Amon Duul, this is a must. Seek this album out, lie back, close your eyes and drift off into the most unsettling yet beautiful dream you may ever have.
Available now via the artist’s Bandcamp page and as a very limited CD edition (there are very few remaining so please email firstname.lastname@example.org first to check availability).