29 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
"White Flowers" is quite the debut from the Brighton based folk duo of Emma Morton and Heather Minor. On paper, Lutine seem like an odd choice for release on the Front & Follow label ( who I associate more with hauntologial left-field electronica), but Morton and Minor are not your everyday folk duo, as those who listen will quickly discover.
These songstresses, while still deeply rooted in traditional English folk song ( to the point where I had to check several times to see whether I was listening to an original or a Childe ballad) are very obviously a product of the 21st Century, and have as much in common with the Finders Keepers stable (Emma Tricca, Jane Weaver) as they do Anne Briggs or the Collins sisters. Sinister drones often lurk just audibly under the surface of their vocals, creating a suitable sense of unease for their dark, mysterious tales of murder and misfortune. Moody electric piano, zither and cello also help to recontextualise these ancient folk forms into something more malleable and contemporary.
And I haven't even mentioned their voices yet, which intertwine with a natural ease; Heather's dexterous tones joining Emma's soprano at invariably the right moment to heighten the drama, or sugarcoat the delivery of a particularly heartwrenching line. Quite marvelous.
Fans of Beth Gibbons, Anne Briggs and This Mortal Coil will find much to enjoy here, as will those who wish the Unthanks would try their hand at something a little darker and grittier.
"White Flowers" is available on CD, and digital download..
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
Goat's new opus, highly anticipated following the critical acclaim and success of their debut album "World Music" and follow up live recording "Live Ballroom Ritual", is finally released to an expectant and now substantial audience. When they emerged a few years back, Goat’s merging of the theatrical (such as their masked shenanigans in their live shows and promo shots) with a mixture of psych trance rock and afro and world beat rhythms was completely unexpected and a breath (or rush) of much needed creativity and fresh air. This only adds pressure for new long player "Commune" to live up to the heady heights of previous outings. I am delighted to confirm that it does so and much, much more besides. Read on gentle listener and enter the magical, strange and transcendent world of Goat.
The hesitant and lonely rhythm of "Talk to God" opens the album; spiraling, building and layering until, almost unwittingly you find yourself in a whirlwind of cascading drums and fizzing, buzzing guitar. Both hypnotic and transcendent, it is spellbinding. Coming at the listener sideways, "Words" has an enormous electronic reverberating wave of percussion which sets the pace for the subsequent chanted vocals. Almost desert rock in its widescreen approach, this is Jimi Hendrix jamming with Aphex Twin meets Sly and The Family Stone. It’s that good. By contrast "The Light Within" is a classic vintage sounding piece of wah-wah inflected seventies style wig out space rock. Yet there is something more spacious in Goat's sound this time around, more delicate perhaps, of intricacy between the clamour of screaming guitar and urgent percussion. "To Travel The Path Unknown" begins with an echoed, quasi-mystical invocation to 'the one true force in the universe' and, with tongue planted firmly in its cheek, the song then sets off on a Morricone bent complete with whip cracking bells and twanged, resonating guitar. These merge with lonesome flute trills to provide the soundtrack to some as yet unwritten Swedish western; it's that strange and yet that invigorating. Indeed, Goat are truly exciting as a band; their seemingly unhinged jams are actually tightly controlled and dynamic, building into crafted explosions of harmony and stomach lurching launches into careful, deeply memorable guitar lines and riffs. A prime example of this, "Goatchild" is a call and response male and female vocal psychedelic masterpiece that is destined to be a live showpiece. Indeed, as great as Goat are on record, you get the sense that these songs will crackle and burn live when teamed with the masks and elaborate costumed performance that has become their trademark. "Goatslaves" enters with a "Warrior on The Edge Of Time" style spoken intro before a house quaking Kasabian bass line takes us into another full on Goat guitar monster; the band perhaps have a limited amount of components in their bag of tricks but they seemingly have endless and myriad ways to fit these together. And when music is this exhilarating, you don't want any let up or wild forays into un-Goat like territory. It would be distracting and ultimately, a come down. "Hide From The Sun" sounds vintage, I suspect that Goat have invested in some old tube stack amps for the making of this album and it fits perfectly with their timeless modus operandi of mostly instrumental psyche guitar freakouts. Wisps of echoed and chanted vocals ride the waves of dark, urgent fuzz and surf guitar, a hint of sitar adding the element of mystery and otherworldliness. An album standout amongst a collection of treasures, this is a heart racing and beautifully exultant song, at once uplifting and yet ominous and strange. "Bondeye" is a mid-paced melodic exercise in restraint, the drums and guitars holding the tension and harmonies whilst always threatening to truly take off into the stratosphere. In some bizarre way Goat are almost a Shadows for the millennial age; highly catchy and melodic guitar lines form the basis of their music and they are soundtrack-like in their atmospheres and motifs. However Hank Marvin would need to have ingested several tonnes of psychedelics and be wearing a deer mask to even come near to achieving what this band does. "Gathering of Ancient Tribes" is an epic closer (although Goat are always epic, make no mistake); a collision of sixties style drum fills and vocal chants that recall some of Jane's Addictions most exhilarating moments merge with constant and solid guitar genius. Feedback howls build to eventually lead into the promised full-on screaming overload of Goat with their amps turned up to, ahem, eleven. A shimmering wave of vocal dissonance hovers over the wig-out until it all runs to a close, feedback drone echoing long past the end of the song. It is both breathtaking and bewildering; you are left thinking 'what have I just heard'? Just perfect.
I cannot recommend this highly enough. When they first appeared Goat seemingly came from nowhere; their psychedelic monoliths fully formed. And they show no sign of leaving or of let up in their singular mission. They are a truly exciting band, not cerebral but purely physical. You feel this music in your heart, lungs and stomach. Come, commune with Goat. You will not be disappointed that you did.
"Commune" is available here on vinyl, vinyl with bonus 7", and CD.
27 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
The Softie's previous effort "False Lights" was my top album of 2013, so it won't surprise you to learn that its follow up, "The Slow Cyclone" has been much anticipated in these quarters. Their blend of the childlike and the subversively sinister, is certainly not one that is destined for mainstream success, but there's a reason that fans of the band tend towards the obsessive, and "The Slow Cyclone" is as good a place as any to begin obsessing.
Where "False Lights" was (at least comparatively) concise, "The Slow Cyclone" is a sprawling opus of an album, stylistically diverse enough to at least imply a "White Album" sort of status.
Recorded piecemeal in three home studios, the album is split into four, side length collections of songs, interspersed with effective fragmentary interludes which range from BBC Radiophonic Workshop style synth burblings, to lovely baroque harpsichord pieces that those visited less often by their muse would feel impelled to get more mileage from.
More often than not though, the tunes on "The Slow Cyclone"are fully developed and quite, quite lovely. Chief scientist Nathan Hall dominates as usual, with his layered production style combining perfectly with hypnotic, circular melodies that sound immediately familiar, and reveal deeper pleasures on repeat listens. You're unlikely to hear a catchier song this year than "The Ups & The Downs" or "Hermit Crab". The increased playing time also allows other scientists the opportunity to shine, with the lovely "Sonar Rays" making the waiting time between Fleet Foxes projects a little easier to tolerate, while "For You" would make a suitable sparring partner for Candidate's better moments.
And there's plenty more to discover too, with each play revealing hitherto unsuspected melodic twists amidst its rambling narrative, suggesting that it's an album which is likely to continue offering surprises well into the future.
This is one to get cosy with and spend some time soaking up.
"The Slow Cyclone" is available on CD, and as a digital download.
Hypeworthy New & Upcoming Releases - Delia Derbyshire & Anthony Newley / Braen Raskovich / Green Pajamas / The Laze
These unreleased and important historic recordings were made by Delia Derbyshire and Anthony Newley. Musically this has to be one of the most brilliant, unexpected and lost collaborations in the history of both these exceptional artists.
This rare and until now, unissued recording started life way back in 1966. It was written by the multi-talented Anthony Newley (who also wrote hits such as "Feeling Good", "Goldfinger", the "Willy Wonka" soundtrack music etc), maybe for a pop release, but possibly - bearing in mind the kinky nature of the lyrics - for an experimental British TV show he was working on at the time. Unusually he wanted some electronic backgrounds for his words, and so called in the help of Delia Derbyshire, moonlighting from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. They met at her flat in Maida Vale to discuss the project and he commissioned her. Legend has it that Joan and Jackie Collins gave Newley a lift there and were waiting outside for him in the car (Joan went on to marry Newley). By the time the tracks were finally completed Newley was already on his way to the USA for further acting and songwriting commitments, and the track has remained in his archive ever since.
One listen to "Moogies Bloogies" and you can tell this is classic Newley, with his hooky lyrics burying themselves deep in your brain, and his delivery demonstrating clearly his strong influence on artists such as David Bowie and Damon Albarn. Also, you hear how superbly Delia’s sound compliments his delivery. It’s a work of double genius. To be slightly clearer on Newley’s influences, he used the rare East End slang term "Bloogies" which means "off colour, not quite feeling yourself". According to Martin Guy at WikiDelia.com, Derbyshire’s "Moogies Bloogies" backing originates from simple sine tones, and "Delia spent 64½ hours working on this piece every day from the 2nd to the 11th of August 1966 including a single monster session of 16½ hours on the 9th and a "radical rethink" on the night of Wednesday 10th". The music was also played out once (we assume without the lyrics and without Newley) at one of the Unit Delta Plus legendary concert events.
Apparently Derbyshire was originally not too pleased with the musical results, but came to love "Moogies Bloogies" later in her life.
We can’t escape the fact that that this unique recording is the result of a most extraordinary and wholly unexpected collaboration, a bizarre blip in the history of both these fascinating and important artists; it’s the first we know of Delia collaborating for a pop idea. And the first time we know of Newley working with electronics. Thanks to this first ever pressing they can begin a whole new trip into the minds of musical collectors everywhere.
All cues mastered and sequenced by Jon Brooks, AKA The Advisory Circle.
The 7" is available here, and there's also a digital version available here.
Another great giallo / library / psychedelic vinyl release from Finders Keepers Records.
Commercially unreleased album by the Italian soundtrack psych holy trinity publically known as The Pawnshop. Working under the guises of Braen, Raskovich and Kema the trio's only LP project shrouded the identities of Alessandro Alessandroni, Gulliano Sorgini and Giulia De Mutiis providing a genuine bloodline between records like "All The Colours Of The Dark", "The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue" and the rare Braen's Machine LPs - combining an inimitable blend of avant garde and occultish stoner psych with extra creative flourishes from a lesser-heard important Italian femme artiste.
Vinyl available here. Digital version available here.
"Happy Halloween!" is the grand finale in Green Monkey Records series of amazing, early, barely released Green Pajamas material. The original 8-song "Happy Halloween!" cassette was released thirty years ago this month, on October 20, 1984. For this release Green Monkey have added 13 mostly unreleased PJ’s songs recorded in an 8-month period between "Summer of Lust" and their first single, "Kim the Waitress." A few, like "Thinking Only of You" saw very limited release on the occasional comp here and there and have been highly sought commodities among Green Pajamas collectors. The first fifty copies are a limited edition; hand-numbered and autographed by Jeff and Joe. The numbered discs will be sold exclusively through GMR and can be had here if you are real quick. There's also a digital version available here.
A brand new modern re-score for the classic 1925 horror film, composed & performed by UK septet The Laze. The Laze have developed quite a reputation across the UK for their spine-tingling live performances and expansive soundscapes. Influenced by a history of horror soundtracks, from Bernard Hermann & Angelo Badalamenti to Goblin & John Carpenter, The Laze implemented elements of progressive rock, classical, jazz, heavy metal & electronica in their score. The original soundtrack will be the group's fourth long-player. This new sonic adaptation comes on deluxe tip-on gatefold packed vinyl editions, compact disc & cassette. Featuring original black and silver artworks by LUKE INSECT & KEN GOODALL (The Human League, "A Field In England", Death Waltz Records,...) Vinyl versions are packaged in a deluxe tip-on jacket with artworks in black & silver by Luke Insect & Ken Goodall (The Human League, A Field In England, Deathwaltz Records,...)
Available on vinyl here, and on CD here.
26 Sept 2014
This month's sampler is out now, with artwork once again by the fantastic Eric Adrian Lee.
1. Heaven's Gateway Drugs - Apropos. From the upcoming second album, due in October.
2. EDJ - The Mountains on Fire (In The Rearview). From the album "EDJ", out now on Easy Sound.
3. The Autumn Stone - The River Song. From the album "Beautiful Freaks", out now.
4. The Ilk - Powerplant. From the album "The New Dark Age", out now.
5. Papernut Cambridge - When She Said, What She Said (Extended Active Listener Mix). Original version available on the album "New Underground", out in October on Gare Du Nord.
6. Holögrama - In Your Head. From the upcoming album "Waves", out soon on Trouble in Mind Records.
7. Espectrostatic - Escape from Witchtropolis. From the upcoming album "Escape from Witchtropolis", out soon on Trouble in Mind Records.
8. Cosmic Analog Ensemble - Murs Libres. From the album "La Fonte des Glaces", out now as a free download.
9. Heed The Thunder - Horrible Condition. From the album "Cokaigne", out now.
10. Klaus Morlock - The Derelict Nursery. From the album "The Bridmore Lodge Tapes", out now from Reverb Worship.
11. Dodson And Fogg - When You Were Young. From the album "In a Strange Slumber", out now.
12. Ripe - Eyes and Mind. Ripe on Soundcloud.
13. Montibus Communitas - The Pilgrim At The Shrine. From the album "The Pilgrim to the Absolute", out September 30 on Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records.
14. Slow Motion Rider - Never Blue. Slated to appear on a future Slow Motion Rider album.
15. The Sunchymes - Mr Buckstone. From the digital single Mr Buckstone.
You can download it right here:
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
It's always a delight when word of a new Dodson And Fogg album is whispered on the world wide web; thankfully due to the prolific nature of main man Chris Wade this is not an altogether rare occurrence. This new opus comes bearing the familiar and welcome hall marks of a classic Dodson album - the intricate and otherworldly sleeve illustration by wife Linzi and the impressive list of collaborators, this time including actor Nigel Planer (perhaps best known from his Comic Strip work), frequent foil Celia Humphris of legendary acid folk band Trees, Alison O'Donnell of the equally legendary Mellow Candle, Kevin Scott of Mr Pine and sitar player Ricky Romain. "In A Strange Slumber", in Chris's own words, "centres around the concept of dreams and death, and the connections between both subjects". Ambitious yet inclusive and inviting in its instant melodic appeal this is a concept album that can be listened to on a number of different levels, each equally enjoyable and entrancing.
Opener "The Dance" is a slight departure for Dodson, featuring as it does a folk inflected mandolin reel. Yet the familiar psych touches are evident and the ease with melody that is so inherent on Dodson's releases is on full display here. "I'm Coming Back" begins with a tense fingerpicked melody of descending arpeggios, again sounding almost folk in its recalling of the work of John Renbourn or perhaps The Strawbs. Indeed there is a "From The Witchwood" feel to the track as Wade's vocals merge with that of Humphris in an acoustic reverie of harmony and haze, bursts of electric guitar and organ adding to the 'classic' feel of the music. If previous Dodson albums had 1960s inflections this is perhaps where they draw from the well of 1970's revered and classic rock to add to their own unique and recognisable stylings. A trumpet refrain leads the song out on a burst of wild freeform guitar; Dodson are masters at the building and layering of a song into something almost transcendent and deeply thrilling. By contrast "When You Were Young" is a moody, brooding psych rock anthem in the mould of Ray Davies. Harmonising with himself, Wade turns this track into a blistering yet melancholy reflection on lost youth. "Along The Way" is a complex, Spanish guitar inflected tango, frequent time signature changes leading into certainly the best bit of fuzz guitar you will hear this year. Drinking from the bountiful cup of Love's "Forever Changes" but with extra wistfulness and a menacing sense of tension this is classic Dodson. In fact, it is just classic full stop. The title track is a truly beautiful and beatific psychedelic whirl through bells, xylophone, violin and keyboard; an Alice In Wonderland waltz through a Victorian garden of melody. "Entrepreneur In The Garden" introduces Nigel Planer as narrator in a humorous and bizarre tale of the unwanted protagonist of the title. There's a touch of "Sir Henry at Rawlinson End" here or the perhaps the Pythons, a surreal and brilliantly English whimsy at its heart. It says much for Dodson's sheer creativity and willingness to experiment and push their sound into new pastures.
Make no mistake, Dodson are an ideas band who are not straight jacketed into any one particular genre or style. Yet their music is consistent, you can spot a Dodson song due to the song writing finesse and Wade's melodic vocals. It is this balance between identity and melody yet with an urge to experiment and include all kinds of influences and creative urges that make Dodson so unique and essential. "By Your Side" is a hazy and narcotic mantra, a tabla driven late summer love song whilst "A Day In Your Life' has echoes of psych master Paul Roland in its shimmering yet quirky acoustic finesse. Perhaps the most overtly psych track on the album, there is a nostalgic English air in its trumpet refrain and sense of melancholy. However this nostalgia could just as easily be for the England of the sixties as the Victorian England of Lewis Carroll and it is absolutely spellbinding. 'The Wind" takes a detour into organ based, slightly sinister 60s psych, the ghost of Syd Barrett in its minor and flat key unworldliness and unsettling crescendos. "Never Be Alone" by turn is a full on fuzz rock masterpiece, eerie organ and urgent sitar punctuating the strident guitar riffage, not unlike if Chrome had emerged with their psyche space punk in the early seventies rather than later on in that decade. Reverbed guitar slows the track into a more meditative pace, duelling with the sitar until the tension fades into silence. It is both unpredictable and properly exciting; it is not often music is this attention grabbing and thrilling. "When I See Her" is recognisably Dodson; instantly memorable and yearning, a perfect pop song with odd little corners and angles. "Clunes The Gravedigger" is another darkly eccentric and funny tale of the unusual featuring Nigel Planer. These punctuations to the musical side of the album fit seamlessly and only add to the sense of ingenuity and creativity on show here. Indeed they contribute to the timeless and anglophile atmosphere; the spectres of Vivian Stanshall and Bob Calvert are smiling upon this music. "Don't You Pass Me By" is a Bolan-esque mid paced wonder; electric guitar unfurling around wisps of violin and Wade's evocative vocals. As a guitar player Wade needs special mention; he flits between styles, masterly control and melody as well as momentous freeform wig outs with seeming ease. And the guitar always feels essential to the song; no indulgent bar band or 'rawk' solos here. "A Sweet And Strange Surprise" is utterly beautiful, Kevin Scott's piano glistening across guitar trills, hushed cymbals and acid folk legend Alison O’Donnell’s choir like vocals in a song that is both wistful and hopeful. As an album closer it is breathtaking and energising; it leaves us hungry for more. If this was on vinyl (and it should be) I’d be flipping the record back to start at side one again.
It is becoming clear that Dodson may well be the most important and vital psych band operating at the moment. Close your eyes, begin to drift into dream and enter the strange slumber of Dodson And Fogg. It may well be a trippy and unusual ride but one you will want to come back to again and again.
Available from Dodson And Fogg's bandcamp site as a download or their website as a CD, with the option of a package including a signed print of the inner cover art.
25 Sept 2014
New Active Listener Records Release Available Now - The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies (Free Album Download)
Everyone's favourite psychedelic surfers The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies (who will be familiar to Fruits de Mer Records fans), have unleashed their full length debut "12 Theories of Time Travel" on Active Listener Records.
"......Ethereal and interstellar, 40 Million Miles To Earth is filled with the wonder and awe of deep space intoxica........" Justin Hayes, CD Notes, Surfrockmusic.com
Taking their DIY recording philosophy from Joe Meek and musical influences from the likes of Roky Erickson, The Flaming Lips and The Moontrekkers, the 'Puppies were planned as a band with members depending on whoever "...happened to be passing..." peddling their chaotic brand of Psychedelia tinged, Echo smothered, Alt-Surf-Rock since 2010.
Get it here:
Reviewed by Todd Leiter-Weintraub
New vinyl issues from Modern Classics / Light In the Attic Records
Let me begin this review by stating that I am not an expert in any African music. My knowledge isn’t that broad and it isn’t that deep. But recently, I have been on a bit of an African music tear, listening to a lot of music from the continent. It’s a sudden interest that has been sparked by the release of several outstanding albums and retrospectives, including releases from: Bombino, The Dur-Dur Band, Joseph Kabasele, Etran Finatawa, and Tinariwen.
Speaking of Tinariwen, that band’s first two albums have been given their first-ever vinyl release by the folks over at Light In the Attic Records. And they are something very wonderful, indeed.
Nobody is going to argue against the fact that the blues is an American art form. But it does have its roots in sub-Saharan Africa. And, in recent years, it has become ever more apparent that the musicians of North Africa, Tinawiren among them, are reclaiming this music for their own continent and for themselves.
The Tuaregs are a nomadic people that have been further displaced by political and social upheaval in the region around Libya and Mali. If anyone has the right to sing the blues, it is they. And reading the translations, their suffering is apparent:
“You who are organised,
assembled, walking together.
Hand in hand, you’re living.
A path which is empty of meaning.
In truth, you’re all alone”
A people without a country.
Getting to the sound of the band: it is definitely Arabic; with hand percussion and modal melodies that are typical of the region. And yet, electric guitars help make the overall effect, somehow, very familiar. The vocals are, for the most part, sung by a single lead singer, being responded to by a larger chorus of voices; it’s somewhat reminiscent of a gospel choir, albeit in structure only. And then there are those guitars, which, at times, can be reminiscent of Keith Richards’ rhythm playing, or even a straight 12-bar blues, if taken out of context.
But then, context is everything, isn’t it? And while the guitars can be 'bluesy', context constantly reminds one that this is no "Sticky Fingers".
Of the two albums being offered by Light In the Attic, the debut, "Radio Tisdas", is a bit more open, and a bit more Saharan—less Western. The electric guitars are less rock and more rolling sand dunes. In fact, the first two songs ("Le Chant De Fauves" and "Nar Djenetbouba") barely have anything of the sound of the blues, outside of some of the syncopation and a bit of the shuffling rhythm. It’s only when the third track ("Imidiwaren") opens with a single guitar playing what could only referred to as a 'jam', that the Western influence becomes apparent. The next song, "Zin Es Gourmeden" does the same, only with more of an edge. From there the album rolls along, pulling you in with its syncopated rhythms and group chemistry. It sounds like a communal celebration of all that is right (and wrong) with the world.
The second album, "Amassakoul", swings a bit harder, even rocks in places. The guitars have more presence and even a bit of grit.
The first song "Amassakoul 'N'Ténéré" begins with a shuffling rhythm that gets the head nodding and the shoulders swaying. "Oualahila Ar Tesninam" follows with a quicker tempo and the guitars turned up to the point where you can hear a little bit of distortion. Definitely more rock; even a bit dangerous. While the rest of the album does have quieter moments, even then "Amassakoul" sounds a bit more desperate: edgier and ready to take off into full-rock mode. But it never does, and that is no detriment to the music. Because the percussion, the handclaps, and the modality of it all provide the context that reminds you that you are listening to a foreign sound and you shouldn’t really expect to rock. Just roll with it. It’s lovely stuff.
"The Radio Tisdas Sessions" is available on vinyl here.
"Amassakoul" is available on vinyl here.
24 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
Of late, a number of mysterious and cobwebbed artifacts have emerged from the shadows and crypt of lost film reels and accompanying soundtracks. And now here is something equally unusual, strange and rare; "The Bridmore Lodge Tapes".
The Tapes are a much talked about but rare and often thought lost musical venture by English born German composer Klaus Morlock, primarily known at the time for his electronic based compositions and soundtracks for various 1970s European horror movies. A known occultist, Morlock recorded his opus in the abandoned residence of the title where it was said that a horrific series of events led to the previous occupants’ child dying in a mysterious and unexplained manner. Curiously this event seems to have bled through into the titles of the pieces on the album; Morlock’s supposed solitude during the recording undoubtedly also influencing this strange and unsettling album. Recorded between 1976 and 1977 on instruments allegedly loaned to him by Jimmy Page, this is both one of the most affecting and unusual albums you will ever hear.
"Wake" opens the album, electronic breaths reverberating and echoing over a tense vibrating rhythm as single icy notes are plucked from the darkness. At once instantly melodic yet hugely disquieting it sounds like the analogue creation of an especially demented and possessed Jean Michel Jarre digesting the back catalogue of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It is also completely transfixing and utterly brilliant. "Watching The Girl from the Village" is more sinister yet, whirrs and keyboard squelches adding menace to the steady and stalking harmony. The track descends into bursts of disturbing synth screams and noise, human breathing this time around providing an urgent and unquiet rhythm, before returning to the quiet hypnotizing central melody. "Her Dark Magick" is a melancholy and yearning piece of electronic flute with reverbed strings and is utterly beautiful in its vintage orchestration. There was clearly something altogether lonely and melancholic within Morlock during the making of this piece; this sense pervades the album just as much as the more disturbing and sinister elements, adding hidden depths and layers to the compositions. Similarly "Nocturne for Judy" is a solo piano piece of unease and emptiness, a dusty and forgotten sense of sadness lurking around the dimming glow of rural twilight. There is an atmosphere of folk horror inherent here, of a rustic and autumnal solitude where, despite the gentle hues and silence, there is a whispering wind rustling through the trees telling us we are not alone. "Please Reveal Yourself" is a classic piece of seventies electronica, and one which future hauntological enthusiasts such as Ghost Box, Belbury Poly and The Moonwiring Club would seek to emulate. Shimmering keyboard appregios provide a steady base from which doom-laden,ominous strings sing out; an orchestra from hell perhaps but a powerful and stirring one nonetheless. "This Was Judy's Room" is a haunting and ghost filled elegy, electronic piccato strings picking out the song’s refrain over treated and synthesised guitar. Reminiscent of classic 1970s horror soundtracks such as "Lets Scare Jessica to Death", it is a captivating and chilling piece. "Night Sweat" introduces disembodied electronic free form jazz percussion and time signatures to the atmospherics, echoing keyboard wails and hums reminding this listener of the soundtrack music to such apocalyptic classic as "The Quatermass Conclusion" or Terry Nation's "Survivors". "Untitled Fragment"s choral melody (or malady) adds a sacred and hymnal feel to the hypnotic beat, a spooked out Popol Vuh. Morlock may have been unhinged by the forces around him, or simply his own descent into solitude and madness whilst recording, but he never lost his keen sense of melody that is both affecting and altogether human. This is electronic music but with a scared and pulsating beating human heart. "The Toy Carousel" is a twisted, otherworldly and nauseous fairground ride; a "Carnival of Souls" indeed. It is also spellbindingly beautiful. "The Sick Child" by turn is a plaintive and mellotron filled, ominous warning of a track; the tension is palpable and the descending piano notes bone chilling in their cold and glistening beauty. An off key music box melody ends the song, merging into squalls of electronic noise; a suggestion of madness and malevolence. "The Derelict Nursery" returns to the piano led melancholy of earlier in the album but with a sense of urgency.
The sounds which Morlock was unleashing from his array of vintage keyboards and equipment are astonishing; from the quietest and most sensitive elements such as the track in question to the air raid wail of electrified wind in "The Unmarked Grave" he is an expert musical storyteller. We see these songs as much as hear them; they conjure up images and back stories just as much as provide a soundscape. Indeed in some cases, this is achieved to a chilling, almost uncomfortable yet masterful extent. "The Unmarked Grave" ends on a backwards loop, the album closer "The Child Garden" echoing with a child's voice and a creeping, rasping hum before harpsichord and orchestrated woodwind emerge; it is a shiver down your spine moment. If Kraftwerk composed horror movie soundtracks it may well have sounded a little like this.
Morlock now appears to have completely disappeared. No-one now knows where he is or what his recollections of this unique recording are. All that is left is his incredible musical tale, an album so unlike anything else in its intensity and creativity that it gets under your skin and raises the hairs on your arms and neck. You must hear this album, but not alone and not with the lights off....
Available now in an individually handmade sleeve by the ever splendid Reverb Worship. This archive release is limited though, so do not delay.
Update(25/9/14): Reverb Worship's CD is now sold out, but you can stream or download the whole thing here:
23 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
Today I've got a release that is very near and dear to me : the latest album from The Red Plastic Buddha, the chief protagonist of which (Tim Ferguson) is a scribe on this very site. This being the case, I've delayed writing this review endlessly, fearing that I would struggle to remain impartial, but screw that; I asked Tim to write for me because he has excellent taste and because I enjoy the music that he creates, so it seems ridiculous that those very qualities should stop him being featured here.
"Songs For Mara" is the third album from Chicago's Red Plastic Buddha. I'll assume that you're not familiar with their first two albums, and if that is the case, you certainly should rectify that ASAP- they're excellent. Squarely centred in neo-psychedelic territory, the current line-up of the Red Plastic Buddha have a far gutsier, and much more layered sound than the recorded output from previous line-ups suggests that they had, and the added muscle suits their sound very well.
Ferguson's songs are laced with hooks, and those hooks often betray the influence of other genres, particularly "She's An Alien" and "A Girl Like You", which have glam and new wave undercurrents lurking underneath their shiny, neo-psych exteriors, with Bowieish tendencies surfacing elsewhere on the album too, notably on "Being Human". This willingness to embrace lessons learned from other genres gives Ferguson and his fellow travelers a much broader palette to paint from, and "Songs For Mara" is all the better because of it.
Don't worry - there are some nice vintage psych touches too, in the shape of some really nice mellotron, and intricate, Manzarekian organ work, which shines whenever it's given centre stage. The guitar work (some of which is courtesy of The Luck of Eden Hall's Gregory Curvey, who also provided the sleeve - clever boy!), sizzles, whether it's creating a rich latticework of textures, soaring elegantly or being subjected to ridiculous levels of whammy abuse (as heard on the garagey standout "Stuck On Zero).
Overall "Songs For Mara"shows nicely that modern psychedelia need not be a rehash of past glories, and by embracing the present as well as the past, it fits smoothly into a lineage of excellent neo-psychedelic albums stretching back to the Church's "Heyday" and beyond.
You can stream the whole album and buy it digitally below. CD and vinyl release to come in the future I'm told.
22 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
Heed the Thunder may be a name that is familiar to fans of wyrd folk kings and queens Sproatly Smith, consisting as they do of three fifths of the band. And for those who have not stumbled upon either act; you are in for a serious psych folk treat. Previous long player "All Those Black Years" (released by Reverb Worship) had certainly attracted its fair share of critical acclaim but it is with their new release that Heed the Thunder will surely garner more widespread and much deserved attention.
Hugely accomplished and deeply melodic, yet with fascinating and curious weird angles and shadows, this is an album that will happily nestle between more mainstream acts such as Alasdair Roberts or James Yorkston yet will also delight fans of The Rowan Amber Mill, The Familiars and the wyrder stream of UK folk that is currently lurking in the shadows and forests around this septic isle (such as Sproatly themselves).
"Blackest Night" is an especially effective opener, delicate harmonies leading into a gentle but haunting, glistening landscape of accordion, banjo and guitar. "Interested In People" fizzes and hums with Mark Water’s Pentangle style double bass, shimmering picked guitar and slabs of echo that add a dark midnight sheen to back Alex Gordon and Kate Gathercole's intertwining vocals. Mysterious, brooding yet also intensely memorable, there is a rustic Floydian wash to the band's sound that creates a timeless, classic feel; this is further emphasised by the sparkling and crystal clear production. "Basilisk" is a melancholy traveller’s paean, descending guitar arpeggios leading to an epic and most unexpected Mariachi trumpet freeform blowout, giving the song an extra twist before a more urgent "Forever Changes" style acoustic guitar propels the song along. As a listen, it is both exhilarating and unique. Special mention must be also given to the interplay between Alex Gordon and Kate Gathercole's vocals, sounding not unlike a Jansch and McShee for the modern age.
"Street Life" is a strummed, styled "Bryter Layter" late night brooder, with blasts of fuzz guitar adding those curious and ingenious odd angles again. Gordon's piano work and Water’s evocative bass provides a smoky, "Northern Sky" vibe and conjures up an autumnal and sepia tinged atmosphere. "Drink up and Go", prominently featuring Kate Gathercoles' banjo, is a plaintive country tinged epic; the combined vocals of each of the group lifting the song to dramatic and widescreen heights. Fans of Candidate (especially their Wicker Man influenced album "Nuada"), Fleet Foxes and REM’s more wistful and profound moments will find much to love here. "Will To Succeed" is also built upon the sound of the banjo and smothered in almost hymnal hushed harmonies to create a hazy, late summer mood before defying convention and speeding up into something a little bit terser and more barbed. The band themselves describe their sound as ‘Folk Brut’ and there is something here of the delightful, rough edges and unexpected and wilful twists and turns that this description conjures up. There are thorns in amongst the roses and shadows amongst the late afternoon sunlight.
"Horrible Condition" also begins in such a spiky manner, tense plucked bass and sharp piano notes lead into a shanty of truly dipsomaniac tenancies. Somewhat Kinks-ian in its English jangle and "Harry Rag" rhyming verse the song propels along enticingly before dropping into a terse and scraping trumpet solo. It is truly a shiver inducing moment when the piano and guitar kick back in for the final few bars. Closer "Lucky Man" staggers amidst a trumpet and bass jazz inflected cabaret stomp, accordion decadently counting out time – folk vaudeville perhaps? It is a stunning finish to a hugely impressive album. You are left feeling that you have listened to something that will have wide, perhaps even mainstream appeal yet are also conscious of all the ‘what on earth was that?’ moments. It is undoubtedly a difficult balancing act to achieve yet Heed the Thunder make it seem effortless.
This fine album is available now at the band’s Bandcamp page as a download or as a limited CD in beautiful, gatefold, recycled card packaging with lyric insert and additional artwork by the band’s Kate Gathercole. Take heed!
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
When Nick Nicely released his second single, "Hilly Fields" in 1982, NME were quick to proclaim it "the best psychedelic record made since the '60s". "Hilly Fields" innovative fusion of whimsical Beatles / Barrett psychedelia with Neu / Numan synthesizers and electronica was an extremely important link in the chain that led to the current psychedelic renaissance, but despite this, Nicely soon disappeared down the rabbit hole himself. It wasn't until reissue culture caught up with him in 2004, that his debut full length "Psychotropia" was finally released, with momentum steadily rolling ever since.
And that about brings us up to "Space of a Second", Nicely's brand new album, out on the 29th of this month. It's had a long gestation, and I've seen reference to it being ready to release dating back to at least 2011, but no explanation as to what has kept it from us until now.
Be warned. "Space of a Second" is by no means an easy record, and this may have a lot to do with why we're only just getting to hear it now. There are achingly lovely tunes to be found here, but as Nicely fans will have come to expect by now, they're cloaked in a dense, and often disorientating kaleidoscopic fog, with layers of electronics fading in and out of the mix. Snatches of tune emerge briefly, before being snatched away and smothered by waves of dubby psychedelic weirdness.
This being the case, "Space of a Second" does take its time to progress from being an intriguing listen to a truly satisfying one, but the patient listener will be rewarded tenfold. "Space of a Second" is truly in a field of its own, and is unlike any other album that you're likely to hear this year. If we ever get the chance to hear the Beatles "Carnival of Light", I have a sneaking suspicion that it'll sound a little like this.
And the largely acoustic (but still very lysergic) version of "Hilly Fields" on here is a quite lovely touch. Recommended if you're willing to invest some time.
"Space Of A Second" is available here on vinyl, and CD.
21 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
London synth prog trio Zoltan return with an excellent new E.P (on Rise Above Records this time). Following on from their tribute to John Cameron's "Psychomania" score, this time they turn their attention to Amando de Ossorio’s creepy Knights Templar zombie quartet "Tombs of the Blind Dead", "Return of the Blind Dead", "The Ghost Galleon" and "Night of The Seagulls". The films themselves are among the best of the Spanish seventies horror boom, with the slow motion footage of the Templar zombies on horseback providing some of the most iconic and evocative images of the era.
Zoltan's music in tribute is equally evocative, with this E.P featuring four tracks, each named after and representing one of the four films. "Tombs of the Blind Dead" suitably enough has a half speed feel to it with a lumbering fuzz bass and percussion riff, offset by stabs of mellotron and menacing synthesizer swells. "Return of the Blind Dead" maintains that sense of unease with a lighter touch, and is dominated by layers of mellotron that recall the second side of King Crimson's "In The Wake Of Poseidon"."The Ghost Galleon" (despite representing the least distinguished film in the series) brings the bass to the forefront with a prominent gallop that follows in the footsteps of Roger Water's aggressive bass work of the "Meddle" era. "Night of the Seagulls" rounds things off nicely with a more dissonant offering which seems like it's settling in for atmosphere until the rhythm section enter and steer it towards a climactic finish.
Certainly up there with their excellent debut "First Stage Zoltan", this is perhaps more of a slow burner, but prolonged immersion is extremely rewarding. Certainly on my 'to buy' list.
Available digitally,with vinyl to follow shortly.
19 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Grey Malkin ( The Hare & The Moon)
Jon Brooks is a name that should immediately be familiar to fans of the output of the Ghost Box record label or to listeners of the hauntology genre in general . His spooked and analogue dérives have graced many a classic album from his previous solo work to releases under the Advisory Circle moniker such as 'As the Crow Flies'. Here, he follows up his previous Clay Pipe release 'Shapwick' with '52', a collection of ghostly and desolate sonic sonnets that evoke both hazy nostalgia and a sense of otherworldliness. Inspired by memories of his grandmother’s house and garden, there is a deeply human element to the evocative vintage electronica and synthesised sounds contained herein.
'Morning Window' opens the album with frozen hymnal drones, evoking the coldest of winters. It's a mood piece and an effective one. 'The Mezzanine's pizzicato melody also creeps in the shadows, scratching and cobwebbed but also oddly beautiful and deeply affecting. Reminiscent of Moon's Music era Coil or perhaps late 70s Kraftwerk (had they grown up in one Britain’s concrete new towns) there is the sense of nostalgia and sadness for things and times lost mixed with an eerie sense of dread and discomfort. There are ghosts in this music, moving between the past to present and back again. 'Fibre Optics' adds electronic hums and squelches which become curiously percussive and begin to suggest their own melodies, not unlike a more haunted version of OMD's (early hauntological classic) 'Dazzle Ships'. 'Pond One' is a shimmer of warm but foreboding analogue tones, a gentle melody picking its way through the sense of winteriness and building subtly to a quiet crescendo of great beauty. 'Hothouse' in contrast is a short interlude of a series of dread filled hums, drones and keyboard rises leading into 'All The Way from Leafield's more rustic birdsong, albeit this is also combined with generated electronic whirrs and clicks. There is a sense of dérive within this album (even if it is a walk through memory rather than a physical location), a walk through psychogeographical territory; perhaps some English town where the ancient land and ley lines still vibrate and breathe beneath the pavements and parks. 'December Trees' is a gorgeous and chilling shimmer of a song, gentle synth hiccups over a drone as smooth and cold as glass.
Over on side two (how delightful to be able to say that in a review) 'The Back Room's piano notes reverbate, filling the space with an almost choral and religious sense of wonder. Suggestive of other works such as that of composer Richard Skelton, this is an exercise on the beauty and sense of sacred space that repetition and minimalism can create. It's a stunning and heartrending piece and needs to be heard. 'Lichen' continues the lonely walk through the bleak landscape of memory, gentle vintage bleeps and computer noise permeating the symphony of ringing notes and melodies. This music may be electronic but it says something about the human condition and our connection with the environment around us much more than many more 'organic' releases. Indeed, one could make an argument for this being a form of modern folk music. 'Walk in Store's sinister resonating chimes add a sense of dread and of the unknown, this is not necessarily a pleasant amble through the rooms of the past. Something else lives here with us and it is ancient. 'Pond 2' is a glacial masterpiece, strings building on creeping bass notes, the end result a virtual shiver of a song. Surely there must be a BFI release of unearthed footage of British life somewhere that this hugely evocative and descriptive music can soundtrack. It would be a perfect fit. 'Wax Lemons' metallic drips and drops also paint a sense of aloneness, of the quiet of winter or the dead of night; again of the environment being alive with something unknown, an imprint of ours and others’ pasts. 'Whispering Glass', its organ melody both melancholy and yet strangely hopeful, is the longest piece on the album and is a conclusion or finale or sorts. Utterly entrancing and heartrending, its sheer beauty floats and swells majestically and mercurially. The album evokes the sense of being on a journey in general and this penultimate track feels like a return home. It is hugely affecting. Closer 'End of the Corridor' returns us briefly to the humming sense of melancholy dread and the idea that this is not the end; that the journey or the environment and our pasts will be alive again in the morning, waiting for us.
I cannot recommend this album highly enough. For aficionados of The Advisory Circle, Belbury Poly and Pye Audio Corner this is a must. Brook's himself describes his music as "everything's fine, but there is something not quite right about it." This is an able description of a music haunted by its past and its possible futures but which is also a thing of great beauty. Soon to be released on vinyl (with download code) and housed in a startlingly lovely sleeve designed by Clay Pipe owner Frances Castle (check out her other releases and incredible sleeve designs) this is an essential acquisition. Do not miss out on this; do not let it become just a haunted memory.
Edition of 500 - pre-order coming soon, directly from Clay Pipe.
18 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Todd Leiter-Weintraub
It seems like, in every review of any Portugese-language rock band, the Os Mutantes comparisons start flying; especially if it’s a psych band. It’s inevitable. After all, Os Mutantes are the most-conspicuous example of Latin psychedelia. It’s easy. It’s also lazy.
That said the new album from Amsterdam-based Fumaça Preta (Portugese for Black Smoke) DOES bear certain resemblances to certain Tropicalia stalwarts. But I hear even more Tom Zé (in the vocals and in the appropriation and adaptation of certain rhythms) and early Gilberto Gil (in the guitar sounds) than I do Os Mutantes, I also hear a whole lot of Sabbath and Zappa, too.
Bandleader/percussionist/producer Alex Figueira and his crew announce their arrival with otherworldly howls at the beginning of "Pupilas Dilatadas" (Dilated Pupils). It’s a sudden shock to the system that is an absolute attention grabber. Then the snare starts playing a march, and the classic Hammond B3 sound that we all know and love pops up before it all settles into a groove. Soon enough fuzz guitars, additional percussion, and a variety of unidentifiable sounds join the aural assault.
The Bossa beat of "Toda Pessoa" propels slightly discordant, jazz-inflected guitar lines, fuzz bass, and chant-along vocals before a distorted saxophone solo bursts forth. "Eu Era Um Cão" throws in some airplane sound effects, synths, a funky beat, and some congas for good measure.
The title track opens with a riff so heavy that Black Sabbath would have a difficult time picking it up. And then, instead of getting even more psychedelic, they fly into a breakneck punk rock groove. Screamo-style. Song after song, the sonic assault continues, with only the occasional respite provided by something like the Hammond-focused "Voce Enlouqueceu".
There is absolutely nothing pop about this record; not a single attempt to court the mainstream. A lot of effort has been taken to make it sound authentic – like 1969. The recordings are all red-lined, making it sound as if everything is just on the verge of breaking apart and distorting; like it is all being run through overdriven vacuum tubes. But, listen closely and you can hear some of the modern electronic gadgets and production techniques that have been injected into the sound.
Yes, Fumaça Preta can be difficult at times. But, no matter how noisy things get, Figueira makes sure that the groove remains and that it reigns supreme. Every song on the record is brilliantly arranged, with a sense of playfulness that is totally engaging. It’s a sonic assault that has enough twists and turns to keep you smiling all the way.
For the more-adventurous listener, this could wind up being not just one of the best psychedelic releases of 2014, but one of the best releases of the year, period. Bravo!
CD, Vinyl & Digital all available here.
17 Sept 2014
T E M P O R A R Y - Selections from Dunedin's Pop Underground 2011 - 2014 is the name of a new Vinyl / CD / digital collection from Dunedin's Fishrider Records, featuring lauded artists like Trick Mammoth, Opposite Sex, Males, The Prophet Hens & The Shifting Sands. It goes a long way to proving that Flying Nun isn't the beginning and the end of the Dunedin music scene (although Flying Nun fans will find much to enjoy amidst the jangle here),and that the scene is still incredibly vibrant.
It can be had here right now (shipping from New Zealand), or U.K / European peeps will be able to pick it up a little more cheaply through Amazon from September 22.
Stroll On Records (home of the excellent Triptides) have had a dig around in our favourite psychedelic pop maverick Maston's cupboards for their next release, "The Opal Collection". Frank Maston's Trouble in Mind album debut was made up partially of new tracks and partially from material from two excellent and now out of print E.Ps. "The Opal Collection" fills in the gaps with the rest of the material from those E.Ps as well as previously unreleased songs recorded around the same time. If you've got the Trouble in Mind release "Shadows", you need this - it's equally essential.
It's due on October 13th and can be pre-ordered here on vinyl. The digital version is available right now and can be found here. Oh, and Maston is currently working on new material in the Netherlands in Jacco Gardner's studio. Yay!
Some of you may recall us making a big deal about Children of Leir last year. They have a new double a sided 7" due out October 27. "Black Annis / Children of Leir" promises to be pretty bad ass with the video for "Black Annis" (streamable below), showing that they haven't lost their knack for a propulsive Krautwork meets Velvets workout.
...The Dane Hills area of Leicester was said to be haunted by a hideous blue skinned, hag-like creature known as Black Annis, possibly a relict of some local pagan deity. Although partial to all human flesh she took particular delight in eating young children, whom she would flay alive. She would then hang their skins like some grisly trophy upon the walls of a cave known as 'Black Annis' Bower'. She is said to have created the cave with her bare hands, tearing through the rock with her iron claws..
The 7" can be pre-ordered here, and there's a new album due next year.
16 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
A lot has changed in the short space just shy of two years since Allah-La's released their self titled debut. Having met and bonded while working in L.A's Amoeba Records, that debut was a welcome release from a bunch of guys who loved classic albums, and obviously enjoyed each other's company. Since then, their popularity has exploded, and as a result "Worship The Sun" faced a weight of expectation that often drags down even the most well intentioned sophomore effort.
Initial critical reaction tended to indicate that this was a fairly safe, 'more of the same' sort of effort, and while this is obviously the work of the same band, I'd like to expand upon that slightly back-handed description.
"Worship The Sun" is a much more mature effort than the debut, and by that I don't mean that it's more serious, or less fun. The jangly vintage surf-pop of the debut is still a dominant force, but the arrangements on "Worship The Sun" manage to integrate other, complimentary influences that hadn't been hinted at in the past. These influences add depth and a more well rounded element to the band's sound, which makes the debut sound more like a rough blueprint in comparison, and also hints at the possibilities for evolution in the band's future recordings.
The background hum and distorted guitars that usher in"De Vida Voz" are an early indication that things aren't quite going to run as expected here, even if the track does then settle into a more familiar harmonious jangle. Elsewhere "Yemeni Jade" brings in a lonesome steel guitar to tap into the spacious windswept vistas of early, instrumental Calexico in an extremely effective fashion, while "Better Than Mine" has a great Byrds / Burritos vibe going for it.
Variation, and evolution of sound aside though, the other secret to the success of "Worship The Sun" is simply that the songs are much stronger than those previously offered up by the band. "Ferus Gallery" and "No Werewolf" are the strongest surf instrumentals that the band have penned to this point, and songs like the anthemic garage rocker "Follow You Down" and "501-415" show that much has been learnt in the last few years, with the early promise of the debut honed and perfected here.
"Worship The Sun" is available on vinyl, and CD.
15 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
This writer recalls The Ilk from the olden days of MySpace (confused younger readers may want to ask an older sibling) where their strange, yet beautiful creations appeared both mysteriously and frequently, delighting fans such as myself. Indeed, having been making music in the shadows for a number of years, The Ilk remain almost a total enigma; are they a band, is one person behind all of this or are they a collective of musicians? The mystery is both enticing and only adds flavour to the oddness and charm of their music.
Their new opus "The New Dark Age" (appearing seemingly out of nowhere yet very much welcome) is a veritable feast of instrumental psychedelia and wyrd folk with a healthy seasoning of the best of seventies prog. It is also a thing of great beauty and wonder; it boggles the mind that music of this quality should be so relatively obscure and free to obtain (as it is on Bandcamp). Were it released in 1972 on say, Harvest Records, this album would now be spoken about in hallowed terms amongst fans and collectors.
Opener "On Ilkley Moor/ The New Dark Age" is a fourteen minute instrumental epic which, with its perfectly executed harpsichord, bells, finger picked acoustics and swathes of mellotron, brings to mind Mike Oldfield’s seminal "Hergest Ridge" and "Ommadawn". Instantly alive with what seems like several heartbreaking and ever so slightly sinister melodies at once the track shifts gear from rustic electronic splendour to fuzz guitar psyche-outs then into a brass interlude! Although there are many hints at prog with the shifting time signatures and reccurring motifs, this recalls more the dark whimsy of the Canterbury Scene, the offbeatness of Kevin Ayers, the sense of theme and drama of Mike Oldfield and the quaint English village elements of Caravan. It is at once breathtaking, otherworldly and deeply atmospheric. Indeed some of the parts would not be out of place soundtracking a seventies children's TV show such as "Children Of The Stones" or "The Owl Service"; there is a distinct sense of time and place to this album that is of the other, of a partially remembered memory of the past with its sepia colours and vintage sounds. Various analogue synths and slide guitar lead the song to a melancholy close, reminding this listener of "Ummagumma" era Floyd. As opening tracks go, it is ambitious yet hugely bewitching. The sheer creativity and ideas involved might be distracting were it not for the music being so timeless, effortlessly melodic and evocative.
"A Ghost Story for Summer" similarly sets out its stall with a carnivalesque organ waltz; a village fête or traveling fairground of sinister intention, filled with unsettling, wailing guitar and bells. The song’s truly haunting finale is a triumph; soaring church organ and recorder evoking a rural England now gone, the ghostly plainsong of something hidden and ancient. If the island band in "The Wicker Man" had invested in a couple of vintage synths rather than fiddle and guitar then the soundtrack to that film might have sounded like this. There is a hauntological element to The Ilk, a nostalgic sense to their music that will appeal to listeners of the Ghost Box label and bands such as Broadcast or The Advisory Circle. Indeed, "Powerplant", with its motorik, analogue heartbeat is an exhilarating race through Belbury Poly territory with foreboding bells and chimes combining with the sound of accelerating engines screaming below. It is quite simply one of the most exciting tracks I have heard this year. "Off Hogbens's Hill" opens with choir of mellotron angels, xylophone picking out a melancholy melody until some Persuaders-style harpsichord enters, adding a genuine air of unease and mystery to the track. Zither punctuates the cascading notes and melody; someone hire this band for the soundtrack of Ben Wheatley's next film, it would be a perfect fit. The song ends in a haze of sepia, vintage keyboards and John Barry intrigue.
Final track "Living by the Water"s bucolic bells, cymbal sweeps, off-kilter guitar blasts and demented merry-go-round comes over as a potential alternative theme song for macabre TV classic "Tales of the Unexpected". Genuinely disturbing in parts, its manic polka suggesting "Something Wicked This Way Comes" crossed with composer Lubos Fiser's finest moments. Indeed there is a sense of the gothic carnival of such Czech New Wave films as "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" that fits well with The Ilk's music; complex, unusual and strange yet also curiously beautiful and entrancing.
I cannot recommend this highly enough. It can be frustrating when you hear something so good that you fear it will not reach the ears of the many who will clearly adore it. Do not let this happen; The New Dark Age is here, embrace it with open arms.
Free Download here:
14 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
This little gem has sneaked out over the last few weeks or so with little in the way of fanfare. While this may seem initially unjust, it soon becomes apparent that the tone of "Beautiful Freaks" is so intimate, that any form of grand statement would be against its nature.
Recorded on an old reel to reel in the Catskill Mountains of New York by James Cassidy with the assistance of his partner Syd Lane, "Beautiful Freaks"is a lovely little record that deals with lofty, universal themes in a hushed and intimate fashion, forming an easy and solid bond with the listener.
"Beautiful Freaks" doesn't have a lot in common with the glossy psychedelia of 2014. Instead it nestles comfortably at the feet of albums like "The Soft Bulletin", "Deserter's Songs" and "Good Morning Spider" - classics of a certain vintage that scale near unreachable heights, and Cassidy and Lane sound perfectly natural and unforced in this stellar company.
Cassidy's arrangements fuse lo-fi Americana with appealingly wobbly, vintage keys to tap into what appears to an outsider to be an almost mythical American Gothic. Draped in a peculiar melancholy, these songs are often startlingly direct examples of outsider music, with "In Charge of Stars" wrestling its way to the top of the pile, followed very closely by simple hypnotic charms of the zen-like "The River Song".
Pretty marvelous, and best experienced alone and uninterrupted. Consider yourself advised.
12 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
Available unabridged for the first time ever on vinyl, this is another welcome addition to Waxwork Records series of horror soundtrack reissues.
Both the film itself (which tanked critically, but was a box office smash), and Harry Manfredini's score were important formulative pieces for the burgeoning Slasher genre, which was about to hit its commercial peak.
While both are not particularly original, they borrowed elements from previous films and played them up to ridiculous extremes, creating and refining the conventions of the eighties slasher film in the process.
While other horror films on a limited budget were following in the footsteps of John Carpenter in using synthesizer to save a few bucks and create an ominous drone, Manfredini's score for "Friday The 13th" is a much more traditional affair. Utilising a small orchestra, Manfredini only uses occasional touches of synthesizer to add an eerie theremin like tone. More often than not, the shrieking, staccato strings of Bernard Hermann's "Psycho" score are the obvious touchstone, with Manfredini introducing the infamous, echoing whisper vocal treatment which went on to be a hallmark of the series. Stripped of its visuals, it's still extremely disquieting.
I'm very pleased, and quite surprised to see this reissued now. It's orchestral setting doesn't really place it firmly within the framework of the currently in vogue horror-synth craze, but for listeners who are more interested in the mood created and sustained, rather than the textures used to create it, this is pretty essential.
Pressed on 180 gram, deep, murky green vinyl and housed in a heavyweight gatefold sleeve featuring full artwork by Jay Shaw.
Friday The 13th - 1980 Original Score [VINYL] is available here.
11 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
Excellent German experimental / Krautrock label Bureau B are continuing to branch out with this new series of compilations in the "Kollektion" series.
The first release in the series sees former Stereolab geezer Tim Gane (who is currently doing awesome, experimental things with his new outfit Cavern of Anti-Matter) raiding the archives of seventies / eighties krautrock / kosmische label Sky Records for a definitive portrait of a label beloved by collectors, but largely unknown outside of these circles.
Sky Records was founded in 1975 when Günter Körber quit his job at Metronome where he and Bruno Wendel had spent four years developing and managing the legendary BRAIN label. The material Körber featured on the Sky label largely orbited around the music of Cluster & Roedelius, and this collection showcases this with a synth-heavy selection of tunes that emphasises the label's kosmische direction and largely bypasses the motorik rhythms currently in vogue with German underground music of this era.
There's plenty of variety too. It's occasionally challenging; Moebius & Beerbohm's proto jungle / industrial "Doppelschnitt" is lengthy and repetitive, even in an edited form here which is less than half its normal length, but there's no argument over how groundbreaking it must have been at the time. Elsewhere Roedelius contributes the gorgeous, crystalline "Glaubersalz", which has seventies nature documentary written all over it, and seems frankly unbeatable. But beaten it is, by Günter Schickert's lovely, pastoral "In der Zeit", an odd, acoustic field recording which quietly takes charge and acts as a focal point on an excellent, varied set here.
I'll definitely be investigating Sky Record's output further after hearing this, so mission accomplished I guess!
Available on CD, and vinyl.
10 Sept 2014
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
The Familiars are perhaps not so familiar to you at the present moment but this is due to change very soon with their exceptional and enchanting second album. Essentially a trio consisting of vocalist Joanna Swan, guitarist Tom Conway and violinist Vincent Maltby, the band drink deep from the well of fabled acid folk such as Pentangle, Mellow Candle and Stone Angel. However they also ably cast their own unique and individual spell, adding darker psychedelic colours and textures to create a brilliant and bewitching spook folk. Following their debut 'Cunningfolk' (a collection of acid folk covers and traditional songs) their new release 'Martyred Hearts' is an entirely original work, composed solely by the trio themselves. But what a work; hugely creative, emotive and descriptive, the album stands as a future classic of the genre.
Opener 'Bridge Of Birds' is an ornithological litany on the magic and lore of birds, its delicately picked acoustic guitar interwoven with twinkling xylophone and weeping violin. It’s a pagan place The Familiars are coming from, brimful with the folk traditions of the land and nature. This lends their music a timeless beauty that means that, had I suggested this was a recently rediscovered classic lost 70s psychedelic album, it would seem entirely believable. Influenced both by the writings of fantasy author Barry Hughart and by cautionary ballads such as 'Let No Man Steal Your Thyme', the song narrates the different princedoms and personalities of each wild bird (and hence why their female counterparts should be wary!). 'The Shaming of Agnes Leman' is another cautionary tale perfectly framed by minimal percussion, fiddle, guitar and Swan's expressive and emotive vocals. Agnes Leman was a real character from The Familiars' hometown of Norwich and the story is so confidently and expertly told that I had to double check that this was indeed written by the band and not a genuine Child or ancient traditional ballad. Indeed it is somewhat of a revelation altogether that this is The Familiars first recording of original material as there is a level of skill and ease within the storytelling and playing that gives the impression of a band who have been playing together and honing their craft for years. This certainly bodes well for future Familiars material. '52 Hz Whale' displays another register in Swan's remarkable voice in the tense and ominous introduction before settling into a haze of melancholy beauty with the accompanying acoustic guitars sounding not unlike a chorus of harps. This is music with magic running through it, cast down from the moon. Suitably the tale itself is one of sadness, that of a whale whose song is at 52Hz, effectively meaning it cannot communicate with fellow whales and so is destined to live alone. 'Everso Cross in Newquay' switches pace to a Russian polka stomp, complete with chanted male backing vocals to describe a humorous and twisted tale of complaints and angry Newquay residents regarding a visit to the town in the 1960s by a group of Beatniks. Coming on like an Eastern Tiger Lilies, this is cabaret folk at its best, the blood of Brel beating at its dark heart.
'Sons of Clovis', based on the French legend, is an epic eight minute folk masterpiece. Sounding not unlike ‘Liege and Leif’ era Fairport or classic acid folk act Sourdeline with its tasteful and magisterial backing of hand drum and sweeping violin, this song is the album's centrepiece and standout track. Swan's perfectly phrased and descriptive vocals add genuine drama and emotion to the story of family betrayal and fight for the crown whilst recorder and guitar add medieval tones and hues. You simply must hear this. 'The Raven and the Vole' is a witchy and gothic tale of based on the 1980s children TV series 'Moondial', adding a hauntological element to the album as well as being a fine exponent of dark, ghostly folk. Deeply melodic but also twisting through some twisted and unsettling nursery rhyme territory, this is yet another classic Familiars track.
The album closes with the title track, a duet between Swan and Conway (Conway's voice being eerily similar to Bert Jansch). It's a song filled with both warmth and sadness, retelling the story of the unfair dismissal of Annie Higdon, headmistress of Burston Village School near Diss, Norfolk in the early twentieth century. Her dismissal led to the longest trade union strike in recorded British history in support of her from pupils and residents alike. The song fully does her tale justice, a beautiful and dignified folk gem filled with strident violin and shimmering, haunting vocals.
The Familiars are undoubtedly set to become a much more well-known name in UK folk, psychedelic circles and amongst those who like their music a touch on the dark side. What they have cooked up in their cauldron here certainly contains magic, wonder and delight. Why not let The Familiars cast their spell; you will not be disappointed. Available now to purchase at the group's Bandcamp page with a physical CD edition planned for later in the year.