31 May 2016
Rev Galen - S/T
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & the Moon)
From the ever reliable and superb Okraina label comes this fascinating and evocative new 10” vinyl and download recording from Rev Galen. A collection of poems by Pastor and farmer Galen E. Hershey set to music by his granddaughter Catherine and fellow composer Gilles Poizat, this is a unique and highly personal release that also transforms into a hugely affecting and atmospheric musical work.
The album begins with 'Irony', bowed guitar humming darkly beneath plucked strings to create an ominous and almost soundtrack style opener. Catherine Hershey's voice enters, creating a haunted but beautiful ambience with her crystalline vocals, reciting her grandfathers poetry in song form. Essentially folk in style but also free-form and filled with atmosphere and moments of both tension and sheer loveliness this is a heartstoppingly intimate recording. 'Warm August Wind' is a thing of beauty; deeply emotive and immersive words are sung with a stately grace and melancholy that serves as a tribute and yet also brings the poems utterly to life. 'Heart Lyric' is sung by Poizat who also adds a mournful trumpet to the simple but effective keyboard lines, the cumulative effect reminding this listener of Robert Wyatt's otherworldly 'Rock Bottom' (itself a tone poem of sorts). 'Do You Hear', with its finger picked guitar and interwoven dual vocals, is a timeless slice of acidic folk that both bewitches and entrances. Fans of Bonnie Prince Billy's 'The Letting Go' and of the work of Dawn (Faun Fables) McCarthy will adore this. Next, 'Lullaby' is gorgeous trumpet led lament that send shivers up the spine; special mention must go to Hershey's vocals which are equally utterly heartbreaking and spellbinding. 'Dilemma And Decision' adds an element of tonal performance in its frantic tumbling guitar and tense delivery whilst 'Dreams' is a gentle, ethereal, glistening slice of psych folk with echoes of Joanna Newsom's delicate delivery. Solitary woodwind accompanies Hershey on the finale 'To Whisper', a chanson number of quiet dignity and power that leaves the listener both breathless and captivated.
A short album perhaps but one with a quiet mastery and strength evoked by its sheer beauty and easy grace, 'Rev Galen' is a thing of wonder. This is the kind of music that ploughs its own furrow and is at risk of passing an audience by; do not let this happen. Immerse yourself in this unique world of words and song.
Available now as a beautifully packaged 10” vinyl release as well as a download.
30 May 2016
Barry Adamson - Know Where to Run
Reviewed by Todd Leiter-Weintraub (Hop On Pop)
Since launching his remarkable solo career in the late 80s, the former Bad Seeds and Magazine bassist has released a plethora of moody, underappreciated albums. From imaginary soundtracks for nonexistent films ("Moss Side Story"—1989), to more song-oriented works, ("Back to the Cat"—2008 and "I Will Set You Free" —2012), even the least of these offerings are nothing short of intriguing; the best of them, masterpieces.
Now, Barry is back with his first collection since 2012, and it’s got a little bit of everything that you would want from the man.
The opening track “In Other Worlds” opens with an organ figure reminiscent of the main theme from the classic horror film “Halloween.” Pulsing, swirling organ is punctuated by blasts of synthesizer, with odd sound effects and snippets of overheard conversation bubbling in the background. Then, about halfway through, the rhythm section bursts forth to propel the whole thing forward.
On the vocal tracks, it’s easy to hear that Adamson’s baritone shares similar tonal qualities to that of his former employer, Nick Cave, so the comparisons are inevitable. But Barry finds other directions in which to stretch: his jazz influences creeping in and adding a different kind of darkness.
“Cine City” follows the opener and brings with it a total change in feel. Oh, it’s still dark, but there is a snappy (dare I say upbeat?) rhythm. And, after what came before, it feels positively happy. Hell, the lyrics even allude to “spending more money than the Black Eyed Peas.” But let’s not get carried away here, it’s still a nasty little bit of creepiness, albeit a catchy one.
In “Claw and Wing” Adamson tries on a new sound, as he sings something akin to classic pop, like an old Sammy Kahn song that Frank Sinatra might have recorded. Barry even seems to adopt a subtle touch of Frank’s vocal tics, circa the early 60s, especially in his cadence during the verses. It’s his jazz influences showing up in a whole new way. The chorus, however, breaks into something like a mid-70s lite rock singer/songwriter ballad, albeit in the best-possible way.
Song after song, Adamson proves himself a master of mood in sound. Like Ennio Morricone, he has the ability to seemingly pull feelings from out of you like a pickpocket—without you even realizing it. And "Know Where To Run" is simply another demonstration of the man’s prowess. He is an artist in complete control of his art.
Available here (UK/EU), or here (US).
28 May 2016
LightDreams "Islands in Space"
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
With a press release that compares "Islands in Space" to Dreamies, Donovan, Pete Fine, Robert Lester Folsom, McDonald & Giles, Ramases, Simones and Bobb Trimble there was no way I could not check out this latest reissue from Got Kinda Lost Records, a young reissue label that has already distinguished itself with tastes both excellent and obscure.
As usual for the label, this is an album which sounds very much distanced from the time in which it was originally recorded, and much like albums from the same period by Bobb Trimble, Rick Saucedo and Michael Angelo, this 1981 release sounds very much like a product of the very early seventies. But whereas those albums fit nicely into a sort of psychedelic songwriter niche, "Islands in Space" is a much more diverse, hard to pin down creature which in its totality is unlike anything that I've ever heard before.
LightDreams leader Paul Marcano is first and foremost a songwriter (at least as evidenced here), but while the majoritty of songs here are based around acoustic guitar and vocals, there are also huge washes of cosmic synths everywhere. These aren't just there to add subtle shade to the songs though, these are the sorts of grand huge synthesizer sounds you'd expect to hear on an instrumental German album from the mid seventies. To hear these integrated so smoothly into Marcano's gentle hippy-folk songs is quite startling. The production here is quite special too. The Dreamies comparison makes plenty of sense, with lots of stray radio transmissions and disembodied voices weaving in and out of the action, as well as plenty of moments where the gently undulating backwards guitars are absolutely the perfect compliment to Marcano's vision. Which is not to say that it's all nice and gentle either. There's plenty of searing acid guitar leads which will leave you somewhat taken aback, and there's even an entirely instrumental space synth odyssey on "Voiceless Voice" which racks up the tension very nicely - all that's missing is a HAL 9000 quote.
You've likely heard a lot of great space-rock albums, but space-folk is another matter entirely. Your search begins here:
Vinyl and CD available here (UK/EU), or here (US).
David Colohan - Hill Of The Moon
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
The ambitious and expansive 'Hill Of The Moon' is a new download and double cassette from the prolific David Colohan, known for several musical guises such as Agitated Radio Pilot and Raising Holy Sparks and well as being a central part of psych folk masters United Bible Studies. There is a strong argument for Colohan to be recognised as one our most important contemporary composers, his work ranges from the Popol Vuh-esque widescreen beauty of Raising Holy Sparks 'Sadhu' to the sublime chamber folk melancholy of his collaborations with Richard Moult such as 'Hexameron'. With this new release that argument grows ever stronger; this is a collection of hugely moving and transcendent passages that transport the listener to another time and space altogether, a place of stillness and eerie wonder that reverberates long after the album itself has finished.
Opening with the elegiac harmonium of 'Hill Of The Moon (Four Divinations)' it is immediately clear that the strong and immersive atmospheres that Colohan is known for are fully present, the track drifts in stately sorrowfulness before picking up pace, cascades of organ notes falling endlessly into each other. Both hypnotic and evocative, this solemn and hymnal approach reminds this listener of Nico's 'Desertshore' and Current 93's 'Sleep Has His House' with its melancholic grace. Angelic choirs then join, adding an unearthly yet sacred feel until the sound of crows and wild nature summon the ending of the piece. Next, 'Pinnacles' merges bowed strings with a cittern and sombre organ drones to create a lonely, ambient folk that conjures images of gulls and storm racked ocean skies. 'The Ritual Landscape' is well named, an epic musical illustration of a barren, winter scorched earth described by graceful and processionary organ and keyboard notes and drones. The track builds, layering and developing not unlike Brian Eno's 'On Land' in its view of the landscape as both ancient and spiritual. 'Medb's Cairn' ebbs and flows, harmonium notes curling around each other like low hanging rainclouds as the track processes down some anointed and symbolic pathway; if Alan Garner's Stone Book series had a recommended soundtrack this would be it. 'Rock's Fall, Raven's Circle' is a more ominous portent, the cittern re-emerging to provide icy slices of stringed tension amongst the birdsong and swirling keyboards. 'The Ritual Starscape' is a quieter, more reflective piece that utilises some of Colohan's collection of vintage synths to stunning effect, notes wails and ascend like shooting stars across an ink black sky, conjuring a new kind of folk music altogether; one hinted at by Coil's 'Moon Music' period and whispered by the likes of Richard Skelton, Nico and Fovea Hex. This is followed by 'I Sit Near The Moon', the cry of crows summoning in haunted strings and pipes, a ghost lament for the night shrouded countryside. 'Fourth Divination (Above The Radiant Lake)' is an expansive twenty minute work that is truly a thing of wonder. Voices and choirs cry out against the star filled expanse, church organ pierces the shadows and the sense of the liminal becomes ever more present; this music is almost religious in its intensity and wintry beauty and is hugely emotionally charged and connective. The slight 'Knocknarea' is a small but perfectly formed interlude of loveliness before album closer 'The Ritual Seascape' swells and foams into view. As circling and systematic as the tide, the omnipresent organ rises and falls to be met at different points by plaintive pipes, woodwind and the distant chatter of echoing voices, recalling Nurse With Wound's similarly nautically themed 'Salt Marie Celeste'. Sad yet defiant piano notes declare the closing of the album and the silence afterwards feels deafening, such are the immersive qualities of this incredible piece of work.
Colohan recorded this on the night of the Blood Moon Eclipse back in September 2015 and something of the magic and unearthliness of that occasion has clearly bled into this release. Quite unlike anything else and steadfastly existing in its own world with no concession to rules or musical conformity, 'Hill Of The Moon' is quite simply a modern masterpiece. Atmospheric, evocative and drenched in an earthy beauty this is an album that is best listened to in the dark, with your eyes shut or when gazing out across a moonlit and vast horizon. Haste ye there; this is not to be missed.
Available as a beautiful double cassette package from Was Ist Das or to stream on Colohan's Bandcamp page.
22 May 2016
Interview: Doug Tuttle
Doug interviewed by John Knoernschild
We’re here today talking with Doug Tuttle. Formerly of MMOSS, Doug went solo and in 2014 released his first, self-titled record.
Doug, tell us a little bit about your years with MMOSS and the influence that Rachel Neveu and Justin DeArmitt had in the sound and feel of the band.
MMOSS went through many changes in its seven years both stylistically and member wise (16 different people can say they've been in MMOSS).
Rachel, Justin and I were the longest participants (Rachel and I from 2006 on, Justin from 2008 on).
It's hard to say what influence ANY of us had on MMOSS, it was a band where it was either happening, or it wasn't. The three of us were generally on the same page with what to do and what not to.
We did perhaps each have things we pushed a bit more though, for me it was always the more pop oriented songs. Justin always got excited by new sounds and finding ways to incorporate those into songs, and Rachel was a big proponent of the free/improvised aspects of the band and was always pushing for more of that.
When did you first decide to go it alone and start work on your solo project and what was the reason for the new direction?
I honestly wasn't too jazzed on the direction MMOSS was taking at the very end, things just weren't gelling, I would have rode it out, but when the personal relationship between Rachel and myself ended, it was time to do something different.
What are your plans for the future?
Working on record number three and trying to figure out how to afford to tour a bit more.
Well I for one am stoked to hear you are working on your next album. Can you give us some
idea of the shape album number three is taking?
That's tricky to say, I always record more songs then I need, so I really won't know what songs will be on this one till it’s done. There are a couple in the running that were recorded while working on the last record, tunes that just didn't fit the vibe, but are making more sense with the current batch. So I guess it'll be a bit of a different feel from the last one at the very least.
Interesting indeed, I like your approach. Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do these amazing psychedelic songs come from?
I generally just write a chord progression and hum melodies over it ‘till something sticks.
Then it's a matter of deconstructing the chords/melody and finding other moving lines within/around them and assigning those to other instruments.
What were your biggest influences in music when you first started? Is there an artist out there that had a huge impact on you?
I found my dad’s Byrds greatest hits record pretty early on, took it to my room and never returned it. That music just without fail takes me somewhere.
That’s a good record to find so early in life. I can hear their influence in your style. I recently found out that you are the owner of Mid-Fi Electronics. If our readers don’t know about Mid-Fi Electronics, they, or Doug really, make some of the finest guitar effects pedals on the market today. They can be found under the feet of some very well-known artists. I have it on good authority that both Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline of Wilco use pedals made by your company. Can you confirm these allegations Doug?
Yeah, I make pedals. I've been selling to Nels since before he was in Wilco, he was the roommate of Bobb Bruno (now of Best Coast) who was my second ever customer. I've seen pictures of Jeff Tweedy using my pedals but have never sold any directly to him, he must go through a retailer. I only met him briefly once.
Some other big names have used my stuff and Nels has mentioned it in guitar magazines. I'm hugely thankful for this as it's allowed me to scrape by without a real job for a number of years. Just kind of lucked out, and word spread a bit.
When did you start Mid-Fi Electronics?
I started building pedals in '98. I'd look at early pedal building websites and take out electronics hobby books from the library.
Back then people were pretty pumped if someone new was making pedals so it was a lot easier to get people interested.
Before ”It Calls On Me” was released, you were touring the UK and playing at the Eindhoven Psych Lab. How was that experience? How was it playing in the UK versus playing around the United States?
We did a month all around Europe on that trip and had a great time. The big difference is being fed and having a place to stay every night.
Well that’s certainly a welcome change I’m sure. Sounds like a great experience.
I really appreciate your time here Doug. I’m sure our readers do as well. I’ll be keeping my eye out for your next album. I can’t wait to spin that fresh vinyl!
Check out Doug's two Trouble in Mind albums here.
And here's a little something from our archives:
21 May 2016
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Reviewed by Shaun C. Rogan
So after waiting literally weeks for a new King Gizzard record to come out, it is finally here and my goodness have they delivered an astounding piece of work with ‘Nonagon Infinity’.
After the pastoral charm of last year's ace ‘Paper Mache Dream Balloon’, Stu MacKenzie and his band of merry men have gone back into the lab, gobbled Christ knows what and cooked up something so hugely amazingly exhilaratingly MASSIVELY BRILLIANT that it threatens to eclipse all other releases in 2016 with its sheer power, deployment of ninja-level chops and dazzling sonic attack. This record is the aural equivalent of being strapped to the outside of a Saturn 5 rocket after being dosed up on PCP and being launched at light speed into an expanding and exploding cosmos. Yep. That’s right. You heard me ok. Give me a minute to find my brain and I’ll tell you a little more about it. Thanks.
So, ‘Nonagon Infinity’ is essentially a concept piece; a 37 minute song suite depicting an intergalactic fairground ride, that picks up (arguably) where 2014’s ‘I’m In Your Mind Fuzz” left off. All double speed drums, song fragments recurring endlessly across the duration of the record, cymbals phased and flooding over the proceedings like a burst Hoover Dam and some very precise and nifty time changes and guitar slinging. Check.
“Robot Stop” is probably the best opening number I have heard on any psych rock record in the past 20 years and sets up the rest of the record perfectly. Guitars fizz and sting, pivoting and spinning around, rhythms concuss and transport you at lightning speed, punctuated by automaton vocal lines that provide no comfort but exhort you to hang on tight and leave your body behind. “Big Fig Wasp” carries on the charge with its subtle variant on the opening theme before crashing into lead single (how mental is that?) “Gamma Knife” which is a catapulted Orgone Accumulator – fully loaded and with its controls firmly set for the heart of the sun – all crashing drums, fuzzed harmonica and raga guitar lines. Perfection.
‘People – Vultures’ over a slow and sludgy Sabbath/High Tide type riff – its minor scale smouldering and foreboding vocal giving this listener a distinct sense of unease. This lasts for at least a millisecond before the accelerator is pushed to the floor and we speed off again on a crunchy metallic guitar raga and several very tastefully timed war whoops. It’s a wonderful scary nonsense that seems to be powered by a boundless energy and psychotic relish sending me further and further away from planet Earth. My knuckles are white, my eyeballs firmly reversed and peering at my quivering brain. I AM AT THE EVENT HORIZON. Then…
After 18 minutes of striving to achieve escape velocity, we are finally beyond the gravitational pull of the solar system and we can take respite in the gloriously funky and pure 1970’s groove of ‘Mr Beat’ with its snappy hook, beautiful guitar lines and warm Hammond organ riffs. Can you smell the fondu? That’s not food, that’s your brain stewing my friend, the kitchen hasn’t been used in years….I am grateful for the opportunity to breathe.
Intrepid explorers like this crew are never likely to rest on their laurels for long. Not when so much of our universe is unknown and untamed and so the intermissions ends and we put our space helmets back on….
“Evil Death Roll” immediately makes a grab for the title of this centuries “Masters of the Universe” mantle, the wind of time blowing through it like a cosmic wind emanating from some distant supernova. Its big on pinnable influences but also drenched in that peculiar King Gizzard juice that can only have been dreamt up by our premier Aussie space explorers. Warp speed psych perfection? Don’t mind if I do. “Invisible Face” is a progtastically mental bossa nova – a bit like if Caravan had recorded their second lp in a state of mania after bingeing on espresso and amphetamines. “Wah Wah” with its jazzy drums and phased sonics is essentially a twisted rewrite of the ‘Mission Impossible’ TV theme tune fed into the cosmic blender and jettisoned into deep space. I have no idea what it’s on about but I like it. A lot. George Harrison wrote an inferior song with the same name years ago. He would trip out on this tune I reckon would George, all barefoot on his Iranian rug, his chakras nicely aligned and pulsing skyward. In fact maybe he is as I write this?
Things reach a suitably stupifyingly dense and dangerous denouement with the drum led “Road Train” which is probably what Hawkwind would have sounded like if they hadn’t sacked Lemmy. And had taken more drugs. And listened to The Damned and early 80’s metal records. Probably. It ends as the record started signalling the infinite loop that has been triggered by the opening of the door…
So there you have it. ‘Nonagon Infinity’ - a record that exhilarates, terrifies, comforts, amazes and makes you consider the possibility that yogic flying may not be impossible after all. It is truly a monster, it is truly a masterpiece, it is truly one of the wonders of the modern world. Grab it. Now.
CD, vinyl and digital available here (UK,EU), or here (US).
19 May 2016
New Release: Ray Columbus - Now You Shake
When Ray Columbus and the Invaders hit it big in their native New Zealand with "She's a Mod" there were riotous scenes - the sort usually associated with Beatlemania. Despite this, Columbus's music remains largely unknown outside of New Zealand, a wrong about to be righted by this excellent compilation from Grant Gillanders who has previously been responsible for similar comps by The Fourmyula (NZ's Beatles) and Larry's Rebels (NZ's Rolling Stones).
Covering Columbus's sixties recordings this progresses through his mod / R&B / beat period with the Invaders, through to his sojourn in happening San Francisco during the height of the flower power era, to his solo New Zealand recordings from the late sixties.
Includes the immortal garage punk nugget "Kick Me".
Extracts from the liner notes:
By mid-1966, a solo Ray arrived in the USA to the headline ' AMERICA DISCOVERS COLUMBUS', where he became part of the happening scene in San Francisco.
For the first time you can hear 29 tracks that combine Ray's Invaders period with the best of his San Francisco and New Zealand solo recordings from the Sixties, presenting the definitive album of this legendary figure."
Available here (UK/EU), or here (US).
Check out this monster:
18 May 2016
Robert Pollard - Of Course You Are
Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz
Robert Pollard is an indefatigable songwriter, and this is his 24th solo album. He weaves his musical magic here, just as on his last great solo work, 2015’s "Faulty Superheroes". Pollard combines delicate chamber pop (“Come and Listen”) with the muscular power pop of opening track “My Daughter She Knows”. The production is clean and bright, unlike his earlier lo fi adventures. There is also a message behind the song on global warming, in case the song title throws you off. “Long Live Instant Pandemonium” is heavy, with prog-influenced guitar work, and Pollard and his collaborator, Ricked Wicky’s Nick Mitchell, lob it in your face like a sonic grenade. All the instruments here were contributed by Mitchell, who also recorded and produced this release. His work here elevates the material quite a bit, polishing the rough edges to a diamond hard shine. Discreet flourishes of strings, horns, and piano really evoke baroque rock classics such as Love and Cardinal.
“Little Pigs” breaks little new ground, but it manages to insinuate itself into your brain with its skein of hooks. “I Can Illustrate” is another gem with huge hooks to suck you in, and it never lets go. I really like the organ on “The Hand That Holds You”; it lends a warmth to the proceedings. “Collision Daycare” jumps out like a spiky power pop classic, and never lets up on the energy. “Contemporary Man (He’s Our Age)” is uneasy synth pop, “Losing It” stumbles into drowsy psych pop, and album closer “Of Course You Are” is a memorable ditty that wraps the entire album in a nice neat package that is ripe for your listening pleasure.
Chalk this one up as another worthwhile album from the ever prolific Robert Pollard!
Available here (UK/EU), or here (US).
13 May 2016
A Year in the Country - The Quietened Village
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
A Year in the Country has built up quite a head of steam of late, with Grey Malkin having covered previous releases of theirs for us here and here. A blog, a recording project, and a label with a distinctive hauntological aesthetic, A Year in the Country can in some ways be seen as a sort of cottage industry Ghost Box. As a starting point at least, that ought to attract the attention of those who should be listening to their output, but AYITC (as I'll call them from now) have their own distinct take on the genre, and are doing wonderful work in diversifying a genre that could run out of ideas very quickly, by inviting artists with backgrounds in complimentary fields such as experimental folk, tape manipulation, kosmische and acid folk to throw their hat into the Hauntology ring, with surprising results.
Markedly different to Ghost Box's hugely appealing Radiophonic Workshopisms, AYITC are a far more emotive, earthier proposition, and their latest release, "A Quietened Village" is a compelling collection of complimentary pieces from a disparate band of artists, the majority of which have featured in these pages before with their own releases.
Drawing its inspiration from villages and hamlets once bustling with life that were commandeered for wartime training ops, and submerged valley settlements sacrificed to make man-made reservoirs, their steeple points breaking the waters, determinedly reaching skyward, this is prime Hauntology fodder. The music contained within here perfectly conveys the sense that a place once inhabited can never be truly empty again. Echoes of long finished conversations and the thoughts and feelings of past inhabitants haunt these carefully curated pieces, allowing Richard Moult's moving "Quopeveil" to sit perfectly comfortably alongside the nightmarish Radiophonic burblings of Howlround's "Flying Over a Glass Wedge". Elsewhere, Active Listener endorsed wyrd folk acolytes Sproatly Smith and the Straw Bear Band continue to prove their versatility, revelling in the opportunity to tread new stylistic ground, while the man behind the label (who also records as AYITC) provides the album highlight for me, the haunting "47 Days and Fathoms Deep" which draws upon the same sense of foreboding as recent Mogwai recordings (particularly "Les Revenents" and the more electronic parts of "Rave Tapes").
There's plenty more to love here too, but the beauty of this release is that even though the constituent parts are all very strong indeed and all worthy of mention, it's as a whole that "A Quietened Village" impresses most, and it's not just down to the music. AYITC's releases are all meticulously packaged, with "A Quietened Village" proving to be no exception, its two editions boasting string-bound booklets, badges, stickers and all sorts of other goodies, not to mention carefully orchestrated visuals that perfectly accompany the music contained within.
Highly recommended. Stream or download below, and investigate the different physical formats here and here.
9 May 2016
Quilt - Plaza
Reviewed by Dedric Moore (KC Psych Fest)
Ever have an album that stumps you? One that keeps calling you back again and again but you can't find the words to do it justice? "Plaza" gave me writer's block for three weeks. I'd put it on, get really excited and then type absolutely nothing until I went for a walk in a park and soaked it in, and that was the right combination of sunshine and musical bliss.
Quilt's return with "Plaza" comes after a relentless touring schedule which has given them a confidence in their playing that matches the charm exuding from the speakers.
On a second listen you will start to hear the myriad of layers that flow perfectly together to build these songs into psych pop perfection. And as a bonus, Quilt have gained some swagger in their musical step. The ability to ride a groove means you have to balance tempo, swing and a playfulness with keeping it loose.
The production is crystal clear without sounding too polished. You can feel the "feel" of the band really enjoying the performance as they play their parts. It sounds like they absorbed the mental approach the Beatles took for "Revolver" for songwriting and production values.
"Passerby" works a dreamy hippy vibe with guitar drones, string swells, flute melodies and an easy flow. Tension builds occasionally and then eases back down. It's only four minutes but it drifts along endlessly and could be double the length and not get old. "Roller" is the first single released from "Plaza" and it makes sense. There is no denying the bass and drum groove on this one. It's catchy and has a great vocal melody, and the scratchy guitars are the extra icing on the cake. "Searching For" gets more krautrock with a motorik beat and steady strumming and amps up the vibe. "O'Connor's Barn" starts with interlocking dual guitars that make the whole tune. The male/female vocals really work together on the chorus. "Elliot St". is an acoustic led number that has a memorable bass line and hits the Beatles vibe with shuffling drums, guitar stabs, and string quartets. "Hissing My Plea" is another groover that adds some soul vibes with its funky drums and bass and the super sing-a-long lyrics. "We've got an answer", yes, its true they do. "Something There" relaxes again and channels classic mid-tempo Fleetwood Mac with soothing harmonies and pleasant chord progressions. "Padova" is a gentle ballad that has a constant shuffle as beautiful guitar melodies intersect with slide guitar and harmony vocals. It's wistful and hopeful at the same time. "Your Island" is another slow groover that makes you sway to the beat. Beautiful vocals and wonderful dynamics make a simple guitar pattern memorable as well as sticking in your brain for days. I recommend strutting down the street to this one and smiling at everyone walking by. "Own Ways" picks it back up for the final track. Tremolo guitar pushes a "lost-in-the-wild-open" vibe. This is a great way to end the album. It touches on the more jamming feel of their first release and shows how Quilt have moved their music forward without losing track of what was their appeal.
Quilt rock as needed, jam as desired, and make guilt-free feel-good music.
Vinyl, CD & digital available here.
6 May 2016
Andy Wade - Black And White World
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
Andy Wade (brother of Dodson And Fogg's Chris, and partner in the excellent Rexford Bedlo with him) casts a third album into the light, following his excellent debut 'Pushing Senses' and equally impressive sophmore effort 'Fix It Till It's Broken'. Writing, playing and producing this almost entirely himself, Wade's creativity and drive is never in doubt; this is an album of finely honed and genuinely felt gems that are clearly a labour of love. We are to be thankful that we too can step into Wade's world and enjoy these musical vignettes, full-on psych rockers, and late night laments.
'Open' begins the album with a delicate and melancholic piano refrain, keyboard ebbing and falling and a gentle double bass accentuating this reflective and wistful piece. It is followed by the pulsating Hammond and acoustic melody of 'Sky Turns Blue' which adds guitar and percussive muscle to it's tortured, bluey crawl as it hits stratospheric heights with a fiery, volcanic solo that evokes both Neil Young and The Bevis Frond. Wade's previous recordings have evidenced his easy way with using different genres and moods to frame the songs and 'Black And White World' is no different. The title track is an example; a reverb drenched piano lament in its initial moments, it weaves and warps with bursts of psych guitar and strident drum breaks whilst all the while holding the central melody and heart-rending feel of the song itself. 'Prowl (Part 2)' (part one being on 'Fix It Till It's Broken') is by turn an electronic and motorik travelogue, syncopated drumbeats and keyboard stabs propelling the track along on a dread filled and ominous late night ride through the city that evokes the soundtrack work of John Carpenter. Next, 'Lazy Days' takes us into a hazy kaleidoscopic dream of summers past, gorgeous echoed guitar arpeggios and a nostalgic vocal melody that ably conjures images of sun flecked afternoons and long warm evenings. 'Intermission' returns to the electronica based sound of 'Prowl', new wave guitars picking their way through waves of vintage synths in a manner that recalls the classic 'Real Life' era of magazine. 'While You Dream' then takes us somewhere else entirely; an accomplished acoustic, late night ballad with Wade's classic English vocal that Ray Davies or John Martyn would have been perfectly happy to have written. This more reflective mood continues with the emotionally fragile and heartbreaking 'Two Halves Make A Whole'; fans of the aforementioned Bevis Frond but also Bob Mould and Husker Du will adore this. 'Lullabye' reintroduces the piano to highly powerful effect, a lonely and sombre paean that reverberates and flickers candlelike throughout the dark, solitary and long night. Instrumental 'Slip Slide' lifts the mood with a cascading keyboard melody and playful guitar break that shifts the atmosphere of the album once more; Wade’s music covers a wide palette of feeling and musical style yet this only satisfies all the more. There is a delight in the breadth of emotions and styles, a joy that revels in this album's playful unpredictability. 'Nothingmore', an album highlight, is a banjo flecked slice of psych folk beauty, glistening piano notes and a descending acoustic melody framing Wade’s double tracked vocals like stars accompanying an expansive and richly hued sky. 'Not That Guy' is a superb slice of classic psychedelia with hints of Robbie Krieger guitar whilst 'Only One And Only' is a wide-screen and windswept slide guitar driven retrospection; both are equally impressive and emotive. The album closes with the piano piece 'Hope', a return of sorts to where the album began. Indeed, this is a carefully paced and constructed album that flows from emotion to emotion, genre to genre with a masterful command and watchful eye.
To conclude then, Wade has delivered a third album of richly detailed and presented psych rock and folk but with the same thirst for creation and inventiveness that marked his first two long players. It may be a black and white world but Wade 's universe is filled with every colour, every shade; join him there.
Available now on Amazon and I-Tunes as well as from Wade's own website.
3 May 2016
Electric Eye - Different Sun
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
Norwegian space-rockers Electric Eye had an immediate wow factor that really impressed me on their 2013 debut "Pick-up, Lift-off, Space, Time". It's the sort of album that you can imagine a band anguishing over how to follow up and ultimately distintegrating in the process. Yet, three years later that follow up is here (much to my surprise), and I'll admit that its very existence caught me completely unawares. So, a very nice surprise, but my expectations were low. At best, I was hoping for more of the same, but what we have here is so much more than that, that it makes its predecessor pale in comparison.
The band's description of their sound is a good one: "Electric Eye play droned out psych-rock inspired by the blues, India and the ever more expanding universe. On the band's inspirational mix tape, you will probably find songs from the The Black Angels, Wooden Shjips and Pink Floyd in Pompeii."
That alone should have you searching for the play button, but their description fails to take into account something that only an outsider can objectively hear: their songs are every bit the match of their influences, a big step up from the hundreds of imitators out there who spend so much time striving for a particular sound, with the songwriting becoming a secondary consideration.
"Heavy Steps on Desert Floor" starts out with a hypnotic prog/psych vamp that could easily carry the weight all by itself, but as soon as the heavily treated vocals enter the fray it becomes all about the song, a great melody leading the way, with carefully balanced instrumental counterpoints regularly cropping up in a supportive role. "Mercury Rise" goes a step further - the sort of indie / psych hybrid that bands like TOY and Tame Impala occasionally get just right. Frankly, it bangs a gong and gets it on with a great Bolan boogie, without losing any of its spacey, kraut groove. How it does so, I can't even begin to explain. And that's the sort of album that this is; unexpected and inexplicable in equal measure. And then it ends beautifully, in open tribute to the album's other major influence, Pink Floyd: "Part One" is all unhurried grace, squalls of gently undulating seagull guitar that could have come straight off "Meddle", with keys wafting in on a solar breeze gently prompted by Njål Clementsen's bass. In its second half it becomes as close to a continuation of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" as I've ever heard; a lovely, moody comedown from the more propulsive highs that have preceded it.
So, I know I've said this before, but this is the ultimate Electric Eye album. I'd love to be proven wrong in the future, but for now I'm a very happy listener indeed. Do not miss out on this one.
CD and vinyl available here (UK/EU), or here (US). Full stream and digital download available through the Bandcamp link here:
2 May 2016
Dr. Dog - The Psychedelic Swamp
Reviewed by Maggie Danna
"Psychedelic Swamp" is both Dr. Dog’s oldest and newest album. In 2001, before bringing the band Dr. Dog into existence, friends Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken first wrote an album titled "Psychedelic Swamp". The original "Psychedelic Swamp", which can be heard on YouTube, was recorded in a basement and is a lot more lo fi and grungy. It’s also much bleaker and more spacious than its remake. While the original is rather sloppy, the impressive song structure and writing skills were still there 15 years ago. Now the band has revisited these tracks and made them shiny and fresh.
A concept album of sorts, "Psychedelic Swamp" is narrated by a man who starts his life over again in a new world, the psychedelic swamp, only to find it is not all he initially hoped it to be. This may also be a metaphor for a psychedelic trip; the album touches upon key features including awe, societal revelations, and paranoia. Being a swamp, the narrator and listeners become increasingly stuck in the muck of this world as the album progresses. At first everything is absolutely incredible, but eventually the narrator realizes it is not all he made it out to be; it’s like believing you’ve arrived in the Garden of Eden only to discover it’s just a distorted version of your backyard after a heavy rainfall.
The album is very pop throughout but in varying degrees. “Golden Hind”, which kicks off the album, has a bit of folk or even country twang. “Engineer Says” adds a tinge of funk. “In Love”” is a dream pop ballad, and the finale “Swamp is On” is more spaced out and electronic. Dealing with love and relationships, as well as identity, the album has serious moments but does not take itself too seriously.
“Dead Record Player” has a joyous and laid-back melody, and strong glam tendencies, despite the fact that the record player in question “sings sad songs about the dead” and the narrator notes “All my old records used to not want me dead/Now they do”. Though ominous, the narrator is clearly digging his new situation and declares, “The music is killing me/The high and low fidelities/ Are attacking my brain/And it's terrific”.
However, by “Swamp Inflammation”, approaching the album’s close, the narrator has had enough and grumbles that “swamp living is killing me”. On top of that, he has heard “too much information on the psychedelic news”. “Swamp Inflammation” transitions into “Badvertise”, a mild garage rock jam ridiculing classic advertising tropes, which also has a humorous music video that pokes fun at infomercials.
"Psychedelic Swamp" is an extremely enjoyable and well-crafted album. It's classic Dr. Dog, as this is a band known for its great melodies and fun quirks. Highlights include “Golden Hind”, “Dead Record Player”, “Bring My Baby Back”, and “Badvertise”. "Psychedelic Swamp" is a great album if you’re looking for fun, creative pop.
Vinyl, CD and digital available here (UK/EU) and here (US).
The whole album streams here:
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