28 Oct 2016

Lake Ruth premiere their epic space-folk version of "Tam Lin"

Artwork: Stephen Grasso

It's not every day that I get contacted by a favourite new band to tell them me they've just covered one of my favourite songs and that they'd like us to premiere it here.

Fortunately today is not just any day, so we're thrilled to bring you the premiere of Lake Ruth's version of the immortal "Tam Lin" (which you can stream below). Lake Ruth, you'll remember, blew me away with this - their debut album, baroque space-pop of the highest order.

Lake Ruth's Allison and Hewson pick up the story for us:

"But tonight is Halloween, and the Faerie Folk ride, Those that would their true love win, at Mile's Cross they must hide".

For a song that dates back to 1549, or even earlier, Tam Lin is a surprisingly modern fairytale which subverts the traditional 'damsel in distress' narrative in favor of a formidable heroine, who by innate strength, witchcraft, or both, defeats an equally powerful female rival: The Faerie Queen.

The story is set in the forest of Carterhaugh, near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. Walking through the woods, young Janet, wearing her magical green garter, encounters the knight Tam Lin, who forbids her to pass through his territory. Janet picks a rare double-headed rose, and replies that she will go where she pleases. Her courage seems to make a good impression on Tam Lin, and they become lovers.

When Janet returns home some time later, her father notices that she is showing the signs of pregnancy, gently suggesting in a 'meek and mild' tone that they marry her off before things become too obvious. Yet Janet refuses to forsake Tam Lin. When she returns to Carterhaugh, he informs her that he is a prisoner of The Faerie Queen. He fears that the Queen plans to hand him over to the Devil on Halloween night as her 'tithe to hell', which she must pay every seven years.

To free Tam Lin, Janet has to conceal herself at the crossroads at midnight, pull him down from his horse as the Faerie Court rides by, then hold and hide him from sight as he is transformed from a series of fearsome animals back into a human. This she successfully does, much to the anger of The Faerie Queen, who accepts defeat but muses that she would have turned Tam Lin into a tree, had she known what he was up to.

Our rendition of Tam Lin is an homage to Fairport Convention's excellent version on the 'Liege and Lief' album. In the course of acquiring the streaming license, we learned that their adaptation was arranged by the late, virtuoso fiddle player Dave Swarbrick, who sadly passed away back in June of this year. We decided, in the spirit of the song's heroine, to throw caution to the wind, and put out a song with umpteen verses, abundant guitar solos, and occasional mixed time signatures. This Halloween, we invite you to listen to the fruits of this perilous endeavor!

The Tyde - Darren 4

Reviewed by Shaun C. Rogan

The Tyde returns after a ten year hiatus!

Ahhhh, that cool Sierra Nevada breeze at dusk after a long day baking in the sun is exactly where I am presently residing psychically thanks to this splendid reminder of the song writing chops of Darren Rademaker (also of Beachwood Sparks). I got my bottle of Anchor Steam, a Marlboro Light in my hand and Zuma Beach is just on the horizon, waves gently shimmering in the early evening surf. I am in a reverie created by a songsmith at the top of his game.

Opener "Nice To Know You" kicks things off in splendour. Its a bright, driving opener with Rademakers vocals reminding me of a countrified less uptight Tom Verlaine (not a bad thing at all in this persons view) motoring on a sweet riff that breaks down half way through into a nice half speed outro that just satisfies real well. "Ode To Islands" ups the ante considerably with a sweeter than sweet chiming guitar that shimmers and modulates all over the 'so in love' celebratory refrains from our main man, though you can't be sure if the celebration is of what is or what should never be. You cannot fail but to love this kind of approach to song writing, its impossible cos it rules. "The Rights" is a beautiful trawl up Highway 5 with a few roadhouse pit stops, its sophisticated and gently circular riffing and rhinestoned guitar stabs taking the listener off into the blue on its extended coda. It features the best guitar solo on the record (of which there are quite a few). Can someone get me a Marguerita now and give me a quarter for the phone?

"The Curse in Reverse" features some very tasteful guitar work (and vocals) from limey guitar slinger par excellence Bernard Butler - his distinct, Neil Young flavoured modulated and wailing runs adding a further dash of colour and verve to what is a regretful and cautionary tale of miscommunication and dysfunction. It's probably the darkest point on a record where melancholy is never far from home but generally is worn with a measure of understanding and good humour that comes with the realisation that we are all only here a short while so its probably best to enjoy the experience even when the cards don't fall your way.

"Rainbow Boogie" is a bittersweet romp through open fields of country fried riffage underpinned by suitably galloping and teetering drums propelling matters along very nicely indeed. This is thinking drinking music and provides a great fun-filled taxi ride to our next reflective moment provided by the truly gorgeous "Situations", which I think is the most confessional moment on the record. It's one of those great songs that manages to be both torch song and valedictory farewell to a special someone. It is also possibly the sweetest song to ever repeatedly feature the word 'motherfucker' in the history of recorded music. Believe. It shimmers and shines in a reflective pool of melancholy that is just irresistable. If 'Darren 4' reaches its, surely intended, perfect state of grace it is during this wonderful song. You involuntarily exhale deeply at its conclusion even after listening to it a dozen times or more (I lost count).

Matters are brought to suitably longing and only partially resolved close by the "It's Not Gossip If Its True". We are truly in cosmic country territory at this point, all swooping pedal steel replete with sumptuously spectral backing vocals and I am left desperately looking for a scotch and soda to accompany me on a return trip as I immediately want to play this record again and luxuriate in its beautifully executed and deeply soulful cosmic Americana.

So there you have it, The Tyde made you wait a decade but it was worth it. Get high with them and remember that in their company, even if you cant always get what you want, your glass is always half full not half empty....

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

23 Oct 2016

Rusalnaia - Time Takes Away

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Rusalnaia combines the significant talents of both Sharron Kraus (who has already had a prolific run of essential albums in the last year with the gorgeous 'Friends And Enemies; Lovers And Strangers', its sister album 'Hen Llan Recordings’ and most recently the poetry/music of 'If You Put Out Your Hand') and Ex Reverie's Gillian Chadwick (if you haven't encountered 2008's 'The Door Into Summer' then I recommend you do so immediately). The previous Rusalnaia outing, their self-titled début, was a psych folk gem recorded with various members of Espers that left the listener spellbound, eagerly awaiting its follow up. 'Time Takes Away' may be eight years in the making but it is well worth any wait, indeed it surpasses the already high expectations held by those who follow the music of both Kraus, Chadwick and their work together.

The album begins with the creeping dread of 'Cast A Spell', a looping acoustic motif merging with hand drums and ever increasing chants to conjure a truly sacrificial Summerisle mood before scattering into a full blown psych guitar and violin dervish. At once both hugely powerful and hypnotic it is a shiver inducing opening to an album that then maintains its spellbinding hold upon the listener until the final fade out. 'Take Me Back' follows, Chadwick and Kraus's vocals mingling and weaving in and out of the others amidst the most unsettling array of analogue synths and pounding, ritualistic drums. Equal parts acid folk and full blown gothic psych (in the sense of such forerunners as Mellow Candle and Stone Angel) Rusalnaia display an (un)easy mastery of the wyrder angles and corners of folk; this music is in their blood, these incantations come from their very beings and are all the more affecting and alluring for this. 'Driving' is a case in point, its deceptively simple rhythmic pace is both beautiful and unsettling, a minor key entering and tilting the song into the darker shadows and more hidden, unusual places. Aficionados of Faun Fables, Espers and UK psych folkers Sproatly Smith and The Rowan Amber Mill will find much to love here.

The Pentangle-esque 'The Love I Want' introduces woodwind to its call and response folk majesty and is breathtaking in its steady but dramatic building and layering towards a bucolic and Bacchanalian finale. Next, 'The Beast' is transported on an intense and fiery flow of fuzz guitar and organ, both vocalist's lines intertwining as if recounting some twisted, unearthly nursery rhyme. Rusalnaia are no fey, rustic folk act, these songs scream, howl and haunt with intent; think early PJ Harvey meets the black hearted acid folk stylings of Comus. And when they quieten, they do so in a manner that gets under your skin to just the same extent, if not more so. 'The Honeymoon Is Over' is by turn a spectral and ghostly lament, solitary drumbeats punctuating a delicate but driven slice of melancholy perfection. 'Bright Things' casts its (book of) shadows gently but with a circling and cackling sense of expertly pitched melodrama. 'Lullaby (For A Future Generation)' meanwhile allows some sunlight in, organ and vocal harmonies combining to create a work of genuine emotive impact and beauty. All too soon the album reaches its finale with the title track, a recorder and organ filled wonder that stays with the listener long after the song has finished.

In short, 'Time Takes Away' is a triumph. It is no leap of the imagination to picture this album being played and revered in twenty year’s time in the same manner that we do with our copies of 'Basket Of Light', 'Swaddling Songs' or 'Commoners Crown'. This is a hugely accomplished and truly special recording; trust me, you need this album.

Available now on download from the band's Bandcamp page and as digipack CD from Cambrian Records.

20 Oct 2016

Gravy Train - Second Birth

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Sandwiched between their two most acclaimed albums, 1971's "(A Ballad of) A Peaceful Man" and 1974's Staircase to the Day", Gravy Train's third album "Second Birth" seems to have acquired a reputation as the band's low water mark. Roger Dean's attypically uninspired sleeve art certainly can't have helped (he'd redeem himself on the followup though), and a cursory listen to the contents within may have suggested that the bland cover art was some sort of statement on the music itself. After spending a number of years with each of the band's albums though, I'd like to initiate a critical reappraisal of "Second Birth".

It's by no means an immediate album. Nor does it possess the collector's appeal of its two Vertigo swirl predecessors, or the spacey prog charm of the following year's "Staircase to the Day". Instead it's an album that quietly worms it's way into the listeners consciousness, without relying on flashy sleeves, collectibility or gimmicks in any way.

I'd suggest that the album's lowly reputation lies largely upon the fact that it's generally a shade less progressive than the band's other releases. Fans of the band's heavier rock tendencies and of J.D Hughes' flutework (which often saw the band lazily compared to Jethro Tull) will however find plenty to wet their whistle here.

In "Morning Coming" it has quite possibly the band's best opening statement, a hooky hard rock epic with stinging guitar work and a great proggy mid section that has that peculiarly English prog vibe circa 1970 that bands like Tonton Macoute, Ginhouse, Spring and Titus Groan captured so well.

"September Morning News" and "Tolpuddle Episode" stray into folkier territory where the band distinguish themselves a little less freely, but for every acoustic gaffe there are at least two storming hard rockers.

The title track and "Fields and Factories" extend their playing time with simplistic but effective prog sections, while "Motorway", does make me reluctantly admit that there's more than a touch of "Aqualung" and "Benefit" to be found here - though the band's constant Tull comparisons do them a disservice as there is much more to their sound than this one facet.

And then there's "Peter", which has an almost glam-rock chorus that sounds like a lost hit. Why wasn't this on the radio?

Certainly not the lame duck it's made out to be, I'd argue that "Second Birth" is, if not an entirely great album, a very good one, in possession of at least four stellar tracks, and Esoteric's new reissue has it sounding better than ever.

Available here.

17 Oct 2016

E Gone - Advice to Hill Walkers

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

E Gone (Daniel Westerlund of Swedish band, The Goner) released "Advice to Hill Walkers" on cassette in 2015 via Zeon Lights. Mixing electronic and traditional instrumentation, E Gone proved on this sophomore release that he well deserved a wider audience. So now, Sunrise Ocean Bender and Deep Water Acres have teamed up to make that happen; "Advice to Hill Walkers" was remixed, remastered, repackaged and expanded – and beautifully so in every way.

"Advice to Hill Walkers" sounds like an artifact, uncovered in some far-off and forgotten land, like a nomadic people lost in the skies. Instrumental, eclectic, and lush, E Gone’s music nods Eastward, upward, inward and just beyond the canny. Opening tracks find inspiration in Eastern musicians – and at least to my ear, Tuareg guitars – particularly in the wonderful “Follow Moonmilk Rivers.” Westerlund even adapts a Syrian traditional song, “Ya Bent Ehkimini,” in “You Don’t Know It yet but We are Losing You.” But “Build Your Camp Out of Alpine Moss” twists that same approach until its wrung to a few sci-fi whirs that give way to a brooding, horror film’s synth lead.

Closing tracks, “Continue Ascent while Blindfolded” and “Reach the Summit, Egg,” serve as final posts in the journey and recall the many paths to reach the pass. “Continue the Ascent while Blindfolded” blends glitchy electronics with a woozy, reverb-heavy progression, while “Reach the Summit, Egg” revisits drones, deep hand-percussion, and mesmerizing, looping string themes. At just under ten minutes, the song ends in a current of sounds that becomes a trickle, then finally silence. One can’t help feeling relief, in a way, the same relief one feels at the end of a long hike upward, where one hears the same wash of sound – and then silence. It’s a reward, and though recognizably difficult, you’ll do it again and again.

"Advice to Hill Walkers" is available on CD from Sunrise Ocean Bender’s website and Bandcamp.

If you’re not convinced, check out the video for “Record the Humming of Melodious Caves” linked below.

Highly recommended.

16 Oct 2016

幾何学模様/Kikagaku Moyo - House in the Tall Grass / 落差草原 WWWW / Prairie WWWW - 霧海 Wu​-​Hai"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

I enjoyed the last batch of GuruGuru Brain releases that I reviewed so much that I thought I'd take a crack at some of the surrounding releases too.

I'd initially decided not to cover Kikagaku Moyo's latest on the Active Listener. You've read about their previous releases here already and they're getting major coverage in places with a much higher profile so it seemed a little unnecessary. "House in the Tall Grass" has really gotten under my skin though and I'm becoming increasingly convinced that it's the best psychedelic release of the year, so it really wouldn't do for it to be ignored in these pages.

So, those of you already on board this ride can nod in agreement and move forward a few paragraphs, but for those yet to be exposed to this wonderful Japanese band, hold onto your hats because "House in the Tall Grass" is quite a special album. Previous Kikagaku Moyo releases have been thrilling,  adventurous things too, but none have taken on a life of their own quite like "House in the Tall Grass".

It's a hugely varied album which operates at a much less hectic pace than their previous releases. Opener "Green Sugar" wrong foots the listener with a cacophonous intro, before the curtains part to reveal a lovely, dreamy piece of Krautrock with shimmering guitars gently undulating over a fab Neu! rhythm section. And when the sitar comes in, it all seems so right that it feels like a piece of music that has always been. They could have simply peddled this vibe for the rest of the album and come up with a pretty enjoyable record, but full credit to them - they had other ideas. And lots of them. There's a pastoral vibe that hangs over the whole record, but within that setting they manage to cover an awful lot of ground. "Trad" bridges the gap between "Liege and Lief" and "Careful With That Axe Eugene" perfectly. "Dune" would have been sampled by every DJ on the planet by now if it had been recorded forty years ago. "Silver Owl" manages to evoke both early spacey Verve and Black Sabbath within its not-long-enough ten minutes. And "Kogarashi" may just be the most lovely, magical thing that I've ever heard.

What an indescribably lovely album. I haven't done it justice by a long shot, but hopefully you get the picture.

Also new from GuruGuru Brain is   "霧海 Wu​-​Hai" by Taiwanese experimental folk band 落差草原 WWWW / Prairie WWWW. If the phrase experimental folk makes you think of the Incredible String Band (as it does with me), it might be wise to recalibrate before tackling "霧海 Wu​-​Hai". Chances are, this is unlike anything you've heard before.

The title of opening track "Shapeless Beast" stuck with me while listening and seems to be a pretty concise phrase to describe the sound that the band create, combining poetry, ambient electronics, Taiwanese folk forms, and some absolutely transcendent tribal drumming.

"Moon" on side one gives a good indication of the promising nature of this combination, but it's the two track suite that makes up the second side of "霧海 Wu​-​Hai" where Prairie WWWW really fire. "Callous" writhes nebulously, building to an almost unbearable level of tension, before the charged atmosphere is breathlessly dispelled by the title track's percussion heavy brilliance.

Oh, and if you're wondering how to pronouce the band's name, the label press release clears that up:
"The four Ws in Prairie’s band name are not to be pronounced, serving as a pictogram for a waveform, as well as the imagery of the grass that blowing in the wind."

GuruGuru Brain are truly doing the lord's work. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

You can stream and download both albums through the links below. The vinyl releases are beautiful artifacts, complete with OBI strips.

6 Oct 2016

Trappist Afterland - God's Good Earth

Reviewed by Shaun C Rogan

Trappist Afterland are a pagan folk ritual in sound and with their latest offering, "God's Good Earth" they once again plunge the active listener deep into the forest of past memories, generations of DNA passed through the foggy blanket of time to somehow resurface once more in 2016 in a series of beguiling, unsettling and sparse incantations.

The opening track, "God Botherings (parts 1 &2)" sets out the pathway for what follows with its gently rippling minor chord riffing and almost monastic vocals that barely raise above the acoustic guitar, cello and hand percussion that support them, endlessly asking "What good is God if you have questions that are never heard?" This dissipates into an unearthly howling of scratched strings and ghostly voices. This isn't easy listening, this is intense participatory bordering on hallucinatory songwriting, not a million miles from the seminal and highly stoned 'Moyshe McStiff' by COB, upon which much of the resurgent acid-folk scene would regard as a touchstone.

There is a restlessness and almost palpable fear and discomfort that permeates this whole record as the brief 'Sungirl' and the very psychedelic 'Parasites' would attest to. The latter in particular with its revolving searchlight of backwards-forwards hurdy gurdy and naggingly insistent rhythm opens a psychic door that leads to an exploration of uncomfortable mental spaces. What Jim Morrison memorably referred to as 'the feeling of not quite being at home'. Times several thousand. "No More Summer Caravans" is a paean to the past with a lovely drone driving the familial reminiscences (real or imagined) that provide another unsettling narrative.

"Chosen" is my personal highlight with its swirling undertow and palpable sense of foreboding attached to its tale of ritual awakening. Quite extraordinary. Some much needed sunlight is provided by the rather sweet lament of "Treehouse by the Shore" which shows a deftness and subtlety that allows us to draw a breath and contemplate what has gone before. This is followed by a similarly untethered "God Botherings part 3" which reprises the dilemma of the opening track but juxtaposes the lyrical musing in a major key, gently lilting in the breeze like a field of wild flowers. The title track brings matters to a suitable conclusion with its slow burn of child spoken poetry, cascading mellotron (I assume)and wordless tumbling harmonies. In the world of the Trappist Afterlander, if you are prepared to take their trip and examine your inner workings, you are ultimately cleansed and returned to your rightful place in the firmament. A better person for the experience of their unique sound and vision. Amen.

Digital and CD available below, LP sold out :-(

5 Oct 2016

Susan Matthews - From Veliko

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Welsh musician Susan Matthews has been recording and releasing essential and experimental works of wonder and dark beauty for over a decade now. Deeply atmospheric and evocative mood pieces, Matthews’ work is almost unclassifiable and often otherworldly yet equally seems to hinge on and tap into something deeply human, something familiar and recognisable. ‘Before I Was Invisible’, her recent collaboration with Rainier Lericolais on the Wild Silence label was a quiet gemstone of an album. 'From Veliko' is a similar subdued but powerful treasure, inspired by recent visit to Veliko Tarnovo (the medieval capital of Bulgaria); Matthews recounts “most days I wandered to The Monument Of The Assens. I sat and contemplated the old town across the Yantra river, where the ‘hanging houses’ cling precariously to the steep hillside, some are literally crumbling and sliding towards the river below. This seeming fragility is reflected in both the music & lyrics I composed for this project ‘The Road From Veliko’ is also a metaphor for a psychological journey - from the darkness of depression back towards the light.”

Beginning with the piano hymnal of 'The Road from Veliko (Part One)', we are immediately drawn into a world of shadows, of reverberated, descending notes and backwards voices and tapes. Both paradoxically calming and unsettling, the sheer impact of the piece is evidenced by the hold it has on the listener; the outside world ceases and the music becomes all there is. This is no ambient, background work; these tracks are entirely immersive and demand your full attention and involvement. Matthews' fragile voice recounts 'these things they are inside me, inside my dreams and in my mind…' as the piano gradually stops, leaving her alone observing 'the darkness descends...descends'. It is a heart stopping moment. 'A Room Of Lights' follows, a processional organ piece framing Matthews' text as she recounts her travels and the transformational effects that they have upon her. There is almost something sacred about this work, it feels like a surrender to something bigger, some supernatural experience that can only be conjured in hushed, solemn terms. The piece is also a work of great beauty and stillness, one can easily imagine that those who love the music of such contemporaries as Richard Skelton, Michael Begg and James Leyland Kirby will find much to admire here. The EP/mini album finishes with the vast, cavernous dronescape of ‘St Paul In The Yantra', an echoing chamber piece of spoken word vocals and wintry waves of strings, combining to hugely evocative and moving effect.

You almost have to draw breath after the album finished, this listener suddenly realised that he had been holding his, hanging on every note. There is genuine power held in these songs, quiet and drifting as they are; they have an intensity that is bewitching and all encompassing. This is music for the liminal hours, for dawn or dusk, for candlelight. Highly recommended, this album deserves your close attention.

Available below to download on a name your price basis or as a physical CD from Siren Wire.

2 Oct 2016

Hawkwind - The Charisma Years 1976-1979

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

This latest box set from Hawkwind specialists Atomhenge collects the four albums Hawkwind released for the famous Charisma label between 1976 and 1979.

Lemmy had just been ousted from the band and the emergent punk scene viewed Hawkwind with distaste, distrust and perhaps worst of all, disinterest. Prog was the enemy and Hawkwind was lumped in with the other dinosaurs, never mind the fact that Lemmy was busy reinventing heavy metal by imbuing it with the most punk of attitudes in his new band Motörhead.

Given this attitude and the fact that this era is regarded by some as the beginning of the band's decline, you'd be forgiven for not expecting much from these albums. Truth is though, it was a second golden period for a band that continued to innovate and shift with the times. "In Search of Space" this is not - but in its own way it's every bit as vital.

First up is "Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music", a transitional effort that sees the band beginning to venture beyond its space-rock roots with fascinating results. It's not always 100% successful but it is always interesting and there's a visceral thrill involved in hearing the band stepping out of their comfort zone. Robert Calvert returns, but is not yet the dominant force he would become on the following three albums, here sharing the limelight with Nik Turner and Dave Brock on roughly equal terms. There's even an attempt at a hit single on the David Gilmour produced "Kerb Crawler", which gives a hint of things to come.

"Quark, Strangeness and Charm" followed in 1977, and is rightfully regarded as one of the band's very best albums. It's certainly one of their most focused as well. Nik Turner had stepped aside by this point allowing phenomenal violinist Simon House a chance to shine. House's playing on atmospheric middle-eastern prog gem "Hassan I Sahba" may well be my favourite single Hawkwind studio moment. It's no wonder David Bowie stole him away in the night for his band. Elsewhere "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" continues the band's move towards more concise, tightly structured songs. The title track, "Spirit of the Age" and "Days of the Underground" are among the band's most memorable songs and in a slightly quirkier world could have been hits on the pop charts.

"25 Years On" and "PXR5" continue in this vein, embracing a surprisingly forward thinking proto-new wave sound, without ever allowing you to forget who you're actually listening to. The songs aren't quite up to the material on "Quark, Strangeness and Charm", but they're not too far off.

"25 Years On" is sure to appeal to those who enjoyed "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" and is one of the band's most varied and mellow releases. I hadn't heard this for many years, but it's aged marvelously and I was quite taken aback by just how good it now sounds - partially down to the excellent mastering job present on all of these discs, but also a testament to the quality of the material and the original production job. Opener "Psi Power" is the album's catchy single, but the album tracks following provide the album's real substance. "Free Fall" is a lovely, mellow number with burbling vintage synths with a definite BBC Radiophonic Orchestra vibe - quite an unexpected treat. "Flying Doctor" on the other hand is well established as a love it or loathe it piece for Hawkwind fans. It certainly pushes all of the right buttons for me, one of the catchiest tunes the band ever produced, in spite of / because of its repetitive nature. "(Only) The Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid" is the other big highlight here, a great Calvert tune with some more excellent Harvey Bainbridge synthwork.

Lastly, "PXR5" was recorded prior to "25 Years On", but held up for over a year due to legal issues - issues that were serious enough to briefly necessitate a name change to the Hawklords for the release of "25 Years On". A seamless mix of studio and live recordings, "PXR5" is front loaded with two of the band's catchiest new wave pop songs with "Death Trap" and "Jack of Shadows", before plunging into deeper waters with fan favourite "Robot" and one of Calvert's finest moments, "Uncle Sam's on Mars".

If you want the bonus tracks from Atomhenge's deluxe reissues you'll need to buy these individually, but undiluted by add-ons, the 'vanilla' reissues containe within this box are, as far as I'm concerned, the definitive argument for this brief time period under Calvert's guidance being among the band's very best. And there's plenty more worth investigating just beyond the horizon, particularly 1980's excellent "Leviation" (a return to the band's earlier space-rock sound, featuring Ginger Baker on drums), as well as a pair of fascinating synth driven albums recorded for the RCA Active label which we'll hopefully have the opportunity to cover very shortly when this set is released. Stay tuned!

"The Charisma Years 1976-1979" is available here (UK/ EU) or here (US).